Marketing consultants can be important to the success of small businesses. They offer an unbiased, fresh perspective on your business, growth opportunities, and preferred target customers. The right marketing consultant can identify, develop and implement strategies that can successfully grow your business by:
Selecting and building a relationship with the right marketing consultant is a key step to achieving success for your business.
Before hiring a marketing consultant, it is a good idea to review your business goals -- both short and longer term.
In addition, clarify what kind of relationship and personality you are looking for in partnering with your consultant. If you do this, it will make it much easier to identify the consultant with the competencies, experience and communication style that most closely matches your needs.
Six questions to ask when choosing your Marketing Consultant:
1)Tell me about your expertise -- what is your background?
This may seem obvious, but there are many self-proclaimed “marketing gurus” out there, so beware. A solid education in Business is a must and an MBA / Masters in Marketing a big plus. Marketing affects other areas of the business and the consultant should be able to grasp the whole picture before recommending marketing plans.
Marketing consultants develop different skills and specialties throughout their careers. Look for a consultant with a skills profile that matches your requirements. For example, if you need to develop a strategy for growth, ask about the consultant’s strategic capabilities. If your target market is local, you’ll want the consultant to understand the opportunities in the area.
2)Have you worked with small businesses?
Experience owning and/or working with small business is a BIG plus. Small businesses have many unique challenges larger established companies do not. Understanding those challenges takes “time in the trenches” to fully appreciate. Just as important, your marketing consultant must be able to demonstrate experience and success in solving the types of challenges your company faces.
3) What tools or processes do you use in your work?
Consultants often use business models and other tools. Understanding their approach to gathering information and working through a project may help you determine if it’s appropriate for your situation. It will also show you if the consultant follows a process, versus falling back on "canned" solutions that worked for one firm but may not work for yours.
4) Am I comfortable working with this person?
The working relationship between you, your key partners/employees and the marketing consultant is extremely important. Your consultant’s communication style, personal branding/business values and level of commitment should be compatible with yours and your company’s. Do they use words implying themselves as telling and selling or partnering, creating and facilitating? Assess if they are a “hands-on” partner during implementation or more consultative. These are extremely critical expectations that you and your consultant need to understand and agree upon before the relationship begins.
5) Does the consultant have time for me?
Understanding the consultant’s resources/network and client load is a consideration for you. How many clients do they have? Do they have specialists they can call on when needed? Having many clients often sounds good but is not necessarily better for small business owners. A consultant that is a dedicated partner to a few clients can spend more time understanding and focusing on your business and is always there quickly when needed.
6) Can I talk with references?
Last but not least, ask for references and call them. Check out their LinkedIn profile for recommendations. These references can give you insight into the consultant’s capabilities, working style and character.
Choosing the right marketing consultant for you and your business can be one of the most critical and rewarding decisions you make. Asking the questions outlined above while talking with potential marketing consultants will help to ensure a productive successful partnership.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions on working with a marketing consultant, please contact us!
Do you feel like no one is reading the content you've so carefully composed, edited and maybe even sweated over?
If so, you have a good deal of company -- there are many blogs out there and very few business owners start with a large following! To help you get more readers, here are some tips from Neil Patel (who should know, as he averages 37,000+ visitors to his blog) :
Thanks for reading! Let me know if any of these work for you. :)
If you need more ideas, go to the link for Neil's original post -- you can find it between post 902 and 903.
Business cartoonist Chris Lysy asked me what I thought was the biggest challenge small businesses face. In a quick note back, I said "It varies from business to business, but I’d say wearing multiple hats — managing the many facets of the business in the amount of time available." I thought that was a pretty good guess ... but is it?
Agree? Disagree? Voice your opinion on the poll below or in the comments.
Hope you enjoy the cartoon!
In a conversation about my last blog post on Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), a business acquaintance remarked:
“It’s interesting how a big brand or shining new business gets word of mouth to work for them. But I have a reliable small business. I don’t want to be famous or go viral, but I’d like to grow my referrals. Can I still use WOMM?”
“Sure!” I answer. “One of the things you can do is WOW them with your customer service. And a WOW is the key to having great WOMM! When you give your customers or clients excellent service, they’ll say great things about you, driving referrals and supporting your overall business.”
“Great! But how do I make sure my service is excellent?” she asked.
By implementing a customer satisfaction feedback process.
1) Measuring customer satisfaction can help you understand what people are currently saying, what they really appreciate and what might be improved.
There are several ways to do this:
Observation - Be aware of your customers’ body language and expressions as they interact with you and your staff. If your business has multiple locations and / or staff, make it part of your routine to discreetly observe your business operating real-time. You can validate your observations by casually asking customers their impressions of the service and environment.
Interviews – Interview a sample of customers by asking a set of questions over the phone or in person. The advantage of this method is that it is more comprehensive than observation. The interviewer can take the time to ask follow up questions and learn more about the why of a particular answer.
Social media listening -- Some people are reluctant to give opinions verbally, but feel more uninhibited online. Also, avoid unwanted surprises by asking questions in your postings. Finally, “listen” to what people are saying by monitoring your business name and keywords on several social media channels. Some tools that can make this easier include:
Focus groups – This method is also interactive and gathers feedback from groups via dialogs with follow up questions and exploration of situations. One of the keys to successful, productive focus groups is having a skilled facilitator to make sure the more talkative participants don’t dominate or sway the group.
Surveys – Conducting a survey is the most common method used for measuring customer satisfaction. Surveys have the advantage of scale – if you have many customers, surveys give you the ability to get a large sample size to express their opinion in a short time. This can provide statistically viable observations and metrics, although the process can have a bias towards people with the time, energy and motivation to complete the survey.
All of these methods require a clear vision of what you want to learn. So keep it simple and focused – only ask the questions that will provide useful feedback. For example, don’t ask about your location if you’re not willing to move.
Which brings us to the next step in the process:
2) Analyze the information you’ve gained from your customers - to do this, look into these areas:
What your business is doing well -- and should do more of
Where improvement is needed
Services/products that are needed that you may not provide
Net Promoter Score – (for surveys) standard measure of how likely your customer is to refer your business. How does it compare to your industry and expectations?
3) Build an action plan to address any customer concerns, leverage your positives and this will ultimately improve overall satisfaction.
4) Measure your customer satisfaction ratings against your action plan on a periodic basis. This way, you will know if the actions you’ve put into place are having the desired effect. If they are, you’ll see your metrics moving in the right direction. If they are not, adjustments will need to made.
“So it sounds like my business could use this but… won’t it take time, resources and cut into my profits?”
According to Gartner Research, companies that prioritize the customer experience are 60% more profitable than those who don’t. That’s an average, but you could look at your own data – what is the cost to acquire a new customer compared to retaining a current customer?
To learn more on this topic and how to implement it painlessly, please contact us or visit here.
Ready to share your zeal for your idea? If you've read our previous posts, you have an idea of the essential material to include. Now we'll talk about the actual presentation.
Tips for Engaging an Audience
1) See if you can tell a story. You will most likely be competing with many other groups for funding -- and stories are more memorable than facts. For instance, a good way to begin your presentation is by exploring what motivates you. Is the “Why” of building the business compelling or inspiring? Will what you are doing make a “dent in the universe”? Does the founder or team have unusual histories or characteristics? Has your progress or testing so far exceeded expectations? You get the idea.
2) Use visuals – graphics, diagrams, and pictures. Short videos can also be effective to explain part of the presentation.
3) Apply analogies, anecdotes, similes and metaphors when possible.
4) Present as a team. If you have a team member who is confident in their presentation skills, have them explain the ideas and slides that apply to their area of expertise. At minimum, have them available for questions. This can demonstrate a depth of resources and commitment that ensures investors there is an intellectual critical mass behind your venture.
Helpful General Presentation Tips:
It helps to remember the LSO Rule (Legible, Simple, Obvious):
Use text that is large and in charge! If they can’t read it, they won’t be able to understand it
Use a simple, readable font
Have a good contrast on the slides -- Dark letters on white or very light backgrounds is best. Colors are great for accents, but think carefully before using reverse slides (dark or red with light color lettering) as these can be hard on the audience’s eyes.
Simple – use short sentences and one idea per slide. Make sure you know the point of the slide.
Obvious – Don’t make the audience guess at what you mean.
Explain acronyms and technical words
Label your graphs and charts clearly
Use graphics that can be understood at a glance. You can test if a slide is obvious by showing it to someone uninvolved with your idea. Ask them to tell you what it means. If they don’t immediately say your idea, try explaining and redesigning until it works.
Overall -- Be succinct and to the point. There may be 100 reasons why your idea and company is great, but people will only remember 3 – 5 them. So evaluate and list the critical ones and then limit your presentation to slides that express or support them. Maintain eye contact and keep your momentum going; be aware of time limits. Have a good close -- practice a short summary that emphasizes the key strengths of your team, market opportunity and product fit.
In closing, I have attached some presentation tips that will help you connect with most audiences.
A final note about the Q&A that follows your presentation:
In some audiences, you may encounter challenging questions and some might seem like criticism. You’ve worked hard and poured a great deal of yourself into the idea, so you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel at least a bit defensive. Take a deep breath and stay calm! Listen and try to explain using their words or building on their thoughts rather than defending in a point / counter point style. (This is easier said than done – but by applying good listening skills, disipline and practice it is a winning tactic to use!)
This blog post is based on many resources as well as experience and observation. If you are working with a business coach or incubator, be sure to check their resources. Additional resources are noted below.
Some helpful links:
Kauffman videos on creating a strong presentation:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270420 (Good short article on stories)
Best pitch deck examples: http://onboardly.com/startup-pr/best-startup-pitch-decks-of-all-time/
You’ve got a great business idea, put together a team, created a business plan and are furiously working. Bootstrapping has worked so far, but now you're at the point where you need capital to expand on your idea. That's a new ballgame, so to speak, and it involves...
Pitching to investors
To gain the needed cash, you’ll have to convince investors your idea is extraordinary and worth risking their time and money. A key tool you'll need is a pitch deck.
So what do you need to build a pitch deck? What is the best way to get started?
Like any presentation, begin by thinking of your audience -- Investors. Your job is to convince them that you, and your idea, will potentially give them a good return on their money.
The basic areas you'll want to cover in your pitch are: Market, Team, and Technology.
Market - Who will buy and why:
What is the problem you’re solving and how big is the market? What segment of this market can you reach, and what is your go-to-market strategy?
How is your solution better than alternatives currently available? What facts or research support this?
Founder / Team – Who are you and your team:
What unique background, education, experiences and talents show you are qualified and driven to succeed.
Technology - How your unique and competitive idea will work:
Do you have a business model that can generate an ROI?
Is it sustainable?
Do you have defensible Intellectual property or other barriers to entry?
What are your goals and plan to get there?
Once you have the essentials of your pitch deck pulled together, it’s helpful to think about the logical order of the presentation and what to include on each slide.
We'll give you more information on the slides in the next post: “Eight slides for a perfect pitch”.
Thanks for reading -- have a good week!
You’ve got big dreams ...
and a great idea for a business.
But striking out on your own seems incredibly risky.
In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), over 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years.
But then again, if you never try you’ll never know -- and that can be a huge regret as well.
So go for it! Just do it in a way that gives you the best odds for success. One of the first things you can do to even out those odds is start with a solid value proposition.
If you haven't created a value proposition before, don't worry. There's more than one way to do it, and two of them are listed below to help guide your thinking.
Option One -- Two simple sentences
The first sentence has four parts:
The second sentence clarifies:
Option 2 - Just three questions
Creating a value proposition is helpful not only as a guide for your thinking, but to refer to later in your marketing.
Have you used either of these? Which do you prefer, or have you used something better?
We always welcome your questions and comments!
*The example is only for illustration. As far as I know, it's not a real idea.
About our Blog:
Marketing Tips is dedicated to providing busy professionals and local businesses with information on marketing trends, strategy and tactics in a way that is both accurate and easy to read.