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

 

10 steps to a successful business

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In order to succeed in business, planning and good organisation are key. When starting up in business, most people are full of enthusiasm and it can be such a disappointment to find that simply by switching on your computer and opening your doors for business, that business will automatically come your way. It would be fantastic if it worked that way, but sadly, we all have to work a whole lot harder than that to attract business and be successful.

Here are 10 ways that might help make your business more of a success in 2016.

  1. Make a plan. Plan your business goals and how you are going to ID-10070652achieve them. Having a good business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business – what will work and what won’t work. It makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business, your next steps, tactics and strategies
  2. Be organised. Complete a ‘to do’ list every day. This will help you keep on top of things that need to be done now. As you complete each task, tick it off – not only does this give you a sense of achievement, it ensures you don’t forget anything
  3. Analyse your competition. Look at what your competitors do. Why are they successful? Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – why will potential customers choose your products or services over those of your competitors? Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from choosing your products or services?
  4. Know what your customers want…not what you think they want. ID-100282581What do you your customers like about your products? What do they currently buy from you, why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business? If you’re not sure of the answers to these questions, it might be worth conducting a short survey to your customers and asking them. Give an incentive to reply, such as 10% off their first order of 2016. And a further 10% off if they recommend a new customer who buys from you. The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you’re in, the more likely you are to be successful
  5. Provide great service – delight your customers! There have been oodles of books written about customer service and delighting your customers. Some of them advise that you delight them no matter what – I even read somewhere that one company gave a refund to a customer who complained about their tyres….and they didn’t even sell tyres! That’s taking it a bit too far. In order to satisfy your customers, you must deliver exactly what you promised to….to delight them, service must exceed expectations. It really is that simple. Do what you say you will, give your customers what they want (solve a problem they have), and thank them for their custom, inviting them to contact you if you can help them further
  6. Measure everything you do. Whatever action you take as a result of planning your business goals, ensure that you factor in a way to ID-10099989measure whether that particular goal and actions have been successful. By measuring as you go along, if you find something that is not quite working, you can tweak it so it works well. List what needs to be measured, for example, how many people read your Facebook posts or how many comment on a post. Then look at ways to improve this – it might be you monitor your posts and see what kind of post is the most successful and then figure out why. If you have success, shout about it! Your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right person
  7. Market and advertise. Marketing your business is about planning the future of your business. What tools will you use to promote your business? For example you could…
    -Join a business networking group and talk to people at every opportunity, giving out business cards
    -Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
    -Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an expert)
    -Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest etc.
    -Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and online
    -Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
  8. Budget. I guess that this one is pretty obvious. You need to know ID-100263887what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have business cards – maybe flyers and definitely think about Social Media and your online presence, such as a website.
    Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it? And look at what kind of advertising you can afford.
  9. Learn from your mistakes. We all make mistakes and when you are running your own business, you will undoubtedly make several, especially when you first start up. The trick is to learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake, own up to it – this creates a culture of openness and honesty in your business. Find out why and how the mistake happened and correct it. If you find you can’t correct it, put plans in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If you can’t work out why or how the mistake happened, google it – chances are someone else would have made that mistake in the past and they might have published a solution! Once it’s sorted, move on – don’t continue to dwell on it
  10. Stand out in the crowd. Starting a business is easy, but staying in business is harder as you have so much competition these days. To stand out in the crowd, you need to do all of the above! Create a great ID-10037281experience for your customers; know what your customers want and give it to them; find solutions to your customers’ problems; position yourself as an expert; be different from your competitors and shout about how you are different; shout about your success; give excellent customer service; give special offers to customers who recommend someone new who buys something or uses your service….and above all, be yourself, smile and enjoy running your business – it will show!

I hope these points will help you in your quest to make 2016 a successful year for your business. If you have any more tips, please share them, I’d love to hear from you.

One final tip, if you can’t do everything you want to do yourself, don’t give up, get help.

 

Images courtesy of 1) Ambro 2) David Castillo Domenici 3) Stuart Miles 4) Metrue 5)Stuart Miles 6)jscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does Goal Setting leave you feeling lost?

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FREE Goal Setting checklist and template

If you have your own business, your business goals for next year should already be set, so you’re ready to make a good start after the Christmas holiday. If you haven’t set your business goals yet, then why not take up my offer of a free checklist to help you – complete the request at the bottom of this page

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Every January, I set myself resolutions – the usual kind of thing, lose weight; get fitter.

I’m ashamed to say that by the end of January, I’ve forgotten all about the resolutions…I’m still aware that I want to do the things I resolved to do, but life gets in the way. However with business, you can’t afford to be so blasé – a planned business with structured goals will always be more successful, and reviewing your plans on a regular basis gives you the chance to pick up on anything that is going wrong at an earlier stage.

So where do you start? There are 4 areas to think about….

What is your Mission Statement?

This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd?

For example, if you run a dog sitting service in your own home, you might say…

“All dogs in our care live in our house in a safe and secure environment, and are treated as part of our family. We are happy to administer any medication and provide a loving and attentive service to your much loved pet.”

What are your business goals?

ID-100123105Think about where you want your business to be by this time next year. By which percentage do you wish to grow and how many customers do you expect to have? Make sure you have at least one goal that relates to your mission statement and one that links to the financial position of your business.

Goals need to be SMART….

Specific – for example, my New Year’s Resolution, “I want to get fitter.” This is too vague. Being more specific, I should say, “I will join a gym and go three times a week.”

Measurable – You need to be able to measure your goals – for example, you might want to increase your sales by 25% by this time next year. How would you measure this throughout the year to ensure you are on track? You could break down sales, so you know how many sales you need to make every month to make this happen.

Attainable – goals need to be achievable, so don’t set the bar ridiculously high, such as Del boy in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – “This time next year, we’ll be millionaires.”

Realistic – in the same way as goals needing to be achievable, they also need to be realistic. You must be both willing and able to work towards them. Only you can decide what is achievable and realistic for you and your business.

Timely – it’s sensible to put a time-frame on each of your goals – this keeps you focused. If you don’t have a time-frame, there is no sense of urgency and you can keep putting off doing anything ‘until tomorrow’…and we all know that tomorrow never comes!

What are your business strategies?

Strategies are all about what are you going to do to achieve your goals.

Think about the four Ps…

Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?

Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?

Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?

Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.

What action do you need to take to achieve your goals?

ID-100260509How are you going to achieve your goals? If we take the ‘I want to increase my sales by 25%’ scenario, how will you do that? You might decide to launch a new, attractive product…you might give a discount if customers spend over a set amount, or do a ‘Buy one, get one free’ offer for a specific week.

Another scenario might be that you want to re-brand your business to make you stand out from your competitors. This will have a financial implication, so that needs to be in the action plan – your goal would be to re-brand, your action would be around how you will afford to do that – how many products would you need to sell, for example, to cover the cost?

Once you have decided the action(s) for achieving each goal, you need to know how you can measure the success of each action. Measurement is very important as it gives you an insight into what works well for your business and what doesn’t.

If you plan ahead, you stand a much better chance of succeeding. So, give a little time to setting your goals and sorting out how you are going to achieve them.

To obtain your free checklist and template for goal setting, please fill the form below and press submit.

Be SMART with your business goals

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And so we’re into another year – can’t believe that it’s 2014 already. At this time of year, I review my business and marketing plan from last year; look at what worked well and what didn’t and decide on new objectives and goals for the coming year. But where do you start?

When I worked for a big company in the UK, business planning was all around SMART objectives and this translates well to the small business too. So, what is SMART?

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Attainable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timely

It’s a good idea to use the measures above to think about your goals – so let’s have a look at them all in turn.

Specific – if your goals are general, you are less likely to achieve them – for example, my New Year’s Resolution usually includes something around losing weight! But as everyone who’s ever tried to lose weight knows, if you just say ‘this year I want to lose weight’, it’s unlikely to happen. However if you make the goals more specific, you are more likely to be successful – for example, goals could be ‘I’m going to join a gym and go three times a week’ and ‘I’m going to join a slimming club and follow a structured diet’. So, in order to be specific, think about:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Where – Identify a location
  • When – Establish a time frame
  • Which – Identify requirements and constraints
  • Why – Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal

Tape measureMeasurable – to ensure that you attain your goals, they need to be measurable; then you can keep an eye on your progress and you will stay on track and reach your target dates. If you have a website for your business, one goal may be to push it further up search engines, so your business can be more easily found by potential customers.   Questions you could ask yourself could be:

  • How will I know when I’ve achieved a goal?
  • What does success in a particular goal look like?
  • How will you measure the success?

Attainable – Once you have your list of goals, you can start to think about how you can achieve them. Look at each of them in turn and make sure that they are attainable. In the TV programme, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ Del-boy was always saying ‘this time next year – we’ll be millionaires’ – a great goal, but not necessarily attainable…and too generalised!

Think about how you can turn your goals into reality – by writing them down, being specific, may give you further ideas or may highlight opportunities that you may have previously missed.

Realistic – it’s really important that all your goals are realistic. You must be both able and willing to work towards them. You are the only one who can decide what is realistic and achievable for you – some people like to set high targets and goals and get more satisfaction out of the challenge; others prefer to set several smaller goals that will work towards the higher target. It’s up to you which approach you take…but make sure your goals are realistic for you.

ClockTimely – Goals always need to have a timeframe – if you don’t have a timeframe, then there’s no sense of urgency and it’s easy to keep saying ‘I’ll start that tomorrow’…and we all know that tomorrow never comes! If we go back to the weight loss scenario, if you say ‘I want to lose a stone’, but don’t put a time limit on it,  it’ll never happen. But, if you give yourself a date (a realistic and attainable date), for example, ‘I want to lose a stone in three  months’ – it’s more likely that you’ll succeed.

By keeping your objectives/goals SMART, you’ll be able to keep a tight rein on how your business is progressing and achieving what you want it to achieve.

Good luck and if you have any further ideas on the subject, please let me know!

How to conduct a SWOT analysis for your small business

 

23Whether you’re new to running your own small business, or whether you’ve been going for a while, conducting a SWOT analysis can help your business get on the right track. I tend to glaze over when someone talks about something that sounds like it will be difficult, or something that I might not understand, but SWOT analysis is a very simple concept, which can give you great insight into your business and generate ideas to take your business forward.

What is SWOT analysis

strong linkThe term SWOT is an acronym devised from four words; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Conducting analysis on your business in these four key areas help you look at internal and external factors that affect or have the potential to affect your business. It’s a good idea to conduct this analysis before you set up your business and marketing plan as it will help you develop your business strategy.

You could also consider performing a SWOT analysis on your competitors, as this will give you valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses…and may identify opportunities for your business that they haven’t thought of.

Where do you start?

A SWOT analysis is about making a list in four key areas:

Strengths – list what your strengths are…the aspects of your business or project that gives you an advantage over others. What do you do well?

Weaknesses – these are factors that put you at a disadvantage to your competitors – what don’t you do so well?

Strengths and Weaknesses are the internal factors of your business.

Opportunities – what are the opportunities you can see for your business? You might be able to spot opportunities from new technology, new potential markets for your products or services, or even lifestyle changes or local events.

Take a good look at your strengths and see if any of those can be converted into opportunities. Similarly, you may be able to work on your weaknesses to eradicate them and open up new opportunities.

Threats – do you have any hurdles you have to overcome with your business? Are any of your weaknesses a serious threat to your business? Look at what your competitors are doing to be successful – is there something you can change to compete? Of course, there are other threats to take into consideration, such as bad debts or loans.

Opportunities and Threats are the external factors of your business.

Who can help you?

street-sign-141396_150[1]A SWOT analysis can be completed by you, but it’s always good to have another opinion, so draft in some help. Ask friends, employees (if you have them) and maybe even some of your customers – ask them what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. You may be surprised at the answers and it may help you to pull together a strategy to help you succeed further or improve an area of your business.

Action plan  

Success signOnce you have all the information you need, you can devise a strategy to capitalise on your opportunities and reduce your threats. Concentrate on these two areas first as they are the most likely factors that will affect your business and your future success.

Then you can work on your weaknesses and protect and increase your strengths.

When you have completed the analysis, go through your business and marketing plan to see if you can enhance any particular area of your plan.

If you’d like more help with your SWOT analysis, please let me know and I can send you a free SWOT analysis sheet, with questions to ask yourself in each of the four areas.

Happy planning!

Email: cindymobey@outlook.com

Ten essential tips in making a good business plan

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A good business plan is exactly what it says on the tin – a plan for your business; how it’s going to succeed and what you need to do to make it grow.

Having a business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business, what will work and what won’t work….and makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business – your next steps, tactics and strategies.

Here are a few tips on what to include, making sure you cover the essentials.

  1. Executive Summary – this is a brief overview of the whole plan. Detail what you do, how your business will make money and why customers will want to buy your product or services. This is best done after you have completed the rest of your plan.
  2. Analyse your market – it is worth investing some quality time in researching your market.
    – Look at what your competitors do – how are they successful and what makes them stand out from the rest?
    – Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – then you can work out how to compete.
    – Where are the opportunities for your business – why will potential customers choose your products over those of your competitors?
    – Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from choosing your products or services?
    – If your business is already up and running, what do your customers like about your products, what do they buy; why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business?
    The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you are in, the more likely you are to be successful.
  3. Business description – what it is, what you do.
    – Include a brief history of how and why you started your business.
    – Include your vision or mission statement – factors which you think will make your business a success
    – What is the current position of your business?
  4. Business goals – what are your business goals. For example, if you’re already in business, by what percentage do you wish to grow by this time next year? How many customers do you expect to have by this time next year?
  5. Management teams and employees – If you employ others, give details of your management team and employees and what their roles are.
    – How do they work together?
    – Do they all know what is expected of them and how they can help improve the business?
  6. Operations – what is in place now and what do you plan for the future?
    – Look at premises you currently work from (it might just be from home). What will you do if your business expands – what premises will you need to ensure your business succeeds?
    – Who are your suppliers? What happens if you lose one of your suppliers and do you have others as a back-up?
    – Do you need to have any training in a specific area to help your business move forward? For example, if you’re a hairdresser, how do you keep on top of current styles?
    – Is there any equipment or materials you may need to invest in? For example, wear and tear on your current equipment – or maybe you may need more advanced software in the future.
    – If you run an online shop, what happens if you get overrun with orders – can you keep up with them and get them out on time with packaging and postage?
  7. Financials – keep a record of what you spend and what you receive.
    – Are you likely to have cash flow problem – if so, how will you deal with it?
    – How much does your business currently cost to run and what is it likely to cost in one year – or two years’ time.
  8. Marketing strategy – this is where you define your tactics and strategies to ensure that you are successful – only needs to be brief in the business plan – you can be more specific in your marketing plan.
  9. Risk analysis – what could go wrong – look at best and worst case scenarios.
    – If something goes wrong, how will you deal with it?
    – Include your contingency plan
  10. Measurement – this is a really important aspect in a business or marketing plan, but often something that is overlooked. Measuring everything you do ensures you know what works and what doesn’t. You can then plan a different approach if necessary.
    – List what needs to be measured – such as how many people look at your business Facebook page or Tweets on Twitter. How can you improve on this?
    – How will you measure your success – what does success look like to your particular business?
    – Shout about your success – your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right business

Puzzle piecesOnce you have finished your business plan, you can write your Executive Summary.  Then leave it alone for a few days and go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. You can then make any necessary adjustments.

I can’t tell you how long it will take you to complete your business plan – every plan is different and it will depend on you. Business planning takes time – you need to spend quality time on researching and planning your business and marketing strategies.

Take time out at least once every three months to review your plan. Some things you planned will have gone well, others not so well. A business plan is a working document. It’s never finished…always a ‘work in progress’.  Having a business plan won’t guarantee you success, but it will go a long way to helping!

If you need help writing and researching your business plan, please feel free to contact me by email – cindymobey@outlook.com or via my website, www.cindyfrelancewriter.wordpress.com