Expanding your Core (Customers)

Most companies look at their ‘Ideal Customer’, and stick with that profile far too long, to the detriment of other markets. You should be looking at what every list you make omits, not what they simply highlight. Focus on the exact opposite of your target market. It may be growing and has problems to solve that are also growing. Can you help? Can you offer them something different both from what they are getting now, and from what you are offering your core customers? If you aren’t sure, see if there is a way to test your theory before you start.

Do you have a Plan ‘B’?  When you make a decision based on your core customer, have you thought about the possible lost dollars from other segments of your prospects? Once you have made decision, it’s hard to back off if it doesn’t work. Think of the steps you will need to re-trace by muddling your message up, and possible earning bad reviews, or comments, from those that don’t ‘get’ your approach. Is there a way that you can test your theories without incurring too much damage, and have an exit ramp that you can circle back on? If you do this early in the process, it’s easier to come up with an alternative plan that suits everyone better, rather than getting so far into a process, it is like wading through a bog. Once it’s up to your waist, it’s tough to turn around and go back.

Of course, this point also requires testing in some way, but all agile marketing is based on testing and it is the best way to find the differentiation for your business against your competition. In fact, you should build test periods and methods into your everyday marketing efforts. This may be more straight-forward than it appears at first.  Above all, remember that differentiation is not solely about being different. It is about being different in a way that customers will pay for. Don’t just do one thing, to make one decision, to solve one problem, always test, always come up with a hidden bonus that will hook other prospect segments, not just your core prospects and customers.

You are the reason for your customers.

Happy CustomersI have been hearing a lot lately about ‘choosing your own future’, especially now that we are coming back from an unforeseen pause. Although this statement is firmly in the territory of ‘Life coach talk’, it does make sense for your business, too. Where you are today is the result of some decisions that you have made. Likewise, the future is dependent on what decisions you are making today. If this is true of your World, then perhaps this is also true of your customers.

If your business is based on ‘a way to make money’, then your customers are probably ‘those that wanted a deal’, or ‘those that paid a low price.’ These customers are yours because you chose them, questioned them, and closed them. If there are too many of these, you may want to look at how you are qualifying your sales, because there may be better ones out there; ones that could push your business in a completely different – and more profitable- direction. You have more power than you think in fulfilling your customer base, so how can you get better ones…the ones you want?

If you talk to Customer Service personnel in most companies, they will grumble about customer complaints, because they have to take them every day. So… why all of the negative comments? Why do customers not receive what they were expecting, or felt what they paid for? Because they weren’t told during the sign-up process exactly what they were going to receive: Because they were looking for something else. Wouldn’t you like to help out your customer service department by only attracting customers that are buying for the reasons you want…’the right ones’?

Take a step back, and find out what your happy customers think of your good or service. Why did they buy, and why are they happy with it? The chances are that there is a message somewhere in your pitch that you hadn’t previously thought of: One that ‘rang a bell’ with people that you aren’t immediately aware of. These may be a small section of your overall customer base, but wouldn’t it be nice if this represented the majority of your customer base?

The immediate concern will be, of course, well what about all of the other customers that have bought for different reasons, but do you really want to spend all of your customer service time dealing with people that bought for reasons outside of your defined ‘Ideal Customer’ pathway? You are being good to your sales and marketing efforts by clearly defining what kind of customer you want. With a little more definition, your perfect customer comes clearly into view, and your customer service time will truly reflect what kind of a business you have – one with lots of happy customers.

Yes – you SHOULD be Marketing right now!

righttimePart of every first conversation with clientele is the question: “Should I actually be marketing, right now?”

Usually, this means that the business owner hasn’t done any marketing – or knows that their competition does more – so, is there a ‘right time’ to start. However, since February of this year, it really means “Should I be marketing my business during a global Pandemic?” The logic appears to be that because no-one is buying, then what is the point of spending time and/or money on advertising. This logic is faulty. I generally ask: “If people are buying, why are you marketing, anyway?”

While money is tight, right now, marketing is not something you do for a specific reason – it is something you do all the time. Why? The old equation is true: Over 90% of prospects aren’t even thinking of you or your products. A little over 6% of prospects are browsing for something similar, and the remaining 3% are buying right now. For those customers that know you and do business with you, you don’t need to work hard to get them to return – their previous experiences should be enough to have them happy to come back. It is the others you need to talk to – and that requires marketing on an ongoing basis to ensure that while they may not be buying now, your company’s name is top of their thoughts when they return.

During COVID, this was even more important because everyone was trapped inside: How many times per day were they looking at their surroundings and the current state of their property and realizing that they had been looking at this everyday and how things will have to change ‘when things get back to normal’ ? Their only escape from this has been social media, so what a great excuse for businesses to promote who they are and what they do on these platforms that actually answers the questions that prospects are asking!

When business is slow is the time to market, because you have more time to do this. Let people know who you are, what has been working for your customers recently, how you are your staff are doing, what plans you have for the future. You will need to be ‘top of mind’ for customers when they return to being one of the ‘3%’  – not the ‘90%+’ – and that is what marketing is for.

I came across a wonderful Facebook post this week that answers a lot of these points. It was from a local branch of a nationwide frozen food company that continued work through the Pandemic when we were all locked down and – apparently – did well. Here was their post (with some deletions):

“For the past 3 months, we are truly thankful that our customers, new and old, have trusted us for not only maintaining our stock of food, but ensuring customer health and safety.

We have found ourselves in a position of having higher sales, and we totally understand that it is on the backs of other food businesses. So we want to give back and try something new. We are going to be committing 100% of our net profits each day to a local charity during the week of June 22-26.

[These charities…] will all receive the net profits from a days sales so stay tuned for more information and what day your favorite organization has been given.”

Wow! So not only a reminder that this business remained open when they were required, they were obviously in a health position to do so. Not only do they thank their customers for supporting them, they also tell you how guilty they feel about the hard time their competition went through. In fact, they are going to spend the week atoning for this by giving away their profits to their customers’ charities! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to visit this business and support the local community!

This is the perfect social media post, because it offers something for everyone. Now is the perfect time to do things like this, when people are looking. In a few weeks, they will be back to their regular routine and they won’t have time to think about how to make their lives better. How can you turn someone from the ‘90%+’ into the ‘3%’ and how can you ensure they come back? This is what your marketing I for, and you should be doing it all of the time.

I’d love to help, BUT………

Common-MistakesIt’s been great to see that business owners are still looking toward the future during this uncertain time for Business. No-one saw a Pandemic coming, and no-one was expecting an almost total business shutdown for months on end, followed by strict operating procedures for the foreseeable future, when we return.

I have been receiving questions concerning my Marketing ideas for a variety of SME businesses all through the COVID19 shutdown, but – for many – they are too early in their planning process for me to help in a ‘budget-conscious’ manner. If you believe that your business plan is ‘ready to go’, and you are beginning to think about how you can attract more prospects to your company, let me offer a couple of anecdotes from recent requests I have received to ensure that you are on the right track.

For the guy requesting help with a Business migration service – this is a clever idea. Many U.S. businesses may be looking at moving to Canada, due to Political and Social changes that either have or will probably happen in these changing times. However, WhatsApp may not be the answer you are looking for! I certainly haven’t heard of a company before that solely markets their services through a text and messaging app, without any further information to offer prospects. While I appreciate that money is tight in the start-up phase of any business, your decision not to have a website, nor any kind of business records, in order to approach complete strangers about a life-changing move like this isn’t really the most professional way to go.

Perhaps you should spend a couple of moments online, to check out your possible competition and see who they are, and what they are have been doing in the past to attract prospects. After all, they are still in business, so they must be doing something right. Ask yourself: ‘what can I offer that is an upgrade to these suppliers?’ Just an idea.

For the established Herb business looking to add social media marketing to their website, this is a good idea. After all, if you are offering a home-based wellness system, this is a good channel with which to attract prospects. However, once your prospects have been enticed to your website, you really should be offering them answers to the questions you have already posed.

Your website is full of a list of experts that are either helping you or are advisory board members, but you don’t lay out what your products actually do, who they are for, what they cost, or what’s in the deal for customers. One of the major ‘hooks’ that any marketing plan can offer is the ‘Time Deal’, where Prospects exchange a few seconds on social media in return for more information on a corporate website. If there is nothing for them to understand other than how professionally you do business (which is something they probably expect!), the Time Contract has been broken.

You may not have been expecting suggestions concerning your website after you have spent so much on it’s design and launch, but considering the site had no highlighted keywords, wasn’t indexed for any Search Engines and had more than a handful of 4xx errors, you may have spent too much to get this far.

Basics, guys, basics: Any marketer can do the work that you want, but if it doesn’t make any business sense unless other changes are made in your public face isn’t me trying to shoehorn more money from you – it’s actually saving you money in the future by making sure your basics are correct.

Thanks for contacting me.


Is it time to tear up that long term Marketing Plan?

DigitalMarketing-DuringCOVID19We are in unprecedented times. How can a simple Marketer do anything to help their business, customers and Prospects during a global pandemic? Is there really any point in carrying on? Yes. The World needs you, now, more than ever. While it’s easy to look at the current situation that the global business world is in and lose hope, here are some different ways to look at the job you are doing now and what to do next.

Firstly, tear up the long term marketing plan you made, because things are going change – even more so than they have already. ‘Things’ will not be back to normal for a very long time, but your contacts are still interested in their business and industry. They are still concerned about how they can carry on, so help them.

Firstly, plan on the end of COVID-19 around August 2020. There is no way around this: Also plan on hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and thousands of businesses no longer existing and a long-lasting global recession. How can you still add value to people’s lives under these conditions?

Now, what worked for you last winter and what didn’t? Concentrate on the fundamentals that gave you the most success, be they in measurable such as shares, contacts, replies or page views, or what you were doing in the weeks leading up to surges in new interest or a whole new batch of semi-warm interest in your business. The answers to these questions will benefit you two-fold; it will give you a skeleton marketing plan for next Winter featuring items that worked and will also test your creativity in coming up with new messaging that complements these ‘Greatest Hits’. You also have time to check back to previous years to add even more data to this task, as well as to see what needs updating.

So, you may ask, what about the Summer of 2020, what can I possibly do, now, when we don’t know what exactly will happen, or even if we will still be working?

Well, everyone in your current customer, supplier and prospect lists is in exactly the same position. Everyone is looking for information. Now is your opportunity to help them. Keep on posting, keep on investigating the state of your industry during the Pandemic and how what you are doing will help them when things get back to a more regular working atmosphere. How to find out? Check out Google Trends and LinkedIn to find out what your contacts are interested in, right now. When things get back to normal, everyone will remember those that kept on helping out during these dark days.

Spring is always a good time for SEO ‘Spring Cleaning’, anyway. The busy Fall/Winter Sales time is over, so what has changed in your messaging? How were Sales impacted by your short and long term campaigns? Should there be changes to your website, or other ingrained marketing practices that you have always wanted to investigate changing, but never had the time to get round to? Now is the perfect time to look at bold new strategies that will help your company out in the future.

Above all, keep your messaging positive. There is enough bad news around, so give your readers uplifting material devoid of rumour and gossip. Double check your facts through reputable sources before using other writer’s information and be a trusted source. Don’t plagiarize others and pass these writings off as yours. It will be remembered, as your readers have more time to research now. Be the expert in what you know and your readers will trust you more when it comes time to buy from you or your company.

These two campaign construction and management ideas will get you through this uncertain time, and the ‘whole new business world’ to come. Remember, everyone needs you, so don’t desert them now.

Marketing by a Facebook Contest

facebook-contestsAs we have said over and over again, you can use Social Media in a myriad of ways to help market your business. You can also offer some fun in the the process for your customers and prospects.

At any moment, you can see hundreds of contests on Facebook. It doesn’t make any difference what type of business you have; using a contest on Facebook is an effective way to promote your business. Whenever you hold a contest through social media, you will inevitably see an increase in Likes and more traffic to your website.

But it’s not a guaranteed slam dunk. You can’t simply write up a status update that says “Like this post to be entered in our prize drawing!” Facebook has a set of guidelines that must be followed in order to set up your contest. If you don’t, you run the risk of having your page deleted for ignoring the rules. Here are five steps to crafting a contest that works for your business

  1. Understand the rules. Here are Facebook’s guidelines when it comes to holding a contest:

All contests must be promoted through a Page App or Canvas Page.

Contests must have a release of Facebook by participants; statement that Facebook is not sponsoring, administering or endorsing the contest; disclosure that the entrant is giving their information to your company and not Facebook.

Entry into the contest cannot be dependent on use of Facebook features such as Liking a specific post, uploading a photo to the wall or leaving a comment. However, Liking the page, connecting to the app or checking in are allowed.

The Facebook Like button cannot be used as a voting tool.

Winners cannot be notified through Facebook channels (chat, message, wall post, etc.).

You may want to scan all of Facebook’s page guidelines before going too far down the promotion path.

  1. Decide what type of contest to run. You need to figure out what type of contest is going to be most appealing to your target audience. Some audiences may want only to put in a minimum amount of effort when entering a contest, like submitting their name and contact info for a drawing. Others will be ready to dive right into an essay or photo contest.

Make sure you take advantage of the data that Facebook provides through Insights. When you know how your audience has interacted with your page in the past, it makes it easy to know what direction your contest should go towards.

  1. Find a third-party contest app. As stated in their guidelines, you need to use a third-party app to run a contest on Facebook. There are plenty of companies to choose from that provide these apps, but make sure that the one you choose is customizable, is embedable on your website as well as Facebook and has mobile capabilities (about 540 million of Facebook’s most active users access the site from their mobile device). A few that meet these rough guidelines well are Strutta, Wildfire and North Social.
  2. Choose the prize that fits. You’ve probably noticed that the prize of choice lately has been a brand-new Apple iPad. Offering one of these is likely to get you a lot of entries into your contest, but unless your business is tied into the iPad in some way (i.e., your company develops apps, sells skins or covers etc.) then that is probably the only thing you will get.

Instead of offering some big-ticket prize that doesn’t relate to your business, how about giving away one of your own products? If your business is service-based rather than product-based, offer the winner a free month of service. What you want out of this contest is to find more people who are interested in your business, not just a prize.

  1. Promote it. If you are holding a Facebook contest, broadcast it! Send out a tweet. Write a blog post about it. Place a banner on your website. Spread the word on any forums that you’re an active participant on. Add buttons that allow your participants to share the contest with their own social communities.

The faster the word spreads the more people you will reach. You have to promote your contest to see the most results.

Contests are a fun and exciting way to get more people to pay attention to your business. When you do it right, it can mean a lot more fans and a lot more business.

You’re not alone…But it is all about you.

Image result for small business owners speaking in publicIt is a well-known axiom that speaking in public is the one thing that most people fear – sometimes it beats other more obvious fears that include pain and injury – but as a small business owner, you are going to have to do it. We don’t mean talking to a packed auditorium from a stage via a microphone. That is a skill that you can learn, but you are better leaving that to the Professionals if you haven’t had specific training for it. How about through a much smaller-scale event? Do your palms get sweaty and does your stomach start to churn at the thought of attending a face-to-face business networking function or meet up?  More people than not still don’t feel comfortable speaking to strangers, or even meeting new people.

But why does that happen? After all, don’t we speak to strangers every day of our lives? Gas station attendants, people in elevators, the Postman? Perhaps it isn’t the same thing? At a networking function we’re meeting people who could be a potential business connection that can help us grow our business — via a joint venture, as a connector to a key prospect, or as a customer.  If you are someone that feels that don’t like to sell, it can lead to a nerve wracking and uncomfortable situation. Try turning this around to your advantage. The key thing to remember here is that a networking event is not about selling. Let everyone else talk about their business. Your concentration should be on something else entirely – building mutually beneficial relationships with other people. Once you shift your thinking that makes the entire event a whole lot easier to handle. How do you turn this around?

In today’s world, almost everyone is an entrepreneur. It has never been easier to discover a niche, and open a small business serving others in no time at all. The more knowledge that everyone gets about their business, the more capable we all become. You can find them online without even picking up a phone. You are capable, in your business field. Of course, the more capable you become, the more questions you will face. You have to get noticed, you have to inform people why you are capable, and why they should pay what you are asking. All of this is information – information that you have to hand and can be called upon to speak about. We have spoken about your uniqueness before: The thing, or things, that set you apart from your competition, and an easier fit with possible clientele. Your uniqueness goes further however:

You have a set of life experiences that are different than other peoples. The same can be said about your personality, your mind, the way that you solve problems, and the set of business contacts you already have. It doesn’t matter if you have a product that is similar to others, when looked upon as a set of personality traits you are completely unique from everyone else in your competition.

So, not only are you capable, you are a professional, and unique. You are looking for other people like that. The only way that you can find them is to meet them – a Google search, or a cold call isn’t going to help you in this search, because you don’t have the opportunity to converse with people.

Go and find people that may help your business, and you can, in turn, help them. Doesn’t that sound like an interesting conversation? If you add the fact that you may find out some more interesting information on how you can make your business more successful, doesn’t this sound like a ‘must do’?

Don’t be worried about talking to others, become the kind of interesting entrepreneur that people want to talk to. Don’t sell, ask questions, and get answers. Before long you will be running short of business cards, and will be looking forward to your next networking event.

You will also become more relaxed about talking in public – after all, you are talking about yourself and your business – and let everyone else be nervous about this. You are your own best salesman, but this can be achieved without having to ‘close the deal’ every time you open your mouth.

2019 Business Online Marketing Trends


No, I haven’t forgotten what year it is. I saved one of those “Crystal Ball’ articles a year ago stating the Top 5 Business Marketing Trends for 2019 for comparison purposes as to what actually happened within the year. The note I made next to it was ‘No, No, NO…Be A Real Person’, so I revisited it this week to see what that actually meant.

The major audience for this blog is the same as my clientele in the Real World – small businesses not accustomed to marketing for their business and leveraging simple online tools to grow their businesses’ footprint. I realized that the article in question was aimed at larger companies, perhaps with a Marketing Department, and they fell into some of the traps I council against, straight away. Mainly not to sacrifice the actual work you do within advertising and become inauthentic.

Larger companies in any business space have the luxury of buying tools that automate what they do to ensure they Tweet (for instance) 18 times per day, because everyone else is doing it. This may be fine for these large companies, but – as a small business owner – it doesn’t do you much good, and I’ll explain why.

Articles such as this one may make you question what and how you are doing things, but there is confusion around ‘What To Do’ and ‘How To Do It.’ Take Video for instance. Having a suite of videos to creatively show who you are and what you do can be a great marketing tool, because it graphically shows your Services or Goods and introduces you to people that may not notice you anywhere else. They may also be a wonderful sales tool when added to your website.

However, if you are in competition with large multi-national, big box stores that also use video, you don’t want to come off as cheap or amateur made. These guys will have Video departments manned by experts with access to actors, music and state-of the-art editing capabilities. If you can’t compete with that, then I would always suggest staying away from video. We have all seen TV advertising for small, neighbourhood businesses and those made by huge companies. The local Furniture store’s ad pales in comparison, and suffers in the process.

The question, therefore, of what do I need, should be answered by ‘What Can I do Well?’, and what shows your business in the best possible light. Our ‘Top 5 trends’ article mentioned Artificial Intelligence (Siri?), Voice Search and Automated Marketing along with Video but do you really need these?

The most important part of your messages is you. The authentic, real you that people want to meet. That takes time to care about his community and is in business to help, not to make money. Being authentic is the most important part of your marketing, be it online or in person. The question isn’t ‘What should I be doing’, it is ‘Am I Marketing with an authentic voice?’  Those 18 tweets per day obviously aren’t being published by a local business, they don’t have time. You will post something of interest to your Prospect Marketplace and use your own voice to do so.

Of course, the greatest lesson you can learn about these kinds of aggregate posts is that people read them. My job is this blog, so by seeing this article last year, saving it, referring to it, linking to it here , is all an SEO exercise that helps my ranking – it isn’t something that will help your business – however it’s a great way to blog. What are the Top Trends for your business in 2020?

Getting the Word out – Part Two


In Part One of this post, I showed how being included in online posts by journalists can help your business, your SEO figures, their viewing figures (So they will return to you for even more views in the future) and your own prospects’ marketing efforts.

When you extend a welcome to those that write for your industry to print your answers to their questions, you are not only gaining a friend, you are offering assistance, promotion and information to them. You are also recruiting a specialist to help you out with your own outreach: Definitely a ‘Win, Win’ situation for all.

So, once again, this is a year’s end thanks to everyone for reaching out to me and including my ideas into their posts. Here are some more ideas from the last year – I hope that your small business marketing can benefit from the following. The over-riding theme this month is creative Social Media hacks:

Instagram Hashtag Marketing:

“Hashtags can be easily tracked for popularity, just as individuals can. In fact, many influential posters rely on the same hashtags, so you can also track down those you want to be associated with via their hashtags. There are online tools available (for all platforms, not just Instagram) that help you find new hashtags, and track your current hashtags. In addition to showing important hashtag data, these tools help you find the best possible hashtags for your text and images.”

Examples of creative use of Facebook for Small Business Marketing:

“Although it’s obvious, my favorite is still ‘How much is your House Worth?’ complemented by a picture of your local city. It fulfills the marketing line of making something look free, that will offer value to you, will have a good value proposal, and even makes you feel safe enough to add your zip/postcode on the next landing page. It’s only after that you realize that this is simply outreach from a local Realtor trawling for information and introductions: Very clever.”

Social Media for small Businesses:

“Position yourself as an expert in your niche. Drill down to what your history shows you are best at and what your prospects want. You can then concentrate on that within your prospect/customer community. Use social media to show you are part of your community, are a real person, and that your knowledge can help your prospects’ lives.”

Content Marketing Hacks:

“Zero in on what you do best, what has been most profitable for you in the past, and build the persona of a ‘perfect client’. Then market to them, directly. Marketing is an ongoing exercise, so ensure that your content speaks to that Perfect Customer, and show how you can fill their possible future needs better than your competition.”

A New Year – and Decade – beckons. If you have reached this section of the post, I wanted to wish you even more success in 2020 and I hope that the ideas I’ve shared over 2019 have been useful for you. If you have enjoyed these posts, or have any feedback on how you have used these tips, please let me know. I would love to print them in a future post.

Of course, I’ll also be linking back to your own businesses’ website, so you can get some more of that good old ‘Google Juice’ that this blog benefits from by answering these reporter’s questions!

Have a great Festive Season !

The BEST tool you have to get new Customers – Old Customers


Sometimes, it is the smallest actions that can lead to the largest changes in business.

At some point your customer comes face-to-face with your company, and you need to know how that interaction will go, before you start signing up customers. The smallest action you can do in your business is simply ‘do what you did last time.’ If this is easy, makes you money, and makes a customer happy, this is a win, win for everyone. If there is a flaw in that system, you need to clean up the mess before it becomes endemic, and you start doing the wrong things to customers – even accidentally. This has to be remembered when you are marketing for your small business.

We all know someone who is a fan of a company; someone that is forever talking about this place’s prices, or service, or how they go ‘above and beyond’. These people are “Evangelists”, and Word-Of-Mouth evangelism is an unpaid marketing force that people believe. After all, these people aren’t paid, and they have faced the same choices that others in their place have at some point. Whenever shoppers find themselves in that place, they remember the trustworthy advice given to them by someone that didn’t have to say it. They then shop there, too, to put that trustworthy experience to their own litmus test. Can you imagine what power you would have in your business pleased people so much that they sent you extra business at no cost to you?

Whenever someone buys from you, they should go straight to the top of your Loyalty charts – what they want in the future shouldn’t be limited by anything other than “They liked it before, they will like it again.”  There shouldn’t be anything internally in your business that stops them getting what they want a second time, after becoming a partner with you. They will tell other people, and the snowball will grow.

Too many companies these days have complex loyalty systems that mean more money for them, rather than keeping the customer happy. Whatever it costs you to retain that client, it will gain additional customers. Can we quantify this? Yes. The Harvard Business Report released a report in 2014 that I will never forget. It stated that decreasing customer churn by just 5% can grow profits by between 25% and 125% .

That is a powerful financial argument for not only keeping your current customers happy, but also putting in place policies and systems that mean your customer is treated as they wish throughout the transaction process, and they are rewarded for it. If you have those systems in place when you are signing up a small amount of customers, that process will earn you much more as your sign-up process really ramps up. The myriad of possible customer problems in the future can be handled now; when the task is smaller and more easily handled. So, put these policies in place at your business, and see how large your customer base becomes from this one, small task.