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?

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What are hashtags?

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

How can I use hashtags on social media?

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

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

How many hashtags should I use?

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

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

So what do hashtags do for my business?

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

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

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

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

How do I find the right hashtag words?

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

Can hashtags help me find my target audience?

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

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

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

How many hashtags should I use?

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

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

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

Can I set up my own hashtag?

The simple answer is ‘yes, you can!’

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

How do I register my hashtag? 

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

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

Do hashtags help with SEO?   

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

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

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

9 ways to keep your customers coming back for more!

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

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

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

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Know your products or services  

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

Be approachable   

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

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

Give a little respect!

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

Listen to your customers

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

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

Respond in a timely manner

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

Ask for feedback on your products/services 

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

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

Use the feedback you receive

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

Keep your word

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

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

Reward your customers

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

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

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

Conclusion  

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

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

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

A marketing plan helps you develop your products and services that will meet the needs and wants of your target market. Marketing helps your customers see and understand why your products/services are better than or different from those offered by your competitors.

8 reasons why you need a marketing plan

  1. Why do you need marketing?

Marketing is what builds the relationship between you, your business and your customers. If you are a small business, it is vital to build a sound relationship of trust and understanding with your customer. This makes them loyal to you and your brand and loyal customers will not only give you repeat business, they will have enough confidence in you to try out new products or services. They will also recommend you to their friends and family.

Marketing also massively increases the visibility of your brand, so you are more easily recognisable.

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  1. Identify your target market

How do you identify your target market? Take a look at your existing regular customers. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their problems that you can solve? What other needs do they have?

For example, if you sell baby products, your target market will be parents, parents to be, grandparents etc. You could also target baby shower events and children’s events; childminders; nurseries; soft-play areas; local Mum and baby groups; exercise classes for Mums to be or Mum and baby classes. The list is endless.

Have a look at your competitors – how do they meet the needs of your target market? How can you do it better?

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and external Opportunities and Threats. Pulling together a SWOT analysis can help you analyse where your business, its products/services, fit within the market and looks at your unique selling position. It can also help you find out how you can improve your business; what you’re really good at and what other businesses do.

Strengths – what do you do well in your business? What do you do better than your competitors?

Weaknesses – What do you need to improve on to remain competitive? What do your competitors do better than you? What is holding you back?

Opportunities – What current trends could lead your business to have increased sales? What can you use to your best advantage?

Threats – What could harm your business? What are the advantages that your competitors have over your business?

I have a FREE worksheet that you can download to help you…Conduct a SWOT Analysis 

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  1. Look at your competitors

List your competitors – who are they? If you analyse your competitors, you can find out how they work, what they do and compare them to your business.

What products or services do they sell?

Do they offer a similar product or service to you?

What do they offer their customers?

What do they do to engage with their customers?

Where are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

How do they market their products/services…e.g. social media, advertising etc.

The more information you can get about your competitors, the more chance you have of identifying where you fit into the market place and what opportunities are available to you.

  1. Decide on your goals

Once you know where your business stands in the market place and who your competitors are, you can decide what goals you want to set for your business. What do you want to achieve over the next 12 months?

Make your goals specific – instead of saying, ‘I want to sell more products’, look at your products and decide exactly how much more you want to sell. They might come under different categories. Go back to the baby product scenario…you might sell baby massage products, so a goal could be ‘Increase sales of baby massage products by 20% compared to last year’. You then have a definite goal to aim for…and it’s easier to review every few months because you calculate if you are on track to achieve your goal.

Aim for 4-6 short term goals – things that are fairly easy to achieve. You can always add more throughout the year if you achieve them.

Aim for 2-4 long term goals – things that are a bit more challenging. If you find that one of these goals is too challenging part way through the year, you can always break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks. 

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  1. Set your marketing strategies

Once you have set your goals, you can start looking at the short term goals in more detail. What activity is going to help you achieve that goal? What price or process will help you achieve your goals?

When you are trying to decide on which activities to use, choose those that best suit your business and your customers. For example, an advert in a local magazine or newspaper won’t necessarily reach your target market if they are primarily young adults, who generally don’t read this kind of thing. It’s a good idea to go for a few activities that complement each other. For example if your products/services can be for any age, you might go for an advert in a magazine, but also use social media or maybe local radio. You might sell your products at a market or craft fayre, so advertise the event on social media and do links to your products.

  1. Set your budget

It’s important to know how much you can afford to spend on marketing as not all marketing is free. You need to think hard about how best to spend that budget so you get the maximum benefit. Only spend on your current marketing goals, so that budget is used to help you achieve those goals. Advertising on Facebook, Instagram or in magazines all come at a cost, but if you are reaching your target customers, it will be worth it.     

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  1. Ensure your marketing plan is kept up to date

Reviewing your marketing plan on a regular basis is very important so that you not only know if you are on track to achieve your goals, you might also identify new trends in the market that means you have to tweak a particular goal.

It also serves the purpose of scrapping anything that you know isn’t working or changing a goal if you need to.

Looking at your plan helps you to measure how you’re doing against your plan and whether you will be successful.

Now you know why it’s so important to have a marketing plan, it’s time to jump into action!

Click here for your step by step guide to pulling together your marketing plan, You’ll also find a marketing plan template with the guide.

 

Ace your ‘About me’ page!

Do you have a website or blog? If you do, you’re likely to have an ‘About me’ page. If you sell products or services, it’s an important page as it is likely to be your most popular page.

Why?

It’s where new visitors to your site go first to find out about you and what you can offer – what you can do for them. So, it needs to be relevant and grab their attention.

Click on your page now with the eyes of someone looking at your site for the first time…does it immediately ‘grab’ you and make you want to read more? If it does…fabulous! 

If it doesn’t, read on…

About me page essentials 

The purpose of this page is so people can get to know you, but it’s not good enough to just throw together a quick biography, upload a blurry photo from your phone and hope that works.

Let’s face it, not many people out there like writing about themselves, it’s an uncomfortable experience. But if you have a formula to work from, with a structure that works, you can capture the absolute essence of what you do. You can give your readers the opportunity to get to know you, trust you and see exactly what you can offer them.

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I’m going to share that formula with you, so you can ace your ‘about me’ page and stand out from the crowd.

  1. WHAT VALUE DO PEOPLE GET BY READING YOUR PAGE?

    The most important part of your page is letting your readers know what value your business gives them. After all, they’ve come to your page because they’re interested in your products or services. They didn’t come to your page to find out how many pets you have or what hobbies you do (although that has its place…just not the first thing you share!)
    Make it very clear who your blog is aimed at (your target audience) and how you can help them.

  2. WHO IS YOUR SITE AIMED AT?

    This is where you really need to know your customers and your ideal customers. If you are writing for your customers, they will instantly relate to you and your business – they will recognise that this content is for them, about them and will help them. They will then read on.

  3. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR SITE?

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    Or in other words, your site’s biography. You’ve already got your reader’s attention, they know how your site is going to benefit them. Now give them a bit more information – your personal biography comes later!
    >Include information on why readers should care about what you have to say. There are so many websites out there who offer you help for your business, when really, they’re after you paying them shed loads of money for something that probably won’t help them. Show your readers that you mean business, you are genuine. Do you have any recommendations from current customers that say exactly how you’ve helped them? Include one here. This will help you build credibility for what you do.
    >What will your readers get from your posts? Is it financial advice/beauty advice/business advice – you get the picture? It’s about telling them what they can expect from your posts.
    >What do you write about? Keep this short and sweet and to the point and don’t waffle.
    >Is your blog reliable, credible and believable? You need to know your niche very well and be able to answer any questions people may have…and if you can’t, you find out and get back to them. If you’ve written for big well-known sites you can add this here. You can also say how long you’ve been writing for or where you got your experience in your subject. If you’re still learning, you can also say that and say that you will share things as you learn about them. This is where you tell the story of your blog or website – how did your site get started? What inspired you to write your blog? Where did your passion for your subject come from? This is a good sized paragraph, but try and keep it concise and don’t waffle!

  4. YOUR PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY

    Now it’s time to talk about yourself. BUT, keep it relevant to your blog or business. How did you get where you are today? How does your business fit into your life? What inspires you to keep going? Why do you love your business so much?
    Of course, it’s important that you come across as a real person, with a life outside of work, so it’s also OK to include some personal things…if you have a passion for your pets, you run marathons, you love the cinema and films etc. You can connect with your audience on a human level by sharing a few titbits of information about yourself, such as the town and country you live in…anything that shouts ‘YOU’. But just don’t fill the whole page with it!

  5. CALL TO ACTION

    This is the bit most people forget about…a call to action or CTA. It is what it says on the tin – you are telling your readers what to do next…what action they need to take. You might ask them to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media sites. You could ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.

    smartphone-1701096_640The CTA is really important as it’s your opportunity to get your reader to stay in touch with you, stick around, and come back to your site again. So you need to give them a reason to do this. Asking them to subscribe to something ensures that you can keep in touch with them. If you send out a newsletter, this is a great way to let them know about your business on a regular basis, tell them about new blogs, new products or services, special offers etc. etc. But please don’t do what a lot of people do and bug your readers with emails two or three times a day. When I subscribe to a website, I’ll soon unsubscribe if they bombard my inbox with the same email over and over again. I don’t mind having an email trying to sell me a course that is relevant to me, of course I don’t, but to have the same course being pushed day after day, with just slightly different wording, really irritates me. Maybe an email once a week for the first few weeks, then I’m happy with once a month. I find that if I get something once a month, I’m more likely to read it and click on any links. If someone bombards me every day, they become wallpaper and I end up just deleting them without even reading them.

    Your CTA can be put anywhere in your blog/website ‘about me’ page. It’s obviously good to put it at the end, but you could also put a CTA at the beginning or halfway through if you have something that could help your reader. For example, if you’re talking about what you can offer and you have an information sheet, clothes pattern, beauty tips pdf, you could put a box with ‘CLICK HERE’ to receive XXX or ‘SIGN UP TO RECEIVE YOUR XXXX’.

  6. A HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTO OF YOURSELF

    There aren’t many of us who actually enjoy having our photos taken, but it’s very important that your readers know who you are, what you look like – they can then more easily relate to you…so make sure you are smiling!

HOW YOU CAN BE CONTACTED


You don’t necessarily have to add this to the page, but make sure you have your contact details in a prominent place on the page – telephone number and email address. Alternatively, add a link in your CTA, to your contact page.

FINALLY, re-visit your ‘about me’ page every now and again and update it – give it a bit more pizazz!

I’m off to have another look at mine now!

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?

Did you start your New Year with a bang?

Happy New Year everyone, if a little belated! Did you start your New Year with a bang…
or was it more of a sigh?

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January and February are notoriously hard for the small business as things are generally chimpanzee-978809_640quiet after the Christmas period and January seems to go on forever…or is that just me? It’s a time when we feel lethargic and I always think January feels like a bit of a let-down after the festivities of Christmas and New Year…..a bit like my Chimp friend here on the right!

Whether you’re busy or not, this is an ideal time to kick-start your business, tell people about what you do, show your products or services and get that business rolling in.

Lots of us make New Year’s Resolutions, but less than 10% will achieve that resolution…in fact by now (end of January) most people will have given up on their resolutions…or at least be finding them hard to keep. So, try and tap into what your customers make resolutions about. If you’re a health and fitness business, for example, some of your customers may want to lose weight and get healthy this year. Ask your customers what their resolutions were and see if you can help them achieve that resolution with your products or services.

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Social Media Marketing Ideas

Social Media is a very popular place to advertise your business – you can use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the other many sites. I’m going to look at Facebook and the Facebook business page.  If you have a business Facebook page, contrary to what you might think, people don’t follow you to solely buy your products or services. They like to see a wide variety of posts to keep their interest, so it’s a great idea to have a plan of the kind of things you will be posting month on month.

  • Interesting or entertaining content…this can be fun or factual, but all in a light-hearted way – maybe use memes, jokes, contests, puzzles or just a fun inspired image.
  • Content that inspires your audience – there are loads of inspirational quotations out there – you could google a particular theme and run with that for a month, posting something inspirational once or twice a week. Inspirational posts can also be image based – a breath-taking image, something that makes your audience say ‘Wow!’
  • Educational posts – can you teach your audience something? It could be a ‘how to….’ post; how to crochet a hat; how to make a particular tasty dish – a new exercise to combat belly fat or in my case…how to market your small business. These posts help to set you up as an expert in your field and inspires confidence in what you do.
  • Dialogue/chatty posts – these kind of posts are encouraging your followers to interact with you. Ask a question, and be genuinely interested in the answers you get; run a poll to find out your followers’ opinion on a particular subject; publish a post of something that interests you, maybe your favourite holiday destination, with a caption that says why you like your favourite destination – then ask what your followers’ favourite destination is and why.
  • Personal posts – I’ve read that it’s not a good idea to share too much from our personal lives. However, there is a time and place to engage with your audience on a personal level, to connect with your audience and show them you are a real person! You could share photos of your pet or an event you’ve been to; a place you love to visit and why or maybe what you’d like to do if you won the lottery! This makes you a real person that your customers can relate to, but worth noting to limit these to a couple times a month.
  • Promotional posts for your business… YES, there is space for this too! Share new products or services and how they can help your customers; a discount; buy one, get one free; recommend a friend. Also share customer referrals and testimonials

These are just a few ideas on how you can keep the attention of your customers and attract new ones on Facebook. The important thing is to make a plan with a good variety of posts to keep your customers’ interest and make them want to come back for more. Make it your February resolution to plan your business page on Facebook!

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.

 

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.

Supercharge your customer touchpoints

This sounds like just another one of those buzz word things – so what am I talking about?

Every business wants their customers to be happy with the service and experience they receive. But, unless you have your customers in mind at every single touch point, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to delight them and keep them coming back for more.

What is a touchpoint? According to SurveyMonkey, the definition of a touchpoint is “…any time a customer or potential customer comes into contact with your brand…before, during or after they purchase something from you”

meeting-1002800_640You may have great products, delivered on time and with a smile, but if your advertising isn’t on target, or they receive billing mistakes, or have to deal with a clumsy and clunky website, you can scare your customers away. Luckily, these touchpoints are easily fixed and within our control.

Let’s take a look at the general touchpoints a customer will come across…these are just some examples.

Before a sale – Social Media sites, Website, Customer reviews, Advertising/Marketing.

During a sale – Shop or office, Catalogue, Phone.

After a sale – Billing, Emails, Newsletter

Make a list of the touchpoints your customers have with you, then look at them in turn, e.g. your website…is it easy to navigate? Do the tabs point to the right things? Do the links work? Are you easy to contact? Do customers get a quick reply if they do contact you?

Supercharge your touchpoints

Now it’s time to supercharge your touchpoints for a better customer experience.

Personal touch – Try and speak to a customer wherever you can as most people like to beard-2286440_640be treated as individuals. I prefer to speak to a real person, not an automated service as I can ask questions and, if there is something I don’t understand, I can simply ask. It is also easier to build a relationship with your customers if you actually take the time to talk to them, as it makes them feel valued. They will feel that they are important to you and your business, that their custom is appreciated and that their opinion matters.

Consistent Service levels – Be consistent across all your dealings with customers, not just on the phone. You have won their custom and now it is time to build their loyalty and gain that all important customer satisfaction. So, not only ensure that you give excellent customer service on the telephone, ensure that they receive the same experience if they email you, such as a prompt reply, with the answer or solution they want wherever possible.

Know your customers – Know what your customers want and who they are. If you can team-2651912_640.pngsolve a problem for a customer, do it…they will always remember that you went that extra mile…and will recommend you to family and friends. Something that you did this year that went really well, might not work next year – never make assumptions where your customers are concerned. One of the simplest ways to know what your customers want is to ask them. This could be via a courtesy phone call (but be careful not to be a nuisance), via a short survey or hold an event, where you can interact directly with your customers and they can see who you are and meet you properly.

Resolve any mistakes – If you make a mistake, own up to it and put it right quickly. Don’t blame anyone else, just resolve it and offer some kind of compensation, such as 10% off their next order. The four step system is a good way to deal with complaints.

sculpture-2275202_640Listen to the complaint…don’t argue or put the blame on someone else – the customer doesn’t want to hear this – he/she just wants you to listen to what they have to say.

Acknowledge the complaint – let the customer know that you understand their complaint by relaying it back to them. This not only shows that you have been listening but gives hope that something will be done. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention and assure them that something will be done.

Solve the complaint – if you can, resolve the issue, keeping the customer informed along the way. In the first instance, after you have acknowledged the complaint, say that you will look into it and will get back to them within 24 hours – even if you haven’t resolved the problem yet, ring them within 24 hours to let them know what’s happening. Keeping them informed every step of the way is very important in keeping that customer in future and lets them know that they are a valued customer.

gift-553150_640Thank them – you have already done this when you acknowledged the complaint but do it again. If the issue has taken or is like to take a long time to resolve, maybe offer them some kind of compensation – a money-off voucher or a free gift.

Appreciate your customers – Let your customers know they are valued, e.g. send regular customers a ‘thank you’ card, or give them a money off voucher for being loyal, or ask if they’d like their purchases gift-wrapped.

It’s also really crucial to look past the sale…once your customer has bought something from you, don’t make it the last time they hear from you…follow up the sale and ask how they are getting on with the product. Are they happy with it? Do they think it could be improved? Do they have any questions about that or any other product that you sell? They may tell you about a problem they have that you can solve for them, or give you an idea for a new product.

smiley-163510_640If your customers are really happy with the goods and/or services they receive from you, ask them if they could write a short review, either on your Facebook page or on your website…or if they prefer, they can send to you on email. Ask if it’s OK to share their review with other customers and potential customers.

Whether your business is a huge concern, or just a one-man/woman team, excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. It can take extra time and resources, time and money, but good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction, which can generate great business for you via word of mouth. It can also you’re your business thrive and ultimately be a success. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – it’s your businesses life-blood.