Why You Should Attend Networking Events

The next article in our series of blog posts looking into the best marketing practices for small businesses is attending networking events.

Networking events are special events which are held with the intention of letting business owners meet other business owners and to encourage dialogue and the formation of new working partnerships between these people. These events can be great for small businesses with low budgets to form new partnerships and relationships.

The ability to successfully network is a crucial skill for any business owner, it is one of the main methods of gaining and meeting contacts and clients. Some of the advantages of networking are as follows:

  • Raising Your Profile

The ability to raise your profile and become more visible is a great benefit of networking events. Especially for small businesses who may have less disposable income available to spend on large scale marketing activities. Regularly attending and being active at networking events ca really help to raise the profile of your brand as you will be top of mind within a particular industry. If you get your brand and message regularly in front of the right people then it can help to raise awareness and visibility of your brand which can help to increase leads and referrals.

  • It’s About Who You Know

Another benefit of networking events harks back to the age old saying ‘it’s not what you know, its who you know’. If you want to have a really successful business, then you must have a solid foundation of relevant business contacts which you can call upon to help your business thrive. Attending networking events provides a great opportunity to connect and form strong relationships with people that you could potentially help you in your business ventures. These people that you have relationships will also have lists of contacts themselves who they can put you in contact with. These will often be people that you would not have had the chance to connect with otherwise.

  • To Stay on Trend

Attending networking events that are hosted or attended by multiple people who are in the same industry as you are or people who fit into your target market is a great way to get to know the current trends that are affecting the industry or the target market. The valuable information that you can gain at these events can give you a considerable advantage over your competition.

  • Recruitment

If you are looking for new employees, then business networking events can be a great place to search the marketplace. Often these networking events will be held exclusively for one industry and so there is a high chance that relevant potential employee will be in attendance. You will be able to strike up conversations with these people and make clear your need and understand their needs. There is a good chance that you may find the person you were looking for, if you don’t then you have gained one more business contact.

If you are looking to find a networking event that may be relevant for your business then this page is a great place to start.

 

 

Why is it so Important to Have a Good Website?

 

Websitesblogpost

Next up in our mini-series of blog posts looking at marketing tips for small business is the importance of a good website. (Of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I?!)

Most businesses need a web presence in the digital age in order to be found easily by customers and potential customers. In fact, it has been said that there are three key reasons why people will visit your website;

  1. they are looking for information
  2. they want to contact you
  3.  they want to transact with you.

There are various benefits to having a good website for your business, we have listed four key ones for you below:

Visibility
Visibility is one of the most important benefits of having a good website for your company. Having an online presence means it is much easier for customers to find you. Furthermore, if the website is well optimised for search engines then visibility will vastly increase due to it climbing further up the search engine results page as discussed in a previous blog post. This will mean that when people search for something relevant to your website you will be amongst the first results and thus it is far more likely people will click on your website.

There are various methods of optimising your website including:

  • Good relevant content
  • Keyword use
  • Meta titles and tags
  • Fast loading times
  • Responsiveness

It reflects you as a business
The fact that your website reflects you as a business and a professional is fairly commonsensical. It makes sense that if your website is slick and professional looking then potential clients will see this as a reflection of you and your business. If potential clients visit your website and see that it is poorly designed and unprofessional then that is how they will perceive you.

Unless you yourself are a web designer, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced web designer to build your website as you can guarantee they will produce a slick and professional looking website which will help to bring in more customers.

Mobile Use
Google has warned website owners that they see mobile as the future of search and if websites are not optimised for mobile devices their search ranking will be negatively affected.
With this considered, every good website must be optimised in order for it to be responsive for use on mobile devices such as tablets and mobile phones. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Research has shown that over 50% of mobile visitors will abandon your website if it takes more than three seconds to load. So if you have a good responsive website which works well on mobile devices, it provides a good user experience for the customer with no scrolling or resizing needed. If this is done well then people are likely to stay on your page for longer which increases the chances of a sale.

Sales
By having a good website and online presence you allow for the selling of products or services 24/7 around the clock and across the globe because a website is not restricted by time or location like a physical shop. Moreover, making the actual process of purchasing an item from your website as easy as possible for the customer will result in more sales and a happier customer base. This is only a good thing as a growing bottom line will keep your shareholders happy and the business growing.

To conclude, having a website is vital for businesses if they are to achieve their goals. A good website will not only help drive sales, it will also improve the user experience and reflect positively on you as a company.

Why YOU should be sending company newsletters

newsletterimage

Talk to people!

Quite simply, it’s all about communication!  A newsletter, like talking or emailing, is a simple way to stay in touch with your customers. It is all about building relationships with people.

As Seth Godin says in Buy Permission Marketing – it’s about “turning strangers into friends and friends into customers”.  A newsletter is a great way for companies to build relationships and begin to turn strangers into friends.

In this super-technical age newsletters might be seen as old-school! And whether it is printed and sent via post (how intriguing!), whether it is digitised and added to your website for people to download or whether it is  sent as a emailer, please don’t underestimate the power of a simple well-written news item.

There are many benefits to using newsletters. Its an opportunity to remind your customers that you are still there! It’s a non-salesy way of  offering a round-up of news and new products and services.  In an ideal world, they will see the news item on your product or service and head to your website to investigate.

Topics which can be included in your newsletter include:

  • Testimonials
  • New Products and Services added
  • Sales & special offers
  • Your updated Portfolio

Writing your newsletter

Firstly think about what you want to say (see the Topics above). Remember:  You’re busy, other people are busy, so get to the point and don’t waffle too much! You make you may feel you have no skills at writing, but there are ways to make it interesting.

  • Include a photograph
  • Keep sentences short
  • If you need to give more explanation don’t feel you have to write it all in the newsletter. Simply point people to your website where you can put up a longer article or snippet, or highlight your product so that people can have more information quickly.

How your newsletter should look

I’ve missed out the bit about the layout and design of your newsletter! This is because it largely depends on whether you get it printed or send out an emailer.  With Microsoft Publisher, you can follow the pre-set templates which give pleasing layouts. If you need help or advice in designing  and printing a newsletter, then feel free to get in touch, we can give you a price for the design, print and delivery of any printed publications you might need.

Your news as an Emailer

There are various methods of distributing a company newsletter. Nowadays, the most popular, and probably one of the cheapest, is through the use of email. You may decide to create a mailing list and then simply email each person the newsletter. However there are many online platforms which can help with the email process and will help you come across as far more professional. One of the most popular platforms is MailChimp. MailChimp lets you create templates for various emails, send them in bulk and track responses and views and this is currently FREE for up to 2000 email addresses.

Another popular platform is GetResponse, which currently has a free 30 day trial. This platform is similar to MailChimp and allows you to create audience segments to manage lists, it also lets you personalise each email rather than sending everyone a general email. There are many other emailing platforms and this article, even though it is from 2010, provides a really useful breakdown of each.

Beware about emailing your newsletter to people who have not opted in. There are rules in place for this and you must give recipients the option to opt out of receiving them which is why using an online solution makes sure you remain within the email marketing guidelines.

You may, however, choose to embed your newsletter on your website rather than emailing it out, this has the benefit that it is visible to everybody and not just people who have subscribed to receive it. It also has an advantage over emails in that some newsletters may get filtered into the spam folders of recipients so they will not see it, this cannot happen with this method. 

The Riverside Foods Company is a great example of a company who effectively use newsletters to engage and inform its audience. Riverside Foods includes a lot of the usual things you would find in a company newsletter such as product announcements, offers and company updates. It also goes further by adding things such as weekly recipe ideas using ingredients stocked by the company. This is a great example of an effective weekly newsletter offering added value to its customer base. 

You can sign up HERE (and type ‘newsletter’ into the contact box) to hear about all the latest news and goings on from the We Build Websites HQ.

4 Important Reasons to Optimise your Website

Blog--4-reason740x376.jpg

For anyone who is building a new website for their business, it is essential that you optimise it for search engines – so that Google, Yahoo and Bing can see your site. This is a practice called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

SEO is vital for anyone who has a website. If done well you will begin to see results in how high your website appears on the search engine results page. For example, a really well known and well optimised site such as Facebook or BBC will sit at the top of the search engine results page whereas a website which has not been optimised will sit far down the list, not ranking even in the first few pages!

So why is it important to optimise your website?

  1. Increases Visitor Traffic

The one main reason to include SEO in your marketing programme is that it will, if done correctly, inevitably increase traffic to your website. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, studies have shown that the top result on search engine results pages gain 33% of the traffic, compared to 18% for the second position and a further decrease from there.

You don’t have to be a genius to understand why being higher up the search rankings will improve traffic. If your site is the first site that people see they are more likely to click through to your site. This does not guarantee that people will click through to your site but it gives you a great advantage over other, competing websites.

  1. Increases Your Website Conversions

A conversion is the completion of a desired action that occurs on your website. For example, for an Ecommerce site the conversion would be the visitor selecting an item and purchasing it. Because more people are seeing your site and clicking through into it, it makes sense that conversions will increase.

But remember, employing SEO tactics can increase the likelihood of conversions but it does not guarantee it. If the website is poorly laid out and the purchase procedure is unclear, then you are unlikely to gain conversions. There are some tactics that can help to convert traffic into sales, for example making it easy for customers to purchase is a sure fire way to help increase conversions. This is because if the website is laid out cleanly and it is clear where the customer has to click in order to purchase then they are more likely to convert.

  1. Make it easy for Mobile Users

Modifying your website so it is easy for users on a mobile device to navigate and use is an important step in the SEO process. It has been said that one quarter of global web searches are conducted on a mobile device which now means that mobile versions of websites are just as important, perhaps even more so as the trend for browsing on smart phones increases. Research has shown that over 50% of mobile visitors will abandon your website if it takes more than three seconds to load. This all points to the fact that marketers must optimise their websites for mobile platforms as to ignore this means neglecting a major portion of the global web user base.

As if all this wasn’t reason enough, Google has warned website owners that they see mobile as the future of search and if websites are not optimised for mobile devices their search ranking will be negatively affected.

  1. Your Competitors are Doing it

Even if you are optimising your site, you can guarantee that your competition is! So if you are not constantly changing and updating your website for SEO then you are losing ground to a competing website who will be. If you are already doing well, it is important you don’t make the simple mistake of ignoring SEO. Your competition won’t ignore it and  eventually they will leapfrog your rankings. Ignoring SEO means you will see your website slip down the search engine results pages meaning you can wave goodbye to new business leads!

We Build Websites are happy to conduct a website critique and evaluate your SEO, giving you some pointers as to how you can best optimise your website. Enquire here about this service.

4 Reasons Businesses Should Use Social Media

socialmedia-740x376

Over the last decade or so, social media has grown into an important aspect of many peoples every day lives. Facebook has grown so fast that it now has a user base comprising one seventh of the global population and Twitter has become the number one platform for people to vent 140 characters of pent up emotions.

But social media has also become increasingly important for business. For example, a report by Social Media Examiner found that social media marketing is now a priority for many businesses. 86% of marketers place a high level of importance on Social Media and 89% say that the increase in exposure was the top benefit of using social media.

1. Improved Search Rankings

Studies have shown that the top result on search engine results pages gain 33 percent of the traffic, compared to 18 percent for the second position, with traffic decreasing from there. 

Employing tactics with the specific intention if getting your website higher up the Google search rankings is a practice known as Search Engine Optimisation. How high up your website is listed on search engines is a huge issue for marketers.

The report by Social Media Examiner stated that 58% reported a rise after using social media for one year or longer and 60% of those using social media for 6 or more hours a week saw a rise in their search ranking.

Social media can help to improve a website’s search engine ranking in many ways. For example, the number of followers that a company has can significantly affect its search engine ranking. A company that has a mere 200 likes on Facebook will not gain anywhere near the ranking of a large company with millions of Facebook likes. However, social media likes and followers must be gained organically as Google and other search engines can tell if they have been bought and thus will not improve your overall search ranking.

2. Cheap to Set up & Maintain

Using social media for business is a great tool in that if you do it yourself, it is free and even if you outsource it, it is generally very cheap.

With this in mind, social media is a great, cost effective tool to use for business. Not only can you interact with your customer base but it is a great advertising medium.  For example, this enables you to promote events, services and products free of charge. Some social media platforms also give you the option of employing paid advertising tactics which are relatively cheap and let you control your budget and how much you spend on advertisements.

3. Enables Conversation with your Customers

One of the main benefits of social media or business is that it enables companies to interact with their customer and for their customers to reply. This obviously has many benefits not least that it makes the company appear much more human as they are having active dialogue with their customer base.

This two-way platform also allows the customer to have a voice and express their views in relation to the company. This can be a good thing for the company because, even if the customers are unhappy then you are able to deal with it in a timely and friendly manner and these negative perceptions of the company can turn into positive ones.

4. Increased Brand Recognition

The Social Media Examiner report tells us that 95% of marketers agreed that the use of social media increased exposure for their business. A further 93% said that using social media for over one year report that. So it makes sense that this increased brand exposure will lead to a higher level of brand recognition which is a big reason many marketers employ the use of social media for business.

Because social media allows businesses to engage and interact with their customer base it helps customers recognise your brand more easily.  If businesses are active and engaging on social media then they eventually become a household name and become top of mind for the majority of target customers.

Social Media Perils

socialmediaperils

Social media can be a great tool for businesses to use in order to interact with their customer base, to advertise and to conduct research. But for all the good it can achieve it can also go horribly wrong and undermine years of hard work.

Below are a few examples of social media backfiring for companies often in quite a light hearted fashion but all with some consequence to the image of the brand.

You may have seen some of these before whilst browsing the internet but it is always good to be reminded about the perils of social media!

Q&A Sessions

Many celebrities and brands alike have conducted question and answer sessions on Twitter. Whilst this can be a great tool to interact with customers in a friendly way and answer some of their burning issues, it also has the potential to go wrong.

We have seen many examples of question and answer sessions being ‘hijacked’ by internet users in order to troll or take the mickey out of the person or celebrity in question.

For example, the footballer Steven Gerrard held a Q&A session which quickly got hijacked by rival fans to direct tweets at him, some light hearted and some downright insulting! To rub salt into the wound, one user simply asked ‘you sorry you started this now?’.

McDonald’s however is an example of a Twitter question and answer session done well. They encouraged their customers to direct questions at them so they could answer them and dispel some rumours. Instead of keeping this on Twitter, they created a brand new website which hosted all the sensible questions and allowed McDonald’s to effectively communicate with their customers. Well played!

Who has Access to your Social Media Administration? – HMV 

The retail chain HMV had to make redundancies back in 2013 which did not sit well with their employees. In fact, to express their displeasure, some employees took over the company’s official Twitter account to post ‘live updates’ about the events.

Tweets such as ‘There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution of loyal employees  who love the brand #hmvXFactorFiring’. This, of course proved greatly embarrassing for the HMV brand and serves to remind managers to know who has the passwords for the accounts in case of situations like this.

Don’t be a Robot – American Airlines

It can be tempting to use auto replies on social media, especially for large companies who get many tweets directed at them each day. But sometimes it can pay to take the time and respond to people with real replies rather than pre written ones.

An example of this in practice is a famous blunder by the American Airlines brand. American Airlines had just completed a merger with US Airways and one not so impressed customer tweeted them an expletive ridden tweet with his thoughts on the merger. American Airlines had clearly employed the use of automatic responses to tweets mentioning their name which thanked the user for his support and looked forward to a bright future. This obviously caused some embarrassment to the company and they quickly deleted the tweet.

This just shows the importance of employing a real person to handle social media issues who can post appropriately on the company’s behalf rather than risking the embarrassment of the auto-tweet!

Be Tactful – Bing

There are a few examples of companies jumping on bandwagons to promote their brand which is fine in theory but some have taken this one step too far in the eyes of the public.

Take, the search engine Bing as a textbook example. During the time of the Japan earthquake in 2011 Bing launched a Twitter campaign to donate $1 to the appeal for every retweet the tweet gained. This may seem like a charitable act but he company to donate to an emergency situation but the users of Twitter did not see it this way.

The tweet was perceived by many to be jumping on a situation of human suffering in order to promote their brand which caused widespread anger at the brand and spawned its own hashtag attacking Bing.

Bing then tried to make amends by issuing an apology but spawned more displeasure amongst users as their apology wasn’t actually much of an apology rather a statement expressing their regret that the tweet was negatively perceived.

This one is bound to stand the test of time as a classic example of a social media faux pas.

Check your Hashtag! – Susan Boyle

And finally, one for the dirty minds! Susan Boyle’s publicity team used the hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote her new album launch back in 2012. Susan album party seems like a perfectly appropriate hashtag for this event, but if your sense of humour is of a certain persuasion you may have noticed what is wrong with it!

Genuine mistake or genius ploy to generate more interest in the album launch? We’ll let you decide!

A day with Seth Godin

The hashtag #SethinLondon was trending on Tuesday as the man behind the blog was in London for one day only. During a five hour long question and answer session he offered his personal ideas on the world of marketing and beyond.

Seth talks with an air of great confidence with an almost textbook answer for any question thrown at him, you can tell he has done this before!

From the many questions and points raised by Seth, there were two that stood out above the others which any business of any size can use to rise above their competitors.

Do not be afraid of failing

The idea that Seth started with in his opening gambit was to not be afraid to fail. He believes that it is better to have many ideas and then to focus down on to one than to have only a handful of ideas. As he told us ‘rather than look for good ideas, focus on generating lots of bad ideas and some good ones will find their way in’ which harks back to the good old trial and error method where we only find out what works for us by trialling and testing it.

Take, for example, Seth’s own blog as a manifestation of this mantra. He told us at the seminar that each day he writes around 15 blog posts of which 11 he discards, 3 he types up and one is published. This reinforces the idea that you can come up with multiple ideas before you have a good one and that any idea is a bad idea until it is a good one. If it is true for Seth, it is true for us!

Find Your Niche

The second main point that was to be taken from the seminar was that for businesses, however large or small, it is vital to find a niche. Seth has always been critical of the idea of mass marketing, i.e. targeting your product or service to the largest possible number of people. Instead he advocates focusing on the smallest number of people possible that you are able to change which will enable you to then slowly access larger numbers of groups.

By this he means that it is much easier to change the behaviours and attitudes of individuals one by one or in small groups and then give them the courage and ammunition to spread the word and become evangelical. This is what Seth calls the layering affect where as you access one group and change their behaviours or attitudes to your product or service they will provide you with access to the next group (or layer) of potential customers. It is all about starting out small and working your way through layers of customers. He also said not to worry if you choose the wrong group of people to start with as ‘if people don’t get it, it is not for them’ which again takes us back to the aspect of not being afraid to make mistakes.

Seth gave us the example of Airbnb as a company who made it through using this layering affect. The company started out by reaching out to a small group of American ‘hipsters’ who needed a place to crash, effectively making it a couch surfing site. This small group of people used it and told others about it which allowed more people to be exposed to it which eventually made it the biggest hotel chain in the world.

In conclusion, Seth observes that for most start ups ‘scale must be as small as you can make it’ so our main thought taken from the seminar was; ‘to target the smallest number of people that will enable you to get to the next group of people’. A lesson we can surely all take on board.