What makes a good small business website?

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

Why do I need a website?

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

Other reasons to have a website include…

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

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

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

What is a domain name?

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

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

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

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

Host sites

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

What pages should I have on my website?

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

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

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

For a basic website, I would advise including…

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet-315132_640

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

Call to action

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

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

Search Engine Optimization

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

Look and feel of your website

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

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

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

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

Manage your online reputation!

In the dim and distant past, the reputation of a small business was all about word of mouth. With no internet, reputation was based on you…how you conducted business, how you interacted with your customers and how your products hit the mark. If you got a negative comment, you would soon know about it, as most businesses were local, and you then had the chance to fix it.

stock-624712_640Nowadays, most businesses, even very small businesses, have an online presence – be it a website, social media page or advert. Because of the internet, small businesses are not limited to local business; we can sell worldwide and reach millions of people at the click of a mouse…and businesses are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although this is fabulous, in that you can reach millions of potential customers, it’s harder to manage your business’s reputation. If someone has left a negative comment somewhere on the web, you won’t always see it, but it can be just as damaging as a word of mouth negative remark. So how do you manage your online reputation?

Google your name

Have you ever googled your name or business name? Try it and see what pops up…you will be surprised…when I did it, there was information about me and my business, but bar-621033_640also various events I was involved in years ago when I was employed in the UK. Also try entering your name into google images – that surprised me too!

Every single day, thousands of people are looking online for information about businesses or just a particular person, simply by typing their name into a search engine. With information about you and your business in the public domain, managing your reputation is crucially important. It’s not difficult to manage, but it does take time.

What if you find a negative comment online about your business? You’ll probably want to remove it. If the comment is something someone has said about you on their website or blog, contact them direct and politely ask them to remove it.

Set up Google Alert

You can go into Google Alert and request that you get an email notification every time your name is published online. Simply type google.com/alerts into your browser and open the site. Type your name or business name into the search box. Choose ‘show options’ to narrow the search to a specific language/source/region. Then select ‘create alert’ – you can choose to have alerts sent to you daily or weekly…and you can cancel at any time. I’m doing it for a month just out of interest to see who searches my name…could be interesting!

Be active on Social Media

Not all of us want to do this or have time to, but it is worth joining a few social networks – even if you just use them to fully fill out the profile pages. You don’t have to be ID-100167081completely active on them all the time, but if you add content once a month, this can help your online reputation. As well as the usual sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, there is also Tumblr, Pinterest and YouTube, which are great channels to be a part of. I belong to a few of them, but am mainly active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube. One of my goals for this year is to be more active on these and a couple of other sites…even if only adding the odd article or adding a comment to something and why it is interesting to me.

If you do go onto new sites, fill out as much information as you can, especially your name – make sure you use your full name, not nicknames.

It’s also very important too, that if you do set up social media sites and potential customers contact you or ask questions, that you reply promptly. If you’re on social media sites, people expect you to be sociable! By posting regularly, asking questions, answering questions and giving advice, you’ll be engaging with people and eventually you will find you have a good and lasting relationship with your audience.

Be careful about what you post

There are times when we all take photos on a night out and post them to Facebook … but be wary of doing this as it could seriously affect your business reputation. The problem with social media is that other people can take photos of you and post them without your permission. If you do post pictures, remember to put a privacy setting on them so only attention-303861_640your friends can see them. There is still a problem with this as social media sites are always changing their rules and regulations, so you can’t be sure that privacy settings are really private…or will be in future. I always used to tell my children when they were teenagers – don’t post anything that you wouldn’t mind your grandparents seeing or, for that matter, the whole wide world! After all, it is the World Wide Web!

If someone does post an embarrassing photo of you and ‘tags’ you in it, you can remove that tag … and there is nothing stopping you from contacting the person who has posted it and asking them to remove it.

Encourage reviews

The upside to having an online presence, such as a website or blog, is that you can encourage reviews of your products and services. This is great for your reputation as those that love what you do tell the world about it when they write a good review. feedback-1978036_640However, there will always be the odd person who will give you a bad review or say something negative about you or your business. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the knee jerk reaction is to delete negative comments, but in reality, if you can address the problem publicly, taking a proactive feedback-3683068_640approach, apologising if necessary and offering alternative products or solutions…or asking the person making the comment to suggest how you can address the problem. Often, this shows you listen to your customers and take action, which can only show you in good light. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it and hope it will go away, or delete it. My advice would be to always reply and try and address any issues. Often this turns a negative into a positive.

If you don’t monitor and actively improve your online reputation, you are missing an ideal opportunity to grow your brand, earn respect from your customers and hopefully question-mark-1751308_640build your business.

I hope this article has helped address some of the issues around managing your online reputation. If you have any other tips, please let me know – what would you add to this list?

9 ways to connect with your customers and grow your business

Do you want to grow your business
now and into 2019?

Every year millions of us make New Year’s Resolutions – but nine times out of ten, by the end of January, those resolutions are a distant memory. If you run a small business, or indeed any business, I’m sure that a business resolution is to grow your business year on year. So, rather than only make resolutions in January, why not think about it now? Start putting plans in place to connect with your customers in a more effective way – if your customers feel a connection with you, trust you and get great customer service, your business will grow.

Know and understand your customers
Your existing customers are your ‘bread and butter’. You already know that they like your products or services, but do you actually know them and understand why they buy what they do from you? The simplest way to get this information is to ask them! Send a

woman-3083378_640

Ask your customer for a review

survey telling them you value their opinion and ask what they like or dislike about your products/services.
If a customer has not given you a review, send them an email and ask them if they would, or if they prefer not to put a review in a public place, ask them if they would share their views with you on email. Good or bad, we can all learn from feedback.
As a ‘thank you’ for completing a survey or giving a review, you could offer them a discount when they next buy your products or use your services. Customer loyalty is absolutely crucial to your business and this will encourage just that!

Be accessible to your customers
This goes hand in hand with point number one and really speaks for itself. The one thing I hate when I ring a company to ask about their product or to find out more information, is reaching that robotic automated response. I’m more likely to hang up than I am to

sculpture-2275202_640

Listen to your customers

wait. It’s so important, especially for small businesses, to be accessible to customers. They want to speak to you, a real person, and have a friendly chat and get advice, or to place an order. It might not be you, but maybe someone who works for you, but try and ensure your customers speak to a real person. It helps build good relationships and trust and, when the conversation is over, they leave with a good feeling, instead of frustrated at having to ‘press 1’ for this or ‘press 2’ for that. Make sure that your contact details are easy to find and in a prominent place on all correspondence, social media and your website. If customers can’t find you, they’ll go somewhere else.

Make use of Social Media sites
Nearly everyone these days, from youngsters to pensioners are online in one way or another. Make sure your business has a social media presence, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or one of the many other sources. Check your social media pages a

man-1718099_640

Answer comments on social media sites

few times a day, reply to any comments or questions on your business pages. Listen to other businesses and what they have to say and comment on their pages. Engage generally with as many people as you can – this will help you understand behaviours and new trends, which you may be able to tap into.
The most important thing on social media is to stay focused – don’t get drawn into online arguments on your business page – keep it professional. Keep your page upbeat and positive.

Spend time networking

people-2557396_640

Attend a networking event

It’s important to meet other like-minded people, so try and attend a couple of networking events and meet other small businesses. Networking events are great for sharing business cards and flyers, talking about what you do and finding out what others in your area do. Fantastic for building new relationships, networking helps you connect with potential customers, employees and collaborators and even investors.

Collaboration

handshake-2009195_640

Collaborate!

This follows on nicely from networking. Find people you can collaborate with – for example, if you’re a hairdresser, you might want to link up with a make-up artist, so if you get booked for a wedding or special party, you can recommend a make-up artist…and vice versa. You can also share links to your websites on each other’s pages.

Incorporate visual marketing into your strategy
Use good images, live stream chats, webinars, videos and infographics to help promote

clapperboard-162085_640

Make a video

your business. Technology is always moving on and 2018 has seen a huge surge in this type of marketing. Don’t get left behind. There are loads of sites that offer free images or you could do a ‘live’ Facebook broadcast – it doesn’t have to be long. If you want to really connect with your customers, you could invite a small group to join you in a video chat to discuss what they like about your business and what might be improved. This would give you invaluable information.

Give away free stuff!

gift-1760869_640

Give a gift!

Everyone loves a freebie. You could give a few samples of a new product and ask your customers to trial it and give feedback. You could simply give a free gift to loyal customers or offer them a discount for a limited amount of time. This makes them feel valued, it nurtures your relationship with them and keeps them coming back for more. They’re also more likely to recommend you to their family and friends

Keep in touch with customers
Try and find a regular way to keep in touch with your customers. This could be a monthly newsletter or email, a courtesy call after a sale or after they have used your

computer-1185626_640

Keep in touch with customers

service. Think about it – if you bought something from a small business and a month later they rang you to see how you were getting on with that product, it would make you remember them in future. A balance needs to be struck as you don’t want to be a nuisance, but a simple courtesy call can make all the difference and shows you care. If there is a problem, it gives you the chance to solve it and so delight the customer even more. They will remember this kind of service.

Adapt and measure your business as it grows
We get our customers from many different places and ways – don’t forget to look for new ways to contact potential customers. Look at old business plans as there may have been

tape-measure-1186496_640

Measure to see what works and what doesn’t

something that didn’t work for you in the past that might now be perfect.
Don’t be afraid to stop doing something if it’s not working for you – it’s no good flogging a dead horse. Put it on the back burner to return to at a later date.
Don’t be scared to try new marketing ideas, learning about new social media channels, do a course on how to do video for your business. You will never know if something works if you don’t try.
And ALWAYS measure what you do to see what works and what doesn’t. Monitor where your customers come from so you know what marketing sources work best for you.

Finally, decide which way you’re going to take your business for the rest of this year and into next, write them down and update your existing business/marketing plan and incorporate into next year’s plans. If you don’t yet have a business/marketing plan, now might be the time to start!

If you have any observations or questions, please contact me – I love to chat about different approaches to customers and marketing.

An introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

“SEO is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or
a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results
– often referred to as ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘earned’ results.” 

Wikipedia

If you mange or promote any online content, such as a website or blog, then it’s important to know about Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, this is how your content gets recognised and found by search engines, such as Google or Bing.

How will I know if I can be found?

That’s easy…simply type in your business name or your website URL into google search and see what comes up. If your website or links to your business show in the results, you are in the Google index.

What if nothing shows?

If the results don’t find you, then your site is not in the Google index. Google crawls billions of pages so I guess that sometimes it will miss a site, but if nothing shows it’s often for one of the following reasons…

  • You might only just have launched your website, so if that’s the case, Google hasn’t yet had time to find it – so try again in a few weeks
  • Your site design may make it difficult for Google to crawl the content easily
  • Google may have received an error when attempting to crawl your site
  • Your site isn’t very well connected from other sites on the web

How to get your site on Google and Bing

It’s free and very easy to register your business and be included in search engines.

How to rank higher on search engines

Keyword test

keywords-letters-2041816_640OK, so you’ve tested whether you can be found, you’ve registered your business to make it easier to be found in search engines. Now you need to look at your website and ensure you have the right keywords and phrases in place.

  • It’s time to do some brainstorming – put yourself in your customers’ shoes – if you were looking for your services, what would you type into the search bar? Make a note of three or four things you’d type in – ask your friends and family what they’d search for and make a note of those too. The chances are some will be the same or similar and you’ll quickly see which words or phrases are most likely to be searched for.
  • Now, type those phrases into a search engine and find out where your website comes in the results. If you can’t find it after 10 pages, no one else will either. If you can, note down other sites that come up on the first page of each query/keyword or phrase. Are they similar to your business? Are they competitors? Are they local to you or national businesses?
  • Now it’s time to pick your top keywords/phrases…be realistic about these words as some will be very competitive and there will be loads of other businesses using the same keywords/phrases to keep their website at the top of the list.
  • Next, ensure your homepage contains those keywords/phrases. For small businesses who generally have one main page, add a couple of sentences that naturally describes what you do and weave in those keywords or phrases…but make sure it still makes sense. You don’t want an overload of keywords which don’t mean anything to your customers.
  • Then, wait for a couple of weeks and go back and search again on those keywords/phrases and see if your ranking has got nearer the top.

Page or blog post

  • In order to show your customers you know all about the products or services they are interested in, write a new page or a blog post about that subject, again weaving in the keywords. This doesn’t have to be long…just a short 200-300 words. Keep the text straight forward and easy to read and don’t use the keywords more than two or three times.I used to work in a big office and when I had to explain something, I’d always think, ‘how would I explain this to a friend over a drink in a pub?’ I still do this and find it easier to write.
  • Then use your social media sites to post links to your new page or blog post. This serves two purposes; search engines will track these links back to your website, so improve your rankings; it’s a great way to let your customers and friends involved in your business
  • Ask your friends or any contacts you have to post something about you on their website – ideally using your keywords – you can do the same for them. This is known as a ‘link exchange’. It is not ethical to do it loads of times, but as long as it is relevant and provides value to your or your friend/customers business, it will work to help your rankings.
  • Search engines like sites with external links sending them to other sources or websites.

 Don’t get consumed with SEO!

composing-2391005_640

  • Although SEO is important in helping you get your website recognised on search engines, don’t let it overtake everything you do, so that your content becomes just a bunch of words. You still want pages, articles or blogs to be interesting to read, so you still need to keep your reader at the heart of what you write. This is what content marketing is all about; writing for your audience, but being aware of keywords. It’s also good to write content that has a long sell-by date – something that doesn’t ‘get old’ too quickly.
  • Also, keep an eye on those competitor’s sites that you identified and see what they do on their site and on blogs etc. to keep their rankings high.
  • Use internal links too. For example if you’re writing a new blog or article that includes a reference to something you’ve written about before, include an internal link to that previous blog or article. This not only helps rankings but also helps your readers find more useful or related content.
  • Use images and ensure that your images have labels or tags, which include your keywords

Finally, have fun with your website and don’t get too obsessed with SEO. It is something that takes time, it’s not something that gives instant results. It’s a long term strategy that you can keep chipping away at. And never rely totally on search engines to get business…what would happen if search engines were abolished? Would your business still be able to operate? Things are always moving forward and changing, and whilst SEO is important, don’t get too obsessed with it and still have fun with your website and enjoy your writing.

Embrace your business…and love it!

It’s very exciting to set up your own business…if you’ve not worked for yourself before, it’s quite an adrenalin rush. There is so much to do…setting up your ideal working environment, buying the equipment you need and arranging it and of course getting those first customers and interacting with them. Whether you offer a product or a service, you have so many choices open to you. You choose when you go on holiday, what your days off are, what hours you will work, do you wear casual clothes or smart clothes? I guess the answer to most of these questions lies in what you actually do, but you get the gist of it…you’re upbeat, positive and full of energy.

However, after the initial rush fades away, reality sets in. You may still be very positive and proud of your business, but there may be challenges you weren’t expecting. There will be things you don’t like doing, activities that you find deadly dull and there will be some things you find impossible to do yourself. It might be you don’t have a particular technical skill and there may be things that test your patience and clients who you find challenging! But you ARE still doing what you love to do and it’s important to keep the focus on that when times are tough. But there are things you can do to help alleviate the stuff that you hate or find too difficult or challenging.

Delegate activities

id-10040854If you are a creative person, you may find that everyday jobs like email, accounts, taxes, marketing, social media or marketing, a distraction from what you want to be focussing on. Hiring someone to do those jobs for you is a great option, and hiring in an expert gives you peace of mind that everything will be done to a high standard and you can stop worrying about it.

Step back

Take time out, at least once a month, to step back and look at what’s working and what’s not in your business. Can you streamline some of the things you do to make your business more efficient? Take time to plan what’s coming next, add new goals to your business plan as you achieve your old goals.

It’s also important to take a break from your business – when you work for yourself, you rarely take time off as you’re constantly thinking about it. So, book some time away, have a holiday and switch off from work. You will return refreshed and raring to go.

Join groups

heart-3147976_640Running your own business can be very isolating and this can be depressing if you were previously used to working in a busy environment. There are always local groups of small businesses who get together to network, have lunch and generally chat about their businesses. Join some of those groups and meet other people … it’s highly motivating to talk to someone who is enthusiastic about what they do and that energy is contagious and will help you to revive your excitement about your business.

Learn a new skill

If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do, but just haven’t gotten around to, now’s the time to look at it. If you need to learn a new skill, get out there and do it…be it an online course or a short course at college or in a specialised work environment. This also gets you meeting other like-minded people and will bring a new facet to your business.

New possibilities

Is there something new you can do with your business? Is there a new market you can get into or new products or services you could introduce. There’s nothing like a new challenge to inject a bit of excitement and help calm down that restlessness.

Put the spark back

new-years-eve-1283521_640When you’re first in business, it’s like being in love. Exhilarating, exciting, stimulating. Then, after a while, it might feel like your business is losing its appeal, it’s become humdrum and a bit boring, as reality of day to day life sets in. It’s hard work and maybe not as financially rewarding as you hoped…and it makes you tired and irritable.

heart-268151_640So what’s the secret to rekindling the love for your business? Remind yourself of all the good things…make a list of all that’s good about your business, the positive things it brings you. What really matters to you and what ignited that spark to be in business in the first time? And finally, never lose hope, being in business for yourself isn’t a bed of roses, but with a little bit of patience and effort, you can learn to love it again and keep it alive and kicking.

What are your top tips for putting the spark back into your business? I’d love to know, so please feel free to contact me.

 

Is your mind-set holding you back?

think-2661191_640I came across an article online the other day about a slimming club. It gave the most amazing stories about people who had lost a lot of weight by changing the way they think about food. Then it occurred to me that this mind-set could apply to marketing. We’re all guilty of thinking that the hill is impossible to climb and that, in itself, puts obstacles in our way.

After doing some research, I found that there are some marketing mind-set mistakes that are quite common – they’re definitely among the comments I’ve heard when talking to people with small businesses.

  • Marketing is mysterious and unpredictable. Lots of people feel that marketing is just something they can’t get their heads around. It’s something you either can do or can’t and it’s too hard to do it effectively.
  • Marketing doesn’t work for my business. Most of the time, this is not that it doesn’t work, it’s just that you may have the wrong approach or you’ve tried so many different things and had little success. This is a hard one, because it will feel that no matter what you do, nothing seems to work.
  • I’m rubbish at marketing. I’ve heard this loads of times from customers who come to me to help them. But the truth is that everyone can learn and improve by learning new techniques, sometimes very simple ones. There are very few small businesses who start out as great marketers…they just learn over time what works best for them and their business…and learn as much as they can about how to get better results.

self-esteem-1566153_640

Change your marketing mind-set to achieve more    

Do any of the mind-set mistakes above strike a chord with you? If they do, you are one step closer to more marketing success – once you have identified what it is that is holding you back, you are ready to think about a new mind-set approach.

  • No matter what kind of business you have, be it a crafting business, shop owner, builder, hairdresser…you need to realise that as a business owner, you are constantly looking for new customers and trying to attract new customers, so you are already in the marketing business. You are a marketer!
  • Secondly, it’s important to believe that you can become more effective at marketing your business. You can learn how to do this, it’s not an impossible feat. It’s about being positive. I remember when I worked at a big insurance company in the UK in slogan-707017_640the Marketing and Communications department, I wanted to go for a promotion. In a meeting with my boss, she told me that if I wanted to go further and get my next grade, I needed to act like I already had that grade. So I looked at the criteria for the next grade and started learning how to do some of things that required and started acting like I was doing the job. After a relatively short time, I was promoted – my behaviours had changed and, instead of sitting there wishing I was the next grade up, I worked and thought as if I was already there. Applying this to small businesses, by learning the right marketing behaviours and practicing them, over time you will become more successful at marketing.
  • The most important point is that marketing your business is the key to growing your business. As you become more efficient and effective as a marketer, your business will naturally grow.

A good start is to write down what your current mind-set is regarding marketing and then look at what you can do to improve your mind-set and change your current behaviours. If you need help with your marketing strategy, please feel free to contact me … I’ll be happy to help you.

How to market your business without using Social Media

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Facebook and how it might affect business Facebook pages. However, whilst social media has its place in marketing your small business, it isn’t the only way…there are several other ways, some easy, some fun and some that need a bit more work. Even if you decide to use other forms of social media, give a few of these a go!

  • Attend a conference specific to your business and meet other like-minded people
  • Network…try and get to a networking event. action-2277292_640You may find someone or a few people who you could collaborate with. For example if you’re a hairdresser, you might want to team up with a make-up artist, so you can pull together a package for weddings or prom events. You can put a link to their website on yours and vice versa.
  • Do you know your target market? If you do, find out where they hang out and target those areas with some striking flyers or posters. Of course, always make sure that you have permission to put up posters and leave flyers.
  • Always have a stock of business cards with you and hand them out to everyone you speak to. I’ve met people in a supermarket queue or Dr’s waiting room that I’ve got chatting to and given them my card…there’s always an opportunity! Don’t be afraid to ask if you can give someone your card – you never know when they might need your service. Be as creative as you can with your business cards so they really stand out from others.internet-1181586_640
  • If you don’t have a website, now is the time to think about getting one. There are several good, free website hosting sites that are straight forward enough for you to do yourself…or you can call in an expert to help you…and don’t forget to make sure it is mobile friendly!
  • A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your customers and to let them know about new products, popular products and to entice them with special offers.faces-63516_640
  • Have you told all your family and friends about your business? It’s obvious, I know, but there are always the odd Aunt or cousin you haven’t seen for a while, who may need your services…or may know someone who does.
  • Have you ever thought about a loyalty card? You’ve seen them in coffee shops – you buy ten coffees and then get one free. Offer your customers something special – a free gift or money-off voucher for continually coming back to you for business.
  • Pull together a free pdf or other resource that would be of interest to other people in the same business as you that they would benefit from and share with others. This is something that can take a bit of time and effort to develop, but it can really be worth it if you get it right.
  • Ask for recommendations from your current customers and use them in flyers and marketing material…don’t forget to add to your website.
  • Ask local newspapers, magazines or publications if you can be interviewed about what you do and promote it via your website.
  • blog-428950_640If you’re a blogger, arrange to interview an influential person in your niche…someone who is an expert or leading authority on the kind of thing you do. You could interview them as a podcast or use it for a blog post. Either way, once published, that person will tell his/her contacts about the interview and point them to it…and you will get more traffic to your blog/website and the possibility of them using your products or services.

Finally, have a good look at your website or get a friend to have a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Revamp, update  and refresh any old information – you may even want to think about a re-brand with fresh, engaging and eye-catching business cards, flyers, posters etc. This is not only a great way to attract new customers, but also to bring back old ones.

Small business marketing trends for 2018

Every year, there’s more and more for us with a small business to think about. The last five years has seen a surge in the use of the internet and in particular the mobile phone. Everyone is online these days…I know that if I want to buy something, the first place I go is the internet. With this in mind, I’ve done some research on what is trending in 2017 and will continue into 2018 for marketing your small business.

Mobile phone

technology-2752109_640As more and more people rely on their mobiles for everything, from ordering fast food, the supermarket shop, to clothes, shoes and gifts, it makes sense to make sure that your small business is online and easy to find.

Most website visits are from a mobile and there are more searches being conducted on a mobile that anything else. Unfortunately research shows that there are many businesses out there that do not yet have an online presence…and do not think to include mobile phone marketing into their marketing plans. There are several ways to optimise a website for the mobile user and something to think about for 2018, if you haven’t already. You can ‘Google’ how to do this.

Content Marketing

seo-1447311_640Search engine optimization (SEO) continues to be important in order to ensure your business ranks highly in search engines, so it is easier for customers to find you. Content marketing is more important than ever – the Google search engine looks for new and original content for their ranking, so it’s vital to keep your website up to date, ensure that blogs are posted regularly with fresh and engaging articles. For example, customers love to hear a real-life story, so writing about how you have helped someone by solving a problem they had, is a great way to show that you care and value your customers, and it promotes trust and loyalty to your brand.

Video Marketing

technology-2608148_640You will have noticed how much more video you now see on your social media sites, especially on Facebook and Instagram. According to research conducted by livestream.com 80% of audiences would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. This tells us a lot about where marketing is going in the future, customers are no longer happy with faceless marketing, they want to see real people giving them real information. So, it’s going to be very important in 2018 to incorporate video into your marketing strategies, whether it’s for a product launch, running a webinar or talking about product reviews or your services, it’s a fantastic opportunity that none of us can choose to ignore. You can use Facebook ads and YouTube to help you or just go ‘live’ on Facebook in real time. You may make some mistakes or stumble over a few words, but your customers will be able to relate to you much more easily.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads reach more than 1 billion viewers every month, so as a small business, you can’t afford not to try this out. You can use a Facebook ad to target your audience by age, mobile-phone-2398300_640demographic and gender. It’s not ridiculously expensive and has proved to be very worthwhile – definitely worth thinking about. Facebook has a great help centre, which can take you through this process, step by step.  Facebook asks you to choose the objective of your ad – why do you want to advertise on Facebook? You could choose to direct more traffic to your website, or to just make people aware of your brand. You can set a budget, choose who to target by age, gender, location etc. And you can see the stats of who looks at your ad. You can also choose to simply promote your business page.

This kind of targeted marketing is likely to become more and more popular, so why not give it a whirl?

Outsourcing work

Doing everything for yourself with your small business makes sense at the beginning, but as your business starts to grow, you have less time and it is always the marketing and advertising that suffers. Ultimately, this can lead to a decline in the focus of your business and a decline in sales.

Small businesses are starting to understand that it’s important to have a good marketing strategy and have someone that knows what they are doing to get the right messages out to potential customers. This often involves paying someone else, an expert in that field, to do it for you. Not only does this give you more time to concentrate on your products and services, but also means you have someone focussing 100% on marketing your business. You may have to pay out up front, but it will be worth it in the end, if you get the right person.

give-1545697_640If you can’t afford to use someone for all of your marketing, you could just outsource your blogs and get someone to write one or two a week for you – this will keep your business publishing new and fresh content, which will bring more customers to your website or highlight your brand…and it’s a much more affordable option.

It’s also worth seeing if you can get a well-known blogger interested in what you do – get them to review some of your products or offer a service for free and ask them to write a stunning review.

There are several ways to get help, but they do all come with a cost, some small and some not so small, so it is worth trying to factor in a budget for outsourcing as well as for advertising and promotion.

I hope that this article has been useful and that you have some new ideas to add to your marketing plan for 2018. Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your marketing.

Down-time, down tools and review!

Down-time, down tools and review!It’s September already and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly time seems to pass. When I was a kid and it was the summer holidays, they seemed to go on forever…nowadays the year seems to pass quicker than those summer holidays! Must be an age thing!

Well, when September arrives, I know that it’s time to kick myself up the rear end and take a good look at how the businesses that my partner and I have. For me it’s thinking about what I’ve done so far and how I can kick-start things for the rest of the year. If possible, it’s also good to have some down-time too. Unfortunately, as my partner’s business is hosting music events and gigging, he is still very busy – add into the mix that my son and his partner have just had their second child and my daughter is about to have her first, it looks like a holiday away together is very unlikely. I will be going over to see the new arrivals.

rear-mirror-2480510_640Anyway, I digress! Whilst I’m waiting for the second baby to arrive, I will be reviewing both our businesses. This time of year is perfect for doing this for everyone…you’re coming to the end of the summer season and, dare I say it, Christmas will be fast approaching, so now is the time to look at the business plan you did at the beginning of the year. If you’ve been very efficient, you may have already reviewed it once or twice already. So, are you on track to do the things you wanted to do? If not, what are the reasons? It could be that some of the goals you set yourself are too big, so you could cut some of them down into sizable and achievable chunks. Maybe the goals you set were too adventurous…in which case, you could put one or two on the back burner for next year…of course, you might just need to push yourself that little bit harder to achieve them. It’s totally up to you how you approach goals that have not yet been reached.

Take a look at what you have achieved and be proud! What went well and what didn’t go so well? Make notes of what to avoid next year.

head-1345064_640Now is also the time to plan for the rest of the year – what are you going to do on Social Media? What blogs are you planning to write? Make a list and try and stick to the schedule. Do you have any events coming up, such as networking events, markets, craft fayres etc? If you do, plan how you can be more efficient and get more sales or meet more people.

If you have website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at it objectively. Is it easy to navigate? Can you find the ‘contact’ details? Are the terms and conditions up to date and easy to understand? Do all the links work? You could review your ‘About’ or ‘Home’ pages, update the information and add a new profile picture. If you sell products online, are all the products current? Are old products still showing…do they need to be deleted?

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to ask current customers for some feedback, so you have new recommendations in the run up to the end of the year.

Is there anything you’d like to do as a push leading up to Christmas, such as a competition or incentive for customers? Now is the time to plan this.

What are you competitors doing? Are they doing something you could use to improve your business?

puzzle-210784_640Finally, we all like to learn new things, so make sure you are up to date with the latest news and technology – is there a social media site you’d like to learn more about? There are lots of free courses online so take advantage of them and learn something new to help your company progress. If you don’t have time to do this or learn new things this year, put them into plan, so you add them into your business plan for next year.

If you have any useful hints or tips to help with reviewing your business, please let me know in the comments – I’d be interested to hear from you. Happy reviewing!

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

The Content Marketing Institute, which is an online resource for information on everything marketing related, defines content marketing as…

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Stuart Miles (7)The key word here is ‘valuable’ content; content that will speak to your customers, content that they want and need, maybe information that solves a problem they have. In order to do this, you need to know your existing customers and research and get to know your prospective customers, so you can deliver that all important content. It may take some time to get it right, but when you do, you will have the opportunity to expand your business, build your reputation and ultimately be known as an expert in your field.

Once you can provide the right kind of content, it brings much more to your ‘table’.

More traffic to your website

If you can solve a problem that your customers have and write about it on your website, when potential customers search online for a solution, they will visit your site. Stuart Miles (6)Depending on what you do, that could lead to a sale or a request for your services…and they are likely to return to your site in future.

If you can find a way to tailor your content to your target customer’s needs and wants, they will trust you and you will get repeat business.

More sales

When a person finds a site they like, that speaks to them personally, or they feel that it speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to turn into customers. As everything is online these days, we all turn to the internet if we want to buy something; I like to read about what I want to buy first and find out as much as I can about that product before I buy it. I am more likely to buy from a business that knows what they’re talking about and one that seems to know my needs.

Enhances your brand

It sounds a bit rude to say this, but it is fundamentally true – people are generally interested in themselves, in their likes and needs. This isn’t about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website or interacts with your David Castillo Dominicibusiness, they are not in the least bit interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are more interested in what you can do for them. If you provide something that makes their life easier, less stressful, and cost-effective and generally entertain them, they will then become interested in your brand as they will see it as something they relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and then promoting it on social media, more people will get to see your name and start to relate to the things you write about. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to tell their friends and so your audience starts to grow and they become more aware of your brand.

Content marketing is cheaper than other forms of marketing

The title of this last section basically says it all. If you can research and write your content yourself, it is more economical as you’re not spending money on getting someone else to do it for you. You’ll also learn so much from the research you do, that you’ll find more content as you go.

Stuart Miles (5)When you publish your content on your blog or website, make sure that you promote it on every social media site that you have…with maybe a jig around of the title or introduction. You can also contribute to larger sites to get your name out there.

Finally, with content marketing, you are attracting customers to you because they’re interested in what you have to say…and ultimately they will come back again and again.

If you want to influence your audience to your way of thinking and to look at your products or services, you must provide them with something they want or need, be their solution, show them that you provide valuable content and that you value their custom.

 

Images courtesy of 1-3 ) Stuart Miles, 4) David Castillo Dominici 4) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net