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.

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

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.

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.

How to maximise the potential of every blog post you write

If you’ve worked hard to write an article or a blog post, you want to make sure that it gets seen by as many people as possible. To do this, you need to do more than just post it on your website and hope someone sees it. Below we’ve put together a few simple ideas to help you maximise the usage of every article or blog post that you write. Let’s begin.

Post it on to your social media pages

Ok, let’s get the obvious one out the way first. Great content is nothing without a means of distributing it. That’s just as relevant for blogs as it is for paper flyers. Unless you already have excellent SEO and a large number of visitors coming to your website on a daily basis, it’s unlikely your blog will ever get read. The cheapest and most cost-effective way of distributing your blog is by posting it on your social media pages. Be sure to use a short punchy headline and always use a high quality image to go with it. Social media posts with images are about 5x more likely to get clicked on than posts without. Also, remember if you’re posting to Twitter, to maximise the reach of your post further using #hashtags.

Post it on to your social media pages (again)

That’s right. It’s amazing how many companies choose to post their blog just once. What a shame when you’ve invested so much valuable time in writing it. At businesshands, we would typically post the blog twice in the first week, once in the second, once in the fourth and then once a month for the next three months at least.  Try posting it with different titles, different excerpts and different imagery each time. Posting at different times of the day or alternating between weekdays and weekends is a good way of reaching different audiences every time.

Turn it into an email

A great way to build a relationship with your prospects is to send a regular email, but there’s no need for you to spend hours writing original content. Turn your blogs posts into an email campaign with a call to action at the end. We create e-newsletters for many of our clients and we generally create one email campaign for every 2 blogs. This gives us two great pieces of content for each campaign and by having a third sector focusing on the company or the offering, we’re able to provide our clients with a well-rounded, informative e-newsletter to send on to their database of prospects.

Make a statement

Business strategy planning

… and then post them to your social media feeds.

Consider publishing the blog in full on other websites

If you’re obsessed with your Google website ranking and already have a strong SEO strategy in place, then this probably isn’t something you should be doing. For the 95% of us that don’t however, posting your blog on multiple sites provides an opportunity to get your brand in front of a whole new audience. Platforms like Medium and LinkedIn’s Pulse are a great place to start.

Targeted Delivery

If your blog post solves a very particular problem, think about how you can send a link to your blog to the very people that are experiencing the problem. Platforms like Audiense allow you to data-mine your Twitter followers to find people with key attributes. You can then send them a personal, direct message with a link to the blog. Similarly, LinkedIn’s premium membership will allow you to search for specific people by job title, location, industry and even company size. Through LinkedIn’s Inmail you can then send them an introductory message with a link to the relevant post. LinkedIn’s groups are also a useful way to reach a more broader, targeted group of people.

Social advertising

Last but not least – use the paid advertising feature on whichever social media platform you use to turn your blog post into an ad. Doing this means you can reach out to thousands more targeted people each day, growing brand awareness and driving hundreds more high quality visitors to your website. If you’re looking to increase your website traffic, social advertising is a really cost effective way of doing this. It’s a useful skill to learn and the better you get at it, the cheaper your advertising becomes. We’ve ran Twitter campaigns for clients where the cost per click (i.e. – the cost to get a visitor to the website) is just £0.08. In those situations, a £500 spend can go a long way.

So there you go – just a few ideas to make your blogs go further. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list. You’ll find advice on the web encouraging you to turn them into PowerPoint presentations, short video montages and a whole host of other ideas besides. The bottom line is we know the ideas above will genuinely deliver more traffic to your website (which is what you blog is about, right?). We know this because this is what we do for our clients. They are both time and cost effective and most importantly – they deliver results.

If you would like help with your social media, blogging or email campaign management – give the experts a call (that’s us by the way). We’re on 0207 458 4788 and we’d love to become part of your team and help your business reach new heights through our outsourced marketing services.

7 reasons why B2B businesses with good products or services still fail to win customers

If you’re sitting there now wondering how other B2B businesses are getting clients through their door whilst your phone doesn’t seem to have rung in weeks – the problem could lie in your message. Your website, your blog, your social media, your e-newsletter and your marketing literature (brochures) – these are what your target audience will look at to decide whether they want to become your client and it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at Google AdWords or any other PPC marketing channel, if your message isn’t right – your phones won’t ring.

Below we’ve listed 7 common problems associated with how you choose to communicate who you are to your customers. We’d love to hear your comments if you can come up with more “message faux pas”.

They use complicated language / jargon
Accountants, solicitors and technology entrepreneurs are by far the biggest culprits when it comes to using complicated language but every business sector has its nuances and no business should assume it’s immune. Spending your days completely emerged in your sector means you start to assume that because you use certain language on a day to day basis, everyone outside your sector must know what it is.

If someone comes to your website, reads your brochure or listens to you speak and they don’t understand what they’re reading or hearing, they very quickly either (i) assume that the message is not meant for them or (ii) glaze over and stop listening. Speaking in complex language does not impress potential clients – it’s switches them off (unexplained acronyms have the same effect) so don’t assume knowledge. Try to keep things simple.

They speak to the wrong audience
This follows closely on from the first reason. Many businesses write their website content, the blogs, their brochures and their social media content as if they’re speaking to someone within the same industry… even from the same type of company. They’re not thinking about their audience, what they might be interested in reading or what their needs might be.

They don’t explain what they do
It sounds sooooo obvious but you would be amazed how many businesses don’t explain what they do. Their website and reading literature either completely ignores the need to tell the audience who / what they are, or they get themselves caught up in an “elevator pitch” style explanation which is full of clichés and doesn’t actually mean anything. Take a look at your website and marketing literature now – is it obvious what you do? Being well known in your industry doesn’t mean you’re well known to new potential customers so don’t let this be an excuse not to revisit your message.

They don’t explain the value of what they offer
Explaining what your business does is a good start but if you really want to turn website visitors and blog /brochure readers into potential customers, you need to explain why what you sell matters to these people. How is it going to add value / change their lives or their business? If you had to choose between two accountancy firms; one said “I’m an accountant” and the other said “I’m an accountant and I can help you pay less tax so you’ll have more money to invest in growing your business” – which one would you choose?

Think about your product or service and why people want to buy it. Think about why they should choose you and not your competitor. What makes you different and what makes you the right choice?

They get too technical
If you sell a software or technology product – or you offer complex or technical services to other businesses, you might feel inclined to offer a highly detailed technical explanation of them (i) so discerning customers can understand what they’re getting and (ii) to demonstrate your technical knowledge and abilities. The truth is, unless you’re an online shop selling technology items (laptops, audio equipment, TV’s), providing in-depth technical knowledge of your product or service could be causing more harm than good.

We often work with IT Support companies who insist on having a wealth of highly technical information about computer hardware/networks on their website and further technical information in their blogs on how to resolve key issues. The reality though, is that the person choosing whether to sign a contract with that support company, is unlikely to be making their decision from a technical standpoint. They will be making a strategic decision as to whether your service can meet their business needs. In the case of IT Support Companies, it’s about levels of service, whether you can support their business growth, cutting costs and using IT to gain a strategic advantage. None of that will involve looking at an in-depth technical account of the latest internet router.

This all comes back to point 2 on our list. Are you speaking to the wrong audience? Who is the person that will actually make the buying decision about your product or service? That’s who you need to speak to. If they want more technical information, they can always ask.

They give too much information
This follows on nicely from the point above. Your potential customers don’t need to know absolutely everything about you and your business, they just need to know if you can solve their problems. Instead of going into an elaborate and lengthy sales pitch as to why you’re the greatest, take a moment to identify your target audience(s). Write down a bit about what type of person/ business they are (for example they are a CEO of a £1-5 million technology company). Next write down what their goals might be (for example to increase profits, minimise risk, deliver to shareholders). Now write down reasons as to why they might not be able to achieve those goals (currency fluctuations, unreliable supply chain, cyber threat etc.).

Now that you have a good understanding of who you are trying to talk to, you can begin to see how your product or service can become important to them. You can understand why they might need it to solve their problems and you can write very targeted (and brief) messaging which shows you understand them and most importantly, that you can help. Leave the lengthy “cover every eventuality” written pieces to you competitors.

They don’t push their message out to the right locations… or don’t push it out at all
If you’ve spent so much time getting your message right, you’ll want to make sure people read it. Oddly, there are many companies who still believe that simply having a website is enough. If people search for a product or service, you’ll miraculously come up near the top of the pile and hey presto… you’ll be inundated with sales. Sadly, that’s not the case. It’s also not the case that you can pump a load of money into Google AdWords and expect great results. Our experience has led us to believe that Google AdWords actually delivers one of the lowest returns on investment (ROI) when compared to other popular advertising mediums.

So where should you be advertising your product or service? Well, that all depends on where your target customer “hangs out”. If you sell to other businesses, LinkedIn is generally a foregone conclusion. If you sell visually appealing products or what you do could have quite a “geeky” (for want of a better term) following – Instagram works well. There’s been some great examples of electricians and network engineers photographing their wiring/ cabling projects and gaining HUGE followings. Engineering and architectural projects can have similar success. Houzz is a must for anything relating to home and garden design. Twitter is a really great all-rounder and Facebook works particularly well for venues (pubs, restaurants etc.) and events.

Outside of the traditional social media channels, don’t forget advertising (or at least having a presence) on specialist forums and of course, sending out a regular e-newsletter.

The most important thing to remember when you embark on pushing out your message, is measurement. Don’t assume something will or won’t work until you’ve tried it. If we received a pound for every time someone said to us “we don’t think Twitter is for us” – we’d be knee deep in pound coins. The truth is, for the majority of our clients, Twitter becomes either their no.1 or no.2 marketing channel. Understand what you expect to achieve from your advertising, be prepared to try new ideas and if something is not working, stop spending time, effort and money on it and look for something better.

So there you go. 7 reasons why B2B businesses with good products or services still fail to win customers. Can you think of any more? We’d love you to tell us about them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

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Meet your end of year target with this to-do list

With the summer holidays now coming to a close, it’s time to turn our attention once again to business and helping you get more of it through the door. With that in mind, here’s a helpful to-do list to help you meet your end of year target.

Set your objectives

Sit down and confirm your objectives in writing. What is your revenue target? How many sales does that equate to? What must the average sale value be for you to achieve your target? Define lower and higher sales value thresholds and calculate how many sales of each you would need to still achieve your goals. Don’t just pick numbers out of thin air – use historical data from previous sales to understand your average transaction size.

Plan how to maximise your average sales value

There are two ways to increase sales revenue.

  • Increase the average deal size
  • Increase the number of sales you make

If your revenue targets are looking challenging or quite simply, if you want a better chance of hitting your targets – you’ll want to put a strategy in place to maximise the value of every single transaction. Look at the portfolio of products or services you sell and ask yourself…

  • Can I cross-sell purchases of product/service A and also sell them product/service B?
  • Can I upsell them from product/service A to a product/service A+
  • Can I create a value bundle by combining a selection of my products to increase the overall transaction size? (the profit per item may be less, but the overall profit will better)
  • If you have customers that pay on a monthly basis, can you create an offer to persuade them to purchase a years’ worth of product/service up front?

Plan who you are going to be selling to

You’ll need a separate strategy for each of the following:

  • New customers who you want to sell in to
  • Existing customers who you want to sell more to

Existing customers are traditionally “low hanging fruit”. They already know and trust your brand and you simply need to get them to spend more. Think time-limited money-off vouchers, seasonal related campaigns (Halloween, the day the clocks go back, Diwali etc.), weather / news related offers and general “thanks for being a loyal customer” deals.

For new customers, ask yourself:

  • Where am I going to find them?
  • What am I going to do when I do find them?
  • What is my “multi-touch” strategy to bring them down the sales funnel (people rarely buy from a company the first time they see / hear from them so you’ll need to have a consistent marketing strategy in place to build trust before a sale will take place)

Build your strategy

No single activity on its own will “bring in the goods” so you need to think about your sales and marketing mix. Will you need to make outbound sales calls? Will you be writing regular content (this is pretty much a “must” for all businesses)? What does your social media campaign look like? Will you be using paid advertising (AdWords / Social PPC)? What about social and blogger outreach? Don’t forget email marketing. That’s a lot of things to think about and a lot to figure out if you’re to make it a success.

Decide if you have time or if you need help

There’s no point in doing the above half-heartedly.  You need to commit serious time and energy to both the planning and implementation stages if you’re going to pull this off. Random unstructured content or social media posts don’t work. Neither does the occasional half-baked sales email, so if you think you can “wing it” as and when you have a bit of spare time, let us save you the effort by assuring you that challenging revenue targets cannot be achieved unless you put your sales and marketing strategy at the very top of your agenda – day in, day out until the end of the year.

If you don’t have the time, the skill-set or the inclination to do this in-house, that’s where we come in. Here at businesshands we offer a comprehensive outsourced marketing department service which includes everything from in-depth marketing strategy through to content creation, social media, email campaign management and much more besides.

Want to know more? Contact us this week on 0207 458 4788 to get you sales and marketing strategy in motion and don’t leave it a moment more. They say time is money and in this case, the greater the delay in starting your strategy – the greater the loss in revenue to your business before the end of the year.

 

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How to get the most from a small marketing budget… (Part 1)

If you’re responsible for marketing in a small or mid-sized business, the chances are – you’ll only have a small or mid-sized budget to work with. So how do you get your brand seen and your message heard when the purse strings are tied? Here’s part 1 in a 2-part series which offers a few ideas to help your small marketing budget go further….

Don’t use Google AdWords

Controversial I know but the reality is, unless you have a stack of cash or your product is the most niche product imaginable, stay well away from Google AdWords. It will empty your pockets and deliver very little in return. One of its major flaws, is that your competitors can drain your budget by clicking on your links. It’s a common practice which will leave your business virtually invisible to the online world once your small marketing budget has been used up.

If you insist on using AdWords / search engine PPC advertising – use Bing instead of Google

Yes, we know that billions of people use Google and only hundreds of millions use Bing. However, if you’ve only got the budget to pay for 20 or 30 clicks per month – is the number of users really relevant? On average, the cost per click for advertising on Bing is about 1/5 of the price of Google. That means, for your monthly budget – you can afford to attract 5 times more visitors to your website with the same budget. There’s absolutely no difference in the quality of the visitor.

You might also want to think about advertising to mobile users only. More users than ever access the internet via the mobile and the PPC option for mobile is often cheaper.

Only market where your target audience is likely to be

Don’t waste your time and money trying to reach the biggest audience. Do your research and find out where your target audience ‘hangs-out’ and market specifically to them. Having exposure across every social media platform imaginable is pointless if your audience only hangs out on one or two of them. Choose marketing channels (Facebook / Twitter / Email Marketing / PPC etc.) that are most relevant to your audience, that offer the best value for money and that offer you the best way of getting your message across.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Never rely solely on one marketing channel. Make sure you have a few options in your marketing mix.

Understand your sales funnel and your customer journey

A singular marketing activity working alone has very restricted capabilities. Let’s imagine for example, you want to spend your budget on acquiring followers on Facebook. Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of this? What actions do you want your Facebook followers to take? For your audience to become your customer, you need to devise a “sales funnel” or a “prospect journey” which transforms your audience to followers, your followers to website visitors, your website visitors to enquiries and your enquiries to sales. If you don’t have that journey mapped out, your marketing activities will be far less effective and that means you’ll have to spend more money to achieve the same results.

Pair your marketing with you sales activities

This is really an extension to the above. If you’re expecting to put out a marketing campaign and be inundated with inbound enquiries – without a huge budget, I’m afraid to say you might be disappointed. To maximise the effectiveness of your marketing – you need to pair it with a sales initiative. If you’re sending out a marketing email, complete a follow up call for all those that opened or clicked on your email. If you’re running a campaign to drive people to your website, make sure there’s an effective landing page to capture prospects information so that you can call them back.

A sales persons job is so much easier with marketing support and a marketing persons activities are so much more successful when paired with sales activities – yet in many smaller and mid-sized organisations, these skill sets and strategies rarely merge to fulfil their potential.

That’s all in this, the first part of a 2-part series on “How to get the most from a small marketing budget”. Pop back next week for more great tips… or if you’d like to discuss your marketing in more detail – why not drop us a call on 0207 458 4788 or visit our marketing services page.

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Where is your business on the social media scale?

An old boss once said to me “to understand how to do something well – you need to understand what good looks like” and he was right. Only when you know “what good looks like” can you put a structured plan in place to help you achieve it. So in this week’s article, we’re going to introduce you to what good looks like in the world of social media and give you the opportunity to understand where your business sits on the social media scale.  You’ll find a handy graphic at the bottom of this article illustrating your social media readiness.

Goals and Channel Integration

One of the first things to note about social media, is that it’s not just about posting messages and following people. If you’re going to do social media well, you first need to understand why you’re doing it and what you want to achieve from it.

Social media is part of the customer journey. A person finds and follows your company on social media, then they see an interesting post from you and click on it to get to your website. Next (hopefully) you’ve got some kind of call to action or sign-up form and from there (if you’re really good) not only will you receive an enquiry or sale, but your visitor will also be fed into your e-newsletter list or a set of automated mailers. By putting this structure in place, it helps you to understand what posts are good for social media and what posts aren’t so good. Having an endless stream of links to articles on other websites for example (as many organisations do) is not going to add any value to your business.

Community Management

The next key takeaway in this article is that social media is a 2-way communication platform. That means you need to be encouraging conversations and watching for and responding to your followers if they decide to communicate with you. If you’re really good – you’ll be actively searching the social media world for mentions of your organisation and proactively involving yourself in those conversations.

Content planning

Put your hands up if you have a 1-year content plan in place… anyone? What about 6 months… or 3 months? Ok – last chance, how about 1 month?

The chances are, when you think of social media, you think of short posts and images – but the reality is that the majority (and most successful) of posts contain links to articles. If you’re not writing your own blog / regular article – then your only option is to post links to articles on other websites and that immediately throws your highly effective customer journey out of the window.

Devising and creating regular content is critical to the success of your social media. The further you plan your content in advance, the more strategic it can become and the more value it will deliver to your organisation.

Paid Social Media Advertising

If we think back to the customer journey – perhaps the most critical part of it is to make sure you get found in the first place and that’s where paid social media advertising comes in. Social media advertising is hugely powerful, allowing you to target specific age groups, interests, geographical locations and even times of the day. Not only that, but you can set goals tied into your advertising. Do you want to acquire more followers, increase web traffic, get app downloads or increase newsletter sign-ups? Anything is possible. Here at Business Hands, we put a strong emphasis on social media paid advertising because we believe it offers better targeting options, better results and better value than traditional PPC (pay per click) methods through platforms like Google AdWords

Evaluation

Lastly and probably the least practiced – evaluation is the most value-add part of the social media journey. Let’s equate being a social media manager to a farmer. To get a high yield from your social media you need to invest in the right tools, you’ll need to try different strategies, you’ll need to nurture your crop (your community) and you’ll need to measure and evaluate everything you do. With the right technology in place, it very quickly becomes clear what is working and what is not and as time goes on you can fine tune your social media feeds to maximise audience engagement, drive website traffic and most importantly – increase sales.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this high level introduction into what good social media looks like. You’ll find a helpful graphic below to help you plan to take your social media to the next level and obviously we’d love to help you achieve that.

Social media scale from the Initial to the fully integrated social strategy

Business Hands offers fully tailored content, social media and email marketing packages for every size of business at very competitive prices. To find out how we can help your business, contact us today on 0207 458 4788.

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