Supercharge your customer touchpoints

This sounds like just another one of those buzz word things – so what am I talking about?

Every business wants their customers to be happy with the service and experience they receive. But, unless you have your customers in mind at every single touch point, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to delight them and keep them coming back for more.

What is a touchpoint? According to SurveyMonkey, the definition of a touchpoint is “…any time a customer or potential customer comes into contact with your brand…before, during or after they purchase something from you”

meeting-1002800_640You may have great products, delivered on time and with a smile, but if your advertising isn’t on target, or they receive billing mistakes, or have to deal with a clumsy and clunky website, you can scare your customers away. Luckily, these touchpoints are easily fixed and within our control.

Let’s take a look at the general touchpoints a customer will come across…these are just some examples.

Before a sale – Social Media sites, Website, Customer reviews, Advertising/Marketing.

During a sale – Shop or office, Catalogue, Phone.

After a sale – Billing, Emails, Newsletter

Make a list of the touchpoints your customers have with you, then look at them in turn, e.g. your website…is it easy to navigate? Do the tabs point to the right things? Do the links work? Are you easy to contact? Do customers get a quick reply if they do contact you?

Supercharge your touchpoints

Now it’s time to supercharge your touchpoints for a better customer experience.

Personal touch – Try and speak to a customer wherever you can as most people like to beard-2286440_640be treated as individuals. I prefer to speak to a real person, not an automated service as I can ask questions and, if there is something I don’t understand, I can simply ask. It is also easier to build a relationship with your customers if you actually take the time to talk to them, as it makes them feel valued. They will feel that they are important to you and your business, that their custom is appreciated and that their opinion matters.

Consistent Service levels – Be consistent across all your dealings with customers, not just on the phone. You have won their custom and now it is time to build their loyalty and gain that all important customer satisfaction. So, not only ensure that you give excellent customer service on the telephone, ensure that they receive the same experience if they email you, such as a prompt reply, with the answer or solution they want wherever possible.

Know your customers – Know what your customers want and who they are. If you can team-2651912_640.pngsolve a problem for a customer, do it…they will always remember that you went that extra mile…and will recommend you to family and friends. Something that you did this year that went really well, might not work next year – never make assumptions where your customers are concerned. One of the simplest ways to know what your customers want is to ask them. This could be via a courtesy phone call (but be careful not to be a nuisance), via a short survey or hold an event, where you can interact directly with your customers and they can see who you are and meet you properly.

Resolve any mistakes – If you make a mistake, own up to it and put it right quickly. Don’t blame anyone else, just resolve it and offer some kind of compensation, such as 10% off their next order. The four step system is a good way to deal with complaints.

sculpture-2275202_640Listen to the complaint…don’t argue or put the blame on someone else – the customer doesn’t want to hear this – he/she just wants you to listen to what they have to say.

Acknowledge the complaint – let the customer know that you understand their complaint by relaying it back to them. This not only shows that you have been listening but gives hope that something will be done. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention and assure them that something will be done.

Solve the complaint – if you can, resolve the issue, keeping the customer informed along the way. In the first instance, after you have acknowledged the complaint, say that you will look into it and will get back to them within 24 hours – even if you haven’t resolved the problem yet, ring them within 24 hours to let them know what’s happening. Keeping them informed every step of the way is very important in keeping that customer in future and lets them know that they are a valued customer.

gift-553150_640Thank them – you have already done this when you acknowledged the complaint but do it again. If the issue has taken or is like to take a long time to resolve, maybe offer them some kind of compensation – a money-off voucher or a free gift.

Appreciate your customers – Let your customers know they are valued, e.g. send regular customers a ‘thank you’ card, or give them a money off voucher for being loyal, or ask if they’d like their purchases gift-wrapped.

It’s also really crucial to look past the sale…once your customer has bought something from you, don’t make it the last time they hear from you…follow up the sale and ask how they are getting on with the product. Are they happy with it? Do they think it could be improved? Do they have any questions about that or any other product that you sell? They may tell you about a problem they have that you can solve for them, or give you an idea for a new product.

smiley-163510_640If your customers are really happy with the goods and/or services they receive from you, ask them if they could write a short review, either on your Facebook page or on your website…or if they prefer, they can send to you on email. Ask if it’s OK to share their review with other customers and potential customers.

Whether your business is a huge concern, or just a one-man/woman team, excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. It can take extra time and resources, time and money, but good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction, which can generate great business for you via word of mouth. It can also you’re your business thrive and ultimately be a success. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – it’s your businesses life-blood.

 

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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

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

8 ways to get organised

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When I worked for a large company in the UK, I was mega organised. When I first moved to rural France and started as a freelancer, I become the opposite. There always seemed to be so much to do, it was difficult to focus on one thing at a time. I soon realised that if I was going to be more successful and work well from home, I needed to be more organised. I always have a list of things going around in my head, and my partner says I constantly ‘narrate my life’, saying out loud what I need to do next. I think that this is because I have so much to remember that I try and organise myself out loud!

So, after putting on my thinking cap, it seemed the obvious way forward was to go back to what worked well for me in a company environment – not all would work, but these are the areas I came up with that would work for me….I hope it helps you too!

To do list

ID-100211895When I worked for a large company in the UK, I always worked from a ‘to do’ list. It is what it says on the tin. Make a list of all the jobs you need to do, either on a weekly or daily basis. Don’t write it on a scrap of paper – get an exercise book, put the date at the top and write your list, ticking off each one as you do it. It’s a great feeling of achievement to put a tick against an activity that’s been done.

Set a deadline  

ID-100259578For each task you have to do, set a deadline. Look at your to do list and give each item a realistic deadline – the key here is about being realistic. Try not to be too optimistic as you want to be sure that what you estimate is achievable.

Prioritise your work

Once you have your to do list and have deadlines set against each task, the next thing to look at is what is most important or urgent. Prioritise your list so you keep on top of things.

One step at a time

ID-100272144Do you have a big project with a looming deadline? Sometimes, this can feel overwhelming. If this is you, try chopping the project into bite sized chunks. This makes everything seem more manageable and you feel much more in control.

Set your hours

Working from home, it’s a good idea to set the number of hours you want to work every day. If you don’t do this, you will constantly be distracted by ‘Oh, I’ll just put the washing on’, or you’ll go to get a coffee and think, ‘whilst I’m here I’ll just wash up’. All these ‘I’ll just…..’ stop you from getting on with your work.

Decide on the number of hours you will work every day and try to stick to it. The number of hours and how you decide when to start and stop will depend on what you do for a living. I know that I have to feed and sort out the chickens and the cat, wash up breakfast things and have a quick tidy up before I can start work. I also like to shower and get dressed – I just can’t work in my PJs! So I rarely start work before 9.30am – 10am…and that’s OK as that’s what I need to do. Everyone is different, so do what is best for you and your situation.

Multi-tasking

ID-100261047If you start a number of jobs, you’ll probably find you don’t get any of them done. Prioritising tasks will help with this, as will having a list. Try and complete a job before going onto something else. As I write for a living, I will write one piece from start to finish, including the research. Then I’ll save it and come back to review it the following day. It’s easy to look at that to do list and do all the quick and easy stuff and leave the more involved stuff for another time. This works for some – for me, I’ll try and mix it up a bit. I know that I’m more focussed in the morning, so I tend to do the more complicated things then. Later on, I will do some of the easier things and will often revisit something I’ve written the day before.

Interruptions and distractions

It doesn’t matter how organised you are, you are always going to get interruptions, especially if you work from home. The phone might ring or a friend might turn up unexpectedly. If you need to get a particular ID-10013560piece of work done urgently, put your answer machine on and if you don’t have one, ignore the phone ringing. If I have something urgent to do, I let my friends know, so they don’t disturb me. However, the things I find most distracting are Facebook and email. If my Facebook is switched on in the background, it continuously pings and alerts me to messages or notifications …. I just can’t leave it – I HAVE to look! So, when working to a deadline or on something that needs all of my concentration, I log out, then the distraction is taken away. The same applies to emails. If I know I have new emails, I just HAVE to look!

So, I work for a couple of hours, then have a cuppa and check emails and Facebook, or ring back anyone who might need me on the phone. Then it’s back to work again and everything is switched off once again.

Review your work  

No matter what kind of work you do and how busy you are, you need to book a meeting with yourself to review how things are going! How often you do this will depend on what you do, but make sure you set ID-100294530aside a half day, at least once a month, to look at your to do list. What have you achieved? What went well and what didn’t go so well? What still needs to be done? Is there something you keep putting to the bottom of the pile? It could be something you are not confident with, something you are struggling to start or just that you don’t want to do it. If this is the case, it might be worth looking to outsource this…let someone else take the strain, someone who is more of an expert than you are.

By reviewing your work you will learn what kind of work you find easier and what needs more concentration, so in future you can prioritise more effectively.

Managing your workload will alleviate some of the anxiety and you’ll know exactly where you are and what you’re doing. I hope this blog has given you some ideas and pointers to being more organised. If you work from home, I’d be very interested to know how you organise your day.

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy of 1 – 3) Stuart Miles 4) iosphere 5) Danilo Rizzuti 6) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Attracting new customers versus retaining existing customers

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When we think of marketing our businesses, most of us focus our attention on getting new customers. It always feels more constructive and is more financially appealing to gain new customers, but unless your business is a new one, it is worth looking at how to gain more value out of your existing customers too.

New customers

ID-10058851Who are they? You may want to attract new customers to build your customer base. In order to find those elusive ‘first time buyers’, you need to think about who you are trying to attract. What kind of customer does your business appeal to? Is it men, women, families, people who like sport? Think about who you need to target.

Where are they? Once you know who you are targeting, you can look at where they are and how you can contact them – are they online or offline? Are they in a particular area? If you are selling sports items for example, you know that you could find your potential customers at the gym or at health clubs.

How do you contact new customers? If your customers are online, you could target them through social media, blogs and forums. You can advertise online in business directories or online publications.

For offline customers, you could advertise in local free papers, put out flyers in places you know they will be, such as gyms, health clubs, hairdressers or beauty salons, for example. You could also attend networking meetings or conventions where you can meet new people face to face. Always carry your business cards, so you can give them out or leave a small stock wherever you go.

Solve a problem

ID-10018705You need to be seen as an expert in your field, so try and solve a problem for potential customers. Think of something that your products can do for them – this gives them a reason to try your products. It might be that you sell beauty products and you have the latest ‘big thing’ that makes wrinkles disappear! Sell your product as a solution to a problem and people will want to try it. This could be done face to face, or you could write a specific blog on a particular product or service you offer.

Collaboration

It might be that your products or services work well alongside another product or service. So, team up with another business and sell your products or services together. For ID-10086506example, if you sell beauty products and you know a hairdresser, you could team up as a full beauty package. Link to each other on your websites and mention each other in your blogs.

Obtaining new customers is all about building new relationships, so take every opportunity to do just that.

Retaining existing customers

We all want to grow our customer base, but if you focus on growing your existing customers, you are more likely to keep them. If you have lost customers, have you ever taken a step backwards to work out why? We all spend a lot of time and effort trying to get new customers, but we must never lose sight of keeping a relationship with our existing customers.

Repeat sales

Once the initial sale has been made, it’s important to build on that relationship….thank them for their custom and remind them why it was such a good decision to buy from you in the first place. Getting to know your customers and giving them what they want will create loyalty and they will return to you again and again. I once employed a general ID-100283685builder to lay a patio…whilst laying the patio, he mentioned that he was Corgi registered, so I promptly booked him to service my gas boiler. He always arrived on time, cleared up after himself and was chatty and friendly and made me feel that my custom really mattered to him. So, when the massive wall that surrounded my property partially came down in very high winds, he was the first person I called. My point is that from doing a small job, he ensured I knew what else he could do, left a card, and was so friendly, I remembered him. I knew he could solve the problem I had and trusted him to do the work well.

Bringing back old customers

Do you have customers that you haven’t heard from for a while? These customers know you and your products already, so it’s a matter of getting back in touch and reminding them that you’re still here. You could ask them why they’re no longer buying from you, ID-100148914endeavour to overcome any problems, and show them that you still value their business. Sometimes, all it takes is to reintroduce yourself – a customer may just have forgotten that they had bought from you in the first place and immediately be interested in other or new products you have to offer. If you sell gift items, contact them in plenty of time to buy gifts for Christmas…and of course, that can be your opening gambit!

Customer Service

ID-100245378I know that I bang on about customer service in most of my blogs, but it is so important to every aspect of your business. If your customers have an exceptional experience, they will come back for more. Helpful, friendly, go the extra mile – all these things, along with an excellent product that solves their problems, will keep your customers happy…. and happy customers are loyal customers.

 

Images courtesy of 1) renjith krishnan 2) Salvatore Vuono 3) David Castillo Domenici 4) hywards 5) Mister GC 6) stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 reasons why every business needs a website

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If I want to find out how to do something or where to buy something, the first thing I do is look online. Most transactions these days take place online and therefore some of the traditional marketing techniques have been replaced with online strategies. However, a surprising number of small businesses do not have a website.

Every second, more than 20 million people are looking on the internet, on their mobile devices or PCs, buying everything you can think of….from books to houses, from kitchen gadgets to garden tools. If you, as a business owner don’t have a website, you are missing a trick as your business won’t be found, so you are missing out on potential sales.

I did it myself and I hear many people saying, “I don’t have a website, I’ve been meaning to sort it out, but just haven’t had the time,” or “It’s too expensive to have a website.” Unless you do it yourself, of course there is a cost involved. So, if you are still hesitating, here are 8 good reasons why you should go for it in 2016…

Promote your business 24/7

ID-100213463As the title suggests, having an online presence means that your business is ‘open’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….even when you are asleep. Information about your business, your services, what you sell, are there at your customers’ and potential customers’ fingertips. People are always looking online – they research products before they buy and if you have an online presence, and you happen to sell what they want, you could make a sale. If you don’t have a website, you are invisible….and in this day and age, you can’t afford to be.

Building reputation and credibility

A website gives you the chance to showcase your abilities, your products and services for the world to see – they can see the quality and price, and if you have an online shop, they can buy directly from you. If you don’t have a website, your potential customers will go to a competitor.

ID-100302355Through your website, you can be seen as an expert in your field, and through the recommendations and comments from satisfied customers, you can be seen to be reliable, trustworthy and that your products are top notch.

When you give out your business card, it will tell potential customers a little about your business. If you’ve given them your card because they’ve seen your stall at a local market, they will assume that they can log onto your website when they get home and see more of your products. Imagine their disappointment if they get home to find no website details…and of course, this will lose potential sales.

First impression

ID-100178914Not only does having a website make you more credible, it also shows that your business is established and that you are experienced at what you do. Even if your competitors are stronger than you, a well-built, mobile friendly website can entice customers to choose you instead. You might operate your business from the tiniest desk space in the corner of your dining room, or make your products in your tiny spare bedroom, but when you have a website, your customers don’t see this. All they see is the power of your brand – size doesn’t matter!

Advertise your business

Your website is your ultimate advertising tool. For a relatively small investment in the cost of setting up your website, you can reach millions of people. It is that one brochure that the whole world has access to – no printing and re-printing when you have new ID-100360651products – you just add them online at the click of a button. You can include tons more information and images than you could afford to put into a brochure.

Of course, there is a place in business for brochures and flyers and also advertising in local magazines or newspapers, but your online presence is always available, not just for the limited time that you can afford, or until your product set changes. It’s a fantastic marketing tool that is constantly relevant and up to date.

Save you time

Your website can tell people who you are, where you are and what you do. Without a ID-100291979website, you may spend endless wasted time on the telephone or email giving people directions to where you are, giving details of the products you sell or the services you offer. Your website gives all these details in one, easy to access space, available 24/7. Not only does it give these basic details, it also gives more detailed information about your products. Then, when people do contact you, it’s generally about something more specific or to actually buy from you or use your services.

Reach a wider audience

ID-10080142Advertising in your local paper, putting out your business cards and attending markets, conventions and networking events, are all brilliant ways of getting your products and brand out to a wider audience. However, with a website you literally have a worldwide audience. Business often comes from word of mouth and this is a great way to get local business, but in order to expand and reach customers that don’t know you, the internet is the way forward.

Beat your competition

If you have a business, you only have to look on Facebook or on the internet to know that you have hundreds of competitors who do the same as you. If your competitors have a ID-100160542website, then why shouldn’t you have one? The joy of having a website is that it doesn’t matter how big or how small your business is, it will help you reach more people and increase your sales. Through your website, you can gather information about your customers. You can use your website to host an online survey to find out what your customers want and online forms can be used to easily contact you to request a quote or ask for further information. When you know what your customers want, you can develop products or services to solve their problems or meet their needs.

Customer Service

Your customers are the most important part of your business. You can improve the service you give them by including FAQs and a Contact Us page. Customers can not only leave comments and recommendations, they can also ask questions. You can collect your ID-10069301customers email addresses, and with their permission, can send them regular updates about new products. This makes them feel valued and valued customers will come back to you time after time.

I hope that I have helped you to see the benefits of having a website. You may have thought that a website is a waste of money, but it is the exact opposite. You may have to invest a little to get your website written and built professionally, but you will soon get your investment back when new customers find you and start buying from you.

 

Images courtesy of  1) 2) 3) 4) Stuart Miles, 5) hywards, 6) Danilo Razzuti, 7) mapichai 8) Stuart Miles 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

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

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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

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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!