Blogging Tips For Small Businesses

November 22, 2012 in Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

I’m doing what many of you do: writing a blog. Those who don’t already put fingers to keyboard are probably thinking about it, because everywhere you look, blogs seem to be the fashionable way to tell people what you’re thinking and to put you and your business in the public eye. In fact, many marketing gurus insist that blogs are the best way for small business owners to create greater awareness of the products and services they offer.

But with such a huge proliferation of blogs over the past 12 months or so – and growing with every click of the mouse – does anyone have time to read them? Who? When? What do you have to do to make your blog stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs floating in cyberspace? How often should you add a new blog to your web site? Should you write blogs for anyone else? And what do you have to put in a blog to ensure that it benefits your small business, rather than put people off?

There are so many variables when it comes to writing a blog that it is hard to be specific about what works and what doesn’t. But every small business owner should think about a few basics. For a start, make it interesting – and often the best way to guarantee that is to write what you’d want to read. A customer or potential customer is likely to be interested in the same things you are, by the very fact they buy, or are thinking of buying, the product or service on offer. An alternative therapist should, therefore, be writing blogs relating to alternative therapy, or at least trying to make a blog relevant to alternative therapy. So they could write about the latest food fashion, but only in as much as it impacts on health. A web designer should write about web sites, but could consider some aspect of journalism or writing in general.

Blogs shouldn’t be too long, since small business owners have enough to do to try to run their businesses without wishing to spend too much time glued to the Internet. I reckon around 500 words is long enough. Don’t add new blogs to your site too often, either. A daily blog can become a most tedious object, both because the reader gets tired of hearing from the same person every day and because the writer runs out of things to say, so the blogs become boring – and even more tedious.

And while most small business people want their blogs on their own web sites, you can often do better by contributing to someone else’s site. Sticking with the alternative therapist, if the therapist wrote a blog for, say, a personal trainer’s web site, or a foodie web site, and linked fitness or diet to their therapy, think of the number of new readers, and hence new potential customers, that could  be reached.

Blogs can certainly attract traffic to any small business web site, but there is one final thing to remember: if you aren’t good at writing, don’t try. It’s better not to have a blog at all than one which is so excruciatingly bad that no one wants to visit your site again.

Backing Up Your Business

November 14, 2012 in Small Business by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

We all have one. I’m writing on one now, and you’re reading this on one, too. I mean, of course, a computer, be it desktop, laptop, notebook, tablet, iPad, or smartphone – which is really a tiny computer. And while 25 years ago, no small business owner would have batted an eye if they worked with a customer or supplier who relied on telephone, post and face-to-face meetings, today, if our computer goes down, we are lost and in danger of risking the future of our small businesses.

But how many of us have the right back-up systems? And how many of us have any manual back-up at all? Do you have a print-out of your customer names and contact details, just in case? What about your suppliers? Do you know where to go for the sort of help a small business needs? And I’m not just talking about computer help: do you have alternatives to fall back on in case your business computer is useless? Where do you go for the stationery you might now need to use? How do you market your small business without email, web site, social media? How do you find a plumber, electrician, or, indeed, the person who can come and restore your business (and personal) life?

Unfortunately, society has become so dependent on technology that when it isn’t there, our businesses, and our lives, collapse. But there are ways to avoid small business catastrophe.  First off, think very carefully about the sort of technology your small business needs. Some people have a network of two, three or more computers, a set-up that can be very beneficial to some small businesses. But if you are a sole trader, do you need that? Is it not the case that if one computer goes down, the whole network goes down? Do you need the complication of having two or three units to worry about – and do you have the space to put them?

Second, make sure you understand the technology you rely on for every small business need. Do you know what buttons to push, and which ones to leave alone? Do you know how the device operates, so you can best exploit its capabilities?

Most importantly, do you have a computer guru who specialises in small businesses, understands their needs and their problems? Someone who can not only respond quickly to any SOS, but can also set up a back-up system for you? My computer guru offers remote back-up, achieved through sticking a device on the back of the computer which transfers a copy of everything I do off-line for my small business onto his server. If my PC goes down, he can retrieve any data, every document. And all for an amazing low rate of under £100 a year.

It’s worth every penny for the peace of mind – for even though I am sometimes called a technophobe, I, too, have most of the essentials required for my small business on my desktop. Whatever would I do without it?

Credit Control Keeps Small Businesses In The Black

July 27, 2012 in Finance, Money, Small Business by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod of Mark My Words

Sales are up, the customer base is growing, and you’re so busy you can’t even take a day off. But when the bank statement comes, something is definitely wrong: there’s a big red mark on the bottom and overdraft charges are coming your way. Why? Well…maybe not all those happy customers have paid yet….

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Why Should Small Businesses Network?

July 10, 2012 in Business Networking, Small Business, Small Business Networking by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

We all do it – often without even realising it. But mention ‘networking’ to some small business owners and they think it’s something luvvies do, or involves formal dinners and presentations, or costs too much. In fact, networking can be a simple as meeting someone at a friend’s house and discussing your hobbies – or even telling a friend about a new small business idea. It can be as basic as accepting a LinkedIn invitation to be someone’s contact or a Facebook ‘friend’ request.

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Offline Marketing – Still Relevant for Small Businesses?

June 12, 2012 in Marketing, Small Business by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

I’m advertising my magazine, Your Allotment, in three local newspapers this month. In a world dominated by email, web sites and social media, some people might consider anyone who uses off-line marketing channels for their small business to be crazy, or, if they want to be polite, behind the times – but there are actually several reasons for bucking the trend.

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The End Of Free Business Banking for SMEs?

May 19, 2012 in Finance, Money, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

I was disappointed to learn recently that Santander has stopped offering its free business banking service.

Luckily for me, existing Santander business accounts are still free, it is new account holders that now have to pay the usual bank charges. As I have three separate Santander accounts for my three separate streams of income (Small Business Network, chocolate making and reflexology/massage), this is a relief! (19/7/12 update: Santander has since gone back on its verbal assurance to me that my accounts would continue to be free – one very unhappy and soon to be ex customer!)

However, I am still rather aggrieved that the banks can’t pull out the stops a little more in these tough economic times, in order to help small businesses by offering free or very affordable banking. After all, SMEs are meant to be the life blood of the economy and one of the major keys to its recovery. Unlike many of us, banks do still seem to be doing rather well (if you discount those in Greece, Spain and Italy perhaps), but bank charges are yet another drain on what can be very meagre small business resources right now.

The good news…there is still one way in which you can get free business banking, and this is with the Co-Op via The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

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Think You Don’t Need Employer’s Liability Insurance? Think Again!

February 24, 2012 in Business Insurance, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

Guest Blog by PolicyBee

Employers’ liability insurance is the type of insurance that concerns your staff.

We can’t compare it to anything else (because there’s nothing else like it), so we’ll just stick to explaining what it’s all about instead. It’s worth us taking a look because it’s the only business insurance that’s required by law.


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Report on the West Hampstead December 2011 Meeting

December 7, 2011 in Small Business, West Hampstead Meetings by lizbygrave

Well initially it looked like it was just going to be myself and copywriter Eileen MacCallum in an extremely small networking meeting! But luckily we had lots of late arrivals so there were ten of us in the end.

Still a small meeting of course, but as tends to be the way with these smaller meetings, they turn out to be just as much fun, and just as productive as the larger events, just in a different way.

So we had what turned out to be a wonderful group exchange, with a particular focus on a couple of the business people there. One was Marcus Greve, a dynamic Dutchman who speaks six languages and has recently set up a fruit and vegetable stall in Brentford, as well as a delivery service for homes and restaurants, with a focus on quality and freshness combined with lower than supermarket prices. Marcus would like to set up a similar stall in West Hampstead so the group was looking at the viability of that (can you believe – one year is the average time it takes to get a license for a market stall?).

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Become A Key Person of Influence By Finding Your Microniche

October 11, 2011 in Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Liz Bygrave

Last Saturday (8.10.11) I went to the Key Person Of Influence event in central London, run by Daniel Priestley of Triumphant Events.

The central message of these events, which take place every 6 months, is that you are may find that you are forever struggling in your business unless you follow a particular set steps that will turn you into someone regarded as a key expert in your field. This in turn will attract income and opportunities that only go to – you guessed it – key people of influence.

One of the first things you need to do according to this method is to find not only your niche, but your microniche – a niche within a niche. This will enable people to quickly figure out what you do and pass the right opportunities to you. For example I met a woman at the event who is an image consultant who specialises in helping people who have lost weight through following a diet and/or exercise regime to find the right clothes for their new look. I also met someone who is not just a food photographer, but a food photographer who ONLY works for the big supermarkets like Waitrose and Sainsburys.

Other examples of microniches might be an accountant whose niche might be small business owners, but whose microniche might be non-retail businesses with no shop front; a nutritional therapist who specialises in one day detox retreats; socks with motivational quotes on them; a carpenter/joiner who specialises in building cupboards etc. Just mentioning your microniche immediately establishes you in people’s minds as an expert in this particular field. You can then take the further steps necessary to build your influence in your chosen microniche.

An interesting idea eh? What would be your chosen microniche?

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