Low-Budget Digital Marketing Ideas for SMEs

Most SMEs are cost-conscious. 

We have to be. We’re good at finding ways to trim budgets while boosting the bottom line and making the money we have go far.

But how do you harness that savvy thinking when it comes to the ever-changing world of digital marketing? 

Thankfully, we’re here to help! 

Read on to find our top tips for rolling out brilliant digital marketing that will reach customers and convert leads without costing you a fortune. So long as you have some time and are willing, you can still achieve great success with digital marketing, even on a shoestring.

CREATE CONTENT 

Give Your Content Some Love

Creating brilliant content around your USP is one of the most powerful things you can do for free to get your brand out there. Remember that old marketing saying – Content is King? Well, it’s as true today as it has ever been. Despite the huge economy around content marketing, 

you don’t need to run ad campaigns or sponsored posts to get traction on social posts, and you just have to be posting the right content.

Here’s the advice we always come back to when helping clients think about what content will work for them:

  • Write content specific to your business goals
  • Ensure your content is written with your audience in mind
  • Set your own writing goals and principles (is your company tone friendly, approachable, formal or educational?)

Your choice of content will depend on what type of business you are, and where you have the greatest successes will be affected by many different factors. For most start-ups and SMEs, LinkedIn is the perfect starting point for sharing content, but most companies can also find great success with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok.

Create Multi-Purpose Content 

A great ‘cheat’ when it comes to content marketing is to remember that one piece of content can be leveraged in several ways. For example, perhaps you have published a white paper on your blog. Firstly, make sure you share it across your social channels, but then have a think about how you can extrude other content from it – could you make an infographic from the findings? Is there a great quote you could pull out and make into a graphic tile? Free resources such as Canva are great for creating simple graphics that can make your content work harder and go further.

Record Videos

We say it over and over – video is one of the best formats for sharing content online. Facebook alone boasts more than 4 billion video views per day, and all you have to do is look at the success of video platforms to understand that it’s the most effective and digestible way to present content in 2021.

Many startups and SMEs are nervous about producing their own video content, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Videos do not need to be professionally recorded to be successful – a smartphone can work well to create short, engaging videos that entice customers. Showing the face behind the business is a really effective way to build trust in your company, so don’t shy away from putting yourself out there and heading up some video content.

THINK SEO

Smaller companies are often put off by SEO, and we get it. It can seem like an overwhelming task to optimize your web presence, but it is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase traffic to your site and improve your organic reach.

Keep It Local

An approachable way to tackle SEO is to focus on local SEO. While national SEO is driven by ranking in searches across the country, local SEO prioritises appearing in specific locations, making it more relevant to your base of local customers; plus, it’s free!

Local SEO can be time-consuming. However, the benefits over time can be huge, so it’s well worth investing some time into these SEO must-dos:

  • Add location-based keywords to the titles, headings, and body of your main website pages (think: “Oxford accountant”)
  • Get your company listed in online directories, ensuring your information is identical across platforms.
  • Create content on your blog specific to the neighbourhood you serve. 

Leverage Online Review Sites 

User-generated content is win-win. It’s great because it increases trust and confidence in your brand, and it also requires very little work from you! Oh, and it’s brilliant for SEO.

Encourage reviews on Google or Trustpilot, and (if the feedback is positive) leverage those testimonials by using them on your website and in your digital marketing content. 

Create a free Google My Business Profile

For local businesses especially, a Google Business Profile is one of the most effective free marketing strategies available. Taking advantage of this free listing allows your business to show up on Google Maps, the local section of Google Search, and the right-side Knowledge Panel for branded searches.

GET CREATIVE

Small budgets often require out-of-the-box thinking, so why not consider some of these creative ideas to take your marketing to the next level without splurging your budget?

Produce Your Own Podcast

The popularity of podcasts shows no sign of slowing down, and they can be a great way to connect with your audience. Why not think about reusing content, and record your first podcasts using old blog content? Promote through your social channels and respond to your audience’s needs and interests to create a cost-effective marketing product that your customers enjoy.

Run Webinars

If the last 16 months have taught us anything, it’s that video conferencing is a very powerful tool. Webinars are a free way to promote your business by providing helpful information to a wide potential customer base, no matter their location. In addition, they can be used to boost conversions, improve brand awareness and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Ensure you promote your webinar through your social media channels ahead of time and send reminder emails to registrants, so they don’t miss it. As a bonus, webinars will help you build your email list. 

Enter Awards

You’ll find that most industries have business awards that you can enter. Some charge, but many are free. If you win or are even shortlisted, you can shout about your accolade on social media, giving your customers even more reasons to trust your company. You also may gain some press coverage if you win, so it’s well worth taking the time to fill out the application form to highlight the work you are most proud of.

Shoestring Digital Marketing

Ultimately, marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are hundreds of tactics out there that can be really effective with a small budget, you just need to commit some time and energy, and you’ll soon be seeing results.

for loads more small business marketing tips, click here.

5 Minutes with Kathy Koomson

We sat down (virtually) with Kathy Koomson, Head of Brand and Marketing at Core Talent, to find out more about marketing in the world of recruitment, the changes the industry has seen over the past ten years, and what the future holds.

Hi Kathy, thanks for chatting with Colour Me Social! Tell us about your background before joining Core Talent?

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and just been elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Before I joined Core Talent, I worked as a Commercial Manager and Head of Product for an English manufacturer – that role gave me an excellent insight into Engineering & Manufacturing. Before that, I was at Bank of America/MBNA for 10 years and held various positions in marketing. During my last role, I was Head of Retail Strategy and managed the Retail Strategy Team, which was financially results-driven and creative.

What prompted you to move into recruitment marketing?

Core Talent asked me to come in on a contract basis and help initially as they wanted a new website. However, the further I got into the business, it became clear that it was an exciting growing business. A new website would not do it justice, so we completely rebranded and repositioned the company with a new logo, colour palette, and imagery. We even developed our values with input from clients, candidates, and employees. I have been with Core Talent for almost five years now. Recruitment Marketing is exciting and fast-paced; you need to be creative to appeal to candidates with job opportunities, informative to clients, and persuasive to potential employees. It’s a very stimulating company to be part of.

How does Core Talent help businesses?

We’re a specialist, engineering & manufacturing, construction, and consultancy business, and now we work globally across the UK, Europe, the USA and China. Our Directors actually transitioned from engineering and purchasing into recruitment, so they worked in the industries we recruit, adding significant value to technical knowledge and ability. We’re not a generalist recruiter – we really understand our clients’ needs.

We have consultants working in very niche markets, and they get to understand the client, the candidates, and the actual market incredibly well, so we’ve got some excellent knowledge. 

We recently developed our consultancy division, Tactical Consultancy. So we offer more than a recruitment service. We can re-engineer recruitment processes, manage a temporary workforce down to the payroll, provide competitor intelligence, support social media activity all support and improve our client’s recruitment processes. So we help clients in a lot of different ways. 

What does your role entail? 

My remit is the internal and external brand. So I’m looking at anything related to communications, branding, our messages, external brand, and internally. I am also responsible for introducing new products and innovation in the business and managing performance and spend on job boards and advertising platforms. As our consultancy division grows, I support clients with their social media and marketing, which is an exciting new angle to my role.

What does an average day as Head of Brand and Marketing look like?

On a typical day for me, I’ll come in and check my emails, and then I develop social media posts. I will also review the current performance of Core Talent and our client’s social media activities. As I manage the website and job boards, I will also analyse performance and ensure the consultants are supported with any queries.

I will also produce collateral, presentations, and pitches for new clients. Or I could be briefing our creative agencies or be speaking to Phil at Colour Me Social about social media activity. I often attend various meetings with consultants or the Directors who’ve got a particular challenge or particular piece of support they need. 

So, it’s pretty well rounded – it’s not just about the marketing. It’s about supporting the business, clients, and candidates using my expertise and experience. 

How would you say recruitment differs from other industries when it comes to marketing?

With recruitment, three key audiences are always at the centre of what we do – candidates, clients and employees/ potential employees.

We moved from a candidate-rich, job-short market to a job-rich, candidate-short market, so we have to work even harder to get exactly the right people for our top jobs.

With clients – it’s about bringing new ones in and supporting the clients we have. For the other audiences, our people, it’s essential to keep them engaged and happy at work. We are on a recruitment drive and always looking for new employees. This could be experienced recruitment consultants, trainees, or graduates – we want to attract those kinds of people into the business, so we need to demonstrate what it’s like to work for us. Everything we do needs to ensure that all of those audiences are considered.

How has the role of marketing within recruitment changed in the last ten years?

Years ago, you could put a job on a job board, and you’d probably more or less fill that job from that advert. But now, it’s about a lot more than that. You can’t just put a job on a job board and think it’s gonna drive people; you have to have an online presence, offer a variety of services and have an extensive network. So it’s critical, now, I think, to have a marketer within a recruitment business to support recruitment activities and the company. So it’s a lot more popular now to find experienced marketers and agencies than ever because recruitment really does need it. 

What marketing trends can you see happening in recruitment?

LinkedIn has become more and more popular for many recruiters; I see a lot of firms invest a lot more in terms of LinkedIn. They’re also changing how they communicate on social platforms – it’s much more creative, whether it’s white papers or explainer videos. This is true of Twitter, as well, but to a lesser degree. So there’s a lot more investment going into social media now than there was before. 

Also, as we see in other industries, a lot more digital technology is coming into the recruitment market that supports consultants and candidates. Video interviews, for example, have been invaluable over the last 15 months. However, I don’t think human contact should or will ever be replaced in the processes, but there will be many more shifts in the next few years with these great new technologies being introduced.

How has Core Talent changed in the Covid-era?

It has been difficult, as it has for everyone. We had to rebuild our workforce and restructure to enhance our offering in the US and Europe. Business areas like international construction and data centre construction continued to perform really well, as mission-critical projects were still ongoing. In contrast, other markets went a lot quieter during the first lockdown. So as a business, we’ve spent the last 12 months really looking at our markets, expanding further in the areas where we see more significant growth, like E-mobility, autonomous vehicles and AI, and dealing with our usual fields of construction and manufacturing.

Finally, what is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

There have been so many excellent campaigns I have seen and experienced over the years. I admire the teams who have created the current public health campaigns we have all been exposed to over the last 15 months. They have had to get the information and strategy out to the whole country in a short space of time and ensure that the core message is memorable and easy to follow.

There are also two above-the-line advertising campaigns that I have always loved. The Guinness Surfer/Horses advert and the Dairy Milk Gorilla advert. The mix of cinematography, the characters, the straplines ‘good things come to those who wait’ and ‘a glass and a half full of joy’ set against the musical score all contribute to these adverts being some of the greatest and most memorable of all time.

4 Ways to Follow Your Audience, Not Marketing Trends

The key to any successful marketing strategy, nay, any successful business, is a clear understanding of your target audience.

We know this isn’t news to anyone, but we think it’s worth remembering when you’re trying to get more leads, customers and referrals in a fast-paced, trend-driven environment.

Don’t get us wrong. Following marketing, trends can get your company’s name out there and position you as a progressive organisation. However, unless you conscientiously integrate these trends into an established and well-researched marketing strategy, it’s unlikely they will lead to significant growth.

Although new popular platforms, ideas and techniques may attract attention and raise short-term revenue, ultimately, following a trend means following someone else’s lead. Doing this can cause you to stray from your own brand identity and values, and move you further away from your own customers needs.

Remember, customers can see right through phonies, so jumping onto TikTok because it’s ‘what everyone else is doing and not because you have a genuine potential to develop leads on the platform could make your company look foolish and out of touch. It could also dent your reputation and cause customers to lose trust in your organisation.

While recent years have brought marketers a load of new and innovative ways to reach out to and connect with their customers, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to marketing, and whilst it’s easy to be susceptible to new trends – not least because they appear a dime a dozen in the marketing world – we urge you to begin with your audience, not the trends. Once you know what they need, you’ll have a clearer perspective on which of those novel fads (if any!) could actually play a relevant role in your efforts to boost conversions and improve customer loyalty.

In this blog, we’ll take things back to the essentials of brilliant marketing, dismissing the fads for a deep-dive look at 4 techniques for effectively listening to and learning from your audience, proving that you should be led by your audience, not overhyped marketing trends.

Do a Deep Dive on Your Analytics

When setting out to gain a greater understanding of your audience, begin by reviewing the current data you have. This includes all analyses your company has conducted about your customers since you’ve been in business, such as focus groups and figures you can gather from your marketing outputs, including website traffic, social media data, email open rates and click-throughs. Use this invaluable data to pinpoint where your customers are engaging the most and to inform the rest of your marketing activities.

This gives you a starting point to work from when learning about your audience on a deeper level — you already have some understanding of the real pain points and challenges they experience and what they need from your product or service.

From there, consider the other types of audience-related information you’re missing and need to obtain.

Ask Your Audience

Surveys are an effective way to listen to both current customers and a prospective audience; it’s the most direct way to understand their needs, as it comes directly from the source. Surveys allow you to continually improve and amend your services in line with your customers’ expectations, increasing retention rates.

Try Social Listening

To really get to know your audience and find out what they are saying about your industry and your brand online, try social listening. It gives you a useful context to see where your brand lies amongst competitors and will go a long way to inform your marketing strategy.

Social listening is not about looking at numbers of followers or likes but about how audiences react to your content and brand and reading their mood. Whether it’s positive or negative, knowing when and how your audience reacts to your brand online is crucial to truly understand your customers.

Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. They can help you focus your time on qualified prospects and guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers.

When done well, buyer personas can be really helpful. They can make it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, and services to meet the specific needs of your target audience.

You can build your buyer personas through research, surveys and interviews. They usually consist of information about a prospects age, job, salary and education – now this information can prove useful. However, the best buyer personas include more detail about what actually matters.

What are the tasks they struggle with day to day?

Where are their frustrations?

What work do they love doing?

The answers to these questions are a lot more helpful to marketers, so try to build them into your buyer personas.

As copywriter Gary Bencivenga said: “Emotions are the fire of human motivation, the combustible force that secretly drives most decisions to buy. When your marketing harnesses those forces correctly, you will generate explosive increases in response.”

Listen to Your Audience, Not Trends

Getting to know your audience isn’t always a simple process, but it’s a crucial one. Conducting this work and doing it often will ensure you know what resonates with your audience to create the content and products, and services that your buyer personas and target customers want to buy.

Having a strong understanding of your potential customers will help you convert them into long-term, paying customers. So, start working through these steps to getting to know your audience better and begin building a customer-led strategy rather than letting trends direct your decision making.

5 Minutes With Lucy Paine

Welcome to the third instalment in our series of blogs that look at all aspects of the challenges facing small businesses. For our third edition, we sat down with Lucy Paine from TechSpark who is leading their Tech Swindon ecosystem development project.

What was your background prior to Tech Swindon?

Very varied, I have worked for Pre IPO start-ups in Silicon Valley, within tech and education companies in sales, partner management and marketing, run my own business and most recently spent almost five years at Sussex Innovation Centre putting all my knowledge, experience and connections into helping other people grow their companies, or take their idea into reality.

Most of my roles have been around people and collaboration looking back but I can’t claim that there was a plan.

How do you help support small businesses in your role?

Tech Swindon is a new initiative focussed upon glueing together all the great tech scene in Swindon to then nurture and develop into a community able to challenge for talent against the shiny lights of cities like Bristol and Brighton.

The support we offer ranges from creating a peer-driven Swindon Founders meet up through to one to one strategy workshops – I’m a resource for the SME tech community and what that looks like is flexible as we evolve the proposition and meet more companies.

What inspires you about working with small businesses?

Helping them progress, as a neutral resource I offer can a sounding board, challenge strategy, help them test assumptions, build a team – we are a not for profit and I am not trying to upsell services. The success of Tech Swindon will be reflected by the growth of our small business community, and I hope some of that will come from the confidence and intelligence of the support delivered.

In your opinion how important is growing your small business network, building relationships and nurturing connections to help grow a business compared to other sales/marketing activities?

There are two angles to this question – firstly running a business can be really hard, lonely and having a network of fellow founders means you can share your issues/ highs and lows with a group of peers who understand and can help.

Secondly, the old cliché of people buying people is still true even in 2020 – and through networking, you’ll meet clients, partners and connectors you’d never build any depth of credible relationship with on LinkedIn. Just be picky with your networking, but when you find a group that works commit, go each month and build meaningful engagement, don’t expect a sale, hope for an interesting conversation and it will be worth your time.

You can also use this networking to support your sales and marketing, get onto social, take a photo of the group, tag the organiser, attendees you met etc and add an intelligent comment that they will all share – again do this with integrity and they’ll start sharing your message.

What are the main challenges you see SMEs face in doing this?

Time v perceived value – I have seen some companies go to every networking event going for two months, then decide none are worth it so don’t leave the office for the rest of the year. Research a meeting, check out the attendee list and if no one there is remotely in your space don’t go – find your tribe but also throw in a random one with an interesting speaker.

I think a lot of people worry about how false networking can be, and the first time is always awkward, but the second time you’ll recognise the faces and the conversations will develop from weather to something more meaningful.

I am avoiding the word useful, just sounds too manipulative – if you only look for useful you’ll miss interesting and genuine connections are more to lead to a referral than useful ones. We’ve all met the person who starts with asking what do you do, and looks over your shoulder as soon as he/she has decided you’re not going to buy what he is selling – don’t be that person.

How do you see small business networking, building relationships and nurturing connections changing in the future? Will Tech play a bigger role?

Tech hasn’t mastered the complexities of an in-person networking connection, LinkedIn is great to keep in touch, and webinars for quick calls or training, but we get so much more done in person.

It’s just like dating, apps and matchmaking platforms all sound great, but you only know when you meet someone if it’s going to work. And while business is a different transaction the trust you build in those first meetings is why you buy/ sell/ recommend/ partner with someone.

What is the most powerful networking event you have been involved with?

Powerful networking to me is a group where I feel comfortable, with familiar faces and new ones, in a non-sales environment where the room wants to hear more about you without judgement and who are themselves well connected and able to help you make connections that impact your business – that’s the utopia of networking and very rare.

In Brighton that was the Brighton Chamber Breakfast and their success was underpinned by the team and the culture of the Chamber – there was the odd salesperson but they didn’t tend to come back, they’d missed the point!

Do you have any final words of advice for small business owners wanting to improve their network and their networking skills?

Make time for networking, research the groups around you and try a few. Prepare your 30 second “What does your business do” reply, make it natural and interesting – and then listen to all the replies you get.

LinkedIn with the people you enjoyed meeting, ignore the invitations of the ones you didn’t and commit to going to the group that has the most relevance for at least 6 months, offer to talk, offer to sponsor a lunch/ charity event and see this time as a business and personal investment.

5 Minutes with Michael Gegg

What was your background prior to South Thames Marketing?

Immediately prior to setting up South Thames Marketing, I was head of global marketing for two of Hay Group’s (a management consulting firm) four business divisions. I left Hay after four wonderful years following its acquisition by Korn Ferry. Prior to that, I was head of international marketing and events for several years at Kenexa (now part of IBM). And back in the early days, I held marketing roles at a couple of psychometric testing and recruitment firms. So, my background has always been within the professional services space.

What inspired you to set up South Thames Marketing?

As with a lot of things in life, it was circumstance! I’d left Korn Ferry and was weighing up my next move. I’d always passionately wanted to launch my own consultancy and it felt this was the right time. Three years on, I wouldn’t look back. What inspired me? Having worked my entire career in professional services, I wanted to give back; supporting firms to just get better at their marketing. Working with clients of all different sizes gives me some great diversity, but actually working with an independent consultant or a big four management consulting firm, they have similar marketing challenges, just on a different scale.

How does South Thames Marketing help professional services businesses?

We support firms in several ways. Firstly from a strategy and planning perspective. Getting under the skin of what they are currently doing, assessing what they want to achieve brand and lead-gen wise and developing a strategy accordingly. From there we either hand that over for them to implement, or clients may ask us to support in certain areas (content creation, social media, creative design, campaign development etc) because they haven’t the internal resource themselves, or in some instances outsource their marketing in its entirety to us. We also support several international firms with European expansion or expansion into Asia. But in the first instance, we get to know the client and what they are looking to achieve and build from there.

What are the main marketing challenges professional services companies face?

Great question. There are several. But I think for me the biggest is staying relevant. The web is awash with content: white papers, blogs, videos all addressing a topic – it could be Brexit, it could be productivity, it could be attracting and retaining the best talent. The challenge is getting their voice heard over everyone else who is trying to have a say on that topic. Relevance is so important.

How can professional services professionals/companies stand out from the crowd?

Being human. Too many firms will try and cram every buzzword they know into a piece because they believe it adds credence. But at the end of the day you are writing (or presenting to) another human being –  I guess it could be a robot in the future! – so you need to write accordingly. My biggest tip always is when you’ve written something, read it back to yourself and then ask the question ‘if you’re sitting opposite that person in a business meeting or pitch’ is that how you would speak? If not, then start again. We’re all humans, including your clients!

How would you say professional services companies differ from other industries when it comes to marketing?

I’m probably biased here, but I think if you can succeed in professional services marketing, you can succeed in any industry. Working in professional services you are challenged every day. That could be with the quality of content/materials you have to produce to stay relevant or stakeholders you have to manage in-house, who all have an opinion that is apparently right! Succeed in this market and you’ll succeed in others. Yes, I know every sector will probably say similar, but come and spend a month in professional services and let’s have a conversation after!

What trends can you see happening in professional services marketing?

It’s already happening. More and more firms are adopting the new exciting digital technologies that are out there. The key is integrating your tech stack and maximising the insights you gain from the data.

What’s the best marketing campaign you have been involved in?

One of the last campaigns we rolled out at Hay Group was a campaign that explored the connection between employee and customer engagement. At its core was a report, where we’d undertaken an in-depth survey, but we’d then managed to interview and involve several of our clients from around the world. This was important as it added credence to our voice, but also allowed us to offer some incredibly interesting global insights plus the opportunity to create a number of supporting assets: extended case studies, blogs, videos etc. We rolled out the campaign in a crazy number of countries around the world, working with our local marketing colleagues, who we had to influence that this campaign would work in their particular market. In our planning we fully involved our local marketers, so we adapted versions of the report for different markets – this is so important. We held webinars together with in-person Forums in a number of cities. I attended the London, New York, Madrid and Sao Paulo Forums in person and seeing the report in multiple languages, speakers talking so passionately and importantly just seeing it resonate with every audience member was fantastic. The ROI we achieved was outstanding. Because we had involved clients and worked closely with them in the final report, we also managed to partner with the internal PR departments of some of them, which gave us huge traction when approaching the media. But, I cannot take the full credit, my marketing manager at the time, Louise Shaw, who is now doing fantastic stuff at Deloitte in Australia – I’m really, really proud of her, drove it and the success was 100 per cent down to her. As a leader, there is no better feeling than seeing someone on your team really thrive.

What is the best marketing campaign you’ve seen?

I’m not sure the best, but I love the Adobe marketing cloud ads – if you’ve not seen them definitely check them out!

Do you have any final words of advice for professional services companies wanting to tell their story/better their marketing efforts?

I just refer to what I said earlier, please, please remember your clients and prospective clients are human beings!

The future of B2B marketing

We all know that cold-calling is very much a thing of the past and this will affect the status of B2B marketing. We all hate to be cold-called and are most likely going to ignore anybody who tries to do it. Most of all, it does not inspire trust and confidence in a company. Nowadays two thirds of a buying decision are achieved through online research.

According to recent research quoted by LinkedIn about 75% of B2B buyers use social media as part of their buying decision. 50% use LinkedIn as a source for gathering information on who to buy from, whilst 76% of them prefer to follow recommendations from within their professional network.

LinkedIn Prospecting

Selling your business and services to prospective customers has never been so easy as it is now with LinkedIn. At the click of a button people can look at a list of businesses that provide what it is they need. Therefore, you have to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch and gives customers the first impression you want them to have of you.
Make sure that your profile is always up to date and links up with your website, Twitter, Facebook and contact pages.

Due to our constant information overload and fear of data breaches by social media companies, consumers want to find straightforward advice and solutions to their queries. So, while businesses might find you on LinkedIn and do their research on you, it is far more important that your website is search engine optimised and provides customers with clear information that is relevant to them.

The simplest way to get more B2B connections inside your industry is by being active online. Join LinkedIn groups for joint interests and discussions. This is an area where you can engage with likeminded people within the relevant industry, answer questions and establish relationships. This is not hard selling, it is speaking about your specialist topic and gaining others’ trust in your abilities.

Widen your prospecting scope

When you trawl through the profiles of users you interact with, you can widen your network even more by engaging with their secondary contacts. The more connections and interactions you have online, the more engagement you will receive back.

This exposure will gain trust in your brand and make customers more familiar with you. Any of the connections you have made through groups or by adding your bit to a discussion will mean that these contacts will also come and look at your profile.

If you have pictures, positive feedback or any upcoming events, let them know. In the same way that you might look at a profile and try and figure out who leads the sales team or what services are available, put yourself into a potential customer’s shoes and think about what it is that you would want to find on your profile.

What are the most commonly asked questions you get asked and can visitors find the answers easily on your website? Transparency and ease of use are the buzzwords when it comes to customer experience nowadays.

Put your name on the Pulse

If you have something to say about a topic, why not write a short article and publish it via LinkedIn Pulse? All your connections will receive a notification and in no time,  you will establish yourself as a professional persona that is seen to be trustworthy, in-the-know and proactive. This will increase your authority and your posts can easily be shared by users for even wider reach.

None of these tactics feels like the pushy sales scripts of yore that make people shut off immediately. You are not required to say, ‘You should buy X because we believe that we are the best in this industry, with 20 years of experience’.

This is much subtler than that. You answer genuine questions with genuine knowledge, have conversations about topics that are relevant to you and your clients and build relationships based on trust, hopefully turning strangers into customers and then loyal customers who will be the backbone of your business for years to come.

Why developing a Marketing Persona is the best thing you can do for your Start Up

What is a marketing persona?

First, let’s define a marketing persona. A marketing persona is a fictional character you have to develop in order to characterise the key traits of a particular group of your target audience. Clearly, this is the core of all of your future marketing activities and if you define it right at the beginning, success is inevitable.

Because it takes time, you can’t define your marketing persona overnight! Conduct your best analysis and then make some conclusions based on the qualitative data you have gained during the process.
Getting the right data means that you will have to find out what are their motivations, needs, technical skills and other factors that will impact on how they may interact with your marketing activities in the future.

What you really want to know is what works for every developed persona. Gathering this data will help you optimise the user journey at every stage. You would really want to focus on how to get these tasks done in the most effective way and create a user-focused development process.

Quantitative vs Qualitative research

Conducting research is something you should do to better understand your users and target audience. The question is what do you really want to find out about them? This is the first question you must ask yourself. What type of research method you will use it depends on what your answer will be. Specific methods specialised are for a specific type of information. There are two research types:

1. Quantitative research

and

2. Qualitative research

Quantitative research is focused more on large samples or testing and proving something to a large group of people. This includes surveys and site traffic analysis. Getting the most out of your log files in order to find out how users are moving around your site is a great thing to do. Quantitative research gives thousands of data points which you can analyse and look for statistically significant trends which will realistically reflect the behavior of your users. Quantitative research can help you test a hypothesis you will define with the qualitative research.

Qualitative research is used for smaller samples. It stands for understanding the motivation behind something, gathering reasons, and opinions. You will find out why customers act or behave in a certain way. Interviews and usability testing are part of the research. These methods interact with a smaller number of users (10 – 20) and will help you to uncover new ideas and identify unknown issues. You can’t prove anything with qualitative analysis but you will get insights about your customers which you can use for future testing.

It’s the qualitative research that provides your most valuable insights. According to findings, 82% of companies who conducted qualitative research met their revenue goals. Whereas 70% who did not use qualitative analysis failed in doing so. There is no better way of understanding your consumer. As a startup or a small business owner, your main focus must be on qualitative analysis and research. Remember that!

Avoid these mistakes

Always set realistic goals and conduct a realistic analysis of your raw collected data. Many marketers fail to do this. They add or sugarcoat some ideas and completely miss the point of the qualitative analysis.

Don’t fall into these four traps when creating your customer personas:

1.They make stuff up about their customers

They form marketing persona based on their opinion! The only way to have realistic data is to have a real conversation with your customer.

2.They follow the wrong data

Many people get stuck by following basic data such as gender and demographics which can be irrelevant. What you need to do is include other data in your buyer’s personas such as decision criteria, buying process and buying priorities. Think about what matters for your business and use that as a basis for your actions.

3.They develop too many personas

Another classic mistake people make. If you do your analysis right you will have a base of quality insights. This can be used for developing one quality core persona and then develop different variations based on demographic, gender and job title.

4.They use scripted Q&A interviews

You cannot solve your problem by adding an online survey or conducting lifeless formal telephone script. It will take a little bit of practice but in time you will learn how to have unscripted conversations that will lead your consumers to tell you all of the real and incredible details about their preferences and experiences in the buying process.

The key to success is to implement the qualitative research first and gather realistic data which will help you in creating your ideal marketing persona. Insights about their likes and preferences are something you can use for complex analysis later. Be as realistic as possible and arrange an informal and real conversation with people. Invest in what truly matters for your business at the start and avoid turmoil later.

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‘’As a startup or a small business owner, your main focus must be on qualitative analysis and research. Remember that!’’

5 reasons to use the power of Instagram for your business

Small businesses, particularly in the B2B sector, often overlook Instagram. A visual platform, you might find it hard to see why it’s relevant to your business, particularly if your model is service-based or ‘unglamorous’.

Increasingly, businesses are turning to Instagram to enhance their brand and grow their online presence and sales. Let’s look at 5 reasons why Instagram can be great for your business.

Not just the next generation

Traditional social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly populated by an older user-base. The newer platforms of Instagram and Snapchat carry a reputation of belonging to younger generations.

Yet increasingly, Instagram is establishing itself as a major platform with significant traffic. 65% of the top 100 brands globally now have a presence on Instagram, while the platform possesses a growing user-base to match. Instagram operates at a useful nexus between emerging and more established social media platforms. It provides a  growing user-base in a market not saturated with smaller business activity such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be seen

The stripped back nature of the platform and easy direct messaging keeps businesses in close contact with their consumers. For smaller businesses this direct link with your customers can be invaluable. A human insight into your business is well complemented by the ease with which customers can communicate with you directly. With images shown in chronological order, you will also stay seen and not forgotten. This is unlike rival platforms where algorithms prioritise the content of more established players in the market.

A visual edge to your product

The visual nature of Instagram allows you to promote your business, products and services in unique ways.

Customers sometimes struggle to see what it is that you do. Show them. From artisanal clothing design to app building or environmental modelling, there are stunningly visually elements to all aspects of your work. Create a buzz about your product by letting clients and customers see what you do in its intricate glory.

A behind the scenes view

Instagram allows you to open your business to the world. Give your followers an insight into your team training days, your new office space, or your charity fundraiser. All of this gives your business the human side you know it has, but others don’t see.

People invest in stories, people, and the reasons they do what they do. A visual insight into your team and the workings of your business can make you stand out. It allows your customers – current and future – to invest in what you’re doing on a much deeper level.

Improve your content elsewhere

So, you’ve created stunning visual content both for and through Instagram using it’s built-in camera and unique filters. What’s next? Share it across other social media platforms. Don’t be afraid to share your Insta-snaps on Facebook or Twitter. It can in turn help grow your profile and freshen up your social presence across other platforms too.

The visual capacity of Instagram allows businesses to formulate different relationships with their customers. It can help you to uncover fascinating aspects of your business which your customers would want to see, which you would otherwise overlook. Don’t miss out – be part of the visual revolution transforming the world of small business customer relationships.

 

How to Nail Social as a Start-up

Social media is no longer just a procrastination strategy from the impending panic of finishing that project deadline you have. In the past decade, it has become less of an optional marketing opportunity and more of a priority. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become integral parts of brand awareness, content distribution, lead generation, and customer acquisition strategies for businesses.

This is especially true for start-ups, who have smaller budgets and less revenue. However, they are the most in need of good marketing strategies needing customers to make money and requiring money to get customers. Does it create a classic chicken in egg dilemma of what comes first, the marketing or the money? There is no easy answer, however, huge spending isn’t necessary for start-ups to run successful social media marketing campaigns.

Just consider the fact that Facebook is now responsible for a whopping 15.8 percent of total time spent on the internet, and the average social shopper spends an average of £113 when coming from Pinterest and £49 when coming from Facebook. (Source: http://www.greencandymedia.com/33-captivating-statistics-that-could-change-your-marketing-strategy/#.VONDcym4ksk)

Now that the importance of social media has been covered, let’s look at some of the details.

If there isn’t a plan, make one.

Here are some elements that make up a great social media plan:

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals. The more specific, the better. This includes:

  • Brand awareness. This will happen organically as you post content, engage with users, and promote your brand.
  • Lead generation. You would like your social media profiles to be lead generators that drive traffic to your website or blog. This requires a long-term investment and results are not immediate. Remember that patience is a virtue!
  • Content distribution. This involves an understanding of your brand’s voice: Use social media as one of your content distribution and dissemination platforms. Ensure engaging and unique content, and it’s possible that others could share your posts and advertise your brand for you. Posting regularly at peak times is extremely important (there are apps that can help pinpoint your audience’s best times), especially on Facebook and Twitter. For this purpose, you should develop an editorial calendar. Along with sharing your latest blog posts, try posting relevant news, photos, links and interviews you see around the web.
  • Customer acquisition. The best case scenario is that your social media profiles raise brand awareness, generates leads and leads turn into customers. Once you can use social media as a customer acquisition tool, you will have maximised its value.

“Does it really matter which social media channel I use? Aren’t they all just social media?” The answer is Yes and No in that order.

While not every industry has a clear preference for social media channels, there are important determinants that can help you find the right social network: your target audience age group, your business’ location, and the nature of your services. Depending on your strategy, approach, and goals, you should be able to determine which social media platforms are right for your start-up. There are currently five major social media platforms of potential value for start-ups:

Build a tribe

By this, we mean to build and engage a community. For long-term growth and success, the best thing you can do is build an online community of ambassadors. Behind every successful marketing strategy is a genuine human connection. Show your social media audience the people behind the product or service you offer: why you love what you do, and what served as an inspiration for your start-up. You can use this opportunity to look for social media influencers, and turn them into brand ambassadors. These ambassadors provide start-ups with the exposure they need to grow into a global brand. This won’t happen overnight, but a prolonged investment over many months and years will pay off.

If it isn’t working try something else, or better yet, try something new!

Once you your accounts are set up and you have developed a social media management routine, schedule regular temperature checks for all your channels. Tools like Audience evaluate your Twitter presence with one click; you can receive reports on your engagement, reach and profile strength. If your customers don’t engage as well on one of your social channels, check to make sure you haven’t been neglecting it!

Finally, never be afraid to try something new, be it in everyday life (like a new meal for dinner), or in tour social media profile. Breaking the mould or taking a leap outside your comfort zone doesn’t require a huge budget. It just requires a little courage and ingenuity. After all, the essence of start-up spirit is to problem-solve in an innovative, efficient way. Look at the #6SecondScienceFair Vine campaign for GE. The campaign encouraged fans to film their own science experiments, in order to build GE’s reputation as an innovator. It generated over 600 user submissions, 345 percent follower growth and 253,800 engagements, and all in a single week. Good luck!

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