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. 

Which Social Media Platform?

There are so many Social Media platforms to choose from – how do you know which one will be right for you?

The most popular, according to a report by eBizMBA Rank in September 2016, is Facebook, which is hardly surprising as it is very user friendly. The report gives other top platforms too – let’s take a look…

facebook-2048127_640Facebook – The top of the pile with an estimated 1.1 billion unique monthly visitors. Facebook is a social networking site that enables people to connect with friends and family, sharing photos, videos and status updates/messages. It can be used for fun or for business. It is estimated that over 1 million small businesses use Facebook and is very popular with small business owners in France.

film-589490_640YouTube – After Google, YouTube is the largest search engine with an estimated 1 billion unique monthly visitors. It’s where most people go to watch or share video content. It covers every single subject you can think of from popular music videos and films to Joe Bloggs down the street falling off his skateboard! Anyone can post personal videos or share content.

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Twitter
– With 310 million unique monthly visitors, Twitter is a real-time public network, where you often see breaking news first! Twitter limits its users to 140 characters per post, but businesses still use it to interact with clients and pass on information.

linked-in-2668687_640LinkedIn – This is a social networking site for professionals. With 255 million unique monthly visitors, LinkedIn members post a profile of themselves, very much like an extended CV. Users can promote themselves and their businesses, connect with other businesses and even apply for jobs or ask for work.

pinterest-1183717_640Pinterest – This is a fairly new concept, but with 250 million unique monthly visitors, it is fast becoming popular. It’s an image-based visual platform that allows its visitors to create digital bulletin boards where businesses can pin their content. As more than half of its members are women, it’s a great place for businesses whose target audience is largely female should think about being a part of.

google-plus-940316_640Google Plus + – Google Plus or Google+ is an interest based social media platform with 120 million unique monthly visitors. You can post photos and status updates on your profile or you can post to specific communities or groups. Specific communities are set up for different subjects so you can post blogs to specific themes. There’s multi-person messaging, text and video chat called Hangouts and you can run events. It’s a very versatile platform.

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Instagram
– This is a visual platform, much the same as Pinterest, with an estimated 1 million unique visitors. Posts are mostly connected to travel, food, fashion and art and it has video and photo editing features.

 

reddit-1460603_640Reddit – This is a little different to the other sites – it is still popular, with an estimated 85 million unique monthly visitors, but the content is voted on by the visitors to the site. It is still a social media site, more of a community where posts are identified by topics, such as technology, music, etc. Users submit links and posts that are of value are ‘upvoted’ and those that aren’t are ‘downvoted’. The voting determines where the post sits on the site – however if your post/link hits the front page, it is seen by hundreds of thousands of people – sending a huge percentage of them to the linked website!

vk-3696008_640VK – I have to admit to not having heard of this one! VK is short for VKontakte – a social media networking site where members can add friends, gain followers and post photos. However it is a largely aimed at Eastern European visitors, particularly Russian. In fact it is the most popular site in Russia.


flickr-881367_640Flickr
– This is an imaging and video hosting platform. It is very popular for those wanting to share and embed photographs. With an estimated 65 million users, it is still up there with the best!

As you can see, the top sites are a varied bunch, but all are designed to help people interact with others and share information, photos, videos and messages. If you have a small business, they are a great way to get your brand name, products and services out there. I would probably choose to stick with the more popular sites, but of course it’s up to the individual which site you’d like to choose – just be aware that some may not be as good as others.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about and learning about the different sites and I’d love to know which is your favourite? Put a comment in the box below to let me know which one you like best and why…and if you’ve been inspired to try something new!

How to promote your small business online

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In this day and age, where technology is easier than ever to access and where most of the population use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ or one of the many other social media platforms, you can’t afford not to have your business online. If you have a small business, it’s also worth considering setting up a website. These are the two online vehicles I’ll be talking about in this blog.

Why have a website?

id-100249653Having an online presence not only puts your business in front of a huge, global audience, it can help you get more sales and enable you to become more ‘real’ to your customers. The internet never takes a nap, gets distracted or falls asleep, so once you have your online presence, your business has the potential to be working for you 24/7. Customers can see your products and services in their own time, whenever they feel like it, so whether they work 9-5 and go online in the evening or whether they are night-shift workers and search for what they want during their break (at three in the morning), they can find you. More importantly, if you sell products and have an online store, a customer can order from you as soon as they feel the urge…they don’t have to wait for a shop to open at 9am, by which time they might have changed their mind. And they don’t have to travel to get what they want – whether you live in their neighbourhood or whether you lives hundreds of miles away, they can still buy from you.

A website gives potential customers the chance to check you out. What do you sell? What services do you offer? What is your business all about? What are you like? Your website builds your brand – online reviews from satisfied customers conveys the message that you are trustworthy; that your products or services are good; fills them with confidence in choosing you above your competitors. Your website can do all this…without you having to be there!

If you haven’t got a website yet, but would like to, click here for a very helpful site, which takes you through the process, step by step.

Social Media

id-100255669Using Social Media is the most common way to let people know your business exists and to build your brand. Social Media networks have millions of customers passing through them every single day – some of them will be your new customers. If you run a social media campaign for your business, or publish useful and high quality content on a regular basis, you can slowly, but surely build your online reputation. I don’t mean constantly bombarding people with images of your products with the hard sell, but taking the time to tell your audience what your product or service can do for them. Solve a problem, answer a question, show them that your products or services are worth buying or using and why.

However, Social Media is not a quick fix for your business – it’s an easy way to promote what you do, but it takes time and effort on your part to make it work and to build up your businesses reputation. Also, once you are on a particular social media platform, you need to monitor it to make sure you answer any questions or queries someone may have posted and to deal with any potential complaints or negativity.

Top 10 sites   

id-100282617Once you have decided to go the social media route, you just need to decide which one or two to go for. There are loads to choose from, but here are the top 15 sites, compiled in September 2016 by eBizMBA Rank – a US company. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

  • Facebook
  • You Tube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • VK
  • Flickr
  • Vine
  • Meet-up
  • FM
  • Classmates

You don’t need to use them all – it’s better to pick a couple and be brilliant at knowing how that one works for you, than to be on several that you know little about.

Email Marketing 

Email marketing, simply put, is the method companies use to send a message to a group of people using email. Sometimes it is used to send out adverts or maybe to inform id-100426841customers about a new product. However it is effective for small businesses to use this method to send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. This can be written in a friendly, chatty way and is a great way to stay connected to your customers. You just need to collect email addresses of new and existing customers and, most importantly, ask them if they would like to receive your newsletter. You MUST have their permission to do this, so good to have a form they can complete online on your website to ask to subscribe. You can then use it to let them know about any special offers or discounts, inform them about new products and generally tell them a bit about your business and how it works. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and build customer loyalty.

These are just three ways to promote your business online. Which method do you find the most effective for your business? Please comment in the box below.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   

Marketing your small business with little or no money

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When you run a business, be it a large corporation or a small home-based business, we all know that at some point we have to dig into our pockets and spend some of our hard earned cash on marketing. But if you’re feeling the pinch, or are just starting out, here are a few tips on how to market your small business with little or no money.

ID-100110228Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google + are all social media sites that can help you market your business for free. Set up an account and get going. Not only can you share details of your products and services, but you can also personalise to show your human self…what you like, what your interests are. Share articles of interest and inspirational quotes, pictures…anything that you think people will like to see.

Email – in order to use email, which is free, you need to collect email addresses of current and potential customers. How do you get email addresses? Give away something for free – people love free stuff. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing; you could give away free information. For example if you are a crafter, you could give away a free information sheet on how to crochet, sew a simple item. The only proviso is that people sign up for your monthly/quarterly newsletter – then send them your newsletter, which is packed full of information about your business, special offers and details of your products or services.

Ask existing customers to refer you to friends and family – offer an incentive for them to do this. For example, you could say that for every five customers that they refer who buy something from you, they will receive a 10% discount.

True stories – Use a real example of a problem you’ve solved for a customer, with a quote from them about how great you are! Turn this into a blog post, an article on your website or add it to your newsletter.

ID-100349134Survey your customers – Send your existing customers a survey. Ask them about the products or services they have bought from you. Ask them what they like best about your products/services and use the information you gain to improve your offering or to promote your business. At the end of the survey, ask if it is ok for you to publish any of their comments….if they say ‘yes’ you have more recommendations and possible stories. And report your survey results in a blog or an article.

Write a blog – Keep in the forefront of your customers and potential customers’ minds by writing a regular blog. There are lots of free hosting sites out there – it just takes your time to get it up and running and to blog on a regular basis.

Have a website – It’s always good to have a website, where people can easily find you and see all your products and services in one place. Make sure it is easy to navigate and engaging.

Free directories –As well as all the directories that you can pay to be in, there are loads of free directories out there. Get your business listed in all the free ones you can find.

Attend networking events – Sometimes these events are free and sometimes you have to pay a small fee to join in. Attending these events is important as you’ll meet other people with small businesses. The purpose is usually to share information and experiences. If there are none near you, how about setting up one in a local community centre or pub?

ID-10035801Enter a business award competition – There’s nothing better than being able to say that you’ve won an award in a specific competition. Even if you don’t win, but are shortlisted in the top ten, it’s still something to shout about. If you do happen to win, you can advertise the fact on your social media pages, on your website, in your newsletter etc. You could also put it in your signature.

These are just some of the ways you can market your business. If you have other free or very cheap ideas on how to market a small business, please feel free to share…

Images courtesy of 1) Master isolated images 2) fantasista 3) nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

How to make your business stand out in the crowd

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Starting a business, any business, is a fairly easy process. Anyone can get business cards printed and hand them out, but how do you stay in business? People have so many choices these days. There are so many different places to spend their hard earned cash. How can you make them pick your products/services? How can you make your business stand out from the rest?

Know your competitors

In order to stand out from the rest you need to know what the rest are doing; what they stand for; what they offer; how they are different to you.

ID-10058182Think about some of the big brand names in the marketplace, such as Virgin or MacDonald’s. How do they make sure they stand out from their competitors? What do they do differently?

Now, think about what makes you buy a particular brand over others. Try this small exercise….pick three brands that you buy regularly (could be a toothpaste, a skin care product, cleaning product, item of make-up). Why do you buy that particular brand over others? Is it simply because they’re cheaper? Is it because the latest advertising for that product encouraged you to try it? Or is it a brand you’ve always bought as you really like it? If this is the case, what makes you really like that brand?

Stand out from the rest

Once you know what your competitors are doing and why they stand out; once you’ve looked at some of the big brand names and what makes them different; and once you’ve looked at what you buy and why, you can look at your own products or services and see how you can make your brand proposition more appealing.  If you have a particular target ID-10036600market, such as women over 40 for example, think about how you are going to get your products/services in front of that specific group. Where do this group go? What do they do? Could you advertise where you’ll know they’ll be….leave business cards and flyers?

What about your online presence? Do you have a good looking website, Facebook page or online shop? Is your brand attractive? Would it encourage someone to try your products? What would encourage you to buy your products or services? #

Seven areas to focus on

As I see it, there are seven main areas to focus on to make your business stand out from the crowd.

  1. Know what your customers want, and wherever possible, give it to them
  2. I’ve talked about this before in previous articles, but make your customers feel valued, care about them and give them a good experience every time they contact you – excellent customer service is a must in every business.
  3. ID-100370861Do something to entice people – a free first consultation, a free gift or trial – everyone likes a something for free!
  4. Set yourself up as an expert in your field – solve your customers’ problems
  5. Advertise – give out business cards, flyers or brochures. Advertise in free directories and pay for the odd ad in your local paper
  6. Be interesting and informative on your social media sites….NEVER be offensive. It can take years to build a good, loyal customer base and one wrong comment to tear it all down.
  7. Ask your existing customers for feedback…and use it to promote your business. Use the positive feedback on your website, your Facebook page – anywhere potential customers may be looking. And if you do get negative feedback…address it IMMEDIATELY!

ID-100209829At the end of the day, people have money to spend and just want to spend it. Generally, they don’t care how long you’ve been in business. They care about how your product or service is going to help them – it’s up to you to show them that you mean business! That YOU are the company to choose.

 

Images courtesy of 1) Mr GC 2) Master isolated images 3) Stuart Miles 4) stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Do you speak the same language as your customers?

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To be successful in business, you need to really understand your customers, know their likes and dislikes. But in this age of increasing technology, are you losing the basics on how to speak the same language as your customers?

Why is it so hard?

  • Due to the internet, social media and ‘easy to navigate’ online stores, your customers and potential customers have a huge array of choices, as well as the cost comparison sites to help them. Customers have more power than ever before.
  • ID-100164372Customers tend to be less loyal and much less trusting these days. They will think nothing of flitting from one company to another, depending on who is the cheapest…and easy access to the media means that they read a lot more about customer experiences so are more suspicious than they used to be, the trust has waned.
  • Customers are constantly bombarded with data on their social media sites and through spam email, causing an overload, which makes it harder for them to make decisions about what they want.

When you weigh all this up, it’s not hard to understand why you don’t know what your customers want.

How to find out what your customers want

The quickest and easiest way to find out what they want is to simply talk to them…yeh, just talk to them – why is something so simple being forgotten?

When was the last time you picked up the phone to speak to your customers without a hidden agenda….just to say ‘hello’? So, why not arrange to meet some of your customers face to ID-100372771face – arrange a coffee morning. Show them that you care about their custom and that you’re genuinely interested in them and their businesses. Ask them how they approach problems in their business and ask them to describe how they deliver value to their customers. Listen carefully to their replies.

Ask them to describe your products and services? Are there any particular words and phrases they use? Ask them what they think of your competitors – listen to how they describe them, what words and phrases they use. Take note of their language and how they describe things and use the information to adapt the language of your marketing, use their way to describe your products….if you’re using their language, they will more easily identify with you.

If you talk to your customers on a regular basis, asking them questions about the products they’ve bought (not necessarily just from you) and listening to what they have to say; their ID-100291427worries, concerns and frustrations, you will learn what makes them tick. Listen to the questions they may have about your products and services, including any objections or criticisms, and ask them how you think you could solve any problems.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but for the small business, talking to customers can have a huge effect on how customers view you and your business. Everyone likes to feel valued and, by talking to your customers, you’re showing them you care about them and their opinions. If you also go ahead and put some of their suggestions into practice, they will feel even more valued…and are more likely to be loyal to you and your business. So, cut out the fancy, long  words and heavily descriptive text, just describe who you are, what you do and who your products and services are aimed at.

ID-10075421Nothing will increase the popularity of your brand than speaking plainly in language your customers can understand.

Good luck and get listening to your customers – they will teach you how to speak their language and give your business the ‘thumbs up’!

 

Images courtesy of 1) Feelart 2) kapongza 3) Stuart Miles 4) kookkai_nak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

8 ways to get organised

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When I worked for a large company in the UK, I was mega organised. When I first moved to rural France and started as a freelancer, I become the opposite. There always seemed to be so much to do, it was difficult to focus on one thing at a time. I soon realised that if I was going to be more successful and work well from home, I needed to be more organised. I always have a list of things going around in my head, and my partner says I constantly ‘narrate my life’, saying out loud what I need to do next. I think that this is because I have so much to remember that I try and organise myself out loud!

So, after putting on my thinking cap, it seemed the obvious way forward was to go back to what worked well for me in a company environment – not all would work, but these are the areas I came up with that would work for me….I hope it helps you too!

To do list

ID-100211895When I worked for a large company in the UK, I always worked from a ‘to do’ list. It is what it says on the tin. Make a list of all the jobs you need to do, either on a weekly or daily basis. Don’t write it on a scrap of paper – get an exercise book, put the date at the top and write your list, ticking off each one as you do it. It’s a great feeling of achievement to put a tick against an activity that’s been done.

Set a deadline  

ID-100259578For each task you have to do, set a deadline. Look at your to do list and give each item a realistic deadline – the key here is about being realistic. Try not to be too optimistic as you want to be sure that what you estimate is achievable.

Prioritise your work

Once you have your to do list and have deadlines set against each task, the next thing to look at is what is most important or urgent. Prioritise your list so you keep on top of things.

One step at a time

ID-100272144Do you have a big project with a looming deadline? Sometimes, this can feel overwhelming. If this is you, try chopping the project into bite sized chunks. This makes everything seem more manageable and you feel much more in control.

Set your hours

Working from home, it’s a good idea to set the number of hours you want to work every day. If you don’t do this, you will constantly be distracted by ‘Oh, I’ll just put the washing on’, or you’ll go to get a coffee and think, ‘whilst I’m here I’ll just wash up’. All these ‘I’ll just…..’ stop you from getting on with your work.

Decide on the number of hours you will work every day and try to stick to it. The number of hours and how you decide when to start and stop will depend on what you do for a living. I know that I have to feed and sort out the chickens and the cat, wash up breakfast things and have a quick tidy up before I can start work. I also like to shower and get dressed – I just can’t work in my PJs! So I rarely start work before 9.30am – 10am…and that’s OK as that’s what I need to do. Everyone is different, so do what is best for you and your situation.

Multi-tasking

ID-100261047If you start a number of jobs, you’ll probably find you don’t get any of them done. Prioritising tasks will help with this, as will having a list. Try and complete a job before going onto something else. As I write for a living, I will write one piece from start to finish, including the research. Then I’ll save it and come back to review it the following day. It’s easy to look at that to do list and do all the quick and easy stuff and leave the more involved stuff for another time. This works for some – for me, I’ll try and mix it up a bit. I know that I’m more focussed in the morning, so I tend to do the more complicated things then. Later on, I will do some of the easier things and will often revisit something I’ve written the day before.

Interruptions and distractions

It doesn’t matter how organised you are, you are always going to get interruptions, especially if you work from home. The phone might ring or a friend might turn up unexpectedly. If you need to get a particular ID-10013560piece of work done urgently, put your answer machine on and if you don’t have one, ignore the phone ringing. If I have something urgent to do, I let my friends know, so they don’t disturb me. However, the things I find most distracting are Facebook and email. If my Facebook is switched on in the background, it continuously pings and alerts me to messages or notifications …. I just can’t leave it – I HAVE to look! So, when working to a deadline or on something that needs all of my concentration, I log out, then the distraction is taken away. The same applies to emails. If I know I have new emails, I just HAVE to look!

So, I work for a couple of hours, then have a cuppa and check emails and Facebook, or ring back anyone who might need me on the phone. Then it’s back to work again and everything is switched off once again.

Review your work  

No matter what kind of work you do and how busy you are, you need to book a meeting with yourself to review how things are going! How often you do this will depend on what you do, but make sure you set ID-100294530aside a half day, at least once a month, to look at your to do list. What have you achieved? What went well and what didn’t go so well? What still needs to be done? Is there something you keep putting to the bottom of the pile? It could be something you are not confident with, something you are struggling to start or just that you don’t want to do it. If this is the case, it might be worth looking to outsource this…let someone else take the strain, someone who is more of an expert than you are.

By reviewing your work you will learn what kind of work you find easier and what needs more concentration, so in future you can prioritise more effectively.

Managing your workload will alleviate some of the anxiety and you’ll know exactly where you are and what you’re doing. I hope this blog has given you some ideas and pointers to being more organised. If you work from home, I’d be very interested to know how you organise your day.

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy of 1 – 3) Stuart Miles 4) iosphere 5) Danilo Rizzuti 6) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Attracting new customers versus retaining existing customers

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When we think of marketing our businesses, most of us focus our attention on getting new customers. It always feels more constructive and is more financially appealing to gain new customers, but unless your business is a new one, it is worth looking at how to gain more value out of your existing customers too.

New customers

ID-10058851Who are they? You may want to attract new customers to build your customer base. In order to find those elusive ‘first time buyers’, you need to think about who you are trying to attract. What kind of customer does your business appeal to? Is it men, women, families, people who like sport? Think about who you need to target.

Where are they? Once you know who you are targeting, you can look at where they are and how you can contact them – are they online or offline? Are they in a particular area? If you are selling sports items for example, you know that you could find your potential customers at the gym or at health clubs.

How do you contact new customers? If your customers are online, you could target them through social media, blogs and forums. You can advertise online in business directories or online publications.

For offline customers, you could advertise in local free papers, put out flyers in places you know they will be, such as gyms, health clubs, hairdressers or beauty salons, for example. You could also attend networking meetings or conventions where you can meet new people face to face. Always carry your business cards, so you can give them out or leave a small stock wherever you go.

Solve a problem

ID-10018705You need to be seen as an expert in your field, so try and solve a problem for potential customers. Think of something that your products can do for them – this gives them a reason to try your products. It might be that you sell beauty products and you have the latest ‘big thing’ that makes wrinkles disappear! Sell your product as a solution to a problem and people will want to try it. This could be done face to face, or you could write a specific blog on a particular product or service you offer.

Collaboration

It might be that your products or services work well alongside another product or service. So, team up with another business and sell your products or services together. For ID-10086506example, if you sell beauty products and you know a hairdresser, you could team up as a full beauty package. Link to each other on your websites and mention each other in your blogs.

Obtaining new customers is all about building new relationships, so take every opportunity to do just that.

Retaining existing customers

We all want to grow our customer base, but if you focus on growing your existing customers, you are more likely to keep them. If you have lost customers, have you ever taken a step backwards to work out why? We all spend a lot of time and effort trying to get new customers, but we must never lose sight of keeping a relationship with our existing customers.

Repeat sales

Once the initial sale has been made, it’s important to build on that relationship….thank them for their custom and remind them why it was such a good decision to buy from you in the first place. Getting to know your customers and giving them what they want will create loyalty and they will return to you again and again. I once employed a general ID-100283685builder to lay a patio…whilst laying the patio, he mentioned that he was Corgi registered, so I promptly booked him to service my gas boiler. He always arrived on time, cleared up after himself and was chatty and friendly and made me feel that my custom really mattered to him. So, when the massive wall that surrounded my property partially came down in very high winds, he was the first person I called. My point is that from doing a small job, he ensured I knew what else he could do, left a card, and was so friendly, I remembered him. I knew he could solve the problem I had and trusted him to do the work well.

Bringing back old customers

Do you have customers that you haven’t heard from for a while? These customers know you and your products already, so it’s a matter of getting back in touch and reminding them that you’re still here. You could ask them why they’re no longer buying from you, ID-100148914endeavour to overcome any problems, and show them that you still value their business. Sometimes, all it takes is to reintroduce yourself – a customer may just have forgotten that they had bought from you in the first place and immediately be interested in other or new products you have to offer. If you sell gift items, contact them in plenty of time to buy gifts for Christmas…and of course, that can be your opening gambit!

Customer Service

ID-100245378I know that I bang on about customer service in most of my blogs, but it is so important to every aspect of your business. If your customers have an exceptional experience, they will come back for more. Helpful, friendly, go the extra mile – all these things, along with an excellent product that solves their problems, will keep your customers happy…. and happy customers are loyal customers.

 

Images courtesy of 1) renjith krishnan 2) Salvatore Vuono 3) David Castillo Domenici 4) hywards 5) Mister GC 6) stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 reasons why every business needs a website

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If I want to find out how to do something or where to buy something, the first thing I do is look online. Most transactions these days take place online and therefore some of the traditional marketing techniques have been replaced with online strategies. However, a surprising number of small businesses do not have a website.

Every second, more than 20 million people are looking on the internet, on their mobile devices or PCs, buying everything you can think of….from books to houses, from kitchen gadgets to garden tools. If you, as a business owner don’t have a website, you are missing a trick as your business won’t be found, so you are missing out on potential sales.

I did it myself and I hear many people saying, “I don’t have a website, I’ve been meaning to sort it out, but just haven’t had the time,” or “It’s too expensive to have a website.” Unless you do it yourself, of course there is a cost involved. So, if you are still hesitating, here are 8 good reasons why you should go for it in 2016…

Promote your business 24/7

ID-100213463As the title suggests, having an online presence means that your business is ‘open’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….even when you are asleep. Information about your business, your services, what you sell, are there at your customers’ and potential customers’ fingertips. People are always looking online – they research products before they buy and if you have an online presence, and you happen to sell what they want, you could make a sale. If you don’t have a website, you are invisible….and in this day and age, you can’t afford to be.

Building reputation and credibility

A website gives you the chance to showcase your abilities, your products and services for the world to see – they can see the quality and price, and if you have an online shop, they can buy directly from you. If you don’t have a website, your potential customers will go to a competitor.

ID-100302355Through your website, you can be seen as an expert in your field, and through the recommendations and comments from satisfied customers, you can be seen to be reliable, trustworthy and that your products are top notch.

When you give out your business card, it will tell potential customers a little about your business. If you’ve given them your card because they’ve seen your stall at a local market, they will assume that they can log onto your website when they get home and see more of your products. Imagine their disappointment if they get home to find no website details…and of course, this will lose potential sales.

First impression

ID-100178914Not only does having a website make you more credible, it also shows that your business is established and that you are experienced at what you do. Even if your competitors are stronger than you, a well-built, mobile friendly website can entice customers to choose you instead. You might operate your business from the tiniest desk space in the corner of your dining room, or make your products in your tiny spare bedroom, but when you have a website, your customers don’t see this. All they see is the power of your brand – size doesn’t matter!

Advertise your business

Your website is your ultimate advertising tool. For a relatively small investment in the cost of setting up your website, you can reach millions of people. It is that one brochure that the whole world has access to – no printing and re-printing when you have new ID-100360651products – you just add them online at the click of a button. You can include tons more information and images than you could afford to put into a brochure.

Of course, there is a place in business for brochures and flyers and also advertising in local magazines or newspapers, but your online presence is always available, not just for the limited time that you can afford, or until your product set changes. It’s a fantastic marketing tool that is constantly relevant and up to date.

Save you time

Your website can tell people who you are, where you are and what you do. Without a ID-100291979website, you may spend endless wasted time on the telephone or email giving people directions to where you are, giving details of the products you sell or the services you offer. Your website gives all these details in one, easy to access space, available 24/7. Not only does it give these basic details, it also gives more detailed information about your products. Then, when people do contact you, it’s generally about something more specific or to actually buy from you or use your services.

Reach a wider audience

ID-10080142Advertising in your local paper, putting out your business cards and attending markets, conventions and networking events, are all brilliant ways of getting your products and brand out to a wider audience. However, with a website you literally have a worldwide audience. Business often comes from word of mouth and this is a great way to get local business, but in order to expand and reach customers that don’t know you, the internet is the way forward.

Beat your competition

If you have a business, you only have to look on Facebook or on the internet to know that you have hundreds of competitors who do the same as you. If your competitors have a ID-100160542website, then why shouldn’t you have one? The joy of having a website is that it doesn’t matter how big or how small your business is, it will help you reach more people and increase your sales. Through your website, you can gather information about your customers. You can use your website to host an online survey to find out what your customers want and online forms can be used to easily contact you to request a quote or ask for further information. When you know what your customers want, you can develop products or services to solve their problems or meet their needs.

Customer Service

Your customers are the most important part of your business. You can improve the service you give them by including FAQs and a Contact Us page. Customers can not only leave comments and recommendations, they can also ask questions. You can collect your ID-10069301customers email addresses, and with their permission, can send them regular updates about new products. This makes them feel valued and valued customers will come back to you time after time.

I hope that I have helped you to see the benefits of having a website. You may have thought that a website is a waste of money, but it is the exact opposite. You may have to invest a little to get your website written and built professionally, but you will soon get your investment back when new customers find you and start buying from you.

 

Images courtesy of  1) 2) 3) 4) Stuart Miles, 5) hywards, 6) Danilo Razzuti, 7) mapichai 8) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 steps to a successful business

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In order to succeed in business, planning and good organisation are key. When starting up in business, most people are full of enthusiasm and it can be such a disappointment to find that simply by switching on your computer and opening your doors for business, that business will automatically come your way. It would be fantastic if it worked that way, but sadly, we all have to work a whole lot harder than that to attract business and be successful.

Here are 10 ways that might help make your business more of a success in 2016.

  1. Make a plan. Plan your business goals and how you are going to ID-10070652achieve them. Having a good business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business – what will work and what won’t work. It makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business, your next steps, tactics and strategies
  2. Be organised. Complete a ‘to do’ list every day. This will help you keep on top of things that need to be done now. As you complete each task, tick it off – not only does this give you a sense of achievement, it ensures you don’t forget anything
  3. Analyse your competition. Look at what your competitors do. Why are they successful? Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – why will potential customers choose your products or services over those of your competitors? Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from choosing your products or services?
  4. Know what your customers want…not what you think they want. ID-100282581What do you your customers like about your products? What do they currently buy from you, why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business? If you’re not sure of the answers to these questions, it might be worth conducting a short survey to your customers and asking them. Give an incentive to reply, such as 10% off their first order of 2016. And a further 10% off if they recommend a new customer who buys from you. The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you’re in, the more likely you are to be successful
  5. Provide great service – delight your customers! There have been oodles of books written about customer service and delighting your customers. Some of them advise that you delight them no matter what – I even read somewhere that one company gave a refund to a customer who complained about their tyres….and they didn’t even sell tyres! That’s taking it a bit too far. In order to satisfy your customers, you must deliver exactly what you promised to….to delight them, service must exceed expectations. It really is that simple. Do what you say you will, give your customers what they want (solve a problem they have), and thank them for their custom, inviting them to contact you if you can help them further
  6. Measure everything you do. Whatever action you take as a result of planning your business goals, ensure that you factor in a way to ID-10099989measure whether that particular goal and actions have been successful. By measuring as you go along, if you find something that is not quite working, you can tweak it so it works well. List what needs to be measured, for example, how many people read your Facebook posts or how many comment on a post. Then look at ways to improve this – it might be you monitor your posts and see what kind of post is the most successful and then figure out why. If you have success, shout about it! Your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right person
  7. Market and advertise. Marketing your business is about planning the future of your business. What tools will you use to promote your business? For example you could…
    -Join a business networking group and talk to people at every opportunity, giving out business cards
    -Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
    -Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an expert)
    -Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest etc.
    -Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and online
    -Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
  8. Budget. I guess that this one is pretty obvious. You need to know ID-100263887what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have business cards – maybe flyers and definitely think about Social Media and your online presence, such as a website.
    Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it? And look at what kind of advertising you can afford.
  9. Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes and when you are running your own business, you will undoubtedly make several, especially when you first start up. The trick is to learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake, own up to it – this creates a culture of openness and honesty in your business. Find out why and how the mistake happened and correct it. If you find you can’t correct it, put plans in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If you can’t work out why or how the mistake happened, google it – chances are someone else would have made that mistake in the past and they might have published a solution! Once it’s sorted, move on – don’t continue to dwell on it
  10. Stand out in the crowd. Starting a business is easy, but staying in business is harder as you have so much competition these days. To stand out in the crowd, you need to do all of the above! Create a great ID-10037281experience for your customers; know what your customers want and give it to them; find solutions to your customers’ problems; position yourself as an expert; be different from your competitors and shout about how you are different; shout about your success; give excellent customer service; give special offers to customers who recommend someone new who buys something or uses your service….and above all, be yourself, smile and enjoy running your business – it will show!

I hope these points will help you in your quest to make 2016 a successful year for your business. If you have any more tips, please share them, I’d love to hear from you.

One final tip, if you can’t do everything you want to do yourself, don’t give up, get help.

 

Images courtesy of 1) Ambro 2) David Castillo Domenici 3) Stuart Miles 4) Metrue 5)Stuart Miles 6)jscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net