Finding more leads for Small Businesses Online

Small Businesses are not getting their fair share of customers from online sources.

Google search pageThe majority of Small Businesses now have a website, but it is not at all clear why they have one.

With the steady drop off in the use of Yellow Pages – Small Businesses need to replace this once reliable source of leads with something else. Unfortunately, too many think that because they have a website then their potential customers will find them. Of course that is not a likely story without some planned intervention.

Potential customers are now more and more turning to Google in the UK to find businesses, products or services they want.  Most will not go beyond the first page of their search. So businesses that want to win business from Google searches better make sure they are on the first of the Google search for the terms that their best customers are likely to be using to find them. (And that’s whole other topic in itself).

There are five individual locations on Google age one that can be targeted

  1. AdWords – at the top of the page
  2. Google Places for local business
  3. A natural search spot – the place that everyone things of first
  4. A video spot
  5. A directory spot

AdWords has to be paid for but you can get to the top of the page if you wish almost instantaneously.  Google Places is essential for Local Businesses, The Video Spot is often overlooked but it can be easier to place a video than it is a website on page1. The natural search position is free apart from all the skill and effort you have to put into your site to make Google want to place it on page1.

Targeting all these places is the best strategy. But AdWords and Google Places are the quickest.

Once this is achieved then you need to integrate your site with Social Media and in particular Facebook.  All Small Business Owners understand the importance of “word of mouth”. Well Social Media is word of mouth on Digital Steroids. You need to get this right otherwise you are missing out on tons of potential customers and an opportunity to engage and educate your customers.

If you are not up to speed on Small Business Online Marketing then I strongly suggest you do so now, and quickly.

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Clearbridge Business Development

Small Business Marketing to increase clients, customers and profits through SEO, Local SEO, Social Media integration and offline marketing that works.

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Small Business Ideas: Facebook Timeline brand Pages are here! (And why you should care)

The news

Last week Facebook announced that Timeline is now live for the first time for some organizations that use Pages.

On March 30, all Pages will get automatically upgraded, and this will mean big changes to the way local businesses with Facebook pages will look and the way their posts will appear.

Learn more about the change over at Facebook.

 Prepare!

If you have one, and you should, your Facebook  Pages will look completely different when these changes  are implemented if  you don’t do a thing. In fact they could look pretty awful.  Facebook is automatically activating the changes, and you may find your Pages no longer look look professionally created or designed.  If you need help with this contact us and we’ll get on with it straight away.

If you want to DIY and you need help…

Learn more about how to use the new Pages at the Facebook Help Center.

So that great Small Business Idea of setting up a facebook page will be undone if you don’t take action soon!

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Small Business Ideas – Use Direct Response Advertising

Direct Response Advertising will make more money for Small Businesses

I would say 99% of businesses still use “Institutional” or “image advertising”. Institutional advertising is advertising that doesn’t ask for a direct and instant response. It is characterised by ads that have the company name as the headline at the top of the ad. They tend to have very little copy on the ad. But include a list of products or services provided by the company. They’ll probably be lots of white space and little or no incentive to call now or any other action for that matter.
Pick up your Yellow Pages Directory and go to any page. You’ll see this type of ad all over the place. Unless you have buckets of money and are in the business of building brands you must listen to this; if you are using this kind of advertising, I urge you to stop this now. You are wasting your money and it can definitely put to better effect.
Institutional or image advertising is fine if all you want to do is promote the image of your company, your products, or the services you offer. But let me tell you – image itself doesn’t generate sales! Remember what I said earlier, your clients, or customers and prospects really don’t care about you, your business or what you sell and therefore if you are trying to get them to buy from, you, contact you, take a free offer, or another specific action, then image or institutional advertising is a complete waste of your money.

Always remember this about Direct Response Advertisng

  • People don’t buy your product or service – they buy the result.
  • They buy ‘what’s in it for me.’
  • They buy a solution to their problem(s).

It’s true that institutional or image advertising can help build “brand awareness.” And that’s okay for large corporations that have multimillion pound advertising budgets (having said that, these companies
would probably prosper even more if they used direct response advertising). But most small or medium size businesses simply cannot afford to spend their hard-earned money like this.

What would you prefer…?

  • Advertising that generates sales almost immediately (direct response), or
  • advertising that builds your name awareness or ‘brand’ (institutionalised advertising) in the hope that sometime in the future  someone who wants your product or service remembers your ad andmay or may not decide to buy from you?

Do you really have any other option than using Direct Response Advertisng?

There are many documented examples of how companies have switched from “image advertising”, where they didn’t even break even, to “direct response advertising” that generated over £1,000,000 in addition sales. A direct response ad shows the reader the benefits of the product and explains the steps they must take. It’s written to give enough information to elicit an immediate response. To send in the coupon, or to pick up the phone and call for the information. Each ad is accountable, measurable, and tracked to ensure the ad is running at a profit!

Hopefully that’s enough to make the point! I guarantee as soon as you start writing direct response adverts (i.e.
those characterised by powerful headlines, large amounts of copy you’ll increase your response
rates many times over.

David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather on the subject that covers it nicely

“You know, in the advertising community today, there are two worlds — the world of direct response advertising, and that other world, the world of general advertising. These two worlds are on a collision course. You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work. You know it to a dollar. The general advertising people just don’t know.”

 

Check out the David Ogilvy video below. Its still relevant today believe you me. He is scathing of image advertising and “so called creativity”. Take a look at the  other video from Google for a web view of the issue

If you are any doubts drop me a line and I’ll be happy to discuss the topic with you. However, you will never shake by belief that Direct Response Advertising is not just one the great small business ideas it’s the most essential one and if you are doing any ” image ” advertising you are sadly, probably wasting your money!

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Small Business Ideas – Systemising Your Business

This small business ideas is seldom given the attention it deserves. If you are a small business owner, and you are like most others, you will probably want to sell you business at some stage. It is probably your pension -right?

The problem is that nobody wants to buy a job. They only want to buy a business. A business that will run just as well without you as it did with you. If the business is over reliant on you as an individual you will never realise the full amount you think your business is worth. If you don’t feel you can take a long holiday right now, for fear that your business will suffer, it a strong sign that your business is need of systemisation. You’ve got to get it to a state where it can run on auto-pillot. If it can’t a potential purchaser will be thinking only of a discounted price?

The article highlight from The Gulf News and the video from Business Efficiency give some further encouragement to get on with systemising your business

BizTips: Put your business on auto-pilot

If you’re like many small to medium-sized business owners, you love what you do, but you may often feel “trapped” in your work. You want the business to continue after you retire, but because you have such a hands-on role in nearly every aspect of the company, you wonder how you’ll ever be able to walk away. You dream of being able to take a month-long vacation, but you fear the business would suffer without you there every day. And while you love the financial rewards being a business owner affords, you wish you could reap those rewards without having to do all the work yourself.The real problem for many business owners is not the inability to walk away from the office and leave work at work, but rather a lack of formal business systems that would essentially automate the company’s processes. But since many business owners have always handled the business issues themselves, they feel there’s no need for systems. They believe that customers need the personal interaction from them, and they have a hard time delegating tasks and responsibilities effectively.

However, by simply systemizing their business and by creating policies and procedures, business owners can break free from the chains that keep them tethered to their desk. They can then focus on business building activities and personal interests, rather than day-to-day work.

I know this article is the most likely of all to fall on deaf ears and you will put this necessary step off every time someone mentions it. However, I  know went ot comes to wanting to sell your business you will either be delighted you bit the bullet when you did and implemented this most essential of small business ideas, or you will be disappointed with in the offers you get for your business.  In the second case it is unlikely to be much greater than net assets!

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Small Business Ideas – Cost Management Through Outsourcing

There is a time for all small business ideas.  In recessionary time Cost Management is near to the top of many a small businesses priority list. And it should be. Whilst you can never cut your business to greatness, it is essential to maximise cashfows by minimising overhead and cost of sales expenditure. Many have taken the route of outsourcing this essential small business activity and by doing so getting savings in energy, telecoms, stationery, cleaning and many other cost areas. This article from Market Watch gives some interesting insight:

Creating Sustainable Cost Management Through Outsourcing

In September 2010, Financial Director magazine stated: “Waxing lyrical on building an economic recovery is all very well, but there is a growing belief that 2013 will be the year a second recession kicks in. Which is why cost cutting is not about to go away, a well-worn topic though it is.”

Now this situation is even more pressing.

The recent study of 750 small businesses by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) reveals that 78% of small business owners identify rising costs as the most significant threat to their company this year. More than two thirds of firms have seen their profit margins hit by increasing costs over the past three years.

However, KPMG, in their authoritative global survey conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit, report: “Businesses are under constant pressure to reduce costs, yet many find it hard to do so in a sustainable fashion”. The survey included interviews with senior executives in a cross-section of industries and large, midsize and smaller organizations and experts in the field of cost management. It revealed that 9 out of 10 companies are potentially missing out on major opportunities to boost profits.

They found that:

Just eight percent of businesses reach or exceed their targets for cost-saving initiatives

One of the single biggest barriers to achieving these targets is the lack of adequate processes to drive cost reduction

Getting people to assume personal responsibility for cost management is always difficult

The survey concluded that many businesses seem to be aware of this, but too few are acting to redress the situation. Too many firms treat cost reduction as an unpleasant exercise in abstinence; a pressure do the same things only a little bit more efficiently.

KPMG repeated their advice in their recent paper, The Cost Boomerang. “In this environment, businesses that are able to identify and exploit sustainable cost-efficiencies will enjoy significant competitive advantages over their peers: better profit margins, more flexible working capital and a greater alignment for future growth.”

While opening this year’s Financial Director Summit, Professor Doug McWilliams, founder and chief executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, caused a sharp intake of breath among members of the audience listening to his speech. He predicted the end of the euro and added that the kind of annual growth Western nations enjoyed in the decade before the economic crisis would unfortunately be consigned to the past. His thoughts cement the position of cost management at the top of the FDs’ agenda – and as something that will be a real leadership issue for the next few years. He stated: “Procurement is an ever more troublesome jewel in the cost-management crown.”

In their ‘Eight Strategies for Surviving the Downturn’, ICAEW offered the advice that “now is a good time to review the structure and cost base of your business critically. Do you have the right business model to see you through the recession and put you in the best possible position to take advantage of the upturn when it comes? If you need to make savings, examine carefully how you can get the best value out of your business and enable your business to emerge leaner and fitter at the end of the recession.”

Finally, they ask – ‘Is outsourcing a possibility?’

In a recent edition of FM World, the Facilities Management journal, Kevin Stanley wrote: “With cost-cutting still an economic necessity, the question of whether or not to outsource services has never been more relevant. Which is best – insourcing or outsourcing? The issue has long been a source of debate. The key drivers of large-scale outsourcing are cost reduction, efficiency and the expertise, knowledge and support gained from a specialist provider. What better time to put outsourcing to the test than in a recession, when every penny counts?”

In the same article, Richard Thompson, Managing Director of PBMS (UK & Ireland) agreed, “I believe it can. In an economic downturn, outsourcing is a smart way to get your organisation moving forward. Managing processes internally can distract an organisation from focusing on growing the business and can possibly contribute to missing out on growth opportunities. Sometimes people fail to act in this type of economy, to create positive change through a new partnership.”

The consensus certainly seems to be turning towards outsourcing cost management.

Established in 1994, Auditel is the premier independent cost and purchase management consultancy in the UK, with over 200 fully-trained specialists. Their services include a free Business Health Check which consists of an examination of all expenditures associated with making effective cost management decisions. This free service coupled with their performance-driven contingency fee model, means the service is totally self-funding. There are no up-front fees, no hidden charges and no extras.

Chris Allison, Auditel’s Managing Director, confirms: “As a result of the recession, we’ve all become a lot more cost-conscious. Everyone understands the need to keep operating expenditure as low as possible. However, to achieve long-term, sustainable savings that take all the direct and indirect costs of products and services into account, you need expert knowledge, buying power and above all, time. With over 3,500 satisfied clients on our books, we can safely say that Auditel’s brand of sustainable and ethical cost and purchase management is playing a pivotal role in that equation.

If you haven’t done already you might want to look into this. If it is truly a self funded option with no upfront costs then you’d be silly not to! It looks like another great small business idea.

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Small Business Ideas – Small businesses are the ‘real Internet companies’

Small business ideas do not stress often enough the importance of using the Internet effectively. When you look around, often SMEs have websites that are little more than on-line brochures and do not focus on the needs of the customer or client. Often it is the businesses offering professional services that are the worst offenders. You’ve seen it yourselves “I have loads of qualifications and I have been in business since 1975 etc…..” These sites often do not offer anything about solving clients’ needs and make no attempt to gather the details of visitors not to mention countless other issues. So what you might say!  The number of people online is predicted to rise from two billion to five billion by 2015 and online trade and services could account for more than 20pc of growth and net job creation in some European member states, including the UK as this article from the Telegraph and written by By Katherine Rushton shows.

Small businesses are the ‘real Internet companies’ not Google, says exec

Matt Brittin, Google’s vice president of sales and operations for northern and central Europe, has claimed the web search giant is “not a real Internet company’ and hailed small to medium enterprises (SMEs) as the “real internet businesses”.

Google’s Matt Brittin said small and medium businesses are ‘the unsung heroes of the economy. The Internet gives them a voice.’
Speaking at a conference in Brussels, he said that SMEs which put the web at their heart are the companies driving economic growth and called for a shift in attitudes and policy to harness that success.
“When people think about the internet they probably think about eBay, Skype, Spotify, Google – but actually these are not the real internet businesses,” he said. “SMEs are the unsung heroes of the economy. The Internet gives them a voice.”
The web search giant on Monday launched a research project with The Lisbon Council, an influential economic think tank, to examine the contribution which SMEs make to the economy and how this can be accelerated by harnessing the Internet.
According to its co-founder Ann Mettler, companies that build the internet into their business grow at twice the rate of those that don’t.
Mr Brittin pointed to examples of niche businesses which had reached international markets, including a British company selling golf balls recovered from lakes, or a French specialist in donkey-milk based beauty products.
However, he added that we are at an ‘inflection point’ where the web needs to be put at the heart of SMEs rather than as a bolt-on, and that it is old fashioned to have a head of digital or head of online.
“In the early days of electricity, companies would have had a head of electricity because it was new, scary and might kill you. Now companies have a head of Internet or head of digital because it’s new and scary.
“We’re at a point of inflection from the Internet being a specialised thing to being, like electricity, something you have to do to do your job better,” he said.
He also suggested we have to accept some casualties of its rise: “Yes it’s disruptive, just as electricity was disruptive to the candle industry.”
He paid tribute to the music and journalism industries as ones he admired but said the UK has to stay number one in Europe for Internet growth.

 

So if you are running an SME you better sharpen your act up when it comes to the Internet and not just treat it as a bolt on to your business. A a good small business idea is to review what you are doing with your web site and make sure you are well placed to take full advantage of its increasing use. Otherwise you may miss out and come in second place to your competitors.

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small business ideas – predictive marketing

Those of you looking for new small business ideas will not have seen much written before on the subject of predictive marketing. Predictive marketing is relative new and has rarely been applied in small business marketing.  I have just read an article on SBWire that covers a new book by David W. Anderson titled ‘Predictive Marketing: The Secret Sauce’ Teaches Businesses to Forecast Customer Behavior. An extract of the article is below:

From the purchase of a box of cereal to the investment in a new family car, there are a number of things that factor into each person’s buying decisions. Outside influencers such as advertisements and endorsements, as well as internal influencers including budget and personal preference all play a role in helping people choose the products and services worthy of their hard earned money.For businesses, the ability to predict a customer’s next buying choice would make a huge impact on not only sales, but also their customer relationship marketing.

Developed and written to help banks and corporations retain and enhance their customer relationships, author David W. Anderson recently released his new book, “Predictive Marketing: The Secret Sauce.” Delivering a system that has helped companies increase campaign responses by up to 1,000 percent, the new book includes in-depth information about one of the newest and most successful small business marketing trends, predictive marketing.

Predictive marketing is not a typical CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Nor is it traditional database marketing. Predictive marketing contains many of the concepts as CRM and database marketing, but goes far beyond those traditional tools, literally predicting a customer’s next action and then applying custom business rules to address that activity.

And according to Anderson, “The results include incredible sales increases, amazing advances in customer retention and substantial savings in customer service.”

He adds, “Just imagine being able to identify what your customer will purchase next – before he evens knows it – or to flag at-risk accounts before the customer leaves.”

The marketing techniques expressed in “Predictive Marketing: The Secret Sauce” also help businesses upsell and cross-sell customers based on their individual activities and preferences, all while providing a unified message across all communications platforms.

Unlike other costly sophisticated software systems currently available on the market, including interactive voice response or IVR marketing and call center marketing, the principles of predictive marketing can be utilized by smaller businesses without depleting their financial resources.

In fact, predictive marketing will work for virtually any business that has customers. From the sole proprietor to a multi-billion dollar multi-national corporation, predictive marketing will help retain clients, acquire new customers and reduce the cost of customer touch points

Anything that can  increase campaign responses by up to 1,000 percent is going to revolutionise marketing for small businesses. I hope it’s as easy to implement as they suggest. I’m certainly going to check it out. There aren’t many small business ideas promising this level of results. Keep your eye on this one.

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Small Business Ideas on advertising and marketing

Many business owners and managers will think that small business ideas on advertisng and marketing will not be very useful with the economy in teh state it is. However a survey reported in the springfield patch conducted by Staples gives an interesting slant on this things in the US.

The Staples study also indicated that more than half of small business owners would do more advertising and marketing if they were able to budget money for that purpose. Entrepreneurs looking for a marketing push might want to consider the company’s “Give Your Small Business the Push It Needs” contest, which offers five winning small businesses the chance to win 15 seconds of screen time in a 30-second Staples ad that would run in their local market.

“Staples wanted to do something unique to support small businesses in their local markets,” said John Giusti, vice president of small business marketing at Staples.

Staples values each prize at $50,000, a hefty sum of cash for small businesses that are having a much harder time getting credit today than they were four years ago.

Other results from the Staples study:

  • Two-thirds (66%) of small business owners have some type of marketing and advertising budget for 2012. Among those small business owners, budgets average just over $2,000.
  • Sixty percent of small business owners changed their sales and marketing efforts as a direct result of the U.S. economy. Results showed small business owners are using less traditional media (29%) and more viral marketing and word-of-mouth (33%) compared to last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt that the majority of small businesses cut back too hard on marketing and advertisng when the market gets tough. However, there are many inovative small business ideas realting to marketing that get much better results than the traditional newpaper and magazine ads. Staples may well be on to something, but I beleive forms of Direct Response advertising gives the best value for money results.

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Small Business Ideas – Market Segmentation

This post is about small business ideas relating to market segmentation. Let’s not get into the argument about the difference between a niche and a market segment. Let’s agree that they are the same thing. People involved in Internet marketing tend to use ‘niche’ by default, but largely we are talking about the same thing.

Market segmentation or niching is one of the steps that go into defining and targeting specific markets. It is the process of dividing a market into a distinct group of buyers that require different products or marketing mixes.

A good video series on this subject was created by Canada Trust. The first of which is enclosed below and it gives a great intro into small business market segmentation

Finding subtle differences to give a business the marketing edge is key. Businesses that target small segments or niches will promote their products and services more effectively than a business aiming at the “average” customer.

There are five stages to creating your niche or segment:

1. Competitive Analysis – what are they up to and how much niching is going on.

2. Your own company analysis – what business are you in? Uncover niches you may already have in your business. Find out who your best clients are. Use the Pareto Principle (the 80:20 rule). Applying it to profits: 80% of your profits are likely to come from just 20% of your customers. Defining these 20% is a great place to start: how many more of them would you like?

Or

20% of your lines will delivery 80% of your profits

20% of your marketing efforts will deliver 80% of your customers

20% of your customers will deliver 80% of your referrals

3. Identifying possible niches; their needs, wants, problems and fears

4. Choosing your perfect niche(s)

Can they pay? It is amazing how many times this bit is missed.

Is it big enough?

Is it well defined enough?

Are others already selling to it? – Actually, it helps if there are. It proves there is a market. You don’t want to be a market creator – unless you have lots of money and time.

Is there too much competition? You are looking for the “Goldilocks Zone” – not too much and not too little!

5. Defining your chosen niche:

clarifying the exact characteristics of the niche

creating the perfect customer profile

refining this picture so that your messages will be perfectly targeted

Opportunities in marketing increase significantly when segmented groups with varying needs, wants or fears are identified. Market niches or segments can be targeted more effectively.

There are a variety of ways to approach segmentation and this includes:

Demographically – (age, family size, marital status, occupation)
Geographically – (town, region, country)

Behaviourally – (usage, attitudes, product knowledge, responses)
Psycho-graphically (values, lifestyle, personality, activities)

A business must analyze the needs and wants of different market segments before determining their own niche. To be effective in market segmentation keep in mind the 5 steps identified above.

Conducting extensive market research is how larger companies tend to go about segmenting their markets. But, this is often too expensive for small businesses. However, there are alternatives that may be more suitable.

A small business can do the following to gain knowledge and information on how to segment their markets:

A. You can use the following resources for external secondary data:

Trade and association publications and experts
Basic research publications
The Internet

B. Keep your eyes and ears open:

Watching key competitors marketing efforts.
Talking to key trade buyers about new product introductions
Inviting your customers to take part in a survey.

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