Thursday, 5 November 2009

A brand - now why would I want that?

It's been a little while since my last post as we have been rather busy since the summer holidays but I hope to get a bit more regularity into this blog again now.

In some of our recent meetings we have had a number of discussions about a "brand" - to many small to medium businesses this is a difficult concept to grasp and so often it's ignored.

But having a "brand" is important to virtually all businesses. We are not talking here about having a "brand" that is known globally like Coca-Cola, but about a business developing a consistent set of communications that clearly portrays their core values to its target audience in a logical and sustainable manner.

Now, that's not rocket science is it? But it's amazing how few businesses think in this way. So, sit down and decide what your core values are and how you will communicate these clearly and in a way your target audience will understand and value - you will then be well on the road to establishing your "brand" and your business will be much the better for it in the months and years to come.

Friday, 28 August 2009

When is the right time to Invest in marketing?

Now of course!

But only a handful of companies that we talk to initially understand this simple fact - the rest fall into one of two camps:

a) I am doing OK at the moment and so I don't need to spend any money on marketing.

b) I am really struggling, creditors are all over me, I need to do some marketing to get more sales quickly, but I haven't any money left to pay for it - can you help?

The problem with the a) businesses is that they all too often turn into the b) businesses - and in the case of small to medium sized companies surprisingly quickly, and in the current financial turmoil digging those companies back out again is incredibly difficult.

Over the last couple of months we have spoken again to a number of companies who a year or so ago didn't want anything to do with us as they were "too busy with existing business". They have been caught out by the rapid demise in their markets and have now left it too late to react. Unfortunately in a number of these cases there is nothing we could do for them and the owners have lost their business and their livelihood. In a few other cases we have helped the business owner to find some financial backing to start and rebuild, but it's a long road back.

So - don't be one of the casualties - if you are doing OK at the moment, take some of that profit and invest it in growing your business now. There are some golden opportunities to be grasped at this time which most likely won't be around in a years time or so.

Friday, 21 August 2009

SEO - myths and black magic

How do I get to the top of Google? This is a question that is posed to us at least weekly and we always have the same answer – just start to think how Google thinks.

You will no doubt have heard about companies that specialise in search engine optimisation (or SEO for short) – you may have even spoken to some of them. If you have, then along with most other business owners and managers you are probably still as much in the dark about what SEO is all about than if you hadn’t asked.

There are a lot of myths and black magic woven around SEO – much of it to protect the high monthly charges that many of these companies propose to try and get your website rated at the top of Google in a matter of months, sometimes weeks – however, what most people don’t appreciate is that if they do manage this feat then it is often for a specific search term that they have agreed with you. The more specific the search term though the more likely Google will be to rank it highly anyway – so save your time and money.

A couple of years ago a small business client of ours insisted that they wanted to get to the top of the Google listings for the term “sales training”. Despite repeated discussions about the fact that this was not the be-all and end-all in developing their business and that long term they would be better off building a genuinely interesting website and driving traffic to that site through a mix of marketing activities, they were convinced by the pitches of a number of SEO companies that claimed could quickly get them to No 1 position for that search term. At this juncture we parted ways with the client but I can tell you that two years later that company is quite a lot poorer and are still no nearer that No 1 goal – in fact they are not even in the top 10 pages for that term (and how much further would you look than that?). Had they spent the same money developing a broader based marketing mix over the same period they would most certainly have generated a better return on the investment and actually would most likely have improved their position in Google to boot!

So here are some basics that will get you 80% of the way to building a Google friendly website without ever getting near an SEO guru.

1. Content: There is no doubt that content and copy is key. Make sure that the copy on each page is focused around a word or phrase (often referred to as keywords) that people are likely to use when searching. If possible choose less generic and more specific words as people really searching for something in Google will usually enter a quite specific phrase – repeat that keyword multiple times whilst still writing good copy.

2. Structure: Use the keyword where possible in the title of the page and definitely in headlines on the page (in bold or larger font). Any photographs on the page can also have what is called an “Alt-tag” assigned – this is what is often displayed when you roll the mouse over a photograph – make sure that your chosen keyword for the page appears in those tags.

3. Incoming Links: If you can get other companies to link to your site, make sure they are actually relevant to your company – i.e. on their page linking to your website page that they are discussing a similar topic - Google ranks relevant (note relevant) incoming links highly so long as there is an obvious similarity between the two linked pages.

4. Market your site through a mix of channels and media (don’t simply focus on No 1 in Google) – the more people here about your site and visit it then the more it will naturally rise to the top in Google.

In contrast to the “sales training” client, we have many clients that have high positions in Google searches for relevant keywords by doing no more than the basics above. As an example try the search term “swimming pool paint” – our client is No 1 worldwide with a straight forward website that delivers a thriving business in swimming pool paint, but he has done no more to achieve this than the four points above. He is now extending his product range with the same thinking for Pond Paint, and is high up on the first page already.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Risk share, reward share

In these times of continuing economic uncertainly, at Red Splash we are seeing a number of business owners that still want to invest in marketing and development activities to grow their company but are procrastinating as they weigh up the risk of making that investment over retaining the money in their business.

Investing wisely at this time can reap dividends that would not be possible in more economically buoyant times and the way to take the risk out of that investment is to undertake rigorous due diligence and research and test ideas fully.

Not all businesses are in a position to do this due diligence and research in-house though and many more do not possess the skills to develop and ruthlessly execute the business development activities required to grasp the opportunity.

We have become acutely aware of this as we have recently seen a number of companies where there was clearly an opportunity for them to grow but despite our best efforts they have not been able to bring themselves to make the required investment, at least not yet and the opportunity may be gone before they do.

Last week, in our board meeting, we decided to take a bold step and for the first time offer our prospective clients a risk sharing model as an option to our normal fee model – in fact we prefer to call it a reward sharing model. If we are convinced that there is indeed a real opportunity for business growth within a current or prospective client, then with the right measures in place we will share in the investment of undertaking the detailed research, developing the plans and executing the activities in return for an agreed slice of the success.

We are now talking to a number of companies about this new model and it has been warmly received - we believe that the recent economic turmoil has thrown up a real opportunity for Red Splash that was not there a year or so ago and we are now investing in that – the timing to step up a gear in our own business may never be better.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Business growth

Welcome to my blog. As a Director of Red Splash (, a company that specialises in helping small to medium sized businesses to grow, I come across a multitude of interesting projects and stories and this blog is to share some of those with you. They will range from the informative, to the educational to the plain amusing...