2013 has been a game-changing year as we’ve seen real signs of economic recovery and the continuing evolution of exciting online opportunities, including multi-channel marketing, crowd-funding and social sharing.
In some ways, it has never been easier to start a new business. But challenges remain, especially as many small business owners now seek to grow their enterprises and take advantage of new opportunities.
Here at Marketing Donut, we are focused on bringing you the latest news, views and advice to help you with everything from day-to-day decision making to long-term strategic planning.
This year our ever-popular blogs have covered the full gamut of marketing issues affecting every small business — from customer service to content marketing. We’d like to say a warm thank you to all our experts and guest contributors that have shared their wisdom and experience so generously.
We’d also like to say a big thank you to you — all the hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners out there — for visiting us throughout 2013 and for sharing our content with the wider world.
Here are some of the highlights from our blogs in 2013:
Sara Drawwater: Lessons from a secret millionaire
Rupert Staines: Nine simple ways to make your hashtags work
Robert Craven: Has your business got 'five-year-old-itis'?
Sharon Tanton: Five ways to miss the content marketing bus
Rachel Miller: Four lessons David Bowie can teach us about marketing
Grant Leboff: Dumb marketing question #1 - does social media work?
Mike Southon: Customer care lessons from a fish and chip business
Andy Bounds: Improve your customer communication in 20 seconds
Sarah Orchard: Just how much is a Facebook Like really worth?
We’re taking a short festive break but we’ll be back with more top tips and valuable resources next year. Happy Christmas and see you in 2014!
The Marketing Donut team
A landing page is the heart of your online marketing campaign, capable of driving leads down your conversion funnel in a matter of seconds. So how do you create a first impression that’s both persuasive and consistent with your brand?
Here are six steps to help you maximise landing page conversions:
Tap into your visitors’ pain points and use the headline to offer your unique value proposition. The most memorable headlines demonstrate how the reader will benefit in a creative way that lets your brand personality shine.
Writing copy for your landing pages is like telling a succinct story: people need to be able to get it almost immediately. Cut out all the clutter and focus your messaging on a single objective.
A well-crafted call to action (CTA) can make all the difference when it comes to conversion. Make sure your page presents just one specific call to action. You can think of the CTA as a response to your headline, describing how users will benefit if they click through.
Have you heard of the eight-second rule? It’s a marketing principle that you have eight seconds (sometimes fewer) to convince a visitor to stay on your site. So put the key information above the fold (top of the page), including your value proposition, logo and call to action.
A video can really add impact. Create an informational video of around 30-60 seconds and let your visitors know the running time up front. Place a call to action beside the video and remember to publish it on a sharing site like YouTube.
Get the most out of your landing page by continuously testing and optimising different factors. Target the low-hanging fruit first. CTAs and images are easy to swap and often have a huge impact on conversion.
You can read more about landing age optimisation in this guide by James Gurd.
Preparation is one of the keys to sales success, especially for face to face appointments. It should be one of the main focuses when it comes to winning new business. However, more often than not, I find that lots of people are still doing the wrong sort of preparation.
In my experience when training businesses and salespeople, people often reveal that they are more concerned about their own preparation, such as: Have I got enough business cards? Are my Power Point slides done right? Or, have I got my product samples in my case?
This is a big mistake — surely you should be more worried about your client than yourself?
The best preparation is client preparation, such as looking at and printing out pages from their website. You’d be surprised how many people do not even visit a prospect’s website before meeting them face to face, only to be left faced with awkward situations that involve them asking questions such as: “tell me a little about your business”.
There is no excuse for not even carrying out basic preparation — after all, anyone can use Google.
Google the company name (to see what else comes up, not just checking out their website); Google the name of the person you are meeting; check out their competition and see who you've worked with in a similar industry or situation.
Instead of asking questions like “tell me a little about your business”, ask questions like, “I was looking on your website and noticed that....” or “I noticed on your website that you worked with...and I wanted to know a little more about it...”.
Do you think these have a different impact on the person you're meeting? Do you think they would perceive you differently than your competitors who ask the same tired old questions, time after time? Absolutely.
If you do the right kind of research, do you think it might have a big impact on the results from your sales calls and appointments? You can bet on it.
Just like people decorating their houses for Christmas, there are countless ways of preparing your business for the festive season, depending on the type of operation you run. For instance, if you’re a plumber, it might simply be a question of finding a reliable means of managing any calls that could come flooding in (no pun intended) if there’s a cold spell and pipes start bursting.
On the other hand, if you’re a retailer, then there are many opportunities to make those cash registers jingle more than ever.
Here’s my guide to the 12 days of Christmas planning for SMEs. You may not be able to afford £7 million for a Christmas TV advert like John Lewis’s “The Bear and the Hare” — a lavish animation with Lily Allen trilling Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know in the background — but there’s still a lot you can achieve even on a tight budget.
All businesses need to think about communication with customers who may call over the festive period. While you’re enjoying some stress-free time with family and friends, will people be able to leave messages for your business, can someone else in the organisation field any calls or would it be easier to make use of a telephone answering system?
Online sales are still rising as a proportion of total sales. Have a look at your website and make sure it’s fighting fit. Are there any broken links? Does it provide all the relevant information in a simple, readable format? Make sure it’s updated it with sufficient information about when you are closed and when you will be back at work.
Use your website and social media presence in an engaging way and be sure to add value for your customers. Remind them about your special offers, products and services and think about hosting exclusive competitions, special discounts, awards or giveaways.
Whether it’s a huge sale, an in-store event, a brand new product or service, make sure you use all the channels available to you including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and your own direct channels such as email and database marketing.
Localised, seasonal pay-per-click can help you reach new potential customers online. Consider increasing your bids on relevant keywords — and rewriting your ads to emphasise things like free delivery.
“Out with the old, in with the new” is not the best approach to Christmas marketing. Getting more sales from existing customers can be a better bet than searching for new ones — they’re already your fans! Think of ways of capitalising on this, such as discounts for existing customers and cut-price upgrades to newer/better versions of things they’ve bought in the past.
Go the extra mile for your customers. They need a reason to come back to you rather than your competitor. Giving great service is among the best ways to achieve this. Give some thought to how you can achieve this for your business.
Competing against the big boys is a major challenge. If competing on price is difficult or impossible, be sure to highlight the fact that yours is an independent business and therefore unique. Look at ways of emphasising what’s special about you — for most small businesses it’s the level of service they can offer.
If the items you sell have to be delivered to the customer, make sure you’re offering as wide a range of delivery options as possible. Are you able to offer next-day delivery immediately before Christmas to accommodate late buyers?
Remember that returns usually increase after Christmas. Customers will want to know that the recipient of a gift will be able to change the item if necessary. Think about how you can make this as easy and economical as possible.
Everyone needs elves at Christmas. It’s a good idea to consider temporary workers as a means to be more agile and scale your staff in line with business requirements such as extended opening hours.
If you have staff, they will be under extra pressure during the festive period. Consider running refresher training to ensure they are up to speed. Above all, ensure they have full information about any new offers you are running. The same applies if you take on additional staff to help out over this frenetic period.
It’s like having your Christmas cake and eating it — you’re going away, but you want the business to carry on perfectly. If you have reliable staff to cover for you, there should be no problems. If not, you might want to think about outsourcing your operation temporarily by using one or more of the many business solutions available to SMEs.
Guess what? Your customers are quicker than you.
It’s a frightening thought, but once you embrace the concept of the “restless consumer”, the more chance you have of keeping up with them. Who knows you may even be able to predict what they want, which is almost like being ahead of them.
But let’s not run away with ourselves. They’re the ones in front, they move faster, they’re agile, hungry and they never sleep.
So how do you keep up? Your time is already pushed and this is just one of the many races you’re in.
Solid strategy and planning will guarantee you a head start, as well as a full and rounded view of how your audience behaves online.
Once you’re out of the blocks, ideas based on insights connected to an irrefutable product or service truth will keep you up to speed. Playing the guessing game is not the best strategy here; hard empirical data puts you on solid ground.
It also helps you work out if you’re adopting emerging technologies fast enough, or investing time and budgets in the right places.
If your brand is tracking trends, researching and acknowledging, you can quickly earn the enviable reputation of being a collaborative and pro-active organisation. And, as it turns out, people get behind businesses and brands that are like that.
It’s not impossible. Time and time again, we’ve seen consumers develop a strong emotional attachment and a sense of shared ownership with a particular brand, product or service.
Imagine that — your users with a vested interest in what your brand is up to online.
Before you know it, you can be right alongside them and even, dare we say it, setting the pace.
Steve Peters is digital business director at Manchester digital agency, Code Computer Love.
Are you confident that your company is able to capture your customer’s needs? And more importantly, are you using them to create a viable sales process?
Far too often the traditional structure of a sales process talks about opportunity rather than customer needs or requirements — the focus is very much from the seller’s point of view.
In order to help your potential customer make a decision you need to approach the process through their eyes. It’s essential to think about their needs, not yours.
So how do you create a successful sales process that is designed around your customer’s needs? Here are some tips that we have used successfully and which are integrated into the processes that we design for our clients’ sales teams.
Recognise the customer as an individual person and create a process that adapts to them — don’t expect them to adapt to it. At the forefront of your mind should be customer satisfaction, not sales.
A salesperson’s ultimate role is to present a solution to a problem, or a perfect fit for a desire. The end result is ultimately the same — the customer chooses you and you make that sale.
People want to be served in a way that fits their situation and their buying habits. Whatever direction the sales process takes, it needs to have listening as the first step.
Customer feedback is a big part of this and can be both the end and the beginning stage of your selling process. Feedback provides you with the knowledge to refine your sales technique and/or product. It’s also a marketing tool to show new customers that you are a) actively engaging with buyers and b) providing the solutions they are looking for.
The responsibility of researching the customer is not restricted to the sales team. As social media and ecommerce increasingly dominate Internet and mobile usage, customers are looking to other channels to get the information and, ultimately, the service that they require.
This is why you need a focus on internal collaboration. Your online marketing, social media and customer service teams need to know where to look and what to look out for in order to ensure you are visible to potential buyers.
Restructuring your sales process to suit customer needs can really improve your business. Not only can you create more harmonious relationships with your customers and your staff, a revamped sales process can produce tangible results.
A sales process designed around you customer really does lead to happier customers, more collaborative teams and a measurable increase in business. What more could you ask for?
Richard Edwards is director at Quatreus.