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A Small Business Guide – Like No Other

Small business marketing and sales has never been easy here is an article I wrote in 2012, it’s still relevant now – if your biz needs to get moving, here is what you need to know. Get in touch today to discuss your business problem – you’ll be pleased you did.

Small Business Marketing

A Guide Like No Other

I know you are bombarded with offers from firms offering a range of services from website design to pay per click, from direct marketing to social media and a whole host of other ‘perfect models to make the phone ring’.

The problem is you know that none of these things will deliver any change on it’s own and probably will not deliver any meaningful results.

The problem is you are cynical, you just don’t believe that any of these newfangled mediums will deliver enquiries or leads your business. You continue to advertise in the local paper, or on the local radio and do the same things you’ve always done. You will probably just starting to work out that much of this is no longer working.

How do I know this?

I’ll be honest with you I have been around long enough to understand what was working two or three or five or 20 years ago no longer works as it did, we are in a changed world.

What I am trying to do here is to provide a number of working solutions that have been proven to deliver for small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. Taking into account the new and very modern social media.

Only it’s not new, if you ever wanted to sell anything you have always had to be social, the only thing that has changed is instead of doing stuff face-to-face we now do it via YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

 

What many small businesses have not realised yet is there is a bigger problem, a problem with the engagement problem with apathy. Your customers are apathetic to whatever is you have to offer. For many small and medium-sized businesses this is a major, major problem.

In this book I want to shine a big light on many of these issues and give you some practical solutions to moving your business forward this when you are surrounded by apathy.

The shocking thing is you have to imagine your customer is being several stones overweight, lying on the sofa of sleep opening his post and he then spots your message, you need to motivate this fat lazy oaf into picking up the phone. a couple of years ago it was simple all you needed was a freephone number, they would dial. Now you need a range of strategies if you are to have even mediocre success.

You also need to have in place of the degree of automation and you need to be testing everything to find out what works, once you have found out what works you more of that. Once you have found a well that is full with water keep dipping your bucket in until it’s empty

Automation is one key to moving forward the other which seems to be missed but most small and medium-sized businesses is the issue of relationships the value of your business is in your relationships we can have the best product in the world with your clients don’t like you they do not buy.

So what you need is sales processes, great copy, follow-up systems and the whole damn lot needs to be automated. these of course are just the start

“Marketing is a process that should be automated as much as possible, only don’t let the customers know” Richard Smith – Sussex Enterprise workshops.

You may have also noticed that you are surrounded by experts, all of them know more than you about just about everything. You and I both know this is wrong no one knows more about your business then you.

I also know that many of these experts will bring tools to your table that just won’t work if you want proof of this ask yourself this one question. How much business that your website currently bring you?

If you are running a normal business your website will produce very little in the way of leads and business for you. Fact. According to the Federation of small business 99% of small business, websites do not produce anything in my delete and/or value.

Wherever you look there are going to be a number of experts that will provide the perfect solution to solve your business problems, let me tell you now if you think I am going provide you with an instant fix you are mistaken I suggest you take this book back and ask for a refund there is no such thing as an instant fix for any business.

All there is, is a number of processes and procedures for you to follow, let’s call them principles. By following principles and ignoring bright new shiny objects (like social media) you will benefit from growth within your business from day one, it’s the consistency that counts. New fads come and go on a day to day basis but principles are timeless. If you don’t believe me think BEBO or Microsoft messenger both of these had a long run and are now extinct in the same way that many services you are currently using will also be extinct.

It matters not what medium you are using to put in place these principles, it is the fact that you are using these principles that will deliver for you long-term.

Let’s think for one moment about the way we live our lives in 2013 and beyond we are absolutely bombarded via conventional marketing messages and then via pod casts and a whole range of other mediums. Look into your own Facebook account have a look at the number of adverts she will see done the right hand side of the page, do a Google search and check the number of Ads again appearing down the right-hand side of the page.

Your customer is bombarded with sales messages, everyone wants their money but no one wants to maintain relationships with them, they only want their money. That’s why everyone is spending money based on price, and many small firms are struggling.

One key to success in any marketplace is to build relationships with individuals and maintain close relationships of course that’s difficult to do which is why many small businesses (and larger ones) are struggling now.

The shift happens when you become their chosen supplier of choice, where your customer is confident of your service and knows that you plan to around for a while. Oh and you have to keep talking to them using all of the available mediums, and not just flogging them stuff.

To use a fishing analogy, once you have them in your part of the lake and can keep them there the chances of you catching fish are increased fifty or sixty fold.

All in all I have done my best to give you a range of excellent information covering a range of modern business issues and this brochure is work in progress.

I also appreciate you may have some questions which is why…

I offer a thirty minute over a coffee chat, which allows us both to work through some of the options which are likely to be different to the ones you are currently thinking about. Contact details are elsewhere.

We have several important areas for you to consider some of these you may have heard before and other bits will be brand new.

so here are the key points of this very short book it has been made deliberately and easy read and not too heavy on detail, let’s not get bogged down in detail this focus on the bigger picture let’s start moving forward its do something. I am known as an implementer, I like to get stuff done I like to get staff moving even if it’s wrong initially. Let’s take a massive imperfect action and alter it as we go forward, I don’t know who coined the phrase waiting for all of your ducts to be in line is just madness. Or a bloody long wait.

Here we go.

  • Starting and maintaining relationships.
  • The Groupon and Voucher Phenomenon.
  • Mobile Website/Website Content.
  • The Internet and Lead Generation.
  • 101 Tiny Steps To Improve Your Business.
  • 7 Steps – from my Sussex Enterprise Workshops.

There are a couple of things you need to know about me and my approach to helping business firstly I don’t pretend to know it all (but someone in my team probably does) that said the biggest thing holding businesses back is the lack of action.

Which is why I focus on implementation, trying stuff out. Let us fail quickly and cheaply before moving on, this is the only true way of building sales for your business.

The power of these systems is in the starting, finding something that works and then doing more of that.

Nothing in here is new. It’s all tried and tested I am just washing, rinsing and repeating what’s already gone on with a very different slant on stuff.

Yes the tools are different now but the principles are timeless.

The next new shiny thing (Social Media for example) is not going to save your business, yes the world has changed but if you are not engaging with your clients now, how do you think Social Media will change that?

My business is a one stop support service covering marketing, web design, online marketing (all of it), telephone, sms, email, telesales.

We don’t to do – ‘three months designing a logo’ and are happy to get mucky in your business if you are making money you can keep paying me with joy and pleasure.

We only offer a ‘done with you service’ however do much of the heavy lifting.

Some examples, websites designed in hours, email campaigns up and running in less than thirty minutes, massive (up to 400,000 pieces) direct mail campaigns set up in a forty five minutes at less than the cost of a stamp per item. I could go on.

We (I) want to add value, I want to make new friends and have fun, more, if you are making it you are happy to pay me. But I don’t want sex on first date, I get why we might have to flirt first.

This document is work in progress and no doubt contains a few typing errors and is flawed in it’s grammar in parts. These are there to keep some of the readers entertained, one of my biggest assets is not waiting for all of my work to be perfect before using it. Your little ducks will never be in line perfectly – as Branson said “ just do it” which is a statement that underpins much of what we do.

 

Starting and maintaining relationships.

You all have lists of clients that have never heard from you, perhaps they popped in once to buy a widget, have a trim or colour, perhaps even purchased a car or a house.

What happened next was anyone’s guess, you fully understood that at some point the future they would need another x or y, only you had nothing in place to follow up, to remind them how great you are and why they decided to buy from you the first place.

Which is a major shame because two years on they want another y or x and can’t remember your details or will succumb to a Google search only not find your website because the firm down the road has more relevant content or has updated their site recently.

Next the business is lost, it’s gone to another provider or salesman all because you have not kept in touch via

Letter, SMS, Email, Phone, Social media anything. Just left them to wilt on the vine like a grape from a very poor year. Only your competitor now has them in their grasp. Fortunately for you they are equally as bad.

Putting in place systems to deal with this kind of marketing is to coin a is easy – only most firms don’t do it. If you want to know how it works go an order something from Amazon and then wait for the follow up content from them. It should be no surprise that Argos are struggling and Amazon enjoys massive (albeit tax free) year on year profit.

If you are not maintaining the relationships with your clients, you are forced to deal with the stuff you can attract through the door and it’s becoming harder and harder.

Go and watch Dragons Den – and see the canny Deborah ask “ do you have a client database in your business”? Why because that’s where the money is.

I have worked with two firms in 2012 that were days away from closing, both were turned around to profit in ninety days by making offers to the existing client lists. The old owners were kicking themselves having sold the business in a fire sale like way for less than £1.

Both went on to turn over more in the first six months than they had in the past three years.

Why? Because they had a loyal but forgotten clients.

You must put in place some tools to get your message in front of your customers now, and where possible automate it.

If you want to know where to start, vouchers will help.

The Groupon and Voucher Phenomenon.

Over the past couple of months we have been doing a good deal of research into the use of voucher sites for small business marketing, and it’s clear there are some issues.

I have outlined below some of these in no particular order and these are based on our own finding and experiences of our customers.

All of the voucher sites tend to operate on fairly fixed and similar model but there are some minor differences. In general terms….

How do they work?
Small and medium-sized firms will come up with an offer or a daily deal which will then be marketed through the voucher website, using the voucher resellers own email list and also on their websites .

These deals can run from anything from a few days to a period of months, or as is common until a set amount have been sold.

The business owner decides on the offer it wants to promote and the voucher reseller creates the copy and the graphics to form an advertisement on their site.

What Do They Charge?
Sometimes there will be a setup fee or some other form of arrangement fee and the voucher provider normally takes around 45%-65% of the sale price as a commission. Most of these tend to be around 50%

Why Use A Voucher Site To Promote Your Business?

There is no straightforward answer to this, many voucher reseller sites are pretty aggressive with their own marketing, and are often selling into a market that is needy for leads.

That said provided you structure your offer correctly, and put in place the proper systems to maintain your marketing to clients were you have provided a discounted product or service it could be an ideal way to grow your business.

If you are a product retailer rather than a service provider you can use the voucher sites to clear stock at a substantial discount in order to get rid of it quickly or to make room for new stock. If you are rolling out a new service or product and want to test this could be an ideal method.

New branches and shops spring to mind immediately. It seems the best thing to do with business generated from vouchers is to either cross sell them something or to rely on the customer experience in order to make them come back for more.

The trend.
There has been an increasing trend for the voucher sites to be charging more for their services rather than less, during our research we did not find much evidence of this but it’s clear having to pass up 40% or 50% of the voucher price to the voucher site would prove prohibitive cost wise for most small firms intent on making a profit.

Traditionally the marketing budget for small businesses tends to run into about 20% of turnover as an absolute maximum however most small businesses tend to spend far less than this in order to generate leads.

On the face of it then it doesn’t seem right that any firm should have to spend 50% of turnover or more to generate leads which often can be of poor quality or not the right sort of customer for that business.

The worst type of customer is one that buys on price, and having to rely on a ‘cross sale’ in order to make a sale profitable is likely to end in failure.

If we look at an example of this to make my point, a current offer from a local firm of Hairdressers is this – Half Head Highlights (for the men reading this I am not going to explain – ask your Wife or partner) – voucher price £35 for a service that would normally cost £75.

I assume that at £75 the business makes a reasonable profit as this would be the normal price.

Offering the same service at £40 off would seem on the face of it to be madness, but an offer is an offer.

When you take into account the voucher offer at £35 this ends up being as low as £17 paid to the retailer, depending on the voucher seller.

Of course it does not take into account any setting up costs the voucher providers may charge.

The voucher provider also controls the process it collects the money for the voucher, and forwards on the lower amounts once all of the vouchers have been sold (you can also bet your life that due to accounting processes the funds will not be transferred for 30 or 60 days), there is a good chance that the local firm doing the work will not get paid for two months after the work being completed at a substantially discounted rate.

You might have guessed already this is probably not a good way to run a business.

We also need to factor in ownership of the client, all of the voucher sites have in place a very aggressive automated marketing system using SMS and email marketing in order to sell further vouchers to your customers at some stage in the future, of course this means they have a low or no risk business model.

They do not have to do the work nor guarantee it, or take responsibility for the delivery of that work to the end user . All they do is provide a website which sells the vouchers and build a marketing machine behind the website in order to sell other vouchers to anyone that will buy.

Taking a longer term view what happens if you decide to buy in a client using vouchers and then that voucher provider decides to tie up with another firm of Hairdressers (likely) and then starts offering vouchers to clients that you provided discounted work for in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll be increasing the level of competition rather than getting high quality leads that stay with you.

With customers being extremely price driven in this current marketplace, and also being extremely fickle, you are going to have to work extremely hard in order to maintain clients over the longer term. Worst still most businesses we work with do not have in place processes to maintain client’s long-term, it’s a strategy that will cause the failure of most firms at some point in time.

One of the first things we do for a new client is put in place processes and systems so they can build relationships with all of their customers.

No matter what business you are in you cannot afford to be giving away services at 30% or 40% or even 50% below the true worth, nor can you afford to be giving access to your clients to a provider that will not provide you with a ” no cross selling agreement” I have not found any voucher provider that currently offers this.

It’s often said that the real value of any business is in its customer lists. And the first people you should be targeting when marketing your business is those customers that have already brought from you, these are the people that will continue to buy from you in the future provided you maintain a relationship with them.

By being creative with your marketing and maximising your automation, it is possible for you to set up the right type of voucher deal internally and use a referral program for your existing clients to market this on your behalf. There are a range of further options like this.

The idea would be to give away genuinely good discounts but still make it profitable, and have the opportunity to maintain a relationship with both existing client and the referral provided of course you’ve got systems in place for it.

I know full well that many firms had some success with the discount voucher systems however longer term you need to focus on your own lead generation strategy and with the technology and tools that are available it’s possible for you to do this in house with a little support from outside.

My thinking at the moment is that these voucher deals to have a place in the business marketing armoury however if the reason to be in business is to make a profit then there are many better ways to achieve that, and to allow you more control, and are easier to set up than you think.

Mobile Website/Website Content

I have ripped off this graphic from Mashable which shows the present usage of mobile internet taking off.

 

I am sure you are aware of it, if you have a smart phone you will understand. The feeling is that a growing number of youngsters will probably never use the internet from a Desktop computer until they find themselves in an office.

Personally I love using my IPAD only don’t fully use it yet.

We also have the issues of Smartphone and Mobile ecommerce using apps and suchlike, the real key here is if you are competing with the likes of Amazon on price/items perhaps you should consider adding value elsewhere rather than trying to compete in the applications market place.

Remember Amazon don’t install, you probably do, find out what the differences are and focus on them.

With Windows 8 now being rolled out – Apps have arrived big time and on all platforms.

There is no need to rush into Apps just yet, there is certainly a business case for them but a long discussion needs to be had first.

The image below shows how many smartphones have shipped in 2011, can’t see this going down anytime soon.

 

If you want to consider IPAD type devices you can probably double the above.

Not convinced mobile is here to stay is a very wrong conviction.

But that’s not the whole story, many business owners are rushing around to get a mobile website developed which is what you will need to appease your consumers and the search engines. But, and it’s a big but!! You should not have separate sites with separate content or there is danger that you will be giving a different message to your visitors, mobile v static.

My only recommendation is that a mobile compatible site is created but with mirrored content (offers an contact information) from your main site. If you update a page on your main site, your mobile site should be updated.

All of your visitors will then need to be directed to the most appropriate website using some technology. Sadly for many business owners who have rushed in to purchase from the ‘snake oil’ salesman that they now have separate sites.

 

As an aside if you are not able to update your website with new content and have to rely on a third party to create new pages, you probably have a static site and need to rid yourself of this technology from 1999 and get something a little more up to date.

My specific recommendation is that you have your present website converted, not redesigned on to a platform (web based software) that you can control and update yourself whenever you want (you can include images and pricelists), and have this mirrored to a mobile version. Very cheap to do and a must.

 

(and how to fix it)

The 7 REASONS Why Internet Lead Generation For Small Businesses FAIL

An important note to all business owners…

The internet is a powerful marketing tool. We’re going to cover some of the most important aspects of marketing your business online in this report – but you must keep in mind that there is no guarantee of your success in these pages. While this report will give you invaluable information regarding how you should be marketing your business, there are far too many factors at play to make any such guarantee.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No: 1

No Clear Lead Generation Strategy…

­

Do you have a website? What is it doing for you right now? Is it a catalogue of your products and services or is it the silent salesman that brings customers to your door?

Having a website doesn’t mean customers will come knocking at your door. What is certain is that they are knocking on someone’s door. Just look at these latest statistics:

85% of British internet users use the internet to shop of which 57% characterize their behavior as shop online, purchase offline (NPD Group)

90% of online commercial searches result in offline bricks and mortar purchases (proprietary research / comScore)

82% of local searchers follow up offline via an in-store visit, phone call or purchase (TMP / comScore)

80% of budgets are spent within 50 miles of the home (DMA / proprietary)

74% of internet users perform local searches (Kelsey Group)

73% of online activity is related to local content (Google)

66% of British internet users use local search, like Google local search

61% of local searches result in purchases (TMP / comScore)

80% of British internet users have substituted the internet and local search for phone books completely (comScore networks)

35% of all searches are local (DM News)

25% of all internet searches have a purely local, commercial focus (Kelsey-Bizrate)

Do you know how many search queries Google handles in a month?

October 2011 : 11,863,000,000

July 2010 : 10,461,000,000

August 2009 : 9,088,414,036

The statistics for local search is even more impressive. Google reports that 20% of searches are of a local nature. It grew by 58% from 2008 with more than 15.7 billion local searches in 2008. This will be the trend for the foreseeable future as people are turning to search engines to find local products and services.

More and more people are using search engines like Google to find local services and products. When last did you look through the Yellow Pages for a commercial cleaning company, wedding venue, Lasik eye surgery clinic or hydroponic garden systems in your local area? Local search is the fastest growing element of Internet search as more and more people are turning to Google to find instant answers.

How often do you hear “I just Googled it” and they use local search terms such as “Plumber in East Grinstead”, “Brighton Taxi Hire”, “ and “Manchester widget makers”?

Are getting your share of these leads in your market?

Are you currently paying for advertising in local directories, Yellow Pages and Google Adwords? Do you know how many direct leads you got through this type of marketing?

Do you know what your Return On Investment (ROI) is on this type of broad marketing? These are all strategic marketing questions you should be asking.

Why do you have a website in the first place? I guess it is because you want more sales leads. Does your existing site do that and do you know what search phrases or keywords attract them to your site?

Lead generation websites should laser focused with VERY CLEAR “CALL TO ACTIONS”.

The following 6 reasons for Lead Generation Failure will provide some pointers on developing an effective online Lead Generation Strategy that will deliver customers waiting for you to phone them right to you email inbox.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:2

Not Using Free Market Research To Find Searched Keywords In Order To Target Your Website Content.

Did you know that Google will tell you exactly what customers are looking for? It will tell you the exact long tail keyword phrases they type into Google search and how many times it is done per month. As you can see for “Fitness Trainer New York” it provides us with some pretty useful numbers. A potential 3560 prospects! Could you handle 70 new prospects per month if you just get 2% of those (which is quite achievable).

 

What does this look like for YOUR business?

(By the way, we used a “phrase” match rather than a “broad” match to get more accurate results, but more on that when we meet.)

A longtail keyword is a key term that’s more than three words long. Examples would be…

Brighton Plumbing specialists

Builder in East Grinstead

Since you’re probably a localised business, focus on keywords that use your city or town name. This way you’re guaranteed to find people who are in your area looking for your services.

Use this tool to search for keywords that have a good number of searches every month.

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

If you spot anything with more than 400 searches per month, you’d better be bidding on that keyword and creating a lead generation campaign for it. You want them to send you their names and phone numbers and expecting your call.

Tip: The reason to use these keywords is simple – most businesses aren’t. They still get a lot of traffic, but people just don’t know any better. They are extremely easy to optimize for, and they are much cheaper than the shorter terms if you’re using PPC.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:3

Failing To Create Laser Focused Lead Generation Campaigns

This reason is closely associated to the previous reason. You can’t just use a shot gun approach to Internet based marketing. There are too many keywords and too many options.

You need to make sure that you attract buyers and not browsers. You don’t want people doing research on a specific topic. You want people with their credit cards or checks in hand, ready to buy. Which of the following people would you want to leave their name, email and phone number and waiting for you to call them? Would you rather have people searching for (as an example):

Fitness

Fitness Trainer Croydon

or the difference between

Wedding

Wedding venues in Sussex

These are simple examples but you can see how that applies to YOUR business. In both instances it is the difference between someone looking for information and someone looking for help. It is important to understand why local keywords are different from normal keywords and how to apply it to your business.

Stop wasting precious marketing pounds on broad marketing and advertising campaigns with no defined or measurable ROI (return on invest). Invest in a targeted lead generation campaign that focus on customers that needs your product or service and are looking for the best place to source it from.

Bonus Do you know what keywords your competitors are using? Do you want to find out? Our Lead Generation Assessment includes a review of all the competitors bidding in your niche, what they bid on and typically what they pay at no cost to you.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:4

Using Your Own Website For Lead Generation

Business websites are generally information sites with an overview of your products and services, your facilities, existing customers and details on where to get hold of you. It is in most instances an electronic brochure and it is designed to get people to navigate around it.

It is probably more suited to the people in reason #3 above that are searching for general information. It is not optimized for lead generation. It doesn’t ask the right questions. It doesn’t get them to take action. It just gives them more reason to look around, even probably at your competitor’s website.

Specialist Lead Generation websites are highly targeted to the demographics of the buyers described in reason #3 above. We know from the Google Keyword Research Tool (in reason #2) exactly what they are searching for and you should give them exactly that and then get them to take action. We call it the “Call To Action” or the “Single Sales Objective”.

That is the main reason why company websites are not ideal vehicles for lead generation for your business. There are too many options and it is easy to “surf” around.

Tip: We use small but highly targeted lead generation websites to get the exact customer that we identified in reasons #2 and #3 to give us their phone numbers and email addresses. We are get them to agree to and expect your phone call. That’s what we call a qualified lead or prospect. Don’t you agree?

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:5
Not Measuring and Optimising Their Lead Generation

You should be paying for marketing that works. That’s obvious. But most small businesses have no idea if their marketing and advertising are living up to expectation. Small businesses don’t have the large marketing budgets that the big corporations do and it is crucial that you get the best bang for your buck. Why is it then that small businesses generally have less marketing controls in place to ensure that they get a good Return On Marketing Investment.

Small business can learn from large corporations. They test. More specifically they “split test” or “A/B testing”. That means they create 2 variations of all their advertising, test them against each other and then keep the best performing and discard the lower performing one. But is doesn’t stop there. They create a new ad and test it against the winner to see if it becomes the new winner. And so they optimize their advertising. Once that have ads that drive the right customers to them, they scale. It means they spend more on those winning ads to get more customers. They know they don’t risk money because they tested.

The return from typical advertising is hard to track for small business. Do you have a tracking mechanism to test the conversion of your advertising spend? Or are you aiming in a general direction, hoping it may hit some of the times.

A well designed Online Lead Generation campaign will give you the ability to test on a small scale and split test what works in your market. Once you hit the target consistently you can scale up to drive all the business you can handle.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:6

Not Starting Lead Generation Campaigns Because It Is Too Hard or Expensive

I often hear small business owners say that this Internet “stuff” is too hard to do and will cost a fortune. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is not that complex and you manage how much you spend on acquiring new leads. You fit it into your current budget and grow it as it starts paying for itself. You can get started for around £10 or £20 per day and test your market for a few days.

And it doesn’t take long to see the results. You can generate new leads in a matter of days with online lead generation.

Setting up lead generation sites are not complex. It just requires a little thinking and some very specific content that will appeal to your market.

Tip: Ask your current customers and prospects what keywords they would use to look for your product or service on the Internet and let us help you refine it to get your first highly targeted qualified prospects expecting you to phone them. Your current customers are the best ones to describe what they are looking for and what you provide. See, it is easy.

Lead Generation Failure: Reason No:7

Not Hiring A Site From Local Lead Generation Expert

Hiring a lead generation website that is specifically suited to your target market is ideal to test (reason 5) how effective Internet lead generation can be for your target market (reason 2) without the high cost of setting up a dedicated site (reason 6).

Hiring a site from a local lead generation expert means that you will be up and running in a matter of days. How many customers are you losing per month (reason 2) while you wait for your website to turn into a lead generation site (which is not recommended – reason 4)

As you can see, there are enough reasons to start by hiring a lead generation website from us today. Let us help you with our 6 Step Lead Generation Plan on one of our specialist websites.

By The Way: We also provide a lead generation service where you pay only for performance. That is, you Pay Per Lead. Give us a call on 0800 781 2031 if this is more suited to your requirements.

It’s possible that by starting with a small lead generation campaign, you could see huge results.

101 Ways To Improve Your Business

The one thing that is missing from all of these is automation which is where we come in, we can automate many of these points.

Sections 94 – 101 are probably the most important parts of these 101 points.

So here we go 101 Ways To Improve Your Business

Compile a marketing plan for your business

Execute that plan

Alter amend or adapt that plan

Find out who your customers are

Find out what your customers want

Find out how much they want to pay

Consider repricing one or more of your products for profit

Consider setting up a separate business for the low price option of your product of service (a value brand)

Create a sales process for your business

Create a Sales Funnel for your business

Appoint an external sales agency in order help grow your business

Sack some staff

Get some new ones

Take control of your website

Get good at internet marketing

Set up a blog

Test and retest your marketing

Go back to point 1

Change the content on your website

Amend/Alter/Adapt your Website

Find some new products to sell online

Sell some new products online to your existing customers

Start using email to contact your customers and build relationships with them

Start using email to make contact with your past customers and renew relationships with the(Friends, Lovers and Ex Lovers)

Where did you last 5 sales come from, do more of this.

Consider cross selling services and products to all of your customers

Consider joint venture partnership with another local business

Get a Google Local/Places/Google + Listing

Start A Facebook fan page

Start Tweeting

Use LinkedIN

Write a Press Release.

Send a Press Release

Go back to point 32

Get a Freephone number and write to all of your customers to tell them

Contact all of your customers by phone to find out how they are. NO SELLING.

Find out what your major competitors are doing.

Find out how much they charge, how they do stuff, wh there suppliers are.

What are they selling? What are their customers buying.

Target their Website Traffic with an online campaign

If your website designer takes longer than 12 hours to change something on your site sack them

Use a member of staff to alter amend or adapt your Website

Make sure you can take online payments and use it.

Make sure you are paid for what you do.

Increase prices by 10% – 30%

Test increasing prices by 50%

Add some new Added Value Services for the increased price

Collect some news articles about your products email/post/fax them to your clients

Put them on your website

Set up a an adwords (pay per click campaign)

Do the same for Microsoft

Place some ads on both

Collect your customers Mobile Numbers and SMS them about product updates or services

Write a press release about solving a problem with your products.

Make all of your press releases timely and relevant

Stop all advertising that you cannot measure.

Train your Staff with some form of telephone technique and collect information from your customers on the telephone.

Stop all brand advertising, you are not Coca Cola

Start using Direct Response Marketing

Use Flyers

Use Direct Mail

Use the telephone

Use your website

Do some on line webinars in order to sell to your clients without moving from your office

Create an Audio Podcast put it on Itunes.

Place some videos up on You Tube using your product or service

Make sure all of your brochures/hand outs and marketing material is available to send as an email attachment.

Send some out

Brainstorm some new marketing ideas for your product or service

Brainstorm some new uses for your product or service

Adapt or Alter and existing product or service to increase income

Create an operations manual for your business

Replace yourself with another in order for you to work on the business not in it.

Refuse to do any low value work in your business, you will not grow it by unloading vans and driving low value orders to the Post Office

Spend all of your time marketing

Spend some more of your time on business development

Stop doing what is not working

Research some new products to sell to your existing customers

Start another related business

Start another different business

Consider franchising your present business

Put in place an exit strategy

Put in place some kind of paid for ongoing service, this means your customers will have to come back to you.

Put in place an ongoing contract for service or maintenance

Review enquiries received in the past that did not do business

Provide an automated product enquiry line for your customers to call

Put in place a diary system for call backs and follow ups.

Follow up your existing customers at regular intervals (use automation where possible)

Train some of your staff in the work you do

Train some of your staff in other areas of your business

Sack some/all of your staff or reposition them

Get better staff and pay them well

Outsource any technical work (a designer of double glazed windows can provide all of the technical authority you desire) however will not be able to sell a thing

Use online/offline surveys to find out what your customers want next

Find out what their ‘itch’ cycle is, and work towards it.

Call them all again

Make an offer they cannot refuse, money back, risk free, lifetime warranty

Use an automated email service to send your customers messages into the future

Think Differently, most businesses all look the same, bland and boring

If your business sucks it’s because you suck, Take Action

Add massive value in everything you do. Your customers need to think you are a star.

How many of these are you doing? Really doing!

Welcome to the 7 Blindingly Obvious Steps to Increasing Your Business Profitability that less than 1% of Business Owners take.

All of the things I write about, advise on and provide guidance about are things that have worked in my businesses or for our clients businesses. Some of this is brand new and cutting edge and some has been around for years, but it all works.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or queries about any marketing matter (online or off) or before you make any decisions about buying or investing in new business marketing.

Sales and Marketing must become one of your main focuses as a small business if you are to survive!

 

If you can remember when you first started your business, or how you feel now if you are just about to start, there is an excitement, a buzz about what you are about to/have done.

The real key to sales is to keep this buzz going, not one of your prospective customers really cares about what a crap time you have had over the past couple of months, no one cares that business is tougher than expected……………..

Get some positivity around your products and what you are doing, and find some customers that want to buy them. If you were looking for White Rhino, you would not go to UK National Park.

Find out where your customers are and what they currently buying and from who, and make your offer fit. Sounds simple eh!

Have you ever wondered why it is some firms just manage to sell more?

Have you ever wondered why it is some firms always manage to be more profitable?

If you answered yes to either of the above the information that follows is for you.

Really successful businesses do many of the things outlined in this document and more, I can promise you this – if you keep on doing the things you have always done you will get to the same things you have always got! (anon).

We over here at the Internet Consultancy hope you will enjoy the following few pages, and if you only implement some of the points shown your business will change.

Please contact us if you need any further information or would like to chat through some of our Services in order to see where we can be of benefit to you. Whatever your business circumstances we know we can help.

Having worked with a range of businesses since 2001 these are the key steps that small and medium-sized firms need to take in 2012 and beyond.

These issues are the same no matter what business you are in, from Consultancy to Manufacturing. There is shift going on, a shift that means there is no turning back.

This shift is so powerful most are being caught out, importantly it is happening quickly. Facebook – the success story of the last few years is shedding members at a fantastic rate. Why, who knows! Never before have consumers been so fickle, so informed. This is just one of the shifts that you as a business owner must be aware of and focus on.

So here are my 7 steps to success in 2012 and beyond, for all of our clients, potential clients and for people that have not dealt with us before.

Find out how much your business has grown over the past 6 months? Find out where your customers have come from and what they purchased? Have any of these customers been upsold – you know in McDonald’s, supersize sir? Would that be a large meal? Small increases in size but a massive increase in profit.

Once you know where they have come from– go and find some more from the same source, create an upsell, a supersize.

Once you know what they have bought and for how much find out how you can sell them an upgrade, ‘gold service’ or additional maintenance contracts (even Car Dealers now do 3 year servicing for £199 with a new car, it might sound cheap, but with little work to actually do, and a 200% mark up on parts it’s a no-brainer).

Can you offer fixed price servicing with a new product? I would bet on the fact that you can.

Just having an upsell will increase profits by at least 10%.

Have you spoken to all of your past customers? (including those who did not buy from you) and got their up to date, home address and postcode, email address, landline and mobile numbers and asked them if there is anything you can do for them today? Are they happy with the product they have purchased?

Don’t do this yourself, get a student in for minimum wage and record the details in some form of useable Database (not got one then excel will do).

Once you have done this exercise I know you will increase turnover/profits by at least 10% and with the information saved you will sell them something provided you use it.

Partner with a like minded or similar business? Where do your customers (you have identified them I assume) hang out, who else do they spend money with, the types of products and services they buy and from who. Once you have worked this out, then go and find these businesses and partner with them, share the marketing costs.

You will find that these businesses are just as desperate as you are to increase profitability and have more time off.

Increase in the level of business using this method, at least 10%

4. Do not use a Web Designer to tell you how your Website should look. Dump/Revamp or amend your existing website and do it today. Web Designers know nothing about Sales or Advertising. Consult a specialist, someone who knows all about Website Design in relation to Sales and Marketing and then make sure your Website actually works, monitor it, tweak it keep it up to date. Get a Blog, use some kind of Blog Software, if you want to know why call me?

Look, 2012 is the year of the Personality, the year of the Personal Brand, what is it that makes you different?

Look one really cares that you sell Acme Plumbing – what makes your service so different is that all of your staff sing “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” from La Boheme whilst unblocking sinks, and you know what some customers will actually pay extra for you turning up on time and singing, make sure your website reflects this.

Increase in the level of business by having a clear online identity and offline services at least 10% probably 20%

Only do Direct Marketing – This is marketing that you can immediately identify the income/business from marketing activity.

If you have not tried this before have a go, prepare some good

reasons for potential customers to do business with you brainstorm some USP’s (Unique Selling Points) buy in a Marketing List, with a clearly identified (see point 1) target in mind preferably with some email addresses and then market to these people.

Do not underestimate the power of this in any area of your business. Direct Marketing via the Phone, Post, Email, Broadcast Fax, Pay Per Click, PR, Networking it all works, still.

Don’t do Brand Advertising ever – leave that to Coca- Cola and Sainsbury’s.

We are not talking about driving your potential clients mad with information they do not want, we are talking about Direct Marketing

which is different. But keep on communicating with them until they scream stop, or they die.

Increase in the level of business using direct marketing, at least 10% probably more.

If you are in a market that is stagnating or reducing think about ways you can diversify? Corner Shops…

For whatever reasons consumers fall out of love with products or a market moves on (think Betamax and VHS, CD v Downloads). Make sure what you are doing, what you are selling is right for the market.

Look we all know that if you want Tampax and Dog food at 7pm on Sunday evening in the middle of November, it’s only your local corner shop that will be open.

Now, for many business owners owning a Corner Shop is not a business model that they would be interested in. But they all make money or would not be there. Yes they have a niche, local and open, and there are lots of them, but don’t be afraid to be in markets that are competitive, provided you have an angle, a niche.

See the Corner Shop Niche, is they are open when most others are closed and stock all of the stuff you really must have – in this instance Tampax and Dog Food.

Always be selling what customers want, increase in the level of business by only having what they want , at least 10%

Get/Develop a Range of Products and Services and add value do not discount. Most small business owners seem not to spend enough time on developing products and services, and if they do don’t promote them enough.

Let me give you an example from Financial Services, initial advice and product sale £500 in income, the preparation of a FULL Financial Planning Report £250, annual Review £100 (each year) paid for by Standing Order monthly, and a whole load of benefits added on, free seminars/podcasts/video add more value and you will make more money.

Takes an initial sale of £500 to over £850 with a bit of preparation and marketing skill.

From Plumbing, Boiler Installs from £650, over the weekend £950, with a 5 year no quibble warranty (how many would claim) £800 (installed over the weekend £1050), 5 year no quibble warranty and annual ‘Complete Heating a Gas Checks’ £1500 (installed over the weekend £1700), with a plumber that sings only from La Boheme and the 5 year service £1900 installed over the weekend £2100.

You know what, not every customer will want it all, but some will and your profits have just increased massively.

That’s it. These 7 Steps (any one of them) will increase the profitability of any business. Will transform your business lives.

Every one of these points has been tested to work. You will start to see some of them in the market place over the coming weeks, these are already in place in other businesses. As you notice them, think about how you can apply them to your own business.

I think you will be surprised, not only at how easy they are to implement, but by how much more money you will make.

The best thing ever to note is that for most of the business owners that download this document only 1% will bother to take any action, and that is great news for us in the 1%, as there is less competition to worry about.

I can assure of this, it’s great being out on the edge, taking action making decisions, a bit lonely at times, but a lot less crowded, as I always say, keep on doing the same old things and you will keep getting the same results.

These simple steps won’t solve your problems immediately but they will ensure that your longer term business success is assured.

Financial Adviser Marketing

The pages below are from my first book on the subject of marketing for financial services professionals and has been updated recently.

There is a lot of information contained in these pages, as much of what is required for specialist advisers applies to every other type of business. Just remember to replace Financial Adviser with whatever it is you do.

Independent Financial Adviser Marketing

Making the difference in your business immediately and forever.

Richard Smith is one part of a business called the Internet Consultancy and are regarded as expert Internet Marketers to the Financial Services Sector. We are often quoted both on and offline as noted experts in the field of Social Media, Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation as well as being Business Process Engineers focusing on Sales and Business Development.

We don’t “do” manufacturing stuff, it’s just that any product or service needs to be sold before it can be made to do it the other way is madness.

This short but valuable book is designed to form a blueprint for your business marketing for 2011 and beyond. It contains some of our collective wisdom along with a couple of key posts made in various magazines and websites over the past 12 months or so.

For those financial advisers hawking these pages, here are some of the things I wrote for Professional Adviser in 2010 – nothing has changed.

It’s the internet stupid – a sample of things IFA’s Must Doing!

With the news that Google is going to release a White Paper outlining the need for Financial Adviser firms to start taking the internet seriously, I wanted to give some further guidance and to advise of some further findings based on research I have done in recent months.

As background our firm provide marketing and sales process advice to IFA’s and one of our main problem solving services is advice to make Websites work and of course the problem most IFA’s have is the opposite of that.

The problems we are finding fall into several camps and I will outline these in a little detail for you.

IFA’s Websites do not inform.

We live in an information age and your potential clients are looking to the internet to find information and to select possible firms to work with. This applies if you are a Financial Adviser or Plumber.

Your Website must inform and then Start a relationship.

If we think of a client relationship as a Courtship, they usually start out a bit like Speed Dating (first impressions count), often the first encounter (only you will not know you had it, a lot unlike Speed Dating) you will have with your potential customer is via your Website or Blog and it is here you need to be making sure you do as much as you can to ‘hook them’ into taking some further action, or at least making contact, or leaving you their details. This is simply missed by all/most IFA’s and they are not alone.

Once you have their details you can then start a relationship, and of course this can be automated. The object of your Website should be to take an initial encounter – Speed Dating or First Date, turn them into Friends, then Lovers, or Husbands and Wives, manage the relationship and of course avoid separation or divorce. Sounds simple.

Your Website/Facebook/Twitter et al must allow you to build and maintain relationships, the real value within an IFA practice is your existing clients. How many times have you heard this? What have you done about it?

Nearly all firms do not have in place accurate methods of recording the number of visitors or what they done when they arrived at your site, and if you don’t know you cannot react.

Does your Website explain that you are qualified, regulated and professional? Great that makes you the same as 95% of the IFA websites out there.

The object of your Website should be to take an initial encounter – Speed Dating or First Date, turn them into Friends, then Lovers, or Husbands and Wives, manage the relationship and of course avoid separation or divorce. Sounds simple.

Personally, I have subscribed to countless IFA ‘Newsletter’ services and never had any follow up whatsoever. Not good for credibility I can tell you. So even those that doing something different, are not completing the task. Two firms have been excellent, and of course both of these firms are at the very top of their game. They have a well-executed strategy in relation to Marketing and follow it to the letter.

Your Website must be littered with good food for the Search Engine Monster. All of the search engines are simple creatures on the face of it and all provide you with a range of free tools to be able to check and optimise your Web offering. It’s just a shame that too few take advantage.

The role of a Search Engine (the business they are in is Search Results) they just want you to provide relevant information to those searching, your job is to provide that information. Simple.

Things To Transform Your Web Presence

Make sure your site is full of relevant content and is updated on a regular basis.

Make sure your chosen keywords and Phrases tie up with the above point.

Use Email Marketing along with SMS Services to get your customers coming back to your site for more and more information. Post updates on your Website and then tell your customer.

Monitor all activity to really understand who is coming to your site, from where and looking at what. Then act on the information.

Stop doing what is not working.

Do more of what is working.

Changes that are coming. You will either need to learn or buy in these skills in order to survive the changes that are coming. Oh and don’t bother asking a Web Designer – they tend to know little about marketing themselves. Indeed they got you where you are today.  You do need to consider specialist services.

By using the internet for marketing, sales, advice and outsourcing mundane work your business could be and should be looking to increase turnover and for you to spend more time on the Golf course.

I continue to find it amazing that most IFA firms are happy to pay £50 – £100 for leads (most of which are sourced using the Internet) but will not spend the cost of 3 leads on some expert telemarketing or the price of 10 leads for a makeover of their web marketing.

Google are right there are over 50,000 searches a month done on specific Financial Services, take into account related searches and you will find that this increases to over 200,000. That’s 200,000 people looking for advice on what you do.

Now you can choose to ignore this, or be left in the control of the lead generators who get this internet stuff and are happy to sell you enquiries that are too complicated for them to deal with and keep the simple stuff for themselves or you can take it on board, take some action and enjoy the rewards.

Change is coming whether you want it not, there are clear demand for your services, getting in front of the people that are looking for your help is not as difficult as it once was. The key is, are you going to embrace the change and take some action. We are already finding for those firms that do there is ‘gold in them there hills’.

Research and Your Website – Why you can no longer keep things as they are?

Having spent the ‘best part of two decades’ working with a range of Independent Financial Advisers (IFA’s) there are many issues surrounding marketing and business development that seem, in the main to be forgotten by them, keep your head in the sand eh!

When looking at the use of the Internet, most Financial Firms are lagging behind the rest of the business world. Sadly these burning issues are raised time and time again!! Indeed when working with 2 firms recently it is very clear that those same issues are still there. I am constantly ‘taken aback’ that many Financial Advisers are just not getting these following points

Research in relation to your competition and your business position in the market place is a fundamental part of your business and you will not survive without it.

Often it’s done half heartedly or even worse not at all. I firmly believe that a ‘change in direction’ for all IFA firms is needed and of course have some pointers for you.

Yes I know some of you will have heard this before, and I know that only 1% or so reading this will bother to take some action, as indeed only 1% or less have acted in the past (just have a look at IFA websites to confirm this).

There are a range of reasons your business does not stand out, does not present itself correctly in the market place, one of the main reasons is the lack of research and subsequent positioning, and even if you have done research in the past, you have not updated it, or not done it with enough skill and care.

One of the main reasons your website is not delivering for you is content, content that you cannot provide because you have not researched what is required, and then taken some action to meet the demand for the information that you should be providing, Of course Compliance seems to ‘get in the way’, and before you start to shout “but what about Compliance?” – You will need to find a way!!

Those firms that do find a way will be WELL AHEAD of you. If none of you survive, if none of you can engage with your market place correctly, if none of you start to get some of this right, there will be no need for Compliance anyway. You MUST find a way!

It is obvious to us working in and around the industry that IFA’s provide Financial Planning or provide Financial Advice but only to those that know what these terms mean.

Having searched Google.co.uk (late 2010) for Financial Planning there is not a single IFA firm in the top 5 positions, and only 3 in the first 10, and then one firm in the search result forgets to mention Financial Planning on the front page of it’s website. Both the Web Designer and the Site Owner should be ‘put out to graze’ or at least ‘retrained’!!

The good thing is that for most consumers these terms really don’t mean a lot and it is most certainly not obvious to them all that an IFA provides Financial Planning Advice, and many do not search for a Financial Planner on a Search Engine (I have statistics if you want to see them).

It gets even worse than that…….Search for Financial Adviser and there is not a single IFA on the front page of Google (in the non paid for listings), a recruitment agency, a few trade newspapers and a couple of WIKI’s, but no IFA firms.

Okay, there were some ‘sponsored links’ but very few potential clients searching will click on those….Just out of curiosity I called two of these firms paying for ‘sponsored’ links and asked them if they could provide me with ‘Pensions Advice’ in my local area, two firms paying to advertise at a target market in an area they cannot service…Absolute Madness! If you don’t understand ‘Sponsored Search’ on the Internet LE A V E I T A L O N E it will NOT work and will get you to the ‘poorhouse’ very quickly!

If used correctly the exercise that is coming will transform your business. I know that most IFA’s provide High Quality Advice, and an ‘Independent and Holistic’ approach but so what!! For many advisers, your potential clients just do not get to you using the same reference terms as you.

They are not looking for advice, they are looking for a solution to a problem or a potential problem.

The overriding point is that over the past couple of years the market place has changed a little. A good number of IFA firms have seen their ‘halo’ slip to the point that it’s now ‘choking’ them, even making the BBC News on odd occasions. The fact remains that in order to survive the coming new order (post RDR) you are going to have to do things a little differently, and of course need to have a good deal more ‘consumer focus’ and to put yourself on that proverbial pedestal. Levels of income will be plummeting unless you get work done in this area NOW!!

So where do you start with your Marketing and your Online presence?.

Research and a Niche. You cannot be and will not be ‘all things to all men’ (who said that) it’s not possible to be a General Practitioner and make the money you need to keep your Wives/Husbands and Children happy, let alone to keep Doreen or Alan who makes the tea in a job.

When considering your options you can have more than one ‘niche’, indeed you could have several ‘niches, which of course means several areas to target and once you have determined these areas you can then progress on to the more interesting stuff!

Your exercise today is to take a single product area that you are interested in and that you would like to generate more business in and have or done ‘good business’ in this area in the past. Brainstorm the number of possible options for naming this class of business, for example Pension Planning, also known as Retirement Planning, Retirement Solutions, Tax Reduction Planning etc etc……

For each key business area you are interested in, you should be able to come up with at least a ‘handful’ of different terms for each one of your chosen business areas, you should be able to find out exactly what type of client buys these products or services from you, and what they call it. What is it they are buying? Is that what you are selling?

Go and check out the local competition, check websites, check other local advertising, make some calls, speak to the Insurance Companies, find out who is doing the most business in your area for your target market. Do some research to find out why? What are they doing differently?

For example if you sell Pensions (or Pension Advice) what are your client’s are buying, lower tax bills, financial freedom at some time in the future? You need to find out and then market to their aspirations!

You should by now be able to identify your target client, now you know what it is they are looking for and what they call it, you just need to focus on where these people are and how much they are prepared to pay for it.

Now, you could find that using the marketing term Pension Planning, attracts a certain type of client, and of course I am not going to go through these now, however for each key term you will be identify a type of client, or potential client. These in marketing terms will be your target, the reason you need to go through this exercise is to segment your target and use the terms that your potential clients use.

Your target market for Pension Planning is not E V E R Y O N E, not everyone has the money, the inclination or the nous for Pension Planning, but some people do. Just go and find them.

Use the information you have now gleaned to market your products and services in way that is appropriate to your market place, not only in what your are selling, but what your client’s are buying. You are selling Pension Planning, but your clients are buying Tax Efficient Savings, or Long Holidays in the East, post 65. You are not going to sell Tax Efficiency to a client looking for ‘Long Holidays’ – they simply won’t buy it, you will just create pressure and objections to overcome.

You have to be providing what it is your client’s want and your marketing is made easier if you use the same terms and the same language as them. Look the internet makes it very easy to do, you can create pages immediately, post them on your site, alter them, apply different terms, different language targeted at specific clients language.

A little research with a little ‘brainstorming’ will give you a list of key phrases and key terms to target your market with a ‘laser like’ focus. You can then simply use this information to ‘narrow down’ your research and create a ‘unique proposition’ for your market place based on what it is your potential clients are buying. Remember the analogy they are buying ‘holes in the wall and not drills’.

A marketing piece that states “Independent Pension Advice”, has a lot less meaning to many groups than “Company Director Tax and Investment Planning” – The fact is in the first quote you are attracting all of the people that want advice about any Pension matter, and of course attracting them all is a quick way to the poorhouse.

In order to maximise your potential you will need to focus on one or more well researched product, or advice areas, planning issues. Your business must be a ‘laser targeted missile’ focused on one or more target areas. If there are two targets you will need more missiles.

Finding that elusive White Rhino – a story for 2012 – For IFA’s and Big Game Hunters.

The summer in the UK will soon be coming to an end, and of course in the southern hemisphere spring is starting, every couple of years  I spend at least  a week game hunting in South Africa. For those who have not been there; the Big Game is well worth going to see at least once in a lifetime.

My story here is about preparation and of course hunting, it is a skill that is easy to learn provided of course you get the basics right.

I wanted to see a White Rhino some years ago and have seen plenty since, but then again I now know where to look and how to prepare.

So here are the steps you need to take to find one of these elusive and rare creatures.

Get yourself to Africa, after identifying it is indeed a White Rhino you want to spot. If you are looking for Northern White Rhino all you need is a Zoo as all the survivors are in captivity. So I trust it will be the Southern White Rhino for you, as it was for me.

Establishing the target now makes life a little simpler, all we now need to do is establish a couple of further points to make our lives a little easier. Some pointers for you (things we need to know).

White Rhino – Habitat – where it lives, where it hangs out, what time it feeds and breeds. White Rhino are grazers therefore living in the African Grasslands (Savannah) if you are not there, the chances are a bit slim.

White Rhino – Feeding and Drinking what it eats, and where it drinks (there is a good chance it will hang out in these places at least once per day). Noting of course that

White Rhino Play Areas – where it meets it’s mate (the opposite sex) as it will often turn up there a specific times, there is a breeding season for most of us.

Once  you have identified all of these things you can start your hunt, however preparation is the key, you will need; basic camping and survival supplies such as sunscreen, bug spray, mosquito netting, a flashlight and first aid supplies, you get my drift. Not forgetting of course some hired help, some maps and of course a decent vehicle (not forgetting fuel).

You will also need to make sure you have enough cash to cover travel expenses and associated costs, and make sure you have all of the right Passports and Visa’s etc etc.

Once you have all of this place you are in a position to hunt Rhino and  I wish you good luck.

You can of course wonder about the relevance of this story and wonder how it fits with the modern IFA world.  It’s simple, replace Rhino in the above text and replace it with “Ideal Client” and you have the start of your Marketing Plan,  in order build your practice you need to identify what it is you want for your business and to make sure  you target only your ideal client.

I have spoken to many IFA’s who tell me that everyone is their target market?

To that my response is All?

Does that include some of these, people with no money, people in serious debt, people with specialists needs, people with needs in areas you are not authorised in etc, etc. Of course your target client is not everyone.

Fact: The more focused your practice the more success you will have.

The solution for today in this frenetic multi media world where were are bombarded with bad news and advertising is to have some focus, hang out where your target is and present to them in way that fits their lifestyles, needs and objectives. Importantly by using the various modern methods you can “get them used to you” using automation.

Once you have them in your sights, you might have several chances to ‘get them’, and sometimes you might have turn up at the water hole at regular intervals in order to get your shot or better a  photograph (even a meeting). What  I can confirm to you is this, targeted preparation is key and of course a prerequisite in this modern business world.

Good Luck and happy hunting.

Suppliers of sunscreen, bug spray, mosquito netting, a flashlight and first aid supplies

You will have to research who your client is, what they look like, where they go, what they do, where they frequent, what they read and market to them using their language. Prove your specialist ability to them and they will buy. Focus on the words they use, the internet search terms they use and alter your Internet presence and ‘present’ information accordingly.

Often an Internet Search, picking up some local magazines or papers will point you in the right direction.

Remember to describe yourself as something a little different and when asked what you do you should be able to reply……’I provide investment planning solutions to those aged over 65 who are retired and are looking to increase their income on low risk basis’.

This sounds more focused than I provide investment advice’ and opens up a range of topics to discuss, of course it narrows down your focus, but then again should help you filter out the time wasters and those that are potentially ‘high maintenance’. Of course high maintenance is good if they are also high paying.

One thing that occurred to me sometime ago was this – Generalist Practitioners are going to find themselves very limited in the new world ‘post RDR’ so get real on this now. We all know that your local GP earns a lot less on average than a Specialist Surgeon.

You need to be selling and marketing what your potential clients are buying/want to buy or all of your marketing, business development efforts will be made a lot harder.

As an aside I can hear you all screaming now, I don’t have the time for all of this, too busy.

Busy doing what? Pushing a piece of paper around your desk. Look this work is £150k per annum work, if you want to earn £18k per annum keep moving that paper, Get a freelancer in, delegate it, don’t do the admin, if you carry on in the same way, you will get same results, you must make a plan now……Deep breath!!

Before you start to implement any form of marketing exercise make sure you have worked out a plan for it, who, how much and over how long, make sure there is a multiple step marketing system in place (Sales Funnel) and of course you should ensure that all of your marketing has a support process in place for it as there is nothing worse than a potential client phoning and your sales process not being ‘up to scratch’.

Finding and Deploying Quality Content For Your Website and Related Marketing

Because we live in a ‘fast moving world’ there is no shortage of information for your website and of course your marketing, however as we discussed in the last article relevance is the most important consideration! I believe there are a two types of IFA firms out there at the moment, a limited few that ‘get’ what I am talking about, and the vast majority that really don’t.

For those of you in the larger majority there is change coming and of course if you get it right the rewards are there for the taking.

One of the main considerations when planning and building any website or internet presence is the content, and with that I mean ‘relevant content’. If you look around at enough Web Sites created by Specialists (and I do not mean the local Web Site Designer – most of them know very little about marketing and even less about Financial Services firms) you will find out very quickly that Content is King for your Website!! The better the content, the more traffic you will get and then you will make sales from it, but only on the assumption that your Website is trying to make you sales…unbelievably some seem not to want to do this!

As a minimum your Website should be there to start a relationship, to show that you are a leader in your field, and if not you, then your firm. It is easy to explain why most IFA Websites do not deliver and do not bring in any business for you…..is it because your content is just not relevant for what you are trying to do, or lacks any quality?

Your website is similar to the balance of your marketing, however it should be very fluid, your choice of words, graphics and overall presentation can be altered as and when required, unlike printed material which needs to be designed, printed and then find it’s way on to your clients desk. For those of you with compliance matters holding you back, you must find a way. Compliance departments must get a handle on this Web Based stuff they will be out of jobs very soon. IFA’s are not going to survive doing the same stuff they have been doing for years.

Far too many Websites focus on the risk warnings (that are often irrelevant for the subject of the content) and take up more space and time than is really required.

So when focusing on your content, you must make sure it is relevant for your (target) audience, it must have a desired outcome, it must inform, it must confirm yourself as an expert in your field and get your potential customers to take some action, call, email or at least to do something.

In reality, if you sell investments or investment advice you will need to make sure that your audience hears what you are saying, they are not interested in the most recent updates to the Acme Building Society ‘lending criteria’ or ‘fixed rate’ deals.

I have provided a couple of exercises for you at the end of this article.

So many IFA websites are full of content that is just not relevant, poorly presented and of course badly constructed by Web Designers who are just that, Web Designers!

Your business needs more than design!

One of the best things your Website can do is to make yourself stand out a little.

Financial Services Firms miss (mainly due to the focus on Term of Business, risk warnings and oodles of other information) is that your Clients and your Potential Clients want to know what makes you different, what makes you stand out, why they should deal with you. Having an opinion, taking a stance and explaining why you think something is like it is gives you the edge, basically a reason someone should do business with you, rather than your competition.

Your website should be there to inform about a range of subjects, however it should not be a rant, your comment must be ‘thought out’ and supported, but must be a ‘call to action’, and to position you and your business as the ‘go to guy’.

Potential clients should be treated differently than existing clients; they have already taken your advice and therefore need the same information to be provided but in a slightly different way. Certainly this issue of client segmentation is important, and there is no reason for your content not to be segmented and directed accordingly.

Finding Topical Information.

It should not be difficult to find something to say about a topical subject if you ‘take of the blinkers’ and remove some of the information filters, then you will find there is a lot going on. Remember you are seeking to solve problems, and most of your clients have problems that can be solved by you.

Your research sources could be those that have an opposite view to you. Seek them out, look at the respected commentators in your chosen field, Fund Managers, Industry specialists, “Gurus” from Insurance Companies, all of these can provide you with the one line or opinion you need in order to ‘oppose’ or ‘confirm’.

Some further samples of these are Newspapers, comment on Blogs, Internet Sites and Search Engines and subscribe to RSS (really simple syndication) feeds which you can find on any search engine. If you really have not got 5 minutes per day ( and I don’t believe you when you say you have not) get a PA to do it, provided of course your PA is able to, and is a share holder in your business. If not you do it, it’s your future you are working on.

Online Forums – they will tell you where your potential customers have pain, things they would like answers to, which you can then simply turn this into a series of comments on your website. I am not talking about providing answers to questions on some of the bigger consumer finance forums; this will never make you money.

The people that hang about there have no intention of spending money, just parasitic creatures who want it ‘all for nothing’. You business will never survive with this kind of client.

You should use email whenever you update your website, or have a comment to make and create a separate page on your website (more information on using some of the Blogging Software is not for here, but will be on the Website), once posted on your website, make sure that your clients know about it asap….use SMS services if very urgent – they must take action!!

If no one knows, no one can react, or even think about ‘buying in’ your services unless you tell them ‘what you are about’ and ‘what you have done’.

How about thumbing through some client files, posting the ‘before and after’ on your Website, people will soon find it if you create the compelling content. There is no need to disclose personal information.

You will soon start to realise that you are now swamped with information, some of it true and correct and much of it flawed, or not telling you the whole story. Most commentators are not qualified to talk on a subject such as financial planning and this is your call to action. Where you have a story (particularly an angle with a human interest) you should make the most of it.

The Options and Mediums for Delivery

Website Pages – Text, Blog Posts, Tweets, Facebook and Social Media Comment, Audio, Podcasts, Fax Bursts, Emails all duplicated on your website for all to read or even recorded and sent through Itunes as a Podcast for example. I am not sure if there are any IFA’s Podcasting (or is that a stupid question).

Video – both on your website, posted out to your client on CD, or placed on You Tube and other Video sites. If you can talk you can record presentations made using presentation slides and all of this can be recorded using ‘Free Software’ which is widely available.

Graphics – Showing your office, your staff, things that you can do, statistics, images of all sorts. One firm we work with only shows pictures of their home town and much of their internet traffic is derived from people wanting to see these often ‘quirky’ pictures, people looking to connect, so that proves that some human interest will work for you. Guess what….? Some of them even end up buying. Surprise eh!

Use charts – information about the market(s), about product sales and claims history, sample premiums, why buy now etc etc.

Show statistics – Death Rates, Critical Illness Rates. IHT Collection Amounts.

Provide Spreadsheets – Calculators for your clients to use covering topics such as Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax, don’t make them the same as the usual rubbish, but make sure it adds value. You can all use Excel, make sure you brand it and put some links back to your website.

Collect and prepare Testimonials – Success Documents – Mrs Smith’s investment portfolio success story, what her position was when you met, what you did to improve it, and where she is now. Social Proof of what you do….. What pill did she take and for what diagnosis and of course how did her treatment make her feel.

Utilise email – it’s nearly free and with some of the automated options available you can be out of the office and your message is being delivered ‘on the fly’. On this point most of your younger customers will have 24/6 handheld devices and will get your message wherever they are. Always use a PS to add some gravity and always provide options for them to subscribe or receive special offers or secret information.

Post – a hand written note, completed with a Quill Pen and Ink, delivered by Pigeon will always be opened. Save it for your very special customers, the rest can have a stamp, but always hand write the address….It adds a lot. Letters still work. Look, you can post a printed page of an email to them, even posting emails that you would have sent to client’s as you don’t have their email address.

Telephone Message- you can prerecord these, information lines attached to a Freephone number linked from your website are a forgotten method of marketing. Customers love it, there is no pressure, and guess what it’s automated!

Any combination of the above, look lets say you have made some comment about a particular piece of legislation, there is nothing to stop you making the comment, posting it on your website, sending a copy to all of your ‘introducer’s and ‘professional connections’, then getting your PA to call 20 of your clients that you think might be ‘affected’ and telling them about the important content.

From now on in if you are not doing this, one of the local IFA firms will! I know that less than 5% of you will take this on board and less than 1% of you will take action and you had better hope that the 1% are not local to you or sharing your client.

You will find that the most successful firms in any business use a mix of all of the above techniques. Some, or all of these will work for you, however you should start trying them today and as I have said before if you don’t one of the firms we are working with WILL and then you really will be in trouble.

All of this is really Treating Customer’s Fairly, is cheap and of course ‘in the main’ automated.

Before you close this page, go and have a look at the Websites of those in the Financial Industry that are clearly doing more business than your firm. I think you will be surprised or shocked to find that they provide more content on their websites, in a more engaging way and use several mediums to deliver it ( go back through the points already mentioned) you should not be surprised that their ‘Websites Work’ and address each aspect, you could say that take the issue of marketing via their websites very seriously.

In fact they take all of their marketing very seriously. Not a surprise they provide advice to more people than you and because of this they are more successful.

Starting Developing and Maintaining Relationships

This week I want to talk about starting, building and maintaining relationships.

No matter what you do in your business, now matter how good your product or service is; no matter how good you are, it means nothing if you are not able start, build and maintain relationships.

Your clients are no different to Wives and Lovers once you stop talking the relationship is over. Do you remember the early days of romance, the ‘banter’ and fun? Late night phone calls, which of course would now be Email and SMS Messaging. Everything was new, fresh, and you had a lot to talk about, learning all about each other. Some of you may remember those days.

There is a simple analogy for what goes on in all Financial Adviser practices today and it’s this. I am sure you are familiar with the term ‘Arranged Marriage’, you see in parts of the world (often out of economic or social necessity) this is normal practice, now no ethnic or political debate here, but what happens is that they take an ‘ember’ and turn it into a ‘Burning Flame’ meaning that love builds slowly when two strangers are ‘drawn’ together.

The opposite of that is the English (or Western way) that is to take a ‘flame’ and turn it into ash”. Two opposing views, but this is exactly what happens when your practice first meets a new customer and you do not get the relationship management right in the first instance.

A big flurry of activity and then nothing, once paid many firms forget to engage, of course the odd crappy newsletter that say’s nothing, but of course is compliance approved, no opinion, no call to action’ nothing really worth reading. This is the limit of the dialogue from many firms.

Oh, some of you might send the odd email, perhaps even a letter with some fund updates, but I am constantly surprised that the lack of intent to maintain a relationship with clients is so consistent, half ‘cocked’ and often not considered at all. That ‘pile of ash’ is coming quickly.

Get the communication right and your business will start to change!!

I have said this before, I will say it again (it’s not my line, but makes so much sense, it belongs to a fellow called Robert Craven, if you have not read any of his chapters or seen him present, you should…. there is a link to him from our website). He said “Your business needs to have ‘Raving Fans’, clients that love you and love your business.” Your sole objective with your Marketing is to find Friends, flirt a little, then turn them into Lovers, Marry them, and avoid Divorce. Kids or referrals are optional you just need to ask.

The value of your business is directly reflected in the quality of your relationships, the better you are at managing these relationships the better your business will do, the better the process you create for doing this, the more time you can spend on the Golf Course.

If you are not sure about where to find people to ‘flirt with’ you should go back and read the previous chapters, ‘flirting or prospecting’ (now called a marketing process) is your starting point, finding people that not only want what you, but want to work in your way are your potential long term ‘mating partners’.

You need to develop a system for maintaining these relationships (preferably automated, our own Christmas List was compiled 4 years ago, and is just added to…

Christmas Messages are sent at a click of a mouse, it takes 15 seconds max, are yours?) Then write the system down so anyone in Your Team can do it.

You will need several….lists of clients you have done business with, not done business with, lists of professionals, meddlers, time wasters, mouth pieces and they all should be marketed to on a regular basis using ‘automated systems’, you just need to ‘tweak’ the messages in accordance with the relationship.

Sometimes you can send the same information to different lists, sometimes the content can be loosely targeted, but whatever the content, whatever you send communication is THE key. Doing more business with people you have relationships with will solve more problems than it creates.

Every one of your clients will want information in a different way, for you your objective should be to make it easy for yourself and them. Electronic is best, Email, Blogs, Podcasts, Audio, then Post (we have some very useful systems for automating conventional mail which should be in use by most firms).

You will need to ask each client how they prefer to receive updates and information, and then use these preferences. Do a survey today, give them a call, send an email you may even do some business. I know that at least 1 or 2 clients will be pleased to speak to you. Once you have found out the preferred medium use it.

Sales Funnel

Provided of course you have managed to maintain the relationship with your client you will know exactly where they are in your sales funnel (you do have a sales funnel don’t you?). Most 30 year olds have different needs once they get to 39 or 50 or even 70. As an IFA firm you are very lucky, you can always help them with something, in particular as you ‘know your client’! Lifetime planning means for the whole of their life not yours.

There is no point in speaking to single 30 year olds about Family Protection (unless you want a conversation about protecting against a family, but that’s normally reserved for parents). But there are other reasons to talk to them, a little focus on potential needs and life stages will give you an idea of what to say, when and of course how. There’s one funnel for you use, it might be spread over 40 years but it is a funnel.

So where are your clients in your process (you haven’t really got one have you?), so go and work one out, and then target your message accordingly.

Here are some of your options for communication.

Letters

Postcards

Telephone (mobile and landline

Email

SMS

Website

Podcast

Video

Video Presentation

Seminars

Face to Face

You can use any combination of the above, and these combinations are important.

The use of your own style will have an impact on which to choose however you will need to get a process, determine which methods you are going to use within that process and then test them. Once you have found something that works for your business, your clients and your style use it until it stops working. Of course remember to test other mediums to ensure you have a ‘back up’. Plan B and C are always helpful and could support A.

Here is an interesting one…. A couple of IFA firms we have worked with have been known to give away Free Wills, prepared by a local Will Writer at ‘cost’. These cost the firm some £30 each and they get to interview at least 3 couples per week. It’s cheaper than buying in leads from one of the Lead Generation firms, adds a lot of value and of course completes a financial planning need, there are no compliance issues and of course this works. Now that is what I call Treating Customers Fairly.

What are you doing in your business this week in order to add some value? What are you telling your clients when you right to them? Are you making sure all of your communication is adding value to the relationship and of course the business. You should be willing to do whatever it takes to get your clients consulting with you and course paying for it.

In order to manage your relationships you just need to think, where they are now in the process (not sold, sold to, managing), find out what the preferred method of communication is and use that initially. Ever so often send a ‘googly’, by using a different medium. What I mean is that if you usually post letters, send an email telling them to watch out for it, then SMS the day before, and make sure you send the letter in your best Quill Pen Calligraphy and get it delivered by Pigeon with a Wax Seal on the back of the envelope, your response rates will go ‘through the roof’. If they don’t perhaps you need to start flirting with these people again.

Monitor all communication and act accordingly, if there is no reaction to your attempt, check your desired outcome – what is it you want them to do? Is that clear from the communication, if it was clear they could be in the arms of someone else – Adultery (where the grass always seems greener)? Action taken now could save your marriage, provided of course you want to ‘save it’. Always be happy to let a relationship collapse where it has run its course. No one ever expects you to marry your first love; sometimes it ‘pans out’, however’ often it ends in disaster or worse.

Never Be Afraid To Sack A Client – You File For Divorce!

Needy, ‘High Maintenance’ relationships should only be kept if it suits the business, and for no other reason. ‘Needy’, ‘High Maintenance’ clients are ‘parasites’ on your business. Think about this….if you need a specialist Oncologist to treat your Cancer – they do not do home visits at 8pm on a wet Wednesday evening, also you can’t phone Google – perhaps one of the greatest ‘service providers’ on the planet.

You have to go out of your way to meet with these specialists, your clients should respect your time and your methods for doing business and be prepared to go out of their way to meet with you.

For those clients than want evening meetings, or meetings in Torquay when your office is in Bristol, remember this, they are not ideal clients unless it suits you. Your business cannot afford to work with them. Let them down politely, or agree a different service level, if you are that good at your job (have a very big pedestal on which to stand) then you will have no problem convincing them to work with you on your terms. Come to an arrangement, charge them travelling time (at least the same as you would earn when with a client), there are plenty of options here. Certainly the use of technology will help.

Before I end on this subject I think it is worth saying that all of this applies to relationships you have now, have had in the past, to people that have made enquires and that have not done business with you, to those that have been introduced to you by third party introducers and to those that will be introduced to you once you get some of this right.

I am absolutely convinced that most IFA firms are not sufficiently profitable because too much time is spent not focusing on relationships…..the value of your business and the quality of your business life is dependent on these.

Perhaps the reason your IFA practice is not doing as well as it should be, is because it’s all about you and not about your Systems, and your Marketing Relationships. The fact is your business will never be worth what it should be whilst it is all about you and your poor relationships. There are a good number of IFA firms run on a flexible workforce, with automated systems and written processes. If I take a day off, or even a week the business still continues. Does yours?

Why a call to Action is Important – Why you must have a USP or be able differentiate yourself.

Over the course of the last 4 chapters I have produced an outline for you in order to determine who your customers should be and advised methods of finding them along with a system for marketing to them using the various methods. All of these pointers are not new and have been around for years. You will of course need to make them fit your business, and if you take action your business will start to take off in the right direction.

With the RDR looming you have no choice but to consider the options for your business, exactly what the proposition will and how you are going to get the clients that will pay you for the advice you will provide.

Now just because we all know that IFA’s provide the best kind of financial advice and that these are the ‘guys you should go to’ does not mean that they will. It’s your marketing and your marketing message that will ‘put you on the pedestal’ and position yourself as the expert. Once you have done so there will be no shortage of business as indeed there is now for those getting all of this marketing stuff right.

For the final instalment I want to cover the most important things you will have to do in order to make your marketing work for you.

USP – Unique Selling Point (or Proposition) – How is your business different from the rest of the competition.

Whilst this might seem obvious to you, try this simple exercise. Pick up one of the local ‘business pages’ and find a list of Financial Advisers, look at there ad’s. You will not be surprised to see that they all say the same, often the same font, layout and choice of words. “Want Decent Mortgage Advice, Call Us – We’re Independent”, what happens the prospective clients just thinks to themselves – so what.

Often the copy within the ad goes on to explain about how they are authorised, how professional they are, boring and the same. Do you think for one minute when you walk into the offices of one of these firms the experience is the same, do you think for one minute that the levels of service or expertise will be the same? Of course not. So why advertise in the same medium, using similar copy and content. It’s madness and has gone on for years.

It gets worse, often there are local campaigns “Wally the Butcher Celebrates 50 Years In Wallington” is the front page of the local newspaper, and you have been invited to ‘buy special’ advertising on the same page, please ask the question, why do you want your business linked (even psychologically) to Wally the Butcher and ever other business in the area. Is it because you look like Wally, are based next door to Wally?

I thought not, the reality is that your business is different and you need to find out why it is, and then use this for your marketing message and never ever position yourself close to or next to another business unless there is clear symbiosis indeed this should be discussed and confirmed beforehand. I am happy to explain why – email me through the website.

It gets easier though, if you have done the work that leads up to the Advertisement correctly you would already have identified the kind of client you want to work with, the kind of business you want to be doing and you can make yourself stand out with your marketing.

Lets say your target is those over 50 with Pension Pots of more than £50k who are looking to retire at 55. Your marketing message should be focused on them and therefore making yourself different, a sample message could be Over 50 looking to retire sooner rather than later, have a substantial Pension? Acme Advisers providers a specialist service to facilitate this. We have produced a Free report outlining the “10 ways your pension can be used to facilitate early retirement, and the action you must take now” you can get this from our website at…..

Now if someone wants mortgage advice, they probably wont bother downloading the report, but those in your target market will. Which of course is the desired outcome for you.

The advertising and the report makes you out to be the ‘specialist firm in the area’ and of course only our clients are doing this at the moment. The rest of the competition are yours for the taking.

Have a look at all of your marketing today and check to see if it’s targeted, actually do one step more than that get all of your Marketing Material out on your desk or take it home with you tonight.

Look through it after Eastenders (I have lots of reasons why you should never watch any TV soap, but that’s not for here) over a glass of wine. Does it fit with any of your targeted markets? Does it compel your likely clients to think you are the specialist?

I can almost certainly guarantee that it does not. Anything that is generic, should be binned, recycled. Just got rid of, use your website as the sole source of information, make all of your brochures downloadable, reserve printed copy for a handful of that pay more than anyone else and do not own computers. In all fairness if your clients are not Web savvy in 2010 then realistically you probably cannot afford to service them post RDR anyway. They will not want to pay for your time driving backwards and forwards along with printing and postage costs increasing all of the time.

Find your target, focus your marketing, copy and presence on them and nothing else.

Everything you do should be focused on them, once you start getting results monitor them and amend accordingly.

Why a Call to Action is important

On this subject of a call to action, there is no point in making contact with any of your customers or potential customers without providing a call to action, telling them what to do next. Visit a website, call a Freephone number, send an email, complete a survey, anything.

Look your clients are time short, and need some prodding. Imagine your client as an overweight, lazy Sloth like creature. Stuck in front of the TV watching some daytime TV reading your Newsletter and reads some interesting new things about Pension Planning but is not sure if it’s for him (or her) yet. The phone is just out of fingertip reach on the Coffee Table so he needs to reach in order to pick it up, however being a Sloth is finding it easier to roll back on the sofa and carry on the previous task.

What are you going to say to that potential client to make them reach to pick up the phone. Now say that!

Give them a choice of response, they could send a text message, return a post paid card, email, visit a website. If you don’t do this another firm will, perhaps one of the firms we are working with. Not complicated at really is it.

Most large businesses in the world spend many millions on marketing their brand, and indeed if we consider Soft Drinks, some Alcohol brands along with the major retailers all market their products based on a ‘brand model’ and if you have really deep pockets or a large global business this would be great for you to do. For most Financial Advisers this kind of marketing is pointless and will get you to the Poorhouse very quickly.

The term call to action is one that a lot of marketers and business owners miss but if used correctly will change your marketing from bland and unsuccessful to fantastically profitable and in just a few steps.

In any of your sales messages you need to tell your customer, client whoever what to do next, call, phone, send and email, clip a coupon, enter a prize draw what ever it needs to get them to move to the next stage. You need to prod them into making the next move. Sometimes they need prodding quite hard.

Whatever you say in your copy or message needs to prick there conscious enough for them to have an AHA moment, one of those must do moments, getting them to take action is most important. Which is why I love the use of the PS, it just gives you another chance if all else has failed.

You simply need a call to action indeed you may need several call’s to action for each different marketing target. Some will want to phone, others email, perhaps even downloading a free report, listening to a Podcast, applying for a Free CD or an Invitation to a Seminar, the list of course is endless. You must make the ‘Sloth’ react.

If there is no attempt at getting them to take further action all you have done is paid for message to be sent in the hope that your message will get through the thousands of marketing messages that are seen every day.

Hope of course is not a plan, hope is wasted opportunity.

There is nothing wrong with altering your message from Contact us today, to “we have saved clients like you from certain financial failure, if you want to avoid being the next victim download the free report, send an email to, listen to the podcast’.

Now I know that most IFA firms will not want to disturb or upset, but the truth remains are you going to leave a potential client to suffer at the hands of a poorer quality, less specialised Adviser just because you did not disturb them enough to call you. Sell solutions not advice or product. (Have we been here before).

You need to get this right, you need to be persuasive enough with all of your marketing to ensure your potential customers take action, getting them to do what you want them to do. Failure is not an option and if it does that means your marketing spend and effort will continue to do a disservice to you and your business.

It’s interesting to see a small number of IFA firms getting this right, I am not saying you have to be aggressive with your marketing or that you have to be overly exuberant, however in a crowded market place where demands for your products have never been greater (I have the evidence to prove it if you want it call me – just google IFA Marketing Expert, you will find me) you just need to find a way to be different to stand out and to tell your potential clients what you want them to do next.

There are now so many mediums you have the option to use however your message must change, you must be focused on your target market using words that they would use and of course place a call to action at the beginning middle and end of any marketing message.

Just have a look around at what your competition is doing, what the other IFA firms are up to, get a PA to have a look at some Websites, check some marketing. When you have found these samples do the comparisons I think you will be shocked in that your business is no better then the others in the market place at the moment and less than 1% of the IFA’s reading this will take action (what a damning statistic that is) this fact alone should spur you into taking some action.

I trust that having come to the end of these chapters your business is now better positioned than it was, with some clear targets being set along with a process for finding new business that will only improve with work.

Put yourself on that pedestal, straighten that Halo and let’s do some business.

Critical Mass, Email Lists – One Rule for you and another for the rest

This morning I had an email (the reason you need an email list is to use it) from one of the large retail chains – you know the one that sells everything except food. I have been happy with the service they have provided in the past and have spent a good deal of money with them over the years, it remains to be seen if I will purchase any financial product from them.

They have my email address and I am happy to receive emails about special offers and such like from them. Now there is nothing new in the use of email or in large retailers using their buying power in order to expand into other markets like Financial Services.

Nearly all of them use a “white label financial product’ which means all they bring to the party is a list of customers and some branding, logos etc. The firm offering the white label is obviously happy to have the critical mass that these retailers bring.

What I found interesting was the fact they manage, at a few clicks of the mouse and a brief legal agreement (covering commissions etc) to get a complete website up and running that add’s value and delivers for those visiting the site. It’s shame the same cannot be said for most IFA Websites.

Interesting to note though that these websites and others like it, is really driving a ‘coach and horses’ through the regulations that seemingly prevent nearly all IFA’s from having websites that work.

I hear all of the time that content needs ‘compliance sign off’ or “it’s a financial promotion, we will have to get that approved” and then, of course, that becomes all too difficult and you end up with the same bland comment on your site that every other IFA firm has and there is nothing to make your firm or your service stand out.

But a good number of sites and firms are getting away with this and I wonder why.

Yes of course they are a larger organisations and they have economies of scale, of course they do not provide any form of advice – all sales are non advised conveniently, and having spoken to a couple over the past day or so seems that they do not really understand the issue of ‘independence or not’.

Now I know that you all know that this goes on and will continue to go on and the internet, the web is going to be the medium of choice for many consumers in the future extending out the present usage even further but finding a way must be a goal for you.

To allow your customer based to be eroded so substantially by these organisations that clearly do not care about advice, or indeed it seems about the issue of regulation (or have found another way) is a crime being committed to IFA firms across the country.

So I have a solution, sort your website out, white label a ‘gas electricity, general insurance comparison site’, cross-sell everything via the use of email and every other method at your disposal, but do it with a difference. Do it with genuine concern for your customer, a genuine concern for quality advice and product selection. This is your niche, this is where you will shine amongst seemingly stiff competition.

It is possible to automate much of your marketing and your relationships making this easy to do, question is with most IFA’s being so busy moving paper and focusing on that which is not important I doubt you will.

For those that do the brave new world coming is very exciting indeed.

IFAs and Social Media – Reasons you should take action elsewhere – The Goats Milk Story.

Thursday night is a Rugby night in our house, that normally means takeaway food and a couple of beers for me. This week was a little different, whilst my eldest trained in Horsham Park I popped over to Sainsbury’s for some Goats Milk (making Cheese this evening).

Whilst making a decision about how much I was going to buy Dee Blick appeared next to me. Now Dee and I have met a good number of times before and her background, like ours, is Financial Services and it was interesting to chat with her again.

For those of you who have not heard of Dee her website is http://www.themarketinggym.org, her book on Business Marketing is a BESTSELLER on Amazon and she is a thoroughly nice lady to spend some time with. If you do not have her book you should rush and buy it now.

Anyway back to our chat, we both provide a range of services to business owners, and Dee, of course, is a brilliant speaker. You could say that there is a symbiosis between us, there is a definite desire to help Business owners solve their marketing problems.

Now what was interesting is that we laughed about the Social Media Frenzy that everyone is frothing about, everyone seems to be thinking that IT [Social Media] is the solution to all marketing issues for ever. It is not!

Making millions from Social Media is a false hope, so many users are the 12- 14 year olds that are bored in the evening, and others are just those bored at work . Hardly ideal client material. It is banned in our offices. It’s called work for a reason.

It’s also interesting that the FSA is taking a keen interest in Social Media, perhaps they all bored in the office as well (another story there).

This is the reality, yes Social Media has it’s place in modern marketing- maintaining relationships world. It is quick to update large groups of people. However to spend valuable time and money on courses, seminars and strategies is a complete waste unless you have taken time to make it accurately fit your overall marketing plan.

Now I know there will be some of you emailing to say how much you have made from your strategy etc etc. And frankly I don’t believe you. If the owners of these Social Media sites are not making it, then I honestly don’t believe you are.

What you should have in place is carefully crafted process for building and maintaining customer relationships, like the good old days. You might remember some of these from those dusty sales and marketing books, the letter (even a hand written note), the telephone (if not from you then from a member of staff), press releases, email, fax, newsletters and presentations to name a few. Just plain old customer service.

Yes of course you can move some of these online and I recommend you do so,  however you should not be blinded by the next new thing. We do live in a rapidly changing world and you do need to adapt but ignore the stuff that really works at your peril. Your customers have not changed, they still want the same thing.

As I have said before most IFA’s are happy to buy in leads at £50 – £60 per time but resist spending 30 minutes making phone calls to existing clients who really want to hear from you.

Before you run off and spend hard earned money on the next new thing think about your options, where did your last sale or fee come from? How did you get it? Do some more of that first and only then start to focus on the next new thing.

It was interesting to see that Google have produced some White Papers arguing for further spending by Financial Firms in order to meet the need of consumers and the number of searches carried out for financial products has been increasing. The reality is many of these searches are not from people wanting to actually do business. The 100,000 searches a month done for Financial Planning would swamp the industry if they all turned into enquiries. Which suggests to me something else is going on.

Importantly I have not seen many IFA Websites that actually deliver the information that customers are looking for, nor do many have the correct levels of interactivity and nearly all are not optimised for the Search Engines. Spending good money on marketing a pretty bad website will be a poor return on investment.

You have been warned.

Meanwhile pop over to Dee’s site and download some of the great stuff she has provided there free of charge, and of course if you want to discuss Goats Milk at any time Dee and I can be found in Sainsburys at Horsham most Thursday evenings.