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Business Development & Marketing Finance General

Should SMEs use traditional marketing?

traditional advertisingThe benefits of using online marketing through social media, blogs, websites and the rest have been well-covered in other blogs.
Traditional marketing, on the other hand, is deemed to be costlier in terms of printing and distributing the materials for a newsletter or magazine, brochures, leaflet drops, press and trade publication advertising (plus the cost of buying the space). The cost of content ought to be similar although it has been dumbed down with everyone now producing their own.
While billboards are plainly too costly for SMEs, press activities/PR need not necessarily cost a great deal. Imaginative ideas such as submitting news about activities or functions that include a reference to a celebrity, or a well known organisation or charity may be enough to catch the news editor’s eye. A great photograph with minimal text is the easiest way however for an SME to get press coverage.
Or what about the well-known Pizza company that hires a person to stand or walk along a street wearing a superhero costume with a sign or a sandwich board?

Comparing the costs

Online marketing is often free to post on your own website or on LinkedIn. Reaching the right followers however is key and costs escalate when posting on a platform that has a well-defined audience. Online does arguably level the playing field by making it easier for the smallest SME to compete alongside its larger rivals.
Results of online marketing are measurable in as much detail as the business would like, creating greater understanding of customers’ behaviour, needs and allowing for precise targeting. This is where successful companies spend more time and money on analysing what does and doesn’t work. SMEs can also do this but all too often don’t value the investment.
Since time is money, and it takes quite a long time to learn about the marketing and associated analytical tools, it makes sense to use an experienced marketing specialist, part time if necessary. Whether employed or outsourced, an expert can run the marketing campaigns, monitor them, analyse them and provide reports based on data. The reports are key to improving the results which is achieved by constantly adjusting the marketing campaigns to achieve better results. Again this is what the successful companies do.
If a business economises by having someone do this in-house as well as their main role, how much does it cost to have them constantly juggling tasks when they might be more productive focusing on their main role?
It is also said that online marketing enables a business to create relationships with customers, raise awareness of its brand and demonstrate its knowledge, especially in an era of short attention spans and browsing via mobile phone. If online marketing is done in-house how much time can you afford to let the employee spend on monitoring and responding to responses? What about the costs or rectifying an unfortunate piece of online marketing that goes wrong and could damage the business’ reputation?
While traditional marketing costs for printing and distributing materials may be higher at the outset arguably their potential longevity is far greater than the unopened or swiftly deleted message on a screen. This is not only because the material can be re-used, with tweaks, repeatedly but also because there is some scientific evidence that people like to have something they can touch and keep. At least they have to physically handle hard copy materials.
Research done in Canada on the benefits of traditional marketing, by testing eye tracking and measuring EEG brain waves, attention spans and ease of understanding has also found that the hard copy scored far higher for ease of understanding and brand recall.
While there is a wealth of analytics data for measuring online marketing, it is argued to be less easy to target and to measure results for traditional marketing. But is that really true?  Run a simple postcard campaign with a tempting offer for replies and include a code or codes in the return address or even a dedicated phone line and it is easy to track the origins of the responses and compare the results with the previously-defined percentage return for the campaign.
There is no doubt that there is some value to businesses from using traditional marketing, but do they have to choose between this and online marketing?
It may not be a case of either/or but identifying the right mix of online and traditional for an individual business after carefully weighing up the costs in relation to its available marketing budget.

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Business Development & Marketing General

Regularly reviewing and refreshing your business website

website refreshA business’ website is arguably one of its most important marketing tools for several reasons: most importantly, to reassure potential clients and customers that your goods and services will satisfy their needs and ideally to attract new customers who are searching for a solution.
Many SME owners, particularly those selling services rather than products, assume that because their offering does not often change then their website does not need much attention.
However, the online world changes more rapidly than any other sector, not only in terms of consumer behaviour but also in terms of the technical aspects and in particular the ranking of your website by search engines will be influenced by how active it is.

Website user experience and security

There cannot be many website owners who are unaware of the growing importance of the medium through which potential clients view their website.
The UK has one of the highest rates of browsing via a mobile phone and this means that a website cannot hope to keep site visitors unless it is responsive – i.e. easy to view and to navigate on a smartphone as well as a PC or laptop.
This applies equally whether a business is selling products or services and is an aspect of websites that is assessed by search engines such as Google.
If pictures take too long to load, if it is difficult to move between pages, if there is too much text to be easily readable on the screen the likelihood is that the visitor will go elsewhere.
This means that visual and other elements of design need to be as clear and simple as possible and, especially, that the information shown on a mobile phone needs to be pared down and easily digestible on a small screen.
An annual website appraisal will ensure that it is still performing to the maximum standard, wherever it is being viewed.
An audit should also look at the behind the scenes technical aspects such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), whether the key words being used are still relevant, and whether the design is still the best it can be. Don’t forget that every web page should be optimised, which also allows for more focused targeting of messages to help search engines direct potential clients to the relevant page.
You might consider making your website more integral to the running of your business where some firms do everything through their website from database management, to integrated marketing campaigns that trial messages and optimise results, to booking orders, managing work flow and processing payments.
Last but by no means least, given the frequency of news reports about website hacking, a crucial element to have checked is the site’s security.  This is especially important, not only for taking secure online payment, but also for any business that is encouraging visitors to sign up for offers, appointments, free information or any material that requires them to register their personal details.
A regular website audit should also check that it is protected with the most up-to-date security protection against invasion.
In short, if a business wants to protect and enhance its reputation a regular website review and update should be a key element in its operations

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General Turnaround

Tools to help you get more from online marketing

Often businesses are disappointed by the lack of a return, in terms of measurable actions by viewers, resulting from their activities on social media, email marketing and other online promotion initiatives.
There are many tools to choose from to help a business stand out online but using them is both science and art requiring a lot of detailed experience to get your money’s worth.
Online tools include Google Adwords, Facebook Boost, Facebook Adverts or Twitter Adverts which can be used to promote messages on social media. Others might be using online databases to send out e-newsletters or posting blogs on a website or LinkedIn.
the key elements of using online marketing tools successfullyThe key challenge is to define objectives and know what is the required response to a specific campaign. These can then be measured.
It is therefore important to consider the target audience and their preferred platforms, behaviours and needs and this is where the analytics and insights available on the various platforms which are mainly Google, Facebook and Twitter as the ones being used by SMEs for promotion.
Arguably the most important element is to set the parameters for any campaign which is where social media and databases can be powerful. Like a database, most platforms all allow targeting such as using specific key words or phrases, or excluding certain words, or by defining the target audience for the message and by locating it geographically.
Targeting is particularly crucial when you pay for every click the ad gets. You don’t want someone in York looking at ads for a restaurant in Reading, or in my case job seekers or consultants clicking expensive ads when promoting turnaround services.
Imagine trying to use a keyword like “insurance”. It might get lots of people clicking on the ad and viewing it, but it is such a general word that it is a safe bet that a high percentage will then go elsewhere for something specific to their needs.  At prices between 10p and £10 per click it can be an expensive and useless investment if the targeting isn’t right.
It may be a better investment to get expert help to run a targeted ad campaign.

Are there other, more affordable online options?

For a small business operating within a defined geographic area an example of a more effective and affordable option on Facebook is the post boost. For a defined amount of time, such as two weeks, and minimal cost, around £10, a post from the business page will be shown regularly in more viewers’ news feeds.
This can have a significant impact in terms of the numbers (reach) and on the actions then taken, such as visits to the business page or to its website, or comments or messages to the business. Again, it is important to choose the post to boost wisely.
For example, if there is a new blog or significant piece of news on the company website, it may help to attract more visitors to the site and once there, the business will have an opportunity to encourage viewers to stay if the website is enticing enough.
Another online marketing option is e-newsletters.
These work best if they engage with those receiving them, giving people up to date or extra information or latest news on a product or service.  Again, a snippet with a link to a blog post on a website can encourage visits. Using humour, fascinating facts or other short, extras that engage and amuse people is always helpful.
They can also be used to keep in touch with customers and ask for feedback, perhaps to run a survey.  What they should not do is to blatantly sell, nor blatantly promote the business – avoid “We can …” and above all they should be short and sweet – no more than 450 words – and visually appealing.

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Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Sometimes the traditional marketing methods still work best

Businesses are constantly beset with advice and guidance about using the latest technological innovations for their marketing.
Sometimes, however, those traditional marketing methods, such as printed leaflets, letters or brochures may work just as well.
We learned of an interesting short promotion that produced spectacular results. A business looking to set up initial meetings with prospective clients sent out a personalised letter to its targets containing half of a £10 note.
If they made an appointment and kept it, they would get the other half of the note to keep. The take-up was excellent. It was a great idea for a very specific and targeted initiative.
Another example was the photocopied, somewhat crude leaflet dropped through our door that offered to shampoo the carpet of one room for fixed fee of £15. We took up the offer to do one room. They were so courteous and considerate with our furniture putting a protective insert under each chair and table leg that we asked them to clean all the other carpets. The final bill was over £200.
If the offer appeals, whether you provide a voucher or another incentive, or if your services will be needed in the future, it’s often much easier to keep printed material where it will be easy to find later. Even the fridge magnet or useful sticker can work.
What traditional campaigns have worked for you?