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How are you?

How are you social distancing?

I had a completely different blog post written for this week. Yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. It felt a tiny bit irrelevant to tell another story when the world has turned upside down. So here I am. The only question running through my head is ‘how are you’? Not just for you, but for myself as well. The last time my eldest son went to his fun football session, I got a funny look from one of the dads because I coughed. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was his aftershave! Now, every time I cough I wonder if it’s the first sign. Trouble is, I am a cougher. My youngest boy is too. Blame the asthmatic ancestors whose legacy wasn’t the condition itself, but extra sensitive airways. The last couple of weeks have seen me in extra vigilant mode in case the usual coughs become unusual ones. I’ve also been conscious of the different ways that people have reacted to this. I’m not going to talk about the crowds who treated social distancing as a green flag to flock to their local beauty spots. It’s a waste of energy and I’m going to need all mine. What I will tell you about is what’s helped me and what definitely hasn’t.

The personal networks

I’m lucky to be in a brilliant range of business networks, but there are some beyond that too. The parents at the school gate and the local community associations are all a part of my network. It’s been heartening to see how many people have stepped up to help. There’s been co-operation that has helped quarantined families and vulnerable people to be fed and supported in other ways. There have been social media posts in my school groups giving ideas for things to do with the children. There’s also been a phenomenal level of whingeing. I know it helps some people, but the difference between that and the alternative is really striking.

Business support

Most of all, there’s been business support. The panic that your business won’t survive doesn’t last long when you’re in a community of amazing women who’ll help you to brainstorm ideas one minute and teach you how to implement them the next. They’ve also helped to alleviate the guilt. It’s more than working parent anxiety just now. It’s the feeling that you shouldn’t be promoting your business when other people are struggling. The truth is, you shouldn’t feel bad about offering something that will help people. There’s also nothing wrong with putting on your own oxygen mask first. If you can keep a roof over your head and food on the table you’re less likely to need a bail out and that’s better for everyone.

How’s your social media?

Life is being lived on social media more than usual at the moment. There’s been extra positivity because support groups are mobilising on Facebook. There have been the usual spats, but no more than usual. The thing that’s got to me, more than anything, are the people predicting what’s going to happen. I don’t mean the experts. I’m hugely grateful for the people who are providing proper data and explaining the psychology behind the guidelines. I mean the people fretting about stuff that hasn’t happened yet, if it ever does. It took me a long time to stop worrying about things I can’t control, which means I can’t deal with other people doing it. I appreciate that’s my foible but it’s made me much more careful about where I spend time. 

I hope you and your loved ones are OK. Saying ‘how are you?’ has taken on a whole new seriousness, hasn’t it? If you need anything, whether it’s practical support, a listening ear or absolutely anything else, please shout. I’m helping quite a few people with finding the right words to market their business at this strange and crazy time, so let me know if I can do that for you too.

In the meantime, take care and I’ll speak to you soon.

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How you can start storytelling in your marketing

How to start storytellingI know, you’ve heard people like me bang on endlessly about using storytelling in your marketing. It’s a great way to get personality into your content and set yourself apart from the crowd. The thing is, how do you do it? It won’t surprise you to hear that it’s not just a case of telling everyone your life story. It’s all about balance. Your customers will love the fact that you’re relatable but they mainly want to hear about how your business can benefit them. Here’s how you can start using storytelling in your marketing.

Dig deep

You already know the good news about storytelling. Here’s the bad(ish) news. You need to put some work in. As with anything that’s worth doing, using storytelling in your marketing requires a bit of groundwork. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying your customers will spot it. Your message comes across as half-hearted and no-one will buy into it. That’s the last thing you want.

This means that your first step is to work out exactly what your story is. There are loads of things that go into this. If you’ve ever thought about your ‘why’, you’re halfway there. Think about why you chose to start this type of business, or to become self-employed at all. What are your values? How does your lifestyle and history relate to your business? Dig down to the core of what motivates you and write it all down.

What do your customers care about?

Once you’ve got a clear picture of what you’re about, start looking at it from a customer focused angle. People do business with you because you offer something that they need. As consumers we’ll often choose a big brand because we’re confident they’ll deliver most of the time. We know what they’re offering and have clear expectations. As a small business you need to build all of that into your marketing. Your customers only really care about your story because it gives you substance. If you share their values or understand their lives you’re much less likely to let them down.

What does this mean for storytelling? It means that you need to look at what your values are and decide which of them your customers will care about. If you offer products or services for children, parents might trust you more if you’re a parent yourself, or have a childcare background. Look at your story and work out which bits are going to be important to your audience.

The storytelling drip feed

About once a month I’ll write something that isn’t really related to my business. It doesn’t help you to work out how to write your blog or improve your website, it just tells a story. They usually end up having some kind of business relevance because it’s often a story that tells you how I got to where I am or what an experience has taught me.

If you want to do something similar, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. You can use storytelling any way you want and if you’re talking about something that helps your audience relate to you better, that’s great. However, it’s not the only way. You can still drip feed your story into your blog or business related social media posts. For example, you could post a time management tip on Facebook and sign off with a joke about being late for the school run. Or write a blog with tips to get something done more quickly (because the only long winded thing about your day should be getting the kids into their shoes).

Do you need to start storytelling? Sign up to my mailing list for your free guide and lots of hints and tips.

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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.