Last updated by .

Marketing Small Business

Cancel your advertising and throw away your leaflets

Cancel ButtonWhen people consider whether to give up on their business and go back to corporate life it’s not because they prefer PAYE world. It’s usually because they have just run out money.  They aren’t able to make enough income to cover their day-to-day costs, let along make a profit.

But these businesses don’t go out of business because of bad service or poor quality products.  These businesses are usually run by people who are passionate about what they do and genuinely care about their clients.

Let me give you an example.

Jane is an ex-accountant who got fed up with the commute in to work every day and because of her passion for colours and interiors, she decided to re-train and start up an interiors business.  She now offers a range of services from one-off consultations and personal home styling to project managing big decorating jobs.

Jane is based in a fairly affluent area.  The current housing market has meant that more people are extending and modifying their property to get more space rather than move.  There is a potential market place for Jane’s service, especially when Jane has worked out that she only needs to be working with a maximum of 8 clients at any given time.

She has sensibly got a 6 month financial buffer, but four months in and Jane is finding it difficult attracting enough clients to her business.  She rarely has more than the odd appointment in her diary each week and she’s starting to feel desperate (which is not a good look for anyone!).

She advertises once a month in her local newspaper because someone once told her she ought to have a presence and get her name out there.  And she has also just signed up for one year advertising in her parish magazine as well with a local online business directory.  She has even gone round and put a leaflet in almost every door in her local neighbourhood explaining the list of services that she offers … but not one person has called her.

Selling her business is becoming hard work.  It is demoralising and the passion is starting to dwindle.  If it carries on like this, Jane will be forced to give up on her dreams and return to her accountancy career to pay the bills.

It’s not fair is it? Jane is offering a quality and professional service which is backed up by study and training, there appears to be a local market for what she offers and she knows that her knowledge can help increase the value of people’s homes and save them endless of hours of research. So why is not working for her?

What she doesn’t know is how to get the right message in front of the right people.  All her money is going in to advertising that obviously is not working for her and on leaflets that are obviously aren’t compelling enough to make people call.

The big mistake Jane has made is that she hasn’t taken the time to really get to know her target customers. Targeting the right customers with the right messages is really the secret to great marketing.  The better you know the people you want to attract, the more likely it is that you will know where to find them, how to communicate with them and how to make yourself attractive enough for these people to call you.

Jane needs to stop her advertising and go back to basics.

Who are her target customers?  What are their worries and concerns?  When it comes to home decorating and creating more space, what are their real problems and challenges?  (And these will be different from what Jane thinks they are!) How much are they willing to spend for to solved these problems?

By focusing on some simple questions such as these, Jane’s answers will help her work out what her special uniqueness could be to make her marketing activities and offers compelling and attractive. She needs to really spell out how an investment in her services can give specific benefits. Pictures of lovely cushions and stylish lamps are just not going to cut it!

So, for those of you out there who feeling like Jane, take a long hard look at the messages you are trying to get out there.  If your advertising isn’t working, cancel it.  If those leaflets cluttering up your office aren’t working, get rid of them.

Cleanse your business of stuff that you are doing because you think it is the right thing to do.  And stop second guessing by starting with your clients you want to be talking to.

The art of the follow up: How to stop losing business that’s right there under your nose

Following up and keeping in touch are easily forgotten.

Call me concept. Isolated on white.Day to day you are busy responding to emails, client projects, telephone calls and whatever else demands your attention. Days can merge into weeks; weeks into months. And before you know it, that potential client you spoke to about starting a new project has been lost in the ether of time.

Now I know you want to become a magnet to your clients. Chase them too hard and it’s easy to feel worried that you may come across as being desperate for the business. And, after all, isn’t it better to have them chase you?

But when you are now left wondering how long you should go before following up with their initial enquiry, that’s where holes start appearing in your business.

Whatever your reasons are for “forgetting” to follow up and keep in touch with people who have shown an interest in what you do, not doing anything about it is crazy. Especially when you spend most of your marketing time trying to find new contacts and leads to speak to!

If you are forgetting the ones that you’ve already found, you are leaving a stack load of money on the table. You need to plug up those holes!

But what to do about it?

  1. What follow up did you agree? The most common mistake made is not agreeing on a time, day or action for following up. Never leave a conversation without agreeing the next time of the next call or meeting or what is supposed to happen next. If the next step is to make contact again is not imminent, then at the very least decide on a time scale; whether that’s 6 weeks or 6 months.
  2. How you think about the follow up is the way it’s going to go. If you feel that following up with someone is salesy, that’s exactly how it will come across. If you feel slightly desperate about winning the business, that’s exactly how it will come across.Remember your potential clients are human beings too. The reason they haven’t got back to you may actually have nothing to do with the fact they don’t want to work with you. A member of their team has just resigned and it’s gone manic at work. Their child is off school sick and they are very concerned about the doctor’s report. They have got sick themselves and staying in bed until their temperature has gone down.

    If you keep in mind that it’s not all about you and that your potential client may actually have more pressing issues to deal with than the discussions you having with them, they may welcome the reminder and glad of the opportunity not to miss out on the offer you’ve got for them.

  3. Following up doesn’t always have to be about the sale. Sending a simple Thank You on a back of postcard or emailing a link to a relevant article you’ve just seen can be the perfect excuse for staying in touch. If you make it all about the sale all of the time, your desperation may come across and shoo the client away.
  4. Have an email marketing system set up. Whether you send out a fortnightly email newsletter or have a specific autoresponder sequence set up, add your potential client to that list so they can get the value of your expertise. Again, if all your follow ups are about making the sale, it may get very irritating for them.
  5. Don’t wait for Christmas to send them cards. Once a year, our postal service gets inundated with seasonal greetings. And so do your clients. Why spend money on cards and postage, only to get lost in the dozens of other follow ups from your competitors. There are plenty of other occasions throughout the year that are worth celebrating; Valentine’s Day, Easter, New Year and probably plenty of unusual National Days that could merit a card that says “Hi … remember me?”
  6. Set up a system. Whether it’s a basic excel spreadsheet or adding dates to your calendar or even subscribing to a specific CRM tool such as Capsule or Salesforce, you absolutely need to have a system set up so you don’t rely on memory. When you start up in business, it can feel easy to keep track of a few calls here and there. But when your follow ups span across the year and some clients may take months and months to buy from you, you mustn’t rely on scraps of paper and notebooks.
  7. Know that a “NO” now can often the start of a beautiful partnership. It can take a long time for someone to know, like and trust you enough to buy your services. They may say being saying no to you right now, but over time that can change to a yes. So be careful not to throw a sulk and take the rejection personally as a “NO” may actually mean “NO, Not right now … but keep in touch and we may re-consider.

Remember, persistence is everything. Never be worried about being desperate if you can genuinely help your clients. If you know you are a good fit for each other and that they have expressed an interest in what you can do for them, be strategic in your follow up process and you will reap your rewards.

Time to hear from you. How do you manage your follow up calls? Or do you dare to admit that follow ups rarely happen?

Leave a comment below as I love to read your thoughts and ideas, too.

Spray and pray marketing: the problems and the solutions

spray and pray marketingWhen a few of your long term clients – you know the ones; the ones you bank on being there for the next few months – begin to “evaluate” their current contracts, it is easy to feel a sense of anxiety.

Perhaps your motivation and confidence starts to wobble as one after another potential lead says “Thanks, but no.” Your diary starts to look a little empty and you begin to wonder when exactly you are going to make your next sale.

When business is good, you are king of the hill.  But when business gets tough, it is easy to start feeling a tad nervous. And when these nerves turn to panic, it can really start to filter in to your marketing; which makes the lack of business leads only get worse.

Why?  Because the 2 biggest mistakes you can make when business gets tough is to reduce your prices and to widen your market.

I’ll come back to reducing prices at another time, but let’s deal with the widening of your market first.  I suppose it kinda makes sense to feel you must widen your market if your business leads are drying up.  After all, you want more clients.

But never get confused with wanting new clients with wanting to have any-new-client-who-will-have-you.

When you start to widen your market, it is easy to lose your focus, your speciality and your ability to compete with other businesses.

The more focused you are in who you want to attract and the more targeted your marketing is, the more successful you will be in winning more clients and customers.  And if there is one thing that you are more likely to win over other cheaper competitors is by being a specialist.

When you try to win any-new-client-who-will-have-you, your marketing starts to become spray and pray.  The more letters, emails, calls and Facebook posts you can get out, the more chance you feel someone will come back to you.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Here are the 3 core problems caused by spray and pray marketing; and the solution to each one.

Sending everyone to the same website

Problem – the attention span of your average website visitor is less than a couple of seconds.  People are not as patient online and scan web pages, rather than read them. And social media has only made our attention span online get worse and worse.

If they can’t see the right information for them, they hit the back button.  And if you are sending everyone, online and offline, to the same home page, are you giving that potential new client the right information to make a decision on whether to buy from you?

How do you know if you have this problem? – check your web stats and look at your bounce rate.  This will show you how many people click away from your site after viewing only one page.  An average bounce rate is 50% so if you are way up in the 70 or 80 percentile, there’s possible a problem. Even if your website is your blog, if most people are coming on over to read just one article and then leave, then you’ve potentially got some work to do to encourage interested people to stick around and act on what you’ve got to offer.

If you sell products and services online, you will also keep track of your conversion rates.  How many visitors do you need to attract to your website to make one sale? And yes, it can be quite a depressing figure when you realise that it may take 10,000 visitors for 1 person to buy your £97 online course … gulp!

Solution – Having a separate website for each of your target clients is ideal, but not always practical.

Start off by having separate pages relevant for different clients and give out a dedicated web address to the right clients. For example a training business could have if they have decided to target this sector.  When a potential retail client clicks through to this page, they can read about the problems retail businesses have, what specific solutions are on offer to them and what targeted results can be achieved.  There is a greater chance that this training company is going to be perceived to be a specialist in the retail sector, thus improve their chances of winning business.

The option you have is to make use of one of the large number of squeeze page products out there (LeadPages is my current favourite, must-have web tool). This makes it very easy (for a non-techy who does not understand HTML coding) to set up and create specific pages for your targeted marketing campaigns.

For example, if you are running a campaign to promote a free event such as a webinar, you don’t want people to have to be stumbling around your website and getting lost in the navigation. Or, even worse, bouncing off your home page because they can’t see your event (remember the split second it takes for someone to scan a page … they will no patient to look carefully for your beautifully designed “click here” graphic.)

Send people direct to a specific landing page (and yes, you can use a standalone page from your LeadPages account to do this) and not only will you get better conversion, you will have accurate stats to work out how well that page is converting.

Sending everyone the same letter & brochure

Problem – 1,000 letters and brochures are sent out to a mailing list which results in not one enquiry.  Expensive!

How do you know you’ve got this problem? – When the invoices for the printing and postage start hurting your bottom line.

So few small business owners even consider using direct mail any more because the fear of wasting their time and money. And yet, direct mail is still one of the communications channels that work … social media and email may be cheaper but they will never replace the effectiveness of a well written letter, leaflet or postcard. If none of your competitors are doing, then you’ve got a unbelievable competitive advantage is you decide to embrace snail mail.

Solution – Break down your database in to smaller lists, for example by industry sector, location or common problem.  Spend time modifying your letter so it is written specifically to that person.  The aim is to have each person read that letter feeling that it is written personally for them.  It focuses exactly on a problem they may have and gives them a clear call to action that is desirable enough for them to act on.

Save your printing costs and do away with a fancy smancy brochure, unless of course you sell a high-end product or service and your target client would expect something glossy.  And keep the mailing small enough so that you (or someone in your team) can follow up each and every letter by phone.

Follow up is key to direct mail success and it will help you identify what’s working … and what’s not!

Sending everyone the same email

Problem – Emails are being ignored and possibly even reported as spam. Open rates have been slowly decreasing over the past 5 years. Email is by no means dead (as some social media gurus like to claim LOL) but you have to work bloody hard to grab reader’s attention in their inboxes; especially when you consider how small a screen most people read their emails on now.

How do you know you’ve got this problem? – If you are using a subscription based email service, check your open rates.  It may be easier to send every email to the whole of your database, but if it is resulting in your subscribers ignoring you, you are in danger of damaging your brand.  Remember, useful emails to some may be spam to others.

Again, break down your database in to smaller lists.  Can you define people by the products they have bought?  Or where they have subscribed from?  Is there an opportunity to make a special offer to just those who signed up for a free report you offered last year?

This is where I spend most of my time personalising and splitting down my communications. It pays to be sending some emails to just 100 people and other emails (sometimes making exactly the same offer but presented in a different way) to 1,000.

If you want a lesson on targeted emails, just buy something from Amazon or Tesco :)

So no more spray and pray OK?!

Spray and pray marketing may feel like the right thing to do when you desperate to find more clients.  But don’t!  Take the time to focus on your target clients; focus on their common problems and focus on providing a solution that is right for them.

Targeting to specific clients is the key to successful small business marketing.

What do you do about targeting your marketing? Perhaps you’ve always sprayed and prayed. I would love to know your thoughts and comments. And also your questions about this too.

So please leave a comment below.

Stop laying out the buffet [GID TV]


Stop Laying Out The Buffet   YouTubeIt’s real easy to think that you have to be telling potential clients about EVERYTHING you do right from the very off.

After all, you want to make sure they can see the value in what you do, don’t you?

There are too many of you who have a big, long list of every possible service or product that someone could buy from you listed on your leaflets and website.

The problem with laying out EVERYTHING you can do for your clients is that this list can be over whelming. Offer them too much at the start and they will quite likely tell you that “I love what you do .. but let me go away and have a think about it!”

You’ve given them too much to think about so it’s easier for them NOT to think about it and you’re left with chasing up a lead that will probably never convert.

So you need to get laser focused with your offers and watch today’s GID TV episode to find out how you go about it.



OK … here’s what I need to do now. I would like to hear from you.

What do you do in your marketing? Do you lay out the buffet, hoping that someone somewhere is going to come up and pick something out that they like?

Or are you struggling to come up with a focused promotional offer?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you and what you think about this.

The Daily Marketing Thing That Will Get You More Clients

The Daily Marketing Thing That Will Get Your More Clients   YouTube

Today on GID TV: If you’re going to do one ‘marketing’ thing a day, what should it be?

There will be a hundred and one things you could be doing each and every day to bring in new business.

It can get really overwhelming.

In fact I know many clients who have come to me feeling so overwhelmed with the possibilities that they are totally stuck on the “where do I start” question. There is so much you could be doing … but you probably end up doing nothing. A bit like a rabbit stuck in headlamps.

So if there was one marketing thing to do each and every day, what would it be?

Now I am sure there will plenty of you waiting for me to say things like “send out an email with an offer” or “write a blog post” or “post on your Facebook page” … nah!

Let’s keep this real simple. Let’s do away with the tech. Let’s do away with the big ideas. Let’s focus on the simple most powerful way to get focused results from your marketing.

Are you ready for it?  …. watch the video to find out!

Your Comments Please: How do you feel about this “Marketing Thing”? Do you do this in your business? Or is it the one marketing thing that you avoid at all costs? And if so, why?

I would love to know how you feel about sales conversations and speaking to potential clients so leave a comment below.