Let’s Recap – A Google Adwords Refresher

google-adwordsAlthough I know a lot of our readers already use Google Adwords to a greater or lesser extent, when I saw this article on e-consultancy, I thought it worth sharing as it’s a great refresher for those who use the platform, and a great introduction for those who don’t. Google Adwords (and the alternatives mentioned in the article) are great tools for developing  highly controllable and measurable campaigns to drive traffic to your website. If you are considering using it, then this article is a great place to start your Adwords journey.

What is Google AdWords and how does it work?

Images on your website – get creative

smartphoneWhenever we are working on website projects with a client there is one issue that comes up time and time again – CONTENT. It is one thing to have a cutting edge website design but it is the content that really tells your story and gets your message across. For content, read images! Don’t get me wrong, the words are important but too many words just overwhelms the visitor and, let’s face it, they just don’t read it! Photographs and images can open up a website to your market – and encourage people to read more to get detail. Here are my top tips for images on your website:

1. You can’t have too many photos

I don’t mean you should be adding endless pictures to your site, I mean get into the habit of taking pictures regularly. Even the most haphazard photographer can play the numbers game and get some useable shots simply by taking a lot. Building a portfolio of photos gives you more choice and will mean you are more likely to have teh picture you want when you need it

2. Smartphone cameras are OK

I’m sure this will have some professionals up in arms but for some website content it is better to have a reasonable photo taken on a smartphone than no photo at all! Good professional photographers command not-insignificant fees which most businesses can’t afford every day.  You probably have your phone in your pocket right now and the latest phone cameras are not-half bad. Give it a go, you may surprise yourself.

3. Sometimes a professional photographer is the best option

If you want a photo to be more impactful than a simple product shot then there are times when it is worth paying for a professional photographer. Home page and header images on your website are the first things that people see so they need to get the right message over. In practice a mix of professional shots for the more high-profile images and in-house shots for more functional images can be a cost-effective approach.

4. Keep images simple

Don’t try to get too much in one image. It is better to have more, smaller, simpler pictures than one big image – and it is perfectly possible to combine simple images into a montage with great effect. Also try taking the same image from different angles, with flash, without flash etc. You may be surprised what a difference this can make.

5. Use your smartphone to take panorama shots

With computer screens getting ever wider there is a growing demand for wide yet shallow images for homepage banners etc. The panorama setting on your smartphone is a great tool for this. Try a panorama shot of your office or factory. You can get some interesting results.

6. Timelapse – the alternative video

Video makes powerful web content but good video can be time consuming to create and editing takes some experience and knowledge. However, new smartphones often have a timelapse option (or you can get an App) and timelapse can make interesting content of ordinary activity, comings and goings in an office or yard, something being built the possibilities are endless. Get creative! I think there are 2 rules:

  • Keep your camera absolutely steady (this is critical for a decent result)
  • Keep your finished film short – less than 30 seconds

7. Product shots – plain, contrasting background

Cutting the main subject of an image out from the background can look really good but if the background is cluttered and complex, the process can be time consuming and challenging. For product shots, get into the habit of taking pictures against a plain background of a contrasting colour. The simple background is then much easier to remove using photo-editing software

8. A Photoshop specialist can make a real difference

Following on from #7, there are lots of Photoshop specialists offering their services on the internet and if you are using Photoshop, getting good results is MUCH easier if you know what you are doing! If you have photo-editing software, by all means give it a go but it can be frustrating. Spending a bit on a specialist can be much cheaper than paying for a photographer and the impact they can have on your smartphone photo can be spectacular! Remember, content is king and the king of content is images. By mixing in-house shots with the work of specialists you can get the best balance of quality and cost Happy snapping!  

How secure is your on-line brand?

online_brand_securityA couple of incidents recently have caused me to ask the question, How secure is your on-line brand? and it’s is one you should be asking too. In many cases you may find that it is not be as secure as it needs to be. In simple terms your on-line brand consists of 3 elements:

  1. Your domain name
  2. Your website
  3. You social media profile

There are a few things you need to check with all three:

YOUR DOMAIN NAME

This is arguably the most important factor as this IS your on-line brand. It is essential that it is secure. To confirm that it is, you need to check that the domain registered to you. If it is not, get it changed NOW. You can check this by doing a Whois lookup (here is a link to the one we use –www.dnsstuff.com) and check the Registrant Details. This should be you or your company. If it isn’t you need to get on to your domain supplier & ask them to change it. Domain names are typically registered for a number of years though you never actually ‘own’ it. It is important to make sure you renew registration otherwise you can lose the right to use a domain. Your domain registration service provider should send you reminders in good time but ideally, make sure that your domain is set to automatically renew so you won’t run the risk of forgetting it!

YOUR WEBSITE

There are 3 questions here:

  1. Do I have an up-to date backup of my website files?
  2. Do I have an up to date back of any database(s) linked to my website

and if your site is based on a platforms such as WordPress, Joomla etc:

  1. Is my site up to date with the latest version of WordPress/Joomla etc?

A question:

“If you woke one morning to find you website had disappeared or, worse still,  had been hacked and replaced with someone else’s content, what would you do?”

If you have back ups the answer is simple – restore the back up and you are sorted. If you have no backup, then the result could be an expensive rebuild from scratch – assuming you still have the core content! You should check with your web provider that your site is backed up regularly and what they would do in the case of a “disaster”. You should always have the server login and access codes so you are in a position to do your own backups should you wish. Keeping platform system files (WordPress, Joomla etc) up to date is the best way to keep your site secure and protected from hacking attacks. If you have any concerns that your web presence is not secure, feel free to contact us, and we will be happy to give you our input.

YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE

A slightly different angle here. Even if you don’t use a particular social media platform, it is a good idea to register a suitable account name. As more and more people start to use social media for marketing, available account names are disappearing. By registering an account on each of the main platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc) you establish your presence and protect the name you pick. Interestingly, the leading social media platforms offer no tools to backup your profile. Even so it can be a good idea to do so, even if you have to do it manually by copying and pasting content or downloading contacts. The main thing is to avoid using Social Media as a place to store content. You have no control over how the platforms might change in the future so don’t assume your content will be there for ever!

16 most important email marketing KPIs for your business – or is that 3?

Email_marketing_benchmarksIn many small businesses, the concept of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can seem a little grand. It is one of those business terms that get bandied about when someone is trying to blind you with science – and normally trying to sell you something they insist you need (but actually you probably don’t!) In my view, rather than focus on the name, it is better to understand the underlying principle and then uses it appropriately in your business. If you don’t think it is appropriate, don’t use it. I just read this new post from e-consultancy…

16 most important email marketing KPIs for your business

… and it set me thinking. Yes, I agree that email can be an immensely powerful and cost effective marketing tool but how many small business owners are going to monitor and analyse 16 separate performance measures consistently and on an on-going basis? The article is somewhat B2C/E-commerce focussed but the core principles can apply across all businesses. On reading it, I came to the conclusion that, actually, there are only 3 email marketing measurements which really matter:

1. Bounce Rate

This tells you how accurate your list is. If you get a high bounce rate (I reckon anything over 10% is high) then you should question where your list came from, you aren’t even getting your message out there! I’ll include unsubscribes and spam complaints here too. If you get more than the odd complaint, it is too many. Similarly with unsubscribes, a handful may be acceptable, but no more. If you see higher numbers, you need to go back and look at where your list came from and should you be using it at all?

2. Open Rate

If your emails are being delivered (to appropriate people), the next question is how many open them? Measuring open rates is not an exact science but for a qualified list of known contacts/prospects, 15%-25% is a typical range. If it is higher than this, then great. If it is lower, maybe you need to look at the subject line or headlines in your message. Are you really encouraging people to take a look.

3. Engagement Rate

Do the people who open your email read it and click on links? You must have links in your email as it is clicks on links that are a core measure of engagement. An email with no links makes measurement more difficult. The key to good engagement is content. People will read relevant, interesting messages. If your goal is online sales, then it is your email content and the engagement it generates that is key. Once your email has delivered a visitor to your website it’s job is done. After that it is down to your website to deliver! If you combine a low bounce rate with good levels of opening and engagement in your email marketing you have and effective communication channel. How you use it…..well, that’s for another time. If you want to read the full e-consultancy post, click here Added bonus: e-consultancy have pulled together links to 50 of their most popular email marketing posts – there is a lot here but some useful tips and ideas – take a look

Joined-up Marketing – The Social Angle, Part 3 – LinkedIn Connections

getting_social_LI_250 In Part 2 of this series we looked at adding content to you LinkedIn profile and getting involved in LinkedIn Groups. We now look at the next stage of the process – building your network of connections. Naturally, the more people you connect with the wider the reach of the posts and updates you put on your profile, but there is  a caveat here:

Quality is more important that quantity!

There are 2 ways of building your network, through individual connections and through LinkedIn groups. In this article we look at the first of these – individual connections and in the next and final article in the series we will look at developing connections through LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn Connections

As you start to use LinkedIn you may notice that once you get more than 500 connections with other LinkedIn users, your profile simply says 500+ connections. I’m afraid some people just see this as a badge of honour, a (somewhat arbitrary) target they strive to reach. I look at things a little different, the more selective you are in who you connect with, only linking to people where there is real synergy and a clear ‘fit’ between your own business activity and theirs has 2 significant benefits:

  1. So long as you ensure that the content you add to your LinkedIn profile is always pertinent and relevant, it is likely to strike a chord with your connections and so reinforce your relationship.
  2. A high quality, well qualified pool of connections is immensely valuable both as a business development resource and an information resource should you need advice or assistance.

Here are my top 7 tips for building connections on LinkedIn

1. Complete your profile and keep it up to date

LinkedIn helps you complete your profile . Use that help to build a compelling profile that really tells people about you and what you have to offer. A LinkedIn profile should be dynamic. Read over your profile regularly and check it says what you want and is up to date. Things happen in your business life every day. If you don’t add relevant developments to your profile, people can’t see them – and one of the first things that new connections will do is visit your profile!

2. Start with the people you already know

Start with clients and other contacts you know already. You can use the LinkedIn search, or alternatively just ask them if they are on LinkedIn and would they like to connect there.

3. Be diligent about adding connections

Consider everyone you meet through your business as a potential connection – but don’t connect with all of them! Ask yourself if you genuinely believe whether a connection could be MUTUALLY beneficial. If so then go ahead, but if not, maybe it is better to wait. Remember, LinkedIn is NOT about selling, either yourself or your products/services, it is about ENGAGEMENT and building relations over time.

4. I’d like to add you to my professional network. – NO!

Don’t use the generic LinkedIn invitation text: I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.  You really want to connect with someone? Surely you can write a brief note asking them if they would like to connect and why you believe connecting makes sense for both of you. Using the generic text suggests you really aren’t that bothered – and maybe you are simply playing the numbers game. Not a good start to a professional business relationship.

5. Follow-up when your invitation is accepted

When a contact accepts your invitation, follow-up and thank them! After all, aren’t you trying to build a real network? If you have been selective in your invitations (see 3 above), hopefully there will be something you can talk about so use the opportunity of their acceptance to start the dialogue. You can’t guarantee they will respond but if you don’t show willing, why should they?

6. Engage with your connections

As well as getting notifications from LinkedIn when your connections add updates, depending on the information in a user’s profile, LinkedIn will also spread the word about events:

  • Birthdays
  • Work anniversaries
  • New jobs
  • Promotions

These are just some of the notifications that LinkedIn can send (you can tune the details of what notifications are published about you in your profile settings) Even a simple ‘Congratulations’ reminds that you are out there and paying attention – though again, avoid using LinkedIn generic responses. There are also smartphone apps which push LinkedIn notifications direct to your phone which makes responding even easier.

7. Use Endorsements – carefully

Another feature of LinkedIn is endorsements – an opportunity to recognise skills in your connections. Everyone likes getting a pat on the back and endorsements are a great way of doing this. Although endorsing a contact is as simple as clicking a link my advice is to only endorse where you really believe in the endorsement. You don’t need to have direct experience of the skill from your connection but you should have confidence that they really do have that skill! Another word on endorsements – be altruistic. Endorse someone because you feel it is valid, not in expectation of reciprocation. As always, be professional, be honest and be realistic. I deliberately haven’t gone into a lot of detail on ‘How?’ in the above. My aim was to give you some ideas and food for thought. If you want more detail on the hows or more insight into using LinkedIn, as always feel free to get in touch. Alternatively, a web search on any of the above will turn up many pages of advice!

Prioritise your time – What should I do next?

prioritySome days I come into the office to be faced with a to-do list as long as my arm! When it’s like this, it is so easy to waste even more time just sitting there, like a rabbit in the headlights, just trying to decide what to do first. I have a technique to deal with this situation which always works for me. It was taught to me many years ago and whenever I use it I smile to myself at its simplicity – but effectiveness. I share it with you here and hopefully if you ever find yourself stuck and not sure which job to tackle next in your business, maybe it’ll help you too. The essence is to take a series of business tasks and put them in an order of priority. You then look at your ‘to-do’ list and do the job which is highest up your priority list. Once complete, you move to the next highest priority task, and so on. Here is my list, starting from the top. If you think business is all about sales and finding your next customer, you may be surprised:

1. Put money in the bank

Running a business may not be all about making money but it is up there somewhere. We all need to eat and pay the mortgage! Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business so if you have been paid by a customer get the money into the bank!

 2. Chase outstanding invoices

If you’ve paid all your money into the bank, the next step is to get some more! It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses have £1000’s sitting in overdue invoices. You have done your work and raised your invoice so if your customer hasn’t paid you within your agreed terms, chase them! Some businesses make a point of not paying their suppliers until they are chased. If you get known as a supplier who doesn’t chase invoices you will always be at the bottom of the payment priority. If you are known to case outstanding debts (make sure you do it professionally and reasonably) your customers will get the message that it isn’t worth trying to delay payment so you may actually find you don’t need to chase as hard – win-win!

3. Invoice completed work

Just as some people don’t chase outstanding invoices, I have come across others who don’t even send the invoice in the first place!  They do the work, have a satisfied customer, but never send them a bill! I know it sounds crazy but it happens. I have to admit I have even done it myself but it was a lesson I have learnt and don’t plan to repeat. Get those invoices out and have a solid process to make sure you invoice regularly and never forget to invoice a customer!

4. Complete outstanding work for customers

You can’t invoice work until you have done it (or reached an agreed stage-payment point) so the next thing to do is make sure work is being completed. Where you are doing it yourself or you have organised someone else to do it, make sure work is finished, and to a standard that you can confidently raise an invoice. There is no point in invoicing a customer if you simply expect a complaint or dispute.

5. Follow-up on quotations and proposals

Up until now, the priority has been making sure you do the work you already have, and get paid for it. Here we are, half way down our priorities and it is only now that we start looking for more sales – by making sure you follow up on the quotations and proposals you have submitted to potential clients. Yet again, I regularly hear people say, “There’s no point in following up quotations. People will call me if they want to go ahead.” Maybe this is true sometimes, but definitely not always, and if you are in competition, it is normally the company that follows up and shows interest in their customers that gets the business. Even if you don’t get the business this time, following up gives you a chance to ask why you weren’t selected. the answers you get can be invaluable in refining your proposals and who knows, building relationships with these prospects can lead to new opportunities in the future. You have done the hard work of getting your contact to accept an initial proposal so they obviously think you are OK!

6. Make the most of new enquiries

When you get a new enquiry do you ALWAYS follow it up? Many people will make snap decisions based on past experience or whether they think they can do work with a contact, and sometimes they will get it wrong. You don’t know what you don’t know and I suggest it is always worth it to at least have a chat with a new enquirer. I remember a time, I received 2 enquiries on the same day from two small security companies. WE had never done any work in the sector and I really questioned whether we would. Somewhat against my better judgement we followed them up, because we try (within reason!) to follow up everything. I was absolutely right about one of the enquiries, but the other became a customer we have worked with for over 15 years! Don’t make assumptions about enquiries. Give them a chance.

7. Find some more leads and prospects

If you are on top of everything and don’t have any enquiries to follow up, you need some more leads and prospects (or maybe you are so organised you can take a holiday -but let’s not go there at the moment!) This is where you need to take your business development plan and work it! There are many posts on this site about the value and benefit of a clear, defined plan of where you want to go and how you aim to get there. Now is when you should be reviewing your plan and making sure it is happening!

8. Create a plan!

What, no plan? If you are continually busy (and hopefully productive) with priorities 1 through 6 above then (dare I say) maybe you can get away without a plan (as many small businesses do!) but if you have made it this far down my priority list, it suggests that maybe a plan might not be a bad idea. Search Planning across the BSA site for ideas – or give me a call.

Joined-up Marketing – The Social Angle, Part 2 – LinkedIn Content

getting_social_LI_250 In Business to Business marketing, LinkedIn is one of the must have social media platforms. Although it was primarily used as a recruitment tool early in its existence, LinkedIn is increasingly being used by people in their day to day professional lives. Having already covered setting up profiles on LinkedIn for both yourself and your organisation in my last post here. This article moves on in the process to focus on two key ways you can add content to your profiles and use them in your online marketing:

  • Posting updates to LinkedIn
  • Getting involved in LinkedIn groups.

Posting Updates

As part of your joined-up marketing plan, you should already be posting news stories, case studies and the like on the news pages of your website or blog. This makes it to continue the process and add these stories to your LinkedIn Profile as an update to either your company or personal profile, as appropriate. To do this, simply go to the relevant profile and locate the “share an update box” LI_update Type a short, pithy intro to your article,  then copy and paste the link to it in into the box. LinkedIn will do the rest and add a snippet of text plus an image from the linked article into the update. li_update_2   Now simply delete the link from the update (You don’t have to do this but I think it looks neater. The snippet and image will remain) and click share. The update will appear in your LinkedIn update stream for everyone to see.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are places where people with similar interests can “meet and discuss” issues relevant to them. Once you have joined a group, you can then post discussion topics into that group and make comments on topics that others have posted. Of particular interest is that every time you post or comment on a topic, an update gets emailed to every member of the group who has subscribed to receive them. As an example. I am a member of a group called “Business Peak District”. This LinkedIn Group is dedicated to the issues of businesses (mostly SMEs) in and around the Peak District area of the UK. As a member of this Group. I can start a discussion around my new series of Articles. I simply go to the group and type my discussion topic into the “Start a discussion..”. I can also add links to my post (see above). li_groups Once you start looking, it is  likely that you will find groups relevant to your line of business. Joining these and adding to the discussion is a great way to network online and raise your profile across a relevant and like-minded audience.

Next time …

As you start to grow the content in your profile you will want to spread the word even more! In the next article in this series we will be looking at building your contact network, and how to use LinkedIn to build contacts within relevant companies. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about using LinkedIn as a marketing tool, I recommend this e-book as a good starting point, or feel free to get in touch Finally, please connect with me on LinkedIn. Just mention that you read our blog and I will be happy to add you to my LinkedIn Network.

LinkedIn launch University Rankings

Making the most of your LinkedIn accountI’m not sure whether this new offering from LinkedIn is actually useful for most of us, but it certainly makes interesting reading. It is also yet another example, in this world of ‘Big Data’, of how when a lot of us are willing to share information about ourselves, it can be analysed to give interesting insight into the ways of the world. What LinkedIn have done is take profile data from its 300+ million members across the UK, US and Canada regarding their university education and link this to their subsequent careers to see which universities produce the highest-flying graduates across a whole range of fields.

For example, here’s how they found which universities produce the top software developers:

  1. First, they identified the top companies where software developers are choosing to work.
  2. Next, they found people on LinkedIn who work as software developers and saw where they went to university.
  3. Finally, for each university, they found the percentage of these graduates who’ve landed software development jobs at these top companies, then compared the percentages to come up with the list.

Whether you are making your own selection of a possible university – or know someone who is, or simply want to see where your Alma Mater ranks, take a look here. LinkedIn have also written a blog post on their approach – read it here