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customer testimonials

The importance of customer testimonials and how to get them

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.

How to use customer testimonials

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!

How to get customer testimonials

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:

  • The customer – if you want to attract a certain type of customer to your business a testimonial from a similar customer avatar will be most effective. For example, if your ideal customer is a 50 year old man with a job in the city, use a testimonial from a customer that fits this brief.
  • The product / service – similarly if you want to increase sales in a particular area, make sure your testimonials are relevant to that product range or service.
  • The platform – as with all marketing messages it’s important to understand how your customers like to get their information and be communicated with. Choose the most appropriate platforms (like video) to increase engagement with your business – you can always repurpose a video to create other forms of content.

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!

What’s your story? Storytelling for small businesses

Next month the Bordon Hub has a focus on content and communicating your company’s story. Whether it’s through PR, publishing blog posts or writing engaging copy, telling a story about you and your business is the most effective way to engage customers. We’ve got PR gurus, blogging experts and copywriting maestros delivering talks and workshops throughout May, so if you need support book your seat at the Hub!

All Bordon Hub events are listed here.

 

The importance of storytelling for business

When asked about your business what do you say? Do you go for the “what” approach, explaining what your product or service is; the benefits, the stats, and how your offering works. Or do you take the “why” approach selling your business through your unique story of why you are here.

The thing is that most of us aren’t all that interested in what your product or service does on first point of contact. Save this until you’re actively asked for details. This is true in all kinds of scenarios. For example when someone visits your website, you meet another business owner at a networking event or a potential customer walks through the door of your premises.

We all want to hear a good story. We want reasons to engage with a business and the people behind it, we want to make a connection. But why? If someone asks you “what do you do?” surely they don’t want a story about the inspiration behind your business? Well, I think they do. Not necessarily the whole story, but enough for them to want to know more.

Storytelling for business owners

Many of us sell products or services that are a solution to a particular problem. Here at the Hub we provide business training and support, designed to solve specific issues small business owners have.

Essentially, my story is that I have run a number of small businesses, some successful and some less so, but all could have benefited from the services we provide at the Hub. Secondly, I am passionate about my local community; being an active member of it, getting involved with local causes, making it a better place to live and do business in, so my story combines the two in the creation of a local business hub.

From the offset this story (the reason why I’m here) has driven the business. I have got tremendous support from others because they have “bought into” my story; whether they have shared similar experiences, are motivated by the same goals or are inspired by the Hub concept and want to be part of it.

As the Hub has become more established I can retell my story for the benefit of business owners who find they need our services, even when they don’t know they do! By explaining what makes me tick and why I’m passionate about what we are delivering at the Hub, they can clearly see the benefits of our services and that we provide a solution to the problems they face.

Telling your story humanises your business

Whatever stage your business is at and whether you are looking for investment, suppliers, retail outlets, staff or customers, people want to know about you. A business can’t be trustworthy, reliable, creative, flexible, innovative (pick your adjective), only the people in it. And to demonstrate these qualities you have to do more than make grandiose claims, you need to be able to back these up. Your story can do this.

So what’s your story? Does your website, marketing and other communications tell your story and engage those people you would like to do business with? If not, perhaps it’s time to clarify in your own mind what your story is and how to change the way you talk about yourself, your team, or your product in ways that people can really relate to.

There are many ways you can tell you story, from changing your ‘elevator pitch’ when networking, rewriting your ‘about us’ page on your website, regularly publishing blog posts and finding PR opportunities to get your story in front of prospects. If you need help with this, make May 2019 the month you develop your storytelling skills and come along to our Hub meetings!

Find event details and booking here.

business plans

Q1 is almost over, are you on track with your business plans for 2019?

It seems like only a few weeks ago when we were hosting our Jumpstart January events and meeting business owners who wanted to kickstart 2019! It’s now almost the end of Q1 and a great opportunity to see whether you’re on track, celebrate what you’ve achieved and give yourself another kick up the b**t to get going…

If you’re a member of the Bordon Hub I hope that you feel like you’ve made some progress. Regular attendees will have participated in our ‘Organising for success’ sessions back in January, have gained some useful new skills in ‘Marketing month’ in February, and will now be thinking about pricing, tax and spreadsheets as we explore ‘Know your numbers’ this month. Those members who’ve taken advantage of a Your Business Growth Plan session with Stuart Morrison will also be taking steps to reach their goals as identified during the session.

BTW, it’s not too late to join the Bordon Hub and kickstart your business growth plans! You can pick up our programme at any time of the year and will get access to all the workbooks and resources we’ve shared so far. Join the Bordon Hub here.

The Q1 business growth review

Before the end of March, let’s all take a few minutes to see how 2019 has gone so far…

Step 1: Are you on track?

If you set yourself some specific goals this year, and broke them down into achievable smaller steps, how’s it going for you? Have you achieved what you set out to do and are you on track to get where you want to be?

Well done you, if you’re on track! Move on to the next step ‘celebrate what you’ve achieved’! If you haven’t quite achieved what you hoped to, think about the following to see where you can move forward:

  • Where your goals realistic? In the excitement of making business plans you may have overestimated what you could feasibly achieve. If that’s the case, inject a bit of realism into the next quarter and align your goals and next steps with what you can realistically manage.
  • Have things changed? Are there any factors that have impacted your business plans? For example external factors like a competitor setting up in the area or internal factors like a member of staff handing in their notice. If something has changed make sure you assess how that will affect your ability to achieve this year’s targets and adjust accordingly.
  • Did you get distracted or demotivated? As with any goal setting there’s always a danger that our own human fallibilities will derail our plans. Own up to it and change that mindset from prevaricating, making excuses or blaming others for our own mistakes and reboot your plans for Q2 instead!

Step 2: Celebrate what you’ve achieved

Rewards are a great way to motivate yourself and your team. If you’ve hit all your targets (or most of them) for Q1 take the time to celebrate, even if they feel like quite modest achievements. We want to keep those motivation levels high, and that’s difficult if you’re playing a long game where those big goals are going to take time to achieve. So give yourself, and your team if appropriate, a reward to keep you on track throughout Q2 and beyond.

Step 3: Give yourself a kick up the b**t

Everyone can benefit from a little kick up the b**t whether we’ve achieved our targets this quarter or not. For those of us who found it easy let’s up the ante a little and adjust our goals and targets to make us work a little bit harder. You could get to where you want to be a lot faster if you challenge yourself a bit more.

If you didn’t achieve those goals because you prevaricated, got distracted or simply found it hard to motivate yourself, a really effective way of getting out of this rut is to find yourself an accountability partner. That’s someone who will kick your b**t for you – not too hard – and help you get motivated and focused on what you need to do.

The Bordon Hub can be your accountability partner if you haven’t got a business coach, partner or a friend / family member that can offer this support. That’s what our mini-Mastermind sessions at the end of each month are designed to do: we check with our members to see whether they’re on track, address any challenges they have, and give everyone a motivational warm hug to encourage them to stick with it and continue putting in the hard work!

Don’t forget that members of the Bordon Hub can also join our members-only Facebook group where our network of Hub members (Farnham, Guildford and Bordon) hang out. This is your tribe of people who are all routing for each other’s success, offering support, asking for help, collaborating and building connections. You can request membership of this group here.

growth hacking,

Growth Hacking for Micro and Small Businesses

What do our Bordon Hub members share in common? They all want their micro or small businesses to grow! Whether that’s with the goal of becoming a larger company or simply to increase profitability so that their owners can enjoy the lifestyle they want, we all want growth.

Joining the Bordon Hub is obviously a step in the right direction (I would say that) but what else can you do that doesn’t bust your budget and provides some quick wins? Growth hacking touches on all departments within a company: marketing, finance, product, operations, HR. Growth hacking opportunities may lie within the design of a product, rather than the way it’s marketed. Or there could even be ways to grow the business by exploring your company culture, for example by attracting employees and customers with a better fit to your business. We explore some of these opportunities in our programme of meetings and workshops at the Bordon Hub, and also when we sit down for an initial 1-2-1 to explore your growth plan.

But what about things you can do easily yourself? Read on…

5 tried and tested growth hacks for small businesses

Here are 5 growth hacks that won’t necessarily cost you money, but can increase the virality of your business and help you achieve your growth objectives.

  1. Set Up Google My Business

Google My Business enables your business to be found by customers on Google. If you’ve noticed search results featuring a Google map and a listing of businesses highlighted on the map, this is how to get on the map!

As well as Google make sure you have up-to-date listings with online directories, especially the local and specialist ones. Online searches often return results from Yell and other directories high in SERPs, so get on there too.

  1. Use Your Personal Network

Your address book is potentially full of people who could help you grow your local business. They might not be your target customers, but they could have connections that are.  Engage with them, explain what you are doing – you may be surprised how they can help.

Remember it’s not just about reaching target customers, your personal network may have some interesting ideas of how you can grow your business in other ways too. You may not be targeting UX designers with your business offering, but a friendly one might have some interesting methods to increase conversions on your website. Similarly a friend running a local event may have the perfect opportunity for you to get in front of potential customers in a relevant and meaningful way.

  1. Get Your Customers To Grow Your Business

If you’ve got happy customers it’s easy to incentivise them to spread the word about your business. Referral schemes come in all shapes and sizes, and can be tailored specifically for your customers. It doesn’t necessarily have to cost you money either, if your customers are happy with your service they will only need a bit of encouragement to tell their friends.

Many successful startups have used referrals to dramatically grow their business. Just look at companies like Dropbox who incentivise their existing customers to refer their friends in exchange for additional storage space. Those new sign ups are then encouraged to sign up their friends to increase their storage; out of all of those sign ups a percentage go on to buy additional storage and become a paying customer.

These schemes generally work when everyone gets rewarded – existing customer and referee.

Remember, it’s about perceived value not the actual value of the reward so make sure it’s a relevant offer; one that will allow you to upsell to your existing customer and onboard the prospect.

  1. Milk Testimonials For All They’re Worth!

Reviews and testimonials are a major factor for customers making a decision about your business. If you’re a local business, testimonials from local customers carry even more weight, as prospects will identify more with a local reviewer than one 300 miles away.

Google and Facebook allow customers to leave reviews, or you could even create social media graphics featuring your most recent testimonials. Don’t forget to use them offline as well, include them on marketing material, even the side of your work vehicle!

  1. Check Out The Local Scene

Even businesses that offer products or services to a nationwide or global customer base, can benefit from growing their business at a local level. There are lots of opportunities to get your business in front of potential customers at local events, on local listings, local media and local networking groups. It’s just a question of identifying where those customers like to hang out, and targeting them in an appropriate way.

Take a leaf out of photographer Matthew Burch’s book who photographs many of the Bordon Hub and Farnham Hub events. Not only do prospects go to these events, but his branded photographs are subsequently shared to a wider network of targets afterwards on social media and the Hubs marketing material.

If you have a great growth hack you can share, whether it’s something other business owners could use or just an interesting example of a successful strategy – please leave a comment below.

business support, north east hampshire

Starting your own biz? Where to find business support and training in North East Hampshire

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.

North East Hampshire Business Support & Training

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.

Bordon Hub

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.

Enterprise First

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.

SiGNAL Bordon

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.

Coworking spaces in Hampshire

Business networking events in North East Hampshire