What should you do on Day 1 of starting your business?

According to an article in The Guardian last month, the answer is developing your marketing strategy, and in particular, your social media strategy.

Why is this? Well, in the current age of needing to get information out to consumers fast, you need to give thought to who you want to sell your products or services to and how you are going to get the information to them. With so many people accessing a social network on a daily basis, using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, is an effective way of giving your target audience the messages you want them to receive.

By having a strategy in place from Day 1, you can control these messages and, according to the article, see greater growth than you might expect without the use of marketing and social media.


Event Do’s and Don’ts – Event Support

When planning an event, you can make things much easier for yourself by getting a committee or even just a couple of volunteer helpers involved. No matter what the size of the event, whether a large scale fireworks night or even just getting a table of ten together for a local awards dinner, getting extra pairs of hands involved will help you to avoid missing any details and stop the organisation becoming overwhelming or too time consuming.

When selecting who will help you, look for those who are enthusiastic or have particular skills. If you are planning a ball, you will definitely want people with good contacts on your organising committee, to help boost table sales. If you are planning a charity walk, someone who is good with administration will be helpful to make sure that paperwork and applications are handled efficiently.

If you don’t know of anyone who can help you, don’t forget that you could ask for a couple of volunteers from a local college or university. Students on event management courses need experience to help them in the future, so in exchange for a reference, you can find enthusiastic and willing support.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support – no matter what the event, having other people involved will make it easier for you in the long run.  

Keeping Your Customers

Today I got a new mobile phone. I found the phone and a good deal online, and spoke to my current supplier to see if they could match that deal, to save me the hassle of moving to another network and for them to keep a customer. They couldn’t, so I left them and moved.

However, the issue wasn’t whether they could financially meet the better deal, it was whether they were willing to communicate and offer something extra to make me want to stay with them. If they’d have come back with a less financially attractive deal but had given me excellent customer service throughout the last few years that I’ve been with them (they haven’t), I’d have been less likely to move. Or if they had an ‘added extra’ to their contracts or consideration for long-term loyalty (they didn’t), again, I’d have been slower to make the decision to drop them without looking back!

As smaller businesses, you may find yourself less able to compete financially against bigger players in your industry. But if you go that extra mile to offer your customers second-to-none service, a small bonus for loyalty or real value for their money, they’ll be happier to stay with you and pay a little extra, rather than giving their hard earned cash to a faceless giant. 

Why did you start your business?

The UK’s Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reports that at the start of last year, SMEs accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in the UK. Collectively, they employ 14.4 million people and had a combined turnover of £1,600billion.

They’re huge numbers, so wind it back a little and think about your small business. Why did you set it up? To work for yourself? Because you had a great idea? To fit your hours around family life perhaps? Or was it something else that drove you to do it?

Try and remember the excitement you felt when you set up your business, and use that to help drive your next set of goals. Where do you see yourself in 1, 3 or 5 years time…and can your marketing strategy help you to get there?

Don’t get lost in the crowd. Use your marketing plans to set you apart from other businesses in your industry and make sure that you are reaching new customers and appealing to your existing ones. Your customers will respond to your enthusiasm so make your attitude and passion part of your working life.


Industry Standards

Today I found out that I have been awarded Chartered Marketer status, which is the “mark of an up-to-date, experienced and qualified marketing professional”, as defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. 

To me, this is great news as it marks the achievement of a few year’s of hard work to get to this stage (not that I’m about to slow down!).

Being recognised under an industry standard can go a long way in acknowledging and confirming the position of you and/or your small business, as well as yours and/or your business’ reputation. I would like to think that being a Chartered Marketer goes some way to proving that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to marketing – it isn’t just a title, but the culmination of training and experience. 

If your business industry doesn’t have such titles, you could look at entering awards to gain a similar mark of recognition. Entering your local FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) or newspaper’s business awards will gain you exposure and a credential which you can use to encourage new business and to show clients that you are as good as you say you are. 

A good award submission usually takes a little time to write, but has the advantage of getting you to stop and take stock of everything you have achieved. That in itself is an award of its own! And if you do find yourself winning an award, make sure you let the world know – it is a fantastic way of getting publicity and raising your profile and reputation. 


Marketing to all of the senses

On New Year’s Eve 2013, those close enough to experience the fantastic fireworks display in London were also treated to a multi-sensory experience for the first time as the crowds had peach snow and orange scented bubbles dropped on them.

Around 100,000 viewers were also given scratch and sniff cards and 7 fruit sweets which linked to the sights and smells to further increase their multi-sensory experience.

Whilst sensory augmentation (i.e. using the senses to enhance an experience) has been around for a while, this is the first time it has been used on such a large scale. However, it can also be used by smaller businesses to help broaden the sensory experience of their customers. For example, a bakery which makes sure the smell of freshly baked bread is wafting out of the door on a Saturday morning is likely to find that they make more impulse sales to those passing by.

The cosmetics brand, Lush, has a number of shops where products are left open on shelves so that their full smell can be enjoyed. This makes it stand out as unique over shops which keep their products’ smells trapped in bottles and packaging, so you have to be enticed by brand or visual appeal to buy it.

If customers visit your business premises, take the time to put yourself in their shoes and consider how you might be able to increase the sensory experience and put them in a better frame of mind for purchasing. Would something as simple as the smell (and taste) of good coffee or beautiful flowers make a difference to your customers? 

New Year Non-Resolutions

There are plenty of fantastic articles and blogs advising small businesses on what they should do to increase their customers in 2014, but what shouldn’t you do?Happy New Year!

1. Don’t forget who your target audience is. 

With every marketing activity you do, your first thought should always be to consider who your audience is and whether they will actually see or benefit from that activity. For example, if your audience is largely made up of students, putting an advert in the business section of your local newspaper is unlikely to be seen or responded to. You can easily avoid wasting money by simply considering your audience every time you make a marketing decision.

2. Don’t follow the crowd. 

Just because your competitors are doing something, it doesn’t mean you have to! Try and think outside of the box (see my earlier blog post for more) and make sure you stand apart from them.

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new. 

If you haven’t already done it, 2014 is the time to get your business onto social media. Set up a Twitter page for your business, upload some fantastic photos showing off your business onto Pinterest and get your profile set up on Google+. Then get talking – social media is a two-way dialogue, so make some connections and start sharing articles, blogs and videos which link to your business and that your followers will find interesting.

4. Don’t forget to tell your customers what you want them to do. 

Wherever you can, make sure to put a call to action in your marketing copy. Tell potential customers what you want them to do, which can be as simple as saying ‘phone to book an appointment before the end of January’. Don’t be shy!

5. Don’t lose focus on your current customers. 

It is often said that 80% of new business comes from returning customers. So make sure you are looking after them – don’t make them wait until you return their phone call, respond to their emails and always offer a fantastic level of customer service. The easiest way to think of it is to make sure you always give the level of customer service which you expect back. That way, you’ll keep your customers happy and encourage them to both return to you and recommend you to others.

Have a very Happy and Successful New Year!