Friday, 23 December 2011

Develop a Winning Social Media Strategy in 6 Easy Steps

So you have set up a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and you’ve also created your business blog.

Great. What next? What’s the plan of action? What are your marketing strategies?

Hopefully you’ve decided to get into social media for a valid reason – and not just because every business acquaintance you speak to appears to be doing it. So how do you go about reaching new potential clients, whilst establishing your credibility online?

Follow these 6 easy steps and you’ll soon be using social media like a pro:

Identify Your Target Audience.

Take a long hard look at your brand and who you want to appeal to. Write a one-line statement about your ideal target customer. What is his age? Where does he live? What is his favourite media? What are his hobbies? What is unique about the product or service you are offering him? In other words, why should he buy from you?

What Language Does Your Ideal Customer Use?

To engage on a social level with your customers, you need to be speaking their language. That means using the right words and the right ‘conversational’ tone. The essence of social media is that conversations are informal – it’s certainly no place for the hard sell!

What is Your Reader’s Most Pressing Problem?

When thinking about content for your blog, focus on the questions your target customer would most like answers to. Make a list of their most burning questions. Of course you won’t have to have immediate answers to these problems, just some idea where you can find the answers!

As chief blogger, you’ll be acting as a researcher and editor – and in this role making sure you only provide links to the most interesting and timely content for each topic. In doing this on a regular basis, your readers will come to recognise you as an authority on your subject – and importantly – someone who doesn’t waste their valuable time. Like any great editor, you’ll only be using information from the most trusted and reliable sources!

Create Your Action Plan

Okay, so you’ve got some great ideas for potential topics in mind, it’s time to get them into some kind of logical order. One of the best ways of doing this is by using a Mind Mapping tool. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If you don’t want to use a computer programme, a sheet of paper works fine. If you start with yourself/ your brand in the middle of the page, you can start extending ‘branches’ to your ideal type of customer, their problems ; possible topics and sources of content . . . you get the idea. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole load of possibilities worth exploring further. Just type ‘Mind Mapping’ into your search engine and you’ll find a whole host of resources, some of which are free to use.

Schedule Your Content

Using an editorial calendar to plan your blog content will make the process a whole lot easier. Also check out applications like HootSuite, TweetDeck and SocialOomph, which allow you to post simultaneously to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. You will also have the option of scheduling posts for a later date, which is really handy if you’re not around to do it yourself.

Put Quality Above Quantity

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of posting at regular intervals to your blog. Some people do this daily, but once every three days, or even once a week is fine. The quality of the content is more important than quantity, although don’t leave it too long between posts, otherwise you may find your loyal following dropping off.

Remember that, as an editor, your primary task is to source fresh concepts and topics and turn that information into valuable content that keeps your readers looking forward to the next instalment.

Why Video Conferencing is Beneficial to Businesses

In order to conduct business on a global scale, it pays to invest in the right types of communication technology. These days, many companies have satellite offices scattered around the world. Important clients and suppliers are often scattered across several different continents. Staying connected is critical, but the need to hop in a plane is increasingly diminishing. While the Internet has played a huge role in this development, video conferencing is making one of the biggest differences of all. Today's successful businesses rely on technology such as 3 way video conferencing to hold meetings, compare notes and to stay in touch when it matters the most.

Save on Transportation Costs

Fuel prices are at all-time highs. It's more expensive to travel by plane than ever, which means that the costs of holding in-person meetings and conferences can be prohibitive. In many cases, there's no pressing need to have every key player in the same room. With video conferencing, a company can still get together on a face-to-face basis without having to spend vast amounts of money to get everyone in the same place. Video conferencing happens in real time, so meetings can be scheduled when they are needed.

Last-Minute Meetings on a Whim

Emergencies crop up from time to time. Discussing such matters by phone can be quite inefficient. With video conferencing technology on hand, a company can hold an emergency meeting on a last-minute basis. Notifying the people who need to attend is easy, and getting the conference started is too. Using video conferencing in this way is akin to calling everyone to the boardroom. In this case, however, the participants can be located in far-flung corners of the earth. It is well worth it for a business to invest in this type of technology because it can keep business moving along no matter where various employees are.

Brilliant Presentations

From keynote addresses to presentations about new products and services, big announcements call for special features. The nice thing about video conferencing is that it allows businesses to hold presentations that include a wide range of cutting-edge features. These presentations can be shared with people across the world, and those people can interact and provide feedback at the same time. New ideas and exciting new strategies can be developed between participants who are located in several different time zones. The possibilities are endless.

Spend Less on Travel Accommodations

Hotel accommodations can be quite costly. In lieu of sending an employee out to participate in a conference, video conferencing is an affordable alternative. More and more companies are turning to this type of technology for this exact reason. Even if video conferencing is only used on special occasions, the amount of money that it saves a business can be considerable. Reducing overhead is an obvious way to enhance profitability, and 3-way video conferencing and related technologies can go a long way towards achieving that goal. In addition to that, it enhances employee productivity by eliminating a lot of wasted travel time.

There's no doubt that video conferencing is one form of technology that isn't going away any time soon. If anything, it will only become more ubiquitous in the months and years to come. By getting on board with it now, today's businesses can start enjoying all of its benefits as early as possible.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Four simple marketing tips for small businesses

As everyone knows, marketing is a key part of any company’s arsenal if it is to succeed in today’s world of instant communication and fierce competition. But whilst it is certainly essential to have a business marketing strategy in place, you don’t have to overcomplicate things – particularly if you are a small or fledgling business with a limited budget for promotion. 

Here are five simple and relatively low-cost tips to get you started:

  • Strategic advertising: Big corporations will often have huge advertising budgets for both television and national newspapers or magazines, not to mention online. But if you are a small company you won’t have the capital for this so you have to think a little more creatively. Place adverts in local papers or on local website and remember that it is more effective to place smaller, cheaper adverts more frequently than to splash out on a big advert that you can only afford to place once a month. Also, design your advertising to help bring in more sales by including some kind of special offer to draw in the customers.

  • Email marketing: Using the internet is a perfect form of business marketing for small companies because it is cheap and you can use it as often as you like. The crucial thing here is to compile a detailed database on your customers so you really know which products will be suited to them. Then you can work on sending out targeted marketing emails which are specifically tailored to their needs. Send out regular e-newsletters as well as this serves both as a reminder that your company is still out there, and as a way of keeping customers informed of new products or offers.

  • Professional website: This is so crucial: your website is your biggest marketing tool and yet so many companies neglect it or allow it so look amateurish. It is worth it to hire a really good web designer to put together an eye-catching and simple-to-use site. Yes, it will cost more but every customer visiting your site will be impressed by its professional look. Once you have your website, update it regularly with new content to keep it fresh and current – another thing many companies fail to do.

  • Joint promotions: Another useful marketing strategy if your budget is small is to team up with other small companies who are not in direct competition with you, but complement your business in some way further up the chain. For example, if you are a catering company, perhaps you might want to contact an events organiser or wedding planner and offer to publicise their services in exchange for them recommending yours. This is a simple and, more importantly, completely free way of generating new business.
If you are a small or medium sized business you may not have the budget or time to spend a great deal of money on your marketing strategy. However, every company needs a marketing strategy of some kind and luckily there are many simple and low-cost methods you can use to get you started.

Time to bring in the marketing experts?

Every company, whether small and local or large and multinational, will find itself going through peaks and troughs. Depending on where the problem lies – whether it is the result of external market forces or problems within the company itself – there are certain times when it may behove you to call in the services of a professional marketing company

These exist to help businesses develop methods to keep bringing in new clients and present their goods and services to the world in the best possible way. But how do you know when your company might benefit from a little help in this department? 

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Behind the competition?: If your biggest competitors seem to be everywhere you turn, it may well be because they’ve devised a more effective marketing strategy than you have. You don’t want to lose out to them, so this is the time to hire an expert in before you begin to lose customers to them. If you’re less visible than your competitors, who are clients going to choose?

  • Not enough time: If you’re constantly putting things off, or you and your employees never have enough time in the day, it may well be that you have overextended yourself. If this is the case then there is no way you are going to be able to devote the necessary amount of time to promotion. Hiring in a marketing company will pay two-fold in this situation: Firstly, they will re-invigorate your marketing strategy; and secondly, they should be able to suggest practical ways for you to make better use of your time.

  • Lack of leads: This is one of the clearest signs that your marketing strategy is failing somewhere. Rather than sitting back and waiting for the customers to come to you, you should be using all means at your disposal – print media, billboards, the internet, word-of-mouth or whatever else you can think of – to get your message out there. If you aren’t getting the leads then you clearly aren’t doing this in the most effective way, or often enough. Time, then, to seek outside advice.

  • High employee turnover: This can be for many reasons, but employees will often be dissatisfied if they feel there is a lack of direction or structure to their role. A clear marketing strategy gives employees something to focus on, and also creates a more dynamic, positive working atmosphere are the new business begins to come in. Bringing in the services of a marketing company for a limited period of time will set you on the right track and hopefully ensure your staff feel motivated enough to stick around.

Choosing the right consultant for your business

Once you’ve made the decision to hire a business consultant to boost flagging sales or help set your company on a new path, you may think it’s just a simple matter of picking up the phone and calling one in. However, be aware that there are many companies today offering business consulting services and not all of them are what they seem. 

It’s crucial that you take your time when choosing the right person for you, or you could just be throwing good money after bad. Here is how to go about making your selection:

  • Get references: Look on internet forums or speak to other local companies to listen to the experiences of others who have recently hired consultants. What kinds of problems did they encounter, and what did they wish they had done differently? Find out which consultants have helped achieve good results on more than one occasion and which ones have been less than effective. This will give you a good initial idea of who to consider and who to avoid at all possible costs.
  • Thorough vetting: It may seem tedious, but when you have selected a short list of consultants you think may work for you, you need to set up meetings to talk to them about what they might offer you. These conversations should be able to tell you a lot: Did they listen to what you wanted, or did they just fire off some ‘quick’ solutions right away? Did they seem to understand the issues you presented them with and ask thoughtful questions, or did they just ramble on with stories of past clients? If the former in both cases, they may be legitimate, if the latter – hire them at your peril.
  • Billing: Find out how you will be charged for these business consulting services. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest service, as there may well be a reason why they need to charge so little. Instead, look at the payment structure. Are you able to agree a fixed amount upfront, or are they proposing to leave things open for additional costs later on? If the latter, beware, as many less reputable consultants will attempt to maximise their profits by bringing other ‘advisers’ into the project, for which they will charge extra, or charging for unspecified additional services. Generally, I would say it’s always best to agree from the outset exactly how much you are going in for.
Above all, don’t be put off by the potential pitfalls as a good consultant really can bring enormous benefits. As long as you are careful and follow recommendations from trustworthy sources, you should soon see your business change for the better.

Internet Marketing Companies – Not All Are Created Equal

If you’ve had experience with online Internet marketing companies you’ll know that some are quite excellent in that they deliver a great service that produces first class results . . . while others can be unreliable.
The best Internet marketing companies will use ethical Search Engine Optimisation techniques to drive targeted traffic to your website. By using ‘White Hat’ processes, you are assured of getting more relevant visitors to your website and not just any old body – relevant or not!

There are literally hundreds of Internet marketing companies vying for your business online, and new ones seem to be springing up every week. When choosing a marketing consultancy, it’s vital to check out their credentials to ensure you are making a wise investment.

Your appointed Internet marketing company should be working hard to ensure that your site ranks highly in all the major search engines’ organic listings. After all, the better targeted your traffic and the more relevant your visitors, the more likely those visitors are to want to do business with you.

Having only highly-targeted traffic improves your company’s profile and reputation which in turn means you get a better Return on Investment too. Using SEO tools to drive targeted visitors to your website can dramatically impact on your conversion rates, increasing sales revenues and boosting your customer base. 

And you know it’s around eight times easier to sell to someone you’ve previously sold to, over someone you haven’t, right?

An effective marketing campaign is vital to the success of any business that has an Internet presence. 

More than that, having a great marketing strategy in place can be the difference between realising your potential and going out of business due to lack of trade. It’s a sad fact that thousands of businesses every year go into liquidation or are declared bankrupt. And in some cases, there is only a miniscule difference between those businesses that make the grade and those that go under.

Taking action to improve the website experience for your visitors can make the difference between having a profitable business and one which is losing you money. Inertia is not an option here. If you do not have the skills to optimise your website so it attracts the right kind of visitors, then it’s really worth considering having an expert do this for you.

Utilising the services of a top Internet marketing company to help you define your keyword strategy and work towards a higher listing makes perfect business sense. 

How Web Marketing Companies Can Make Your Business Boom!

Web marketing is a time-consuming activity, particularly if you’re not entirely sure what you are doing. And it’s not something you can dabble in either, unfortunately. Effective web marketing requires know-how and commitment. That’s why many businesses are realising the substantial benefits of having someone else manage their web marketing for them, rather than doing it themselves.

Employing the services of a web marketing company means you can use your time more productively, focusing on the stuff you’re good at, rather than wasting hours churning out content that might or might not work for you.

Your web marketing company should be able to create a bespoke package according to your exact requirements, but here is a taster of some of the things they can help with:

Web Development
How clean is your website? Is it easy to navigate? Is the copy engaging? Does it convert? Is it ‘all bells and whistles’ but no substance?
The aesthetic appeal of your website should not be underestimated. Your appointed design expert will be able to create an attractive, yet functional, web space, that is simplicity itself for you to manage.

Pay Per Click
Having the right PPC campaign in place can generate amazing results for your business relatively quickly. Make sure your web marketing company is qualified to the highest industry standards and that they can produce a bespoke programme that meets your needs perfectly.

Search Engine Optimisation
The best web marketing companies will employ a range of SEO techniques to achieve positive search results organically. Check whether your consultancy has a portfolio of impressive results across the major search engines – for example, have they managed to get clients on to page one of Google? If so, over what period?

Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is pretty much an essential requirement for businesses these days. It’s a great way to communicate with your target audience and drive more traffic to your website. Your consultant or advisor will be able to create a social media presence or campaign for you across the major sites including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Copywriting & Content
The ability to create dynamic and engaging content is vital for increasing your online brand visibility and building your reputation. If writing persuasive and lead-converting copy isn’t your thing, it’s well worth employing someone to do it for you.

Mobile Users
Right now there is a fantastic opportunity for companies to promote their websites to users of mobile and remote devices. This is currently a huge, though largely untapped market, which savvy business owners would be wise to take advantage of.

Search Marketing Companies that Will Add Value to Your Business’s Bottom Line

Ever been tempted to stump up $99 to have your website submitted to 1000+ search engines?
If so, you probably don’t need me to point out what a waste of money it was. You’ve almost certainly discovered that for yourself already.

Seeing as the vast majority of traffic is derived from three well-known search engines, namely Google, Yahoo and Bing, plus a handful of other minor ones, there is little point submitting your website URL to the remaining thousand or so that will not bring you any relevant visitors whatsoever.

So, if buying your way into a thousand search engines isn’t generally a good idea, when might it be useful to hire the services of a search marketing company?

Quality search marketing companies can help your business grow exponentially in a relatively short period of time using three main channels:

Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media Optimisation and Online PR.
Let’s look at each of these key elements in turn:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Your chosen marketing specialists will use a combination of content writing, link building and metadata optimisation to ‘feed’ the search engines, which in turn, will send you a ton of high quality traffic for you to convert into profitable leads.

Social Media Optimisation
If you’re not currently using social media to engage with your target audience, you could be missing out big time. As well as attracting more potential customers to your site, social media is increasingly being used to build reputation and source joint venture partners, manufacturers and suppliers, and even investors.
It therefore makes sense to have your social media operations fully optimised by a social media marketing expert.

Online PR
If you’ve been in business a while, then you have almost certainly used press releases as a way of promoting your business. But have you used web-based press releases? They are the latest way to increase awareness of your brand and promote your products and services to a wider target audience.

Of course, you could submit online press releases yourself, but an experienced marketing professional will add value – not only by structuring your press release to industry standards – but by knowing precisely where to submit it, giving your business maximum exposure.

Using an experienced search marketing company to create and execute a well thought-out marketing campaign for you, means you will achieve optimum results in the shortest time possible.

There are many such experts and consultancies online and the top consultants will include case studies and testimonials on their website, so you can check out their credentials before hiring them.

What is Website Optimisation? and How Can It Help My Business?

You know there are still some people in business who think all they need to do is build a website and sit back and wait for hordes of visitors to appear – as if by magic.

If only it were that easy.

Building a website for your business is a sound investment. Yet if no-one knows you exist, it could be a huge waste of your time and money. No-one wants a ‘White Elephant’ website!

So what exactly is search engine optimisation? And how can it help you attract more customers or clients?
Quite simply, optimisation is a way of improving your website rankings organically. The other option is paid advertising – or Pay Per Click – for instance the Google AdWords programme.

When you enter your search term in the search engine you will get a split-screen of results. Listings found on the left-hand side of your screen are those that have achieved their ranking ‘organically’, while those on the right are paid for ads.

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will rank your website according to various criteria, including content and relevancy.

Not unsurprisingly, consumer surveys consistently show that more people trust those companies that rank highly in the organic listings, over those who rely on ‘sponsored’ results. Indeed, it is not unusual to find smaller companies ranking higher than their larger rivals for particular search terms. While there’s nothing wrong with using paid advertising to drive traffic to your website, ultimately better click through rates will be achieved through organic listings.

You will know from your own experience that if your website does not appear on the first few pages of a search listing, you will not be found. When you do searches yourself, how many pages do you view before you give up? All the ‘experts’ are on page one, aren’t they? Whether or not you believe that’s the case, this is how we tend to perceive things.

So how might your business’s website improve its current position?

Let’s start with keywords. Consider what keywords are relevant to your website and the products and services you offer and build or tweak your web pages accordingly, bearing in mind what each of the major search engines’ requirements are to obtain maximum visibility. Tune your pages to meet search engine requirements and watch your traffic and rankings grow.
Search Engine Optimisation is an increasingly competitive field, so it’s important to choose your keywords and key phrases well. And if your budget permits, ideally it’s advisable to use a combination of SEO and paid for advertising – that way you get the best of both worlds.
Optimisation is the key to effective online marketing – numerous studies consistently confirm that it’s the perfect vehicle for almost every type of business.

Why outsource your marketing?

To run a successful business in today’s increasingly technologically advanced and globalised marketplace it is essential to develop an effective marketing strategy. Recognising this, many companies are outsourcing their marketing to ensure this is carried out by professionals using the most efficient and up-to-date methods in a rapidly changing world.

But what does outsourced marketing involve? Basically, this is when you decide that the best way to present your company to the wider world and bring in new customers is to bring in a marketing expert for a certain period of time in order to define a strategy and set you off on the right path. So why is this a good option to take?

Less overheads: Outsourced marketing is particularly suited to small-to-medium sized businesses which may not as yet be able to afford a permanent marketing department. This way, you can get the best of both worlds by bringing in a highly experienced marketing expert to identify how you might best present your company to the world, whilst tightly budgeting for how much you are able to spend on this.

A new perspective: Sometimes an organisation’s employees can be so immersed in their own little niche and company culture that they forget to see the bigger picture. An independent marketing consultant can come in with a fresh outlook on how you can achieve your goals.
The latest know-how: When you are running a company there are so many things to consider and marketing is really just a part of this. It would, therefore, be almost impossible for you to keep up with all the latest trends as well as the newest software and the strategies your competitors are using. But with a marketing consultant, their entire job consists of staying abreast of these developments, so when you hire one in you will be benefitting from the very latest methodologies out there.

Defining objectives:  Particularly if your company is very young, you may be lacking clearly defined goals and objectives with which to develop your future direction. Many business owners opt for outsourced marketing for this reason alone, as one of the jobs of a good consultant is to help you work out what it is you want from your marketing strategy and how you will achieve this. They will also help you identify the needs of your customers, and once you have done this you are a long way towards working out what it is you need to do.

Time control: Lastly, if you have a dedicated in-house marketing department, some tasks can drag on and on as they are re-defined, honed or discussed. Meanwhile your competition is already out there winning customers. By outsourcing, you are bringing somebody in for a previously specified length of time who can act decisively and efficiently to bring your marketing efforts in line with the current market condition.

Want More Leads at No Cost Extra to You? Enter Google Places

It used to be that when we wanted to buy something from our friendly local shop owner or dealer we’d automatically reach for the Yellow Pages or Thomson Local.

Now we Google it!

In fact, a recent survey of business owners by print company Vistaprint, revealed that only 11% of respondents would consider future advertising with Yellow Pages. How times have changed. A decade ago local directories were the first port of call for call for ready-to-buy consumers, now they’ve practically dropped off the radar.
On the other hand, if you’re in business, why would you pay for a pricey directory ad, when you can advertise your business to your local community for FREE? Because that’s exactly what you get with Google Places.
But my business currently appears on page eight of Google. How can Google Places help me?

It’s a well known fact that when searching for a national or international service or product, 80 per cent of us rarely venture past page one of Google’s search listings. In which case, if you’re listed on page eight, all your competitors more highly ranked than you are liable to gobble the lion’s share of the business.

However, it’s an entirely different outlook when people are searching for a local business. These ‘hot prospects’ are likely to be a whole lot more specific about what they are looking for and where. Say for example you run an Italian deli in the centre of town. The sheer nature of your business: fresh, seasonal produce, means in all likelihood you’d prefer your customers to be local.

Google Places is where your local customer base will find you easily. And your Google Places listing will be so much more effective than any ‘dry ad,’ because you can upload graphics, photos, videos, even animations, to provide your potential customers with all the essential information they need to make an informed decision on whether to trade with you. You’ll be able to upload pictures of your products, details of price ranges, customer reviews and testimonials and so much more. You will be giving your visitors the experience of a virtual visit to your premises – or in the case of our deli – a flavour of your business if you like!

Just over 97 per cent of all people with Internet access regularly use search engines and Google is the most popular search engine by far. As well as uploading your promotional tools, Google Places encourages the use of keyword-friendly tags that drive more business to your website, thus increasing its ranking.  If you are unsure you can always ask the help of an internet marketing consultant.

The beauty of Google Places is that it’s for business customers only, therefore your business search listing doesn’t get tangled up with all the normal ‘junk’ delivered in standard search results.
Google Places is still relatively new, so why not jump aboard now and gain a competitive edge, before your local rivals find it for themselves!

Tips for Budding Marketing Consultants

If you want to be a marketing consultant, bear in mind that the competition for this kind of role is fierce. Marketing has always been a key part of any company’s business strategy, but this is even more the case today in a world where global communication is pretty well instant and we are constantly bombarded with advertising of every kind. To give yourself any chance of success, you should take certain steps from the very start of your career, whilst you are still training, to help differentiate you from the many others like you out there. 

For example:

Networking: Let’s face it, if you’re not the kind of person who is happy working a room full of people then marketing may not be the job for you. Marketing consultants have to be prepared to attend conferences, participate in web forums, go to industry-specific meet-ups and generally do everything they can to constantly renew their contacts and get their name out there. You’re aiming to become a go-to person for anybody in need of a marketing expert, so start making those important connections right away.

Specialise: If there is one sector in which you have particular interest or expertise, it may be a good idea to focus on winning clients there. Marketing consultants are far more effective if they have a deep knowledge of the kind of product or service they are helping to promote, and if you are more effective you will have satisfied clients who will be more likely to recommend you to others. Before you plunge in head-first, then, have a think about where you might like to specialise.

Personal SEO: Marketing consultants need to become adept at the various methods of using SEO to boost their clients’ website ranking, so why not start with your own name? This will hone your expertise in this area as well as getting your name out there as a consultant early on.

Get experience: Whilst some like to strike out on their own right away, most find it is better to begin their career by getting experience at a respected marketing firm. This way, if you do come to set up your own company you will already know which methods work and will be aware of the potential pitfalls to avoid. It will also give you the opportunity to gain valuable insight and industry advice from the managers or senior partners of the company.

Stay at the cutting edge: Technology and communication trends change so fast these days, so you should get into the habit early on of keeping informed of any new methodologies or tools. Ideally, you want to be in the know before your competitors, so read the trade press, subscribe to newsletters or read relevant blogs to keep you updated.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How To Make a Success Of a Small Business

Small businesses are in many ways more vulnerable to market fluctuations than the larger players. Sadly, it is the case today that less than 45 per cent of small businesses stay open after four years of operating, and with the current global financial situation these numbers are not likely to improve anytime soon.

Because of this, if you are thinking about establishing a small business yourself you really need to be aware of the best measures to take to give you a fighting chance. There is no reason why you can’t be one of the group who succeeds, but it takes organisation, a strong sense of the realities of the marketplace and a great deal of dedication. Here are some steps you can take to maximise your chances of staying afloat:

Don’t over-extend yourself: From the outset, many small business owners make the fundamental mistake of fondly imagining they can do everything themselves in order to cut their costs as much as possible. All I can say is: don’t! Nobody can be an expert in every area, and there are certain aspects of a business, such as sales or marketing, that need to be run by someone with experience if you are to have any chance in this competitive marketplace.

Get advice: If you really can’t afford to bring in many full-time staff to begin with, you might at least consider bringing in the temporary services of a small business consultant. It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but a consultant specialising in this area can be invaluable for setting new companies on the right path and advising on how to avoid those common early mistakes. They will also help you to set up a realistic and effective business plan – something without which no new company can function. Consider hiring a small business consultant as a necessary start-up cost, or a wise investment in your future.

Know your competition: Before you enter a certain market, take the time to thoroughly research your key competitors. Small, local businesses will often be up against a lot of similar companies in the area so you have to know what products and services they offer so you can find a way to differentiate yourself as a brand to give you the edge. Once you have identified your competition, keep a constant eye on them and be prepared to make changes and update according to the latest trends.

Offers and promotions: Small companies need to keep customers interested with promotions or special offers. You probably won’t have a large advertising budget to begin with so doing this is one way of ensuring your company name is out there. Email marketing, for example, is an effective way of getting special offers out there, or if you are a very small local business it can be something as simple as having an eye-catching billboard outside your shop.