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.

A little less conversation, a little more action!

Create a perfect CTA

A CTA is a call to action. Quite simply, it’s you telling someone who visits your website, newsletter or blog to do something. If done well, it will be well designed and thought out, draw the eye of the reader and encourage them to act on something.

It is your last instruction to your audience and tells them to complete a specific task – click on the button!

You need a strong CTA

You don’t just need a CTA, you need a strong CTA that convinces your audience to react. The two main functions of a CTA is to tell someone what to do next and also give them the motivation to do it.

However it’s all very well telling someone to sign up to something, they also need to know why; what’s in it for them?  How does it benefit them? How will it make their life easier or better? You may have already written a paragraph before the CTA telling them the ‘why’, but a reiteration or a recap never hurts and will make the CTA all the more powerful.   

It’s important to put the CTA in the right place, in front of the right people at the right time. They are the perfect way to get your audience to do what you want them to and to get what you want, be that signing up to your newsletter, downloading your e-book or workbook, clicking to get a free checklist, lead generation, traffic to your website or blog or to simply buy direct. They can be used to educate, inspire and engage your audience, generating trust in your business and brand.

How to write a CTA

Before you begin to write a CTA, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve with it.

  • Is it to get someone to sign up to your newsletter?
  • Is it to boost sales?
  • Is it to get your reader to move to another piece of content?
  • Is it directing your reader to some free content?

As soon as you know what you want to achieve, you can start to think about the best way to do that.

Make sure your words or phrases speak directly to your audience and try and be as specific as possible. Whilst things like ‘click here’ are OK, it’s not particularly strong or inspiring, whilst something more specific would be ‘Get your XXXXX now!’ or ‘Discover more now!’ – They just sound a little bit more enticing.

Who are your audience?

Think about your audience. Who are you aiming your CTA at? Is it a specific audience? Your CTA will be seen online, and each internet user is completely different. Some might be online absently browsing news items or shopping offers…some might be watching Netflix or looking for music on YouTube. There are lots of different audiences, so if you know who you’re aiming for, you can tailor the CTA accordingly.

For example, if you have uploaded a video to YouTube, your CTA might be ‘Watch my video now!’ or ‘Watch demo’.

If you are a Chef or love baking and have put a video of you making a cake, your CTA might be ‘Get recipe now’ or ‘Learn to make xxxx’

But it’s not just about having a jazzy button telling someone what to do, you need to lead up to it with some tempting copy too. Never assume that your audience will see a button and click on it because most won’t. They need to be told to do it – it needs to be crystal clear and once they press that button, the instructions also need to be very clear, not at all vague. Don’t use long words and clever language and don’t use jargon. Gently guide your audience in the right direction, you want to attract their attention, not scare them away.

Include them in the introduction to the CTA, using words like ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘we’. This makes them feel valued and their decision is important to you. Focus on the reason they need to do whatever it is. Why is this going to be so good for them? How does it benefit them? Does it solve a problem they have? People love to get something for nothing, or to feel they are getting a real bargain, so if you’re offering something and there is a cost attached to it, why is it such a bargain – what are they getting for their money?

It’s also good to instigate a feeling of urgency – do it now or you’ll miss out on this fabulous bargain. Is it a one-time only offer? Is it at a specially reduced price for the first 20 people to sign up? Is there limited availability? Is the offer only available for a limited time? All these things signify an urgency – telling your audience that they need to take immediate action.

And ultimately, keep the copy short and sweet – your audience don’t want to read a long description – they’ll get bored and scroll on by. It needs to be appealing, persuasive, but short, snappy and to the point. So you need to get the benefits of what you’re offering and why in as few words as possible. This can take some time to get right, so don’t stress if you can’t get it straight away.  

Make your CTA look good

Not only should your copy be snappy and appealing, it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing too. People won’t read it if it doesn’t look good. Give it some space – never underestimate white space, it can be used to highlight a CTA very well. Give it a good colour scheme, maybe include a good image. You might have to test a few before you come up with the right formula that works for you, but once you do, they’ll be no stopping you.

Now it’s time for you to go to your website, blog or wherever you have a call to action and make sure it is clear and specific for your audience, or if you haven’t got one, go set one up.

Make sure your audience know what they have to do next and why. And let me know what CTAs you use!

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. 

Coronavirus Covid 19 and your small business

No matter where you are in the world, if you run your own small business, be it from home or from small premises, like me you’ll be wondering how you are going to cope if or when you have to close or scale down your business due to the coronavirus pandemic, Covid 19. This is a worldwide crisis like nothing else we’ve ever encountered before, so no wonder everyone is a bit bewildered. 

  • Will I go out of business for good?
  • What if my customers don’t want to come back when it’s all over?
  • How can I keep my business in the spotlight if I want my business to carry on being a success after all this?

The answers all boil down to what you can do right now…NOT what will happen afterwards and that’s what a lot of small businesses are focusing on. However, there are things you can do with your marketing to keep your business in the hearts and minds of your current and prospective future customers. I think that a lot of us have been told that our businesses are ‘non-essential’, but this doesn’t mean not important, just not essential to the running of the country! Of course your business is essential to you, to your family and friends, your customers and your purse! It’s not going to be ‘business as usual’, even if you normally work from home, but now is not the time to be pushing ahead in an aggressive way. You need to be highly sensitive to your customers and the situation that they’re in too. 

How does the Coronavirus affect your customers?  

Obviously how the virus affects your customers and in turn, how that affects you will depend on what you do for a living. If you’re in the beauty industry, (therapist, masseuse, hairdresser etc.), then your business will have to close, as what you do means you can’t possibly remain 2 metres away from your clients. If you sell a product or service, there may be things you’ll need to change – you can no longer do this face to face, so it’s time to get a bit more creative. But before you do, have a think – get out that pen and paper and think about how the virus is affecting your customers. What is keeping them awake at night? How can you help? They may have a specific challenge or worry that you can solve that has nothing to do with the virus.

You may be able to position your business, products or services to be helpful and maybe address some of the problems your customers are facing right now.

So, get out that pen and paper right now (!) and take 15 minutes to think about your customers. Try and answer these three questions…

  1. How can you provide value to your customers – real value to help them and to build up trust between you?
  2. What can you offer your customers right now that they need? Try and be creative here…maybe even a little ‘off the wall’.
  3. How can technology help you to still offer your products and services in a way that you didn’t before?

I definitely don’t in any way mean for you to exploit your customers – definitely not! Remember, people (including us) are all a little bit scared at the moment; we’re all out of our comfort zone and over the coming weeks, maybe longer, we are going to have to adapt to our new ‘normal’.

People who are in business themselves, small businesses as well as bigger corporations, will be spending a lot of time looking for answers to their problems. This could be in the form of solid help, albeit virtual, for their business, advice to help them move their business forward despite the virus. But not only that, there will be hundreds or thousands of people out there looking for products that can be delivered to their homes; if they are ‘locked-in’ without being able to go out for longer than an hour a day, they will be looking for entertainment, things to do, looking for things to read…and yes, turning almost certainly more and more to the internet for inspiration.    

Embrace the change

Time to get out that pen and paper again, can you answer these questions about your business?

  1. People still need and want to buy things. Can you create a space online where people can look at and buy your products or services? If you already have that place online, look at advertising it or, if online on social media, post about your products – without the hard sell or you will get loads of negative comments!
  2. If you run a restaurant or café, can you do takeaway meals or meals that can be delivered?
  3. How can you up your game with your online marketing? As well as just advertising you products on social media, start conversations about your products – ask for opinions and post a photo of the item you’re talking about.
  4. Think about starting up a new social media channel – are you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest? If not, now is the perfect time to learn how to use these channels. There are lots of free resources online and lots of FB groups where you might be able to get an expert to speak to you one to one.
  5. If you normally have meetings with clients face to face, can you use  Facetime, Skype or Messenger Video?
  6. If you’re in a profession, such as the beauty business where you can’t physically work, can you give people hints and tips on social media about their hair or beauty regimes? Take this time to set yourself up as an expert…it might bring you new customers when you can get back to business. And it keeps your business out there and not forgotten. Focus on your visibility.
  7. Do you have a website? If you do, now is the time to update it; change wording, add new products/services, look at your SEO (search engine keywords and phrases)…in fact, why not go the whole hog and give it a new look and freshen up your brand? Hell, yeah!
  8. You don’t have a website? Well, now you have the time to sit down and think about planning one for when you can afford it. Look at other websites who do the same as you and make a plan as to what you want yours to look like. Think about your brand, how you speak to your customers – what do you want them to come away with after visiting your website? What would a website do for your business?  
  9. Can you pull together some online resources for your customers that you give for free? You can do this no matter what you do for a living. Information sheets in pdf format – ‘how to’ information, ‘what to do if…’ information – the list is endless. If you have an email list, ask people for their email address in exchange for your information sheets, and ask them to confirm that they’d be happy for you to send them a regular email giving details of your products and services.
  10. Start a monthly newsletter with the email addresses you collect. Mail Chimp is a good place to set this up and it’s free until you hit around 2000 subscribers.

Be accessible  

Focus on your accessibility – are you easy to contact? If you are online on social media, or have a website, is your contact details immediately visible? If you email your customers, make sure you give contact details…an email address or telephone number where they can contact you.    

And finally…

Enjoy working on new things – make this time away from the stresses of work, a time that you sit back and take a long, hard look at your business. When you’re back up and running, can you change anything to make it better, more efficient? You have time now to research new products. You have time to learn new things, so you can offer a new service.

If you work from home, clean your desk, clear away the clutter.

If you do decide to put some new practices in place now, make sure you have a measurement in place, so you know if it’s working or not. This saves you wasting your time if it’s not working and then you can look at other ideas. On the other hand, it gives you a boost and the impetus to do more if it is working. 

Above all, during this dreadful virus and the fall-out afterwards, we are all in this together. My message to all the small businesses out there, keep strong, keep safe and keep thinking of new ways to do business.

As a small business myself, I would just love to hear from other small businesses out there – no matter where you are in the world. How are you coping with the virus and the impact on your business? What are you putting in place to help you through the crisis? Do you have any other ideas that people might be able to implement? Feel free to leave a comment here or pop over to email and send me a message cindymobey@outlook.com    

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.

 

SEO & Hashtags FAQ

If you run your own small business, you probably use social media sites to promote your products or services. We all know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important in promoting your website and blog content, but what about hashtags…do they help?

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What are hashtags?

Originally hashtags were used to help filter and organise conversations on Twitter, but they are now used on several social media platforms. I’ve mainly seen them on Twitter and Instagram, but have also noticed that they are starting to appear on Facebook and are on LinkedIn too. A hashtag is the sign # followed by a phrase such as marketing, so would be #marketing. It’s a category that posts relating to that subject can be streamed into; anyone can use it for their content, be it a blog post, an Instagram or Facebook post.

How can I use hashtags on social media?

A really easy way to get started is by using popular hashtags. One hashtag that I see regularly on Facebook and Instagram is #throwbackthursday or #tbt. This is used as a weekly theme by some Facebook groups where people and brands share things from instagram-4259655_640their past. The posts may be business related or completely personal. This is one of the popular hashtags used on Facebook on a regular basis.

There are different hashtags depending on what niche your business is in. For example if you are in the fitness business, you might use #fitnesstips #fitinspiration or #gymspiration to name a few….or if you are in marketing, you could use #marketingtips #marketingstrategy. There are thousands to choose from and research on what are the best hashtags for you to use for your business is crucial.

How many hashtags should I use?

How many you use depends on what social media platform you are posting on. Twitter allows space for hashtags, but it is best practice to stick to 2-3. Facebook is a tricky one – it’s best to post within a group where the hashtag is promoting a special day, such as #throwbackthursday rather than randomly adding hashtags to your posts – if you do, only use a couple as, at the moment according to Social Media Today, using hashtags within Facebook posts may actually prevent you from appearing in search results.

On the other hand, if you use Instagram, the world is your oyster where hashtags are concerned…you are encouraged to use as many relevant hashtags as possible.

So what do hashtags do for my business?

Hashtags are a great way to build your brand, boost a marketing campaign or sales campaign, and launch a competition or to just keep in touch with your target audience.

Using hashtags in tweets and on Instagram can really increase awareness of your business and engagement with you and your products/services.

icon-2486501_640They are an effective way to build your brand, for example use them to launch new products/services, share your promotional material or for just generating interest in what you do.

Hashtags are also great for creating a buzz with your website, spreading news and information about new products, events that you’re involved in or just creating hype for your business.

How do I find the right hashtag words?

It really is as simple as putting a search into Google. Just type in ‘popular hashtags for XXXXX’ whatever business you’re in – fitness, food, crafts, artist, and so on… a list of hashtags will come up. If you are using them on Instagram, as soon as you type the first hashtag, you will also see a list of other similar tags which you can also use. Try and avoid really long hashtags. When writing posts using hashtags, don’t forget to put links to your website as this will encourage more traffic.

Can hashtags help me find my target audience?

Yes, they can! For the purpose of this question, I’m going to talk about Instagram.

When you’re posting for your particular niche or business, you need to find the keywords that will be specific to your business. So, a generic term like ‘photographer’ or ‘blogger’ just won’t cut the mustard. You need people to be able to find out more about you, so for example on my Instagram account, I will post #marketingincharente as I am a Marketing Consultant and I live in the Charente…you get the idea! Or if you are a café, you could specify something on your menu, #fullenglishbreakfast and maybe the town you’re in. It’s more specific.

Being specific is what will help your target audience find you.

How many hashtags should I use?

  • Using Instagram again as an example, you can use up to 30, but generally I use between 11-20.
  • Use 4-5 really popular hashtags – general ones like, for example, #smallbusiness or #socialmedia.
  • Use another 5-7 that are moderately popular but not necessarily absolutely your niche.
  • Lastly use 4-5 very specific hashtags – the target keywords that your audience might be looking for. These generally don’t have a lot of content associated with them.
  • Use 1-2 branded hashtags that are only for your branded content.

The reason you use all these different types of hashtags is to keep your content in view for as long as possible. The most popular will bring a brief flurry of activity, then the moderately popular hashtags will kick in and your content will stay active on those for a few hours. Then your more niche specific hashtags will be noticed.

Of course, you will also receive activity from your followers, so you are still reaching out to your existing potential customers, as well as new ones.

Can I set up my own hashtag?

The simple answer is ‘yes, you can!’

hashtag-1120301_640But, there is a but! You cannot legally own a hashtag. If you find one that hasn’t been used, which will take a lot of research, you can register it. However, even registering the hashtag will not stop other people from using it – it’s not like owning a website domain. Registering just means you’ve staked a claim to that hashtag and adds you to the hashtag directory, where you can go into a bit more detail as to what the hashtag is for…you can write a description.

How do I register my hashtag? 

Once you have found a new hashtag relevant to your business, you can register it on sites like Hashtags.org

As soon as you have registered it, use your hashtag ALL THE TIME! Use it a lot…as much as you can! At first you will be the only one using it, but after time you will find others using it for articles, posts or blogs that talk about the same subject.

Do hashtags help with SEO?   

Again, the simple answer is ‘yes’. Hashtags are basically keywords, so they help you to categorise your content and help social media users to find it. Using hashtags in your social media posts will give you more opportunities to have your content in Google search results.

Finally, just be aware that hashtag use varies greatly with each social media platform so you need to be mindful of which platform you’re on!

Happy Hashtag Hunting! Let me know how you get on.

Improve the on-page SEO on your website

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term that refers to the way you can increase the traffic to your website. SEO involves making sure that the content you are publishing is rich in relevant keywords and phrases…and the way you organise headings, subheads, bullet points etc.

In simple terms, it’s the name given to the activity that endeavours to improve search engine ranking, in order for more people to come to your website and engage in your content.

On-page SEO

When you search for something on Google, you expect to find it almost instantly from the search results that appear. If you’ve asked a question, you expect that question to be answered in a few seconds. So, as a crafter of content, you want to help the person searching for your subject matter find it quickly and for it to be relevant and answer their search. Those of us who write content use many different types of websites, but no matter whether you use WordPress, GoDaddy, Wix or whatever, the subject matter/page layout is pretty much the same. Here’s a few hints and tips on how to improve the SEO on your website…

Create good title tags and meta descriptions

Title Tags

Title tags and meta descriptions are bits of HTML code in the header of a web page. When someone searches for a particular subject or asks a question on a search engine, search-engine-optimization-2613846_640the title tags and meta descriptions help the search engine understand the content of that page and the title tag and meta description is what is shown in blue link in the search results.

The title tag is what it says on the tin – the title element of a web page/ blog post that summarises the content of that page or post. Search engines expect the title tag to show relevant keywords and phrases that describe what your page/post is about. If Google doesn’t think the title is relevant for the page, it can choose to show a different title instead. So ensure that your title tags on your pages/posts show an accurate, compelling and succinct summary of what that particular page/post is about.

Tips for writing title tags   

  • The title MUST be absolutely and positively relevant to the content it describes on that page
  • Put important keywords/phrases at the front of the title tag to make them ‘pop-out’
  • Be natural – avoid keyword stuffing
  • seo-896175_640Every page on your website needs a unique title tag – avoid duplication
  • If you can fit it in, get your brand name at the end of the title tag – but it’s more important to get your message across first!
  • Keep the title tag to between 60-64 characters – any longer and it will be cut off and will just show an ellipsis “….”
  • Your title tag needs to entice readers in, so it should be eye-catching, exciting, compelling…make your reader want to find out more

Meta description or Meta tags

The title tag is limited, short and sweet, but a meta description (or meta tag as they’re also called) gives you more space to tell people what it is you’re offering – and to create a convincing and persuasive reason to click through to your website or blog.

So how to make that description compelling?

  • Focus on the positives of clicking to your page – use words like ‘your’ and ‘you’ to make it more personal
  • Include any special offers or incentives you might have
  • Encourage the person searching to take action now! Create a sense of urgency
  • Use emotional and psychological triggers

Tips for writing meta descriptions/meta tags

  • Make sure you have unique descriptions for every page on your website
  • Use relevant keywords and phrases – relevant being important here as your description needs to match what the page or post is about.
  • Don’t give away too much, just a teaser to explain what the page is about – tickle the reader’s curiosity!
  • Include a call to action…of course (!)…so your reader knows exactly what they need to do next and what’s in it for them.
  • Keep your meta description to around 150 characters. If you make them too long, search engines will cut off the end of your sentence.

Title tags and meta descriptions don’t play a direct role in helping you get your site to rank higher in search engines, but they are very important for reader engagement and for getting those readers to click through to your website.

Categories and Tags

What is the difference between categories and tags on a blog post?

What are they? How do you use them? Why are they so important?

There is quite a clear difference between tags and categories, but it’s very easy for users to get them muddled up. To be fair, in most instances it won’t matter for the end user, but here is a brief overview…

Categories

seo-592740_640As a general rule, you would use Categories to group the content on your website or blog into eight to ten segments. For example on my blog, some of the categories are Marketing, Small business tips, SEO, Customer Service.

You should aim for at least one category per post. If you forget to add one, it often defaults to ‘uncategorized’, which you really don’t want! It doesn’t make sense to your readers and looks unprofessional.

Tags

A Tag describes a blog post in more detail. So, for example, this blog post – I will use the word ‘tags and categories’ as one of my tags! Although Categories are important to have, you don’t need to have any tags at all if you don’t want to. I like to use them as it gives another way for my blogs to be seen by my targeted audience.

Alt Tags   

An Alt Tag is the name given to the labelling of an image on a website. If you hover your mouse over an image and the image has an alt tag, it will appear. It’s a very good idea to do this as search engines can’t see pictures or photos, so unless you tag them with a keyword or two, the search engine won’t display them to people search for that kind of image or keyword. This really helps with your SEO

Use the right URL to optimise SEO     

webinar-4216601_640A URL is your web address, for example, https://cindyfreelancewriter.com/

It identifies your website and gives a little bit of information about what you do or what your site is about. It is a very minor ranking factor for search engines, but if your URL contains a keyword, it can improve your site’s visibility. So, definitely worth a brief mention!

Have clear headings on your pages    

The main heading on each of your pages tells your readers, (and search engines), what the page is about.

Go through your website/blog site and look at all your headings – are they clear and to the point – do they match what the page is actually about? There is nothing more annoying than thinking you have found exactly what you’re looking for, only to realise that the heading doesn’t match the content.

Do include keywords, but be natural about it and avoid keyword stuffing.

Have quality content 

This goes without saying really. Look at all the content on your pages – does it match the heading? Have you covered everything your readers will be looking for from the heading? Does it include all the relevant keywords and their variations that you can think of and find?

Does it solve a problem for your reader? Does it address a common problem? Is it well written, so as to encourage engagement and is it a compelling read? Have a look at what your competitors do – now you know a bit more about structure, look at the way they include keywords, address problems, how they rank on Google.

Can you do better? Now’s the time to take action. Have a good look at your website pages and blog pages/posts and see where you can start making improvements.

 

Time management tips for your small business

Time management is about how you organise and plan your day and how long you spend on specific activities. I find there is never enough time in the day, but how is it that some people achieve so much more in just one 24 hour period than others?

The answer is managing your time, working smarter, not harder. But how do you do this?

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Let’s face it, running a small business is hard work and you have a myriad of things to deal with, especially if you are a one man band. You have to divide your time between admin, marketing, chasing leads, taking care of your existing customers, managing your website and social media, as well as actually doing the work that makes you a living!

So, how can you manage your time so you can get everything done with the least stress? I guess the first port of call is to look at what you currently do. Make a note of all the tasks you do over the period of a few days. Write down how long each task takes and what it entails. Effectively you are auditing your time. When you look at the results, you will be able to see where you spend your time and how you can improve or change what you do to become more effective, or to give yourself some much needed down time.

Identify what tasks are big time wasters

stop-sign-4647545_640These are tasks that take longer than you thought they would, or tasks that have a high risk of procrastination or distraction. Once you can identify these, you can allocate a set amount of time to doing them each day, so you concentrate on just that task and get it done – with a time constraint, there is less chance of being distracted or of taking too long to do it. Tasks could include email, phone calls, meetings and breaks – they are not productive, so give them a limit.

Avoid multi-tasking

It might seem like the best way to do things to save time. But focusing on one task at a time increases productivity and performance. For example, if you’re working on one task, but still answering email and text messages, even phone calls, means you’re not phone-1586198_640giving any one task your full attention. This can lead to having to revisit tasks as you forgot to do something or made a careless error. In turn, this ends up wasting you more time having to revisit. Turn off email and your phone so you can’t receive messages and emails whilst you’re focusing on a particular task. And put your phone onto answer phone with a message that says you’re busy right now but leave a message and you’ll get back to them within a certain amount of time – could be an hour or just half an hour – whilst you concentrate on getting an important task finished.

Delegate or outsource

If you are a small business and find that you are spending too long on tasks that could easily be done by someone else, then delegate or outsource those tasks. That then leaves delegate-1969952_640you time to focus on the important stuff. Hire someone to either do the  mundane stuff that you really don’t have time for, or for the more complicated things that you don’t know how to do, or that you know will take you too long as you’re not experienced in that area. You can also delegate or outsource tasks you absolutely hate doing. There is nothing wrong in delegating or outsourcing; it simply gives you more time to do the things you enjoy or that need to have your undivided attention.

Organise your office space

If your office space is cluttered and untidy, it can actually hamper your efficiency. If the physical space you are working in is organised, neat and tidy, it promotes a more relaxed mental state that is also decluttered, neat and tidy. There are lots of ways to organise your desk space, from buying colour-coded folders and having an in and out box to ensuring that your waste paper bin is emptied regularly. A cluttered workspace serves as a distraction, so aim for a clean and clear space.

The 80/20 rule

pareto-principle-693315_640The US President Dwight Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” This is where the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle) can help…80% of results come from 20% of effort, so it’s important to look at your list of tasks and decide what is actually important and just requires a bit of attention. Spend most of your time on the critical 20% and less on the rest…even if it does seem urgent.

Try the Pomodoro technique

No, I hadn’t heard of this until recently either! Apparently this technique was named tomatoes-1239176_640after a tomato shaped timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). You set the timer for 25 minutes, work solidly until the timer sounds, then give yourself a 5 minute break before going back to do another task for 25 minutes. This is a great technique if you struggle with focusing on a task or structuring your time. This is a great method to use if you want to ensure you only devote a certain amount of time to one task or if you have trouble focussing.

Plan in advance  

Planning ahead is always a good way to keep to a schedule. Give yourself a couple of checklist-2077022_640 (1)hours a week to plan what you will achieve the following week – set yourself achievable goals by writing a ‘to do’ list – It’s such a good feeling to tick off the items on the list and to feel you have achieved something. And, make sure that your goals are SMART… Specific/Measurable/Attainable/Realistic and Timely.

Prioritise your tasks

Sort your tasks into one of these categories…

Important and urgent… tasks in this category must be done right away, so focus all your energy on doing these before moving on to others

Important but not urgent…tasks in this category will be those that appear important but on closer inspection, they could be left until a later date if necessary.

Urgent but not important…these are tasks that nag at you, but once done have little or no lasting value to your business. These can be delegated or outsourced.

Not urgent and not important…these are low priority tasks that often give the illusion that you’re really busy. Can be done at a later date, when you’re not so busy.

Add the Important and urgent tasks to your ‘to do’ list and tick them off as you do them, then you can move on to the other categories in a more timely way.

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Take time out just for you!

This is often ignored, especially if you work alone on your small business. It’s so important to make sure you have some free time to do the things you love outside of your business. Spend time with family and friends, exercise or spend time in the garden. These down times are especially good for your mental health, can lower your stress levels and leave you feeling energised and ready to tackle those lists again.    

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.