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We recently blogged about George Osborne and his decision to sign-up to Twitter as part of our weekly take on the marketing news, The Herd is The Word. This week, we’re looking at some of the more practical implications of the Chancellor’s budget and what it means for small to medium-sized businesses.

Firstly, Osborne stated that he would reduce the rate of tax business will pay on their profits (Corporation Tax) from 21% to 20%, commencing from the start of the 2015 financial year.

The Chancellor also went on to announce what is being called The Employment Allowance. Under the new initiative, businesses will have their National Insurance Contributions (NIC) bill reduced by £2,000. It’s estimated that nearly half a million small businesses will pay no NIC at all. Osborne described it as a “tax-off jobs”.

The idea of these initiatives is to reduce liabilities on small businesses in order to free-up cash for investment, thus stimulating growth in the economy. National Chairman of The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), John Walker, was quoted praising the initiatives on the BBC website:

“The Chancellor has pulled out all the stops with a wide-ranging package of measures to support small business… [the Budget was] beyond what we were asking for!”

Free up cash for investment?  Now that sounds like a chance to spend some money on some much needed marketing, to us… Whilst the savings your business will make might not quite stretch to a TV campaign or a double-page spread in the FT, there’s a host of budget-busting tools at your disposal for the few thousand pounds you’ll be saving.

Here are our top suggestions on how you can make your windfall from the budget go further:

  • Email. Often overlooked as one of the less ‘sexy’ marketing tools in the kit, email is the darling of marketers with a real thirst for ROI. Start sending a weekly or monthly newsletter to your clients, letting them know what else you’re up to and what other services you offer. Maybe create some auto-respond ‘lead nurturing’ campaigns targeted at pushing those potential clients down the sales funnel and follow-up with a phone call at just the right time.  Invest in a proper email marketing tool (like MailChimp, Extravision or ConstantContact) and you’ll get reports as well, allowing you to measure clicks, opens and bounces.
  • Social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, isn’t for you, right? Well, not exactly. Social media is a cost-effective way of engaging with existing and potential customers and clients. Why not use it as a platform to demonstrate your thought leadership with helpful articles or show that you are human beings after all with behind-the-scenes access to the ‘personality’ behind your business… and that’s before we even think about how you can use it to run competitions and sales promotions, if you’re retailing online.  But how does this cost you money?  Don’t forget that competition prizes cost money, from your business.  Many view them as free of charge and they’re not.  As with email, if you can afford to invest in a decent social media dashboard (we love Hootsuite) then it’ll let you manage things well, as well as report on success (and failure).
  • Public relations. Many people believe PR is just about spin. We don’t see it like that. We see PR as a powerful tool to communicate with your customers. Whilst you might not be able to jump straight into the pages of Red Magazine, most publications are keen to hear of new product and service launches, as well as competitions and incentives… and if there is a chance to review ‘what you do’ then spend some time inviting influential journalists and bloggers.  You might not be able to afford a lot of PR ‘time’ but a day or two can make a good inroad, if you have a clear, narrow brief and set of objectives.
  • Trade shows. ‘Follow the money’ is a well-known phrase, but in reality few organisations heed this advice. Trade shows give you the opportunity to put yourself in front of new and existing customers, as well as position yourself alongside older, more established brands. Use trade shows to get contact information and develop leads, build awareness of your brand in the sectors you serve and position yourselves as something rather special… and that’s before we mention any actual engagement or sales opportunities!  Plant the seed with promotional material and follow-up with an email or a phone call at the least!
  • Website development. Many organisations fall short when it comes to their website. Your website is often the first impression you give to new customers or clients – and first impressions count.  You ‘own’ this space, so take advantage of this and use it to communicate well.  The problem is, though, so many view a website going live as the END of the project… when really it’s the beginning.  You need to be constantly refining your website design, optimising it for generating new business leads.  The way people browse website changes and you have to move with them.  Consider a monthly investment of a hundred pounds or so, with your tame website person, to make regular amendments and keep on top of SEO developments.
  • Online search advertising. The first stage in winning new business is getting found.  The reality is that most clients and customers now turn to Internet search engines, such as Google, to assess their options. Did you know that the first 3 results at the top of a Google search get more than 60% of the web traffic?  That’s why it’s essential for you to be ranking at the top for your chosen search terms.  You need to define which keywords you want to target and devise an actionable plan to follow that will help you organically climb-up the rankings.  Paid advertising (i.e. ‘sponsored links’) can be used to support your organic search advertising; it’s highly trackable, meaning that you can follow, down to the penny, how much it’s costing you to acquire a new customer for your campaign.  A great investment is an online audit, followed up by some strategically planned paid advertising in Google or Facebook.