How is it nearly the end of August already – and what a weird, hot summer it’s been. For most of us, it’s also meant rising prices, fuel costs going through the roof and everyone seems to be tightening their belts.
The summer slump is a real problem for some businesses, and usually this simply means that time in summer when business seems to drop off. You don’t get so much engagement on your social media pages, sales disappear, and generally, everything seems to grind to a blinding halt.
The main reason for this is that in general, people just stop paying attention to the things they normally do. The children are off school and need to be entertained, the weather is nicer so they’re thinking about BBQs and social gatherings with family and friends. They are also thinking about going away on holiday, (especially now the restrictions of Covid are virtually over). Add to that the rising cost of living, and for some, the slump has been more of a reality than usual.
This year, more than ever, small businesses are telling me that they are experiencing a real slump in their sales.
So, do you just wait for things to pick up by themselves? Or do you want to be proactive and do something about it? There are still some things you can do to ensure that your business is still being seen.
Here are some things that might help:
Don’t stop doing what you normally do
This seems obvious, but it’s important to still have your business out there. If you post once or twice a day on social media, continue doing that. Be consistent, just like you always have.
If you publish a weekly or monthly blog, do it, even if you don’t get much engagement.
If you send out an email newsletter, absolutely still do this. The tips that follow will help you with the sort of things you can talk about.
Look at starting a new inbound marketing campaign
What do I mean by this?
Create a new campaign on your social media or email, to attract customers. You do this by tailoring your content to what they need, problems they need to solve, and forms relationships with your followers.
The old way of mass marketing just doesn’t seem to be as effective anymore. Things like pop-up ads and the hard sell are more likely to put people off these days. So, it’s a softer approach you’re after.
Get going with educating your current and potential customers about your products or services. Use email, direct mail, and social media posts/stories/reels/video to teach your audience more about your products or services and how you can help solve some of their problems.
Hold a live event or a series of events highlighting what you do best. Include details of your best sellers, and don’t forget to include testimonials or case studies to help you. Success stories always sell.
Focus on your customers
This is a good way to look at how you can serve your existing customers better. Look at whether your customers use your product or service to its full capacity. Look at feedback to find out if there are any needs that your product isn’t meeting that could be tweaked in future. You can do this simply by messaging your customers and asking for their opinion. People like to be involved, so ask if there’s anything you can improve on, or if there is anything you don’t yet provide that you could provide in future.
Ask for referrals
This speaks for itself, but whilst you’re quiet, you can ask for a referral – and maybe offer a discount if the person they recommend buys from you.
Ask for testimonials. You may get regular testimonials, but some people just don’t think to give them, so there’s no harm in asking.
Join a networking group
There are so many groups on social media that you can join. It just takes a little bit of time to engage with the other businesses in the group. Look at other businesses, engage with their posts by commenting. You might find something you’d like to buy. This is a great way to build genuine relationships with other like-minded people.
If you have any local in-person networking events, try to get along and introduce yourself. Face-to-face events are great for networking in real time. Make sure you are armed with a stock of business cards to give out and ensure that you listen to other businesses and what they have to say, as well as talking about your own!
Share your schedule
If you are going on holiday in the summer, tell your clients about it beforehand. Encourage them to place orders before you go, so they get their orders in good time. Scarcity sells, so don’t miss out on this one.
If you know that you have customers who buy Autumn items from you, such as Halloween products, contact them early and show them your range, asking if they’d like to order early to beat the rush.
Invest in you
When your business is quiet, it’s a good time to learn new things or develop new skills. Or, just to brush up on what you already know. Book a coaching session to help you with a specific part of your business, sign up to a few webinars, or look at a short course that will help you grow your business further.
If you have sales material, presentations, case studies, welcome pack, an automated email newsletter, or a website, now is the time to review them and update them, so they are all current and nothing is out of date.
When you have done that, you can do a couple of launch posts to show your new-look website or landing page.
Update your Facebook cover and your profile photo. And spend some time thinking about your brand and how you can better show your brand in your social media posts.
These are just a few ideas to help you beat that summer slump. Doing some of these things will make you feel more proactive, and you’ll be raring to go once the summer is over and we are into autumn.
I hope that you have all had a fabulous August, have enjoyed time with family and friends, enjoyed the gorgeous weather, (even if it was a tad too hot at times) and are looking forward to launching into autumn with renewed vigour.
If you haven’t already thought about what you want your business to achieve in 2022, now is the time to review the past year, so you can plan for next year.
It’s a bit like having your annual performance review when you work for an employer, only you conduct it on your small business. When you run your own business, you need to keep track of so many things, it’s normal for things to sometimes slide. But as we are getting close to the end of 2021, it’s important to be thinking about what your goals will be for next year and how you’re going to achieve that. But you can’t do that until you know how you’ve done this year.
Your business performance review should cover everything your business has been through over the past 12 months and include your successes as well as those not so successful moments.
Look at your 2021 goals
Did you write down your goals last year? If you did, did you achieve what you set out to do?
This is the time to look at both your short term goals for last year – and the more long-term goals to see where you are. You could ask questions such as:
What went well in 2021?
What challenges did you face?
What didn’t go so well?
What did you learn from the things that didn’t go so well?
Did you learn any new skills or take any courses?
How can you repeat the successes you had for next year?
How can you avoid any mistakes you made this year?
If you employ anyone, such as VA, it’s time to have a conversation with them and ask them the same questions. You can brainstorm ideas, give, and receive constructive criticism for improvements and come up with a few good goals for 2022.
Look at your business practices
All of us small business owners offer either a service or products to our customers. This is the time to look at how your business practices are working…and if you are aiming all your sales/content etc. to the right audience.
Look at your customers. Do you know what your customers’ pain points are? Do you know what your customers’ needs are? Once you know this, you can identify how your business is going to provide solutions.
Are you giving your customers a good service? If you set your standards high at the beginning of the year, are you still delivering the same standard of service at the end of the year?
Are your products or services good value for money?
Look at feedback and reviews from your customers so you can identify what products or services were most popular and why. If you can identify why a particular product or service is so popular, you can look at how you can replicate that in 2022.
Look at the financials
We all hate looking at our figures, but it’s important to make financial evaluations to determine where you are…if you’re making a profit etc.
Cash flow is the obvious one. You take money in; you pay money out. Sales and expenses are important to understand how you’ve done this year. Compare your sales and expenses to the previous year and see where there are improvements, or losses. Doing this, you’ll be able to have an idea of what you might be able to do next year.
What do you pay out? All businesses must pay out to buy materials, stock, stationery etc. Are you getting the best deals for those items? Have they increased in price this year? Do you need to take that into account for next year? You might need to raise or lower your prices to compensate.
Look at your business insurance. This is often overlooked. Does it cover you for everything you need to be covered for or do you need to have a conversation with your financial adviser?
Are all your relevant licenses and safety certificates up to date?
Expansion – As your business grows, you may have to think about expansion. Do you need to take on an assistant? Do you need bigger premises? Do you need to have a larger stock to cover your increasing client base?
If you are expanding quickly, now is the time to be thinking about employing an accountant ready for those all important, but pain in the wotsit tax returns.
Look at all your social media data
This might seem obvious, but if you’re on social media, it’s really important to look at all your insights for the year. Here are the areas that are worth looking at:
Engagement – yes, you might be getting loads of ‘likes’ on your content, but does it actually get followers to click on your website, or your profile. And do you get sales from those clicks?
You can use this information to help you look at your marketing strategy for next year.
Location – you can see where your followers are from in your insights. We often assume our most engaged followers are local and buy from us. You might be surprised…and if you find you have a following from another country or area, you can customise your content accordingly.
Feedback/Reviews – You will be able to see if any customers have left reviews or feedback on social media, but what about all the other people you’ve sold to this year. If you haven’t had complaints from them, you can assume that they must have been happy with your product or services. You could send out a survey to ask questions about your products or services. If a customer has bought a specific item, ask them what they liked about it. If you put a clause in the survey to say that you can use comments on your website or for promotion – any complimentary reviews you get, you can use. (I still always check if it’s OK to use anyway, but worth including the wording.)
You could offer an incentive to reply, such a 10% off voucher to use in January. This is a brilliant way to get more replies as people just love getting something for nothing – a freebie or money-off voucher.
Take note of any feedback you get and act upon it. If there is a criticism, ask more questions so you can understand what a problem might be – you may be able to solve it simply and quickly with a tweak to your products or services.
Visibility – Where did your customers find you? Did they discover your business on social media? Did they come across you on a Google Search? Was it a personal referral or something else?
This is useful data as you know which areas to work on and you can see which area works best. Every business is different, so what works well for one, won’t work well for another.
When you first started in business, did you do a business plan or marketing plan? If you did, you will have conducted research into your ideal market. However, this can change so quickly, so it’s always worth including this in your review.
This is where you’ll look at your customers’ needs and how you can best serve them. Have your customers’ needs changed since the last time you looked?
Look at your existing customers – what do they like/dislike. Is there something they need that you can supply – or do they have a problem that you can solve?
Check out your competitors
This is always worth doing to see what they are up to and how you can compete.
Can you offer something unique, that they don’t offer?
Is your customer service up to scratch?
Look at why your customers choose you over your competitors and make sure you include something around this advantage in your marketing plan for next year.
Celebrate your successes
The point of doing a review is to find out how your business has done against the plans and goals you set. But it’s also important to celebrate all your hard work. Shout about any wins you’ve had and let your customers know how successful your business has been.
You could share the highlights of your year in a social media post for example. Then also give your audience a little teaser about what’s to come in the New Year.
Your 2022 strategy
Once you have completed your 2021 review and have all the data, you’ll be in a better position to know what works well for your business and what doesn’t.
With this in mind, you can now go on to plan your business and marketing strategy for 2022.
If you have some big or challenging goals you want to aim for, why not think about breaking them down into more manageable chunks?
Good luck with your marketing planning and strategy. If you would like a free marketing strategy workbook, that takes you through your marketing plan, step-by-step, please click on the link below and sign up to my monthly marketing tips email. You will receive your free workbook into your inbox.
As always, if you need any help, please feel free to contact me…my inbox is always open.
We see stories wherever we look, and the bigger corporates have understood the benefits of telling their story for years, as part of their marketing strategy. As a small business, we often forget about this little gem. But it really helps us connect with our audiences and instill trust.
Stories help us understand the world around us. They are a way to help your audience understand more about you, without being overwhelmed by the details about your products. They help show the ‘authentic you,’ so that your customers will be more interested in what you have to say about your products.
Why should you tell your story?
By nature, people are nosy and curious – they like to know about the person they are buying from.
Marketing your business is a real challenge in today’s online world, and there is so much competition, so you need to be able to stand out in the crowd.
Storytelling creates a fabulous connection with your audience. Sharing your experiences helps to encourage and help others and brings your brand to life. It conveys the purpose of your business and what you stand for and helps make your products more appealing.
Content marketing is what helps you to sell your products. You need to release the magic that you put into your products, be it artwork, crafts, photography etc. You are creating a story around you and around your work.
It’s an incredibly competitive out there, so your unique storytelling is what will set you apart from your peers. You might think, if your products are very visual (such as paintings or photography) that your pictures will sell themselves – surely, if people like what you do, they will buy it. Of course, this may be true for a small percentage of your audience. They will see something that resonates with them, or you may sell something that they are particularly looking for and have searched for. But sadly, when people are looking online, it’s easy to scroll past something that would actually resonate with them if they knew more about it…and about you. This is where the importance of storytelling comes in. People remember stories, you want to convince them to love your work as much as you do. They need to feel your passion and understand the reasons why you do what you do – this creates a real connection between you and your audience.
Know your audience
The first thing to think about is your audience. Do you know who your target audience are? I’m not going to go into detail about how to identify your target audience and building a buyer persona, but if you click on these links, you can see previous blog posts where I have gone into detail about this.
It’s really important to know your audience, so you know how to approach them and what kind of content will make them look at your products.
How to tell your story – the monomyth
There are lots of ways to tell your story. In this blog, I’m going to look at the Monomyth, which is just one concept.
Joseph Campbell, an American author, who worked on mythology produced the idea of the Monomyth.
He said that most myths contain some common elements – heroes start out as lowly mortals; they receive some sort of call to adventure and divine assistance to get started. They encounter obstacles along the way, go through a transformation and return to where they started as a hero, changed for the better in most cases.
I’m going to use Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ as an example.
Bilbo Baggins was just a normal hobbit, with a peaceful life, living in the rural Shire. One day, the wizard, Gandalf, calls on him to persuade him to join Thorin and his twelve dwarves to recover their stolen treasure, which is being guarded by the dragon, Smaug.
So, although he initially resisted, Bilbo embarks on a fantastic adventure, where he stares death in the face and returns a stronger, wiser hobbit, and is the hero of the story.
When you are telling your story, the Monomyth is a great way to structure it. If you do this well, you will get and keep your audience’s attention. There are lots of people who have different concepts about the Monomyth, but I like the remarkably simple version and its structure.
Let’s start at the beginning…your calling…
Like Bilbo Baggins, at some point you felt the calling to do what you do. It might have been a slow realisation that your hobby could be more than just a passing interest. It might be that it’s been a lifelong passion that you felt you could no longer ignore. It could be that you express your beliefs and interests through your work and that you’re getting a message out there.
Whatever it is that brought you to where you are today – these are the things you should use to introduce yourself to your audience.
Talk about what inspires you…is there a meaning or reason behind what you do?
The idea for this part of the Monomyth is to excite and enthuse your audience. You might feel that your reasoning behind what you do is quite mundane, but to your followers, it will be interesting.
The next part of the Monomyth is the obstacles.
People love to hear how you overcome obstacles or opposition
Your audience what to talk to you and hear about your processes – for example, if you make something or paint, how do you start on a new piece? People love to see a work in progress too, so showing the process in a step-by-step series of posts is a great idea to engage your audience.
Talk about the difficulties and how you overcame them.
Good old Bilbo faced danger and adversity to fulfil his mission. What were the obstacles that you faced? You may not have had a great tragedy in your life, (I hope you haven’t), but everyone, no matter what they do, meets adversity or resistance at some point when creating their work.
Some ideas might be…
Dealing with health issues
Figuring out how to make or do something that was very technically challenging
Coming up with funding – how do you fund what you do?
Struggling to communicate what is really happening behind what you do
Struggling against a system that puts you at a financial disadvantage
For example, we’ve been experiencing one of the worst global pandemics in years and the world basically shut down. How did that affect you and your business? I know it had an affect on my business and on the businesses of several friends.
Did anything you have experienced during lockdown, or during the pandemic, that inspired you and your work?
You might have a story about going into a dark place, where you really struggled to do anything. How did you cope with that? What did you do to pull yourself out of the abyss? I know this sounds a bit dramatic…but you get the picture.
At some time or other, when you are in a creative mode, frantically getting everything down or done that you can, you emerge from your whirl of creativity. This is where you want to sell your products.
It could be that you have an online shop, a physical location, or sell on social media. However, you do it, this is the time to start asking for a sale, via advertising or posting about your actual products.
Finally, you have success, and like Bilbo Baggins, you are the hero/heroine of the story. When you sell something, share your victories with your friends and family – no matter how big or small. Celebrate your wins! Write about it on social media, on your website or in your blog or email. Be proud of what you’ve achieved…and don’t forget to thank your audience.
You’ve worked hard to get that achievement and you need to show your passion and excitement for your success.
That’s the Monomyth – in a nutshell! It is just one way to tell your story, but it works well as a structure and can give you something to aim for. Put yourself at the centre of your story and share your journey.
Your audience will love to see you progress and will enjoy celebrating your wins with you. Storytelling is a great way to develop your personal brand and to portray the ‘real you’ to your audience. Good luck!
If you’d like to get more marketing tips delivered to your inbox, please sign up to my email subscription. It’s completely free and you get a free marketing strategy workbook as a thank you for signing up. You also get ‘member only’ access to a restricted area of my website, where you will find lots of free resources to help you market your small business.
A well thought out and written product description can be very powerful. It can move your customers to buy from you, or at least make them sit up and take notice of your products. Having a great product description is as important as having fabulous images or an amazing website. Your descriptions contribute to your customers’ experience and also contributes to the credibility of your online shop or products.
The most common mistake that most people make is that they simply describe their products, as in what it is. This leaves your audience a bit flat – they can see what it is you’re selling. They want to understand the unique value proposition of your product, or how it gives a solution to a problem they have.
What makes a good product description?
An effective description describes the features and benefits of your product to your customer. The aim of your description is to provide the customer with information that compels them to want to buy it immediately.
This involves writing persuasive copy and answering these questions…
What problem does your product solve?
What do your customers gain from using your product?
What separates your products from others on the market?
You also need to think about SEO, (search engine optimisation), such as relevant keywords that you think your customers will use when searching for products like yours. If you get the right keywords, you’ll get more visitors …and more sales. Google will then recognise that you’re getting lots of visitors and so your online shop or website will rank higher.
The three rules to selling online
There are three basic rules to selling online…
People don’t like to be ‘sold to,’ they like to buy. If they are being sold to, then the seller is in control – if they choose to buy, they are in control. So, what you need to do is tempt your audience by solving a problem or helping them achieve a goal.
Appeal to their emotions, so they WANT to buy your products. I’m sure you’ll have heard the acronym, FOMO – the fear of missing out. This is a good example of appealing to people’s emotions. It’s not one that I’m particularly comfortable with – a good example is phone companies – they use this tactic to encourage us to buy the latest mobile phone, with all the latest technology and gadgets. The truth is, the phone you have is probably good enough for what you want, but they make you WANT to have the newer version.
You don’t have to use this hard-hitting tactic. You can use your copy to highlight the problems that your audience faces and how your product solves that. Make them feel good about the solution.
Your customers will want to have a logical reason or a rationale for buying your product – not just the emotional one. This is where your product specifications or good customer service comes in. This alone won’t sell your product, but it helps your customer feel good about the decision to buy from you.
If you think about the ads you see on TV…for fast food delivery for example. They tempt their audience in with the kind of food they know their target audience likes. They tell them that whenever they fancy a particular meal, they can get it immediately. They don’t have to go out in the cold, drive to the shop, queue for ages whilst their food is prepared, then get it home without the food getting cold. NO, you can order and have it delivered, hot and ready to eat – in your own home, on your sofa, in front of your TV.
We all know that this is more expensive, but we do it anyway, because the adverts make you WANT to.
Once they’ve set the scene, you have the specifications – what food is available, what side orders you can have, what drinks you can order, and even desserts. And you’re given the website address to order it from.
OK, I’ll give you some examples for the smaller businesses.
Jane is an artist. She sells her artwork in the form of one-off original paintings.
What will tempt her target audience? What problem is she solving for them?
Buying original artwork is an emotional buy. Your audience need to feel a connection to it – it needs to speak to them. Whether you sell landscapes or wild seascapes, wildlife, or flowers, you need to know your audience and what makes them tick.
If your artwork is one of a kind, your audience may be drawn to that because no one else will own that same painting. It makes them feel unique and valued, especially if you do commissions, so they can ask for what they want.
If you do pet or family portraits, emotion plays a big part in the decision to buy an original.
It might be that you have regular buyers who just love your work and are building a collection. They will want your latest creation as it will complete their collection.
If you paint pictures of a particular place, such as a beach that has a popular feature, or a castle that people can book for a wedding, the emotion to sell here is that they can have a little piece of a memory they have of that place hanging on their wall. They may have childhood memories of that beach that they want to capture forever in their home.
Once you know what the emotional part is, you can connect with your potential buyers by selling the benefits, for example, the feeling the painting evokes, such as joy from a memory of childhood.
The features would be the size of the painting and the materials you use to create it. You need to weave these together.
Let’s take the beach example – the feature in the painting is a lighthouse. I come from Burnham on Sea in Somerset, where there is a lighthouse on nine legs, so I’m going to use that – it reminds me of my childhood and walking the family dog with my Mum, come rain or shine.
Burnham on Sea beach with lighthouse.
38cm X 55cm
Burnham on Sea beach, featuring the famous lighthouse.
If you have ever holidayed in this popular West Country seaside resort, you couldn’t fail to notice the iconic 36 feet high, white wooden lighthouse, which stands on nine vertical pillars.
If you’ve walked the short distance from the pier to the lighthouse, this painting will bring back many peaceful memories of this regal, yet tranquil setting; the slight breeze with the taste of salt in the air, the sea rolling gently in, and the soft, yellow sand underfoot.
This oil on canvas, is just £30 and measures 38cm X 55cm.
OK, so I know I’ve gone a bit over the top with my description, but you get the idea – paint a picture of your painting with words to entice your buyers in. Spark their imagination – help stimulate their senses.
Let’s have a look at a different example…
Alice makes jewellery. She uses silver wire to make her pieces and incorporates gemstones with the silver.
Silver and amethyst gemstone ring.
£10.99 plus postage.
Select your size from the dropdown box.
Hand crafted delicate, silver ring, adorned with a stunning purple amethyst quartz gemstone. The spiritual meaning of amethyst is healing, tranquillity and calm. Amethyst has been used throughout history to expel feelings of anger, frustration, or fury from your body.
It is also the traditional gift for the 33rd wedding anniversary. The colour purple has been linked with nobility and is a regal colour, so it has that certain luxurious quality.
Available in many different sizes, this ring is £10.99 plus postage. A little bit of luxury without breaking the bank.
Again, I may have over-exaggerated the description to get my point across, but I hope you now have a better understanding and I hope this article has given you some clarity about how to write a good product description.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email or message on social media.
As well as describing your product on your online shop or website, you should also use social media to point your audience to your website. On social media, you could talk more about your journey or story. How did you come to paint or make jewellery? What inspired you to start? Why do you use the material you use?
Storytelling will be the subject of my next blog, so hope you will tune in next time!
In the meantime, you could subscribe to my monthly email, which gives you valuable tips for marketing your small business, as well as ‘member only’ access to lots of free marketing resources to help you with your marketing.
How many times do you think of a great idea and launch with gusto, thinking ‘this is it, the greatest thing since sliced bread’, only for it never to get finished? We all do this from time to time. Sometimes you might even find yourself completing all the planning and detail, but just find that you lose interest in it and then the end seems further and further away. Procrastination starts to creep in, and before you know it, you’ve stuck your project on the back burner to ‘come back to later’. Inevitably, later never comes, so how can you be sure that whatever you start is going to be finished?
Here are a few tips to help you…
Be choosy about what you start on
Make sure that whatever it is you want to do, that it is something that you are passionate about, something you really WANT to achieve. If you start on something with a half-hearted attitude, you won’t see it through. For example, I once decided I was going to make myself a skirt…now I absolutely hate sewing, but I thought it would be a good idea to help me save money etc. That skirt was started when I was in my 20s and I finally threw it away in my 40s when I realised it was never going to be finished. Why didn’t I finish it? Because I hate sewing and it was a chore to even get started on it.
Be more cautious about what kind of thing you embark on. If it’s something you are passionate about, you are more likely to be interested in the planning and actioning stages and won’t be wasting your time.
Another tip would be to try it out first – for example if you want to start a business, read up on it first. Find out as much as you can about it and see if it’s for you. You might want to volunteer somewhere in that sector or offer to help a similar business you know to find out if it’s something you’d really like to do. Then if you do decide to go ahead, you’ll know more about it.
Check out what resources you’ll need
Big companies and corporates always look at resource planning, so they have a rough idea of what is going to be needed for their project. They also look at how long it is likely to take and how much it is likely to cost. Planning out a quick overview of these things could save you lots of time and energy later, and you’ll immediately know if your project is viable. And you can use your initial planning to help you when you go into more detail.
For example, I recently published my first e-book on Amazon Kindle. It took me ages to write it as I didn’t plan it properly to start with. By the time I’d written several chapters, which took months as I did no planning, I realised that to really do it justice, I needed to start again…and start with the planning. So, I…
Created a rough outline of the book and what it would contain
Found relevant quotes and statistics and listed resources for those quotes and stats
Wrote bullet points of each of the chapters and then put them into some sort of order
Write the material properly
Designed the front and back cover
Wrote a brief bio
Created the sales page and any graphics I wanted to use for that
Made notes about how I would market the book
And gave time to edit, edit, edit!
This gave me an overall view of the book and what it would cover and look like. Which brings me nicely onto the next point…
Once you have the plan in place, as I did with my book, you will now have a more realistic idea of how much time it is going to take you to complete your project.
Now, for me, lists work extremely well – I am a list person! As I work online, I needed to factor in the time to do all the things in my plan. You will need to do the same. Plan out your tasks and resources, put them into manageable chunks of time and make a to-do list. Then plan on your calendar when you will do those tasks and book that time in.
I think the thing that puts a lot of us off when we are thinking about something we really want to do is that we don’t think about how much time and effort it’s going to take to make that dream come true or bring that project to a successful close.
My book took me 2 years to write because of procrastination and another year to think about publishing it. I had planned everything, but life kept getting in the way and other work deadlines, so I kept putting it back, despite all the planning. So, deadlines are important to keep you on track – be realistic about the time you can give.
Don’t be a perfectionist
Now, I struggle with this as I like things to be just right. However, I did so many edits on my book that in the end, I had to say to myself, ‘STOP’ and just go with what you’ve got…because every time you review something, you change it! Instead, if you are working on a project and find you are revisiting part of it repeatedly, STOP! Move on to the next part and return much later to review again. You’ll probably find that what you thought was not good enough, suddenly sounds or looks great…or that whatever you thought was a massive no-no, suddenly really isn’t that big a deal at all.
If you find that you are being so anal about every single little detail, you will never finish, so try to break down each of the tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks and put your energy into completing each small part.
Make a commitment
If you are going to go ahead with whatever your project is, then make a definite commitment to it. Whatever you put in your to-do list, commit to it, give yourself the time to do it and DO IT! If you find yourself going off on a tangent, try and get back on track. If, along the way, you come across something you hadn’t planned, but it’s needed, go back to your plan, and add it in – and make sure you plan the time to add it!
It’s also about committing to yourself. It might be that if you start to fall behind your schedule, you might need to give up other things in order to achieve your goal. If that means saying no to a couple of nights out or weekends away, so be it. You can do that any time, but your project is now! Once you commit…really commit to it. Once you have finished your project, those nights out and weekends away will still be there and you’ll have achieved your goal, so will enjoy them all the more. If you do them whilst you know you should be working on your project, you’ll be feeling guilty and when you do get back to it, you’ll be annoyed with yourself for not being further ahead.
Keep your energy up – visualise the end result
At the beginning of any project, we’re all the same – full of enthusiasm and energy for what we’re about to achieve. But that seriously wanes as time goes on. You know you still want to do it and you’re still excited about it, but you’re not quite so energetic about it as you were in the beginning.
It’s usually because you’ve lost sight of the end result. You need to be able to close your eyes and visualise that end result – what does it look and feel like? Maybe have a mood board with what it will look like – try and imagine how you’re going to feel when you get there. If your goal is to earn enough money from your project to buy a dream house or car, have photos of what that looks like on your desk, or on your wall in your workspace.
This is really important. If you’ve planned everything out and then try and do it in a certain order, you might hit a task you’re not too enamoured with. This then makes it easy to procrastinate. So, be flexible! If you’ve got your tasks down in order, and you don’t feel like doing task number 3, or start task number 3 and aren’t really enjoying it, don’t feel you have to stick with it. Move on to another task and come back to it later. If you don’t you could find yourself at a complete standstill. For example, one day when I was writing my book, I was bored with it and didn’t feel like writing, and I was allowing myself to become distracted by social media or email. So, I stopped what I was doing and started working on designing the cover of the book. Over the course of writing it, I changed the cover about ten times, but I enjoyed every minute!
Keep a record of where you are
Tracking where you are is crucial, so you know what you’re doing and when, how things are progressing and if you need to amend anything to keep on track. Every week, keep a record of what you’ve done and how it went – what went right and what went wrong. Then you can amend what you need to do the following week.
Celebrate your achievements
When you plan how you’re going to achieve your goal and finish your project, put in little milestones along the way. Then, when you reach those milestones, have a little celebration. This really helps you stay on track and to stay with your project. Each milestone brings you that little bit closer to the finish line.
Don’t feel guilty if you do give up
Finally, not every single project you start out to do will get finished. No matter how much planning you do, if you really lose interest in it, or find that something is not viable after all, don’t flog a dead horse. It might be that by working on one project, you get an even better idea for something completely different – and then that initial project becomes a chore because your heart really isn’t in it anymore.
I don’t mean just give up as soon as it feels a bit hard, or your interest wanes a bit – that’s normal. If you’re almost there and just need to find the energy for that final push, then go for it and push yourself
But, if it’s really not working out, then stop. Go away and do something else and then come back to it after a couple of weeks. If you still can’t get going with it, it’s time to call it a day. And don’t feel guilty about that – sometimes, despite all your best intentions, something just won’t work. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons.
I hope these tips will help you with your planning process and help you overcome some of the natural procrastination that comes with all projects.
If you found this article useful, please feel free to comment below or to share. And if you’d like to take a look at my book, it can be found on Amazon.
Word of Mouth Marketing seems like a pretty obvious one, but it is absolutely crucial to your business. It’s when your customer’s interest in your products or services is spoken about in their daily lives. In simple terms, it is free advertising generated by the experiences that your customers have with your business. This can be anything from a great customer service experience, where you have gone the ‘extra mile’ to help them with a problem, or maybe solved a problem they didn’t realise they had. Something extraordinary, or just a product or service that they are really pleased with and want to tell their friends and family all about it.
It really is one of the most powerful forms of advertising as 92% of consumers trust their friends over traditional media, according to The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising.
Word of Mouth Marketing (or WOM Marketing) includes viral, blogs, emotional and social media marketing.
Example of WOMM
WOMM is all about creating a buzz around your business – your products or services. The more you interact with your potential target market and with your existing customers, the more the name and reputation of your business will spread. It kind of creates a snowball effect. For example, say you own a restaurant. You create a comfortable atmosphere, the food is great, the service is exemplary, BUT, not only do you do that, you make every single customer feel special. Their dining experience is perfect because you have gone above and beyond to exceed their expectations. When they leave the restaurant, they will leave a review on your social media site; they might tweet about the fabulous service they received, about what a great place it is to eat and what a wonderful time they had. That’s great, but the snowball effect is that they will not only leave a review or tweet, they’ll also talk to their friends and family about what a great night out they had, and tell them they ought to try out your restaurant. This is part of the ‘creating a buzz’ scenario. And this can be followed up by you…
ALWAYS reply to reviews and feedback; thank customers for their comments and say how pleased you are that they enjoyed their meal at your restaurant. If you have a website, point them to the website to sign up to your newsletter, so they will be informed when you have special events on, (you might have live music nights, for example or do a special ‘Curry night’ or ‘Chinese night’). And advertise these events on your social media pages for those that don’t choose to sign up to a newsletter, (they’re not for everyone)!
Ask your customer who has left a glowing review if you can use it for your marketing. Share the review on your other social media sites, website and in your newsletter as ‘proof’ that your place is the best! If you get some really glowing reviews, you could ask the customer a few questions about why they enjoyed that particular evening – what made it special for them? Then you could turn this into a mini case study as to why your customers enjoy your restaurant…and give your customer his five minutes of fame, whilst at the same time making him feel very valued and that his opinion really does matter to you.
It’s all about TRUST
If a customer feels that he or she is listened to and valued, they will start to have an emotional bond to a particular business. This is the reason that most large Corporates have a whole team of people, who talk to their regular customers to discuss products, either with a personal visiting service, via a review of products the customer has (insurance products for example), or on the telephone. This works well as the customer feels that the company cares about them and is interested in what they are likely to do next in their lives. Let’s face it, this kind of interaction is not only to make sure that customer has the right insurance products, it’s also a fact finding mission to find out if there is anything else that could be sold to them in the future. But the point is that the customer feels that the company they have chosen cares about them.
No matter how big or how small your business is, TRUST is a huge issue and one that needs to be nurtured with every customer you have. If they trust that you have their best interests at heart, that you genuinely care about them and value their opinions, they will be loyal to you and will always be willing to try out new products or services that you offer. And, they’ll tell their friends that you have a new offer going on!
Can’t I just make up some great reviews?
Yes, of course you can, but this wouldn’t really achieve very much as you won’t have that real person going around telling their friends all about you. It may help you attract new business, but you’re starting off from a deception. There is an official body in the USA that has crafted a code of ethics for the industry.
“The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) is the official trade association dedicated to word of mouth and social media marketing. Founded in 2004, WOMMA is the leader in ethical work of mouth marketing practices through its education, such as WOMMA Summit, professional development opportunities, and knowledge sharing with top industry marketers. WOMMA’s membership is made up of the most innovative companies committed to progressing the word of mouth marketing industry through advocacy, education and ethics.”
The word of mouth marketing strategies they promote are “credible, social, repeatable, measurable and respectful” and there is no tolerance for dishonesty.
How is WOMM different to referral marketing?
Word of Mouth Marketing is about creating that buzz, no matter what kind of business you have, how big or how small you are, or the kinds of products or services you offer. The more you engage with people, the more the name of your business and your business ethics will spread. It’s all about the snowball effect.
Referral marketing, on the other hand, is a more focused and targeted marketing media. It focuses your attention on a specific person to actively encourage that one person to refer their friends. It is a segment of WOMM, but it’s a more proactive way of generating new customers. You have control over the whole referral process to convert a particular customer to buy your products or services. This could be through the use of funnels, for example.
How to do WOM Marketing
Engage with your customers and potential customers, not just collect them. You might have hundreds, or even thousands of followers on your social media account, but are they all interested in what you do or sell? Or are they just there, not really interested, but more of a ‘follow for follow’ basis? Do they interact with what you post? Do they feel that connection with you? It’s about building engagement, building a relationship with followers that are genuinely interested in what you do and feel a connection to your business. The more passionate they are about you, your business, your products, your services, the more likely they are to share what you do, share your posts and tell people about their experiences.
If you set yourself up a strategy, there are things you can do to increase the WOM around your business…things like a partner programme, affiliate marketing and using reviews.
Your biggest marketing asset is your existing customer base, so create something worth talking about and encourage your existing customers to talk about it too.
People trust their friends and what they have to say. Ask customers to refer a friend…you can give incentives to encourage that. For example, refer a friend and get 10% off their next order or get a free gift.
When a customer has bought something from you, or used your services, ask them to leave a review.
From the reviews that you get, identify something about your brand that has the possibility to generate a buzz or create something new that will generate that buzz.
Get your existing customers on board – you could create a competition, with the winner receiving your new product or service.
Word of Mouth Marketing is a free and easy way to promote your business, but does take a bit of time and hard work. Gaining trust and engagement with your business is a two-way street, but when it works, you will have meaningful relationships with people who will become your best brand ambassadors.
Hopefully this article will answer those questions and fulfil the main goal of marketing…get the right message to the right audience, at the right time!
Here are a few ways that will help you decide how you can best connect with your target audience.
Any marketing you do needs to speak directly to that audience you have defined. This does sound pretty obvious, but so many people think that their products are universally appealing so are targeting everybody. It’s nice to think that is possible, but it is seldom true and that mind-set can get in the way of talking to the right people.
The next thing to do is to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. It is most likely that they won’t know much about your brand, products or services as well as you do, so by seeing what you offer through different eyes, you can look for potential weaknesses or misunderstanding. Then the right messaging can be crafted.
Now you need to identify the best channels that will speak to your target audience. Now, there is not just one answer here, it will all depend on who your target audience are. So, when you did the research into your target market, what do they turn to for information?
Do they read local magazines or newspapers? If they do, a local ad might do the trick. Do they listen to local radio? Could you get an ad on the radio or get in touch with the radio station and ask to be interviewed? Do they use social media and if so, what sites do they use? It’s no good putting everything on Twitter and Instagram, if they mainly use Facebook, for example.
Building a communication/PR strategy
Once you know who your audience are and where they like to get their information, now you need to get that information out to them. This does mean having some kind of strategy…I don’t mean another long and arduous document that you’ll do and never look at again, but a more pointed plan. So, let’s look at the strategies you could use…
This pretty much goes without saying – most target audiences these days are on social media in one form or another. Social Media is a great way to engage people in conversations with your business. You can encourage people to follow your page by creating ‘follow’ buttons on your website that link to your social media pages. If you send out a regular email to your customers, add a follow button on that to get them engaged with your social media pages. You can also use ads on social media to attract followers.
Post content that you know will interest them and they’ll find value in. Ask questions in your posts and remember the 80/20 rule. 80% engagement and building a following and only 20% actually selling a particular product. If you only ever post details of your products and cost, people will lose interest. They like to get to know the person behind the brand, so engage with video content, podcasts, inspirational quotes, funny quotes, ask questions that may be related loosely to your product or service, do a ‘this or that’ – do you prefer coffee or tea for example. There are loads of different post ideas in one of my previous posts.
Get into publications they read
If you know that your target audience like reading hard copy material, like magazines, trade publications or newspapers, you could put a small ad in it. You could also contact the publication direct and ask if your business could be featured. If it’s a newspaper, pitch a story idea to a journalist who writes for the newspaper, or ask if you can be interviewed. Alternatively, you could write an article and then submit it with a pitch to the relevant publication. This isn’t easy, but there are a few free courses and articles online about how to pitch to this type of media.
If you know that your audience read certain blogs, contact the blog owner and ask if you could write a guest blog article. Make sure that your SEO is on point with this, and also check the SEO on your website. It needs to be good to appear high in search engines, so take a look at your website and make sure it hits the mark, so it will be seen by your target audience.
Join local networking events, as this is a great way to meet your target audience and talk about your business. Even better, if you can get a speaking spot to talk about a particular area of your expertise. You’ll not only be speaking about something that is relevant to your business and your target audience, you’ll also get the chance to mingle with your target audience afterwards. If you get a spot as a speaker, the event will be advertised with your name and subject, so you know that people interested in what you have to say will be in the audience.
OK, so now you know where and how to connect with your audience and how, let’s look at the content you share in more detail. This can be written content, video or podcast. It’s good to try out all the different forms of communication.
Appeal to emotions
People in general, are more easily moved to take action by their emotions than by anything else. Sometimes even good old logic goes out the window when emotions are involved.
For example, some of the big cat food manufacturers advertise on TV. Although the ads do focus on ingredients and how good it is, the product is mainly sold by the cute kitten talking to itself, or running around playing…or just sat there looking cute. There’s one brand of cat food that is described as ‘gourmet’ food. The cat in that ad is a pampered, long haired pedigree that looks a cut above the rest. This kind of advertising, using the right kind of images or video is what helps sell that product.
Solve a problem
If you have done your research on your ideal customer, you will know what problems they have…and how you can solve them. You just need to let them know that you can fulfil their needs and solve their problems. And, whilst it’s important to give the features of your product or service, all your customers really want to know is ‘what is in it for me?’ So, solve a problem they have and you are more than halfway there.
The time factor
Time, or the lack of it, is also a great marketing ploy. If you can communicate that your product or service saves people time, whilst also giving them what they want, for a price they can afford, you’ll be onto a winner. It’s a very busy world and people are constantly looking for ways to save time, so they are happy to listen to anyone who can help them save some of that precious time…and solve a problem for them at the same time!
DON’T push the sales angle
As I said earlier, use the 80/20 rule. I absolutely hate it when I sign up for something online – it might be a freebie, it might be something I pay for and in order to get it, I give my email address. I’ve not got a problem with that, but if I then get bombarded with emails in my inbox, I not only find it irritating, it’s usually about selling the same thing, something better, something bigger. OK, I get it, I’m happy to be asked once or twice, but some people send several emails a day over several weeks. In my mind, that’s just unprofessional and pushy. So I’ll unsubscribe…and might actually miss out on something I would have liked a few weeks down the line. I just can’t stand the hard sell. So it’s definitely about the getting the right balance on pitching products/services and engagement and building a loyal audience.
In order to connect fully with your target audience, you need to really know them. Ask existing customers and potential customers for feedback, so you can gain more information about their needs and wants. This could be via a poll on social media, or a survey to their inbox. There is no better way to get information about your audience than to ask that audience itself. You will gain great insight into what makes them tick and find out what they need, or what problems they might have. Then you can work to provide that need or solve that problem.
Share and improve your Brand
Talk about your brand values in your content. This will engage people with the same values as you and will help you identify with your audience and to connect with them on a deeper level.
Stand back and take a good, long look at your brand image. Read your website and social media pages through the eyes of your target audience. Does it speak to them in the way you thought it did? What could you do differently to improve it? Is your brand warm and inviting, or cool and aloof? Does it connect with your target audience? The way people perceive your brand goes a long way to deciding whether or not they will become a paying customer.
Publish a case study
Whether you provide a product or a service, you will have a case study to share…a happy customer, someone whose life you made easier, or whose problem your product or service solved for them. What better way to advertise your business, than to interview a happy customer and ask them how your business helped them and why it is so good. This makes your business more real to your audience. It also gives your target audience the reasons why buying from you is such a great idea.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s crucial to have a connection or a two-way conversation between your business and your target audience. It’s also really important to realise that, just because you have identified your target audience and identified how to get to them, that your job is done. Far from it I’m afraid. Every post you make, every campaign you run will show you how to do a better job next time around. And if you continue to ask for feedback and are willing to take criticism and ideas on board, tweaking what you do, you will get more and more effective results.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 …
Let’s say you’ve done your research and this is what you have discovered…
Female, aged 40 – 55
Married with children
Household income around £45,000
Stay at home Mum who works part-time
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy customers are those that love your products or services; they will recommend you to their families and friends…and they will keep coming back for more.
It’s so important to realise that in order to keep your customers happy, so that they do come back for more, the service you provide needs to be excellent. 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.
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.
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 phone, 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.
When 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
As 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
Customers 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.
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.