What the latest Facebook changes mean for your small business.

what do the latest facebook changes mean for your small business

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

I know from talking to clients and other business owners that there’s a real temptation to build your business on Facebook, especially while you’re still in the start-up phase. Facebook is where many of you grow your communities, promote your events, and sell your products. It’s where you do most of your marketing. I’ve been saying for a while now that this is a dangerous strategy.

It’s YOUR business — why would you want to build it on someone else’s land?

So if you’ve nodded along with me, saying ‘sure, Clare, I get your point, I’ll totally get on that soon’, listen up. ‘Soon’ needs to be now!

Mark Zuckerberg has just announced big changes that have everyone in a flap. Facebook is going back to its roots — Zuckerberg wants us to remember the social aspect of social media. So you’re going to start seeing more posts from your pals and fewer posts from businesses and publications.

Great news if you’re fed up of the current ad bombardment, bad news if you’re a business relying solely on Facebook to grow your business. Your reach IS going to take a hit, there’s no doubt about it.

So what can you do about it?

Get yourself a website — pronto.

If you’ve been using your Facebook business page as a substitute for a website, I get it. A website can be a huge investment. But it doesn’t have to be. To get you started you just need a presence; it doesn’t have to be all bells, whistles, and sparkles.

There are loads of DIY options that you can look into but my preferred site builder is WordPress. Building the site takes a little bit of time but it’s not too tricky to get it set up and once you’ve got it in place it’s really easy to navigate and update. (If you’re a bit of a technophobe, check out this free course to help you get started with WordPress)

If you’re not sure what you’re doing in terms of content, check out a few of my previous posts that will give you some useful pointers.

Why your web copy isn’t converting…and what to do about it.

Do you have the confidence to blow your own trumpet?

Three things to include in your ‘about me’ page, and one you should definitely avoid.

Build your list.

We’ve got to talk about your email list. If your community only exists on Facebook, you’re taking a huge risk. What will happen if you inadvertently break FB rules and find yourself locked out of your page? Do you know who your followers are? Would you be able to contact each one if you didn’t have access to FB?

Conversely, if you focus on building your email list, you will always be able to contact your supporters, whenever you need to. Your list belongs to you. Your Facebook fans belong to Zuckerberg.

I’m going to dedicate a future post to the topic of building an email list (it’s something I’m going to focus on this year myself – keep an eye out for a free email course coming soon!) but the gist of it is that you need to make sure you have something of value to offer visitors to your site. It might be great blog content, it might be a free course or checklist but you need to offer readers something that will encourage them to hand over their email addresses.

Explore other platforms.

If you’ve been ignoring all other social media platforms, now is the time to explore the options. It’s generally advisable not to try to be everywhere on social media — you’ll run out of time to do your actual work — but it’s a good idea to choose two or three different platforms to help you build your business community and reputation. I’ve been guilty of over-relying on Facebook myself and these changes have given me the push I needed to get back to Twitter and to try to make more of LinkedIn too.

Focus on quality over quantity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a minute saying that Facebook for business is over. We just have to adapt to the changes. And, focusing on the quality of your posts is going to be key. We’re all going to have to consider engagement whenever we post content to Facebook (more than we do already, that is). What kind of content is going to get people talking and sharing? (Hint: those of us who have so far resisted the lure of video content are going to have to bite the bullet this year!)

Social media platforms do like to mix things up now and again, sometimes SMEs will welcome the changes snd sometimes the changes will send us into a blind panic. It’s vital that we don’t give these platforms so much power over our businesses: it’s time you start building your business on your own land.

 

 

 

 

 

Business book round-up 2017.

business book round-up 2017

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Never stop learning. I think I’m going to turn that into my motto for 2018.

I remember thinking, back in my student days, that there was an end point. I’d graduate and suddenly I’d be able to say, ‘job done, I’m now fluent in Italian’. Let’s just chalk that one up to the foolishness of youth!

The truth is, we’re never done. If you want to be the best (and we all want to be the best, right?), we have to keep studying, learning, and improving. And you’ll know you’re in the right business if you don’t want to stop learning.

Investing in education is one of the best things you can do for your growing business but there’s no such thing as a quick browse through Amazon’s stock of business-related books. You could get lost in there for days, reading reviews and trying to figure out the best way to spend your cash.

So, I’m going to save you some time and give you the top 4 business books I enjoyed in 2017. I thoroughly recommend getting your hands on a copy of each one of these.

Read my post on other top ways to invest in your growing business here.

Business Book Round-up 2017

Given that I’m a copywriter and content creator, it’s no surprise that most of my recommendations are marketing and content related but, unless you outsource every aspect of your business marketing, you’ll find loads of little wisdom nuggets in each one of them, whatever business you’re in.

‘They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer’ by Marcus Sheridan.

They Ask, You Answer

‘They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan was running a pool installation company when the housing crisis hit and brought him to the brink of bankruptcy. In his book he outlines the principles he used to completely transform his company. He discusses how to deal with customer objections and turn them to your advantage, whether you should put pricing on your website, and he offers loads of ideas on how to come up with the type of content that your customers actually want to read. It’s always nice to see how theories work in practice and Sheridan has included several case studies that show how different businesses have employed these tactics, with great results.

I’m the first to admit that my own blog is sometimes the last thing on my mind (I’m too busy writing posts for other people; a lame excuse but true nonetheless) but, while reading ‘They Ask, You Answer’, I had to keep reaching for my notebook to write down blog post ideas, inspired by Sheridan’s theories. This one is definitely my top pick for anyone struggling with content creation.

‘KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age’ by Mark Schaefer.

Known by Mark Schaefer

‘Known’ by Mark Schaefer

Hands up if you’re sick of scrabbling around trying to find potential clients and convince them of your brilliance? You’re not alone! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people came looking for you? That’s the premise of ‘KNOWN’. If you are known in your field, people will seek you out. Before they even meet you, customers will have faith in your ability to get the job done.

Schaefer knows that finding your passion isn’t enough — you also need a plan. The book looks at how to identify your niche, find your audience and connect with them, and identifies the strategies you need to help you stand out from the crowd. I’m as happy as the next entrepreneur to visualise my success and define my passion, but I like a good, solid plan, so this book was right up my street.

I’m also terminally impatient: I want success and I want it now. Schaefer is a realist. He knows that establishing expertise, developing authority, and becoming ‘known’ all take time. If you’re like me and struggle with the notion that patience and perseverance are the keys to long-term business success, ‘KNOWN’ is the dose of common sense that you’ve been looking for.

‘The Hippo Campus: A step by step guide to get your business noticed, remembered and talked about with Stand Out Marketing’ by Andrew and Pete.

The Hippo Campus by Andrew and Pete

‘The Hippo Campus’ by Andrew and Pete

If you spend any time on Twitter, in the marketing sphere, you’ll have come across these guys. They pride themselves on being different, being memorable, and they like a good laugh. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously though.

Their book offers a fresh take on traditional marketing and along the way there are several easy assignments that will help you define your brand values and unleash your inner creativity. The book is backed up by a website, which includes video content and templates for the assignments in the book. And they have an accompanying membership site, Atomic, which is totally amazeballs. Join here.

If you think that we’re all taking ourselves far too seriously, and we need to liven things up, you’ll like the boys’ writing style and you’ll love their advice.

‘She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur’  by Carrie Green.

She Means Business by Carrie Green

‘She Means Business’ by Carrie Green

I’m always heartened to learn how many women are starting their own businesses and a little sad when I realise that so many of us are battling the same issues: impostor syndrome, comparisonitis, and overwhelm.

These are the kinds of issues that Carrie tackles in ‘She Means Business’. I confess that I’m not one for manifesting, vision boards, and talking to the universe but my level-headed, business-minded sister recommended this book so I thought I’d give it a go. I laid my scepticism to one side, put my feet up and spent an entire evening with this book.

And, damn, I was a wee dynamo by the end of it!

I think I must have slept a total of two hours a night for a week afterwards, I was so full of ambition, enthusiasm, and a burning need to get things started. Within a month, I’d written myself a business plan, built a new website and reached out to all of my old contacts. There was no stopping me. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable way to run a business and I’ve gone back to the slow and steady approach now, but I guarantee that any time I feel my motivation waning, rereading ‘She Means Business’ will be number one on my to-do list.

So that’s 2017 out of the way, now it’s time to get 2018’s reading list sorted. If you have any recommendations for me, leave a comment. I’d love to know what your favourite business books are!

 

 

Top tips on how to invest in your startup.

Top tips for how to invest in your startup.

Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

 

Start a six-figure business with just $100!

Top 10 side hustles you can start today, with no capital!

Step by step guide to building a free online business!

Are you rolling your eyes yet? I am. Sure there are a whole host of online businesses you can start with very little capital, especially if, like me, you’re a sole trader working from home.

What these clickbait headlines fail to mention, though, is that to actually GROW your online business, you’re going to have to put your hand in your pocket and invest in your startup.

Building a business on a budget.

I’m writing this in December and, despite my desire to down tools and launch myself into a vat of mulled wine, my mind keeps wandering into the New Year and my plans for 2018. My business has enjoyed fantastic growth this year and I know that if I want this trend to continue, I will need to keep investing. But, like you, I’m working with a budget. Not a penny will be spent without some serious thought and consideration of the potential for a decent ROI.

If you’ve decided to invest in yourself and your business this year, here are my top tips for the most effective way to spend your hard-earned pennies.

Networking.

Without a doubt, the most important thing I’ve invested in this year has been networking. Coming back to my business, after a year spent taking care of my family, I didn’t have a huge budget to work with so I concentrated on free, local networking events. The result of my year of networking was a lot of new contacts, a handful of new clients and even a few new friends — well worth the cost of a couple of new ‘work’ outfits and a few bus fares.

I’ve had such success with networking that I’ve decided it’s worth spending a bit more on it in 2018. I’ve recently joined Scottish Women in Business and I can’t wait to get along to my first event.

If you’re in the Glasgow area, it’s also worth checking out The Wonder Women Club (See the Facebook page for event dates). Events cost very little and the group is so friendly and supportive it’s well worth the small investment. There is no better way of growing your business than just getting out there and meeting people.

Design.

Another of my top investments this year was a professional logo. If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you’ll appreciate the power of a strong logo and a well-designed business card. And a logo is something that you’ll use constantly; your website, your contracts, invoices, your social media profile will all look a gazillion times more impressive if you have a professional brand design to show off.

My logo was designed by Fiona at Fiona Robertson Graphics and I’ll definitely call on her again in 2018 to help me with newsletter templates and a few other bits and bobs. Fiona’s prices are very reasonable and worth every penny but if professional design isn’t in your budget right now, and you’re designing your own logo, I’d recommend you invest in her Pick My Brain service. For a small fee, you can book a Skype call with Fiona and she’ll give you solid advice on how to improve your design for maximum impact.

Membership of professional bodies.

For me, this includes the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Membership isn’t cheap but nor is it extortionate and I believe it has been worth every penny. I reckon that investing in professional membership lends your business credibility — we all expect the freelancers we use to adhere to professional standards, right? And, while my membership hasn’t yet led to any new clients, I have enjoyed getting to know other society members and I’ve profited from money off the society’s training courses.

It’s well worth checking out your own industry’s professional body and looking into the benefits they offer. Remember that a great return on investment doesn’t always translate into financial profit! Access to training, fellow professionals, and insider industry info can be worth its weight in gold.

Education.

And talking of training, education is another area in which I strongly recommend you invest a little money. If you’re really struggling financially, you can pick up a few bargains on Amazon, particularly if you don’t mind buying used books. I’ve found a few gems this year and, while investing in my professional development doesn’t directly bring in the cash, I know my obsessive reading has massively improved the quality of my work, which all goes towards gaining more word-of-mouth referrals. Definitely worth the investment.

(This year, I’ve particularly enjoyed Mark Schaefer’s Known and recommend it to anyone interested in content marketing and building a brand.)

If you have a little more to spend, attending a business training day or signing up for an online course can work wonders.  For example, if you’re in the early stages of business, a business growth workshop could be a great investment. *Shameless plug alert!* If you’re in Glasgow or Edinburgh, have a wee look at this business boot camp I’ll be presenting in February. Along with three other experts, I’ll be sharing all sorts of start-up secrets that will help your business explode in 2018. Between us, we’ll cover the ins and outs of social media and blogging, how to write amazing website copy, the secrets of sales funnels, and developing a business growth mindset. Obviously, I’m biased, but I reckon it’ll be well worth the investment and I’m looking forward to meeting loads of fabulous business owners.

Copywriting? Well…

This would be an appropriate place for a second shameless plug; however, it’s possible that you can get through the first year without investing in professional copywriting. There’s no denying that great copywriting is invaluable and, at some point, it’s definitely worthwhile investing in a professional writer (well, I would say that). However, if you’re stony broke, it might just not be feasible. And that’s okay! There are loads of great online resources that can help you improve your own copywriting efforts. One thing that is worth investing in, though, is a professional editing or proofreading service. There’s nothing worse than reading through a business website only to find typos, stray apostrophes, and dodgy grammar. It screams unprofessional and could alienate a large part of your target audience. Editing services cost less than writing from scratch so it can be a great compromise when you’re trying to stick to your startup budget.

Comfort.

Okay, ignore everything I’ve just said — I’ve been sat here writing for about 3 hours now and I’ve just realised that the best investment I’ve made this year has been my super-duper comfy spinning chair. When you spend as much time at a desk as I do, you need to be comfortable so buying equipment that will help you avoid RSI or back pain is sooooo important. So whether it’s a standing desk, a fabulous chair, or an ergonomic keyboard; treat yourself. You’re worth the investment!

Over to you…

Are you planning to invest in your business in 2018? What are your top tips for the purchases that will help your business grow?

 

 

 

 

How to survive a freelance dry spell in 7 easy steps.

surviving a freelance dry spell

How to survive a freelance dry spell. (Photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash)

 

The perks of working freelance are well-documented: working in your jammies, setting your own hours (to an extent), no more standing for hours on the train as you make your way in to the office for 9.00am.

Of course, this comes at a price. The obvious trade off is the complete lack of stability. One month you’re rolling around on a bed covered in £50 notes (okay, not quite!), the next you’re watching tumbleweed blow through your inbox and you’re asking your husband to call your mobile to check it’s still working.

I know we’re not really supposed to admit when we’re struggling but I’m not one for playing coy. I’ll happily admit that just a couple of months ago I fell victim to the dreaded ‘freelance freak-out’. I had had my busiest quarter ever and instead of enjoying the unexpected quiet spell and taking a few days to catch my breath, I started to panic. In my wee head, the busy spell was the anomaly and the quiet patch was the new ‘normal’. I started perusing job ads…

Can you relate?

If you’re currently in the midst of a quiet spell and feeling the onset of your own ‘freelance freak-out’, I want you to stop and take a breath. Assuming you still love your freelance work, this is the time to have faith and just power on through the rough patch.

Some folk turn to praying, others like manifesting and trusting in the universe. Whatever floats your boat. Me, I like action. I’ve put together 7 things you can do today to get that inbox pinging again.

1.Hit up your old clients.

Don’t forget to keep in touch with old clients. If you’ve updated your services, let them know; maybe they’ve been meaning to get in touch for another project and they just need a nudge in the right direction. Perhaps they’ve been meaning to pass your name along to someone who needs your skills but they assumed you’d be too busy to take on additional work. Maybe they’d be happy to provide you with a new testimonial that will help you close a new client you’ve been courting.

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

2.Send out a newsletter.

People are busy and it’s so easy to fall off their radar. Sending out a newsletter packed with useful content is a great way to remind people that you’re there! Let your list know that you’re currently available and see if anyone bites.

surviving a freelance dry spell

I’m available!

3.Advertise your availability on your social media platforms.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your audience know that you have immediate availability. If you’re usually booked up months in advance, there may be the odd client or two who jumps at the chance to get a project started without having to wait around for you to have a spare week in your diary.

4.Consider launching a new service or event.

Have you had the seed of an idea germinating at the back of your mind for a while? Now is the time to do something about it.

During my last quiet spell, that’s exactly what I did. Based on the conversations I’d been having at networking events, I could see that there are loads of entrepreneurs who have hit stumbling blocks with their content marketing and blogging. I realised that there was a very real need for a consultation service that helps beginner bloggers overcome these blocks. Sure enough, when I offered the service up to beta testers, I had several clients (some old, some new) jump at the chance. Quiet spell over.

Could you apply this to your own business? Could you introduce a new service or hold an event that would help out your target market? Not only will it get some pennies rolling in now, but it could be a great marketing opportunity that will pay dividends in the future too.

5.Get your butt out there.

There’s no point sitting at your desk, crying into your coffee. The best way out of a quiet spell is to get yourself out there — if clients aren’t coming to you, you’ll need to go out and find them.

Book yourself onto a networking event, sign up for a craft fair, go out and meet potential clients.

6.Cold emailing.

If you’re determined to sit at your desk, crying into your coffee, at least be productive about it. Make a list of clients you’d love to work with and send out some emails. Find out more about cold emailing here.

7.Use your contacts.

Do you know anyone in your industry who is swamped with work right now? Let them know that you’re having a tumbleweed moment (they’ll get it, they’ve been there too!) and that you’re willing and able to help them out with any overspill. It’s so important to foster these relationships; after all, there will be months when you’re the one who’s overrun with work and you’ll be able to return the favour.

surviving a freelance dry spell

Get your address book out. Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

8.Hire a sandwich board and parade the streets.

But only if you’ve tried the first 7 tips and haven’t had any luck.

Need some more tips for getting your business out there? Check out this post: http://www.clarecrossan.co.uk/low-cost-marketing-tips/

 

 

Do you have the confidence to blow your own trumpet?

 

Blowing your own trumpet in business

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

 

A recent networking event, which focused on the topic of ‘Confidence in Business’ has got me thinking. We all know that confidence in business is vital. After all, if you don’t believe in your skills, talent and business prowess then how do you expect to convince your clients that you are worthy of their hard-earned cash?

How confident are you in business matters? Are you the best in your field? More importantly, do you tell your customers how much you rock?

I have a sneaky suspicion that we Brits do not lack confidence, but rather suffer from an ingrained reluctance to blow our own trumpets. In this country, self confidence and blatant self-promotion are often mistaken for arrogance.  While we supposedly live in an increasingly classless society, we do love to hate anyone who we perceive as having ‘ideas above their station’ — Tall Poppy Syndrome in all its glory. How often have you thought that you’d like to bring the insufferably smug Simon Cowell down a peg or two?  I wonder if Mr Cowell is received somewhat more warmly across the pond where, in my experience at least, success is cheered and encouraged.

Don't let Tall Poppy Syndrome cut down your business

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

There is of course a fine line between confidence and arrogance and you do need the talent to back it up. Unfortunately I have met a good many talented people who hesitate in talking themselves up precisely to avoid seeming arrogant.

One of my clients is a perfect example. Articulate, intelligent and remarkably talented in her field, she is extremely confident in her business abilities. Yet, when it came to writing her website, she choked. She just couldn’t sell herself. She admitted that it felt completely unnatural to be so blatant in shouting about how fantastic she is.

This is often when people turn to copywriters. It’s not so much that you can’t write, it’s that you can’t write well about YOU! This particular client told me about her business, her skills and her qualifications and I did the hard bit. Since she couldn’t blow her own trumpet, I did it for her and she was thrilled with the results.

How’s that for a bit of shameless self-promotion?  I hope you don’t think I’m being arrogant…

 

So if you find it hard to sell yourself, drop me a line and I’ll help you out: office@clarecrossan.co.uk

You may also be interested in:

How to use social proof to boost your small business.

How to market your business when you’re broke.

 

The little-known tool that will help you improve your writing, today.

The Flesch-Kincaid scale. Hands up, my writerly friends, if you’ve never heard of it. And don’t sweat it if you haven’t; I hadn’t either until a few months ago when it was discussed in one of the many copywriting groups I stalk on Facebook.

I’ve since spoken to a couple of fellow content creators who hadn’t heard of it either so, generous soul that I am, I’m going to give you a quick overview so you can start using it to improve your writing, today.

So, what is the Flesch-Kincaid scale?

It’s essentially a readability calculator, based on some complicated mathematical shenanigans that go way over my head. All I need to know, and all you need to know, is that it can grade your writing, letting you know whether you’ve hit the right level of readability for your intended audience.

Where do I find the F-K scale?

If you’re creating a word document, it’s easy to set up the F-K grading. Open your Spelling and Grammar checker, click on ‘options’ and enable the ‘show readability statistics’ option. Now, after you’ve worked your way through your spelling and grammar check, you’ll be presented with your document’s readability stats. At the top, you’ll see your word count and the number of paragraphs and sentences in your document. Right at the bottom of the box, you’ll find your Flesch-Kincaid grade level.

How does it grade your writing?

As I say, there are all sorts of equations going on in the background as your grading level is calculated, but here are some of the main things to think about:

The number of sentences in your paragraphs.

For an improved readability score you want to avoid filling your writing with excessively long paragraphs. Never-ending chunks of text are hard to read and do tend to put people off. Generally speaking, it’s best to stick to two or three sentences per paragraph.

The number of words in your sentences.

Rambling sentences can work but more often than not, the longer the sentence, the higher the risk that you’ll lose clarity. For a clearer message, try to keep your sentences a bit shorter — around 20 words per sentence tends to be about right. That said, if you don’t want your readers to fall asleep halfway through your post, it’s a good idea to vary the lengths of your sentences.

The number of passive sentences.

I’m going to save a big discussion of passive and active voices for another day but here’s a quick example:

“I read the book” is the active voice.

“The book was read by me” is the passive voice.

There are times when the passive voice is the right way to go but generally, you want to avoid having too many passive sentences in your writing.

(As ever, Grammar Girl is the go-to site for these linguistic debates and here’s her take on the passive voice: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice)

What grade should you aim for?

If I had a pound for every time I answered a content-related question with this response…

It depends on your audience.

I primarily write for Joe Average — my clients employ me to write clear, concise content, which will appeal to a wide range of people with different backgrounds and education. Even those who read at a high level prefer an easier read when they’re consuming blog posts in their lunch hour or surfing websites to find a new accountant or designer.

With that in mind, I aim for a grading level of anywhere between 7.0 and 8.5. Anything lower is too minimal and could sound patronising or over-simplified. Anything above an 8.5 is straying into the territory of academic, medical or legal writing, which, most of the time, simply wouldn’t suit my intended audience.

There you have it, a quick rundown of the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale. Fellow writers, I’d love to know whether you’re already using this tool or whether you think you’ll try it after reading this. Leave me a comment to let me know how you get on.

(In case anyone is wondering, I scored a 7.7 for this post!)

Read some more super simple tips for improving your content here

How to run a cold emailing campaign without annoying your prospects!

how to run a cold emailing campaign

 

Cold emailing

— why you should do it

and

— how to do it without pissing anyone off

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer; cold emailing is not my favourite way to generate business. Not yet, anyway.

When it comes to landing clients I’m a huge advocate of responding to hot leads (or warm ones at the very least!) and good, old-fashioned networking, whether in person or online. However, I’m the first to admit that these strategies will only take you so far.

At some point you’ll have to look into other forms of marketing.

Traditionally, cold calling has been a fantastic sales tool for businesses but, frankly, I refuse to go there. When the time comes that I can’t afford to keep my kids in Haribo and I’ve sold my last kidney, I may do a U-turn on that but, for now, I’ll stick to cold emailing.

Cold emailing feels far less intrusive than cold calling and definitely far less scary.

I know that many of you will be reading this and shaking your head thinking that you’d rather pluck your eyelashes than send out a cold email. What if you’re rejected? What if you piss people off? What if you’re hit with an angry reply from one of your prospects?

The truth is, all three of these things will happen. They’ve certainly happened to me. And I don’t mind admitting, I let it get to me. So why, I hear you cry, am I entertaining the idea of going down that route again?

Because I know that it works.

One of my oldest clients came to me as a result of a cold email and our relationship is still going strong. Goodness knows the revenue that one little email has generated for me! And, the great thing about failure is that it gives us a chance to do things differently next time. Sure, I’ve annoyed a few people in the past but I now know why and I won’t make the same mistake again.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a cold emailing campaign to generate sales for your business, read on for my tips on how to do it without pissing anyone off.

Be personal.

This was my first mistake, many moons ago, when I was looking for designers to collaborate with. I thought I was terribly clever; I crafted a beautifully worded email, following all of the principles of great copywriting, and sent it out to just about every designer whose email address I could find.

What a disaster.

My emails were largely ignored but I did receive one reply from a designer who was most pissed off at my intrusion into his busy work day. With the gift of hindsight, I don’t blame him.

My email was generic and ‘salesy’. It was bloody awful.

I won’t make that mistake again and hopefully neither will you.

The key to getting this right is to personalise every email. You can use a template but make sure you customise it for every prospect. Use their name when you address them and explain why you’ve chosen to contact them specifically.

Perhaps you’re getting in touch because you’ve read about a new project they’re handling and you know that they might benefit from outsourcing work to you. Maybe you’ve looked at their website and something you’ve read there makes you think that you’d be a great fit for working together.

Don’t bang on about how passionate you are.

As ever, when you’re writing sales copy, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can help your prospect. If you start by listing your qualifications and your passion for your industry, they won’t even finish reading the email.

You have to find a way to make your content relevant to them and whatever problem you think you can help them with. Show them how working with you, or buying your product, is going to make their life easier or more fabulous.

Keep it short.

An email is definitely less annoying than a cold call but you’re still asking for someone to take time out of their busy schedule to listen to you. Keep it short and to the point.

Make it easy for them to contact you.

Remember to include a call to action at the end of your email where you make it clear how the reader can contact you.

Even better, you could offer a follow up. Suggest a specific day or time you’ll call to discuss things further or, if you’re dealing with a smaller, local business, you could propose a time that you could pop in for an informal chat.

Check your spelling!

I kid you not, I’ve received cold emails from aspiring copywriters whose writing is so full of errors it’s practically unintelligible. Needless to say, these people are not working for me. Nor will I ever consider recommending them to anyone if I have surplus work.

Sending out a error-riddled email when you’re pitching for writing work is about as lazy as you can get but don’t think that just because you aren’t pitching writing work, you can get away with mistakes.

You are asking someone, a stranger, to invest in you, whether with their time or their money. Why should they if you couldn’t even be bothered to do a spell-check? Errors in your email make you look sloppy and unprofessional and may even distort the clarity of your message.

If you aren’t great with words, ask someone else to proofread your email for you or hire a professional to do it. At the very least, make sure you’ve run your content through a spelling and grammar check.

If you’ve followed this advice, written personal, concise and relevant emails and you still haven’t made any progress, don’t despair! It may be that you need to tweak your content a little or that you simply haven’t contacted enough of the right people. Cold emailing is a numbers game and if you keep at it, you will eventually strike gold.

Good luck!

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How to use social proof to boost your small business.

social proof in marketing

 

A few years ago, I read “50 Shades of Grey”

“50 Shades of Grey”!

I am a writer. I like LITERATURE. Do you know how hard it is for me to admit this?

So why did I pick up this abomination of a novel?

Everyone was talking about it. Everyone. And I wanted in on the conversation.

I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Despite being a grown-ass woman, I didn’t want to be left out. I know, I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself!

That’s social proof for you.

It’s powerful and if you want to grow your business, it’s time to harness that power!

What is social proof?

Social proof is marketing gold. It is a potent sales tool and if you’re not using it in the promotion of your small business, you’re missing out.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that influences and changes people’s behaviour.

When we see a product flying off the shelves, we assume that it must be amazing and we join the queue.

If we walk past a restaurant and see that there are only a couple of tables left, we hurry on in. If it’s that busy, the food must be outstanding, right?

When all of our friends are raving about an amazing novel, you don’t want to be the loser who doesn’t know what everyone is banging on about.

Social proof is bloody powerful. It is the sole reason I wasted an afternoon of my life reading ‘THAT book’.

We are fundamentally herd animals. We want nothing more than to seek social acceptance. We bow to peer pressure and we worry that if we miss out on “The Next Big Thing”, we will be social pariahs.

However, many small business owners just don’t appreciate its importance, or know how to use it effectively.

How can you use social proof to boost your business?

Social proof, when used correctly, can improve your credibility, create hype, reassure hesitant buyers and generally make you lots more money.

Here are a few easy ways that you can start incorporating social proof into your business marketing, today.

Testimonials.

I was chatting to a fellow solopreneur this afternoon and we somehow ended up talking about testimonials. She admitted that she hadn’t really thought about asking clients for testimonials or reviews before. She had no idea that she was missing a valuable source of free marketing for her business.

Client testimonials prove that your marketing isn’t just a load of unfounded hype. They show potential customers that your services ARE as brilliant as you say they are, maybe even better. They let everyone know that your products DO work. Your coaching sessions can change lives; your cupcakes really do taste amazing…

Of course, we all hesitate when it comes to asking for a testimonial. We appreciate that our customers are busy people and we don’t want to bother them. However, if you’ve done a great job for them, my guess is that they will be only too happy to write a few sentences for you, as long as you ask nicely!

And, when you do receive these testimonials, don’t forget to shout about it. Add them to your website and share them on social media.

You don’t have to be too ‘braggy’ about it. I like to share any new testimonials alongside a wee thank you to the client for taking the time to provide the feedback.

Social media endorsements.

If you’re a LinkedIn user, it is worth asking clients to add a brief testimonial to your profile or endorse you for skills. Whenever anyone is looking for someone with your particular skill set, they will be reassured that you can provide a kick-ass service and they will feel more confident in reaching out to you.

If Facebook is your social media platform of choice, offer customers an incentive to leave a review or to check-in to your location. You could add everyone who reviews or endorses you into a prize draw or offer a freebie to one lucky person who has checked in to your business in the last month.

There is something very powerful about seeing your Facebook friends reviewing a business or checking-in.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite particular about pizza (living in Italy has ruined me!). So, if anyone in my network sees me leave a 5* review for a pizzeria, they know it is probably worth checking out.

When I see my fitness fanatic friend check in to a local gym, I know that when I finally get off my lazy butt, that’s probably the best place to check out.

Case Studies.

Case studies work in the same way as testimonials but they allow for more detail. You can really go to town on a case study, drawing in your audience with a compelling story and making the most of any before and after pictures you may have.

My advice for using case studies is to look particularly to customers who fit your ideal customer avatar. Tell their story; highlight the problem they had when they came to you and how you helped solve the issue. Others, with similar problems, will be able to relate to the story and will be able to picture you solving their issues too.

Brand logos/celebrity endorsements.

Have you worked with any well-known brands? Are your products stocked in a high-end store? Have you sold any products to celebrities or ‘influencers’?

One aspect of social proof is that people tend to look to authority figures for guidance. If you can show that your product or service has been ‘approved’ by a well-known brand or personality, you will instantly boost your credibility and public interest in your brand.

There are loads of ways you can harness the power of social proof when marketing your business and the best thing is that most of them won’t cost you a penny.

Which one will you try first?

Now, let’s all try to forget that I told you about reading “50 Shades”…

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7 Benefits of Having a Business Blog

 

Have you started a business blog yet?

Or have you started, uploaded a couple of posts and then let it fade?

I mean, you have other stuff to do, right? You know, designing, coaching or whatever it is that your clients pay you to do…

I get it. Blogging takes time and it takes effort.

You have to set aside time to research, write and (for the love of the wee man don’t forget this bit), promote your blog posts.

Given the whole ‘time and effort’ objection to blogging, you might wonder why I made such a big deal of it in my previous post ‘How to market your business when you’re broke’. Sure, it’s free but is it really worth the hassle?

In a word, yes!

Now, if you’re happy to take my word for it, then you can go and get started right now.

If you still need a bit of convincing, I’ve listed below the most basic benefits you’ll get from starting your own business blog.

1. Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Now, many copywriters are SEO experts—I am not. I’m not super- techy and they keep moving the damn goalposts on this one. Google changes its algorithms more often than I change my mind about my favourite Game of Thrones character.

 One thing that remains constant though, is that search engines love fresh content.

There is absolutely no point getting yourself an all-singing, all-dancing website and then letting it stagnate.

And that’s what’ll happen if you don’t keep updating your content. All of the well cared for websites, with new and exciting content will float to the top of the search pile, leaving yours to sink lower and lower into the depths.

It’s heartbreaking. Especially if you paid a fortune setting up your site in the first place!

The easiest way to introduce fresh content to your website: a blog.

2.Long-tail keywords

While we’re talking search engines, it’s worth knowing about long-tail keywords. This is something that probably deserves a post of its very own but I’m going to stick with just a simple explanation for now.

What are long-tail keywords and how are they going to help your business?

Let’s take my own business as an example. A relevant long-tail keyword might be ‘how to write a great landing page’. In search engine terms, this is going to have far less competition than the more generic ‘copywriter’ or ‘marketing copy’.

The more long-tail keywords your website contains, the more people will be able to find it —providing you are not jamming keywords in just for the sake of it. (Don’t do this! Google will recognise that you’re trying to cheat the system and will penalise you for it. Always remember you’re writing for people, not search engines).

Blog posts are a brilliant way of naturally incorporating long-tail keywords into your website.

3. Building relationships

Blogging is NOT about making sales. Increased sales will happen further down the line, but when you’re writing it’s worth remembering that the main purpose of your blog is to help your customers.

Before you even start blogging, it’s a good idea to spend some time putting together a strategy.

Consider who your customers are, what they want to know and how you can help them. What kind of topics could you cover that will improve their lives or their businesses?

Assuming you’re providing useful content and showing a bit of personality, your customers will come to know, like and trust you. When they get to the point that they’re ready to buy, they’re far more likely to come to you, the person they know, like and trust.

4. Establishing credibility

In a similar vein, by posting useful information about your industry you’re proving to your audience that you know your stuff.

Diplomas and qualifications are great but producing relevant content highlights that you are constantly honing your skills and keeping your knowledge fresh.

This shows your professionalism and your expertise —and instils confidence in your customers.

5. Getting to know your customers

When you’re blogging, invite your readers to comment on your posts. The conversations that can ensue here are a goldmine.

Are customers frequently asking the same questions? Great, there’s a topic for a new blog post or even a new page on your website.

Is there a recurring problem with one of your products? Great, now you know about it, you can fix it and tell everyone about the improvements you’ve made.

Maybe some of the comments are highlighting a particular problem that your clients are experiencing — here’s an opportunity for you develop or repackage one of your products or services.

6.Improve your industry knowledge

Not every blog post you write will require research. You are writing about your own industry after all. Some will though and when you’re researching these topics, I guarantee that you’ll improve your professional knowledge along the way. This will ultimately improve the service you’re offering your clients and help you grow your business.

7.Increased visibility

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth saying again:

Promote your posts!

There is no point in writing a post that no one will ever read. As soon as you’ve hit publish, promote your post on every social media account you have, including your personal ones.

It is also worth adding any new posts to your newsletter or automatically emailing any new content to your email subscribers.

This is a great way to increase your visibility and stay at the forefront of your customer’s minds.

 

I’d love to know…

If you were on the fence about starting a blog, has any of the info here changed your mind one way or the other?

Have I missed anything out?

If you’ve been blogging for a while and spotted an obvious benefit that I haven’t mentioned here, let me know!

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