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Forum Insight

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FORUM INSIGHT: Housekeeping tips for your digital presence

Last week we took a look at how you can make your company blog work a little harder in terms of helping to grow your business. But sometimes it’s worth taking a step back to see if the fundamentals of your online presence are working as well as they should be.

If you don’t have dedicated ‘digital’ staff, an agency, or or a marketing department that takes care of such things, then making sure you’ve covered off the basics can be a daunting task.

You’ve got a website up and running, but what are you doing about social media and are you keeping your clients up to date with regular email updates? No? Then you won’t be alone.

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to make sure the basics are covered off…

Let’s assume that you already have a website. If you tasked a third party with building and maintaining that site for you, ask them to give it an SEO health check. You might even be able to do this yourself if the site is built on WordPress or similar. In short, make sure the site title and description paints an accurate picture of your business – this is the information search engines use to identify your site and thus (hopefully) include you in relevant results.

This takes us to social media. If you haven’t already got a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page for your business, set them up now. And make sure your profile information exactly matches the title and business description on your website and references your URL. Search engines will then recognise that and group everything together in their results.

The other thing that Google can do is show potential customers exactly where your office is located, via Google My Business. You have to jump through a few hoops to set it up, but it will make your business more visible to potential customers. For example, if someone searches for ‘events company in Hertford’ a map panel will show in results with pins for all such business in Hertford, including your own (if you’ve registered!).

Let’s also think about email, which is often neglected in the scramble towards social media. It’s a bit fiddly to set up, but it’s also a brilliant and direct way to communicate with your customers. The first step is to start collecting email addresses – get yourself an account with Mailchimp, create a sign-up form and put that on your website with a clear call to action.

Make sure you add any existing customer databases to your newsletter mailing list (first making sure they’ve given you permission to send them emails!). You can then easily create simple email campaigns with which to keep your customers up to date with your latest products and services.

If you can get all of the above done, then you’re ready to properly engage with existing and potential customers online – We’ll show you how in our next instalment…

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FORUM INSIGHT: Make your company blog work harder

There’s no sadder sight than a neglected company blog.

The chances are you’ve invested a fair bit of money in your website, which is probably the main channel through which to present your company to potential and existing customers outside of face-to-face meetings.

And if that’s the case, you’ve probably spent a fair bit of time setting up social media channels, and have maybe even paid someone to manage those for you.

First impressions last and your blog is the perfect tool with which to keep those channels fed and your website looking fresh and up to date.

But like New Year resolutions and Arsenal FC post-Christmas, it’s very easy to lose momentum after those initial earnest posts.

The main consideration when trying to keep a company blog updated is time, or the lack of it. Quickly followed by the need for inspiration. Both are easily addressed.

If you’re already paying someone to manage your social media, speak to them about taking on blog duties too. If you’re using an external creative agency the chances are they will be able to help too.

Internal solutions are also easily happened by. That new marketing intern is probably desperate to get his or her name up in lights and should be eager to prove their worth through blogging duties. Failing that, ask around – offices are often full of hidden talents waiting to be released.

Once you have the resource, it’s time to think about the content. The task of conjuring up appropriate subject matter can be a little intimidating, but it needn’t be.

A good place to start is drilling down into your product line – what do you sell? How were those products created? Look at mini FAQs, staff profiles, product announcements and commentary on industry news that affect your business. Does BREXIT have implications in your market? Tell your audience why.

To keep organised, draw up a simple content calendar, containing subjects, publication dates and responsibilities to keep things on track.

And the more content you post, the better it is for SEO too. Search engines will see that your site is being maintained and kept fresh, and that will score you brownie points against competitors in the rankings wars.

Plus, as alluded to earlier, the great thing about blog content is that it will feed your social media channels, which can also become neglected quite quickly. Each blog you post should be shared on LinkedIn – via employee profiles and your company’s own page – Twitter and Facebook.

All all three platforms you can then increase your reach if you pay to ‘boost’ posts to reach specific demographics. But more on that anon.

So, brush those cobwebs off your CMS and start posting – the world of content marketing awaits…

FORUM INSIGHT: Your checklist for taking a stand at an expo

Attending an exhibition in order to find new sales leads and create new business relationships can be a complicated process.

It’s not an insignificant cost, so here’s a handy guide to ensure you get good value for money…

Book your stand

Well, obviously. But you need to consider the size of your stand – you don’t want to look like a bit player, but you also need to ensure that you can fill your stand rather than it look like a big empty space.

The positioning of your stand is important too – near the entrance of the expo is a prime spot, but comes with a premium price; do you want to avoid being too close to competitors?; you’ll definitely want to steer clear of the toilets.

Do you want two open sides on your stand? Or just the one?

Equip your stand

You’ll need to buy lighting and electrics (plus testing) which isn’t cheap even for a plug socket to charge up phones and iPads. You’ll need to rent furniture if you haven’t got any to take to the expo yourself. Consider a table and chairs for meetings, plus a reception desk and literature racking as the bare minimum. At some expos you’ll also have to order carpet or flooring. And don’t forget to order your name board!

Marketing

What’s your ‘message’ for the expo? And how are you going to communicate it to the delegates who pass your stand? Posters, pop-up standees, leaflets and more need to be considered – and no stand is complete without a bowl of mints or sweets on the reception desk.

Lead generation

You’ll need to hire a scanner to zap delegates’ badges. And make sure you stick a bowl for business cards next to your bowl of sweets.

Stand build-up, break-down and parking

You’ll need to book your loading bay times for both set-up and break-down – and quickly, or you could end up with a very early morning/late evening spot. Also book your parking for the duration of the expo.

Register staff

You’ll need to register staff as ‘contractors’ for build-up and break down periods, and check the terms and conditions. Very often they will be required to wear hi-viz jackets and hard hats due to health and safety regulations.

All staff attending the actual expo will need to be registered to receive a badge.

And there’s more… You’ll need book travel and hotel rooms for your staff, and budget for expenses, particularly lunches and dinners.

BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY…

If you attend one of the Forum Events Forums or Summits, you can throw away the checklist.

Suppliers who attend our events simply need to book their attendance and select the delegates they wish to meet. We’ll do the rest, including providing meals and overnight accommodation for all supplier staff who attend, as part of the package.

No hassle, no checklist. Just a proven way of discovering new clients, and with no time wasted.

Letter writing – Is it time to reignite a lost art?

With some 41 States in the US saying that cursive writing need no longer be taught in schools, is this the death knell of a method of communication that has changed the world? Write a letter to someone today, says Forum Events Director Paul Rowney...

Imagine what history would be like if the likes of Churchill, Roosevelt, Hemingway, Orwell… had not written letters to their friends, relatives and work colleagues? Not only would we know a lot less about many major historical events, but we would also know precious little about these famous personalities, their characters, their feelings, the way they thought that them such political, literary or philosophical powerhouses.

But who writes letters nowadays? Not many people it seems. According to an item in the Huffington Post from 2011, “Last year the typical home received a personal letter about every seven weeks, according to the annual survey done by the post office. As recently as 1987 it was once every two weeks.”

So when did you last write a letter? As in putting Pen to Paper, not an email or an update on Facebook, but a personal one to one correspondence that went in the mail?

Here’s why you should consider resurrecting what could soon be a lost art.

First, because you are writing specifically to one person, you can say more intimate, relevant and interesting things, solely for the benefit of the recipient. It makes you feel good, and them feel special.

Second, because it takes time and thought to write a letter, those two things are what makes them so unique. You have taken some time out of you ‘busy schedule’ to do something for someone else’s pleasure. That time has been spent putting ideas, thoughts, feelings on paper in a structured, considered way. Not a bad self-discipline and one immediately recognised by the reader.

Third, it’s not cheap, the paper, envelopes (your time), postage, all costs. But then anything worth doing well normally involves some extra time and money. It’s an investment in your relationship with the recipient that will repay itself in many ways.

Fourth, people keep letters, they represent reminders of you, and the ones you receive keep your senders’ memories, and personality as a permanent reminder and record for you and posterity.

Fifth, they show you care and that you’re thinking of them and sharing with them your (at times) innermost thoughts, concerns, problems and happiness. It’s the next best thing to being with them. And because they are tangible the effect is long term and irreplaceable.

Sixth, when you do write, use a pen, not a computer. It’s more work but it sparks the creativity in you-and makes sure your handwriting skills are kept up to standard. With many schools now no longer teaching ‘cursive writing’, we may be the last generation that knows how to write and read handwriting, so keep this skill alive.

Seventh, start today and be astounded at the response from your recipient when they receive your unexpected letter. Especially if they are of the ‘older’ generation. They will be thrilled. Equally you’ll be delighted when amongst all the junk mail and bills you see an envelope with writing on it from them! When was the last time you saw that?

Then for all the above reasons, you’ll sit down and relish not just the contents of the letter, but the fact someone has taken the time, effort and thought to craft a communication solely for your benefit and enjoyment.

Just like everyone appreciates a birthday present that the giver has clearly gone to much trouble to personalise and buy because they know ‘it’s just right for you’. So receiving a handwritten letter conveys that same sense of individual concern and personal concern we all want, but seldom get.

Forum Insight: 10 ways to succeed at networking events…

Walking into an event room full of people you don’t know can be a scary experience. However, there are proven ways to conquer this fear and make networking an enjoyable and a useful process to do business. Here, we share 10 of the best practices to eradicate those networking nerves.

  1. Plan ahead: Try to obtain the attendee list in advance and highlight the people you would like to meet. On arrival, contact the event organiser and say who you are trying to connect with. If they get the chance, an introduction between yourself and the other party will be made upon arrival. It might also be beneficial to go to the registration area to ask if one of your selected visitors has arrived.
  1. Get there early: If you are one of the first to arrive, it is much easier to strike up a conversation with a small group of people.
  1. Most people are in the same position: If you do not know anyone else attending, it’s good to prepare a few opening questions: ‘Any particular presentation you’re looking forward to hearing today?’; ‘What brought you to this event?’
  1. Join a group: Approaching a group of attendees already in full conversation is a daunting prospect. So be bold, confident, and simply ask: “May I join the conversation? I’ve just arrived and I’m keen to learn what’s going on.”
  1. Build interesting conversation: Ask topical and relevant questions to the specific event. Be a good listener and don’t dominate the conversation with your own stories and business ideas.
  1. Be helpful: Share your knowledge of the industry, your contacts and sources of information. If people perceive you as an experienced and knowledgeable professional, they will want to keep in contact and maintain a relationship.
  1. Use your business card as a tactical weapon: I have a friend who renovates old wooden floors, so his business card is made of a thin piece of wood and has proven to be a guaranteed conversation starter. Be imaginative with the design and the job title displayed. Anything that says ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ could cause people to fear a sales pitch is on the way. So try and think of a job title that encourages a productive conversation.
  1. Receiving business cards: Be sure to make notes on the back to remind you of the conversation and the person. This could become much use in future interactions.
  1. Following up: If you engaged in constructive conversation with an attendee and have agreed to follow up after the event, then set a preferred method of contact and make sure to do so promptly.
  1. What not to do: Sales pitches, even if you’re asked ‘what does your company do’, keep your answer to a very brief explanation. Don’t ‘work the room’ rushing from group to group as this is not the way to form business relationships. It’s better to have had four good conversations than a dozen meaningless chats.

 

Words by Paul Rowney, director at Forum Events Ltd.

Forum Insight: Savvy SEO tips for start-ups that won’t break the bank…

With 50 per cent of new businesses failing within five years, recent research has revealed that many small businesses are missing out on opportunities to market online due to a lack of digital knowledge.

The research from 123 Reg found that 73 per cent said they did not advertise online and 42 per cent reported having no digital presence. SEO and other terminology also stumped 48 per cent of business owners surveyed, and only 53 per cent said their websites were easily readable via a mobile device.

“Being digitally savvy is especially important for start-ups. It can be the difference between your business being seen in the right places by the right people, and even small changes can have a huge impact,” comments Alex Minchin, founder and director of SEO agency Zest Digital.

Here, Alex shares three instantly achievable tips for small businesses looking to get started with SEO:

  1. Sign up to Google Analytics and Google Search Console and add the necessary code to your website: These are two free tools that will enable you to measure performance, even if you don’t understand it all immediately. You cannot improve something that you’re not measuring, and these tools will measure things such as; the number of visitors landing on your website, the best performing content, keywords driving traffic, any broken links or pages, and the links from other websites that are pointing back to your website.
  2. Start local: Most searches in the micro and small business world include local modifiers such as your city or county, e.g. “Plumbers in Croydon”. An easy way to start to build some gravitas towards your website is to feature on business directories. This creates ‘citations’ (mentions) of your business name and confirms your address and other details, in addition to pointing a link back to your website. It’s crucial to make sure your information is kept consistent, so finalise your details and use the same information as a template for all directories. These things will help to increase the strength and trust of your website. Just be sure to focus on reputable directories such as Touch Local, 192, Freeindex, and Opendi for example.
  3. Focus on the real basics and design each META title and description for each of the key pages on your website as a minimum: The title tag and descriptor underneath the search result is considered as a ranking factor by Google, and can positively influence your rankings for a particular keyword. Your title should include your keyword and brand name as a minimum, but try to be as creative as possible with the character limit (55 is the defacto) that you have available.  In the META description, it’s more important to include your value proposition and key information, for example “free delivery on all orders”, or “free quotation”. Remember, you’re trying to stand out to win a greater share of the clicks against the other websites competing for the same keyword so details and USPs are key.

“It’s widely reported that somewhere around 90 per cent of all purchasing decisions begin with a search engine and a search query. SEO can therefore play a huge part in the marketing strategy of a small business.

Alex continues. “Sharing your expertise through content and delivering value to your target market is the name of the game, and it’s a playground that, whilst dominated by some larger brands, isn’t policed by them. It’s entirely possible for a small business to compete and win on this channel, and doesn’t have to involve a huge cost in doing so.”

Forum Insight: Customer engagement methods to maintain strong relationships…

Now more than ever, customer communication methods are becoming varied and diverse. Trade exhibitions, social media platforms, focus groups and surveys, personalised email campaigns – the list is endless. But which methods will prove to be the most effective for your business? Before investing too much time and effort into just one, think carefully about all available options, and ask your customers how they prefer to be contacted…
Keep track of emails: Make it your personal – and even company – goal to respond to all customer emails within a five minute time frame. Not only will it generate appreciative responses, people love fast and efficient customer service, and this level of service will lead to an abundance of recommendations and increased trade. Need more convincing? View Eptica’s ‘Email Management’ article here.

Be active on social media: By now you’re probably tired of the constant emphasis on regular social media use, but inevitably, one of the best ways to connect with customers is through social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The good thing about social media is there is no time schedule to follow – you can reach customers at any time of the day. Use your company’s Facebook fan page or Twitter account to engage your followers and keep conversations flowing. Nowadays, social media has been incorporated as a form of customer service, so make your platforms adaptable for staff members to handle customer questions and complaints. Read through Conversocial’s case studies for influential insight.

Answer the phone: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! No matter what industry, a significant focus seems to be on new customer channel developments. But whatever happened to the traditional phone conversation? Whether you’re following up, apologising for something that went amiss, or wondering why you haven’t received an order in a while, there’s no better way to strengthen a customer relationship. According to eConsultancy, customers prefer assistance over the phone (61 per cent), followed by email (60 per cent); Live Chat (57 per cent); online knowledge base (51 per cent) and “click-to-call” support automation, (34 per cent).

Start a weekly blog: Why not create a weekly blog to keep your customers up-to-date? If you actively keep up a quality blog, not only will your customers read your blog, but they will respond to your blog. This creates a positive flow of communication and helps build customer loyalty. Find inspiration from these companies that have made blogging a ‘top priority’.

Conduct market research: Surveys allow businesses to identify customer needs. Once acknowledged, companies can steer their offerings towards filling these needs. Surveys are also a good tool to bring in prospective customers who are on the fence about a product/service, i.e. surveys can be used as a platform for prospective customers to voice their needs. Confused about whether to conduct quantitative or qualitative research? Learn more about the differences here.

Attending the Marketing Business Forum? Here are our top tips for industry networking!

If you’re coming to the next Marketing Business Forum (or if you’ve been to one before) you’ll know just how many opportunities there are to network with your industry peers.

The networking areas are where, as industry suppliers or buyers, you can follow up on conversations you’ve had during the one-to-one meetings that form the core of the event.

Or, you know, talk about the football.

Either way, business is more often than not about building relationships. We create networking environments that are informal and free of any pressure.

To help you get the most out of these opportunities, we’ve pulled together a few top tips for becoming the consummate networker:

Always be yourself: You’re among friends at the Marketing Business Forum, so there’s no need to feel nervous about walking into a big room of people. Our staff will be on hand to help with introductions and grease those social wheels (do come and say ‘hello’!).

Have a think about what you want to achieve: Who’s in the room? Is there anyone you met earlier in the day that you’d like to follow up with? Whether you’re a supplier or a buyer, you’ve come to the Marketing Business Forum with some specific goals in mind – the networking periods are a chance to help solidify those new partnerships.

Be curious: The Marketing Business Forum seminars are a great place for developing your industry knowledge and learning new skills. And they always create points of discussion. So why not see what everyone else thought of the talks, or swap some ideas on the latest technological developments and trends in the industry? And if you’re new to the industry, there will be seasoned veterans ready and willing to impart their wisdom!

Don’t forget your business cards! You didn’t think we could get through a whole article about networking without mentioning business cards, did you? It’s an old chestnut, but one worth re-roasting. This author has forgotten his cards more times than he cares to remember – it happens. Always keep a few spread between your wallet/purse, pockets and bag – then you’ll be able to produce one when you most need it. But don’t blanket bomb – just because you have 100 cards to give out, it doesn’t mean you have to!

Always follow up: You’ve given your cards out, but hopefully you’ve picked some up too! So make sure that when you get back to the office you log into LinkedIn or fire off some emails to your new contacts while everything’s still fresh in the mind.

Follow the above tips and you won’t go far wrong. Just don’t spend too long in the bar!

 

For more information on the Marketing Business Forum, call Carlos Dieguez on
01992 374091 or email c.dieguez@forumevents.co.uk

Or visit www.marketingbusinessforum.co.uk

Forum Insight: Business-proof your company and personal social media…

Of course, garnering a substantial social media following is important to all industry professionals and companies as a whole; however, a select few are still not implementing the basics to optimising their social presence. More than likely, your profiles will be the first thing new users look at to find out more information, and often dictate how your business, and you as an individual, appear in search results. 

Here, we breakdown the essential elements to maximising the potential of your social accounts, and why this is important for generating new business and creating a lasting impression…

 

  1. clear job title: How many times have you searched for someone’s profile, only to find the individual considers themselves to be a sales manager, commercial development director, project coordinator, and all of the above? May sound simple, but you’ll be surprised by the number of job titles people list as their current employment; therefore, to make life easier for all parties involved, just stick to one! Short, concise descriptions of your role within a company instead of laying out extensive, essay-style paragraphs will also help users and clients to stay engaged.
     
  2. Keep updating your accounts: Posting daily, or even multiple times a day, is crucial to sustaining a loyal following as well as how others will perceive both your company and your role. Granted – it’s tough work keeping on top of an average of four social accounts, nevertheless, as multiple marketing industry reports suggest, consistent use of social media can boost a company’s site SEO and allows instant communication with your clients. To share out the workload, why not create a weekly schedule where every member of your marketing team is responsible for a particular day of the week. 
     
  3. Select a professional image: I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but your choice of profile image for both a personal and business account greatly impacts a client’s perception of you; and, with my recent experience of following up with leads after a networking event, some are still choosing to ignore this basic component. Don’t just leave it as a generic grey box; and definitely don’t upload a picture of you and your friends on a night out along the Magaluf strip – for a business, a logo image will allow clients to instantly find you among the other accounts with a similar name. For personal, stick with a simple yet professional, smiley and welcoming headshot.  
     
  4. Include ALL direct contact information: Don’t forget to include information on how people can get in touch with you. Include your preferred contact methods, such as phone, Skype, email, website,  The inclusion of both a professional and personal blog presents itself as a way of existing and potential clients to learn more about you. 
  1. Recommendations: If a social platform provides the opportunity (particularly LinkedIn) it’s a good idea to take full advantage of their ‘Recommendations’ feature. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask a bunch of your loyal clients and even some colleagues to write short recommendation paragraphs for you – but expect to give a little guidance on what they need to write, and be open to doing the same for them. 

Forums vs Expos – how to maximise your precious time out of the office…

With a majority of ‘expert’ advice on Expos being somewhat outdated or, like with many businesses, asserting too much emphasis on easy routes rather than methods that actually work, it’s no wonder people get frustrated and disconcerted when they are looking to effectively network and source new connections without it lessening quality time spent in the office.

Amplified by the dominant presence of social media quick fixes such as: setting up a LinkedIn profile; increasing your Twitter presence; scheduling a large number of email marketing campaigns; and collecting as many business cards as possible at industry events – are key solution in helping you to be astute in intelligently selecting what methods best suit you and your way of working.

Expos can also have a somewhat ‘lazy’ association to it: people picture the huge halls and countless stands as a way of picking up leads and justifying their time out of the office, but realistically a large percentage of exhibitors won’t be of necessary relevance, or the person you need to speak to has decided not to attend at the last minute.

So set aside any previous experiences you may have with networking and Expos, and garner some quality connections by attending one of our Forum Events. Our formula ensures that buyers can increase their knowledge of how, why and where to invest without hanging around waiting for the wrong supplier; as well as ensuring that all suppliers are provided with qualified leads and valuable business is made as a result.

Events relevant to you may include the Marketing Business Forum taking place on November 8, 2016. Contact the team today…

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