Category: Marketing for Start Ups

6 Popular (and effective) Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses

6 Popular (and effective) Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses

As a mum running a small business you understand how important it is to get your name and brand out there, ready for those potential customers to discover and, of course, head straight to your website to buy your products or take on your services. But you don’t want to spend bucket loads of cash on such a task.

There are ways of effectively marketing yourself without breaking your budget. Here are six popular (and effective) techniques, perfect for small businesses to utilise:

Social media

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instagram are all now being utilised by businesses to get their brand recognised and seen by the masses. They’re a great way of discovering who your audience is and what they want from you, as well as what they get up to in their spare time, allowing you to tailor your tweets and posts to appease them. However, bear in mind that if social media is your main marketing route, it’s a good idea to consider paid for techniques such as Facebook ads and sponsored tweets later.

The traditional flyer

Print isn’t dead yet and handing out or posting flyers is still an easy way of getting your small business in front of potential customers. Whether you opt to design and print them yourself. You could look into the option of flyer printing from Helloprint. Take care when designing your flyer to ensure it appeals to your target audience and then get distributing!

On page content

Your website shouldn’t just be where you house your product listings, it should also be a place for customers to visit when they are looking for advice, guidance and inspiration within your industry. Ensure you have a blog that works as part of your brand and website and fill this with interesting content that can be searched for and discovered through the usual search engines, on top of being shared on social media.

Guest posting

Being seen as an industry thought leader is a great way of marketing your business. Speaking at local events or guest posting on other leading websites, and dropping in mention of your business throughout, is ideal when it comes to spreading the word about what you do and makes you look like the expert amongst your competitors.

Set up an event

Business to business events are a great way of picking up potential clients. Let’s say you specialise in IT solutions; a business event that talks about the best plans a company can have in place, to avoid common IT issues, will go down well and you can get talking to potential clients in a relaxed, non-sales atmosphere.

Offer something for free

People love free stuff and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product. A small family garden centre could put on a free spring bulb planting lesson or a PR company could offer a ten step plan to writing a good press release that can be downloaded once the interested party has handed over their email address on the website. Think about something your business could give away to tempt potential clients to visit and appear generous.

Author: Patrick Vernon, free lance writer, on behalf of Helloprint (affordable and high quality flyer printing)

coffee and card

Branding your Working Mums Blog

It’s such an exciting journey to share a part of yourself and experience as a working mother with a new audience. Undoubtedly, you have questions about the best ways to proceed on key details as you begin to make your mark in the Working Mums Blogosphere. What is your angle? How much personal information will you share? How will your partner respond to the content?

While I can’t guide you on how to navigate these critical questions (those answers can only come from you), I can pretend to be sitting at your kitchen table with you, sipping a white tea, and sharing my favourite tips for promoting your new blog in creative, affordable ways.

First Things First, Create Your Brand

You can create the brand you always envisioned in a few different ways. Don’t be reticent to kindly pass on using the very talented (but quite pricey) graphic designer your friend recommended. Instead, think about creating a logo yourself. By using a free logo maker online, you can get fabulous, professional results using a specialised software (think a logo-focused PhotoShop in the cloud) at an extremely affordable price point.

Make sure that your new design can be modified for a variety of placement types (more on this later, but it is extremely important to be able to easily adjust the sizing of your logo design without distorting the quality of the image.) Whether you decide to do it yourself, or work with a trusted designer, do yourself a favour and make sure that you receive vector files as part of the finished product. If you don’t, it could end up costing you more time and money later. And by the way, our own customers told us that “website or blog” was the #1 intended purpose for their shiny new logo design.

Keep it Personal, But Always Professional

Some of my favourite tricks for promoting your blog are simple variations on time-tested traditions from the business world. First, with every email you send, include your logo in your signature. This is a quick and easy fix that instantly makes your blog more professional and authoritative. Take your new logo design file and include it in your email signature, along with the your title and URL.

Additionally, when you are commenting to posts on your own blog, or perhaps commenting on the blogs of other fellow mums, make sure you brand your presence. This creates a cohesive online presence, which makes your name and blog more recognizable and easier to return to as a happy reader.

You can also reach out to a variety of Mums Blogger directories and inquire about inclusion in their list. The criteria for inclusion may vary from blog to blog, but start your pitch by sharing how your blog is unique and the kind of audience you are trying to reach. Send a few pages (keep it short and effective) featuring an overview of your brand, high level statistics on your readership and engagement rates, and samples of your most popular posts. This will differentiate your content and make it more likely to be accepted.

Diversify Your Online Content Strategy

Since you take so much pride in creating your unique, authentic content, make sure to share it on a wide variety of platforms. Create a Facebook profile for your blog, or consider other social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram. You can use these platforms to share and tease your content, and drive return readers to your blog. You can also share slightly different, expanded content on these sites, such as additional photographs that complement existing content on your blog, to provide a well-rounded and varied experience for your readers. Additionally, your readers will have the opportunity to comment, respond and easily share their favorite posts with their friends, connections or followers.

As you set these pages up, make sure to build your brand on each of these platforms as well. For most social media platforms, there are two separate images of vastly different sizes. A small, profile pic, usually 160 x 160, and a larger cover image pic, typically 851 x 315. While you can certainly take some liberties with the brand you have started to build – perhaps modify the colours, layout or text in your logo design to customise it for this specific audience – you want to maintain the same professional look and feel.

To make the most of this extra brand space on Social Media you can feature your most popular post of the week as the primary message and include your logo as a secondary message to reinforce your brand. Or for a more personal touch, you can feature your favourite family photo of the week. Don’t make both images logo-heavy, as this can be repetitive and impersonal.

Leave Your Mark with Every Contact

As a newly-minted Working Mums Blogger, you are your own boss and brand, and responsible for marketing and promoting yourself. Even with our personal and professional lives moving effortlessly back and forth between the online and offline worlds, business cards remain the easiest, most convenient and widely-accepted way to share your contact details with a new connection.

Be ready for every potential connection and every interaction – from a blogger convention to an interesting potential collaborator who was behind you in the line at Starbucks, by having at least 15 business cards on hand at all times. Leave your personal mark by customising these business cards with non-traditional details that tie uniquely to your blog and editorial voice. For example, you can include your children’s names, and year of birth.

Are there key segments that you hope to develop as the signature of your blog – such as delectable desserts or work-life balance hacks? Include them as special features on your business card!

List your website on the front and back of the card, and make sure that your logo design is prominently placed on the front of the card.

Include links to your other social media properties and your Twitter profile, if relevant, and your email address or other preferred contact information.

Of course, you can follow up the original interaction with an email or LinkedIn connection request, but it is critical to have something in hand to make every professional interaction productive and effective.

Use Affordable, Shareable Marketing

I have recently become a newly-enthused fan of pens as a marketing tool. Custom pens can include key information, such as your blog logo or name plus URL, and are easy to carry around in your purse or changing bag and even easier to share with new contacts. Think of a customised pen like a business card that you can write with. Every person that you share the pen with may hold onto it and use it for days, months, even years. I frequently come across a pen that was given to me many months later, at the bottom of my once-favorite purse, and I’m immediately reminded of that company, brand or experience. Sometimes pens are passed around as well, exposing even more people to your brand and name. What’s most compelling to me is that a custom pen is easy to design and comes in a wide variety of colours, styles and price points.

With all of these ideas, there is no one solution that works for all, so be ready to test and learn which ideas work best for your blog and your audience. That’s half the fun. And, yes thank you. I would love another cup of tea!

Author: Dena Enos, Vice President of Marketing for LogoMix. Logomix is a self-service branding and marketing platform for small businesses, featuring the easiest and most powerful logo maker online, it also allows you to make business cards. Dena has scaled global teams in customer acquisition, CRM, brand marketing, public relations and social media. She draws on more than ten years of senior leadership experience, from startups to publicly traded companies. She is the proud mum of Annisa Joy, age two.

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 10 top tips for budding entrepreneurs

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 10 top tips for budding entrepreneurs

If you’re considering self-employment or starting your own business then you’re not alone. According to a report last year from the Office for National Statistics, self-employment in the UK is at its highest level since records began, with more than 4.6million people now working for themselves.

Going it alone can be an exciting but daunting task and that’s why plenty of preparation, harnessing your existing skills and seeking as much guidance as possible will all be key to help make your dream a success. Below are 10 tips we’ve pulled together to help you get started on your start-up journey.

  1. Do something you’re passionate about

It’s very hard work running a business, especially in the start-up stage, so it really helps if it’s something you’re passionate about. Doing something you enjoy rarely feels like ‘work’ and that feeling can be priceless!

  1. Do something you have experience and skills in

When entering self-employment you will inevitably learn new skills, however always try to maximise your existing skills and experience. Do a thorough audit of your personal and professional skills, and then use them to their full potential to kick-start your business idea.

It’s also great to harness the skills of those around you. Got a friend who is social media savvy? Asking them to give you some tips to help you promote your business online could prove to be invaluable.

  1. Access as much training as possible

One of the main reasons businesses fail in the first year is due to a lack of business training, so get as much information and advice as possible. The ongoing research for your business should include your own continuing professional development. Attending business training sessions can be tricky if your time is limited. Online programmes such as Outset Online are one example of free training available for those looking to start their own business that contain a wealth of information and can be accessed online, in your own time. Log on and get started.

  1. Increase your network

Everyone needs a good network of contacts to do well. Map what contacts you already have and let them know your plans, as they can be useful for support, information and a source of referrals.

Seek to expand your network through these contacts and also by attending formal networking events. Some local events can be found at www.findnetworkingevents.com/events. Also think about informal ways of networking, for example social media, social gatherings, clubs and leisure groups.

  1. Make sure you do plenty of market research

Knowledge is the lifeblood of your business, especially in the start-up phase. Comprehensive research is vital. Know your market, know your customers and know your competitors – only then can you operate efficiently and minimise risks.

Remember, market research isn’t a one-off job; you need to constantly acquire knowledge, anticipate changes and adapt your business accordingly. If you stand still, you could risk being
left behind.

  1. Identify your unique selling point (USP)

You need to explain why customers should buy from you and no one else. Your existing or proposed customers’ behaviour, attitudes and opinions could be very different to your own, so ensure that you really know all about your customers. The more you know, the better you can design and develop your product or services to meet their needs.

  1. Identify what marketing strategy will be appropriate for your target client group

If you can’t attract customers you won’t have a business. Understand your customer profile. What are their habits? Where will they look for your product or service?

Only then can you begin to compile your marketing strategy. Take careful consideration of your product or service, the place and the price when choosing the most appropriate marketing tools for your business.

  1. Make sure your pricing covers holiday and sickness

Ensure that you will have enough profit to sustain you. Start by listing all of your outgoings, so you know your survival budget. Do this carefully – too many people overlook hidden payments and costs.

Make sure you build in a contingency, including an allowance for sickness and holiday, and factor this into your pricing from day one. If you’re intending to work five days a week, you might want to try pricing three days’ work to cover five days’ pay.

  1. Do a cash flow forecast

A cash flow forecast lets you predict how much money will be moving in and out of the business, and when. Remember that it’s normal to be initially in negative cash flow, also that many things in life take longer, and are more expensive, than you originally expect! Plan to cope with these eventualities.

  1. Set up a bookkeeping system

It may not be the most exciting part of starting a business but setting up an organised bookkeeping system will help keep things flowing smoothly once you’re up and running. Record details of all your business income and expenses, and retain all relevant documents such as receipts and invoices. You will also need to register for tax and submit a tax return, for which you need to keep your supporting records for six years.

Author: Rowena Maskell. Rowena is part of the team at Outset Online, a free online service offering business start-up support. If you would like support starting your own business you can access 12 months free online business support from Outset Online

 

Growing Your Business

Growing Your Business

What are your plans for your business? Some parents start an enterprise purely to provide a little bit of extra income, but many have big plans. In this article from Antonia Chitty of Family Friendly Working you can learn more about growing your business, whether you started off knowing that you wanted a high growth enterprise, or the growth of your business has surprised you. Read on to find out some of the challenges you come across when you aim high.

Do you know you want to grow?
You may have a great idea for a business, a unique product, or a service you think everyone needs. Your business may be up and running already. But how do you know you want your business to grow? It may happen organically, and as your children get older and you have more time, you find the business expanding. Alternatively, you may be carefully planning each year’s growth over five or ten years.

What do you need to grow?
Developing a business that will support the family needs a lot of input from you as you address important issues such as pricing, insurance, premises, stock, staff and promotion. Making the move from a lifestyle business to one which is revenue focused is stressful. Think about whether you want a business which just supports your lifestyle or whether you are prepared to focus on profits and margins. And hard work isn’t enough – you have to want the business to succeed from your inner core.

What do you need in place to grow?
It is vitally important to get a few things in place if you are serious about business. Protect your trademarks and designs. It can be costly to contest copycats, and trademarking will make it easier. The bigger you get, the more sense it makes to register as a company, especially if you are borrowing to fund your business. If the business has difficulty paying its creditors, your personal property is not at risk. If you are planning to sell the business, even in ten years, it should influence your business planning. Make sure you develop a strong brand, and register and protect your trademark and designs. A potential purchaser for a business will look at the value of the machinery you own, other equipment, patterns, and of course, a database of your existing customers. Know this and plan your exit strategy even as you start the business.

Financing growth
Working out how to finance the growth of your business can be a headache. There are a number of ways to get finance. Ask your local enterprise agency about sources of grants. These often require match funding, where you provide an amount to equal the grant. Some people use personal savings, which they loan to the business. In the early stages banks may encourage you to take out a small personal loan or extend the mortgage on your house. This makes you personally responsible for the debt.

If you have set up your business as a registered company, you may prefer to take out a business loan. As mentioned before, this limits your liability if the business fails and cannot repay the debt. Banks offer business loans to companies, partnerships and sole traders. A bank will want to see your business plan, evidence of the funds you are investing in the project, and details of how the business will repay the loan. If your business is already established, include accounts from previous years’ trading. Contracts with buyers to purchase your products and services in the future will also strengthen your case for a loan. The bank will probably also want to then hear from you regularly about how the business is performing and whether it is meeting targets.

You can also look for other sorts of investment. You may have a friend or family member who is willing to make a loan to the business. Make sure you are clear about the terms of repayment and what control, if any, they investment gives to the investor. You may be pleased if a relative loans you £5,000 to get started, but less pleased if they then start wanting to know every detail of how you run the business. Clarify things like this in writing before accepting loans.

You may also get finance from a professional investor, an angel. This sort of investor will be experienced at assessing businesses and business plans. They will be looking for a strong and growing business to give them a return on their money. An angel will probably want part of your company, known as shares or equity, in return for their money, and a say in managing the company. If you are looking for large investments to the tune of hundreds of thousands, look into venture capital. City investors will finance a business, in return for a share in the company. This sort of investment will usually depend on your company meeting performance targets and financial goals. The investor may also want a seat on the board of directors.

When you are making your business plans, you need to be clear how you will make your company profitable. This applies from the smallest company up. Will you be supplying wholesale? If so, you need to calculate in margins so that your retailers can make a profit. They will want around 50 per cent profit after VAT, and you need to cover your materials, time, marketing and distribution costs too. Think about VAT registration early on. You need to register once your turnover exceeds £61,000. This figure increases by a small amount annually, so check current figures. Even if you aren’t registered for VAT when you start out, consider allowing for it in your prices. Otherwise, an increase of 17.5 per cent can either be a nasty shock for your customers, or make an unpleasant dent in your profits. Plan out your payment terms. Acceptable terms can vary, depending on the sector you work in. A standard invoice may request payment within 30, 60 or even 90 days. Work out your cash flow so your customers pay you in time for you to pay your bills.

This article only touches on a few of the issues you might face if you want your business to grow. Visit your local enterprise agency for further advice, or find out more about growing your business in Antonia’s book, The Mumpreneur Guide: Start Your Own Successful Business.

antonia-chittyAuthor: Antonia Chitty is an award winning entrepreneur and author. Antonia has a diverse background, initially qualifying as an optometrist before working in PR, then writing for Which? magazine. This has aided her in writing books on topics including business, health and complementary therapies, disability and special needs, and parenting.

Clever marketing: promoting your business through opinion on motherhood just like Katie Hopkins

Clever marketing: promoting your business through opinion on motherhood just like Katie Hopkins

What message would you like to send out to your clients and potential clients? Something like ‘I am loveable’ or ‘We are THE specialist’ or ‘Here is the Super Bitch, that will take care of you in the way she takes care of her family’.

I believe Katie Hopkins used herself as the branding of solid, reliable, ruthless and rational consultancy firm. In an article in the Daily Mail she presented how efficient she had organised her own family, never felt any guilt and is employing 10 staff to make it run smoothly.

The total lack of affection and joy for her family were compensated by the way she had ensured that the family machine runs smoothly. All the burdens carried by other people, leaving for her just the bill to pay.

I did not warm to her approach in life, but it made me think of her as a professional. If I had to spend my money, and you can spend it only once, so it needs to be done wisely, I might choose her. She would be focussed, nothing would get in the way of our goals, there would be no emotional upheaval and her determination would serve me.

She did a great job in promoting her business this week. I don’t believe she creates a happy family, but I do believe she creates happy clients.
I wonder if she will knock on my door, one day in the future, when she realises that her work-life balance is out of kilter……………

Mariette 2011 cropped face_150x150Author: Dr Mariette Jansen / Dr De-Stress, Mariette is a work life balance coach and helps women to find the work life balance that makes them happy, fulfilled and relaxed!
LinkedIn: Mariette, Call: 07967 717 131, Blog: Twitter @Mariette_Jansen

Grand Networking still requires Good Networking Principles

Grand Networking still requires Good Networking Principles

Arriving at the Palace of Westminster recently for an event to mark International Women’s Day was a thing of wonder. The building soars above you when approach. You marvel at its opulence. Once inside, the grandeur and history of the place reinforces your amazement at the workings of government. No wonder women have struggled long and hard to be accepted here.
Inspiring Women

I am indebted to Seema Malhotra MP (shown here) for the invitation to her Women in Business reception at the House of Commons. It was a motivating event and one I hope she repeats.
The speakers, Yvette Cooper MP, Carrie Green of the Female Entrepreneur Association http://femaleentrepreneurassociation.com/ and Janet Cooper, Vice President of UN Women UK http://www.unwomenuk.org/ were inspiring.

At the reception there were women from many different backgrounds and walks of life. So how to network in this grand setting when surrounded by so many amazing women?

Networking Nuggets

Let’s take a deep breath and stick to our networking principles.

  • Be prepared – be clear about your aim in attending an event
  • Find a small group and ask “may I join you?” (No-one’s refused yet)
  • Have prepared questions ready for use, as appropriate, for example
  • What brings you here today?
  • What made you decide to ….?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What changes / trends have you seen in …?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • How can I be of help to you?
  • Listen to the answers and ask follow up questions
  • Don’t forget to have good prepared answers when someone asks you about yourself!
  • At the end of the conversation offer your card – “Here is my business card – may I have yours?” and if you feel it is appropriate, ask for permission to add them to your email list.
  • After the event make contact – link with them on Linked In, follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook or simply email or call them.

Those Who Have Gone Before

Whether you are in the grand setting of the Palace of Westminster or at your local event, the principles of networking remain the same: Emmeline Pankhurst would be proud of you.
On temporary show at the Palace of Westminster, is Charlotte Newson’s “Women Like You”, a photo-mosaic of Emmeline Pankhurst made up of 10,000 individual images of inspiring women.

Author: Christine Southern

5 ways to make your website work

5 ways to make your website work

The internet has made starting your own business simple. In theory any working mum can be a bedroom entrepreneur with just a computer, an internet connection and a great idea.

However just building a website and putting it out there isn’t enough. You need to think carefully about what your website is saying about your business and whether it’s fulfilling its potential as a useful tool to help your venture grow.

Here are the five questions we think you should ask yourself when planning a business website:

1. Does it fulfil its purpose?

When planning your website, it’s best to start from the very beginning. It may sound obvious but if your business is all about selling product, your site will need a shopping cart and a way for customers to pay you. If you’re providing a service, clients will need to be able to contact you or book online. If the vital component is missing, your site, and therefore your business, won’t get off the ground.

2. Does it have enough information?

When figuring out what to put on your site, you need to get to the bottom of what your customer wants. Potential customers are unlikely to commit to making a purchase unless they have all the necessary information. People can still be wary of making a financial commitment online as it removes human interaction. Including phone numbers will help them to feel reassured. Your site should also feature details about who you are, your products and services and what’s special about your business to advertise it in the best possible light.

3. Is it well presented?

Your business model may be great and your site might have all the answers, but visitors won’t get past the homepage if it looks a mess. Most sites are arranged in grids, reminiscent of newspaper pages, which keep everything neat and easy to navigate. Think about the design of your site as you would a shop front; pick inviting colours and choose a font that’s clear and easy on the eye to encourage potential clients to spend longer browsing your pages.

4. Can people use it?

While presentation is important, it means nothing if visitors to your site don’t know where to click. For a business site, simplicity and signposting will ensure that potential customers don’t get frustrated and give up halfway to the checkout. Dynamic, arty formats are great for portfolios but do corporate sites no favours. Make menus clear and obvious. A breadcrumb trail is also a must for large sites, so visitors know how they arrived on their current page.

5. Can people find it?

So your site, looks great and functions properly, but you’re business still isn’t doing that well? It could be because nobody can see it. Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is a technique you can use to help people find your site. It works by looking at the words your potential clients will type into search engines, such as Google.

If your website is full of relevant content, which clearly shows what your business is about, then Google should pick it up naturally. Making sure it’s well structured will also help. Incoming links to your site and title tags for each page (which appear in your Google listing) will also put you in the search engine’s good books.

Author: marketing.yell.com for more advice on building a business website, or to find more detailed explanations of these points.

Image Consultant

Networking – what’s in it for me?

Not that long ago if you had asked me to go and ‘network’ with twenty-five business women, my response would have been “I would rather stick pins in my eyes!”. I was used to working in a male-dominated environment where there was a distinct lack of support between working women. It was just easier to be ‘one of the lads’.

Breaking free from the 9-5

I made the bold move of starting my own business a little under three years ago. Many people advised on the importance of networking, but I couldn’t get past the thought of walking into a huge room and nobody talking to me.

On my first day as a Sole Trader, I took the bull by the horns and attended my first women’s networking meeting. Guess what? I survived! I would even go as far as saying I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

I discovered that when women are doing something they believe in and are passionate about, they are not only interesting to talk to; they genuinely want to help and support you in being a success.

Some of the most inspiring networkers make you feel like you are the only person in the room. They seamlessly introduce you to a number of people with effortless style, as though they had known you for years.

I got hooked, and became an avid networker. You can find me in a networking event at least once a week. I am now even running my own group in Richmond for Ladies@11.

Running a group

I always remind myself, when chairing a group, that it is about the group, not about me. I bring a coaching mindset and a genuine desire to help and support women in business. My role as chair is to organize and facilitate meetings, attract an interesting range of successful business women and to ensure the group is a success. Even after running the Richmond group for over a year, I still find myself in awe of the women who contribute at our meetings. It’s fabulous to see those ladies who are growing in confidence.

I was told running a group would gain brand exposure for me and my business and help me to create a support network of wonderful women. And indeed, as a result of networking, I have generated business, been asked to speak at a number of events and evenings and created a support network of fascinating and inspiring women in business.

Author: Keely Buston.  Keely is the owner of pa consult offering marketing advice and she runs New Perspectives – image consulting. She gained a lot of experience while running a networking group.  07979 863012