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.”

For more insights, download Make Marketing Magic’s free white paper Make your business thrive in seven smart steps.

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.

Back your staff to be your chief advocates

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I would like to share a success story with you. A customer success story that could become your story.

It is a simple tip that is possible for every company. It does not cost money, just the involvement of your employees and the awareness that they can substantially increase the reach of your company and thus the chances of growth and success.

The success story

One of my customers recently won a big order. How? Very simple. Someone in his organisation shared a newly written blog via his personal LinkedIn account.

The blog had already been sent to all the people in the company’s database and now this employee shared it with his own network. He did it almost casually.

The post was read by one of his LinkedIn contacts and struck a chord. This person clicked through after reading the blog.

He read multiple blogs, visited the products web page, then went to the contact page and called to make an appointment.

The blog was in the right place at the right time, resulting in a fantastic new customer. And it’s not all down to luck.

Law of the big numbers

The greater your reach, the greater the chance of new customers. It is the law of large numbers.

The more people you touch with your story, the more people can choose you if they need your product or service. It is not simply down to knowing you exist, but because they have some knowledge of what sort of a company you are – and indeed have a personal connection with you.

Recent research has shown that when you employ 50 people and they all share your blog or whitepaper, your reach is much greater than a sponsored post.

And that’s good news because content sharing costs nothing and is extremely effective. It is therefore important to ensure that as many of your employees as possible actively share your company’s content with their own network.

Potential range

Let’s say you employ 20 people and each of them has 500 LinkedIn contacts. If they do not share your company’s monthly blog on LinkedIn, you will miss 10,000 contacts per month that could be a potential customer. 10,000!

I can tell you that most companies do not have this many contacts in their database, not by any means.

And calculate what it means for your reach when you write two blogs per month, your staff have more than 500 LinkedIn contacts and are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Encourage them to share

The question is not whether your people should share the content you create, but how you encourage them to do it. It is a matter of awareness, of taking responsibility and of simply doing.

Give your employees insight into the figures: what happens to the website visits, for example, when everyone shares the blogs.

Make it easy for them: with a social media reminder, make sure they only have to click the LinkedIn button to share the blog with their personal account. And give a reward to the one who shares the blogs the most.

More than anything, ensure your content is professional, relevant and something that your staff can be proud of.

As a former Microsoft employee, I am always struck by how many Microsoft staff share news and views from their CEO and company on LinkedIn, commenting on how proud they are to work there.

If they are proud of working for your company, they will happily share the great content that you produce.

And that will drive customer growth.

For more information on how Make Marketing Magic can help your business thrive, click here.

A key to growth: stay close to your current customers

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A common mistake made by companies looking to grow their business is to focus entirely on new customers and product groups.

They often lose sight of the potential impact to the bottom line of their existing customers, those companies who they already have a deep relationship with.

This is particularly the case during times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 situation that everyone is struggling with at the moment.

Here are eight key tips for how to stay close to your current customers, to understand their challenges and see how you can help them to succeed.

1. Communicate with your customers

The last thing you want is for your clients to end up purchasing services that you offer from a competitor. Often this is because they didn’t realise that you also sold those services or products.

Constant communication, whether through email marketing or regular calls and discussion helps you stay on their radar and means that you understand what they need at the right time.

Cross-selling and upselling is a vital sales opportunity for your business with your current clients.

2. Don’t wait until existing contracts expire

Many companies make the mistake of not contacting their client well in advance: at least 2 months in advance for a one-year contract, and at least 3 months for a multi-year contract.

This reduces the chance that customers look around and place a follow-up order with your competitor. You must speak to all of your customers regularly, not just with the few that you are closer to. Make sure you reach all your customers in good time.

3. Don’t forget sleeping customers

These are the clients who continue to buy from you on their own or or always tacitly renew the contract, so you can get lulled into a false sense of security about their ensured future business. These customers are a potential gold mine.

But the longer your customer has been a customer, the greater the chance that their needs will change. Unless you remain in close contact with them, they can just walk away.

4. Create a sales moment for each contact moment

Train yourself to see every contact moment with an existing customer as a sales opportunity. Try to think beyond the expressed need and try to find out where a need has arisen. Keep asking. Be very practical, find the discrepancies between the current and the desired situation. And see how you can build that bridge for the customer.

5. Reward loyalty

So many companies offer transfer discounts or entry bonuses, but as soon as you are their customer you will not hear about discounts. This is a great opportunity to retain customers. Please pay attention to existing customers and keep stimulating them with great discounts or offers. This is how you keep them with you in the future.

6. Give a referral bonus

Give existing customers a referral bonus for new customers they attract to you. It is absolutely worthwhile to reward your existing customer as well as your new customer. It also enables someone else to tell your story and that is much more powerful than when you do it yourself.

7. Always under-promise & over-deliver

If you give your existing customers more than they expect from you, they will be impressed and will tell share that experience. Their approval of you can go viral and existing customers become your ambassadors.

8. Listen to your customers

If you want to make updates, first check with your customers what they are missing or what they would like to see. Apart from the extra revenue that these extra features and functionalities provide, you give your customers what they want and that makes them happy. You therefore keep your customers longer.

To learn more about how Make Marketing Magic can help you grow your business, click here.

How do I make cold calling comfortable?

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Practical lessons on how to cold call

Tim has been an indispensable member of our team of marketing consultants for two years. When he started at Make Marketing Magic, he embarked on the challenging process of cold calling.

He soon learned the intricacies of cold calling: a vital activity that many entrepreneurs are afraid of. Read Tim’s insights into how to become an expert.

Cold calling: it is rarely the favourite activity of business owners. This is understandable, because coming on to someone you have never met is by no means easy. Many people, therefore, find it difficult to commit the time and effort to it.

Yet it is unwise to ignore this form of acquisition. If you tackle cold calling well, you can certainly bring in customers with it.

In the past two years I have gained the necessary experience and learned what works and what doesn’t. I would like to share what I have learned from practice, so that you no longer have to worry about cold calling.

A good start is half the battle

Before you call, it is important to have the correct setting. Get a good mood and a relaxed attitude. If you’re really comfortable in your own skin, your cheerful mood is often contagious.

In addition, do not come across as the umpteenth fast seller. The typical salesperson that is usually described in job openings is very rarely loved.

Just think of your own reaction when a salesperson appeals to you with an over-enthusiastic or aggressive opening sentence. You will probably drop out immediately!

Make sure that your opening sentence is original and that you pronounce it with the correct intonation. It is smart to prepare well for the interview. Take a look at the website of the relevant company or search LinkedIn to find out who you want to be on the line.

Even better: ask around in your own network to see if you can be referred by a joint contact. Look for the starting point in every case as that makes the conversation a lot easier.

Make it unique

Consider the purpose of your conversation. You bring something to the entrepreneur that you think he or she needs.

Make sure that it is true that your product or service has added value. In addition, customise your story to match the entrepreneur you speak to. Make sure it feels important, understood and unique.

Don’t worry about a “no”

Usually you call at the wrong time and you get a ‘no’. In such cases it is advisable to search for another contact point.

For example, I often ask if the person I am talking to would enjoy it if I sent a specific – relevant – blog article or white paper.

Or I invite my conversation partner to one of the events that Make Marketing Magic organizes.

By offering these kind of ‘extras’ from your company, you can first give something before you start the actual sale.

More sustainable

The process takes a little longer, but is also more sustainable. It is simply difficult to sell something during one contact moment.

The decision to enter into a partnership has to do with trust, respect and a benefit factor.

Your prospect must see you as the authority within your field to become a client of you.

Therefore, invest in content creation. By sharing your knowledge through blogs, whitepapers and newsletters, you can demonstrate perfectly that you can fulfil the needs of your customers like no other!

For more great insights, check out our blog here.