Why a simple ‘thank you’ is so good for business

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As a parent, I always taught my children that manners cost nothing. If someone gave them a gift, or opened a door for them, saved them a space in a queue, gave them a lift home or did anything for them, they always said ‘thank you’. I was often praised for the well-mannered, polite children I had….and believe me, at home they weren’t always well-behaved, but they always remembered their manners. As adults, I’ve hear them use the ‘manners cost nothing’ statement on several occasions. It always make me smile.

At some point in our lives, we all work in some capacity. No matter what job you have or have had in the past, it’s always a good feeling to be appreciated for what you do. When your employer thanks you for your hard work, or tells you you’ve done a great job on a particular project, it gives you what one of the teachers at my kid’s school called, ‘a warm fuzzy’ feeling. And how did that feel? Did it motivate you to try even harder? Did it make you feel proud of your achievement and make you want to do more? In one way or another, the answer is usually ‘yes’ to these questions.

ID-100348819The same applies to your customers – if you thank them for buying from you, or using a service you provide, it will make them feel valued and, nine times out of ten, a customer who feels valued will return with more custom, or recommend you to their friends. Either way, it’s a win, win situation for you.

These are some of the benefits of saying thank you…

  • Customers remember who thanks them (and who doesn’t)!
  • Customers feel valued and appreciated
  • Customers feel respected and cared for
  • Customers like to be acknowledged – it’s important to them

It’s crucial that when you say thank you, make sure you mean it – don’t just say it as a matter of course, or as a way to get something from someone. It must be sincere.

So, how can you thank a customer?

ID-10049181There are several different ways to thank your customers. Please see the list below.

You should always thank them for their order and for choosing to shop with you, or use your service. You could also take the opportunity to say that if there is anything else you can help with, please feel free to contact you. It’s also a good idea to put a link to your website and invite them to leave a positive comment.

  • Include a note with their order
  • Send an email
  • Send a card in the post, or an e-card
  • By telephone
  • By text message

Finally, the most important thing about thanking a customer is that it is timely….it’s no good saying thank you weeks after the event, it needs to be immediate.

According to Chris Philippi, President of Philippi Marketing and Associates, writing for zeromillion.com, the top Entrepreneurship Resource Online….

  • It costs anywhere from 5 to 8 times more to gain a new customer as opposed to retaining your customers. When you consider the cost of sales people, advertising, Internet marketing, etc. to attract new customers this becomes obvious
  • 68% of customers will stop using your services or fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers. 

 

Images courtesy of 1) Stuart Miles 2) nenetus 3) digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Right person, right time, right reasons…RIGHT CONTENT!

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business-3189797_640.pngSo, you have your own business and you want to promote it – get your product or services out there. How do you go about it? Where do you start? It’s really important to have a content strategy….as this will help you structure exactly what the needs of your business are and what exactly is the right content for your business.

Anything you put out about your business needs to go to the right people at the right time and for the right reasons….and of course, the right content is crucial.

If the content is NOT right, then the people you are hoping to reach won’t read it. Whatever content you put out needs to be valuable to your potential reader, so make sure your content is useful and relevant – what’s in it for your reader? Does it solve a problem for them? Does it give them a solution that they need?

If you DON’T target the right people, then your content won’t be read and definitely won’t be acted upon. You need to ensure that you know who your audience are – just sending content to ‘people’ in general won’t cut the mustard, you need to be specific.

thought-2123971_640If you don’t send content out at the right time, then you are wasting your time. You need to firstly understand your audience or intended audience – what do your customers want? Do your customers or potential customers have questions that you can answer? Do you have solutions to your customers’ problems? If you are aware of these things, you can plan to put content out at the right time.

If you’re NOT putting content out for the right reasons, you are also wasting your time. When you are writing your business plan for the year, you will include measurable business goals. These goals are usually a reason for sharing some kind of promotional content to pull in more customers, or address an issue that your customers may have. The content you publish won’t necessarily sell your wares, but can help to set yourself up as an expert in your field. This, in turn inspires confidence in your abilities and business, which can lead to those all-important recommendations.

Plan your content for 2016

computer-1185626_640December and January is the ideal time for you to look at planning for next year. It’s time to take stock and look back over the last year – what worked well for your business and what didn’t work so well? Which way are you going next year?

Take the time to look at last year’s business or marketing plan (or both) and decide what you need to change to make next year more successful.

Have you ever asked your customers for feedback? Amongst that feedback, is there anything you can address to make your business more attractive? Do your customers have any problems you can solve? If you can pinpoint what it is that your customers want, that you are not currently giving them, you have the greatest opportunity to truly delight them in solving those problems.

future-2372183_640.jpgIf you haven’t asked for feedback, then why not do it now? Why not send out a short survey asking some questions to help you decide which way to go next year – get your current customers’ opinions and ideas – their input could open a whole new market to you.

Once you know what your customers want and have a new plan for next year, with new goals, you are ready to plan your content strategy and will be one step closer to a successful 2016!

 

 

Customer Engagement – Newsletters

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It has been said that marketing your business with the use of newsletters are a bit ‘old hat’ and are losing their value, but I don’t agree. With other forms of marketing, such as adverts, people will see your advert and look at it if they’re interested in the subject, but it will bypass lots of people. But a newsletter is a powerful tool and goes right to the heart of your business, reaching all your customers. You know they are interested in what you do as they’ve bought your products or services. As well as keeping your customers informed about what’s going on in your business, you can include special offers and highlight some of your products.

calendar-1990453_640Whether you choose to send your newsletter out in print format, or as an online version on e-mail, it’s important to decide the frequency. Most of my clients send out newsletters by email on a monthly basis, so they can be a bit longer than if you are sending out something each week. The most important thing is that the content is timely and relevant, adding some sort of value to your customer. For example, I send out a monthly newsletter for a garden centre – as well as including any news about new stock and special offers, we also include monthly hints and tips on jobs that need doing in the garden that month. We’ve also run a series of articles over a few months on planning the garden for 2014 – this encourages customers to take a good look at their garden, decide what worked well last year and what didn’t, and gives advice on plants and shrubs without doing the ‘hard sell’.

Goals of your newsletter

So you’ve decided you want to send out a newsletter for your business – now you need to think about what you want to achieve. Is the purpose of your newsletter to send traffic to person-1245959_640your website; increase engagement to your brand; create a buzz for a new product or service? The type of goals you have will help you create a more effective newsletter. For example, if you want to send more traffic to your website, you could include an excerpt from an article that will generate interest in your products and then direct them to the full article on your website, or you could just send an introductory paragraph from the newsletter, but keep the full newsletter on your website, so customers have to go to your website to read the full article. Similarly, you could give them a taster of a special offer, but point customers to your website for full details.

Content

The content of your newsletter needs to be engaging – if you don’t keep the attention of your customers and make the content relevant to them and add value, they will either hit the ‘delete’ button or will unsubscribe. A good headline will pull your customers in, so try and make it interesting – not just ‘January’s newsletter’. It’s crucial that you use good grammar and that there are no spelling mistakes and that it is easy to read so ensure that, if you do the newsletter yourself, that it is thoroughly proofread.

question-mark-1751308_640Of course, a newsletter is only one of the marketing tools you can use and it’s always best to use a variety of tools to engage your customers. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the role of newsletters. Do you use them for your business?

Be SMART with your business goals

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And so we’re into another year – can’t believe that it’s 2014 already. At this time of year, I review my business and marketing plan from last year; look at what worked well and what didn’t and decide on new objectives and goals for the coming year. But where do you start?

When I worked for a big company in the UK, business planning was all around SMART objectives and this translates well to the small business too. So, what is SMART?

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timely

It’s a good idea to use the measures above to think about your goals – so let’s have a look at them all in turn.

Specific – if your goals are general, you are less likely to achieve them – for example, my New Year’s Resolution usually includes something around losing weight! But as everyone who’s ever tried to lose weight knows, if you just say ‘this year I want to lose weight’, it’s unlikely to happen. However if you make the goals more specific, you are more likely to be successful – for example, goals could be ‘I’m going to join a gym and go three times a week’ and ‘I’m going to join a slimming club and follow a structured diet’. So, in order to be specific, think about:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Where – Identify a location
  • When – Establish a time frame
  • Which – Identify requirements and constraints
  • Why – Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal

carpenter-3509492_640Measurable – to ensure that you attain your goals, they need to be measurable; then you can keep an eye on your progress and you will stay on track and reach your target dates. If you have a website for your business, one goal may be to push it further up search engines, so your business can be more easily found by potential customers.   Questions you could ask yourself could be:

  • How will I know when I’ve achieved a goal?
  • What does success in a particular goal look like?
  • How will you measure the success?

Attainable – Once you have your list of goals, you can start to think about how you can achieve them. Look at each of them in turn and make sure that they are attainable. In the TV programme, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Del-boy was always saying ‘this time next year – we’ll be millionaires’ – a great goal, but not necessarily attainable…and too generalised!

Think about how you can turn your goals into reality – by writing them down, being specific, may give you further ideas or may highlight opportunities that you may have previously missed.

Realistic – it’s really important that all your goals are realistic. You must be both able and willing to work towards them. You are the only one who can decide what is realistic and achievable for you – some people like to set high targets and goals and get more satisfaction out of the challenge; others prefer to set several smaller goals that will work towards the higher target. It’s up to you which approach you take…but make sure your goals are realistic for you.

time-3222267_640 (1)Timely – Goals always need to have a timeframe – if you don’t have a timeframe, then there’s no sense of urgency and it’s easy to keep saying ‘I’ll start that tomorrow’…and we all know that tomorrow never comes! If we go back to the weight loss scenario, if you say ‘I want to lose a stone’, but don’t put a time limit on it,  it’ll never happen. But, if you give yourself a date (a realistic and attainable date), for example, ‘I want to lose a stone in three  months’ – it’s more likely that you’ll succeed.

By keeping your objectives/goals SMART, you’ll be able to keep a tight rein on how your business is progressing and achieving what you want it to achieve.

Good luck and if you have any further ideas on the subject, please let me know!

Building a brand for your small business

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A Brand is the image of your business; the products or services that your customers and potential customers connect with. You don’t even have to see the name of some of the famous brands to know what they are – for example, you see the big, yellow, arches in the shape of an ‘M’ and just know that it’s Macdonald’s – or see the Apple logo and you know what it represents. Building a brand for your small business means you are marketing your business to be recognisable, so the name of your business is instantly connected to the products or services you provide.

seo-1288976_640If you have a good online presence, you’re already making a start in promoting your brand. You can use search engine optimization with relevant keywords, which will show up in online searches, but you need to do plenty of research to ensure you are using the right kind of keywords for your business so customers and potential customers can find you more easily.

Your brand says a lot about you, the person behind your business – your brand is synonymous with your reputation. How do your customers see you? Are you seen as an expert in your field? What do you represent? What does your business stand for? When someone hears the name of your business or your name, what springs to their minds?

What is your current brand? 

design-751452_640Put yourself into the shoes of your customer. Type the name of your business into google search and see what comes up – then type in your name. If you were a potential customer, would you employ you? Most big companies in the UK check out potential employees’ Facebook pages – what does your page say about you? If you’re trying to build a reputable brand, be careful about what you say on social media pages – although this is controversial, if you regularly rant about your personal life in public or use expletives, does this give a good impression? Will it affect the reputation of your business?

Social media sites give you the opportunity to build your public image – it’s the one area you have total control over – you decide how you’d like your potential customers to see you. If you are selling a particular craft or product or provide a serviced, you’ll want to be seen as someone who knows what they’re talking about – an expert. What you post demonstrates that image to the public, so use it wisely.

How do you build a positive brand?    

Set yourself goals…

  • What do you want people to associate with you? What do you want your customers to think of you? If you were going to buy your products/services, what would you look for?
  • arrow-2889040_640A good brand demonstrates expertise. You need to show potential customers that you’re good at what you do. When you do a good job for your current customers, ask them for feedback and recommendations. When I want to buy something on EBay, I always look at feedback to ensure the seller is reputable and delivers what they say they will
  • Your natural style – this is about how you portray yourself. Are you enthusiastic about what you do? Do you show your passion for your product or services? Do some research on other people who offer the same or similar products or services as you – how do they put their personal style across to their potential customers? I’m not saying you should copy someone else’s style, but if their style is successful, it wouldn’t hurt to emulate some of it!

Website – If your name or business name isn’t on the first page of a google search, you need to do some more work on getting yourself recognised. Do you have a website? If you do, research keywords for your product/services and keep your website content fresh and interesting.

Logo – if you don’t have a logo, it might be worth investing the time and money in getting one that captures your business. Then use it..on your website, on flyers, on your blog, business cards and in any advertising

Blogdo you have a blog? If you don’t, it’s worth thinking about – it’s a way to show your expertise to your customers. Write blogs that are informative and that help people; write about your products and why they’re good; research other bloggers who do the same or similar to you – follow them, make comments on other blogs, become a guest blogger. Get exposure!

Social Mediause social media wisely. Post regularly with relevant content on your business pages; use photographs, quotes, put links to interesting articles – anything that you think your customers would find interesting or useful…or even funny – without being offensive.

linked-in-2668687_640LinkedIn – this is a great business to business networking site – you can comment on forums, set up your own discussion threads – all of which can help you be seen as an expert in your field. Copy the LinkedIn profile you worked so hard on to other sites, such as AboutMe.com, Naymz.com and BrandYourself.com. Ensure you change the wording slightly so that the first few lines on a google search are slightly different for each site you join.

Set up a Google+ account – setting up this account will let google know that you exist – link it to your website and social media sites.

unique-2032274_640Building your brand takes time; google takes time to recognise any changes you make, but it’s worth the time and effort. You’ll get more business as more customers find you, like you and your brand and recommend you. This, in turn, will make your reputation grow – make your brand more recognisable….and so your business name and personal name will move up the ranks of google search and you will stand out from the crowd.

If you need any help with your branding, or if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cindymobey@outlook.com – I’ll be happy to help.

How to conduct a SWOT analysis for your small business

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Whether you’re new to running your own small business, or whether you’ve been going for a while, conducting a SWOT analysis can help your business get on the right track. I tend to glaze over when someone talks about something that sounds like it will be difficult, or something that I might not understand, but SWOT analysis is a very simple concept, which can give you great insight into your business and generate ideas to take your business forward.

What is SWOT analysis

The term SWOT is an acronym devised from four words; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Conducting analysis on your business in these four key areas help you look at internal and external factors that affect or have the potential to affect your business. It’s a good idea to conduct this analysis before you set up your business and marketing plan as it will help you develop your business strategy.

chain-690088_640You could also consider performing a SWOT analysis on your competitors, as this will give you valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses…and may identify opportunities for your business that they haven’t thought of.

Where do you start?

A SWOT analysis is about making a list in four key areas:

Strengths – list what your strengths are…the aspects of your business or project that gives you an advantage over others. What do you do well?

Weaknesses – these are factors that put you at a disadvantage to your competitors – what don’t you do so well?

Strengths and Weaknesses are the internal factors of your business.

Opportunities – what are the opportunities you can see for your business? You might be able to spot opportunities from new technology, new potential markets for your products or services, or even lifestyle changes or local events.

Take a good look at your strengths and see if any of those can be converted into opportunities. Similarly, you may be able to work on your weaknesses to eradicate them and open up new opportunities.

Threats – do you have any hurdles you have to overcome with your business? Are any of your weaknesses a serious threat to your business? Look at what your competitors are doing to be successful – is there something you can change to compete? Of course, there are other threats to take into consideration, such as bad debts or loans.

Opportunities and Threats are the external factors of your business.

Who can help you?

positive-letters-2355685_640A SWOT analysis can be completed by you, but it’s always good to have another opinion, so draft in some help. Ask friends, employees (if you have them) and maybe even some of your customers – ask them what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. You may be surprised at the answers and it may help you to pull together a strategy to help you succeed further or improve an area of your business.

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Action plan  

Once you have all the information you need, you can devise a strategy to capitalise on your opportunities and reduce your threats. Concentrate on these two areas first as they are the most likely factors that will affect your business and your future success.

Then you can work on your weaknesses and protect and increase your strengths.

When you have completed the analysis, go through your business and marketing plan to see if you can enhance any particular area of your plan.

Print off my FREE Conduct a SWOT Analysis worksheet and get started now!I

Happy planning!

Email: cindymobey@outlook.com

Cross-cultural communication and the great French lunch!

meeting-1453895_640It’s widely recognised that English is the language of business across the world. Here in rural France, I help people promote their small businesses, and although most of my encounters have been with English business women, I’m lucky enough to have joined a great group, Les Dames de FER, which I spoke about in my last blog, which help and support English and French women in business. Through this group I’ve gained so much knowledge about business life in France and find their training sessions and support invaluable. But what support is there available for French people who need to join a business meeting in the UK and what are the differences between English and French business meetings?

British diplomacy

Back in the UK, business meetings are mainly fairly formal and the British are known for their ‘stiff upper lip’ and the ‘grin and bear it’ attitude. Diplomacy is just something the British naturally do. For example, if I was in a business meeting in the UK, and didn’t agree with what someone was saying, I wouldn’t have dreamed of directly disagreeing with them. I would have said something like ‘Yes, that’s really good and it could work – alternatively we could look at it this way’.  But, whether in a business meeting in France or just in general conversation, the French are much more direct and will say exactly what they mean – if they say no, they mean no! There’s no misunderstanding.

When I first came here, I wasn’t used to the direct approach and thought the people were a bit abrupt, but I’ve come to realise that I was wrong –  this is the French way and no offence is meant – it’s just that they state facts.  But the British worry about causing offence or hurting someone’s feelings by disagreeing, so will say things such as ‘I see your point, but….’ which as a British person, I know this means they don’t necessarily agree with me. However, to a non-native English speaker, ‘I see your point….’ means it’s agreeable. The business English language barrier can cause confusion for non-native English speakers. And it’s not just in business that there are cultural differences.

French differences

Since moving to France I’ve noticed many cultural differences; in some ways it’s like stepping back a few decades. Most shops close on a Sunday and often Mondays too. Banks don’t open on a Monday either. And of course, there is the French lunch hour (or two!)

restaurant-1763081_640In the UK, lunch is a very informal affair, especially if like me, you work in an office. It’s accepted that meetings can be conducted over lunch – people will grab a sandwich and take it to a meeting. I nearly always ate my lunch at my desk, whilst carrying on working.  However, in France, this is unheard of… here, lunch is an occasion. Except for the big towns and cities, most shops close between 12 – 12.30 and don’t open again until 2 – 2.30pm. In my village, the church bells go mad announcing that it’s lunchtime. The French take their time over lunch, eating a three course meal with wine. And in rural areas, the timing of lunch is very flexible! If you’re trying to get a renovation project completed by tradesmen, you have to be prepared for the great French lunch – they down tools and disappear for a few hours. However, that’s not to say they’re lazy – they start work earlier, usually at around 7am and often work until it gets dark.

Time is something that is very loosely followed in France too – if a meeting is to start at 10am, it rarely starts on time – people will mill around chatting with a coffee. Everything is very laid back and informal. However, once a meeting starts, things are done in a methodical and direct way with conclusions and any action to take all very clear and concise….…and of course, if a meeting is conducted in the morning, it finishes dead on 12…..time for lunch!

5596899_orig[1] (340x51)Just as I continue to learn about cross-cultural communication in France, with the help of Les Dames de FER, it’s important for non-native English speakers who conduct their business globally, to not only learn the English language in order to compete in the English business market place, they also need to learn the complexities of cross cultural communications – including all the foibles of business English and diplomacy.

There are several companies that help non-native English speakers compete in the business marketplace. Executive Language Tutors is one such company. Based in London, their courses give men and women in business the confidence to perform and communicate in the professional workplace. Their courses range from elocution and accent reduction, to learn business English and cross-cultural communication.

Les Dames de FER and me

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When I first became an Auto Entrepreneur in France, it was a daunting prospect. I’d worked for a large, global company in the UK and the thought of going it alone, in a new country, where I didn’t speak the language very well was scary to say the least. I joined a French class, so I could learn more about the language, and it was at one of these lessons that I heard about a group called Les Dames de FER. Set up to support small business women in rural France, I decided it was a good idea to join. It was the best decision I made.

Les Dames dLes Dames de FER lunche FER hold networking meetings, where like-minded women meet up and talk about their businesses, share information and experiences and support each other. There are regular sessions run by members to share their skills, such as social networking, blogging and the legal system, to name a few. I have found it an invaluable group to belong to and have made loads of helpful contacts. If you have a problem, there is always someone to talk to and someone always knows the answer.

President of Les Dames de FER

President of Les Dames de FER

As a freelance writer and marketing and communications consultant, I help people to promote their small businesses, sharing my skills with my clients and helping them with building their business and marketing plans, as well as writing website content, blogs and business articles. Being part of the Les Dames de FER group has helped me find new clients through networking with other members and the Foire Commerciale (Trade fayre) that they ran in September, gave us all a great opportunity to have a stand and show exactly what we could do and brought us a whole new group of potential clients.

Even though some of the seminars held are on subjects I know about, it’s still worthwhile going along as you always pick up extra hints and tips and it’s good to be able to discuss a particular subject with other experienced people. They are always very positive sessions and I always leave feeling fired up about my business and confident that I have a valuable service to offer to my clients.

I’ll never be a millionaire, but what I do have is worth much more than money can buy. I have a business, doing something I love and am passionate about, I have grown in self-confidence and have met loads of lovely like-minded women. The support of Les Dames de FER is second to none and I’d highly recommend them to anyone who runs their own small business here in France.

If you’d like to find out more about Les Dames de FER, take a look at their website, where you can find the application form to join.

http://www.lesdamesdefer.fr/