8 questions to ask before you start building your email list

 Email marketing  Comments Off on 8 questions to ask before you start building your email list
Sep 282016
 

House building

If you were building a house, you’d likely do some research about where you’re going to build, what materials you’re going to use and how you’re going to schedule the work. Wouldn’t you? It could go horribly wrong if you didn’t do that kind of research.

In the same way it pays to do a little research before building your email list.

Every business wants a big list. And that isn’t hard if you have a big budget or plenty of time.  However a big list of people who care nothing for your product or service is worse than no list. What we really want is a list of engaged subscribers who look forward to hearing from your business. To achieve that you need to ask yourself the following questions before you start growing your list:-

1.    Who are you targeting?

It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people take the ‘anybody’ approach. This comes from a fear of possibly missing out on business if they narrow their focus to any particular group. Time and again it’s been shown that businesses that specialise and cater for a particular audience, get better quality business (more satisfying and more profitable). So sit down and have a long hard think about which group perfectly fits with your product or service. You might find it useful to do a Target Profile Interview to help with this one.

2.    What are the concerns and aspirations of this group?

The Target Profile, mentioned above, can really help nail the answer to this question. It will reveal the particular things about your business offerings that appeal to this group. For a tourist attraction it might be obvious things like location, price, seasonality but other things may be revealed that you hadn’t thought about, like entertaining visiting relatives, for instance. Once you have a sense of who is in this group, you need to find them.

3.    Where do they hang out (online, in person, print)?

Sure you can advertise your list on every social media platform available but take some time to also find the groups on those social media platforms where your target audience hang out. So for instance, if you are in tourism, sharing to your county tourism social media pages will give you far more reach.

Don’t over look capturing customer data from those who visit your premises. You can devise fun incentives for people to leave their email addresses. If you have online ticket booking, ensure you give customers the chance to opt in for your sales emails or e-news when they book.

For business to business, LinkedIn groups and publishing on LinkedIn are a great way to raise your profile and invite people to your sign up form.  Don’t forget trade publications and guest blogging. Most on and offline publications are desperate for good content.

Once you start seeing results through these free but time consuming methods then you’re ready to do some targeting advertising. At this point it is worth attending to the form your content might take.

4.    How do they prefer to consume information (audio, video, image, article)?

If for instance you are targeting business professionals then well-written articles may fit the bill, but it depends what sector you are in. While a well-crafted article can be persuasive in most industries, there is no doubt it is competing with video, image quotes, podcasts and giffs to grab attention. So you might want to think about using a combination of media to first grab attention and then deliver your message. This brings us to the content.

5.    What content can you create?

Working out how to create a regular supply of engaging content can prove a headache when you sit down with a blank piece of paper and try to come up with topics. Forget this approach. Spend some time out and about taking a walk in your customers shoes, either literally or in your mind.

As you connect more with where they are at and what they are looking for, you’ll begin to realise what sort of content will attract and intrigue them. It may be ‘how to’  articles or videos. It might be ‘behind the scenes’ video clips or blog posts, it could be photo stories of attractions and events in your area.

The scope is endless. The main thing is that you feel inspired and confident in this area and have something to say. The medium you use will depend on what you know about and what interests you eg. writing, video, graphics, photography or what you are interested in learning about. Once you have some idea of content, then it’s best to make a schedule.

6.    How will you make that a regular feature?

The longer I do this work, the less I realise you can cite any rules as absolute. So while I’m inclined to say a regular schedule of content delivery is important, I know plenty of businesses who get on just fine with a far more ad hoc approach. The important thing is to manage expectations. If delivery will be at random, then say so.

However, if you are just starting out with this, for your own sense of satisfaction and to be able to better measure results, then a schedule could be good. Again this is best done with a healthy balance of hope and realism. You may think you can create and deliver four articles a week but perhaps start with two a month and see how you get on. If that works well, you could increase to weekly. Taking some time to research and master a good delivery method is a good investment.

7.    How will you get it in front of your audience?

For small lists, under 2000 subscribers, MailChimp is my preferred favourite email content delivery method. (Disclaimer: I am a MailChimp expert and offer online live tuition via Google Hangout). It is a lovely programme but worth investing time to learn how it works and how to get the best from it. Your content may be great and you may have found where your potential subscribers are hanging out. How do you get them to actually subscribe?

8.    What can you offer as a sweetener?

A sweetener or a thank you for subscribing is always nice to offer. Depending on your business it might be a free pdf with useful tips, or a free quiz e.g. A personality quiz with some illuminating insights from the results.  A local guide to the area for tourism businesses, free audios for coaching businesses. You get the idea.

You might be thinking, isn’t it easier to just buy a huge list and work on the basis you’ll get some interest even if the majority unsubscribe or hit junk? Absolutely not a good idea. For a start you very rarely see a return on investment from purchasing lists if you are a small business.They are far too general to be useful.

Second, if a large number of people hit junk, companies like MailChimp may well suspend your account. So this kind of short cut won’t help in the long run.

So just as you wouldn’t just start piling bricks one on top of the other, wily nily when building a house, so don’t dive headlong into building your email list without first doing some preparation work.

If you’d like to book a one off or regular sessions with me, Juliet Fay to help develop your e-marketing, do get in touch.

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3 ways article writing boosts your credibility and your business

 Article writing, Blogging, Writing  Comments Off on 3 ways article writing boosts your credibility and your business
Sep 212016
 

When I visit a new town, I love to explore on foot. Getting off the main drag, seeking out the quieter streets. Sure, it takes more time than just going directly from A to B but I’m rewarded with a much richer experience. I get a sense of the layout of the town, some impression of its size, affluence and history. Its uniqueness is more obvious away from the crowds and high street stores. Oftentimes I come across charming scenes, far from the madding crowd.

In the same way, investing time article writing, may feel like a circuitous way to get sales but it offers both you and your customers a richer experience of your business which in turn leads to more pleasure and profit in doing business. In this article, we’ll look at just 3 of the ways writing articles boosts your credibility and your business

1) Showcases your expertise or passion
2) Makes you visible
3) Dramatically extends your reach

Let’s look at each in more detail

1) Showcases your expertise or passion

Whatever your business, there will be something only you can write about. Something that will impress, educate, delight or amuse your customers and potential customers. Something that combines your expertise with what you offer. For business to business services this can be fairly straight foward. A business consultant would have an endless supply of topics they can write on about improving your business.  Article writing showcases your expertise, demonstrating skills, confidence and a willingness to share information before you’re paid for it. This tends to suggest there is even more where that came from. It also indicates a passion for what you do.

Where you are selling to consumers, there is usually even greater scope for topics for articles. For example: a heritage railway can have a series of different articles: some following the work of a project, such as restoration of a locomotive; others showcasing the volunteer opportunities available and still others giving a behind-the-scenes look at running the heritage trains. Not only does it reveal your passion or expertise beyond what you can convey in a static web page, it also helps bring people to your website.

2) Makes you visible

Not instantly, but regularly publishing well-written, well-tagged articles on a blog or website, builds a body of work which you can point new contacts too. Regular articles show a website is loved and updated. Fresh content improves traffic to your site. Sharing your articles on social media sites such as LinkedIN, Twitter, Medium and Facebook and sending them to your email list, raises your profile as an expert and will bring people to check out your product and services pages on your website.

Beyond the opens and clicks of each campaign, article writing has a further benefit.

3) Dramatically extends your reach

Once you start writing about what you know and love, and publishing those articles through social media, opportunities as yet unimagined, can come your way. You may be asked to write for someone else’s blog. You may get an enquiry for your site to be used as a location for filming, or to collaborate with someone on a new venture. This is because you are establishing a confident and knowledgeable presence on the internet. You become visible and people get a much richer sense of what you and your business offers.

So if you want to showcase your expertise or passion, make your business or organisation more visible on and offline and dramatically extend your reach for, as yet unknown, opportunities then start writing articles for your blog or website.

Not confident about your writing skills?

There are heaps of online courses to help improve your writing skills. Writing skills can be learnt and improved but more importantly, begin to explore topics and angles you can write about with confidence. Look at your business from the point of view of your customers. How can you educate, inspire, amuse or delight them?

If you’d like to book a one off or regular sessions with me, Juliet Fay to help generate creative ideas or for help with writing skills, do get in touch.

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The first, crucial step to creating more sales

 Marketing, productivity  Comments Off on The first, crucial step to creating more sales
Sep 132016
 

Red shoesYou see a beautiful pair of ridiculously expensive shoes in a shop window and you think how wonderful it would be to have them. For just an instant you see yourself in those shoes and feel like a million dollars. All to quickly, a voice in your head tears that idea to shreds. You can’t afford them. They are ridiculous. When would you wear them?  To afford those shoes, you’d need a different life, or so you think. Because you can’t ‘see your way’ to affording the shoes, you sadly conclude the shoes will never be yours and turn away.

In the same way we can look at what we think is involved in getting more sales and conclude that getting enough sales is just out of reach for our business. It looks as if getting more sales is going to need a whole host of things to change, things we feel are out of our hands or at least difficult. Such as:-

  • An upturn in the economy
  • A better website
  • More exposure
  • People appreciating what we do
  • Less competition
  • More chimney pots
  • Lower rates
  • Better weather
  • More hours in the day
  • More marketing skills
  • More digital skills
  • Getting on Twitter or Instagram or another social media platform
  • Better advertising
  • Better labelling
  • Better signage

What else is on your list?

Take a moment to jot down all the things you think need to change in order to create more sales.

Now let’s take a closer look at what is going on here. By believing that all those external factors are dictating your level of sales you have overlooked a crucial factor.

Your own thinking.

While undoubtedly working on some of those areas may see an increase in your sales, if you only ever look on the outside, working in your business is going to be a bit of a slog. You will have little control. Like a ship tossed about on the waves in stormy weather, you will just deal with whatever seems to be coming at you, without any strong sense of purpose.

What could you do differently?

When you look at enterprises with healthy sales and profits, they all have something in common. It’s not the amazing websites or impressive user engagement on social media (though they may have), it’s the buzz about their business. There is a feeling you get when you engage with that business as a customer or even as a fan on social media sites. That feeling is one of fun, confidence and excitement. It’s genuine. It’s infectious.

Where does it come from?

It comes from the inside out. That’s right. It doesn’t come from the website or the Facebook page or a buoyant economy. It comes from within the people that run the business. At core it is an openness, immersion and joy in doing business that is not dependent on the weather, the number of hits on the website or the number of sales made. It comes from a deep engagement with what the business offers.

You probably had that when you first went into business, but maybe it has evaporated and you find yourself working all the hours and yet not achieving the sales you want.

Take another moment now and remember what it felt like in the early days of your business. Capture that feeling of excitement and possibility you had when you thought about your business. Bring into your awareness that sense of bringing something to the world. Something that would enhance your and your customers life in some way.

Just rest in that feeling for a while. Close your eyes.

In that place, everything seemed possible. The journey ahead looked exciting. You were fully engaged with what you were trying to do.

To create sales in an enterprise, you need to be coming from that place of engagement.

The good news is, you don’t have to pretend or fake it ’til you make it

That place is available to us when we allow our thinking to settle down. Your thoughts about the external factors that you see as responsible for sales, create stress, pressure and a sinking feeling.

Look past those external factors and see that it is not the factors themselves but your thinking about them that causes stress and discomfort.

Let your thinking settle down

When you let your thinking settle down, you come to a much clearer place from where it becomes obvious what you need to do and what you don’t need to worry about.

For example, if you feel stressed about getting more orders or clients, it would be easy to sit down and write a sales email that sounds, well, a bit desperate. That’s the feeling you are in. If you can settle down, look past the desperation, you will find, new thoughts arise about the next step to take. That might be picking up the phone, writing an article, attending a networking event, writing a product review, doing some further training, hiring a web developer. Whatever it is, it will be a step you take with confidence.

You may be thinking, ‘it’s all very well to say there’s no need to get stressed, but with Brexit and all the uncertainty, I can see it having a negative impact on sales’. If you think your falling sales are coming from problems out there, then yes you will feel uncomfortable. Like the unaffordable shoes you may well just throw up your hands and stay in a place that feels horrible. Yet we all know, if you took the idea of owning those shoes away and just settled down about it, a way to buy those shoes would eventually occur to you.

It might take time. You might not pursue it, but an idea would occur. In the same way, when we realise our thinking about external factors is getting in the way of good ideas to actually make sales, then we can settle down, let that original enthusiasm for our business bubble up once again and from that place, the next step will be obvious.

If you’d like a coaching call to help you get more sales, please email me to book a time.

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How a commercial approach can future proof your project or enterprise

 Social change, social enterprise  Comments Off on How a commercial approach can future proof your project or enterprise
Sep 022016
 

There's more than one way to skin a cat

Not that I’m into feline cruelty you understand but this old English proverb sums up an approach to life and business that breaks free from fixed ideas of how things are supposed to work. Once you let go of those fixed ideas you open the door for creative and often unexpected solutions to arise and help move your project, business or life in the direction you want to go.

A good example of this, is how charities, social enterprises and not for profit groups can look to a more commercial approach to make their activities more self sufficient. There was a time when there was a sharp dividing line separating charities from businesses. Charities were good at getting donations; businesses were good at selling and never the twain would meet. With government funding cuts touching all areas from social care to the arts, there is now a greater imperative than ever to create profitable income streams to support a range of projects, organisations, charities and not for profit groups that seek to create a better world.

This isn’t new. Many well known national charities have been in retail for many years. Just look down any high street and you’ll see a bunch of charity shops doing a brisk trade. If you are involved with a project or enterprise that exists because of a vision for social good or a passion to preserve you may struggle to recognise the freedom creating profitable income streams can give you.

What does a profit making income stream look like?

A profit making income stream needs to have some connection with the core activity of the enterprise. It needs to return a decent margin, 40% plus. It needs to complement the core activity and potentially offer donors, supporters and customers an enhanced experience of the work of the charity, project or enterprise. Additional benefits could also include advertising and promoting the core activities of the organisation, bringing more volunteers into the activity. Examples include:-

  • A heritage railway offering catering options on site and/or on train to subsidise the running of steam trains, see Gwili Steam Railway
  • A charity selling clothing to both promote the cause and raise funds Bras not Bombs
  • Growing Well, a land based mental health charity, diversifying into potted herbs to generate income to support the volunteering opportunities they provide.
  • A council/private partnership providing affordable access to water sports in Swansea. It incorporates a beach side cafe/restaurant to subsidise the non-profit making water sports activities. Swansea Bay 360 was planned from the outset with this business model so it is never too early to look at this aspect.

When is the best time to set up income generating streams?

Thinking this way early in the game, puts financial sustainability at the heart of your activities. This will stand you in good stead when you come to apply for funding. It will also attract commercial skills to your enterprise either by drawing out existing skills amongst your staff or volunteers or by providing an opportunity to bring in those skills in the short or long term.

You may be wondering if putting commercial income streams might get in the way of your core aims.

Why distract from the core activity in this way?

Depending on donations, grants, bequests, government funding or tin rattling is increasingly difficult. In fact many grant applications now want to see evidence of financial self sufficiency or at least that your project or organisation is heading that way. Getting those involved in the project to generate income generating ideas can unleash all sorts of skills and passions you didn’t know existed in your organisation. It can help to bring in someone with commercial experience to facilitate these discussions and gently guide towards activities that can return a healthy margin for the organisation.

Remember there is more than one way to skin a cat. Thinking laterally can open up a range of potential income streams to give you a more robust and self sufficient project or organisation.

If you’d like to hire me to facilitate a discussion on developing profit making income streams, do email me.

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