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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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Content marketing: what are you posting?

Content marketing

Content marketing can get overwhelming at the best of times. Even when you’ve got a clear idea of who your customer is and what kind of content they’ll like, there are still lots of decisions to be made. Your marketing could be a full time job, but you haven’t got time for that (even I haven’t). I’m a big believer in repurposing the content you’ve already created. It’s a bit like recycling except it won’t have any significant impact on climate change. Here’s how I approach getting as much use out of my content as I can.

Write a blog

Writing a blog can seem like a massive effort, particularly when you’re struggling with it. If you’ve ever sat down and tried to write a blog only to end up with something you’re not happy with, you’re not alone. However, it is worth persevering. (Or getting someone like me to write one for you.)

A blog is a big, chunky piece of content in comparison to virtually anything else you’ll create. You can take the topics you’ve chosen and use them to inspire other posts. You can even lift phrases straight out of your blog and use them on social media.

Sharing tips

One of the best things you can do in your blog is to share tips and advice with your audience. These will vary depending on what you’re talking about. For example, I write about reasons why you might want to blog and what the benefits are. I’ll also talk about ways to get started or come up with topics.

If you’ve written a blog with multiple tips, separate them and create images with one tip on each. You can share these on multiple platforms so they go further. You can also create videos – and no, you don’t have to be in them if you don’t want to! Facebook lives tend to get better reach than other types of video so I’d recommend doing some if you can. However, you don’t have to go face to face with the camera. You could just show your hands demonstrating a tip or use computer screen capture. I also create tip videos using images with overlaid text.

Motivational content

Unless you’re in the habit of writing motivational quotes or meme-worthy copy in your blog, this one will involve going off on a bit of a tangent. Take your blog topic and use it to search for related quotes. You don’t necessarily have to stick exactly to the topic if you find something that will resonate with your audience. For instance, I wrote a blog about finding time to blog and one of the quotes I found was this:

Not directly relevant to the topic, but certainly something that would get lots of us nodding our heads. You can use the same approach with memes, particularly if you search on Pinterest. I post a fair bit of stuff that isn’t directly related to writing but which I know my audience will enjoy. However, I often find this type of content when I’m just doing my own social media scrolling so don’t worry if the repurposing/search approach doesn’t work well for you here.

There’s also a different kind of motivation you can offer. Helping your audience to gain expertise (or realise that they know more than they thought) is really worthwhile. You can do this by sharing useful resources or by asking questions about their experiences. This helps them to share their knowledge and also helps you get to know them better.

Further resources

If you’d like some hints and tips on writing your blog, start here.

My favourite video capture tools:

Screencast-o-matic for screen capture videos.

Ripl to animate your images with overlaid text.

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Is your marketing plan ready to go for the New Year?

Marketing plan

When you’re a small business owner the fact that you make your own marketing plan can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s always a good idea to give a new marketing plan a few months to bed in before you look back and assess whether it’s working. When you’re the one looking at the figures (you are looking at them, aren’t you?) it’s easy to tell what people are responding to and what they’re ignoring. Then you can change things quickly if you want to try something new.

The problem is, when you’re doing your own marketing as well as wearing every other hat in your business, you start to run out of time. Where does your marketing plan come on your list of priorities? If you’re reading this without a clear plan for your marketing in the New Year, here’s where to start. I know you’re probably busy right now but I promise that creating your marketing plan won’t take too long.

Do the groundwork

The first principle of marketing is knowing who your customer is. Who is most likely to buy from you and where will you find them? (If you need a bit more help here, read this). Focusing on your ideal customer helps you to decide which online platforms to post on and what offline marketing you can do.

Next, think about what products or services you want to promote. This can be seasonal but it isn’t always. I can write blogs all year round, but if you’re a florist there are likely to be key periods when people are thinking about wedding flowers. Think about the seasonal elements in your business and use those as a focus. Keeping your message consistent means it’s much more likely to sink in with your customers.

Choose your blog topics

I’m a big advocate of blogging when it comes to making a small business marketing plan. A blog helps you to talk to your customers about the things that are important to them and tell them how you can help. This isn’t the only benefit, there are loads – here are just a few of them.

You don’t need to write loads of blogs (I do, but that’s because it’s what I do). One a month is absolutely fine for most businesses. If you want an outline marketing plan with blog topics for the whole year that’s great. If not, choose three topics to take you through the first quarter. What’s your marketing focus and what questions do people ask about it? A good blog topic can be as simple as answering an FAQ or giving a brief introduction.

Build the rest of your marketing plan around it

One of the reasons that I love blogs is that you can use them to inspire the rest of your content for the month. After all, if you want to make sure that your message is consistent why not talk about the same thing in different ways? You might think that it’ll get monotonous but it won’t. For one thing you don’t have to use exactly the same language and you can vary the types of post you use. It’s also worth remembering that no-one will see absolutely everything. (Unless you have a stalker.)

To make it even easier to create your marketing plan you can come up with themes for each day (for example #MotivationMonday or #WisdomWednesday). There’s also no harm in throwing in something fun but off topic to get your audience talking.

Do you need some guidance on creating your New Year marketing plan? Email me: info@kirstyfrancewrites.co.uk. I’ve opened up a few 20 minute slots in my diary to support busy business owners with their end of year content creation and New Year planning. Let’s jump on a call and see what I can do to help you.

Further reading

If you’d like some ideas for ways to reuse and recycle your blog, this is for you.

For more help on coming up with topics, read this.

Or this perennial classic from Orbit Media.

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How you can create a call to action that works

Call to actionWhenever you create a new piece of content for your business you need to think about what you want it to do. I know that might feel as if I’m asking you to analyse every single little thing that you put out there (and I am) but it doesn’t have to be a pain. Your marketing has one really simple job to do. It needs to tell customers that you exist and convince them that you have something they need. I know it’s not that easy in practice but it gives you a good starting point. There are loads of ways that your content can achieve your aims. It could explain the benefits of what you offer, educate your audience or just raise awareness of your brand. Whatever you want each post to do, you need to follow it up with a good call to action. Here’s how it works.

What are your goals?

A good marketing strategy should be linked to your overall goals for your business. You can read more about that here if it’s something you struggle with. When you have a vision for where you want to get to you can work out what types of marketing will get you there. It’s often a combination of things, like increasing your brand recognition but also getting more people signed up to your mailing list. You can create a variety of different types of content for different reasons.

Clear ideas about what you want your marketing to do can also help you decide what kind of call to action you need.

Why are you posting?

At a more granular level, think about each post and why you’re creating it. This might sound overly time consuming but it’s better than the alternative. Having a plan means you know what you’re going to post when. When you don’t plan you might find yourself panicking because you haven’t posted in ages and people might think you’ve gone out of business. It’s the sort of situation that ends up with a half-hearted post that doesn’t reflect your business or win you any new customers.

Thinking about why you’re posting helps you to create a call to action. It also helps you with the next question…

What do you want people to do next?

There are loads of different ways that people could respond to your posts. They could like, share, or comment on social media or sign up to your mailing list. They might subscribe to your YouTube channel or send you a connection request on LinkedIn. You could leave it to chance. The only problem with that is that people are lazy. If you ask them to do something they might not do it. If you don’t ask they definitely won’t. That’s where your call to action comes in. If you’re trying to widen your reach ask them to like and share your post. Ask them a question to get people talking. Tell them what they’ll get out of signing up for your mailing list and give them a nice big sign up button to make it easier.

Sometimes it’s not just what you ask but how you ask it that counts. There are tools and resources that will help you craft a good call to action but they’ll only take you so far. Getting to know your audience is the key to creating a good call to action. Over time you’ll get to know what gets you a good response and what falls flat.

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Your marketing: Why you need to know about A/B testing

A/B testingI know that some of you roll your eyes when I start talking about technical stuff. Others rub their hands in glee. Whichever one of those you are, you need to know about A/B testing. This recent blog talked about getting to grips with your data by looking back and analysing what worked in the past. A/B testing allows you to do that in a much more dynamic way.  Those quarterly or half yearly reviews are still important as they let you see the bigger picture. So what is A/B testing and why should you be putting it to work in your marketing? Read on…

A/B testing – a beginner’s guide

A/B testing pretty much does what it says on the tin. It allows you to test two (or more) different things to see what works best. You can use it in lots of different ways depending on what you’re trying to achieve. For example, you might want to increase the open rate on your email marketing so you need a good subject line. You can A/B test two different options and see which one gets opened more.

You can also do this with blog titles, your website and the copy on your sales pages that convinces people to ‘buy now’.

Be precise

If you analyse your marketing data you probably have a good idea of what your audience likes. Using A/B testing means that you’ve got the figures to prove it. Your overall impression of what’s succeeding might not be accurate, whereas the numbers always will be. You can see straight away which version people responded to.

To get the best results, you need to be precise. That’s easy if you’re only A/B testing email subject lines but it can get a bit fuzzy elsewhere. There’s no point creating two completely different versions of a landing page because you won’t know what made the difference. Was it the headline, the sign up copy or a random sentence halfway down the page? You can test lots of different things but do it one at a time.

You can make better decisions

Once you’ve got your data you can use it to create better content in the future. Did you get more traffic to your blog post with a serious headline or a funny one? Did personalising the email subject line result in more people opening it? Are there particular words that your audience really respond to (or not)? Sometimes your results can hang on a single word. Your audience might think ‘bespoke’ sounds snooty but they love ‘tailor made’.

This kind of testing doesn’t have to be limited to the words themselves either. You can test things like emoji use and even the colours you use. You might find that no-one signs up for your email newsletter if the sign up button is green, but they do if it’s red.

You can use it for anything

A/B testing lets you run checks on almost everything you use in your marketing. It can be something small like a headline or different elements of your new website. More importantly, the information you get can have far reaching implications for your business.

The way you present yourself and your brand is one of the key things you need to consider when you’re planning your marketing. It includes everything from your own values, what you offer and the customers you work with. A/B testing lets you discover what message resonates with your audience. It can tell you if they care more about saving time and money, or whether it’s more important to them that you’re an eco-friendly family business. It could help you to craft a message that brings you a whole new customer base.

Further reading

Do you understand the why but want to get into the how? These blogs from Neil Patel and Hubspot are a great place to start.

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Why you need to track your marketing data

Track your marketing dataYawn. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve gone from creating mildly entertaining blogs about writing and marketing to suddenly deciding to bore you all to death. Unless you’re someone who loves numbers and digging into an analysis of the figures. If you are, thank you. I love you for understanding figures and data because that may mean you’re an accountant and people like me need people like you. However, this blog isn’t really for you. It’s for the people whose eyes glaze over when you mention analytics. If you don’t know why you need to track your marketing data, read on. I may never teach you to love analytics but hopefully you’ll see the benefits.

Numbers tell the truth

When you create content for your business you’re bound to have bits that you’re really pleased with and others that felt a bit half hearted. Some things will get planned ahead and others will be ad hoc depending on what’s happening that day. If you’ve shared something on social media and it gets lots of comments you might feel that it’s done well. However, your impression of how a piece of content has performed might not be accurate. Only the numbers will give you the real picture.

For example, a blog post that appeared to gather tumbleweed when you posted in on Facebook might have brought lots of new visitors to your website. Unless you’ve got Google Analytics set up you won’t know. It might have brought you a new customer or two but you’ve written it off as a failure.

Where do you focus your attention?

The way you analyse your data can be quite individual but there are a few common features. The easiest way to look at it is by focusing on your goals. For example, if you want to increase the number of customers you have look at where the existing ones came from. Did someone get in touch because they saw a post that dealt with a problem they’re having? Have they read your blog and followed through to sign up for your email list? If you want to build your social media profile look at where you’re getting the most likes, shares and comments.

Of course, this isn’t an exact science. People might lurk for ages without responding to your posts at all. Then before you know it you’ve got a new customer. However, looking at what your audience did respond to gives you a general idea of what’s going down well. It can also tell you when something hasn’t hit the mark. I once did a campaign aimed at travel agents. The responses I got were mostly from VAs. They were lovely people but I’d clearly got the message wrong somewhere.

Marketing data saves you time

You might still be wondering what the point of all this marketing data analysis is. The simple truth is, scattergun marketing doesn’t work. Even more importantly, you don’t have enough time to post here there and everywhere hoping that something connects.

Your marketing data will tell you if your customers are coming from Facebook, LinkedIn or somewhere else. They will tell you if your audience love quick tips but hate memes. It may even tell you that the blog post you thought was a dead duck brought masses of traffic to your website. The point is, your marketing data will tell you what to do more of to achieve the result you want so you can focus on the things that matter instead of guessing.

If you want some help looking at your data and developing a strategy that gets results, get in touch. Or if you’d just like some ideas for new things to post so that you can start tracking your numbers, just click on the image below.

Further reading

How to analyse your Facebook page post metrics

How to get an overview of your Facebook Insights

An absolute beginners guide to Google analytics from Moz

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Why you need to keep your marketing tone consistent

marketing tone consistentThis is another one of those subjects where I’ll forgive you for reading the title and saying huh? The question should really be – when you look back over the blogs and social media posts you’ve written, do they all sound like you? When you keep things consistent you’ll get better results from your marketing and your life will get easier.

Getting to know you

The phrase ‘know, like and trust’ comes out of my mouth with alarming regularity. That’s because it’s one of the key things you should focus on as a small business owner. It’s rare for people to see an advert or a post and respond immediately. Generally speaking, you need to build a relationship with your audience.

You’re probably already well aware of the importance of consistent visual branding. Using the same colours and fonts makes it easy for your customers to spot you in their news feed. It’s the same with your copy. People stop and read because they know what to expect. If your posts are generally chatty and fun a sudden run of bland and boring ones will be a real turn off.

Easy outsourcing

Do you have brand guidelines? That sounds very formal, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s basically having a strong sense of how you want to come across. I use the same colours throughout my marketing and choose images that I hope my audience will like. I also aim to write in quite a natural and friendly way. All of my guidelines are in my head but if I was working with a graphic designer it would be quite easy for me to brief them on the style I’m aiming for. They could also get a pretty good idea from looking at my social media feeds.

You might not be ready to outsource your design or writing to anyone else yet. But having a clear idea about how you want to come across will really help when you are ready. You can send a brief that says “I aim to appeal to professional women and want my copy to be chatty and friendly.” Simple, right?

Consistent shouldn’t = boring

The last thing you want is to send your customers to sleep. Just because they want to know what to expect from your posts doesn’t mean they all need to sound exactly the same. Just because you mostly talk about light hearted things it doesn’t mean you can’t throw in something serious now and again. If anything, it gives the serious stuff more impact.

You can keep things varied by telling your customers something surprising. Cover the same topic in different ways. If you find that all of your posts start with the same few words, try some different ones. As long as it still sounds like you, it’ll be fine.

Review your marketing

Are you good at keeping your tone consistent? To find out, one of the best things you can do is to review what you’ve already done. When you read your blogs or look through your social media feeds, do they all blend into one? Maybe you’ve gone in the opposite direction and everything sounds as if it was written by a completely different person. This can be a problem in bigger businesses where content is often written by lots of different people, but sometimes it can just depend on what mood you were in when you wrote it. When you’ve finished, think about how you actually want to sound. What will work for your audience?

If you’d like to get back to basics with your blogging and make it sound like you, no matter what you’re talking about, join me for my last ever blogging workshop on 4th June. All of your refreshments are provided and you’ll have time to write so you’ll go home with a finished blog and a plan for more. Along with a renewed sense of your own ability to put your personality into your marketing. Click on the image to book your place!

Further reading

If you need to do some work to help you work out who your marketing needs to talk to, start here.

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Why you need to know your customer

Know your customerI’m going to say something that might make you go a bit twitchy. When you’re marketing your business you need to decide who you want to target then focus on them. It sounds fairly logical, doesn’t it? Yet small business owners everywhere get very nervous when they hear it. They say things like ‘but I might make someone feel excluded’, ‘what if I lose a customer because they don’t think it’s for them?’ or ‘but I can sell to anyone’. I understand the worry. As small business owners we need to work hard to attract new customers and build trust. The idea of putting people off just seems counterintuitive. However there’s another important factor to consider. We have limited time so we need to spend it wisely. When you get to know your customer you can do just that.

You can’t market to everyone

A lot of people get hung up on the idea that they can sell to anyone. Mainly because it’s true. You can sell to whoever you like, but it doesn’t mean you should market to everyone. The main issue with ‘everyone’ marketing is that it doesn’t actually speak to anyone. It just sounds bland, generic and boring.

Good marketing tells people that you can solve their problem or provide something that makes their life better. It gives them a lightbulb moment because they’ve finally found someone who not only understands their challenges, they have the solution as well. Potentially it can also have them knocking your door down begging you to take their money. When you get to know your customer you’re not excluding anyone, you’re just focusing on the people who really need you.

Know your customer

How do you get to know your customer? If you’ve got a few already that can make it easier. The product or service that you offer makes a difference too. Think about who you work with now, or who your repeat customers are. Are they male, female, old or young? Are they at a particular stage in their life where they need what you offer? You can also think about who you love working with. The customers who come back time after time because they love the service or the quality of your work. Are there any common features?

It also helps to think about what challenges you can help with, or what your customers aspire to. It helps to focus on what’s happening in their life generally. This can really help when you’re talking about something your customers may not have thought about before. For example, maybe you want to encourage people in their 40s or 50s to make a will. They might think they’re too young but they’ll almost certainly have something that they want to protect. Think about what those things are and your marketing will be much more effective.

Get to the details

Hopefully you’re starting to get a bit of insight into who your target audience are likely to be. You’ve probably got some idea about their gender and what age bracket they’re in. Depending on your business you might also have worked out a bit about their lifestyle, for example their income level, whether they’re homeowners or have children. Next, you need to think about the details.

I’m not a big believer in creating an overly specific profile for your ideal customer. By that I mean the sort of thing that says ‘my ideal customer is called Sophie, she’s 25, works in a shop and only drinks green tea.’ If that works for you, great, but it’s just a bit too detailed for me. However, there’s a lot to be said for working out what types of things your audience are interested in. Do they love fine dining or do they prefer takeaways? Out every weekend or in their pyjamas by 8pm? Who do they follow on social media? Is their parenting style #soblessed or #fml? (if you don’t already know what that stands for I’m not telling you…). Knowing all of this helps you to talk to your audience using language they can relate to which makes them more likely to trust you.

Do you need some help and inspiration for your blogs and social media posts? When you sign up to my mailing list you’ll receive a free copy of my eBook ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your information with anyone else.

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How to develop your content strategy

content strategyYou know that you need a content strategy which aligns with your goals (and if you don’t read my last two blogs here and here). Actually coming up with one is a whole different kettle of fish.  If you haven’t got the faintest idea where to start, you’ve come to the right place.  Your content needs to take your goals and targets and flip them on their head so that you see them from your customers’ point of view.  Simple right? Here’s how you can develop your content strategy to make it work.

Start with your customer

I know, if you’re a regular reader you’ve heard this one before.  Identifying your target market should always include a bit of work to find their interests and media habits. Essentially, it allows you to put your content where it’s most likely to be seen.

It also allows you to concentrate on the types of content that your target audience will like. If they’re on Facebook you could post anything from text to images to video. You might assume video will always win, but some people find them annoying and prefer written content. Try a few different things and see what works.

Choose your focus

I talked about focusing on one service or product in my last blog and it can help you to get your content strategy organised. Having a focus helps you to decide what you’re going to post on any given day. You can break things down by looking at the different ways that your services benefit your customers.

For example, I write blogs for people for all sorts of different reasons. They might be too busy to do it themselves. Some are just better at talking than they are at writing. Others need a different perspective on their business.  Write a list of reasons why people might need to buy from you and you can write a blog post about each of them.

Diversify your content

The reason that I always recommend blogging is because it gives you a good chunk of content to be going on with.  Sometimes coming up with a content strategy is daunting because you think you need to come up with a huge variety of stuff.  You really don’t. If your content strategy includes a series of blog posts you can repurpose them.

You wouldn’t want to read out a whole blog post on video (I hope). However you could do a short video highlighting the key points or giving a demonstration. For example, if you sell skincare you might write a blog about protecting your skin in winter. Then you can do a video showcasing the moisturiser you talked about so people can see the benefits as well as reading about them. You can use quotes from your blog to share links and images on social media and even put them in your email marketing.

What do you want people to do next?

When you come up with a content strategy you’re basically encouraging people to engage with your business.  Every piece of content should have some kind of call to action.  That could be posting a link to your blog on Facebook because you want people to read it. When they click through, what then? You might include a link to let people contact you, but what if they’re not ready? Asking them to sign up to your mailing list could be a good intermediate step to let them find out more.

Whatever you create, ask yourself what you want your audience to do next.

Have you got your content strategy planned? If you need some help click here to find out more about my strategy planning sessions.