Photo courtesy ofGarrhet Sampson
Last year, I compiled 10 LinkedIn articles that inspire me as a start-up founder and entrepreneur.
The topics covered span from intellectual property, organisational culture and self-disruption. I have added my key takeaways for 2017, a good reminder for me as the year reaches a halfway point.
Varun Batra discusses the pitfalls of choosing the wrong tech-stack at the onset of your tech startup. He explains that the focus of an entrepreneur should be getting an MVP out in the shortest possible time. Two ways to work smarter: Stick with one or two technologies or Start with one or two technologies. Reading time: 3-5 minutes
This is an insightful article for any entrepreneur with an idea. Intellectual property (IP) can appear complex but Akeem Famuyiwa does a good job of explaining the different kinds of IP, licensing and how structuring a licensing deal can have significant impact on long term business growth. Reading time: 5-7 minutes
Talk about a timely article! This article came up in my feed at a time when I was making decisions about building a minimum viable product. Ajay Shrivastava talks about speed, technology and agility. Must read if you’re building anything for customers. Reading time: 7-10 minutes
I failed to save the part one of this article but you can find it here. The second part of the article follows on to discuss how to pass the tipping point. Passing the tipping point is crucial for market growth. Hans Peter Bech gives great insight into how to increase market share using techniques like customer segmentation and facilitating your buyers’ journey. Great read as you make inroads into your target market. Reading time: 7-10 minutes
Sarah Goodall wrote this article in November 2016, and it is one of my favourites. I’m a huge fan of enabling organisational culture because I think too many companies leave culture to chance. Sarah discusses how organisations can develop a ‘growth’ mindset (and move away from a ‘fixed’ mindset). She touches on learning through failure, continuous feedback and flatter organisational structures. Reading time: 5-7 minutes
Janeen Judah is the 2017 SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) President. In this article, she called for a Startup Village/Fair at conferences such as ATCE. The oil and gas industry is overdue for innovative disruption. Therefore, this is exactly the kind of idea that should be getting overwhelming support. Reading time: 3-5 minutes
Following on from my love for great organisational cultures, this article challenges the idea of value statements, an approach that Stefan Norrvall notes is ineffective if they are not linked to the behaviours, systems and symbols within an organisation. Particularly in cases where values change often. What’s the point? I agree, Stefan! Leaders must walk-the-talk for the talk to be real. Reading time: 5-7 minutes
This intriguing title engaged people like me, people who are developing products that will eventually need a product manager. Suhaas Kaul discusses the difference between a good product manager and a great one. You want a great product manager as a merely good one is simply not good enough. Reading time: 7-10 minutes
On the topic of products and what makes great ones, David Fradin’s book appears insightful. The book is on my reading list for this year (I will get to it). According to Uday Kumar, the book is dedicated to enhancing the chances of product success and reducing product failure. Reading time: 3-5 minutes
I recently came across Whitney Johnson, a leading management thinker, author and host. This article is fantastic if you are an entrepreneur who wants to make a real difference. Whitney’s examples are inspiring. Do you want to fill a niche with your strengths? Do you learn from failure? Then read this, oh, and follow her podcast, ‘Disrupt Yourself Podcast’. It promises brilliance! Reading time: 7-10 minutes
Key takeaways for 2017
- Start with the minimum until you have find what your customers want.
- Look for a niche market where you can gain market share using your distinctive strengths.
- As an entrepreneur, always be thinking about your company’s culture from day one and ensure your systems, behaviours, processes and leadership team align.
- Your product or technology is the core of your business so get advice on the right IP to protect it.
- Innovation will keep you ahead in the market, regardless of industry. Be ready to disrupt even yourself.
A version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn on 31 December 2016
Marketing is often on the bottom of the list for small businesses, and I understand that. The priority is usually to get business as quickly as possible, yet things like building a website tend to be nice-to-haves in some cases. I run a marketing consultancy but I haven’t been immune to the reluctance to spend on “marketing stuff”. In this article, I will highlight 10 essential yet cost-effective marketing tips for even the smallest budgets. These tips will help you build a foundation for your business. Many will cost you nothing, but they will make a significant impact in growing your business long term.
Cost-effective marketing tips for small businesses
1. Email Marketing
If you have a contact list of potential customers, email marketing could be a good way of letting them know about your business. You could start with a small list of people that know you and would not mind getting your email. For this, you don’t need an email marketing service. You could just use your email provider. Remember to keep your contacts’ emails in Bcc so that you don’t share their email addresses with your entire list. As your list grows, consider email providers like MailChimp, Mad Mimi and MailerLite. These all have free plans. The paid plans cost as little as £7 a month if you grow to a list of over 1,000 subscribers. If you get to that point, well done!
2. Business cards
Giving out your business card is a simple way of telling people what you do and how they can reach you. Thanks to companies like Vistaprint, you can get 500 business cards for £15. Other options are Fiverr, an online marketplace for your digital needs. Someone can design your card for as little as £3, and then you could print it elsewhere. I don’t recommend going too ‘cheap and cheerful’ with your business cards but don’t spend too much on it either. I changed my mind about my tag line a couple of times and that meant new business cards. Luckily, they didn’t cost much so I was able to make new cards to reflect my business’ value. Remember that as you evolve, your business will too. Make provisions for the changes that you might make.
3. Networking events
Networking events could cost anything from nothing to hundreds of pounds. The trick is to find those events that are relevant to your industry. When attending a networking event, don’t be shy to give away your business card. But also don’t worry too much about how much business you will get at the event. It could hinder you from just having a good time. You could be pitching all night! I’ve started to see networking events as an opportunity to just be known, help people put face to name. If new clients come as a result, fantastic!
4. CRM systems
When you think about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, you might imagine a complex database that does things that as a small business, you are not ready for. However, CRM systems are essential to build your business. One of the first things I did was get Highrise, a simple CRM tool that allows me enter details of new contacts, potential and existing clients. Within Highrise, I can maintain details of all potential and existing client interactions, from first contact to conversion. Needless to say, Highrise is free for businesses with less than 250 contacts. It increases to roughly £15 a month for up to 5,000 contacts. Another CRM system for small business is HubSpot CRM. It’s free, but I haven’t tried. If you have, let me know what you think!
Gone are the high costs of building a website. Tools like WordPress.org and Wix make it easy for novices to build a website. I built my first website a year ago, and it was my steepest learning curve yet! I plan to improve it with expert intervention soon, but as a small business owner, spending on a luxury website might not be an option. But you need a website. You also need to make it SEO-friendly so that potential clients find you for relevant services. These days, a decent website costs from £500 if you contracted a website designer. Try your hands on building one yourself but get feedback. One advantage I’ve found from building my own website is that I have access to the back admin and can always change elements of the site myself. This is invaluable for a business that is growing and evolving daily.
Blogging is even easier than building a website. Without a full blown website, you could use platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com to start writing blogs about your industry, and your solution. You could invite guest bloggers, people who have complementary expertise or a unique view about a subject that your target audience might be interested in. Blogging is free, and a good way to be online and findable. Not blogging about your business is like being on mute in a customer meeting. Why are you there??
7. Social media
We all know it doesn’t cost anything to be on social media. But it might cost a little to be heard above the noise. Still, you could do a lot with £3 on Facebook. The key is to truly understand your target audience and where they hang out. If your clients are not on Twitter, you don’t need to be there. If your small business works with other businesses, a LinkedIn business page could be powerful. Spend time testing different social media channels and see what brings the most engagement. Also consider how much time you have to spend on these channels. For instance, LinkedIn and Facebook tend to require less time while Instagram and Twitter are about constant engagement i.e. 5-8 posts a day for real impact.
8. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is another free tool that every business website should have. It allows you see the sources of traffic to your website, and provides analytics on your website visitors. Google Analytics will show you how many visitors come from social media channels, and from organic searches via keywords. This was valuable for me as I contemplated which social media channel to invest in. For instance, LinkedIn brings over 40% of my social media traffic with Twitter as a close second. However, organic searches is by far the greatest source of traffic to my website. Therefore, I might decide to invest in Google Ads for specific keywords.
PR used to be left to Public Relations experts. But with social media and fantastic new tools like PingGo, PR has been democratised. For £30 a month, you can write your own press release anytime you want! So if you win a new client, expand your business or launch a new product, use PR to tell your story. Identify relevant news outlets and start telling the world the good news.
Not all businesses will benefit from brochures because so much of marketing has gone online. Yet, I believe this shift has made brochures a novelty, and it could be intriguing to receive a brochure from a small business. The less we expect something, the more positive impact it could have on your customers. You get their attention. A well-designed 8-page brochure that simply lays out your value proposition, key products and services, pricing and contact details is a good idea. You could leave it in cafes, doctor surgeries, office receptions etc. It will cost from £150 to get one designed. Assuming you provide all the copy and images, all you have to do is print it. Online printers like instantprint could print 100 copies of a 8-pp from as little as £45 depending on size and paper quality.
Next time you think about marketing for your business, know that it doesn’t need to cost the earth with these cost-effective marketing tips.
What an energetic rush! In the last 12 weeks, I had the opportunity to nurture an idea for a web application as part of an accelerator programme. There were 15 other founders who were also on the journey to grow a business idea. This included Bendifa, Tinto Architecture, Get Soda, GiftID, 10 Trillion Trees, Sequel Composites, The Stylist’s Stamp, LiberEat, Ebar Initiatives and DogLeg Golf. My vision is to reduce the guesswork in creating and tracking the performance of marketing strategies. It marked the end of the 12-week accelerator programme. We had mentors, investors and partners in attendance. Each founder had 3 minutes to pitch their idea to the audience. It was an excellent afternoon, the start of a new phase for the founders.
Pictures from Founders Showcase.
Photo credits: Michal Wachucik/Abermedia/Aberdeen/Elevator UK/Founders Showcase/14 December 2016
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For information on how you can get involved with our new web application idea, follow this link.
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I have a confession to make
I want people to like me. When I enter a room, I look for signs that the people in that room think I’m alright. These signs could include:
Smiling at me
Starting a conversation with me
Pulling me into a conversation by asking me questions
Making eye contact
Nodding in my direction
It’s a hard thing to admit in a society that tells us that caring about what people think is bad, a sign of insecurity. On the other hand, we work in business markets where we want to attract as many customers as possible. We study them, and we seem desperate to catch their attention. It is fair to say that we care what customers think. Are businesses therefore insecure?
Businesses have compromised their value proposition
Most people, like businesses, want to be liked. But I’ve found that if a room full people all like me, I’m probably not being true to myself. It’s likely that I’m going out of my way (with some of them) to say the things they want to hear. Consciously or unconsciously, I’ve compromised my real value. Do businesses do the same in a bid to secure new customers? I think so.
In fact, if your value proposition is for all customers alike, I can tell you with a degree of certainty that your business isn’t being true to itself. It’s the old adage of trying to be all things to all men (and women).
My value proposition doesn’t resonate with everyone
As much as I want to be liked by everybody, I can’t achieve that without losing sight of my real focus. I have become comfortable with this.
In a room of ten people, for instance, it is not unusual for me to really hit it off with two or three people. It’s a kind of natural selection and I’ve learned to rejoice in this.
Therefore, focus on adding value in your unique way. Recognise who you should say, “No” to. You read that right. You will not add value to some customer groups. And the less time you spend on these groups, the better focus you give your business. Hence, it comes down to targeting and positioning, along with a clear value proposition.
What are your target customer groups and what is your specific value proposition to these groups?
Which customers are you chasing now that you should be saying, “No” to?
If you would like support in answering these questions for your business, get in touch with us today