Not all clients are right for you

Not all clients are right for you

What, people who pay me money aren’t necessarily right for me? Surely not.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that our business doesn’t suit everyone and everyone doesn’t suit our business. The problem I have is that as someone who has a fairly high need for approval (I like to be liked), I’m first to jump into situations I feel need saving and while good at this, its not always the right thing to do. 

Customers, clients, people who aren’t right for your business cost you money, time, stress and the opportunity cost of doing better business. The question is can you recognise when to lay your hand down? Can you work out when someone elses pair just made a set on the flop to your pair of Aces? 

So why wouldn’t someone be right for your business? Ultimately it comes down to mis-aligned expectations. Usually these revolve around money, service and process in the business to business world. For example a client who wants everything for nothing is not a good match for us. A client that doesn’t want to work in partnership but wants to dictate the relationship isn’t a good match for us either. Recognising these traits early can save thousands of pounds. 

When you know the attributes of your ‘on-profile’ client type you can seek these people out and attract them to you. For more about Inbound Marketing Persona’s and Inbound Marketing check out this video I did a few months ago. 

In summary then, I’d strongly suggest spending some time thinking about what makes your perfect client and building your inbound personas. If difficult situations arise and you need to make tough calls for your business you’ll be armed with facts on whether someone is worth fighting for or not. 

While its hard to turn away business and especially hard to put business down that’s already been won, when it turns sour, sometimes its the right thing to do for all parties. 

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you been in a position where you’ve said no to business or where you’ve stopped working with someone who wasn’t right for you? 
  • Have you worked on your Inbound Marketing Personas? Do you know who your ideal client is? 

Image courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julierohloff/ 

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Digital Marketing Tips for 2014

Afternoon all. I trust you all had a fantastic start to the year? I’m sure, being driven people, that your goals are set, you know what you want to achieve in 2014 and now its just a case of making it happen.

As the owner of a digital agency in Exeter I want to cover a few ideas for things you should look to implement within your digital strategy this year. If you take on board just a couple of these you’ll be ahead of the majority of the crowd. I know you guys are always looking for the edge, so please enjoy.

Explore the world of Conversion Optimisation (CRO/Split Testing)
Offering up different versions of the same page on your website in order to see which converts the most is an extremely valuable technique to master. Even if you don’t sell online (where huge returns on investment can be seen), you should split test any enquiry forms on your site. Get your agency to do this for you and work with them on the results.

Start practicing Inbound Marketing
Another big trend for the year will see the tracking of customers through your websites, taking a look at what they are downloading, where they spend time and mashing that all up with their social profiles and historic browsing history so you can personalise their journey. Check out industry leaders like Hubspot and Pardot.

Ramp up your Content Marketing..but make it worthwhile
Content marketing is still an important part of your digital strategy and should fuel your Inbound Marketing funnel but it needs to be good. Theres too much content in this world so make sure what you create is better than everyone else in your market. Aim for things that are shareable through social media. Video, best practice guides and content which anticipates and answers your prospects questions should all feature highly.

Setup Email Autoresponders
Its a simple, yet quick win. By linking your website up to a decent email marketing system (MailChimp, OptixMail, Constant Contact etc) you can set a series of automated emails to go out when someone fills out an enquiry form. These are called autoresponders and go out at pre-defined time periods. Obviously you don’t want to spam people but a casual thank you email followed by a top tips email a week later might go down well and make you look switched on.

Get your social policies and strategy in place.
If you don’t want to fall into the same trap as the University Professor who tweeted about Obese doctors last year then make sure your team know what’s expected of them when interacting online. Social provides huge opportunities for your business but its your responsibility to make sure your team know the boundaries.

Fire up your digital presence, enjoy your 2014 and let me know when you get some significant wins.

Oh and Happy Easter :)

Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/jefthomas/ 

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

–Update to Post Mar 2014–

For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.

The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.

Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.

As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?

If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?

p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months

 

 

 

 

 

For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. 

8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

Some of you might be wondering why I’m writing about email marketing today – it’s old hat isn’t it? With all this new social media buzz, there is surely no place in the world for email marketing is there? Well I believe there is and I intend to tell you why and how you can use it to grow your client base today.

Let’s settle one thing quickly – if you’re reading this, thinking about buying a database from someone on a street corner (or even  a more reputable source) then this article probably isn’t for you. I’m focusing today on using your own valuable data, built up over years possibly.

I want to start with a story. About a year ago a guy approached Optix having met me 6 years ago at a networking event. I’d agreed with him to receive the Optix newsletter and we both went our separate ways. Optix kept in touch with him by way of our monthly newsletter and recently he became one of our largest clients. He’d watched the business grow and liked what he’d seen.

Here are a few sure fire ways to use email marketing to help your business grow:

1). All about the data – A good email marketing campaign revolves around good data. Make sure yours is clean or you’ll just be throwing money away.

2). Build your data – what can you give away to build a database of leads/contacts/prospects? This year we launched our free social media policy generator: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/free-social-media-policy-generator/ – A tool of real value which also helps us build leads – true ‘Inbound Marketing’.

3). Split Test your email subject lines – A good email marketing system will split test campaigns for you. It will take 50% of your database and send two different subject lines, content variants or from names and then track the most successful delivery rate, then send the winner to the other 50% – using this will give you better open and click through rates.

4). Spam & Client Testing – Emails show up differently in different email clients. Now email is consumed more and more on mobile devices you need to make sure your email is designed and developed for all these variants. This again is something a good system should be able to do for you. If not, make sure you ask your designers to consider this.

5). Deal with bounces – If an email bounces (doesn’t reach its destination) it can be for a couple of reasons. A soft bounce may infer a problem with the routing of an email to someones email box/server and is likely to be ok next time round. A hard bounce means that email doesn’t exist any longer and should be cleaned from the database – no point spending money on people that won’t ever answer!

6). Use Autoresponders – When you signup to something on a site have you ever received an email a few days later which follows it up…and then again a week or so after that? You’re part of an autoresponder system. Clever marketers know that it takes a few ‘touches’ to get to a sale but tracking and sending emails to everyone that signs up with your site manually would be far too inefficient to deal with so autoresponders help to do this for you. Used cleverly, these are extremely powerful tools

7). Segment your data – If you’re blasting everyone in your database in one go you’re probably not getting the most from it. Segment your data into interests/purchases made if you’re running an ecommerce shop or even simple things like male/female if this makes a difference to your customer. For example, I’m not hugely interested in the latest dresses from Reiss (a favourite shop of mine) but they don’t send me that because I’m segmented in their database.

8). Tie into your Social Profiles – If you have a fantastic Facebook page and a tremendous Twitter presence then make the most of them. Ask people to sign up for your updates – if you don’t ask you don’t get after all. Don’t bombard them but a few calls to action every now and again is fine.

It’s time to get clever with your email marketing – it’s still one of the most powerful tools in the online marketing toolbox.

Oh and if you’re looking for a provider, we have our own that you can find out more about over at http://www.envirosend.co.uk

Image courtesy Ramberg Media Images

Now Your Thoughts

  • What’s worked or not worked for you when you’ve marketed by email?
  • Got any tips for the other readers?

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How are you generating leads for your business? Is it hard work? Lots of networking and meetings right? Would you rather be ‘found‘ by potential customers? Well that’s where the practice of inbound marketing can be very useful. Hubspot in the US were the company to coin this term and their website is a perfect example of how to practice lead generation. In fact, they now get over 27k leads a month because they are so successful at this. Guess what, it’s not that hard to do in your business – In this article I’m going to teach you how.

At Optix, we practice Inbound Marketing but on a much smaller scale. I’m going to take you through a recent example which I hope will get you thinking about your own business and how you could do something similar.

We’ve been writing social media policies for clients for some time now. We decided to release a free ‘cut-down’ version of a policy which anyone can download and use. All we ask is that the user gives us their name, company name and email address. We also ask a couple of basic questions about the companies use of Social Media. The website then builds the policy on the fly and emails it to the user. Within the first month of this going live two amazing things had happened:

Over 50 companies downloaded the policy and gave us their details – all leads for my sales team.

We started to appear within the first 5 results of Google (They are very good at finding useful sites) for some really key terms like:

So how can you do this in your business? Here are three easy steps:

1). Consider what you can give away of value online. Can you create an ebook or a whitepaper or could you even do what we did and create a tool of value? Try and think ‘out of the box’ – don’t talk about yourself or your product directly, think about something of real use to your potential customers.

2). Put this on your website on a ‘landing page’ dedicated to that content and ask the user for some basic details in return for access to this valuable content – ideally if you can, blog about it and spread it using social media platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedIn.

3). Work out a ‘multi-touch’ (different ways of talking to the prospect – i.e email, phone, meeting – I’ll credit Scott Gould and Kristen Sousa for that one :)) plan for keeping in contact with the users who download it. Consider auto-responders if you don’t have much resource in terms of sales teams.

So there you have it, consider what you can create today and start to create compelling landing pages for capturing the details.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Can you share examples of where you’ve seen other companies do this. We can all do with inspiration :)
  • Have you dabbled with this type of marketing before? Let’s hear your thoughts.

7 Things That Changed My Life This Year

7 Things That Changed My Life This Year

So it’s that time of year again folks – The snow has rolled in and rolled out again and a new year is round the corner. I can’t believe it was a year ago I wrote my round up post for 2009! For those of you who missed it, I write a summary post each year on the things that changed my life for the better. I hope that in amongst the points, there will be some that you can use to improve your own life for the better, after all this blog is about you guys, not me.

Here’s 2010 coming up.

1) Stephen Coveys Book - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (aff link)
This book has been around for years and I’ve had it on my ‘to read’ list for some time now. I finally got around to reading it this month and I have to say, of all the business books I’ve read (and I read quite a lot), this one is awesome – a real ‘lightbulb moment’ read. In fact, I felt it was so important, that after reading it, I emailed my staff and offered to buy a copy personally for anyone who wanted to read it. I can’t possibly summarise the whole thing here, but if building your business and relationships is important to you then don’t question it, buy it today (It’s like £7 so don’t hang around) and let me know how you get on.

2). YourJobsBoard - http://www.yourjobsboard.co.uk/exeter/
As a bit of a serial entrepreneur I came up with a new business venture this year which aims to change the face of local recruitment. The search engines are going local – You’ll have probably noticed that Google Places is far more prominent (thats the map and pinpoints) and smart phones can geo-locate you (find out where you are) easily in an attempt to offer up content that’s relevant to your area. For this reason, we have built a truly local Jobsite for our town of Exeter. This aims to take on the faceless national jobsites and provide good quality content for the Exeter area. It focuses on the strong links we have with institutions in the area including Exeter University, Exeter Council, Connexions and all the local recruiters and companies looking to advertise their jobs cost effectively. If you’re based in Exeter then make sure you get your jobs on the site asap as it’s currently free for companies to post. Charities will always be able to post their jobs for free.

3). Sandler Training
There is always room to improve. The top athletes in the world have coaches so there should be no pride lost in business coaching of any kind. This year we made the jump and I enrolled on the Sandler Sales Management course. Having started my business at the age of 19 and 11 years on finding myself in charge of more than 10 staff, I’ll openly admit that management was not my strong point. I recognised that, so wanted to better myself. I’m now working with a guy called Andy McCreadie in Exeter on a monthly basis, specifically in sales training and sales management. I’ve learnt so much in the few months I’ve been working with Andy, most noticeably about finding the right clients, qualifying, saying no, shortening our sales cycle and understanding that behaviours drive targets, not the other way around. Sandler offer sales training and management courses all over the world. If you are starting a business yourself or even a few years down the line then I can thoroughly recommend the Sandler guys. If you’re in the Westcountry then let me know if you’re interested in meeting Andy and I’ll set it up for you.

4). My MacBook Pro
I can’t say much more than I’ll never go back to a non apple laptop. Nuff Said! Check out their online store for the latest products.

5). Inbound Marketing Practices
I started practicing true ‘Inbound Marketing’ properly this year, having been dabbling the year before. If you’re unfamiliar with the term it’s essentially where you give value away in return for peoples details (which become leads). You entice people to you by proving your credibility and authority. This year we launched two pieces of fantastic Inbound Marketing Collateral. The first was our social media survey. After 6 or so months of surveying businesses, we collated and crunched the data we had and spent quite a bit of money on producing a glossy 32 page booklet displaying the results which we have been giving away freely in both hard copy format to local businesses and online to anyone who wishes to view the information. We also produced a tool for creating a free social media policy you can give to your staff. We simply ask for details of people who download it in return for the document which we brand up with their logo and company details. Since launching this just a few weeks ago and without much marketing, we’ve had over 50 companies use the policy – all bona fide leads for my business. Think what you can give away today in order to build leads.

6). Travelling on Trains rather than Driving

I used to drive everywhere. I love driving. It’s my favourite. However, when I realised how much time I was spending in a car and not able to work, it frightened me. I now travel by train whenever possible and if its at a weekend then the 1st class upgrade is well worth it at anywhere between £5 and £20 extra a journey. This might sound obvious for the train crew already but Im sure there are other people out there with businesses not realising quite how much you can do if you turn to train travel.

7). Lizz
Ok so I included Lizz last year (my girlfriend for those of you who don’t know) but she is so important to my life that I need to include her again. All I’ll say this year, is that once again, I recognised on a few occasions how important it is to have a strong support network behind you when the chips are down. I had a great year in 2010 but we all have off days and sometimes it can get quite stressful. When that happens to me, Lizz is always there for me. Thank you Lizz x

Now Your Thoughts

  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2010?

To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

At Optix we regularly consult on Blogging and help people get setup on the right platforms. We give them tips and advice and away they go. So the question is, should you blog and what benefits will it give you?

If you’re a business owner/startup, a great blog can do a number of key things for you:

>> Position you as an authority in your industry
>> Show you are credible (if you keep it up and have great content)
>> Help you with the practice of ‘Inbound Marketing’ – I’ll explain this below
>> Allows you to build a follower/fan base/database of emails
>> Has huge benefits with the Search Engines – Google loves blogs

I just want to focus today on two of these points, that of Inbound Marketing and the Search Engines.

If you’re going to blog you might need to change your mindset in terms of it’s marketing worth. Blogging is not something that happens overnight. You need to be prepared to blog regularly (I try once a week but if I miss that people notice!) so make sure you can set aside time. Don’t expect to get something from every post, this is a long term strategy. You’re building a base, a home for your material. The concept of inbound marketing is quite simple, give away value to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about and people will come to you. When they respect you and see you as a trust agent you will find people want to use your service. You’ll also find that by increasing your authority, you’re able to increase your pricing. The better you are known and respected, the easier it will be for you to charge a premium.

But here’s my caveat – If you’re going to blog, you need to give it your all. Write every post with passion as it won’t take much for people to turn off…

My second point refers to that of the search engines. There was a time when we were telling clients that their sites will take weeks or months to get listed in search engines. Due to the way blogs work and are built, this time period has been shortened massively. There are still a number of things that stand in the way of your blog and the hallowed first page of Google but the time taken to index a new post can be days rather than weeks. Throw in a bit of search engine optimisation knowledge and away you go, on your journey to real results. :)

So the question for me is not really whether to blog or not to blog, it’s when are you going to start? Oh and by the way, the guys at Optix can help you with that – check out the details here (shameless plug)

So how are you getting on with blogging? Have you started? Is it helping your business? Are you scared of starting?