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25 November 2010

Top Tips

Common Mistakes Businesses Make - and How to Avoid Them

If you've been in business for more than a few years, these golden pieces of advice will more than likely apply to you. So read on, and be honest with yourself - and then give us a call on 0844 414 2687 to get you back on track with any - or all - of the suggestions below!

1.  It's the same, faithful customers time and time again.

There's nothing wrong with repeat custom - as you know, a new customer costs 7 times as much to attract as it does to maintain an old one. But are you totally dependent on them for business? What would happen if a couple suddenly went elsewhere? This is particularly common in family businesses, where the majority of customers tend to be of the same generation of the founder. Once they retire, their customers tend to start doing the same. If you've just taken over a family business - or are about to - what precautions do you have in place to stop this all-too-common kiss of death?

2. Your future fortunes are dependent on a few key people

Similar to the scenario above, there are too many established companies out there which find themselves in deep water when a long-serving member of staff heads for new pastures - taking all their biggest clients with them. But if you develop the right ways of getting new customers on a regular basis, you can safeguard against this happening.

3.  Your most untapped resource  is lying dormant

A business's database is its lifeblood. And it's the foundation of its fortunes. So why do so many companies fail to invest in a flexible CRM system? With the right help, you can programme it with the right information that will help you predict your customers' next moves, so you know what to sell to them before they know they need it. And it works!

4. Press and publicity shy

Did you know that you can increase your profit by as much as 15 per cent, just by doing one very simple thing - telling your customers what you're doing. Alerting the press to successful financial quarters, awards  and big contracts you've just won, or the individual achievements of your team can work wonders on the public's perception of your business. And it might even get a few people picking up the phone.

5. Failure to embrace the golden age of email

Leading on from the point made earlier about the importance of using your database to the full, once you've got that information, what are you going to do with it? Using email to keep in regular touch with your database is an excellent, instant and cheap way of doing so - and when you already have a relationship with a customer, there's arguably no better way of keeping the dialogue flowing. How else can you possibly keep in regular touch with 300 people or more?

6. Your website's out of date and unprovocative

When was the last time you won a customer because they liked what they saw on your website? Be honest. If your website is looking a bit dated now, it's probably because you were sufficiently forward-thinking in the first place and got one built when they first became the must-have marketing tool for every business. But things have moved on a lot since then. Your website is there to do one thing and one thing only - to attract customers and to generate enquiries. There's little point in signing up for an e-marketing campaign if the site you'll be directing people to is going to turn people off - get your website updated first.

7. No search engine optimisation

If you got your website built and developed back in the day and have been sitting there ever since waiting for the crowds to start flocking, it's no wonder you've been disappointed. Even if your website is award-worthy, you can't rely on word of mouth - there are 124 million websites out there and counting! You need a professional to tell you which key words or phrases people use to search for your service, and then to employ a series of proven techniques to drive the same traffic in that direction. Not sure? Then order your FREE SEO beginners' guide now.

8. No testimonials or case studies

This is a bit like having a brand new Porsche Cayman and keeping it in the garage. Testimonials and case studies are one of the most powerful, everlasting marketing tools you will ever have - so use them to the max. And we don't just mean on your website (although it's one of the first things people will look for on-line). They make a brilliant focal point for flyers, brochures, advertising features, display ads, exhibition stands - there's no limit! OK, it can feel a bit awkward to ask for one - it's just not British to ask upfront for a pat on the back. But being asked to give a testimonial flattering in itself - so give it a go.

9. Your marketing messages are all about you

Right now, open up your company brochure. Or log on to your website. I can almost lay money on the fact that the bulk of what is written - at least on the home/introductory page - is all about "we this" and "we that". If you only absorb one thing from these pointers, make is this: MARKETING IS ALL ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS, NOT YOU. For instance: "Joe Bloggs Limited was set up in 1984 and is a leading light in the packaging industry". Congratulations. But who cares? And why does that matter to your customer? It doesn't. But what would make them sit up and take notice would be something like this: "Need packaging that's good-looking, sturdy and sensibly-priced? Perfecting our art since 1984, more than 60 regular customers trust us to add that extra dimension to their product's pulling power every day." See the difference?

10.  Your company will fold without you at the helm

Why are you in business? OK, so the politically-correct response to that is "to serve customers", but let's face it, it's so you can retire and enjoy your life being one long holiday as soon as possible. But how hand-over-able is your business? And what if you wanted to turn it into a franchise to earn megabucks - what are the key elements of your business that make it what it is, i.e. its brand? This is where professional marketing advice really comes in to its own - and it can mean the difference between you passing on a lasting legacy and growing rich on the profits, or all those years of hard slog reduced to nothing within a couple of years.

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