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Why small businesses shouldn’t do clickbait

Why small businesses shouldn't use clickbait
Photo by Lisa Fotios via Pexels

You’ve seen clickbait even if you’ve never heard the word before. You might even have clicked through. They’re those posts with headlines like “you won’t believe what this 80s soap star looks like now” and “the groom burst into tears on his wedding day – the reason will shock you”. The dictionary definition talks about content that’s designed to attract attention and encourage people to click through. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? As small business owners we’re all trying to create content that will bring engagement to our social media platforms and visitors to our website. But if you’re tempted to attract visitors with clickbait, don’t. Here are just a few reasons why.

Your business depends on trust

One of the biggest problems with clickbait is that the preview that persuades you to click rarely matches the content. Plenty of stories are emotional but it’s rare for something to be genuinely shocking – if it was it would probably be headline news. The trouble with clickbait is that it gets plenty of traffic by promising something sensational but usually doesn’t deliver. That’s fine if your business generates revenue by having lots of channels and plenty of people who want some mindless fun and are willing to click through to get it. Small business owners don’t work that way. We have limited time and resources and our marketing needs to build trust. Throwaway articles just don’t do that.

You won’t get the visitors you want

How do you build trust with your customers? You post useful content that helps them solve problems and demonstrates your expertise. An important part of that is making sure that your blog’s headline tells them what to expect. Imagine if the headline to this post had been ‘doing this will DESTROY your business’. Then you click through and find out it’s about clickbait and think ‘I’d never do that anyway.’ The contents of this post aren’t going to be useful to you at all. With the current headline you might have clicked through because you’d considered trying some clickbait or because you’d never thought about what the issues could be. Either way, I hope you’re learning something. Being upfront in your headlines mean that you get the visitors you can actually help.

Google hates clickbait

If you’re writing a blog because you want to make it easier for people to find you in a search, getting lots of traffic really helps. It would be easy to think of clickbait as a great way to do this. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong kind of traffic. When Google sends its spiders out to rank your site, it doesn’t just look at the number of visitors you get. It also looks at bounce rate* and visiting times. If someone lands on your site, looks at one page and leaves, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They might just have been looking for your contact details. But if lots of people do it? It tells Google that visitors aren’t spending time reading your content so it’s much less likely to be authoritative and useful. You really want people who spend a few minutes reading and maybe clicking through to look at other things.

Do you want to know what really works? Writing useful content that helps your audience. That way you can demonstrate your expertise so your readers start to trust you enough to become customers.

*The number of visitors who only look at one page on your site before leaving.

If you need any help with that, get in touch to see how I can help you write content that speaks your customers’ language. Or sign up to my mailing list for hints and tips straight to your inbox every month.

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How to structure your blog post to get more readers

Planning your blog post structure.

You might think that the way you structure your blog post isn’t that important. You couldn’t be more wrong. What you write is really important but the way you set it out is, possibly, even more crucial. If your blog post is one big block of text, guess what? Your readers will switch off and go somewhere else.

It’s also worth remembering that people don’t always read everything you write. (I know, it upsets me too.) They might have found your post looking for one quick piece of information. If you structure your posts to make things easy to find, your readers will love you (and possibly bookmark your post for future reference). Here are just a few of the basics.

A good headline

I’ve started with this because it goes at the top, but it’s a good idea to review your headline once you’ve written the post. Clickbait is annoying so make sure your headline reflects what you’ve actually written. This is especially true of titles that start with things like ‘5 tips’ or ’10 things’ (these are great as they also give you a built in structure).

Using power words and emotional language in your headline helps your readers to engage. Words like ‘you’ or ‘your’ helps them to feel that you’re talking to them. You can test the emotional value of your headline using the Advance Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer and get some ideas for power words in [this handy list from CoSchedule.

Introduction

A good introduction will get your reader hooked and wanting to read more. Opening with a question often works well because it either gets people nodding or shaking their head straight away. It has the added benefit of weeding out anyone who doesn’t need your help because they just stop reading. You could also start with something surprising or controversial that leads into your topic. The most important thing is to give readers a preview of what you’re going to talk about. It helps to build trust because it shows your readers you know what you’re talking about.

Subheadings

Subheadings are important for two reasons. Firstly, Google likes them. It shows structure which suggests that you know your stuff. It also helps readers who might only be looking for the answer to one question. If you’ve planned a post with a specific number of tips or recommendations, your subheadings can just be a list. If you’re describing a process that needs to be done in a particular order, you can list out the steps and use those as subheadings. Otherwise, plan out what the post needs to cover so you can focus all of the relevant information within that section.

Conclusion

What do you want people to take away from this blog post? Briefly summarise what you talked about so the overall point is clear. You could also list key points or actions readers can take next. Also consider including a call to action. This could be a prompt to sign up to your email list, a question for readers to answer in the comments or anything else you’d like. The idea is to encourage readers to engage further with your business so that you can keep building the relationship and encouraging them to become customers. Practicing what I preach, I’d like you to come away from this understanding that building a clear structure into your blog posts helps to make them user friendly and easy to read.

If you’ve written a blog post that you’re not happy with, or would just like to hand the whole thing over, please get in touch. I can write your blog for you or help you to edit one you’ve already written.

Or you can complete the form below to sign up to my mailing list for monthly blogging and marketing tips straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive a free copy of my guide to getting your business seen online as a thank you.

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Case study – Graeme and Charlotte’s blog

Blog case study - holiday park

If you’ve ever wondered what writing a blog can do for your business, here’s a great example.

The Challenge

Graeme and Charlotte run a holiday park in a gorgeous location (I wish I could tell you where, but I’m not allowed). This wasn’t somewhere you could just book for a week like you can with some of the bigger chains. This was a family business where everyone who visited owned their own caravan and came for weekends as well as for longer holidays. The owners might lend their vans out to friends and family but it was mostly just for them. The business was ticking over but there was no growth, so they got some help with their marketing to try and change things.

Their blog had got a bit samey. There was lots of news about what was happening on the site but they really wanted to talk about the area, to show people what was special about their location and encourage them to visit. I came up with some new ideas and started writing their blog for them.

The results

Over the next 9 months they increased their enquiries by 150% and got more revenue from their existing customers.

Why did it work so well? Because we love a good story. When they read the blog, new customers could picture themselves in their own bolthole, looking out over some incredible views. Current owners felt looked after because we included things that would help them to enjoy their time there. Some paid to upgrade their accommodation. They even started spending more time in the bar or at the shop because they felt like part of a community.

Could writing a business blog do that for you? Get in touch and let’s find out. I write the words that speak your customers’ language.

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Do you need great ideas for your blog?

Ideas for your blog
Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

One of the most common questions I hear when I suggest business owners start a blog is “but what will I write about?” Coming up with ideas for your blog (or any of your social media posts for that matter) can feel like a massive task at first. It’s also entirely possible that you think you’ve covered everything you can write about already. The truth is, there are ideas all around you – you just have to know where to find them. Here are 5 simple ways that you can find new ideas for your blog.

Keep it simple

I talk to a lot of business owners who don’t write about really obvious things in their blog. They think that because they think something’s boring and routine their customers will too. Truth is, your customers need you because they don’t know what you know. If your strength is making beautiful jewellery your weakness could be keeping your accounts in order. If you’re the accountant who can give them a simple way to keep everything organised, talk about it! It isn’t too obvious, it’s really helpful. A list of your FAQs = an instant list of blog topics.

How do you help?

You’re in business because you offer something people need, so if you want customers you need to tell them how you help them. What are the benefits of working with you? I talk about things like coming up with ideas, writing in a way your customers will understand and turning lacklustre words into something better. You can also think about all of the different things that people might be Googling that you can help with. Say you offer massage – there are loads of different ways that someone might benefit and you can write about them all.

Talk to people

Taking a genuine interest in your customers’ lives is just basic human decency. It also helps you to come up with ideas. I get a lot of ideas from conversations I have with other business owners. You discover what they’re struggling with and about the misconceptions they have about your industry. That doesn’t just come from business networking. Your customers could be the people you chat to on in the local shop (albeit through your mask just now). The key is to listen to what people need – then you can write about ways you can help.

Read other blogs

I’m not suggesting you steal other people’s work. Plagiarism is bad. However, reading other blogs and marketing content within your industry helps you to keep up to date. This can also sometimes apply to reading the news too. Writing a blog post about something that’s changing will be really useful to your customers. The obvious example at the moment is Covid-19. There is so much change going on my head’s spinning. If you can help your customers understand what’s happening in businesses like yours it helps us all deal with the stress that little bit better.

Use some tech

There are lots of techy ways that you can come up with ideas for your blog. I like Answer the Public, where you can type in a keyword and it gives you loads of different questions that people have asked around that word. There are also some great keyword research tools. My favourite is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. Buzzsumo is also a great tool if you want to find out what kind of content does well in your industry.

I hope that’s given you food for thought – if you want a whole heap of topic ideas for your blog that are ready to go, my new eBook is out now. It’s called ’50 blog post ideas for your business’ and does just what it says on the tin.

50 blog post ideas for your business

Further resources

For even more ways to come up with new ideas, this great post from Orbit Media is well worth a read.

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Are your future customers scared of you?

Are your customers scared of your business?

Does it ever feel as if some people might be a bit scared of your business? You might think of yourself as a perfectly pleasant person, not an ogre or a troll. Yet you haven’t had a steady stream of new customers beating a path to your door. Or maybe you’ve introduced an exciting new product or service and its fallen completely flat.

It’s not because you’re terrifying. (Probably – if you are actually really scary I can’t help you.) The truth is, people like to know what they’re getting into. Trying something new takes a bit of a leap of faith. If you want your customers to have confidence there are a few things you can do to help them.

Tell them about your business

If you have a business that might be considered ‘unusual’, this is for you. There are a whole load of businesses in the world that do exactly what they say on the tin. If you’re a hairdresser on the local high street, people will get it. But what if people wrinkle their noses and say ‘what’s that?’ when you tell them what you do? Your future customers might be doing the same. You could be the solution to a problem that’s really holding them back, but they’ll never find you if you don’t teach them how you can help.

It’s also possible that they’ve got completely the wrong idea about what you offer. They’ve read something somewhere that was completely inaccurate. It might have been sensationalised or just phrased in a way that made them think it wasn’t for them. Never be afraid to bust a few myths if you need to.

Do your customers know about your services?

Of course, there’s another possibility. Maybe you offer a range of services and most of them are perfectly ordinary. Like a beauty therapist offering facials and massage. Then you bring in something new, like Hopi ear candling. No-one books. You’ve told people you’re offering it, it’s there on the menu but no-one’s buying. That’s probably a sign that they don’t know what it is or why they need it.

Explaining the benefits of a product or service is a great idea no matter what you offer. Even if you think something is mainstream, there are bound to be people who’ve never heard of it. Or maybe they have heard of it but they’re not exactly sure why they’d want it. Saying things like ‘this is a great treatment for hayfever sufferers’ or ‘this will save you time doing x job’ demystifies your services and encourages people to try them out.

Cover the basics

Sometimes people worry about simple things. Signing up for a class or an appointment with a professional is a big commitment. You can’t just run out if you don’t like the look of it. (Well, you could, but you’d probably feel pretty silly.) People protect themselves by not making the booking in the first place.

The concerns your potential customers have will depend on what you offer. If they’re in a group setting they might wonder what the other people will be like. They might worry about what you’re like or whether they’ll be safe visiting you. Going to see a solicitor or financial adviser runs the risk that they’ll be blinded with science. Telling people what to expect gives them certainty and reassurance. It tells them that you’re friendly and will look after them. That could mean the difference between a new customer and one that never gets in touch.

If you need help speaking your customers’ language and demystifying your business, just get in touch. Or sign up to my mailing list for regular marketing and writing tips.

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Case study – We Are Bostin’s lockdown adaptation

We Are Bostin lockdown case study

We’ve all heard about businesses pivoting during the pandemic. Here’s one that did it in style. Lake Contracts provide high quality shop fitting services so when lockdown came their business went quiet. After all, who’s going to pay for shop fitting when all the pubs and most of the shops are shut?

They adapted with style, setting up a new business using their existing skills. We Are Bostin was created to provide new windows, doors and shop fronts to both residential and commercial customers. I don’t know about you, but our time at home has left me with a long list of home improvements. A new front door and some brand new windows are definitely on there somewhere!

The Challenge

Their web designer set to work and recommended that they add a blog to show their expertise. I’d got to know Andreea Lake, one of the management team, thanks to my networking habit and she got in touch. There was one big challenge – we only had three days to act before the web developer went on holiday for a month. Thankfully Andreea had loads of great ideas for the kind of posts they needed and their branding and customer knowledge was strong.

All of this meant that I was able to get to work quickly, turning the finished post around in just over 24 hours. (That’s officially a record for me – I’m pretty quick but it usually takes a smidgen longer than that.)

The result? One happy client with a gorgeous new blog. All that remains is to find out how many hits they get now the site is live. If you’d like to read the first two blogs and find out more about We Are Bostin’s services, here’s the link.

If you need high quality content on a schedule that works for you, or that helps you adapt now lockdown is starting to ease, get in touch. I write the words that speak your customers’ language.

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Why I’m not buying into hustle culture

Hustle culture causes stress
Photo from energepic.com via Pexels

I used to follow lots of business gurus who talked about ‘hustle’. They’d mention their families but the main thrust of their advice was that you needed to work, work then work some more until you’d ‘made it’. I never really saw much about what life would look like when you’d made it, or indeed whether there was an actual definition. The overall idea seemed to be that you shouldn’t take a holiday or even a day off until you’d got to the top. Hustle culture was everywhere. Even the people who had kids talked about the importance of balance but seemed to spend their evenings and weekends working. Of course, I don’t know what was happening behind the scenes. Everything I saw about these people was based on what they put on social media. All the same, it played on my mind. Did I really need to subscribe to hustle culture to have a successful business?

What’s my problem?

When I say I’m not buying into the hustle, that doesn’t mean I believe in slacking. Working hard is part of building a successful business. I think my issue is that hustle seems to go beyond that. It’s not just hard work. I’ve seen people talk about not sleeping or never taking a day off. As someone with two small children I know that not getting enough sleep is a form of slow torture. There’s no way I’m doing it voluntarily. There might be times that you need to work silly hours to get something done, but it’s not sustainable long term.

I knew that I needed to create my own definition of success and mark my own boundaries if I was going to get anywhere.

Defining success

I see a lot of people online talking about earning 6 or 7 figures. That might be meaningful to some, but not me. Not that I’m longing to live in a cave or anything. I’d just rather make enough to have a nice life, quality time with the family and a few decent holidays. If that means I don’t get to be a millionaire that’s OK.

When it comes to role models I take social media posts with a pinch of salt and talk to people I actually know. The main thing I discovered is that everyone has different boundaries. The important thing is to look at how you want to spend your time and how that translates to reaching your goals.

Accountability

I sometimes wonder whether ‘hustle’ is some people’s method of keeping themselves accountable. If you haven’t worked an 18 hour day you haven’t done enough. The truth is, you don’t have to hustle to set goals and get results. If I don’t take time off I get exhausted and make bad decisions. My holidays don’t just give me family time, they provide brain space too. Looking at the world from a different angle gives me new ideas for normal life.

I also have an amazing coaching group where we commit to take action and report back. That action can even include identifying times when we need to rest so we live to fight another day. That’s the kind of accountability that gets you where you need to go.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know that a lot of you struggle with it. My business isn’t just about writing. It’s about sharing the stories that mean something to you. If you need help speaking your customers’ language and finding the stories that are important to them, just get in touch.

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Ready to outsource? How you can find the right people

Outsource by finding the right people.

Making the decision to outsource some of your business tasks is one thing. Finding someone you’d actually trust to do the work is quite another. If you’re looking for a full time employee you might be better off hiring someone to find suitable candidates. However, more and more businesses don’t want the hassle. It may even be that you only need someone for a couple of hours a week, or to work short term on a specific project. A freelancer with other clients is the ideal solution. But how do you find the right one?

Sole trader v Agency

Agencies or larger businesses are ideal if you’ve got a specific project or need help with a range of different things. There are agencies of all sizes, including some that are run by sole traders. The difference between an agency and one sole trader is that the agency will have built a team of people who can cover a range of different things and will manage them all for you.

Sole traders are great if you don’t need to outsource to lots of different people. For example, you might already have a designer who’s created your new website, but you need someone to write the copy. Managing two freelancers is relatively easy – it gets trickier if you need five or six different specialities.

Getting recommendations

When it comes to finding the right person, getting a recommendation from someone you trust is by far the best option.  You can get a personal recommendation based on their own experience so you can outsource with confidence. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that their needs might not be exactly the same as yours and their approach to work may be completely different.

Networking events have been invaluable for me in finding people to work with. My main memberships focus on relationship building so I’ve got to know a range of people and discovered who I get on with. Then when I need a particular service I’ve often already got someone in mind.

Personality is key

Whilst access to specialist skills is one of the main benefits of working with a freelancer, you’ll still need to consider whether their personality fits with yours. This not only makes the working relationship easier, it will get you better results. No matter what work you’re planning to outsource, communication is the key to getting it done well.

I’ve met and worked with all kinds of different business owners, but they all have one thing in common. I’ve found it easy to build a rapport with them. When I’m choosing service providers for my own business the only difference between two equally qualified people has often been that I like one better than the other.

Selection

Of course, there’s more to it than personality. It’s important to be upfront about what your budget is when you’re talking to people. This enables them to tell you whether you need more funds, to adjust your expectations. They might also be able to recommend someone else. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if a freelancer takes the time to prepare a quote only for you to find it’s double what you can afford.

Also, think about whether their working style is a good fit. You may simply need someone who gives you regular updates or uses resources that allow you to check progress. If you’re looking for coaching I’d also recommend looking at their whole approach. Some coaches help you to become more personally effective, others look at your whole business and deliver strategic operations to achieve growth. Which kind do you need?

If you’re ready to outsource your copywriting, get in touch and let’s have a chat. If you’re looking for a DIY approach, visit my online shop for resources that will help or sign up to my mailing list for monthly hints and tips as well as a copy of my free guide ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’ as a thank you.

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Why you need to outsource your blog

Is this your idea of fun? Why you need to outsource your blog.
Is this your idea of fun?
Image from Pixabay

It’s one of the most common misconceptions about blogging. “Shouldn’t I be writing that myself?” Well, if you’re writing as an individual about your personal life, yes. Otherwise, for most people, no. There are a couple of reasons why writing your own business blog is a good idea (I’ll come to those) but a few others which mean it’s a better idea to outsource. Here goes…

When writing it yourself is a great idea

If you’re writing a personal blog, it should be, well, personal. That probably also applies to influencer type bloggers too. However, if you’re writing a blog for your business it’s not necessarily about you. You’ll be talking about your business but focusing on what your customer needs or wants. However, when you first start out you’ll spend some time finding your way. There’ll be trial and error while you work out what people like and how you want to sound. You might even be working out where blogging fits in your marketing. If this describes you, keep writing. (If you’re struggling to get going because you need ideas, this book is for you.) If you eventually hand your blog over to a writer it’s much better for everyone if you have a clear style that your writer can adopt.

Help with talking to your customers

There will always be trial and error when it comes to blogging, but what if you’ve been trying for ages and getting mostly error? You know exactly what you want to say but it just doesn’t come out right. When you outsource and a writer can take random ideas from your head and turn them into sentences that sound like you (this is where ghost writing gets a bit spooky). The other benefit is that a writer or marketing expert isn’t part of your business. You might see something as boring and routine when it’s exactly what your customer needs to hear about. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking you to explain what’s in it for your customer or helping you to spot the things they don’t understand.

What’s your time worth?

Blogs are slippery little beasts because you never know who is watching. I’ve had new customers tell me that they love my blog but they’ve never visibly engaged with it. I’m telling you this because I know how disheartening it is to slave over a blog and get tumbleweed. It’s even worse if you’ve spent time on it that you could have spent having fun or doing something more productive. The truth is, if your analytics tell you that people are reading, it’s probably working. It builds your profile and it’s hard to put a figure on that. I pay a cleaner because I don’t want to spend my day off cleaning. If you resent the time you’re spending writing get it off your plate and go and play with your kids instead.

How much do you love writing?

If the days, hours or minutes you spend writing content for your business are an absolute joy, keep going. The more you do it, the better you get. If the time came when writing was competing with other things that are important to you, you might have to decide to let it go. If, on the other hand, you sit down to write with a sigh because you hate it, then stop. I know you might have to get some income into your business before you can do that, but you could make it something to aim for. Goals don’t just have to be about income. It could be ‘I want to earn enough to outsource my blog/pay someone to do my filing/ [insert your least favourite task here]’.

Are you ready to outsource your blog? Drop me an email and let’s have a chat (and if you just want to ask me how much it would cost so you can put a figure on your goal, that’s fine too).

50 blog post ideas for your business (if you're not ready to outsource)
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Are we really pivoting?

Are we pivoting? White arrow on purple background.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I know, I know, I’m sorry – I’m sorry if you’ve heard the word ‘pivot’ far too many times in the last couple of months. I’m definitely tired of it (along with ‘unprecedented’) but if I’m going to face the thing I have to use the word. So. Are you pivoting? I keep getting it mixed up with pirouetting. That may actually be a better choice. If you feel as if you haven’t stopped spinning you’re not alone.

Pivoting has become a key term because a lot of us have had to consider it. Whole industries have come to a standstill overnight. Some are eligible for Government support but others aren’t. We’ve all got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I started pondering the actions I’ve taken since lockdown and what I’ve seen other businesses do. What’s been happening for you?

Are we pivoting or just readjusting?

To a word geek like me, pivoting means turning in a completely new direction. This has clearly been necessary for a lot of people. I’ve seen friends whose work has disappeared overnight apply for all kinds of jobs. Delivery drivers and grocery shop workers are in higher demand than ever before.

For the rest of us, it’s possible that we’ve just changed the way we do things. Your business might be able to continue online rather than in person. I’ve done online networking and a friend’s yoga class is now taking place over Zoom. My eight year old’s guitar lesson and football sessions have gone virtual as well. Virtual football coaching with a kid hurtling around the garden is quite an experience! The great thing is, we’re able to continue even if some bits have changed.

Getting creative

For some of us, adapting has meant getting creative. Pubs have started offering takeaways – I’ve even had a socially distanced gin delivery! My personal favourite was the lady who is painting rainbows on people’s windows. She’d normally be creating beautiful hand painted signs and chalkboards for shops and events, now she’s cheering people up at home.

My business has always been online, so it’s mostly business as usual. (Apart from the fact that I’m currently home schooling two under 10s.) The trouble is, some of the businesses I work with are struggling. It’s made me look at creating new products that will help without breaking the bank. What’s more, they’ll still be there when we go back to whatever the new normal turns out to be.

Is this a pivot?

Even though I’m creating new things and have adjusted my working week to fit around the kids, I’m not actually pivoting. I’m doing the same thing I was doing before, writing words and trying to help other business owners. All the same, things have changed. It’s not that long ago that I swore blind I was never going to create any kind of digital product. It all seemed like far too much work. Creating something I could sell wasn’t too much of a stretch. I just had to get over my horror of generic content by creating something semi-generic.

The real challenge was the techy bit. How on earth was I going to set up an online shop that would actually take money without me being involved? Well, I’ve done it. Turns out that the people who make shop software want small businesses to be able to use it so they make it easy. I know, who would have thought it?

Are you pivoting or just adjusting? Whatever your experience I’d love to hear about it so please share in the comments.

Further reading

This is my third dispatch from the realms of self-isolation. Here’s the first. And the second.

Also, if you’re in the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire area and would like your windows painted with rainbows here’s the lady to talk to.

If you’re looking for a shot in the arm for your business marketing, sign up to my email list for blogging and content tips straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive a free copy of my guide ‘Stop hiding your business’ as a thank you.