Small Business Marketing Advice From a Fellow Small Business Owner

Posted by frank harris on 02/04/14 08:03


Business-minded people all over the country hope to enter into a venture that is sustainable, self-sufficient, and successful. These plans may begin with a simple whim, but the long-reaching goal is wide-sweeping and long-reaching. All dreams are possible. However, you must start with wise planning, of which marketing is integral.

As a small business there are three basic milestones to success:

- Establishing a Business Model
- Developing a Marketing Strategy
- Maintaining Customer Loyalty

Before the business can open, before any money can be earned, these steps must be thoroughly researched and refined. This is true whether the business owner operates virtually or in the real world. No business is sustainable without a solid plan.

1.   Establishing a Business Model

Establishing a business model means taking a good idea and turning it into a great one. How this is accomplished is by measuring the need for the product or service against the expected outcome.

Along with establishing a business model is determining financing. How much capital will it take for the business to get off the ground? How long can the business operate without realising a profit? Keep in mind; most small businesses do not see a profit for the first three to five years. However, this does not mean one should avoid business ownership altogether. It simply means that entrepreneurs must develop smart strategies to spend their money wisely.

2. Developing a Marketing Strategy

The top priority in spending and saving is marketing. Every entrepreneur, regardless of their business type, must have name recognition to be successful. If a potential customer is unaware that the business exists, it will cease to do so.

Developing a successful marketing strategy does not mean a huge investment in money, though it does involve a significant investment of time. Arguably, at least at the beginning, as much time should be spent on marketing the business as is spent on the business itself. Some business owners choose to outsource marketing. Others choose to create and carry it out on their own. Regardless of choice, if you want to know how to develop a marketing strategy for your small business, the basics remain the same.

(a)  Determine Key Personas

Marketing to mass audiences is a mistake. Choosing a broad-sweeping message may appear better, but this only works for already established business with significant profit margins. Determine who is most likely to be interested in a particular business and market to that group.

Start by looking at the marketing used by similar businesses. Find who they focus their efforts on, determine if that is applicable to you, and strive to find groups that have yet to be singled out by others in the field.

(b)  Market Specifically to Those Personas

Who are these people, what do they want, and which message works best for them? Empathy goes a long way when choosing marketing strategies. Is the key persona a retailer? Focus on how your product or service can simplify their lives or save them time. Knowing what each group’s needs are is the ideal approach.

(c)  Choose Marketing Medium Wisely

Online marketing is arguably the best bet for small businesses. It costs very little to have well-made website, rich in keywords, with the right calls-to-action and landing pages is best. Updating a blog or social media keeps the business current without incurring extra cost.

(d) Avoid Marketing Pitfalls

The two biggest marketing mistakes made by small businesses involve money. They either spend too much or not enough. While it’s important to set a budget for marketing, it is unwise to spend it all at once. Ensure you allow ample time and money to determine if a marketing strategy is working. If it is not, and budget allows, it can be changed. Not every business gets it right on the first try.

3. Maintaining Customer Loyalty

Once a business model and marketing strategy are in place, entrepreneurs need to determine how to maintain customer loyalty. Excellent products or services at reasonable prices are naturally desirable, but they are typically secondary to customer service expertise.

Building relationships with clients is vital to growth and stability. This requires serious dedication to customer service. Ask questions of the customers and really listen to what they have to say instead of simply waiting for an opportunity to sell. Provide real solutions to their problems. Regardless of the type of business, customers always want to spend time and money with those who take their needs seriously. This requires open lines of communication and a service-oriented attitude.

These are basic rules for those starting up.  In terms on online marketing success why not download the eBook from the link below:-

How to make your  Marketing  MORE Successful

Tags: internet marketing consultant, small business marketing, b2b marketing consultants, online marketing strategy, online marketing services uk

5 Small Business Marketing Automation Myths Smashed

Posted by frank harris on 24/11/13 10:22

small business marketing automationMarketing automation is often seen as mechanical, cold, and impersonal--and its name certainly doesn’t help. The term “automation” raises images of shiny, futuristic technologies with human-like intelligence. However, small business marketing automation is designed to help us humans work with superhuman speed, while still delivering a friendly, relevant, and personal marketing message to potential clients.

Sorting through some common myths and facts can help us get a more accurate picture of what marketing automation really means for your marketing team.

1.    Automation is expensive.

A range of solutions exist at all different price levels, including some specifically designed for marketers with limited resources. Marketing automation platforms often come with tiered pricing, so you can choose the package that’s right for your budget and needs. Some companies offer month-to-month pricing, so you aren’t locked into an annual contract. Cost to implement also varies based on level of sophistication. That said, marketing automation platforms can increase ROI through higher quality leads and higher conversion rates. Effective use of the tool can even lead to a marketing department that can produce much more successful programmes, even while using less budget and less headcount.

2.    Automation software is hard to use.

Marketing software does a lot. There’s email, landing pages, social media, ROI reporting, visitor tracking...the list goes on, but the good news is that marketing automation is made to be used by people with varying degrees of technical skill. The best systems are intuitive and simple, so they can be operated by small businesses, without having to hire additional resources. For example, many email editors have the option of either choosing a premade email template or creating a template from scratch using HTML. Plus, there’s always an on-boarding period where the pros can help you get started with your first few campaigns. These tools are designed to make your life as a marketer easier. Many users are able to launch their first campaign within a few weeks.

3.    Automation is impersonal; my prospects hate that.

Just because you’re automating a lot of your marketing processes doesn’t mean you can’t personalise your messages. In fact, marketing automation gives you the opportunity to add more personal touches to your campaigns, like personalised emails that come directly from specific members of your team and addressed individually to the recipient, even if they’re automatically generated. Not only are your actual messages tailored, but your campaigns are, too. By collecting data on a prospect’s specific interests, you can tailor future offers so they are more relevant. You can even display different Web site content based on a user’s preferences. Automating some basic tasks frees your team to spend more time interacting with clients and prospects when it counts.

4.    Automation magically generates tons of leads.

Marketing automation systems don’t secure leads from thin air. They’re there to help you manage new and existing leads fed into your system after a prospect fills out a form or visits your Web site, attends a trade show etc. From the system, leads are monitored and nurtured until they’re sales-ready, helping you to maintain positive relationships with potential customers. That’s why marketing automation is just as much about lead nurturing and analytics as it is about lead generation. One thing marketing automation can do is help show you which lead sources are bringing in the most new revenue, allowing you to adjust your spend so that you’re maximising lead flow in the most efficient way possible.

5.    Automation stifles creativity.

Actually, the opposite is true. Marketing automation allows you to automate repetitive, administrative tasks, such as sending email and re-entering data. This frees your marketing team to pursue new creative initiatives, like testing social media campaigns, designing infographics, and developing new strategies. Elements of the software also lend themselves to creativity. Email and landing page templates give you the option to design your own templates and then test which techniques work the best, whether it’s experimenting with different colour schemes or trying a new call to action.

Knowing the facts about marketing automation can help take away some of the hesitation when it comes to adopting a new system. In fact, the next time someone mentions “marketing automation,” it might just give you the warm fuzzies instead of sending a shiver down your spine.

Get the details how you can be more successful using marketing automation by downloading the FREE eBook from the link below:-

Get your FREE eBook on Effective Inbound Marketing

Tags: internet marketing consultant, small business marketing, online marketing services uk, small business marketing automation

4 Benefits of Content Marketing for ROI in Small Business Marketing

Posted by frank harris on 11/03/13 08:44

successful-small-business-marketingAs an internet marketing consultant I find it’s hard to read an article or attend a presentation about social media or content marketing without the subject quickly moving from creative or strategy to measurement - and often with an eye on the ultimate prize: ROI (Return On Investment).

Ostensibly, this is a good thing. After all, it suggests that the  internet marketing agency business has outgrown its “cottage” status and moved into the big house. But in our rush to “be measured like everyone else,” content marketers are in danger of short-changing their full value to companies.

Let’s look at four benefits of content marketing that will never show up on the Marketing Director’s dashboard but can bring immense value to the company and its internal relationships.

1.    Content can give you a recruiting edge

In a competitive industry like the marketing agency business, recruiting top-calibre talent is a priority of the highest order. In fact, recruiting top talent is one of only three priorities for every B2B business owner. Yet despite the importance of recruiting, it would be easy to overlook the impact an engaging content marketing programme can have on this business-critical priority.

So, partner with your HR department. When your company inducts staff, find out the reasons why they joined, and share this information with your internal teams. The ability to prove your content efforts have impacted recruiting will help make you - and your content efforts -  indispensable to your company.

2.    Content can help boost company morale

When I worked in an advertising agency, I recall challenging a client who wanted us to help his company produce a campaign that didn’t necessarily influence its buyers. When I pushed back on this point the Marketing Director told me, “The campaign isn’t for our customers. It’s for our staff. The place lights up when they see the campaign… and I know a lot of our workers see the media proposed.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson, and content marketing can help accomplish this very same goal.

When you publish a popular asset, the cheering it receives on the social web can validate the efforts of the entire company. Your victory lap is everyone’s victory lap, so make sure you “market” the popularity of your content to your colleagues - not to boast personally, but rather to remind them that as crowded as the social web is, your company managed to stand out.

3.    Content opens up lines of communication

Remarkable content doesn’t just get customers and prospects talking; it also gets your internal colleagues buzzing. It gives them something to share with one another, something to debate, or something to challenge. It opens doors, rings phones, and makes people talk over cubicle walls. It also provides you with an opportunity to recruit advocates and participants.

When your colleagues engage with your content, it creates an opportunity to invite them to contribute to future programmes. Because content marketing sits between so many different organisational functions, it is a surprisingly political role. Be sure to marshal your supporters when you have their attention.

4.    Content fosters trust

In a recent "FastCompany" article, Don Peppers convincingly argues that the key to competitive advantage is “being proactively trustworthy.” Creating content that is so valuable that people would pay for it, yet you give it away for free, is a reliable way to earn the public’s trust. This is precisely why the value transfer in content marketing should be from institution to individual, which is an upside-down model for traditional marketers. In other words, when trust is the goal, companies should strive to sell by not selling.

None of this is to suggest that content marketers shouldn’t aspire to be measured - of course as an internet marketing consultant I am and I should be. But as a marketing agency I also need to find ways to highlight the value we provide - especially if there’s no key performance indicator (KPI) attached to it.

To find out more about how to construct a content marketing programme why not download our FREE eBook on Content Marketing from the link below:-

Get Your FREE whitepaper  on Content Marketing

Tags: online marketing agencies, internet marketing consultant, small business marketing, online marketing services uk, b2b marketing agency, digital marketing agency

How to Create an Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign

Posted by frank harris on 04/02/13 09:40

internet-marketing-campaignsWhat constitutes a good internet marketing campaign? This is a big question, and one that can open the doors to tremendous business opportunities. We have produced a new eBook, to seek to find the answer to that question and help you implement it across your marketing assets. It first takes a look at some indisputable characteristics of an effective and well-regarded campaign.

Educational & Helpful

Educational or informative marketing provides answers to a question, need or concern that a prospective customer might have. This is the marketing that is most useful when a prospect is in a research mode and trying to obtain specific information to get closer to a decision point. How-to blog posts and step-by-step videos, for example, would fit into this type of marketing. The tone of this content borders on the role of consulting and even customer service.

Timely & Customised

In order for internet marketing to be truly helpful, however, it needs to be available to you at the right time. Think about it - If you are facing a certain challenge and are actively searching for a solution, wouldn’t you love to find it right in your inbox at the moment you needed it most?  Let’s say you are organising a wedding and looking for the right venue. In your research, you might have visited a few websites, but your heart will be won by the company that follows up with you, acknowledging what you are searching for and offering to help. Amazon is the classic example of a website that customises viewing experiences based on the needs and preferences of its customers.

Consistent in Language and Message

In order to make internet marketing consultants happy, you need to consider the experience of the user across their different lifecycle stages - from the first time they encounter your brand, through their interaction with your website and content, to the point of converting into a customer, and their long-term success as one. By making this movement across different lifecycle stages consistent and fluid, you remove hurdles and encourage your audience to become evangelists for your brand.  

How to Start Making Effective Campaigns

Now that we’ve covered the key characteristics of internet marketing that people love, the eBook discusses how you can adopt these features in your internet marketing practices.  It will walk you through the process of running a holistic marketing campaign and show you ways in which you can make each part of this campaign, educational, helpful, timely, customised, consistent.

From industry best practices and our own experience, there are some key components of a successful internet marketing campaign:-

•    Produce a compelling marketing offer

•    Place the offer on your website

•    Attach the offer to automated workflows

•    Promote it via email, blog & social media channels

•    Measure results

The eBook then goes on to explain in detail:-

•    How to Develop a Tremendous Marketing Offer

•    How to Make Effective Landing Pages

•    Calls to Action

•    Build Workflows

When you have ensured that all new prospects who will grab your marketing offer will receive an appropriate follow-up communication, you can start thinking about sending traffic to your landing page.

So, think about ways to notify your existing contacts about the new marketing offer you have released. Your email list should be one of the most powerful contact databases that you have access to.

Promote Your Offer Through Blogging & Social

After you have announced the release of your new marketing offer to existing contacts in your email database, you can start looking for other opportunities to drive traffic to your landing page. This is where you can leverage your blog and social media channels. Blog and social media can increase the reach of your content and support your lead generation efforts. Just remember to always add a call-to-action link to your landing pages with the internet marketing offer.

So start with producing a fantastic internet marketing offer, then through promoting it on your channels, to measuring its impact, the eBook will show you how to piece together the main components of a holistic marketing campaign. Most importantly, you will understand how to make each of these components valuable, consistent and timely - all prerequisites for creating marketing that your prospects will love.

To get your FREE copy of the Inbound Marketing Campaign eBook just click on the button below and get started!

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Tags: internet marketing for small business, internet marketing consultant, small business marketing, internet marketing tips, online marketing services uk

8 Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in Small Business Marketing

Posted by frank harris on 28/01/13 09:39

content-internet-marketingFew marketers can win every time. We’ve all had our share of flops. But failures can be learning experiences; a mistake can provide insight into what to avoid in the future.  This list of “don’ts” can help you avoid some of the more common content internet marketing mistakes.

  1. Don’t neglect to do the groundwork. Before you start any internet marketing activity, you have to know why you’re doing it. What does success look like? How does this activity translate to sales and revenue?  Ensure you first do the initial, big-picture work. You must know whom you’re talking to (your personas), what they need and want to know, and where their interests lie. All the other mistakes we make come from that void.

  2. Don’t focus on yourself—focus on the buyer instead. Marketers who do not build buyer personas will revert to content oriented around products, because that’s what they know best. Focusing on buyers takes applied effort.  Think like the end user, not like a business owner. Too many business owners and marketers are writing for “their” way of seeing the world. They talk too much about themselves - it’s a blog, not brag. Content marketing is about education. It’s about teaching. And it’s about communication. To be great at content marketing, the focus has to be about the reader, and not the writer.  We tend to see things through the lens of our company, our product, our need to get leads. Nobody else cares that much about us. Our content needs a lot less “we” and a lot more “you.”

  3. Don’t pitch your product at every stage. Content marketers can be overly sales orientated at inappropriate times. Whitepapers have their place in the sales cycle. In the meantime, give the people what they want: interesting content that makes their life better.  Too many content programmes focus on new features, company milestones, and product tie-ins into every new piece of content. That content has its place, but your customers and prospects will gravitate toward content that provides value. What are your customer’s issues? What do they need help with? That’s the content that will spread like wildfire for you.

  4. Don’t overlook calls to action. Every content asset should have a call to action. This does not mean “have sales call me” (unless this is late stage). It means providing access to the next step. What would your prospect be interested in from the content they have just viewed? Build pathways and tell connected stories that build momentum through the pipe.

  5. Don’t forget that effective content marketing is a two-way street. Creating content isn’t enough. To accelerate your audience, you must devote time to responding, commenting, engaging questions etc. If you’re just a one-way communication channel, even with good content, your readers will go elsewhere for interaction.

  6. Don’t produce content that lacks substance. We focus on platforms, channels and formats, rather than the substance of the information and the story it supports.  Put your energy into what you’re making: “Create content that makes you feel smarter, celebrates human artistry, or has with real-world value.”  Don’t be afraid to produce content that gives an opinion. There are too many boring blogs.

  7. Don’t treat content marketing as an afterthought. Content marketing is not a bolt-on to other marketing efforts. It is a practice that integrates all of your content-driven initiatives into a consistent and holistic experience for your target markets. Or it should be. As an internet marketing consultant, I see it implemented as an also-ran with webinars, white papers and social media run separately. This creates a fragmented experience for your audience. Content marketing should be used to pull everything together so that an experience in one channel makes sense or adds value when the audience switches to another channel.

  8. Don’t underestimate the power of various formats. Written content may be the core of your strategy, but don’t forget video, podcasts, embedded slide presentations or other formats your audience gravitates toward.  Content is an asset. Using it once and then relegating it to the corporate website is a shame. Marketers will benefit tremendously by embracing the Rule of 5. This means that for every piece of content developed, there should be 5 uses, applications or reinvention options. Turn a webinar into a white paper.  Break the white paper into a series of articles and blog posts and connect them via hyperlinks. Take one topic and develop 5 different angles to approach it, creating 5 different formats of content.

Good content marketing is continuous, not a one-time investment. Focus on eliminating these “don’ts” from your work to succeed. Quality content builds upon itself, delivering consistent long-term engagement and creating brand long-term loyalty.

Learn more about how to write content with our popular FREE whitepaper that can be downloaded by clicking the button below:-

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Tags: internet marketing for small business, internet marketing consultant, small business marketing, online marketing services, online marketing services uk

7 tips for effective lead follow-up in Small Business Marketing

Posted by frank harris on 20/09/12 09:42

converting-leads-in-small-business-marketingWhen companies look to drive business from their online marketing, lots of time and sometimes money is invested in getting more leads. You’ve got more traffic from your organic search engine optimisation and that traffic has converted into leads by presenting your clients with offers that they are interested in. But what happens when the leads start flowing in?

Successfully following up on a lead and starting the process that will make it into a sale doesn't have to be a trying and disappointing process.

Here are seven tips for following up on leads successfully.

1. Strike while the iron is hot

In many cases, a lead is an asset that depreciates in value very, very rapidly. As such, it's worth trying to respond to qualified leads as soon as humanly possible because your response time will often determine whether you close a sale or lose a sale you could have easily closed. This can be done either via email or preferably by making that call.

2. Read the lead

Common sense: it's important to understand who the lead is, so that you know who you're dealing with and what your opportunity may be. This doesn't always happen. To avoid looking unprepared or lazy, it can help to create a checklist that your inbound marketers use as part of the lead follow-up process in your small business marketing strategy.

3. Ensure the right person responds

To make the most of a lead, make certain that the person best capable of following up on it is the person who responds. While new prospects may necessarily have to deal with several people throughout the sales cycle, it is often desirable to ensure that their first point of contact is someone they can start to build a rapport, if not a relationship, with.

4. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone

Thanks to technology, phone calls are more and more infrequent for many individuals, particularly younger members of the workforce. But the phone is still a powerful sales tool and if your lead contains a phone number, make a habit of picking up the phone and dialling it.

5. Take one step at a time

When speaking with a prospect, walk before you run. Even if your lead came with a lot of detail, it's important to confirm that you have a good understanding of what the prospect needs and haven't made any assumptions that could unnecessarily limit your opportunity, or ruin it altogether.

6. Set expectations and timeframes

In just about every aspect of sales and business, expectations are everything and it's never too early to set them. If an initial conversation with a lead confirms that there's an opportunity, take control. Once you're on the same page with the customer and understand their needs, you should at least define in writing what you think the sales cycle will look like. This includes proposing dates for key milestones.

7. Always respond

Not all leads are created equal. Some, unfortunately, are less-than-desirable for a variety of reasons. But provided that the individual who submitted the lead is a real person, a response should always be provided. Not only can this help maintain your reputation in the marketplace, it could ensure that you're kept in mind for future opportunities that may be a better fit.

So there you have them.  But what if the lead is not hot! Then you need to nurture them until they get to the point where the opportunity arises to make a sale.  So lead nurturing is very important.  And good lead nurturing means great lead segmentation. You don’t want to be sending messages to existing customers that you send to prospects, or sending the same messages to prospects working in different industries or positions in the same company.

See how to really segment your audience to get the leads hotter, quicker by downloading our FREE whitepaper by clicking the button below.

Database Segmentation in  Small Business Marketing

Tags: B2B lead generation, internet marketing for small business, internet marketing company, online marketing services uk

Should you get involved in Social Media Marketing Services?

Posted by frank harris on 21/08/12 09:30

social media marketing servicesWhile social media does a lot of things right for marketers, we struggle to keep up with its constant change and importantly, we need to demonstrate its ROI .

42% of marketers are very concerned about demonstrating the value of social media—35% say improving social media measurement is a top priority. But just 4% of marketers say their ability to measure the overall impact of social media is excellent.

A Google search of “social media marketing ROI” yields more than 4 million web pages on marketing automation software, to listening platforms and Social Media Marketing Agency Services. It’s clear that everybody wants to get in on the social media ROI game, yet marketers claim they haven’t got it figured out!

It certainly isn’t for lack of desire. Most marketers claim measurement is a key priority—yet they end up giving themselves a ‘C’ in their ability to do it. With 4 million web pages available; all the tools, technology and thinking focused on this top of mind topic, why aren’t we all getting As in the ROI department?

 Social Media Can Be a Scary Place

The rate of change in digital is in constant acceleration. New social apps and networks appear overnight and it’s difficult to tell a flash-in-the-pan fad from the next killer app. And we’d better get it right. If we don’t show up to the right parties our social currency plummets.

Customers expect us to be at all the right parties, and engaging them in specific ways. When our social customers like us on Facebook, 60% of them expect to find peer-to-peer experiences,  46% expect incentives or rewards and 40% say they want more from brands in social media.

Indeed, the landscape is complex, crowded and demanding.  45% of marketers are very concerned about getting the right social media tools and technologies in place and 44% say they are very concerned about competing for attention in social media. Many worry about dipping their toes into the social media whirlpool because they might find a mass of negative sentiment swirling around the social web over their brand or their products.

Consumers grumble when they’re unhappy and social media makes it easy for them to spread their dissatisfaction as 42% of consumers report they are more likely to share negative brand experiences because of social media.

Despite the bumpy road that social can be, it’s important to remember that marketers who dare to tread are those that come out ahead with social customers. Those who listen, engage, experiment, and approach their social media marketing services with goals, are those best able to take advantage of the things social does right.

What Social Media Marketing Does Right

For sure, social media marketing is great at raising awareness.  In surveys 26% report social media is among the top 3 ways they become aware of new brands and products, and 52% report using social media to connect with brands.

Today’s marketers agree that social media does a great job at the top of the funnel with 75% saying their efforts generate brand exposure. And while brand exposure is hardly a metric, unique visits to the website is not. 74% of marketers say their investments in social media have increased web traffic—important for SEO. Traffic volume and growth matter to those algorithms that help our customers find us. The more traffic we have, the more likely our customers will be able to find us.

For marketers claiming difficulty with demonstrating quantifiable ROI this is welcome news. Our efforts undeniably raise awareness and data backs it up. It drives SEO, which can be benchmarked as we put our social media marketing initiatives to work.

Social media also does a job at deepening engagement. 72% consumers report that because of social media, they are more likely to stay engaged with brands. So it also makes consumers more likely to consider what we have to say, join the conversation, and check back again.

Consumers like connecting with brands through social media because it’s a two-way street. They get to listen actively when and where they want to, interact with others like them, and be heard. Our social efforts raise awareness, deepen engagement, even help us to innovate—11% of marketers say they they’ve developed new products with help from their social customers. Finally, consumers corroborate the value of social media for word of mouth marketing—80% report that they are more likely to try things based on friends’ suggestions because of social media.

Overall, the social media marketing channel has pretty high marks. 35% of marketers say social media marketing helps to meet business objectives better than other channels. So we all agree that even though it’s a bit scary, it does some things very well.

To fully understand how to use Social Media you must first understand the target group(s) your product or service needs to consider. The eBook below gives you an analysis of the UK Social Personas and how to use them for content. It's FREE so download it by clicking the button below:-

FREE eBook Social Media Services


Tags: online marketing companies, social media marketing services, online marketing services uk

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