Small Business Saturday Blog

How to make your Christmas the most successful yet!

Saturday, November 24 at 17:00

Small Business Saturday supporter Square gives us their top tips for having the most successful Christmas ever....
We’re hurtling towards Christmas fast, just like every year. From now until December 24, you can expect to serve a steady flow of customers hunting for gifts, stocking up on food & drink or simply looking for that festive feeling. If there’s one way to stay organised and productive through the rush, it’s to write a checklist.
Forecast your busiest times
Data is your best friend when preparing for the Christmas shopping period. Ideally, every small business’s point-of-sale software should provide access to an online dashboard that’s kitted out with analytics tools. There are two types of data you can put to use:
Historical data that reveals past trends and periods where you could have made better decisions.
Real-time data that lets you view that same performance as it’s happening, allowing you to make adjustments as soon as they’re needed.
The challenge as a business owner is learning how to blend the two. Whilst historical data allows you to prepare in advance, you need to be agile. And whilst it’s great to act on-the-fly, the right preparations are needed to support reactive management.
Checklist:
(If you don’t already have point-of-sale software)
Download point-of-sale software to track sales, inventory and employees
Set up employee management so that staff can take payments
Add your inventory
(If you already have point-of-sale software)
Identify Q4 2017’s busiest periods and days (for your online and offline stores)
Note periods of low inventory
Note items that went out of stock
Order stock (comparing past trends with business growth)
Review staff performance during past busy periods
Create a staff rota and share in advance
Include staff to help with online customer support if you have a website or use social media
Finalise time-off requests
Analyse any customer feedback you received via digital receipts
Implement suggestions that make sense for your business
Review your current busiest periods in real-time
Adjust your opening hours accordingly
Create an efficient ordering system so you can respond to real-time low inventory alerts
Increase the ways you can take payments
A queue out the door is a great thing for business, but impatient customers aren’t. You can prepare yourself for bigger crowds of shoppers by both speeding up the checkout process and offering customers more ways to pay.
Checklist:
Order more handheld readers so you can serve more than one customer on the shop floor
Get a stand for your iPad to create a secure point-of-sale
Get set up with virtual terminal software so that you can take payments remotely
Offer invoicing options for high-value items
Cleanse inventory
Now is the time to get everything in place for your team to sell efficiently during busy periods. In your point-of-sale system, make sure all the inventory is good to go.
Checklist:
Delete inventory items that you no longer sell
Add new inventory (making sure that items are named correctly)
Make sure all pricing and offers are up to date
Include photos for all items
Update your website and social media
If you have special Christmas opening hours or you’re running promotions, make sure your website and social media reflect them. The real-time insights provided by your point-of-sale system might result in last minute changes, so use these channels to let people know as soon as you do.
Checklist:
Update your store opening hours
Add festive imagery to your website and social media cover photos
Add some seasonal touches to your company “About” section
Post regularly on social media with company updates or offers
Start using Facebook Messenger to communicate with customers
Theme your online advertising and social marketing campaigns
Square are proud to support Small Business Saturday

Life in the fast Laine

Wednesday, November 21 at 15:34

Boutique gift shop, Present in the Laine hit the bohemian streets of North Laine, Brighton almost five years ago. A gift and accessory haven single-handedly created by Caroline Clifton, it is a great example of the unique charm small businesses bring to local communities. 
The reason for launching her own shop? “I had just had my first child and wanted to create my own work. Previously I’d been working as a gift buyer for a start-up, so with the experience of that combined with my fashion merchandising background, I felt equipped to face the challenges of running my own small business. It felt like the culmination of everything I’d done up to then and chance to do things my way .”
Doing this has provided Caroline with the flexibility that she’d craved, and Present in the Laine has provided the shopping district that is its namesake with a stylish and colourful gift shop.
It’s clear that the boutique has a special place in the hearts of the locals. Caroline only hires from the local community, and the long-term commitment of customers that began from the moment Present in the Laine opened its doors, is testament to locals’ affection for the shop: “From the day we opened there was a hugely positive response. All the visitors commented on the great atmosphere – and the amazing smell thanks to our candle range!
“I get complimented every day on what lovely products we have, and I love meeting lots of lovely, friendly customers who are enjoying their shopping experience in an independent store!”
Despite such early popularity, Caroline has had to adapt her strategy and introduce an e-commerce side to the business, working with an online marketplace for independent boutiques. This has resulted in Present in the Laine driving traffic to its website and growing its online sales.
Competing on the high street is often the biggest challenge a small business will face. But with a large numbers of tourists flocking to Brighton every week, tempted by the allure of streets teeming with shopping opportunities, and with the backing of the likes of AMEX and its Shop Small campaign, Caroline feels like small businesses always have the ability to keep up. “The collective charm of the many local shops, including ours, intrigues and draws them in.”
This collective has also showed spirit in the face of high street adversity. Brighton’s high street network has come together and on 6 December this year, over 100 shops in North Laine will open their doors for a late-night shopping event, offering customers promotions – and prosecco – as well as extra time to complete their all-important Christmas shopping, encouraging shoppers to do so with small businesses.
Of course, this isn’t the only time this December that North Laine’s shoppers will be encouraged to shop local, with Present in the Laine set to take part in Small Business Saturday on 1 December. A member of this year’s Small Biz 100, Caroline says that it was already being a part of such a great local small business network in Brighton that encouraged her to apply:
“I am heavily involved in the network of small businesses here and I am passionate about helping the independent traders of North Laine. The Small Biz 100 is a wonderful initiative which highlights the important role small businesses play in the local community.”
Small Business Saturday will hopefully kickstart Present in the Laine’s busiest period. Christmas brings a rush of visitors on the hunt for unique and thoughtful gifts – something which this small business is all too happy and equipped to provide.

Small businesses shine at launch of Silver iDEA Award St James's Palace

Thursday, November 15 at 00:57

Small Business Saturday is thrilled to partner with The Duke of York's Inspiring Digital Enterprise Awards (iDEA) to deliver free, expert online training to small businesses across the UK. Many small businesses have already achieved their Bronze award - huge congratulations to them for all their hard work and dedication - and the Silver Award was launched at St James's Palace earlier this week.
#SmallBiz100 James McBrearty, who has already completed both the Bronze and Silver awards, including achieving the Silver Star level for completing every optional module of the course, said "Many people worry about the time and cost of learning, iDEA helps people by both being free as well as being able to be taken on whatever device suits you – enabling you to make the best use of your time wherever you happen to be."
Nicola Case of Pink Spaghetti said "What a truly inspirational evening at St James's Palace for the launch of Silver iDEA. It was amazing to see how the awards are being adopted across all sectors and age groups."
The evening started with an opening speech from HRH The Duke of York, who talked about the how the awards have developed into the digital badges we earn today, and a viewing of the promotional video for the new Silver Award, highlighting how it will build on the foundation of the bronze badges to develop the learning into understanding and problem solving.
A panel session hosted by Maggie Philbin, CEO of TeenTech, shared the experiences of how organisations such as councils, schools and not for profits are utilising the iDEA awards to actively encourage students, volunteers and the wider community to learn new skills within technology. Small Business Saturday was represented by our Director Michelle Ovens MBE, who highlighted how the Small Business Saturday community has embraced the digital badges to enhance their own skillsets and offer a more diverse service to their clients. 
Three of the Small Business Saturday community who have already completed their Silver award were invited along to the evening - Rachel Gilbertson, James McBrearty and Nicola Case.
Nicola said, "It was wonderful to be able to talk with some of the organisations that are partnering with iDEA to offer the digital badges as part of an education program. I thoroughly enjoyed working through the badges and there was so much to learn, being able to share my experiences and thoughts with the other businesses in the room cemented just how much I got from these awards.”
Taking part in iDEA is completely free and you can work whenever you want, at a pace to suit you. Find out more and get involved here.

Local and sustainable is winning formula for SmallBiz100 Hays Hampers

Wednesday, November 07 at 23:30

Established in 1984, Lincolnshire wine merchants Jeremy and Rachel Marshall-Roberts wanted to add to the prestigious and fine wine they were selling and create gift sets – enter Hay Hampers.

After 30 years they left the company but were keen to ensure their close-knit family ethos remained. Luckily, eager to enter the entrepreneur life was Italian couple Elisabeth Och and her husband Gabriele Da Re. Ready to spend more time together and with a passion for food and wine, Hay Hampers was the perfect match.

Taking over in 2014, they have used their backgrounds in the financial and marketing industries to promote Hay Hampers in the competitive gourmet market and its turnover has more than tripled in the past four years.

The pair have remained true to the traditions of the company, even the majority of the employees remain from before they came to own the Bourne premises. The Marshall-Roberts themselves even work part-time as wine educators and consultants.

As a Small Business the company faces challenges in competing with the larger retailers who are also in the food and wine gifts business.

“There are many challenges, even as simple as our promotion on Google. The big businesses will always come up on the first page, whereas we struggle to do this,” says Elisabeth.

But like so many small businesses, the company manages to compete by keeping close to its values. Working in a family owned business means a lot of support, sharing and counting on one another during peak times, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Elisabeth explains they have to be prepared:

“We have to be ready, so we set strategies for peak times and hire more staff, but seasonal business is difficult for any small business as people turn to better-known brands.”

To gain the upper hand, Elisabeth and Gabriele have placed more focus on community engagement, including supporting local charities by providing hampers as prizes at events.

“When we arrived, Hay Hampers wasn’t too well-known locally, and we really made an effort to engage with the community,” Elisabeth says. “We recruit locally, and when we are hiring more staff at Christmas, it is important we are known in the community to get the most talented people.”

Elisabeth also places a lot of emphasis on the importance of sustaining the local community. She and her husband always try to find local food artisans and help them become their suppliers. For example, if they don’t have the suitable packaging, Hay Hampers will help them to design and source.

Hay Hampers has taken part in Small Business Saturday for a number of years to further connect with the community, and this year decided to apply and was chosen for the SmallBiz100. The business has also been involved in the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

“We have always offered the opportunity to customers to pay with American Express, so it’s good to know they will be rewarded for spending with us via the Shop Small campaign. We were really delighted to be chosen as one of the SmallBiz100, representing our community.”

Red Herring Games – Case Study

Wednesday, October 24 at 23:12

I’m Jo Smedley, Managing Director of Red Herring Games. I launched the business 11 years ago now, while I was at home with two toddlers. I’m now operating from a high street based office with four staff and three office dogs (not all mine!).
When I moved into the area in 2000, I was helping with a church youth group who wanted to play a murder mystery for one of their evening meetings. There were no age appropriate scripts for them to use, so I wrote my own. I test ran it with the parents, who all loved it and wanted more. After four years doing this I went on maternity leave with my first child and decided I didn’t want to go back to the NHS to work.
I thought about running a coffee shop – and applied to the bank – but they turned me down as I had no start up funding available. Friends of ours who ran a website business suggested I try selling the murder mystery games I had written and within a year I had written enough plots to launch my own firm.
Eleven years down the line, I have over 100 titles to my name, 15 other authors writing scripts, and over 30,000 satisfied customers!
Money wasn’t so much a challenge as I was fortunate in that my friends helped me get started on-line creating the business for a share of the sales. This worked really well and gave me the start I needed. I had to juggle children and writing, customer care and nappies for the first few years, and meeting upfront costs would have been impossible. The hardest challenge for me in the early days was feeling legitimate. Was I really running my own business? Was I able to charge what I wanted for my products? Were they worth the money? etc. After that, it was all the legals … there was no start up advice to be had and I was trading a few years without realising I needed to be ICO registered or have certain legal things in place.
I was very fortunate to join a business networking group locally who helped me learn all the business basics and also give me confidence in myself. I had a great accountant who steered me over the vast accountancy issues, and was able to get free and informal advice from the other businesses in the networking group so that I found out about things as I went along. I had some great pricing and marketing advice in the early stages of my business and with regular contact from these informal business mentors my business took flight.
As an ecommerce business, I explored selling on marketplaces like Ebay and then Amazon within the first few years. Amazon didn’t take digital products – but that was all right as within three years of trading I’d moved from selling only digital products to physical ones. When I joined, Amazon sellers needed their own bar codes, so my first requirement was to register with GS1 for bar codes, and then print all my products so that the bar code became integral with the printing. We’ve had several versions of the games, as the product has improved in look and appearance as our business grew and gained small scale manufacturing equipment. Once I had the product up to a saleable physical level, then came the challenge of learning how to export using Amazon, a process we started with in 2013 and which has seen sales skyrocket, especially in our winter peak season.
More recently, we explored Kickstarter as a pre-order funding scheme to help us launch a brand new product to market, and already we’ve seen more and more USA based customers joining in with the subscription box.
I would suggest all small businesses explore export as soon as they can. Leveraging overseas sales will increase your income faster than just focusing on the UK alone. There are lots of advisors within the DIT who will help you export. Don’t think you can’t. You may need to modify your product or your approach for the overseas market, but there are very few businesses who can’t export in some way. We export both design services and physical products, providing writing mentoring and custom design work overseas. It’s not something we went into business expecting to do – but it’s something we did within the first week of launch. That’s export.
I would suggest businesses explore marketplaces like Amazon. The world of web is changing and people are lazy and tend to shop on marketplace sites now rather than hunting the entire web for what they want. You will increase your visibility and marketing if you can access well known market places. Yes, they cost money to join, and yes, they eat into your profit margin – but if you sell more, you still benefit. The trick is pitching your pricing correctly to absorb those extra costs.
I always suggest businesses get involved locally and nationally with small business groups and support. This could be on-line or face to face. You learn so much by hearing from others. Keep an open mind and apply anything you think could help your business.
Don’t forget to check out the competition – it’s healthy to see what works and what doesn’t. There’s nothing new under the sun, and the chances are someone else will be doing what you want to do, or something similar. Find out what they do that works. You can use this to help you with marketing, design concepts or develop your product in different ways. Obviously you don’t want to plagiarise or copy! But if you see something someone does that works well, why not try the same thing to boost your own product; and if you see a gap in the market your competitors have missed – exploit it!
When you just start out in business you need all the friends and support you can. It’s tough running your own business and the more people you can have around you for moral and emotional and business support the better. It’s not plain sailing and in all businesses there are peaks and troughs. You just have to make sure the troughs don’t sink your business, or ruin your health. The troughs are when you’ll find the benefits of having small business support around you.
What are we looking forward to in the future? We have got new product lines developing all the time. In 2019, we hope to launch our first ever board game, which we’re currently working on with the help of Ingenium Games. We’re also looking at developing unique software to our business that will open up new export markets. We have a head full of ideas and not enough time or resources to develop them all … every year holds a new challenge and excitement for us as a result. We had no idea our subscription box idea would take off as well as it has. As the customer base expands for this – our whole business sales dynamic will see massive changes and our usual seasonal cash flow issues will be a thing of the past enabling us to grow the business in new and exciting ways!Read more about Red Herring Games on their website.

Going for gold with the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award!

Thursday, October 18 at 08:25

The Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA) from the Duke of York aims to address the digital skills gap by providing free digital skills education via online modules – think of it as a digital and enterprise equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It is made up of a huge variety of digital badges: short modules which can be completed anywhere a learner can be online, and each of which earns points which aggregate towards the Bronze, Silver or Gold Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
Small Business Saturday has been partnering with iDEA over the past few months in order to bring this free expert training to small businesses across the UK, and today we’re delighted to showcase a small business which has completed not one but two levels of the award since the launch earlier in the year.
Rachel Gilbertson runs Roxiies Treasures, based in Liverpool, which provides beautiful costume and handmade jewellery alongside bags, scarves and gift hampers. She completed her Bronze Award in July 2018 and her Silver Award in September 2018.
Rachel says that iDEA appealed to her as soon as she saw it mentioned by Small Business Saturday, describing it as “a breath of fresh air”. She says “The badges were very fun because there were different things such as word searches, anagrams, problems to solve and games, which helps you keep focused to achieve badges and keep your mind active, which helps you take the information in to complete them.”
She adds, “I certainly would recommend iDEA to other small business owners because you never know what you can achieve until you give it a go and it teaches you a lot about yourself, what you can do and what you need a bit more help with. Completing the awards certainly gives you a sense of pride being able to achieve them.”
Congratulations to Rachel on your amazing achievement and we look forward to hearing about your gold award!
Find out more about iDEA here.

Keeping Up With The Tylers: How To Move With The Times

Monday, October 08 at 18:21

A family business dating back almost 100 years, Tylers Department Store & Café is more than just one of Loughborough’s best local businesses. Its history is steeped into the town, but it is also a great example of how heritage businesses can move with the times.Helen Tyler manages the store’s social media, website and marketing – a position that would be alien to her grandfather and great uncle, who started the business in 1922.“It started out as a small hardware store and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the conversion into a shopping centre began. In 1922 the shop was one property, but it grew by purchasing neighbouring premises,” Helen says, adding that it is more than store size that has grown:“Our product range and services have evolved immensely through the years; from lawnmowers to furniture, fashion and fine jewellery; from opening our own Tylers Café to becoming a certified Pandora retailer.”Despite this growth, Helen stresses that Tylers very much remains a small business. Currently owned and operated by third generation Tylers; Mike, Steve and Mat, the family employs around 30 staff. Helen says that for so many who have walked through the doors in the last century, a job at Tylers has been a career.“A local sent us a picture of the shop in the 1970s and said his uncle had worked at Tylers from aged 15 until he was 65! We currently have a loyal employee who has been with us for 40 years! Tylers staff are like family.”
The affection Helen and the rest of the Tyler family hold for their employees and customers is reciprocated by the community. Helen says that as the winter months approach, it is often commented that it isn’t Christmas in Loughborough until Tylers’ decorations are up.This mutual respect has been vital in securing the company’s stability. “We can’t compete with large department stores or online retailers and we don’t try to,” Helen explains. “What we do is find unique products that larger stores would not have, which encourages people to shop with us.“We also ensure first class customer service – literally going the extra mile by delivering products to our customers if they can’t collect them themselves. This customer care is what separates small businesses from large and is so important for their survival.”The way small businesses go above and beyond for their customers is one of the criteria for nominees in the annual Small Biz 100, of which Tylers Department Store & Café is a part this year: “I discovered the amazing Small Business Saturday campaign and Amex’s Shop Small initiative to encourage people to support their local independents, when I lived for some time in the States,” Helen explains as to why Tylers applied. “The Small Biz 100 is another great opportunity that shines a spotlight on those businesses and show that despite its struggles, the British high street is still vibrant and thriving.”The limelight will be on one of the elders of the 2018 Small Biz 100 cohort on November 12th. Tylers will be offering a number of raffle prizes on the day, along with a 10 per cent storewide discount as part of the official countdown to Small Business Saturday on December 1st - supported by American Express.With not just the Small Biz 100, but a 100th birthday to celebrate in four years’ time, Tylers is a shining example of how a small business can adapt to the changing nature of the high street and re-invent itself. Here’s to the next 100 years!

How to open a corner shop

Wednesday, October 03 at 22:07

The humble corner shop — haven of sweet treats, un-judging provider of late night booze pickups and vendor of early morning milk and eggs. Every neighbourhood has its handful of corner shops that enhance the community and service its needs from dawn until dusk.
With over 50,000 operating in the UK, these retailers have a unique place in customers’ hearts. From the quaint village grocery to the 24-hour city newsagent, they’re a British institution that we’ve all come to rely on in one form or another.
If it’s your dream to work at the heart of your local community, here’s Square's guide to get you started. Before you put any of it into practice, we highly recommend you consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure this is the right venture for you.
Create a Business Plan
Before you begin the practical setup of your corner shop, you need to create a business plan. This acts as a vital roadmap outlining where your business is headed. It’s also a helpful reality check — the first year or two of your corner shop business will come with challenges but your business plan helps you prepare. Here’s what it should include:
  • Executive summary
  • Market analysis
  • Stock and services summary
  • Marketing & sales strategy
  • Management plan
  • Financial considerations
See here for more in depth guidance to building your plan.
Legal Obligations
Due to the diverse range of stock and produce corner shops sell — including age-restricted items like alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets and sharps — there are many legal requirements to consider. To keep your customers, staff and premises covered with the correct insurance, look into:
  • Public and product liability insurance
  • Stock cover
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Business legal protection insurance
  • Business buildings and contents insurance
  • Personal accident insurance
Some insurance policies will neatly cover all of the above as part of a shop insurance package which you can compare online.
Beyond insurance, there are a range of business licences which you should investigate to ensure you’re operating lawfully. These include:
You should also make sure you’re fully equipped to offer a workplace pension to any staff, as it is now a legal requirement.
How much does it cost to open a corner shop?
There are a number of costs involved in opening your own corner shop. If this seems prohibitive, don’t give up — budgets can be scaled to make it happen. Here are five cost factors to consider when you open a corner shop:
  • Physical space
  • Interior design
  • Stock
  • Marketing
  • Labour
In particular on this last one, due to the size and nature of corner shops, it’s unlikely you’ll need a big team. However, it is wise to have some form of backup for those days that you’re ill or simply need a break. As well as paying employees the National Minimum Wage, factor in the cost of training, pension contributions and any benefits.
Finding a location
The location you choose should tie in with the type of business you want to run. If your dream is a no-frills corner shop serving emergency supplies, a residential area without nearby supermarkets (and other corner shops of course) is a great shout. If you’re considering a more specialist approach, for example by offering whole foods and zero-waste packaging, your location should be based in a community where there is real demand (and disposable income) for this niche. Or if you’re planning to set up shop in a densely populated urban area, consider the direction of footfall so that you can capture potential customers from competitor businesses.
Here are some key factors to think about before you set your heart on a location:
  • Does it need/have parking space?
  • Is there easy road access for drivers?
  • How busy is the local area (down to postcode level)?
  • Are there any obstructions that will make it hard for people to find you?
  • What’s the ambience and demographic of the area?
  • How is the area going to change in the coming months and years?
  • How visible is the building itself within its surroundings?
  • How vulnerable is the location to competitors?
  • What opportunity is there to attract custom from other local businesses?
  • Are there any local businesses (such as pubs, schools or gyms) that could increase your footfall?
  • What’s the local crime rate like?
Keep your prices competitive
The corner shop is an icon of convenience, but that isn’t always enough to build customer loyalty if you’re charging them far more than the local supermarket. With supermarkets creating smaller branches, the affordability of your products and services is more important than ever. Here are three ways to keep your costs down without impacting your business.
1. Choose an affordable payment provider.
2. Collaborate with local suppliers.
3. Offer loyalty discounts.
Reach your customer base
Resist the temptation to rely solely on your convenient location for thriving business – even small, local businesses can benefit from proactive marketing. When you find a moment between serving customers, stocking shelves and tracking your business performance put together a marketing strategy. Keep it simple and true to the nature of your business.
  • Flyering
  • Social media
  • Launch party
Everyone likes a party. They represent something particularly communal that works for a local business like a corner shop. To get the most from the time and money you put in, here are some launch party tips:
  • Have clear goals. A launch party gets your business’ name out and about, but you need to consider specific metrics if you want to measure the success its success and use that insight for future events. For example, do you want a certain number of people to sign up to your email list or join your Facebook Page on the night?
  • Keep it DIY. After just setting up shop, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling flush. Skip the private hires and ask your friends and family to help out with the preparations.
  • Invite the old-school way. If you’re still in the process of building a following on social media, use word-of-mouth and direct mail to invite people. In a neighbourhood setting, this grassroots approach can work wonders.
  • Give people a reason to come. Whether it’s a BBQ, face painting or freebies from your store, people are more likely to come if there’s a specific pull. This is a real opportunity to show your generosity and fun side, and prove yourself as a core part of the community.
For more detailed information on starting your own corner shop, read the full article from Square here.

Making our own kind of music at the Blue Tie Ball

Thursday, September 13 at 23:20

Last night Small Business Saturday celebrated this year's SmallBiz100 at our annual Blue Tie Ball, which took place in London at the Phoenix Arts Club, itself a previous SmallBiz100.
We were delighted to host nearly 250 SmallBiz100 attendees, who enjoyed blue cocktails and canapes as well as some truly amazing entertainment provided by the Phoenix Arts Club.
The Francesca Kemp Award for Small Business is awarded at the annual Blue Tie event in memory of Fran, whose business, Crafty Revolution, was one of our SmallBiz100 in 2014. Sadly Fran passed away from cancer in 2015, so we hold this event and give this award once a year in her memory. As she would have wanted, this is a big celebration.
Congratulations once again to Craig Beaumont, Director of External Affairs and Advocacy at the Federation of Small Businesses, who was the recipient of the award this year. Craig has worked with Small Business Saturday both in his role at FSB and in his spare time since the campaign launched in 2013. Craig has sat on the Small Business Saturday Advisory Board since 2015 and plays a key role in engaging the small business sector in the campaign across the UK. Craig has encouraged and supported many small businesses in applying for the SmallBiz100 and personally works on promoting FSB members and non members to get them the recognition he believes they deserve. Craig is a strong advocate for small business with government and in the press and is a leading voice in campaigning for diversity and support for mental health in small businesses.
The theme for this year's event was "Make Your Own Kind of Music" and of course there was plenty of blue in evidence as well as the fantastic cocktails!
We were delighted that so many SmallBiz100 past and present were able to join us. Many thanks to the Phoenix Art Club and everyone else who worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success.

How to guest blog (and look like you know what you’re doing)

Thursday, September 06 at 09:47

Guest blogging? It’s as easy as 123

The 4 simple steps to success in guest blogging

Guest blogging is simply writing blog posts that appear in other people’s blogs. Like so much in life, there are ways to guest blog successfully, and ways to get it wrong.

Why Should I Guest Blog?

Guest blogging helps you spread your word and expertise to a new audience; learning about what you have to offer will hopefully prompt a new audience to check you out. It also helps grow your recognition and reputation, connects you to worthy bloggers and increases opportunities for further guest blogging.
It’s a great way to push focus launches or products and add new members to your mailing list. It could otherwise take months to expand your coverage to the range you’ll achieve with guest blogging.
Some experts say guest blogging boosts your SEO performance by building links to your site; others disagree. In any case, linking back to your site makes good sense. Just direct your readers to relevant landing pages that respond to their interest.

How Can I Become a Guest Blogger?

There’s no mystery to becoming a successful guest blogger; just dedication, planning and a bit of hard work.
Step 1: Find suitable blogs to work with.
You could use a search engine to find strongly indexing blogs relevant to your topic or check out social media accounts in your niche to partner with. Digging around in the comments section of blogs you already follow could prove fruitful - are there subscribers there with blogs you could feature in?
Step 2: Choose your guest blog topic
The success of your post depends on your topic. Review the best-running articles from the recent past – using the volume of shares and comments as a guide. Use this selection to choose a topic that is interesting or relevant.
Step 3: Approach the blogger you want to work with.
It’s best to build a personal connection face to face, so use networking events, seminars and training sessions to your advantage. But as time and geography make real-life connections tricky you need a back-up!
First things first - before contacting a blogger, review their guest post guidelines. If they’re too restrictive for your liking, pass on and find someone else.
Contacting via email or website contact form works best. Because it’s a direct approach you’ll cut through direct to their inbox. I prefer to send a completed post to a blogger with my application. Not all guest posting guidelines suggest this – some just want a post outline.
If your potential host doesn’t think you’re the right fit, don’t worry. Either approach someone else (adapting your post to meet their guidelines) or simply publish the post on your own blog.
Step 4: Make the guest blog post work for you.
You may have finished your article, but the work isn’t over. Successful guest blogging depends on optimising the finer details.
  • Include a strong author bio with a clear call to action. Mention products or services you’re currently marketing and use the call to action to encourage people to get your freebie and sign up for your newsletter. 
  • Include your social media accounts to drive your follower count and social media growth. 
  • Post links back to your own content in a way that feels natural and fits the flow of the article. If your host doesn’t permit this (many don’t), limit links to your author bio.
  • Adapt your website to benefit from the guest blog. This might be setting up a dedicated landing page, creating a specific data capture form, or even just tweaking some your site’s content so it’s 100% relevant to your new visitors.
  • Join the conversation! Make sure you respond to comments on your article. This is your chance to connect with a new audience.

What does Successful Guest Blogging Look Like?

Success means different things to different people – so be clear on what you want to achieve. There are direct effects, and indirect effects.
The direct effects of guest blogging are easier to measure - the number of social shares, comments, number of sign-ups or sales or referral traffic. Indirectly, you may see your followers increase, improve your search engine ranking, and improve your brand awareness.
Are results below expectations? There may be several factors. Perhaps the blog had a smaller audience than expected or your topic didn’t resonate with the audience. Was your call to action strong enough? How well did your landing page convert? Take the time to review your post and consider improvements for future guest posts.
Guest blogging can help you expand your influence, attract new audiences and raise your profile. Who knows, in time perhaps your blog will attract guest bloggers of your own?
What are your secrets for successful guest blogging?
Jennifer Corcoran is the CEO and Founder of My Super Connector, a social media consultancy. A LinkedIn specialist, Jennifer helps entrepreneurs and professionals to polish up their LinkedIn profiles and connect with finesse. Jennifer is also the host of LinkedIn Local Croydon.

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