Tamsin Fox-Davies is our own small business Marketing Specialist, so do keep an eye on this page for lots of sparkling “essential to your business” information.
Latest Top Tip
Get Your Small Business Growing: Get Creative
The past is a great teacher.
We learn from our experiences and they can serve as a solid base upon which to build. However, as they say, “If you keep doing the same things, you’ll keep getting the same results.” And in today’s dynamic, rapidly changing marketplace, you’ve got to be willing to shake things up a bit.
Change your routine
To get your creative juices flowing, start by changing your routine. Have you ever been driving somewhere and suddenly realized you’ve zoned out and are functioning on auto-pilot? That happens in our businesses too. That’s because most of us do basically the same scheduled routine every day.
Try adding something new to your life. It can be something as simple as taking a new route to work or it might be as daring as taking up skydiving. Pulling yourself out of the rut of life allows your mind to engage in new ways. It sort of wakes up your brain cells and helps you gain new perspectives.
Start an “idea” book
I don’t know about you, but I often come up with great ideas for my business in the middle of the night or during other odd times. Unfortunately, if I don’t write them down, they are soon forgotten.
Buy yourself a small notebook and keep track of those ideas. Encourage your staff to do the same. Then, dedicate a staff meeting or group gathering to share your thoughts. Have fun with it and make everyone feel safe about sharing. You never know when someone may have a ground-breaking “crazy” idea that could be a home run for your business.
Carve out “thinking” time
What time of day are you the most creative? For me, it is in the early morning. Dedicate time in your schedule for creative thinking. You may have to remove yourself from your normal work environment so you won’t be interrupted, but if you don’t schedule the time, most likely it will never happen.
Don’t think you are a creative type? Nonsense. All of us are creative in unique ways. Creativity is the ability to think in new ways. So whether you are inventing a new medical breakthrough or improvising something with your children, you are thinking creatively. In today’s competitive business world, if you aren’t constantly innovating you’ll wind up as yesterday’s news.
Tapping into your creativity and that of your team can help you start the new year with revved up energy. As Franklin Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
Have additional questions about getting those creative juices flowing? Ask me below.
By Tamsin Fox-Davies
I am the Senior Development Manager here at Constant Contact UK. My time is spent zooming around the UK delivering the free marketing education that Constant Contact loves to provide to small businesses. I like cakes and shoes (and shoe cakes).
Small businesses – Get with the times!
This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to hear my friend (and fab newsletter creator) Karen Haller speak at the Grand Designs LIVE show at London’s Excel. Grand Designs LIVE is a huge show with lots of stuff going on and lots of things to buy.
Some of the items on sale were big (e.g. whole conservatories, hot tubs, or furniture sets), and some of them were small (e.g. food and drink, kitchen gadgets, jewellery cleaner). As is my normal habit, I bought foodie things to take home to my husband, and would have bought a whole bunch of other stuff if I’d had the chance. However, 4 out of 5 of the stalls I wanted to buy from didn’t take credit cards. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me and it’s starting to get annoying.
Why bother with card payments?
Before we get into the how of taking credit card payments, let’s look at why a small business, like those who take stalls at shows and fairs all over the country, should do so. There are two BIG reasons:
1. No cash – No sale.
I pretty much don’t carry cash any more. I’m too scared of losing it, and I don’t like schlepping a lot of small change around in my over-stuffed purse. I normally have about £10 in cash on me tops, and I’m not unusual in that.
I also live in a town and work in a city. Most of the places I spend money (cafe, supermarket, newsagent, hairdresser, train station, etc.) take cards, so I’m used to paying that way. It’s my default to whip out my debit card for daily purchases. Again, I’m not alone – and with the use of contact-less payments on the rise in big cities, that’s not going to reduce.
So, if you want me to buy from you, let me pay you buy card. Before you ask, yes there are a couple of cash machines at Excel, however they are out of the hall, down the corridor, down the stairs, and right by the exit to the car park. Not the best place to grab some money before going back to buy more! This meant that the lovely cheese and the amazing jewellery cleaner did not come home with me yesterday. I probably would have spent about £30 on those things.
2. Big sales beat small sales.
Even if by some miracle I have some cash on me, what I can buy from you is limited by what’s in my purse. So, when I went to the yummy olives, baklava and nuts stall, I could only buy £10-worth of deliciousness, rather than the £20-ish that I wanted. They literally halved the amount I could spend with them.
However, on the funky kitchen slicer thingy stall, I bought two for £10 instead of just one at £7 because they took cards!
You won’t like it when I’m angry…
I mentioned earlier that this really annoyed me. I want to clarify that.
I’m not annoyed because small businesses’ not taking cards cramps my shopping style (that’s just an irritation). What really annoys me is that small business owners are HARMING THEMSELVES because they don’t make it easy for customers to pay them.
It makes me want to cry when I see a small business turning away good custom because they don’t have their act together. I really care about small businesses, and the people that run them, and I want them to thrive – but to do so they (and that means you!) have to get with the times.
So how do you do it?
Traditionally, in order to take credit card payments, a company would have to get a merchant account with a credit card payments provider. However, that could often be difficult and pricey.
However, now there are other ways to take card payments – whether you’re at your premises, or out and about, and one of those is by using a device called PayPal Here.
Very simply, it allows you to use the Here machine and your mobile phone to take on the spot payments from credit cards. If you have a PayPal account, you can use it. Simples!
…but payments aren’t the only issue.
Taking the payment methods that people want to use is only one example of how small businesses can keep up to date with what their customers are looking for. Here are a few other things that you should look at for your business:
- Enabling customers to contact you via social media
- Having up-to-date information on your website
- Taking online orders/bookings
- Offering a choice of delivery options for products
- Being findable on mobile devices
…there are many more, so let me know in the comments what you think small businesses today should be doing.
As consumers, we don’t bat an eyelid when our insurance companies send us a special offer just before our renewal dates, or a big pizza chain sends us a free dessert voucher for our birthdays. Neither of these things takes a rocket scientist to implement them – big brands are able to do it because they collect the right personal data from us in the first place, and they have a clear strategy and process in place to make it happen.
What we’re not normally as aware of is more subtle preference-based marketing. I’m not talking about being asked whether you want to receive offers or just event updates (anyone can do that right now with Constant Contact), but a system whereby your previous behaviour in terms of purchases, links clicked, or items read, is recorded and used to serve you more of the content that the brand thinks you’re interested in.
Who is leading the field?
One of the most familiar examples of a brand who does this very well is Amazon. They make recommendations for you, based on your previous purchases. In addition, for each item you look at on their site, they tell you about similar products other visitors who looked at the same product as you went on to visit, AND what they actually went on to buy. Very clever and it really boosts sales.
Dynamic email marketing also falls into this category – this is where a subscriber receives an email with content that is specific to their interests, based on the last email that they received and what they clicked on within that message.
However, we’re not all e-commerce companies, and very few of us have Amazonian marketing budgets, so what does this mean for small businesses owners and everyone else?
How does this affect small businesses?
As with so much else in the small business world, ideas get filtered down to practical levels and what can be implemented on a small business budget. In my experience, that takes a couple of years on average, although the pace of change is increasing, and so we will likely see a faster trickle-down occurring too.
One of the things that I think small business owners will become aware of is the opportunities that they have for personalising marketing communications to their customers.
What’s coming for small businesses?
There’s a lot of easily available functionality that would allow small and micro businesses to do this right now, but very few are taking advantage of them. What I think we’ll start to see from more small business owners in the near future is:
- Interest-based messaging. This can be as simple as setting up different interest-based lists and then mailing each of them separately, e.g. offers, events, news or research could all be separate lists. It also extends to the use of hashtags on Facebook and Twitter as a means to discover information on a specific subject. The benefit is that you’re not asking readers to wade through content that doesn’t interest them to get to what does interest them, meaning better conversions, open rates, and click through rates, as well as increased engagement.
- Use of personal details in communications. It’s really easy to drop what we call ‘custom fields’ into email marketing messages, meaning that if you know a subscribers favourite colour, number of children, favourite food, or whatever is relevant to your business, you can include that in your email text. E.g. you could have a message that says ‘Hello [first name], We noticed it was your birthday next month and thought you might like to join us for a [favourite pizza] on us when you bring your family along to celebrate with you”. This is easy to do right now, but you have to collect the relevant information in the first place – and that’s what is changing.
- Signposting of content based on readers’ preferred communication channels. Many people now use social media as a preferred way of connecting with people and brands, and at Constant Contact we always talk about the need to use email and social media together. So, what if your regular email newsletter also showcased what was happening on your social media channels – but based on which channels that customer liked to use? So, if you know someone follows you on Pinterest, you can send them updates related to your Pinterest activity, if they’re a Twitter user, you send them more Twitter-related stuff.
I’m interested to see how small businesses begin to work with these upcoming trends. Of course, it’s not going to be sudden or uniform change, and there will probably be differences depending on whether the business serves other business or consumers too.
Want to stay up to date with digital marketing trends for small business?
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How a Marketing Reboot Will Help Your Business in 2014, in Three Steps
What is a Marketing Reboot
A Marketing Reboot is when you take stock of your marketing to date, see what’s working for you, and make a plan to rework and restart it.
A New Year is a great time to do this because most of us have the time over the Christmas & New Year lull to think about our businesses properly. The hamster wheel has stopped for a little while, you’re not getting quite so many customer emails, and your brain has time to breathe.
The start of a new year also just feels like a good time to try something different and 2014 will be no exception.
Rebooting your marketing is all about assessing the best ways to get new customers into your business and encouraging existing customers to come back to you again. You’ll look back over the past year and see what’s worked and what hasn’t, and also give yourself a clean slate to work out what’s possible for the upcoming year.
Why you need to reboot YOUR small business marketing
If I was being blunt, I would tell you that you were in a marketing rut – doing the same old things, over and over again, with little awareness of whether you could do things more effectively for better business returns.
That may be taking it a little to far, as a ‘rut’ sounds like a bad place to be, although actually it can be quite beneficial – keeping you on a simple track that allows you to keep moving without too much thought or effort.
In reality, both of these things are true. Your marketing rut both helps and hinders you – the help is that you can get it done and you know what you’re doing, and the hindering is that you don’t try anything new or look for different things to experiment with.
With the increasingly competitive small business market, nobody can afford to keep doing the same thing. This is because our customers expect us to evolve – even if they love our long-term values, they want to see a steady improvement in how we implement them.
This is where a Marketing Reboot comes in. Instead of carrying on with the same-old, same-old, you’re going to look at your marketing as a whole and take proper stock of where you are.
It’s not as hard as it might sound, and there are three easy steps you can use to get going now.
N.B. Constant Contact is running a great free training programme throughout January to help you learn new things and put them into action too. More details & booking here.
Three steps to doing your own Marketing Reboot
Intentions are not good enough. Make a commitment to DO this. The best way to do this is to be accountable to someone. For some people who like to be accountable to themselves alone, it’s enough to put a daily reminder in your mobile phone, write it on a sticky note and pin it on your notice board, or to say it out loud.
For others, getting a marketing buddy will be more effective. All you need to do is find someone else who runs a small business and wants to reboot their marketing too, and commit to do it together. Figure out how that’s going to work – are you going to email or call each other once a week with an update? Will you set goals together? Are you going to share a reward when you hit a target or milestone? You will be able to figure it out together, and if you don’t already know someone who could become your buddy, come along to our Marketing Reboot conference on 30thJanuary and find yourself a buddy there.
2. Make a plan
Motivation alone won’t carry you through this process – you need to figure out exactly what you’re going to do in your reboot.
I recommend the following stages, but how you put it together is up to you (and your buddy, if you have one):
- Take a sheet of paper, whiteboard or flipchart and write up everything you’ve done to promote your business in 2013.
- Decide what worked and what didn’t, and annotate your list accordingly (if you don’t know for sure, take a guess).
- Take a new piece of paper (or whatever you’re using to make your notes) and write down all the things you think you could do to promote your business and create great customer relationships in 2014. This is where a buddy with fresh eyes can really help, as they may think of things that you wouldn’t.
- Look at the two lists side-by-side and compare. Is there anything that worked for 2013 that isn’t on your 2014 list? If so, why? What is new on your 2014 list?
- Put the combined list in priority order.
3. Set aside regular time for marketing (and use it)
Now you know what you’re going to do, you need a timetable to get it done. Look at your list, and work out when you are planning to achieve each one.
Start with the items that relate to specific times of year, e.g. Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Bank Holiday promotions, and put them in first. Then work back and fill in the gaps to see where your other items will fit. You can use our free marketing calendar to help you work this out.
Now decide when you’re going actually DO this stuff. I recommend a regular appointment with yourself. Block it out in your diary and keep to it (this is another time that your marketing buddy can help to keep you on track).
I find it easier to block out a small amount of time (say 15mins) every day, rather than to try to put aside something like a whole day once a month, or a half a day a week. You may want to try some different schedules out and see what works for you however.
These three steps will ensure that you can get your Marketing Reboot planned and actioned – bit by bit.
Rebooting your marketing means a better chance at building those customer relationships that matter so much, creating more sales for your business, and drawing existing customers back to you again and again.
If you want to find out more about rebooting your marketing for 2014, how to do it, and some of the key marketing techniques that you should be using, join us for our Marketing Reboot series of webinars and the one-day conference in January.
Find out more and book your place here
1230 TWC MD Jackie Groundsell is speaking at the Constant Contact UK’s Marketing Reboot Live 30 January Conference – need to reboot your marketing? Come along! http://conta.cc/KiVd8P
Jackie has a special discount code for you – just use the code JACKIEG20 to book your place for £20 http://conta.cc/KiVd8P
“On the First Day of Christmas, a Local Business Gave to Meee…
…not much reeeeally.”
And frankly, that’s what I have come to expect—small, local businesses, decorating their shops a bit and maybe running a Christmas offer, but that’s about it.
Here in the UK, we refer to the December holiday season under the collective shorthand of “Christmas” though, of course, we honour all ways of celebrating this wonderful time of the year. To us, a holiday is a nice warm sunny vacation on a remote island.
Regardless of what you call this time of year or how you might celebrate, one thing is clear…
If you’re a small business, you need to be able to market your business properly so you can make the most of it.
Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Help your customers get through Christmas
Christmas is hectic at best and very stressful at worst, so give your customers a helping hand to get through it. This could be in the form of taking advanced orders, running local deliveries, letting them pay in advance (or in installments), setting up extra appointment times to fit everyone in, sharing advice in your specialist area, or offering wrapping services for gifts. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you tell people about it! Which leads me on to….
2. Tell them what you’re doing (and what you’re not)
For example, if you have extended opening hours for Christmas, let people know, but also tell them what days you’ll be closed. Make sure you tell people well in advance and tell them again and again. So, list it on your website, send a special purpose email just with those details in it, and then add it as a sidebar item to any other emails you send out. Get the idea?
3. Spread some Christmas cheer
Christmas is the season of giving and goodwill to all men (even that chap down the road who looks at you funny—or is that just me?). So spread some cheer by offering your existing customers something special. That doesn’t have to be a discount, but it could be express postage, priority appointments, or some additional product or service bundled into their normal order.
4. Keep doing the good things you do all year round
Just because it’s Christmas, you don’t need to have some sort of weird professional-personality transplant. Your customers love you because of who you are all year round, not just at Christmas. So keep doing the same sorts of things your customers have come to expect, you don’t want to disappoint them at a time of year when they are under more pressure than usual!
5. Say “thank you”
Everyone loves a bit of appreciation, so make a point of thanking your customers for being with you throughout the year. It’s much nicer to have a heartfelt message of thanks than just a normal “seasons greetings” type message.
Everyone should be able to do these five things, especially if you get it planned right now.
Want some more help on marketing during the Christmas period? Find out how Constant Contact can help you grow your business with email and social media.
6 Steps for Last Minute Christmas Promotions
Don’t panic!! As long as your ‘last orders for Christmas’ date has not yet passed, you still have time to run a Christmas promotion and take advantage of the current seasonal spending frenzy.
Here’s how you can create a great instant Christmas promotion in 6 steps:
1) Have something to offer that is seasonally relevant
Think of an offer. It must be one that is easy for you to implement, as you don’t have much time.
Try to come up with something that makes sense for this time of year, for example ‘Winter Warmer’ packages, Christmas competitions, gift-related offers (like free wrapping or postage), or a ‘New Year, New Start’ service.
Keep it simple, so that your audience can understand it easily.
2) Create your promotion on the right platform for you
How are people going to access your offer? It should be as easy as possible for them to do (and require little effort from you). For a competition, you might want to use a tool like our Social Campaigns; if you’re offering a special deal can they buy it over the phone?; or should they book/order online?
However you want them to access your offer, you need to create the ability for them to do so.
3) Include a social sharing element
To get as much take up of your offer as possible, you should encourage people to share it so that their friends get to know about it too. You can do this in one of two ways:
a) Make sharing a requirement of your offer
b) Make sharing optional after the person has taken part
The second option is easiest to achieve. Just include ‘please share with two friends’ (or a similar request) in your thank you message once they have taken part.
To make sharing a requirement is a little more difficult, but things like ‘bring a friend for half-price’ build in sharing to the offer.
4) Promote it via email AND social media
People are even busier than usual at Christmas time, so you have to promote your offer quite heavily. That doesn’t mean being spammy or annoying though.
What you need to do is set up promotional emails and social updates about your offer that have slightly different content – this means that you don’t appear to be publishing exactly the same wording on all your channels at the same time.
5) Send reminders (several of them)
You really have to do this! One social update or email will get you some traffic and a little take up, but it’s when you send out reminders that people are pushed into action.
The closer it gets to your offer closing date, the more take up you’re likely to get, but only if people know that the deadline is coming up.
I recommend that you send out your initial promotion with ALL the info and details, and then send shorter reminders. If you have the full offer information available on a webpage or in your blog, you can link to that, but keep the reminders themselves quite brief.
6) Take the orders and give great customer service
As people start to take up your offer, process them as quickly as possible to get them through and to leave you time for the next wave of happy customers. Remember to be your wonderful self, even if you are feeling a bit stressed with the Christmas rush, to ensure that your new customers go away super-happy and ready to recommend you to ALL their friends.
The key with a last minute offer is keeping it all manageable. So just make sure that you are choosing an offer that you can not only deliver, but also have enough time to promote, and you’ll be onto a winner.
Want more help?
Want to know how you can make the most out of the Christmas period to boost your business? Come along to one of our Get Down to Business events. We’ve got 8 different events in early December that you can take advantage of for FREE: www.constantcontact.com/uk/tamsin-fox-davies.
Get Down to Business is our way of supporting the UKs very first Small Business Saturday, which is occurring on 7th December and invites everyone to shop small and look to small businesses first on that day and beyond.
5 Rules to Create Great Content for Your Newsletter, Blog, and Social Media
Small business owners are normally pushed for time, wearing many different hats including CEO and tea-maker!
So, although you know that you should be sending a newsletter, blogging, writing guest articles, and posting on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn (at the very least), it’s easy to be put off because of the time needed to create good content to put up there.Don’t despair, however! It’s not as hard (or time consuming) as it seems if you follow my 5 rules:
1. Be a curator
You don’t have to create all your own content, you can comment on other peoples articles, videos, events, etc. and give a link to the originals (don’t just re-post the whole thing without permission—that’s plagiarism). You can do this one at a time, or group resources that you find together to make a post, e.g. 5 Top Articles on Email Marketing. Each one just needs a line of text saying why it’s worth reading.
2. Keep it short and sweet
Your blog posts, newsletter articles, Facebook updates etc. can be really short. Maybe just an image and a couple of lines of text or so. Don’t feel like you have to write an essay all the time—people don’t have the time to read lots of long articles anyway. Lists and bullet points are a great way to create short and punchy posts FAST (it’s no coincidence that this is a list-based article!).
3. Pick the right media for you
If you don’t have time to write articles, or don’t enjoy writing, don’t do it. It’s that simple! You can do video blogs, or podcasts, instead. Maybe you have a talent for infographics? You can mix it up too, so there’s no need to commit to doing a video every week, if you think that sometimes you’d like to post a picture or a comment instead.
4. Repeat, reword, repurpose
Don’t think you have to create new things all the time. You can repeat articles by tweeting about them more than once over time; make sure you reword the same points for multiple updates; turn articles into Facebook and Twitter updates by chopping them up into soundbites. This article actually came out of a question I was asked by one of my seminar attendees—I repurposed it and you’re reading it now. Magic!
5. Invite guest writers to help
You don’t have to do it all on your own. Go ahead and invite other relevant professionals to create guest articles for your blog and newsletter. People love to be asked and it is also a great way to build relationships with those people. Just be sure to give them clear guidelines about what you’re looking for and what they’re allowed to say. Remember it should be useful and/or interesting—not a sales pitch.
You can use these rules all the time, or just fall back on them when you’re in a hurry or don’t know what sort of article to write this time. It’s up to you. Either way, you’ll have great (and frequently updated) content, and your readers, followers, and fans will love it!
How do you create content for your newsletter, blog, or social media? Let us know in the comments below!
We’ve all had one of ‘those’ emails drop into our inboxes—the kind that make steam start to come out of your ears!
Well, you may be unintentionally causing the same reaction in your readers because of a few mistakes… BUT the good news is that they’re easy to correct!
I’ve picked out 5 of the top things that email newsletter readers hate, and how to avoid or fix the issues:
1. Receiving unsolicited emails
No one likes to find out that they’ve been added to a mailing list ‘by surprise’, and at Constant Contact we take ‘permission only’ list building very seriously.
However, sometimes even properly opted-in subscribers can forget or misunderstand why an email is being sent to them.
To prevent this make sure you do the following:
Use a “from” name & sending address that your audience recognises. Include your name and your brand name if you can.
Always use the SAME from name and email address so they know who you are.
Include a permission reminder and tell them why they are getting your emails. This will reduce your unsubscribe rate AND the number of spam reports you receive.
Use your logo and branding, so that readers instantly realise that it’s you.
Most importantly—always ask permission to email them.
2. Not being able to read your email on their mobile
The majority of smartphone owners read emails on their mobiles these days, so your readers need to be able to read your newsletter on their phone.
A few key factors will make all the difference:
Use a single column template for your email. This approach makes your content much more flexible for all screen sizes (Consulting Card and Consulting Newsletter are two good Constant Contact templates for this purpose).
Use fewer images in your email. No one wants to see a whole email full of big red X’s, so only use a couple of key images essential to your email.
Don’t embed text in images. If you have text overlaid on an image, and that image doesn’t show, then the text is lost too. So make sure that you keep images and text separate wherever possible.
Keep it shorty-short-short! People have short attention spans on-line. When they are reading on a tiny mobile phone screen, it gets even shorter! Don’t make them scroll, just share the bare essentials. It may help to think in sound-bites!
3. When it’s hard to find your contact details
I get your email and I want to take advantage of your product or offer, but wait! I can’t find your phone number or website address to go and find out more or place an order. Make sure that your contact details are included clearly on your email, so that your readers can get in touch.
4. Stupid spelling mistakes
Now that spell check is a normal part of everyday business life, readers have an even lower tolerance of spelling errors than they did before. Spelling mistakes make it look like you don’t pay attention to detail, and that’s not a good message to send to a potential customer!
Spelling is super-easy to fix though. Just run a spell check on your newsletter before you send it out (Constant Contact has one built in!)
If you want to make doubly sure—have a friend or colleague (who can spell!) proofread your newsletter before you hit send.
5. Not finding the content valuable
Your readers subscribe to your emails because they want to know what you have to say—whether that’s info about your latest offers, useful tips, or expert insight into your industry. So, you just have to remember to give them what they signed up for!
This is not hard, I promise, and the easiest way to stay on track is to ask your readers if they are getting what they want from your emails.
On a month-to-month basis, you can also keep on top of this potential issue by asking yourself two questions before you send:
Would my average subscriber read right to the end of this email?
What’s the one big thing that my reader will take away from this?
It’s not hard to avoid these problems
So go ahead and put the above tips into practice. I’m sure it will make a difference.