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How to choose the right exhibition

June 16, 2014 by Richard Edwards

How to choose the right exhibition/ Exhibition sign{{}}Exhibiting at an industry trade show can do wonders for your business — but it can also cost a lot. So how do you choose the right trade show?

1. Assess your objectives

The first step is to list all the reasons for wanting to exhibit. Be specific. “To increase sales” is too vague.

 How exactly will exhibiting help you to boost sales? Here are some common objectives for exhibitors: 

  • Launch a new product
  • Make new contacts
  • Learn about industry developments
  • Interact with your current customers
  • Test out a new product
  • Gather sales leads

 2. Compare the trade shows to your key objectives

 Next you can start to compare the USPs of each show with your business objectives to find the best matches.

 Look at each trade show and try to find out key information from previous years:

  • Size: both footfall and exhibition space.
  • Industry segment. Which area of the industry will the trade show target?
  • Number of exhibitors. How many attended previous events?
  • Competition. Are your competitors likely to attend? If so, how many and which ones?
  • Publicity. Where will the trade show be publicised online and in the media?
  • Respect. How is the trade show rated by customers and your industry peers?

With this information you should be able to score each potential trade show based on how well they meet your key objectives. This will be a bit of a balancing act between cost, likely outcomes and the resources you have available.

3. Balancing the budget

A fundamental question you need to answer is: Can we afford this trade show?

You should have a good idea of your budget, so the best way to get started is to create a list of all possible trade shows and their cost and cross off all those you cannot afford.

In order to meet defined objectives, it is important to make sure you have factored in appropriate costs for each exhibition including: 

  • Exhibition stand and build
  • Marketing materials
  • Staffing
  • Travel

You will also need to think about the costs of other activities like demonstrations, competitions, branding/graphics, advertising and so on.

Once you have factored all of these costs in for each opportunity, plus the ticket cost, you should have a list of affordable trade shows that match your objectives and target market. 

Richard Edwards is the director of exhibition and event specialist Quatreus.

The SME guide to social customer service

June 12, 2014 by Marc Duke

The SME guide to social customer service/ Unlike red stamp with thumb down{{}}I recently went to the Social Customer Service Summit run by Our Social Times. The event was attended by major brands and technology providers in the social customer service space and looked at all aspects of social customer service in relation to larger organisations.

But if you are a small business or an entrepreneur is this relevant to you?

Let’s assume you have a social media strategy in place. No doubt you have read plenty of hints and tips about social media etiquette; how Facebook and Twitter differ from LinkedIn; how Pinterest, Instagram and Vine will transform your business; and you are up to speed with what you need put on YouTube.

But you may still be wondering if social customer service really is relevant to you and your business. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Radio 4 recently devoted 30 minutes discussing the issue of complaining on Twitter;
  • 53% of people who engage with a brand on Twitter expect a response within one hour or less (Social Media Today);
  • By 2020, 90% of customer service will be done via social media (Gartner);
  • 82% of customers stop doing business with a brand after bad service (Harris Interactive).

So what needs to be done to make social customer service in your business a reality?

Well, it depends on who your customers are and how they behave. As a small business, the chances are you know exactly who they are, whether they are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and you also know how they like to interact with you. Some will prefer email, others will prefer to use the phone or they may — lucky them — get the chance to talk to you face-to-face.

Controlling the customer experience

As a small business you can control exactly what sort of customer experience your employees give your customers, and the fact that you treat your customers in such a personalised way is something they value as much as you.

The challenge comes when your business starts to grow. At present you probably use Twitter and Facebook to get the message out and hope that people hear what you have to say. The question of how to deal with customers who complain on Facebook or Twitter probably isn’t front of mind at the moment.

But as your business grows it has to be.

So think ahead to avoid disappointment and consider the following:

  • People. Make sure your employees know your code of conduct on Twitter, Facebook and other social media as soon as they join. You might have to provide training before letting people loose online as you would on the phones or when responding to email.
  • Process. Make sure you have a series of steps in place to deal with a complaint logged on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t ignore it — a person with 3000 Twitter followers who posts something negative equals 3000 complaints.
  • Place. Social media is a public domain. Any good business owner that has a disgruntled customer in their shop will look to deal with the situation in a private and discreet manner. The rules are exactly the same online.
  • Personality. Ultimately, social is an amazing platform that lets you and your business show its personality to the world. Don’t go all corporate — people are expressing their views and feelings, so respond in kind.
  • Plan. Try to plan for a crisis. As the saying goes, we don’t plan to fail but we will if we fail to plan.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.

Five tips on selling during the upturn

June 10, 2014 by Andy Preston

Five tips on selling during the upturn/ The road to recovery signpost{{}}It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?

1. Write a sales plan

If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.

2. Focus, focus, focus

The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.

If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.

3. Work to your strengths

This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!

We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.

Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.

4. Block out time for prospecting

I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.

There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.

This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.

Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.

5. Get motivated

Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.

Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.

If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at www.andypreston.com.

Posted in Sales | Tagged upturn, sales, recovery | 0 comments

What to do once your content goes live

June 09, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

What to do once your content goes live/ content word{{}}Finding your content on the internet is almost as difficult as looking for a specific star in the Milky Way. It would take you over 340 years to peruse the 2.15 billion actively indexed web pages out there — even if you just spent five seconds on each one.

In short, people aren’t going to simply stumble upon your content. Even though you’ve created an interesting, relevant, high-quality article, you’re still going to have to do some legwork to make the most of it.

Continuing to market and track your content helps deliver reach, targeted delivery and increased credibility. Here are some free ways to increase your content’s exposure after publication.

Free resources to promote your content

If you’re on a budget, there are still lots of ways to get your content in front of relevant audiences — you just need to tap into your networks.

1. LinkedIn Groups

Using your article as a resource in LinkedIn Groups can be effective for sharing your expertise without seeming too promotional. Find like-minded groups and make a habit of joining their discussions before you share your own content. Likewise, don’t overshare and keep it professional.

2. Email signatures

Adding your most recently published article to your email signature functions as an instant credibility badge. I almost always follow a link like this if I want to know more about someone who has emailed me. It demonstrates thought leadership in your industry and it gets your message in front of the people you’re trying to reach.

3. Your company blog

This is a good place to extend the conversation about a published article without duplicating content. Can you follow up on your original blog? What did you learn from the comments on your article? Are there any comments you’d like to respond to? Be sure to include a link to the original article.

Tracking the effectiveness of your content

In addition to getting your content maximum exposure, it’s important to follow the data and use metrics to drive your decisions. With Google Analytics or a similar platform, you can track your leads and conversions by source. If one source stands above the rest, you know you’re effectively reaching your audience, either with your content or the publication.

Tweak your content marketing strategy by immersing yourself in the metrics and making positive changes. Set a goal for your content, whether it’s increasing visits to your site, starting more conversations with prospects or converting more leads that find your site through your content.

Content marketing isn’t a vanity exercise. If you’ve ever done it, you know it takes time, effort and strategy. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your content’s journey ends once it has been published. You’ll be missing out on an opportunity to keep your content working for you.

Mark Hodges is a brand strategist at Influence & Co.

Two ways to optimise your website for mobile

June 04, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Two ways to optimise your website for mobile/Man's hands use a smartphone{{}}It’s almost impossible to succeed as a business today without having a website. But just having a website is no longer enough — SMEs in the UK are missing out on up to £77bn in annual revenues as a result of not having mobile-optimised websites, according to research commissioned by Hibu.

Despite the growing popularity of mobile browsing — fast becoming the main way that we access the internet — the Hibu research found that just 10% of UK SMEs have optimised their websites for mobile.

This is despite the fact that research by Google in 2012 found that two-thirds of smartphone users believe a mobile-friendly site would make them more likely to buy or use that business’s service.

Are you giving your competitors an advantage?

By not having a mobile site you are not only losing out on potential business, you are giving your competitors a distinct advantage. It’s like opening a shop that you can only enter by way of a series of ropes, pulleys and ladders.

Luckily, creating a mobile website need not cost the earth.

Off-the-shelf options

A large budget isn’t necessary for a smart and elegant mobile site, but it’s important not to attempt to go all out. We recommend using a pre-existing theme for a content management system like Wordpress. There are plenty of systems to choose from, but Wordpress suits simplicity and a lower budget.

Using pre-existing themes will give you out-of-the-box mobile functionality with minimal fuss or start-up delays. It doesn’t mean that you’re short of options either — there are thousands of themes available. Sites like Theme Forest have many different options to choose from and all are relatively inexpensive. With so many on offer, you’re sure to find something you like, but it is important to be selective.

Once you’ve made a choice on what sort of plugins, features and themes you want to use, you then need to make sure that they are the right fit for your business, that they are installed properly and that they are optimised. This is the process that you may need help with. The end result will be a smart, functional and simple mobile website that will offer all basic features to mobile visitors.

Tailor-made optimisation

With a higher budget, you have space to make your mobile responsive website more dynamic, more reactive, and more likely to convert visitors into customers.

With a higher budget you can work with complex, but highly beneficial tools that allow you to test for a multitude of browsers and mobile devices visiting your site. That way you can optimise your website for all possible mobiles. It will also give your site a personalised feel — it won’t look like any other mobile website out there.

Being selective is even more important with a bigger budget, simply because you’ll have more to play with. Set objectives for your site and then evaluate which features and options will best help you achieve this. You need to think about what your user will be looking for, and what features they might want on a mobile site.

In short, you need to take a thorough look at your user experience (UX). This way your end result will be an entirely user-focused site that keeps visitors on the site because every aspect is geared toward delivering smooth, easy and attractive usability.

With your mobile site sorted, you can rest easy in the knowledge that those who visit it will be happy that they’ve arrived.

Rudi Hoppe is chief technology officer at content marketing agency Southerly.

Why you should treat your home page like a shop window

June 02, 2014 by Sarah Orchard

Why you should treat your home page like a shop window/ Word Home{{}}There’s a small independent toy shop near my home that I often walk past. I am always really impressed by just how well the staff dress the windows each season or tie in with key events and dates. I particularly loved their recent Six Nations window.

This shop is rightly aware that their window is prime real estate for the business. Make a splash with a fresh display and heads will turn. Dress it once and only make minor changes once in a while and people will walk past without noticing.

Rugby may not be everyone’s cup of tea but change will attract attention and create awareness. And one day, someone who noticed a Welsh flag one week will notice the push-along horse on display a few weeks later — and that would make a perfect gift for their nephew’s birthday.

Your home page is prime online real estate

Now why am I banging on about shop window displays? It’s because the home page of your website is your online shop window. And you can apply the shop window thinking to your own website.

Did you pat yourself on the back for a job well done and breathe a sigh of relief when your website first launched? How much work have you done on it since? Has the home page changed at all?

I meet so many small business owners who treat their websites as a one-off exercise and believe that an online presence is all that is required. Your website is like a living creature that needs to be constantly fed and cared for, if it is to do everything you want it to do. And that means regular updates — especially if yours is an ecommerce business.

What can you do to make your home page work harder?

  • Sit down and plan homepage content for the next six months.
    Think of suitable promotions and content and then create a series of messages that you can feature on your home page.
  • Tap into key seasonal buying dates and events.
    Come up with content related to big events — from Christmas to summer, from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day, not to mention big sporting events such as Wimbledon fortnight or the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. With a little imagination, you can link promotions to all sorts of dates.
  • Create eye-catching visuals and establish a consistent identity.
    You don’t have to be a design guru to do this — nor do you necessarily have to pay for the services of someone who is. Sites like PicMonkey are free to use and a great tool for creating imagery and graphics.
  • Don’t forget to tie in your promotions with your social media activity.
    This will help drive traffic to your website. Create versions of your home page graphics to a size suitable for social media and create synergy between all your marketing channels.
  • And remember, it’s not just website visitors that love fresh, engaging content — so does Google.

Sarah Orchard is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

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