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Revealed: 13 marketing secrets of the most successful small firms

November 12, 2015 by Dee Blick

Marketing secrets{{}}When it comes to marketing, it's tempting to think that successful small businesses know something that you don't; they have discovered that one elusive marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow.

But the truth is there's no such thing as a marketing miracle. Or at least that's my experience having worked with hundreds of small businesses in the past 31 years.

What I've found is that the businesses that get it right with their marketing and as a result that reap the rewards with sales galore, are doing these 13 things consistently:

  1. They know that a fantastic product or service is not enough to build a successful business. And so they put marketing at the heart of their business. They market in good times even when they are super busy; and they market in lean times when they know they have to intensify their efforts to keep sales rolling in.
  2. Even though they are proficient jugglers, they know when it's time to drop the DIY approach and enlist the help of experts. I'm talking about the graphic designers that give their logo and communications real sparkle and flair; the web designers that do likewise for their website; the copywriters for when they're full of ideas but find it challenging to put pen to paper.
  3. They radiate enthusiasm wherever they go and are always ready to do business. They are also natural connectors always looking for ways in which they can collaborate with talented folk that complement their skills. They are generous, referring hot leads and business to others knowing their generosity will come back to them in spades.
  4. They are crystal clear about their offering. Ask them what they do and within a few sentences you've grasped it, so much so that if you're in the market for what they offer you want more. They're big on benefits and they know what their customers need and want.
  5. Although they keep a steady eye on their competitors so they can learn and improve (and avoid complacency) they're not obsessed with them, preferring to blaze their own trail instead.
  6. They make their marketing accountable. They won't shrink from abandoning a marketing activity that's failing to deliver despite their best efforts. And they won't hesitate when it comes to spending money on marketing. They keep close tabs on the responses and never let their marketing drift.
  7. They're always looking for ways in which they can improve their products and services. This ranges from the small tweaks that can be accomplished easily to bigger changes that have to be scheduled and budgeted for. Running parallel to this is their overwhelming desire to continually delight their customers. They build their business around happy customers and never lose the personal touch.
  8. They don't stay in their comfort zone. They take calculated risks, set bold goals and invest in their own personal development. It might be daunting but they do it anyway.
  9. They invest time in their marketing plan before diving into marketing tactics. As a consequence they know who they want to reach and why. They know where they can find their target audiences so they can successfully reach them. They commit to campaigns over time to build trust and break down barriers to a sale. They focus on creating captivating, relevant and attention-grabbing messages wrapped in appealing content.
  10. They understand the value of traditional marketing as well as social media. Unlike many of their competitors, their choice of marketing tools and communications is determined by the preferences of their target audiences - not their own.
  11. They build on their expert status, investing in their skills and broadening their knowledge. They share the fruits of their expertise across marketing platforms, from social media to public speaking.
  12. They have a conscience. They actively seek ways in which they can support special causes and are keen to minimise their impact on the environment.
  13. Their business keeps them awake at night with excitement and sometimes fear. But they're resilient. When times are tough they don't dive under the duvet, they double their efforts, coming back stronger and fitter.

And of course it goes without saying they love what they do.

Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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Four simple ways to improve your presentations

November 03, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Four simple ways to improve your presentations{{}}Do you love giving presentations? I thought not; most people don't.

Here are four simple techniques that boost two key things - your confidence and your chances of success. They are:

  • First impressions
  • Links
  • Involvement
  • Passion

They're easy to remember - the initial letters spell FLIP.

First impressions

How you start sets the tone for everything. Have a great first sentence and your next ones will probably go well. Have a shaky opener and it will impact on the rest.

So, practise your start. A lot. As a simple guide: spend 20% of your preparation time on the first 2% of your presentation.

And don't just practise it in your head. Say it out loud. Go to the venue beforehand and say it there… anything that ensures you're good on the day.

Another important element of your first impression is your title. It's going to be hard to wow a room if your presentation's called "Q2 update". It's much easier if it's called "Three things our competitors can never do".

Doing all this will take about 10-15 minutes. Not a lot when you think about the huge impact it will have on your audience.

Links between slides

Good links between slides give your presentation flow and pace. But most presenters don't consider how to link slides together. Often, they use the next slide to prompt them. But if you can see the slide, so can your audience. So they know what you're about to say.

It is well worth scripting how you'll go from one slide to the next. Then say it before you click on the next slide.

Here's an example: slide 8 discusses finances; slide 9 covers messages. So, after covering slide 8's content but while that slide is still showing, you'd say: "So, as you can see, the finances are strong. Let's now see how we'll achieve these numbers, through better messaging."

And then you'd click to bring up slide 9.

Again, it doesn't take long to script your links. So it's minimal work for a great return.

Involvement

Audiences prefer to be involved in some way - it's much better for them than just sitting, watching and listening for hours. So get them involved. Options include:

  • Ask them to write something down;
  • Give them a quick exercise to do with their neighbour;
  • Do a quick quiz;
  • Show them something funny, so they're involved by laughing;
  • Ask questions.

Passion

Audiences like presenters who show passion. And they switch off from those who don't have it. So find your passion. And make sure it comes out in your presentation. You should feel passionate about at least one of these:

  • Your content;
  • The afters - why you/the audience/others will be better off afterwards;
  • Your job;
  • Your company

So try using FLIP next time you're presenting. As long as each of the FLIPs are there, you've a great chance of impressing your audience.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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Posted in Sales | Tagged presentation(s), PowerPoint | 1 comment

Content marketing: ten steps to success

October 29, 2015 by Sonja Jefferson

Content marketing: ten steps to success{{}}When it comes to content marketing, do you have a plan? One that you stick to? Or is your approach to content creation somewhat haphazard? If it is, you could be missing out. You might be getting by, but your content habits could be a lot healthier - and more effective - as a result.

The latest research by the Content Marketing Institute here in the UK suggests that whilst 85% of respondents use content marketing only 42% say they are using it effectively. But 71% of those who do have a content strategy report that they are effective.

A content strategy is your recipe for content marketing success but many people have no idea how to create one. Here's our ten-step guide to help you cook up a sizzling content strategy.

  1. Be clear about your goals. What is the difference that you want content marketing to make to your business? The clearer your focus, the more targeted your efforts will be.
  2. Understand your own business. Before you drill down into your customers' needs, do a bit of naval gazing and look inside your company. This will help you to position your content firmly in your area of expertise. Otherwise, you could end up creating content that meets your customers' needs (and they will have many) but that will never win you any business.
  3. Know your customers. What you write about should be driven by who you are talking to and what they care about and value. You'll know some stuff about your customers of course, but to create content that really hits the spot you'll need to go deeper. Ask your customers directly; call them; spend some time interviewing them. What they say could well surprise you.
  4. Find the story behind the content. The most valuable content of all communicates a strong story - not just a story of what a business does, or how it does it, but why the business exists, its purpose in the world – beyond financial targets.
  5. Set out your content vision. Now we get to the heart of your valuable content strategy process. What is the conversation you want to own with your content? Think big here. As a business, what are you better equipped than anyone else to help people with? Find that sweet spot then set out an inspiring vision for your content marketing around it.
  6. Make a commitment and plan. Aim to build up a bank of high quality content that you can distribute effectively throughout the year. But remember, consistency and quality are always more important than volume. Create an achievable schedule - something you can stick to.
  7. Prepare your platform and pick your tools. Make sure your website platform can support you in making your strategy work. Think about the content creation and distribution tools you need to support your strategy.
  8. Organise. To make your content strategy work you'll need a team, a budget and an efficient process. But who will be involved? What roles do you need in place to make the process work? Think about how you will manage and control what you do.
  9. Measure what matters. Work out how you will assess whether your new strategy is working. You've already done the thinking about your objectives and goals so refer back to them. Create a set of meaningful measures that are aligned to your ambitions as a business.
  10. Make it so. The power of any good strategy is in its implementation. Understand what content, tools and resources you already have at your disposal. Conduct a content audit and gap analysis. The place to begin is a detailed look at your current content. Does it meet the needs of your new content strategy?

There's no doubt about it, marketers who take time to plan their content strategy are more effective than those who don't. If you want to drive real competitive advantage do the hard thinking and write your content strategy down.

Copyright © 2015 Sonja Jefferson is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and content marketing consultant at Valuable Content. Sonja is co-author, with Sharon Tanton, of Valuable Content Marketing.

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Sugru's Linda Muck

October 19, 2015 by Chloë Thomas

Sugru is a business I've admired for some time - it's a great product, but it's not that easy to explain without having a go. So I've always found their marketing and the way they position themselves very interesting.

Then I met Linda at an event and discovered that the more techy-side of their marketing was equally interesting. When I started my podcast I knew I wanted to feature Linda early-on.

In the podcast we cover many eCommerce topics, including:

  • Online advertising
  • Black Friday
  • Their Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign
  • International expansion

and much more.

I hope you enjoy listening as much I enjoyed recording it.

What's native video and what has a meerkat got to do with it?

October 12, 2015 by Sarah Orchard

What's native video and what has a meerkat got to do with it?{{}}Just when you think you’ve got your head around social media, along comes something new to add to the marketing mix.

In fact, there have been a number of new social media platforms coming to the fore in the past year. Embraced by the younger generation - who can spot cooler alternatives to Facebook when they see it - new platforms like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram have really taken off.

Now we have Meerkat and Periscope, two live video streaming apps that have been launched in quick succession (and in competition with each other). You may not have heard of these new apps or have any experience of actually using them, but what they have in common is native video.

What is native video?

Let’s focus for a minute on the safe ground that is Facebook. How many video clips do you see in your news feed? I’m guessing quite a lot - either clips of family life uploaded by friends, compilations of cats doing silly things, or live video streams from the brands or business pages that you have Liked and followed. All of these examples are native video.

And they are "native" because the video is uploaded or created directly on that social network and accessed via that network without being redirected to another site such as YouTube.

Video now accounts for almost 80% of all web traffic. And native video seems set to absolutely sky rocket, especially when you take into account the fact that video views on tablets and smartphones more than doubled last year alone.

Social media apps such as Periscope and Meerkat have now made live streaming video content incredibly accessible, and it opens up all kinds of new marketing avenues.

So Twitter is no longer just about choosing your words carefully, you can now publish video content of up to 30 seconds in length using Periscope. And Meerkat enables users to stream video directly on Facebook.

In short, video is big news; there are some three billion video views a day on Facebook alone, according to some estimates.

What's in it for small firms?

Savvy businesses are now adopting native video into their marketing strategies. Big brands and small firms alike have recognised that the potential of live video streaming goes way beyond cute cats and dippy dogs; it's a powerful marketing tool that offers a new way of directly engaging with their target audience - without expecting them to shift their attention from one online environment to another.

Copyright © 2015 Sarah Orchard

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What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you...

October 05, 2015 by Andy Bounds

What makes a great salesperson? The answer might surprise you…{{}}The Sales Executive Council (SEC) has found that salespeople behave in one of five ways, depending on the situation. Here's what they found.

(As you read this, ask yourself two questions: "Which am I?" and "Which is best?")

The relationship builder

  • Gets along with everyone;
  • Builds strong advocates in organisations;
  • Is generous in giving time to others.

The reactive problem solver

  • Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensures that all problems are solved;
  • Detail-orientated.

The lone wolf

  • A bit of a maverick - follows their own instincts;
  • Self-assured;
  • Can be difficult to control.

The hard worker

  • Always willing to go the extra mile;
  • Doesn't give up easily;
  • Self-motivated;
  • Interested in feedback and development.

The challenger

  • Has a different view on the world;
  • Understands the customer's business;
  • Loves to debate, often creating "positive tension" with the customer to help arrive at the best outcome.

Those two questions again:

  1. Which are you?
  2. Which is best?

The SEC found that most salespeople were relationship builders. The idea being that the better someone likes you, the more likely they are to buy from you.

But they found that the most successful salespeople were challengers. In other words, those who provoke customer thinking.

So, whereas the relationship builder often seeks to agree with the customer to enhance the relationship; the challenger often seeks to disagree, to provoke discussion to ensure they arrive at the best solution.

The rationale here is: customers don't always know what's best for them. As Henry Ford famously said "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse".

The simplest way to ensure you challenge others is to teach them something. To make them think "Well I'd never thought of it like that". When this happens, they see you as value-adding. And they want more of it. They seek you out again. Great for them; and for you.

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.

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