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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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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.



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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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Is email marketing dead?

Email marketing with an image of a blank laptop and coffee.

How many emails are currently sitting in your inbox, unopened or otherwise ignored? We subscribe to so many different things, ticking the box to accept email marketing because we like the look of a free download or a special offer. Then the emails start to land… The thing is, if we feel like this as business owners, why on earth would we bother with email marketing ourselves? Who on earth is actually reading? If you’re tempted to give up writing your email newsletter (or just not bother starting) here’s why you might want to change your mind.

The right people are still reading

There are techniques you can use to encourage people to open your emails (more on that later) and to keep them reading once they’ve opened. The key is to be helpful. Email is a great marketing tool but it shouldn’t just be about marketing. You can share knowledge and advice that will be useful to your customers in the same way as you do in your blog. The people who like what you’re saying will keep reading even if they don’t buy straight away. They might be keeping in touch, knowing that they want to work with you when the conditions are right for them. Or they could just be waiting for the right offer to come along.

The numbers are on your side

This helpful post from Optinmonster gives some great, detailed statistics around email use in the US. As depressing as it may be at this point, we tend to follow them pretty closely (plus I couldn’t find any UK-specific stats – sorry about that.) More than 90% of people have email (even my Mum and she resisted for years). Mobile apps give us the opportunity to check our emails even more frequently. Even teenagers are still using email despite having access to multiple messaging platforms. Email even outperforms social media for engagement. Generally speaking, as long as you don’t go into spam you’re pretty much guaranteed to be seen via email. How often can you say that about Facebook?

You’re in control of your list

There will be a few subscribers who never open your emails but don’t unsubscribe. What do you do about them? That’s where list cleaning comes in. If people aren’t reading, they aren’t helping you. Removing inactive subscribers means you’ll only be emailing people who are interested in you. Your open rates will improve and that reduces your chances of ending up in the spam folder.

Your email marketing platform statistics will tell you who’s opening and who isn’t. If anyone hasn’t opened an email in the last 60 days, get rid of them. You might want to give them a final chance, say by sending a final email letting them know you’re going to remove them unless they choose to stay. Chances are they won’t read that one either.

Getting email marketing right

The beauty of being a small business owner is that you can make decisions quickly. If something in your email marketing isn’t working you don’t have to consult with a committee to try something new. Maybe you started out with a sign up form inviting people to subscribe to receive exclusive offers or tips. If that approach didn’t work, or just ran out of steam, try something else. Perhaps you need a new offer to tempt people in, a free download or a tutorial video. Ask your existing subscribers what they would find useful, or talk to your network. That enables you to create freebies that will tempt people in and to write emails that help your audience.

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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What is content creation?

What is content creation?

You’ve probably heard a lot about how important content creation is when you’re marketing your business. The trouble is, it’s such a generic term it can be tough to work out what the flipping heck it means in relation to your business. There’s such a bewildering array of options and platforms out there no-one (least of all me) would blame you for feeling a bit bewildered. So, I decided to go back to basics and help you negotiate the content creation maze a bit more easily.

What is content creation?

I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, so here’s Hubspot’s definition (they know a thing or two about creating great marketing content).

“Content creation is the process of generating topic ideas that appeal to your buyer persona, creating written or visual content around those ideas, and making that information accessible to your audience as a blog, video, infographic, or other format.”

Hubspot

Basically, it can be anything you like. Writing, images, videos – anything you can put online or give physical form to offline. Of course, there’s more to it than that. It’s utterly pointless if it doesn’t get in front of the people you can help.  It’s even more futile if it gets in front of them but doesn’t tell them how you can
help them. Which leads me on to the next thing…

How do you get started?

I feel as if I’ve been banging on about getting to know your customer for about a hundred years (I know, I’ve told myself a million times not to exaggerate). The truth is, it’s the key to getting your content creation right. You can read more about knowing your customer here but the first step is to work out what their life is like and how you could help to make it better. That could be by solving a problem or enhancing their everyday life in some way.

Then, think about how (and where) you can tell them about it. Do they love watching videos or do they prefer something they can read? What images or memes will lift their spirits or make them laugh?

What do you want to create?

The next step is to think about what will play to your strengths. For me, a blog was a no brainer. It lets potential clients get to know me and shows them I can string a sentence together. If you create something beautiful, you’ll need images that show it off, but that doesn’t have to be all you create.

Ask yourself what you’ll enjoy creating, whether it’s words, pictures or video. Then think about how that fits with what your customers will love and whether you can share it somewhere they’ll see it. I’m not saying that you’ll never need to push out of your comfort zone (you will). But if you can start off creating content in an enjoyable way you’re more likely to do it consistently.

What next?

Once you’ve gathered your ideas, it’s time to start posting. One key thing to keep in mind from the start is what you want you want people to do when they see your posts. Social media is a fickle beast so how can you encourage people to stay in touch with you? Sign up for updates on Messenger or via email? Join your group? Share your post so you reach more people? A good call to action will encourage people to take the next step, so you need to know what the next step is. As the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Resources

Claire Mitchell of The Girls Mean Business has loads of brilliant marketing advice – you can join her free Facebook group here.

Read more about creating a call to action here.

You can join my free Facebook group ‘Blogging Brilliance’ here or just complete the form below to sign up to my email list for blogging and marketing hints and tips straight to your inbox every month.

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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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Is your blog too serious?

Is your blog too serious?
Does your blog need to smile more?

When you first write a blog for your business it can be hard to get the tone right. Too serious and your potential customers will stop reading (unless it’s so dry you’ve actually caused them to nod off mid-sentence). On the other hand, if it’s completely off the wall you run the risk of looking unprofessional. So what do you do? Here are a few ideas from me.

What’s your personality?

I feel as if most of the blogs I’ve written start with knowing your customer. While this is still true, when you’re writing a blog you need to show your personality. The subjects that you talk about need to be ones that are important to your customers. That way you share your expertise and show them that you can help. But what if there are hundreds of other businesses sharing the same sort of content?

If you offer a service that needs to be delivered in person you’ll be competing with other businesses in your area. Go online and the pool is even bigger. Skills, experience and price are important but your customers will often choose to work with you because they like you. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. I know two fantastic marketing experts. One is in your face and bold, the other is calm and quiet. They both get results and their clients love them. You can do the same.

How do you talk to your customers?

If you’re wondering how you get your personality into your blog while still sounding professional, the answer is pretty simple. Think about how you talk to your clients face to face. When it comes to marketing, consistency is key. You build trust by sharing your knowledge and showing your customers how it helps them, but that’s not all. When you write a blog you’re giving them insight into your personality and what you stand for. If the way you come across is at odds with how you are in real life, the trust will be lost.

In practice, this means developing an awareness of the way you naturally speak to your customers. It’s also worth thinking about how you present yourself in other ways. If you’ve blogged about your green business credentials it’s not going to go over too well if your client arrives at your office to find you dressed head to toe in endangered animal skin. OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.

Blog in your voice

Most of us shift quite naturally between the tone of voice we use with business contacts and the way we speak to our friends. You might not even notice the shift. If you’ve found yourself wondering how you actually sound, start with your emails. They’ll give you a flavour of the way you communicate in writing in a business context. I often suggest recording yourself talking about your business when you’re trying to blog. This can be problematic as voice to text generally needs quite a bit of editing. Plus, if you’re talking to clients they might not want you to record them.

The best emails to look at are ones that you’ve written to people you’ve worked with for a while as you’ve already built a rapport. The way you write to them is likely to be on the informal end of the spectrum, while still being professional. When you write your blog in the same style you’ll give potential customers an insight into the kind of relationship you could ultimately develop.

If you’d like to start writing blogs that sound like you, I can help. Email me at info@kirstyfrancewrites.co.uk to find out how you can outsource your blog writing or get training that helps you to write your own.

Otherwise, sign up to my mailing list for monthly hints and tips on blogging and lots of other useful marketing stuff.

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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.