SME Growth Strategies

Growing and scaling are two very important factors in a company’s development and ultimately their success. After your company successfully navigates the initial phases of product/service development it will need to change focus to increasing your market share and increasing your customer base.

The first stages of product development tend to revolve around customer needs, wants and hopefully a gap in the market. When a company begins to develop a product, data must be collect a market assessment should be completed. The more interaction a company has with with their target market, the better equipped the company will be moving forward.

Unfortunately, some companies tend to be focused internally, which can be harmful to the overall production and growth phases. Ultimately, you must know what the customer wants. While you hypothesize a solution (your product) to a specific problem, data must be collected to help improve your chances of success. A product problem is great for companies that are just beginning to understand the direction the company is going to go. Initially the focus is on building a product or service that is going to be positively received by consumers. Growth and scaling of your business comes later.

After you have an optimal product designed and developed, you need to gather feedback from your target market. Engaging and learning with your customers will ultimately determine how your product evolves. This is the point where companies can and should begin their focus on growth strategies.

Now that you have your initial product, you should be focusing on how to brand, market and increase your market share. By now your product has been analyzed, altered and (hopefully) validated by the market. Next the company needs to develop a firm, but flexible growth strategy that the company commits to follow. If your company needs help in this area you are not alone. Having a stable growth strategy and effective plans to complete your growth goals will be the key to your company’s success, or at least preparing them for success. Luckily, for all companies there is a lot of support for developing effective growth strategies.

It is not the critic who counts…

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

― Theodore Roosevelt

15 Tips on How to Create a Successful eCommerce Website

Every website needs visitors and customers. Websites are specifically designed to serve customers. An effectively designed eCommerce website experiences high conversion rate and brings the desired profit for a business. However not all the web designers understand how to make the eCommerce websites conversion-friendly. Below are 15 tips to help you build a successful eCommerce website.

  1. Identify your prospects 
  2. Have simple navigation 
  3. Use high resolution product images (or stock photos)
  4. Include valuable product details
  5. Employ simple, clear and visually engaging call to actions (CTAs)
  6. Feature product and/or service videos 
  7. Have 24/7 visibility into your shopping cart 
  8. Offer free shipping as an option
  9. Avoid distractions 
  10. Leverage landing pages to feature valuable content, products and services  
  11. Offer special discounts or sales clearly
  12. Display your contact information easily and visibly
  13. Consider multiple transaction options
  14. Feature an effective and useful Site Search: Advanced
  15. Keep the site simple, engaging and focused on providing value 

Building an eCommerce website could be a challenging task, but the tips given above offer great help even to a newbie web designer. Try to improve the usability and shop-ability of eCommerce website that you are designing. Keep in mind that building a website is a never-ending process. You’ll need to keep updating your website on a continually ongoing basis.

Top 5 Marketing Questions Your Business Should Be Asking

Nowadays, everyone is trying to manage a business and brand that sticks. Businesses and marketers are very busy with multiple channels, campaigns, metrics, projects, and deadlines. To stay competitive, business and marketers should be asking themselves these 5 questions.

  1. Who are your target audiences or personas?

This is Marketing 101, but you’d be surprised how easy forgetting about this fundamental question is. Approaching every project thinking first and foremost about your audience should be second nature. This would also be why your company exists. You’ve missed the market if you’re not targeting or providing value to a specific target or persona.

If you’re just getting started, establishing audience personas will take some due diligence and a fair amount of market research (try your CRM or client files). But it’s well worth the effort if your campaigns are to have the most impact.

  1. When is the right time to provide value?

After creating target personas you need to understand their job details and where they spend their time looking for information. When you identify your audiences’ primary job responsibilities you can zero in on the various pain points they face daily. With that knowledge, you can tailor your message to fit what your audience needs.

Also, your target audience will inevitably spend time looking for new information and consuming content. You need to know where this so you can provide informative and quality content. That is where your brand’s message also needs to be.

  1. What is keeping your audience up at night?

Even if we don’t want to, we all take our work home with us from time to time. These concerns can offer insight into how to reach different customers. While this may not be easy, by doing some strategic research, you can learn a lot about your audience’s needs. This will help you to provide valuable content and deliverables to your personas.

  1. What will make you stand out from the crowd?

The marketing market is saturated. This is why you need to see a piece of marketing a few times before it resonates. People experience a steady flow of content from multiple sources: emails, social media posts, traditional advertising, and many other channels. Keep it short, sweet and simple. This is how your message will stand out.

Keep your audience’s attention by having a clear, focused message about the solutions you can provide that will address their pain points. Be sure you provide value and consider offering an incentive.

  1. What action do you want your audience to take?

The call to action (CTA) is could be considered to be the most important part of any marketing message that your audience receives. Use 1, maybe 2, CTAs at a time. If you have multiple CTAs, your audience will likely become distracted and confused and less likely to convert. Make sure the CTA is easily visible and engaging follows through with the action it presents.

Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

The market place – any market place – is noisy and crowded. Marketing has moved towards a content, value-driven strategy where companies are competing (even more so) for market attention. Below are my recommendations on how to cut threw the noise.

  1. Build a marketing strategy

Be sure to include the following elements:

  • Strategy: Start with a business strategy that addresses your target customer, market, technology and business needs
  • Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs (both stated and unstated) better than the available alternatives
  • Target audience: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers – who they are, what they need and want, and how you can best provide value
  • Competitive and market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors
  • Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences – customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others
  • Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide so as to generate demand
  • Sales and distribution channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful
  • Operations: Deliver, track, and analyze your marketing efforts to understand what’s working and where changes should be made
  1. Think digital

If you’re not thinking digital first, you’re already behind. Be able to develop and deliver targeted digital campaigns that will provide an increased return on investment (ROI). Measure and track your digital marketing and make executable improvements, while focusing on lead generation.

  1. Create alignment

Marketing will succeed or fail based on your planning and execution. Alignment along internal and external stakeholders will increase the performance (and results) of your marketing strategies. Even some of the most creative marketing initiatives can fall flat if you don’t have alignment.

Have consultative and collaborate conversations between marketing team members and business stakeholders to create alignment. Review to make sure you have the resources (and budget) available to execute your strategy. Great marketing initiatives fall short if they are not provided sufficient resources. Have you thought about the technology required to execute your strategy? You need to. Exploring opportunities here also aligns with executing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Marketing needs to have a strategy is you want to successfully cut through the noise and have a valuable impact in the market place.

4 Ways to Make Social Media Marketing Easy

A few years ago businesses weren’t exactly convinced that they should be spending time on social media. In 2015 there’s no denying that social media must be considered part of your marketing strategy. Getting started on social media may seem complicated, difficult or confusing, however these 5 tips should help make it more manageable.

  1. Be Simple

Don’t sign up for every social media account. You should research and be selective on which accounts you start. This way you can focus your time and effort creating a strong social media presence on a channel that resonates with your company. The more accounts you have to manage, the more your time will be divided, and the more likely it is you’ll do a poor job across the board. You might also want to reserve your brand name on the major social networking sites, even if you don’t plan to use it. Choose 2 or 3 sites where you feel you’ll get the largest return on your investment. Be sure to select the networks where your customers spend the most time or where they engage the most.

  1. Schedule

You don’t need to spend hours everyday on social media. Be efficient and schedule content in advance. Commit to a few hours a week (actually put it in your calendar) to draft new content and source valuable content to share. Leverage tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule updates to multiple profiles in one place.

  1. Integrate

If you want to see results, then you need to integrate. Make sure you’ve integrated your social media plan with your marketing strategy. This means integrating into your brand, messaging, campaigns, cross-channel marketing, advertising, content strategy and much more. Finally, link your profiles to your website, digital properties, customer relationship management (CRM) system. You can also cross purpose content across platforms.

  1. Monitor

Monitor brand, industry and competitor mentioned. Social media provides a unique opportunity to stay connected to content and opinions that are important to your target audience. Be sure to monitor any reviews or mentioned of your business. Paying attention will provide you with opportunities to join into the conversation, provide a point of view and hopefully some value. Use monitoring tools to track any mention of your company, brand social media handles as well as keywords related to your target audience. Monitoring will also provide you with the ability to adjust your strategy and implement improvements.

If you plan out your approach to social media it will be less daunting. Stick with it and you will see results from your effort.

5 Things to Consider Before You Start Marketing (or Advertising)

Marketing and advertising isn’t easy and it usually isn’t cheap. While you can find cost effective tactics you there are 5 things to consider before you start marketing.

  1. Set Objectives & Benchmarks

You need to know what your objectives are and what benchmarks (if reached) will make your marketing tactics or campaigns successful. This can include impressions, visitors, clicks, leads, conversions, cost per lead/conversion, etc. Knowing the specific results you want from each campaign will allow you to take the guesswork or emotion out of your decisions and invest in what marketing tactics perform.

  1. Align Marketing with Sales 

Before you start advertising, think about who, what, where, when and how you generate a sale. This will determine when and where you want to advertise. Without alignment, you won’t generate any revenue or return on your marketing investment. You should also think about capacity and inventory. You don’t want to advertise unless you can deliver.

Consider these questions and they will help you determine the appropriate marketing medium mix:

  • How many calls, leads and emails can me (or my team) effectively handle in a day/week/month?
  • How do you handle each incoming lead?
  • Do you make outbound phone calls?
  • Have you conducted sales training?
  • When do you receive the most leads or sales?
  • Is there seasonality to be considered?
  • What marketing mediums generate the highest quality of leads?
  • Who converts the most leads and where do they come from?
  1. Plan Your Messaging & Creative

Marketing performs best when you provide value and are focused around solving an issue or a need. Your creative and messaging should focus around your customers. Don’t hard sell or only talk about yourself. Create benefit-worthy messaging to help increase the results of your marketing.

Consider these questions when planning your messaging or creative:

  • What key issues are important to them?
  • Is there a point of view to consider or address?
  • What emotions or feelings do they experience before, during and after converting from a lead to client?
  • Can you provide unique value?
  • Is there a competitive position to take?
  1. Find the Best Marketing Mix

Consider a variety of marketing strategies and tactics. This includes local advertising (TV, radio), outdoor (billboards, transit), direct marketing, digital (display, PPC, SEM), social media, mobile, etc.

Marketing Strategies to Consider:

  • Radio works well in commuter markets from 6 AM to 6 PM. It requires very little production cost, and you can change your message in hours
  • TV works well in the evening (7 PM to 12 PM) and can provide increased emotional branding, however production costs are quite high
  • Outdoor advertising works well when generating local brand awareness, however you need to be in market for a few months to generate results
  • Direct mail works if you have a small area to target and you can create something that will stand out in the mail
  • Digital marketing can be cost effective, flexible, and highly measurable/trackable
  • Social media is an important tactic, which will help drive awareness, leads, and prospects to your business
  • Everyone is spending more time on his or her mobile devices, so don’t forget about that medium
  1. Implement, Test & Measure

Testing will help you improve and fine-tune your marketing efforts. Think about this before you launch a campaign to so you track it and measure results. Review monthly or quarterly and decide if you need to end the campaign, renew, refine, etc.

7 Tips to Set-Up and Optimize You Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaign

Looking for ways to make your advertising budget work? Think about running a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. These campaigns will show up in search engine search results when your potential customers search for keywords associated with your business.

You only pay for clicks on your ad and you can easily track how well your campaign is doing in attracting new customers to your company’s website. Then you can adjust your campaign to maximize your return on investment (ROI). Here are 7 tips to set up and optimize your PPC campaign.

1. Choose Your Keywords

Create a list of 20-50 keywords that relate to your company. From this list, use these keywords in your static (webpage pages that don’t change) and dynamic (e.g. blogs, videos, etc.) content so you will rank higher when prospective customers search for those terms. You do have to remember that you’re competing against other companies in your industry for these keywords so avoid generic terms and invest in terms and phrases that will differentiate yourself. You can use free keyword tools from Google to help with this as well.

2. Set Your Monthly Budget

Decide on the maximum amount you will pay each month for click-throughs to your website. Once that amount is reached, your ad will stop appearing. For example, if you pay $0.50 per word and select a budget of $500, your ad will run for 1,000 click-throughs.

3. Place A Bid

When you bid through an auction on keywords, remember that pricing is driven by supply and demand. Popular keywords cost more and that’s why you need to focus on what differentiates you from your competitors when selecting your words.

4. Align Your Landing Page With Your PPC Ads

To increase your quality score (the score Google gives your ads) and to keep the user experience consistent. Your goal is to turn website visitors into customers, so make sure your site is aligned with your PPC ad creative. The landing page should have the same offer as your ad and be clear, compelling and differentiated from your competitors.

5. Target Your Audience 

You can target your ads to potential customers in specific geographic locations. This will help you geo-target your ads around your service locations and customize your creative. Local campaigns perform best.

6. Analyze Your Results 

Major search engines provide analytics and reports that tell you how well your ads are working and how you could improve your campaign(s). Monitor how many clicks you have earned as well as data about your visitors, including their geographic location. Above all, keep a close eye on your conversion rate. A conversion is a click-through that results in an action such as a sale or a request for information. Tracking your conversion rate allows you to determine your return on investment (ROI).

7. Learn & Adjust 

As you track your results, try using different keyword combinations, starting new campaigns, changing creative, adjusting ad copy or targeting different locations, to see what works best.