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Many people want to blog, but simply don’t know where to start.  I’m going to try to answer some of the most common questions we’re asked:

  •  Why should I blog and what are the benefits?
  • Can you teach me about blogging?
  • What can I write about in my blog?

What is a blog?

A blog was originally a ‘web log’ – essentially an online diary where people recorded events and day-to-day occurrences.  Many of today’s blogs still do this.  You can read blogs about people’s gardening activities, their experiences in setting up their business, and even how they bring up their children.

However, many businesses use blogs as effective marketing tools and these are different from the online diary-type offerings.

Why should your business have a blog?

Blogs have a wealth of benefits for a business.  Rather than go into this subject here, I’ve had a look round and found an excellent blog post on the subject by Simon Rycroft of netexplorers.

Blog training

While we do offer copywriting workshops to help you learn to write effectively, we don’t run blogging courses.

But if you’re interested in blogging and live in the Oxfordshire area, Black Dog New Media has two blog training workshops coming up shortly.  These will be presented by award winning writer and blogger Emily Carlisle.  The cost is £25 and places can be booked online.

If you can’t make the Black Dog New Media workshops (and you should try – Emily Carlisle is extremely knowledgeable and very entertaining!), check out Mark White’s Better Business Blogging website.  We can highly recommend his free business blogging ecourse.  It’s clear and easy to follow – and delivered in bite-sized chunks.

What to blog about

This is often the biggest hurdle for a would-be blogger.  As a copywriter, I enjoy blogging.  For me, it is a ‘free-fall’ type of writing – I can choose my subjects and write what I want!

If your blog is a diary, like our Copywriters’ Allotment one, you would write about events.  You can ask for advice or post your own hints and tips.

But what about writing a business blog?  What should you write about?

Firstly, blogs are not ‘in your face’ sales tools.  A good blog is informative and interesting. It should not be a sales pitch.  Your blog posts should demonstrate your knowledge and experience, which in itself will market your business.

Anyone running a business is an expert in their own field. Start by writing a list all your specialist areas of knowledge.  For example:

  •  An accountant will have expert knowledge about things like reducing tax, current legislation, and setting up a company.
  • An HR consultant will be an expert in disciplinary procedures and interview techniques.
  • A butcher would be able to offer advice on choosing good cuts of meat and how to make your own sausages.
  • If you are a social media expert, you will know about new applications for Twitter or how to get the most from a Facebook page.

Once you have your list of specialist subjects, ask yourself the following two questions:

  • What are my prospective customer or client’s problems?
  • What advice can I offer to help solve them?

When you’ve answered them, you will have a host of subjects to write about in your blog.

It’s a good idea to keep a list of possible topics for your blog.  If you have an idea, add it to your list before you forget.  If you use Facebook or Twitter, try asking people what advice they would like.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be generous with your knowledge.  You won’t damage your business by giving advice.  Our blog offers advice on copywriting and other aspects of marketing.  Many people who read it act on our advice.  On the other hand, there are plenty of people who will never master the art of copywriting, or don’t have the time or the inclination to try … so who will they contact when they need a copywriter?

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

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Yesterday saw our very first copywriting masterclass held at Bloxham Mill near Banbury.  We had a full house of 10 people from a range of businesses.  Although we expected everyone to be local, one of our delegates travelled from Hertfordshire to attend the masterclass!

PR Masterclass training in Oxfordshire

Wearing PR hats!

The ice was quickly broken when everyone was tasked with making themselves a PR hat … from a sheet of newspaper.  They didn’t know origami was also on the agenda!  Later in the morning, Ray Avery the general manager of Bloxham Mill, popped in to judge the results.

 

After covering some PR theory, everyone got down to work writing their own press release.  Their enthusiasm was inspirational … as were the results.  At the end of the session, each delegate was given a comprehensive take-home pack of notes to back-up their hands-on learning.

 

The feedback was very positive, with many of the students demanding more copywriting sessions!  Here’s what some of them had to say:

“Word-right’s PR Masterclass was really enjoyable and very informative. A relaxed way of learning.  I would definitely recommend this class. Joy has a great deal of knowledge which I would love to tap into further.”

 

“An excellent, concise course with a comprehensive take-home pack. Would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who wants to write eye-catching press releases.”

 

“I never thought I would be able to write press releases, but now I have the tools and confidence to do so.”

Future copywriting masterclasses will be announced shortly.  For more information, visit the WORD-right website or call Joy McCarthy on 01608 642845.

Having posted a copywriting tip about the importance of prominent contact details on Twitter and Facebook, I decided the subject was worthy of a blog post.

I’m sure I’m not alone in suffering the frustration of wanting to contact a company after looking at their website, and several minutes later giving up because their details were not to be found!  I touched on this subject in an earlier blog about calls to action and recommended you include a phone number there too.

Companies which fail to provide their contact details on their marketing materials are nothing new.  Perhaps worse are the examples of incorrect contact details – old addresses and phone numbers which are no longer in service.  Have you experienced this?

For want of an address a sale was lost!

In the late 1990s, a brochure from a garden centre was posted through my letter box.  It arrived at a very opportune time.  I decided to pay them a visit and buy some plants.  But, I had recently moved to the area and I didn’t have a clue where this particular garden centre was located.  I combed the brochure from start to finish and – nothing!  Undeterred, I went online to see if I could find a website – there wasn’t one (but that wasn’t uncommon at that time).  Because the garden centre wasn’t in the immediate area, they weren’t in my Yellow Pages either.  Needless to say that garden centre didn’t get my sale and I can’t  help but wonder how many other people were put off by their oversight.

What the law says

But aside from the inconvenience and the possible loss of business, companies failing to put their contact details on their website are breaching the legislation.  The law states a company must disclose its address on its website, other marketing materials and business communications.  Sole traders or partnerships must give a business address – a PO Box doesn’t count.

Limited companies must display their registration number, state where the company is registered and give the registered office address.  If you are VAT registered, then your VAT registration number should also be given.  Remember: this doesn’t just apply to your website – even your email signature should contain the same information.

Address it and gain!

Apart from the legal implications, companies which hide under a veil of anonymity are missing some very obvious marketing opportunities.

In today’s market there is an increasing desire to ‘keep it local’.  ‘Business miles’ are as important to some as ‘food miles’.  If your website visitor can’t tell if you are in Wick or Winchester, you could be missing out on valuable local sales.

Then of course there’s the matter of trust.  Are you going to spend your hard-earned cash with a company you know nothing about and can’t contact if things go wrong?  I wouldn’t and I don’t think I’m alone in that!

I know many home business owners are reluctant to display their address publicly.  If it does concern you, perhaps using a virtual office address is the solution.  The benefits of being open and visible can far outweigh the disadvantages of being a well-kept secret.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Email newsletters are an essential part of your marketing strategy.  They are low cost and help increase your company profile.  However, electronic newsletters and email marketing is subject to legislation and it’s important you understand this and adhere to it.

While you might be forgiven the occasional mistake, companies which persistently breach the law are at risk of being reported to the Information Commissioner.  The penalties are severe, with fines of up to £10,000 levied.

The WORD-right copywriting office received two emails this week which have both broken the rules.  They have prompted this blog offering a little advice to help you keep on the right side of the law.

Email ‘A’ was an unsolicited sales message which came from a company in Kent.  As it had been sent to our generic email address and we have a limited company, the sender had not breached the legislation.

However, the mistake he made was using an online email marketing service which strictly forbids the use of its system for unsolicited sales campaigns.  If reported, his account could be suspended.

If you use an email marketing system, it is important you read and understand the small print in your agreement.  Setting up your email system takes time and effort.  These companies take reports of spamming very seriously and they will act if they see you abusing the system.

Email ‘B’ was a newsletter I recently subscribed to.  However, the company’s whole approach turned out to be unprofessional.  Rather than using suitable software, this newsletter is created in Word and sent as an attachment.

There is an obvious security risk here – viruses can be transmitted via attachments in emails.  But worse still is this company’s practice of entering all their subscriber’s email addresses in the ‘To’ box.  This means I have access to hundreds of private email addresses which I could steal, spam, sell, or otherwise abuse!  Not only is this unprofessional, it is also a breach of the Data Protection act.

This newsletter also breached the email marketing legislation in other ways: there was no unsubscribe option and no contact details on the email.  Last week we sent this company a friendly email, gently suggesting how their email marketing could be improved.   Sadly  today, they’ve sent another newsletter – breaking all the same rules!  I have now emailed asking to be unsubscribed.  I only hope they act on this request – email addresses must be treated with care, and confidentiality is essential.

Email marketing legislation is slightly vague in the UK.  But you still have an obligation to adhere to it.  If you are unsure, it is in your interests to take advice on the subject, or commission a reputable company to manage your email marketing for you – a £10,000 fine won’t do your reputation or your bank balance any good!

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

The online voting in the 2010 Software Satisfaction Awards opened today … and we’re excited!

This year one of our clients, TeamSeer, is entered in two categories:

TeamSeer is an online application which allows companies and organisations to manage TeamSeer Absence Management Software Applicationtheir staff annual leave and absence, quickly and easily.  Each member of staff has their own unique log-in, and their TeamSeer account tells them what their holiday entitlement is, how many days they have left, and even when their colleagues are out of the office.  Having worked in companies of all sizes, it’s easy to see how much time can be saved by using TeamSeer instead of a paper-based annual leave management system!

TeamSeer was a revelation to me.  While I am reasonably technically adept (but often pretend to be otherwise), I do lack patience.  Software applications which involve complicated processes test me to the limits.  But when I had the opportunity to put TeamSeer through its paces, I was a convert.  It’s easy to use and completely intuitive.

I was pleased to see the Software Satisfaction Awards voting has been carefully structured to prevent any rigging or block voting.  With such a prestigious award, this is important as it is the users’ votes which will determine the finalists.  The vote is actually an online survey, which calls for hands-on knowledge of the product.  There is also an email verification for added security.  The survey feedback is anonymously reported to TeamSeer, which will help them with their future development.

The TeamSeer team are passionate about their product and the service they provide and, if I were eligible, they’d get my vote!  So if you are a TeamSeer user and you haven’t already voted, follow the links now:

  1. Human Resources and Human Capital Management
  2. Paperless Office and Document Management

And while you’re doing that, I’m off to put that bottle of bubbly in the fridge to celebrate TeamSeer’s success on October 7th!

I’m bewildered!  As a copywriter, am I just more sensitive to the written word than others, or have I just stumbled on two examples of major marketing madness?

As much of my work involves research, I trawl through a fair number of websites in the working week.  Today I’m working for a meat wholesaler and investigating British meat and the British Food Fortnight (18 Sept – 3 Oct 2010).

My first gem was found on the British Food Fortnight website.  It is a PDF download of a flyer, pertaining to promote the 2010 event.  The headline reads “British Food Fortnight will run at the same time as 2012 London Olympics… “.  It goes on to talk about the 2012 event.  You can see for yourself by following this link to the PDF.

Just how many people will bother to read past that misleading opening message?  I’m sure many will quickly and mistakenly come to the conclusion there is no event this year.  I nearly did.

The next and very best bit of marketing madness came from the www.britishmeat.org.uk website.  Only one page in length, and with no contact details available, this site suggests it is supporting and promoting British meat.  Look more closely … the first link on the page takes you straight to a … French Gourmet Food website!  And additional links have little or no relevance to meat, British or otherwise.

All I can say is, if you are involved in running of either of these websites, please get in touch with us.  We’d be pleased to offer you some advice to help you avoid these moments of marketing madness.

If you’re a Twitter fan, you might wonder what all the tweets bearing the ‘#oxsconeoff’ hashtag are about.

WORD-right scone practice!

WORD-right scone practice!

#oxsconeoff is the Twitter tag used to announce the one and only, now world famous, Scone Baking Competition, being held at 2pm on Bank Holiday Monday (May 3rd) at Fallowfields Hotel, Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire!

No doubt you were taught as a child not to eavesdrop … but this is exactly what I did on Twitter a couple of months ago, and look where it got me!  There was a ‘conversation’ going on between Anthony Lloyd (@FallowfieldsUK) and Tracey Jefferies (@TraceyJefferies) on the subject of scones.  I happened to see this and tweeted saying ‘must make some scones – haven’t made them in ages’.  And the dye was cast!  Anthony Lloyd set us up for a scone-making competition at the Community Day on May 3rd at his Oxfordshire hotel.  The competition hotted up when Sarah Steel (@nurserysarah) got involved.  Fortunately she is now back from her extended holiday in Cyprus, courtesy of the volcanic ash, but it was a near thing!

Home-made scone

Scone with whipped cream & WORD-right's home-made bramble jelly

Needless to say, all 3 contestants are canvassing votes on Twitter from their supporters.  Perhaps next we should take on the politicians and form an #Oxsconeoff Party in time for Thursday’s election!  Of course my fellow competitors won’t stand a chance, and if you check out the pictures you’ll see what they’re up against.  Just don’t tell them … OK?

The event, which runs from 11am until 5pm, is an action-packed day out for all the family.   Local radio station JackFM will be there to join in the fun.  Among the attractions are a host of stalls, guided tours round the Fallowfields Farm, Falconry Displays, and a fun dog show.  There is a small entrance fee on the day, with the proceeds going to charity.

The highlight of course will be the scone-making competition, with the audience being roped in for some tasting and voting.  No doubt there will be much nobbling of judges going on through out the morning, before we get down to the challenge … with jam and cream at 20 paces.

So what do you do next?  Take yourself and the family along to Fallowfields Hotel on Monday and join in the fun.  Oh … and don’t forget to vote for me (@WORDright)!

And … if you’re wondering what all this has to do with marketing a business … I’m a firm believer in raising our profile in the local area, be that with scones or anything else (providing it’s legal, moral and decent, of course!).

Are you generous with your knowledge and experience, or do you keep it to yourself?  Would you be surprised to hear giving free advice could actually help you market your business and increase your sales?

This morning we attended a Sales Training Seminar hosted by Sarah Castle, MD of Think Big Training, at Bloxham Mill near Banbury.  Some 40 people took advantage of this free opportunity to learn how to improve their sales skills.  Sarah gave freely of her time, knowledge and experience, and asked nothing in return.  We were well looked after with coffee and a dazzling array of cakes and pastries, which added to the very positive experience.

Each and every one of the delegates came away informed, motivated, and keen to put Sarah’s ideas into practice.  And to reinforce the message, we were given ‘goody bags’, with information packs, branded pens and pads.  So how will Think Big Training benefit?  Many of the small business owners are probably not in the market for bespoke training programmes themselves, but who will they recommend to others who are?

It’s said the average person knows 200 others.  On that basis, Sarah Castle delivered a powerful, fun and punchy message to around 8,000 people.  That’s what I call marketing!

It’s something we practice extensively.  Over the past year, we’ve produced a series of audio copywriting seminars which are being downloaded by hundreds of people, completely free of charge.  If it helps them deliver a stronger message and improve their writing skills, that’s great.  Not everyone will succeed, and those are the ones who remember WORD-right when they need help with their copywriting.  And there’s no doubt the listeners recommend our services to others.

Both WORD-right and WEB-right use social media, and we’ve written an Introduction to Twitter, which we email to anyone who is interested in this marketing medium.  The file bears our company livery and helps deliver a powerful message about our services.

If you’d like to take advantage of our free audio copywriting seminars, or would like a guide to using Twitter, drop WORD-right an email and we’ll be delighted to send you the link … but you’ll have to supply your own coffee and cakes, I’m afraid!

So our recommendation is, the next time you’re thinking of ways to market your business, take five minutes to work out what you can give away for free.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

WORD-right logo

WORD-right - the Oxfordshire Copywriters

If you’re in the Oxfordshire area and haven’t booked your place at Bloxham Mill’s b2b club networking meeting, you’ll need to hurry or you’ll miss one of the area’s best networking events.

WEB-right logo

WEB-right Simplicity

WORD-right and WEB-right are the proud sponsors of this month’s event and it’s going to be an interesting and lively meeting.  Keynote speaker Mike Pagan, will provide forthright, practical and thought provoking ideas on ‘Making Business Simple’.

You can expect Mike to get straight to the heart of the matter!  His new book entitled ‘Faff – The Power of Doing Without Achieving – Making Busyness Profitable’ will be launched this month.

The meeting runs from 5.30pm – 7.30pm:

5.30pm  –  Networking / Arrival & Drinks

6.00pm –  Welcome & Introduction by Ray Avery, General Manager, Bloxham Mill

6.10pm – Sponsors’ Welcome,   Joy McCarthy, WORD-right

6.15pm – Guest Speaker Mike Pagan, “Stop Faffing About and Get On With It ”

6.45pm – Refreshments & Networking

Register now – the event is free and light refreshments are provided.  Email admin@bm-it.co.uk or call 01295 724545.

As a copywriter, I’m passionate about communication.  Remember the old adage which says, ‘businesses don’t plan to fail, but many fail to plan’?  My take on this is businesses should plan to communicate, and effective communication can solve many a business problem.

I was pleased to meet a local small business marketing expert called Jez Hunt through Twitter, and it was an article on his blog which prompted me to write this one.  His message (and ours) is that marketing isn’t rocket science … marketing doesn’t need deep pockets, and there is a great deal you can do to promote your business, simply by communicating with people.

Let me tell you a story … a few years ago I was attending the local rugby club’s junior section AGM … and jolly boring it was too!  The club had several problems:

  • Not enough children playing
  • Not enough income
  • Not enough coaches

After an hour of lengthy discussion they were still going round in circles, and I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer.  Couldn’t they see the answer was simple?  Start communicating!  Reach out to the local community.  Recruit more children … they come as a package deal with parents (potential coaches) … more children would mean more membership ‘subs’ … problem solved!  What was difficult about that?

So we produced flyers which were distributed through the schools, the coaches ran ‘taster sessions’ in the schools, we put up posters, we got coverage in the local press, and we contacted old members.

Just 3 months later, several new coaches were being trained and the club coffers started to fill up.  And I knew the problem was solved when the under-7 coach took me to one side and hissed … “Will you please stop!  I’ve got 27 b***** kids round there and I don’t know what to do with them all!’

There are a lot of businesses out there with similar problems:

  • Need more customers
  • Need more sales
  • Need more income

Sound familiar?  So how many ways could you communicate with people to solve your problems?  Do you communicate with your existing customers, or do you abandon them and move on the next hot prospect?

Why not try this communication lark for yourself and see what happens?  My guess is you’ll be surprised at just how simple and effective it really is.

Now … how about bringing the kids along to rugby on Sunday …

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

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