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Where do you need to spend money in your business?

Spend money in your business - image shows woman at laptop with credit card.
Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels.com

Let’s face it, when you’re a brand new start up it’s unlikely that you’ll be rolling in spare cash. Unless you’ve got a trust fund or have managed to attract a massive investment, there are going to be areas where you need to economise.  That doesn’t mean cutting corners. There are lots of free resources that you can use to build your business (I wrote about some of them here) and they can be amazing. Even if you’ve been in business for years prioritising your spending is hugely important. But if you’ve just started your business and are taking a DIY approach to things, there are still times when you need to spend money. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Coaching

Getting the right coaching has transformed my business. It’s helped me to set goals and learn what’s getting in the way of me reaching them. (Sometimes it’s my own brain.) It’s something that I couldn’t do by myself, so it’s been worth the money. I’m not going to tell you what kind of coach to choose as what works for me could be completely irritating to you. You can find everything from spiritual guidance to coaches who’ll create your business plan for you and everything in between. My coach never tells me what I ‘should’ do (which is good because I’m deeply stubborn). She challenges me and asks great questions which let me uncover what’s actually going on.

Training

Generally speaking, when you spend money to learn a specific skill it’s because the person offering it has invested time and money in knowing their stuff. It also means that you can ask questions if you need to. YouTube tutorials are great for smaller stuff but they won’t give you feedback if you get stuck. There’s also the fact that you’re fishing around to find what you need. There’s no-one to tell you if you’ve missed something important.

Of course, there could be things that you need to learn but where you don’t have the budget for one to one training. Online training and books can give you well organised, useful information for a fraction of the cost.

Branding

I hesitated over including this. Branding is important for building your profile but a full branding package can cost you serious money. You may not have that to spare when you first start and I’m not convinced that it’s always necessary.

If you’ve got a clear idea about who your customer is and how you want to be presented the right designer can work with you to create a logo and images to get you started. You can always change things later. It’s also worth investing in a few good quality photos that are unique to you. I asked a student friend to do mine – I saved some money and she got new shots for her portfolio.

Networking

When you get together with other business owners you create relationships that help you in all kinds of ways. I’ve experienced a definite difference between free and paid events. It could be because people who’ve paid want to get the best out of their sessions. In some cases a paid membership means that you need to attend regularly to get the most from it so you build better relationships. Maybe everyone’s just in it for a decent lunch! All I can say is that the people I’ve met at paid events are the ones who’ve turned into friends and supporters along the way.

So, where do you spend money in your business? Let me know in the comments.

50 blog post ideas eBook

Resources

Need some blog writing training? Find out more about my 121 and small group sessions here.

My no-nonsense, stubbornness defying coach is Jo Lee at Life Atlas Coaching.

If you’re a woman in business check out the Love Ladies Business Group for networking throughout the Midlands and in London.

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The top 5 marketing tools you need for your small business

Marketing tools - image shows a smartphone, laptop, glasses and coffee.
Image by Dominika Roseclay via Pexels.com

One of the biggest challenges a lot of us face as small business owners is knowing where to spend money. You might have some cash to invest in essential resources. Maybe your business depends on buying stock or equipment. But when it comes to marketing the choices can get a bit trickier. Do you pay someone to do it for you or buy some tools and take the DIY option? If there’s a free and a paid option which is worth having? (I’ll be talking about that one in another post.)

I take the view that it’s always worth doing your own marketing to start with, so you can get a feel for what works. Here are some of my favourite marketing tools to get you started.

Creating graphics

Great images will help your posts stand out on social media as well as making your website look good. I use Canva to put my brand colours and logo on my images as well as creating quotes, memes and all manner of other stuff. The free version is fab and there’s a premium option if you need more features.

It’s worth paying for your own photos but I supplement mine with copyright free images from Pexels and Unsplash.

Email marketing tools

I’m with Mailchimp, even though the recent changes mean that some of the features that used to be free to new subscribers aren’t any more. I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for Mailerlite’s free account and also for Active Campaign as a paid option.

When you choose, look at the advanced features too. You might not need them yet but it’s much easier to move to a paid version of something you already know than to shift to a whole new platform further down the line.

Know your numbers

You might not think of analytics platforms as marketing tools, but they are. Being able to see where your customers and enquiries are coming from means that you can focus your marketing there. You can track which pages get the most traffic and what people visited on their way to your contact page. Your business social media accounts have their own analytics functions to tell you which posts were the most popular.

Of course, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that you get a message from someone who hasn’t interacted at all, but it’s still a good guide.

Planning and scheduling

Planning your marketing stops you from winging it and creating social media posts in a panic. I have a marketing planner from The Girls Mean Business where I can map out what I’m promoting at any given time and what posts I’m going to create to tell people about it. Then I tick each post off when I’ve created and scheduled it.

Ah yes, scheduling. Scheduling platforms are great marketing tools as they allow you to spend a few hours creating posts to go out later. Then you know it’s all done and you can move on to something else. I use the inbuilt Facebook scheduler and Hootsuite for everything else.

Get some help

There is tons of information out there to teach you how to market your business. It ranges from completely free to really expensive, with the cost often depending on how much the person selling it does for you. Free is great but you might have to spend time wading through information that doesn’t help you that much before you find something useful.

Alternatively, you might want to buy a book or sign up for a course that organises the information for you and offers a bit of support as well. That way you spend less time searching and more getting organised.

50 blog post ideas ebook

Further reading

There are loads of useful marketing tools out there – this great blog from Hubspot has a few more.

For more on knowing your numbers read this.

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What is PR?

What is PR - guest blog

PR (Public Relations) is a long-term promotional strategy aimed at building authority and influence over time. It’s a form of marketing that can be used to generate positive awareness of a company or brand and its products or services.

“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

– Chartered Institute of Public Relations

I like to think of public relation as a form of ‘attraction’ marketing. You can attract people to you, and your brand through PR.  

Rather than pushing out a promotional message saying how great you are, in the form of an advert for example, PR is focused on helping others come to that conclusion themselves through what they have seen and heard from others.

Those ‘others’ might be the media, it might be celebrities/influencers/industry leaders, or it might be through other people – friends and family etc.

I particularly like this quote because I feel it states the difference between advertising and PR really well:

“Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” – Jean Louis Gasse

While advertising messages are biased to highlight the positives of a particular product or service, in contrast, people speaking highly of you or perceiving you as an expert based on something they’ve read, heard or seen, is more persuasive and therefore more powerful. 

What PR is not

PR is NOT…

  1. …advertising

You earn it, rather than pay for it. PR is about reputation and this has to be earnt and is developed over a period of time.

  • …a quick fix

My suggestion would be that if you need to sell a certain amount of product or service quickly, advertise rather than rely on PR. Positive goodwill and media publicity shouldn’t be relied upon to generate sales, especially not within a short time frame.

  • …a guarantee of business success

You can generate a ton of positive press coverage about you and your business, and be highly regarded by potential customers, peers and other third parties, but still not have a successful, profitable business.

Rather than rely solely on PR, I believe businesses should use it alongside other forms of marketing. PR should be part of an integrated marketing strategy, where all aspects of marketing work simultaneously alongside each other.

Why should businesses use PR? 

PR can be used by business owners to promote who they are and what they do, to establish and protect their image and reputation, and to build credibility and influence. In my mind, the potential benefits far outweigh the costs!

For example, being featured in the media is attractive to business owners, and rightly so! There is a vast number of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes, websites, online publications, blogs, podcasts and video channels out there, all hungry for fresh and relevant content. The opportunities are there for the taking!

By using PR tactics such as press releases, networking with journalists, and pitching story ideas to the media, you can put yourself on the radar of journalists who are seeking content and potentially gain valuable exposure for your brand and your products and services.

Leveraging the power of the media, which has large, established audiences, is a great way to increase your visibility, build your reputation, grow your audience, attract new email subscribers, and sell more of your products and services.

Of course, this can be great for your business!

What are some of the benefits of PR?

There are loads! These are just some further ways that you could benefit:

1. PR is more credible than advertising.

 If a newspaper, magazine or online publisher has chosen to include you within a piece of content they produce, then they are effectively endorsing you and your brand.

 Although you don’t have complete control over how your company is presented in the media, a positive editorial mention, for sure, packs a far greater punch than an advert in the credibility stakes.

2. Potential reach

My local paper has a circulation of around 19,000 and is read by over 50,000 people every day. National and online publications reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. So, being featured in the media helps you and your business to get exposure to a potentially huge audience.

3. PR exposure is free but worth a lot of money

 Advertising is expensive. Ads in magazines and newspapers costing anything from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds to take out. The Daily Mail charges between £20k-£60k for a full-page advert!

In contrast, publicity in the media is free. Yes, there is the cost of your time and effort to secure the publicity (or the cost of a PR expert if you choose to outsource), but this can pale in comparison to the equivalent cost of an advert within that same publication.

4. Boosts your SEO

Getting a mention and having your website linked to from a high domain authority site, such as that of a newspaper or media outlet, can help you rank on Google.

Not only that, but the fact that online press coverage remains published forever (unless it’s taken down at some point) is working for you all year round and helping you and your brand name to get discovered in organic search.

Is PR suitable for every business?

Yes, in my opinion, PR can and should be used by businesses of all sizes.

If you have a service-based business or have expertise in a particular area, journalists writing on that topic could be interested in hearing what you know. If you have a product-based business, it could potentially be the perfect fit for a product round-up type feature or gift guide.  

There is likely to be a journalist out there right now looking for exactly the kind of content that you can provide! 

Isn’t PR expensive though?

An independent PR consultant or freelancer, like myself, would be the most flexible and more affordable option for most small businesses. PR agencies, working on retainers, can cost multiple thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds per month, and you’ll typically need to commit to a six-month retainer at a minimum.

To minimise the cost of PR, many small business owners do their own, as they might also do their own email marketing, social media marketing or accounting. But if PR isn’t something that you understand how to do or don’t enjoy, then outsourcing can often be the more cost-effective option and help you can achieve results more quickly.  

What are your three top PR tips for small business owners?

1. Recognise that you are an expert

Many business owners doubt their own expertise and don’t consider themselves worthy of being featured in the media. I would say, aim to fight the inner critic that is telling you that you aren’t an expert in your niche. Adopt a positive mindset and recognise the value that you can offer journalists.  

2. Prep before you pitch

Before pitching yourself to the media, read the publications that you are trying to target and become familiar with their regular features and which journalists work on which sections of the publication. Develop a deep understanding of the publication, its target audience and the kind of content that they typically run so that you can align your PR pitch accordingly.

3. Recognise that PR is about serving journalists

The media doesn’t exist to promote your business. They don’t give away their valuable media space lightly.   Journalists want genuine news, credible experts and, usually, timely responses. Aim to serve journalists and that effort could reward you with a positive piece of money-can’t-buy coverage for your small business!

PR takes time and effort to implement. It is a long-term, rather than a short-term, promotional strategy. Yet, it can potentially reap great rewards. I hope I’ve excited you about the possibilities!

Any professional photographers reading are welcome to join Zoe’s free Facebook community, ‘PR-Savvy Photographers’ for PR and content marketing tips, support and accountability.

Zoe Hiljemark is a PR and content consultant with 16 years of marketing communications experience. She works exclusively with professional photographers, helping them to attract, connect with and convert dream clients via impactful publicity and content.

www.zoehiljemark.com

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Are you winning at email marketing?

Woman with a cup of coffee checking her email marketing on a laptop.

Email marketing is officially still alive (and if you don’t believe me, read this). But how do you get it right? There are (of course) lots of different approaches you could take. Some of my favourite emails are written like letters, giving you an insight into the writer’s life. They always make a point but there’s usually a personal story behind the advice. Others have a mixture of behind the scenes insight and advice. As with any other kind of content, the most important thing is to offer something useful that fits with your brand and that your audience will enjoy. There are also a few best practice rules that you should pay attention to. Here are just a few.

Be helpful

Before you send any email marketing, ask yourself why you’re sending it. Yes, I know you want to sell stuff but that shouldn’t be your only focus. People are much more likely to buy from you if they know you want to help them rather than just rake in the cash. So, you could explain why a particular service might help them, or talk about ways to do it themselves. You could talk about practical steps to take – I’ve seen some great ones from accountants covering the Covid-19 financial support. I always view it as offering my services but enabling people to do it themselves if they need to.

Show behind the scenes

There are some emails that don’t feel like email marketing. It’s more like an update about what’s happening in their life before mentioning something you might want to buy at the end. Laura Belgray (aka Talking Shrimp) is great at this. Of course, that might not suit your style. I show glimpses of my life but don’t talk about every detail. Showing your customers what goes on behind the scenes doesn’t have to involve sharing personal details. You could tell them what events you’ve been to or where they can meet you in person. That said, the more they see you as a human being, the more likely they are to trust you.

Create a good subject line

A good subject line can mean your email gets opened rather than deleted. Just like good headlines, a good subject line should be relevant to the subject and have good emotional resonance. Even the most conservative audience will respond to it. It can also be a good idea to personalise your subject line using the recipient’s name. I’m hearing some suggestions that using emojis in your subject line can increase open rates. I think this probably depends on your audience and their views on emojis generally. I like them but not everyone does.

Whatever approach you take at first, it isn’t set in stone. Experiment and change things to see what works for you.

Get the basics right

Good design is important but doesn’t have to be complicated. Have you ever been put off reading an email because the design was so fussy it made it hard to read? Kind of defeats the point. Keep your design simple but with some appealing images – basically the same approach you’d take to the rest of your marketing. Most email marketing platforms allow you to check how your email looks on mobiles. A lot of people will read on their phones so check it doesn’t get scrambled.

Also, one final note. Pay attention to GDPR. There is loads of guidance out there, especially from the ICO, so make sure you follow it.

Further reading

Test your headlines for emotional resonance with the Advanced Marketing Institute’s headline analyser.

Power words to use in your subject lines.

If you’d like to receive fabulous marketing tips straight to your inbox, including hints on email marketing, blogging and much more, you can subscribe using the form below. You’ll also receive a copy of my free guide helping you to get your business seen online.

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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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Why brand consistency is important

Why brand consistency is important

In a nutshell, your brand is your most valuable asset. Whether at home or in the workplace, we all have brand preferences. Firm favourites we use often, ones we’re following and may well try out next time, and those, for whatever reason, we dislike, mistrust, and prefer to avoid.

Successful brands connect. They have personality, inspire confidence, and are easy to recall. They’re distinctive, making good use of engaging, clear, consistent communication.

Inconsistent branding endangers that relationship. From a customer’s standpoint, it’s confusing and careless. After all, if the brand doesn’t care, why should its customers? Damaging your brand’s reputation will have a negative effect on not only your brand, but your bottom line too – ouch!

John Lewis’ Never Knowingly Undersold (NKU) pricing promise has served them well for almost 100 years and played an integral role in driving loyalty and lifelong customers. If ease, choice, and fast delivery are top of your list, Amazon is likely to hit the spot. Meanwhile, Red Bull is busily ticking all the boxes for speed loving thrill seekers. What these brands have in common is consistency and that does have a value.

The most recent Brand Consistency Benchmark report found “The average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently” to be 33%.

Building brand loyalty involves the whole brand experience from start to finish and beyond. As business owners, we all want to attract new customers and a growing number of repeat customers over the longer term.

The first thing to check is your brand resources – do you have everything you’ll need to stay on track?

Logo masters – various file formats so you’re covered for large and small, online and offline applications. Remember, there’s nothing worse than seeing a logo stretched out of proportion, pixelated, or in the wrong colours.

Image library –key images in high and low resolutions, not forgetting social media profile pictures and avatars – the small profile image which displays on your timeline.

Colour palette – colour breakdowns so that you’re good to go for litho, digital and desktop, (Pantone, CMYK & RGB), as well as Hex for web/online.

Brand fonts – usually comprising a pairing for on and offline use.

Strapline – summing up the essence of your brand or company, including its values and personality. Ideally short enough to be remembered and memorable enough to stand the test of time.

USP – differentiates your brand.

If you’re missing any of these elements, talk to your logo designer about working together to develop and complete your brand identity.

The other essential is your Brand Personality Framework. It’s a set of assigned human traits, or characteristics, which help towards building an emotional connection between your prospects and your brand’s personality.

There are five key dimensions – Competence, Sincerity, Excitement, Sophistication, and Ruggedness, each with its own set of traits. Red Bull’s personality is Excitement, as is Nike’s, Rolex and Apple are Sophistication – you get the drift? Even big brands make the occasional gaff though. Harley Davidson (Ruggedness) over-extended their branded product range to include cologne. No surprise it failed being at odds with Harley’s masculinity and strength values.

Google has lots of framework chart examples, which you can use to determine which section your brand resonates with. Try not to overcomplicate – your brand’s personality will change and evolve over time. Once you have your framework, keep it in mind. It will prove an invaluable checklist for all your future brand activities.

Two-thirds of us use more than one channel to make purchases. With all the online and offline opportunities to make an impression, consistency across all channels and touch points is more important than ever.

https://birkettconsultancy.com/
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How you can create a successful small business blog

Successful small business blog

It’s one thing to know that you want to create a blog as part of your marketing strategy. It’s quite another to actually do it. Maybe you’re feeling a bit daunted at the thought of starting a blog or have created one that’s fizzled out. If you’re reading this wondering why you’d want to blog for your small business, read this. On the other hand, if you want to blog but don’t know how to make a success of it, read on.

Be consistent

A blog that starts then stops again won’t do your business any favours. A regular blog tells Google that the information on your site is more likely to be relevant so you’ll rank higher in searches. Also, if a potential new customer lands on your website to find one blog post written over a year ago they might think you’ve stopped trading. It doesn’t really matter how often you blog as long as it’s consistent – once a month is fine for most businesses. The important thing is that you keep it up.

Think about your blog keywords

Keyword research is one of those terms that has a lot of small business owners running for the hills. You can get really technical about it if you want to (or you could get an SEO expert to do it if you have the resources). When you’re first starting out the main thing to focus on is how people will find you in an online search. That could be something as simple as what you do and/or where you do it. For example “Manchester florist” or “Leicestershire hairdresser”. If you’re not location specific you can focus on your services instead.

Talk to your customers

If your blog talks about things that your current customers care about it will also attract new ones looking for the same things. The most important thing about any business blog is that it talks to the right people. If you work with industry experts they’re not going to read a beginners’ guide so you can deal with more complex issues. Maybe keep them up to date with industry news in a digestible format. Alternatively, if your customers regularly ask you the same questions, write blog posts that answer them. That way when someone is searching for the answer online they’re more likely to find you.

Choose great images

This isn’t just to make your blog look pretty (although it helps). It takes a while for any new blog to start ranking in search engines, especially if you’re competing with bigger businesses. Sharing your blog on social media helps you to send people to your newest posts. A great image means that your potential readers are more likely to stop scrolling and read your posts. I’d also recommend creating a quick video or doing a Facebook Live to trail your blog post too – even if people don’t read it the video will give them the general gist.

Invite guests

I’ve just started getting organised with guest blogging and inviting people to contribute to my site. Inviting guests to write a blog for you is a great way to extend your reach. You both share it on your social media channels which means you reach each other’s audiences. It’s also a way of bringing your audience new specialist knowledge that will benefit them. My first guest blogger is a social media specialist whose knowledge is more in depth than mine. I’ve also written about blogging for a graphic designer. Exchanging guest blogs mean that you start to build links between websites, which is great for – you guessed it – SEO.

Further information

My guest blogs about blogging for Hollie Ellis design are here and here.

Or read about outsourcing social media with Anita Popat here.

If you’d like to know more about how blogging can fit into your marketing, sign up to my mailing list for lots of hints and tips. Alternatively, if you’d just prefer to hand your blog over for someone else to do, email me at info@kirstyfrancewrites.co.uk and we can have a chat.

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When not to blog for your business

When not to blog
Don’t give yourself a blogging headache

I know, I know. I’ve been urging you on to write a blog for your business since the last decade (feels weird to be able to say that) and now I’m telling you not to?! Well, no. Mostly, a blog is still a really good idea for most businesses. If you need a quick primer on why that is, here you go. Despite that, there are times when a blog just won’t be the right choice for you, either because of the industry you’re in or just because it’s the wrong time. If you’re thinking of writing a blog but any of the following apply to you, think again…

A blog won’t work for your industry

There aren’t many businesses that I would actively advise against blogging, but there are a few. If your business is scientific or sells something technical that’s on sale to the general public, a blog can be great. It helps you to demystify your product or service and make it more accessible. If, on the other hand, you only deal with other members of the scientific community a blog is pretty pointless. Blogs are chatty and conversational. If your audience is already very well informed and your articles need to set out technical data, a blog is just the wrong format.

It should (hopefully) go without saying that the same applies if your work is subject to a blanket NDA or national security level secrecy. If you want a blog to work you need to be able to share something about your background or life in general. If you can’t do that, a blog probably isn’t for you.

You don’t have time

Lack of time is one of the main reasons people tell me that they haven’t started a blog. It’s understandable. When your blog isn’t a core part of your business it’s one of those things that you can easily put to one side. While it’s great for marketing it doesn’t earn you anything on its own. Focusing on activities that generate income is far more important and I know you’ll have your own list of tasks that take priority over writing.

If you think you haven’t time to blog, this gives you some ideas for fitting it in. But what if you really haven’t got time? Either hand it over to someone like me or don’t do it. If you don’t have time to commit to writing and publishing a blog at least once a month, it will fizzle out before long. It won’t help your SEO and if potential customers come across it they might even think you’ve stopped trading.

It won’t be any good

This might sound a bit harsh. One of the advantages of writing a business blog is that anyone can write one. Of course, this also means that absolutely anyone can write one. For yours to work you need to put a bit of effort into making it good. Otherwise, it’s just going to disappear into the mass of boring, badly written blogs out there.  The good news is there is lots of advice and guidance out there to help you. (Including mine.) You just have to make time to
absorb it and put it into practice.

To put it bluntly, there’s no point writing a blog that no-one wants to read. If you’re already struggling for time, put the effort into creating something that your audience will find useful.

Do you need some help?

Sign up using the form below for monthly blogging tips (and lots of other useful stuff) straight to your inbox. Or, if you’d rather get some personalised help from me, whether that’s blog writing training or outsourcing, please get in touch.

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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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5 business Christmas gifts that will feed your entrepreneurial spirit

Business Christmas gift

Have you made a Christmas list? When you run a business,
Christmas gifts can start to shift towards practicality, or even become completely
intangible. For most of the small business owners I know, the list goes
something like this:

  1. More sleep.
  2. Even more sleep.
  3. Snacks.
  4. Financial security.
  5. Wine.

Does that look familiar? Now obviously that list is only
useful if you’re happy to drown in snacks and wine. Actually, now I write it
down that doesn’t sound too bad. But what if your loved ones would like to get
you something that will really help your business? I promise that business Christmas
gifts don’t have to be boring. So, if you’re being asked for suggestions (or if
you’re reading this looking for ideas for the business owner in your life),
here are my top 5 ideas.

1. A Kindle

I resisted getting one of these
for years, mainly because I love actual books. Then when my husband suggested a
Kindle for my birthday I remembered how many times I’ve run out of books on
holiday and jumped at the chance. In business there is always something new to
learn and loads of business books to teach you virtually anything. An e-reader
is the perfect business Christmas gift because you can take it anywhere and
learn on the go.

2. Stationery

Stationery addiction is real and
occasionally necessary. I get through notebooks and pens at a ridiculous rate
so tend to shop at the budget end of the market. (Or go to expos and get them
for free.) However, one of my favourite gifts was the beautiful (boxed) pen and
pencil set that sits on my desk and gets used every day. It’s a small thing
that makes life better. You could opt for lovely pens or a classic Moleskine
notebook. You can even get fab digital notebooks if you prefer.

3. Some business support

No-one can buy time, but if you’re
struggling you can buy help.  If you want
to work with a particular VA/graphic designer/writer but can’t afford it, you
can drop some heavy hints. Like sharing this post on Facebook and say ‘if
anyone wants to buy me a Christmas present, Kirsty does gift vouchers for her
blogging packages [or other service of your choice]’.

It might sound like a bit of an
odd present, but by buying you help for Christmas they’ll get to spend stress
free time with you, so everyone wins.

4. Useful gadgets

When it comes to gadgets, the
world is your lobster. They’re often the easiest business Christmas gifts to
buy because they’re more in the realm of traditional presents. If you’re
thinking of buying tech for a business owner, think about what they’ll actually
use. Maybe they need a portable phone charger because their phone is always
running out of juice. Perhaps a coffee maker will help them get going in the
morning. If they work in cafes or a co-working space a pair of noise cancelling
headphones could be just the ticket.

5. Time off

I started my business because I wanted
to work flexibly around my children. In practice this often means shoehorning
everything in, or being unable to switch off at night because my brain is always
‘on’. Some business owners subscribe to the hustle culture where you don’t take
any time off until you’ve ‘made it’. To me, that’s a recipe for burnout. If you
feel as if you haven’t had a proper conversation with your partner recently, or
if your interactions with your kids consist of homework and shouting, ask for a
present that helps you to change that.  A
voucher for a meal, a family ticket for a day out or even a couple of hours
free babysitting could all help.

What do you want to ask for this Christmas? Leave a comment and let me (or your family) know!

Further reading

For more specific ideas, have a look at this post from B Plans

Or, to get your 2020 marketing off to a flying start, sign up to my mailing list and receive your free guide to getting your business seen online.