Business in the doldrums? Here’s how to kick start it back into life

If you’ve clicked through to read this article, the chances are your business is a little bit stuck at the moment. The phones aren’t ringing, your inbox is empty and your sales team aren’t delivering the goods. You could of course, put it down to Brexit, or the Election result or even the hot weather, but that doesn’t help to get things moving again. What you need is a plan of action, a business turnaround plan to get you back off the blocks and below we’ve listed some key pointers to help you do just that.

Be Brutal

It’s time to cut needless expenses out of the business to give you more money to spend on creating new business. Here’s what to check:

  • Technology – Are you paying for software you’re not using? Are there cheaper alternatives to the software you do use? Are you getting the best value from your IT support contract? Are there any contracts you can renegotiate?
  • Utilities – Don’t pay over the odds for your electricity, water, gas or internet. Shop around and you could save big
  • Rent and business rates – Do you really need that expensive office in that exclusive postcode? Do all of your employees need to come into the office every day or can you hot desk and downsize your office space?
  • Staff – Is every member of staff adding value to your business? If not, why are they on the payroll? What about your sales team? Are there individuals that always have a deal “just round the corner” that never closes? If so, it’s time to give them a deadline to close their deals or find a new job.
  • Your bank statement – Last but not least, go through your business bank statement with a fine toothcomb. You’d be amazed at what you’re probably paying for on a monthly basis that you hadn’t accounted for. Eliminate all unnecessary expenses and question any payments you don’t recognise.

Go back to basics

For many business owners, the idea of writing a business plan when you’re already years into your journey could seem like a waste of time. After all, you know your business, you know your industry and you know your clients, right? But times change and if that were the case, the business wouldn’t be in the position it’s in today. A business plan forces a business owner (or leadership team) to ask itself questions about the business that are often overlooked. It questions the assumptions a business has been built on and can lead to genuine business insight which can help to reshape the company going forward. Putting a business plan in place with strategic objectives and revenue targets for the next 1 – 5 years helps to focus your mind and your business development activities on achieving those goals at all costs. Most importantly perhaps, it can help to justify any expenditure needed to change the business to meet those long-term objectives. The savings you made in point 1 should go some way to help pay for any changes that need to be made.

Look at the market and adjust your message

Following nicely on from point 2 – if you’ve done your business plan correctly, you’ll have taken a deep dive into your customers, your competition and your industry. That means you will hopefully have identified if your customer’s needs have changed. You’ll also have noted if the industry or most importantly your competition are talking about the product or service you offer in a different way. Ask yourself, is your message and your offering still as relevant today as it was when you set up the business? If it’s not, you need to adapt to survive. Failure to do so will almost definitely result in the failure of your business.

Communicate

Having a business that is not hitting its sales targets is not just a worry for business owners and CEOs. It’s a worry for employees too. It’s important to explain the predicament the business is in to employees, particularly if you’re planning on making changes. Make sure they understand the gravity of the situation and their role in helping the business move forward to better times. By keeping your team in the loop, there will be less pushback about any changes that need to be made and it may even work to your advantage by bringing everyone together to work towards a common goal. Remember, communication is not only about delivering bad news. It’s important to celebrate the good news too so be sure to make public any big business wins.

Put a comprehensive sales and marketing strategy in place

A common theme with many companies that find their sales figures heading south is their reliance on just one method to get new business through the door. Enterprise software companies for example, tend to focus heavily on using sales teams to make outbound, new business calls. E-commerce websites rely heavily on Google Ads, whilst restaurants tend to rely on review sites and online guides. Of course, they use these methods because they work, but they need to be backed up with secondary and tertiary business development channels at the very least. This means that when one method is drying up, the other methods can pick up the slack. A good business will use an array of business development tools including Google PPC, social advertising, blogging, email, events and outbound calling.

Don’t get complacent

So you’ve reshaped the business and things are looking good. Now it’s time to sit back and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve put in… or maybe not. Industry leading companies are always looking for new ways to drive their business forward. They want to be ahead of the competition, trying new ideas, engaging with potential clients in different ways and innovating wherever and whenever possible. It’s a good strategy to have. The best time to try new things, is when you’ve got cash in the bank to absorb anything that doesn’t work out. If it does work out, you’ll be in even better shape should you run into difficult times again in the future.

Get your blog on – a beginner’s guide to blogging

 

Better Google rankings, increased website traffic, improved conversion rates and growing brand awareness. These are just some of the benefits that a blog can give your business and so if you value any of the above, it’s important that you make time and effort to write and publish a blog regularly. But where do you start and how do you make sure, it’s not like 80% of the other blog posts out there which deliver absolutely no value to the reader and leave you clicking on the exit button before you’ve even finished the first paragraph? Well, here at businesshands, we write a lot of blogs for a lot of different clients so here’s our top 5 tips on how to produce a compelling blog.

Tip #1 – Understand who you are writing for

The first thing to remember when you are blogging is that you’re not writing for you. You are writing for the reader. Ask yourself what kind of person do you want to come to your website. What are their interests in relation to your offering? What questions might they have? What topics would they find useful? How can you educate them or excite them so that they go away thinking “I enjoyed that, I want to come back.” What value can you give them? Write down your thoughts. This should give you the basis for Tip #2.

Tip #2 – Write a content plan

So you’ve just completed a brainstorm about your ideal website visitor. You know who they are, what they like and what they might like to know. Now turn all of that into a content schedule. Build a list of weekly topics. Try to come up with an enticing title for each and underneath write a few bullet points to help frame what points you want to get across and any conclusion that is to be drawn.

Tip #3 – Structure your blog

Typically each blog post will contain an introduction, “the meat”, and then a summary / conclusion / call to action. Your introduction needs to be punchy, particularly in the first couple of sentences as this is what will appear in the preview when you post it on social media. For many writers however, it’s these first two sentences that prove to be the hardest to write. If you’re suffering a case of writer’s block, try pretending that you’re already two or three sentences in and start from there. You can come back and add the introductory first sentence later on, once your article is in full flow. If you’re truly stuck, and need the introductory sentence before you can get going, think about using a statistic and then building off it. For example:
“A recent survey found that 88% of B2B marketers see content production as the most important part of their marketing strategy”

Tip #4 – Pack it full of personality

The chances are, your company is not the only one offering the product or service that you do. As an insider in the company, you no doubt firmly believe you are unique, but to an outsider a hat shop is just like any other hat shop. A POS software company is just like any other POS software company, a legal or accountancy firm is just like any other legal or accountancy firm. It’s what you say (Tip #1) and how you say it that will make your business stand out so try and pull your writing away from corporate speak and give it a human touch. The more human and real you can be, the more powerful your blog will become. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences and relate them directly to your readership… and don’t believe for a second that this tip is not relevant for the industry you are in. No matter how corporate or formal your industry is, adding personality and humanness to your writing will make the information you are providing far more digestible.

Tip #5 – Use great imagery

A good image can speak a thousand words and even if it doesn’t, it will be a powerful lure to bring more readers to your blog. It’s important then, to choose your image carefully. For many bloggers today, the standard practice is to use a google image search to find something they like and then use this on their own blog. But there’s a danger with this. Most of these images are not royalty free. If you are using an image without the consent of the image owner, you are liable and could face legal action or be forced to pay a fee for the use of the image. Better practice is to use a stock image or create one yourself.

Of course, there is a danger with stock images too… in that some of them look too much like a stock image. Shy away from bland, overly corporate or cliché images and try and find something unique that fits in with your topic. In our next blog, we’ll be providing a list of great websites you can use to get truly inspiring (and mostly free) stock imagery so watch this space.

So there’s five quick tips on how to blog for beginners… and here’s a bonus one which is probably the most important of them all.

Tip #6 – Content is nothing without distribution

You’ve done the hard work of writing and publishing your blog on your website but you’re not finished yet. Unless you promote your blog and distribute it to your audience, nobody will see it. A blog is typically distributed in one of two ways.

  1. Through a newsletter to your existing database
  2. Through social media – this can be posted on your company page and also be boosted to reach new audiences by turning it into an ad. Don’t forget with social media, you can post your blog multiple times, simply by changing the headline image and choosing a different message to display alongside the link to your blog

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it with your connections and if you would like to discuss any of the topics covered, don’t hesitate to drop us a line on +44 (0)203 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

7 things you need to do to your website right now

So you’ve just had a brand new website built and you’re ready for launch. It’s packed full of glossy images. Stacked full of information about your company and jacked up to the nines with widgets to let people follow you, sign up to your newsletter or even book a meeting. It’s all very exciting and you’ve led the project from start to finish. You really feel it shows off, not just your creative genius but also the values and the personality of the brand it represents. But before you hit the “launch” button, there’s a few things you should be checking to make sure your website doesn’t end up doing more damage to your brand than good. Things which you’d be amazed how many businesses fail to do.

Check for spelling and grammar errors

For every website that is spelling and grammar error free, there will be five more websites that are littered with literary mistakes and that’s bad for business. If you’re building an all singing, all dancing website, it can be easy to get caught up in the aesthetics and the functionality and forget to proof read the information your website displays. For best practice, get at least two other people to proof read the entire website before going live. If you’ve already gone live, go back and do it anyway.

Check for inaccurate or outdated information

Yes, this might be a shiny new website, but for many, the temptation to copy and paste at least a few paragraphs from the old website will be strong and why not. After all, the company has probably not changed much over the years so where’s the harm? Well, if your website contains statistics or outdated processes from a decade ago, it’s not going to look very relevant today. Similarly, expressing pride for winning an award back in 2012 isn’t going to make you look like a very forward thinking company. But what’s more important than both of these however, is if your website mentions laws or regulations that have changed. You could become liable if a visitor comes to your website for advice and then suffers because of it.

Check your links work

Links between different areas of your website are good for SEO and depending on the size and type of your website, your links could run into the tens or even hundreds. But faulty links have the opposite effect. They’re bad for SEO and bad for the customer experience so check every link works before going live. The most common link failures we come across are the social media icons, which often still link to the web developer’s social media sites or don’t go anywhere at all.

…. A further note on social media links

If you have no intention of implementing a social media strategy and will not be using your social media regularly, we would recommend not putting links to them on your website. Social Media is used by prospective clients as a validation tool to aid in the buying process. If you are not using social media, it’s better to not advertise the fact. If you have an existing website with social media links and you’re not using social media, ask your development team to remove them.

Make sure your contact information is correct

Its easily overlooked, but check the website developer hasn’t left a “filler” number in the contact information field or in the footer by mistake? If it looks like the right number, just go through it slowly. You’d be surprised how many times a couple of numbers are the wrong way around or one of the numbers is missing. What about the email address. Is that correct? Is it still in use? Have you tested it recently? It would be a shame if customers are emailing you and their message is going into an online abyss. And of course, don’t forget to test your contact forms too. Do they work? Where do they point to? Will your customer receive an automated responder once they send in a query?

Check it works equally well on a mobile

With well over half of all internet traffic taking place on a mobile device these days, if you’re website is not mobile compatible, your business will seriously miss out. It’s worth remembering that Google rates mobile friendly websites higher than non-mobile friendly sites, so even if your website is viewable but not “mobile compatible” your Google ranking will be affected. And if your web developer says your website is mobile friendly, don’t just take their work for it. It’s up to you to thoroughly test your site. Often developers will use website themes (like a template) which automatically adjusts the website for different devices, however they don’t always work as they should and you might find different parts of your website end up overlapping or become unusable.

Get third party feedback

Last but not least, ask someone who is not immediately involved in your organisation to look at your website and explain to you what you do and the value you offer. So often, the content of a website is written by someone so entrenched in the company and the industry they represent that the message they deliver is not coherent to people on the outside. Remember, your message has to explain to a potential customer, the value you deliver and why they should have an interest in your products or services. It doesn’t need to deliver a detailed historical account of your company or provide in-depth technical specifications for your offering (unless you are an e-commerce site).

So there you go. 7 simple things you can do right now to make your website that little bit better. Of course there are many more and we’d welcome your thoughts and advice, so website guru’s – we look forward to you adding your thoughts in the comments field below.

How to market any product or service effectively

You’ll find a million articles on the net these days about the virtues of different types of marketing and why it’s great. SEO fanatics will tell you about the importance of getting your business high up the list in Google, whilst social media bods will tell you the importance of brand engagement and emotional connectivity. Content writers love to tell a story which puts the consumer at its heart and email marketers will provide you with statistical analysis showing how they deliver ROI. And all of that is great except it misses out one vital piece of the marketing puzzle. One so powerful, it can render any marketing activity you do, regardless of the medium you choose – as completely useless. And that’s asking one very important question – “what exactly am I trying to sell?”

You see a spade is not just a spade. They’re big, the small, they’re tall, they’re short, they’re squared headed, they’re rounded headed, they’re wooden handled, they’re plastic handled, they’re expensive, they’re cheap. Each spade has a different set of properties and consequently, has the power to fulfil a slightly different need and that will make it more or less attractive to a particularly type of customer. The same goes for almost any kind of product or service you can think of. So with that in mind, here’s a few things you need to be thinking of before you begin to deliver your marketing message.

1. The problem

Does your product or service solve a problem, if so what does it solve? Not only that, why specifically is your product or service particularly good at solving this problem and why is that important to your customer?

2. The emotion

How will the customer feel if they have their problem solved by your product or service? Paint a picture and put them in the moment. Ahh, isn’t it just great having that problem solved? If your product or service doesn’t solve a problem, let’s say for example, it’s purely a recreational offering – that’s even more of a reason to pull on the emotional benefits of that your audience can expect from buying your product or service.

3. The user or the buyer?

The user of your product /service and the buyer are not necessarily the same person and it’s important to understand who has a greater influence in the purchasing decision and make sure you speak / market mostly to them. Take for example, a toy doll. The buyer will most likely be a responsible adult whilst the child will be the user and the person who influences the decision, hence most adverts for toys (except educational ones) are focused on selling to the child. Move that into a B2B environment however and you might have an expensive piece of software that you’re trying to sell. The users might be a group of salesman, but the buyer is the CEO. He’s the one trying to solve a business problem and he’s the one you need to direct your marketing towards. What problem are you solving for him / her and how?

4. The competition

No matter how good you are at what you do, there’s always experts in your field that you can learn from. More often than not, they’re the competition. Now I’m a firm believer in the idea that whatever you focus your mind on will grow. If you focus on your business, it will grow. If you always focus on the competition, they will end up growing because you’ll be distracted. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing some occasional research on your rivals. What are they saying? How are they positioning their products or services and is there anything that your product or service offers which theirs doesn’t? A little look at the competition doesn’t hurt, but make sure your research is objective and not artificially negative or biased and don’t get obsessive.

5. Define yourself

So now you’ve pulled together all this information and you have a better idea than ever of what it is you’re trying to sell and who exactly you need to be selling it to. Now it’s crunch time. You need to condense everything you’ve learnt into a series of short, well-defined messages about your product or service which you will consistently focus on through your sales and marketing campaigns. It doesn’t have to be many, in fact in many cases – the fewer the better. Make sure your messages are succinct and aimed at the right person and you’ll have a much better chance with your sales and marketing activities, no matter what medium you choose to push your message out through, be it social media, email, content or SEO.

We’d love to hear your comments below and if you like this article, don’t forget to share it with your colleagues and of course, if you need help with your marketing – don’t hesitate to drop us a line today on 0207 458 4788.

Thanks for reading

5 things to consider before you make your first post on social media

So I’ve just been working on the marketing strategy for a brand-new tech start-up that I’m bringing to life called Secret Think Tank and thought I’d share with you, some of the factors we’ve taken into consideration before taking the leap into social media with the new business. Let’s dive straight in.

What’s your goal?

It’s a simple question which for many people, proves difficult to answer. Many organisations we speak to have a social media presence because they think they should, but they don’t really know what they’re trying to achieve from it or what they should expect from it – and that’s a problem. If you don’t know why you’re doing social media, how do you know if what you are posting is helping or hindering your objectives. For our new start-up, Secret Think Tank, our goals are to increase brand awareness and generate registrations for the platform before the launch. With that in mind, we can now tailor our posts accordingly and build a strategy to maximise the reach of our posts to improve brand awareness.

Who is your target audience?

The chances are that you’ll want to target your ideal customer or at least, the person with the decision-making ability with regards to purchases.  The last thing you’ll want to do is publish a stack of posts giving them the hard sell so you’ll need to think about the interests, the values and the challenges that they have and how that coincides with your products or services. Think about how you can relate to your target audience and most importantly, how you can add value to your target audience. It’s important at this stage to also figure out where they hang out. There’s little point having a LinkedIn strategy if for example, you’re trying to sell to teenagers. But don’t be presumptuous about this. Go and do your research. Hang out on a range of platforms and find which ones work best for your brand.

What is your brand persona?

Now you might think we’re starting to get all “agency” on you, but this is a very important point. Your company will be defined to the online world by how you come across on social media. If your business is always posting negative things, you’ll come across as a negative company. If your posts are short and devoid of personality, that’s how your company will come across on social media. Think about your brand values and how you want to be perceived by your followers and make a sustained effort to adhere to that in every post you deliver.

How can you integrate your social media into the wider marketing strategy?

If you’ve got hundreds of thousands of followers, you’ll probably find that social media is a strong sales tool in its own right. But if you’re not that lucky, then you’ll need to think about how your social media fits into the bigger picture. How can social media be used to complement your sales and other marketing activities? Where does it sit in the process? How can you maximise the value of social media to your business, day in day out?

What’s your growth strategy?

Starting off with zero followers and no social media posts on your wall can be pretty daunting, so how are you going to get through the first few months and build a sizeable following that starts to deliver value to your business? There’s no doubt that in the beginning at least, you’ll need to allocate a decent amount of money to run social media advertising campaigns. If you’re a social media newcomer, that might come as a surprise. After all, social media is free… right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s a bit of a myth. Sure you can post for free, but if you want to reach anyone outside of your friends, family and work colleagues, you’ll need to pay.

There’s typically three types of campaign  you might want to run – (i) increase the number of followers (ii) drive traffic to your website or (iii) maximise engagement with your audience. Whether you choose one, two or all three of those options and how you split your social media budget between them will all depend on the answer to the first question – “what’s your goal?”

 

So there’s 5 things to consider before you even tap a hashtag into your keyboard. I’m sure there’s more. Can you think of any? If so, let us know and we’ll publish the best ones on a second blog and give you credit for them.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve find this article useful, don’t forget to share.

Chris Mayfield

CEO of businesshands

Founder of Secret Think Tank

How to write a killer introductory email pitch

If you’re like me, you probably receive upwards of 10 introductory emails or LinkedIn messages every day pitching all manner of product and services. Do you read any of them? Probably not. I know for a fact that most of mine don’t even get opened because of the email subject line and those emails that do, rarely get read below the first line. That’s not because I don’t need their products or services. In fact, in the time it takes me to hit the delete key I probably don’t even know what half of them are selling. The point is – they are selling and I don’t want to take time out of my busy day to be sold to.

And that’s a problem. What if you or I want to use an email pitch to reach out to relative strangers and stoke up new business? Is email dead? Should we give up before we even start? Not so fast. You see, out of the hundreds of unsolicited emails which arrive in my inbox every month – very rarely, one does catch my attention and I do go onto (i) read it and (ii) take action. So what makes this rare email pitch different from all the others? Here’s a few observations, which if followed – are much more likely to lead to your email being picked up and read.

Get Personal

Blanket, impersonal, generic emails are of no interest to anyone. If you are sending volumes of unsolicited emails (i.e. spam) – don’t. Respect your receiver. Learn a bit about the person, their role and their business through their LinkedIn profile. Be sure to demonstrate that you have spent time doing this in your email. It shows a more considered approach.

It’s not me, it’s you

Here’s a golden rule about introductory emails. It’s not about your products or services, it’s about your reader’s problems and their pain points. If you’ve not spent time understanding the trigger point which makes people think “I need to buy one of those…” about your product or service – do it now. Make everything in your email about their pain and how you can take that away.

Cut the Crap

Have you ever read an email and thought “I don’t even understand what this is about”?  I had a sales email the other day exactly like that. In fact, it was one of the few emails that made me read past the first line, purely because it made no sense whatsoever and I was intrigued to understand how bad the email could get (it actually motivated me to write this). The bottom line is – cut the jargon, the over familiarity and the clichés and tell it how it is. Your reader will appreciate the normality and honestly of what they’re reading.

Don’t do the Loop

There’s a common thought process in sales, that the more you contact someone, the more likely they are to buy from you and to an extent that’s true. However, some very lazy people are taking this to the extreme and simply setting up repetitive, automated email loops containing four or five messages, hoping that at some point the recipient will finally break down and buy (or cry). DON’T DO THIS. WANT TO KNOW WHY? Your domain will be blacklisted. Take a look in your spam filter and you’ll probably see hundreds of emails from people putting this lazy practice into practice. Why are they in your spam folder? Because their domain has been listed as junk. Do you want to risk all of the emails addresses in your entire organisation being listed as junk? If you are sending out junk you deserve to be classed as junk so don’t take the risk.

Size Matters

When we work with clients to create an email pitch, they often want to squeeze every last possible bit of information they can think of into a message. Who they are, how long they’ve been going, why they’re great, what they offer, what this means, who else they’ve done it for, what else they might be able to do and an infinite number of ways they can be contacted. Your recipient has no time or interest in this. All they want to know is what’s in it for them… and rightly so.  Keep your email pitch short, simple and to the point. Here’s quite an extreme example of a good message that does the trick:

Dear <name> . I notice that you <demonstrate you know who they are> . We help companies do <value add> .  We could <explain exactly how you could improve their circumstance> . Would you be Ok with me dropping you a phone call at some point this week to tell you a bit more / demonstrate our product?

I look forward to hearing back from you shortly,

Provide an Incentive

If you want to add extra spice to your email, try adding a time-limited incentive. Maybe the reader can get a free upgrade to the next service package. Maybe they’ll get entered into a prize draw or receive a tempting discount. The choice of incentive is up to you. Just make sure it’s something that will motivate the recipient to take action. The offer of a free “consultation” is about as popular as a leaky pen.

Be Precise

As I’ve shown in the short email example above, be precise. There’s a temptation with emails to write an elaborate play on words, a war and peace email showcasing your literary prowess. But every unnecessary word your type is taking the reader’s focus away from your message. Be precise in what you’re offering and be precise in what you want. Leave the storytelling for your blogs and other extra-curricular activities.

That’s all from me for now. If you like this article, please share it and if you need help with any area of your marketing, drop us a call today on 0207 458 4788.

5 Social Media Myths Debunked

Most organisations now have at least a skeleton presence on social media. For many though, social media is not quite working out how they thought. Is your organisation one of them? If you are struggling to find the value in your social media activities, it could be because you’ve fallen victim to one of these common social media myths… take a look.

The more followers you have the greater the success

This is probably the most common misconception about social media… that more followers = more results but that couldn’t be more wrong. This myth has given rise to a whole industry selling bundles of instant followers to boost your count and drive results. The reality is though, there’s no point in having any followers unless they’re going to interact with your posts and engage with your brand. The bundles of instant followers you see for sale are fake. Having 10 high quality followers is far more powerful than having 10,000 fake followers who don’t do anything at all. Engagement is the name of the game when it comes to social media. Your social media activity forms part of your customer journey. You need to incite action (either a like, a click through to a website, a share, a ‘buy it now’, a ‘call now’, or an enquiry).

And whilst you may think it doesn’t do any harm to buy a few thousand instant followers to make your profile look good, doing so will affect your ability to measure the success of your activity… and if you can’t measure the success of your marketing, how do you know if you’re spending your time and your money wisely.

You need to have a presence on every platform

We’ve covered this in a few posts recently but it’s an important point. Don’t waste time advertising in places where your customers won’t be. B2B companies tend to do well on LinkedIn, Twitter and surprising for some – Instagram. For B2C, replace LinkedIn with Facebook. But don’t take our word for it. Go and explore each social platform yourself. Are there brands similar to yours on that platform that are doing well? Are there people you would like to target, hanging out on these platforms. If you can’t decide whether a social platform will be good for your business, the best thing to do is dive in and give it a go. Put a 1 month, high visibility strategy in place and measure the benefits. This could be an increase in website visitors, enquiries or sales.

The key is not to make assumptions about your audience and where they might hang out. Here’s a few businesses you might not expect to do well on their chosen social media but they do.

Instagram

Biltwell (bike parts):                        https://www.instagram.com/biltwell/

King Arthur Flour:                             https://www.instagram.com/kingarthurflour/

Facebook

Mabel’s Labels (stationary):         https://www.facebook.com/Mabelhood

Brian Bilston (poetry):                   https://www.facebook.com/BrianBilston/

LinkedIn:

Farm and Stable Suppliers            https://www.linkedin.com/company/10342445

The Sausage Man                             https://www.linkedin.com/company/5343033

Twitter:

Severn Trent (utilities)                   https://twitter.com/stwater

Charmin (loo roll!)                           https://twitter.com/Charmin

Social media is not a sales tool

Ok, ok, there is some truth in this. But if you’re expecting to push out a few tweets and have the phone ringing off the hook or be inundated with orders, think again. Social media is a sales tool however, if you put a strategy in place and build it into your sales process and customer journey. Think about how your clients currently buy from you. The chances are they come through your website, right? If that’s the case, how do you get more people to visit your website? Through social media of course. But you’ll need to get creative. Social media offers so much more than simply the ability to push out post after post. Think about paid advertising campaigns, sponsored content connected to landing pages… what about a competition or a direct messaging campaign either through LinkedIn or Twitter? There are hundreds of ways to use the social media platforms to engage with your target audience… and as we mentioned before, engagement is the name of the game.

You can put all of your posts into a scheduler on a Monday morning and then forget about it for the week.

So this follows on from our point above. The more time and effort you put into social media, the more it will deliver for your business. Working with SMEs, we occasionally have to compete with social media freelancers for clients and typically they come in at about ¼ of the price. Now that might sound like a good deal to you, but if all they’re doing is putting a few posts in a scheduler once a week, you won’t be getting value for money. Stacking a couple of posts per day into a scheduler and ignoring it for the rest of the week is akin to standing in a shop doorway and occasionally commenting on the world or shouting out the occasional offer. It’s not an effective way to do business. Far better is to get amongst your customers, get involved in their conversations, grow brand awareness and build relationships. That’s when social media begins to deliver value to a business.

It’s impossible to measure the benefit to your business of social media

One of the core principles of successful marketing is measurement. It doesn’t matter if it’s door to door leaflet drops, a Google AdWords campaign, an email newsletter or your social media. So what should you be measuring when it comes to social media marketing? Well, that all depends on what the point of your social media is. If you’re posting blindly to your social media pages without a strategy and a set of objectives, you won’t have a great deal to go on… and furthermore, your social media won’t be very successful. First, think about what you want to achieve (brand awareness, a click through to a website, a share, a ‘buy it now’, a ‘call now’, or an enquiry). Next think about how you’ll be able to measure this metric. Take a measurement now, before it all starts. Finally, develop a strategy to help you achieve your goals and put it in play. Measure regularly and modify / fine tune your strategy as and when necessary.

With these 5 social media myths debunked, hopefully you’ll save time and money and getting better results from your marketing efforts in future. Here’s one last myth we should probably debunk. Social media isn’t free. You might frown at this as you sit there regularly posting on your favourite social media platform without paying a penny, but if you want to promote your organisation through a social media strategy, you will need to spend money on paid social advertising campaigns to see any kind of success.

If this all sounds a bit complicated or confusing… or you just don’t have the time or the skillset within your organisation to make your social media work, contact a member of the businesshands team today on 0207 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

PS: Don’t forget to share this post if you’ve found it useful.

Not seeing any results from your marketing budget? Here’s why…

Over the years, we’ve spoken to literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of companies about their marketing and we’ve found they typically fall into one of four categories.

  1. Companies that don’t believe that marketing works
  2. Companies that have no marketing budget but would ‘do’ marketing if they had one
  3. Companies that do have a marketing budget but aren’t getting the required results.
  4. Companies that do have a marketing budget and are getting results from it

If you recognise that your organisation sits firmly in the third category, this post is for you. Below we’ve listed five common reasons why a company’s marketing efforts might not bare any fruit. Don’t forget you can drop us a line at any point if you would like more information or assistance.

Wrong place

It’s a classic. Someone, somewhere at some point in the past said “Facebook works great for our business” and since then you’ve been valiantly pushing out content on ships propellers or the latest bulletproof vests through your Facebook page waiting for phone to ring. There’s a school of thought which says the more places you market to the better… but it’s wrong. That’s only good for a marketing agency’s wallet. Spend your time, effort and money on marketing your business in places where your customers hang out. If that’s LinkedIn, great. If it’s a forum or a specific industry platform, then market to there. Don’t be too quick to jump to assumptions though. You wouldn’t think Instagram for example, would be a good place for a shipyard to market, but Besiktas Shipyard in Turkey has got over 17.6 thousand followers. Take a look.

Wrong Message

Customer-centric marketing is nothing new. It’s about focusing your marketing message (and your strategy) around the wants and needs of your customers to drive engagement. It’s not about pushing out product or company information and explaining why you’re the greatest. Imagine if we were to say that we’re the best marketing agency for small and medium sized businesses in the UK over and over again… you might find that interesting once, but you’d grow tired of that message pretty quickly. Audiences are fickle and it might not be a very “PC” thing to say – but they’re self-absorbed and will always ask “what’s in it for me?”.  Focus your marketing on how your product or service will make your customers feel. What problems does it address? How will it transform your customer’s lives?

If you’ve got your head around customer-centric marketing and it’s still not working – your message can still be wrong, irrelevant or outdated. Market research will tell you the challenges your target market face and what their buying triggers might be with surprising results. One last thing. Keep your message simple. Don’t unnecessarily confuse your audience.

No measurement

Imagine giving someone £25,000 to buy a vehicle for you. A specialist vehicle that had to make a very specific trip and deliver a particularly niche product and your business depended on it. Now imagine after handing over the money and never bothering to check whether the purchased vehicle was up to the job or in fact, completed the job.

That’s the same as spending money on a marketing campaign and not measuring it. How do you know if the campaign is up to the job? How do you know if it delivered results? How do you know if it’s something you should be putting more money into it?

Before starting any campaign, understand what you’re trying to achieve and make sure you’ve got the tools in place to measure the metrics. If a campaign isn’t working, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bin it and start again from scratch. Sometimes a slight change of wording or a different image is all it takes to turn a campaign around. A good marketing manager will always measure and refine again and again and again.

Poor Website

Marketing forms part of your customer journey. It reaches out to people and draws them in… normally to your website. Your website then furnished your visitors with more information and gets them excited enough about your product or service that they’ll want to purchase or make an enquiry about it. Having a poor website puts an instant stop to the customer journey. We’ve seen some great campaigns recently on LinkedIn ads and we’ve clicked through to see if they can help our business. Often though the campaigns have directed us through to a dated or incomplete website with poor grammar and broken links. LinkedIn marketing isn’t cheap and some companies are spending hundreds, if not thousands of pounds every month directing people through to a website which is turning potential customers away. Before you start any marketing campaign – plan the customer journey and make sure every step along the way leads your customers towards a potential purchase.

No follow up

Following on from our point about marketing being a journey, prospective customers often need a little nudge in the right direction, even if they’ve reacted positively to your marketing so make sure you give it to them. It’s easy to think that a prospect has gone off the idea of buying your product because they’ve not been back in touch, but the truth is – we’re all busy people and we all get distracted. Make it a rule that every marketing campaign is measured and followed up to ensure you’re making the most of your marketing budget. You’ll be surprised at the difference a follow up can make.

That’s all in this post. If you would like more information about the points raised or you would like to talk about how our marketing services can benefit your organisation – get in touch on +44 (0) 207 458 4788. Thanks – and don’t forget, if you’ve found this article useful, someone you know probably will do too so place share.

Is your business going nowhere?

I was speaking to a fellow business owner during the Christmas break and as normally happens when you meet someone in the same predicament as yourself, we ended up talking about our businesses. I spoke of the successes we’d had in 2016 and our aggressive growth plans for 2017. Meanwhile she spoke of a difficult year past and the likelihood of another difficult year ahead. Her business she felt, was going nowhere fast and on further questioning, it was easy to see why and best of all, how to turn the business around. So if you’re in the same predicament, thinking that your business is in for a tough year and feeling like your treading water or worse still, getting swept off downstream – here’s a few ideas to help turn it around.

Know your business

The first thing I did was to ask what the most popular products were and what the most profitable products were. Were they the same? If not, how can you make your profitable products more popular or your popular ones more profitable? By having intimate insight into your clients buying habits and understanding exactly what you make on each product or service you sell, you can get a better idea of what needs to happen to make more money in your business.

Get rid of loss leaders and replace with profit winners

Following on from the above, if you’re offering products that lose the business money or merely break-even, get rid of them. Similarly, if you’re offering products and services that no-one is buying, bin them too. Expand on the products and services which are the most popular and most profitable.

Don’t do freebies

If you’re a service provider (or a software provider), the chances are you regularly get asked to do stuff for free on the promise of future work. DON’T DO IT! Some people run their businesses by going round to service providers and asking for free stuff on the premise of future work that they have no intention of giving. If someone asks you for a freebie, tell them you’d be happy to offer the equivalent value of the freebie in the form of a discount on future invoices after the first month. If they’re really serious about forming a long-term relationship, they’ll be happy to snap that offer up. If they’re not and simply want a free ride, they’ll walk away. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Make a Plan

One of the most amazing aspects of my conversation with this fellow business owner was that her business was 5 years old yet she had never made a (i) business plan or (ii) a yearly sales and marketing plan. The result was that she was still paying herself below minimum wage and continuing her business in the hope that things would turn around.

  1. THINGS WON’T TURNAROUND UNLESS YOU MAKE THEM
  2. HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY

Take a snap shot of your business today. How many clients do you have? What’s the average spend per customer? What’s your client retention rate? How much profit are you making off how many sales? Now ask yourself, what are your targets on these points for the year ahead and how are you going to do it? Put a plan in place, pin it to your wall and follow it. Do you need more marketing, more events, better products, better aftersales, more repeat business? How will you do it?

NO PLAN = NO IMPROVEMENT.

Motivate and reward yourself

Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes. For me its regular exercise and the promise of a new tattoo or a weekend away if I hit a key revenue or profit target. If you work from home, think about investing in a hot desk so that you can get some social interaction with other small business owners. If you sit at your desk all day, think about going for a midday run or doing an exercise session off your iPad. What about new skills? Would a training course help you to make your business better? There’s plenty of free or extremely cheap training available on the internet if you know where to look and websites like Eventbrite will point you in the direction of meetup groups and training seminars. Look to the future, don’t live in the past or even the present. If you hit your aggressive growth targets, how is that going to feel? How are you going to reward yourself? Won’t that feel amazing? Make it happen.

Know when to quit

Some of you might be surprised by this. After all, who likes a quitter? The reality is though, if you’ve done the sums and your business isn’t viable or you’re really not enjoying it – throw in the towel. Don’t keep ploughing your valuable time and money into something which isn’t going anywhere. Seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that they’ve had businesses which have either not made it out of the starting block, or have cost them dearly and lost them money later down the line.

FAILURE IS NOT FAILURE…

Yes, you read that right. As someone who has had an expensive failure in the past, I’ll be the first to say the £10k I lost on a previous start-up was £10k well spent. The lessons I learnt from that have been invaluable in making a success of businesshands today and if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Just to add some colour to my £10k loss – the company failed because I didn’t put a plan in place. I didn’t calculate how much profit I would be making from each customer and how many sales I would need to make for the business to sustain me and fund its own expansion. When I finally did the calculations and realised it was going to be impossible to make a living from it, I closed the business down within 24 hours and walked away.  Painful yes, but it would have been far more painful to live in denial and continue for months, maybe even years before finally throwing in the towel.

If you’re a business owner or senior director and need help with your business, we’re here to help. Not only do we offer a comprehensive outsourced marketing department service to get your business seen and heard by the people that count most, but we also offer strategic marketing advice. For more information, call us on 0207 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this article if you’ve found it useful.

10 Ways to Increase Sales in 2017

Yep, we know – there are probably a million articles on the net this week about how to increase sales in 2017. But this post is different – why? Because it’s actually useful. It’s full of real, no nonsense, genuinely implementable things you can do to increase your chances of getting new business in 2017. Are you ready? Let’s begin.

Revise your message

Take a look at the wording on your website and in your marketing literature. Is it still relevant in 2017? Are your clients still facing the same challenges? Do they still want the same things? What are your competitors saying? Is it time to modernise your message to remain relevant in the year ahead?

Go through your existing clients and upsell or cross sell

It’s a simple as it sounds. Pull up a list of your existing clients and ask what more can you do for them. Can you sell them a higher volume of the same product or do you have an alternative product that they would also benefit from? It might pay to look at their website and their social media and find out what’s going on in the company to give you a better idea of how you can add value. Unless you have hundreds or even thousands of clients, it pays to go through each one and create a unique offer just for them. It may be more time consuming but you’ll see greater returns. Send each client an email with their bespoke offer and follow up 24 hours later with a phone call.

‘Happy Meal’ your offering

This is an extension on the idea about and is a great way to increase sales and cross sell your products. Just like we do here at businesshands, why not try bundling a selection of your products and services together at a discount price and offering this as a package to your customers. This works well if you have a large client / prospect database. Try to create 2 or three different bundles to meet different needs and budgets.

Lure your old clients back

If you lost some clients in the past year or two, now is the time to put in a quick call or email. Acknowledge them as a previous client, ask them about their plans for 2017, find out about their current arrangements and if they’re happy with them. Next be brutally honest and ask them if you could do anything to bring persuade them to give you another shot, what would it be?

Turn your invoice into a sales tool

This is a real winner. Add a special / time limited offer to the bottom of every invoice you send in 2017 and we guarantee it will deliver results.

Ask for referrals and recommendations

Don’t be afraid to ask clients with whom you have a good relationship to recommend you to their connections, whether that be clients or suppliers. You may want to put a referral scheme in place. There’s been a lot of negativity around these schemes but done well, they can become a real business development asset for your business. Here at businesshands, we offer a 10% referral payment to our existing clients (in the form of a discount on their bill) if we get a new client based on their recommendation. We only pay out when the new client pays their first invoice. Our referral scheme is mentioned at the bottom of every invoice as are the T&C’s around it so our clients get a reminder of the scheme every month.

Invest in a quality social media strategy

Here’s two questions for you. (i) Is your business on social media? (ii) Has social media delivered any value to the business? Your answers are probably (i) Yes and (ii) No. We talk with countless start-ups and SMEs every month who are not getting anything out of their social media. Done well though, social media could be one of your greatest business development assets. If it’s not working in your business, get an agency that specialises in it to help you out… preferably us of course!

Do 5 prospecting calls every day

Nobody likes to make sales calls but if you really want to see your business pipeline skyrocket it’s a necessary evil. Try doing your sales calls first thing in the morning before opening your emails or getting distracted with other convenient tasks. 5 calls can take anything from 10 to 30 minutes of your time after which you’ll be free to carry on with your normal daily activities. Best of all, if your morning calls go well, you’ll be set up for a great day ahead. If you’re selling B2B (business to business) – you can create your prospects list from research on LinkedIn and prepare the day before.

Combine blogs and LinkedIn

If you’re a B2B business and you’re not writing regular high quality blogs/articles – you should be. Blogging is not only great for your SEO but it helps to define who you are as a brand, it helps to show your expertise and it helps to demonstrate you can solve your (potential) customer’s problems. A great way to maximise the visibility of your blog and get it in front of people who will find value in it, is to set up a LinkedIn InMail campaign. This will allow you to introduce your company to a very specific list of people which can be filtered by Job title, seniority, company size, location and many other factors. If you’d like to know more about this option – get in touch.

Exhibit

Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to gather new leads and it doesn’t have to be expensive.  We have just booked a stand at a local trade show in February for just £130 + VAT. Don’t be afraid to haggle on price and plan the event carefully. You’ll need to think about what you do in the build up to the event, what you’re going to do and say at the event and then how you’re going to follow up afterwards.

So there you go, 10 ways for your business to increase sales in 2017. And because we’re full of new year’s cheer, here’s another one on us…

Network within your industry

Networking events might seem superficial but they’re not just about finding new clients. These events provide a great platform to make more contacts within your industry and make more people aware of your business. By growing awareness of your brand, you’re more likely to receive referrals and who knows, you may even be able to build a partnership with another non-competing business in your sector to help sales really take off.

If you would like any more information or advice on the above tips, why not give one of our team a call today on 0207 458 4788. Thanks… and don’t forget – if you’ve found this article useful, please share it with your network.