Monthly Archives: February 2014

Five Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

It’s often the case that owners of small businesses are experts in some practical or physical discipline – architectural design, civil engineering, materials recycling, for instance. They do not have a fancy first class degree in marketing from the department of business at a red-brick university, nor can they afford to hire someone who has.

But then they do not necessarily need one.

Marketing is not rocket science. You can come up with as many formulas and equations as you like and still end up with the same results. The most important thing is to focus on getting the basics right – these are the foundations upon which your business is built, and they are the springboard to its success.

For many business owners, the ability to market a brand or product is something innate. Just look at Alan “You’re Fired!” Sugar or Richard Branson – neither had a formal education, yet both have made a fortune simply by responding to customer demand and encouraging the public to invest in their product or brand.

You see it’s logic – but logic is easy to lose sight of when you’re buried to the neck in paperwork or working all hours to turn around a project whilst juggling the nuts and bolts that hold your business together.

So without further ado, here are five very simple things to remember when marketing your product or service…

1 – Know Your Customer

What do your customers actually want? You might think you know, but have you sat down and asked them? Remember that market research is about more than just counting the numbers – it’s about gaining quality feedback. Understanding the wants, needs, whims and fancies of your customers allows you to tailor your product (or brand) accordingly. Supply their demand and you’re in business.

And if, for whatever reason, your product does not meet their need or tickle their fancy, you ought to be willing and able to change it. You can work your marketing magic, you can do all you can to convince them that what you’re offering fulfils that need, but the plain and simple truth is that, actually, there is no one on Earth who can sell ice to an Eskimo.

2 – Be Different

Have you given your customers a reason to choose you over your competitors? No? Then it’s time for a rethink. One of the worst marketing mistakes you can make is to do what everybody else is doing – the same product, the same service, the same ideas, the same outcome.

Even if you didn’t attend business school, you probably have heard of a USP (Unique Selling Point). So what is yours? What is it that sets you and your products apart?  Once you have identified this; make sure that you include it in all platforms from your website, your Leterheading and invoices; to any advertising your may be doing.   You really must take every opportunity to reinforce it – otherwise your customers might just ignore you.

It’s important to show prospective buyers how the thing you’re offering – be it a boat or a banana – will make a difference to them. You also need to keep in mind the specific preferences of your target market – preferences you should already be aware of having conducted thorough market research (see Step 1). They told you they wanted ethically-sourced bananas, so now you’re selling ethically-sourced bananas – don’t forget to remind them!

3 – Be Clear and Concise

What exactly is it that you’re trying to convey to your customers? What are you telling them about your business and the products or services you provide? If you don’t know then neither do they.

When advertising a product, make sure your message is consistent across all platforms, whether it’s online, in the press, on the radio or via social media. Use the same colour schemes, the same imagery and the same slogans – needless to say, this helps consumers to more quickly identify your brand.

Encourage them to buy what you’re selling by including several different ‘calls to action’ – and try to think of something more original than “Get Yours Today!” or “Buy Now!”.

Most importantly, be careful not to over-elaborate your message; keep it clear, concise and easy to digest.

4 – Embrace Change

Tastes change, technologies change and time moves relentlessly on. Accepting that fact is important if you want to stay in touch with the market.

But to be really successful, you need to do more than just stay in touch. You need to stay ahead. Adapting quickly to new technologies is just the start; identifying shifting patterns and emerging trends is where new customers are won and lost.

Fortunately there is a very powerful tool for detecting such patterns and trends – it’s called social media. Using the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram you can get an instant feel for the market. (Indeed you can see in acute detail what your target demographic is doing, thinking and saying). With each of these platforms you can also create your own trends – trends that can potentially stimulate demand for your products.

In a recent post I also talked about keeping up to date with the search terms (or ‘keywords’) people are using to look for products or services online. You can do this using Google Analytics. Be sure to update your website to reflect any changes you see in the way people are searching.

5 – Follow up on your Leads

So you’ve invested a lot of time and money marketing your products, and you’re starting to generate some good leads. The next and possibly most important step is to follow them up. That may sound obvious – you’re trying to turn a profit, after all – but it’s not always easy.

First you need to keep track of them. Identifying exactly where the leads are coming from will help you determine where to invest marketing resources in the future. Then you need to ensure they do not go cold – the longer you wait to act, the more likely you are to lose the sale. When you do follow up on them it’s a good idea to record any correspondence – in certain scenarios this can help you build a better relationship with your clients.

Social Media in 2014

Social networking is one of the most common internet activities today. So if you haven’t created a social media strategy already, now might be the time to start thinking about it.

Think of your social media strategy as a post-winter garden; everything is there, but it needs reviving in order to grow and flourish. Now, I’m no Alan Titchmarsh, in more ways than one, but I would think it fair to say that a fruitful garden will involve some digging, some investigation into soil type, planting, feed, water and sunshine.

Your social media strategy will follow a similar path. It will rely on research into the current social media climate (digging), identification of current social media trends (investigation), implementation of action following key findings (planting the seed), and regular attention (food, water and sunshine).

To help you get started, we have done some digging of our own and grouped together some key social networking statistics below.


  • Facebook has 1.15 billion+ total users.
  • 751 million users access Facebook from mobile devices.
  • 189 million users access Facebook via mobile devices only.
  • 23% of Facebook users check their account more than 5 times per day.
  • The 45-54 year old age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+.
  • There are more than 10 million Facebook apps available.


  • Twitter has 500 million+ total users.
  • 288 million users are active on Twitter each month.
  • Twitter’s fastest growing age demographic is 55-64 year olds.
  • 60% of users access Twitter from mobile devices.
  • An average of 400 million+ tweets are sent per day.


  • Google+ has 500 million+ total users.
  • More than 343 million users are active.
  • 67% of Google+ users are male.
  • 80% of Google+ users login at least once a week.
  • 60% users login every day.
  • The +1 button is served more than 5 million times a day.
  • Animated GIF’s are the most engaging type of post on Google+.


  • LinkedIn has 238 million+ total users.
  • There are 1.5 million LinkedIn groups.
  • 27% of users access LinkedIn via mobile.
  • 50% of LinkedIn users have a Bachelor’s or Graduate degree.
  • 2 new users join LinkedIn each second.
  • LinkedIn has a lower percentage of active users compared to Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.


  • Instagram has 130 million+ total users.
  • More than 16 billion photos have already been uploaded on Instagram.
  • 8,000 users like a photo every second.
  • More than 5 million photos are uploaded every day.
  • 1,000 comments are posted on Instagram per second.


  • Pinterest has 70 million+ total users.
  • More than 69% of users on Pinterest are female.
  • The top category on Pinterest is food, with 57% discussing food-related content.
  • Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networks.

The key with social media marketing, like gardening, is not to be too eager. It’s important to research the current social media climate during the early stages in order to identify trends that will help you create or adapt your strategy.

The statistics above present some interesting facts. If we look at size (audience reach), for example, Facebook is clearly the front runner with its staggering lead in engagement, but other measures such as time and engagement are equally as important when it comes to your strategy.

Using the LinkedIn stats to illustrate this, we can see that LinkedIn is an extremely popular platform, with two new members joining every second. Its number of active users, however, is lower than most of the other big social networks, so if engaging people with your business is a priority, then other platforms such as Facebook or Twitter may be more effective.

Social media statistics also bring to light certain trends. The statistics above reveal that the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is currently the 55-64 year age group. This age bracket has also seen a 46% rise on Facebook and a 56% rise on Google+, so if this age group fits into your target demographic it’s worth focussing your attention on these platforms.

The rise of mobile users is also impossible to ignore. A whopping 189 million users access Facebook via mobile devices only, 60% of users access Twitter via mobile devices only, and 4.2 billion people use mobile devices only to access a range of social media sites. It’s therefore important to ensure content is rendered suitable for mobile devices in order to reach out to this audience successfully.

There are a wealth of social media facts, figures and statistics available out there, but try to find information that is current and pick out key facts that are relevant to your business and your goals. We hope our collection of statistics has already given you some ideas and inspiration to get your social media strategy started, but keep digging, and feel free to share your findings with us below.

*Sources: The statistics above have been compiled from sources which we believe to be current, reliable and up to date. Sources include: Digital Insights, Fast Company and Business Insider.

The Sales Funnel

What ‘is’ the sales funnel? Taken literally, our first thoughts might conjure up images of people bottlenecking through shop doors, or strange funnel-shaped ‘doorways’ everyone has to traverse when they need to buy something down at the local supermarket.

The Sales FunnelAside from these initial ponderings, which thankfully aren’t the case, the sales funnel is a metaphorical concept about the achievement of sales in your business – a funnel-shaped model which attempts to visually depict and connect the discrete stages in between and including an initial opportunity to sell something, with actually selling it. The funnel metaphor is used to illustrate how target customers drop away at each stage of the process.

Every business’ sales funnel is unique; depending on what’s being sold and how the whole process of selling any given product or idea is managed. There’s an expandable variety of stages in the sales funnel, however the core themes and ideas which it’s fundamentally based on, are:

1Identifying your market

This is represented by the top of the funnel; the widest part. You have your product or idea, but you need to establish who you’re going to sell it to – who would want your product and why? What we’re talking about here are target customers. Depending on what you’re going to sell, your market can be anyone and everyone, or very few people at all. From here you’re going to need to concentrate on your…

Research and Analysis

Just because you’ve developed a product or idea, doesn’t mean your target customers are going to take it; even if it’s perfect for them. At this stage you will need to know much more specific information about your potential customers because they’re not necessarily going to want to buy neon blue shorts, a one-size only sapphire ring or something with only a 6 month guarantee. The specifics don’t allow you to accommodate your originally identified market as a whole; you’re now trying to accommodate the ‘majority’ of the people within it. This means your funnel has narrowed, but you have a better chance of accommodating the majority of your target audience than knowing little about any of them. Without finding out the market habits and desires of your target customers how will you know when, how or why to pitch to them? The key word here is ‘research’ and once you have a sufficient understanding of your prospective customers, whether it be through studying current trends, taking surveys and so on, you can then go on to…

Marketing and Advertising

You‘re going to market and advertise your product based on what you’ve learnt about your target customers. Introduction is of paramount importance and if you’re not approaching potential customers in the right way it’s going to result in a lack of response or a lot of fallout at this stage; resulting in a sharp and early narrowing of your sales funnel. Naturally, your funnel will narrow more here anyway because some people won’t like your advertising or your message; the competition may have done it better! What can be said is that without marketing your product or idea correctly you simply won’t get enough attention, if any – especially if you have competition.

However you choose to ‘let people know’ is up to you; there are a wealth of digital and print advertising and marketing channels out there including:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Newspaper and magazine adverts
  • Directories (on-line and printed)
  • Websites
  • Social networks
  • Leaflets
  • Word of mouth

…and many more – ‘how’ you intend to market yourself will depend entirely on your product and your target audience.

Qualifying your leads

One of the most important aspects of the sales funnel and to avoid wasting the valuable time of your sales team is to qualify the leads you’ve generated from your marketing and advertising efforts before you pitch them.  There’s no point chasing and pitching prospects who were never going to buy in the first place.

There are five elements of a qualified lead:

  • Decision maker and decision process – Who actually makes the final decision or is there more than one person involved?
  • Time frame – When they need your product or service, is there any urgency, and when will they be making the final decision.
  • Other quotes – You need to know what other quotes, products, solutions, or options your prospect is considering.
  • Buying motives – What is truly motivating your prospect to buy?
  • Reasons why they won’t buy

We shall cover how to qualify your leads in a lot more detail in a later post.

Once you’ve established the higher quality leads you’re going to need think about ‘how’ you’re going to make your sale because people aren’t going to (necessarily) buy ‘X’ when they come and see it; what you’re going to need is a…


You’ll never get ‘everyone’ to engage with you and it’s at this stage that the funnel begins to take even more of its shape – something hasn’t gone quite right, potential customers have seen the product but not all are interested (for reasons you may need to establish) so they drop out.

Now you need to streamline the initial stages of the funnel (where possible) to grab the attention of new customers, hopefully regain some lost ones, whilst attempting to channel the remaining ones through to that all-important sale. It’s not all bad though, you may be doing well and have many potential customers knocking at your door (don’t forget though; you still haven’t made a sale), your advertising campaign is working out, people like what you’re saying, your product or idea is getting interest but then people have lots of questions about:

  • Reliability and quality
  • Variety of models (of product)
  • Comparable items made by other companies
  • Warranties or guarantees
  • Support
  • Compatibility
  • Upgradeability

…and so on. Can you answer all of these questions? Hopefully yes, but some of them no; this is where you can streamline further if necessary and learn things about your potential customers you never knew to try and understand before. The point is, whilst you may be able to convince people that you’ve thought about the ‘majority’ of the things that are important to them, you can’t cater for everyone; more people drop out, some are left hanging in the balance and it’s up to you to answer any queries objectively and professionally; never deceive a customer about what you or your product can deliver. ‘Knowing’ your product or idea inside out can result in the desired outcome for both parties, which, in turn, can ‘set the scene’ for returning customers. Some though, have all their check boxes ticked and require very little from you to confirm their choices; what this means for you is that you can…

Make the sale

Congratulations! You’ve negotiated all of the barriers to success, streamlined ‘on the go’ and answered every question about your product or idea you reasonably can. All you need to do now is hand over the goods and let them speak for themselves! In addition to this rather notable point, there is also a final stage which is often omitted, but can be regarded as equally important as any other (providing your aim is to continue with your business); what you now need to do is…

The follow up

Any company invested in the satisfaction of their customers will continually revisit all of the above points to ensure they climb the market and aim to stay on top of it. Time, competition and many other factors influence what people want and the need to adapt will always be required.

I hope I’ve shed some light on ‘the sales funnel’ and how an original target customer number can be pictorially represented by a narrowing ‘funnel’ during the course of any ‘sales process’. Whilst it’s regarded as an obsolete concept by some (and the topic of another article to come), the funnel metaphor is still fundamentally valid when it comes to showing how target customers can drop away at each stage of the sales process.

If you’d like to know more or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Wine and Dine

So here’s something a little different for today. The daughter of our Training & Quality Manager who’s studying Film Production is about to begin her Final Year Project and would like a little support. So in her own words:

Hi there,

As a group of aspiring film makers we are pulling out all the stops for our final year production.

It’s called Wine and Dine and it’s an unconventional, surrealist thriller. It all starts with an online meeting, continues with a visit and ends with a murder.

We need your help to raise £750 to help us pay for our location, equipment hire and transport expenses for both our actors and heavy equipment.

No matter how much you donate, from one pound to a hundred, we have a variety of goodies that we will get to you as a thank you for making this idea a reality.

You can visit our KickStarter page here.

Thank You,

Lianne Fairweather and the team