Small Business Saturday Blog

Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business

Monday, January 09 at 10:50
Digital | Marketing | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Has effective marketing ever been more important among all the noise of the digital world? With billions of websites at our fingertips it’s so easy to spend time scanning for the perfect solution, and those sites or services that aren’t up to scratch might be rejected for even the smallest reason – a stray tweet or a slightly slow website, for example. Here’s five ways to tighten up your product and promote yourself well in 2017. Create a modern websiteMost companies seem to have got the message that running a site that looks like it was built in 1998 isn’t a great first impression to any visitors. Whether you’re a florist, a van leasing company, a sports management firm or are offering a legal service, your site should be a clean, uncluttered and easy-to-use interface. There should be a call to action that shows clearly how, where and why to get the best offers. Above all, it should be easy to find your products, fast to load, and very easy to get in touch – just in case someone actually wants to pick up the phone.Set up a content calendarHave you ever thought to yourself “I wish I’d created a piece of content/organised this idea” to coincide with a big, relevant event? For example, it could be a blog or video to coincide with Halloween, or the final of GBBO, or Movember. Maybe you’ve done something, but if you’d thought about it earlier you might have done better…If you’d created a content calendar several months earlier, planning your blogs and social media and videos to be completed and to land on your sites at exactly the correct time, you would have been primed to take advantage. Start doing this now and reap the benefits of great, timely content. Utilise social mediaWhy would you not utilise a completely free method of promoting yourself? It’s a great way of responding to any complaints; an easy, instant way of informing people of your new products and sales using pictures and videos; a method of showing knowledge in your business sector by publicising any blogs, appearances or media that is relevant; and a way of communicating with like-minded people and businesses.If you’re just starting to use social media, you might be wondering which platform is best. Launching a craft business? Pinterest and Instagram are sensible options. Launching a B2B start-up? LinkedIn in your best bet. Launching any business whatsoever? Facebook and Twitter, and possibly Snapchat. Revamp your shop frontIf you’ve updated the landing page of your website, then why would you not do the same with your physical premises? After all, they’re really two sides of the same coin. A stark, dark frontage won’t really bring in potential custom, and neither will empty shelves, old signage and shabby looking stock. The actual tidying is not the hard part, it’s the preparation and organisation in your mind that’s the laborious task. If you don’t have physical premises, then consider revitalising your signage, print advertising (yes, people do still take notice of this) and Google Business listing.Create videoThe statistics are clear: according to Forbes, video used in conjunction with email boasts a 300% click-through rate. Thanks to mobile phones and free or cheap online editing, it’s possible to put together a professional looking promotional video, an FAQ, a slideshow or an interview in a very short period of time. It lends itself to social media, and might catch the eye of people who otherwise might not see your work.Blog contributed by Jessica Foreman. Jessica is a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle based writing. She has developed her skills on projects surrounding The British Broadcasting Company, and running a print and online based magazine whilst at university.

Why you need to add exhibiting to your marketing mix

Tuesday, December 06 at 10:32
Brand | Customer | Exhibiting | Marketing | Small Business Saturday

Exhibiting provides a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your business to the market. In a hall filled with customers and contacts, you have the chance to show people why investing in your company is essential. Customers will be attending with high expectations and with the hope to learn more about what businesses are out there, so it’s an incredible opportunity to become a part of.If you haven’t yet decided to add exhibiting to your marketing mix then maybe it’s now time to reconsider. Here are 5 reasons why you need to be exhibiting right now.1.    Increase your profitExhibiting has proven time and time again to have one of the highest return on investments as compared to many other marketing channels. Of course, there’s a lot of effort that has to go into exhibiting, such as an upfront investment to cover stall costs, but with that effort comes the benefit of a high potential reward.With so many potential visitors under one roof who could be interested in your business, it’s a great opportunity to give out show only offers to increase the chance of a purchase on the day.To increase your ROI further, make sure you choose displays that can be used again from reputable suppliers such as Marler Haley.2.    Be seen in the right placesBeing seen side-by-side to your competitors can do wonders for your business, particularly if you’re relatively new to market.It’s one of the only places where visitors can physically see the differences between your businesses so it’s your opportunity to make sure your USPs are clear for visitors to see to make sure that they choose to buy from your stand and not your competitors.3.    Your target audience under one roofOne of the main reasons to exhibit is to see people face-to-face. But not just any person, it has to be the right one. When choosing the right show for your business, it’s important to consider who will be attending and working out whether that fits your target audience. For online businesses this is particularly important as you won’t often get the opportunity!4.    Increase brand awarenessAlthough you’ll want to gain as many leads and sales from the event as possible, exhibitions are also a great opportunity to raise brand awareness among your target audience.Let’s be honest. Not everybody will want to purchase from you at the show even if they are in your target audience. But what you’ll want to do for these people is to make sure that they are aware of you when they decide that they need to purchase.To do this, make sure that your displays have a clear logo in the upper third and that you add a simple strapline to tell people what you do and your USPs.5.    Get feedbackBeing face to face with your potential customers also has another perk – being able to get live feedback about your business. By asking about their needs, as related to your business, you can find out if you’re missing a trick by not fulfilling them. Positive feedback can also help you to identify your strong points to help guide marketing activity to push those elements that people have told you set you apart. Guest blog written by Mizzy Moore.

How to get your small business found

Friday, August 12 at 09:30
Digital | Marketing

Barney from Bluebell Digital shares some ideas on master Google to get your small business more visible
Getting to the top of Google search is a goal for many small businesses, but it can seem like an elusive target. What Google wants, and what savvy businesses can provide, is quality content that will rise up the search rankings on it's own merit.Search engine optimization or SEO has often in the past been seen as shrouded in technical jargon! Marketing your content effectively is the core way to get more traffic from Google and this is where small businesses should focus. The overall goal is to communicate with existing customers and reach new ones. It should always be remembered that SEO is only one tactic in this mission, not an end in itself.There are two sides to SEO - the technical aspect which concentrates on making titles, tags and meta descriptions optimised so your website content is as friendly as possible to Google’s Web ‘robots’. The more compelling aspect is creating the strategy and content that you will use as a destination for people who find your site via Google.Here are a few simple to follow steps for the content generation and marketing side of the SEO equation. There are also plenty of good guides for basic technical SEO on the Web.First take a step back from your commercial goals and think about how people are going to search for your product or service on Google. Don't just think in terms of company buzzwords, industry terms or product names. Think how real people actually search for your product. They don't always use the official name, they don't always know about your new product category and they will surprise you in how they go about finding things online.Tools like the AdWords Keyword Tool or Google Analytics can help you see how people search before they arrive at your site. Combine this real-world research with key phrases you have come up with yourself and arrive at a keyword list that represents the core keywords that are crucial to your business. Think 'which words or phrases is it essential that my company shows up for on Google when people search?'Once this list is compiled you need to find a baseline for where you are today. Plug the keyword list into one of the many SEO tracking tools available - SEMRush, Moz or Majestic SEO are a few paid tools you can use and there are some free options also. The tools will show you where you rank on Google now for the keywords in the list you have created. This is how you are going to track if your technical SEO and content marketing efforts are successful over the following weeks and months.You can also track if your organic Google traffic increases using Google Analytics. It is important to remember that pages rank on Google, not whole Websites, so it isn't a case of get my Website to the top of Google, you are trying to get a particular page higher for a specific keyword search. Here comes the strategy and planning - you want your very best pages to surface at the top, which means you have to create meaningful content around the core keyword topics that you have chosen and then incorporate that content on to your Website.Planning out a new set of pages, blog posts or even video content around your important content themes and keywords is the way to gain those higher positions on Google. Without a planned approach to generating this content plus a process to optimize it for SEO within your site, you will struggle to put the right content in front of your chosen audience and improve your visibility on Google. Your goal is always to make it as easy as possible for Google to see your best content and then show it to others for relevant keyword queries.One part of compiling your keyword list is seeing whether you already have content around the keywords that you wish to rank on Google. Most often you will be able to identify areas where you want to appear for certain searches, but you don’t yet have any great content relevant to those keywords. This is an opportunity to start filling those gaps with new posts or pages. Always remember to try to be interesting or useful (or ideally both) to your prospective audience, so you can engage them and encourage them to share and interact with your content. Success on social media can help boost your SEO and will in itself bring more visitors back to your Website. As a final thought, always focus on the customer: how can my content help them? What are they interested in? How can my company show thought-leadership or credibility? How can we talk about a relevant topic that really resonates with our target market? What do they need and what problems are they trying to solve? Keep it real and plan. Write clearly and simply. Think about your audience’s needs and interests. That way you will see your best work rise to the top.

Quick guide to PR & Marketing

Thursday, August 13 at 13:49
How To | Marketing | Toolkit

Good PR: Some tips for small businessesBefore you even begin, understand what it is you want to achieve from your PR and marketing communications campaign. It’s much easier to make a plan if you have some idea of how you want to progress. Is it...1. To drive traffic to your website?2. To drive footfall to a store?3. To raise brand awareness?4. All of the above or something else?The second question to ask is: if your PR campaign goes spectacularly well, where would your business be as a result? What would success look like? For example, you may be a business that wants to try and attract a new, younger demographic. You may say that within a year, you would like to have X% of your business coming from that new demographic. You will need to ask yourself how you are going to measure that and also what marketing initiatives would attract that demographic to your business.
Thirdly, if somebody takes no more than one thing from any of your media coverage, what should that one key message be? Make a list of your priority messages and make sure they are included within any media communication. Then – and only then – can you build your plan and begin to contact the outside world. So: who would you speak to?Consider which is the media that could influence your market. Is it the local press, your trade press, perhaps consumer lifestyle media or even the national press. Be clear what the story that you are pitching to them. Is it genuinely newsworthy? Apply the “so what?” question to it and still ask yourself if it is newsworthy. If it isn’t, you need to work harder on the idea. If it is, you can contact the media.
Buy the titles you want to contact before you do and be sure that it is the kind of story that they would run. They are not going to change their editorial approach to accommodate your story. Try and be aware of lead times and don’t call on a press day – they’ll be too busy putting the publication to bed to speak to you. Some monthly consumer publications can work 3-4 months ahead of their publication date.If it is newsworthy, write yourself a press release. Keep it short. Ensure that the first paragraph not only includes your company name but also encapsulates the essence of the story. If you are quoting yourself or a colleague in the release, clearly you’re state your name and job title. Journalists receive hundreds of these a day – if you can’t give them the story in the opening paragraph, they won’t read on.Don’t email the press release cold. It is unlikely to be opened and read. Find the name of the journalist you want to speak to or call the relevant desk at the publication and explain who you are and what your story is. They will almost certainly ask you to send an email, which is when you can use your press release - you will have made a contact that you can then follow up. Don’t hound them – if they’re not interested in the story, chasing them is not going to change their mind. It will probably make them less inclined to speak to you in future. Be clear that you have high-resolution images available. Make sure you provide a caption for your photographs, including the names of any individuals within them. Do not attach them to the press release as this may cause your email to bounce or hit a firewall. You can upload images to the cloud (eg Dropbox or We Transfer) and include the download link in your email.The overriding message is don’t be afraid to give it a go – the worst that can happen is that the media won’t be interested in your story. And that doesn’t necessarily mean your story isn’t interesting. Look at the publications you want to be in and read the way their stories are presented, think about how your story could be presented photographically and then structure your story and approach in a similar way and be persistent.
With thanks to Astute Marketeers

How to: create a small business marketing plan

Tuesday, May 12 at 15:55
Marketing | Planning | Small Business

Are you a small business without a marketing plan? We’re sharing 5 quick tips on how to get started and create a marketing plan that works!

Why is a marketing plan so important?

A marketing plan is the driving force behind your sales. Without a plan in place, your marketing activities will likely be sporadic and inconsistent, generating ineffective and disappointing results. Not a good approach if budgets are tight! Ultimately, no plan = a weakened sales effort.A well-thought out marketing plan will keep your business on track to achieve defined goals. It will ensure that your marketing activities are carried out in a controlled way (within budget), and that your results (and profits!) are maximised. That’s what we want!

5 quick tips for a winning marketing plan

One: Plan and co-ordinateA truly effectively marketing plan will deliver results when it is aligned with a wider business plan. Don’t have one? Don’t panic! Even if you just have a skeleton business plan, be clear on your business goals and what you are looking to achieve within the next 12 months. Clarity at this level will shape your marketing plan and ongoing activities, helping you to meet (or even exceed!) your business objectives.

Two: Know your audienceDefine, research and locate your target audience. Go beyond the usual demographics and really try and understand your target customers. What are their motivations, aspirations and needs? How and where do they consume media and information about products and services? Research doesn’t have to cost you money – there are plenty of free DIY market research options available to you.

Three: Be clear on your brand positioningYour brand positioning will be a key ingredient that adds life to your marketing communications. Think about the genuine benefits that your business offer customers and why should people buy from you (over competitors). Dedicate a window of uninterrupted time to creating a concise, unambiguous description of what your business offers. This exercise will also help you to develop your elevator pitch and feel confident introducing your business to prospective customers, business partners or investors.

Four: Know your numbers How much profit do you make on each sale? Before you can allocate your marketing budget, get comfortable with how your business is currently performing and where potential growth opportunities are. How big are these opportunities? This information (combined with your business goals) will help you allocate your marketing budget and significantly impact your success. Remember that even a modest marketing investment can achieve great results if invested wisely.Five: Embrace SMART goalsA winning marketing plan will include very specific, goal-driven measures for each activity. The goals for each of your planned marketing activities should be ‘SMART’:Specific: well-definedMeasurable: know if the goal is obtainable/know when it has been achievedAgreed upon: agreement with all stakeholders as to what the goal should beRealistic: within the availability of knowledge, resources and timeTime-specific: defined time period in which to achieve the goalReview, test, adaptA marketing plan should be seen as an evolving guide that helps you to shape your marketing decisions. To be successful, ensure that you regularly refer back to your plan – review, test and adapt your marketing campaigns - and don’t leave your carefully crafted marketing plan gathering dust!Paula Hutchings is the owner of Marketing Vision Consultancy. Recently featured in The Times, Paula works with a wide range of small businesses and start-ups- helping her clients to engage with more customers and to grow.

Use Visual Content to Power Up your Marketing

Monday, April 27 at 12:09
Digital | Marketing | Social Media

You’ve seen them everywhere! Visual content comes in many different formats: images, videos, Infographics, SlideShares, graphs, etc.The trend seemed to kick off in a huge way at the end of 2013/start of 2014 and is continuing its upward trajectory. Why are visuals crucial to marketing?Visual content conveys a message in a uniquely succinct way.  They immediately appeal to emotions and are hugely engaging.  Humans are essentially hard-wired to digest information visually, as HubSpot demonstrates in this (visual) graphic!
In addition to the above, we all love sharing photos or videos that make us laugh or smile, or pictures that evoke a memory, for instance.  If you create powerful images which resonate with your audience they will likely share it with their friends on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and share your message at the same time.  What a way to spread your business message and increase your reach! Consider the surge in images and videos across Twitter.  Twitter now has its own native video platform and, in the last few months, apps like Meerkat and Periscope have exploded onto the market. In fact, Meerkat caused quite a stir at #SMMW15 in San Diego this year. Here’s the difference a tweet with an image makes to engagement levels compared with one without an image:
As a small business, you need to harness the power of visuals in your marketing strategy.  It’s a level playing field: you can use these resources as well as the big guns! Start off with imagesYou can easily create your own using my two favourite go-to apps: Canva and PicMonkey.  Both are entirely FREE to use but they also have extra features for which you can pay a small amount either per image or per month. If you’re just starting out as a small business, there are lots of websites which offer stock photos which are FREE to use (always double-check the licence terms before using for commercial purposes.  See below).  Don’t spend a fortune on purchasing expensive images; it will blow a hole in your budget very quickly!
Here are some great resources for stock photos:(1)Refe Rea Life Photos(2)Pixabay(3)Morgue File (Ensure you select the “Free Photos” tab)(4)Flickr free use photosMake the Image your Own➣  Don’t be tempted to upload images directly into your blog and hit “Publish”!  Add text overlays, including your business logo and URL, to give the image a more personal and branded look.   You can easily do this with Canva and PicMonkey.➣  Stick to your brand style, colours and fonts when adding overlays and don’t mix them up. ➣  Decide on 3 fonts to use for text: one for a heading, one for sub-headings and the other for quotations, for instance, and stick to them for a consistent, branded look. ➣  Outline the benefits your readers will receive to entice them to click through and read your content, like this great example from Anna Bennett, top Pinterest marketer.
➣  Each social media platform has its own unique image size dimensions so refer to Canva’s pre-formatted templates to ensure you get the optimum look.
If you’re at all stuck, need some further advice or just don’t have a creative bone in your body, don’t panic! By Nicky Pasquier, Founder of Virtuoso Assistant. Email me at any time and we can schedule a chat: hello@virtuosoassistant.co.uk

6 Benefits of Social Media for Small Businesses

Friday, April 24 at 10:21
Marketing | Social Media

Social media has transformed the way we interact and communicate. Not only for individuals, but also for small businesses and startups. Social media marketing has become an important part of any brand’s marketing campaigns. Why? The reason is the following unique benefits of social media for small businesses:1. Social Media bridges the gap between you and your customers If you are a startup and want to strengthen your customer base, get close to your customers on social media and create a bond with them, while actively seeking new people to connect with. Social media gives your customers a platform to know you better and takes relationship building to a new level.2. Fuel your sales Social media can help you increase your sales. Whether you are a product manufacturer or a service provider, you can educate your customers on any new offerings, updates or promotional offers within seconds. With a little bit of reinforcement they can turn into repeat-customers!3. Create a two way conversation Professionally done marketing research can be expensive and time consuming. On social media, you can take advantage of free surveys or get instant feedback through informal Q&A. Get to know the habits of your community and how they respond to the content you produce. By interacting on social media, you can gain valuable insights into the preferences and buying behaviours of your community.4. Network with other small businessesUse social media to discover interesting businesses in your industry and area and build a relationship with them.  This may create opportunities for collaboration or support and give you fresh ideas for your social media pages by connecting with companies that you admire.5. Find your company’s niche For small businesses the most important thing is to create awareness and connect with the right audience. Every social media website has a different tone and user type. Beyond the major social media websites, you may find that new or targeted social media sites offer new access to customers and industry colleagues. Here are a few sites that may be useful for your business:•Edgee: For creating new stories and content for your audience.•Your Interest: For creating events and inviting a like-minded audience.•Tagstr: For creating content with shared hash tags.6. Enhance traditional marketing effortsSocial media can help you promote and support your small business’ other marketing efforts. For example, if you are promoting a new product with print advertising or events, you can use social media to increase awareness and impact.By Amy from Tekfirst in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

3 Ways to Grow Your Business Online

Thursday, April 23 at 09:57
Digital | Marketing | Social Media

Business growth can be tough as a small business. It can often feel like organisations with bigger budgets have an advantage, but the internet is our level playing field. Here, the size of our business is not the driver of our success. Instead, the internet cares about the quality of our business and of the content we create. By displaying our expertise in a way that is valuable and useful to our target audience, businesses of all sizes can succeed and grow online.Here are 3 tips to help you grow your business online.1. Know your audienceBefore you start any marketing campaign, it’s important to really know your target audience.Think about the segments you are trying to reach. Perhaps you’re targeting a particular industry or business size. Make a list of these.Next, build a clearer picture of each of these segments. Think about their behaviour - are they time rich or time poor? What technologies do they use? What are the challenges that face them and their industry? Try to build a picture of a ‘real’ person that you can refer to to help you better understand the entire segment they represent.2. Create great contentDigital marketing - be it SEO, PPC, digital PR or content marketing - all depends on the creation of great content.Put simply, great content is content that communicates something of value to your audience in the most engaging and appropriate way for them. Let’s look at an example of Akita Cloud Computing Guides:Akita is a small business which provides IT solutions to other businesses. They recently communicated information to their audience in the form of a series of cloud computing guides for small businesses:
What Akita has done so well here is to take their expertise on a potentially complex idea, and communicate it in a way that is aesthetically very pleasing, easy to read and, importantly for busy small business owners, in a digestible format that you can dip in and out of.Of course, great content can be even more simple than all of this. It starts with the very basics of getting your website right. Have you got a page on your website that represents every one of the products/services you offer? Is each one of these pages the best possible page on its particular topic, with lots of useful information, images and resources?By creating great content, you’ll stand a much better chance of:●Representing your business in the best light possible●Improving your search visibility and rankings●Gaining brand awareness and improved website authority through shares and links●Engaging your audience3. Speak to your audience in the places they’re already activeBy this point, you know your audience really well and you know what you want to say to them. Now, you need to know where to speak to them.This means identifying the channels and platforms they are already using, and taking the content to them there. For example, if you know your audience is really active on LinkedIn, you should invest in your LinkedIn profile, possibly advertising and engaging through groups. If you know they tend to read a lot of start up advice via websites like Enterprise Nation, you should seek opportunities to have your business featured there.I recently compared this to hosting a dinner party; if you know all of the people you want to invite live in London, don’t host your party in Edinburgh. Equally, if you know your audience is most active on Twitter, there’s little use in focusing your efforts on Facebook.If you know your audience, you know what you want to say to them and you know the right place to say it, you stand a good chance of succeeding online.
Author Bio: Laura Hampton is the digital marketing manager at Impression, a digital marketing agency based in Nottingham city centre which offers SEO, PPC, content marketing and digital PR services. A small business itself, Impression has grown from 2 people in November 2012 to a team of 10 and growing in April 2015. 

Big vs. Small: What Advantages Do Small Businesses Have On Social Media?

Monday, April 13 at 10:29
Customer Service | Marketing | Social Media

There’s no denying that bigger businesses have bigger budgets to spend on marketing campaigns, and whilst this can seem like a daunting prospect for smaller businesses, there are actually three great advantages for small businesses when implementing social media strategies:Personality PotentialHaving just a few individuals working with your social media means that you can celebrate and promote each person at your company within your social media campaigns. This can be anything from photos and videos of employees using a product, to articles written by a team member or specific ‘Q&A’-like sessions.A great reason for doing this is the boost in familiarity your customers feel towards your brand. Showing the ‘real people’ in your business will simultaneously increase the likelihood that customers will trust your brand, recommend it to others and return to it.Larger companies tend to be more faceless because they have hundreds of people operating their social media in order to cope with the volume of traffic they receive on a daily basis. Most of their personable aspects involve simply a by-line under an article or a first name sign-off at the end of a tweet. Instead, small business can take advantage of their individuality and give their followers reliable, human personalities they can trust.Individual Customer InteractionIn a similar line of thought to making the individual personalities in your business stand out, the way in which you interact with customers and respond to them online can also be an invaluable way to build your business reputation.Larger companies who deal with complaints on Twitter or Facebook often reply with a generic “Hi xxxx, sorry to hear about that, please contact our Customer Services on…” This method becomes little more than a signposting exercise, which ushers the complaining customer behind closed doors to talk about their complaint quietly. This re-direction also implies that it’s ‘inappropriate’ to use social media for complaints, when in reality, it’s the first port of call for unhappy customers hoping to get a little bit of support from the crowd along the way.As a small business, you can grit your teeth and deal with public complaints on social media head on. As long as you do this with respect and tact, you’ll be seen to be actively and transparently problem solving, and working with the customer rather than against them. The flip side of this coin also means that if you get positive reviews and testimonials, you can engage with customers in a public, positive way. The rule that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery is also true on Twitter, and re-tweeting a customer’s review or comment to your followers will also reinforce relationships as you build them.Story TellingSmaller companies also have a great opportunity to get creative with ‘story-telling’ on their social media. Whether this is an unusual description for a product or a video sampling an individual service, smaller companies can often take advantage of more focused group demographics in order to tailor content specifically for these target audiences.Larger companies can often be restricted by the need for overarching, crowd-pleasing content that will navigate language barriers, cultural differences and politics. Whilst it’s always important to take these factors into account when creating organic content for your business, the flexibility of a small business communication means you can talk to customers on a more colloquial level, incorporating details from a specific region, age group or interest.If you begin a campaign in which you ask customers to participate and get involved with the storytelling, as a small business you’re also likely to receive a more manageable amount of responses, which can lead to some engaging and unusual collaborative projects that are authentic and difficult for other businesses to replicate.By Olivia at Shake Social

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