Small Business Saturday Blog

Establishing a Small Business through Online Branding

Wednesday, August 16 at 15:06
Branding | Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Beating out the competition in the small business world takes more than just telling others on the street about what you have to offer. You have to create maximum exposure by being accessible on online platforms. By doing so, you better establish your business identity and brand.Building an online brand is important for a number of reasons. It creates awareness for what your small business stands for. If consumers want to learn about the product you offer, they should be able to access information about it from anywhere. You can also gather a larger following by reaching out to the online community. Lastly, the process of establishing an online presence enables you to gain credibility. If consumers see your business online, they can navigate your site and infer that yours is a legitimate company.The first step in establishing an online brand for your company is picking a domain name. Many companies underestimate the power of choosing a URL that differentiates them from the competition. A brandable domain name might directly reference aspects of your business, but it doesn’t have to specify what it entails. In the long term, the domain name can build brand value. You will want to check that a name is not already registered before you choose one. Make sure the domain name is user-friendly and short in that it is easy to spell and say. You will also want to make it unique and credible in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.When establishing your brand online, It is important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Prior to coming up with content strategies, utilize research tools to identify your audience. Google Analytics will help you figure out the demographic most interested in what you have to offer. Google also offers an acquisition feature which points out how users found your site. You will be able to see if they typed the URL directly into their browser or if they were connected to you through social media or a search engine. Knowing this information will allow you to determine which online marketing channel is most effective.After identifying your audience, you can work on making your business stand out by creating a brand that consumers will remember. Having an eye-catching logo that can be used on all online platforms and marketing materials will mean customers will attach your small business with a visual. It should give consumers an idea of the product you represent. Also create a business slogan and tagline that stands out. A tagline is a phrase that lets your visitors know who you are right when they click on your site. You will want it to be placed on all your marketing materials. This builds recognition which is key in gaining customers for your small business.When you build your company website, be personable and accessible by having a home page with an introduction. You’ll want to establish your online brand from the get-go by telling visitors about what you offer and how it will benefit them. Make sure you have a subscriber button on the homepage so users can immediately opt to learn more about your small business.To directly help sales and marketing efforts, dedicate part of your website to reviews since they can have a significant impact on sales.. Allow customers to share their experience with your product. This content can then be shared on social media where others can see that your small business delivers on what is promised. Enabling customer reviews also positively affects search rankings in search engines. Reviews increase the amount of unique content your site offers giving you a better chance at moving up in ranking.Social media is an online marketing platform that is free and gives you instant access to consumers. Make sure that you have social icons on each page of your website. All of your social media pages should consistently feature your brand. This will make your business more memorable in potential buyers’ minds. Consumers also like to see and hear about businesses. Posting podcasts or having segments featured on a YouTube channel can build a personal relationship with your target audience. This fosters trust and increases your credibility.Another online tool you can utilize when trying to spread the word about your small business is blogging. This heightens your visibility. Your search engine rank will improve as you expand to posting content on blogging sites. It also works to help establish a direct relationship with customers in order to gain valuable feedback. Don’t be afraid to share content from experts in your industry. Online consumers will find you more trustworthy if they see you are up to speed on all aspects of your product.Lastly, stay engaged with your consumers. This is key in building a strong presence online. Use tools such as HootSuite which will notify you when someone mentions your brand. You should respond to comments made about what your small business has to offer. This will show customers you are concerned with their needs and will help spread the word about your business.Guest blog contributed by Sarah Elizabeth Saker

Five Tips to Effectively Market your Business

Monday, January 09 at 10:50
Digital | Marketing | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Has effective marketing ever been more important among all the noise of the digital world? With billions of websites at our fingertips it’s so easy to spend time scanning for the perfect solution, and those sites or services that aren’t up to scratch might be rejected for even the smallest reason – a stray tweet or a slightly slow website, for example. Here’s five ways to tighten up your product and promote yourself well in 2017. Create a modern websiteMost companies seem to have got the message that running a site that looks like it was built in 1998 isn’t a great first impression to any visitors. Whether you’re a florist, a van leasing company, a sports management firm or are offering a legal service, your site should be a clean, uncluttered and easy-to-use interface. There should be a call to action that shows clearly how, where and why to get the best offers. Above all, it should be easy to find your products, fast to load, and very easy to get in touch – just in case someone actually wants to pick up the phone.Set up a content calendarHave you ever thought to yourself “I wish I’d created a piece of content/organised this idea” to coincide with a big, relevant event? For example, it could be a blog or video to coincide with Halloween, or the final of GBBO, or Movember. Maybe you’ve done something, but if you’d thought about it earlier you might have done better…If you’d created a content calendar several months earlier, planning your blogs and social media and videos to be completed and to land on your sites at exactly the correct time, you would have been primed to take advantage. Start doing this now and reap the benefits of great, timely content. Utilise social mediaWhy would you not utilise a completely free method of promoting yourself? It’s a great way of responding to any complaints; an easy, instant way of informing people of your new products and sales using pictures and videos; a method of showing knowledge in your business sector by publicising any blogs, appearances or media that is relevant; and a way of communicating with like-minded people and businesses.If you’re just starting to use social media, you might be wondering which platform is best. Launching a craft business? Pinterest and Instagram are sensible options. Launching a B2B start-up? LinkedIn in your best bet. Launching any business whatsoever? Facebook and Twitter, and possibly Snapchat. Revamp your shop frontIf you’ve updated the landing page of your website, then why would you not do the same with your physical premises? After all, they’re really two sides of the same coin. A stark, dark frontage won’t really bring in potential custom, and neither will empty shelves, old signage and shabby looking stock. The actual tidying is not the hard part, it’s the preparation and organisation in your mind that’s the laborious task. If you don’t have physical premises, then consider revitalising your signage, print advertising (yes, people do still take notice of this) and Google Business listing.Create videoThe statistics are clear: according to Forbes, video used in conjunction with email boasts a 300% click-through rate. Thanks to mobile phones and free or cheap online editing, it’s possible to put together a professional looking promotional video, an FAQ, a slideshow or an interview in a very short period of time. It lends itself to social media, and might catch the eye of people who otherwise might not see your work.Blog contributed by Jessica Foreman. Jessica is a Durham University graduate specialising in business and lifestyle based writing. She has developed her skills on projects surrounding The British Broadcasting Company, and running a print and online based magazine whilst at university.

How to use social media to grow your small business

Friday, May 20 at 09:46
Quick Guide | Social Media | Top Tips

Three quarters of SMEs are planning to implement a social media marketing plan by 2017.  But having the expertise to do this right can be challenging, especially if your time is limited.Here at Digital Mums, where we train mums to be social media managers and help businesses with social media solutions, we’ve developed a straightforward approach that will simply define your approach to social media. And it works whatever your business type.  We call it the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model. How it worksThe premise is simple - expand upon what works on social media and throw away everything else.  It focuses on constantly tweaking and improving on content, conversations and engagement.Step 1:  TestThink about your target customer and develop detailed user personas of who they are (to find out how to do this check out the first in our #SocialDoneRight blog series).  Then test out different approaches on social media to see what works best.  So for example;
  • push different content formats i.e. photos, videos and text
  • push different content subject matter
  • schedule posts at different times of the day and week
What you choose to test first doesn’t really matter - the important thing is to get started.Step 2:  MeasureIt’s best to wait about a week before you start analysing posts.  As nearly everything on social media can be measured (almost there Instagram!) you can establish the success of every single post.Some of the analytics can seem complicated, but they’re worth persevering with as the data is incredible. Step 3:  ReflectOnce you have your data, you’ll need to dedicate some time to really analysing  it.  Distilling key insights will really help you improve your activity, These are some of the key things to look out for:
  • Date / Time
Are there are certain times of the week or month you posts are more successful?  Perhaps the weekend is always quiet so you need to post more mid week, or vice-versa.
  • Audience/demographics
Depending on the platform you’ll get data on the people following you and even who has viewed your profile.  If you’re not quite reaching your target demographic, think again about the type of content you’re pushing out.
  • Impressions/reach
This is helpful for brand awareness as you can check how many people have seen your activity. Certain content or a big influencer sharing may mean a spoke in content.  If you see a dip you might need to post more often.
  • Engagement
The more likes, comments and shares you’re getting, then the more engaged your audience.   You should be able to see what content works best and when it’s best to post it.
  • Clicks
If you’re aiming to drive people to your website then look at the click throughs.  These analytics are also useful in establishing if brand awareness is translating into a deeper interest in your company.
  • New fans/followers
Spikes or drops could be related to the amount your posting and joining in with conversations.  You may see more followers when you use a popular hashtag or piggyback an event, in which case do it more.Step 4:  RefineOnce you have these insights you can then refine your social media activity accordingly.  Do more of what is successful and get rid of anything that hasn’t worked.Then once you’ve refined, you can begin testing again.  It’s a never-ending cycle to consistently improve your performance! It takes patience, but over time we guarantee you’ll build an engaged and strong community and truly see results from social media.
By Richard Miranda, Head of Growth at Digital Mums. For a step-by-step guide to social media for small businesses follow our #SocialDoneRight blog series over on blog.digitalmums.com.  Join us every Thursday 11am-12pm for our #SocialDoneRight tweet chats on @DigitalMumsBiz to get advice from social media experts.

Why social media is a treasure for independent business collaboration

Monday, June 15 at 11:00
Collaboration | Inspiration | Small Business | Social Media

As a new startup in the beautiful world of flowers and weddings, I’m always keen to promote and grow my business by using as many creative and engaging ways as possible- social media being my preferred option, so when the opportunity arose to team up with another local business  - Pipley Flowers, to co-host a Social Media Lonely Bouquet Treasure Hunt and support British Flowers Week – I jumped at the chance.British Flowers Week is a National campaign, which encourages everybody (including us Florists!) to buy more seasonal, locally-grown cut flowers. We used to have a thriving cut flower industry in Britain but 90% of this was lost to places like Holland. Campaigns like British Flowers Week aims to show everybody what amazing flowers are literally on our doorstep. British Flowers Week will run from Monday 15 June to Friday 19 June 2015.When I first started trading, my first port of call was always the regional flower market. The guys are friendly and try and stock British Flowers, but inevitably being a large regional wholesaler, they stock a majority of imported flowers. Then one day, through the wonderful connections I’ve made on social media, I came across Liz Rawlings of Pipley Flowers, a local British Flower Farmer (and a pretty good florist too!) who lives less than 10 miles from my business. Being an avid follower of floral and bridal trends, I had noticed that there had definitely been a shift in the public's demand for more British grown flowers. I had always wanted to use locally sourced flowers, not only as a wonderful selling point to my customers - British Flowers have an incredible fragrance, vibrancy, and a really long vase life, but to support other local businesses, whilst tapping into the bridal trend to buy local.  I had been unable to do so until I really got into social media -  I just wasn’t aware of how many local flower farmers there are in my area, and by having a connection through social media, I was able to make my dreams of stocking locally sourced flowers a reality. Most businesses know that social media has made it easier than ever to connect and engage with customers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of the other platforms available, but one of the over looked bonuses of social media is the ability to connect independent businesses together. The opportunity to work with Liz and create a social media bouquet treasure hunt for British Flowers Week gave us both the opportunity to promote our individual businesses, use our joint social media campaign as a vehicle for traffic to both of our business sites and raise awareness of the beautiful British flowers that are available to both trade and public.I found that working together on a joint campaign with another small independent business that compliments your own is a brilliant way to share skills, ideas, responsibility and have a bit of fun in the process. Liz and I created a really fun engaging campaign for the public to find out more about buying British flowers. During the campaign week we will be co-hosting a social media treasure hunt across Bristol for anybody who follows us on social media, giving our potential customers the opportunity to find beautiful bouquets made entirely from locally sourced flowers.I would totally recommend as a small business to look for opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects with other independent businesses, not only for the shared commercial rewards, but to contribute towards making a strong network of independents businesses who support each other and create good relationships with each other, after all, two heads are better than one!
By Victoria Baker, Peppermint Rose Flowers, 07717 336659twitter:@_peppermintroseFacebook: www.facebook.com/peppermintroseflowersLiz Rawlings, Pipley Flowers, 07722055702Twitter:@pipleyflowersFacebook: www.facebook.com/pipleyflowers 

Use Visual Content to Power Up your Marketing

Monday, April 27 at 12:09
Digital | Marketing | Social Media

You’ve seen them everywhere! Visual content comes in many different formats: images, videos, Infographics, SlideShares, graphs, etc.The trend seemed to kick off in a huge way at the end of 2013/start of 2014 and is continuing its upward trajectory. Why are visuals crucial to marketing?Visual content conveys a message in a uniquely succinct way.  They immediately appeal to emotions and are hugely engaging.  Humans are essentially hard-wired to digest information visually, as HubSpot demonstrates in this (visual) graphic!
In addition to the above, we all love sharing photos or videos that make us laugh or smile, or pictures that evoke a memory, for instance.  If you create powerful images which resonate with your audience they will likely share it with their friends on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and share your message at the same time.  What a way to spread your business message and increase your reach! Consider the surge in images and videos across Twitter.  Twitter now has its own native video platform and, in the last few months, apps like Meerkat and Periscope have exploded onto the market. In fact, Meerkat caused quite a stir at #SMMW15 in San Diego this year. Here’s the difference a tweet with an image makes to engagement levels compared with one without an image:
As a small business, you need to harness the power of visuals in your marketing strategy.  It’s a level playing field: you can use these resources as well as the big guns! Start off with imagesYou can easily create your own using my two favourite go-to apps: Canva and PicMonkey.  Both are entirely FREE to use but they also have extra features for which you can pay a small amount either per image or per month. If you’re just starting out as a small business, there are lots of websites which offer stock photos which are FREE to use (always double-check the licence terms before using for commercial purposes.  See below).  Don’t spend a fortune on purchasing expensive images; it will blow a hole in your budget very quickly!
Here are some great resources for stock photos:(1)Refe Rea Life Photos(2)Pixabay(3)Morgue File (Ensure you select the “Free Photos” tab)(4)Flickr free use photosMake the Image your Own➣  Don’t be tempted to upload images directly into your blog and hit “Publish”!  Add text overlays, including your business logo and URL, to give the image a more personal and branded look.   You can easily do this with Canva and PicMonkey.➣  Stick to your brand style, colours and fonts when adding overlays and don’t mix them up. ➣  Decide on 3 fonts to use for text: one for a heading, one for sub-headings and the other for quotations, for instance, and stick to them for a consistent, branded look. ➣  Outline the benefits your readers will receive to entice them to click through and read your content, like this great example from Anna Bennett, top Pinterest marketer.
➣  Each social media platform has its own unique image size dimensions so refer to Canva’s pre-formatted templates to ensure you get the optimum look.
If you’re at all stuck, need some further advice or just don’t have a creative bone in your body, don’t panic! By Nicky Pasquier, Founder of Virtuoso Assistant. Email me at any time and we can schedule a chat: hello@virtuosoassistant.co.uk

6 Benefits of Social Media for Small Businesses

Friday, April 24 at 10:21
Marketing | Social Media

Social media has transformed the way we interact and communicate. Not only for individuals, but also for small businesses and startups. Social media marketing has become an important part of any brand’s marketing campaigns. Why? The reason is the following unique benefits of social media for small businesses:1. Social Media bridges the gap between you and your customers If you are a startup and want to strengthen your customer base, get close to your customers on social media and create a bond with them, while actively seeking new people to connect with. Social media gives your customers a platform to know you better and takes relationship building to a new level.2. Fuel your sales Social media can help you increase your sales. Whether you are a product manufacturer or a service provider, you can educate your customers on any new offerings, updates or promotional offers within seconds. With a little bit of reinforcement they can turn into repeat-customers!3. Create a two way conversation Professionally done marketing research can be expensive and time consuming. On social media, you can take advantage of free surveys or get instant feedback through informal Q&A. Get to know the habits of your community and how they respond to the content you produce. By interacting on social media, you can gain valuable insights into the preferences and buying behaviours of your community.4. Network with other small businessesUse social media to discover interesting businesses in your industry and area and build a relationship with them.  This may create opportunities for collaboration or support and give you fresh ideas for your social media pages by connecting with companies that you admire.5. Find your company’s niche For small businesses the most important thing is to create awareness and connect with the right audience. Every social media website has a different tone and user type. Beyond the major social media websites, you may find that new or targeted social media sites offer new access to customers and industry colleagues. Here are a few sites that may be useful for your business:•Edgee: For creating new stories and content for your audience.•Your Interest: For creating events and inviting a like-minded audience.•Tagstr: For creating content with shared hash tags.6. Enhance traditional marketing effortsSocial media can help you promote and support your small business’ other marketing efforts. For example, if you are promoting a new product with print advertising or events, you can use social media to increase awareness and impact.By Amy from Tekfirst in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

3 Ways to Grow Your Business Online

Thursday, April 23 at 09:57
Digital | Marketing | Social Media

Business growth can be tough as a small business. It can often feel like organisations with bigger budgets have an advantage, but the internet is our level playing field. Here, the size of our business is not the driver of our success. Instead, the internet cares about the quality of our business and of the content we create. By displaying our expertise in a way that is valuable and useful to our target audience, businesses of all sizes can succeed and grow online.Here are 3 tips to help you grow your business online.1. Know your audienceBefore you start any marketing campaign, it’s important to really know your target audience.Think about the segments you are trying to reach. Perhaps you’re targeting a particular industry or business size. Make a list of these.Next, build a clearer picture of each of these segments. Think about their behaviour - are they time rich or time poor? What technologies do they use? What are the challenges that face them and their industry? Try to build a picture of a ‘real’ person that you can refer to to help you better understand the entire segment they represent.2. Create great contentDigital marketing - be it SEO, PPC, digital PR or content marketing - all depends on the creation of great content.Put simply, great content is content that communicates something of value to your audience in the most engaging and appropriate way for them. Let’s look at an example of Akita Cloud Computing Guides:Akita is a small business which provides IT solutions to other businesses. They recently communicated information to their audience in the form of a series of cloud computing guides for small businesses:
What Akita has done so well here is to take their expertise on a potentially complex idea, and communicate it in a way that is aesthetically very pleasing, easy to read and, importantly for busy small business owners, in a digestible format that you can dip in and out of.Of course, great content can be even more simple than all of this. It starts with the very basics of getting your website right. Have you got a page on your website that represents every one of the products/services you offer? Is each one of these pages the best possible page on its particular topic, with lots of useful information, images and resources?By creating great content, you’ll stand a much better chance of:●Representing your business in the best light possible●Improving your search visibility and rankings●Gaining brand awareness and improved website authority through shares and links●Engaging your audience3. Speak to your audience in the places they’re already activeBy this point, you know your audience really well and you know what you want to say to them. Now, you need to know where to speak to them.This means identifying the channels and platforms they are already using, and taking the content to them there. For example, if you know your audience is really active on LinkedIn, you should invest in your LinkedIn profile, possibly advertising and engaging through groups. If you know they tend to read a lot of start up advice via websites like Enterprise Nation, you should seek opportunities to have your business featured there.I recently compared this to hosting a dinner party; if you know all of the people you want to invite live in London, don’t host your party in Edinburgh. Equally, if you know your audience is most active on Twitter, there’s little use in focusing your efforts on Facebook.If you know your audience, you know what you want to say to them and you know the right place to say it, you stand a good chance of succeeding online.
Author Bio: Laura Hampton is the digital marketing manager at Impression, a digital marketing agency based in Nottingham city centre which offers SEO, PPC, content marketing and digital PR services. A small business itself, Impression has grown from 2 people in November 2012 to a team of 10 and growing in April 2015. 

Big vs. Small: What Advantages Do Small Businesses Have On Social Media?

Monday, April 13 at 10:29
Customer Service | Marketing | Social Media

There’s no denying that bigger businesses have bigger budgets to spend on marketing campaigns, and whilst this can seem like a daunting prospect for smaller businesses, there are actually three great advantages for small businesses when implementing social media strategies:Personality PotentialHaving just a few individuals working with your social media means that you can celebrate and promote each person at your company within your social media campaigns. This can be anything from photos and videos of employees using a product, to articles written by a team member or specific ‘Q&A’-like sessions.A great reason for doing this is the boost in familiarity your customers feel towards your brand. Showing the ‘real people’ in your business will simultaneously increase the likelihood that customers will trust your brand, recommend it to others and return to it.Larger companies tend to be more faceless because they have hundreds of people operating their social media in order to cope with the volume of traffic they receive on a daily basis. Most of their personable aspects involve simply a by-line under an article or a first name sign-off at the end of a tweet. Instead, small business can take advantage of their individuality and give their followers reliable, human personalities they can trust.Individual Customer InteractionIn a similar line of thought to making the individual personalities in your business stand out, the way in which you interact with customers and respond to them online can also be an invaluable way to build your business reputation.Larger companies who deal with complaints on Twitter or Facebook often reply with a generic “Hi xxxx, sorry to hear about that, please contact our Customer Services on…” This method becomes little more than a signposting exercise, which ushers the complaining customer behind closed doors to talk about their complaint quietly. This re-direction also implies that it’s ‘inappropriate’ to use social media for complaints, when in reality, it’s the first port of call for unhappy customers hoping to get a little bit of support from the crowd along the way.As a small business, you can grit your teeth and deal with public complaints on social media head on. As long as you do this with respect and tact, you’ll be seen to be actively and transparently problem solving, and working with the customer rather than against them. The flip side of this coin also means that if you get positive reviews and testimonials, you can engage with customers in a public, positive way. The rule that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery is also true on Twitter, and re-tweeting a customer’s review or comment to your followers will also reinforce relationships as you build them.Story TellingSmaller companies also have a great opportunity to get creative with ‘story-telling’ on their social media. Whether this is an unusual description for a product or a video sampling an individual service, smaller companies can often take advantage of more focused group demographics in order to tailor content specifically for these target audiences.Larger companies can often be restricted by the need for overarching, crowd-pleasing content that will navigate language barriers, cultural differences and politics. Whilst it’s always important to take these factors into account when creating organic content for your business, the flexibility of a small business communication means you can talk to customers on a more colloquial level, incorporating details from a specific region, age group or interest.If you begin a campaign in which you ask customers to participate and get involved with the storytelling, as a small business you’re also likely to receive a more manageable amount of responses, which can lead to some engaging and unusual collaborative projects that are authentic and difficult for other businesses to replicate.By Olivia at Shake Social

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