9 ways to keep your customers coming back for more!

Happy customers will love your products or services, they will recommend you to their families and friends…and they will keep coming back for more.

So, how do you get your customers to return time and time again?

The answer is providing excellent customer service. But not just providing excellent customer service, you need to have that genuine desire to delight your customers, making them feel valued and important. Customer service is not about selling your products or services, it’s about the whole experience that someone has when dealing with you; what you make them think and how you make them feel. There are several ways to do this ….and so keep them coming back time and time again.

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Know your products or services  

First of all, you need to know every single product or service that you offer inside out. Know how they work, anticipate what questions your potential customers will ask about each one and know the answers so, when a customers asked, you can immediately reply. Think about what your existing customers have asked you in the past and keep a record. There will always be a list of common questions.

Be approachable   

Customer service is all about being friendly and approachable – it starts with a smile. When I worked for a global corporation, we were told that when we answered the woman-977020_640phone, we must smile as it comes through on the call, even though the customer cannot see you…and it is true.

If you are meeting a customer face to face be welcoming and, if they buy something from you, thank them. This is so simple, but so important – it shows you value your customers and are grateful for them choosing you above your competitors.

Give a little respect!

Sometimes customer service can involve emotions; your customer may be upset, angry, happy, joyful, tearful…you can see every emotion. The most important thing is to keep neutral – NEVER let your own emotions get in the way of seeing your customer walk away happy with the service you have provided. Upset and angry customers can always be turned around by you understanding their issue and asking them what you can do to make it better. This takes me onto…

Listen to your customers

This is probably one of the most basic rules of excellent customer service. Listen intently to what they are saying and be aware of body language as someone can be talking to you as if they’re mildly annoyed, but their body language could be telling a completely different story.

hand-997394_640When your customer tells you something they are not happy about, or makes a suggestion that something you do could be improved, repeat what they have just told you. This shows them that you are listening to them and also that you value what they’re saying. Ask what you can do to rectify a mistake, or complaint….or ask how they think that something you do could be improved. Then it’s important to take the answers on board, write them down and tell your customer that you will deal with it personally and get back to them within a specified time-frame….and make sure you do! If within that time-frame you don’t have an answer, contact the customer anyway, even if just to let them know that you haven’t forgotten them, but that the issue or whatever, is taking longer than you expected.

Respond in a timely manner

If you use social media and customers make comments, respond as quickly and efficiently as you can. The same applies to emails…respond quickly. You may not be able to answer the query immediately, but responding quickly, if only to say you’ve seen their comment/received their email and that you’ll get back to them with an answer.

Ask for feedback on your products/services 

feedback-4746811_640As a small business, it’s important to keep in touch with your customers, so it’s always worth giving a customer a call, or send an email, thanking them for their custom and asking for feedback on the product or service you provided. This often produces very positive comments, which you can then ask them to put into writing or to leave a review or comment on your website or social media page.

You could also conduct a customer survey, use a feedback form … just try and make it common practice to ask for feedback.

Use the feedback you receive

If you ask for formal feedback via a survey or feedback form, it’s important that you act on the feedback you get. Review all the feedback you get, identify areas where you can improve and make any appropriate changes to your business. You may even get an idea for a new product or service you hadn’t thought of from feedback.

Keep your word

If you promise to do something for your customer, do it! Never break a promise or under-deliver. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

There are times when you can’t deliver what you’ve promised…speak to the customer, apologise and explain why and offer an alternative.

Reward your customers

gift-box-2458012_640Customers love to feel valued and a simple way to do this is to thank them for their custom – a simple thank you card sent with their order will go a long way.

It’s also good to encourage them to recommend you to friends and family – how? Offer an incentive. If a customer refers a friend and that friend buys from you, the customer gets 10% off his next order with you or receives a small gift.

You could also run a loyalty scheme or loyalty card – every time a customer buys from you they get points on a card – when the card is full – say having bought 10 items, they get a free gift or their next item up to a certain value, free of charge. Online card companies do this a lot.

Conclusion  

Excellent customer service is all about making your customers happy. If you have happy customers, they will be loyal to your brand, will recommend you to their family and friends and they will definitely be back for more!

If you have any other ideas on how to keep your customers coming back for more, please leave a comment.

GDPR Update

Disclaimer: GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a very large and complicated piece of legislation. I’m not a lawyer. The information in this article is absolutely not legal advice and I cannot be held responsible for its accuracy. Details of where to get the legal information can be found at the end of this article. However, the information provided will give you a starter for ten and give the most up to date information I can find…as at January 2020.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into force on 25 May 2018 for European businesses. As a small business, I read everything I could get my hands on to ensure that my business was compliant; 19 months on, there are still hundreds of businesses that don’t comply or who simply don’t know how to.

 

Although the UK is leaving Europe, if a business has any dealings with European countries, or has customers in European countries, they will still be subject to GDPR, so it’s vitally important to understand what you need to do to comply. I know that you’re probably glazing over now and may think it doesn’t affect you and who’s going to know if you comply or not, but small businesses are being investigated and questions are being asked, so it’s worth making the effort to ensure that you are covered…and it’s not too difficult to get your head around.

Is your business GDPR compliant_

How do I know if my business is impacted by GDPR?

Basically, if you control or process any kind of customer personal data then your business is impacted. This could be as simple as keeping your customers’ names and addresses, telephone numbers, IP addresses. Obviously some businesses will keep a lot more, such as medical information, bank account details etc.

GDPR is just about protecting those individuals, (your customers) from having their data fall into the wrong hands. The two key principles are that businesses must have appropriate, legal reasons for processing personal data and a business can only collect personal information for a specific purpose and it is only to be used for that purpose.

The good news is that for businesses with fewer than 250 employees, you are not required to keep records of your processing activities, unless it is regular activity, concerns sensitive information or if the data could threaten someone’s rights.

Most of us who have a small business hold some form of personal information about our customers – it might just be an email address or name and postal address, so there are some things to do to be GDPR compliant. There are very steep fines for those who don’t.

How to comply

  • Your responsibility
    There are two words to describe the person who is collecting and processing data…
    web-3963944_640Data Controller – the person who decides how and why personal data is collected. This is usually the business owner, as in my case. This person must ensure that the business is compliant, including transparency, data storage, data confidentiality and accuracy of data collected and stored. The Data Controller is also responsible for reporting to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if a data breach occurs or if data is lost or stolen from your business..or report to CNIL if you are in France.
    Data Processor. This person (in my case it’s me too as I don’t have any employees!), is responsible for processing personal data, which includes anyone who has access to your customers’ personal information and uses it – say, for creating and sending marketing emails or sending out your newsletters to your customers. The Data Processor is responsible for ensuring data is processed in line with GDPR requirements and they should record processing activities, as well as ensuring appropriate security of the data they handle.
  • You need to understand your data
    – Do a thorough check on all the data you keep on your customers (and employees if you have them) – both past and present.
    – Decide how much data you really need. GDPR states you only need to hold data that is absolutely necessary, and for as short a time as possible. If you have old Excel spreadsheets with old customer data, you could be falling foul of the rules, so get rid of anything you no longer need.
    -If you have data that is defined by GDPR as ‘special categories of personal data’, you must have explicit permission from that person to hold that data about them. This includes political affiliation, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, trade union membership, racial and ethnic origin. The reason you must have permission to keep this data is that if it got into the wrong hands, it could be misused to discriminate against an individual.
    – You need explicit consent from anyone whose information (no matter how much or how little) you are going to store.
  • Your data consent policy also called Privacy Policy
    You must get clear and explicit consent from your customer that they are happy for you to obtain and store their personal information. It must be clearly explained keyboard-895556_640 (1)what personal information you want to collect and why, and how it will be used. The individual must agree and if they don’t, you must not collect and store their data under any circumstances. This includes conditional data collection, such as where you offer a freebie on your website to get people to sign up to your newsletter and then use that data for marketing your products or services.
    You must be able to show that you have obtained consent for the data you hold. Not having a record of consent leaves you open to fines.
    You must also provide an easy way for your customers to opt out of anything they’ve agreed to in the future. So, for example, if you send out a newsletter, there must be a box or email address shown that clearly states that the customer can unsubscribe to it at any time.
  • Old data
    If you already have a database of customers and their information, or you take over a business from someone else, including their customers, GDPR requires you to re-consent all of those customers. This means you must contact every single customer you have information on and ask their permission to continue to store and use their data.
    If they do not consent – and this includes anyone who does not respond – you must delete their data.
    The same applies to any old data you have on anyone – if you no longer need it, it must be deleted.
    binary-1327493_640For us small businesses, you need to have a policy that states how long you will keep a customer’s data if they are not continuously engaging with your business. For example you could say that any data you hold will be deleted after 12 months, if that customer has not engaged with your business during that 12 month period.
    It’s a good idea to set up regular data reviews to ensure data is not kept longer than necessary.
  • Data storage and security
    GDPR covers data, no matter where it is stored – be it on email, in customer databases, mobile phones, cloud-based service etc. As a small business, you need to create a data processing and storage policy. This should specify where customer data is secured, how it is protected, such as encrypting data and securing your website with SSL, and who has access to it (most likely your data processor to get email addresses, names etc) and for what purpose (could be to send out a newsletter for example).
    If you transfer data from one person to another or share with third parties, you need a plan for how the data is moved (such as on a USB stick or laptop) as this is a huge risk – having data encrypted can help alleviate the risk, but my advice would be – don’t move it!
  • Large businesses need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, but for the purpose of this article, talking to small businesses like myself (less than 250 employees), we would be exempt from this.
    If you do have employees, especially if they have access to customer data, they need to be trained on data handling and security.
  • Requests for access to data
    Any EU citizen can request access to all the data you hold on them – known as a Subject Access Request (SAR). This can be anything you hold, from name, address technology-3219129_640and email address, to any references made to them in email messages, websites, electronic notes etc. If you’re a small business, this won’t be too difficult, but for huge businesses, it would be very time consuming to go through hundreds of documents and data entries. That’s why it’s so important to know what you hold on your customers and where. If a customer makes a SAR, you have 30 days to comply, so good to have a plan in place.
  • Are your suppliers GDPR compliant?
    Small businesses often rely on contractors and suppliers. Even if your business is GDPR compliant, you must ensure suppliers and contractors are also GDPR compliant.
    Please note: Small businesses are exempt unless you’re working with a larger business that has more than 250 employees, in which case you can fall foul of GDPR if the larger business is not compliant. The quickest way to find out is to ask suppliers to complete a GDPR compliance form detailing how they handle data, security and storage procedures…and what type of data they handle. You can send them a GDPR compliance checklist for small businesses for them to complete. Ensure contracts specifically refer to a supplier or contractor being GDPR compliant. Include the right to audit their business if needed, such as making an on-site visit to review their data processing arrangements.
  • Create data processing notices
    Data handling must be fair and transparent, so you need to create a document explaining how your business deals with data. Known as Fair Processing Notices (FPNs). It all sounds complicated but an FPN is just about giving people clear information about what you’re doing with their personal data.
    You FPN should describe why you are processing their personal data, including that you have their consent via an opt-in or sign up to a newsletter for example.
    If you are sending their personal data to a third party, such as another customer, employee, supplier, you need to state this on the FPN.
    You also need to say how long you will be holding onto their data, known as the ‘retention period’.
    Finally, you need to state that all your customers should be aware of the existence of their personal data rights – this should be pointed out to your customers.

For more detailed information on GDPR…

Click here if your business is in France (in English!)

Click here if your business is in the UK.

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.

 

10 reasons why you need a business plan!

I’ve had a few people ask me recently, “just why is it so important to have a business plan?”

Well, a business plan serves two crucial core purposes; it provides a financial validation and it also serves as a roadmap to keep you on track all year.

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By financial validation, I mean that your plan gives both you and any outside funding institution you may need for loans etc. a strong indication as to whether your business venture will be a success. If you are doing a business plan for this purpose you would add in specific detail regarding how you run your business and whether you will get a return on any investment that, say a bank, will loan you and of course that you are financially viable enough to be able to afford loan repayments.

The second core purpose, the roadmap, is the area I will be looking at in more detail as this is what most small businesses (who don’t necessarily need financial input) think that a plan is not a necessity. And some small businesses manage completely fine without a plan, but I feel it is important as it lays out your action plan; details all the milestones and successes you have established and gives timescales for when you expect to complete certain tasks. It gives you a clear path to follow and keeps you focussed on achieving the goals that you have set for your business.

So, I’m going to focus on what a business plan does for your business and why it’s important.

10 reasons why you need a business plan (2)

 

To demonstrate that you’re serious about your business. This just puts it down in writing that you are committed to building your business and how you’re going to go about making it a success.

goals-2691265_640To ascertain your business goals or milestones. Your business plan will make you think about what you want to achieve with your business and where you see yourself in a year’s time… in five years’ time or more. You can plan not only your long-term goals, but also some quick wins and short term plans. They are significant events that you want to achieve, such as building a website, launching new products/services, producing a brochure and also things like getting your first 100 or 1000 followers on social media.

To understand and know your competition. A business plan forces you to look at your competition – analyse how they work, what they do that makes them stand out in the crowd, look at their products and how they advertise them, package them etc.

customer-563967_640To understand and know your customers. Planning makes you look at your customers; who are they? Why do they buy your products and why do they buy when they do? Do they belong to an average age group or geographic region? An in-depth customer analysis will help you understand what makes your customers tick and how you can better serve them and give them what they want.

To assess the feasibility of your business. Is your business viable? A feasibility study involves researching your target market and your competitors and will let you know if your business venture is likely to be a success.

money-2696228_640To determine your financial needs. Do you need to raise money to buy stock and how are you going to do this? Are there training opportunities for you, so you can learn more about what you do, that incur a cost? How will you factor this in? If you need a big financial injection, you will need to look at loans or investors…your plan will then need to be very specific around how you will be able to afford this kind of investment and what your return will be.

To reduce the risk of looking at the wrong business opportunity. If you do all your research, you will be able to clearly see if a particular business opportunity is going to be feasible, if there is a market for your products/services or whether an alternative route/opportunity might be better for you.

To push you to research your market and really get to know it. Researching your market will help you understand the latest trends in your particular area. Is this market growing or receding? What is the biggest threat to your business/industry? What is the size of your target market and how do you get your products/services in front of them? Your business plan will help you gain a greater understanding of the ‘what, when, where, who and how’ of what your business will face.

stamp-143192_640To pinpoint your brand. Creating a business plan makes you focus on what your brand is; helps you describe your business succinctly and decide how you will position your brand to your customers and target market.

To measure the success of your business. This is the bit that most of us forget about when running a business. It’s important to have measures in place so you know if a particular product or strategy is working. It gives you the option to change your strategy or break it down to make it easier to manage. By writing down the goals you want to achieve, you can look at them every month or quarter to see how you are doing against what you wanted to achieve at the beginning of the year…and adjust things accordingly – this might include removing certain goals, changing them or adding new ones. But if you don’t measure, you don’t know!

Your business plan is about what you want to do. It’s always a work in progress and once you have one and use it, you will wonder why you didn’t do it before!

Find out more about what to include in your business plan in more depth and how to do it …10 essential tips in making a good business plan

And click on this link for your free basic business plan template/instructions Business Plan

If you need any help or advice, please feel free to get in touch.

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?

    banner-1090830_640
    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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