How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

The Content Marketing Institute, which is an online resource for information on everything marketing related, defines content marketing as…

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Stuart Miles (7)The key word here is ‘valuable’ content; content that will speak to your customers, content that they want and need, maybe information that solves a problem they have. In order to do this, you need to know your existing customers and research and get to know your prospective customers, so you can deliver that all important content. It may take some time to get it right, but when you do, you will have the opportunity to expand your business, build your reputation and ultimately be known as an expert in your field.

Once you can provide the right kind of content, it brings much more to your ‘table’.

More traffic to your website

If you can solve a problem that your customers have and write about it on your website, when potential customers search online for a solution, they will visit your site. Stuart Miles (6)Depending on what you do, that could lead to a sale or a request for your services…and they are likely to return to your site in future.

If you can find a way to tailor your content to your target customer’s needs and wants, they will trust you and you will get repeat business.

More sales

When a person finds a site they like, that speaks to them personally, or they feel that it speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to turn into customers. As everything is online these days, we all turn to the internet if we want to buy something; I like to read about what I want to buy first and find out as much as I can about that product before I buy it. I am more likely to buy from a business that knows what they’re talking about and one that seems to know my needs.

Enhances your brand

It sounds a bit rude to say this, but it is fundamentally true – people are generally interested in themselves, in their likes and needs. This isn’t about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website or interacts with your David Castillo Dominicibusiness, they are not in the least bit interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are more interested in what you can do for them. If you provide something that makes their life easier, less stressful, and cost-effective and generally entertain them, they will then become interested in your brand as they will see it as something they relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and then promoting it on social media, more people will get to see your name and start to relate to the things you write about. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to tell their friends and so your audience starts to grow and they become more aware of your brand.

Content marketing is cheaper than other forms of marketing

The title of this last section basically says it all. If you can research and write your content yourself, it is more economical as you’re not spending money on getting someone else to do it for you. You’ll also learn so much from the research you do, that you’ll find more content as you go.

Stuart Miles (5)When you publish your content on your blog or website, make sure that you promote it on every social media site that you have…with maybe a jig around of the title or introduction. You can also contribute to larger sites to get your name out there.

Finally, with content marketing, you are attracting customers to you because they’re interested in what you have to say…and ultimately they will come back again and again.

If you want to influence your audience to your way of thinking and to look at your products or services, you must provide them with something they want or need, be their solution, show them that you provide valuable content and that you value their custom.

 

Images courtesy of 1-3 ) Stuart Miles, 4) David Castillo Dominici 4) Stuart Miles 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

Marketing your small business with little or no money

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When you run a business, be it a large corporation or a small home-based business, we all know that at some point we have to dig into our pockets and spend some of our hard earned cash on marketing. But if you’re feeling the pinch, or are just starting out, here are a few tips on how to market your small business with little or no money.

ID-100110228Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google + are all social media sites that can help you market your business for free. Set up an account and get going. Not only can you share details of your products and services, but you can also personalise to show your human self…what you like, what your interests are. Share articles of interest and inspirational quotes, pictures…anything that you think people will like to see.

Email – in order to use email, which is free, you need to collect email addresses of current and potential customers. How do you get email addresses? Give away something for free – people love free stuff. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing; you could give away free information. For example if you are a crafter, you could give away a free information sheet on how to crochet, sew a simple item. The only proviso is that people sign up for your monthly/quarterly newsletter – then send them your newsletter, which is packed full of information about your business, special offers and details of your products or services.

Ask existing customers to refer you to friends and family – offer an incentive for them to do this. For example, you could say that for every five customers that they refer who buy something from you, they will receive a 10% discount.

True stories – Use a real example of a problem you’ve solved for a customer, with a quote from them about how great you are! Turn this into a blog post, an article on your website or add it to your newsletter.

ID-100349134Survey your customers – Send your existing customers a survey. Ask them about the products or services they have bought from you. Ask them what they like best about your products/services and use the information you gain to improve your offering or to promote your business. At the end of the survey, ask if it is ok for you to publish any of their comments….if they say ‘yes’ you have more recommendations and possible stories. And report your survey results in a blog or an article.

Write a blog – Keep in the forefront of your customers and potential customers’ minds by writing a regular blog. There are lots of free hosting sites out there – it just takes your time to get it up and running and to blog on a regular basis.

Have a website – It’s always good to have a website, where people can easily find you and see all your products and services in one place. Make sure it is easy to navigate and engaging.

Free directories –As well as all the directories that you can pay to be in, there are loads of free directories out there. Get your business listed in all the free ones you can find.

Attend networking events – Sometimes these events are free and sometimes you have to pay a small fee to join in. Attending these events is important as you’ll meet other people with small businesses. The purpose is usually to share information and experiences. If there are none near you, how about setting up one in a local community centre or pub?

ID-10035801Enter a business award competition – There’s nothing better than being able to say that you’ve won an award in a specific competition. Even if you don’t win, but are shortlisted in the top ten, it’s still something to shout about. If you do happen to win, you can advertise the fact on your social media pages, on your website, in your newsletter etc. You could also put it in your signature.

These are just some of the ways you can market your business. If you have other free or very cheap ideas on how to market a small business, please feel free to share…

Images courtesy of 1) Master isolated images 2) fantasista 3) nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

How to use surveys and polls to grow your business

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ID-100314158Using a survey or a poll is great way to understand what your customer wants. The answers you get can give you an insight into what your customers think of you and your business; what kind of service they want; and it gives them a chance to share their perspectives with you. If your survey or poll is engaging, then your customers are more likely to participate and spread the word about you.

The way I see it, surveys/polls have three main objectives…

  1. Getting feedback from existing customers about products or services that you have provided. Ask them if the product or service could be improved or if there was a way it would work better for them. You can use this to improve your services or extend your product line.
  2. You can use a survey to get testimonials from your customers. What worked well for them and why? You can then ask them if you can use their comment in your advertising or on your website/social media page.
  3. To find out what your customers want – is there an issue that needs solving…one that they’d be willing to pay for? If you know exactly what your customers want, you can develop products or services to fit their needs. This shows that not only do you listen to what they say, you act on it.

What questions do you ask?

ID-10017827There are many you could ask and I’ve listed some areas you might want to think about. However, I would advise no more than five to ten questions or your customers will get bored.

When you are creating your questions, think about what you want to achieve…are you looking for ideas for new products or services? Are you wanting to know what needs to be improved? Here are some ideas and pointers that might help you…

 

  • If you’re doing a poll, you might want to just stick to one question. You could do a series of polls over a number of weeks on a social media network.
  • If you are a blogger, you could ask your customers what subjects they might be interested in…for example if you are a beauty blogger, you might find that several of your customers have the same problem that you could address with a blog, such as ‘how to apply mascara properly’ or ‘what are the best products for sensitive skin?’ Answering questions helps set you up as an expert in your field.
  • Segmenting your customers will help you reach the right audience with the right message. A simple example…if you run a garden centre and you send out a regular newsletter, you could ask what plants your audience are interested in. Some may be interested in herbs and fruit – another in climbing plants – someone else in vegetables and flowers. You can then use this information to better target your marketing and communications.
  • ID-10091662Get feedback on your website…is it easy to navigate? Can your customers find what they’re looking for? Are there any areas that could be improved or any products/services they’d like to see you sell or offer?
  • Are you thinking of setting up an event? Events take up a huge amount of time and effort from planning to execution, so before you invest your time and money, you could create a poll or survey to find out what kind of event they’d like. Make sure you give some options, so you are steering them in the direction you want them to go in!
  • Competitions – you can use a survey to host a competition. For example if you make cakes, you could put several pictures of cakes you have made and ask, ‘Which cake do you think deserves Cake of the Month’? This also serves to show potential customers what you can do and gives you the chance to show several different kinds of cakes you do.
  • Finally – get a fun aspect in there! Polls and surveys don’t have to be serious – if you just want to engage with your customers, ask a question about something current, such as ‘What do you think of the latest Star Wars movie?’ You might spark a discussion which could lead to anything!

Once you have your survey or poll, post it on your Facebook Twitter account, or put it on your website. If you want specific information from your existing customers, you could include the survey or poll in your newsletter or on email.

If you do put your survey on your website, don’t do it so that it pops up the minute someone visits your site….that is so annoying and can be seen as intrusive.

Final Hot Tip!

Hot Tip (640x453)Everyone likes a reward, so offer some kind of incentive for your customers if they complete your survey. Give a free report or an e-book, or offer them a discount on the next purchase they make from you. Offer a further discount, or a free item, if they recommend five people who buy from you. Good luck!

 

Images courtesy of 1) Stuart Miles 2) Salvatore Vuono 3) Stuart Miles 4) artztsamui 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

Why a simple ‘thank you’ is so good for business

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As a parent, I always taught my children that manners cost nothing. If someone gave them a gift, or opened a door for them, saved them a space in a queue, gave them a lift home or did anything for them, they always said ‘thank you’. I was often praised for the well-mannered, polite children I had….and believe me, at home they weren’t always well-behaved, but they always remembered their manners. As adults, I’ve hear them use the ‘manners cost nothing’ statement on several occasions. It always make me smile.

At some point in our lives, we all work in some capacity. No matter what job you have or have had in the past, it’s always a good feeling to be appreciated for what you do. When your employer thanks you for your hard work, or tells you you’ve done a great job on a particular project, it gives you what one of the teachers at my kid’s school called, ‘a warm fuzzy’ feeling. And how did that feel? Did it motivate you to try even harder? Did it make you feel proud of your achievement and make you want to do more? In one way or another, the answer is usually ‘yes’ to these questions.

ID-100348819The same applies to your customers – if you thank them for buying from you, or using a service you provide, it will make them feel valued and, nine times out of ten, a customer who feels valued will return with more custom, or recommend you to their friends. Either way, it’s a win, win situation for you.

These are some of the benefits of saying thank you…

  • Customers remember who thanks them (and who doesn’t)!
  • Customers feel valued and appreciated
  • Customers feel respected and cared for
  • Customers like to be acknowledged – it’s important to them

It’s crucial that when you say thank you, make sure you mean it – don’t just say it as a matter of course, or as a way to get something from someone. It must be sincere.

So, how can you thank a customer?

ID-10049181There are several different ways to thank your customers. Please see the list below.

You should always thank them for their order and for choosing to shop with you, or use your service. You could also take the opportunity to say that if there is anything else you can help with, please feel free to contact you. It’s also a good idea to put a link to your website and invite them to leave a positive comment.

  • Include a note with their order
  • Send an email
  • Send a card in the post, or an e-card
  • By telephone
  • By text message

Finally, the most important thing about thanking a customer is that it is timely….it’s no good saying thank you weeks after the event, it needs to be immediate.

According to Chris Philippi, President of Philippi Marketing and Associates, writing for zeromillion.com, the top Entrepreneurship Resource Online….

  • It costs anywhere from 5 to 8 times more to gain a new customer as opposed to retaining your customers. When you consider the cost of sales people, advertising, Internet marketing, etc. to attract new customers this becomes obvious
  • 68% of customers will stop using your services or fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is the number one reason businesses lose customers. 

 

Images courtesy of 1) Stuart Miles 2) nenetus 3) digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Right person, right time, right reasons…RIGHT CONTENT!

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ID-10099716.jpg
So, you have your own business and you want to promote it – get your product or services out there. How do you go about it? Where do you start? It’s really important to have a content strategy….as this will help you structure exactly what the needs of your business are and what exactly is the right content for your business.

Anything you put out about your business needs to go to the right people at the right time and for the right reasons….and of course, the right content is crucial.

If the content is NOT right, then the people you are hoping to reach won’t read it. Whatever content you put out needs to be valuable to your potential reader, so make sure your content is useful and relevant – what’s in it for your reader? Does it solve a problem for them? Does it give them a solution that they need?

If you DON’T target the right people, then your content won’t be read and definitely won’t be acted upon. You need to ensure that you know who your audience are – just sending content to ‘people’ in general won’t cut the mustard, you need to be specific.

ID-100217430If you don’t send content out at the right time, then you are wasting your time. You need to firstly understand your audience or intended audience – what do your customers want? Do your customers or potential customers have questions that you can answer? Do you have solutions to your customers’ problems? If you are aware of these things, you can plan to put content out at the right time.

If you’re NOT putting content out for the right reasons, you are also wasting your time. When you are writing your business plan for the year, you will include measurable business goals. These goals are usually a reason for sharing some kind of promotional content to pull in more customers, or address an issue that your customers may have. The content you publish won’t necessarily sell your wares, but can help to set yourself up as an expert in your field. This, in turn inspires confidence in your abilities and business, which can lead to those all-important recommendations.

Plan your content for 2016

ID-100151975December and January is the ideal time for you to look at planning for next year. It’s time to take stock and look back over the last year – what worked well for your business and what didn’t work so well? Which way are you going next year?

Take the time to look at last year’s business or marketing plan (or both) and decide what you need to change to make next year more successful.

Have you ever asked your customers for feedback? Amongst that feedback, is there anything you can address to make your business more attractive? Do your customers have any problems you can solve? If you can pinpoint what it is that your customers want, that you are not currently giving them, you have the greatest opportunity to truly delight them in solving those problems.

If you haven’t asked for feedback, then why not do it now? Why not send out a short survey asking some questions to help you decide which way to go next year – get your current customers’ opinions and ideas – their ID-10021828input could open a whole new market to you.

Once you know what your customers want and have a new plan for next year, with new goals, you are ready to plan your content strategy and will be one step closer to a successful 2016!

 

Images courtesy of 1) Stuart Miles 2)KROMKRATHOG 3)artur84 4) jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be SMART with your business goals

21
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