Apr 132012

Photo of business strategy bookWhat is content marketing? I hear you ask.

Content marketing is all about information sharing, as opposed to product pushing.  It’s about the creation of content and sharing of it with your potential customers in order to engage with them and build a relationship.

In this multi-dimensional, communications-enabled age people are blind to advertising; they want information.  Not only that but they usually want it free (or very cheap) and they want it on their terms.  Bombarding them with adverts doesn’t achieve any of that so we need to find new ways to get our name out there.

As a small business the best way is through the use of the web and this can be done in many forms.  Underlying each strategy, however, needs to be the key remit that you’re doing it primarily to help others, with little or no indication of selling on your behalf.  Let’s look at a typical small business example.

Imagine that I run a Web site design company.  I will, naturally, have my own Web site which is aimed at selling my services with a few ‘calls to action’ but I should also include content marketing stuff on there too.  For example, I may have a glossary of web design terms so that people can start to understand the difference between html, css, Java and Flash.  I may also have a free downloadable pdf with the key questions people should ask a web developer before using their services.  I could go as far as putting together some videos showing how to make a site more Google friendly, or sowing how to make the most of Adsense.

There are a number of great things about all these ideas.  First, they’re free/cheap to do, second, once done they are there forever and third (and most importantly) they help to show me as an expert in my field.  This is the key thing that helps towards building the relationship of trust that will over time result in business coming in.

The next element of my strategy will be to get myself involved in forums.  Here, I will go online to give my expertise freely to others who need it.  I will go to a variety of sites spread across a wide range of subject areas (even Mumsnet has pages on business so don’t just look in the obvious places) and start building my reputation.  Initially I probably won’t even mention that I run a web design business but, as my reputation grows, I will slowly start to drop hints until I finally ‘come out’.  Even then I will still avoid explicitly touting or business.

Content marketing is a slow burner but it is one that will bring huge rewards to you and your business because it is built on relationships which tend to be strong and, therefore, enduring.

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jan 142012

Do you really know how much it costs to start a small business?

While starting a small business can be an exciting time it can also be an expensive time too. If you’re starting from scratch you need to have a good idea of what costs are going to come your way and make sure that you can cover them all, plus extra to keep you going for the first few months (your working capital). Continue reading »

Dec 222011

Starting a small business on the right footing from the beginning

If you’re thinking of starting a small business, have you thought about where you want it (and you) to be in 3 years’ time? Five years? Ten years? It may seem like a minor thing now but it’s really important to think about this because it will affect many aspects of how you develop your business. Continue reading »

Dec 202011

Use the Ansoff Matrix to help grow your business

Very often when thinking about how to grow and improve a business our minds get confused by the options available to us and, as a result, we either don’t do anything or we end up making a mess of it.  But in very fundamental terms there are only really 4 things we can do and they are:

  • Develop a new product or service;
  • Expand our market area;
  • Diversify our offering, and
  • Increasing penetration into our existing market.

These basic ideas were developed by Igor Ansoff and are a really good guide to helping to  sort out all our ideas.  Ansoff explained them by use of a matrix as shown below. Continue reading »

Dec 202011

I wish someone told me these things before I started my first business

Starting a business can be a real roller-coaster – there are highs and lows every day.  Having been through the process myself I thought it might be useful to highlight a few things that I can now look back on and say “I wish I knew that before I started” so that others might be saved re-inventing the wheel. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Why business management is important

I’m a strong supporter of the writings and thoughts of Michael Gerber and his ‘E-Myth’ concept regarding small businesses.  One of the reasons I think he’s right in what he says is during my many years of coaching I’ve seen the proof.  I’ve seen technicians start small businesses thinking their technical skills will get them through, only to find they’re soon struggling because they have no skills at managing a small business. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Think carefully about your small business ideas before taking action

I’m a real advocate of the phrase ‘time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted’ – in other words, the more preparation you do before taking action the better (that’s not to say you never take action, just that you make sure you’re prepared before you do).  This advice is particularly important before you start your business because if you don’t then all you’re doing is wasting your own time and money. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

How suited are you to running a small business?

This article is one of a series about the wide and varied things that need to be thought through when starting up a new business.  There are a huge number of things to think about but we’re going to focus in on one of the most important here today.

For someone starting up a new small business it can be a real roller-coaster of excitement and worry and the aim of this article is to try and help the individual prepare themselves for all that is to come so that they don’t make some of the same mistakes that others (including me!) made when starting out.  Ok, so what do we need to think about? Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Working out the true cost of selling something is difficult – but vital

It’s vital to survival that the cost of your products is known and controlled.  If you don’t know how much it costs you to produce then you can’t be sure that you’re making a profit; many companies have found out the hard way that they have got their costing policies wrong.  Here’s how to avoid that happening to you. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Cash is king – here’s how to keep it on the throne

Cash is the blood of a business – without it you die.  Cashflow is the movement of that life-giving blood into and out of the business; if there’s more flowing out than in then you’re in big trouble.  Many firms go under despite being profitable simply because they did not stay in control of their cashflow.  One of the key ways to take control of cashflow is to take control of your trading terms.  Here are a couple of things to think about that might help you stay in control. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Here are some key lessons from those who are already successful business owners

I’ve been reading a book of case studies of business owners who got their companies to make the big leap from being ok companies to being great companies.  As I read through the various chapters I started to see a set of trends emerging. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Buying a business can be a great idea – but you need to be careful

One of the options when going into business for yourself is to buy a going concern – a business that someone else has set up, done all the hard yards on, and now (for whatever reason) wants to sell.  Although this might sound like the easy option there are a lot of things you need to keep in mind to avoid expensive mistakes and a lot of heartache. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Waste not, want not

It’s very easy in a business to focus on the big stuff and forget about the impact the small stuff has.  But it’s the small stuff that can really end up making a difference to the overall success of your business.  However, getting the message across to the team can sometimes be difficult. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Daily meetings are important for the efficient functioning of your business

You do have one, don’t you…?  Look at any thriving company and you will see a daily routine that includes a daily get together to catch up on progress.  But it’s not enough just to have a meeting – it needs to be run and structured properly if it is to be effective rather than just a talking shop.  Here are a few tips. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Profit is vanity, cash is sanity

It’s an unfortunate fact that a lot of profitable businesses go under because they run out of money.  But how can that be so, you ask.  Well, it’s because they don’t understand cash flow and cash flow forecasting and that profit and cash flow are two different things. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Is your business ready to be sold if someone want to buy?

Many new business owners don’t think beyond the point where they will get the business up and running and – most importantly – profitable.  But done properly the time when you will really make really big money is when you sell and that’s what your ultimate goal should be. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Think outside the box and increase your profit potential

I have a friend who’s business is designing and making clocks – from scratch; he’s very skilled but limited in how he can expand his business due to the skills involved.  At another friend’s birthday party he was complaining about his lack of opportunities to move the business on and we got talking about how he could increase his profits and make his business more viable.  Here are a couple of small business ideas that came up. Continue reading »

Dec 162011

A little bit of sales psychology

There are a lot of things that influence a customer making a decision to buy something.  To improve the chances of you being the person they buy from it’s worth having a little bit of knowledge of the psychology behind buying.  Here are the five main stages in the decision making process: Continue reading »

Dec 162011

Getting the customer is just stage one; now you need to really make them love you

If you want to build a successful business you need to build your customer base.  Building a customer base is always easier, better and cheaper if you are able to keep the customers you have rather than lose them after every purchase and have to start again.  Ideally, the longer you keep a customer the higher they will move up your relationship ladder.  Here’s how the ladder works. Continue reading »

Dec 152011

It’s cheaper to keep present customers than to find new ones

Someone has done studies to look at how/why customers stop using a business and the results are startling.  A few percent move, another few percent move because they get a better offer, some die (literally) but by far the biggest percentage – around 69% – move on because of indifference from the business they were using.  That sounds like bad news but in fact for you, if you’re going to run your business properly, it’s going to be good news.  If 69% of companies don’t have a good customer service program the it’s not going to take much from you to become one of the 31% who do.  Let’s look at a few ways to keep those customers. Continue reading »

Dec 152011

How to maximize your productivity

If you were given $86,400 and told you had to spend it today or lose it, the chances are you would spend it all on things you wanted.  However, translate that $86,400 into seconds (that equates to the number of seconds in a day) and the chances are that you either spend a lot of those seconds doing stuff you don’t want to do or you waste them by not doing anything at all. Continue reading »

Dec 152011

When you first start out there’s often the worry that no-one will take you seriously because of your size.  Although that’s not always the case there is some truth in it and it usually doesn’t harm your likelihood of success to make yourself look bigger than you are (that’s one of the advantages of buying a franchise – you may just be starting out but you have the franchise name behind you so people consider you to be something bigger).  I’ve put together here a few things that me and some of my past clients have done to give the impression of being a bigger business. Continue reading »

Dec 152011

Want to be successful in business?  Read on…

Speak to most people and they will say that the most important things for a business are to make a profit and keep the cashflow positive.  True, but they are second order effects stemming from more strategic level actions.  Here are the three higher level factors that are needed for a successful business. Continue reading »

Dec 152011

Is your small business starting to drift?

Sometimes, a year or two after you start your small business, you suddenly find that you’re not actually doing what you expected, or the business seems to have drifted away from what you thought it should be.  If that’s the case then it’s probably time you did a quick re-set of your ‘business compass’ to get you back to the right track.  When I’m working with small business owners I usually recommend they take time out of the business at least once a year and, to do it properly, to take a few days off and away from the office to concentrate on it properly.  Here are a few questions I usually ask them to ask themselves. Continue reading »

Dec 142011

Beware of growing pains as your business takes off

It’s a great feeling as business improves and your business starts to grow; you think the struggle for survival is behind you, that everything is fine from here on in and you start to relax.  The next thing you know you’re back to where you started thinking “what happened?”  Running a small business that’s expanding can be complicated but it’s not impossible. Here are a couple of things you need to keep an eye out for: Continue reading »

Dec 142011

A business dashboard lets you know what’s going on in your company

When you’re driving along in your car how do you know that everything is ok with the car?  You look at the dashboard – speed ok, enough fuel for the journey, engine temperature in the green.  At a glance you can see everything is fine and then turn your attention back to the road ahead. How do you think your business might benefit from a similar dashboard so that you could see at a glance that all was ok and then concentrate again on building profit?  If you want to run a good business then developing a dashboard is a key requirement. Continue reading »