Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

"Get the essential marketing tips and tricks to give you an unfair advantage over your competitors"

Subscribe for updates and our latest blogs

SME Marketing: Avoid 5 Errors When Scaling Your Business

SME Marketing: Errors

When it comes to SME marketing, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly!

Through The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business programme, The British Library and IDEA London (a Cisco Accelerator) I’ve taught and worked with hundreds of scale up businesses.

Even Facebook marketing experts don’t know it all.

After I taught and mentored on a scale up programme in Beirut last year, I went to a Facebook marketing workshop, run by Facebook.

I sat beside Salma who used to run a Facebook marketing agency.

Now, she’s running a tech start-up that’s raised over $1 million in funding and is regularly in the news.

She’s a very smart and talented lady.

At the end of the two-hour talk, Salma said she’d learnt ways of advertising on Facebook she never knew existed.

SME Marketing - Facebook Likes

The problem we ALL face is that marketing changes so fast that it’s impossible to keep up with everything.

There’s a marketing knowledge gap for talented entrepreneurs who don’t have a marketing background and want to grow.

New marketing methods are constantly emerging.

Two years ago, asking someone to promote your product to thousands of their followers on Instagram and Facebook wasn’t a small business marketing strategy.

Now, influencer marketing is a crucial marketing strategy, especially for eCommerce businesses.

I spoke to a scale up company recently and they ran an influencer marketing campaign. They gave a free product to an influencer and that influencer shared their product with their followers.

They expect to make a 5 x return.

The great thing is that influencers are a perfect fit for their cool product.

After a lucky first campaign, they should invest in influencer outreach as a key part of their marketing activity.

There’s even new software to help them find the best influencers.

This software didn’t exist one year ago!!!

SME Marketing: Insta

Do you know which SME marketing methods to test?

Is that recommendation for an SEO genius worth trying?

Maybe you’ve been given great proposals by a few agencies that look great.

They’ve promised the world, but you’re not sure that they’ve fully understood your business.

I read a lot of blogs and keep up-to-date with industry experts so I can be on top of my game, but I certainly don’t know it all.

How do you make good marketing decisions when there’s so much you dont know?

This confusion and overwhelm means I see people making mistakes.

The 5 most common scale up marketing problems I see:

Mistake 1: Hire a marketing technician and expect a strategist.

SME Marketing - robot

When you’re developing and improving products and services, you’ll need to test different marketing strategies, pricing and offers.

Fair enough.

I see entrepreneurs with unpolished products hiring freelancers, particularly for Google PPC ads or Facebook ads.

They do one campaign, and then it flops.

I see too many people hiring freelancers in areas such as website design and online marketing and their expectations of what’s achievable are all out of proportion.

It rarely works out.

There is a world of difference between having a finished product or service where you’ve nailed the price, the way you sell it, the sales copy, the landing page and its delivery…

Then there’s having something that still needs development.

If you hire a marketing technician they’re good at one thing – they know how to sell something that’s polished.

But do not ask them to tweak or test any aspect of your product as that’s outside of their skill set.

I’ve yet to meet a freelance web designer who understands online marketing.

SME Marketing: Juggling

A growing hospitality company I worked with had a fantastic public workshop that was already selling well.

The product was tested, the pricing strategy worked, and it was already selling through their website and email marketing. There were testimonials, the company had a good reputation, and the sales copy was good.

There were plenty of satisfied customers.

I introduced them to a great Google PPC company who helped them sell £25,000 worth of tickets.

I was happy, and I wasn’t that surprised.

This company had all the key marketing elements in place, and this meant that it was possible to focus purely on scaling their sales. It worked a treat.
Conversely, I worked on a project with Pierre, a different and more strategic Google PPC expert.

He suggested not wasting any money on Google PPC ads until the landing page was hugely improved. We woked on the landing page, and now it gets double the sales from the same traffic volume.

Grow’s WordPress experts (part of our Dream Team) are all based in Ukraine, and their work ethic is fantastic. They will do anything we ask as long as we are 100% clear in what we want.

However, they’re all technical people. They have no expertise in SEO, digital marketing, or design. I would never recommend them to build a website from scratch. Their skills lie in website maintenance.

I see far too many business owners hiring people who are great at their specific jobs, but involving them in the marketing strategy. It doesn’t work.

I discourage growing companies from wasting money on marketing until we’ve reviewed and improved their website, their sales copy, and their overall product offering.

I call this process preparing the ground.

I grew up on a farm, and I learnt that if you want to grow great tasting vegetables year after year, you have to take care of the soil.

SME Marketing - farming

The maths is simple.

If you’re going to spend £2,000 on a marketing campaign, make sure every element of your marketing is working before you start the campaign to get a better ROI.

Mistake 2: Not effectively tracking SME marketing efforts and results:

Please don’t worry.

I’m not going to suggest you work through the night to work out how Google Analytics works or that you must learn how to code. I promise.

You don’t have to use an excel spreadsheet with 100 weird metrics that you must track each month.

However, I see far too many scale up businesses that don’t track any marketing metrics.

Making marketing decisions without any data is tougher AND riskier.

You should know how many new customers you are winning each month and how much it costs to acquire each customer.SME Marketing - plan

Some of the key metrics that we track at Grow each month are:

• Monthly web visitors
• Top 50 keywords (that we rank for in Google and our position)
• New enquiries
• Monthly revenue
• Monthly traffic to our blog
• Workshop ticket sales
• Where our web traffic comes from

We’ve noticed a 25% drop in our web traffic over the last three months.

Because we’re tracking our key metrics each month, we can see what’s happening, and most importantly do something about it!

What will we do?

We’ll increase how many blogs we’re posting and fix some technical issues, and I’ll bring in an SEO expert in for a short enagement.

Most importantly from a strategic point of view, we will test some Google PPC and Facebook advertising because it’s just not safe to rely on organic traffic.

As you scale you must be able to see a snapshot of your business each month and MOST importantly, make decisions based on your data.

SME Marketing: Dashboard

On the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses small business course I taught on, they were obsessed with having a marketing dashboard.

No surprises there.

Having a marketing dashboard with the key metrics you are following each month doesn’t imprison you. It frees you.

*this goes out to the creative types like me 😉

And don’t forget. Make sure you track what your salespeople are doing as they are very good at spinning yarns.

A training company I worked with did magazine adverts, and I was sceptical as they spent about £2,000 a year on these adverts with no way to track the return.

They changed the adverts and used a discount code that people had to input when buying so we could track results. It turned out that it was worth spending money on the adverts after all.

A London manufacturing company I’m working with hired a great writer and social media person for their business. It’s only after they have been in the role for four months that we are now starting to track metrics to assess how they are doing. Better late than never.

Having a marketing dashboard helps you focus on what’s REALLY important, every month. It also enables you to de-prioritise the things that are not important.

What 5 key metrics do you need to track each month for your SME marketing?

And do make your marketing dashboard look nice. Excel is pretty ugly after all.

Mistake 3: Not having a killer offer when you scale

SME Marketing - offer

One of the smartest marketing brains I know, Ryan Deiss, was sharing his frustration last year on social media.

The most consistent mistake he saw among entrepreneurs was not getting their offer right.

As you improve and test every aspect of your business, there’s a point when you must scale your marketing efforts to get to the next level.

And you have smart competitors.

Whether it’s sending strategic partners an email with your offer that they then send to their email list on your behalf, or a piece of direct mail, telemarketing, emailing your existing customers, or paying for adverts.

Whatever your marketing method or campaign, the offer is crucial to your success.

I worked with a dance school some years ago and they did a Groupon offer.

They sold 1,000 dance class tickets.

About 30% of people never redeemed their ticket.

It was very difficult to get the upsell right for the people who had bought a low priced Groupon offer.

We tested three different offers for Groupon customers to get people to book another series of classes.

Thankfully, it worked, and we finally nailed the upsell offer to a series of discounted classes. Phew!

For SMEs I work with that are scaling, part of our work is always developing and testing different offers until we get one that works well every time.

When it comes to e-commerce, as well as having a special offer for new customers, free shipping should always be on offer.

It’s like a permanent offer, as you shouldn’t be asking people to click all over your website to find out your shipping charges.

In e-commerce, a 15% gift voucher for first-time customers in exchange for their email has worked really well for one of our clients.

I worked with a cleaning company based in London, who were looking to secure commercial cleaning contracts.

One way of getting a meeting was to give a guarantee that they could beat existing cleaning contract pricing by at least 10%.

A very confident offer!

Due to the company’s size and the low prices they paid for cleaning products (they were distributors) this meant they could easily make this generous offer.

We ensured that every new lead was followed up multiple times, which increased the number of initial meetings.

With an ecommerce company I’m working with, we created a lapsed customer campaign.

We created a series of 3 autoresponder emails with a 25% discount offer that was available for 7 days.

We won back over 65 customers who will hopefully continue to buy for the long term.

It’s good to test different customer offers during different times of the year.

If you want to know one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s thinking about different irresistible offers I can test for my businesses and the entrepreneurs I work with.

What’s the next irresistible offer you should be testing?

Mistake 4: Successful SME marketing takes time.

I often see SME owners neglecting the marketing side of their business, especially when things are going well

Then sales slow down, and it takes a superhuman effort to gain momentum.
Scattergun marketing:
Trying out random marketing when you’re a bit desperate.

It’s painful to see, and it rarely ends well.SME Marketing - Time

A well funded tech start-up I worked with recently were struggling to decide their pricing strategy.

Even after an intense pricing strategy session, it wasn’t clear what the best option to monetise their app was.

Should they go for one million users and not charge, or start charging some of their 100,000 customers.

A very tough call.

They made a smart move.

They are not charging for their consumer app… yet

However, they are now testing a business to business version of their app.

This enables them to focus on two markets using identical technology and allows them to kick their consumer pricing issue down the road.

If the business to business app takes off, they may never charge for their consumer app, but instead, use it as a way to build brand awareness.

They have options, and they know that it takes time to build a great business.

It’s crucial to think of your marketing as an ongoing investment which will deliver long-term gains in your business

You must invest in areas such as:

→ Learning how to increase your social media followers

→ Learning how to create email marketing that people care about and respond to

→ Learning how to create 3 marketing campaigns each year

→ Learning how to get results with SEO

→ Testing new marketing methods

→ Making sure that whoever writes your blogs delivers results so that your blogs get traffic and lead to sales

→ Sorting out your website analytics and sales pages

→ Testing offers and web design improvements

→ Making a Google AdWords campaign work

→ Making a LinkedIn outreach campaign work

→Testing different eCommerce marketing strategies such as pop-ups, autoresponders and remarketing

→ Setting up and using a CRM system effectively


SME Marketing - Time and money

Whether you work with your own team or hire external experts, you will still have to go through the hassle of implementation.

One way to stay focused is:

Have a one page marketing strategy.

You must know who your ideal customers are, and the best marketing methods to win those customers.

I always encourage businesses to increase the revenue they make from their existing customers with other products they can sell.

The more revenue you can make from each customer, the more profitable your business will be.

Over the last two years, I’ve worked with a company that has doubled in turnover. They have moved from having one group of not particularly great customers towards having an entirely new group of customers, which will be much more profitable and sustainable.

They have gradually built the marketing side of the business by investing in every aspect of marketing, including their website, hiring great people, website copy, sales materials, Linked In campaigns, social media and much more.

What I love is that they made the decision to invest, even though things were tricky when we first started working together.

A long term commitment to your marketing immunises you from chasing the latest fad.

It’s the long-term nurturing of the entire marketing side of your business that pays long-term dividends.

I’m never keen to work with a company that’s looking for a magic bullet, or a silver spoon, or a one-hit wonder marketing method.

The one hit wonder seekers will never make the necessary investment of time and money in their marketing, and probably never will.

Mistake 5: Hiring an agency that doesn’t work out.

SMEs often tell me that they hired an agency and it failed.

Part of the problem for a scale up businesses hiring an agency is that the agency will never know as much about the business as the business owner.

Sometimes you’ll get an inexperienced agency junior working on your campaigns, or the agency oversells their experience and expertise.
A fitness brand I’m working with engaged an agency to do Facebook adverts for them.

The agency didn’t install any tracking so my client had no idea how much they were paying to win a new customer, or even if they were getting any new customers.

Makes my blood boil if you must know!

Don’t worry – I referred them to some Facebook ad experts I know. They hustled a great deal and they will be very involved as there is lots of testing to do. I even told my client to do a basic Facebook advertising course!

If you do engage an agency, have a short trial to see how they get on.

You must make sure that you have clear agreements about what constitutes success so you can track and measure results each month.

You must be able to track that their actions lead to sales, as far as you possibly can.

Please get someone to cast a critical eye over your marketing strategy as a whole.

If you’re not in a position to get a marketing expert in, ask someone you trust with business experience or get a paid mentor and they will often spot things you miss.

Make sure you ook at what your most successful competitors are doing.


The 12 Marketing Secrets of Fast-Growth Companies

Find out what they do to achieve outrageous business success


Get your free copy

Subscribe to our email list and get this special report


  1. thanks for sharing this is really helping me. keep up the awesome work 🙂

Post a Comment