Communication is the most important aspect of your business. It is the general term used to describe how you speak to your target audience and how you write your blogs or emails.
Our language enables us to share our ideas with other people, and communication is probably the most important aspect of our culture. Without communication, the pyramids wouldn’t have been built, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t be standing – communication enabled the architects to convey their plans to their workers.
Effective communication helps avoid any misunderstanding with your audience, employees and customers alike.
My blog this week looks at the 7 Cs of communication and how, if you keep these seven things in mind, your written communication will be much more effective.
It’s important to always keep in mind the purpose of every message, email or post you put out. So, what is the purpose of this communication? As long as you keep this in mind, you will better be able to put your message across to your target audience.
If you don’t know the purpose of your communication, your audience won’t either!
Being clear is also about giving clarity to your reader – avoid complex words, long sentences and jargon. Keep it simple and to the point.
Keep your message short, simple, concise and to the point. Why use a whole paragraph to explain something that can take one sentence?
Being concise will also keep your audience’s attention, saving them and you time and energy.
BUT, keep in mind that, although you are keeping your message concise, you still need to give detail for the message to be complete.
This is about being specific with your communication, avoiding it being too general, vague or obscure.
Use words and sentences that can’t be misinterpreted, and it’s a good idea to add facts and figures if you can to underline your meaning. But keep the balance so that any illustrations or examples don’t detract from your main message.
ALWAYS proofread your message before publishing. I find that reading it aloud ensures that it makes sense. If you use facts and figures, put a link to the source, so you have proof that they are correct and that you haven’t just plucked statistics out of the air!
Check for typos or spelling mistakes, and ensure that sentences are short – this makes it so much easier to read.
Doing these checks saves you time in the long run and boosts your credibility.
Look at the structure of your communication. Does it flow in a logical way? You don’t want to be jumping from one subject to the other, as that makes it harder to read and understand.
Do a sense check to make sure you haven’t tried to be too in-depth and cover too much in one message. And ensure your communication doesn’t go off on tangents and side issues.
In order for you to get the desired response to your message or communication, it must contain all the necessary information.
The best way to do this is to think about your message and about any questions your target audience might have as a result of reading it. Then you can make sure that those questions are answered in the communication.
Include a call to action, so your audience knows exactly what you expect them to do next.
Always be polite. Being polite builds trust and goodwill with your readers. Make sure that your communication shows respect for your readers and their feelings.
My parents always taught me that manners cost nothing and this is just as relevant to written communication as to verbal.
Overall, the 7 Cs of Communication is an effective checklist, which will ensure you are communicating with your audience more effectively.
If you use this simple checklist, you can be assured that you are delivering the best and clearest message you can, with little in the way of misunderstanding.
Ultimately, this will boost the reliability and trustworthiness of your business, as well as saving you more time.
Let me know how you get on with this checklist the next time you write a message or communication.
In general, people across the world are relying more and more on Google to find answers to their questions, or to find out information about absolutely anything. Google My Business (GMB), is a free online tool for businesses to manage their online presence across the Google platform. This is especially good news for small businesses and start-ups to help them with their online visibility.
According to searchengineland.com more than 2 trillion users log onto Google search every year – more than 5 billion searches per day. That’s pretty mind-blowing in itself, but just think how many people your small business could be exposed to, simply by having the right keywords and being on Google My Business. Wow!
How to claim your Google My Business profile
You need to have a Google account (Gmail account), in order to be able to claim your Google My Business profile. If you sign into your Gmail account, then log into GMB, simply enter the name of your business into the field of the form and confirm that you are authorised to manage the business. There will then be several fields to complete in order to set up your account, such as your opening hours, about you section etc.
You have to choose a service category too, from the list provided and it’s important to make sure that your business name, address and phone number is up to date –if your business is on other search engines, such as Bing, you need to make sure that they are all have exactly the same details, so it’s easier for you to be found. By putting in your address, a map will pop up so anyone local to you will be able to easily find you. You can also add a link to your website.
There is an area to add photos of your business – both external view, which is great if you have physical premises as it makes it again, much easier for people to know what they’re looking for if they decide to visit your business. You can also add photos of the interior, so you could add photos of employees, processes you carry out, and photos of your products. This is really important to make these as engaging as possible as it will encourage people to choose you over your competitors.
One of THE most important parts of GMB is the reviews section. Online reviews are obviously testimonials that you are the best at what you do. Encourage your existing customers to leave a review on your GMB page, by sending them a link to the page and ask them! Most will be happy to oblige. If you have an email list, or send out a regular email newsletter to your customers, this is a great item to add to that … and the reviews will really help your Google rankings. As all small businesses will know, good reviews are absolute gold in helping potential customers to choose to buy from you over your competitors. When I want to buy something, I always look at the reviews first.
Put the link to your GMB on your website and on your social media pages, so potential customers and existing customers know that you’re there.
GMB is cost-effective
Well, it’s free (!), so why wouldn’t you want to have it? For start-ups and small businesses, it really is a fabulous platform to get your business out there with no cost – we all know that every penny counts if you’ve just started, or if you’re a small business. GMB gives customers all the information they need to know about you, all in one place…but if you put a link to your website or to your Etsy shop, for example, you can also point them to your other resources, products or services.
You can post to your GMB
Just like social media platforms, you can also put posts on your GMB page. You can use this to promote your business, talk about offers or discounts, new products, updates, news, announcements etc. The possibilities are endless! I use my posts to highlight new blog posts, as well as news about my business or about marketing. I also share some of the posts I use on Instagram and Facebook.
Your post title should only use four or five words, and although you are allowed to use up to 1500 characters for the post, I always keep it to as few as I can – 100-200 at most. The reason for this is that under the post there is the option to use a Call to Action (CTA), which encourages your visitors to take a particular action, such as ‘Buy’, ‘Book online’, ‘Learn more’, ‘Call’ or ‘Visit’. For my blog, I use ‘Learn more’ and then a box appears so I can put in the URL of my blog post, so if visitors want to find out more about the blog I’ve written, they click on the URL box and it takes them to my full blog post and website.
Posts only stay in front of your customers for seven days, so you do need to update your posts regularly. If a customer clicks on posts, they will be able to see old ones, but they won’t be ‘live’ on the homepage of your page.
You can post an event, and this is the only exception to the rule of seven days. Once you input all the relevant details of the event, it will be displayed until the event is over.
A fairly new feature, which is good news for restaurants or cafes, is that GMB now has a menu editor, which includes titles, descriptions, prices, and you can break the menu into sections – starters, main, desserts etc.
You can share video on GMB, and this is a fairly new feature. The video should be no more than 30 seconds and once uploaded, it can take up to 24 hours before the video content shows in local search results.
The maximum video file size is 100MB and minimum resolution should be 720p.
There is a message feature on GMB, which you have to switch on via your dashboard on your page. This means that customers can message you directly. There will be a message icon which they can click on to send a message and if you have an iOS device you can get these directly via an app. Otherwise, you will need to make sure you check your GMB page regularly. Please not that Google advise that you don’t encourage customers to share sensitive information via their messaging service.
Google My Business (GMB), is a fabulous, free platform for you to advertise your business. The many features make it easy for your customers to find you and find out all they need to know about your business. It’s up to you to add as much or as little information about your business that you choose to. As with any platform, it’s a good idea to have a strategy around using the platform, factor in time to keep it up to date and keep track of any messages and changes that might affect your business or that platform. But, in today’s online world, where billions of people are searching Google every day, it totally makes sense to make use of this great tool.
A customer pain point is a specific problem experienced by your customers at every interaction they have with you and your business.
If you want to build credibility in your brand and gain your customers, and potential customers’ trust, you need to understand their journey and what keeps them happy. If you can find your customers’ pain points, earn their trust, and solve that pain point for them, they will know that you care about them and they will be happy.
You’ll also be one step ahead of your competition!
Different types of pain points
Generally customer pain points fall into four different areas, no matter how big or small those problems are.
Support issues are probably the easiest to resolve. Customers expect to have a certain standard of support from businesses they deal with these days. Whether they have a problem with one of your products, a query related to one of your products or just want more information, they expect to be able to contact you and get the answer quickly.
Some of the most common support issues are those of delayed response, lack of product knowledge, or your business is simply not on your customers’ preferred channel of communication.
These few simple problems can impact your customer retention and also the loyalty they have to your business.
And it’s so simply to resolve. Have options!
This could be solved by ensuring that emails/texts/messages etc., are looked at in a timely manner – look at them on a regular basis a few times a day.
Lack of product knowledge
This refers more to having employees – make sure that your employees know all about your products. Provide cheat sheets if necessary, so they know all the ins and outs of everything you sell.
Put good descriptions of your products on your website and give customers the option of contacting you if they have any problems or questions.
Preferred channel of communication
As well as having email/text/messenger, you could also use some of the more recent tools like live chat and AI chatbots. These allow them to speak to someone in real time.
Finally, always give a contact telephone number, where customers can speak to a person directly, or ask them to leave a message with their number and you will return their call within an hour….AND DO IT!
Productivity pain points often come about because customers expect to have a straight forward and easy experience when they contact a business. They don’t want to spend a lot of time on anything they see as frustrating or inconvenient.
It might be that a product is not how they want it to be, or expect it to be – some kind of inconvenience in using the product. Or it could be that there is some kind of problem with the buying process.
In order to solve this problem, it’s important to convince your customers that your product saves time and effort. This can be achieved by using images and good product descriptions, which explain your product’s features and benefits and exactly how they work and gives value. It could be as easy as having fewer steps in your checkout process.
The third pain point is financial. This is about the pain of spending money on their business that ends up putting them under financial pressure. This could be through spending a lot on subscription fees or membership fees. Or perhaps paying a lot on repeat purchases. Sometimes, products are advertised as being made to last, but in reality they have to be replaced frequently.
Transparency about pricing also comes into this area. Are there any fees that are hidden that are added on at checkout? Or, perhaps fees go up dramatically and this isn’t made clear.
If you have customers with any of these pain points, your goal could be to show your customers what value they receive when using and choosing your products over your competitors. Also, if they pay a subscription or membership fee, that the value, information and advice they receive is worth every penny. Lastly, be transparent about pricing, then customers know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises.
A process pain point is about how your business interacts with your customers through your processes. This could be as simple as they can’t get through to the right department when they need to, or that when they submit an order or application for something, that the process is not streamlined enough.
This could be a simple matter of streamlining communication processes to be sure that any queries are answered by the right people at the right time. Make it easier for your customers to contact you and ensure that your products/services are easier to use.
How do you find out what your customers’ pain points are?
If you don’t know what your pain points are, how can you solve them? It’s important to find out…but how?
There are several ways to conduct research.
If you have an email list, you could send out a survey to find out if there are any pain points. Questions would need to be specific and written around the four different types of pain points.
Have a look at your sales pitch. Is there something missing?
You will have regular customers, but have you had customers that don’t come back for more? Look at your complaints or feedback. There may be a little nugget of information that you’ve missed – a throw-away comment that could give you an insight into why they haven’t come back for more.
In the same way, look at all your online reviews. Are there any clues into any potential pain points?
Hopefully, you will have worked on a few buyer personas, but there may be other audiences that you could reach, but you just don’t know why those people don’t resonate with your brand. Do some research on your competitors. If you know that your competitors reach a certain audience that you currently don’t, analyse what they do, and how their products or services reach those people.
Look at how your customers interact with your brand. Are there things you could improve? Check that links work on your website and social media. Are you easy to contact?
Customer pain points can be a massive hurdle to you being successful. And finding your customer pain points is not necessarily easy to pinpoint. But, in order to get your customers’ attention and make them want to do business with you, buy repeat products, and use your services etc., it’s crucial to know what those pain point are.
If you can base your products and services on pain points…eliminating as many as you can, your customers will have more reasons to do business with you and there will be less obstacles in the way.
Whenever I create content, I think about my target market. And that leads me to the buyer personas I’ve created. I find it so much easier to write any content, be it social media posts or blog posts, because I have a particular person, or group of people in mind.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a kind of fictional mock-up of your ideal client. This is based, not only on demographic, geographic and psychographic criteria, but also more specific data, such as what motivates them etc.
Each buyer persona you have, (and I recommend at least 3-4), will represent a particular group to whom you are going to aim your advertising, your content and your sales pitch. You couldn’t do individual ideal client or buyer personas, because obviously all your clients are different, but it just helps you to focus your communications.
When you are writing your content, you want to:
attract potential customers to your website or online shop
engage, educate, entertain and inspire
gain their trust
convert them into paying customers
retain their custom and hopefully, make them an Ambassador for your business
In order to do all of this, you need to know who your potential customers are, then it’s easier to do all of the above! You need to make sure that you attract the people who match what you have to offer. For example, it’s no good aiming your content at people who hate sport, if you sell football boots!
How do you create this buyer persona?
First of all you need to research your target market, as this will help you create a realistic persona.
Look at your current client base and see what your current customers do, what they like and dislike. Are there any similarities between them? Make a note of everything that is similar.
If you have regular customers, you could ring them directly and ask them questions about their buying decisions. Alternatively, if you have an email list, you could send out a survey to your customers asking them things like:
What kind of content would you like from me?
Why do you buy my products or use my services?
Do you have any problems or challenges in your business/life that you’d like me to solve?
Do you have any questions about my business?
This will then give you a good basis for creating your personas.
The next step is to narrow down the information you have even more.
What are their demographics? For example, age, occupation, marital status, salary)
What are their geographics? Are they local, regional or in other countries? (You would do one persona for each of these.)
Psychographics – what are their interests? Do they have any hobbies? For example, are they interested in your products because they’re eco-friendly? Take a close look to see if you can align your products/services to their hobbies or interests.
What about their behaviours? What do they like to read about? What kind of programmes do they like to watch on TV, Netflix etc?
How do they learn? This would be important if you are planning to teach something or run a training webinar. Do they learn through being shown how to do something, or through step by step instructions?
What are their pain points?
How often are they happy to have emails from you? When do they look at their emails? What attracts them to opening emails?
Now you can start to create your separate personas. You can organise the information you’ve gathered into groups, and each of those groups will be a separate buyer persona.
You could have a group that have similar challenges or pain points, for example.
I give my buyer personas a name, as I find it easier to identify with that group and it makes it easier for me to write for them.
One of my buyer personas is called Jennifer.
Jennifer is in her late 30s
She is married with two small children, both at school
She runs her own small crafting business. She makes craft items that she sells at local markets, and she has an online shop.
She likes to buy things that are eco-friendly and looking after the environment is important to her.
She struggles with juggling time in her busy day, so her social media posts, although consistent, don’t always sell her business well. She knows that marketing her business is important, but doesn’t have the time or money to invest a lot in this important aspect. She’d like to know more about how to promote her business and get more clients.
I have six of these specific buyer personas, all made-up people, but all of them have one thing in common – they own their own small business. I target my blogs and my social media content at them, aiming to help them with their marketing. They are loosely based on clients I have or have had in the past.
The importance of buyer personas
Now that you have your different buyer personas, you can tailor everything you write or create to those groups of people. You have put a human element to your buyer personas, so everything you create, from social media post and webinars, to podcasts and video etc., can be targeted at your ideal market.
You’ll find that people will engage more with your content and take more notice of your emails, as they will be specifically targeted to them.
If you need any help with identifying your target market, or pulling together your buyer personas, feel free to email or message me. I offer a free initial consultation.
Blogging is a huge commitment for most of us…it takes up valuable time and energy to produce your once a month, or once a week blog. And whilst you may write your blog for fun or to purely engage with your audience, there will come a time when you want to try and make money from it. So, what can you do to help make that happen?
Absolutely know your audience
I find myself writing this all the time when talking about marketing, but it is really so important that you know your audience, especially when you’re writing content for them. Your audience will dictate how you write and what you write…and the language that you use. For example, if you write for a young, gaming audience, you will write for them – you wouldn’t write a blog the same way if it was aimed at a business audience or an older audience.
I’m a marketing consultant so I sometimes have to reign myself in when I’m writing. I love writing about marketing, but when I read my blog back, I have realised in the past that I’m writing for my own peer group of marketers…and that’s not who my audience is! My audience are owners of small businesses who want to increase their own profile online, engage their audiences and of course, sell their products or services. My aim is to teach my readers about marketing, so they have the choice to have a go at it for themselves, and of course, I want to help them with their choice, but ultimately I want my audience to come to me to help them with their marketing and content creation. It’s a fine line!
Just knowing who your audience is isn’t enough – you need to find out a bit more…ask these questions…
What age are they?
What gender, if appropriate?
What is their marital status?
What do they do for a living?
What are their interests outside of work?
And the biggie…What are the problems and challenges they face?
Once you have this information, you can pull together a profile of your ideal customer and use this to direct your blog content at.
Choose the right subject to write about
You’ve sorted out your ideal customer and you know what problems and challenges they face. Write them all down and work out how you can solve those problems.
Once you have a list of solutions, there’s your content. If you’re helping your ideal customers solve their problems, they’ll know that they can turn to you. The right way of course, is not to provide all the answers, which is something I’m guilty of! But this doesn’t mean you don’t provide a detailed article about how they can solve their problem – you can give information that is useful and actionable, but leave something that they can come to you for.
Call to action
It’s important to leave room for a CTA (call to action) that will draw your audience in, make them want to know more, or ask you for more help. I don’t mean asking directly if they want to employ you. It might be you encourage them to sign up for your newsletter, join your mailing list, download a freebie, listen to your podcast or watch a webinar you’ve set up. This won’t immediately make them a customer, but you’re leading them down the right path, and can help them see how you can add value to their business, or to their life.
For example, say you’re a life coach. You write a great blog post, and your CTA could be you point your readers to your website. You might talk about a particular subject and point them to a free webinar where you talk in more detail about that subject. You might have a free social media group they can join to talk to other like-minded people. Ultimately, this could lead to them booking a coaching session with you.
Content and the buying cycle
Think for a minute about your own buying cycle. Let’s take a recent example at my home. I was out on our sit-on lawn mower and it stopped working and made a strange whirring noise. I told my partner about it when he got home. I know nothing about lawn mowers and certainly wouldn’t have a clue how to fix it.
So, our first problem was THE NEED to get it fixed, but we’re not sure how.
The next obvious step is to find out what could be wrong. My partner goes onto YouTube and investigates the problem. He tries to work out whether it’s worth trying to fix it himself or whether it just needs a new part. This is the INITIAL RESEARCH stage. His research tells him that he needs a new drive belt.
My partner now has a solution to the problem. Now we have to find out who sells drive belts and where we can buy it. This is the FINAL RESEARCH.
Finally, the PURCHASE stage and we order the drive belt and pay for it.
If you are writing a blog with the idea of getting customers from it, you need to be targeting those that are at the INITIAL RESEARCH stage. Then you can give them the answers they’re looking for. But, it doesn’t stop there – you also want to make your content give total confidence in your product or service, so the blog takes them from that initial stage right through to the purchase…and show that your business is the right place to do just that!
The content needs to be in long-form, so that you have time to engage your readers, gain their trust and ultimately help them to see that you have that perfect product or service that solves their problem or meets their needs.
Content needs more than that…
OK, so you’ve let them see that you’re the perfect fit for what they’re looking for, but not all our readers look at an article in detail, so it’s really important to think about the format of your blog.
If you just write plain text, they might miss the point, so you need to make your content visually appealing.
Use bullet points to draw their attention to the important bits
Use short paragraphs
Make sure that the font you use is easy to read and a decent size
And of course, use images to break up the text
If you want to draw attention to a particular part, use CAPITAL LETTERS or BOLD text…or both!
How many times do you buy something without looking at the reviews of a product? I know I always do, as it gives me an idea of the product I’m going to order. For example, with shoes, some reviews will say ‘buy one size bigger, as these shoes are on the small side’. This helps me to make my decision to buy or not. So, include a testimonial in your blog if you can to sway your audience that your product is the best. Find a testimonial that says why your product is the best.
Don’t go off on a tangent and start talking about something else, make sure that you focus on the one product or service that you’re trying to sell or engage your audience with.
By all means, lead up to your point slowly and build a picture, but try not to get too distracted and don’t use too many links, as this will distract your reader.
Try and create some urgency around buying your product or service. I’m sure you will have heard of FOMO – personally I hate this expression, but in marketing it’s an effective tool. The ‘fear of missing out’ on something makes us want to buy it now.
Using language that suggests an urgency to buy can persuade your audience that it’s now or never. Things like:
For a limited time only
Only three spaces left on my course
At this price for a limited time only
You get the idea!
And if you’re building up to a sales pitch, using one of those FOMO phrases…
Start using shorter sentences.
It makes you sound breathless.
You need to do this now.
This makes your readers read faster and they’ll feel the urgency.
Don’t be too salesy
Finally, don’t be too salesy. Your audience will know you, they’ll follow your blog because they like to see what you have to say. They don’t want the hard sell all the time.
You need to be giving advice and showing a solution to a problem and that should take up most of your post, but you can weave a subtle sales pitch into the content. Selling your product or service is only a small part of it.
Your readers trust you and trust your content. As my readers, you’ll know that I rarely use my posts to sell my business. Rightly or wrongly, I enjoy writing as it’s my happy place and I’m passionate about helping small businesses to grow. If I suddenly came over all salesy, I’d lose that trust and I’m sure, a lot of my followers.
It’s about getting the balance right. You don’t want to sell so hard that you destroy your reputation and your credibility. Writing a blog lets people know that you are an expert in your field and your followers will be confident that you know what you’re talking about. They may take a while to get to know you, but if they can see that you are knowledgeable and helpful, they will come back, and that will increase the chance that they will buy from you, or work with you in the future.
There are several pros and cons to having a blog and blogging. I’ve had a blog for about seven years and have been writing pretty consistently now for about three years – it was a bit hit and miss at first.
Why do I blog?
I’m a small business marketing consultant and also a freelance writer, creating content for businesses. So, it makes sense to have a blog to give articles that will help educate my audience on how to market their businesses. The information I give is free and I know it has helped lots of people to get on track with their marketing.
I also enjoy writing, so it’s a challenge to find a new subject to write about every week, but I never seem to run out of ideas as my subject matter is vast. My blog also gives potential clients the chance to see that I can write, so they are seeing regular examples of what I can do.
These are my reasons, but what are the more official pros and cons?
The pros of blogging
Blogs are a great source of information and in this digital age, if anyone wants to find out something, they search online first. Blogs can help give the information they need. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty:
First of all, starting a blog is easy. I use WordPress and they have several templates to help you when you start. Adding posts is simple and straight-forward and you don’t need to know any HTML or other code to do this.
Blogging is a great creative outlet. If you love writing, you can get started immediately and write about any subject you want to. If you love travel, for example, then you could write about all the places you’ve visited, with advice for people who are thinking of going there. If you love food or love cooking, you could start a food blog, giving recipes and adding video to show people how to make something. The possibilities are endless.
You don’t have to be an expert – if you’re interested in a certain topic, that’s enough. You can write about what you do know and research the rest. You’ll learn as you go and your writing will improve with every post. The trick is the same as everything else – just get started. Your first blog post won’t necessarily be fabulous, but you’ll grow as you write more and more.
A blog is the perfect reason for people to visit your website. Mostly, websites are pretty static and you don’t constantly add or change content. Adding a blog means that your site is constantly being updated, which ensures people come back for more. You can also link to other blog posts that you’ve written in the past from the one you’re doing now – backlinks.
Blogging can be good for your business as it can be a way you’re your business to be found on Google. Generally, people will connect more with other people than with a brand, so your blog helps potential clients out there relate to you. It helps them get to know you.
Writing a blog will also set you up as an expert in your field. If you consistently publish blogs that are useful or that people want more of, every time you publish a new blog, you’ll get more followers. People will share the blogs they like and then that opens you up to a whole new audience. The key here is to provide valuable and useful content that people need and want.
Blogging is really good for those of you who are more introvert. You can write in private and have your content reach thousands of people. If you don’t have the confidence to speak publicly or do presentations, blogging is the next best thing. And the good thing about a blog is that it is there permanently, so if people want to come back to it to refer to the information you give, they can…any time of the day or night.
Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll realise that you are constantly picking up new skills. Blogging is a lot more than just writing. You learn how to use WordPress, for example, and how to build a website; you learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO); Social Media marketing, as you have to promote your blog; Email marketing; improve your written skills and learn about images and graphics.
You can also use blogging to get into freelance writing. Your blog is your portfolio, which demonstrates you know how to write, source images, do extensive research on a subject etc.
Finally you can make money with your blog. If you write about certain products, you can sell them through your blog posts. You can also do affiliate marketing, get an income from Ad revenue or sponsored posts. To make money on your blog, you will need to constantly put in the time and effort to keep it going, but it can be very lucrative.
Of course, as well as a host of reasons why you should be blogging, there are some cons. It’s always good to know, so you can make up your mind as to whether it’s right for you.
The cons of blogging
You need to be very disciplined to stay on top of your blog, especially if you are going to be doing it for a living. I blog once a week as it suits me and is an aid to my business. I don’t use it as an income, but if you intend to, you will need to write much more frequently and consistently. It takes a lot of time, effort and perseverance to be noticed and is a very steep learning curve. If it was easy to do, everyone would be doing it. It does take months, years even, to really get noticed and to have enough content to prove your expertise.
Because of the reasons above, time etc., you’re not going to make money overnight. And if you do make money from your blog, it isn’t going to be a regular income – it will fluctuate month on month.
Blogging is also a lonely life – you spend hours at your computer and it can be quite and isolating existence. You won’t have the interaction with colleagues face to face like you do in an office, but it does also give you freedom to pop out if you have to. It’s swings and roundabouts!
You need to be good with change and be prepared for technical issues. Sometimes servers crash, there are glitches in your website, which you need to sort out. You could have internet problems, so can’t get online. And of course, the algorithms for the various social media channels that you’ll link to, plus algorithm changes on google can impact who sees your blog and who it is shown to. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that changed back in 2018 had an impact on being able to just send your blog out on email – your audience had to sign up and give their permission to receive it by email. These things can change at any time.
You need to be organised and have a plan, so you know what you’ll be writing about and how for at least a few months in advance. And you need to invest money into your blog, so you have the right apps to promote it, use paid ads etc. Your website will also incur hosting costs, keeping up with the latest training costs money too. If it’s really successful, you might even want to employ a VA to help you getting your blog onto all the various social media sites.
So, now you have all the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision – to do or not to do a blog!
If you do, please share the link with me and if you have any further questions or need help, feel free to drop me a mail.
There are more people than ever online these days – the pandemic has definitely contributed to that as people are looking to buy things they can’t go out to get. But, mainly it’s because technology has improved and become so popular. Searching online for what you want, be that information or the latest gaming device, has never been easier or more accessible.
It seems to make sense that if you’re a small business, you absolutely must be on the online space. That could be with a website, blog, shop, or on social media channels. But with so many people trawling the internet, the competition for business is fierce and converting someone to a customer is a whole new ball game.
Customer engagement strategies are the answer, but what kind of strategies can you use to engage consumers and then convert them to buyers? Here’s a few ideas:
Maximise the customer experience (CX)
The customer experience is absolutely the key to any business and you should do everything you can to make your customers happy. They buy your products and services, so every single touchpointneeds to leave them with a ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling, not a ‘cold prickly’ one! The customer experience covers everything, from the very first time they come across your business, through the awareness stage, attraction, interaction, purchase, use of that purchase and of course support and promotion.
Customers are connecting more and more via mobile devices, so being found online is vital. You have just seconds to make a good impression, so your online business needs to be visually pleasing and impactful. It’s important to think about the how your customers will interact with you, so ensure that you are contactable and easy to do business with.
If you have employees that deal with your customers directly, make sure they understand the importance of excellent customer service. Everything they do will reflect on your business. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hataway once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” This is so true, and quite a sobering thought.
Never underestimate Word Of Mouth Marketing (WOM)
A happy, satisfied customer will be loyal to your brand, and will do some of your marketing for you, by telling all their friends and family how good your products or services are. A satisfied customer will also give great reviews, which always helps your brand’s reputation and makes you stand out from the crowd. Word of Mouth Marketingis probably one of the oldest forms of marketing, but is still very much alive and kicking today!
Relate to your customers
Your customers want to feel that they are valued and important to you. So it’s absolutely crucial to understand their needs and to show that you care about them.
Don’t use a ‘one size fits all’ approach – they are all different. Respond to emails, messages and any communication promptly and positively. If there is something a customer is concerned about, address it immediately and try to work with them to find a solution.
Keep communications personal and make your customers fall in love with your business.
If you get a complaint or any negative feedback, do not ignore it. See it as a challenge to win the customer round…find out exactly what the complaint is – talk to the customer, by phone if possible. It may be a simple misunderstanding, but if it isn’t, do everything you can to solve the problem. Sometimes problems can’t be solved and if this is the case, apologise and give a refund or suggest an alternative…or give a discount for their next purchase.
How often do you surprise your customers? Surprising them means you do something that they’re not going to be expecting.
That might be a phone call to welcome a new customer or to catch up with an old one.
Send them a completely personalised email
Give a free gift without expecting anything in return…an eBook, checklist, tips or advice
You could use a pop up to deliver a personalised message to a new customer to your website. If you’ve done the pop up well, it can encourage a potential customer to buy from you.
Use Social Media platforms
Most businesses are on social media platforms. And, as a business, you don’t have to be on them all; it would be far too much to manage! But choose two or three and learn everything you can about that platform. Then use those platforms as a tool.
Use it to connect with your audience
Identify questions that they need answers to
Research other platforms, influencers in your niche and find out what problems people have – then you can solve them!
Create content that speaks to your audience
Business pages on social media sites are not all about selling your services or products. It’s about engaging your audience. So use your posts to entertain, educate, engage and inspire. They will get to know you and your business and trust that you know what you’re talking about. And, they’ll also feel that you care about them, not just about the money they can throw your way. Be genuine and authentic!
Listen to your customers
This one is short and sweet, and says what it is on the tin. Listen to your customers. If you want to know something about your services or products, ask your customers. They are in the best position to answer you.
Send out a survey, and give a small incentive to respond. Send it to your customers, the recipients of your newsletter or followers to your blog.
You can also set up a survey and put a link to it on your social media pages. Ask your followers to do the survey and to share it with their friends and families.
Provide valuable content
You might write a blog or send out a regular newsletter. And you most likely do use social media. Ensure your posts or articles are valuable to your customers. As I have said previously, they should entertain, educate, engage or inspire. Ideas for posts could be:
Introduce yourself and your business with a photo or video
Share something personal or share a photo of your workspace
Share an inspirational, funny or work related quote
Create educational posts giving tips that will help them. For example, I am a small business marketing consultant, so I share tips that will help with marketing, or tips to help people grow their small business.
Show that you are an expert in your niche or field.
Ask questions – can be trivial or specific to something you want to know
Create polls – again they can be fun or serious
Use good images
Above all, show your passion and share your enthusiasm for your business with your customers and potential customers. If you invest the time, effort and engagement into your business, your customers won’t be able to help but get caught up in your excitement and will want to be a part of that.
2020 has been the year of working from home. Are you looking forward to going back to work or is it just another day NOT at the office for you for the foreseeable future?
According to the English newspaper, The Guardian, it has been reported that “only 34% of British white-collar workers had returned to the office, compared to 83% in France and an average of 68% among major European counterparts.” So, if you are working from home, how do you cope? For some, this has been a massive transition.
I’m lucky enough to always work from home, but I also live in rural France, where it is very quiet. I’m not sure how I’d fare in a city with noisy neighbours or sounds of traffic. The only problem I encounter on a regular basis is the inefficiency of my internet provider – being in a rural area means the signal is not always great. But I’m learning to manage that. But I guess that, so long as you don’t have neighbours who suddenly decide that DIY with noisy machinery is what they want to do all day, it works well…and the Covid pandemic means that more and more workers have had the chance to experience what it’s like. But of course, there are other factors to think about. Here are some handy hints and tips for working from home.
Start the day promptly
It’s very easy when you work from home to procrastinate and ‘just do’ a few things before you get started. So, try and think of it as a normal working day. When you go to the office, you get up, shower and get to work. Try and do the same at home. Try and stick to your normal routine. Get up, shower, have a coffee and breakfast and set yourself a time to start work.
Structure your day
Get a normal structure going, as you would if you were at work. Have a ‘to do’ list and break your day into segments. For example, you might trawl through your emails first thing to see if anything urgent needs doing. Then get on with the tasks you’d normally do in the morning. You can stop for a coffee break/comfort break, as you would at work and of course, have a break away from your screen and desk at lunchtime. But don’t be lulled into the false sense of security of allowing yourself an extra half an hour to scroll social media or watch a daytime TV programme. This can seriously impact your efficiency. I know as I’ve been there and done that!
Have a dedicated work space
Rather than sitting on the sofa with your feet up and laptop on your lap, try and create a dedicated work space, with an office ‘desk’. This could be your kitchen or dining room table, but having this space encourages you to focus more and feels more like you are ‘going to work’.
For me, the biggest distraction is social media and email. If I have them switched on when I’m working, I can’t help but respond to every ‘ping’ I hear. This is counter-productive and a huge distraction, causing lots of wasted time. I schedule a time to look at my social media pages, answer questions or comments on posts, and answer DMs etc. I also schedule time to post to my own business social media pages. Other than that, I switch it all off, so I don’t hear those enticing pings!
Know your most productive times
We all work differently, and working from home is a different experience for everyone. What is the best time of day for you to get the harder tasks done? For me, it’s in the morning. I write better in the morning and have more concentration. So, I schedule the most important, urgent or difficult tasks for the morning, and leave the things I find easier to cope with for the afternoon.
From research I’ve done on the subject of working from home, most articles advise that you save all your calls until the afternoon. However, I find that checking emails, responding to requests or phone calls are better done in the morning, before I start writing. If I think the calls are going to take me a long time, I might do them straight after lunch, but I think better in the morning, so it’s better for me to do them then. You may feel completely different – it’s about doing things in the order that best suits you.
Have some planning time
As an ‘at-home’ worker, I tend to do my planning for the next day late afternoon, or even in the evening. Whatever suits you best, ensure that you do have time in your diary to plan your next project, or plan the tasks that need to be done the following day. There will always be times when all your plans go out of the window and something happens that needs your immediate attention – that can’t be helped, but having a plan means that you’re ready to get up and go each day, knowing exactly what you need to do first.
It can be lonely
I think that the pandemic has probably taught a lot of us that isolation can be a big problem in working from home. Before lockdown, you could always relocate for a morning at the local coffee shop, so you are around other people, but lockdown means that bars and cafes are closed, so you are stuck completely at home. This is where technology comes in – you can keep in touch with other work colleagues or friends using messenger, Zoom or FaceTime calls. You can also join virtual meetings in the same way, so you don’t feel quite so alone. And it is good to check in with your work colleagues to chat about a particular project or ask advice. Sometimes just to chat through your day.
I know quite a few people who work from home in rural France. I know that a lot of them have a music playlist in the background to help them concentrate. Having some kind of noise in the background may work well for you. I even read somewhere that one lady has The History Channel on quietly in the background as that helped her concentrate. Again, it’s what best suits your situation and how you work.
Manage the family
This is where I am lucky, as I live with just my partner. Our children live in the UK, so chats with them, and with each other, tend to be in the evenings. If you have your partner also working from home, or maybe retired, and children at home, then they have to be considered and their expectations managed. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you’re home, so they need to learn to respect your work time and not constantly disturb you. Having set hours that you work does help with this and they will also know what time you will be finishing, for lunch for example, so can chat and interact with you then. Obviously this is not always going to happen if you have young children at home, but it’s about trying to manage whatever situation you’re in as best you can.
Take breaks and have a finishing time
Finally, make sure that you do take regular breaks. I usually start work around 9.30 – 10am and don’t take a break until around 1pm. I’ll have a snack lunch, and sometimes have a wander around the garden. I might put washing on the line or do a bit of tidying up, or maybe half an hour weeding the flower beds, but I keep my lunch break to about an hour, so that I get back to work at a reasonable time.
I sometimes have another short break around 4pm and always switch off my PC between 6 – 6.30pm.
Above all, be kind to yourself and if you have the odd day where every plan goes out the window and you’re just not feeling it….don’t! And don’t feel guilty about it. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, you won’t get anything done and will find yourself procrastinating. Get some fresh air and focus on something else for a while and you might find you at least gain back some of your day. If you don’t, don’t punish yourself, you’re only human and sometimes there will be days when it’s just not happening.
For most, I’m sure that 2021 will see some sort of return to work. Some of you may be lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), to carry on working from home. It’s about what works best for you and only you can really know that. The tips in this article are meant to help with a bit of organisation, but you may find other ideas that work much better. It’s important to look after yourself and I wish you all the luck in the world to do what works best for you and your situation.
I’d love to hear from other home workers and how they’ve found the transition from busy office to working remotely. Let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me.
Here we are, nearly at the end of another year, and it’s time to look at our year-end review. What a year 2020 has been! The year of a world-wide pandemic, which is still seeing businesses unable to open and more people than ever working from home. Words we’d never linked to our everyday lives before are now the norm; lockdown, covid, furlough and I’m sure loads more. We wear masks wherever we go and we are restricted on when we can go out of our homes and who we can visit.
And all through this we still have to try and run our businesses from home. This has meant a huge upsurge in the number of people online, selling their products and services like never before. So this year end is even more important than any we’ve seen before; it’s even more crucial to do an end of year review and to start planning for the year ahead. With a possible vaccine in our sights, hopefully 2021 will see a more positive outlook for small businesses. That is, at least, something we can do for ourselves and our businesses. We can use what we’ve learned this year to plan for next year, taking into account the new skills and tips we’ve picked up to push business forward and still be successful.
So, where to start…
Review of 2020
Your business and your products/services
First of all, go back to basics. This helps you look at your business in a whole new light. Ask yourself the following questions:
Who are you and what does your business do?
What are your products or services?
What went well and what didn’t go so well?
What products or services were popular? Is there room for improvement?
Do you have any new products or services planned for next year?
Due to the changes you’ve had to make this year, are there any expenses you need to take into consideration for next year, e.g. for training, new technology, new equipment?
Your competition and your area of business
How, look at your competitors.
Do you know who your competitors are? If not, do some research and find out about them and what they offer.
What is your USP (your Unique Selling Proposition) that sets you apart from your competition?
Looking at what you do and comparing yourself to your competitors, are there any trends, any opportunities you haven’t picked up on or any threats you hadn’t thought about?
Are there any changes in your industry that you need to be aware of or address?
Do you adhere to all the new GDPR rules that came about in 2018? For example, does your website comply with those rules? Are you doing everything you can to protect your customers’ data?
I hate to use the ‘B’ word, but have you considered Brexit, due to hit the UK in January 2021? Have you thought about how this will impact your business? – Can you still get access to materials for things you make? If you can, will there be any export charges? – If your business involves travel, either to or from the UK, depending on where you live, what impact will Brexit have on travel? Parliament have already passed the bill to take away freedom of movement, so how will this affect you?
Our customers are the most important aspect of our businesses. Do you know your customers well? If not, do some in-depth research.
Who are you selling to? Build up a picture of at least six customer personas, so you can tailor your products and services to them.
What are your customers’ needs and wants?
What are they buying and why?
Has their buying behaviour changed? For example, where are they buying? Is it more online?
What are your customers’ challenges? What are their problems and can your products/services solve those challenges or problems?
Are there any new markets or new groups of people that could benefit from your products/services that you haven’t yet considered?
Customer behaviour will constantly change, so it’s important to keep ahead and know what they want. If you have customer personas or profiles that you’ve created in the past, how have they changed and evolved?
Marketing your business
Marketing is a hugely important part of your business. This is an area that you really need to review. Take a step back and look at what you’ve done this year to market your business.
How are you talking or interacting with your current customers? Can that be improved?
How do you approach and talk to new or potential customers?
How are you positioning yourself in the marketplace? How are you promoting yourself and your business?
Look at your brand; what does it say about you?
Take a look at your pricing. Is it relevant to what you offer? Do you need to put your prices up to compete in your market?
Look at all your social media channels. How are your using them and how engaged are your audience?
Are there any new platforms or ways to market on social media that you’re not currently doing, but should…such as video?
What are your competitors doing with their marketing? Is there something you could take or use from their example?
Think about new campaigns or activities for 2021 that will help you stay connected to your current customer base, and also attract and engage new customers.
Look at your current resources.
Do you have anyone working for you? Do you have a business coach or Virtual Assistant? If you do, do they meet all your requirements? Is there anything more you can outsource to them, or anything they shouldn’t be doing anymore?
Do you have any skill gaps that you need to fill? If you do, look at what courses you can take to get you up to speed.
Is your workspace or office space big enough? Does it suit your needs? Do you need to update any equipment?
Do you need to update any technology or invest in something new?
If you buy in materials, are you getting a good deal? Sometimes we stick with one company to supply materials because we know them well, or just because we always have. That doesn’t mean they’re the best supplier, so take a look at some alternatives.
Are there anything you’re currently paying for that you no longer need?
If you post your products to customers, do you have a good deal? There are so many new companies that have sprung up, you may be able to find a much better deal than you currently have.
OK, now we’re at the biggie. The one we don’t like to think about, but a very important part of your year-end review.
What was your turnover in 2020 and what was your profit?
What is your projected turnover and profit in 2021?
Do you have a healthy cash flow or is your business having cash flow problems? If you’re having problems, what can you do about it? It’s not a good idea to ignore it!
Do you have any capital or any excess cash?
Are your books all up to date and ready for the tax man? I know I said the ‘T’ word, but it’s important to keep your business afloat. If you need an accountant, shop around and ask friends who are in business. If you have an accountant, ask him/her to give you all the relevant figures for 2020.
Do you have any operational costs or employee costs for 2021 that you haven’t planned for? How are you going to pay for that?
Do you need to look for external funding or any kind of investment to reach your goals for next year?
Do some projections – they don’t have to be exact. Maybe start with monthly projections, or where you’d like to be this time next year. And then, what you’d like to see for your business in 3 years’ time or 5 years’ time.
Once you have completed your review of 2020, you’ll have all the relevant information you need to start planning for 2021. Now you can start planning your goals for next year and thinking about where you are going to take your marketing.
Over the past week, I’ve heard lots of ‘oh, here we go again’, type comments and lots of negativity around businesses with the second wave Covid pandemic upon us. A lot of us are now experiencing the inevitable second lockdown, which I know is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. It’s not only businesses that are suffering, it’s also our mental health; something that seems to be more highlighted this time around…probably due to lessons learned from last time.
So, what can you do to make the most of a bad situation?
Developing a growth mindset for your small business
We all know that our businesses are going through the mill all over the world – it’s one of the most radical changes the world has seen in the history of work. And lots of us are struggling with this new environment; this new ‘normal’. Big companies, and even the NHS, are learning how to work, manage and lead their employees from a distance, whilst they work from home. But what about the small business? How can you cope during these very stressful times? It’s very hard when there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, despite what we’re being told by our various governments. I think it’s time we took charge and helped ourselves – obviously this isn’t as easy as it sounds and will involve changes, but sometimes change can be good.
One way is to develop a growth mindset and think of other ways to manage your small business. Hopefully this article will give you some ideas. You CAN do it and you WILL still manage some growth in your business.
How can I develop a growth mindset?
I don’t have all the answers, but after thinking about this at length, this is what I have decided on for my business. I’ll share my thoughts and hopefully this will help some of you.
First of all, decide that you are going to welcome the challenge and embrace the changes you have to make. For us small business owners, the most important thing we can do is maintain the relationships we have built with our customers and communities. You already have good relationships with them and they trust you, so effective communication during this time will be key to keeping your business going.
For some businesses, who have physical premises that have had to close down, it will be a matter of working out how best to still reach your customers. It will also be important to plan what you’re going to do when you can reopen – you’ll be more experienced this time, having been through it once.
Most businesses are on social media, so use this to your advantage to regularly update your customers, even if it’s not totally business related. And if you have an email list, or send out a monthly communication or newsletter, now is the time to use it to your advantage. Share funny things, share your thoughts and ideas for the future, so they know you have plans in place for after the lockdown. Make short 30 second videos just to say ‘hello’ and keep in touch. No matter what business you’re in, this is a good idea – people love videos and a short message from you could brighten their day. If your business is suited to gift vouchers, Christmas is coming, so sell vouchers for when the lockdown ends.
Ask Questions or Create Polls
Ask questions or create polls to find out information about what your customers are struggling with in your niche. For example, if you are a beauty consultant or hairdresser, ask if your customers have any problems with their skin or hair. You can then use that data to do social media posts or videos answering their questions.
Offer 1:1 sessions
You could offer 1:1 phone, WhatsApp or FaceTime calls for a small charge, giving personal advice, if they have a problem they’d rather not discuss publicly on social media. For some of your customers, it will be enough to simply be able to speak to you…and this will reinforce how important and valued they are.
Can you offer physical products?
If you have products that you can sell, can you offer special bundles that your customers can buy from you. If I use the beauty or hairdressing scenario again, can you bundle up a few products that you sell into a set? This could be a skincare set, a body care set, a shampoo-conditioner-deep cleansing hair mask combo for example.
If you have a crafting business, give suggestions with photos of your products that would be suitable for Granny, Aunty, Dad or children. Show your customers the end result – what and who are your products aimed at? If you make decorative items, can you adapt them for Christmas? Sell a Christmas tree set or a set of Christmas items for the mantelpiece or Christmas dinner table.
All of these ideas come from thinking about growth and how to grow when you can’t physically be there for your customers.
Social media is huge and we know from previous experience, that during the last lockdown, internet use soared. Orders to online companies grew at an alarming rate, so it makes sense to put your small business out there.
Go ‘to work’
Another way to help with a more positive mindset, is to actually ‘go to work’ every day. Set up an area where you can have your ‘office’, preferably a quiet, private space where you won’t get too distracted or suffer from interruptions.
Set rules with your family, so they know that from, say 10am to 2pm, you are working, so not to be disturbed. I know this could be more difficult if you have small children in the house.
If you are able to work all day, make sure that you take regular breaks to make a coffee, to have lunch or to just sit with other family members for half an hour. I always work from home, so for me this is normal. But I do take breaks and I find I’m much more productive if I have lunch at a certain time, and take a half hour to an hour break mid-afternoon.
During lockdown, it’s good to try and maintain some kind of structure. This is not only good for your business, but also good for your mental health.
I hope some of these ideas have been useful and given you food for thought on how you can manage a growth mindset during this awful time. If you would like to receive my monthly Marketing Tips email, packed with valuable and constructive ideas for marketing your business, please click here to sign up. In the welcome email, you will receive a code to enter a member’s only space on my website, where you will find loads of free resources; checklists, templates, worksheets etc. to help you push your business forward.
If you have any other ideas, which would help other small businesses, or want to ask any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org