Posts Tagged ‘businesses’
Alex Polizzi, The Hotel Inspector, knows a thing or two about running successful hotels and about turning struggling establishments into ones that really thrive. While watching an episode on the TV recently, it occurred to me that some of her ‘rules’ can easily be applied to many other businesses.
The episode that inspired this blog focused on an historic hotel in St Albans, where the owners were trying to do too much. The building was extremely old and had all sorts of history attached to it. There was also rumour that the hotel was inhabited by ghosts, so one of the owners – part of a husband and wife team – had decided that her guests really wanted to know about all things paranormal. On arrival the Hotel Inspector was told about all the ghostly inhabitants and shown a bizarre – and somewhat tacky – collection of Halloween decorations, masquerading as a ‘secret scary gallery’. The stunning dining room, with its oak panelling, was rather downgraded by the menu that featured a number of ghost-related dishes and the landlady was planning to convert the cellar into a themed room – probably a dungeon or torture chamber!
Aside from the ghostly goings on, the landlady also wanted to upgrade the bridle suite by spending up to £25,000 on redecoration and a brand new bathroom. Her husband was not impressed by most of her ideas; neither was our hotel expert.
Some programmes of this type carry out total renovations of homes or hotels, spending thousands of pounds on the work and implementing expensive marketing campaigns. This one was refreshingly different because the main recommendation was to simplify the business. Instead of scaring guests, they were treated to historical tours of the town and a menu that reflected the age of the building – something that none of the other eating establishments in the town were offering. A simple £10 lunch menu was created to encourage more day time passing trade – any elaborate ideas for themed evenings were turned down. In addition, Alex Polizzi suggested that the husband and wife take very clear, separate roles within the hotel. The wife was put in charge of learning the history of the hotel and the town, so that she could lead walking tours and talk to her guests – something that she realised she loved doing. The husband was responsible for the menu and for keeping it simple (and for keeping his wife out of the kitchen so that their staff could get on with their jobs!) This allowed him to carry out very simple, inexpensive local marketing, to bring more customers through the doors, where they could enjoy good food without be scared by the prices.
What about the bridle suite? The landlady got her wish of a new one, but for a mere £7000 and it was extremely tasteful and in keeping with the old building.
I’ve realised that the times when things haven’t gone so well with my business are when we’ve tried to do too much. When you lose focus on what you’re really good at, it can be all too easy to throw money at a new idea or an expensive marketing campaign – probably the worst thing to do if money is already tight. Instead, focus on what you’re good at and look for ways of doing it even better than before. That way, you can build a business on your reputation, with a simple marketing message, without the need for gimmicks and a huge budget.
In May 2013 I finally finished writing the book that I started in 2010. (I was distracted by writing another book!) This one is being edited ready for publication in September 2013 and over the next few months I’m going to share sections of it on my weekly blog. This time – why it’s important for businesses to get their marketing right, right from the start.
Many businesses struggle in the early stages of their lives because they don’t have the funding they need. They don’t have the money required to market their businesses properly; they cut corners wherever they can and take on whatever work they can. When I started my business I was very fortunate in having the support of a husband who worked full time. It meant that the mortgage was still paid each month. It also meant that he could lend me the money I needed to make a professional start.
I am full of admiration for people who set up their own business without that sort of financial support – and yet I see so many people who jump into business without really considering what could be involved. Then, when they realise that they do need to spend money on things like marketing materials and networking, they do it as cheaply as possible. What impression do you get from a business card that’s printed on paper, rather than card and that you can see has been cut from a sheet with scissors? Compare the original looking, professionally designed logo on one card, to the stock image on another, which you’ve seen in numerous different places. What about the consultant who uses a free email address and doesn’t have a website? Will they do as good a job as the one who has a creative business name with a domain name to go with it? While a flashy company name and slick brochure are not proof that you’ll do a better job, or that you’re more highly qualified than one of your competitors, if they have the professional image, they’re already a step ahead of you. That image may be the deciding factor between the two of you for a potential client.
When I meet people who are talking about setting up their own business, I ask them to consider their finances. If they don’t have the funds they need to do things properly and professionally, I always encourage them to look for the funding that will help them do that. There is a wealth of funding available for new businesses with as many options for paying it back. However the money is provided, having enough to make a proper start is, I believe, vital to the success of any business.
Even before I started to set up my business, I took the decision that it needed to be presented properly. After all, I was creating a marketing company – one that helped others to communicate effectively. It was essential that I demonstrate my knowledge of communication through my own branding. Firstly I spent some time with a graphic designer who created a logo for my company. She developed letterhead and business cards; she designed a leaflet for which I wrote the words. Then I had everything printed on good quality paper – nothing flimsy or cheap. I meet many new business owners who use free software to print free business cards from their own computers. It might save you money; it will not create the impression that says “I am in business and I am here to stay.” You need to show that you are serious and that you are different from everyone else.
Next I bought a domain name and used it for my email address, instead of telling people I had a free account. A friend set up a small website for me, for which I wrote copy for a few pages, telling visitors what I could do and what benefits they would get from working with me. I knew nothing about the technical side of websites, so there was no way I would consider building my own site. There is a wealth of software available to help you set up your own website; however, there are also too many homemade looking websites on the internet. As with business cards, a professional looking site will create a better impression than one that has been put together over a weekend. More importantly, your website has to work in a technical sense – if it can’t be found by search engines, or the pages don’t link together properly, or your contact form doesn’t work – you’ll turn away business without even realising. Unless you are a web developer setting up a new business, I advise you to look for one who can help you. They come in a huge range of shapes and sizes with pricing policies to match; you can start small and grow your website as your business grows.
What next? When you provide a service rather than a product, networking is one of the best ways to promote what you do. Attending meetings gives you the opportunity to speak to potential clients and allow them to get to know you. Once someone trusts you they are far more likely to ask you to work for them. Networking gives you the time you need to build up relationships with other people, to develop the required level of trust. The number of networking meetings is constantly growing, giving you a wide range of opportunities to choose from. One mistake I believe that many start up businesses make is to only attend free events. “I’ve got a limited budget, so I’m only going to attend free meetings and not pay for membership to any group.” This is something I hear often from the owners of small businesses. The problem with this approach is that many of the free meetings are full of other people with the same attitude. “I’m new to business so I’m not spending any money,” they tell you. How many of these ‘budget conscious’ business owners will want to invest in your services? I’m not saying you should avoid the free meetings; you need to consider your networking budget and spend it wisely.
A final note on networking – think about how you present yourself when you attend. I’ve met Marketing Consultants in jeans and dirty trainers at networking meetings. If that’s the type the of consultant you want to work with, that’s fine; just think about who your ideal clients are and the first impression you want to create with them.
My new book will be available to buy from September. You can order your copy now and take advantage of the pre-launch order by clicking here and we’ll send you a signed copy when it’s ready.
Recently we have had a lot of people asking us about using Facebook pages. Some of the common questions are “Will they actually bring something to my business?” or “What do I post on Facebook to get business?” These questions can easily be answered but would you prefer a generic answer or a personal one to your business?
I personally believe that Facebook holds true value for businesses that sell to consumers. Businesses that operate on a B2B system might not increase their sales via Facebook and so for them I would suggest using LinkedIn. However, Facebook can be a very useful tool for getting your message across, keeping in contact with your clients and potential clients and showing your brand’s expertise.
Setting up a Facebook page is a very easy process and takes very little of your time. Once you have created the page, you can personalise the channel to suit your company brand. This can include photos, videos, website links and information.
When you set up a Facebook page you must first look at your social media objectives. What are they? Are they to increase business turnover? Increase website traffic? If your social media objectives are to get more people to visit your websites, then post engaging updates with links to your website. Blogs are really useful in this case as it gives you fresh engaging information that you can share with your audience. Newsletters, videos and articles work just as well. If you want to increase the amount of people attending an event, then create a Facebook ‘event’ and invite all of your contacts. Increasing sales is the difficult one. If you want to increase sales, then post videos and photos that create a sense of desire to your audience. You may struggle with services, but I would advise posting links to your website with more information on the service.
I have been working on a few clients’ Facebook pages and I must say that their performance has so far been brilliant. Using a range of techniques, the Facebook pages have successfully achieved a high level of interaction for our clients, increased website traffic and even got an increased footfall to one of our client’s events.
If you want to see an example of a Facebook page, then have a look at ours. The Appletree Facebook page posts once a day every working day. “Like” our page and comment on any of the posts to keep in contact with us. Do you use Facebook in business? If so, how effective has it been for you?
A book is a powerful way of promoting your business. It’s like a giant business card that shares your knowledge and experience with your potential clients. Writing a whole book can be a daunting task, so why not start with something smaller and less expensive, like an ebook? Here’s how you can get started.
Set your structure. A couple of years ago I started to write a book about Marketing Planning. The idea actually came from a presentation I’d been asked to give at a networking meeting about the basics of Marketing Planning. I created the structure for the talk, based on the nine stage planning process I’ve developed. Having written the talk, I realized that I actually had the structure for the book too! Once you have your structure, you’ll find it much easier to get going, so think about the key topics you want to cover in your ebook.
The time and place to write. Trying to write in my office rarely works. The phone rings or someone says something that distracts me. Instead, I like to write at my kitchen table with a cup of tea, a cat and view out into my garden. I have also found that I do my best writing in the morning. When I’m working to a writing deadline, I spend the first hour of each working day writing in the kitchen, before heading for the office. Find the time and place that suits you best.
Work to a deadline. When I don’t have a deadline to work to, my writing doesn’t get done. Other things crop up and seem to be more important. I’ve just finished writing my second book (with the working title of One in Ten) which has to be printed by 13 September 2013. I worked out a schedule for completing the writing and time for everything else that needs to be done, for it to be ready.
Editing and proof reading. I’m hopeless at proof reading my own work, so I always ask someone else to do it for me. I also had help with the editing of my first book, to make sure I was on the right track. If you’re writing your first book, look for someone who can guide you, to make sure your book hits its mark and does its job.
How does it look? The layout of any book is really important. It has to look professional and be easy to read. My first book was a workbook, full of tables and space to write. I worked with a graphic designer who works on a lot of books, to create something that looked just right.
Promoting your book. So you’ve written your ebook and it looks wonderful. Now you need to tell people about it! Talk about it when you go networking; put it on your website and make it easy for people to buy; and sell it through Amazon. You can give away free copies to people who will help you spread the word – or to potential clients.
So that’s how to create an ebook. What’s stopping you?!
In the digital world we live in today, social media is growing rapidly in both popularity with people and in the business world. Social media acts a gateway between the business world and a vast amount of people around the world, and more social media websites are being created.
One social media platform that stands out currently was created by internet giant Google. Google+ came to our screens in 2011, so in retrospect a little late to the game compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. So is Google+ just another social networking website or does it hold value, particularly as a business tool?
In short, yes, I believe that Google+ does hold value for business, and you should use it to promote your business. Unlike other social media platforms Google+ has a decent range of tools that can be used to help your business. Here’s what it can be good for:
SEO – All social media websites can be good for your websites SEO/digital marketing campaign. Google+ is no exception as it can really help your websites performance using keywords, hyperlinks and engaging with people so they may visit your site.
Brand – Enforce your brands identity and get your message across by connecting with a mass audience using social media. Having your business logo, mantra or even slogan on social media can do wonders for your business as it be seen by millions.
Communication – Inbound and outbound, Google+ can be used as a brilliant communication tool to connect with vital people. You can use Google+ to connect with your potential clients and customers through updates, however you can also connect with people buy using Google+ as host to hold a video conference.
What’s Hot? – Google will display the latest trends on the internet. This could be a video that has gone viral or something as small as just a #tag that is trending. This can be such an effective tool to use as a business can really dive in a find relevant hot topics and communicate with their potential clients.
There are of course a longer list of uses and effective tools that Google+ can bring to your business. These are just some of the ones I personally prefer as I think that they are some of the most effective to use in business. It could be argued that Google+ may not be as big a social media heavyweight as Facebook, but really it can a really effective tool to promote your business.
Keep an eye out on Friday as Debbie will be going into further detail on how Google+ can benefit your business. Have you had a play with Google+? What did you think of it?