We recently had a concerted effort to get some customer testimonials from our Hub members. The results you can see in the video at the end of this post with an intro from Stu Morrison explaining more.
Customer testimonials are so important for small businesses like us. They validate everything we say we do and help potential customers (Hub members) see the value of using our services and joining the Bordon Hub. That’s because instead of us telling you how great we are, someone else is doing the job for us!
In fact, a few words from the right customer can have a much bigger impact than all the carefully crafted messages you use in your marketing and promotional content. Those few words are also free, all you need to do is ask for them.
It’s useful to understand where customer testimonials sit in your marketing funnel so you know where to use them. Generally, customer testimonials are ‘conversion’ messages. They’re most effective when a potential customer needs a little help making that decision to buy.
A great testimonial can make someone who doesn’t know you and your business feel more comfortable about buying, and also help them to decide whether your product is right for them.
Many small businesses hide their customer testimonials on a webpage or even in a file, only to be seen when someone asks for a testimonial or actively searches for them. If you have your customers’ permission to use them, be proactive about sharing their messages to help you convert new customers! Here are a few ideas of how to do it:
Websites – the front page of your website is the perfect place to feature a strong testimonial. Make it prominent, don’t hide it at the bottom of your page, and make sure it’s accessible – a clear and concise line of text or a video like we’ve done. Then stick a testimonial on other pages of your website, ensuring that they’re relevant to the content on that page. For example, if you have several different products or services use a testimonial that actually refers to that specific product or use one that talks about your customer service on your ‘about us’ pages.
Social media – if you can get a customer to speak on camera, short video clips are perfect for social media. It’s worth bearing in mind that many people view social videos with the sound off, so caption your videos with keywords that show viewers exactly what the content is about. Phrases like ‘fantastic customer service’ or ‘high quality product’ will also help reinforce what your customers are actually saying (with the sound on too!). If you have testimonials in the form of text create graphics to add to your social media feeds. We recommend using canva.com to design really effective social media graphics.
Email marketing – customer testimonials are also a useful addition to your marketing emails, giving potential customers a compelling reason to take the next step and either buy a product or contact you directly.
Case studies – customer testimonials and case studies are slightly different as a case study should outline the customer’s requirements and what your business did to fulfil them. However, including a testimonial in a case study is an excellent idea as it can enable you to share more than just the nitty gritty of your services. A great testimonial might talk about the added value your business provides, how helpful your team are or what a difference you’ve made to that individual or business; all helping you to differentiate your business from your competitors.
Printed marketing materials – another place to use your customer testimonials is on your printed marketing materials. If you’re advertising in the local press, a testimonial from a local customer is a great way to engage prospects. Even include one on your business card if it’s appropriate, it will certainly make it more engaging than most business cards!
It’s usually quite easy to get customer testimonials, all you have to do is ask. However, it’s worth considering which of your existing customers is likely to provide the best testimonials for your business. Key things to consider include:
To get really effective customer testimonials make it easy for your customers. A few prompts are helpful to steer them in the right direction, such as by asking them about specific products or their customer experience. If you’re requesting a testimonial via email or a messaging app, provide a few questions to help them. You can always combine their responses into one concise message and then ask them to approve it. Alternatively you could end up with a variety of useful quotes from the same customer.
If you’re planning a video testimonial give your customers time to prepare! Again, share some questions with them beforehand so they can think about their responses and give you what you need.
Here’s our video sharing several different customer testimonials, we’ve also edited these to create short videos clips for using on social media. Let us know what you think!
If you’ve ever worked for a large organisation you’ll probably be aware of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how businesses and public sector organisations give back through CSR programmes and volunteering.
But when you’re a sole trader or run a small business with just a handful of staff, corporate social responsibility programmes may not seem like something you can afford to get involved in. Large organisations will often invest significantly in the charities or organisations they support, match fundraising by employees for causes that are important to them, or give staff time off to do voluntary work. For the micro business this may not be so easy. However, many micro business owners are actively involved in the local community and donate a huge amount of time and resources to make a difference. Why?
Many local business owners live in the area and are very aware of what makes their town a great place to live and work. They understand the challenges a town like Whitehill & Bordon face, and the benefits of living in this part of the country, and therefore have a good idea of how they can make a difference and why they should.
Supporting local community initiatives is also good for business. Not only can it raise your business’ profile and provide you with promotional opportunities, it also helps to build a thriving local community which ultimately has a positive impact on everyone’s business and trade.
That’s why many of our members are already involved in local community groups, volunteering and giving their time or expertise for free. They might not think of it as corporate social responsibility, but they’re doing just as much (if not more) as some of the larger businesses in the area.
SiGNAL, where the Bordon Hub is based, was founded to help local businesses thrive as part of the Whitehill & Bordon regeneration programme. Our believe is that by supporting small businesses we can help bring more opportunities to the area and be part of a vibrant and successful local community. However, just providing office space and facilities for businesses is not enough, we all need to support the local community by getting involved. If we do, we might be able to accelerate the growth of the local economy and help to make Whitehill & Bordon a really attractive place to live and work.
There are lots of ways you as a sole trader or small business owner can get involved. You could donate a percentage of profits to a local charity, or donate vouchers or products to charity auctions and raffles. You could host coffee mornings, run marathons or hold fundraising events to support a local organisation. Or you could offer sponsorship, helping to fund essential equipment or sponsoring a specific event.
You don’t have to give a financial contribution, you could give your time or expertise instead. For example, a graphic designer could produce free artwork for their chosen community group, or an accountant could do an organisation’s books. If you don’t think your skills are needed, donate your time and labour by volunteering. That could be a regular commitment such as volunteering with a local community group or by getting involved in one off event like a Business Volunteering Day.
In fact, there’s a great opportunity to do exactly that coming up in June when Community First will be holding a Business Volunteering Day in the Bordon Inclosure! Local businesses and individuals can come along to help the Deadwater Valley Trust clear the invasive Himalayan balsam from some of the woodland areas. No skills are needed, just a willingness to get stuck in and make a difference.
Joining this working party will help improve one of our most prized local amenities – the Bordon Inclosure which is popular with families, dog walkers, runners and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.
It’s also an opportunity to find out more about volunteering with the Deadwater Valley Trust or with other local organisations. Community First can help you find a good fit for you and your business, whether you want to donate time, skills or funds.
Coming along to the Business Volunteering Day will also give your business some publicity and could even be a useful networking opportunity. The event will be covered by local media outlets, so wear a branded T-shirt! Lots of other small businesses will also be volunteering, working side-by-side, so it’s a great alternative to normal business networking events.
We’ll be there too, so please join us and see how you and your business can make a difference in Whitehill & Bordon.
Janet Duggan from Community First will also be at the Bordon Hub next week to talk about volunteering and what Community First does. If you can’t make the Business Volunteering Day in June, come along to find out how you can still get involved in the local community.
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, you’re not alone. Here in the South East 51,965 new businesses were formed in 2017 (most recent figures) a rate of 12%. Many of these business will be ‘microbusinesses’, defined as a business employing between 0-9 people, which is probably what you’ll be – at least to start with. In fact, 95% of all UK businesses were microbusinesses in 2018, with a collective turnover of £808 billion!
However, it should also be noted that as well as ‘business births’ in the same period there were 48,295 ‘business deaths’, businesses that cease trading for some reason.
While many of these business deaths may be unrelated to their success – for example someone folds their business because of retirement or a change in lifestyle – some will have gone under because they weren’t profitable or succeeding as their founders had planned.
So if you’re going into business for the first time, it’s really important to get the business support and training you need. Fortunately, there are lots of places you can get help. Here are some resources in North East Hampshire.
Alton Chamber of Commerce & Industry
For businesses local to Alton, this Chamber provides a voice, lobbying, promotion and support through collective initiatives and business events. Find out more here.
Based at SiGNAL the Bordon Hub offers local business owners weekly meetings with a focus on developing skills, business training and education. For sole traders and microbusiness owners the Hub acts as an accountability partner, helping individuals stay on track and achieving business goals in line with their business plans. More details about joining the Bordon Hub can be found here.
This enterprise agency helps businesses in Hampshire (and beyond) start up and develop. Services include a Business Toolkit of free resources, access to start up loans and funding, advice and mentoring, and Enterprise First also delivers the Start and Grow programme. Click here for more information.
Enterprise M3 Growth Hub
Local Enterprise Partnerships provide strategic leadership for economic renewal, working across the public and private sectors to tackle economic issues such as transport, skills and enterprise. Enterprise M3 covers the M3 corridor including Whitehill & Bordon. Click to visit Enterprise M3
FIELDFARE: Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE)
North East Hampshire is a rural area and has a programme in place to support rural development. While the current programme is now closed for applications, future funding and support may be available. More details here.
Hampshire Chamber of Commerce
Covering the whole of Hampshire this organisation offers business support, training and events, as well as lobbying on behalf of its members and promoting Hampshire businesses as a whole. Find out more here.
Alongside the Bordon Hub, SiGNAL offers a range of business workshops and events aimed at entrepreneurs, sole traders and small business owners. This includes Office 365 training to help you get the most of its various functions, improving business communications, collaboration, productivity and time management. View SiGNAL’s calendar of business events here.
As well as getting practical business support and training, start up business owners can also benefit from business networking events and other opportunities to be part of their local business community.
Using a dedicated coworking space can be a great way to connect with other local business owners, and benefit from their support and expertise. Click on the links below to explore local coworking spaces in Hampshire, and also networking events in the area.
Joining the Bordon Hub is a great way to get the support and skills needed to grow your small business. But as the saying goes, you only get out what you put in, so if you want to get value from your membership you need to make the Bordon Hub work for you!
Below are our tips for getting the most out of the Hub and helping us give you the business support you need.
The backbone of the Bordon Hub is our programme of weekly meetings. These are designed to give you essential business skills and help you grow. While you can watch the videos of these sessions online (our members-only Facebook group has a library of videos from all the talks from the Bordon, Farnham and Guildford Hubs), there’s no substitute for being in the room.
We know it’s a drag to register for our Hub sessions on Eventbrite, especially as you don’t need to pay as they’re included in your membership, but it really helps us to deliver a useful meeting if we know who’s coming. Where possible we can tailor content to your needs and help our trainers and speakers prepare so the session is more valuable. For example, if we know that everyone in the room is selling B2B products or services, we can focus on those types of businesses rather than B2C.
Our experience running business hubs means that we can second guess some of your questions and the areas that you might want help with, but we’re not mind readers! Please don’t hesitate to ask questions at the meetings and get the support you need. If you need help with anything that’s not covered in a Hub session, speak to us and we’ll try to introduce you to someone who can help or get the information you need.
At many of our Hub meetings you’ll get a workbook so you can take practical steps to put what you’ve learned into action. Sometimes we have time to get cracking during the morning and run an implementation session. Other times you’ll need to go away and do a bit of homework. Once a month we have a members only mini-Mastermind that’s also an opportunity to recap over the past few weeks and get ‘unstuck’ if you haven’t been able to do something. Try to make this session and stay on track.
Our business community is successful because everyone’s in it together. Unlike many business networking events where attendees are only interested in selling to other attendees, our members are more interested in helping each other succeed. From sharing their expertise and experience with others, flagging up useful information or events, recommending each other’s services to connections, to going above and beyond to offer support and friendship when someone needs it. The members only Facebook group is a great place to help each other or use the #hubhelp hashtag to request support.
We’re continually reviewing and improving the Bordon Hub with the sole purpose of helping you grow your business. But we can’t do that without your feedback! Please try to find time at the end of a meeting to complete our feedback form or just speak to one of our team about the session. You can also email or call us if you think of something at another time. Don’t leave us in the dark about what you think!
While we handpick guest speakers and trainers to deliver really useful talks and practical workshops, the member base is also important to our success. When lots of people turn up for a Hub meeting, everyone gets more out of the session as we all have different experiences, points of view and questions to ask. Our combined expertise is also beneficial to all of us, as are new faces and new members! So if you’re finding the Bordon Hub is making a difference to your business, please tell other local business owners about it and suggest they come along for a free taster.
If you’re not a member and would like to experience the Bordon Hub for yourself, have a look at the events we’ve got coming up and choose the ‘I’m a visitor, it’s FREE!’ when you select your ticket.
Are you using business Facebook groups to grow your business? Many business owners and entrepreneurs are finding that Facebook is the ideal platform to connect and engage with their local business community, and in turn grow their businesses. It’s time to join them!
Why not LinkedIn? Of course LinkedIn groups are also a very valuable way to build professional relationships, but in our experience it’s been much easier to build an online local business community using Facebook because people are using it for these reasons:
So from a practical point-of-view, using Facebook for B2B interactions is easy, you’re probably already there and so is everyone else!
However, some business Facebook groups are not good examples of how to build an online community and help grow each other’s businesses. You may already have been a member of ones where interactions are predominately those of a sales nature. These groups can often have a high rate of churn as members become disengaged because of the amount of self-promotion that goes on.
It’s a problem for most Facebook groups. Whatever the group’s rules, some people can’t resist spamming the group with their business Facebook page or link to their website! Our approach with the groups we manage is to be proactive moderators, by asking members to take down posts if they’re too promotional and ultimately block repeat offenders!
But we also try to encourage best practice in our groups, by sharing content that we know our members will be interested in and leading by example. When you also do the same, I promise you’ll find membership of a Facebook business group much more rewarding. Below are my tips for getting started:
1. Introduce yourself!
When you join a group, let other members know you’re there. Don’t share your Facebook business page and leave it at that, give them a few more clues as to who you are, what you do and what you’re hoping to get out of the group. Remember, you’re not necessarily talking to customers (although some members may be interested in buying from you), instead your objective should be to become part of the online community, learn from others and share your experience and expertise too.
2. Think about how you can help others
Often people will post questions or ask for advice in a business Facebook group, so if you have the answers please share! It’s about helping other businesses grow as much as your own, and by offering advice and sharing your expertise you’ll build your credibility in the group and become the ‘go to’ expert. This approach could result in referrals and members buying your products and services. In fact in our experience, especially for those that offer B2B services, it’s a very good way to establish your authority and raising brand awareness.
3. Ask for support and advice
Similarly, another way to engage with the group is to ask for help. We use the hashtag #hubhelp to flag up members’ requests for support. As well as getting much needed advice or market research, it’s a great way to learn more about other members and build useful relationships. You’ll also find it raises your profile and helps to keep your brand at the forefront of other members’ minds.
4. Help promote other members’ businesses
Where appropriate, help other businesses to grow by sharing their content. For example, if someone is hosting an event that you think would be of interest to someone in your network – share it! Remember, you can share content directly with individual Facebook friends so your personal newsfeed isn’t full of business related posts. You can also share content to another page or group if that’s a better option. Other group members will appreciate your support and may reciprocate when the opportunity arises.
5. Share useful content
Finally, if you come across an interesting article that other members might like to read, share it! Or share an event that you think they may like to attend – e.g. local business expos, business awards, clinics and workshops. If you’ve been given some fantastic advice that’s revolutionised the way you do business, or a great app that’s transformed your working day – share it! That’s what business Facebook groups should be all about: sharing knowledge, information, inspiration and support to help everyone be more successful.
The Bordon Hub runs two business Facebook groups, a members-only group and another open to any local business. To join, click on the links below:
Bordon and Alton Business Hub – members and non-members
SiGNAL, our host for The Bordon Hub and team HQ, also runs a few local business interest groups which you may like to join. Again, click on the links to join these local communities:Click here to learn more about the Bordon Hub