Click “Find” and press enter to search through page.
One of the most important parts of starting a new businesses is making sure that your potential customers know who you are, what you do, and how they can buy your product.
Our marketing and selling information covers all areas of marketing and selling, from market research and developing your business brand, through to marketing methods and digital marketing.
You’ve thought of your business idea, but have you spoken to potential customers yet? You need to understand what people want, and what competitions are already offering, before you can move towards business success.
Thorough market research is crucial, and the more research you do, the easier it will be in the future to make decisions about your marketing strategy, pricing, budget and sales target.
It’s important to do market research before committing to starting your own business. A business idea might look very good on paper but until you ask your potential customers you won’t know whether your business idea will work in the real world – where there are competitors and customers to win over.
Market research should help you to identify and find out more about the people most likely to buy your product or service – known as your target market. There are three main sources of good market research – customer research, competitor research, test trading – and all three will give you an important insight into the market in which you might start-up.
You can carry out market research by using the following approaches:
Desk Research: Desk research is an easy and often immediate starting point. You can find out a lot just by scouring the internet, sector magazines and government reports as well as directories and books. Your local library is a must and completely free.
Field Research: Don’t forget about a resource you have on your doorstep too; ask local residents about the location and business sector you hope to set up in – there’s no knowledge quite like local knowledge!
Test Trading: Lots of businesses look good on paper but the only test that matters is whether your product or services sells. Test trading allows you to practice whether you can do just that.
Market research will help you to identify:
• Whether there is a market for your product or service
• How much demand there will be for your product or service
• Who your target customers are in terms of age, gender, location, profession, income, where they currently buy your product or service
• How you will reach your target customers
• How much your product or service is worth to your target customers and how often they will buy
• Who your competitors will be and how they operate
These handy guides will help you understand market research, click on the links to view each PDF
A key part of defining your product or service is brand. A brand is the identity of a specific product, service or business and it is important to have a strong sense of what your business is and isn’t before you begin to start telling people about it.
Often a strong brand will attract customers and have strong business values i.e. things that are important to the business and business owner.
A key part of defining your product or service is brand. A brand is the identity of a specific product, service or business, and it is important to have a strong sense of what your business is and isn’t before you begin to start telling people about it.
Often a strong brand will attract customers and have strong business values. Business values are things that are important to the business and business owner.
Think about some popular brands and what their business values are. For example, Apple’s values could be described as innovation and design, whereas Asda’s values could be described as value and customer focus.
We can list these values because Apple and Asda communicate very clearly what they stand for. They demonstrate this through everything that they do.
When you start a small business, you represent your brand. So it is very important you give the right impression of your business in everything you do, from how you dress to the language you use on your marketing materials.
This is clearly illustrated in the following scenario:
Imagine you are driving down a country lane and see the following two signs – a hand written sign for flying lesson, and a printed sign for flying lessons.
Which supplier would you choose in this situation?
Most people form instant judgements about you and your business so it is important that you give out the right first impression about your business values.
We are now going to look at two well known brands and think about what impression they like to give their customers – also known as brand values – and how they do this.
The first business we are going to look at is Marks & Spencer. Marks & Spencer was started in 1884 by Michael Marks. In 1894, he teamed up with Tom Spenser, and Marks and Spencer was started. They created a strong brand from the start, the core values of which remain today. So have a think. What are Marks and Spencer’s brand values and how do they portray them?
Here are some of Marks & Spencer’s brand values you might have come up with:
Marks & Spencer have a wide range of styles and values.
Marks & Spencer portrays this through its advertising campaign: ‘this is not just chocolate pudding, it’s M&S melt-in-the-middle-chocolate pudding’
Marks & Spencer portray this through their use of the union jack and by selling British-made products.
Their branding shows the number of years that they have been trading and they celebrate key anniversaries.
Good customer service
They have an open refund and exchange policy, and knowledgeable staff.
Now think about what impression you would like to give your customers and how you will you give that impression.
For example, you can appear professional by wearing tidy clothes and have a well kept vehicle. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper to create two columns. Title the left column ‘What’ and the right column ‘How’.
Now list three things you want to stand for in the ‘What’ column. These will form your business values, and what is important to your business.
• I keep my promises
• I provide good quality service
• I listen to my customers’ opinions
• I look after my community
• I provide good value for money
Now that you have written down your business values, the next step is to think about how you can demonstrate these values to your customers and write these in the ‘How’ column.
For example, if you have written ‘I keep my promises’, you could put: ‘I always deliver goods on time and if I don’t I give a discount on the order.’ If you have written: ‘I value my customers’ in the What column, you could put: ‘I offer a loyalty scheme’ in the how column.
The clearer you are what your business stands for, the easier it is to identify your target market, and for your target marketing to identifying with you as a business they want to use.
Often a strong brand will attract customers and have strong business values – things that are important to the business and business owner.
It’s easy to think that if you target everyone in the world who might want to buy your product or service then you will sell your product/service. However, trying to sell the same thing to everybody in the world who might buy from you one day won’t get you very far.
Better that you choose your customers, that way you can be certain that you marketing is focused and that you are designing and promoting products and services that your chosen customers, or in other words your target market, need.
Your ‘target market’ or markets is the group or groups of people most likely to appreciate and relate to your business values, most appreciate your strengths and most need your product/service and therefore buy from you.
You can have more than one target market. You need to know your target market inside out – who they are, what they do, what they need and how they spend their time. Once you have identified the core groups that form your target market, you will have a clearer idea of how to communicate with them. If, for example, you can imagine how old they are or where they live, you can imagine what paper or magazine they might read.
You need to know how to narrow down your target market by considering which types of people would: most relate to your business values; most appreciate your strengths and most need your product/service.
Think about who you think your target customer(s) are. Draw your customer(s) and label or illustrate them with information which would help you to:
• Locate them
• Target them
• Encourage them to buy
If you would prefer you can write a list of the same information.
For example a beautician might write: my typical customer is female, aged 35–55, has a family, is a homeowner, drives a 4×4, drops her children off at school, shops in Waitrose, listens to Radio 4 and enjoys spa treatments. Once you have identified a potential target customer, refer back to your elevator pitch and consider whether the key elements of your pitch appeals to your target market.
You might have heard the phrase ‘Elevator pitch’, but do you know how to write one for your own business idea? Imagine you have 60 seconds in an elevator with a potential customer, what would you say?
You will have plenty of opportunity to talk about your business but often very little time to get across your message and ‘win’ a customer. Imagine you have 60 seconds in an elevator with a potential customer, what would you say? An elevator pitch is a useful marketing tool to use when talking about your business. It is a short and succinct way of communicating what your business does, who it is for and why it is different to your competitors. It must tell your customers what they should expect from your business – a clear and simple message is critical.
You be the judge…
Have a read of the following pitches and then think about what was good about the pitches and what needs improving.
Elevator pitch one: Charlie Designs
Do you find planning a website confusing and technical? Charlie Designs is a web design company based in North London. We create simple, beautiful websites that rank on the first page on Google and persuade online visitors to buy more of your products and services. On average, our clients report a 68% increase in sales when we have built their site.
We also provide a unique after-sales service to help you explore further opportunities to grow your business online.
Sally James of ITC Solutions said, “Charlie Designs built us an amazing website that totally transformed our business! Their rates were reasonable and they are a great team to work with”. We would love to help create your perfect website, so call us on 0800 800800.
Elevator pitch two: Nelly’s Nails
Nelly’s Nails is a mobile manicure service operating throughout the Bristol area. We paint nails in any pattern or colour including stars, flags, animal prints, cartoon characters, football teams, celebrities, animals, flowers, shells, stripes, glitter, crystals, birds, butterflies, pirates, ladybirds, dogs, cats, spots, neon, and planets.
I started my career as a manicurist by doing nails for my family. My sister said, “Great nails Nelly! You should do this professionally – So now I do! Call me on 07800 800 800 to make an appointment.
Elevator pitch three: CJT Electricals
CJT Electricals offers electrical work to NICEC standard and confirming to Part P of the Health and Safety at Work HASAW Statutory Regulations 1974. We offer EAWR 1989 management to CDM 2007 standards while maintaining Electricity Supply Quality and Continuity ESQCR 2002 standards throughout. Contact CJT Electricals.
Elevator pitch four: GoldMonkey
GoldMonkey is a new digital portal destined to set the world alight!!!! Our business unites the world in a spirit of peace and holistic positivity via all forms of digital media. Whether you are young, old, a hipster or a hippie; GoldMonkey is aimed at everyone.
• When reading the pitches it might be helpful to consider the following questions:
• Does the pitch give the impression of a professional business?
• Was the pitch easy for everyone to understand?
• Did it clearly explain what the business does?
• Did it explain how the business was different to its competitors?
• Was the pitch the right length?
• Did it manage to keep your interest right to the end?
• Was it clear who the business was aimed at?
• Was it clear what problem the business solved?
• Was it clear how the business would make money?
• Did the pitch back up claims with verifiable data?
Once you know who your target market is, you need to tell them that you exist and get them knocking on your door.
A great business idea won’t succeed unless people know about it. That’s where marketing comes in. It can be easy to confuse marketing and sales – though the two are closely linked, there are some distinct differences. Simply put, marketing is about leading the horse to water, and sales is about making that horse drink.
How do I develop my brand?
Every business is judged by the image that it gives out. That image is the identity that you give your business – known as your brand. The sorts of things that affect what identify you and your business are: the legal structure you give your business, the name you give your business, the values that are important to you and affect the way you do business and the image that you give out to everyone who comes into contact with you and your business.
Marketing – Leading a horse to water
Marketing is how you communicate your brand. There are lots of different ways to promote your brand to your target audience. The purpose of marketing is finding, getting, keeping and developing customers in a way that makes you money. In other words, marketing is about ‘leading the horse to water’ and selling is about ‘making it drink.’ You will need to decide which marketing methods are right for your business.
When you’re starting your own business, one important thing to consider is whether a website will help you to build your brand and your customer base.
There are lots of software packages out there that present step by step guides to building your own website, and they don’t cost the earth. There are some key steps that you will need to follow to design a website to get you started.
A good domain name for your website is essential to ensure that customers find you easily. You will need to check the name that you want is available on a website called Nominet (www.nic.uk) or InterNIC (www.internic.com), and register to use the name. There is an annual fee to pay because you are only renting the name but you can pay to hold onto a name for up to ten years.
If the domain name you want is already registered you might want to consider changing the ending of the domain address, for example, by replacing .co.uk with .biz or a .com. You might also add hyphens to your domain address to distinguish it from an existing address.
You will need a web hosting provider to make your pages available online. The company from which you bought your domain name may also provide web hosting services. You can also buy hosting services from web developers and specialist hosting companies which you might find provide a better package.
You will also need to consider how much web traffic you’re likely to have to your website. Customers will download information from your website and if you’re planning to host lots of images or video then you may need a higher bandwidth limit.
Keep two things in mind when designing your website:
• Is it easy for customers to use to meet their needs?
• Is it accessible for your customers?
It can be very useful to invite a group of testers to test your website – this can be friends or family, or it might be a focus group. You can set them tasks, such as purchasing a product, finding your returns policy, or how long it takes to find the phone number for your business. They will be quick to identify technical problems, complexities and any typos as well as make suggestions for improvements.
There is a lot of guidance out there aimed at helping you make your website as accessible as possible to people with disabilities. It’s important to consider these factors too.
Once your website is built, you will need to maintain it regularly to make sure the information is up to date. Also, you should check for broken links, misspellings and missing pages.
Make sure you keep your contact details up to date, and be certain that people can find them easily. It’s also important that your Terms and Conditions are clearly indicated.
There are free online tools that you can use to review your website. Free tools such as Google Analytics will tell you how many people are visiting your site, how they got there, and which pages they are viewing.
Social media is a great low cost way for a start up business to reach its customers, and find new ones. Facebook’s Alex Schultz has put together a few tips on building a social media strategy.
The key thing to work out before you start your social media campaign (or any campaign in fact) is what your goal is. Probably, if it’s a commercial campaign, your fundamental goal will be to drive sales. Once you have your aim firmly in mind the next question is how to achieve it? What steps do you need to take to attain your goal.
Step 1 – Understand
Understand the problem, what are your business goals, who do you want to reach?
Step 2 – Identify
Identify strategies to achieve your goals and reach your audience.
Step 3 – Execute
Execute your strategy, analyse your results, see if your plan is working/can be improved (it probably can). Go back to Step 1
Identifying your target audience can help you choose which social channels to concentrate on/include in your mix – for example if you’re producing home-ware or bridal products you might want to look at Pinterest. Think about who you want to reach and where you might find them.
Every social media channel can be used for business, you just need to work out how. In India WhatsApp is used by businesses to sell products directly. Look at what other organisations are doing, not just in the UK but worldwide, and see if there are approaches that you can adapt.
When you’re judging the success of your campaigns the only thing that matters is what you’re trying to drive – probably sales. Don’t pay too much attention to traffic. If your traffic isn’t leading to conversions then it’s not much use. Make sure you have tools in place to track the conversions on your campaign, in as much detail as possible, so you can see which tactics are working best.
YouTube and Facebook both have excellent analytics packages, get to know them. Traffic sources is a good place to start on the YouTube reports, and reach by day is helpful on Facebook – there’s plenty more information in both though. Dig into it and understand your customers.
The most important aspect of your campaign is your content. Produce compelling content and the rest will follow. Facebook in particular rewards content that generates interactions, showing it more often. If you’re buying advertising you will pay less for your conversions if you promote content that is already performing well. If something you’ve posted is attracting a lot of likes and comments you might want to think about promoting it – you’ve done the hard work already, take advantage of its success.
The basis of a lot of campaigns that have gone viral is humour. If it makes people laugh, they’ll want to share it. Another frequently used approach is being provocative in some way, think of the Dove real beauty campaign.
When you’re planning your content it can pay to have a look at what’s working for other people and consider whether you could use similar techniques.
A few brief case studies are below:
Bonobos: The US based clothing brand used adverts targeted at fans of sporting teams to promote trousers in that team’s colour – so Chicago Cubs fans saw ads for royal blue trousers. They sold out. The key take away from this is the innovative use of targeting – if you can think of a niche market for your product you can use social media ads to get straight to them.
Warby Parker: Warby Parker sell spectacles, with a free returns policy. Key to their marketing strategy is suggesting to customers that they post pictures of themselves wearing their new glasses and get the verdict from their friends – if nobody thinks they look good you can send them back. Cue lots of free advertising for Warby Parker. If you can think of a way to get people to post about your brand and make them feel like you’re doing them a favour then you’re on to a winner.
Dollar Shave Club: One of the best known marketing videos on YouTube is Dollar Shave Club. It cost $4,500 to make and produced 12,000 paying customers within 12 hours. The founder of Dollar Shave Club had the advantage of having gone to drama school, so he had good connections to get the film made. Think how you can use your experience and connections to your advantage.
Chubbies: Shorts manufacturer Chubbies combine techniques used by Bonobos and Warby Parker, producing US flag and US state flag shorts to appeal to a particular section of the market, and then encouraging people to post pictures of themselves wearing the shorts, using hashtags like #skysoutthighsout.
Have a clear goal
The most important thing to remember – know what you want before you start. Without clearly defined goals you won’t get far.
Have a plan to measure your impact
Make sure you build in effective tracking from the start, that way you’ll be able to judge and measure your success, and make improvements.
Create conversions to drive that impact
Make sure you’re focussed on conversions, and not just traffic.
If you speak in your own voice it will ring true.
The higher your website is ranked in natural or ‘organic’ search, the more potential customers are likely to find you. This guide will help you get more visitors to your website, which in turn should help you generate more business as customers look for new suppliers.
Improving the traffic to your website
Having spent a lot of time and money developing a website many people believe their work is done and they can sit back and watch the customers pouring in. The reality is that your web site is one of 1 Trillion worldwide (according to Google) all crying out for attention.
This project explains how you can get your website noticed and make money from driving traffic to your web site.
Ensure your website is well presented and provides a professional image of your business. You may wish to consider using the services of a website professional to ensure your site is up to scratch.
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engine optimisation (sometimes called SEO) is the process of taking your website and ensuring that it is structured and built in such a way that it will be picked up by search engines. These devices, of which Google is one of the best known, crawl across the world wide web looking for websites and following their respective links. As they travel the web these engines build a picture of the websites they visit and start to index the text they find. This data is then put into a large database which can be searched by users.
Search rankings explained
By tuning your website you increase the chances that it will be found quickly and efficiently by a search engine and be listed near the top of what are called search rankings. These rankings reflect the relevance of your site to a particular search query. For example if you are making stuffed toys in Norfolk, and someone was searching for such a supplier they may enter a search phrase such as “stuffed toy manufacturer norfolk” into the search engine.
Hopefully by optimising your site you will be at or near the top in these rankings.
Some search engines enable you to register your site with them. You may wish to visit sites such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN to register your site.
Note that registering your site does not guarantee an immediate place in the search rankings as it will take a while for the search engine to index your site as they are very busy crawling all over the web.
Using a third party search optimisation company
You may be approached by third parties that offer a search engine optimisation service. These organisations will review your site and then make some changes to improve its visibility. Whilst some of these changes are completely legitimate there are some practices which are very much frowned upon by the search engine companies, to the extent that sites can be banned if they are seen to be using unfair techniques.
Be very careful with these services. It is much better to have an interesting website, well put together with good links from other sites and some basic techniques to improve your visibility but still play fairly. That way when you are found it will be on the basis of your good site and nothing else.
Other tips for increasing visits to your website
As well as optimising your listings in search engines there are other techniques you can use to improve your site traffic:
Update your website as often as you can. Little and regular updates will encourage web crawlers and people to re-visit the site.
Create a blog. A blog should create more interest in your site as people come back to see your clever insights.
Carefully consider the use of podcasting, video and more creative ways of promoting your business on your website. If you can justify using this approach then fine, otherwise don’t waste too much time as you have a small business to run.
There are a number of online directories that can link to your site. Using these may increase your site traffic:
• The Small Business portal
• The Business Directory
• Thomson Local
• The Open Directory (includes Google Directory and many others)
Tips to think about:
Consider creating a page about your business on sites such as Wikipedia.
Think about your page titles carefully. Page title appear in your web browser’s top bar, not on the page itself. Many businesses make the mistake of titling their home page ‘home’ when they really need the keywords in the title. This is one of the most important factors considered by Google when ranking your website.
Think about your page headers and ‘tags’. Headers and tags are the headings to articles on your page. Some websites, for example, have ‘welcome as the header on the page. Make sure your keywords are included in the header instead. Again, this is another key factor considered by Google when ranking your website. Just fixing the title tags of your pages can often generate quick and appreciable differences to your rankings.
Your Company name should definitely be in the title tag but it should not be the only element; add a good descriptive phrase or two. Always remember to have different title tags on each page. To find other people’s title tags, go to top left of their webpage and right click mouse and “view source”.
Select your web designer carefully. Your web designer will have a huge amount of control over the code of your website, so make sure you use a web designer whose own website is highly ranked by Google. After all, if your designer’s own website is not highly ranked, how much faith will you have in his/her ability to optimise yours? In terms of references, ask to see your web designer’s clients’ websites and keywords – don’t just judge on the design alone.
Plan the content very carefully. Many businesses make the mistake of having beautifully designed websites, without giving enough thought to the wording on each page. Avoid reliance on Flash or other plug-ins which are generally invisible to search engines. As a general guideline, your website should be about 300 words per page, with your keywords appearing throughout the copy.
Content is king, according to Google – so make sure your paragraphs contain your keywords but are also well written and easy to read – without a single spelling mistake or grammatical error! Always get someone else to check every page very carefully, and amend mistakes immediately. If people think you don’t care about the quality of the way you present yourself on the web, why should they think differently about your products and services?
How to get free advertising for your business using the media
By Damien Seaman
The American brewer SAB Miller found that every $1 they spent on TV advertising brought in $1.06 of revenue, while every $1 spent on PR brought in $8. PR is virtually free and can get you the attention of thousands, sometimes millions, of potential customers.
Don’t get it wrong by making common mistakes. Journalists get thousands of emails every week. So it’s no surprise that 95% of press releases get ignored altogether.
So, how do you get your PR right?
Tip #1: Make Your Press Releases Newsworthy
Journalists aren’t there to promote your business. They want stories their readers will find interesting.
If your business is new, that can be news. As is your background with The Prince’s Trust – you might have an interesting story to tell. But you need to ask yourself some questions about what you sell or do and what might make it interesting to others.
For example, a small tea company in Portsmouth wanted some press coverage. Their tea is better quality than most big brands and tastes nicer, but that isn’t news. So the owner unveiled the world’s biggest tea bag on the HMS Warrior, a ship moored in Portsmouth. This led to a story on the BBC website, an interview with the local ITV news and lots of other local coverage.
His website got thousands of extra visits. Plus he can now say in all future PR and marketing activity that he has been featured by the BBC and ITV, adding credibility and making it more likely that people will hear about and buy his tea.
What can you do that journalists will find interesting? If you sell a product online – like software for businesses – you could try to get an endorsement from a well-known blogger or trade journalist to prove your product is better than the competition. Or you could run a competition to win a free download of your software.
• Do you sell something unique or interesting?
• Can you do something to benefit your local community?
• Can you try to break a Guinness World Record with something related to what you do?
• Can you run a training programme for recovering drug addicts or the long-term unemployed?
Tip #2: Work Out Where You Should Be Getting Coverage
You need to think about which magazines, newspapers and websites your customers are reading.
If you run a small, local business, look at local newspapers and magazines, as well as local radio stations and TV channels (or local programmes). If you sell products online – for example jewellery or clothing – your market could be the whole of the UK, so you need to looking at the national press and in particular the lifestyle sections of papers and magazines (whether in print or on their websites).
If you sell a specialist product, look for specialist magazines, blogs or websites.
Keep an eye on where your competitors are getting coverage – if they can do it, so can you. And make a list of all the media your customers use, because the next step is one of the most important…
Tip #3: Build Your Own Contact List
This is very time-consuming and few people do it. But all the successful ones do.
There are cheap services that will sell you a list of contact names or even offer to send out press releases on your behalf to hundreds of websites for a very small fee – but you get what you pay for. Typically, most of the websites are those that no-one visits. So it’s best to avoid these cheap services – they’re really not worth it.
Remember that journalists at big-name places get deluged with stuff all the time, which leads to two problems: your press release is less likely to be relevant to them, and they may not even open it because they don’t know you. So, take your list from tip #2 and do some research:
Find out who at these newspapers/magazines/websites writes about things related to what you do
• Build a list of names
• Read something that each of these people has written
• Get a feel for what interests them, and make a note of it.
Then email everyone on the list, personalising each one. Don’t send the same thing to everyone! Ask each contact what their readers want and tell them what you could do to help them with a good story or a good quote. Use bullet points to briefly list what you do or sell that they might find interesting.
You’re selling yourself as a source: someone who will help the journalist when they need something to write about. Many will reject you, but some will tell you what they need. This means that when you send them a press release:
• They will open it
• They will be much more likely to use it, since it will be tailored to what they want
• They may even phone you for a quote, which is the best way for you to get frequent coverage.
Remember: it’s better to have a small list of six or seven people who will publish your press releases than to send stuff out to a list of hundreds of people who don’t respond.
Tip #4: Write Your Press Releases and Pitches Like a Journalist
Almost all news stories follow the same formula: put the most important information at the top followed by less important info as you go. You also need to answer these questions:
• Who is it about?
• What happened?
• When did it take place?
• Where did it occur?
• Why did it happen?
Here’s an example press release from Dyson:
Headline: Dyson doubles number of UK engineers
This sums up the story very well. Then we get the first sentence, which tells when, who and what:
From April 2010, Dyson is doubling its UK engineering team from 350 to 700.
Next comes where, and more of the what:
The new engineers, many from university, will work at Dyson’s Wiltshire laboratories, where machines are conceived, researched and designed. New positions include design engineers, mechanical engineers and acoustic engineers.
Later, we get the why:
James Dyson said: “I am extremely proud of the new technology developed by our engineers in Malmesbury. It is vital that Dyson – and the UK – continues to invest in the nation’s engineering talent if we are to stay ahead.”
Look at the stories in the publications/websites where you want to get coverage, and copy their style. If in doubt, keep it simple. Avoid using jargon, or any words that people might not know.
And make sure to check what you write for spelling and grammar, as journalists get grumpy about mistakes like this. If you’re not confident about your English, get someone who is to check it for you.
Tip #5: Avoid These Common Mistakes
These mistakes will kill your chances of getting published:
Calling journalists in the afternoon. Do not do this! This is when they’re busiest; the sweet spot tends to be between 10am and 11am. If you build your own list, as in tip #3, then you should know the best times to contact them.
Sending your press release as an attachment to your email. Journalists hate this so much that many automatically delete emails with attachments. Instead, put the headline in the subject and the rest of the press release in the body of the email.
Forgetting to add contact details. Put them at the bottom of every email you send – including a phone number. If a journalist is interested, they’ll want to ring you.
Phoning to follow up on an email. This only works if you know the journalists – and even then they find it annoying. Phone them before you send the press release to give them a heads-up – but only if you know them.
Relying on social media. Use it to support your other PR efforts by linking to stories online or communicating to journalists – but don’t rely on it alone.
Tip #6: Measure Your Results
If you don’t measure results you won’t know what works to get more customers and more sales, and what doesn’t. A shop could make a note of how many extra people came in after a feature in a local paper. You could also ask customers where they heard of you. And you can also track if new visitors to your website came from any sites that you’ve been featured on.
If you’ve featured somewhere and it didn’t have a measurable impact on visitors or sales, you should drop that magazine or website and focus on others.
• Make your press releases newsworthy
• Work out where you should be getting coverage
• Build your own contact list
• Write your press releases and pitches like a journalist
• Avoid the most common mistakes
• Measure your results
Good sales copy doesn’t just tell people about your business. It makes them take action so you can turn them into customers. Here’s how:
Tip #1: Start with Your Customers
People don’t care about your product – they care about what it can do for them. So ask yourself:
• What needs do they have?
• How can you meet those needs?
• What makes your product or service better than anyone else at doing that?
It’s important to start with this, because different messages work on different customers depending on their needs.
For example, if you sell jewellery online to people looking for presents, these customers don’t just want jewellery that looks good. They want fast delivery and nice packaging as well. So you should emphasise all of these in your communications.
Tip #2: Mention the Benefits
When you’ve worked out what your customers need, you should show how your product or service meets that need – these are the benefits. Writing about benefits gets more sales than just writing about product features.
For example, fast delivery and nice packaging are great features, but where’s the benefit?
To someone buying jewellery as a present, what’s the benefit of fast delivery? Your gift will arrive on time.
What’s the benefit of nice packaging? Looks like you’ve gone to a lot of trouble – while also saving you time on wrapping it yourself.
Turn features into benefits by playing the ‘so what?’ game:
Lasts twice as long as the nearest competitor. So what? You spend less each year on replacements.
Money-back guarantee. So what? You can order with confidence – totally risk free.
Do this with every feature and you’ll soon come up with a great list of benefits you can use.
Tip #3: Use Emotion
Practical benefits focus on saving money or saving time. But emotional benefits are more powerful.
Which emotions drive your customers? Love? Pride? Greed? Fear? Use these as the basis of your communications:
• Be her favourite BFF: free next day delivery on all necklaces. [Pride and love] • Forgotten her birthday again? Free next day delivery on all necklaces. [Fear] • Two different emotions to sell the same product. Test to find which works best.
Tip #4: Prove What You Say
Customer reviews help you choose between products, right? You can get the same affect by getting customers to prove how good you are. Ask them to give you feedback you can use on leaflets, social media, your website – wherever you can (just make sure you have their permission).
For example, a jewellery delivery could include a note inviting the customer to comment on their buying experience on Twitter or Facebook, or by emailing you. Or you could email them within a few days of delivery.
Survey results are valuable proof too. For example, if over 80% of customers say they would buy from you again, put that fact on your website, or on the bottom of a flyer.
If you’re good, people will say great things about you – all you have to do is ask. But don’t be tempted to edit their words when you use them, otherwise it won’t look real.
Tip #5: Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse
Good offers get people’s attention and encourage them to try you out for the first time – and might even convert them into a loyal customer.
Just make sure your offer is relevant and something people will value – like a free gift.
You could offer free next-day delivery on all jewellery for the week before Christmas. Adding a time limit forces them to make up their minds – which usually leads to more sales:
Free next-day delivery when you order before midnight.
Be careful with free offers, though. If you just say something is free, people can think it’s worthless. Putting a value on your offer avoids this:
Free next-day delivery worth £5.99.
Many businesses don’t like to give gifts or discounts – they think they can’t afford it. But there are ways around this, such as offering every sixth product free. That way, customers have to spend money with you first. This is how coffee shop loyalty cards work.
Tip #6: Think of All the Reasons They Might Not Buy – and Answer Them All
Many sales are lost because potential customers talk themselves out of buying.
So come up with convincing arguments to turn them around. Try to think of every objection you can – and answer each one:
I’ve never heard of you. Answer: Try free next-day delivery.
Why should I believe what you say? Answer: Read these quotes from happy customers.
Then list the objections in order of importance, so you always answer the biggest ones first. Please take the time to do this. Most people don’t, and they lose sales because of that.
When writing, sometimes you have to keep it short, ie social media or online ads. But most of the time, longer copy gets more sales. That’s because you can use more arguments to convince people.
If you can, answer every objection on your website. The more complicated and expensive the product (computer software, for example) the longer the copy should be. Simpler products, like jewellery, don’t need so much. But you do still need to convince people to buy. So please remember to explain all the benefits and overcome as many objections as you have space for – how long delivery takes, your offer (if you have one), your money-back guarantee (you are forced to offer this by law when selling online, so you might as well make a benefit out of it).
A lot of people think you have to be short and snappy, but this is one of the biggest and most damaging myths in marketing today.
Does this mean everything has to be long? No – but always try to write enough to convince people. Bottom line: you will make more money if you do.
Tip #7: Tell People What You Want Them to Do Next
This is known as a ‘call to action’.
On your website, you might want to encourage people to sign up to regular email updates featuring subscriber-only news and deals.
If they’re reading an email, you might want them to click to your website to see your full product range. A flyer you hand out in the street might ask people to follow you on social media. Or visit your shop, if you have one. Be clear, be simple and don’t confuse people by asking them to do too many things at once.
And here’s a trick a lot of people don’t know. Even though you shouldn’t ask people to do more than one thing, if you ask them to do the same thing several times, it almost always works better. Try more than one link in an email, for example – just as long as all the links go to the same web page.
Tip #8: Don’t Forget the Basics
If you have a shop, you need to tell people where you are and how to get there, as well as opening times.
If you’re selling online, you need to give people the size, weight, material… And tell them the estimated time of delivery and what your returns policy is. Miss any of these and you could lose sales, so try not to forget anything. Even the smallest detail can be important.
Here’s an email for selling jewellery online. (It would also work as an ad in a local paper if you took out the links and added a web address at the bottom.) Notice how it’s quite long, leads with an emotional need, and tries to answer every objection. It also has several calls to action that ask you to do the same thing.
“Wow, it’s perfect! How did you know?”
She’ll think you can read her mind when she opens your sparkling gift…
It’s not easy, finding time to pick out that perfect gift for the perfect woman in your life. Handmade jewellery says “I love you” like nothing else.
With a full range of gemstones in a variety of attractive settings, you’re sure to find a combination that’s right for her. Whether she likes diamonds, rubies, or opals … silver, white gold or yellow gold … we have something to suit.
But you don’t have to just take our word for it. See what John Smith from Birmingham said about his recent order:
“Fast delivery and great service. My wife loved it! Thank you.”
In fact, 97% of customers say they would order from us again.
For a gift as unique and beautiful as she is, click here.
Each design is lovingly hand crafted in our Staffordshire workshop by talented designers and artisans with years of experience.
Delivery takes just two working days. And it’s free if your order is worth over £50.
Plus, order before 31st March and you can select our special gift wrap option at the checkout for no extra cost – normally £5.99.
This offer can’t last, so take advantage while you can.
You’re also covered by our 30-day no-questions money-back guarantee. Take 30 days to make certain you’ve chosen the perfect gift, and if for any reason it’s not right, send it back for a full and prompt refund.
So you see, there’s no risk to you at all. Order from the jewellery collection before 31 March for free gift wrapping.
• Start with your customers
• Mention the benefits
• Use emotion to strike a chord
• Prove what you say
• Make an offer they can’t refuse
• Think of all the reasons they might not buy – and answer them all
• Tell people what you want them to do next
• Don’t forget the basics
Most successful business owners will tell you that ‘cash is king’ and to ensure you have a cushion/contingency of cash in your bank account. Without cash you cannot make your products or provide your service and therefore have no business. But how to you decide how much to charge for your product or service and once you are hopefully making sales, how do you keep a track of the money you have?
Book-keeping: weekly or monthly record-keeping of money that comes in and goes out of the business
Money spent on business activities during an accounting period (usually 1 year from the date you start trading and can be aligned to the tax year)
Predicted cash flow shows a forecast of the money that will come in and go out of the business. Actual cash flow is a record of what money actually comes in and out of the business over a period
Costs that can be traced directly to the production of a specific unit of your product eg materials used, production labour, certain production expenses. Also known as variable costs
Gross Profit Margin
The difference between sales and the cost of goods or services sold. Also known as gross margin
Total income/revenue from a business’s sales minus the direct costs of making the sales (this does not include a business’s overheads or running costs)
Costs that cannot be traced directly to the production of a unit of your product eg property costs, administration and selling costs. Also known as fixed costs, running costs or overheads
A business’s total income minus its total costs
The figure representing the amount by which sales are more than expenses
The total sales income of the organisation for a period, regardless of whether or not the customer has paid. Also known as sales revenue or turnover
When thinking about starting a business it is really important to spend time getting to know yourself better so that you can consider whether self-employment might be right for you.
Understanding your attitude and behaviour towards personal finance and money management will help you in this process because it is a skill central to being self-employed and to life in general.
To help you to think about what type of spender you are, you can answer the attitude to cash quiz by clicking here.
Having completed the quiz and worked out broadly what type of spender you are, it is worth thinking about the following questions
• What are the advantages of being your type of spender?
• What are the disadvantages of being your type of spender?
• What changes would you like to make to your spending habits?
• How would these changes help you to reach your goals?
People’s attitude to money changes and this activity isn’t necessarily an indicator of whether or not you would be good at running a business. It will help you to think about how you might be with your business money and highlight areas where you could make changes to be better at managing your money.
If you’re thinking about setting up a business, it’s important to consider your personal money situation and credit scores. It could impact on what opportunities are available to you.
Debt is money owed to someone else, for example, mobile phone bills, store cards, credit cards, catalogues or family loans.
The majority of people are living with some form of debt, and it is often a normal part of someone’s day to day life. Debt is not necessarily the issue – it’s how we manage our debt that is important.
Understanding and addressing the debt you have is the first step to being in control of your money and the debts that are ignored can make it more difficult for you to borrow money in future for something as small as buying a contract mobile phone to something as big as taking out a loan to start your business.
What is a credit score?
A credit score estimates how likely someone is to handle financial commitments responsibly. There is no universal system; each credit agency has their own. As a general rule high numbers are good and low numbers are bad.
Who checks my credit file and credit score?
Any organisation that lends you money or needs frequent payments might check your credit file and score. For example, contract mobile phones, credit cards, store cards, catalogues, mortgage lenders, car insurance and banks.
Why do organisations use credit scores?
Organisations used to analyse credit files manually. Decisions were based on personal opinion and were often affected by factors that had little bearing on an applicant’s ability to manage money. Credit scores help organisations to assess risk fairly because they are consistent and objective.
Who are the main credit reference agencies?
There are three UK credit agencies in the UK: Equifax, Experion and Callcredit. All use similar information to calculate credit scores even though their rating scales are different. Organisations use their preferred agency, some use more than one. The Prince’s Trust uses Equifax.
We know you’ve got a great business idea in you, but it’s so important to put good plans in place before you get going. It can be hard to know where to start with writing a business plan, and payment methods, finance and insurance can be a headache, but that’s where we can step in.
A business plan gives an outline of your business, the market in which it will operate, and how it aims to make money. Your business plan should allow you to answer this question: why will your business succeed when so many others fail?
Before starting your business, it is important to consider how you will allow your customers to pay you for your products or service.
It is important to think carefully about the payment options available to you and make sure that the options you choose are practical for your business.
Before you start trading, you will need to decide on a legal structure for your business.
The legal structure that you choose will have an impact on the way that you do business, for example, the amount of tax you pay on your business activities. It is a good idea to get advice before making a decision.
The three most common legal structures for businesses are:
This is where you are the sole owner of your business
This is where two or more people want to set up a business together
This is where the business is registered as a separate legal entity from the people who own the business
All limited companies trading in the UK must be registered at Companies House
HMRC can provide advice on paying tax under different legal structures and altering the structure of your business.
Social Enterprise Coalition
Provides advice on legal structures, grant funding and policy for social enterprises.
Regulates the administration and affairs of registered charities and offers guidance on policies.
Information on community interest companies.
All businesses need insurance as soon as they start trading.
Some types of insurance are required by law and should be in place before you are up and running, for example, you must have employers liability insurance if you employ people. Other types are optional but worth considering, as uninsured losses could put your out of business or leave you in debt.
The broker or insurance company you use should be registered with the Financial Services Authority – you can call 0845 606 1234 or visit www.fsa.gov.uk to find an authorised insurer.
There are many benefits to running a green, eco-friendly business; good news for you and your bottom line, good news for your customers and their cash, and good news for the environment.
There are significant benefits to running a green business, and you also have a legal responsibility for the impact your business has on the environment. Running a green business can bring a lot of benefits. As a small business, being aware and reducing your environmental impact can help you to reduce your costs, run a more efficient business and appeal to a consumer market that is becoming more environmentally conscious.
You can take some steps to make your business greener when it’s in the early stages of growth and some later on when you may be looking at taking on staff and expanding your range of products/services. Here are some steps that you might want to consider to make your business greener:
Reduce your carbon footprint
You can lower your energy and water use and reduce your waste to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you don’t already measure the ‘size’ of your carbon footprint, you can make a start by recording how much you travel and much you spend on utilities (gas, electric, water). You may be able to spot ways of reducing what resources you use or how often you travel.
Streamline your business activities
Building a network of support can help you to run a more efficient business.
Knowing where to go for help and how to build effective and links and partnerships with other businesses means that you waste less time and energy looking for answers instead of finding them. For example, your local council can provide information on funding available to help you make your business greener (e.g. by providing grants to help you update technology). Partnerships with businesses that provide complimentary or related products and services will also ensure that you provide a rounded and comprehensive service to your customers.
Spot new business opportunities
As the consumer market becomes more environmentally aware, customers start to demand new products and services and consequently new markets begin to emerge. You may want to take advantage of these developments and stock green products or provide ‘green’ services. Customers also start to demand more of the businesses to which they give their money. They want to know what your business does to protect the environment and the community around it.
Be conscious of how you can continue to run and grow your business while minimising the impact you have on the environment and community around you. Being sustainable means that you can reduce costs and any risks to your business by taking advantage of new technologies and developments to make your business greener. For example, if you run a sandwich bar, consider the impact that sourcing your products locally would have on the environment and community around you.
Involve your staff
Encourage your staff to understand your business values, to play an active role and to come up with ideas for how you can make your business greener.
Plan for change
Understand how changes to environmental policy can affect your business and plan for these changes. As government introduces new legislation or tax rises on prices, for example, you will need to revisit your business plan and think creatively about how you can adapt the way you do business. For example, if as a florist, you import a lot of your stock from abroad, you may want to consider sourcing your flowers closer to home or from a Fair-trade supplier.
Information provided by The Prince’s Trust