Small business marketing trends for 2018

Every year, there’s more and more for us with a small business to think about. The last five years has seen a surge in the use of the internet and in particular the mobile phone. Everyone is online these days…I know that if I want to buy something, the first place I go is the internet. With this in mind, I’ve done some research on what is trending in 2017 and will continue into 2018 for marketing your small business.

Mobile phone

technology-2752109_640As more and more people rely on their mobiles for everything, from ordering fast food, the supermarket shop, to clothes, shoes and gifts, it makes sense to make sure that your small business is online and easy to find.

Most website visits are from a mobile and there are more searches being conducted on a mobile that anything else. Unfortunately research shows that there are many businesses out there that do not yet have an online presence…and do not think to include mobile phone marketing into their marketing plans. There are several ways to optimise a website for the mobile user and something to think about for 2018, if you haven’t already. You can ‘Google’ how to do this.

Content Marketing

seo-1447311_640Search engine optimization (SEO) continues to be important in order to ensure your business ranks highly in search engines, so it is easier for customers to find you. Content marketing is more important than ever – the Google search engine looks for new and original content for their ranking, so it’s vital to keep your website up to date, ensure that blogs are posted regularly with fresh and engaging articles. For example, customers love to hear a real-life story, so writing about how you have helped someone by solving a problem they had, is a great way to show that you care and value your customers, and it promotes trust and loyalty to your brand.

Video Marketing

technology-2608148_640You will have noticed how much more video you now see on your social media sites, especially on Facebook and Instagram. According to research conducted by livestream.com 80% of audiences would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. This tells us a lot about where marketing is going in the future, customers are no longer happy with faceless marketing, they want to see real people giving them real information. So, it’s going to be very important in 2018 to incorporate video into your marketing strategies, whether it’s for a product launch, running a webinar or talking about product reviews or your services, it’s a fantastic opportunity that none of us can choose to ignore. You can use Facebook ads and YouTube to help you or just go ‘live’ on Facebook in real time. You may make some mistakes or stumble over a few words, but your customers will be able to relate to you much more easily.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads reach more than 1 billion viewers every month, so as a small business, you can’t afford not to try this out. You can use a Facebook ad to target your audience by age, mobile-phone-2398300_640demographic and gender. It’s not ridiculously expensive and has proved to be very worthwhile – definitely worth thinking about. Facebook has a great help centre, which can take you through this process, step by step.  Facebook asks you to choose the objective of your ad – why do you want to advertise on Facebook? You could choose to direct more traffic to your website, or to just make people aware of your brand. You can set a budget, choose who to target by age, gender, location etc. And you can see the stats of who looks at your ad. You can also choose to simply promote your business page.

This kind of targeted marketing is likely to become more and more popular, so why not give it a whirl?

Outsourcing work

Doing everything for yourself with your small business makes sense at the beginning, but as your business starts to grow, you have less time and it is always the marketing and advertising that suffers. Ultimately, this can lead to a decline in the focus of your business and a decline in sales.

Small businesses are starting to understand that it’s important to have a good marketing strategy and have someone that knows what they are doing to get the right messages out to potential customers. This often involves paying someone else, an expert in that field, to do it for you. Not only does this give you more time to concentrate on your products and services, but also means you have someone focussing 100% on marketing your business. You may have to pay out up front, but it will be worth it in the end, if you get the right person.

give-1545697_640If you can’t afford to use someone for all of your marketing, you could just outsource your blogs and get someone to write one or two a week for you – this will keep your business publishing new and fresh content, which will bring more customers to your website or highlight your brand…and it’s a much more affordable option.

It’s also worth seeing if you can get a well-known blogger interested in what you do – get them to review some of your products or offer a service for free and ask them to write a stunning review.

There are several ways to get help, but they do all come with a cost, some small and some not so small, so it is worth trying to factor in a budget for outsourcing as well as for advertising and promotion.

I hope that this article has been useful and that you have some new ideas to add to your marketing plan for 2018. Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your marketing.

Right person, right time, right reasons…RIGHT CONTENT!

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business-3189797_640.pngSo, you have your own business and you want to promote it – get your product or services out there. How do you go about it? Where do you start? It’s really important to have a content strategy….as this will help you structure exactly what the needs of your business are and what exactly is the right content for your business.

Anything you put out about your business needs to go to the right people at the right time and for the right reasons….and of course, the right content is crucial.

If the content is NOT right, then the people you are hoping to reach won’t read it. Whatever content you put out needs to be valuable to your potential reader, so make sure your content is useful and relevant – what’s in it for your reader? Does it solve a problem for them? Does it give them a solution that they need?

If you DON’T target the right people, then your content won’t be read and definitely won’t be acted upon. You need to ensure that you know who your audience are – just sending content to ‘people’ in general won’t cut the mustard, you need to be specific.

thought-2123971_640If you don’t send content out at the right time, then you are wasting your time. You need to firstly understand your audience or intended audience – what do your customers want? Do your customers or potential customers have questions that you can answer? Do you have solutions to your customers’ problems? If you are aware of these things, you can plan to put content out at the right time.

If you’re NOT putting content out for the right reasons, you are also wasting your time. When you are writing your business plan for the year, you will include measurable business goals. These goals are usually a reason for sharing some kind of promotional content to pull in more customers, or address an issue that your customers may have. The content you publish won’t necessarily sell your wares, but can help to set yourself up as an expert in your field. This, in turn inspires confidence in your abilities and business, which can lead to those all-important recommendations.

Plan your content for 2016

computer-1185626_640December and January is the ideal time for you to look at planning for next year. It’s time to take stock and look back over the last year – what worked well for your business and what didn’t work so well? Which way are you going next year?

Take the time to look at last year’s business or marketing plan (or both) and decide what you need to change to make next year more successful.

Have you ever asked your customers for feedback? Amongst that feedback, is there anything you can address to make your business more attractive? Do your customers have any problems you can solve? If you can pinpoint what it is that your customers want, that you are not currently giving them, you have the greatest opportunity to truly delight them in solving those problems.

future-2372183_640.jpgIf you haven’t asked for feedback, then why not do it now? Why not send out a short survey asking some questions to help you decide which way to go next year – get your current customers’ opinions and ideas – their input could open a whole new market to you.

Once you know what your customers want and have a new plan for next year, with new goals, you are ready to plan your content strategy and will be one step closer to a successful 2016!

 

 

Customer Engagement – Newsletters

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It has been said that marketing your business with the use of newsletters are a bit ‘old hat’ and are losing their value, but I don’t agree. With other forms of marketing, such as adverts, people will see your advert and look at it if they’re interested in the subject, but it will bypass lots of people. But a newsletter is a powerful tool and goes right to the heart of your business, reaching all your customers. You know they are interested in what you do as they’ve bought your products or services. As well as keeping your customers informed about what’s going on in your business, you can include special offers and highlight some of your products.

calendar-1990453_640Whether you choose to send your newsletter out in print format, or as an online version on e-mail, it’s important to decide the frequency. Most of my clients send out newsletters by email on a monthly basis, so they can be a bit longer than if you are sending out something each week. The most important thing is that the content is timely and relevant, adding some sort of value to your customer. For example, I send out a monthly newsletter for a garden centre – as well as including any news about new stock and special offers, we also include monthly hints and tips on jobs that need doing in the garden that month. We’ve also run a series of articles over a few months on planning the garden for 2014 – this encourages customers to take a good look at their garden, decide what worked well last year and what didn’t, and gives advice on plants and shrubs without doing the ‘hard sell’.

Goals of your newsletter

So you’ve decided you want to send out a newsletter for your business – now you need to think about what you want to achieve. Is the purpose of your newsletter to send traffic to person-1245959_640your website; increase engagement to your brand; create a buzz for a new product or service? The type of goals you have will help you create a more effective newsletter. For example, if you want to send more traffic to your website, you could include an excerpt from an article that will generate interest in your products and then direct them to the full article on your website, or you could just send an introductory paragraph from the newsletter, but keep the full newsletter on your website, so customers have to go to your website to read the full article. Similarly, you could give them a taster of a special offer, but point customers to your website for full details.

Content

The content of your newsletter needs to be engaging – if you don’t keep the attention of your customers and make the content relevant to them and add value, they will either hit the ‘delete’ button or will unsubscribe. A good headline will pull your customers in, so try and make it interesting – not just ‘January’s newsletter’. It’s crucial that you use good grammar and that there are no spelling mistakes and that it is easy to read so ensure that, if you do the newsletter yourself, that it is thoroughly proofread.

question-mark-1751308_640Of course, a newsletter is only one of the marketing tools you can use and it’s always best to use a variety of tools to engage your customers. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the role of newsletters. Do you use them for your business?

Be SMART with your business goals

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And so we’re into another year – can’t believe that it’s 2014 already. At this time of year, I review my business and marketing plan from last year; look at what worked well and what didn’t and decide on new objectives and goals for the coming year. But where do you start?

When I worked for a big company in the UK, business planning was all around SMART objectives and this translates well to the small business too. So, what is SMART?

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timely

It’s a good idea to use the measures above to think about your goals – so let’s have a look at them all in turn.

Specific – if your goals are general, you are less likely to achieve them – for example, my New Year’s Resolution usually includes something around losing weight! But as everyone who’s ever tried to lose weight knows, if you just say ‘this year I want to lose weight’, it’s unlikely to happen. However if you make the goals more specific, you are more likely to be successful – for example, goals could be ‘I’m going to join a gym and go three times a week’ and ‘I’m going to join a slimming club and follow a structured diet’. So, in order to be specific, think about:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Where – Identify a location
  • When – Establish a time frame
  • Which – Identify requirements and constraints
  • Why – Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal

carpenter-3509492_640Measurable – to ensure that you attain your goals, they need to be measurable; then you can keep an eye on your progress and you will stay on track and reach your target dates. If you have a website for your business, one goal may be to push it further up search engines, so your business can be more easily found by potential customers.   Questions you could ask yourself could be:

  • How will I know when I’ve achieved a goal?
  • What does success in a particular goal look like?
  • How will you measure the success?

Attainable – Once you have your list of goals, you can start to think about how you can achieve them. Look at each of them in turn and make sure that they are attainable. In the TV programme, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Del-boy was always saying ‘this time next year – we’ll be millionaires’ – a great goal, but not necessarily attainable…and too generalised!

Think about how you can turn your goals into reality – by writing them down, being specific, may give you further ideas or may highlight opportunities that you may have previously missed.

Realistic – it’s really important that all your goals are realistic. You must be both able and willing to work towards them. You are the only one who can decide what is realistic and achievable for you – some people like to set high targets and goals and get more satisfaction out of the challenge; others prefer to set several smaller goals that will work towards the higher target. It’s up to you which approach you take…but make sure your goals are realistic for you.

time-3222267_640 (1)Timely – Goals always need to have a timeframe – if you don’t have a timeframe, then there’s no sense of urgency and it’s easy to keep saying ‘I’ll start that tomorrow’…and we all know that tomorrow never comes! If we go back to the weight loss scenario, if you say ‘I want to lose a stone’, but don’t put a time limit on it,  it’ll never happen. But, if you give yourself a date (a realistic and attainable date), for example, ‘I want to lose a stone in three  months’ – it’s more likely that you’ll succeed.

By keeping your objectives/goals SMART, you’ll be able to keep a tight rein on how your business is progressing and achieving what you want it to achieve.

Good luck and if you have any further ideas on the subject, please let me know!

Nine fundamental tips for your marketing plan

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If you think about marketing, advertising automatically springs to mind. However, marketing (or promoting) your business, is more than just advertising. It helps you to ascertain who your customers are, which customers you want to target and how to get them to choose your products above others in the marketplace.

A marketing plan will also include your existing customers – retention of customers is just as important as gaining new ones, so you need to look at continually reviewing and improving your offer to ensure you stand out from your competitors.

Here are nine fundamental tips on what to include in a marketing plan to ensure you cover the essentials …

  1. Executive Summary – Although the executive summary is at the beginning of the marketing plan, it should be written last. The summary will help you ensure that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed anything out.
    The summary should include details of your business, company name and contact details; what your business is about; your key objectives and your strategy for achieving your objectives.
    This helps you to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together.
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  2. Vision or Mission Statement – This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd.
  3. The four Ps – once you know what your vision or mission is – your strategy – look at the four Ps…
    Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
    alone-4269760_640Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
    Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
    Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  4. Market Analysis – this is where you need to do copious research into what your competitors do and what the state of the marketplace is in relation to the products you sell.
    – Who are your competitors and how well are they doing?
    – What makes your competitors successful?
    – Who are your customers and potential customers – what are their geographic area and income levels?
    – What are your sales and distribution levels – what is your set up?
    – How well have your products sold in the past?
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  5. Your target markets – it’s crucial to know exactly who your customers are and what they’re looking for. Take time to understand what your customers want and need and understand why they buy particular products. You’ll be able to target your market more easily if you know who you’re talking to, and what their problems are. Everyone buys products for different reasons.
    If you have an existing customer base, you can easily find out some of this information, by sending them a simple survey, asking them a few questions – maybe give them an incentive to reply, such as all replies will be put into a prize draw to win one of your popular products.
    If you’re not sure who your target market is – try this exercise. Write a description of one of your products – for example, if you were selling mobile phones, you might say it’s small and easy to use. Then write the features – in the case of a mobile, it might be that you can use it anywhere and it’s useful in a crisis. Then make a list of who needs this product – with a mobile it might be people under 20 to keep in touch with friends and parents/people in business to keep in touch with business partners when away from home or office/ for older people it’s good to have in case they have an accident in the home or need to keep in touch with relatives or carers…. You get the idea!
    Then try and decide which will be your target market and which will be your secondary markets…probably best not to have more than two or three secondary markets at most.
  6. Marketing objectives – In this section, you are planning the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of a particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be precise, so you have something concrete to aim for, maybe sell 40% more of that product over the next 12 months. This gives you a solid objective.
    Pull together a timeline of your objectives – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it easier for you to review at a later date.
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  7. Promotion strategies – what tools will you use to promote your business? You could use:
    – Networking – join a business networking group and talk to people at
    every opportunity
    – Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
    – Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an
    expert).
    – Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
    – Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and
    online
    – Press releases
    – Direct or personal selling
    – Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
  8. Budget – Along with promotion strategies comes budget. You need to know what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it?
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  9. Measurement – you should aim to review your marketing plan every couple of months. Look at your various promotion methods and determine which ones work best for you and which don’t.
    You can survey existing customers for feedback; ask for feedback and recommendations; look at what your most popular products are and why. Then you will know what you need to do in future.

Pulling together a marketing plan isn’t something that can be done in just a few hours, it can take days – or even weeks – to ensure you have the right information and conduct the necessary research.

Now it’s time to take action! To help you lay out your marketing plan, take advantage of my FREE  Marketing Plan template