How the customer experience (CX) is evolving in 2022

The customer experience is every interaction that a customer has with your business, from the very first time they find your website, shop, or social media pages, to every time they comment or like what you do, right up to making a purchase or working with you.

It’s something that continually evolves, and since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, it’s developed faster than every before. During the various lockdowns, we all had to adapt our businesses to cope with being more visible online…and customers have found that they like the services that businesses started to offer during this time and want it to continue.

For the rest of 2022 and into 2023, there are several things you can do to ensure that your business evolves to match those new customer experience trends.

The Digital Experience

These days people use technology more than ever to find what they want – most of us reach for our phones to look at things we want to buy. We can see what the best products are, compare prices and look at reviews to see which is the best to buy. If you’re a small business and not online in several places, you’re missing a trick.

The obvious one is to have a website. I know that many small businesses have online shops, such as Etsy, to sell their products, but at the end of the day, you don’t own that shop. You must pay high fees and the owners of Etsy could shut you down whenever they want.

Whereas, if you have your own website, you own it. No one can take it away from you and you can put so much more information about your business on it – you’re not just restricted to a shop. As well as being able to tell your backstory through your ‘About’ page, you can also set up an email subscription to communicate regularly with your customers and set up a blog to share information with them. It’s more personal.

Your social media accounts are also useful to gain a following and promote your products or services. You can also promote your website, blog, or email subscription, with links to your website.

Consumers expect you to be on these channels and they are the best way to engage and interact with your customers and potential customers.

Be personal

Another positive for the customer experience is personalisation. They like personalised experiences when they engage with a business. And not just greeting them by name in emails etc, or remembering birthdays, they want more than that. They expect to be able to contact businesses on their terms – using email, chat, voice calls, messaging etc. They want their enquiry answered in a timely way and don’t want to waste their time waiting or having to repeat themselves.

Customer expectations

As things have evolved to a more digital world, customer expectations have grown. And if you make any kind of promise to a customer, they will expect it to happen quickly.

How do you find out what their expectations are? Ask them! Put questions on your social media pages to find out what they like and don’t like.

You could send out a link to a survey…and offer a discount in exchange for completing it.

It also helps to look at your competition to see what they’re doing and how they interact with their customers. If you run the same, or a similar business to that of your competitors, your customers will have similar problems.

Identify customers’ pain points

To turn your customers into fans and advocates for your business, you must exceed expectations. Look at the pain points that your customers have and find out how you can address them with what you do.

Some common pain points include shipping, returns, sizing and being able to easily contact you. By looking at these and other pain points, you can exceed expectations and create very happy customers, who will recommend you.

Your customers put positive experiences above everything else, as you can see from some of the latest statistics below.

The Omnichannel experience

Omnichannel simply means lots of different channels – social media, website, email, chat etc.

To maximise this experience for your customers, ensure that you are consistent across all channels – that branding and the way you speak and interact is the same. And that your customer service is excellent and exceeds expectations on all channels.

Data Security and privacy

Another thing that customers are very aware of these days is data security and privacy. There is so much on the news and online about this that most people know they have certain rights.

The emphasis on data security and privacy is only going to increase over the coming months and years. As your customers share more personal data, businesses must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulations, (GDPR) relevant to the country you trade in, as well as the countries you sell to.

You should ensure that you have a privacy policy and clearly you’re your data practices in that policy. You need to ensure that you are clear about your purpose and processes for collecting and storing customer data.

You need to have your customers’ consent to email them – most email subscriptions include an opt-in, where customers willingly give their name and email address, so they are consenting to you sending emails.

Never share your customers’ data with third parties or sell lists of customers email addresses.

You can find out more about GDPR online for your country, but here are a couple of useful links.

GDPR UK

GDPR EU 

Top tips for a great customer experience

Businesses with great customer experiences have higher customer referral rates and higher rates of customer satisfaction. This means you’re more likely to keep those customers’ loyalty and they’re more likely to come back for more. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can have – your customers do the marketing for you, saving you time and money.

In today’s market, you not only need to compete on price, but you also need to compete on experiences, that is, your customers want to feel emotionally connected to you and your business.

Here are some of my top tips for creating that great customer experience:

  • Every business should have a mission statement and set goals. Make the customer experience part of your mission statement and have specific goals to enhance that experience.
  • Be friendly – whether you are talking to customers face to face, or via video call or phone, SMILE! Believe it or not, you can hear that friendly smile. If you’re face to face, make eye contact. And always use warm, friendly language and tone of voice.
  • Have empathy for your customers. Do your best to understand them and what they want. Make the experience they have with your business, the best!
  • Provide value – by this I don’t mean that your products should be cheaper than everyone else’s. I mean deliver the best value you can, at the right price for your customers. Make sure your prices are easy to find and are visible – people don’t have to go looking – they’ll just log out. Make the sales process as quick, efficient, and easy as you can.
    Make sure that your shop or website is easy to navigate and doesn’t take ages to load – or you will lose customers.
  • Be easy to contact. This speaks for itself. Make sure that your contact details are on every channel you use…be that your phone number, email address or chat box.
  • Be consistent with everything you do and never stop looking for ways to improve. Listen to your customers, take note of any feedback you get and act on it.
  • Finally, show your appreciation for your customers. Sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ is enough, whether that is face to face or via email.

I hope that this article has been helpful – if you have any further suggestions or have any questions, please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email me at cindymobey@outlook.com or contact me via my website.

Take your marketing from mediocre to marvellous

The one thing that most small business owners have in common is the dream about what their business has the potential to grow into. They want it to be a success and know they can do it if they work hard.

However, sometimes it’s hard to focus on what is important and you sometimes lose the focus on the future and how to keep moving forward. How many times do you find yourself wondering if it’s all worthwhile? How often do you feel like just jacking it all in and doing something else?

You know that in this digital age, especially since Covid raised its ugly head and everyone had to find more innovative ways to reach their customers, that having quality content online that engages your audience is crucial. But that really is only half the picture. You also need to ensure your audience is exposed to this content, and that means building a successful content strategy beyond social media posts.

This week’s blog looks at how you can work ON your business, NOT IN your business, and take it from mediocre to marvellous.

Resolve your mediocre marketing

Mediocre is quite a depressing place to be in marketing. Lots of businesses pay more attention to how they look than what they’re saying, or how they’re saying it. I’m not saying everyone does this, of course, but instead of focusing on what makes us unique, we are all guilty at some time or other of saying what people expect us to say or do.

So, what can you do to resolve your mediocre marketing?

All small businesses have lots of balls in the air. Not only do lots of you have a family to look after, but you also have everyday things to keep on top of too. Some of you are running your small business as a side hustle, as well as holding down a full-time job, and you can find yourself being pulled in all directions. This can lead to a mindset of ‘hoping for the best,’ which in turn can lead to you being unproductive – and it’s exhausting!

One of the answers is to work smarter instead of harder. Here are some things to think about:

Have a plan

If you read my blog regularly, you will know what I’m going to say; you need a marketing plan.

At this point, you might just switch off. Is it because you find the thought of having to plan a bit overwhelming? It’s probably the last thing you want to hear…again!

But not having a marketing plan makes your job harder and juggling all the harder to handle.

If you have a marketing plan, you can focus on the things that are necessary. In ‘The Trend Report: Marketing Strategy 2022, reported by CoSchedule, it was found that people who have a plan to market their business are 313% more likely to report success than those who don’t.

And, although it may seem very overwhelming, it really isn’t.

What should a marketing plan contain?

For starters, it doesn’t have to be 100 pages long – that won’t help you at all. It needs to be clear and short, realistic, and repeatable, as well as easy to understand so you can tweak it as you see fit in future months.

It needs to show:

  • Your Vision/Mission statement
  • The four Ps – products, pricing, place (where you’re going to sell what you do), and promotion (how you’re going to sell your products or services).
  • Market analysis – look at your competitors
  • Target market – who you are aiming your products/services at
  • Your goals or objectives
  • Your promotion strategies
  • What budget you have if any
  • How you’re going to measure the success of your plan

If you would like a simple to follow marketing plan, sign up to my email and receive your free ‘Marketing your small business workbook.’ This will help you get on the right track.

Don’t try to do too much

Trying to do too much can also cause you to do less. For example, I know businesses that are on five or six social media channels. It’s good if you have the time to manage them all, but my experience is that you’re likely to lose your motivation and abandon them one by one.

Trying to be seen everywhere is not easy to maintain long term, especially if your business is just you. So, I would always advise to focus on just a couple of social media, or online channels and do them well.

Be consistent, add plenty of value to your customers and have a goal – what you expect to achieve from your social media activity.

One of those online channels doesn’t have to be social media – it could be email marketing. To build a lucrative email list, it’s advised to have a lead magnet that entices people into subscribing to your email. I realise that email isn’t for everyone, but if your business is steadily growing, you engage with your audience regularly online, (and may be finding this is taking up too much of your time), the next option is to create an email subscription, where you can talk directly to your customers every week or month.  

  

Not everyone is your audience

I know I’ve posted about this recently on my social media pages, but one mistake that lots of small businesses make is to try to sell to everyone. Not everyone is your target audience, and by trying to target everyone, you risk selling to no one.

You need to know your audience, build a couple of buyer personas and tailor everything to them.

Don’t spend too much money

The word ‘budget’ is something guaranteed to send fear into most small businesses hearts. It’s not one of our favourite words, but it is important. Having a budget, no matter how small, can help your business.

There are so many digital marketing apps it is all too easy to keep subscribing to new apps. But while they might be individually cheap, they add up.

Look very carefully at what you spend your money on. Do you spend a lot on app or analytics tools? I do subscribe to Canva, and it’s worth every penny as I use it every day, but I have recently stopped subscribing to a few, as they were just a waste of money.

It is worth spending money on things you will use and will help you make your business more successful.

Here are a few ideas on what you can spend your marketing budget on:

  • A website (some people prefer to spend on things like Etsy or Shopify rather than a website as lots of the marketing can be done for you, but I feel it’s better to have your own website with built-in e-commerce, as you own it yourself
  • A registered domain
  • Training – so you learn more about things associated with your business
  • Paid ads – this needs very careful consideration to get the right kind of ad
  • If you are service based, you might want to invest in scheduling and measurement tools
  • Hire some professional help, such as a marketing coach, someone to help you with your business/marketing/social media strategy, or someone who can build your website, write blog posts, or set up your email marketing.

Don’t forget about your existing customers

Did you know that your existing customers are your biggest sales opportunity? Happy customers are loyal customers and are five times more likely to buy from again, and four times more likely to act as referrals.

Looking after your existing customers is worth the effort as losing customers who are no longer engaged or hear from you, are more costly. It’s harder to find new customers than it is to keep existing ones.

Keep your customers engaged with your business by offering them gifts, or discounts, listen to their feedback and act on it, or maybe think about creating some sort of loyalty programme.

Stay up to date with technology

This is a hard one, but most of what you do as a small business will be routine. There will be some daily tasks that need to be done to keep your business running smoothly. The more effective you become in completing these tasks, the more time you must work more on your business. For example, instead of physically posting on social media every day, batch make your content for the week and schedule it. You then only have to do this once a week.

Keeping up with the latest tools you can use to help you can ultimately save you time and money.

Mix up your marketing activity

Check out your insights on social media to find out what kind of posts work best for you and what doesn’t. Change the type of posts you do, try, and include things like reels and video, as well as short and long posts. Post your blog articles, and remember to use posts that entertain, educate, engage, and inspire your target audience, as well as selling posts.

Take a step back

In this article, I’m not telling you what to do, but what I am trying to encourage is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It gives you time to assess what works and what doesn’t work for you.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of doing the same things, just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, or because that’s what everyone else does. But in business, time is precious and it’s good to remember to:

  • Create a clear marketing plan so you can focus on essential activities
  • Only concentrate on the social media platform that you love and that you enjoy
  • Sell to a targeted audience rather than trying to sell to everyone
  • Make your budget work for you in the most efficient way
  • Make your existing customers your priority. They will be the ones to buy more, give reviews, and are more likely to refer you to their friends and family

This is basically what a marketing strategy is all about and will help your business go from mediocre to marvellous! If you need help in pulling together your strategy, please feel free to take advantage of my free 30-minute discovery call, where I can give you some tips to help your business

The customer journey that wins customers

It doesn’t matter if you’re a big company, or a small business, we all must think about what our customers want and how we get them from that first stage, where they’ve just heard about your business, to the purchase and advocacy stage.

This is called the customer journey, and by making a journey map, you can plan your customers’ route, ensuring you meet their needs along the way. Does this sound complicated? Are you glazing over? It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Knowing what your customers want

The first stage starts before your customers even know you exist. This is the part where you do your research to find out what people want and need from a business like yours…and knowing your ideal customer.

Let’s take sports trainers as an example. You could say that your ideal market is everyone, but it’s important to niche down to a narrower market in order for you to be able to target them with your content. So, are you going to concentrate on comfort, or go for pure fashion? Are you going to target younger people or older people? What colours do you want to go for? What style? So, before you can look at the customer journey, you need to know exactly who your customers are. You can do this by looking at your current customers, look at the insights on your social media pages and the analytics from your website.

Build a few buyer personas, so you know what your customers like, what they want and what makes them buy.

Stages of the customer journey

Stage 1 – Awareness

This is where your customers first hear about your business or have their first experience of what you offer. They see this largely through your marketing. It might be they google a product of yours and it appears on a search engine like Google. Google could point them to your website or online shop, it might show them your business profile on Google, or show your social media pages.

They may see a physical flyer, pick up your business card at an event, see an advert in a local magazine, or it might be someone you get talking to, who asks what you do. They also may hear about you through word of mouth from their friends or relatives.

Where and how you market your business will depend on their age and lifestyle, so that’s why knowing your target market is so important. If you are marketing to an older audience, for example, some of your marketing would probably be through Facebook. But if your audience is much younger, you would use as many social media channels as you can, especially TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The younger generation spend most of their free time online, so that’s where you’re most likely to find them.

Typically, people must be exposed to your business at least eight times before they start to recognise it, so it’s not a quick process.

Stage 2 – Consideration

This is where your potential customers are looking at what you have to offer and are thinking about whether your products or services fit the bill for them. Do you solve a problem they have and are you the person to go with over others they’ve seen?

Basically, are you worth investing in?

Your customer reviews and testimonials are what makes a difference in this stage. They want to see social proof that you’re as good as they’ve heard you are.

This is also where blogs come into their own – articles that potential customers can read that give proof that you know your stuff. The same applies to email newsletters. They may even sign up to your newsletter months before they become a customer.

The other thing that influences potential buyers at this stage is what they can see. Good images of your products, with good descriptions, telling them the benefits of your products – how they help, what they do and how potential customers can’t live without it! How will your product or service make their lives better?

So, good images and video on your website, online shop and social media are crucial.

Stage 3 –   Purchase

They’ve liked what they’ve seen, are convinced you are the right person to buy from and they go to your website or online shop to buy.

At this stage, it’s vital that your website or shop is easy to navigate, that it’s easy to pay for what they want, and everything is crystal clear as to what they can expect from you.

If they ask questions at this stage, getting a timely answer is an absolute must. Customer service is also an important part of the customer experience and their journey and can make the difference between getting that actual purchase or them going away and never returning.

Stage 4 – Service

Service is about going that extra mile for your customers. That age-old adage that says the customer is always right must come into play here, whether you agree or not. If your customer service hits the mark, you won’t go far wrong.

Things like a quick and efficient delivery service, securely and nicely packaged. You can’t always control the postal service and delivery times, but so long as you get an order out quickly and stay connected with your customer, this will go a long way to enhancing their customer experience.

If something does go wrong, don’t try, and hide it – be up front with your customer and admit to any mistakes and take immediate steps to rectify it. This is where communication is key – replying to emails, replying to complaints quickly, trying to resolve any issues to keep things running smoothly.

Similarly, if you have customers who are happy and tell you they are happy with your service, reply to them too and thank them for their comments. Always reply to every comment on your social media posts, every email you receive and reply to any message you get on social media. If you come across as genuine and friendly, and as a business who really cares and values its customers, things will go well.

Stage 5 – Loyalty

Loyalty is as it suggests – encouraging customers to be loyal to your brand and business. It’s about encouraging them to come back for more.

Gaining new customers is something we all aspire to, but retaining your existing customers is also crucial to the success of your business. So how do you keep that loyalty?

Send thank you cards with their order and maybe offer a small discount for their next order or add in a little small gift.

Introduce a loyalty scheme, with a card, so each time they buy from you, they get points. When they reach a certain number of points or have bought from you a certain number of times, they get a free gift, or a voucher valued at a certain amount that they can spend on your products or services.

Don’t ignore your customers once they have the product they’ve ordered. Leave it a couple of weeks, then message them to ask how they’re getting on with your product and how it’s working for them. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review.

Quite naturally, we don’t always think to leave a review if we’re happy with something – people typically only think about reviews if they have a bad experience. Sometimes a little prompt is all they need to leave a review on your social media page or website.

Invite them to follow you on social media, read your blogs or sign up to your newsletter.

Stage 6 – Advocacy

Advocacy – where the customer becomes your fan and tells everyone about how wonderful your products and services are. They use their experience with you and your business to shape other potential customers’ opinions. They might comment on your posts or share posts on social media.

They might talk about this amazing product they’ve bought from you to their friends and family, or they might give great stories about how your service is one of the best they’ve come across.

How customers behave at this advocacy stage is dependent on how they were treated in the other stages. Often it’s down to the overall customer experience they had with you, your brand, and your business.

And there you have it – the customer journey in seven steps. If you’d like help with any of these stages, or want help with identifying your target market, so you are hitting the ground running, give me a call or email me. I’m always happy to help.

What makes your customers buy from you?

Understanding consumer behaviour

Have you ever wondered what makes some people choose one type of product and another person choose another? For example, why someone would prefer to buy a designer handbag, whereas someone else is happy with one she bought from a local small business. What drives our choices?

Studying consumer behaviour is fascinating, as I’ve found by researching this article. So, what is consumer behaviour?

It’s the study of how people buy, use, acquire and dispose of goods and services. It’s not just about buying either, it could be they acquire goods through bartering, lending or leasing. Behaviour can be affected by how much they use the goods they buy. For example, if someone buys a can of drink, it is consumed just the once, but if they buy a laptop or tablet, it would be used over a period of time. Buying behaviour depends on how much that product is used.

Consumers are also influenced by others, through reviews. If a product has great reviews, or if a consumer’s friends are raving about how good a product is, they are likely to buy it. But, if their friends are really slating a product, or it gets negative reviews, they probably wouldn’t buy it.  

There are several factors that influence how consumers make their buying choices. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about five of them…

  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Cultural
  • Personal
  • Economic

All of these factors can be split down further.

Psychological factors

How someone feels about a particular product when they are presented with it will depend on their state of mind. Their state of mind will determine not just how they feel about the item itself, but also about the brand as a whole.

Social factors

Most of us want to be accepted socially, and this can affect buying habits. In order to be socially accepted, some people will mimic others, including copying what they buy.

Family, friends, work colleagues or other groups will play an important part in the way people see different products or services. These groups all help to influence buying behaviours.

Cultural factors  

Culture is not just defined by a person’s nationality. It can also be defined by who they associate with, religious beliefs or even people living in the same geographical location.

Personal factors

Personal factors include age, occupation, marital status, budget, personal beliefs, values and morals.

Economic factors

Consumers are affected by the economic condition of a country. This is evident at the moment with inflation at an all time high – people can’t afford to buy too many luxuries, as they have to concentrate on paying the bills, putting fuel in the car and buying food.

Economic factors include personal income and how much disposable income is left after everything has been paid each month. It also includes family income – again, what’s left over that the family can enjoy.

Consumer credit is another factor. People have credit cards so can buy goods when they want to. Consumers are more likely to buy luxury and comfort goods if they have access to higher credit, or can pay through a credit card, easy instalments or bank loans. I’m not saying this is good – it’s just a factor.

    

The Five stages of the consumer buying process

Now you understand the factors that influence the buying process, lets look at the five stages people go through when deciding to buy.

  1. The problem. A consumer notices they have a problem they want to solve. This could be anything from needing to get a new outfit for a special event, to buying a new tap for their sink.
  2. Research – the next stage is to research how to fix their problem. This might be trawling the internet for recommendations, or to look at various sites that sell what they’re after. It might be talking to a friend or family member for their advice.
  3. Find a solution – once they have all the information they need, they can start comparing brands and looking at reviews to help them decide on a solution.
  4. Buy a product – the consumer makes a decision and decides to spend their money on the solution they’ve chosen.
  5. Review the product – some consumers will leave a review about the product they’ve bought – some won’t. Either way, they will still personally review the product and decide whether they would recommend it to others…and whether they’d buy from that brand again.    

The four types of buyers

It’s also worth knowing about the four different types of buyers, so you can market your products or services accordingly. The four types are different, based on what motivates them to buy.

  1. The analytical buyer – this person is motivated by logic and needs to have lots of information. They want to look at all the data on the different brands and different types of products available before making an informed decision.
  2. The amiable buyer – this person is warm and friendly and just wants everyone to be happy. They can often be stumped by having to make big decisions, especially if there is a perception of a win/lose outcome.
  3. The driver buyer – this type of buyer is really concerned with how others view them, and whether they should follow the trend setters. Drivers are most concerned with their appearance rather than the relationships that are formed during a transaction.
  4. The expressive buyer – this buyer is driven by relationships. They hate the feeling of isolation and don’t like being ignored during a transaction. They like to feel as though they are your most important asset.

This being said about the four types of buyer, it’s difficult to put everyone into one category – people will often fall into a combination of the four.

Conclusion

As you can see, consumer behaviour is influenced by many things; psychological, social, cultural, personal and economic.

It’s also worth knowing the buying process and the types of buyers – this can help you figure out how you can reach and influence the people that are most likely to buy your products.

If you’d like to take a more in-depth look at your customers and target market, get in touch for a free discovery call.

Reasons why content marketing is crucial for small businesses

Content marketing and its value really can’t be stressed enough – especially in this digital age, where 59% of the global population use the internet. It is an immensely powerful marketing strategy that can help your small business become highly visible to your target audience.

By producing quality content regularly, you build trust, authority, and credibility with your audience, which helps you stand out from your competition.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as…

“…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.”

One of the key words here is ‘valuable’ – content that will speak to your potential customers, information that they want and need; information that solves a problem or pain point.

Ways content marketing can help  

Content writing is more than just writing blog posts- it covers any content that you create to attract and retain your customers. But having your own blog on your website has its merits…

These are good enough reasons in themselves, but there are many different types of content marketing – not just blogging. These include:

  • Blogs
  • Video
  • Social Media content
  • Infographics
  • Case Studies
  • Checklists
  • E-books
  • Memes
  • User-generated content
  • Podcasts
  • Customer testimonials
  • Webinars
  • Success stories
  • Interactive content

What does all this content do for your business?

With 59% of the global population using the internet, you have a huge market for your products or services, especially if you trade worldwide. So, let’s look at some reasons for taking time to create all this content.

Get your business found on search engines

With all those people online, there will be potential customers out there looking for exactly what you have to offer. If you are not online, you won’t be found. You can put your business online in many ways. You can set up an online shop, through Etsy or Shopify, or one of the other online shopping host channels, but these do tend to be expensive, especially with the fee increases we’ve seen recently.

Having your own website is a great step to take, as it is yours. You do have to pay an annual fee, but this can be done fairly cheaply, and worth it as your website can not only host your shop, but it can also tell your audience a bit about you, and you can add a blog and advertise your email newsletter all in one place.

The other thing I would definitely advocate is setting up a Google Business Profile, which is fabulous for being found locally. Again, this includes a profile, you can post and share blog posts, as well as adding photos and videos.

More traffic to your website

Linking in with being found on search engines is that content marketing helps push more traffic to your website. If you blog about a problem that you solve or write an article on your website about what your business can do for your customers, when they do a search online, your article or website will appear. Once they’re on your website, it is likely they will have a look around, visit your shop and look at your details…and if they like what they see, they are likely to return in the future.

It’s important to have a CTA (call to action) on every page of your website, which tells your visitors what to do next. You can use these buttons to tell your audience to ‘buy now,’ or ‘sign up for my email newsletter,’ or point them to your courses, training or coaching and to your customer testimonials – in fact, anything that keeps them on your site.

More sales

When a potential customer finds a site they like, or feel that a site speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to convert to customers.

Make sure that your website includes customer testimonials about the benefits that your products or services give. I always like to read about a product before I buy it, and if there are great testimonials, which show me how a product will benefit me, I’m more likely to press that ‘buy now’ button.

Testimonials are also proof, not just that you have good products, but also you have impeccable customer service, which goes a long way to getting that button pressed too.

Establishes you as an expert

Writing valuable content that speaks to your audience, also has the added bonus of setting you up as an expert in your field. If you’re sharing content that serves your customers and gives them valuable tips or information, they’ll want to know more. Setting yourself up as an expert promotes trust with your audience and engages them to want to know more about you and your products or services…and what’s in it for them!

Enhances your brand   

This might sound a bit harsh, but generally people are not really interested in your brand or in you, they are more interested in themselves – in their wants and needs. It’s not about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website, shop, social media business page, they are not interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are interested in what you can do for them, what you have that they might like, or something that makes their life easier. This is hard to hear, but it has an upside.

If you are providing something they’re interested in for whatever reason, or if your social media pages entertain or educate them, they will then become interested in your brand, as they will see it, and therefore you, as something they can relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and promoting it to your social media pages – or if you are publishing new, unique content to your social media pages, consistently, more people will get to see your name or business name and will start to relate. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to share your posts, or tell their friends and family about your wonderful products or fabulous services, so your audience will start to grow, which is when your brand really shines through. This all takes time and is not something you can achieve overnight.

Helps you compete with your competitors

I’m not talking about copying or doing the same as your competitors, but there is something to be said to ensuring that you’re using the same (and more) marketing channels as your competitors. When your business and brand is not in a place where your competitor is, you’re potentially losing out on business.

It’s worth doing research on your competitors and finding out more about them, so that your business is in the right places to compete.

Improve customer relationships

Having good relationships with your customers goes without saying, we all know that. But it’s even more important in this digital age, as customers have so much choice when it comes to who they want to do business with. And it’s important to remember that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.

Content marketing is the best way to show your customers and potential customers that you understand their problems or pain points…and that your products or services solve those problems. If you have a website, you could add a list of FAQs to help explain how your products or services solve those problems, or you can write about it in your blog or email newsletter.

This really helps improve those customer relationships, instil trust, and encourages them to spread the word about your business.

Helps your overall marketing strategy

Content marketing is just one aspect of your marketing strategy, but it is the glue that holds each activity together to help you grow your business. If you can align all your marketing activities with your content, it will help you achieve your goals and keep them coordinated with everything else you do.

For example, you decide to create an e-book alongside a downloadable checklist. You can promote this on social media, or in Facebook ads. You can also send it to your customers in your email newsletter, and you can promote it on your website. You could even write a blog post about it and how it solves a particular problem. So, just this one piece of content will help support your multi-channel marketing strategy.

Content marketing is good value for your business

Finally, if you research and write your content yourself, it is an economical option and costs you nothing but your time. You’ll learn a lot from the research you do, and you’ll find more content you can use as you go.

Not everyone wants to write their own content, and if your business is very busy, it may be worth you outsourcing some of the copywriting work. This is still excellent value for money, as you’ll be asking for expert help from someone who already knows how everything works and will know about your kind of business.

Conclusion

Content marketing is crucial for small businesses. One of the biggest challenges that you face as a small business is reaching your potential customers. To create brand awareness without access to a huge budget for marketing campaigns, content marketing is your answer. Having the right kind of content marketing strategy in place to ensure that you reach your target audience, will help your business stand out from your competitors and build trust, authority, and credibility with your customers.

If you need help with your content marketing, take a look at my website to find out how I can help you. Or contact me for a free 30-minute chat to see how I can help.

The key elements of digital marketing

Every day the number of people going online increases, and the recent pandemic has seen a huge increase in online shopping. This means that offline marketing won’t be as effective as it was before.

Marketing is all about connecting with your target audience in the right place and at the right time and, in this current time, that means meeting them where you know they’ll be…. online!

So, it makes sense to market your business online – digital marketing.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing covers everything that uses an electronic device or the internet. Whether you’re a small or larger business, you can benefit from using digital channels, such as search engines, social media, email, and other websites to connect with your current and potential customers.

Digital marketing helps you to reach a huge audience, which you would not have access to using traditional methods. You can also target prospects who are most likely to buy your products or use your services. It’s also more cost effective that traditional methods, as you can measure your success daily and change things as you see fit.

What are the benefits of digital marketing?

There are lots of benefits to using digital marketing for your business. Here are just a few of them…

Minimal Costs

When you have your own business, you’ll know that marketing and advertising are the most expensive things you need to do. Marketing via digital platforms gives a much more affordable alternative to traditional methods. These methods can be hugely impactful but cost you way less.

For example, you can subscribe to an email marketing subscriber, such as MailChimp, Mailerlite or ConvertKit for little cost (and with MailChimp and Mailerlite, there are free versions when you first start). This will help you reach all the customers on your mailing list by email, quicky and efficiently.

Good return on investment

You get an incredibly good return on your investment with digital marketing. For example, if you run an advertising campaign on a social media platform, it costs much less that traditional marketing and with email marketing, you’ll also get a good return on your investment.

Measurement is easy peasy!

With traditional methods, you must (typically) wait months to evaluate a particular campaign to see how it’s worked. But with a digital campaign, you can find results within a few days… and you’ll know almost immediately if an ad is performing well.

If you sign up to an email subscription platform, their email marketing software will enable you to track the performance of your emails – you’ll know who’s opened them and who hasn’t. You can also find out about conversion rates.

Using Google Analytics helps you measure goals achieved on a website or blog. And Google AdWords manager allows you to monitor the performance of your ads on Google search. So, you’ll know how many people viewed your ads and what the conversion rate is.

Easy to adjust your ads

If you do decide on an ad campaign, if you find that it’s not really performing as well as you hoped, you can adjust it accordingly, or stop it altogether, with just the click of a mouse. The same can be done for changing something within a current ad.

Developing your brand

You can use digital platforms to build your business brand and reputation. For example, a great website, or a blog featuring quality articles, which are useful to your audience. Social Media channels are also fabulous for brand recognition, so long as you post consistently and are very interactive with your audience.

The good thing about social media channels is that they are shareable, which allows you to share articles, blog posts, website, campaigns etc., with your followers.

Absolute targeting

By this, I mean that your campaigns can target the exact audience you want. You can choose potential customers based on their preferences or actions.

For example, if you have an email subscription set up with a free lead magnet to entice customers in, such as an e-book, you can tailor emails to that customer totally based on what they asked for. You know they’re interested in the subject matter of your e-book, so are there other digital or physical products that they might also be interested in?

I don’t mean make your emails to customers all about selling…but you know for future reference, once you have given quality information and once you know your email subscribers a bit more, you know that they’ll be more open to similar products or services.

Global darling!

If your business is online, it’s simple – you’ve gone global darling! The internet is global, available 24/7, to billions of people. Marketing on your digital platforms opens you up to customers from all over the world.

Conclusion

With traditional marketing, you may have put an ad in a local paper or on a billboard. This will reach a large audience, but you will be limited to demographics, (where the magazine is distributed, or where the billboard is located). With digital marketing, you can identify and target a specific audience and in turn, send highly converting marketing messages.

Digital marketing helps you to conduct the necessary research to identify your buyer persona, and helps you to understand your target audience, which means you can define your marketing strategy and reach those prospects that are most likely to buy from you.

If you’d like more regular marketing tips delivered to your inbox, and would like a free marketing strategy workbook, please click on the link below to subscribe to my email list.

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Discover the secrets of delegation for small businesses

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

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

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

How do you decide what to delegate?    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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

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

Coronavirus Covid 19 and your small business

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

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

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

How does the Coronavirus affect your customers?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embrace the change

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

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

Be accessible  

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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

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

SEO & Hashtags FAQ

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

hashtag-1084519_640

What are hashtags?

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

How can I use hashtags on social media?

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

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

How many hashtags should I use?

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

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

So what do hashtags do for my business?

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

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

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

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

How do I find the right hashtag words?

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

Can hashtags help me find my target audience?

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

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

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

How many hashtags should I use?

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

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

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

Can I set up my own hashtag?

The simple answer is ‘yes, you can!’

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

How do I register my hashtag? 

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

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

Do hashtags help with SEO?   

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

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

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