Find your niche and market, market, market

Find your niche and market, market, market

If you’re going to make a success of marketing your business, you need to hone in on what is the best niche for you to be in. What will sell well? What will make you the most money?

You might like everything you do, but in order to be a successful business, you need to be able to distinguish your brand from your competitors, find what you are really good at and establish yourself as a dominant leader in that area. Even the biggest names can’t be everything to everyone; there are always going to be those small groups of people who need a particular product or service not met by the bigger companies…which is where the small business can step in.

What are you good at? 

This first question is probably the most important. It’s not ‘what would you like to be good at?’ You need to be really honest with yourself – where do your talents really lie? VladoWhat skills do you have? What do you enjoy doing? Once you have decided what you are good at, make a list of your skills and talent in that area. For example, if you love knitting, crocheting and sewing, which one do you excel in?

Once you know which you are best at…let’s say knitting for example, then you need to look at what skills and talent you have. So, it might be knitting baby clothes, knitting adult clothes, knitting toys – put the things you enjoy making most at the top of the list and so on, down to the ones you least enjoy.

What do potential customers need from your list? 

This is where you need to do some research. Of the things you are best at making, what is popular? You can look on Etsy, eBay and Amazon – are the products you are good at making doing well? Make a list of the things people need from your list of what you do well…then look at these questions and do some research.

  • Do you solve a particular problem for customers?
  • Is your product(s) something that people will come back for time and time again? This is important for repeat business.
  • If there are other people selling the same as you, can you offer something unique that they don’t?
  • Who does your product appeal to? Can you expand that to include other groups? For example, if your product appeals to an older age group, can you make it more appealing to a younger audience. The bigger your product appeal, the more you will sell.

What will people pay for?

Now you know what is marketable, which do you think people will pay the most money for…put your products in order of price…from high to low. You now have your niche – your list of the products you like to make, that you’re good at making, that have a potential audience and that are sellable.

Market, market, market

Now you have your niche and know what is marketable, it’s time to actually market it. If Stuart Miles (3)you are a small business, marketing is all the more important as you won’t necessarily have a huge brand following, nor the money to spend on expensive and extensive advertising. So, what can you do to market your niche effectively and on a budget? I have written a couple of previous blogs about this; ‘How to promote your small business online’ and ‘Marketing your small business with little or no money’. Please take a look as you may pick up some great tips.

You should try to spend at least an hour a day promoting your business…and some things are much easier than others – here are some quick tips to help you market that all important product…

  • Always remember that YOU are your business. No matter what you do or where you are, everywhere is a business promotion opportunity. Your image largely reflects on your business. Although we all try not to, most of us do judge people on our first impression of them…so make sure that you always give a great first impression.
  • Always carry business cards as you never know who you might meet and if you don’t carry them, you could be missing an opportunity to get someone to contact you.
  • Can you leave flyers or business cards at places where your potential customers are likely to be…at the gym, hairdressers, beauty salon
  • Talk to people wherever you go – if you’re in the Doctor’s surgery waiting room, strike up a conversation with someone…too many of us sit in silence in these places…do you take your children to sport’s events? If you do, you’re likely to be hanging around with other parents…talk to them. There are always opportunities to strike up conversations and promote your business.
  • Attend networking events…again, this puts you in front of potential customers face to face…sell yourself and your business
  • Sponsor a local event or charity – or run a small event for charity in your own home or garden
  • Host a seminar or training event and share your skills – a great way to get your business name out there
  • Team up with someone who has a business that links to yours and promote each other’s business on social media sites and on your websites
  • Give your website/social media pages a facelift to keep it fresh

There are many other small ways you can promote your business and, as I said earlier, it doesn’t have to cost the earth – the most valuable thing you can invest in your business is your time.

How did you find your niche and how do you promote your business? I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch.

Images courtesy of  1) (in title) – scottchan,  2) Vlado and 3) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Build a positive brand identity

Build a positive brand identity (2)We all want our businesses to stand out from the crowd. Although it takes some time and effort, it’s worth it to have a unique identity that is instantly recognisable. Here are a few ideas that can help you along your way to having your own brand identity.

You may not think it important for a small business to have a brand, but having a brand is one of your greatest assets. Lots of big companies try to look like small businesses in order to appeal to customers who prefer to support smaller, independent brands. Your brand isn’t just about your logo, slogan and design scheme, but also about the experience your customers get at every touch point with you.

Stuart Miles (6)The first thing to do is to think about a mission statement for your business, which is a short sentence about what your purpose is. We all know Nike’s tagline, ‘Just Do It’ but did you know that their mission statement is ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’. So their mission statement encapsulates everything that the company is about and wants to achieve in one short sentence. This is no mean feat, but achievable for your business with a bit of thought. You could always get a few friends round and have a ‘get my mission statement’ party…but make sure you work on the statement before you start drinking…or you could have some very interesting stuff!

It can be easier to think of your brand as a person – what does it like or do? How does it help people? What do you want customers to remember about your business? It’s important to be consistent across everything you do and give the same high quality service and friendly attitude to every customer, so they all have the same or similar experience. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a complaint – be consistent; apologise; find out what went wrong and why and then try and put it right, keeping the customer informed. By doing this you can often turn a complaint around into something positive and turn the complainant into a loyal future customer. I think that the main thing to remember is to always consider your branding with every interaction with a customer.

So, now that we’ve looked at the experience you want your branding to give you customer, it’s time to look at the more practical stuff – business name, logo, colours and design – these are important and help shape your brand, but you need to know what the mission statement of your business is first before you begin, as this helps everything else fall into place.

Choose a business name – what name you choose will depend on what you do. I chose to use my name, coupled with what I do ‘Cindy Mobey Freelance Writer’ – does what it says on the tin. But you might want something that is catchy and captures the nature of your business. Think long and hard as once it’s out there, that is how people will see your business.
Logo – Once you have your name, you could incorporate that into a logo – again to make your business recognisable. As well as an overall logo, you could also have smaller logos for individual product lines.
KeeratiBrand Colours – The colours you choose are more important than you might think – according to research by web design and marketing company, WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgement about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on colour alone. In fact almost 85% of consumers cite colour as the primary reason they buy a particular product and 80% believe that colour increases brand recognition. Wow! That’s quite powerful.
Tagline – The most important thing with producing a tagline is to be succinct. Your tagline captures what your business does and its values in one, very short sentence. For example, Nike use ‘Just do it’ – L’Oréal use ‘..because you’re worth it’ – both very powerful brands with very simple, catchy taglines that tell you what they want you to remember about them. In order to help you come up with your tagline, concentrate on the features of your business, how your products make people feel. Make a list of all the good things about your business …do your products enhance someone’s life?…make them feel more beautiful?…provide solutions to your customer’s problems? Then brainstorm words that describe those things – it might be worth getting a few friends together to help you brainstorm. Once you have a few words, you can come up with a tagline.
boulemonademoonFonts – When looking at your brand for the first time, people will notice the colours and also the font – the way the brand name is written. There are so many different fonts, so try and choose one or two that enhance your business name…for example if you sell vintage jewellery, look at a vintage font.
Tone of voice – Most big companies go for straight forward language or the ‘plain English’ approach. This helps customers easily understand what you’re saying without having to wrestle with big words, long sentences or jargon. Keep the language simple and friendly and you can’t go far wrong!

I hope this has helped you think about what you might like your brand identity to be – let me know if you have any other ideas, or if you need help to set the brand identity for your business.

Images courtesy of 1 & 2) Stuart Miles, 3) Keerati 4) boulemonademoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Grow your customer base

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ID-10086506Our customers are the lifeblood of our businesses, so it’s crucial to gain new customers and to retain the existing ones. At this time of year, I’m always thinking of ways that I can grow my customer base, so after a brainstorming session, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with…

Collect email addresses

It’s a great idea to take your customers’ email addresses when they buy or contact you. You can use these addresses to let them know of special offers or to send them your newsletter. But, please note that the data protection act states that you need to have written permission from customers expressly saying that they agree to be contacted via email or to receive a newsletter, (they agree to opt-in), so please ensure you get their permission.

Newsletter

Research suggests that people don’t like to part with their email address unless they are going to get something in return. A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is a great way to let your customers know about your business, what’s new and any offers you have running. A newsletter needs to be of value to your customers, so include…

  • Relevant information about your business and what you can do for them – people are interested in what value you or your products can add to their lives
  • Details of special offers or new products
  • Valuable, unique content that customers can’t get anywhere else. The more valuable your emails are, the more people will sign up

imagesNF5Z7BI7Develop a calendar for your newsletter, planning specific activities that run throughout the year, for example, something around special times of the year; Valentine’s day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween etc. It’s also important to promote your newsletter everywhere; on your website (via an opt-in link or ‘sign up to our newsletter’ page; put it on the bottom of your email signature or on invoices and receipts; include details in any order you send to customers and if you speak to a customer on the phone, ask if they’d like to receive regular updates from you about your products.

Events

If you go to an event, or have a stall at a market, there are ways to attract new customers…

  • Have slips of paper where people can give you their email address – include a statement saying they agree to opt-in to your newsletter and maybe have a fishbowl or something similar where they can ‘post’ their slips
  • Give away small samples in exchange for an email address so you can let them know about your products and future promotions
  • Include your business card and a flyer with every purchase, which gives details of your website and newsletter
  • If you’re at a tradeshow, you might want to run a short presentation on a laptop giving details of your business and what you can offer customers

Recommendations and referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers for a recommendation. If they like your products and are happy with the service or services you provide, they will be happy to write a few words stating just that. Then you can publish this recommendation on your website and social media pages. Potential customers viewing your website will be able to read your recommendations and know that you are trustworthy and provide a fabulous service. It’s reassuring for new customers to read about how a previous customer has been satisfied.

You can also ask your customers to refer you to their friends and family. You could provide an incentive, so if they recommend you and that person becomes a customer, they get 10% off their next order.     

Survey

ID-100349134Ask for your customers’ opinions on your products or services. Is there something you could be doing better? Customers like to feel valued and it is good customer service practice to ask a customer what they think, listen to their answer and act upon it. It shows you listen. You could run a short survey and ask opinions – again, give an incentive to reply. You could put something like this at the beginning of the survey in the introduction… “We place a high value on our customers, so we would like to ask you to take five minutes of your time to answer a few questions about the products and services you receive from us. If you complete this survey, you will receive 10% off your next order as a thank you for giving us your opinion.” People like to be asked to help, like to give their opinion and most of all, like to get something in return so they feel that their opinion matters to you.

Provide great customer service

When asked why they go back to the same business over and over again, people often say it’s because of the friendly, helpful person they interact with. Customers remember if they are treated well and a positive customer experience will result in repeat business. Going the extra mile to meet your customers’ wants and needs is part and parcel of giving good customer service.

ID-100245378How do you ensure you provide good customer service? Well, firstly make sure that there is a clear and easy way for customers to communicate with you – in person, by phone or email and that when they do contact you, you reply in a timely fashion. Always have a positive and friendly outlook and attitude to your customers. Pay particular attention to any customer concerns or complaints. If a customer complaints, they are giving you the opportunity to resolve a problem – if you do this in a fast, effective and friendly manner, they will remember that and refer you to their friends and family. Always remember that the reputation of your business relies heavily on providing excellent customer service.

‘How to…’ leaflets on your website and/or video on YouTube

  • Produce ‘How to…’ leaflets or articles on your website. People love a freebie – promote on your social media sites
  • Produce short, instructional and informational videos on YouTube and a link to it from social network sites, website and blogs

These are just some ideas on how to grow your business and get more customers. If you have any other ideas, please let me know…I’d love to hear from you. Contact cindymobey@outlook.com

10 quick wins to get more customers

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If you work for yourself, you will always be looking for new ways to get more customers, especially at the start of a New Year – New Year, new start!

Here are a few ways to help you find those all elusive new customers…

id-100123066Make yourself or your business the answer to a problem. Is there a problem out there that you can solve with your products or services? Do some research online and find out…then market yourself/your business, letting people know that you have the solution to their problem.

Follow up on previous sales. Once you make a sale to someone or provide them with a service, don’t forget to follow up with them a month or so down the line. Just dropping them a simple email to say ‘Hi, hope everything is OK ‘and ask if you can be of further service to them. If you sell a product, or range of products, perhaps you can suggest one to them that they haven’t tried before. If you provide a service, perhaps there’s another service you provide which they hadn’t thought of…you just need to point out that they need it and why!

Know your audience. It’s much easier to sell your products and services if you know who you are targeting. Do you know who your target market is? Take a few minutes to think about what makes those people tick…what makes them happy, sad, relieved … how can you address any issues to make their life easier?

Back to basics. Take a fresh look at your website and social media pages. Update your profile picture so it’s current, and make sure you are posting regularly. Make sure your website is up to date and that all the links work. Is your logo and online persona still relevant to what you do? If not, think about a re-brand. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and that they have all your up to date information on them. Distribute them to places where your target market may be….and think about getting flyers done to advertise your business…remember, that although we live in a technological world, not everyone is online, so there is still a need for hard copy advertising.

id-10040854Network with others. Find local groups or networking events, where you can meet like-minded people and exchange business cards and details. If you have a product and there’s a local trade fayre, go along and give out flyers and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t forget to also network online too – places like Google + and Facebook groups are great for this.

Get yourself interviewed. Approach a local newspaper or radio station and try and get yourself interviewed about your business. You can take the tack of putting yourself forward as an expert in your particular field.

Are you selling online? If you sell a product at markets and trade fayres, do you also have an online presence…and I don’t mean just a website. You could think about setting up an online shop – this can be very lucrative if it is marketing correctly.

Interview someone in your niche. Arrange to interview an influential person in your niche…someone who is an expert or leading authority on the kind of thing you do. You could interview them as a podcast or use it for a blog post. Either way, once published, that person will tell his/her contacts about the interview and point people to it…and you will get more traffic, which could lead to sales.

Offer a free trial of your product. Everyone loves a freebie and giving something away is a great way to get new customers. Make the free trial available for a limited time only, so instilling the idea that if they want a bargain, they need to do it ‘now’. Once they have the free trial, ask them for feedback so you can make improvements if necessary. If they love your product, they will look at your other products…you can also point them in the direction of another product, “If you liked XXXX, you should try XXXX – I’m sure you’ll love it!”

id-100282052Think about setting up a workshop. Although not exactly a quick win, is there somewhere local where you can share your knowledge through a workshop? People still enjoy learning face to face and this can bring you great new contacts. If you prefer to teach online, you could set up a webinar.

When you have gained new customers, which strategies have you employed? And what did you find was the most successful? It would be great to hear from you.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Customer Engagement – Newsletters

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It has been said that marketing your business with the use of newsletters are a bit ‘old hat’ and are losing their value, but I don’t agree. With other forms of marketing, such as adverts, people will see your advert and look at it if they’re interested in the subject, but it will bypass lots of people. But a newsletter is a powerful tool and goes right to the heart of your business, reaching all your customers. You know they are interested in what you do as they’ve bought your products or services. As well as keeping your customers informed about what’s going on in your business, you can include special offers and highlight some of your products.

Calendar-for-2014-free-download-1[1] (640x640)Whether you choose to send your newsletter out in print format, or as an online version on e-mail, it’s important to decide the frequency. Most of my clients send out newsletters by email on a monthly basis, so they can be a bit longer than if you are sending out something each week. The most important thing is that the content is timely and relevant, adding some sort of value to your customer. For example, I send out a monthly newsletter for a garden centre – as well as including any news about new stock and special offers, we also include monthly hints and tips on jobs that need doing in the garden that month. We’ve also run a series of articles over a few months on planning the garden for 2014 – this encourages customers to take a good look at their garden, decide what worked well last year and what didn’t, and gives advice on plants and shrubs without doing the ‘hard sell’.

Goals of your newsletter

images3X9QCI4OSo you’ve decided you want to send out a newsletter for your business – now you need to think about what you want to achieve. Is the purpose of your newsletter to send traffic to your website; increase engagement to your brand; create a buzz for a new product or service? The type of goals you have will help you create a more effective newsletter. For example, if you want to send more traffic to your website, you could include an excerpt from an article that will generate interest in your products and then direct them to the full article on your website, or you could just send an introductory paragraph from the newsletter, but keep the full newsletter on your website, so customers have to go to your website to read the full article. Similarly, you could give them a taster of a special offer, but point customers to your website for full details.

Content

The content of your newsletter needs to be engaging – if you don’t keep the attention of your customers and make the content relevant to them and add value, they will either hit the ‘delete’ button or will unsubscribe. A good headline will pull your customers in, so try question-mark_21323680[1]and make it interesting – not just ‘January’s newsletter’. It’s crucial that you use good grammar and that there are no spelling mistakes and that it is easy to read so ensure that, if you do the newsletter yourself, that it is thoroughly proofread.

Of course, a newsletter is only one of the marketing tools you can use and it’s always best to use a variety of tools to engage your customers. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the role of newsletters. Do you use them for your business?

Building a brand for your small business

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Board
A Brand is the image of your business; the products or services that your customers and potential customers connect with. You don’t even have to see the name of some of the famous brands to know what they are – for example, you see the big, yellow, arches in the shape of an ‘M’ and just know that it’s Macdonald’s – or see the Apple logo and you know what it represents. Building a brand for your small business means you are marketing your business to be recognisable, so the name of your business is instantly connected to the products or services you provide.

If you have a good online presence, you’re already making a start in promoting your brand. You can use search engine optimization with relevant keywords, which will show up in online searches, but you need to do plenty of research to ensure you are using the right kind of keywords for your business so customers and potential customers can find you more easily.

Your brand says a lot about you, the person behind your business – your brand is synonymous with your reputation. How do your customers see you? Are you seen as an expert in your field? What do you represent? What does your business stand for? When someone hears the name of your business or your name, what springs to their minds?

What is your current brand? 

Thought bubblePut yourself into the shoes of your customer. Type the name of your business into google search and see what comes up – then type in your name. If you were a potential customer, would you employ you? Most big companies in the UK check out potential employees’ Facebook pages – what does your page say about you? If you’re trying to build a reputable brand, be careful about what you say on social media pages – although this is controversial, if you regularly rant about your personal life in public or use expletives, does this give a good impression? Will it affect the reputation of your business?

Social media sites give you the opportunity to build your public image – it’s the one area you have total control over – you decide how you’d like your potential customers to see you. If you are selling a particular craft or product or provide a serviced, you’ll want to be seen as someone who knows what they’re talking about – an expert. What you post demonstrates that image to the public, so use it wisely.

How do you build a positive brand?    

Set yourself goals…

  • PrintWhat do you want people to associate with you? What do you want your customers to think of you? If you were going to buy your products/services, what would you look for?
  • A good brand demonstrates expertise. You need to show potential customers that you’re good at what you do. When you do a good job for your current customers, ask them for feedback and recommendations. When I want to buy something on EBay, I always look at feedback to ensure the seller is reputable and delivers what they say they will
  • Your natural style – this is about how you portray yourself. Are you enthusiastic about what you do? Do you show your passion for your product or services? Do some research on other people who offer the same or similar products or services as you – how do they put their personal style across to their potential customers? I’m not saying you should copy someone else’s style, but if their style is successful, it wouldn’t hurt to emulate some of it!

Website – If your name or business name isn’t on the first page of a google search, you need to do some more work on getting yourself recognised. Do you have a website? If you do, research keywords for your product/services and keep your website content fresh and interesting.

Logo – if you don’t have a logo, it might be worth investing the time and money in getting one that captures your business. Then use it..on your website, on flyers, on your blog, business cards and in any advertising

Blogdo you have a blog? If you don’t, it’s worth thinking about – it’s a way to show your expertise to your customers. Write blogs that are informative and that help people; write about your products and why they’re good; research other bloggers who do the same or similar to you – follow them, make comments on other blogs, become a guest blogger. Get exposure!

Social Mediause social media wisely. Post regularly with relevant content on your business pages; use photographs, quotes, put links to interesting articles – anything that you think your customers would find interesting or useful…or even funny – without being offensive.

Linked inLinkedIn – this is a great business to business networking site – you can comment on forums, set up your own discussion threads – all of which can help you be seen as an expert in your field. Copy the LinkedIn profile you worked so hard on to other sites, such as AboutMe.com, Naymz.com and BrandYourself.com. Ensure you change the wording slightly so that the first few lines on a google search are slightly different for each site you join.

Set up a Google+ account – setting up this account will let google know that you exist – link it to your website and social media sites.

Stand outBuilding your brand takes time; google takes time to recognise any changes you make, but it’s worth the time and effort. You’ll get more business as more customers find you, like you and your brand and recommend you. This, in turn, will make your reputation grow – make your brand more recognisable….and so your business name and personal name will move up the ranks of google search and you will stand out from the crowd.

If you need any help with your branding, or if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cindymobey@outlook.com – I’ll be happy to help.