Mid-Year Review And Plans for rest of 2017

A confess – I’ve been beating myself up loads for not quite achieving what I had wanted to achieve by now.  Are you in the same place?

Then please watch my video and do the exercise I mention below ….

 

 

  1. Sit down for 20-30mins and think about this year.
  2. Look through your diaries/schedules to remind yourself what happened
  3. What have you achieved in work, health and life?
  4. Make a good long list.  Don’t focus on what you didn’t achieve, focus on what you did manage.
  5. The more you write, the more it will flow
  6. Then take a couple of deep breaths, now that you are feeling more grateful to yourself and ask yourself….
  7. If there was only 1 more thing that you could achieve by the end of the year, what would your heart love you to do?
  8. If you could manage 2 more things what would they be?

 

Let me know below what you discover – it could be really surprising!

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest

How to get Vouchers/Adverts for your school or charity

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

It’s school summer fair season again!  That means I’ve been approached by a LOT of schools in the surrounding area, for either adverts in their brochures or vouchers for their raffles.

Realistically, the vouchers do not really help me with my business.  I don’t get a lot of visibility from them and I don’t get a lot of business.  However, I do like to support the local community; my kids are at a local school, and I’m very aware of how hard the PTA’s work for both the private and state schools.  Sadly at times I do feel a little ‘used’ at times by the schools that approach me (not all, just some), which I suspect makes the PTA’s job even harder.

So I thought I’d write some tips on how to get those much needed adverts or vouchers from local businesses.  Most importantly you are looking to create a relationship with the business; where they know that you don’t just want a voucher from them, you actually care that they gain from it.

  1. If you are asking for raffle tickets, have a simple brochure and list all the small businesses that gave you a voucher with a thank you and their contact details.  Or create a poster that is in a prominent position at the fair if you can’t afford brochures.  The raffle prize will cost the business money to provide the service/product and it takes a lot of return visits from that customer to cover that cost.  So this gives them increased visibility.
  2. Suggest they offer you a raffle ticket for something that can be upgraded; this gives them a chance of covering their costs at least.  For instance, if I offer a 45min massage, someone might upgrade it to 60mins.
  3. If you are asking for adverts, please consider what value for money you are providing in comparison to other local advertising options.  Some schools would like to charge me the same amount to potentially reach 300 parents that I can reach 20,000 people in for a local magazine/newspaper.  They also tell me how many children are in the school, rather than how many families, which can often be about 60% of the original number.
  4. If you are asking for adverts give them plenty of time, a deadline, explain what format you need the advert in (e.g. PDF/Jpeg) and what the dimensions of the advert will be.  Also, send them a complementary version afterwards, to show them that you definitely did do the advert.
  5. Offer them a package where they can have a stall at your fair, offer a raffle prize and advert in your brochure at a reduced rate.
  6. Do some research into the most popular stalls; my heart breaks sometimes for the small businesses sitting their all lonely with products which are just not suitable for that school.
  7. If their business doesn’t really suit a stall at your fair, they could sponsor one of the PTA stalls.  For instance we often have simple games, where the kids win sweets.  These could be sponsored by the business, and reduce the PTA’s cost in return for a sign thanking the business for their sponsorship.
  8. Keep a record of the businesses and the contact person that help you each time.  Then to save you time you can contact them directly each year.
  9. I recommend that you find out if any of your PTA or parents actually use the business – I’m much more likely to give a voucher to a client, than a stranger who contacts me once a year.
  10. Contact the most local businesses first; they are the most likely to gain from supporting you.  Whereas I’m often contacted by schools from a long way away, that probably are too far for me to realistically gain clients.  It’s worth walking up the local high street and making a list of the companies, the person to contact and which ones might be interested.  Once this list is created it can be used each year.
  11. Support the business on social media – send a thank you tweet and message on their Facebook page.  Like their Facebook page and follow them on twitter.  Mention them on your private Facebook profile as well.  All these things help with a small businesses marketing campaign, and helps to reduce their costs.
  12. During the following year, share one or two of their Facebook posts or like them to show that it’s not just at Christmas and the Summer Fair time that you are interested.

I know this probably sounds like a lot of work, and it might be a little late for this year’s fairs (sorry!).  But once you have your list of businesses, it is likely that they will automatically help each year and you’ll only be looking for 1 or 2 extras per annum.  You will stand out as so much more loyal and caring than the other schools, that the business will always be willing to help you where it can.

I’d also recommend other ways of building a relationship with the business:

  1. Invite someone in from them for careers days, and send thank you’s on social media for their time.
  2. Offer them the opportunity to put fliers in the school bags – this can be more successful than an advert in the school brochure and lucrative for the school.
  3. Proactively find out what local businesses the parents work in and specifically target them, as they have greater interest in the school.
  4. If you have railings at school, you could offer for them to make a banner and advertise there every now and again (for a fee of course).
  5. If you do other events during the year, potentially offer for these businesses to sponsor some aspect of it.
  6. For your most reliable and loyal business supporters, you could add a thank you page to the school website.

Please remember that these are small businesses.  Unless they are very lucky, the owners are probably earning as much or less than they would do if working for someone else, and they are much more stressed.  Why on earth in that case do they do it?  Well that’s a question I’m not sure of the answer for!

I really hope this helps in that rather desperate rush to compete with other schools/charities for small business support.

 

 

New Life Resolutions

By now most of you guys will have started and stopped your New Year Resolutions.  Never fear; that’s perfectly normal!

January is a time for reflection.  March and September are the time for new resolutions.

But I was thinking after seeing a funny YouTube video, getting a bit down about the state of the world, and after a team meeting at Espiritu, what 3 resolutions would make the biggest difference to this world of ours or more importantly mine 😉

So I thought I’d chat about it with the ‘Gorgeous Danny Smith’ on his Drivetime show on Radio Verulam this month.  (You can listen again for a week here – monday 5.30-6pm)

 

Step 1: If you can’t say something kind, useful or positive, then don’t bother

This is my new mantra at home with the kids.  What’s the point in wasting energy saying something something mean or teasing or sarcastic?  It’s not funny.  It’s pointed and if I’m going to get all ‘tree huggy’ about it, you can literally feel the energetic stabs at people.

I’m busy.  I’m tired.  I have not got the energy to purposely irritate someone – whereas Curly Headed Boy when in ‘stinky boy’ mode, loves to wind up his sister – WHY for the love of God?

I know that I’m a soft Bristolian, but seriously if what you are going to say picks on people’s insecurities, then it’s really not necessary.  And you might not be meaning to be mean, but are you really sure that the person you are talking to is as secure as you think?

I LOVE Michael Mcyntyre because he manages to be funny without being horrible about people.  Check out this hysterical video about leaving the house as a parent ….

 

Why on Facebook do people comment on something, expressing their opinions when they weren’t asked for?  Go and become more busy!  Even if they asked your opinion, is it really worth arguing about?

Work has been tough for me recently, rebuilding a business.  I need facts yes, and they aren’t always happy facts.  But what I need is people who are focussing on the facts and being positive and helpful.  But some people love a drama and being negative about stuff.  I get that this is the natural balance of life – in fact people who are very obtuse can be helpful.  But most of the time it’s just draining and ugh!

 

Step 2: Treat each other with respect, as you would wish to be treated, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

KArma

It’s pretty easy really – but actually in our busy modern lives we often don’t do this.  We jump to conclusions, and tend to think the worst of people.  We seem to have lost some of the traditional ‘British’ politeness, and whilst we probably needed to loosen up, I rather like the old kinds of values.

So …

If you don’t want your sister to snatch a toy from you, then don’t do it to them!

If you want the kids to talk politely to you, then be respectful towards them.

If you don’t want someone to judge you, then don’t be a cow to them.

If you don’t want your other half jumping down your throat, then don’t jump to conclusions with them.

If you’d like someone to be nice to you when you are old, grey and lonely, then maybe be thoughtful of that old neighbour or relative now.

This obviously goes wrong if one person likes being kicked and the other person doesn’t.  Sometimes the other people don’t change their behaviour.  But generally speaking it works well.

There’s a woman called Byron Katie who has written an interesting book called ‘Loving What Is’ which suggests that due to the ‘Law of reflection’ (i.e. we just see ourselves in other people constantly), if you are upset with someone for doing or not doing something, it’s because it’s reminding you of you.

Other people think of it as the ‘Law of Karma’ i.e. what comes around goes around.  Curly Headed Boy has a tendency to wind up Little Dimples into doing things that he knows will be annoying for me.  The other day it backfired when it became annoying for him, so he pleaded with me to stop her.  At which point I was REALLY mean and suggested that I would step in when he mended his ways in teaching her more annoying stuff.  This has proved more difficult for him than you would think; so she is still annoying him mwahahah!

(p.s. I don’t believe that Karma is a judgemental thing as some do – more that it’s an ‘experience both sides of the story’ thing – plus it’s really complicated, so I only use it for more light hearted issues, not ‘why am I disabled’ etc).

Plus, there’s the whole ‘she/he did it first’.  To which my answer is ‘I can’t remember which one of you first wound up the other after Little Dimples was born, so who has done it today really doesn’t matter, as we don’t know who actually did it first’!

Imagine if countries thought this way, instead of Tit for Tat or Eye for an eye?  Imagine if they said ‘enoughs enough, lets call it a day’.

At least if we are kind to each other we won’t be exasperating an already horrid situation.  There are so many cases that we are dealing with now, where the people involved had something horrible happen to them not so long ago.  It could have a real impact if we all decided to treat each other with respect and compassion.

 

Step 3: Speak Your Truth

Rant with Megaphone

However, I’m not saying that you should become a mouse who lets everyone walk over you!

Or that you aren’t allowed to be angry.

Or that you aren’t allowed to expect fair justice.

Or that you aren’t allowed to stand up for yourself or protect yourself.

 

It’s really important to always say how you feel.  Saying how you feel means you aren’t attacking the person with insults e.g. instead of saying ‘You are always horrible to me and so stuck up’ you could say ‘I feel that you don’t listen to me or treat my ideas with respect, and it makes me feel unappreciated and angry’.

Saying how you feel stops resentment from taking over and you from then acting out that resentment.

I’ve written a whole blog post on ‘Teaching people how to treat you‘ – it’s definitely worth having a read if you want to know more about this.

It’s also really bad for your health to let that stuff fester inside of you.  If you find it’s just not practical to say how you feel (i.e. you might get hit or lose your job), then you can write it all down and burn the letter or imagine telling the person what you think in a meditation.  It can be amazingly cathartic and nearly as good as the real thing.

 

OK, so I know I’m being a bit fluffy and naive.  However, the fact is, if I smile at someone, a huge percentage will smile back at me.  If I scowl back at them, pretty much all of the people will glare back at me.  I can’t change the world, but I can insist that my kids learn some rules, that my workplace is a lovely place to work for my team, and that I follow these rules as much as is humanely possible.  At least I might make my little corner of the world a nicer place to be.

 

 

What to do if your job or business don’t seem to be doing well?

So I’m back with the gorgeous Danny Smith on Radio Verulam – thank goodness he keeps asking me in, otherwise I’d never get around to blogging.

Check out all my previous posts in the run up to Christmas if you need tips on what to buy, how to afford it or how to deal with the stress of it.

This time I thought I’d look at a slightly different side to Christmas; the stress of someone in a job that isn’t going well, or a business that needs a big improvement, especially when you know that ‘Christmas is coming’, along with a pile of bills!

This is probably the last in my posts about business and careers (although you never know!).  Remember beforehand I wrote about:

1) How to pick a business or career:

  • Having a Passion for it.
  • That it has the potential to make the kind of Profit that you would need and deserve after the investment of time and money
  • And That there is a Need for it.

2) Tips for Getting or Keeping a Job

  • How easy it is to make a good impression when you apply
  • Then when in the job that there are easy ways to keep making a good impression:
    • Work Smart
    • Do your job
    • Give to get
    • Be professional
    • Understand the brand

 

So are you not doing as well in your career as you hoped?

Or is your business not performing?

And you are doing all the above things?

Then there are 4 simple things for you to look at:

1) You are panicking

Frustration and anger

If you panic, you are going to run around like a headless chicken, fire fight, and probably make things worse.  It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy – the person who worries about losing their job, often behaves in a way that means that they will lose their job.  The fear will control their brain and mean that they aren’t working smart, or doing their job well.

Plus it’s important to keep your focus on what you DO want to happen, rather than what you DO NOT.  Our subconscious doesn’t pick up the NOT – so often we end up following the WRONG direction.  I’ll give you an example: it’s well know that when you want to lose weight, you need to focus on becoming healthy and slim, not on losing weight; otherwise you often gain weight.  Or how many times have you told a child to be careful to NOT do something; and they immediately do it.

Even if you are just breaking the problem down into daily steps, just focus on them one step at a time.  For instance, I’ve been through a restructure at work, so there was a lot of reorganisation needed and recruitment; it’s like a puzzle, you take each step slowly and start to fit everything together.  You don’t need to know the complete path when you start, you just start moving forwards slowly.

Here are some more tips on dealing with stress.

2) You are not letting people know

Rant with Megaphone

So you have a great business, or are wonderful at your job, but aren’t getting the recognition that you deserve, or the customers are going elsewhere?  Are you actually letting people know?  Are you clear on what your ‘USP’ is (Unique selling proposition – i.e. what you are good at).

Have you made sure that a company or customer looking for you can find you?  (E.g. google, Facebook, twitter, website, signs, brochures etc).  If you haven’t, then your customers often think that you aren’t interested in their business.

Remember in a 1to1 it’s always important to talk about your strengths as well as your development areas.  If you don’t, I can promise you that the other person is definitely talking themselves up.  It’s not boasting if it’s factual e.g. ‘I did this project and the result was xyz’ or ‘We have an 80% customer return rate’.

As a business you need to let people know why you are different from the restaurant down the road, or the other cupcake makers.  What makes what you do special?  This is where a clear niche makes your message clear, and ironically brings in more people who don’t quite fit your niche.

Don’t get fooled into thinking this needs to be expensive.  Or that everything has to be done all at once.  There are loads of marketing, customer service, PR and sales techniques that are free or inexpensive.

 

3) You are letting your self-confidence or self-esteem issues get in the way

 

Fur Monster

We all have baggage; people or situations that have knocked our confidence or made us doubt ourselves.  But if you let that show, then why will other people or customers trust you?  I’m not talking about walking around pretending all the time and being fake.  I’m just suggesting that if you are not sure of why you are fabulous and why customers should come to you, then they won’t come.

When I worry; and of course I do worry, as setting up a large hair and beauty salon and Spa inspired by the days of good service and glamour is a risk – people do sometimes prefer the dull and noisy salons elsewhere.  Then I remind myself of a few things:

  1. My job is not to convince everyone – just the people who would love to come to me and prefer it.  In fact it’s my duty to let them know, so that they get the opportunity to come.
  2. I remind myself of what I’m good at (and what I’m not good at).  That way I remember what my own personal USP is, and I make a backup plan for my weak areas.  Accepting responsibility for yourself and not blaming others is really important here.

4) It’s not exactly what you are meant to be doing

diamond heart
Sometimes we spend years not doing well in careers we never wanted or running businesses that don’t make our hearts sing.  What’s the point in that?  Yes, I know that there are practicalities to providing for a family and paying the bills, and it’s not always easy to change things.  But I can also guarantee that it’s very difficult to be successful at something that isn’t really YOU.
Are you really sure this job is for you?  Are the hours suitable to what you love in your life?  Do you really want to become like the people you are with?  Is it really how you would like to spend the next few years?  I had a couple of people come for job interviews recently, who didn’t really want to work at MY spa.  One just wanted a couple of extra days work anywhere; that’s fine, but Espiritu has a very specific ethos and I’m looking for people who are banging down the door to work there.  The other just applied because she was told to, and was trying to appease someone she loves; a recipe for disaster.
Now if this is where you find yourself, then what I recommend is that you make an exit plan.  It might be 1 to 10yrs; but it will be a plan, and if you are steadily working towards it, that is all you need.
If you would like to do something else, but it will earn you less money, check out my posts on how to get more value for your money, so that you don’t need to earn as much.
If it’s skill levels, then you just need to make a plan to train up.  But keep at it; I had a lovely girl apply for a job, but she hasn’t been constantly practicing her trade and has become rusty, so I need her to go away for 6 months, do lots of practice and then try again.
You may not know exactly, but have a hint, so work towards that at first, and all will become clearer.  (But be careful of ‘the grass is greener’ fantasies, and make sure that you look at the downsides of all options).

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You know something has got to change right?  So you could try these ideas, and they might not work; in my humble opinion they weren’t meant to work then, and there will be something better out there (if you’ve followed everything from the last 3 posts).  You’ll also know that you really tried your best – better that, than not putting your whole effort in.
We ALL fail sometimes.
We ALL make mistakes sometimes.
It’s how you react to that, which will determine how your life unfolds.  You can still be happy, but poor (I’m not suggesting that it is heaven being poor, just that it’s not necessarily hell either).
Good luck to you – I know it isn’t easy.  Let me know if you have any specific questions that maybe I can help you with.  Or if there is something you want me to go into more detail on.
Look at things

Top Tips For Getting A Job Or Keeping A Job

Last month I chatted through top tips for starting a business or finding a business, so this month the the gorgeous Danny Smith on Radio Verulam I thought I’d talk through jobs for those that I put off starting a business 😉  I know that with Christmas coming up there will be lots of job opportunities, and then afterwards, some lucky people will get the chance to stay, so I thought that tips put together from 13 years of working in IT, 15 years as a therapist and a year as an employer might help!

(Please do let me know if they help – I’d love to know!).

(You can listen again for a week here – I’m around 5.30)

To Get A Job

Look at thingsObviously it’s not all about you – sometimes there will be so many people going for a job, that there is a little bit of luck involved.  In that case I like to have the attitude that the ‘right job’ will come along, but help it by making sure I’ve done all I could.

1) CV – Adapt your CV for each interview.  I get people sending CV’s that list EVERYTHING, and they are clearly applying for different jobs.  I tend to ask people to send me a simple list of what they can do (or can’t is often easier) and where they worked and how long for.

2) Don’t Use Text Speak – Yes, I’ve had people using text speak in their emails or Facebook messages.

3) Don’t discuss your nights out – Yes, I’ve had someone discuss how wasted they were from the night before!

4) Clean up your Facebook – either make your Facebook private or clean it up – drunk pictures with a spliff don’t do you any good.

5) Be clean and appropriately dressed – an office job means a suit, a beauty job means great nails, hair and makeup.

6) Be on time – and set off with time to spare.  Although, I actually employed a girl who was late, because she handled getting lost so well and didn’t cry!

7) Don’t lie – there is no point, it will come out later that you mislead your employer and they will be very unhappy.

8) Google the company – make sure that you’ve done some research.  So many people apply for my Spa and don’t even know it’s in Radlett with free parking, but difficult to get to if you can’t drive.

Update:

During the show Danny and I had an interesting chat about wether people should ask about the pay early on.  For myself with the pay structure being pretty similar across my industry, I’m looking for someone who is most interested in our Salon, but with a healthy interest in their compensation.  So anyone who’s first question was about the pay in an email, I tended to ignore.

But Danny raised an important point: For some people if they are offered a job that will put them in a worse position than they are in currently (if on benefits), then they need to know earlier in the day if there is going to be a problem.  In this situation I would explain to the company in question your requirements in as polite and professional a manner as you can – that the pay structure isn’t your primary concern, but because of your situation you need to be sure that the pay is over a certain minimum amount.

Also, it can be very frustrating when going for a job, where the company knows your current pay level, but then offers you less; we all automatically assume they will offer more.  In which case, turn all the tips I’ve suggested above on their heads, and now you know how to NOT get offered a job!

 

To Keep Your Job

Tips on keeping a job

I’ve spent years as a manager, as has the big hairy northerner, and we have had many conversations about how crazy having staff can sometimes feel.  I remember my husband saying ‘I just need them to be able to add up correctly’ – which considering they were qualified accountants, wasn’t unreasonable!  Whatever kind of job you are doing, these rules will apply, from a shelf-stacker to a CEO.

1) Work Smart

Being busy, isn’t enough.  What you need to do is ‘work smart’, i.e. do the job, don’t do stupid things.  (Unless you work in one of those ridiculous firms that only care about the time you arrive and leave).

2) Do Your Job

If your job is at all complicated, then you won’t have the headspace to get involved in someone else’s job as well.  So focus on getting yours right and don’t worry about the others – that’s your managers job.  I had to sack a really lovely person for this, because she ended up making lots of mistakes in her own job, and I was gutted.

3) Give To Get

I heard this phrase last week and it really works in the workplace.  Generally I would say that giving is just a great thing to do, without expecting anything in return.  But this is more about the fact that if you would like something from your employer (e.g. promotion, training, pay rise), then you need to prove yourself to them.  An attitude of ‘expectancy’ or ‘I deserve more than this’, tends to be very wrong – it often means you don’t understand what is going on in the business or what is generally available.

4) Be Professional

It doesn’t matter how much you work smart, do your job well and prove yourself to your company, but if you behave unprofessionally then it’s a deal breaker.  There is NO industry (sorry Gordon Ramsay!) where it is OK to be sexist, racist, rude about disabled people, swear at people or steal stuff.

5) Understand The Brand

Learn about your company.  There will always be a case of ‘if the face fits’, especially if there is a strong brand image.  For instance there are some companies that have really strong brand images – some you might never be able to fit, but others might just take a little effort e.g. how smartly or fashionably dressed do they like you to be?  How strong on customer service are they?  What are their values – do you understand them?  (Here is my vague excuse for putting Wolverine in – after all he wouldn’t be great in a job that required calm and measured responses!)

 

Let me know what you think and if these tips help you to get and keep a job this Christmas!

Keep at it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to start your own business?

Wow it’s been a while!  Sorry about that – this business malarky is taking up a lot of my time.  But as I’m popping back in to speak to Danny Smith on his Drivetime show for Radio Verulam, I thought ‘maybe I should start blogging about what I’m doing’?

I saw a mum on Facebook the other day asking for advice on starting a business, so I thought that having worked for myself for the past 15years, I’d give some tips on starting your own business.

There are lots of different types of business.  For some reason I feel that Espiritu Salon and Spa is more of a ‘Business’, whereas before I was just ‘working for myself’ as a ‘job’ or ‘career’, but it really doesn’t matter what kind of business you start up, the same rules apply.

I’ll probably do a series of blog posts (if you like them!), so that I can break it down into manageable chunks.  But it’s a good time of year to be thinking about this sort of thing as September has a great ‘new start’ vibe.

 

Passion

Is it possible to have romance and kids?
Heartfelt Passion Helps

 

Whatever this business is, it’s going to take your time, energy and resources, so you need a passion for it.  Not a fickle passing fancy, but an interest that has been long standing.  My dream to own a Spa where the hair, beauty and holistic therapies were all combined has been there for the whole 15 years.

How do you know if there is a TRUE passion for it?  I’ve watched and listened to people over this last year and here are a few key hints:

  • You’ve thought about it loads and talked to different people about it
  • You’ve planned it – in your head, on paper, everywhere
  • You’ve researched how to do it on the internet, read about it and maybe taken qualifications in it.
  • You know your strengths and weaknesses (no one can do everything) and have a plan to cover the areas that aren’t your strong ones.
  • You are willing to spend time, money and change your lifestyle for it – this is the big one, are you willing to stop watching the TV, stop seeing friends, and limit your budget because you are focussed on your business?

Passion is key, because it’s going to be harder than you think, and affect areas of life that you never expected, so it needs the passion to keep it going!  Wow I sound a bit gloomy don’t I, but it’s not; it would only be gloomy if I didn’t have a passion for what I’m doing.

 

Money

Money Saving Tips
Money

It’s got to make a profit, otherwise it is just an expensive hobby which will do your self-esteem no good; the question is how much?

When thinking about the business, think about how long before it could go into profit and how much profit you need.

  • Maybe you are giving up a job for this, and although you can cut back on your lifestyle to a degree, there are bills to pay?
  • Or maybe this is the beginning of something bigger that will grow when your kids are in school, so for the time being it just needs to pay for a few treats for the family?
  • If there is a big investment, it really needs to be able to pay itself back, as well as pay you, so that is something to consider.
  • Think about the sacrifices that you will have to make; it needs to make enough profit for it to be worth it.

One thing you can be sure of: It’s going to cost more than you thought, and take longer than you thought to go into profit.

But don’t get fooled into spending lots due to your newness to the industry.

Desperation isn’t good, so make sure that you have a buffer to keep you going.

And never fall for the ‘get rich quick’ schemes; nothing happens without hard work.  I know a pile of people who did weekend courses and

 

Need

Rant with Megaphone
Letting people know

You might be really passionate about something, and not mind how much profit you make.  But at the end of the day, other people need to think that it will be interesting too, otherwise you will have no customers.

Is there a market for it?  Do people really want it, or can you persuade them that they do?

What is your brand, ethos and USP?  What is the point to your business versus all the others?

Make sure there is a market for it – Know your market/niche – don’t try to be everything for everyone. Decide on your brand – your ethos, niche, the point to you.

Learn this lesson (it took me years to believe it!): Decide on your ideal customer, identify your niche, stick to it and you will have MORE customers!

But at the same time, don’t focus/be to rigid on this being ‘the one’ business you ever run; things often change and one thing will lead to another.  I’ve gone from being a reiki healer/master, to holistic therapist, to coach, to ‘Mummy Whisperer’, to blogger, to author, to owner of a Spa.  It might sound a bit random, but there is sense in the journey.

 

Got a question about a business?  Let me know – I know how tough it is and would love to help!

Started your own business?  What tips would you add to choosing a business?

 

Blogs

How to use a blogger in your business

Blogs
Blogs

I think that bloggers are the perfect match for small to medium sized businesses to help them get their names out into the world.  The big brands are already using us.  But there is a lot to be said for focussing on smaller, niche or local businesses instead.  So here are my tips on how to go about it if you are a business:

 

1) What’s the point?

Have you heard that someone needs to hear about your product/service 27 times before they sign up?  That’s a lot of times!

Bloggers can help with PR (Public Relations e.g. reviews), SEO (Search Engine Optimisation i.e. being found), Marketing (getting the word out there) and Social Media (twitter, Facebook etc).  Some can even write sales copy for you.  Plus they can be a very inexpensive and direct way of being seen by your customers versus adverts which are more of a splatter gun approach.

I have a ‘spiritual’ perspective on marketing.  It’s less about selling or pushing your business and more about making sure that the people who want to, can find you.  If you don’t put your hands up in the air and say ‘here I am‘, then they can’t find you!

 

2) Some technical points

There are rules about how we can help (some people will break the rules for enough money):

1) We have to disclose that we got money or a freebie in return for our post – it’s illegal not to.  (I would not recommend working with someone willing to break this rule for moral reasons, but I’m not fussy about how it is disclosed, officially it should use the word ‘sponsored’).

2) Google doesn’t like people paying for ‘follow’ links because they have adverts for that!  A follow link is where google reads the blog post, sees a link and follows it to where it goes to, thereby marking the link as showing an important site.  Bloggers who take paid for follow links will want extra money because google can strip them (and you) of their page rank (how findable they are on google).  It’s not illegal though.  But I wouldn’t advise it.  The alternative is a no-follow link.

 

3) Money, money, money

Money
Money

Remember, if we work for you, we are taking time out from doing other to do’s or being with our kids.  But we do understand that budgets can be limited, especially if you are a small business or charity (we are less forgiving for a big company paying a PR team to contact us!).

There are three reasons we will help:

1) We need the money – for this one you will have to pay for our time and expenses fairly.

2) For treats for the kids we couldn’t afford otherwise – it’s lovely in this day and age to be able to do this (holiday offers always welcome *grin*).

3) For something we are passionate about – mine is festivals, being outside, books and music.

How much would we expect?

I charge £100 for a post with a link.  £50 for a competition because the admin is tiresome, despite the fact that I get to give something away.  I might charge for a review if it is a very cheap product.  However, nowadays I do hardly any of these kinds of posts because I don’t enjoy them.  I also do free posts, but I limit how many purely because of time constraints.

If I’m busy, but like your stuff I’ll ask you to send me a tweet and I’ll RT it for you (please don’t email it to me; use twitter).  I do this for free, for things I like.  Other people charge £5 per time.

Some bloggers will do follow links (see technical points) for £200.  There are also bloggers would will write you a quick post for £20.

 

4) SEO – being found

Because of the follow/no-follow rule, a blogger might not be able to help you out too much with follow links which helps you be found on Google (unless they end up loving you so much that they write something for free), but they can write a good post, with great keywords that points to you.

They can also help with the practicalities like setting up your facebook page.  For some businesses twitter is also great as many of your customers would expect to be able to use it to get hold of you.  Google+ might not be a very active place right now, apart from for bloggers; but being there will help with ‘being found’.

If your business is visual, pretty or product based, then they can help you get started on Instagram or Pinterest.

They will also know tips for you to start up your own blog (posts of once or twice a month are probably sufficient) and the key words (found using google analytics) that will help drive people to your site.  A blog is a great way to put a personality behind your business – just a great product isn’t enough when you need to create loyalty.

Some bloggers run consultancies where they help companies like yours by running their social media and blogging for them.  It’s a great option.

 

5) Reviews

It’s a great idea to get a blogger to review your service/product as it can be much more indepth than on Amazon or something like that.

But remember, they will be HONEST!  So make sure they are a good match and your product is good.

If your product is cheap and you can’t afford to pay anything additional, you might suggest that the blogger include it in a post with other products e.g. if you are selling candles, they could be included in a post about ‘presents for mothering sunday’.

If you would like them to come and visit your location, then they may need expenses too.  In the early days there were many times that a blogging event cost me a LOT more in time and money than I received from it.  I don’t charge for travel to a festival, but I would to review a film in London (plus ask for the DVD – been there on that expense 6 months later!).

Make sure that you keep a record of the reviews.  You can tweet them out every now and again for your customers to read and add them to your website.

 

6) Competitions

As well as reviewing your product (or instead of), you could give them one to give away in a competition.  Competitions are particularly useful in increasing your followers on twitter and facebook, as you can have following as an additional entry option to the competition.

Please note however that competitions and writing a post do take time and administration, so unless it is a product that will really increase the bloggers views, they will probably want to charge you an admin fee.

Be thoughtful about how you want the competition advertised.  There are sites that we can put the competition on in order to increase the hits.  But this means that ‘professional compers’ are likely to enter, who might not be interested in your product at all.

 

7) How to find them

magnifying glass
magnifying glass

You can contact companies that provide an intermediary service e.g. Tots100, Britmums and Best British Bloggers.  I do not know what the charges are.  You can also look through the Tots100 and Ebuzzing lists, but bear in mind that not everyone places themselves in the lists.  The Britmums roundups will give you blogs with specific interests.

Or you can do some research using key words that help: e.g. mummy blogger St Albans, Top uk mummy bloggers, mummy blogger weight loss, mummy blogger crafting, mummy blogger style

Or you can go into twitter and search on key words e.g. St Albans, vintage, candles, festivals etc

Once you have one blogger, they might be able to get you a list of other bloggers for you to check out.  This can be a BIG hassle though (bloggers can be difficult to organise) – I’ve done it before and probably wouldn’t do it for free again, apart from for someone I loved a LOT!  I now tend to offer to put your email address in a specific facebook group instead, and let you deal with the impending chaos ;o)

 

8) How to make contact

Bloggers tend to love twitter (about 99%).  So find your blogs, follow them on twitter, and add them to a specific column or list so that their updates don’t disappear into a huge pile of updates.

DO NOT send them a twitter message saying ‘Hi, I’m local, please tweet out my page’ – you are a stranger to them, it would be like walking up to someone you don’t know in the street and asking them to hand your business card out.  Basically you would look like a weirdo (I unfollow people who do this immediately).

Relationships online take time – use some discernment.  Don’t follow people just because they are popular.  Follow people because you are actually interested in them and give the relationship some time to brew.

Then when they say something that is interesting, reply to it.  If they write a good blog post retweet it for them (subscribing to their blog would be a good idea).  Start to chat regularly.  Then when it feels right you can mention that you have a product/service and would they like to chat about working with you.  It’s quite possible that if you are up their street, they will mention it before you even get there – I have done for festivals I fancied.  Try not to be sycophantic or to jump to offer your services without first establishing a need.

Alternatively, once you have a list of bloggers, then you can send them an email.  Always approach them using their name in the ‘hello’ of your email – I don’t reply to anything without my name in it.  I would recommend sending a separate email to each blogger with a sentence or two that shows you have read some of their blog.  If you send a blanket mail, use BCC (blind copy) for the email addresses, but I warn you, it’s less likely to be popular.

Remember, however wonderful you are or your product is, these bloggers are busy mums and may get several PR pitches a day.  They don’t read their email every day.  They need time to plan things.  They can’t do 100 reviews all at once.  They are less available during holidays and the week before and after them.  They also talk, so if you send out a second round of invites due to little interest in the first round, they are likely to know they were your second choice!

 

9) Picking Bloggers

I Love Your BlogMake sure that you read their about page and check the ages of their kids and their suitability.  Is it likely that their readership would suit your business? For example, I do NOT blog about parenting, just about being a mum.  So I don’t want posts about baby food or pushchairs on my site and my kids are too old any way.

You could pick LOTS of less popular blogs and get a bigger coverage.  Or pick a handful of blogs that are more popular.

Make sure that you have spent time reading the reviews that they have already done.  Do they just whack them out, or do they put an interesting spin on it?  Do they use photo’s, maybe even videos?

Have they reviewed similar things?  That might be good or bad news, depending on your subject!  For example, loads of positive reviews on push chairs, might not make them sound reliable.  But lots of interesting reviews about holidays or adventurous things to do as a family might make them be considered a bit of an expert on the subject.

This takes time, but otherwise you are wasting your money and resources.

 

10) What to expect

Ask them how long the post is likely to be, and how they will ‘pimp’ it out for you.  You are looking for 500 words or more with photos.  Videos are great for reviews, especially by kids.

I tweet 3 times at different times of the day over a couple of days.  I send to my facebook profile, page and google once.  But for some posts they will be marked with tags e.g. summer or festivals, which means that I will probably reuse them during quiet periods.  Also some of my posts are listed on pages too.  Probably not product reviews, but a couple of the holidays have been so good that I included them in my ‘Adventure’ page.

Some bloggers ‘hide’ their reviews somewhere other than the home page – make sure that they aren’t doing that for you.  They can also ‘hide’ them by publishing them over a weekend if that is their quiet time.  Watch out for this.

Ask how many reviews or competitions they will be running.  Unless that is what the site is all about, you don’t want to be hidden away under a huge pile of them.

Afterwards you can ask for how many ‘hits’ the post received.  If it is a good post, it should also get hits/reads all throughout the year and beyond.  Your webstats will be able to show you when someone comes to your site via the blog (of course, this misses people who come to your site because of the blog, rather than via it).

 

11) Statistics

Stats don’t mean everything, for example, they don’t show you how trusted a blogger is; but they can be helpful.

I would ask for

  • followers on their online communities e.g. twitter, Facebook etc
  • monthly views
  • monthly unique views (i.e. how many people, not how many pages they view)
  • awards or inclusion in Britmums roundups or Tots100 faves
  • media coverage
  • rankings in lists
  • page rank (how important google thinks they are – probably from 0-5)
  • If they have youtube – what are their visitor stats
  • Klout shows how much they tweet

Here are mine, to give you some kind of example.  I’d say I’m an ‘above average’ blogger, not one of the ‘top’ ones, but with a definite brand, message and trusted reputation.

 

12) Top Tips

Keep working with a small number of bloggers where possible – stop flitting from one to another.  It might add breadth, but no loyalty and as you are likely to have less budget, what you want to create is loyalty.

We don’t need guest posts written by your PR people.  We are bloggers.  We write.  We probably have loads of draft posts that we haven’t managed to write yet!  So don’t get fooled into offering us ‘free content’ as though we should be glad to get it.

Mummy bloggers are flakey.  We over promise.  Our kids get sick.  We get sick.  So you probably want a few more than you would think for your campaign, and expect to have a couple fall by the wayside.

We aren’t interested in press releases.  We might be interested in your newsletter with news about what is going on though.

 

13) Campaign

”Official

I think that by far the most successful use of bloggers I have seen is in long term relationships with a campaign.

You will need a proper project plan for the campaign for this, which means that you can then fit it in around important dates in your diary as well.  Create a hashtag for the campaign e.g. #WeLoveForests #DoSomethingYummy so that everyone involved can keep track of related posts and RT them.

Be careful and check what other campaigns are running at the same time, especially if you are a charity.  There can be ‘charity overload’ especially at the beginning of the year.

If you have a number of bloggers involved, you will need to create a calendar and plan ahead when everyone does their posts.  Personally I prefer them all spread out than all at once.

You could have a twitter party with the hashtag, but it can be unpopular, read this post for more information by Geekalicious.

It’s a great idea to have a badge as well for each blogger.  They would put it on their sidebar to show that they are associated with you.  I worked with Siblu holidays last year and they have sponsored a few of us to go to Britmumslive in return for a badge and a couple of posts.  They have also created a page where they list all the posts that we did last year for them and another specifically for Britmumslive.

Nickie from ‘I am Typecast’ ran a campaign for Clic for a month and was brilliantly orchestrated.  It had a huge sense of community and really got them noticed.

I’m an ambassador for the Forestry Commission.  I thought I was just writing a blog post reviewing the local forest in review for a membership card.  But it has been a lot more than that and I’ve actually really enjoyed it.  We have a hash tag, facebook group to create a community amongst the bloggers, and pinterest board.  I may not have made lots of money from this campaign, but it has actually helped increase my own interest in forests and I now have a big passion for the whole thing.

In comparison I’ve reviewed some clothes for Joe Browns which I love.  But they don’t connect the bloggers they work with, so there is no way that we could create a community and RT other posts.  They are just going for more of a scattergun approach with reviews on lots of blogs.

Some companies create blogging competitions, where we have to write a blog post in order to potentially win the competition.  Personally I hate these, but I can see that they are worth it if the prize is good enough.

 

14) Adverts

It might be worthwhile to look into advertising on a blog if what you are looking for is a regular reminder of your shop or product.  But it can be an expensive option, so it really depends on your product/service, budget and who is available.

There would be times when it would be useful for the readers to have a link to your site e.g. an advert for your kitchen utensil business on a local bloggers side bar, or for a kids craft boxes business on a craft blog.

An advert costs about £10 per page rank, per month.  You are most likely looking at a blog of Page Rank 3, so that is £30pm.  You will need to pay 3 months in advance, but you could get a discount for a long term blog.  It’s not bad value when you look at an advert in a magazine etc.  Definitely better value than a facebook advert, but you could still do with a Google Ad for your key words.

 

Who are you ?
Who are you ?

15) Affiliates

I’m not really convinced by affiliate programs.  I think that it only works if they have also done a review and there is a clear match with their blog, especially as it puts the bloggers opinion slightly under question as it could be influenced by earning money.

Also they probably need to be getting a mammoth amount of hits per day for it to be worth it for the blogger.  This would be ideal for a craft blogger – one of the big ones gets thousands of views a day.  I was once an affiliate for a membership site, where I got 50% of the join up fee – this worked really well for me and the client  (it was before my blog), I think that the lesson there is to be generous with your affiliate %.

 

At the end of the day

Remember to use discernment.  Don’t jump on a band wagon on how to behave if it doesn’t suit you or your company or feels dodgy.

There are no quick options, but bloggers make a great long term option for any business that has ‘people’ as it’s customers, and I think that they can be much more useful to you than adverts.

If you would like to know more about blogging, check out the rest of my posts.

Here is a list of all my reviews, just incase you want to see what sorts of things a blogger might do.

 

So bloggers, what do you think? – this tends to be a controversial subject!