Tag Archives: networking

Nicola Peaty

How to market small businesses on a budget.

By Nicola Peaty

budget recession, deficitGone are the days of expensive advertising and glossy brochures for most marketing budgets. The positive spin is that we have been forced to think cleverly about how to target customers which can then produce more effective results and without incurring large invoices. Quite often it is the time, thought and effort that is more important than the amount of money spent.

Below are our suggestions for low cost marketing ideas which can be selected according to your specific needs or as a collective campaign.

1. Content. What else? We’ve discussed and explained the benefits of content in our other blogs. Quite simply, it can be free if you or a colleague can write content and it can give customers so much added value and position you as the expert in your field. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/how-to-write-content-for-your-audience/

2. Social media. No surprise. Again if you’re in charge then it’s your time and no cost. Try to co-ordinate across the various platforms and encourage your biggest ‘fans’ to share and interact. See our related blogs on the various social media platforms; http://www.vgandassociates.com/facebook-as-a-marketing-tool-for-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/the-dos-and-donts-when-using-linkedin-to-market-your-business/     http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-to-use-twitter-for-your-business/    http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-on-how-pinterest-can-work-for-your-business/

3. Website. To be honest, any business these days can’t really exist without a website. It’s the first place people go to check out your ‘existence’ and credibility. All social media should link back to the website and your content updated to give Google fresh ammunition to drive traffic to your site. But it does not have to cost the earth. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make sure your proposition is understood and obvious. Good clear branding is essential so that customers know and remember you. Include clear calls to action and a response mechanism. Then you’re good to go. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/creating-an-effective-website/

4. Video. You don’t have to be Stephen Spielberg (or have his budget) to produce something which conveys your message in a simple but effective video. People are visual and love watching and listening more than reading copious amounts of words, so keep it short, to the point and interesting. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/using-video-for-marketing/

5. Infographics. Depending on your design capability as to whether you pay for these or not, infographics are so useful when communicating key points and messages to your audience. Whether it’s a specific explanation about something technical or an overview of a product, they help convey visually so customers understand quickly what you are aiming to put across. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/infographics-explained-with-a-little-help-from-some-infographics/

6. Database. Make sure that you have all your contact data in order so that it’s in the most effective state for your target marketing. If you have missing data, then fill in the gaps. Analyse the data so that you know exactly who are your most lucrative customers and who are your hottest leads. With your database ready to go, then you are in a much better position to ‘hit’ the right people with the right message.

7. Loyalty. If you find out from your database that you have a selection of loyal customers, then consider reward schemes and loyalty cards. Also, tap into these loyal customers to refer friends and give testimonials. You can even use them as successful case studies to demonstrate how your company works and get good results.

8. Networking. Mingle with the right people at the right events and it could be worth your while. Know who you want to meet and what you want to say before you go along or it could be a total waste of time. Be prepared with business cards and make sure you collect cards from useful contacts and then follow them up post event. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-for-successful-networking/

9. Host your own event. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate as long as the purpose and/or content pulls people in. Seminars with good content and no oversell will position you well. Customers are more likely to come for the content and as a result follow up with enquiries.

10. Email marketing. As long as your database is complete and up-to-date, then email marketing can be low cost and effective. Targeting the right customers or leads with the relevant message will produce the best results. Email can be used for promotions, feedback, competitions and even surveys. Design and delivery is dependent on your in-house capability and resource but in no way has to be expensive if you need to outsource. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/common-email-marketing-mistakes/

11. PR. Write a press release about your business or product/service, giving it as much unique individuality and then circulate to all local media. You never know you could strike lucky and one of the local press or websites will choose it as it relates to other content or they are in need of some local business information and news. Or, offer to write for a trade magazine or website that relates to your business giving your expert view, opinion or market update. This will certainly give you credibility and exposure. See our related blog: http://www.vgandassociates.com/top-tips-writing-a-press-release/

12. Related partnerships. Working with complimentary and non-competitive companies can have a mutual benefit. It gives you exposure to other customers and allows cross-promotion. By each company referring the other, you can only stand as a win win.

13. Business cards. We may no longer need glossy brochures and can afford elaborate literature, but the basic business card is one essential that any company still needs. They are functional and can be distributed throughout your company to give out to useful contacts in the field. Make sure they are fit for purpose, include all important details including website/contact numbers and have clear branding with strapline if applicable. Don’t overcrowd the card. If you have more information to include, then you may require a postcard or flyer to supplement the card.

14. Go local. Maximise what is on your doorstep. Use your local community and contacts. Do you have local social media and press you can use to promote your company? Are there local events, trade fairs, community gatherings and business groups you can tap into and take a stand or just network? Consider where your target customers may go in and around the area and hand out flyers in these places for them to find and pick up such as shopping centres, the library, leisure centres etc.

15. Try before you buy. Some people just need a little trial or taster before they commit to a purchase. An easy idea is to offer a small freebie or discount coupon. Everyone likes a bargain and if it persuades the customer and as a result they like your product, then you may have a new sale.

Nicola Peaty

Top tips for successful networking

By Nicola Peaty

Networking groups have become increasingly popular and readily available in recent years. If used effectively, they can be a great way to meet contacts that can either help your business or become potential clients.





Here are some top tips in how to make the most of networking groups:
1. Decide which groups are best suited to your needs. Before you turn up at each and every group going in your area, make sure you know the type of people attending the groups. There are some specific to just business women, some just for a local town, some for selected industries, and some for start-up businesses. So it’s important to chose the ones which closely match you and your company.
2. Know why you are going. This possibly sounds a bit strange but you must know why you are attending so that you come across as focussed and with clear business intentions. Is your goal to generate a specific business link to help a particular part of your company? Or, are you purely marketing yourself and raising brand awareness? Whatever your goal, be prepared and stay with your intended purpose.
3. Have a clear message. Once engaged in conversation, it’s so much more professional to convey your purpose if it is thought through. Waffling will get you nowhere and it doesn’t reflect well on you or your company.
4. Listen as well as you speak. All attendees will be there to communicate their intentions. It’s important to listen to others in order to properly engage and ascertain whether they are of any interest. Do not go round like a walking advert announcing the wonders of your company without giving others a chance to talk.
5. Ask relevant questions. A clever line of questioning will allow you to dig a bit and find out potential useful connections. Avoid closed answers questions which give you a yes or no and ask open-ended questions which stimulates more conversation.
6. Give some free advice. If the opportunity arises in your discussions where you are able to impart snippets of useful business information that could help your contact, then that will show your expertise and how your company could be of use to their company, without any overt selling.
7. Be genuine. People buy people and first impressions matter. So make sure your manner is friendly, calm and professional. This will immediately put the other person at ease and allow the conversation to begin much more easily.
8. Move on politely. Let’s face it everyone at the networking group wants to get the most out of it, so if it becomes quite clear in any discussions with new contacts that there is little potential or relevance between you, then it is perfectly acceptable to politely end the conversation and move on.
9. Follow up with contacts. If you manage to make some useful connections at the groups, then don’t wait too long before you follow up and make the next contact with them. This is especially true if you at any point, mentioned you would send them details or call them for a specific purpose.
10. Convert contacts into database and LinkedIn. Post event, make sure you make use of the business cards you collected by entering details into your contact database with relevant notes attached. Plus, if applicable, link in on social media such as LinkedIn and invite contacts to like your social media pages.