A simple plan to get you started with online marketing

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Are you curious about how to start online marketing successfully?

In this blog, Geoff Sutton gives you tips & tricks to help you start your marketing tomorrow and begin recruiting new customers.

Why Online Marketing?

As an entrepreneur you want to grow your business. You can do this by bringing in new customers or by increasing your turnover with existing customers.

The problem is that generating enough business purely through your own network is tough as it is likely to be too small.

You will have to reach the people outside your own networks. That means you have to begin marketing.

But where do you start?

By making a plan, of course, but one whose essence fits on the back of a beer mat.

In this blog, I will tell you exactly which steps you should and shouldn’t take to successfully get started.

B2B marketing, where is it going wrong?

Before I tell you where to start, let’s take a look at where not to start.

Many entrepreneurs find marketing is complicated, so go and do something on gut feeling. They get started with SEO or randomly optimising their website.

Don’t do that! You don’t know at all whether that will really help you and it’s usually wasted energy.

Start with a simple marketing plan

My advice is to not make it too difficult for yourself.

Start with a simple plan of one, at most two, A4 pages. And quantify that plan.

Record three things: what is your revenue target, how is that target divided between existing and new customers and what does your funnel look like?

By quantifying I do not mean you should state a growth percentage. Twenty per cent growth may seem like a quantified goal, but based on a percentage alone, nobody in your organisation knows what is expected of them.

You need to crystallise your plan. It starts with a monetary target. How much money do you want to realise in the next three years and what is the difference to where you are now?

Then record how you are going to fill that gap between now and then: what is, per product category, the share of cross-selling with existing customers and what is the share of new customers?

You calculate this based on your average order value. If you don’t know that because the order values differ too much, then take the average order value of your last three customers. Then you are usually heading in the right direction.

If you are curious about a detailed marketing plan to ensure that your company grows in seven steps, download this white paper now in which we tell you all the ins and outs.

Think in cups of coffee

Then work back. If you know what turnover you want to realise and how it is structured, you also know how many customers you need to achieve that.

For that X number of customers, Y number of cups of coffee must be drunk, so that you can make Z number of offers.

And if you know that, you also know how many marketing-qualified leads you need.

Now it really becomes clearer, because by quantifying your goals in this way, you know at the end of each month whether you have had enough cups of coffee and what to do if you are not on schedule.

Get on the radar with your customers

Good. You have a quantified goal and you know how many cups of coffee you need to drink to reach your goal.

Now you just need to get your potential customers to your website. First, describe who you are targeting. Who is your ideal customer, what does your buyer persona look like?

If you know that, you will create content that hits the spot. Content that is not about you, but content that your buyer persona recognises, with which you touch him or her.

To ensure that you actually reach your target group with that content, it is important to find your target group. Whether through LinkedIn, Facebook or TikTok, publish content where their attention is.

Not the entire content, of course, but teasers and triggers that invite them to click so they land on your website, where you want them.

Optimise your online marketing

Now that you know how to attract the right people to your website, it’s time to start measuring and optimising.

Check every month whether the conversions as you envisioned them actually hold up. If they don’t, take action.

For example, make sure that your content is more in line with your target group or check whether your calls-to-action are sufficiently visible and in strategic places.

7 tips for new customers and more sales through online marketing

Finally, I would like to give you some concrete tips.

  1. Start communicating. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Yes, you are proud of your company and yes, you can always do better, we know that better than anyone. But your success stands or falls with visibility. Get started.
  2. Choose your target audience and share knowledge that shows you are solving their challenges.
  3. Then create content that your target audience wants to read and not what you want to read. So not inside-out but outside-in.
  4. Be realistic. It doesn’t matter if you decide to post once a month or twice a week, just pick a rhythm that’s feasible for you. Your content is probably going to be done on top of the day job, so be realistic.
  5. Hang in there. We see that many entrepreneurs stop blogging after two months. They haven’t achieved as much as they would like to achieve, so ‘it doesn’t work’. Marketing is a slow KPI. To really become visible and to be seen as an authority in your industry, it takes a lot of patience.
  6. Don’t forget to connect with your target audience on social media. Social selling doesn’t happen by itself. You have to connect with people and start the conversation.
  7. Start the conversation. If you create a discussion under your post, LinkedIn will rank your message higher. You can also do this by placing the first comment under your post, to tag people or to clarify something.

Our advice? Start at the beginning with a marketing plan whose essence fits on a beer mat.

For more information on how Make Marketing Magic can help you grow your business, contact us here.

How to improve your online visibility and grow your business

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The importance of being visible to your target group online is growing by the day. At some companies this works a lot better than at others.

Of course, that doesn’t always say anything about the quality of your product or service, but it can help you to grow.

We have researched hundreds of companies in the past 12 months and here we share our top six learnings.

Some companies grow very fast, others grow slower. If we look at all the entrepreneurs that we serve, we see that the “slowcoaches” mainly get their customers from their existing network, especially from the owner’s network and through word of mouth.

Fast-growing companies

The fast-growing companies get a lot of turnover from their digital channels. At the same time, we see that there are very few companies that are really successful in this.

Yes, a lot of time, energy, resources and money is spent maintaining those online channels, but if it doesn’t pay off, where does it go wrong?

To find out, we looked for a scan with which we can go deeper. Unfortunately, the existing tools are incomplete, they often only focus on the technology, and the outcome of such a scan is mainly aimed at selling you something.

Then we thought: let’s build something ourselves! We’ve mixed tools like Google Lighthouse with Google Keyword Planner and the advanced SEO tool Semrush, adding a hefty pinch of our own human intelligence.

With the scan – the Online Presence Assessment – that we have developed in this way, we check two hundred data points that influence your online success and give you a clear insight into your position in the current market.

And perhaps more importantly, we also make concrete recommendations that you can build on.

Six most important learnings

The concrete recommendations are different for every company, that is precisely the strength of our scan.

But after screening and benchmarking about five hundred companies, we can of course also share some general learnings, which benefit everyone immediately.

The big six.

1. Make your distinctiveness real

Everyone is aware of the fact that it is important to share the distinctive character of your company on your website. We see this on almost all websites. But what does that mean in concrete terms for your customer?

It often leaves a lot to be desired. Do you put your customer first? Fine. But how does that help your customer? Make sure that is immediately clear.

2. Communicate in an unambiguous way

At many companies we see a discrepancy in how the target group is addressed on the website and how it is communicated via social media channels. And that while you really only communicate with one target group – if you try to address multiple target groups, then it is really time to make a choice.

Make sure you address your target group in an unambiguous way, through all channels.

3. Check the loading speed of your website

How fast your website loads determines the engagement level of your potential customer. The faster your site loads, the more likely someone will stay on your website longer and visit multiple pages.

In addition, loading speed is one of the most important factors in the Google algorithm, which makes fast loading websites rank higher in Google than slow loading websites.

4. Strategically place your calls-to-actions – and make sure there are plenty of them

It’s nice for people to visit your website, but ultimately you want them to do something. They need a call to action: “Request more information”, “download a white paper” or “contact us” are good ones.

The buttons on your website that entice people to take action – the so-called call-to-actions – are crucial in this regard.

Many websites have too few of those buttons and we almost never find them in strategic places where a lot of traffic comes or where many people leave the website. They are often hidden away in a place where hardly anyone sees them, let alone clicks on them.

5. Get the right keyword combinations

One of the things we check is what are the top five keyword combinations are that lead to traffic to the website.

These are almost never keywords that are relevant to the products and services offered on the website. With Google Keyword Planner, you can look up which keyword combinations are relevant to you.

If those search volumes are below 2,500, you don’t need to factor that into your keyword strategy. If the search volumes are higher, make sure that those keyword combinations are part of, for example, your blog posts.

6. Connect with your customer’s purchasing journey

You want to appeal to your buyer persona with the content on your website. It goes through a number of phases in the purchasing process and your content must be relevant in each of those phases. Whether you use Google’s See, Think, Do, Care model or awareness, consideration and purchase as steps in your customer journey, make sure you’re relevant.

The first phase – awareness – concerns blogs and other content that you also share on your social media channels. The second phase involves more product-oriented content, such as a long read.

Finally, if your visitor wants to make a purchase, you must of course ensure that clear calls-to-action can be found in strategic places on your website.

Which brings me back to point 4. If you don’t connect with your customer’s purchasing journey, his or her journey will never end with you. And that is an eternal sin.

Curious about how you score with your online visibility?

Our customers are thrilled with our Online Presence Assessments, because it’s super-relevant to their business. Every page, every graph and every score is about your business. The above points are useful, but are not just about you.

Interested in a really relevant assessment? Feel free to schedule a meeting with us to discuss your next steps.

You don’t need to be sexy to have a great value proposition

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How do you get attention in a busy business world when you don’t have a sexy, “cool” product?

Trending on Instagram is not a must for a healthy business: solving your customers’ problems are what makes for strong growth and this is how you capture distinctiveness with a rock-solid value proposition.

The wheels of a strong economy are oiled with IT companies, accountants, business service providers and other unsung heroes. All are specialists in their own field, but they are not visible on most social media or trumpeted in the Press.

Don’t pay attention

The moment they slacken or don’t pay attention is when things go wrong. For example, we work with a number of data centres that you won’t have heard of, but, just as when Fastly hit problems last month, all the papers are full of it if they drop off.

So how can you position your company in the market if you don’t have a sexy product or service? The key thing is to state very clearly the problem you are solving for your potential customer and how you do it.

It sounds simple, but is one of the biggest challenges that companies face. Anyone can use hundreds of words on their website without explaining anything. Few can be ultra-clear about what they stand for in just a few words.

That is the power of a strong value proposition.

A value proposition? What is that?

A proposition explains your product or service. But a value proposition is about what problem you solve.

There is only one reason why customers buy something. Because they have a problem. And that’s where your value proposition comes in.

It is not about your product, not about your service, not about your company.

It’s about your customer’s world: their company, processes, competition, people or money. It is about their problem – which only you can solve with your value proposition.

In short: a value proposition is nothing more than a story in which you tell what problem you are solving and what the world of your customer will look like once that solution has been applied. The promised land.

It’s all about feeling

People need to believe in you before they buy from you. They must have faith in your story. Much of it is down to an emotional feeling.

It has been scientifically proven that people – including entrepreneurs, of course, – do not choose based on reason, but based on feeling.

Simon Sinek explained this in 2009 in his hugely popular TED Talk called ‘Start with Why’.

Daniel Kahneman introduced the fallible human psyche, characterized by flawed judgment, into economics and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his research into how people think and make decisions.

Why, how and what

Sinek’s ‘why’ corresponds directly to Kahneman’s system 1, the feeling. The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ correspond to Kahneman’s system 2, our brain.

In your communication, it is therefore very important to connect with that part of our brain where decisions are made: emotion.

Then you substantiate with ‘how’ and ‘what’ and you go along with the step that the human brain makes: the decision has already been made more or less and now we move on to the rational. No psychological hassle, just simple biology.

Three questions

But how exactly do you clarify your distinctive character? You do this by answering three questions.

1. Who do you help?

Make it very clear who the target group is that you are helping. Name your target group, use the right tone of voice that suits your target group and also let it be reflected in the visuals on your website. In short, your target group must feel directly addressed.

2. What specific problem are you solving?

State which problem you are solving. Show that you understand your target audience and that you understand what they encounter.

3. How do you solve that problem in a unique way?

Explain how you help them. How do you do it, in your own way.

The more clearly and idiosyncratically you can answer these questions, the more you stand out from the crowd, particularly as your competitors are unlikely to answer these questions clearly at all.

Just look at a random selection of tech company websites to see how they all seem to be offering the same thing.

Everyone has stories

A value proposition is essentially nothing more than a story in which you tell what problem you are solving and what the world of your customer will look like once that solution has been applied.

If you are worried that you have no story of your own, think again. All or our experiences, whether positive or negative are stories.

You just have to write them down and share them with the world. A good story is personal and vulnerable and evokes feeling or emotion.

If you dare to share personal stories as a company, you touch people and you simply increase the chance that they will ever choose you.

Not convinced yet? Then read this article in Harvard Business Review: ‘ The irresistible power of storytelling as a strategic business tool ‘.

Make sure that you are not the hero of your story. When we tell a story, we like to see ourselves as the hero. A lot of companies do that too.

‘We are a dynamic, experienced organization with x professionals!’, ‘We are ISO certified!’

But in the story of your value proposition, you are not the hero. You are the helper, the experienced expert who helps the customer to achieve his or her objectives. That’s it. The helper, not the hero.

You help the hero of the story – your customer – in completing his or her mission.

That is exactly the role of an entrepreneur in the B2B space. A company runs into something, needs help and hires a specialist. In B2B, it’s not about egos, fads or trends, it’s about knowledge and experience. And you have it.

Your value proposition in practice

  • Start by defining your target audience’s challenge. What is your unique way of tackling that challenge?
  • Avoid jargon and keep it simple.
  • Distinguish between knowing what your proposition is and writing it. Writing is a profession in its own right.
  • Do you have a sharp value proposition? Call ten customers or people you know within your target group and ask for their feedback.
  • Your story doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t make it a ten-year plan. Everything is online these days. Do you think you want something different? Log in, edit it and you’re done.

Good luck!

And if you need help in defining your value proposition, contact us at Make Marketing Magic here.

Get a free assessment to help improve your web presence

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If this past year has taught Microsoft partners anything, it is that their online presence is key to surviving, thriving and growing.

Your website and social media presence have become the digital shop windows for potential customers who have rapidly embraced cloud technology and new methods of working.

Yet too many Microsoft partners have websites that are little more than static business cards, load slowly and provide little opportunity to engage with visitors who could be keen to buy.

Benchmarked results

Over the past six months, Make Marketing Magic has assessed the digital marketing capability of hundreds of Microsoft partners, benchmarking them to understand how improvements can be made.

With the unique Online Presence Assessment (OPA), you can learn how to optimize and improve your website and gain the key learnings that lead to growth.

We are currently offering the OPA – and an in-depth consultation – for free to Microsoft partners.

Get a complete and accurate picture of your business online.

We go under the hood to see what is working and what needs optimizing, all benchmarked against hundreds of Microsoft partners across Europe.

When tuned and operating correctly, a website – combined with other online channels – can become your best salesperson, a tool that generates business.

Top five challenges

Going deep into the hundreds of Online Presence Assessments that we have completed, we found a top five set of challenges faced by Microsoft partners, learnings that can make the difference between your business growing – or standing still:

  1. The company value proposition is not clear: Believe it or not, many Microsoft partner websites lack a clear explanation of what their business offers and why customers should be interested in their products and services.
  2. The target audience is not addressed: A lot of partners know who their ideal customer us, but not enough of them address their prospects’ needs and pain points.
  3. Slow loading speeds impede the customer experience and search engine optimisation (SEO): A lot of Microsoft partner websites are slow to load, which not only impacts the overall quality score and SEO ranking – it’s also a sure-fire way of losing prospects, as they switch off before seeing what’s on offer.
  4. SEO keywords are rarely product or market driven: The top five keywords found by Google and Bing are often not the keywords many Microsoft partners want to be found for. They’re not product or market-driven for the most part – and they need to be.
  5. Most websites need more calls to action: Where B2B tech sales are concerned, few customers convert there and then. It often takes several “exposures” and interactions, especially when it comes to premium services. That’s why giving them multiple options to convert is essential at every step of the funnel.

Each Online Presence Assessment (OPA) analyses more than 200 data points using the best available tools combined with a human intelligence review of the technical aspects and marketing fundamentals.

And we are currently offering a free OPA to Microsoft partners – combined with a free consultation. You can register for it in a couple of minutes here.

The OPA is part of Boost your Business, an in-depth and cost-effective marketing and sales programme which supports Microsoft partners growth. For more information, click here.

You can read more about our services in the Microsoft Concierge catalogue here.

How Microsoft partners can drive the UK economy to rebound

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A great report has just been released that suggests Microsoft Partners could contribute a staggering £9 billion growth to the UK economy this year as the country emerges from the latest Covid-19 lockdown.

For anyone working with Microsoft partners, it is clear that this past 12 months of turmoil has seen technology firms thrive where others may have struggled, as the benefits of digital and the cloud have come to the fore.

In the first lockdown, the drive to enable staff to work remotely was paramount with a scramble for hardware and better broadband. The focus shifted to improving collaboration through services like Microsoft Teams, tightening data security and the ability to co-operate away from the office with shared documents and infrastructure.

New digital landscape

The focus has moved again now onto how businesses can operate in this new digital landscape and Microsoft Partners are providing strategy and support in this rapidly evolving business environment.

The research – entitled “Creating a blueprint for UK competitiveness” – from Dr Chris Brauer at Goldsmiths, University of London, in partnership with Microsoft, found that UK companies could provide an extra £48 billion to the economy if they made simple changes to how bosses work with staff and use technology.

A staggering 14% of that total – £6.74 billion – could be driven by Microsoft’s 30,000-strong Partner Network. By deploying their skills in cutting-edge tech such as cloud computing, data analytics and remote working solutions with customers, that could rise by an additional £2.4 billion.

The research identifies the key pillars for business growth going forward are technology, talent, future readiness and the ecosystem.

Microsoft’s partners are well set up with 58% of those surveyed expecting to increase revenue this year, compared to 46% of those UK companies who last year reported a fall in turnover of at least 5%.

Business improvement

The full report is worth a read: it focuses on how the digital world and “real” world have come together so rapidly through the pandemic and demonstrates how business improvement can bring a better workplace and fairer, inclusive society.

The need to embrace technology has never been clearer and it’s great to work with Microsoft partners as they lead the drive towards a brighter future.

As someone who worked for Microsoft for many years, it is no surprise to see that their partners are in such a strong place to help the UK economy to bounce back.

And it is a privilege to help Microsoft partners grow, so we have launched the Boost your Business programme in the UK, providing cost-effective and proven marketing support. For more information, click here.

And our unique Online Presence Assessment is available free to Microsoft Partners, bringing deep insight into how your website and social media assets are examined and benchmarked against 100s of similar companies. Click here to register for the report.

How your website can win you more business

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“How do I look?” It’s the question we all ask – or think – when we are about to head out the door for a night out.

Everyone wants to look right for the event they are attending – and to impress or fit in with the people they are meeting.

But the same doesn’t necessarily go for your company’s web presence. Having the best-looking website isn’t going to win you more business unless it really works hard for you.

If the pandemic has taught businesses anything, it is the importance of having a strong digital shop window for your products and services.

Tell your story

Your website needs to do more than just look good. It must work efficiently and effectively. Be attractive, be relevant for your target audience, tell your story, gain new leads and potential sales.

It needs to load fast: the impatience of web surfers is well known. They are gone in just four seconds if it’s too slow. Probably gone to your competitors.

Immediately someone hits your home page, they should know what your value proposition is – a brand promise that is unique and on target.

You must be found on search engines, especially Google (and Bing for completeness). Search engine optimization is a science that doesn’t need to cost a ton of money but is incredibly challenging to master.

Under the bonnet

Do you have the right keyword combinations, are you getting backlinks from other domains? Are you labelling your pages correctly? All activities that are “under the bonnet”, but vital to make your web presence fly.

Increasingly, it must be compliant: GDPR wasn’t just a fad, a burst of panic back in 2018 that has now faded into the background. Consumers care more and more about their privacy and don’t want to be blitzed by messaging that they don’t value.

And it should have the right hooks to draw your audience in, so you can take them down “conversion street” from building awareness through to action.

Do you have great blogs that are relevant to your buyer persona? Is there gated content such as white papers or e-books that enable your potential customers to sign up to your database?

Case studies and customer testimonials are always valuable, while video is increasingly important in your media mix.

Your Online Presence Assessment

Here at Make Marketing Magic, we have built a simple and cost-effective Online Presence Assessment for any business looking to understand how they can improve their web and social presence.

The report is free for Microsoft partners, so click here to register.

Non-Microsoft partners who want to register for the report and a personal session to give you actionable and immediate results should email here.

Embrace digital marketing to beat the crisis

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A new report on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK’s high-growth ecosystem shows that many companies are starting to see a path to the other side.

Just under a third of high growth businesses are now at risk from the pandemic, down from 53% in April, according to researchers Beauhurst. Larger companies are faring better, in general, but agile scale-ups and start-ups are finding the ways to pivot through the crisis.

The sectors that are most likely to see positive impacts to business are – not surprisingly – eHealth, digital security and technology. The report wisely calls for the right funding support from government for SMEs in two areas: economic stability and innovation.

Invest in marketing

Unmentioned is the critical area of marketing innovation and investment that, in my view, companies must adopt to succeed against the ongoing challenges of this disrupted world.

It is no longer enough to have a great product, even if it is world-beating or revolutionary. It is not enough to grow your business through word-of-mouth recommendations, as it has been for so many SMEs in the past.

Anyone who has spent time on their laptops during these endless remote working days will provide testament that the amount of salespeople reaching them through LinkedIn or email has gone through the roof.

Ambitious company

If you don’t, as an ambitious company, make the leap to using quality marketing to drive qualified leads for your sales people to go nurture and – hopefully – close, then there are a host of others out there who will do so.

The old tried and trusted networking method of meeting like-minded potential customers at events and exhibitions is dead for now. Digital marketing is the only game in town.

I am seeing a host of new companies springing up as well. Often led by entrepreneurs who have lost or left their old jobs or were furloughed are now taking on the dream challenge of successfully building their own enterprise.

They know their market. They can build a top product effectively and efficiently. But they rarely get laser focus on their target audience.

Go To Market strategy

And they often tragically adopt a “build it and they will come” approach rather than a structured Go To Market strategy.

Marketing is rarely easy. Connecting it to a smart sales organization is difficult. But it is the path to growth for in these difficult times.

To download Make Marketing Magic’s seven smart steps on how to grow your business, click here.

And Microsoft partners can join our webinar on how to get information qualified leads here.

This is how you write a winning offer

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Why devote an entire blog to an offer? It’s not that hard to make one, is it? We initially asked ourselves this question too.

But after a brief brainstorming session, writing a blog about how to write a winning quote turned out to be interesting, because a bad quote can have a big impact on your story.

That is why it is so remarkable that the offers of many companies – unlike their websites – do not fit in with their corporate story at all.

Your quotation is a crucial part of your sales process. So ask yourself how your offer feels when it arrives.

Smart and inspiring? Distant and dry? Or even worse: a big turn-off?

A celebration of recognition

A good offer is based on the story that you have discussed with your potential customer.

In addition to the terms of your agreement, there should be nothing new in it.

In other words: your quotation must be a celebration of recognition. A representation of who you are as a company, because you are as good as your last offer.

Content: your quote is a story

How is a good offer structured? Here are some pointers that we have learned through our own experience.

1. Your quote tells a story

Remove your standard Excel sheets. It is not for nothing that the person to whom you send a quote asks you to put the discussed story on paper.

It can be difficult to articulate previous conversations, but it is worth investing time in this.

The quotation must show that you understand each other. Your contact person often has to sell your story internally.

If your quotation summarises all your conversations well into a beautiful, coherent story, then it is a lot easier for them.

2. Your quotation must match who you are

What have you so far shown of yourself to your potential customer? Make sure your offer communication matches this so that the receiving party immediately recognises it.

At Make Marketing Magic, we also had to rediscover this component. We found that answering the following question is a constant challenge: how can we tell our story so that everyone understands it?

3. Your quote must be understandable

Of course you must put all sorts of legal points and facts in your offer.

But try to give an inspiring twist to this. Don’t just fill your quote with jargon. Make sure that someone understands what you are offering in addition to the ‘difficult’ part.

Your potential customer can only make decisions if he or she understands the content of your quotation.

4. Use images and video to bring the offer alive

The presentation of your quote is at least as important as its content. Always try to use images.

Make Marketing Magic, for example, once made a short animation video and sent the contract as an attachment. We told the story in the video, but the contractual facts were on paper!

Practical tips

Do you want to get started quickly with drawing up good offers? Here are some practical tips:

  • Start with a good summary of who you are, what you do and why you do what you do. This way your potential customer understands what you stand for and what you believe in;
  • Explain what you have discussed, what you are going to do for your potential customer and how much the costs are;
  • If your quotation consists of several parts, describe the importance of each part separately;
  • Find a suitable image for your quote, showing your product or your employees, for example.

And last but not least…

An offer is meant to help your customer make a decision. And of course, we mean the decision to agree.

If you want your client to be able to decide positively, it is extremely important that he or she understands what decision they are taking.

Be as clear as possible and make the decision inspiring and attractive.

There are so many ways you can tell a story. It is wise to view by product and customer which method is best for your quotation.

At least ask yourself the following question: who is my client and what does he or she need to make a decision?

To get our white paper on how to make your business thrive in seven smart steps, click here.

To contact Make Marketing Magic, click here.

Refurb your business by grabbing new opportunity

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It’s often said that there is opportunity out of crisis, you just have to see what it is.

For my friend James Goody, this has come from the surge in working from home – and the feeling that this is going to become the “new normal” for many.

James has run his own very successful refurbishment, painting and decorating company for more than 30 years, now based in the Essex countryside.

True entrepreneur

He keeps considering early retirement but is a true entrepreneur and enjoys the challenge of each new project.

He shut down for a few weeks at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, but pressure from his clients (and workforce who needed the money) pushed him to get back to work as soon it was realistic to do so.

And the new opportunity? More and more potential clients now want a home office built.

Many have been struggling to do remote working with children in the house: we have all seen those Microsoft Teams and Zoom calls interrupted by kids in the background.

Others want to convert the spare bedroom into a proper office with the right office furniture, fast broadband, so they can stop using the kitchen table.

New business line

Companies that specialise in garden shed offices are quoting at least a six-week backlog, so James is getting a ton of inquiries for him to come in and do the job.

It’s a whole new business line and James, whose company carries the strapline Decorators of Distinction, is ramping up to be able to service this new offering.

It is a classic case of opportunity springing up from adversity and a great example of how all firms must show flexibility, ingenuity and customer-focus to take advantage.

Similarly, often high-end restaurants are rapidly becoming adept at producing great takeaway meals to keep their businesses going and keep their brand alive.

Street party

My favourite Spanish chef Jose Pizarro has transformed his Bermondsey Street venues into almost a street party atmosphere with vac-packed meals, takeaway tapas and a cocktail bar as locals desperately seek some fun as the lockdown eases.

My bet is that Jose – and many other restaurant owners – will continue to sell takeaway food even when they are fully back up and running. It’s a whole new business line that will continue to be popular.

In the world of property auctions, online bidding – as part of their events in hotels and other venues – has been growing over the past few years.

But Savill’s, and others, have accelerated into holding online-only auctions due to Covid-19, with stellar results.

Better results

Savill’s reported that their three live streamed events have brought an average sold price of £100,000 higher than ballroom events, with the June one seeing £22m raised and 78% of properties sold.

It demonstrates that new business methods – forced upon them by the crisis – could actually be better than the old ways.

Going back to James and the home office offering: he has quickly become an expert at what is required from his customers as he expects many more projects to come through.

“We are always alive to the trends in the market,” he said. “It looked like our business would be dead for a few months when the lockdown first started, but now we are working harder than ever.

“We are ready and able to create great home offices for people who know they will be doing this for a very long time, if not forever. It’s a great new opportunity that I wasn’t expecting at the start of 2020.”

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Marketing is an investment – not a cost

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At times of crisis, what gets cut first? Travel, entertainment, contracts for seemingly nice-to-haves like executive coaching and people development. Freelancers and easily terminated contracts.

And marketing.

Marketing budgets get slashed pretty quickly when money is tight. I know, I have done it myself, without a qualm. Lay off the agency, stop media spend, promise to do more in-house with the resources still left.

But that short-term approach of cutting marketing across the board often turns out to be exactly that – short-term and very dangerous to the long-term health of a company that by definition is in the midst of a crisis.

Smart entrepreneurs

I was chatting to my top-line marketing strategist friend Tony Frawley from Limerick recently who reminded me: “You know, smart entrepreneurs do understand that marketing is actually an investment, not a cost. They realise how important it is in these days.”

The thing with marketing is that company bosses often don’t really understand and see the value of it. It’s a budget line item and marketing execs are well-used to the annual trade-off on whether they will get a bit more or a bit less of their budget to play with.

The real debate

The real debate should be not about marketing being a cost, but an investment. What is the return on investment for every euro or pound spent on marketing?

Does it bring in new clients, turn prospects into buyers, launch successful new products, open up new markets. Is there a 5:1 or, better still, 10:1 return on the investment of marketing.

That is the challenge for entrepreneurs and the thought process behind whether to slash the funds or double-down on investing in communicating with current customers and telling your business story to new ones.

Get rid of marketing budgets by all means. But make the proper investigation into whether investing in marketing will contribute to the business surviving the Covid-19 crisis and going on to grow in the future.

Cash is a precious resource

And then decide where to spend the precious resource of cash. Measure the results. Hold marketing folks accountable and ensure the marketing and sales teams are joined at the hip, blood brothers or sisters.

Many small and medium enterprises are in a precarious position right now. But there is great opportunity for so many who can invest in a thoughtful and strategic way to build for the future.

Download our free whitepaper: Make your business thrive in seven smart steps.