Top 5 tips to stand out from the Crowd

I met the lovely Amy through Instagram and luckily our paths have crossed through other channels as well. She runs the fabulous online community called Social Butterflies. Her website features not only amazing interviews from inspiration women in business but also fantastic digital discussions and top tips.

Having a niche target market is a great thing, but if you make assumptions about your audience, or ignore changes in market conditions it can have a detrimental effect on your marketing strategy. You need to stay one step ahead of your competitors, understand your customers’ needs and offer them something unique. That doesn’t necessarily mean your product or service will be completely unique, but you can create a bespoke, distinctive brand identity and customer experience. The personality you inject into your brand is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd: be individual and engaging personally with customers.

I’ve created a top checklist that will be useful for two groups within the parenting sector: those who are thinking about starting a business and businesses already operating but who might benefit from some useful reminders. It’s important to continually evaluate your marketing strategy to make sure you are on track with your goals and also recognise ways in which you can improve and evolve.

Who are your customers?

Can you answer the simplest of questions: who are your prospective customers? So many businesses struggle with this, which is why it’s necessary to create ‘buyer personas’: fictional representations of your customers that will help clearly define your brand identity and direct your marketing strategy. As with any sector there will be a wide range of potential customers – from budget conscious parents at one end, right up to the luxury end of the market. Knowing where yours fit on that spectrum will help inform your planning, so it’s crucial to know what appeals to them in terms of style: logo, colour palette, imagery, tone of voice etc. As a business that focuses on the parenting sector you should be confident which group you’re aiming at, for example are you bright, fun and relaxed in tone or are you fashion conscious, led by trends and aspirational?

Where do you fit in?

Don’t worry this is not an existential question, but it is important to know who you’re in relation to your competitors. Ensure your brand exudes confidence in its unique style and offering – this will reassure potential customers you are professional and credible. Don’t spend too much time focussing on your competitors or you’re in danger of not paying enough attention to your own business. The internet is over-saturated with businesses and inevitably there will be lots of people doing ‘similar’ things. Social media enables small businesses to chat and connect with customers at all levels of their customer journey and it’s an opportunity to show authenticity and approachability. Create interesting shareable content that adds extra value to the customer experience and also drives brand awareness: interviews, blog posts, tips, industry news, newsletters, special offers, competitions etc. Become a though leader in your industry, relate personally to your customers and be confident in your individuality.

Write a mission statement

Are you struggling to succinctly and effectively explain to others what your business is and what makes it unique? Try writing a simple mission statement outlining your core values, goals and objectives. Keep it close to your workspace to motivate and keep you on track. It will help to evaluate your brand story and ensure it’s ‘on message’ and that your customers relate to it.

Are you spending your time wisely?

So often businesses can misdirect the time they spend on digital marketing. You should be analysing your website data and the route your customers took to find you: was it via search, social, referral or directly. This information will show the numbers of people visiting your website, where they came from and crucially whether or not people are converting into customers. How you measure that conversion depends on your business: a site selling products would most likely measure that in a sale, a service based business might measure that by the numbers of people filling out an online form to request a quote. But ultimately you will be able to see whether or not your social media marketing channels are driving sufficient traffic to justify the amount of time you are spending to get them to the point of conversion. Look at the data, listen to your customers and let that inform your strategy.

Don’t lose sight of your goals

Are your marketing efforts achieving your ultimate aims: to drive sales and increase brand awareness? If you struggle to look at your marketing campaigns objectively then ask people you respect in your industry or your customers for feedback (never be afraid to ask for someone else’s opinion). Are the calls to action clear and compelling? If the promotion is more of a brand awareness exercise then is it in keeping with your style, tone of voice and your customers’ expectations? As a business owner don’t forget you are also a consumer of products and services so think about what attracts you, turns you off and rate how easy it is navigate your website and find the information you need.

Further information

Buyer personas: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33491/everything-marketers-need-to-research-create-detailed-buyer-personas-template.aspx

Brand audit:

http://alfiewinn.com/illustration/give-your-brand-an-audit/

Websites: Where Do I Start

When starting a business there are so many things to consider and one of the biggest things is a website. With more and more people using the internet to find products and services a website is an integral part in order for your business to be found online.

I can appreciate that even thinking about a website can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What platform do you use? Well this post is all about helping you do just that, get started and I mean from the very beginning.

Platforms

Due to the boom over the last 10 years of entrepreneurs starting their own businesses there are now plenty of platforms on the market to help you create your website. However, which ones make the reward chart and which go in the Raggy dolls reject bin?

It’s important to shop around when it comes to platforms and really think long and hard about your decision. I’ll be doing a platform comparison post later in year to break down each of the market leaders for you, but for now think about the following:

Price

How much do they cost overall? Starting up means budgets can be limited however investing in your business and your website will pay dividends going forward. Also think about costs long term. Some platforms charge a monthly fee so you are looking at long term costs for your website, rather than a one off payment.

Features

What sort of features do you want? Do you need a shop where you can take payments or do you offer services and need just a few pages. Perhaps you’d like to give your customers some added value content (always advisable) and have a blog. Make a list of all the features you’d like so that when you are looking at platforms you can use your tick sheet.

Ease of use

For example you might need something that you can completely do yourself because you have the time and want to learn. Alternatively you could be in a time poor position where actually you’d prefer someone to get everything created for you. If going down the first route you want something that is easy to use, clear features and no complications.

Innovative design

Platforms that offer you an off the shelf solution where you can choose a template can be really handy however, keep in mind that there are going to be thousands of other businesses that also will choose this template and so you want to be able to make your business unique to you and that does go beyond changing colours and images.

Technical issues

It may seem weird to think about these in the beginning but it’s always good to look ahead. Some platform that use templates will have updates and this can often cause issues for your site, make sure you’re aware of potential problems before spending hours designing, you do not want downtime or have to repeat work. Also investigate their support network, if something does go wrong who can you turn to?

Packages

What do the packages include? Usually with some platforms you’ll find package options that means you’ll get certain features if you spend slightly more on the monthly cost.  Make sure you have a look at the breakdowns and understand what you’re getting.

The best thing to do is have a look at everything, don’t just rush in, think about what you really want from your site, think long term not necessarily short term and a quick win. This is a big investment in your business, no matter what platform or route you choose so make sure you give it the time it deserves.

Top 3 Social Metrics to Watch

 

This post is brought to you by the brilliant She Is Digital. Georgina has a fantastic blog full of digital know-how for your business. Here she’s bring you the top Social Metrics to watch and how they can help your business.

While it’s definitely nice to see your follower numbers go up, it’s even more important to know the quality of those followers.

Checking in on your analytics will help you to understand whether you’re attracting the right audience, how engaged they are and more importantly how likely they are to become customers.

Leaving you to plan your social media actions with true purpose rather than simply hoping something will work.

Analytic data can be a bit overwhelming so here’s a breakdown of the 3 most important social metrics to look at and why:

Analyse Your Followers

This is at the top of the list because it’s the most important. You must check your follower demographic against your target audience to make sure you hitting the right people.

This is especially important if your target audience is a particular niche, like parents.

Your target audience are the people that need what you’ve got and the people that will ultimately turn into paying customers, so if these aren’t the people following you, you’re wasting your time talking to them.

What’s Getting the Most Reach

Your Reach is the number of people who see your specific post in their news feed. It’s the spread of your social media conversation.

On its own, reach will help you understand the size of the the audience for your message, so you get a measure of your potential audience size.

What’s getting the highest engagement?

It’s important you know the impact your posts are having, so you can get an idea of the type of content your target audience are interested in. Which posts are being shared or liked most frequently? Which ones are leading readers to your blog or website?

To get the most out of these metrics, compare your Reach to you Engagement. The posts that are getting the most reach with the highest engagement are your golden posts. That is the formula you need to replicate to get maximum impact on your social media channels.

Getting social media marketing right is a bit of an experiment. You have to able to adapt and change to make sure you’re giving your audience what they want and getting the results you want.

By keeping an eye on these 3 metrics you will understand what posts and updates are working so you can replicate that style of content and not waste any time creating content that isn’t engaging your followers.

My advice is to always try out different types of content – have some fun with it, and by checking in with your analytics once a week, you’ll know what content is right for you.

4 Must Have Apps Right Now

I hosted a Facebook live last night in an online group I’m part of called Mamas on a Mission. It’s hosted by the wonderful Lucy Green who runs Brand New Mum. Lucy helps mums really identify their goals and dreams for starting their own business. She has also just launched a great range of notebooks too. I have one and it is my lifeline at the moment for keeping me on track.

In the Live I got asked a few questions regarding apps and which ones I would recommend for busy parent bosses on the go. The wonderful thing about apps is that there are millions of choices that can be downloaded straight to your phone, meaning when you do get a “nap time break” you can get cracking straight in the palm of your hand. Here are my favourite four at the moment:

Canva - on the go app for design

Canva

I am really loving this app right now. It is ideal for creating Social Media graphics on the go. You can choose from a variety of templates to customise or even select a template and build your own design from scratch using your own photos, adding text and graphics on top. I love Canva because I can customise my graphics for my brand, I can change the colours to use my colour palette and I can incorporate design elements found on my website. This is ideal for when you need to create a graphic in five mins or even if you want to spend longer on a PC and create a host of them so they’re waiting ready to be used.

Canva also provides you options to create cover photos, blog images, presentations, infographics and more. It is constantly updating its range and template options. Within the functions you can also make a copy of a design you’ve created and then customise that with new text so you keep the consistency with spacing, look and feel.

Planoly

This is Instagram planning tool heaven. I’ve been using Planoly for a couple of weeks now and it is my new go to tool for Instagram scheduling. Until Instagram change their API we are not going to find an app that will post for us – I cannot wait for that to happen though, the time it would save – but for now we can get as close as possible with prompt reminders. Planoly not only looks beautiful but it is really easy to use on both mobile and desktop.

Planoly Dashboard

It allows for you to upload media in a bank ready for you to select and schedule when you want. It has a brilliant responsive Drag and Drop editor so that you can visually see what would work in your feed alongside your most recent posts, that’s right, it pulls through your Instagram feed so you can see what will work and what won’t. It provides a calendar view so you can see exactly what you have scheduled and provides a mini report at the bottom showing the posts on those days, the likes and the comments – HEAVEN.The Analyze area provides you with statistics on your posts for the Week, delving into followers received and lost, likes, comments and the number of posts you’ve done. If you want to see Month and Year you will need to upgrade the package, which I don’t think is bad for £7.99 – not when you get all of this insight, plus they do offer discounts by bundling month packages, £20.49 per 3 months, giving a 15% discount.

Planoly will change you Instagram planning, you will love it.

Buffer

For my other Social Profiles I use Buffer. I like the ease of the mobile app and also it’s really good on Desktop too. Sometimes it’s nice to work away from a tiny screen. Buffer allows you to connect 1 social account per platform on the free version so for users like me who are looking at it for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest it’s brilliant.

You can customise you own schedules of when you want to post and using the analytics will help give you ideas on when your posts are best received and to try out new ideas. There is a Drag and Drop function on the desk top version which allows you to move a post into a new schedule if you’ve changed you mind – quick and easy and no hassle of creating the post again from scratch.

Buffer - social media management
You will get deeper insights into your posts with the Business Plan which costs $10 per month. I think it’s a great investment if you are really powering social media in your strategy, what Buffer will be able to provide will be gold dust to your business.

Quility

Now it’s not all about productivity on here, sometimes I need to wind down and relax from everything. For this I use Quility. It’s a brilliant app for Mindful Parenting and Meditations. So many people had recommended Mindfulness exercises to me and I’ve been reading quite a few books on Hygge as well and I think since launching the business and balancing a corporate job with parenthood and family life on top I need something to help me wind down, take five and reflect.

Quility has a course inside the app for you to follow, giving you the first two lessons free before you will need to subscribe. It also has audio Tips and Tricks to help you with everything from posture, how to slow down and how to be mindful at work.

These four apps are helping me power my business right now and I couldn’t live without them. I love discovery new apps to help me achieve what I want and need in my business. Having these accessible on my phone is fantastic as when I do get a few spare mins or something springs to mind I can get something scheduled, created or simply take five.

What apps have you found useful? I’d love to know.

Start up tips for Social Media

 

Social Media for business is a minefield. Full Stop.

When you’re the boss of your small business Social Media can take up a huge amount of time. It’s also impossible to ignore. With more and more customers buying online than ever before and customers turning to social media for customer service, the pressure is on.

I hear busy parent bosses say how Social Media is a complete unknown world to them. Many of us use it in our personal lives but having a profile on Facebook and then making Social work for your business are two very different things.

To help with this I have gathered together some short and snappy tips to help get you up and running with Social Media.

Look, but don’t touch

Before joining any social media platform you need to conduct research. You need to think about your brand/business and your audience. Ask yourself what platforms will your customers be on? Which ones do they interact with? Think carefully about what social media platform will be best for your business.

Fingers in all the pies

A golden rule is not to join every platform because everyone else is on there. This is why the research is so important. You do not need to be on every platform for your business to get noticed. It is far better for you to identify which would be the best platform for your target audience and your business and use that then spread yourself too thin on everything.

I need a little time

Social Media takes a lot of time. Again this is another reason not to be on platforms you don’t need to be because you will soon find that you can’t keep up with having regular shared content. There is definitely a reason why Social Media can be someone’s full time job. To be truly successful for business it takes time to research your content, think about what you are posting and when and know that it takes a lot of effort to reach the people you want to reach and build engagement. Success definitely doesn’t happen over night on Social.

The key is engagement

Another common mistake is being too focused on Followers and Likes – Don’t get sucked into the number games. It is far better to have conversations and engagement with people who are following or liking your page than have 5,000 likes but no one talks to you. Work on engagement and the numbers follow naturally. It is through engagement and building relationships that you will build trust and eventually customers and loyalty.

What works for one…

Doesn’t always work for another and the same can be said for Social Media. They are different platforms for a reason. Each and everyone of them has different features, different functions and a different audience. This again is why it is so important to think about what you are posting and on what platform. Instagram is a very visual platform, so you need visuals that are clear and engaging. Twitter you need 140 character statements that are going to get you noticed above the constant noise.

I could definitely expand more on this subject and I will be covering Social Media a lot in my blog posts. Are there any other short and snappy tips that you have learnt from doing social media in your business that you would like to share? If so, I’d love to hear them below.