Call us
020 8906 6768

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Making use of Social Proof

Social proof is a very powerful psychological concept where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour for them. Perhaps the most powerful example is the importance of referrals in businesses.

Businesses can ethically use Social Proof in a numbers of ways to improve their marketing. This normally includes collecting testimonials and publishing case studies but can include expert and celebrity endorsements. To some businesses like restaurants and hotels it is vital to get positive reviews and ratings on Websites like TripAdvisor.

In the age of Social Media Social Proof can include the numbers of shares and likes on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. You can even embed Social Media comments and buttons on Webpages. All this can be used to create a Bandwagon Effect which is what I believe Xero have done by announcing 500,000 customers. They are trying to persuade people to choose them over the other options because half a million businesses can’t be wrong!

With all this in mind I would appreciate you giving me a testimonial – just a few words would be great.

As a thank you for taking the time and effort to help me, I’ll be helping people in need around the world through my association with B1G1. And, You can choose which cause I will support because of your testimonial using the form below.


Could you use Facebook advertising?

In February this year Facebook announced that there were more than two million advertisers using the platform.

The question is; could you be missing out?

Here are some thoughts following our research:

The Facebook advertising platform is changing all the time. And, today it offers some really interesting advertising opportunities because you can be highly targeted.

A key principle of Facebook is creating audiences. You can target by demographics, attribute, interests and behaviours.

You can have a broad audience such as living in the UK, be defined by adding in other criteria like age and gender or be very narrow by adding in relationship status and interests like “reading business books”.

Examples of other filters include:

  • Education
  • Employers
  • Job titles
  • Industries
  • Financial (in the USA only)
  • Children ages
  • Online buyers


You can also target using connections. For example, people who “like” your page are called Facebook Fans and you can create an advert for these people only. You can also create an advert to target fans of other pages. This could be pages linked to what you do in some way or competitors.

You can also upload an email list and have your adverts appear to this list only and target people who visit your Website. This means you can start to combine Google advertising and Search Engine Optimisation with Facebook advertising.

Facebook adverting is an outbound tactic; people are not on Facebook looking for products and services, like they are with Google. So, it’s vital that your creative is good. This means making sure the image and copywriting is highly effective.

£2,000 grant for digital advice

Our Websites and digital marketing strategy are more important than ever before so it’s good news that the UK IT Association (UKITA) has recently joined the Government’s Growth Voucher programme.

The Growth Voucher (GV) programme is a £30 million project which was announced by the Chancellor in the 2013 Budget and championed by the PM’s Enterprise Adviser, Lord Young. The programme delivers subsidies to help businesses access the advice they need to help them grow.

Businesses can apply for up to £2,000 to help finance specialist businesses support. You’ll have to match the amount with your own funds.

Businesses are eligible for the programme if they have:

  • been trading for at least one year
  • 49 employees or fewer
  • Not had advice in the last three years.


The support available from UKITA members applies to the following types of IT and digital advice:

  • improving customer online experience
  • planning digital projects
  • automating business activities
  • selling online
  • analysing technology usage
  • your online visibility


You can apply for a voucher by visiting Once you have a voucher you can find someone to help you using this Website

Clean toilets can make a difference

Inspiration and valuable lessons can be found inside your industry by comparing yourself to competitors. But, they can also be found outside of your industry and country.

As part of my continuing research on what makes businesses successful I came across a chain of gas stations in America that are doing really well by doing something remarkable to differentiate themselves. Their entire business and marketing plan is based on their toilets!

They pride themselves on how everyone is spotless, how big they are and how each one has a team of full-time attendants, who never stop cleaning, to keep them in tip-top shape. They even go to the trouble of putting artwork on the walls.

What’s interesting is that they have a third more toilets than petrol pumps.

And, crucially they know how to shout about it and focus on the toilet message. Texan motorway signs are full with Buc-ee’s billboards carrying clever slogans such as “Restrooms you gotta pee to believe” and “only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s – you can hold it”.

Buc-ee’s opened their first outlet in 1982 and by 2013 they had 28 stores, employing more than 1,000 people. At the time of writing they have 278 thousand Facebook fans and hundreds of YouTube videos. Remember, this is not a 5-start hotel, it’s a motorway station.

They have not achieved this success by offering the cheapest fuel; it’s all down to having the cleanest bathrooms. They’ve built an entire business on the fact that people need to the bathroom.

This is really smart and well worth paying attention to. Buc-ee’s have focused on what people dread most about stopping at a petrol station and transformed it into a positive experience.

Crucially, they have created something that people will talk about. They have created the remarkability factor because people “remark” about them. And, they have given people a good reason or people to drive a few miles just to see if everything they’ve heard is true.

What can you do in your business to get people talking?

Being persuasive

Being persuasive is a key asset because as a business owner you will want people to do things for you.

You will want prospects to buy from you, and pay the full price. You will want existing customers to buy again and refer new customers. You will want employees to care about the business, follow your systems and put lots of effort and energy into their days work.

The truth is, some people (perhaps most of us) need motivating and it’s useful to have some strategies.

One way to motivate ourselves and others is to use fear. But, not too much because fear can paralyse like a dear or rabbit caught in the headlights of a car.

The fear that you can use could be the fear losing what they already have or of missing what you don’t yet have.

The other strategy is to use pleasure of keep what you already have or getting what you want. However, keep in mind that the research suggests that fear is twice as powerful.

Think about it, how much do you value making £50,000 more profit in your business and buying a second house, compared to making a loss and losing your current home?

Fear is an exceptionally powerful tool when it comes to influencing people to part with their money. It has been used to sell everything from bleach (who wants harmful germs taking over their bathroom) to anti-smoking products (using graphic adverts).

I am not reco0mmending you tell prospects that you are the only way to save them from some horrendous fate, but there are definitely ways in which you can tap into some extremely common human concerns.  And smart marketers use them all the time.

You are no doubt familiar with phrases such as ‘limited offer’, ‘while stocks last’ and ‘one-day sale’. And we’ve all seen offers and promotions that implore you to ‘act now’ before it’s too late. That is why a deadline is so important.

With your business, we may not be talking life or death but these phrases can work for you. This is because these strategies force people to make a decision. They compel people to take action or else miss out on a chance to save some money or get their hands on something they want.  It’s hardwired into human nature and is very powerful.

Think about how brands play on our fear of looking out of date and not being one of the ‘in-crowd”. This is why companies release slightly better upgraded products every year. They play on the fear of looking bad in front of others.

There are many ways for almost any business to use fear to their advantage. If you run an IT company, how scared are your prospects that a virus could wipe out all their data?

Fear can shift your positioning. It’s very hard to come across as desperate for the business, for instance, if you’re the one invoking the fear. Remember, nobody likes buying from someone who’s desperate. They key is to make your prospects desperate for your solution and then present it to them and they will buy.

What is in a name?

Most business owners are aware of “branding” as it applies to the business name but many service based businesses do not appreciate how important it is to name services.

If you offer a service, like Sackmans Accountants North London, you have four key issues to address:

  • A service cannot be seen, heard or touched
  • The benefits of a service are sometimes only felt days, weeks, months or even years later
  • Prospects think that all services providers are the same and focus on price
  • Prospects find it difficult to assess the benefit before they buy the service


These issues often prevent people buying the service to spending more than the lowest price. However, packaging can help and here is a three step process how to do it with your service.

First, you need to name the service. There are different ways to go about this including thinking about key benefits and outcomes the customer gets.

At Sackmans we have a business advisory side of service but rather than just calling it “business advice” we have name it “On-Track“.

Naming your service is a key part of your differentiation strategy which is vital if you want to stand out from the competition and help people focus on the value rather than just the cost.

Next, you need a process. This could be a step by step process, flow charge or a checklist. For On-Track we have the Triple R process – Review, Recommend and Results.

The first thing we do in On-Track is help business owners Review their personal and business plans. When they have this so they know bother their long-term goals and what to do tomorrow we Review their progress.

The Review is a monthly or quarterly meeting where we look at the financials like sales, profits and cashflow but we really focus on the key drivers.

The Recommend phase is where we suggest ways business owners can improve their results. This can be explicit advice based on our own experience or what other business owners have done. Or, it can be recommending some third party.

Results is the final part. This is where we calculate the outcome of the work and report to the client.

When you have the name and the process you can start to create collateral. Perhaps a service sheet and/or a diagram of the process.

Social Proof – Part 2

Case Studies are effectively more in-depth testimonials and are an important element of a business’ marketing, especially high price items and important purchases.

Think of a case study as a story and they can be used to:

• Generate leads
• To get PR (publications love real stories of customers)
• Support your pricing
• Convince prospects to buy

It is vital that you have a clear objective for a case study. This means that each one needs to highlight at least one key benefit of your product or service.

It is also important you produce different case studies for different types of customer you have. This will make your testimonials more relevant and powerful to the person reading them.

As an accountant, a case study about how I helped a well established business save lots of tax may be interesting but not necessarily relevant to a start-up. Much better and more effective for a start-up to read about how I helped a new business prepare a business plan and get the bank to support them with an overdraft facility.

The structure of a Case Study is important and here is a suggest format:

• Eye catching headline
• Picture of the customer (preferably professionally shot)
• Outline the situation and problem
• Give details of the implications of the problem
• Explain the solution
• Details the results (including implications)
• Summarise the lessons learned
• Include contact details

The case study can be more compelling if you include comments from the customer and make use of powerful language. Make sure you describing how the customer felt before the solution as well as their feelings afterwards. Use emotive language, similes, metaphors and comparisons to bring your writing to life.

I don’t think you should pay for testimonials or case studies because it sends an unconscious signal to brain that you can buy them rather than work for them; I think you can offer to pay expenses for people that help. You could also offer to make a charitable donation in their name.

At Sackmans Accountants London we use giving via B1G1 to say thanks to clients who help us by providing testimonials and case studies. If you would like to help and give a family in need some help then please give me a call.

Social Proof – Part 1

Social Proof is about using psychology to improve the effectiveness from your marketing.

Humans are essentially social animals and we are influences by the actions of others. You can refer to groups of people as our colleagues, peers, pack, tribe, team or gang and we look at them for clues on what we should be doing.

This is because humans have a powerful psychological need to fit in and be accepted. Years ago this was for survival because we needed our pack to survive. This basic human driver is very much alive in all of us today.

This is a very powerful human driver which can be harnessed in our marketing. Keep in mind that marketing is essentially a “promise” of a benefit and prospects need to believe they will receive the benefit before they buy. If they know others have bought and received the benefit they are much more likely to buy. And, if more people buy your service or product compared to the competition then prospects are more likely to choose you.

At the end of the day, prospects are more likely to believe the word of a fellow customer than the person who will make profit from them.

Here are some ways you can use Social Proof:

• Testimonials
• Case Studies
• Facebook likes
• Twitter followers
• LinkedIn endorsements
• YouTube views
• A community forum
• Celebrity endorsements
• Evidence and statistics

A testimonial is short endorsement from a happy customer. It is often written but, with YouTube being the second largest search engine, videos are being used for maximum effect.

Testimonial can be given and published by you or third parties. For example, Ebay comments, Google Places comments or Tripadvisor reviews. Businesses like Amazon use this to great effect by encouraging their customers to rate books and leave testimonials.

Here are some key elements of a good testimonial:

• Identifies the person giving the testimonial
• Includes contact details of the person
• Outlines a specific benefit they received
• Quantifies the benefit
• Includes a photograph of the person

There are a number of ways to get testimonials. Sometimes you will get letters or more commonly emails of thanks without asking. Follow up on these and turn them into structured testimonials.

You can simply ask for a testimonial or endorsement after a customer uses your service or buys your product. This can be done as a follow up customer care call or simply call or write to your customers asking for some help. Good customers who are happy will be pleased to help and keep in mind that if you sell B2B, testimonials also raise the awareness of the business giving the testimonial.

Most people will be happy to give a testimonial but may not know what to say or be good at writing. They may also not say exactly what you want so, it can be a good idea to offer to draft something for them to consider.

Other ways you can collect and encourage testimonials is with:

• Contents
• Feedback forms/cards
• Questionnaires
• Page on Website for testimonials
• Email footer request

Keep in mind that celebrity endorsements do not have to be global stars; they can be local people who are well known or local businesses.

Once you have testimonials make sure you use them on:

• All offline and online marketing collateral
• Sales presentations and proposals
• Dealing with concerns and objections in sales meetings
• On the walls of your office
• In a book in reception

Now read Social Proof part 2.

Responsive Websites

If you haven’t already done so then 2014 could be time to start thinking about making sure your Website is mobile friendly.

The technical term is having a “responsive” Website because it responds differently depending to what device the visitor is using. Mobile use has been growing rapidly and my research indicates that now up to 60% of Website visits are now via a mobile device.

The work to turn a standard Website into a responsive depends on the complexity of the Website. Mine for Sackmans Accountants North London took two days including testing.

The key differences are the way the navigation works, page layout and image sizing. If you are reading this on a tablet or smart phone and have any suggestions please let me know.

The Sackman Website is built on WordPress, which is a free Content Management System (CMS). This enables me to add and change content myself without paying a Website company.

As part of our On-Track programme we recommend that a business has a CMS so they can add and change content themselves. This means you save time and money keeping your Website accurate and up to date. For example, it is important you have a blog so you have add fresh content to your Website.

This is important for Search Engine Optimisation and also means you can use email marketing and track response from your database.

Just so you know, my open rate is 35%. According to Silverpop, who analyzed email of all types sent by 2,787 of client companies in 40 countries, mine is well above the average for financial services of 22%.

Website visits, conversion rates and email open rates are marketing numbers you should know, do you? If not then book an On-Track review and we can explore what numbers your business should be focussed on.

Beyond the headline

Following on from the last few posts I thought it would be useful to share some more thoughts on effective copywriting.

On the basis we have a great headline, we know that the first sentence of our marketing piece will be read.  So, the next challenge is to craft the first sentence or paragraph and draw the reader in.

The key here is to write about something the reader is already thinking about. This will enable you to meet your client on their level and then move them into your world.

The chances are your prospects are not thinking about you, what you can do or how good you are. They are probably think about their problems.

In the example of me marketing Sackmans to start-up businesses, I think it is highly likely most start-ups are most concerned about where sales are going to come from. But, this is a superficial fear, what they are really worried about is losing their house and going bankrupt.

If a new business is not worried about sales they are unlikely to be motivated enough to pay me to help them with their strategy, planning and reporting.

I prefer to start by focussing on a problem because people are more motivated to avoid pain that experience pleasure.

So, after the headline I would start with…

Do you know the 7 hidden traps that kill 98% of start-up?

I’ll get straight to the point….

The harsh reality is that by starting a business you’ve walked into a new game where you risk losing everything; your savings, house and even being made bankrupt. With that in mind doesn’t it make sense to check that you are not walking into the same traps others have stumbled into?

It may surprise you but the number one reason why most start-up businesses fail has nothing to do with sales, marketing, cashflow or the economy; it’s all about the mindset of the business owner.

So, here is the number 1 mindset shift you need to make now to dramatically reduce your risk.

Now, imagine you are a start-up business worried about making sales and paying the bills. Would you read on?