Marketing help for small businesses.

Clearly, lead generation and subsequent conversion is crucial to the success of marketing campaigns. Here, I want to explain the three most important concepts that you need to grasp to make sure that your ROI is as high as possible. I've covered most of this in various posts throughout this blog, although I thought it would be useful to recap the main points in a single article here.

So, this is a more concise view of the most important elements needed for a successful lead generation campaign. They may seem simple and very obvious even, although if you make sure that you have processes in place to cover each of these areas, you'll be guaranteeing that you get the best bang for your marketing buck.

There's absolutely no question about that.

In fact, even the most brilliantly designed digital lead generation and conversion system will fail miserably if the second step below isn't taken good care of, especially.

Lead Generation And Conversion  - 3 Important Steps, The Second Is Crucial
Social commerce is a hot topic these days and - especially if you have a product-based business - you might be wondering whether you should be planning for it to be part of your marketing strategy. Therefore, I thought I'd do a bit of research into some digital marketing statistics and try to work out how it looks like this area will develop in the near future.

Here's what we will look at in this post:

-  The potential of social commerce
-  How it is working on Pinterest already
-  The top research avenues of social media users (Facebook)
-  The main online purchase drivers

However, let's first take a quick look at exactly what we mean by the term 'Social Commerce' (for the purposes of this post anyway).

Working definition of Social Commerce

Obviously we are all used to products being heavily advertised through social media - however, in this post we are not talking about products simply being advertised on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. What we are looking at here is the possibility of users being able to complete their transactions without leaving the platform. 

So, the term Social Commerce refers to social networks having checkouts built in to them so that users do not have to go elsewhere in order to complete their purchase. 

Should You Be Planning For Social Commerce? Let's See What The Stats Say
Marketing automation is an extremely valuable tool in your marketing arsenal - even if you are unsure as to how you can use it to its full potential, the chances are that you are already using it in some way in your business already. The aim of this post is to explain why and how marketing automation can help your below-the-line (BTL) and through-the-line (TTL) marketing campaigns.

"BTL marketing is the type of marketing that is both targeted and response driven." 
"TTL marketing is the type of marketing that uses widespread, brand-building advertising alongside targeted, response driven marketing elements."

How Marketing Automation Helps Below-the-Line (BTL) and Through-the-Line (TTL) Marketing Campaigns

This post is part of my series on Digital Marketing statistics, this entry being focused on content and social media. Data is taken from the Global Web Index blog and is referenced under each section in case you want to read the original material.

Digital Marketing Statistics - Content And Social

Telemarketing can still be a very effective way of generating business - you just have to make sure you do it correctly. What follows is my 'ultimate guide to telemarketing' - it's the absolute best advice I can give to help you succeed marketing yourself or your business on the phone.

Let's start by looking at the contents and then defining a few useful starter terms:

Telemarketing Tips For Successful Telephone Based Campaigns

The term 'BANT' relates to a common method of qualifying a prospect or a lead. Here is a quick definition of 'BANT' - after this we will look at what we mean by qualifying a lead and whether or not this term is still useful to small businesses.

Quick definition of BANT:

B - Budget
A - Authority
N - Need
T - Timeline

BANT - Definition, Examples And Whether It's Still Useful
SWOT, PEST and PESTLE - do you know the difference? If not, it could be the missing ingredient for your marketing campaigns.

When you are preparing a marketing plan, it is obviously very important that you take a detailed look at your current situation so that you can make the correct decisions in terms of deciding which marketing processes are viable and which are not.

To do this effectively, you need to take a detailed look at internal factors that you can control and external factors that you cannot (directly) control.

SWOT, PEST and PESTLE - Do You Know The Difference? Definitions, Examples And A Free Template

One of the ways in which you can do that is to carry out a SWOT and a PEST/PESTLE analysis. They are ideal because they help you to analyse both internal and external factors that could impact the success of your marketing campaigns.

Here's a quick look at what these terms actually mean:
SMART planning can make the difference between a super effective marketing strategy and a failed one. It really can be as simple as that.

Whether you are working on your overall marketing plan or a specific part within it, it's imperative that you have clear objectives and goals for each element within your strategy. These goals should be clearly defined, realistic and you should be able to reach them within an acceptable time-frame.

They most certainly should not be 'pie-in-the-sky' hopes and dreams without any focus or direction behind them.

SMART Goals and Objectives - Definitions and Examples For Marketing Plans

Using purchased lists for email marketing is one of the more dubious areas of promoting your small business that you can get into. Here's a few words that you might think of when you think of marketing to people who are not 'opted in':

  • Spam
  • Unsubscribe
  • Chancer
  • Huckster
  • Waste of time and money

That should give you an idea of the general feeling towards buying and using marketing lists.

Why Do People Still Buy Email Lists Then?

However, a lot of people do sell them and people keep on buying them. There must be a reason for that.

And the reason is that sometimes - just sometimes - using purchased lists for email marketing does work. It just does, and there's no point in denying that fact. Obviously a lot of people get it wrong and suffer some pretty serious consequences, but - as we will see below - this doesn't happen all of the time.

The rest of this post details an example of a campaign that I ran this week, with a list of around 9000 email addresses that my client had already purchased. In terms of size, it's quite a small sample to base anything on really, but in terms of an email campaign for a small, 1 or 2 man band service-based business, it's quite a large campaign. 

The Potential Risks Of Using Purchased Marketing Lists

Now, before I went ahead and set up the campaign, I explained to my client that there were a lot of risks associated with this kind of marketing. Such risks include:

  • Potentially zero returns
  • His domain name being blacklisted
  • His reputation being tarnished

That's 3 pretty risky scenarios in my book, none of which I'd like to realise myself. So, we worked out a plan of action that would try and reduce the chances of the above happening in this campaign.

Taking Steps To Protect Yourself As Much As Possible

Anyway, before we went ahead with the campaign, I took the following steps to try and minimise any damage:

  • I set up a new domain name for the email delivery/reply to address
  • I didn't include any links back to the clients website on the email itself
  • I made the email as perfect as I could in terms of introductory tone and purpose
  • I crafted a very useful e-Book to send along with the initial email

In my mind anyway, making sure the above was taken care of went some way to mitigating the negative effects of using purchased marketing lists. The proof would be in the pudding so to speak, but I was confident enough to start the campaign with these 'safeguards' in place. 

Comparing The Performance Of Purchased Lists To Opt-in Lists

I'm going to use the sector 'Business Services' for average rates here as this is the sector my client is part of.  

Average Performance Of Opt In Email Lists

Open Rate: 21.43%

Unsubscribe Rate: 0.24%

Click Rate: 2.76%

SPAM Rate: 0.3%

Source for above data

Average Performance Of Purchased Email Lists

Open Rate

To give you an idea of just how terribly purchased lists usually perform, here's a screenshot taken from a conversation over on the Smart Insights website:
The average open rate of a purchased email list is between 1% and 2%
Marketing automation and its associated benefits can very likely make your professional life a lot easier. For example. if you're like most marketers - or small business owners - the chances are that you'll really struggle with the following types of marketing tasks:

- Managing email lists and segments as well as newsletters
- Delivering the right messages to each segment, at the right time
- Responding to online leads in a timely fashion
- Even capturing leads amongst growing competition
- Reducing the amount of leads wasted because of poor management
These tasks can be difficult, cumbersome and time consuming. However, they are absolutely essential if you want your marketing to succeed.

For most people involved in marketing it's the time needed for these tasks that is the biggest problem - who has time to spend on such things when there are other, more immediate, issues to be dealt with?

Time is super-important for all of us and we just don't need to waste it on basic, repetitive tasks.

Getting Started With Marketing Automation - Uses, Benefits And Examples

Online advertising can be a bit of a minefield for anyone just starting out. There are many reasons for this, although one of the main ones is that banner ads - for example - can be a huge waste of budget.

Although most advertising platforms offer excellent analytics tools, it can be difficult for you know know for sure if someone has actually understood the message you are trying to convey.

Google Adwords may tell you there were 1000 impressions of your ad today, but did anyone actually look at it properly?

Well, as I was reading through some reviews of an app I have been using for a while, I came across an ad that I think worked quite well.

Here's a bit more about it:

The Ad Itself

Here is a screen grab of the actual Advert.

First, what do we mean by the term 'Media'?

Just to quickly clarify what we mean by 'media' in this instance. It can be defined as any form of marketing content, including - but not limited to - the following:
  • Online ads - PPC/Banner etc
  • Marketing materials - e-books, infographics etc
  • Social shares/mentions
  • Social ads
  • Offline advertising - magazine, outdoor display etc
  • Catalogues, brochures
  • TV advertising
So, as far as we are concerned here, the term 'media' refers to anything related to both the creation and the promotion of marketing content and materials.

Okay, let's move on and have a closer look at the three types up for discussion here - Owned Media, Paid Media and Earned Media.

Owned Media
A brief overview:

When we talk about Owned Media, we are talking about media that you or your business/organisation. For example, your:
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Mobile apps
  • Brochures
  • Catalogues
What are the benefits of this type of media? 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit here is that you have complete control over this form of media. You have complete autonomy over:
  • How your websites/ads look
  • How you market them
  • What message you want to convey
This is where you build your 'house' - whatever you say goes really. 

Any drawbacks of Owned Media?

The only drawback I can really think of related to Owned Media is reach. Your properties - however great - are almost invisible if you don't market them properly. Sadly, it's not just a case of 'if you build it, they will come'. You need to market your business effectively, which means Owned Media is simply not enough. 

A visual example of owned Media:
An example of owned media
An example of Owned Media - A Blog

Designing a marketing strategy for your own business.

As you will have read in the first part of this series, there are many directions in which you can focus your efforts as you build out your marketing strategy. This is great as it gives you a lot of flexibility.

However, it also hints at the problem experienced by most small business owners and start ups - namely, where do you spend your valuable time and budget?

Image Credit

Important apps to power your new sales and marketing strategy.

Think of these apps as marketing robots that will work tirelessly, 24/7 for you

An integral part of your success will be careful management and (at least some) automation of your processes. Marketing automation helps in two key areas - firstly, in making sure you don't drop the ball in terms of keeping everything running smoothly and secondly in reducing the amount of time you actually spend working on the promotional side of your business. This give you more time to focus on your core business.

Image Credit


Small business marketing planning can be daunting. If you are like most entrepreneurs and startups, you'll no doubt feel the intense pressure in trying to both deliver the service your business offers to its clients and making sure that you are winning enough new customers.

At the very least, you might be at least a little confused as to what various marketing methods involve and in understanding which ones are the best to pursue when it comes to putting together a strategy for your own business.

Image Credit
A Quick Definition Of Terms

Before we start, it might be useful to quickly clear up the two definitions. The terms 'Remarketing' and 'Retargeting' have become somewhat interchangeable - you'll notice that I use both in this post. However, in the strict sense, they are actually defined as follows:

  • 'Retargeting' is the overall industry term, or process
  • 'Remarketing' is the term Google uses for it's platform

However, most people use the terms interchangeably - I'm one of them so the post below will use both to refer to the overall process. 

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting (also known as Remarketing) is most commonly understood as the process of re-engaging website visitors that have previously left your site without taking any action.

For example, it's said that only 1-2% of your web visitors complete a desirable action. Such a desirable action could be:

  • Making a purchase
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Downloading an e-book
  • Etc

That leaves the other 98-99% of visitors who - for whatever reason - leave your site without doing anything. That's an awful lot of lost opportunity - think about all of the work you have done to attract people to your site, only to see the vast majority of them disappear without a trace.

However, there is something you can do to reduce this costly waste. And it's pretty simple to get started with. 

Remarketing works by showing ads to previous site visitors as they use the web. You've probably noticed this yourself at some point. For example, let say you visit this site:

You then leave without doing anything.

Then, as you search for a video on YouTube later in the day, you see this ad:

That's Retargeting working - it's showing a relevant ad to a previous website visitor in an attempt to draw them back onto the website to complete a desired action

In an  ideal world (for the advertiser anyway) you'd click the ad and then take some form of action after re-visiting the website in question.

Great stuff and very, very effective if it's done properly. Let's talk about this in a bit more detail now.

How Can You Use It?

There are a few very useful ways in which you can get started with Retargeting in your small business. Here are a few ideas to help you along the way:

  • Re-engaging users who have abandoned shopping carts
  • Re-engaging people who visited a download page without converting (leaving their details)
  • Re-engaging users who visited a product or service page and then bounced off without doing anything meaningful
  • Showing ads about updated products or services to users who had previously visited the old products page
  • Building up your newsletter list

There are a lot of different ways in which you can use Remarketing, although focusing on the above to start with will definitely get you off to a good start.

What Makes A Great Remarketing Campaign?

As with any other part of your marketing strategy, there are a few things that you can keep in mind for your Remarketing campaigns that will help deliver the best bang for your buck.

Here are a few tips:

1) Set A Frequency Cap

To conserve budget and to make sure you don't annoy your prospective customers too much, it's a good idea to set a frequency cap so that your ads are not shown too often to the same people throughout the day.

2) Include A Burn Script

You'll notice below that one of the biggest complaints from consumers when it comes to remarketing is that they get annoyed being shown ads for products that they have already purchased. You can avoid this by including a burn script, which essentially removes the person from your campaigns after they have made a purchase.

Note, this feature isn't available on all Retargeting platforms.

3) Use A Single Platform

I think it's also a good idea to make sure that you use only one platform, especially if if you're new to it. By doing so, you simply make it much easier to manage and control - for example, it's impossible to effectively manage frequency caps if you are using more than one platform.

4) Split (A/B) Test

Just as you would do with landing pages and other PPC campaigns, it's good practice to split test your remarketing campaigns. All this means is that you'd set up a couple of campaigns designed to achieve the same goal, run them and then see which one performs the best. You then leave the best one running (regular testing is advisable though)

5) Ads For Specific Pages/Products

Rather than having one generic ad that leads people to your website homepage for example, it's much better to have specific ads for individual products and pages (exactly the same as you would do in a PPC campaign). This will make sure that your ads and landing pages are relevant and that you'll achieve the best conversion rate possible for your campaign.

For other tips on setting up performance campaigns such as these, please see this post.

What Do Users Think Of It?

Here is some data taken from a survey conducted by HubShout early in 2014, which comprised 300 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65. It's well worth reading the full report yourself (you can get to it here), although here a few key findings relevant to this post:

The Good
  • 64% of people said they had clicked an ad for a product the had recently viewed
  • 30.7% of people said they find such ads useful, just over 40% said they didn't care either way
Here are a few reasons as to why people found such ads useful:
It reminds me about the item, making it more likely that I purchase the item."
I don't mind being targeted for advertising when it's suited to products and services that might be of interest to me. 

The Not So Good

  • 28.8% of people said they didn't find the ads useful

And here's a couple of reasons why:
It makes me worry about my privacy
Usually the product being displayed in the ads is the one I already purchased 
You can get the report mentioned above here.

Where To Start With Retargeting

I'd say that the easiest and most straightforward way of starting with retargeting is to go through the remarketing platform offered by Google Adwords. It's pretty easy to set up and manage and it will take care of the needs of most small business users.

You can get to that here.

If you have different needs or you just don't want to use Adwords, here are a few alternatives for you to consider:

All of the services above will allow you to build and manage an effective remarketing campaign. Starting with the Google option is probably the best option for the average small business, although you might find that another solution is a better fit for you. Have a play around and see what works best.

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

_ _ _

Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
Email marketing is an excellent weapon in your overall marketing arsenal - if used correctly. However, there are many, many ways in which you can fall on your face when sending out an email marketing campaign if you're not careful - here's one example, which I think is one of the most horrendous mistakes I've ever seen.

I'm Scottish and therefore I've been following the Independence Referendum closely. In case you weren't aware, the results came in on the 19th September and we ended up staying with the rest of the United Kingdom.

So, I was pretty surprised to see this email arrive on the same day from

FMCG's and Capitol Goods (CoPS) - do you know the difference? And what about Consumer Durables? If you are a little confused about what these terms mean and how they relate to each other, then this post will help.

Let's take a closer look at each of the terms below.

FMCG And Capitol Goods (CoPS) - Definitions, Examples And Differences

Clearly, every time someone visits your website, they'll be given an instant impression of you and your small business. Essentially, your website can - and will - say things about you when you're not looking. Hopefully, most of this will be good, although some of it will be bad if you don't take care when putting your site together and when keeping it maintained.

With that in mind, let's have a look at what your website could be saying behind your back, both good and bad.

8 Things Your Website Says When You're Not Looking
Image source:  Abhijit Mhetre
Things Your Website Says - The Bad

I'm not making any money

This could be the worst thing that your site could say about you - a real slap in the face. Here are a few things that will guarantee your website shouting this from the rooftops:

  • Using free domains for a business site (,, etc)
  • Having a 'make a free website banner with...' at the bottom of your site
  • A poor design, obviously put together by a stressed out small business owner while working late at 2am 

These things can really hurt your small business by creating a terrible first impression. The solutions are easy and really don't cost that much at all - you can buy a domain name for a few dollars and you can purchase a decent website template for around $30.

For more on building your small business website (specifically on whether or not you should enlist the help of a freelancer), please see this post.

I don't want you to contact me

As we all know, website visitors want to be able to find information quickly - this includes your contact details. Here are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to making yourself as contactable as possible:

A few thing you should do:

  • Your most important ones should be clearly visible on every page of your site
  • Make sure that the details are accurate - you'd be surprised how many email addresses are typed wrong or how many phone numbers miss a digit
  • If you're active on social media sites, make these links prominent - many consumers will want to connect with you there too

A few things you shouldn't do:

  • Don't hide your physical location (especially if you are a service based business) - this is reassuring to prospects that haven't dealt with you previously
  • Don't offer only a contact form to your prospective customers
  • Don't use a premium rate phone number as your main point of contact - nothing screams 'I don't want you to call me' more than this

In the end, look at it from your prospects point of view - does your website seem to make it difficult to make contact, or is it hassle-free and straight forward to do so?

It's all about me

Sure, it's good practice to make sure that your future customer knows that you're a safe bet to do business with. However, there's a fine line between that and building your website into a bragging platform that'll achieve nothing but turning your prospects away.

Here are a few things to consider here:

  • Your blog shouldn't just be a bragging platform for what's going on in your business - use it to help your prospects fix problems/learn new things instead
  • While it's a good idea to talk about your achievements and what you can do, you should only do so under the banner of how this can help your customers
  • Similarly, if you talk about the goals you want your business to achieve in the future, talk about how you can do this while helping your customer reach theirs

The fine line here is actually very fine - you definitely do want to let your customers know how competent you are, but you certainly don't want to overdo it. I think the best way to handle this is to do as mentioned above - whenever you say something good about yourself or your business, explain how this helps your clients. That's a win/win situation in my mind anyway. 

You're just a number to me

When someone lands on your site, they want to feel like you're making an effort with them. While they probably won't expect the red carpet treatment,  the last thing they want to do is feel like they're just a number to you.

There are a few things you can do to make sure that you don't make them feel like this:

  • Talk in the second person to build more of a connection. For example, 'I will help you...', rather than 'I help my customer base...'
  • Never say 'Join my list...' 
  • Never ever refer to potential customers as leads, contacts or opportunities :-) Understand that you can do this accidentally by naming a landing page a 'lead capture page', for example

This is a really important point that's easy to take care of - a good rule of thumb is simply to talk to people through your website as if you were talking to them in person. Just pay close attention to the language you use on your site - if you are unsure, get a friend or colleague to double check for you.

Things Your Website Says - The Good

I'm taking my business seriously

Now we're talking. One of the best ways to reassure your web visitors is to help them understand that you are taking your own business seriously and that you're going to be a reliable partner for them going forward.

There are lots of ways in which you can do achieve this goal - here are a few options:

  • Are you a member of any trade organisations? If so, list them
  • Have you developed any partnerships with other key businesses? If so, list them too
  • As per the first point above, a well designed website will go a long way to proving this point. It doesn't have to be flashy, it just has to look professional and fit the expectations of your target market

Think about this from your own point of view. Sometimes you'll visit a website and think 'Yep, this is a business I want to deal with'. And sometimes you'll just think 'Avoid'. 

Whichever one you - and your own prospects - choose will be largely driven by how your website looks, how easy it to use and the type of content you decide to include. It's not hard to get this one right - it's just a case of making sure that you look like you can be taken seriously. 

I'll take care of your problems for you

Basically, this is what your website visitors are looking for - someone that will take care of their problems, whatever they may be. The first step to achieving this goal is to make it clear that you have a clear understanding of the problems faced by your target market.

Here are a few things to think about here:

  • Make sure you clearly convey exactly how your product or service solves problems - this is what your web visitors want to know and it shows that you understand them right off the bat
  • Offer case studies that show how a client went from having a problem to being problem free with the help of your product or service
  • Explain how you ended up creating your product or service - was it to solve a problem that you couldn't find a solution for elsewhere? If so, this can go a long way to showing that you really do understand your prospects needs

Basically, if you can show that you understand the problem and know how to fix it, you'll be well placed to win the business. And you're website can easily convey this information if you include the right kind of content.

I'm trustworthy, check me out if you want

If you want to show that you are a credible business, prove it. There's a lot of different ways in which you can do this nowadays, here are just a few:

  • Link to your credit rating score from one of the major credit analyst sites
  • Have you been featured in any prominent newspapers, trade publications or websites? If so, get their logo on your site and use it to link to the feature
  • Have a detailed 'About Page' - when you expect your first-time customers to part with money, it's a good idea to let them see who you are

Having this type of thing on your site will help to make sure that it screams credibility and trust, rather than the opposite. 

You'll like working with me, these people did

Finally, one of the best things your website can say about you is that other customers have enjoyed working with you previously. This goes a long, long way toward settling the mind of new clients.

As well as offering case studies as mentioned above, you could also think about incorporating these into your site:

  • Embedded tweets from happy customers who are thanking you through Twitter - social proof is awesome
  • A short, snappy review (including a picture and business name) from a happy client at the top of your product/service pages
  • Show your score from a third party review site such as TrustPilot or Trip Advisor

Especially if you are a new business, there is nothing (to my mind anyway) that will help your bottom line more than authentic, honest, positive reviews from existing or past clients. You don't need a lot either, just enough to show that you're consistently delivering a great job to your customers.

In Sum

All of the above can probably be summed up by understanding that your website isn't something that you quickly put up and forget about. Instead, I think it's helpful to understand it as a living, breathing part of your business - one that can give as good or as bad an impression as you can in person. 

Taking care of the points above will go a long way in making sure that your site talks favourably about you and that it welcomes your new customers, rather than turning them away. 

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

_ _ _

Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
Winning repeat business is - without doubt - the most cost effective and efficient way of adding to your bottom line. If you have to go out and find new customers each time you want to make profit, you also have to start at the beginning of the sales cycle.

However, if you already have a paying customer on board that knows and trusts your service, it's a lot faster and easier to make a second sale.

In saying that, it's not always that straight-forward to win repeat business. Things can go wrong and the unforeseen can always happen. However, here are a few things to consider that will make your chances of getting another order much more likely.

Repeat Business - Here's How To Make It Happen
Alan MacDougall
Hi there! My name is Alan and I write all of the posts on this blog - I hope you find it useful and please let me know if I can help in any way.