The buttons have been pressed on the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, and now much of the talk in the business world is focussed on growth. The country, via LEP’s, Growth Hubs and Investment businesses, seems to be awash with cash to support organisations who are looking to grow. Therefor the temptation is to say “Yes, we’ll have some of that thank you very much”.
However, growth is not suitable for every business and is full of pitfalls. It's important to weigh up the pros and cons of growing or not growing. Too much growth can in fact destroy a business if not carefully planned at the beginning.
Very often growth will push into a different and possibly more competitive market with more experienced and larger competitors. You have to be ready for any changes in the game.
This Small Business 11 point Growth Assessment Tool is designed to help you focus on the challenges you could face on the road ahead. They look pretty simple questions but the answers you get may not be quite so simple.
1. Why should we grow?
2. How will we grow?
3. How much should we grow?
4. Over what period of time?
5. How much growth can we afford?
6. Do we have enough people?
7. Do we have the right people with the right skills?
8. Do we have hiring and training processes?
9. Do we have adequate financial processes?
10. Do we have the necessary supply chain?
11. Do we have adequate quality controls?
Many businesses will have processes in place but the question is whether those processes are robust enough, at present, to cope with the journey you are about to embark on.
A guide for small businesses and others
Despite the onward march of digital marketing there is still an important place for print advertising, particularly for small local businesses. Well at least there appears to be judging by the number of monthly and bi monthly local business directories that come through my letterbox. However, judging by what these directories contain I wonder about the effectiveness of many ads and actual return on investment for many companies.
Recently out of 43 ads there were only 3 that actually had something to say so here are my top 8 tips for small local businesses to consider when thinking about placing a print advertisement or producing a flyer.
1. Think AIDA. Your advertisement should attract Attention, it should then provoke Interest, leading to a Desire to want the product/service and provide the means for the customer to take Action
2. Your headline is important. To be effective you need to know your customer. You are an A1 roofing company, so what? There are several others out there. What problem are you solving for the customer and what makes you different. Decide on one key element that will stand out.
3. Hopefully your headline has grabbed the reader’s attention, now the first paragraph must create interest. This can be done by keeping it short and using something like a surprising statement, a news item or simple story. Just make sure it's related to the headline.
4. Now for desire. The body copy should not talk about you, instead talk about the customer. State the benefits clearly and show why you are different to your competitors. Talk in the language of the reader – no jargon – and emphasise things like No Obligation and Free. If you're advertising an offer, try to create a sense of urgency by setting a response deadline.
5. Hopefully by now the reader is interested enough to take action. Make it is easy for them. Don’t be afraid to tell them what to do and make sure the contact details are clear and any email addresses are working.
6. Keep the layout clean and easy to follow. If you are using images Please Please Please don’t use photographs that have been stretched or shrunk to fit; unless of course you want to be seen as a cowboy business. There are lots of free image editor software packages around so there’s no excuse.
7. Include a reference code. I have seen businesses use the same ad in several publications without any identifiers so how they can tell which magazine is working for them I don’t know. The reference code can be included in coupons or asked to be quoted when calling or emailing.
8. Finally, don’t be afraid to test different advertisements to see which works best. If you are using 2 directories to the same area then use 2 different adverts. You may be surprised.
If you need any help or advice please give me a call.
The good news is that UK small businesses and organisations are now realising the significance of social media. The bad news is that many register with as many platforms as they know without really knowing what to do next. Not planning in advance can lead to lots of wasted time and disillusionment in the whole process. Social marketing is not an overnight success. It’s like any networking – it takes time, it’s about relationships.
Planning is as important as in any business process, so I’ve put together a straightforward 8 step guide that will help you get started.
1) Sit down with your team and decide what you want to achieve. Are you looking to increase the number of newsletter or brochure sign ups or maybe become better known for a particular product/service?
2) Research your customers and potential customers. Are they active on social media? What are they looking at? What do they want to know? If you can’t find out ask them
3) Once you know where your customers are you can decide the most suitable social platforms to use to speak to them
4) If you don’t already have one, create and use a company blog. This will form the core that will drive all your other communication
5) Once you’re up and ready spend time listening (or reading) doesn’t just dive in. Gradually build your network and start building relationships
6) Ok, you’ve spent some time listening to what people are saying now you can start to add your comments. Look at what’s being said in groups related to your market and add your voice
7) Start to post your own content. This can be a mixture of original material or sharing content from other people that you think your network will find interesting. Where possible help people
8) Monitor and measure. Most social platform have their own analytics plus there are some free ad-ons you can use before moving to more sophisticated paid ones. The beauty of social media is that you can see it working.
The biggest trap to avoid is overtly selling. I see lots and lots of posts that are pure and simply direct selling. The clue is in the name, SOCIAL media. Today people dislike being sold to. Everyone does some research first and always deal with people they trust. Social media is a means to gain that trust and to make sure that when someone is looking to buy a widget, your widgets are already implanted in their mind.
Several small organisations have asked via the HELP page to clarify the difference between a blog and content marketing. They are confused about the apparent overlap.
Well I can start by saying that while all blogs can be said to be content marketing, content marketing is in fact a whole lot more than blogging.
Blogging is just one element; people may think “Great, my blogs written all I need do now is share it and that’s it!”
The Content Marketing Institute defines it as
“A marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action
In practical terms that means that content marketing needs to include the following amongst others, factsheets, how-to advice, video, slideshow, Pinterest and Instagram, audio, eBooks, reports, project information etc. in addition to Facebook, Tweets and your Blog.
So remember that Content Marketing is about content and one way you can share that content is via blogging.
Next time I’ll talk about what that content should be.
Of the small businesses who use Social Media 67% of them think it's a worthwhile use of time and yet 47% of small business are still not using it as a marketing tool. This infographic from Sage shows some interesting figures.
This infographic was produced by Sage UK
David has worked in advertising and marketing services for 30 years both client and agency side. Having worked with local, national and muliti-national clients, he set up DLH Marketing to help small organisations, owner managed businesses and those organisations without in-house marketing.