Marketing Mix – the 7 Ps

The marketing mix is not a new concept – it was first created by Jerome McCarthy in 1960 and consisted of the 4 Ps of marketing; Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Then in 1981, Booms & Bitner added three more Ps to the marketing mix; People, Processes and Physical evidence and these 7 Ps are now the set of key principles that are at the heart of all marketing strategies…often just referred to as the ‘Marketing Mix’.

How do the 7 Ps work?  

If we look at all of the Ps, one at a time, you will have a better understanding of basic marketing theory and a great foundation with which to pull together your marketing strategy.

The 7 Ps of marketing are a set of key principles that belong at the very heart of your marketing strategy. They are sometimes jointly referred to as the marketing mix.

The starting point, as most marketers know, when pulling together a marketing strategy is to identify your target market, so you know who your customers are, what they like and dislike and what makes them tick. Once you know this, you can look at the 7 Ps.  

Product

Every product you sell, make, produce or think about making should have your customer at the very heart. It should solve a problem for them, or be something they need or want. It’s worth asking yourself, ‘What is it about my product that makes your customers want to buy it?’ Do you need to change or tweak your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?

Your products should also be of good quality, and the research that you have done on your target market will give you the information you need to know about their tastes and their buying habits, so you can market your product in the best way possible to get the most sales.

Price  

There are lots of different things to consider when setting your price for a particular product or service you provide. Obviously it needs to be deemed as good value for money by your customers, but you need to take into consideration the costs of producing, promoting and delivering your product.

You also have to take the cost of a similar product that is sold by your competitors. Finding the right price for your goods is not just about undercutting the competition or offering a cheaper alternative. It’s about finding out, during your market research, what price your customer is willing or used to paying for products or services that are similar to yours.

For example, when you go to the supermarket to buy shampoo, whether you’re aware of it or not, you will probably buy a brand that is in what you consider to be in your price range. But, at the same time, you’ll probably look at other similar products on the shelf and are likely to try something outside of your habitual price range, just to try it…even though a cheaper alternative might be available! So, people don’t always go for the cheapest option.  

Place

Your product should be where your customers expect to find it. So where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets? Do you sell from home via an online shop, sell online from your own website, or do you put them on a big selling website like Amazon? You might be a small concern and sell via party plan or on Social Media sites. It might be a combination of several ways.

Whichever way you choose, it must be where your customers will expect to find your products, and you need to take into account the shelf life of your products, so if you stock them yourself, you don’t find yourself with hundreds of products coming to the end of their shelf life and you can’t shift them.

Promotion

This links into the place because, just as you need to put your product where potential customers can find it, you need to think about how you will let them know about your products through advertising.  And it needs to be where they will look and also what they look for. For example:

  • Social Media sites
  • Content marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Promotions and campaigns
  • Exhibitions or trade stands
  • PR
  • Direct mail
  • Personal selling
  • Advertising in newspapers, magazines, on radio etc.

People

This refers to the people who get your products out in the public eye, which includes you! Anyone who you employ or enlist help from to promote your business, or deliver a promotion or campaign need to have the necessary skills, qualities and drive to ensure its success.

You, and they, need to have excellent communication skills and deliver excellent customer service. After all, this is your reputation at stake and how you and anyone you employ behaves, impacts the way your customers will perceive you and your brand. You might need to delegate some of the work to a Social Media Manager, for example, who will know when and how to promote, and importantly, what will work best for your business. So, you need people around you who are like-minded, will effectively market your brand and encourage customers to spread the word about your products or services. And, never forget to keep learning and training yourself and your employees to develop new and relevant skills that will further enhance your business.

Process

The processes are what is involved in delivering your products to your customers. How your products are delivered will have a huge impact on the overall customer experience, their satisfaction levels and whether they will be loyal to your business in future. It’s absolutely vital to get this right from the very start.

Processes include:

  • Website experience – is your website easy to navigate? Are your contact details in a prominent or obvious place so you are easy to do business with?
  • Delivery time – do you have a good delivery process? Is it reliable? Does your website and product description (if selling online), tell people about delivery times and what they should expect?  
  • If your products are in a physical shop, what are the waiting times? Do they have to pre-order or can they just find the product in stock and in-store?
  • Aftercare – this is important too. Do you follow up after a sale to ask if the customer is happy with the product? If you do, and they are happy with your product, ask for a review to be left on your website or social media pages, or ask them to recommend their friends and family. You could even offer a 10% discount off their next purchase if they recommend you and that person buys from you.

Physical evidence

Finally, the last P, is physical evidence. This refers to absolutely everything that your customers see and feel when interacting with your business. From the feelings your customers have when visiting a physical environment, such as a shop or office, to the area where you show your products or services, which may be online.

It cover all the physical equipment, such as invoices, receipts, confirmation emails, ‘thank-you’ cards, packaging and branding. All of these things make up the impression that customers will have at every stage of an interaction with you and your company or brand. People expect excellence in every aspect of business and they should get the quality and service that they expect…and of those that are set as industry standards.

It also includes how you act and relate to your customers. Are you awkward and aloof, or relaxed and friendly?

All these factors contribute to the overall customer experience, so make sure that your customers have a great one!   

Benefits of using the 7 Ps in your marketing planning

The 7 Ps gives you a fantastic framework for your marketing planning. It will help you do a thorough job, so for each product you sell, or service you provide, ensure that each one follows the best practices of the 7 Ps. After all, it is referred to as the ‘Marketing Mix’ – it is the right marketing mix to put in place to make sure that each campaign, each project, each product will be successful. The 7Ps can also help you look at previous projects or campaigns that were not successful. I’m sure you’ll find that they weren’t in line with the 7Ps.

As I said at the very beginning of this article, the 7 Ps are a set of key principles that are at the heart of all marketing strategies. They help make the different between instinct-led marketing and process-led marketing, which in most cases is a more sure-fire way to success.

I hope this article has helped you to understand how the 7 Ps fit in and why they are such an important part of marketing theory. Let me know what you thought about this article in the comments below.

How to identify your target market

Your customers are your biggest assets; they love your brand, buy your products or services, recommend you to friends and family, give you rave reviews and are loyal to your business. It totally makes sense to have a customer-first mind-set and this is now firmly embedded in the culture of most big corporations. They recognise and understand that building the right customer relationships are crucial; it not only builds trust and loyalty, but also results in repeat business and recommendations. This is just as important, if not more so, with the small business. It’s not something that can be achieved overnight, but if you work on getting to know your customers like the back of your hand, your business will succeed. 

You can’t successfully market your business if you don’t know who you’re targeting. Who is your ideal customer? What is their persona? Why would they want to buy your particular products or services? All these questions and more need to be answered so you know what your ideal customer looks like and what makes them tick. Then you will be better placed to target them with your marketing.

Identifying your target market is all about three things; Demographic, Geographics and Psychographics. 

Demographics

  • What is their age and gender?
  • Are they married or living together?
  • Do they have children?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • If you know what they do for a living, what is their rough income?
  • Do they own their own home?

You can usually gain demographic information from your existing customers by simply talking to them. Social media accounts can also give you relevant demographic information. If your customers are on Facebook, for example, you can usually see information like date of birth, relationship status – people seem to love to share about their lives on social media, so you will probably see if they have children or grandchildren, what they do for a living etc.

You could also get this information from feedback you get. For example, if you make and produce quality rag dolls, you may have feedback that says “Love your product, my daughter/grand-daughter loves her doll and hasn’t put it down since she received it.”  This tells you that your customer is a Mum and Grandma and that she likes buying things for her grandchildren.

Knowing the demographics of your existing customers makes it easier to tailor your marketing accordingly.

If you’re really not sure who your target market it, go to Google and research some of your competitors, people who do the same as you, and look at their marketing techniques. Who are they targeting and how? What are the messages they are sending out? What images do they use? What media do they use to advertise? You will then have an idea of what direction you should be aiming for with your business. 

Geographics

This is the simplest – where do your target market live? Are they local to you? Just in a particular region? In the same country, but miles away – nationwide? Or international – in other countries?

Psychographics – why customers buy what they do

If demographics look at who your customers are, psychographics take you a bit further into their lives to find out why they buy the things they do. What motivates them and what makes them tick.

Psychographics include things like:

  • Interests
  • Activities
  • Religious beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Personality
  • Spending habits
  • Lifestyle choices

Interests

You might think this relates to hobbies, but it’s more than that. It’s more about what you’re interested in, rather than partake in. It’s probably the most telling feature on the list as ‘interests’ covers a wide range of things. Interests will include life experiences and are shaped by all sort of things, such as culture, upbringing and socioeconomic status.

For example:

  • If you have a child, you will be interested in raising them. You will look on Google for ways to be a better parent, how to keep them amused, how to deal with certain problems etc. You will spend time during the day automatically learning how to be a good parent and thinking about being a good parent, as well as playing with and talking to your child.
  • You may be interested in getting fit. You might want to change the way you look by losing weight, gaining weight, toning up muscles. This might have an impact on what you eat and drink, how you spend your time and where you go. You might go running, go to the gym, do a line dancing or salsa class!
  • You might be interested in getting rich, so will be interested in how people get rich quick, in celebrities and their lifestyles. You might google ‘get rich quick’ schemes or business opportunities.
  • You might simply be interested in going out with your friends and having a great time, drinking and eating in good restaurants, or just clubbing and getting drunk! This might spark an interest in fashion and accessories or fine wines and Michelin star restaurants. 

One person’s interests will change over time. What you liked to do when you were a child are vastly different to your interests as a teenager and as an adult.   

So, looking at this from a target market point of view, interests will not necessarily characterise your target market – you’ll want to look at a range of interests to suit each of your products or services.

Activities

Now then, activities is the section that could be described as hobbies. As part of psychographic research, you are going to want to know what activities or hobbies your target audience get involved in. You’ll get answers like reading, writing, going to the gym, fishing, taking part in a sport, computer games, playing a musical instrument, singing, painting…you get the picture. The list is endless, but the more information you can gather about your ideal customer or target market, the better you’ll understand them. 

You also need to think about people who answer that they don’t have a hobby or many interests. How can you word the question so that you get some kind of answer? One way would be to say, ‘how do you spend your free time when you’re not working?’ Some people might be workaholics and actually spend all their time commuting to and from work and at work, so that when they’re home, it’s eat and sleep…yes, there are those that do that! But this still gives you an answer, and I bet that if they commute on public transport, they’ll be glued to their phone, so may see your ads or marketing. You can still target them.

Someone else might say that they spend their free time with their family – they may have children and they take up all their free time.  It’s good to know that, again you can target parents.

Someone might be involved in their local community, run a Scout or Girl Guide group; they might be involved in church activities or council meetings. I’m sure you get the idea.

Each of these kinds of responses gives you a lot of information about your target market, or your ideal client.

Religious Beliefs

This is pretty obvious – people may be reluctant to give these details, but if they say they attend services for example, you can always ask where and if they enjoy it. Are they an active member? Do they get involved in youth groups or teaching the youngsters about their religion?  

Attitudes

OK, this is a pretty hard one and involves you drilling down further into the lives of your target audience. If you want to discover their attitude or opinion on something, you need to ask questions.

For example, if you sell beauty products, you could ask what they think about beauty products in general. You’ll probably get answers like ‘they must be cruelty free’ or ‘not contain palm oil’, or be vegan-friendly. They may ask if you do products for sensitive skin as they get eczema.

You’d need to think of questions that are related to your particular products or services. Let’s take another example, if you sell some kind of software, you might ask, ‘What do you think about the performance of Microsoft 10, compared to Microsoft 7 or 8?’

Obtaining attitudes to things around them, not just related to your business, gives you a much deeper insight. You could ask about their opinion on the government or wind turbines. Knowing someone’s opinion or attitude to the world around them helps you to know your audience better and know more about what makes them tick. 

Asking questions will also give away details of your targeted market’s personality, their values, what they like to spend money on and their lifestyle choices. 

However, psychographics are difficult to gain and take a huge amount of time, effort and research in order for you to gain all the information you need. This is one of the reasons why big companies have a marketing department, solely dedicated to finding out who the customers are and working out the right way to market their products to attract those customers. If you combine the data you collect on the demographic and psychographics of your customers, you can paint a picture of what your potential buyer (or your buyer persona) will look like and who they are. Let’s have a look at one example …

Buyer persona 

Let’s say you’ve done your research and this is what you have discovered…

Demographic data

  • Female, aged 40 – 55
  • Married with children
  • Household income around £45,000
  • Stay at home Mum who works part-time

Psychographic data

  • Interested in health and fitness
  • Likes to be eco-friendly
  • Is an active member on Facebook and Pinterest
  • Likes socialising with her small group of friends
  • Loves cooking

This demonstrates the difference between the two sets of data and why it’s important to gain both – you have more insight into what your customers might like. Then you can look at your products to see what would interest this kind of customer.

How do you make this relate to your business…and therefore your marketing? I’ll share some examples…

If you have a crafting business, for example, and your crafting activities were soap making or candle making, you’d know that this customer likes natural ingredients that are environmentally friendly and safe for children, so that could be part of your marketing angle.

If you are in the catering industry, making cakes or preserves, she might be interested in special birthday cakes for her family or in your preserves and pickles that use natural ingredients.

Her children are likely to have birthday parties and her friends are likely to have children of a similar age, so anything you make from a crafting perspective may be of interest – bunting for parties, toys, jewellery, etc. And as she enjoys socialising with her small group of friends, she may be interested in hosting an at-home party to buy your craft products.

Where to find her

Once you have this data, you’ll also know where to find her and this is very important. She may attend local fitness clubs or gyms; she may visit a local spa; she will enjoy lunches out at restaurants or bars with her group of friends. This is where you could leave your flyers and business cards.

Now you know what your customer looks like and what she’s interested in, you can tailor blogs to suit her, you can make products you know she’ll like, and you can find out if she has any particular problem that your products can solve. 

Survey your existing customers

If you already have a raft of existing customers who buy from you regularly or even customers that have bought once or twice, hopefully you will have asked for their email address, so you can let them know when you launch new products or have any special offers etc. If you have emails of customers, send them a simple survey asking them some simple questions. You can gain both demographic and psychographic information this way, but you can also find out what products of yours they like, what they don’t like, what could be improved and what other products they’d like to see you supply.

Analyse the feedback you have from your customers

Do you have feedback from your customers? Do they recommend certain products? If they do, what reason do they give for the recommendation? It might be that the reason they give is a great tip on how to market that product.

If you have any negative feedback or complaints, don’t put them away and forget them or let them get you down.

You should look at negative feedback/complaints as an opportunity. What are they complaining about and why? Can that product be improved? Imagine being able to go back to a customer telling them that you took their complaint or feedback on board, looked at ways to improve the product and have come up with a new and better product. Then offer to let them have it at a reduced price.

This shows goodwill, shows you’ve listened to that customer, done something about it and then offered the improved version. They will feel valued as a customer, feel that they’ve contributed and will be much more likely to sing your praises and recommend you to their friends and family. You’ve just turned around a complaint into a compliment!

How do your customers like to buy their products?

These days, I would hazard a guess that most of your customers will want to look at products/services online before they buy. They have such a wide choice that it’s important you make yours stand out. People spend their commute to work, breaks, lunch hour, evenings and weekends online, usually browsing through social media sites or looking for something specific. If you are not on these platforms then your products/services will not be found.

Selling online

Social Media is a great way to promote your products or services and to advertise what you do. But, you also have to bear in mind that not everyone is on social media. If your target market is in the older age bracket, they may prefer not to be on social media, so you will have to reach them another way.  

Even though they don’t do social media, your target audience probably still uses the internet to search for things they want. You could set up an online shop on eBay, Spotify or Etsy.

A website is a crucial business tool – you can link it to your Social Media sites and vice versa. A website can help you reach a wider audience – it gives you a shop front that is open 24/7 – you can even sell when you are sleeping and you can sell to anyone in the world!

You can put more information about yourself and your business and products or services that you can on Social Media and, if you have an online shop, you can point your customers to that site. Whatever you choose to do, there is always a marketing technique to support it. If you have a website, you can also choose to add a blog, which could also be a fabulous tool to write about your individual products or services … just another way to get your name/business out there.

I know this has been a very long post, but I hope that it give you inspiration and fires you up to investigate your target market in more detail. Once you are armed with all the relevant information, and market your products or services to that audience, you stand a much better chance of making a sale or obtaining a new customer for your services.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please like and follow me for more marketing information for small businesses. And if you have any comments, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Hi everyone,

A few days ago I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award. It’s a different kind of award to the big industry awards in that it is an award by bloggers to other bloggers. What a fab idea to bring a bit of sunshine into our lives when everywhere around us is doom and gloom at the moment!  I was very honoured and so happy to have been nominated by someone I don’t personally know,  Debby Winter, as it means she has come across my blog, liked it and nominated me. That means a lot!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Debby and tell you a bit about her. She is an SEO blogger (Search Engine Optimization) and offers a range of low cost SEO services. She likes jogging, swimming and skiing and, if she could go back in time to any century, she would love to go back and sing with Homer and chat with Cleopatra! If you’d like to find out more about Debby and what she does, swing over to her website… https://debbyseo.wordpress.com/seo/

I have been blogging for a few years now, doing just a fun blog to start with about my new life in France with my partner. Then, when I started as a freelance writer, decided to start a blog about marketing to help small businesses.  

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a Freelance Writer and Marketing Consultant for small businesses and I am based in France, although have clients in different places around the globe! That’s the great thing about an online business, I can write for anyone, no matter where in the world they are! Writing has always been my passion, so I’m lucky to be able to do it for a living. My blog articles cover marketing tips for anyone with a small business, from SEO to website pages, branding to social media.

Sunshine Blogger Award

My Nominees: Of course, the Sunshine Blogger Award isn’t an official award, but it’s a fun way of spreading motivation and inspiration. To get the flow going I have selected a handful of nominees and left a message on their blogs. If you read this and like to get involved (and why wouldn’t you?) don’t be shy and consider yourself nominated!! My nominees are

Wordstostoriesofficejockeystraveladdictedunicornjocajicsocialmediaandcoffeelittleconquestasociallyfataleoftooawkwardhistorymaniacmeganscatteredthoughts  

OK, now to answer Debby’s questions…

1) Are you familiar with SEO strategies? Have you optimized your site yourself? Did you do off site or on site SEO for your blog or website and are you happy with the results?
I am familiar with SEO strategies and I built, designed and optimized my website myself…both on-site and off-site SEO. I am happy but there is always room for improvement!

2) What is the most embarrassing clothing item you have ever worn?
A brightly multi-coloured shellsuit in the 1980s when I was a young Mum. I thought I was the bees knees at the time, but looking back, it was just awful!…and so was the overly big hair!

3) Have you ever intentionally broken the law? When? Where? and how?
No, I haven’t broken the law – I would have been too scared when I was younger of the wrath of my Mum and used to be married to a policeman, so it wouldn’t have gone down well! But now that I’m not……!!! 

4) If you were given $750 to spend on anything you wanted, what would you buy?
I would treat myself and my partner to a holiday in the sun when all this lockdown is over! And spend some of it on my lovely grandchildren!

5) If you had enough money that you never needed to work again, what would you do with your time?
I would still have to write, but would try all different types of writing and go to exotic places just to get the inspiration. My partner and I have said if we had loads of money, we’d buy property all over the world, so we could live in permanent Spring time!

6) If you could start over your life and change one thing, what would you change?
I’d have started my own business when I was a lot younger and found it easier to learn new things!

7) What do you consider your greatest strength, your greatest weakness?
My greatest strength has to be my sense of optimism, and I always try to see the good in everyone. Even though I’ve had my fair share of knocks in life, I always manage to get up, dust myself down and start all over again.
My greatest weakness is that I have a tendency to let my good nature be taken advantage of. And chocolate…I love chocolate! 

8) What have you tried lately that is new and exciting?
It’s not something I’ve tried yet, but I’m working up to it…doing live video and recorded video on my website and social media pages. I hate being in front of the camera but am both scared and excited at the same time.  

9) What was the greatest adventure in your life so far?
I went to India on a four week work assignment for my company’s charity arm. I worked with an NGO in Chennai – The Banyan, who help take mentally ill women off the streets and rehabilitate them. I worked with the NGO’s communication team, training them and pulling together a workable plan to communicate with their 100 employees across three different locations and in 16 different Indian languages. It was a huge challenge, but I loved every minute, absolutely fell in love with the country, the culture and its people and I have so many fond memories of all the people I met and sights I saw. I had never flown long haul before then and never thought I would have such an adventure, travelling by myself – it taught me a lot about myself.  

10) What makes you happiest and when you think about it you cannot help but smile?
My children and grandchildren. I miss them all so much and the lockdown means I probably won’t see them for a long while yet.
And I love singing with my partner, who is a musician – it’s lovely to have a hobby in common and something that you enjoy doing with your OH. 

11) Are some people’s lives worth more than others? Why or why not?
This is highly contentious! Generally no, I think we should all be equal and a life is a life and should all be cherished. But what about the people in the world who choose to rape, murder etc? Are their lives worth more than their victims? I’ll leave that one with you! 

My favourite articles:

My favourite articles on this blog are the ones around SEO and Hashtags and also the articles about GDPR. Risk was something I did a lot in my previous job and so this is something I’m very interested in and know a lot about. Not many people know but it is mandatory to have a privacy policy on your website (certainly if you are in the UK or Europe), so I also specialise in writing those pages. Check out my marketing services to see how I can help your small business get noticed and my writing services , where you can find out the services I offer.

Sunshine Blogger Award

My Questions:

  1. What social media channels do you use and why?

  2. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

  3. What is your favourite pizza topping?

  4. What’s the number 1 thing you need most help with in your business right now?

  5. If you had enough money that you never needed to work again, what would you change?

  6. What is the weirdest smell you’ve ever smelled?

  7. What secret conspiracy would you like to start?

  8. What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?

  9. What’s your favourite music album of all time?

  10. What has been your greatest adventure in life so far?

  11. What makes you happiest and when you think about it, you cannot help but smile?

THE RULES

* Introduce yourself

* Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their site
https://cindyfreelancewriter.com/

* Provide a link to a favourite article on your blog

* Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you

* List all rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your blog post.

* Nominate 11 new bloggers and their blogs. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the reward and ask your nominees 11 questions.

That’s all for now folks, if you liked this post don’t be a stranger and feel free to take a shot at it yourself, and remember to comment, like and share!

With love

Cindy Mobey 

Discover the secrets of delegation for small businesses

Unless you’ve actually owned your own small business, it’s difficult to tell someone what it’s like – you need vision, passion, a huge helping of optimism and lots of positive energy to start a business from scratch. Then you have to maintain a high level of dedication and work hard to pull everything together. There is so much to think about, from sorting out your products/services, your brand, website, social media marketing, online marketing, ads, as well as running your business and all the day to day things that entails.  

Most of us who own a small business launch ourselves headlong into everything, have our fingers in every pie. But even during the early stages of your business, it’s often worth getting some help with some aspects, such as building your website, designing a logo and advice on building your brand. However, I know that most of us will try and do everything ourselves and eventually there will come a time when you find you can’t do everything on your own AND keep your business successful and thriving.

It’s impossible to work 24 hours a day, so there comes a point where something has to give. You either have to think about what you can stop doing, or you have to think about delegating some of the tasks you’re either not that good at, or don’t like doing, or simply need someone with more expertise to get it right. It can feel like a tough call to make as your business is, in many ways, your baby. I understand that only too well, and delegating or outsourcing some of the work means you have to give up a certain amount of control over that area.

How do you decide what to delegate?    

First of all, why is delegating so important to you and your business? The most important aspect must be that it makes financial sense – that you’ll make more money by passing a task on to someone else, than if you tried to do it yourself.

Most businesses think nothing of employing someone to do their accounts or tax return. Most are happy that they are handing it over to a professional and you trust them to do it properly. It’s the same principle with the other aspects of your business that you want to pass onto someone else.

Another thing to think about is the stress factor. If you try to do too much and are working long hours, six to seven days a week to keep your business running, you are in serious danger of suffering from burnout. As well as making you physically and mentally ill, it can leave you feeling trapped, detached from the very business you love and with no motivation to pull yourself back up again.

You are the leader, the boss, of your business. If you had an employee who was not coping with the sheer amount of work he/she had, what would you do? You would most probably remove some of the stress that person was under by giving some of their work to someone else to relieve the stress they were feeling.

As the leader of your business, you need to make the best use of the resources you have. Your time, energy and enthusiasm MUST be spent on working on the most important and core parts of your business.  

OK, time to put your thinking cap on. First of all, do not pass on any tasks that are the absolute core of your business – things that you need to have absolute control over and MUST do yourself. Think of a big company like DELL or Apple. They come up with the innovative ideas for their products that fit their brand and also work on the design, so they know exactly what they want and what it will look like. But they don’t manufacture the devices themselves – that is outsourced.

For a smaller business, it could be that you design and produce something yourself and you get involved in everything around that. But you may not have the expertise or time to spend on social media, your blog, your website or sending out your monthly newsletter. That’s where you can get someone else to do that for you.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of passing work on to someone else.

Advantages

  • You get to work with experts, who will bring a fresh perspective to your business and may come up with ideas you hadn’t thought of.  
  • Work will get done more quickly by passing on things that are time consuming.
  • It gives you the chance to focus on the skills you bring to your business – strengthening the processes that make your business work.
  • Some of the risk is shared – by delegating certain processes or maybe a campaign, you will benefit from their ability to plan and alleviate potential risks.
  • It’s always going to cost less to outsource small pieces of work than hiring someone on a permanent basis.
  • If you decide to outsource work overseas, due to time zone differences, a certain amount of work will get done whilst you are sleeping!
  • You will be able to do more effective and targeted campaigns and projects that you wouldn’t normally have the time to take on.
  • Finally, you get peace of mind knowing that you have hired a reliable individual or agency and that the tasks you have assigned will be handled in a professional and efficient manner.

Disadvantages

  • You do lose some control over how the tasks you assign are being monitored and performed, but so long as you take this into account when hiring and understand how the other person/agency works, it shouldn’t be a big issue.
  • Make sure you read all the terms and conditions of whoever you hire. Some big agencies have very long contracts and you could find yourself with hidden costs if you don’t read all the small print. With an individual, the terms and conditions tend to be more straight-forward.
  • Be aware of data protection. With the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), you need to be very vigilant if you are outsourcing tasks that use your customer data. You need to be aware of the privacy rules – always worth thinking about, although most individuals offering freelance work/agencies will be aware of the rules and regulations, so always worth checking.
  • Although rare I’m sure, some individuals/agencies will be more interested in the money they are earning, than giving a good quality service…as I say this is rare and most are reputable, but just something else to be aware of.
  • If you are outsourcing or delegating work overseas, you will need to check that anything you ask them to do doesn’t get lost in translation. Make sure they understand exactly what you expect and by when. And you need to be aware of the different time zones for anything that is needed by a particular deadline.

In conclusion, if you are looking to get more stuff done in less time, so you can concentrate on the core aspects of your business, then delegating tasks or outsourcing projects or campaigns might be the best way forward for you and for your business. 

SEO and Social Media

Do you take the time to promote your content on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram? Do you hope that this will boost your search engine rankings?

There are experts out there who think trying to boost your search engine rankings this way is a waste of time. However, there is a link between social media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but it isn’t very clear unless you try to understand the relationship between the two. I’m going to have a look at what you need to do to get search ranking from your social presence…and so bring traffic to your website.

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According to Google, social media is NOT a factor that directly affects your SEO ranking, but there is evidence that things like ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are somehow related to your ranking. However, social ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are definitely a direct ranking factor for Bing…go figure!

How does social media affect SEO?

Let’s say you write a blog and write a sentence about your latest blog and post the URL link to it on your Facebook page.  It gets lots of likes and shares. Social media is built for people to share content, so the more people that share it, the more visibility your post will have. If friends of friends see your post and then click on the link to your actual blog (the URL), this will take traffic to your website or blog site, so they are linking to your site and it’s that linking to your site that is a major factor in SEO ranking. I know…a bit confusing!

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So how can you optimize your social media for SEO?

  • First of all, do you have several social media sites…Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest? Make sure that you have a consistent profile image so you are more recognisable. Complete all the profile or bio section, making sure it is totally relevant to your business, whilst being attractive enough to appeal to your audience. Include a link to your website and, if you have a newsletter sign up page/opt-in or a particular product campaign on the go, do a link to that too.
  • You hear this all the time, but it is so important…be consistent with your posts and post regular updates. This will be different depending on what social media site you use, for example on Twitter you need to post several times a day, but you don’t need to do this with Facebook or LinkedIn. So post according to guidelines for each different site.
  • Create great posts. Use eye-catching images/photos that attract attention, craft a good catchy headline and actually ASK for a share. This is good optimization and it has been proven that these techniques work.
  • The question I’ve been asked a lot lately is around the use of hashtags. Can they help with SEO? Hashtags are keywords, so yes, they can help to categorise your content and help social media users find it. But, hashtag use is different on every social media site…they are used extensively on Instagram, for example, but not so much on Facebook, although it is becoming more popular.
  • Take a good look at your website and ensure that your website content is optimized for social sharing. Here are a few tips to encourage visitors to share your content.
    – Create quality content with a great headline
    – Optimize content keywords
    – Include eye-catching images/photos
    – Make sure you have a call to action
    – Add social media sharing buttons to all your content – if you make it easy for people to share your content, they are more likely to do it.
    – Videos are huge at the moment and show up in search results, so introduce the odd video into your content.
  • Don’t forget about all of the above – it’s not enough to do it all and then walk away and leave your sites to their own devices. You need to constantly be there to engage with people who comment on your content – answer any queries, comment on their smartphone-1894723_640comments and respond to any reviews you get. You can also connect with influencers related to your content – like and share their content, make comments on their pages. If you belong to groups relating to your niche, take part in conversations, give advice, answer questions – interact with people. Your responses and interaction help social media algorithms recognise that your content is active, which in turn, improves its reach. And KEEP POSTING – social media moves very quickly and it’s easy for posts to get lost among all the others.

Like everything else when running your small business, social media is a crucial part of getting your messages, services and products out to the masses. It takes time and effort to make it successful, but stick with it and it will work.

Now, please share this article if you have found it useful and take a look at my other blog posts to find more articles to help you market your small business.

 

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

A marketing plan helps you develop your products and services that will meet the needs and wants of your target market. Marketing helps your customers see and understand why your products/services are better than or different from those offered by your competitors.

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

  1. Why do you need marketing?

Marketing is what builds the relationship between you, your business and your customers. If you are a small business, it is vital to build a sound relationship of trust and understanding with your customer. This makes them loyal to you and your brand and loyal customers will not only give you repeat business, they will have enough confidence in you to try out new products or services. They will also recommend you to their friends and family.

Marketing also massively increases the visibility of your brand, so you are more easily recognisable.

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  1. Identify your target market

How do you identify your target market? Take a look at your existing regular customers. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their problems that you can solve? What other needs do they have?

For example, if you sell baby products, your target market will be parents, parents to be, grandparents etc. You could also target baby shower events and children’s events; childminders; nurseries; soft-play areas; local Mum and baby groups; exercise classes for Mums to be or Mum and baby classes. The list is endless.

Have a look at your competitors – how do they meet the needs of your target market? How can you do it better?

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and external Opportunities and Threats. Pulling together a SWOT analysis can help you analyse where your business, its products/services, fit within the market and looks at your unique selling position. It can also help you find out how you can improve your business; what you’re really good at and what other businesses do.

Strengths – what do you do well in your business? What do you do better than your competitors?

Weaknesses – What do you need to improve on to remain competitive? What do your competitors do better than you? What is holding you back?

Opportunities – What current trends could lead your business to have increased sales? What can you use to your best advantage?

Threats – What could harm your business? What are the advantages that your competitors have over your business?

I have a FREE worksheet that you can download to help you…Conduct a SWOT Analysis 

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  1. Look at your competitors

List your competitors – who are they? If you analyse your competitors, you can find out how they work, what they do and compare them to your business.

What products or services do they sell?

Do they offer a similar product or service to you?

What do they offer their customers?

What do they do to engage with their customers?

Where are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

How do they market their products/services…e.g. social media, advertising etc.

The more information you can get about your competitors, the more chance you have of identifying where you fit into the market place and what opportunities are available to you.

  1. Decide on your goals

Once you know where your business stands in the market place and who your competitors are, you can decide what goals you want to set for your business. What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months?

Make your goals specific – instead of saying, ‘I want to sell more products’, look at your products and decide exactly how much more you want to sell. They might come under different categories. Go back to the baby product scenario…you might sell baby massage products, so a goal could be ‘Increase sales of baby massage products by 20% compared to last year’. You then have a definite goal to aim for…and it’s easier to review every few months because you calculate if you are on track to achieve your goal.

Aim for 4-6 short term goals – things that are fairly easy to achieve. You can always add more throughout the year if you achieve them.

Aim for 2-4 long term goals – things that are a bit more challenging. If you find that one of these goals is too challenging part way through the year, you can always break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks. 

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  1. Set your marketing strategies

Once you have set your goals, you can start looking at the short term goals in more detail. What activity is going to help you achieve that goal? What price or process will help you achieve your goals?

When you are trying to decide on which activities to use, choose those that best suit your business and your customers. For example, an advert in a local magazine or newspaper won’t necessarily reach your target market if they are primarily young adults, who generally don’t read this kind of thing. It’s a good idea to go for a few activities that complement each other. For example if your products/services can be for any age, you might go for an advert in a magazine, but also use social media or maybe local radio. You might sell your products at a market or craft fayre, so advertise the event on social media and do links to your products.

  1. Set your budget

It’s important to know how much you can afford to spend on marketing as not all marketing is free. You need to think hard about how best to spend that budget so you get the maximum benefit. Only spend on your current marketing goals, so that budget is used to help you achieve those goals. Advertising on Facebook, Instagram or in magazines all come at a cost, but if you are reaching your target customers, it will be worth it.     

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  1. Ensure your marketing plan is kept up to date

Reviewing your marketing plan on a regular basis is very important so that you not only know if you are on track to achieve your goals, you might also identify new trends in the market that means you have to tweak a particular goal.

It also serves the purpose of scrapping anything that you know isn’t working or changing a goal if you need to.

Looking at your plan helps you to measure how you’re doing against your plan and whether you will be successful.

Now you know why it’s so important to have a marketing plan, it’s time to jump into action!

Click here for your step by step guide to pulling together your marketing plan, You’ll also find a marketing plan template with the guide.

 

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.

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.

A picture is worth a thousand words

As a small business owner, most of us use social media or blogs to promote our businesses with our potential and existing audience. But when you know that most audiences engage with your content within the first eight seconds, it’s crucial to draw them in. This is where images are invaluable.

The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ simply means that an image can convey a point or idea just as effectively as the written word. Images sometimes speak to us and actually say more than any caption you could write. According to Wikipedia, the phrase was first used by a journalist in 1911, so it’s nothing new. A photo or painting can show you certain emotions with one glance.

Images can be calming…quirky…modern…shocking – the media use images to convey their story. What do the images below say to you?

Some are calm images, some a bit scary – they might mean different things to different people, but they are very important in an article or blog and help pull a reader into your writing.

Audiences are lazy and don’t necessarily want to read a full article to get the gist of it – they want information as quickly as possible. However, if you were to write a blog post with just images, it wouldn’t mean a lot; they are important, but they have a supportive role that enhances your writing.

When writing anything, paragraphs are used to break up the text – in the same way, images should be used to help break up the monotony of just words on a page. If faced with a very long piece of text, in general people are more likely to scroll on through, but if the text is broken up with relevant images that illustrate what the text is about, this makes the text easier on the eye, easier to read and understand.

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Clear, crisp image!

When writing online, it’s important to have clear images. You can either take photographs yourself (make sure that they are high resolution) or you can use photos from the internet. However, it is very important that you do not breach any laws of copyright, so use a reputable site to source your images. There are several different types of images available…

  • Royalty free – you can usually use these images as you like, but you must not edit the pictures or resell them.
  • Rights managed – With this type of image, you have to buy a single-use license for each image you want. You also have to decide where and how you are going to use that image. As the license suggests, it is for single use, so if you buy it for an article or blog post, you wouldn’t then be able to use the same image elsewhere – you would have to buy an additional license.
  • Public domain. These images don’t have any restrictions, you don’t have to ask permission to use them and, although it’s considered courteous to put an accreditation note on the image, it’s not necessary and definitely not obligatory in any way.
  • Creative Commons. These are images that have been created by someone who wants to have accreditation to his/her work.

There are lots of sites out there, for example,  Shutterstock,  are great for buying images. If you want free images that need no accreditation, check out Unsplash or Pixabay. I use these regularly!

pie-chart-149727_640Images don’t just have to be photographs. If you’re trying to explain something technical, screen shots can be a great way to illustrate what you’re trying to say. And graphs, pie charts and info-graphics all have their place too in helping to make your text stand out and to help you tell your story.

Images are also fabulous at helping you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you add an image to your blog, put a caption on your image. This caption  or alternative text, as it is more widely known, is what Google uses to crawl the internet looking for images, so descriptive ‘alternative text’ can help Google find your images…and therefore your blog.

ID-100245378Images of people are always popular; as humans we tend to relate to other humans, so the image of someone’s face will pull readers in. There are lots of stock photo images of groups of people and individuals, but don’t use these too often as they are too staged – try and take some of your own. If you’re giving someone advice about a topic, include a photo of yourself smiling and encouraging. Your readers will be able to relate to you and it’s always good to know the face behind the words!

Obviously you don’t want to overdo it. Images should be there to serve a purpose and illustrate a point. You don’t want to shove in a few pics randomly – they need to relate to your content.

Finally, size isn’t everything! You don’t want your images to overpower your words, so keep them to a reasonable size, so your reader can see them without zooming in, but not so big that they take over the text.

I hope this has been helpful. Please let me know if you have any further hints or tips for using images alongside the written word.