7 Tips for Becoming a Boffin in Blogging

BLOG

I’ve worked with a number of clients over the last few months who have wanted to get into blogging. Blogs are a great idea for most businesses – as a business owner they give you the opportunity to reveal more about who you are and what makes your product or service special.

If you are still fairly new to blogging, here are 7 top tips to get you going or help you improve your blogging technique.

1. Get a blog that’s integrated into your website
Having a blog that’s integrated into your main website provides fresh content for your site which is good for Google and your SEO. It is also an easy way to get potential customers to visit your website and encourage them to venture outside the Blog section to other important pages that sell your product or service. If you can’t run to the cost involved in adding a blog to your website, then the alternative is to begin a free blog on something like blogger.com. If you do this, then be sure to include links to your main website in your blog posts.

2. The who, the what and the why
Before you begin putting fingers to keyboard, make sure you’ve asked yourself the critical questions: Who is it you are writing for?  What is it you want your blog to do? To connect with others? To share knowledge?  And why do you want to start a blog? To raise awareness of a particular issue? To demonstrate expertise in something? Write your answers down somewhere and read back over them as your blog develops to check you are still on track with your goals.

3. Make it easy to read
Research shows that people scan web pages rather than giving them a thorough read, and this should impact the way you write your blogs.  Make your main points clear, and be quick to explain why the post is relevant and worth reading. Readers spend an average of 1.5 minutes on a blog, so it’s important to hold their attention. Be concise and to the point to make your blogs quick and easy reads – between 250 and 800 words is a good guideline. For longer blogs (like this one!) use sub-headings, bullet points and images to help maintain the reader’s focus.

4. Invite two-way interaction
The best blogs actively encourage a dialogue between the blog writer and the readers. Ask for feedback, invite people to leave comments or let you know their opinions regarding the topic being discussed. It’s understandable to perhaps feel hesitant about inviting this sort of feedback, for fear of losing control or having your authority compromised. However, including other people’s opinions or experiences often makes for a more enriching blog. It’s also helpful to remember that you are always in control of what gets published on your blog. If you are worried then check your blog settings to ensure that any comments made by readers require prior moderation by yourself before being published on the site.

Two-way interaction

5. Use images
The blogs with the highest engagement levels almost always include images along with the text. As someone quickly scans through your web page they will process images much faster than text. Experiment with being creative with the images – how about using images that include some text, or even embedding a short video that is related to your blog post?

6. Get social (and sociable!)
Social blogging
There’s little point in writing a blog if nobody can find it. Use social media to get your blog out there, and cross-promote your blogs and your tweets to gain more followers. There are also free online tools out there that allow you to automatically publish your blog posts to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, giving you one less job to do when promoting your blog. Also, don’t overlook the face-to-face opportunities to promote your blog, such as when doing presentations or chatting at networking events.

7. Keep it up!
It can take a while for a blog to gain momentum, so if you’ve not yet established the readership you desire then don’t give up. It’s important to keep blogging regularly – this might mean once a month, once a week, or even once a day depending on your blogging aims and strategy. If you find yourself on a roll with writing, you can always write several posts in one go and then use the scheduling tool on your blog to automatically publish your posts over a period of time.

Over to you
Are you a regular blogger? I’d love to hear about your experience of blogging – please comment below to share your thoughts or to add your own blogging tips or tricks to the list.

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Work Essentials: My Guest Blog on Work from Home Wisdom

Work from Home Wisdom badgeThis month, rather than writing a blog here on my own site, I was asked by Judy Heminsley of Work from Home Wisdom to write a guest blog on the “5 Things I Can’t Work Without”. I love Judy’s blog and always enjoy clicking through to read her posts which are often informative as well as fun to read, so I was thrilled to provide a blog post for her.

Fluffy Slippers and Filofax

My fluffy slippers are definitely a work essential!

“5 Things I Can’t Work Without” is a series of blogs written by various people who run their businesses from home. It’s a very popular read – we are by nature nosey folks who love to learn about other people and what their routines look like day-to-day, especially with so much flexibility and freedom involved in home working.

So here is my guest blog on the 5 Things Back Room SAM Can’t Work Without. I have made an effort to avoid the obvious items like a laptop or mobile phone, and instead tried to include things that explain the nature of my business and give a good idea about some of my character traits (the photo might give you some clues about some of the items I’ve chosen…)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading it!

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Video Blog: Social media – A picture speaks a thousand words (or tweets!)

A post on social media is twice as likely to be shared or retweeted by others when it includes an image. In this video blog, I talk about how a important it is for a business to get creative with producing images for use on their social media pages, and how this can be done, even without any graphic design skills!

I hope you find this video blog useful, and I hope it inspires you to get creative when using images in your social media strategy.

Thanks for watching!

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Video Blog: It’s the Little Things That Count

When running a business it is often the big things that are at the top of our priority list. This is understandable as these are often the sorts of things our business couldn’t run without. But in this video blog I talk about the importance of paying attention to the little details in your business. These smaller things require little extra effort, can work powerfully to set you apart from competitors and can go a long way in helping you succeed and achieve your business goals.

Thanks for watching!

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Video Blog: 3 Easy Ways to Encourage Customer Loyalty

Getting customers and clients to stick with you long-term is one of the most efficient and profitable ways to grow your business. I often get asked for advice from my clients on strategic ways to build loyalty and increase repeat custom. In this short video I share 3 ways every business can encourage more customer loyalty in their business. Enjoy!

Thanks for watching!

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

What’s on your ‘Get To Do’ List?

To Do ListI attended a networking event the other day which had an open Q&A session. Somebody asked whether there was any free software out there to help them organise their ‘To Do’ list. After a couple of people speaking up with suggestions of helpful apps for helping with time management, another person then suggested the idea of dividing your list into things you want to do and things you need to do.

This may well be a useful way of helping you prioritise your tasks, but I would like to make a simple yet bold suggestion for completely changing your attitude towards your To Do list altogether…

Got to do ‘or ‘Get to do’?

If you’re anything like me, you wake up in the morning and the moment you open your eyes your brain starts whirring with the mountain of jobs you need to get done in the day ahead. All the things you absolutely have to get done, or else…

This is of course very normal, but with this regular way of thinking it’s very easy for a normal person (let alone a busy business owner!) to end up getting stuck in a perpetual state of fear and joylessness. Our To Do list, for all its value in helping us be productive and prioritise well, can actually start to have a detrimental effect on our well-being and, ironically, our productivity. If we’re not careful, life simply becomes a daily slog of ticking things off, and our To Do list has enslaved us and become a heaven burden to bear. Sure we may be driven, but are we only driven by fear and anxiety?

So how do we stop this from happening? How do we avoid the daily grind and fear factor as we work through our daily, weekly, monthly business tasks?

It’s all about attitude!

I strongly believe that battles such as these are won or lost in the mind. Instead of considering all of the things you’ve got to do today, instead consider all the things you get to do today. Have you ever considered the tasks you’ve got to work on as being privileges? It is a privilege to work and earn a living and serve others with your products and skills, and it is certainly a privilege to run your own business. Yes, it is even a privilege to do you’re annual accounts.

choosejoy2This attitude can be difficult to adopt, and in all honesty at first I found it quite ludicrous! But this just shows far we have slipped into a negative pattern of thinking. If this is how you feel, then I recommend the ‘fake it ‘til you become it’ approach. Whenever you catch yourself woefully looking down your To Do list and risking being overcome by a low-level sense of fear or despair, re-frame your thinking. Remind yourself that these are all things you get to do.

These are all things you have the privilege of doing.

This change of attitude doesn’t promise to make your To Do list shrink or become any shorter, but it does promise to drastically affect the way you tackle your tasks. Firstly, you will feel the joy return that may have long been missing. You will approach jobs with a much more positive and freeing attitude. You will feel the fear and anxiety lift, and in a short time you will notice that your to-do list will have become your slave rather than your master. And interestingly, with an increased level of positivity you are much more likely to be more efficient, productive, persistent and alert as well.

So, what do you get to do this week?

Over to you
Feel free to share any thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

 

Why I’m Excited About Running Getting Seen 2…

After the great success of the first Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass that I ran back in February in cahoots with fellow local business folk Jane Binnion, Tom Cumpsty and DT Guest, the exciting news is that we have decided to run a second one!

Getting Seen 2 is happening on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 9.30am-4pm at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite in Garstang (click here for map/directions).

Getting Seen 2 - Marketing Masterclass

This is a standalone one-day masterclass so you don’t have to have attended the first masterclass to come to this one. However, we have tweaked some elements of the day to make Getting Seen 2 even more packed full of practical and useful marketing tools and tips, even more beneficial to delegates and of course, even better value for money!

The day will consist of a range of sessions to choose from, including how to form your marketing plan, blogging and content strategy, making sense of web analytics, how Twitter and LinkedIn can help your business grow, plus sessions on Getting Seen in 60 seconds and how to create an e-book.

So why am I personally so excited about running Getting Seen 2?

Getting Seen was the first workshop I ran in collaboration with some other marketing professionals.  I personally loved the opportunity to work with others who were as keen to help local business people have the skills and confidence to get themselves out there as I was.

Getting Seen workshop discussion

One of the group discussions in my session at the previous Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass.

It was also a real pleasure running a session for a variety of business people with different needs, yet who were enthusiastic about discussing together how each of them could take the concepts being learned about and apply them to their unique business situations.

There are plenty of marketing workshops out there that business owners could attend. But I believe what makes the Getting Seen Team special is our combined knowledge of various marketing aspects and platforms, as well as our practical, clear and down-to-earth nature in delivering informative as well as fun and interactive sessions. The overall aim of Getting Seen is to empower delegates to use marketing methods in a smart and efficient way. The goal is not only that their business gets seen, but gets seen by the right people (and without wasting valuable time and money doing it). What also makes the workshop special is the offer of one-to-one follow up support with the workshop leaders, which previous delegates found invaluable, all included in the price of course.

For all that you get from Getting Seen, I think that’s £120 well spent, don’t you?

To find out more about the Getting Seen 2 Marketing Masterclass and to book tickets click here.
Please note that places are limited and an early bird ticket price of £120 is available until 23rd September 2013 (after which the ticket price is £150).   

Thanks muchly for reading, and I hope you’ll come along to the workshop if you can make it.

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Writing a tagline for your business: 4 quick tips for getting started

Nike - Just .....errr?

If you’ve ever had to try coming up with a tagline or slogan for a product, service or business as a whole, you’ll probably agree with me in saying it’s not an easy thing to do. Many of my clients have commented that writing an effective tagline has been one of the biggest challenges for them in their marketing communications development.

A tagline needs to be concise, to the point and memorable, while also telling your potential customers or clients something about your business (preferably the most important thing – we’ll come back to this in a minute).

So, here are 4 quick tips to help with coming up with an effective tagline…

1. Have you done the strategy groundwork on your business? Do you know what the most important thing is that your target audience most care about from your product or service? Is it quality? Expertise? Customer care? Or maybe something more emotive like the feel-good factor. It’s also worth considering what it is that sets you apart from your competitors, and what you want to be well-known for in your field or industry. It’s useful to try and pin this down to just one (at a push two) things. I know this is hard, but doing this will make constructing a tagline that typifies your business’ most important feature lots easier. You also need to think about the extent the tagline is also required to communicate what it is you actually do. The name of your business or product might already do this so your tagline doesn’t need to (e.g. If the name of your business is ‘Photo Restoration Services’), but if your name doesn’t explain what you do, you may also need to think about how to work this into the tagline as well.

2. Find inspiration! Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and pen might not be the greatest way to get creative coming up with a tagline. You could begin by reading testimonials or feedback comments from past customers if you have them, looking at the sorts of words and descriptions they have used when speaking about your business. Ask friends and colleagues who know you and your business well for ideas; people process concepts in different ways and they might be able to capture things in a way you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. You can also test out your ideas on people who are less familiar with what you do and ask what they think you are trying to communicate about the business, product or service. Alternatively, a good tip is to go for a walk, both physically and mentally. There is no ‘correct’ process to arriving at a tagline – use whatever you think will help you to arrive at a clear and compelling message.

3. Play around with words and phrases. I have seen good taglines in the form of commands, descriptions and even questions, so play around with the structure a little. Look up synonyms and related words to those you think help say what you want to say. And don’t forget to test out different ideas by saying them out loud, not just seeing how they look on paper.

4. Allow scope for growth. Your tagline is part of the business identity. You don’t want one you’ll have to change every time you add a new product or service to your portfolio. This is especially important if your business is still quite new as you may wish to change things about your business in the first few years. So is your tagline specific enough to clearly convey what you’re about, while being generic enough to allow for some future change and growth?

Above all, don’t panic if a suitable tagline doesn’t come to you straight away. Be prepared to be patient and give the ideas chance to develop in your mind.

Over to you
How have you gone about formulating a tagline or slogan? What has led you to finding just the right words to sum up your business or product? Leave a comment below, let us know what’s worked for you.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please do get in touch if you would like to chat more about your marketing communications for your business.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Explained

7 deadly sins of marketing cartoon

I recently came across the above cartoon on the web outlining the ‘7 deadly sins of marketing’. I found it amusing, but also felt it made a serious point about some of the traps businesses can fall into when making decisions about their marketing. Below is a short explanation of each of the ‘deadly sins’ and a few tips on how to avoid them.

1. SLOTH
“Do whatever we did last year”
Don’t automatically assume that just because a particular marketing method has worked well in the past that it will always be effective. People change, technology develops and competition shifts. So make sure you bear this in mind and review your marketing strategy on a regular basis; I’d suggest at least twice a year.

2. ENVY
“Do whatever our competitor is doing”
It’s ever so tempting to look over the fence at what everyone else is doing and assume you should be doing the same or very similar. But remember that you may have a completely different strategy and goal to them.  A difference in objectives, target audience and USP may mean that the marketing methods a competitor uses makes perfect sense for them (but then it may not, remember they may not have the foggiest clue) but for you to do the same might in fact be bonkers!

3. GREED
“Do whatever accumulates the most Likes…”
…or Follows, depending on whether you’re a Twitter Tony or a Facebook Freddie. Please bear in mind that just because you get somebody to like your Facebook page, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are compelled to buy from you. Social Media can be great in terms of getting your name out, keeping in touch with past and present customers and is a beautifully compliment to word-of-mouth marketing strategies, but rarely should it be relied on as a standalone method to bring masses of sales.

4. GLUTTONY
“Do whatever includes a fancy ad shoot”
Of course it’s always nice to have sleek, shiny and professional-looking marketing material, and it certainly can be worth investing in this as image counts for a lot and it’s important to look the part regardless of the industry you are in. But don’t forget to think through your marketing expenditure and potential return-on-investment on certain options before making any decisions, otherwise you may be left with major cash flow issues and end up plummeting back down to earth with a bump!

5. LUST
“Do whatever will make affiliates partner with us”
Everybody wants themselves and their business to be liked, and in most cases it is crucial to build up a strong network of other businesses who you can collaborate with and partner with on particular projects. But don’t try and do this at the expense of jeopardising the core values and objectives of your own business. Be careful about those you decude to have any influence over you and your business. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to say no to an opportunity if you feel uneasy or aren’t convinced it makes sense; chances are that you’re right.

6. WRATH
“Do whatever spams the most people”
Whether it’s by email, phonecall or social media, spamming people with your product or service is unlikely to make you many friends. The ‘spray and pray’ approach to marketing has been used for far too long. Instead, try being strategic about those you target and then invest your time into building relationships with those likely to buy from you. You’ll vastly reduce the amount of your marketing budget wasted, and those you choose to specifically target will appreciate the special treatment you give to them, so upping the chances of them doing business with you.

7. PRIDE
“Do whatever wins an advertising award”
With any decisions you make about your marketing strategy, do it against the backdrop of the objectives you have set for your marketing. Is the aim of your marketing to make you feel good about yourself by winning awards? If so then by all means go for it. But if, as with most of us, the aim of your marketing is to increase sales and grow your business, then make sure you keep this as the main goal, and resist letting your pride and desire for global recognition distract you. If you are doing a good job and going the extra mile in your business then there is no doubt you will gain recognition for that in lots of ways. A simple thank you card from a happy client on the mantlepiece is of far greater worth than an awards trophy.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you find some of what I’ve said helpful.  If you feel you could do with some assistance formulating your own marketing strategy or putting it into practice, Back Room SAM offers an affordable 2-3 hour marketing strategy session structured specifically for small business owners. Please do get in touch for more information. I would love to hear from you and see what I can do to help. 

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

Remember, just because you can it doesn’t mean you should!

If you have been running a business for any length of time, you will no doubt have realised the endless possibilities out there for marketing yourself. It is likely you will already have received several phone calls or emails from people trying to sell you advertising space in one of their upcoming magazine editions, in the local newspaper or even on the back of a bus. With the rapid growth of technology, the Internet and social media, this opens up even more doors in terms of marketing and developing an online presence. Some companies will literally pay thousands to an SEO company to ensure that they stay at the top of Google’s rankings despite the ever-changing algorithms being implemented by the online ‘powers that be’.

There are clearly lots of choices in terms of how we market ourselves. But I want to say something that may, on initial hearing, sound quite radical.

What I want to say is this: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. I believe this rule applies to marketing just as much as to pimping up cars.


Resist the unwritten rule
There seems have emerged an unwritten rule in business that we should be exploring every single possible avenue for getting ourselves out there, regardless of its cost of effectiveness level. And for some businesses and some marketing strategies, this could arguably be valid. But for the majority of us small businesses, where marketing budgets are slim and time is precious, I want to suggest that we be radical and resist the pressure to conform to this rule. We need to make sure we get the best possible return-on-investment for every pound and every hour we spend on our marketing.

If you have taken the time to put together a coherent marketing strategy, it will hopefully have become clear to you that not all marketing methods will be effective or appropriate to you. I am the first to admit that marketing can be an excellent way to waste good amounts of time and money! It is not enough to think that just because you are doing something with your marketing that you are doing it correctly or successfully.

Be fussy!
So don’t be afraid to be picky about the marketing methods you decide to use; it might be that you only explore 2 or 3 channels to begin with. Choose wisely, and make smart decisions based on the thinking you have done regarding your business environment, marketing objectives, target audience, positioning and business identity. Ask yourself “Does it make sense for me to pay for an ad on the back of this bus?”

Of course all this comes with the caveat that marketing is not an exact science; we are dealing with people and people are inevitably unpredictable! There is never a 100% guarantee of a good return on your marketing efforts. But if you have done that foundational thinking behind your marketing strategy and asked yourself the right questions, then against this backdrop you should be able to confidently make wise and sensible decisions about the best marketing methods to use and stand a much better chance of your marketing delivering the results you are after.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it’s been food for thought. Questions and comments below are always welcome.

sarah x

www.backroomsam.co.uk

One of the services Back Room SAM offers is a 2-3 hour marketing strategy session structured specifically for small business owners. If you think this is something you think your business might find useful, then please do get in touch.