SME Marketing - how are smaller businesses doing it?

  • by Alex Gates
  • 26 Apr, 2017

Find out how small to medium sized businesses approach their marketing and tips on how to improve on these.

by Alex Gates 02 Oct, 2017
by Alex Gates 20 Aug, 2017

As a business, you simply can't afford to stand still. Technology is moving at such a pace that this can have a huge impact on your product/service and what you are offering and how you promote it.  In general, people are becoming so much more technically savvy. Information is so readily available online on what your product or service offers to your customers and it's so easy for them to compare to find out if there are more accessible and cheaper alternatives.

If you are not on top of innovation - this will eat away into your market share.  Whether you think your competitor's offering is right or not for your customers - it will not doubt be turning their heads and the only way you can overcome this is by demonstrating innovation yourself! 

Always stay ahead of the game, don't be too complacent or arrogant to think that your product or service should stand still as this is what your business is about.

Put in place a plan to continue to evolve and push boundaries. What you offered as a business 5-10 years ago may have to be something totally different now if you are serious about growth and/or surviving.

Research with your customers is of course absolutely vital to help identify trends, needs and issues they have. But with innovation and identification of future products and services .... approach has to be quite different;

"It is not the customer's job to know what they want." 
Steve Jobs


If you feel that your competitors are offering a similar product/service at a cheaper rate then they will no doubt be causing a stir in your market!

However, it's not necessarily that black and white. You may be losing market share to what is perceived as a cheaper alternative but there is so much more that needs to be taken into consideration.

For example, a cheaper alternative may be attractive and grab attention and market entry initially, but this may be a marketing technique to gain market share quickly and gain a high value customer interface -  with a view to offer higher quality products and services after the on-boarding period. 

This is a pricing strategy used more frequently across the service industry. Think about how you can you use pricing to attract market share without damaging your positioning.


Consistent communication with customers and prospective buyers is key. Businesses who invest in consistent direct marketing show higher customer retention and increased sales from their customers. It's a fact that you can't escape. 

If your competitors are growing in sales, it's very likely that they have invested time, energy and budget into communicating with their target audience (customers and prospects) on a regular basis. Have you?

Online presence

Having an online presence is key. Any successful business will have an online presence using the right channels. If your competitor is increasing market share and you feel like you are missing out, then this  could be due to them having a website in place that works very hard to attract traffic. Their site will more than likely engage effectively with any traffic it does receive and will be smart in the conversion to turn a high percentage of their visitors into leads and sales.

If you are feeling that your competitors are better at this - then a website audit  would be advisable. This will give you insight to where you need to enhance your site to help with an increase in organic searches, engagement and conversions.

On top of this an online strategy to help attract the traffic to your site via social media, PR and advertising will also help to gain back your competitive advantage.

Customer confidence

You may well win the business, but if you haven't the ability to sustain your customers due to lack of attention and poor quality service, then you will lose out on repeat and referral business.

I'm sure you have heard that the cost of attracting new business is much higher than the cost of maintaining and selling to existing customers?

Gaining confidence with new business takes much more time, resource and budget -  if you are finding your competitors are gaining market share - it could it be that they have developed great relationships with their customers through various means - such as quality customer care, regular direct marketing ,  open feedback, account management and a referral system.

Yes your existing customers are happy, or why else would they stay?  But if you are finding your competitors are growing - maybe you should be asking your lost customers why they have moved on?

If you are feeling your competitors are doing better than you,  contact us today for help and advice.  

by Alex Gates 09 Aug, 2017
If you want to grow - you need good marketing and with this there is of course a cost. But don't let this put you off! There is funding available!

Thanks to the North East Business Support Fund, if you are a business that is based in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear or County Durham with plans to grow turnover and/or employ more staff, you may be able to access funding.

The application process is really simple and you could get up to £2,800 back from your spend. 

A lot of our clients have already benefited from this fantastic opportunity and are well underway with their new marketing strategies.

Contact us today to book an appointment to talk through your marketing needs.

by Alex Gates 30 Jul, 2017
With so many specialists, experts and agencies out there to choose from - what help is actually best for you?

Well it all depends on your business. If you have the internal resource, the skill and what the key objectives are in your business and marketing.

But here is a start to help you - a quick guide to the types of marketing help that is available and what to look out for:

The Creative Agency
They will typically have an 'account manager',  'creative director' and  a team of  graphic designers working for them.  Their key offering is design of marketing collateral such as brochures, annual reports, exhibition material and stationary. Most have ventured into the digital marketing place now, offering website design and other online solutions

The creative agency should always be given guidance on your marketing objectives - they typically prefer to be given a design brief from someone who has a background in marketing to turn ideas into an output. A creative agency should act on your instruction and should not be instructing you.

The Advertising Agency
Typically the Ad agency works with organisations with larger budgets, similar to the creative agency they will have an account manager who will be assigned to your project.

Great advertising usually requires a good sized budget to gain a decent return. A one off ad in the local rag or trade press usually won't generate much so beware of any sales agents that pester you to place an ad quickly for a reduced price!

A great advertising agency will look at the profile of your buyers and design the right type of material, punchy messaging, look at timing and use the right mix of channels to reach them (such as TV/Radio, outdoor media, social media and online space).

The Digital Agency
There are many creative agencies who have claimed to move into the digital world, but be very aware that there are various levels of skills and knowledge in the digital space.  

For example some agencies claim to be a digital agency simply by offering to build websites. However some of these organisations only offer sites that are simplistic standard templated Wordpress sites with little technical input to aid your marketing.

A true digital agency will have in depth technical knowledge and offer a range of solutions to build a great on-line marketing solution for your business. However,  you may not need a built from scratch 'Rolls Royce' digital solution for your business. There are lots of solutions that are readily available online with little technical input!

This all should be considered before commissioning any agency.

The SEO Agency
There is sometimes a cross over with the digital agency, but their main offering will be to get your website on page 1 of various search engines using search engine optimisation tactics.

Be wary of some who offer retainer packages and confuse you with technical jargon and offer flakey reporting. The likes of Google has changed drastically, and to gain high rankings that actually lead to sales conversions is not just a technical skill, it's also a marketing skill around delivering regular content online and ensuring your site supports conversions.

A great SEO agency will be transparent and be able to talk on your level so that you know exactly what you are paying for and what return your money is generating.

The PR Agency
A PR agency will help raise your profile and brand awareness usually via media.

The beauty of the PR agency is the connections to the press and journalists that they have built up throughout the years, resulting in more column inches.

PR is a very important part of the marketing mix, but must not be seen as a lead generator on its own, which is a common mistake that the non marketer can make. 

The Telemarketing Company
With certain online experts shouting that it's all about attraction/inbound marketing and that the buyer searches for your solution meaning outbound calling is now useless, more and more businesses are dropping this tactic.

However a great telemarketer still has an important role to play in generating business in some sectors, particularly for the business that sells to other businesses (B2B).

Telemarketing is certainly not dead, it just needs to be considered much more carefully. It simply shouldn't be used alone, it's vital that an organisation has a great message to convey and carries out a range of direct marketing and other tactics to support this to generate the best return.

The Social Media Expert
Social media is a vital channel for marketing - whether you like it or not!

A good social media expert should be able to coach your business on how adopt a strategy alongside all of your marketing to support brand awareness and engage with buyers and encourage participation, not simply encourage for it to be all outsourced to them.

Same as most marketing tactics, social media can't achieve everything all alone! For example a great website should be the hub for all activity to point to and have the ability to convert visitors into leads/sales.

The Marketing Consultant
Consultants can command anything from £300 - £1,000 per day.

A great marketing consultant will have the ability to devise a high level strategy AND know how this can be delivered.

Be wary of a 'blue sky thinker' stuck in the dark ages who struggles to advise on how you can actually action their strategy. There is no point in a £5,000 marketing strategy that your business has no idea on how to take it on and deliver it.

A marketing consultant doesn't usually get involved in the day to day delivery of marketing, so also bear that in mind!

The Full Services Marketing Agency
Marketing Wand is an example of a full services agency .

What this means is that you have one point of contact for all of your marketing.  

This is usually a better solution for a business who doesn't have a marketing expert such as a marketing manager or director, therefore requires guidance on what mix of strategies to adopt.

A full services agency will not only design the marketing strategy as a consultant would, but will also take this and deliver it integrating all activities so you get the most value from each piece of work.

This prevents duplication of effort and disjointed approaches. A full service agency will work closely with your business as a bolt on solution, be transparent and closely measure all activity and demonstrate a return.

For more advice on what is the best help for you business contact us today.

by Alex Gates 20 Jul, 2017
You've tried direct marketing, rebranding, had new leaflets printed, attempted social media, launched a website... even tried some PR.... but you're just not making the headway that you want. 

There is a strong possibility that you can't see the obvious blocks.

Yes that sounds odd, after all ... you know your business and products/services more than anyone... right?

Well that is just it. Your skills, expertise and knowledge may be the exact reason why you could be missing a huge trick.

When you become an expert in your offering, it can be very difficult to talk your customer's language. Technical speak, assumption that the customer will just get it, basing decisions on your own likes/dislikes and behaviour and general incorrect positioning of your product or service are just some of the areas where marketing becomes highly ineffective; becoming a waste of money and effort.

It is vital that your marketing is shaped around your target audience - so profiling who this is and understanding their behaviours to then develop your marketing around them will result in a much more successful return.

From what you are writing in your emails to how your website is structured could actually be turning your would be customers off as you are confusing them or not seeing it from their perspective.

To overcome this common issue, we offer a  'Sales Booster' workshop that will help you to see exactly what you need to do to boost leads and sales into the organisation.

Let us uncover the 'obvious' and help your organisation put in place the right marketing that will generate a great return.

The workshop involves a step by step process to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Identification of where it has been going wrong and how to put this right
  • A clear understanding of who your buyers are and their behaviours
  • A pathway to help would be buyers along the journey to purchase
  • Identification of the most effective marketing channels
  • Have a communication pack that is based on the language that your customers speak so that they understand your messaging quickly
  • Position your products/services so that they are much more attractive to the buyer
  • An action plan to implement and measure
Unlock your organisations potential, contact us today to find out more.
by Alex Gates 28 Jun, 2017

Every day businesses, particularly SMEs who don't have a marketing expert on their team, are wasting valuable budget on poor marketing choices, leading into a whole heap of frustrations and lack of faith in any type of marketing - often resulting in just giving up.

But don't lose faith! You have to find the right path or else your competitors will gain an advantage and your business will be missing out on so many opportunities!

If you're reading this far along - then something is resonating! So just so you know you are not alone, here are the top 5 frustrations about marketing - but more importantly guidance on how you can overcome these:

  1. Spent £Ks on PR and branding and it hasn't generated much . Well first of all you have to ask yourself, what was the key objective? For example, if your key objective is to generate new business sales leads, a bit of exposure in the local press and an update on your logo will not achieve this alone. PR and the right branding are critical in the long term strategy of building up a presence and awareness of your business and helping it to be positioned correctly. Building your hopes on the phone ringing off the hook with a few columns in the local rag or a feature in the trade press will just leave you disappointed. Short, medium and long term objectives, goals and targets should be written down - then you can choose the right marketing tactics to implement to achieve these, this will help you align what the right tactic is against each objective.
  2. Launched a new website - but where are all the leads? It's all well and good having a polished looking website - but the site has to have three key objectives a) to attract traffic b) to engage with visitors c) to convert visitors into leads/sales. Launching a site and sitting back waiting for the leads to fall in, probably won't happen. Your site has to be built with all of this in mind and to support all of your online marketing. First of all to attract traffic it has to be built so that your potential buyers can find you via search engines and social media. If they can't find you via your brand name or what you offer then you really need to address this urgently! Being found online has to be worked at constantly. You do this by having a strategy in place to generate great articles and placing yourself in the right channels and making this a habit. This is not a once a month job!
  3. Use Mailchimp? No-one ever responds? Direct marketing via e-mail isn't easy. Expectations of email marketing seem to be so high for some - but you have to consider who you're emailing. If you are contacting existing customers, then of course they will be more engaged, they know you! If your emails are to a cold list - i.e. these people don't know you - you are cluttering up their inbox along with tens of others that day. Why would they respond to you. They don't know you. To penetrate a new market you have to adopt a progressive communication plan. What this means is that you are starting off with someone who you don't know and then slowly building a relationship and trust with them via a number of channels so they turn to you when they have a need to buy. So one email once every six months won't cut it. Think of each of your prospects as needing at least eight emails over a period of time and that you are taking them on a journey. Opt in is of course always better. So direct emails should always be linked to your website and online marketing activity.
  4. Peaks and troughs of activity? Poor marketing - shoved at the end of the to-do list and picked up when sales look like they're taking a dive. This isn't uncommon. Far from it. However - if you are serious about wanting to grow your business, you have to accept that marketing can't be shoved at the bottom of the list. There is always a way around to ensure consistent marketing activity. Whether this is to carve out time and make it a priority, bring in resource or outsource the task - marketing will generate a return on investment so should not be seen as an expensive waste, it's fundamental in building and growing your business. But only if it's done the right way.
  5. Tried Social Media but it didn't achieve anything? Ok. But let us get to the bottom of why. Did you have a content plan in place to push out valuable information to attract the right audiences? Did you have fun and engaging images or video to catch the eye of anyone scrolling through their feed? Did you mix this with the right type of paid for advertising? Are you engaging two ways with people on social media? Are you doing this every day? Are you using the right hashtags, following the right people? Are you using the right channels? ...... If all you were doing was posting are promotional messages once a week - then yes social media will have failed.
So the crux of it - great marketing isn't easy. You do have to work hard at it, understand it and invest in it.

But if you do, you will get the return you desire.

Do not see marketing as an begrudging expense - view it as a necessary and lucrative investment when approached correctly.

Sound familiar? If you are wanting to grow your business and struggling, contact me us today y to discuss what options are available to you:

by Alex Gates 26 Jun, 2017
How annoying.

The PR agency that promised the world. But then.... nothing.

The website company that promised an influx of new online business leads. But then... nothing.

The freebie social media workshop that you gave up your precious time for. But then you forgot how to do it all properly... and then... nothing.

This is so very common. Millions of pounds are lost every day on missed opportunities and budget spent in the wrong places - when this could be saved - just by knowing the right way to market your business!

There are a lot of companies who prefer to manage and deliver marketing themselves. Well, it's not going to cost as much if you do DIY marketing. Right?

Well yes. But only if you know what you are doing. Otherwise - if you don't really know the right way forward you will suffer from wasted time, wasted effort and wasted budget.

Knowledge is power, and great marketing brings great results. You just need to know how to go about it all. 

So here is a solution with a difference. 

Marketing training designed for your business. Created and delivered by Marketing Experts who have successfully implemented and delivered marketing strategy for a range of businesses.

This is no ordinary training - it's not text book theory based produced for the masses. Our training is shaped around your business - bespoke to your organisation.

We will not only train you how to market - we will provide you with a marketing action plan for your business to follow and then coach your staff on the 'How to deliver it' part.

The result?

You keep your marketing costs low, you ensure you make the right marketing decisions, your employees gain professional development - but most importantly -  you will start to see the results - increased leads and opportunities flowing into your organisation.

Surely a no brainer for the organisation that wants more from their marketing? Well we think so!

Contact us today for a chat and a quote.

In the mean time here is our 3 step process to great marketing training:

by Alex Gates 21 Jun, 2017
Planning? Marketing? Strategy? Pah. Just haven't the time? Sound familiar? 

Running a business comes with all sorts of challenges - and keeping your customers happy is always going to be a priority.

But what if you are a business that wants to grow? 

Lack of marketing planning, measurement and control leads to missed opportunities and slower growth or worse - no growth at all. Which is a huge disservice to your company.

Time is of course an issue - and the smaller organisation will always struggle with this. You probably don't have a marketing manager on the team due to budget and all marketing is decided by the business owner and maybe, when they have time or when sales are down, delivered by the office junior or manager.  

But when you continue on with this approach and don't take the time to look up and around you  - your competitors will be benefiting from your missed opportunities due to your choice to not adopting a more strategic, planned and controlled way of marketing.

And this in reality -  is down to choice.

What we can't do is magic more hours for you in the day ... nor can we force your hand. But ... if you want to grow ...planning is a must.

It is a known fact that successful entrepreneurs write down what it is they need to do to get to where they want to be - and at some point in their time, they too will have felt that they 'just don't have the time'.

However the difference between them being successful and those who have limited success or worse - who have failed - is that they found the time and they committed resource and budget to the marketing of their companies.

So, you have two choices:

  1. You either make the commitment to grow and put the time, budget and resource aside to plan and deliver a marketing strategy
  2. Or, you continue to firefight and miss opportunities and stay as you are. Or worse, fail.
Sounds harsh? But that's the reality!

If you are in the former category and serious about wanting to grow your business, we have three killer high level questions that we use to form our marketing action plans:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. How are you going to get there?
Answering these questions will create the foundations of a simple and straightforward marketing plan for your business and give you the direction you need.  We aren't into 200 page marketing reports and neither should you be. They're a waste of time, money and effort for the SME. Maybe in the large corporate world they have their uses and give someone a job.  

We always keep things light and action driven. This is where you will gain the most benefit. 

Creating objectives, defining the tactics that you need to implement and then moving onto deliver these and measure them, will provide focus and lead to success. Without any strategy and simply dipping in and out of marketing when you have half an hour a month, posting the odd Tweet or sending out one customer email every six months - will not be effective - having the right approach however will pay dividends.

Investing time and effort into your marketing - will help your business to grow. It will have a return on investment

To understand where you are now, you can use internal metrics such as Google Analytics, volume of sales, leads to sales conversions, leads coming into the business and much more. You can also use external data to understand how big your market place is and how your competitors are positioning themselves and performing.

Where you want to be is often a question that surprisingly, a lot of smaller businesses haven't answered. They haven't set out specific and measurable targets for growth such as what this would been in terms of leads, website traffic, data lists and marketing effort. They continue to just float along without any targets and KPIs and then wonder why at the end of the year sales haven't increased much, at all or declined!

How you are going to get there are the choices of the marketing tactics - direct marketing, advertising, events, online marketing.... you choose the right channels for your business, how you position your offerings to the right target audience and the intensity of activity required to meet your objectives. These have to be carried out regularly and consistently in order to get the best return. 

If you haven't got this in place - do your business a favour and start asking those killer questions today - perhaps your competition have already and are mopping up all of those opportunities while you are so busy with your head down firefighting.

If you really haven't the time - why not ask us to do this for you! Contact us today  to find out more.

by Alex Gates 07 Jun, 2017

Trying to generate interest in your product or service. You send out an email to a list. And.... very little... at worst .... nothing.

You can't understand it? 

Your product/service is bloody amazing. How can they not see that buying from you is a no brainer? The cheek.

What most people don't realise is that they need to set their expectations at the right level when marketing to a new audience.

When you start up a business or launch a new product or service, there may be an influx of sales from people who know you or your business, whether it be existing customers, friends or professional contacts. But what about beyond that?

When it comes to brand new business marketing - it's a whole different ball game. You have to be smarter and much more strategic.

People are much more comfortable to part with their money with a business that they have a relationship with or trust. So you have to appreciate you need to work a little harder to convince. And one email or advert will not do it alone!

In most cases new audiences actually have to recognise their need for your offering before they will even listen to what you have to say.

You have to grow new relationships ... it's a little like dating ... you wouldn't go from a first date to marriage.... well most people wouldn't!

Consistent marketing with the right messaging will build up a relationship and trust with your business. Which does take time, effort and knowledge!

Instead of going in with one email every six months and expecting the phone to ring off the hook - leaving you disappointed - devise a plan. And stick to it!

The plan should be developed to get your audiences to recognise their need, spark an interest to know more, develop a desire to buy so their need can be met and then go in for the close.

This will take more than one email, a tweet or an article in the press.

Most people need to be touched by your business regularly and consistently before they will make a commitment to give their precious time to understand more let alone part with their cash.

Set your expectations and devise a relationship building plan. More effort? Absolutely. Worth it? Definitely.

by Alex Gates 01 Jun, 2017
Many companies fail at email marketing for a number of reasons. Time and resource is usually the two key issues. But these wouldn't be if you had faith in it? If you knew that you were going to generate sales and get a great return - you'd carve out that time to ensure it was done?

If you've tried sending out a couple of mail chimp emails and haven't had much of a return.... well it's not worth it, right?

Well actually. No, that's wrong!

When email marketing is done the right way - which means having the right tools, the right processes, integrated with all of your other marketing, the right content and consistently - the rewards email marketing brings are fantastic. It should be approached strategically not just carried out sporadically and reactively when sales are taking a dip.

With a bit of upfront investment in planning and putting in the foundations - email marketing will have a great impact on your sales.

To help you, here is an infographic that details five key tips of putting in place an email marketing strategy that will work for your business:
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