Five Tips To Make 2016 ‘Your Year’

How has growth been for your business in 2015? Even if you’ve done well, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is always room for improvement, and that you’re hoping for further growth in the coming months.

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If this is the case, here are five quick tips to help gain new clients and continue expanding your business in 2016:

  1. Work to a plan

If you’ve never used a Marketing Plan before to help direct your business’ marketing activity, 2016 is the year to start. Look at the factors affecting you from external sources (such as your competitors, local and national trends, etc), your business’ strengths and weaknesses, and the marketing actions which have been successful (or unsuccessful) for you this year, and turn them into a plan to help you to achieve your goals.

  1. Try something new

Maybe you’ve always promoted your business via networking. Or having a stand at business exhibitions. Or by advertising in the local newspaper. If these bring in new customers to your business, great – but add to it, and try something new. Sponsor a local junior sports team, take some customers out to dinner, or invite a target out to coffee. Take a chance and see if taking a different approach pays off.

  1. Get Online

You don’t have to be away from your desk to effectively promote yourself. Whilst putting a name to a face and maintaining relations is important, you can raise profile initially using social media. You don’t have to be on every social media channel – choose the one or two most relevant to your business. If you produce products which are very visual (such as cakes, art, clothing, etc), then Instagram and Facebook will probably be most effective. For professional services or less ‘pretty’ products, try Twitter or LinkedIn. Have a love of live streaming? Get on Periscope. And so on… there’s a channel for every audience.

  1. Offer a ‘mini’ version of your product or service

Your potential customers may not be ready to part with their hard-earned cash to buy your product or service, whatever it may be. So try offering them a smaller or stripped down version – and see if it helps to tempt them into future investment with you.

  1. Be consistent

Marketing your business isn’t straightforward – and as a small business, it is easy to feel that as you have so much to do, the easiest thing to drop is your marketing. It pays off to be consistent – it is no good waiting until you have no new work coming in to start trying to find it, and dropping your marketing again when busy. You can manage your marketing much easier if it comes in steady waves than in huge peaks and troughs. A consistent approach to promoting your business will help you to raise profile in the long term, and it is likely that you’ll end up spending more if you make grand gestures on irregular occasions.

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Stop! Time for a Marketing Review

Stop what you’re doing. We are now more than halfway through 2015, and have you stopped to consider your progress?

  • Is your business achieving what you want it to so far this year?
  • Has the business changed, meaning you need a new plan?
  • Have you fallen short of your objectives so far? If so, how can you rectify this?
  • Have you exceeded your own expectations for the business, and if so, where will you go from here to ensure continued success?

Things change. If you now need to alter or divert from your original marketing plan for 2015, now is the time to do it. Don’t leave it for the rest of the year, thinking that you’ll just start afresh in 2016 – you can get back on track, or make new tracks. The start of a new year may be a good kick-start, but you can make changes at anytime you think appropriate.

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Likewise, if your business is exceeding its targets, now is a good time to review what has gone right and adapt your plan to ensure that it continues throughout the remainder of the year.

Reviewing your marketing and marketing plan is important as it allows you the opportunity to stop or change what may not be working, or try a different approach. In the short term, this can save money, whilst also helping to lead to long-term gains.

Should events be in my marketing mix?

I was recently asked whether holding events should be in a marketing plan. Well, much like so many other marketing activities, it depends on what you want to achieve and who you want to target!

Before you start planning any event, there are two things you need – an intended audience and a clear business purpose.

1. Your audience – Who do you want to attract, and would the event appeal to them? For example, you wouldn’t run an event in a theme park if you were targeting the over-70’s! Make sure what you want to do is appropriate to your audience.

2. Your business purpose – what do you want to achieve by holding the event? Every decision you make regarding the event should support this aim. So, do you want to generate new business, promote a product or service, build customer loyalty, or something else? It is essential to answer this question so that your plans don’t spiral off in a direction you hadn’t intended.

Once these two questions have been answered, you can start planning your event. If you cannot clearly answer these two points, then the answer to the original question was no, you don’t need to have an event in your marketing plan!

Your 2015 Marketing Army

You’re a marketing army of one, so what will you do in 2015 to march your business forward? Here are some quick hints to think about when starting your marketing planning…

2015 calendar

  • Your audience – who were your customers in 2014? Are you trying to attract the same audience in 2015, or will it change?
  • Your time – which of your marketing activities made the best use of your time in 2014, and will this be the same in 2015?
  • Your methods – do you use tried and tested marketing methods, and how have these worked for you this year? For example, does word of mouth marketing get your best results, or do you get lots of responses from email marketing? How can you make the most of these methods in 2015?
  • Your current marketing – have you reviewed your current marketing strategy and worked out what does or doesn’t work? This should be one of the first things you consider when starting to plan your 2015 marketing.
  • Your campaigns – don’t forget that it is always ok to ask for help from fellow professionals!

When planning for the coming year, your plans should always include marketing. If you intend to make 2015 your biggest year in business to date, a good marketing strategy is essential.

10 Marketing Tips Your Small Business Can Use Today

Last week, I attended a networking group where I was asked for marketing tips which small businesses can make instant use of, especially on a small or no budget. Here are some of those discussed which your business may find useful:

  • Get people to recommend you to their friends and family – this is always my number one tip. Give good service, make sure your business’ processes are as good as they can be, and don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers to pass on your details or write a recommendation for you. There is nothing more powerful in marketing than having a friend or family member recommend a business to you, so never overlook it.
  • Always have your business cards to hand, no matter where you go. You never know who you might run into, and you don’t want to miss a potential business opportunity. A few stored in your wallet or purse will make sure you always have some available.
  • Attend networking events – they are plenty around and with a little research, you can easily find out which ones are free to attend. It is always worth trying a few different groups until you find a format and mix of attendees that works well for your business – not all groups are the same, so don’t be put off if you have one bad or worthless experience.
  • Use social media – the most popular sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are all free to use and can lead to a huge number of business opportunities. If you don’t know how to set up a page or use the sites, don’t be afraid to ask someone who does. You don’t necessarily need to pay for the advice (although those people should be the best people to ask!), a teenager is always a good start for asking social media questions! Once set up, be consistent in using the sites for promoting your business and keep the pages up to date.
  • Show off your company name everyday by wearing a branded t-shirt, shirt or jacket – it might seem a little tacky to some, but people will see your business name constantly when around you and it will help to push your business to the front of their mind when they need your services. If you have employees, make sure you’re all dressed the same for maximum effect.
  • Write articles and press releases – keep a look out for topical issues which relate to your business and submit articles or press releases to local publications. Readers are far more likely to read editorial than look at adverts, so get in touch with the editors of local publications (their details will usually be found within the first couple of pages) and send them content they can use. Small businesses looking for local customers should consider smaller publications such as parish magazines, as these are often read by local residents and so will reach your target audience perfectly.
  • Consider becoming a public speaker – if your business is of interest to others and you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer yourself as a public speaker for networking groups, such as Rotary, W.I., or other such meeting groups. They are always looking for interesting speakers, and it is a fantastic opportunity to speak directly to a number of people at once. It will take a little work to set up and you may need to do a couple to find your confidence, but if you can tell an interesting story about what you do, the people you come into contact with or the impact of your business on the local community, people will listen and you will win a new audience.
  • Don’t forget your existing customers – collect email addresses from your existing customers and send them a regular newsletter using a low cost email system such as Mail Chimp or DotMailer. Send updates on new products or services offered by your business, and keep them up to date with relevant industry news. Staying at the front of your customers’ minds will help to encourage future sales.
  • Consider using social media to give something away for free – you could run a competition on Facebook or Twitter to win one of your products or a sample of your service (i.e. a 20-minute meeting) if the entrants share or retweet your competition content. This will extend your audience to those contacts of your existing online followers and will help to build ‘likes’ or followers.
  • Don’t forget to get the basics right first – have a plan of what you want to achieve with your marketing and identify who your target audience is. This will make sure that you make the right choices to get your message to these people and don’t waste vital resources (which includes time, as well as money) on marketing activities which will not appeal effectively to your targeted customers.

Regardless of whether your business has no budget or a multi-million pound budget, marketing your business is essential for ensuring you know where your next customers are coming from, and so by putting a few simple activities in place, you can help to push your business in the right direction – i.e. upwards!

Marketing Planning

I have been asked before why a company needs a Marketing Plan. After all, they’re only read by the person who writes it and those working in marketing, right?

Wrong.

Every person who has to fulfill marketing in their line of work (and that covers a huge number of people, including professional services, those who are self-employed or business owners, and those who want to make a name for themselves) should be aware of their company’s aims for marketing. Not necessarily where they want to advertise or what keywords they’re using on Google Adwords, but what their aims are as a business, what kind of customers they wish to attract, and how they want customers and those associated with the business to perceive them.

For me, it is the final part of that sentence which is most important. The perception of a business can be argued to be the most important part of the marketing process. Think of the following companies; MacDonalds, Gap, Cadburys, Primark. All of them instantly conjure up an instant image that you, and many others, will hold for them. It is the same for your business. Regardless of its size or what it does, people will hold a certain perception of what you stand for and what you do. If their perception is wrong, it is up to you to change it. Having a Plan which addresses this and takes positive steps to make those changes in perceived image is the first step – after all, if your success is likely to be blocked by an incorrect perception of you and/or your business, then you’ll be wasting your time from the outset.