What marketing strategies are going to be popular for your small business in 2020?

With 2020 just around the corner, it’s time to think about what you want to achieve with your small business next year and to focus on your marketing strategy.

2020…the start of a new decade… and it will be no surprise to know that digital marketing is going to continue at pace to be the most popular form of marketing. With technology continually moving forward, it’s so important to keep on top of what’s new and how you can use it to promote your business.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing just means online marketing, using digital technology on the internet or on mobile devices. There are several digital marketing channels and I’m going to look at a few of them, with ‘marketing into a new decade’ in mind!

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Business website – Even if you have a great following on social media, it can’t replace having a business website. This is the home or hub of your business, the one place online where you are completely in control of everything you want to say about your business. It can be as simple or as fancy as you like…but the one MUST-HAVE is that it needs to be mobile friendly, as most people use mobile technology to scour the internet.

seo-592740_640SEO – or search engine optimization. This is the process of increasing traffic to your website. This includes using the right keywords, your social media presence, references to your website from external sites, to name a few. In 2020, this is going to be vital to keep ahead of your competition.

Local search engine optimization – as most people have mobile phones and use them ‘on the go’ they will be looking for local businesses when they are out and about. Google’s search results now apparently favour websites that are optimized for local search by including location information and location-related keywords. You can also claim your business location on local search directories, such as Google My Business. Just ensure that whatever local directories you choose to be a part of, that your details are exactly the same, including spelling, on all directories – not 10 High St in one and 10 High Street in another.

Email Marketing – these days nearly 7 out of 10 businesses use email marketing and it is the third most popular digital marketing method. Around half of the population check their email on mobile devices and research shows that a third of emails opened are opened on mobile devices. So, if you going the route of email marketing, think ‘mobile’ – keep emails short and clear with a clear call to action. Use white space to make it easy for ’click here’ buttons or links.

online-marketing-1246457_640Content marketing – this is about blog posts, e-books, infographics, videos etc. that you share digitally. The goal of content marketing is to entice users to view your content and take action, clicking your call to action button. For example, you might write a blog post about ‘How to insulate your house for winter’. The call to action button might be ‘Contact us to get a free quote to insulate your house this winter.’ And research is showing that rather than having lots of short blog posts, people prefer longer, more relevant information that answers their questions and is of value to them.

Pay-per-click advertising or PPC – PPC digital adverts appear when you do an internet search – if you have a PPC ad with terms that someone is searching for, your ad will come up. The name PPC comes from the fact that you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it. You sometimes see this on Google and on some social media sites.

adult-3086300_640Voice Search – By 2020 it is expected that voice search will account for half of all Google searches. So how do you make sure your business is found? Good SEO will help, but it might be a good idea to create an FAQ page on your website answering questions that people might ask about your products or services. Make the questions sound the way that people talk. For example, if you own a fish and chip shop, people are more likely to ask ‘what chip shop is open right now?’ rather than the way they’d type a search into a search engine…opening times of fish and chip shop.

Google My Business – if you have one of these listings, regularly add new photos, posts, offers etc. and ensure your description is current. Add as much information as you can to it. Make sure that there is a link to your website and in particular, your reviews page – this promotes consistency across channels.

film-596519_640Online Video – Today’s generation prefer to view video footage to get answers to everything they want to know. YouTube is the second most popular website, pipped at the post only by Google. Videos that show someone how to do something, help solve their problems, etc. is definitely the way to go in 2020.

Tell your story – consumers love real interaction with businesses. They want to know the face behind the name, so think about how you can be transparent about your business and values. Live stream on FB, short informational videos, behind the scenes videos all help to create a feeling of intimacy with your customers – and that can help build a bond with your target market.

Social Media

follow-1210793_640No matter what channel you use, have a business page and plan what you are going to do and when. Try and plan a host of different posts to keep your customers coming back for more. Use video, audio with pictures, product posts, competitions, polls, quotes, funny stuff and serious stuff. Make things as visual as possible and plan to post regularly and consistently. You can look at your insights to find out who looks at your posts and when is the best time for you to post. Plan to post at least three times a week, more for visual channels like Instagram.

Messenger is also a great tool for customers and customer service. You can speak directly to your customers in real time, answering any questions or talking to them about a product they’re interested in.

In conclusion, marketing in 2020 will continue to move and change at a fast pace. Be willing to adapt to the change, embrace the new technology where you can and have fun making video content and thinking of ways to be more creative with your marketing. Your business will continue to develop and grow and you will find yourself attracting great, quality customers in your digital world!

If you would like a free consultation about how digital marketing could help your business in 2020, click here.

How to run a Facebook Christmas Campaign to sell your products

Christmas is usually the most important time of year for anyone who sells products or services. With around 93% of people owning a mobile phone or device, millions of them will be logging into Facebook (FB) looking for gift ideas, Christmas related posts and funnies. So it makes sense to use FB to reach some of this massive audience with your posts.   

christmas-2618269_640Christmas is the season of giving and all over the world, people get excited about everything that surrounds this magical time of year. So, let FB be your ‘Santa’s little helper’ and get started now on your Christmas campaign.

If you market your business, you’ll know that a giveaway is the way to get better engagement, more followers and sales. But as everyone who markets their business also knows, you need to stand out from your competition. So how can you run a successful Facebook Christmas campaign?

As an example, let’s say you run a jewellery business, selling jewellery that you make. You sell online via an online store and to the public directly through your market stall. You have a website where people can see your products and you have a business FB page.

What are you hoping to achieve by running a Christmas campaign?

  • Increase your sales of jewellery online and face to face
  • Raise the profile of your business (your brand)
  • More people looking at your product range on your website
  • More ‘likes’ on your FB page
  • Increase the enquiries you get about your jewellery

Now you know what you’re hoping to achieve, you can get started.

Your target market

The first thing to look at is your target market. Who do you want to sell to? What do they do for a living? What can they afford to buy and where do they live. You can get this by looking at your current customers and also look at who engages with your social media pages, your website and/or your blog.

If you have a FB business page, you can look at FB insights. This does take a while to get your head around if you want to fully analyse everything, but as a basic guide…Go to the Overview tab to export your FB Insights data. A pop-up box will appear with three choices…Page data, Post data and Video data. If you click on each of these in turn, you will be able to see key engagement metrics for your page. Facebook do a guide for more in depth information – click here

If you use Instagram, you can also look at their guide for analysing insights on your Instagram account. And you can use data and the details to run a Christmas campaign on Instagram too. Click here to see how to look at your Instagram insights.

cat-1898637_640You will have your unique brand for your products or services, but it’s a good idea to look at branding your products for Christmas and apply that branding to your FB posts and your website/blog. Famous brands do this every year, for example, television programmes such as Dr Who, will have a Christmas special episode, fast food outlets will use Christmas themed wrappings for their burgers, pizza etc. and there will always be a popular musician who will release a Christmas album, such as Cliff Richard! Everyone jumps on the bandwagon at Christmas, so why shouldn’t you too?

When you advertise your products for Christmas, give the ad a Christmassy theme, spice up your website or blog with some Christmas pages and look at packaging your products with Christmas paper, ribbons or offer a gift wrap service (either free or for a small charge).

Your campaign     

It’s up to you when to start your campaign, but generally campaigns start around the September/October point.

As I’m specifically talking about a FB campaign, let’s look at what kind of posts you can put up to attract business. The important thing to remember is that, although you want to be selling as much as you can during this period, it’s also important that your customers get something of value, something that makes a difference to their lives – what’s in it for them? How will they benefit from your campaign? So how can you do all this and still make a profit? Here are some ideas…

Offers/discounts

Everyone loves a bargain, so run a special offer for Christmas on a particular product or service. Make it clear that it’s for the Christmas period only.

sticker-473635_640Offer gift cards so customers can buy a gift card to give to family and friends.

You could run a ‘buy one, get one free offer’ or ‘buy one, get the second half price’ for a limited time. Big companies like Boots the chemist, do this every Christmas with their ‘buy two, get the third free’ offer.

Run a ‘recommend a friend’ offer – if one of your customer’s recommends a friend, then when that friend buys something, your customer gets a free gift or a money- off voucher.

Competition

Run a Christmas themed competition with a special prize – make sure that the prize is appealing and worth entering the competition for. You can do the results of the competition ‘live’ on FB or via a pre-recorded video for more impact…and you could do the same with the run up to the end date of the competition – for example, ‘only one week left to enter our fabulous competition to win a xxxxx’.

Share Christmas themed updates     

You can add value to your customers’ lives by sharing Christmas themed updates. For christmas-dinner-3011500_640example, if you are a restaurant, you could share your Chef’s favourite Christmas dish, dessert or menu; Hairdressers can share easy to do hairstyles for Christmas parties; Beauticians can offer special packages so your body/face/nails/feet etc. are ‘Christmas ready’!; If you sell make-up, you can push your glittery make-up or maybe publish a video on how to do your Christmas party make-up. You get the idea!

You could also share Christmas themed things on your FB page that are just useful and nothing to do with your business, such as ‘how to gift-wrap your presents with style’ or ‘how to decorate your tree’. These kind of posts have the potential to draw in a new audience who may then go on to look at your products/services.

As well as these posts, you could also post inspirational Christmas quotes, ask a question posts, nostalgic post and Christmas trivia related posts – maybe a ‘did you know….’ kind of thing.

You can also produce a FB ad for the Christmas period – socialmediatoday.com have a great article on how you can do this in detail, so have a read.

How many times a week should I post on FB?

The recommended number of posts is once a day and post in the afternoon to reach the maximum number of people. The minimum suggested is three times a week and maximum number, ten times a week. You can do all your posts in advance for the following week and schedule them to automatically appear at a certain time every day.

You don’t need to use all of the ideas I’ve talked about, but I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and that you will crack on with producing your Christmas campaign and I wish you luck with lots of sales and engagement!

Ace your ‘About me’ page!

Do you have a website or blog? If you do, you’re likely to have an ‘About me’ page. If you sell products or services, it’s an important page as it is likely to be your most popular page.

Why?

It’s where new visitors to your site go first to find out about you and what you can offer – what you can do for them. So, it needs to be relevant and grab their attention.

Click on your page now with the eyes of someone looking at your site for the first time…does it immediately ‘grab’ you and make you want to read more? If it does…fabulous! 

If it doesn’t, read on…

About me page essentials 

The purpose of this page is so people can get to know you, but it’s not good enough to just throw together a quick biography, upload a blurry photo from your phone and hope that works.

Let’s face it, not many people out there like writing about themselves, it’s an uncomfortable experience. But if you have a formula to work from, with a structure that works, you can capture the absolute essence of what you do. You can give your readers the opportunity to get to know you, trust you and see exactly what you can offer them.

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I’m going to share that formula with you, so you can ace your ‘about me’ page and stand out from the crowd.

  1. WHAT VALUE DO PEOPLE GET BY READING YOUR PAGE?

    The most important part of your page is letting your readers know what value your business gives them. After all, they’ve come to your page because they’re interested in your products or services. They didn’t come to your page to find out how many pets you have or what hobbies you do (although that has its place…just not the first thing you share!)
    Make it very clear who your blog is aimed at (your target audience) and how you can help them.

  2. WHO IS YOUR SITE AIMED AT?

    This is where you really need to know your customers and your ideal customers. If you are writing for your customers, they will instantly relate to you and your business – they will recognise that this content is for them, about them and will help them. They will then read on.

  3. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR SITE?

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    Or in other words, your site’s biography. You’ve already got your reader’s attention, they know how your site is going to benefit them. Now give them a bit more information – your personal biography comes later!
    >Include information on why readers should care about what you have to say. There are so many websites out there who offer you help for your business, when really, they’re after you paying them shed loads of money for something that probably won’t help them. Show your readers that you mean business, you are genuine. Do you have any recommendations from current customers that say exactly how you’ve helped them? Include one here. This will help you build credibility for what you do.
    >What will your readers get from your posts? Is it financial advice/beauty advice/business advice – you get the picture? It’s about telling them what they can expect from your posts.
    >What do you write about? Keep this short and sweet and to the point and don’t waffle.
    >Is your blog reliable, credible and believable? You need to know your niche very well and be able to answer any questions people may have…and if you can’t, you find out and get back to them. If you’ve written for big well-known sites you can add this here. You can also say how long you’ve been writing for or where you got your experience in your subject. If you’re still learning, you can also say that and say that you will share things as you learn about them. This is where you tell the story of your blog or website – how did your site get started? What inspired you to write your blog? Where did your passion for your subject come from? This is a good sized paragraph, but try and keep it concise and don’t waffle!

  4. YOUR PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY

    Now it’s time to talk about yourself. BUT, keep it relevant to your blog or business. How did you get where you are today? How does your business fit into your life? What inspires you to keep going? Why do you love your business so much?
    Of course, it’s important that you come across as a real person, with a life outside of work, so it’s also OK to include some personal things…if you have a passion for your pets, you run marathons, you love the cinema and films etc. You can connect with your audience on a human level by sharing a few titbits of information about yourself, such as the town and country you live in…anything that shouts ‘YOU’. But just don’t fill the whole page with it!

  5. CALL TO ACTION

    This is the bit most people forget about…a call to action or CTA. It is what it says on the tin – you are telling your readers what to do next…what action they need to take. You might ask them to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media sites. You could ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.

    smartphone-1701096_640The CTA is really important as it’s your opportunity to get your reader to stay in touch with you, stick around, and come back to your site again. So you need to give them a reason to do this. Asking them to subscribe to something ensures that you can keep in touch with them. If you send out a newsletter, this is a great way to let them know about your business on a regular basis, tell them about new blogs, new products or services, special offers etc. etc. But please don’t do what a lot of people do and bug your readers with emails two or three times a day. When I subscribe to a website, I’ll soon unsubscribe if they bombard my inbox with the same email over and over again. I don’t mind having an email trying to sell me a course that is relevant to me, of course I don’t, but to have the same course being pushed day after day, with just slightly different wording, really irritates me. Maybe an email once a week for the first few weeks, then I’m happy with once a month. I find that if I get something once a month, I’m more likely to read it and click on any links. If someone bombards me every day, they become wallpaper and I end up just deleting them without even reading them.

    Your CTA can be put anywhere in your blog/website ‘about me’ page. It’s obviously good to put it at the end, but you could also put a CTA at the beginning or halfway through if you have something that could help your reader. For example, if you’re talking about what you can offer and you have an information sheet, clothes pattern, beauty tips pdf, you could put a box with ‘CLICK HERE’ to receive XXX or ‘SIGN UP TO RECEIVE YOUR XXXX’.

  6. A HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTO OF YOURSELF

    There aren’t many of us who actually enjoy having our photos taken, but it’s very important that your readers know who you are, what you look like – they can then more easily relate to you…so make sure you are smiling!

HOW YOU CAN BE CONTACTED


You don’t necessarily have to add this to the page, but make sure you have your contact details in a prominent place on the page – telephone number and email address. Alternatively, add a link in your CTA, to your contact page.

FINALLY, re-visit your ‘about me’ page every now and again and update it – give it a bit more pizazz!

I’m off to have another look at mine now!

Copyright? Royalty free? Public domain? Why can’t I just go on Google images and use any photo?

I’ve decided to look at the issues we can face when just using any image we happen to find on Google images for our blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram or on our websites. This has been brought to my attention by a friend who has had this problem recently and been fined. You could also find yourself with a fine if you don’t know about the rules surrounding use of images you might find on Google, for example.

When I first started blogging, I thought I could just log into Google images and use anything that came up…anything that caught my eye. Luckily I learned before I published my first blog that this isn’t the case and you can get into serious trouble if you just use anything. And there are some great sites out there where you can get free images without the worry of being fined….and they have fab images.

Copyright

copyright-850371_640Have a go yourself, just log into Google and type in ‘Images of cats’ for example…then click on one of the images. Yes, you can copy and paste the image…it doesn’t stop you from doing so, but it is illegal. If you look at the image you have clicked on, there is a caption under it saying, “Images may be subject to copyright.” It is up to you to check before you use anyone’s photo. However I found this was a bit of a hassle, because it can take a lot of research, going to page to page, until you find the information you are after.

The Wikipedia definition of ‘copyright’ is this:

“Copyright is a law that gives the owner of a work (like a book, movie, picture, song or website) the right to say how other people can use it. Copyright laws make it easier for authors to make money by selling their works. … If someone copies a work without permission, the owner can say they infringed their copyright.”

The Simple English Wikipedia goes into a bit more detail…

“With copyright, a work can only be copied if the owner gives permission. If someone copies a work without permission, the owner can say they infringed their copyright. When this happens, the owner may sue for the amount that should have been paid. Most cases are handled by civil law. In more serious cases, a person who copies a work that is protected under copyright could be arrested, fined, or even go to prison.”

Royalty-Free Images

Another thing you may see is that an image you want to use is ‘Royalty-free’, so does this mean it’s OK to use this one then? Actually no! The term, ‘Royalty Free’ is a type of license used by stock photography agencies to sell stock images. It’s usually just a one-off fee and you can use photos under a certain set of restrictions.

Again, Wikipedia gives the definition:

“RoyaltyFree Images. … The “free” in royaltyfree does not mean there is no cost for the license, but instead refers to being able to freely use the image without paying additional royalties. A small-business owner, for example, may opt to pay a one-time fee for RF images for his website.”

Public Domain Images

free-2751473_640These are the kind of images I now use on my blog and for some of my website images.

Good old Wikipedia describes these kind of images as:

“A public domain image is defined as a photo, clip art or vector whose copyright has expired or never existed in the first place. These images can be used by almost anyone for personal and commercial purposes.”

There are lots of public domain images sites on the internet. I use www.pixabay.com  a lot, as there is a good range of photos and cartoon images that I like. I also use www.unsplash.com too, which is similar.

When you go into these sites, you can search for any subject matter in the search line. When you click into the image, there is a ‘free download’ button to press. And underneath this button is the Pixabay License details. It usually says ‘Free for commercial use’ and ‘No attribution required’. I always check that this is written about the image I want to use, then I can just go ahead and download and use.

Other sites to consider are:

  • 1 Million Free Pictures – there are no copyright or other issues with this company as they make their own images and put them on their site and offer them free of charge to the public. Great if you want to get your logo up and running and can’t find an appropriate image.
  • The British Library is another site that has no copyright issues. According to the site, there are over a million images available for personal or commercial use – free of charge.
  • Public Domain Archive is a site managed by a professional photographer. There are thousands of images, both contemporary and vintage, on a range of topics, such as sport, animals, architecture etc. Photos are free to use for personal or commercial use and new photos are downloaded every week.
  • Negative Space is a great site for free high-resolution images, so perfect for using on your website or blog.

These are just a few of the sites available, and ones that I am familiar with, but there are loads more out there to choose from.

If you have a favourite site you use, please share with me so my readers can take advantage of the site.

World Well-being Week – feel isolated working from home?

World Well-being Week will provide the opportunity for all participants to promote an overall awareness for the various aspects of well-being, including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental well-being.”

This is a fantastic initiative that encourages employers to look at the well-being of their employees; teachers to encourage their pupils to look at their well-being and professional bodies from all walks of life to think about all aspects of what they do. It cat-691175_640doesn’t necessarily mean work/life balance, although I’m sure that is part of it, but also focuses on mental health, the community and the environment.

It got me thinking about my own situation and how I can look at my own well-being and think about others in my situation. I work from home in a very rural area of France. I do have friends here and we meet up from time to time, but for the most part, I am in my own home, on my own, for up to 12 hours a day. I admit to talking to my cat and the chickens…and sometimes the wall…and always to myself! But working from home can be a very isolating place.

When you first give up work to go it alone, it’s exciting…you never have to return to your old job; if you have children, you don’t have to worry about childcare during school traffic-843309_640holidays; you don’t have to sit on a motorway, or get stuck in traffic every morning/evening; the world is your oyster, you can do what you want, when you want. But…well…it doesn’t always work out that way. These things are definitely a plus and whoever you work for might get increased productivity, a lower turnover and lower overall costs if you work from home, but there are some downsides. And it’s vitally important to maintain a work/life balance, as when you are working from home, with little distraction, it’s all too easy to work much longer hours than you would if you were employed.

Working from home also has its distractions…your dog barking, a neighbour popping in for coffee unannounced, family popping round or ringing as they know you’re there. And of course, social media! It’s easy to put Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest on and get lost in it for over an hour without even realising it, so you need to be disciplined.

It’s also been suggested that not being in an office environment can actually hinder your career – out of sight, out of mind – so you might get overlooked for promotions or working on important projects, simply because you’re not visible.

Combatting loneliness

However, I want to concentrate on your well-being if you choose to work from home.

people-1492052_640Most of the time, you will be alone…little interaction with other co-workers, no team to talk to, no one to bounce your ideas around with. In fact, a study conducted by Buffer in 2018, found that loneliness was the biggest struggle among remote workers, with 21% reporting that they’d experienced it. If left, loneliness can lead to depression, which is a common problem for many entrepreneurs who work along on a regular basis. One study found that 30% of entrepreneurs have struggled with depression.

If this rings true with you, there is light at the end of the tunnel as there are loads of ways to avoid loneliness when working at home. Here are a few:

  • wood-bench-986347_640You can work anywhere, so long as there is Wi-Fi. We all tend to huddle in our home offices, but it is just as easy to go to a local café, or even take a break away to a different town…and still work. It is a distraction to be isolated from others, so working from a café or other location, you will meet other people or just be around other people.
  • Work outside. Instead of sitting in your office, why not relocate to your garden, terrace or balcony? You’re still at home, but you are out in the sunshine and fresh air.
  • women-1179435_640Plan a break into your day. Try and get out of the house and your office space once a day. Maybe take a yoga class…you just have to plan it into your day, so you could start a bit earlier on that day, or work a bit later. You could go shopping for meet a friend for a coffee during your break. It will definitely make a difference and a change from the same four walls.
  • Get one of those Wi-Fi portable devices/dongles. This way you can work wherever you like…at the park, the beach, a bar…wherever you fancy working. It comes at a small cost, but it’s worth it for your well-being.
  • entrepreneurs-4208227_640Have a working break. Arrange to have a few days away. Sometimes a change of scenery is invigorating and brings out your creative side. Go to a nice B&B or hotel and enjoy working in a different environment. You could even take a working break in another country, factor in some holiday time whilst you’re there and have the best of both worlds.
  • webinar-4216601_640Have a virtual meeting. If you work as part of a virtual team, or work for a particular person, it’s usual for any interaction to be via email or online chat. So why not arrange a Skype or Face-time meeting. These are great as you can interact with the person on video and it’s like being in the same room. Research suggests that face to face interaction is essential for identifying opportunities for collaboration, innovation and developing relationships and networks.
  • Networking meetings. Another great resource for homeworkers is joining a networking meeting on a regular basis. These meetings generally take place early morning as a breakfast meeting or for a couple of hours in the morning leading up to lunch. It’s worth factoring these into your working life, even if you only go once a month, or once every two months. You’ll meet like-minded people and get the chance to talk to other businesses and share ideas. Networking often leads to collaborations, so what have you got to lose?

Obviously there will be evidence both for working at home and against. It’s really up to you which one you choose to do. It’s worth remembering that you need to be a self-starter, can focus on the tasks you have to complete in a day without distractions and that you are well organised. But all the other aspects I’ve talked about also need to be taken into consideration.

action-2277292_640For me, yes…it can be lonely at times, but I make time every couple of weeks to meet with friends for coffee during the day, or a friend comes to me to lunch or vice versa. I also sing in a band, so I have the weekly evening rehearsal to look forward to and gigs some weekends, so that kind of takes care of my social life. I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what it would be like to go back to a 9-5 office job and, for some it might be an option to do a part time job and work from home too. It’s got to be right for you and your well-being and it’s so important for your mental health to have a work/life balance.

If you have any stories about working from home and how you combat the isolation, I’d love to hear from you…or feel free to share in the comments section.

Support for Windows 7 is ending

My blog this week is written by a guest, Ross Hendry from Interface Consulting and Engineering. Ross and I both write a monthly column in an expat magazine, The Deux-Sevres Monthly, here in SW France. This article caught my eye as I’m a user of Windows 7, who is just changing to Windows 10 as my PC has become so slow. Windows 10 is so much faster and doesn’t take long to get used to.

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“All good things must come to an end, even Windows 7. After 14 January, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or support for PCs running Windows 7. But you can keep the good times rolling by moving to Windows 10”

“Windows 7 support life-cycle – Microsoft, made a commitment to provide ten years of product support for Windows 7 when it was released on 22 October 2009. When this ten year period ends, Microsoft will discontinue Window 7 support so that we can focus our investment on supporting newer technologies and great experiences

After 14 January 2020, technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update, that protect your PC will no longer be available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 (sometime before January 2020) to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.”

The above two articles were published on 16 April 2019 by Microsoft. This means potential trouble for Windows 7 users from 14 January 2020, because the last security update will be sent out before 14 March 2020. However, this is only for non-enterprise licenced copies of the operation system. Support is available for $200 a year per enterprise (business) licence. Therefore, non-business users will not be permitted to have the most important security updates.

Top ten most popular operating systems

According to marketshare.com for the year ending April 2019, Windows 7 had 39.02% of the operating system market, with Windows 10 taking 39%; Windows 8.1 – 4.68%; MAC OS X 10.13 – 3.92%; Windows XP – 3.57%; MAC OS X 10.14 – 2.75%; Linux – 1.51%; MAC OS X 10.12 – 1.37%; Windows 8 – 0.93% and MAC OS X 10.11 HAD 0.88%.

Even though users could claim a free copy of the Windows 10 operating system when launched on 29 July 2015, nearly four years later, almost half of their users have not converted to the new OX. They must be quite disappointed.

So why should you move to the latest operating system?

…Because the newest one is faster, safer, more reliable; probably the most important reason is Windows 7 doesn’t support the latest Intel and AMD processors. And when upgrade-3727076_640extended support for Windows 7 ends next March, there will be no more security updates.

The good news is you may still get Windows 10 for free, although it gets harder after the first year. To qualify, you must have a legitimate Windows Licence for Windows 7.8 or 8.1.

If you would like to upgrade to Windows 10, please see the information on the following websites…

www.howtogeek.com/…/all-the-ways-you-can-still-get-windows-10-for-free/

www.zdnet.com/article/heres-how-you-can-still-get-a-free-windows-10-upgrade/

www.trustedreviews.com/news/windows-10-free-download-upgrade-2949184

There are, of course, other sites with information on this issue, just google search ‘how do I get Windows 10 for free?’

Alternatively, contact your IT support person. I am sure they will be able to help you. If you need any further information, please send me an email and I will try to help.

windows-7-1028600_640I also strongly recommend that if you PC came with Windows 7 on it when new, it is probably worth considering getting a new PC as this will come with Windows 10. It is then a relatively simple task to migrate the data from your old PC and load the latest versions of the programs you use. You will be pleasantly surprised how friendly Windows 10 is and after a few weeks, will wonder why you did not do it sooner!

Ross Hendry is the proprietor or Interface Consulting and Engineering, who has over 14 years’ experience in communications, computer technology and direct marketing.

“Good luck if you take on the upgrade yourself and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have problems. I do not charge for telephone or online internet support for the first hour. Generally if the issue needs longer to resolve, I will need to visit you.”
Ross Hendry

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What makes a good small business website?

In this age of online shopping, online gaming, Facebook, Twitter and the host of other ways we interact on the internet, if you have a business, a website is a no brainer.

Why do I need a website?

template-1599665_640The main reason is so that your business is showing up where your potential customers are….i.e. online! If someone is searching the internet for something that you sell, at some point they will come across your website. A website is like your shop front…but it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It sells your products or services even when you’re asleep, on holiday or otherwise engaged. So you could be missing out on potential business if you don’t have one. And with loads of different website-building platforms to choose from, that have online tutorials and community based support, it’s a fairly easy process.

Other reasons to have a website include…

  • Your customers expect you to have one. People are generally inpatient these days and want instant access to information about what they want to buy.
  • 90% of consumers say that online reviews influence whether they buy a product or not. If you have a website, you can share positive customer reviews of what you sell.make-up-1209798_640
  • If you include a blog on your website, it will help you get your business messages across to your audience and shows a bit of your personality. It also gets information instantly in front of your audience, so faster than a printed ad or emailing brochures. Plus, you can put links to your social media sites.
  • You don’t need to be an expert in coding as so many website-building platforms offer tutorials and support.
  • Your competitors have websites…people use the internet to search for reviews and products they want to buy. If you’re not online, that business opportunity has gone.
  • With a website, you are never ‘closed’, people can find you 24 hours a day, bath-oil-2510783_640seven days a week. If you combine your website with a blog or newsletter, your customers can see when you have special offers and new products.
  • A website showcases your products and services – you can use fabulous images, downloadable PDFs to help your customers and video tutorials about your products. This can give customers no reason to go elsewhere.

On average, people spend 4-5 hours a day on a device attached to the internet and 97% of consumers go online to research and find local businesses. There are over 3.5 billion google searches done each day.

You might think your business is too small to have a website or that you can’t afford to have one, but with the many self-hosting sites around these days, you can easily do a basic site for yourself. But to really stand out, it is a good idea to pay someone to do it for you. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune…and is well worth budgeting for. The price of having a website is much better than it could cost you by being left behind in technology.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the web address of your website – the name that users will type in to get to your website and how search engines find it.

com-663980_640It’s very important to first of all choose the right domain name for your website because you will hopefully have it for a long time and it becomes part of your branding. You might want to have a domain that is your name.

I use my name, along with what I do www.cindyfreelancewriter.com for my main website. I use just my name for my blog www.cindymobey.blog

It’s best to keep them as simple as possible; keep it short and easy to remember, avoid dashes and use a dot com whenever possible. There are loads of places you can buy a domain name – GoDaddy is popular, but I used WordPress, as my hosting site was going to be WordPress.

Host sites

There are several sites to choose from – my personal preference is WordPress, but I have used Wix, GoDaddy and Weebly, when helping others with their websites. Usually, if you go for a paid website plan, (which can be as little as a few Euros a month), you get a domain name included.

What pages should I have on my website?

Once you have your domain and host site, you’re ready to start building your website. Here are some tips you may wish to consider…

When people go onto a website, it needs to be easy on the eye and most importantly, easy to navigate. So, a clearly labelled toolbar is essential and information should be clear and straight forward – people don’t want to guess what you do, or have to work hard to find the products or services they want. You have a few seconds to make and impact, so it’s browser-1666995_640important to do just that. If they can’t find what they want on your site, they can click away and choose someone else.

It’s important for a website to be friendly to all devices and most hosting sites let you see what your website will look like on a mobile or tablet device, so that helps!

For a basic website, I would advise including…

Homepage – This is the first page that people will see when they land on your website, so it needs to have maximum impact. Create a good design that entices customers in, so they want to explore the rest of your site. It needs to provide basic information,  so say who you are, what your company does and what you can do for your customers – what do you offer them? Also, where you are located – include a google map if you can to make it easier to find you, especially if you have premises. If you like doing videos, you could include a video explaining what you do and how you can help your customers.

Contact page – Your customers will want to know how to contact you, so this needs to be prominent and clear. If you have Social Media pages, make sure that this information is up to date and consistent across all platforms. Information to include are your name, address (or area you are in), your email address, telephone number and the hours you are open for business. You can also include a link via google maps to your location and include links to your Social Media pages.

bath-oil-2510783_640Products or Services – This is where you can give information about your products or services. Write a sentence or two about each product and give prices if you can, with images if possible. People shopping online need to know prices at a glance, they don’t want to find what they want, then have to send an email to find out how much it is – it’s easier for them to just google another company who does show prices.

About me/us – As it says on the tin, a little bit about yourself; if you have relevant qualifications, you can include them here and if you are a member of a professional body. The key here is not to waffle on about irrelevant information – it is good to add a photo of yourself, so people know who they are dealing with and you can also show your personality here by giving a little bit of personal information…just be careful not to get carried away!

Testimonials – People buying on the internet like to know what other customers think of your products or services, so including a testimonials page is a good idea. Some people include testimonials on the ‘About us’ page, but I prefer to have a separate page as it’s labelled so making it easier to find. But of course, it’s a personal preference.

Blog – if you write a blog, or are thinking of writing a blog, then include it on your website so people can learn more about what you have to say. A blog can help set you up as an expert in your field, as well as help you connect with your customers.

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Please note: Wherever you can, on all pages, use good quality images. Put a good, clear photo of yourself and of your products. They always say that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and that’s certainly true to keep your audience’s attention.

Call to action

A call to action (CTA) is the opportunity for you to motivate your audience to engage with your brand and takes real steps towards becoming a customers. It might just be a ‘Buy now’ or ‘Find out more’ button. But it entices the customer to do something before they leave your website. You could use a button to point customers to subscribing to a newsletter, by offering a free PDF or tutorial if they sign up.

A CTA give direction to and creates a better user experience for your audience. It’s guiding them to the next step and customers expect them. If they’ve read about your business, like your products, they need to have easy access to what comes next. CTA buttons make it easy for your customers to buy from you, contact you… so giving them what they want!

Search Engine Optimization

seo-1288976_640Search engines, such as Google, are what brings traffic to your website, so you need to ‘optimize’ your site. It’s important to add keywords or phrases in your headings, text, URL and Meta descriptions. For more information on SEO, click here.

Look and feel of your website

It’s important to give some thought into what you want your website to look like. Before you design your site, look online at other people in the same field as you to get an idea of crayons-2774504_640what your competitors do…you can then get an idea of what you’d like your site to look like. If you have a logo, the colours, font and style of your logo will determine the design of your website, so that everything is consistent.

Once you know what colours and fonts you want, you can think about how you want it to look. If you have an idea from another site you’ve seen, then you can work from that. When I design a site, I like to draw what a site will look like with notes on colour, font and what features need to be included on each page.

Don’t make your site too busy as people won’t know where to look first – the old ‘less is more’ is good here!

The most important thing is to enjoy setting up your website and playing around with all the features until you get what you want. The good thing about having a website is, that once is it all set up, it’s easy to change it as time goes on and your business evolves. You can add more pages, change colour, font or whatever you want. So, don’t delay, get going now, it’s not as scary as you think!

17 different types of Facebook posts

If you use Facebook to boost your business, you need to keep posting regularly and make your posts interesting enough to keep the attention of your readers….sometimes easier said than done!

social-media-3696901_640My last blog post talked about how to get more ‘likes’ on Facebook, so this is a follow-up with information on the different types of posts you can use to engage your audience.

First of all, have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? The idea of this is to keep promotional content of your business to a minimum…posting non-promotional content 80% of the time and keeping promotional content to 20%. There are loads of different types of posts…here are some of them. If you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments section!

  • Inspirational quote
  • Quote linked to your business
  • Top tip – this could be something linked to what you do, for example, if you are a crafter, you could share a video tip or crafting tip that would be helpful to other crafters.
  • questions-1328466_640Ask a question…this doesn’t have to be linked to your business. People like to talk about themselves and this is a good way to get a conversation going in your Facebook post…just be careful that the question you ask isn’t too controversial!
  • Did you know…?
  • Promote a competition you are running for your business
  • Promote your blog
  • Photos of your products
  • Image of your pets – maybe ask your followers to post an image of their pet
  • Funny story – again you can ask people if they had anything similar happen to them – this promotes engagement
  • quiz-2004350_640Something personal (make it interesting)
  • Video/Facebook ‘live’
  • Promote other people’s content – there might be an interesting article or funny story that someone else has published that you might like to share
  • Podcasts
  • Quizzes
  • Infographics
  • Call to action

Post at the best time

There has been loads of research done into when it’s best to post on Facebook. It seems that the general consensus of opinion is to post either early morning or at night, particularly around 8pm. I guess this makes complete sense as most people work during time-3222267_640 (1)the day, so are checking their Facebook before they go to work and then again, once they’re home, had dinner and relaxing in front of the TV.

It’s also good to post at weekends when people generally have more free time to browse Facebook and other social media sites. And try to make your posts weekend-friendly, focussing on things to do, places to go and entertainment…especially if your business is at a particular event, you could promote that event too!

If you want to find out exactly what time your fans are online, take a look at your posts within the Facebook Insights area. Facebook Insights is a bit limited, in that it only shows you information from the previous 90 days, but it’s a good start. It shows you information for each of the posts you put on your page, under Reach and Engagement.

Reach – this measures how many people have seen your post. It’s a good way to see how well your business, product or name is getting out there and into people’s news feed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that just because it appears in someone’s news feed that they will act on it or engage with it. But it is a good way to measure the success of your posts when you are first growing your business, as you have to grow your fan base in order to get their attention.

Engagement – this measures more than just who has viewed or who can see your post. Engagement is defined by Facebook as including all clicks on your post to read more, likes and shares and of course any comments made on your post. If your post has a high reach, it doesn’t mean it will have high engagement. It’s all down to how interesting and compelling your post it and how it pulls in your target audience. The more people that engage with your posts, such as making a comment or liking/sharing it, the more likely those people’s friends will see your post too.

Using Facebook for your business is obviously a good place to advertise your business or an event you are going to, but it is so much more than that…it’s about building good relationships with your followers, showing your human side as well as your business side and also having a bit of fun.

So, why not have a look at your Facebook Insights and see what you can find out about your audience and how they engage with your business.

Do you have any other ideas on how to promote engagement on Facebook? Drop me a line in the comments section!

How to attract ‘likes’ to your Facebook page

large-193357_640It is estimated that there are around 40 million people on Facebook, many of them small businesses who use Facebook to promote their business and brand and connect with their customers. So, with this many people out there, why is it hard to attract ‘likes’ to your page? You could go the route of using paid ads, but I’d like to take you through some ideas that don’t cost any money.

Are your posts interesting?

One of the most common reasons why people don’t like certain pages is because they find the posts boring or uninteresting. This is why it’s so important to know your audience and know who you are aiming your marketing to. You need to know what floats their boat. I can’t answer that question for you as businesses have different target audiences, but I can point you in the direction of making your posts more interesting and engaging.

Images/Video

face-1103708_640 (1)Make images a regular feature of your posts…captivating and relevant images can increase engagement and reach on your page and posts. Research has shown that posts with multiple images get more interest, so definitely worth giving that a go.

Video has become very popular too so, as well as sharing photos and images, share a few relevant videos.

Facebook ‘Live’, where you record yourself in real time talking to your Facebook followers, is definitely the way to go too in 2019 and it’s a great way to engage with your followers…and gives you the chance to show them the real you!

Personal stuff

person-1245959_640People like to see the face behind a name, so make sure that you use a good profile picture of yourself.

Don’t go into overload, but also post some personal stuff on your business page, such as:

  • A few photos of your holiday
  • Talk about your favourite things or hobbies
  • Share a photo of your pet

An occasional personal post helps give you the human aspect and people are more likely to engage with you and your brand.

  • Make sure you have completed the ‘About’ section on your Facebook page; ensure your profile section is complete and that you have given your name, address (if applicable to your business or premises) and telephone number. Use relevant keywords in your title and in the ‘About’ section.
  • Fill out as much of the page info as you can; categories, sub-categories, the URL to your website (and vice versa), where you are based, your opening hours – this will all help when people do a Google search.
  • If someone sends you a private message, make sure you reply promptly.
  • Put a link to your Facebook page on your signature on email, on your website, on business cards and any marketing information, such as flyers/posters…and of course on any other social media you have, such as Twitter, Instagram etc.
  • If you write a blog, you can draw attention to your Facebook page by mentioning it in a blog post – make sure it is relevant to your blog post of course!

Competitions, Discounts, Offers, Incentives

  • Competitions are also a great way to entice people in – if you promote your competition on your website or to your customers on your email list, making liking your page a competition entry requirement. And when you announce the result, do it on Facebook ‘Live’ or via video stream
  • Offer an exclusive discount to those who like you on Facebook
  • When you promote new products or services, offer a special discount to the first 5-10 customers
  • Ask existing customers to recommend you to their friends and family and ask for referrals – if a customer refers someone to you and they buy, they get a 10% discount off their next order…or a free gift
  • Give loyalty cards to your customers, so every time they buy from you, they get a mark on their card – when they have bought 10 items, they get a free gift – a bit like the coffee shop loyalty cards!

woman-1169324_640Above all, try and post regularly, so your name keeps popping up on your followers pages – their friends may see your name a few times and decide to take a look at your page.

If you belong to groups, leave comments on posts, and answer any questions people pose, so your name is out there (try and post using your business page, not your personal page).

Keep your posts short and sweet as readers can scan them quickly without having to click on ‘read more’

Use a variety of posts

Finally, have your heard of the 80/20 rule? The idea is to keep promotional content of your business to a minimum, so post non-promotional content 80% of the time and keep promotional content to 20%.

social-media-3758364_640There are loads of different kinds of posts to keep your followers engaged, for example, promoting your blog post, inspirational quotes, top tip, competition and photos of your products.

These are just a few ideas. Don’t forget to look at your Facebook insights…as this gives you valuable information about your page and you can see what posts have been the most popular. You can then tailor posts for future use.

Happy Posting!

Boost your productivity with a clean and clear desk space

I don’t know about you, but I love the spring…seeing everything coming back to life, flowers pushing their way through the ground, lambs in the field next door to me and spring-bird-2295434_640everything feels fresh and new. The only downside is that the grass grows at a phenomenal rate, so I’m out on the sit-on lawnmower a lot! But even that gives me a weird sense of pleasure…my thinking time!

On my last batch of lawn mowing, I was thinking about my writing work, as I often do, and about a couple of articles I’d read recently about how productivity can be boosted by simply having a clean and clear desk space – I guess the this saying sprang to mind, “A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”. This rings a bit true for me, because while I constantly make lists about everything, from my daily work ‘to do’ list to shopping to what I need to do around the house and garden, I am a maker of ‘piles’. I have piles of books, papers, a ‘to do‘pile of stuff that needs looking at urgently etc. etc.

Piles of paper

cluttered-1295494_640I’ve always thought that my piles of stuff were a kind of organisation – I know where everything is; it’s my system and it works for me. In reality, it doesn’t, there have been several times recently where I couldn’t find something important…because I’d put it ‘somewhere safe’ in a pile of other paper. I’ve always found what I’m looking for in the end, but this has taken up precious time and effort…if I’d had a designated space for my piles of stuff, I’d know for sure where everything is.

Dump the piles!

It’s quite simple to get rid of the piles of ‘stuff’. The answer is organisation.

  • Go through the piles of stuff and organise the paper into an order – you might have bills to be paid, articles to read, stuff that needs filing. Whatever it might be take a few minutes to sort things out. Use a filing cabinet or shelving system to organise yourself – maybe use box files or lever arch files to put the same kind of thing in one place.
  • Have an inbox with things that need doing today, such as bills you can pay online, a reminder to email someone or ring someone. When those things have been done, file them away.
  • Throw out anything you don’t need – there’s bound to be things you no longer need or use, so bin it!
  • computer-2593921_640Go paperless – in our world of recycling and conserving the environment, it amazes me how many people don’t do online banking, for example. It’s so much easier that sifting through page after page of bank statements, when you can do it at a click of the mouse. I do appreciate that not everyone is computer savvy, but as much as possible, get rid of everything ‘paper’ that you can.
  • Schedule in a 15-20 minute session a week to clean your desk and surrounding work space. This will help you keep things organised and won’t allow you to let your piles build up again!
  • If you have documents that you need to keep, scan them into your computer and save them in a file. These things don’t have to take up valuable space on your computer, you can use one of the many free cloud storage devices, such as Dropbox, G Drive or iCloud.
  • If you use an office desk, take everything out of the drawers, be ruthless and throw away anything that you no longer need or use – if you have anything with personal information on it, burn it or shred it. Organise your drawers, so you will know where everything is at a glance.
  • If you have loads of electronic devices, chances are you’ll have a spaghetti-like muddle of cables and wires. That can be distracting or sometimes, even dangerous. Get them organised using a cable organisation system or those plastic ties. There are loads of products to help you with this – simply Google search or look on Amazon.

background-2091_640Finally, I just LOVE stationery! I have an abundance of pens, pads, staplers and little gadgets, but do I really need them all? I like to have them, but I don’t necessarily need them all on show on my desk, so if you’re the same, it’s time to find a place to put them…in a drawer, or in a box within a drawer, so you know where they are. Actually, having all my bits and bobs in a box within a drawer means I can buy some more stationery (!)…the little boxes to put everything in! Probably not a good idea, but works for me!

How does this boost productivity?

paperclip-168336_640A clean and clear office space will help you feel more organised and motivated, whereas a messy space makes for muddled thoughts and needless stress.

A cluttered desk also serves as a distraction, so if it’s clean, you can be more focused on what you need to do.

approval-15914_640Stress plays a bit part in most of our lives, and a huge pile of paper can make you feel that the hill is too big to climb; it’s overwhelming.

So, with a clean and clear desk space, you can start the day knowing where everything is, knowing what is a priority for the day and you’ll be able to be more focused on what needs to be done.

What do you do to help keep your desk space uncluttered and keep your mind clear to focus on your work? I’d love to hear from you!