It used to be the case that launching a business online needed significant investment and probably a visit to the bank manager.
With the help of technology, times have changed.
For example not so long ago, the average cost of a basic website build for a small business would have been in excess of £5,000.
Now even technophobes can build and launch a professional looking website in just a few hours for a fraction of this.
Granted, you don’t get the expertise of a professional web designer, but you also don’t get a £5,000+ price tag.
Popular options include Wix and Squarespace with Shopify proving popular amongst those looking to sell products directly via their website. Plans start from around £10 per month (including hosting) with no contract.
If you’re yet to create a logo for your business there are some more great tools out there. For example with tailorbrands logo maker, you can whip up a logo to include an icon of your choosing in just a few minutes. A caveat here is you need to pay a subscription starting at $3.99 per month to use the logo. A better option may be logojoy who offer full ownership of your logo for $65.
If you are looking to make more of a serious investment in your brand, you may want to consider a design crowdsourcing option like 99designs. Unlike the traditional approach whereby you would select a designer and work with them to deliver on your vision, crowdsourcing allows you to describe your vision to a wide group of designers in the form of a project brief, who then ‘pitch in’ their designs in the hope of winning your ‘contest’.
This approach has a huge advantage in that you are likely to have a significant head start in reaching your vision as soon as the first designs come in. You simply select the winner from 15+ design concepts and progress with this designer.
You can get your logo, website, book, app, pretty much anything you like designed in this way and prices start from around £120 for a business card, with a 1 page website design for around £500.
These capabilities have only emerged in the last few years meaning small businesses now have access to technology that previously was only available to large enterprises or via a marketing agency.
Google itself is capitalising on this trend by signing up small business customers directly to it’s ‘Google Ads‘ platform without the need for a marketing agency or consultant to assist. And Australian Canva a simple graphic design tool now has over 10 million users in 190 countries.
Small businesses should embrace this trend. These tools mean there has never been a better time to launch and grow a small business.
Value proposition. Another fancy schmancy marketing word that bears little relevance to the reality of running a growing business?
Put it this way. If you can’t clearly articulate what it is that you sell and why people should buy it (versus another similar product), you will struggle.
By taking a little bit of time to think about how to best convey your value proposition, you will make life much easier for yourself when it comes to deciding what to put on your website, and any other marketing materials.
Getting customers to quickly understand how you can help them will give you a crucial advantage in this noisy world.
How to write a value proposition
Step #1 – Identify the useful features of your product or service
Simply jot down a list of the things that your customer will consider to be useful features.
Step #2 – Identify the value that will come from the features that you have listed
Look at your features list and for every feature, describe the benefit that this will bring. For example if you are a plumber, the feature may be 24 hour callout.
The benefit is that the customer can book an appointment at a time that suits them, even if it’s the middle of the night. Sounds obvious but benefits carry a higher level of resonance, and are more persuasive than features.
Step #3 – Identify your points of differentiation
Chances are you will have competition. How are you different to them? You should pick something that makes you stand out. Perhaps it’s a satisfaction guarantee, a speed promise or price match (although it’s generally not a good idea to use price as a differentiator).
Look at your competition and think about how you will differentiate from them in a way that will be important or interesting to the customer.
Once you have completed this exercise, you should have enough to start writing some words for your website or marketing materials.
Focus on benefits not features
This really just serves to reinforce the points made above about translating features to benefits. If you are selling a product and are trying to give people a reason to buy it, it’s easy to arrive at a long list of features.
Let’s take an example.
If I’m selling a bicycle, the features may be that it folds up, has 16 gears and in build lights front and rear.
It may be an accurate description, but is it enough to persuade people to buy your product?
By translating the features into benefits, you can more effectively convey value to customers.
“It folds up….so you can carry it around with ease and get on to even the busiest commuter train.”
“It has 16 gears…..so you can tackle both uphill and downhill with relative ease”
“It has in built lights….so you can ride safely and confidently in the dark.”
Unlike ‘features’ which simply describes the product, ‘benefits’ convey the reason why someone should buy. They more effectively position your product as a solution to the problem your customers face.
Problem – solution
In crafting a value proposition, you should think hard about the problem you are trying to solve for the customer, and how your product fits it.
By thinking about the customers problem, it forces you to think from the customers perspective and really get into their shoes.
For example, leading with price may be off putting if the majority of your customers are more concerned with speed or quality.
A great trick here is to think about the emotions that people face when confronted by the problem that your product or service solves.
For example if you are a yoga teacher, you can illustrate stiffness, joint pain and perhaps the social element of a regular group meetup ……and counter this with the solution of a yoga class which can increase flexibility, reduce joint pain in a fun & sociable environment.
You may not have heard of “The Rule of 7”, but it’s one of the oldest concepts in marketing and still stands true in todays world.
Basically a prospective buyer needs to see your message on average 7 times before they will buy from you.
The above 5 points will help you in pursuit of the “The Rule of 7”.
In general, it’s better to say a few things over and over than have a broad variety of messages and offerings.
Clarity, consistency, relevance, repetition and reinforcement will help make you more memorable. It will mean that those people who see your marketing messaging but don’t need your product or service at that moment in time, will think of you (and not your competitors) when their moment of need arises.
Check out our article about The Marketing Rule of 7 over on B2B Marketing.
Get in touch with us for a free 20 minute consultation and we can advise you on how to craft a winning value proposition for your company.
So you’ve built your website and orders/enquiries are piling in right?
The ‘build it and they will come’ approach is one way many entrepreneurs fall flat. Fortunately there are some proven steps that will help you improve the effectiveness of your website.
Have a clear value proposition
So what is a value proposition and why is it important?
Every business is seeking to solve a problem for a customer.
The way you articulate this on your website, in your adverts and even the way you speak is crucial. You should prioritise what is most important to the customer and focus on benefits rather than features.
If free shipping is important to people for example, you need to make sure it forms of your core value proposition.
You should be able to articulate your value proposition in a sentence, for example “Uber – The Smartest Way to Get Around”.
Know your customer
Male? Female? Old? Young?
You may think you don’t know the answer, but it doesn’t take long to begin to understand who your customers are and how they think.
Creating ‘customer personas’ involves building up a picture of your typical customer and using that to inform everything from website and ad copy to the colour schemes and logo you use.
Crucially it also helps you decide where to advertise to get your brand in front of these people.
Clean user friendly design
Over 50% of web traffic is now on mobile so you must build for desktop and mobile.
Clean design and user experience will payback hand over fist. If people can easily understand what you sell, what you stand for and how to buy from you you are into a winner.
A clean, fresh website is crucial for this. And it no longer costs tens of thousands of pounds to build a high grade website – so no excuses.
Full funnel marketing
So many people focus on getting in front of new customers, and this is crucial. However what is also important is maintaining contact and marketing to existing and lapsed customers.
This is full funnel marketing and is a crucial approach to building a sustainable and efficient business.
Target active and passive customers
There are 2 types of target customer.
Those who are actively looking for a solution (active targets).
And those who fit the profile of someone with the problem but are not currently looking for a solution (passive targets).
It always makes sense to start with targeting of the active segment (using Google AdWords for example), because they have already decided they want to buy. But this pool or opportunity tends to be small and highly competitive.
Make sure you also have a strategy to target passive segments. Facebook and display advertising are great for this.
Remarket to engaged visitors
When people visit your website, they are either interested and stick around, or they are not and they ‘bounce off’ your site. Those that stick around but don’t buy are your ‘engaged users’.
These are the people you should target with remarketing adverts.
After all, they know who you are and have shown an interest. This is one of the most underused forms of digital advertising.
Be a growth hacker
Cookie cutter approaches to marketing rarely work simply because every business is so different. In order to succeed you need to be prepared to fail.
Think outside of the box, test new ideas, fail fast and move on.
This is the way growth hackers think and it’s a great way to quickly zero in on what works best. It’s often not what you would think!
Know your competition
You can learn a lot from your competition and so should watch them closely. There are a range of tools and techniques you can use to understand how they run their marketing.
You should learn from their mistakes and mimic their successes. But don’t watch them too closely or you may end up following them rather than outpacing them.
Having worked with a number of small and scaling businesses, I have become used to seeing the surprise and excitement after outlining some of the innovative techniques that can be used to attract new customers.
Sophisticated capabilities that were once the sole preserve of enterprise businesses with enterprise budgets, are now in easy reach of even the smallest businesses.
Here are some of the main areas of opportunity that are relevant to any business whether startup or small/medium business, product or service based, consumer or B2B focussed.
1. Be visible at the exact moment people are searching for a solution like the one your business offers.
It’s this that has made Google the behemoth that it is now. What better time to be visible than the exact moment someone is seeking out a solution to their problem?
Google AdWords is the place that most businesses start with their online advertising for good reason. In general it’s the marketing activity that will deliver the highest quality of leads to your business.
You can setup a basic campaign in just a few hours and can spend as little as £5 per day. Get in touch with us for £75 of free credit to get you started.
2. Get your brand in front of your competitors customers
That’s right. If your competitors have a website, you can create campaigns that will actively seek out and target their website visitors.
This is a great way to find customers as you will have a high level of confidence that they are interested in a product or service like yours.
Your advert will appear wherever they are on the internet and you can create enticing adverts to bring them to your website. These campaigns can be run for as little as £10 per day.
3. Stay front of mind by reminding your website visitors about your business after they have left your website.
Using remarketing campaigns you can target people that have previously visited your website with adverts.
Not only that but you can actively target individuals who spend a certain amount of time on your site or looked at particular pages so you only go after those with a high level of interest.
Considering that the marketing ‘Rule of 7’ states that on average a prospect needs to see your message 7 times before they buy from you, remarketing should be considered an important basic requirement for any business.
In fact many marketing experts suggest that not running remarketing campaigns is like ‘leaving money on the table’! We tend to agree.
Of course if you have an email database, this is another great way to remarket your brand.
4. Find new customers using Facebook Advertising
A recent report by Kenshoo states that 85% of searches for a product begin with Google. So if Google is the go-to place for identifying people looking to buy, what about people who aren’t necessarily ready to buy but fit the profile of one of your customers?
As an example, someone who has searching for travel insurance is ready to buy travel insurance. Someone without travel insurance who has just booked a holiday fits the profile of someone that needs insurance but isn’t actively looking for it right now. You could think of these 2 types of scenarios as active and passive buyers.
This is where Facebook comes into it’s own. Not only can you target adverts at people by location and age, but you can target them based on interests (do they like yoga or cars for example), demographics (are they university educated, do they have children, what is their household income).
The information in Facebook is so rich that you can create highly targeted ‘audiences’ to expose your brand message to. You can even target people that work for particular companies, have a certain marital status or any combination of all of the above. And this is just a small taster.
As well as advertising to these audiences, we have seen that promoting content to them can work extremely well. If for example you are a yoga studio, rather than an advert saying:
“Join our beginners yoga class every Thursday at 7pm”
…you could have an article along the lines of:
“5 incredible health benefits of Yoga”.
Anyone that reads your article will, by their nature, have an interest in your classes. Who better to promote your business to thank someone who has expressed an active interest and lives in your target area.
This really is just a small taster of some of the things you can do. We haven’t even touched in Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn; but each of these channels offer further opportunities along similar lines.
As every business is different, there isn’t a cookie cutter approach.
Despite all these new fangled ways for us to communicate (think WhatsApp, Facebook messenger etc) email continues to be one of most effective communications channels for businesses, largely down to it’s ability to send relevant, timely and targeted communications at scale.
Whatever your approach, you should make sure you segment your email receipt lists so you can make sure you are sending relevant communications.
For example you may want a specific list for existing customers where you talk about how to make the most of your product or service and another one for prospects (those you want to become your customers) where you focus on the benefits of using your product or service.
Here are 7 ways to win more customers with email:
Focus on list growth
Of course in order to send emails you need a recipient list! You want to make sure you give people a good reason to opt in to your emails. Give them some clear benefits like free advice or perhaps a discount. You should have prominent sign-up forms on your website.
There are some great tools to help with this like mailchimp which will do most of the things you need from subscribe forms, to list management to creating and sending. Plus it’s free for small lists.
Write for your customer
This is crucial. Take the time to think about your recipient and specifically the challenges they face and problems they are trying to solve.
Don’t write for the sake of writing. People are time poor so you should focus on clear, concise copy that directly addresses the recipients points if interest.
And don’t be afraid to keep things short and snappy. It’s better to send a second email after a few days then cram loads of info into one email that people find to overwhelming to read.
Obsess about your subject lines
If there is a single thing you need to get right, it’s your subject line.
Too many people spend hours crafting great email copy and then relegate the subject line to a mere afterthought.
The crucial point here is that if people don’t open your email, the copy you have worked so hard at won’t be read. And what is the single most important thing that gets people to open the email?
You got it…it’s the subject line.
I would go so far as to say the subject line should be the first thing you write.
It needs to be relevant, engaging and on-point so you get the highest open rate possible.
Here are some benchmark open rates from GetResponse to give you an idea of open rates you should aim for. MailChimp will tell you the open rate for your emails.
Automate your email sends
The most common approach to email is creating a monthly newsletter.
Although time consuming, this is a great thing to do but the reality is that the best time to email people is when they have just signed up. They are ‘in the zone’ and at their most responsive point.
That said, if someone has signed up for your newsletter, one of the best things you can do is send them a series of emails over the coming days that is designed to convince them that you are the right person or business to help them.
Hopefully you have a clear value proposition.
It’s your chance to convey that value proposition to them and make clear connections between the problem they are experiencing and your ability to help them fix it.
There are plenty of free and cheap tools to help you do this stuff. In fact a lot of it you can do with MailChimp.
Don’t forget GDPR
Although any GDPR misdemeanors are most likely to impact large businesses, you need some basic processess in place to make sure you are GDPR compliant. The big ones are:
Only email people that have expressly opted in to receive communications from you. You should be able to provide evidence of this if asked.
Make sure you make it clear to people what they are opting in for and what communications they can expect to receive.
Ensure you have an ‘opt out’ or ‘unsubscribe’ link on every email you send.
Test, test and test
You won’t always get things perfect the first time, and ‘done’ is often better than ‘perfect’.
Don’t forget to revisit you emails and make adjustments to increase open rate and clickthrough rate.
It’s likely that from talking to your potential new customers you will discover more about the things they care about. You should be building these things into your website and email campaigns.
Don’t forget referrals
Do you know what the biggest source of new customers us for most businesses?
It’s word of mouth.
Do not underestimate the power of word of mouth referrals.
You don’t need a fancy referral scheme, but by simply asking your customers to spread the word and perhaps write a review or testimonial for you, you will be putting some extra gas into your growth engine.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, start by simply collecting email opt in. The sooner you do this, the sooner your list will start growing.