Category Archives: – Marketing your Business


5 top tips for Planning a Business while on Maternity Leave

Today’s guest post is from Lindsey Fish of Little Fish Event management, who attends our East Hertfordshire networking group.

Lindsey started thinking about working for herself while she was on maternity leave, and so here she is sharing her story and also sharing her top tips for setting up a new business

So here are Lindsey’s Top tips for starting a business while on maternity leave

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The Art of Social Media

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawaski and Peg Fitzpatrick

Book reviewed by Stephanie Adams, Motivating Mum East Hertfordshire

This very easy to read paperback is packed with practical and useful tips for using social media to the maximum effect.

It includes over one hundred tips and covers: tips on content and responding to comments; integrating social media and blogging; getting more followers; running Google+ Hangouts and Twitter chats; optimising individual platforms and putting it all together. There’s also a very helpful glossary of terms at the end of the book.

I am going to share some of the tips I found most useful here, which does not include content from every chapter.

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Is Your Business Using SMS Marketing To Its Advantage?

SMS Marketing is when you send your company’s promotional message to your customers’ mobile phones via a text message. More and more people now own smartphones and spend longer and longer each day consulting them.  As a result this is becoming a very significant marketing channel, and one that cannot be ignored.

SMS marketing

Get straight to your target customer with a text – by Shutterstock

There are many advantages to using SMS marketing.  If done right it can be a successful, quick, effective and fairly inexpensive way of connecting directly with your customer base. Some of the many advantages include:


Firstly, the customers must opt in to receive your text messages, so you already have that initial connection with them. Then receiving your message will be the same as receiving a message from one of their friends or family members and they will probably receive a prompt on their phone when it arrives, to encourage them to read it.

Direct and immediate:

SMS is one of the most immediate channels available, with a read rate of 97% within 15 minutes delivery, therefore you can ensure your time sensitive message will be read almost instantly.


Companies such as this sms marketing company enable you to connect, communicate and engage with your customers with easy and cost effective SMS marketing campaigns. These services are provided for all businesses big or small and can cost as little as 2.4p per message.


Disadvantages of SMS Marketing

That said, if SMS marketing is done wrong, it could easily alienate your customer base, because it is such a personal way of contacting someone. If your messages become too frequent, too pushy, or could be construed as rude – your customer is likely to stop the messages and potentially stop using your company altogether because of it.

So, are you using SMS Marketing to your company’s advantage?

You want to ensure you are taking the full advantage of this marketing platform and keep well away from anything that could result in it becoming a disadvantage to your company.

Every time you send out a message, you need to think carefully about the information included, how you word it, what time you send it and how long since you sent the last one.

Ensure the message supports and integrates with your other media channels. You can use links to take the customer from your message to your website or social media, for example. Or, use it to remind your customer that you have sent an e-mail – a simple follow up text message can help increase e-mail open rates by 20-30%.

Your company can also use text marketing to learn more about your customers. Send them a short survey to canvass their opinions or simply ask a question – fast responses will enable you to make quick changes to your company that will keep your customers happy.

Once you have sent out your message it is important to track it, so you know who is opening it and what kind of messages are getting the most engagement. This will help you improve your ongoing SMS marketing campaign and make it as successful as possible.

If SMS is not currently a key part of your marketing strategy, it is definitely worth having a look at it, and if you are using it already, ensure you review it regularly to be sure you are using it to your best advantage.


How to get started with Digital Marketing

For anybody interested in ensuring that their business is able to compete in the 21st century, it’s incredibly important to have a good online profile. Digital Marketing is becoming the new buzzword, even for those businesses who provide physical products of face to face services.

Digital Marketing Basics

Are you online yet? by Shutterstock

Amazingly, over 50% of the UK’s small businesses still don’t have a website, and whilst maintaining a website might not seem like the most important aspect of your daily routine, it’s a good idea to get the basics in place in order for your business to thrive.

Whereas a few years ago people routinely used the Yellow Pages to search for a tradesman or a company, now more and more people just use Google, so it is essential that your company shows up in a search of your local area for whatever it is that you do.

Here is a brief overview of digital marketing basics, which you may want to consider if you are trying to attract new customers to your company.

Your business website

As it’s often the first place that a customer will encounter your company, your website should be simple, clear and up to date.

It’s now relatively easy to create a quick website with online resources such as Blogger that can include the basic essential information about your company such as contact details, opening hours and a brief summary of the services offered.  You can set up a website of this kind for free, although with websites, you get what you pay for, and for most companies it is worth having a website designed for you if you don’t know how to do it yourself.

From there, it’s just a matter of building your site up to include features such as special offers and product descriptions. Many sites such as Bedstar have created an exhaustive online shopping page for all of their beds, and whilst such a project may be beyond some smaller businesses, using an online shop such as eBay or even Etsy for craft-based products can provide a good short-term solution.

Social Media

Although most of us use social media networks in a personal capacity on a daily basis, there are many ways in which these sites can be used to market your business and enhance your reputation among your potential customers.


Not only do social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook offer us an instant way to communicate to our dedicated customer base, but they can provide a relatively cheap way to advertise to followers based on criteria as specific as age, interests  and location.

Furthermore, social media means that it’s now easier than ever to build up a two-way relationship with your audience so that they can even advertise your products through visually-friendly social media apps such as Instagram.

Get Blogging

As the internet offers us an ever more close relationship with our target audiences, it’s important to make sure that any language used isn’t too stuffy, salesy or formal.

shutterstock_247195609 (1)

That’s why having a blog is a great idea as not only does it present a more friendly face of your company, but it can also have great demonstrative value in illustrating how some of your products work.

A blog doesn’t have to be too complicated. The blog at Zinnia Folk Arts provides a nice little background story to the products that they feature, whereas Bitte’s range of baby clothing and toys is perfectly complemented by a blog that features interesting interviews and profiles on some of creators of the products.

As long as your blog is relevant and up-to-date, it’s the perfect place to build a bridge between your business and your audience.  The other main advantage of a blog is that Google likes to see websites which are regularly kept up to date with fresh content.  A blog provides this fresh content, and this means that Google will more likely to show your website to people when they are searching for your service than a site which has just one page and never updates.

Digital Marketing Assistant

If all the above is starting to make your head spin and boggle you, do not despair.  The joy of digital marketing is it can be done by anybody, not just somebody who works in the same building as you.

Nowadays there are many people (including me), who work as digital marketing assitants, helping companies with aspects of their social media, website design and blogging.  You don’t have to take on a full time employee – just a couple of hours a week from somebody who knows what they are doing on social media can reap enormous rewards, and give the impression that your business is up and ready for the 21st century.




How to Get the Most Out of Social Media

Facebook has more than one billion active monthly users and on average Britons have four social media accounts, spending one hour and twenty minutes a day managing them. The question is, is this time well spent?

social media for business

How do you get to grips with Social media? by Shutterstock

If you are a parent of school-age kids who’d rather play Candy Crush Saga than do their homework you’d probably say that it is a complete time waster. But in reality, social media can be very useful for keeping in touch with people in your personal life, and essential for keeping in touch with clients in the business world. So how can you be sure you’re getting the most out of social media?

1. Understand your purpose.

Social media isn’t suitable for all purposes, and certainly some forms of social media are much better than others for achieving things. Before you can get to grips with social media, you must understand in what ways you think social media could help you. Is it for keeping in touch with family, for organising community events, or for promoting your business?

2. Look at the Social Media alternatives

Facebook is probably all you need for sharing holiday snaps and organising family get-togethers but for more professional matters you’ll need to look at multiple accounts.

Depending on the nature of your organisation, customers and clients may expect to find you on any or all of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram and more, so your first step is to peruse all of these options (you usually don’t need an account to view business pages or news streams). What are your competitors using and how are they using it?

3. Learn to do it right

Once you’re more familiar with the options you can start planning your own accounts. It might sound simple but it’s so easy to get it wrong. Your profile picture, bio and public interactions all need careful consideration.


Places to go for help include:

Blogs – many bloggers produce how-to guides at the request of their regular readers. A quick google on ‘using twitter for business’ or ‘how to generate impact with Instagram’ will produce plenty of reading.  You will even find quite a lot of information in this blog, if you check for relevant posts in the Categories list on the sidebar.

Just beware of old posts because in the world of social media, things move on quickly.

Classes – for reliable up-to-date information and the chance to ask personalised questions your best option is a masterclass. City Lit offer courses in central London to help you get the most from social media. Taking a class gives you dedicated time to navigate social media successfully and develop your own business strategy.

Books – as with anything, you can teach yourself the basics from a book but again the difficulty with social media is that the tools and marketing strategies are continually evolving so make sure the information you’re using is up to date.

Talk to someone – if you want a bit of help getting started with social media there are plenty of people around who can help you (including me).  Sometimes it is a good idea to pay somebody to get you started, set up and running, then they can teach you what works in your market and give you the tools and confidence to continue by yourself.

The most important thing to remember is that it takes time to learn social media if you want to use it in an effective way for business, but that time invested can reap great rewards in the long term.


6 Things you should Know before Starting a Blog

It’s impossible to say with any certainty how many blogs – personal or corporate – are on the internet, but realistic estimates put it at around 150 million. People sure do like to share. Apparently somebody somewhere is starting a blog every half a second – that’s a sobering thought…

If you are running a small business now and particularly if you have a website for your business, you will probably have been advised at one time or another that you need a blog in order to keep content on your site fresh and to get your personal message out to your prospective customers.  But many small business owners flinch at the prospect of this.  How on earth do you even go about blogging, knowing what to write and then publicising it?

There are many articles that go into this subject in a lot more detail, but for a very quick summary please read on. I hope to show you that starting a blog does not have to be scary – you can easily do the things that you are good at and outsource the bits that you are not so confident about.

Setting up your blog

If you have a WordPress website already then setting up a blog is a piece of cake, and the person who handles your IT will probably be able to get you going in a very short time.

starting a blog

If you are starting a blog from scratch it can still be pretty easy.  i usually recommend self-hosted WordPress blogs to anybody, whether they are starting a personal blog or a business blog.  If nothing else, there is a huge community of IT specialists out there who know WordPress, and it is very easy to access technical help when you need it.

When it comes to building the blog you can use a specialist software package like  WordPress Website Builder from UK2,  If you feel like you can’t manage the software yourself, then take a look on a site like Fiverr and you will probably find somebody very reasonable that can come to your rescue.

Take a look at other people’s blogs to find the style that you like – then you have something that you can show your developer and base your blog on.  If you have a corporate style already then this will be easier – you can build your blog using the colours and fonts that you already use elsewhere.

Starting to Write

The first few weeks of a new blog can be absolutely terrifying.  You stare at the blank page and don’t really know where to begin.

Posting a couple of blog posts every day may make you feel productive, but there’s not a lot of point if there’s no engagement. You need to be focusing on relevancy to your target audience if you want your content to be shared online, and bring regular visitors to your website.

Think about the people you’re writing for – what problems do they have that your blog might be able to solve; what questions might you be able to answer? think of the products you sell or services you provide and then write How to  posts around the areas your customers might be interested in.  Study the comments people leave on your articles for future topic ideas.

Tone Of Voice

Who is going to be writing your blog posts? In some companies it is delegated to the marketing team, whereas in others people from different departments all the way up to senior management take turns. You need to have guidelines in place for the type of content that is being posted, such as maintaining a clear tone of voice, and to ensure that whoever is in charge of writing actually has the time and skills available to do so.

Type Of Content

While the majority of blogs are text-heavy, there are many different types of post that you may find better engage your visitors, or at least give your blog a bit of variety.

Unquestionably, visual content tends to have the biggest impact, whether that’s images, videos or infographics. A picture speaks a thousand words as they say, so if you have the time and resources, putting together something original, or embedding and crediting something that someone else has created, is likely to have more of an impact than a bland 1,000 word essay.

If you are going with a mainly text-based format for one of your posts or the whole blog, you need to make it punchy, humorous, and break it up with sub-headings so that it’s easy to read.

Mailing Lists

Take every opportunity to add people to your mailing list. A pop-up on each page of your site asking visitors if they’d like to provide an email address in order to receive regular updates whenever a new blog post is published is a good technique, as is requiring an email address before someone can read a full post.

starting a blog

Try creating exclusive content purely for those on your mailing list to increase the appeal. Once you have that mailing list, of course, it can be used for more than just your blog, such as to alert people to new promotions and products.

Integrated Marketing

Consider how you are going to integrate your blog into your company’s total marketing efforts.

Let’s say you have a start-up dating agency, for example.

Your blog might consist of articles on ‘How to know if she’s The One’, or ‘What your partner’s eye colour says about them’, or ‘The 15 types of men you should never introduce to your parents’.

Where will you be sharing these online, beyond your own site?  Facebook and Twitter, sure, and maybe other social media as well, depending on who you are trying to market to and where they hang out. You should also consider contributing guest posts to other blogs in related fields, or inviting guest writers onto your own site, to reach a wider audience or build authority.

Engagement With Your Audience

If you’re posting high-quality content on a regular basis, and sharing it in the right places, then after a while you should start getting comments left on your blog.

Take the time to study each comment,  and respond personally where possible, thanking people for giving their thoughts, and see if there is anything of value you can take away from them such as suggestions for new articles. Positive engagement is vital to building a loyal and involved community around your blog.


These are just a few pointers to bear in mind when you are starting a blog.  The best suggestion is to jump in and give it a try.  The worst thing that will happen is that nobody will see it at all, but on the upside, it could be the thing that launches your business to the next level.

5 Ways To Get Into Marketing

Marketing is an extremely competitive industry – but don’t let that put you off pursuing your dreams because there are several routes into it and a variety of roles available to you.


Marketing is more important now than ever before, and as a result, most businesses tend to have a marketing team. This means there is the chance to get a good job in a variety of businesses and locations.

That said, location is important and there is likely to be far more competition for a role in London than there is for an equally good role (like the ones here) in Sheffield.

Whether you are about to leave school, or simply considering a career change, here are five ways that you can get into marketing wherever you are:

  1. A Degree
    A degree is not essential – but that doesn’t mean it won’t help! Obviously Marketing and Advertising is a good choice, but the likes of Business Studies and Economics, Politics, English or History are all relevant – basically courses that require creativity and excellent communication skills.
  2. Internships and work experience
    It is not just about qualifications anymore – employers want to see real experience – so gain valuable skills and knowledge through internships or work experience. This way you can also meet the people who are doing the roles you would like to do and find out how they got into it.It is also a good idea to get experience both in-house and in-agency, in different areas of marketing, so you can get an idea of your strengths and the area you would prefer to work in, as well as being able to show an overall understanding of the marketing industry. Make yourself invaluable to the company and you could find it turns into a permanent job role!
  3. Graduate Schemes
    Although extremely competitive to get onto, a graduate scheme is a great way to get into marketing. It will enable you to continue to learn as you start to earn, so you can get real hands-on experience at a creditable company. If successful in the programme you can accelerate your career opportunities much faster than you could in a junior role.
  4. Professional entry with CIM qualifications
    The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is the world’s largest professional body of marketers and offers the most recognised qualifications in marketing. This professional qualification often carries more value for an employer than an undergraduate degree. There are courses whatever stage you are at in your marketing career – from a foundation certificate in marketing to a chartered postgraduate diploma in marketing.
  5. Be creative and stand out from the crowd
    Marketing is a creative industry so potential employers will want to see that you are creative. Use your social media, think outside the box with your application, and set up a blog. Make sure they all show that you are up to date with the latest developments in the industry and have all the skills that are required to fill such a role.

Whether you are just leaving school and looking into potential career opportunities, or are looking to step onto a different ladder which will lead to a new and exciting career – it’s worth looking into all the above. Work out which is best for your situation and you will have a career in marketing in no time!

print media

The Power of Print Media

Books, newspapers, posters and magazines – print media have always been a major source of information for humankind. Although we have well and truly arrived in the digital age, print still plays a huge part in how we spread information in our modern society. If you know how to properly use printed media, you can reap tons of benefits as it still holds a lot of advertising power.

But why do people still like print media when digital information is often cheaper and more available?

print media

People relax and engage more with print – photo by Shutterstock

One of the major advantages of print over digital media is the fact that it offers a sensory experience. We can feel and smell a piece of paper and this is still something many people value very highly. Research has shown that it also allows for a better mental reconstruction of information.

If we can hold information in our hands, then it feels more real than when we merely read it on a computer screen. Despite the major changes in our media consumption habits over the last few decades, consumers still put more trust in printed media than their digital counterparts.

The Finnish research institute VTT conducted a pan-European survey questioning 700 people in 13 different countries about how much they trust the different media channels. Consumers gave magazines and newspapers a score of 63%, TV 41% and the Internet only 25%.

Print media is often more welcome than other types of advertising. People subscribe to their favourite magazines and look forward to receiving them in the post and flicking through the pages. Consumers invite them into their houses. A few relevant ads in a magazine also seem more personal than the many ads thrown at us online, since the publisher endorses the advertised products and services.

After a networking meeting, many people spend time looking at the business cards and information that they have been given in physical form, whereas information exchanged digitally is stored away and only referenced again when necessary.

print media

When looking at print media, the reader is more engaged. At a computer, we’re often doing several things at once and ads are just a nuisance or something that we hardly pay attention to.

When we sit down to read a magazine, we can easily spend 40 minutes absorbing the content and internalising what we’re looking at.

Additionally, you can choose how many people you want to reach with print. You can place an ad in a national paper so that it’ll reach thousands of people, or you can keep it much more personal and tailor a mailing to a specific audience. If you’re handing out business cards or investing in flyer printing from Helloprint for instance, you can ensure your message reaches potentially interested customers rather than just being another little image in a sea of online

While digital advertising is incredibly important in this day and age, businesses should not underestimate the power of print media. It still plays a huge role in how we consume information in our society.

Elevator speech

How to Write Your Elevator Speech for Your USP

Say that you meet someone in the hallway at a business conference and they ask you what you do. What will you say? They don’t want to hear a 15 minute speech on your business. They don’t even want to hear more than a couple of minutes.

Everyone needs to have a 1 minute speech prepared that explains exactly what their business is all about and why people should even listen to them. This is commonly referred to as an “elevator speech” since you should be able to say it in the space of a short elevator ride. After that, you will hopefully get into a deeper discussion.

Elevator speech


Elevator pitch by Shutterstock

Here are the main steps to creating your elevator speech (sometimes called an elevator pitch):

1. Outline your USP

What are the key points of your unique selling proposition? What’s different about you compared to your competitors? Write these down in a simple bullet point format. Then cut out irrelevant words and explanations. Pare your USP down to the bare minimum, the most basic essence of what you are offering people.

2. Write your problem/solution statement

Now put your USP description into one sentence. It helps to put it in terms of a solution to a problem, since this is the most important part of anything you are selling. It’s why people buy.

For example,” I provide ready-made solutions for people that don’t have time to write or just hate it”. This doesn’t tell someone exactly what you do, but it intrigues them to want to learn more.

3. Write your features/benefits statement

Now write another sentence that explains the key points of how you deliver that solution. Your statement should be a very brief summary of the key features and benefits of what you are selling. For example, “By writing the articles for them, I free up their time to focus on other parts of their business”.

This isn’t a sales pitch, which would just turn off someone that you met in an elevator. It’s a summary of why your solution actually works. It shouldn’t give a person all the details of your business. Instead, it should create an opening for more questions from the other person. In other words, it’s a way to get a discussion going.

4. Put it all together

Now that you’ve written the basics of your elevator speech, it’s time to put it all together. Practice saying it out loud and add other details to make your speech sound natural. Try it out on someone else and get their feedback and reaction. Make sure to time yourself to make sure your little speech doesn’t take more than about a minute. Finally, take the time revise and revisit your elevator speech frequently, especially as your business changes.

This may all sound a bit corny to you, or a little too formulaic, or perhaps a little too formal for your “little business”.  But just ask yourself what do you say currently when people ask you “what do you do?”  Do you waffle a bit, shrug your shoulders “oh well, I have a little home business which…..”

Creating your own individual elevator speech is far more important than most people realize. You never know when you will meet someone that can be a help in your business, or who is a potential customer. Having a prepared 30 second to one minute speech makes you sound confident and your business sound attractive.

Elevator speech

Hello, so what do you do?  by Shutterstock


This is the one liner you can use with friends who have no idea what you do or with business colleagues you meet at a conference “in the elevator”. It is your ticket to opening the door to a potential relationship.

Unique selling proposition

How to Define Your Unique Selling Proposition

It will be extraordinarily difficult to succeed if you don’t have something that sets you apart. This is referred to as your unique selling proposition (USP), also called your unique value proposition.


What is your USP? by Shutterstock

Why should someone buy from you vs. anyone else? What extra value can you offer? Look closely at what you want to offer to people as part of your business model. Then, you’ll need to answer the following questions from the very start of your online business. Continue reading