Get your blog on – a beginner’s guide to blogging

 

Better Google rankings, increased website traffic, improved conversion rates and growing brand awareness. These are just some of the benefits that a blog can give your business and so if you value any of the above, it’s important that you make time and effort to write and publish a blog regularly. But where do you start and how do you make sure, it’s not like 80% of the other blog posts out there which deliver absolutely no value to the reader and leave you clicking on the exit button before you’ve even finished the first paragraph? Well, here at businesshands, we write a lot of blogs for a lot of different clients so here’s our top 5 tips on how to produce a compelling blog.

Tip #1 – Understand who you are writing for

The first thing to remember when you are blogging is that you’re not writing for you. You are writing for the reader. Ask yourself what kind of person do you want to come to your website. What are their interests in relation to your offering? What questions might they have? What topics would they find useful? How can you educate them or excite them so that they go away thinking “I enjoyed that, I want to come back.” What value can you give them? Write down your thoughts. This should give you the basis for Tip #2.

Tip #2 – Write a content plan

So you’ve just completed a brainstorm about your ideal website visitor. You know who they are, what they like and what they might like to know. Now turn all of that into a content schedule. Build a list of weekly topics. Try to come up with an enticing title for each and underneath write a few bullet points to help frame what points you want to get across and any conclusion that is to be drawn.

Tip #3 – Structure your blog

Typically each blog post will contain an introduction, “the meat”, and then a summary / conclusion / call to action. Your introduction needs to be punchy, particularly in the first couple of sentences as this is what will appear in the preview when you post it on social media. For many writers however, it’s these first two sentences that prove to be the hardest to write. If you’re suffering a case of writer’s block, try pretending that you’re already two or three sentences in and start from there. You can come back and add the introductory first sentence later on, once your article is in full flow. If you’re truly stuck, and need the introductory sentence before you can get going, think about using a statistic and then building off it. For example:
“A recent survey found that 88% of B2B marketers see content production as the most important part of their marketing strategy”

Tip #4 – Pack it full of personality

The chances are, your company is not the only one offering the product or service that you do. As an insider in the company, you no doubt firmly believe you are unique, but to an outsider a hat shop is just like any other hat shop. A POS software company is just like any other POS software company, a legal or accountancy firm is just like any other legal or accountancy firm. It’s what you say (Tip #1) and how you say it that will make your business stand out so try and pull your writing away from corporate speak and give it a human touch. The more human and real you can be, the more powerful your blog will become. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences and relate them directly to your readership… and don’t believe for a second that this tip is not relevant for the industry you are in. No matter how corporate or formal your industry is, adding personality and humanness to your writing will make the information you are providing far more digestible.

Tip #5 – Use great imagery

A good image can speak a thousand words and even if it doesn’t, it will be a powerful lure to bring more readers to your blog. It’s important then, to choose your image carefully. For many bloggers today, the standard practice is to use a google image search to find something they like and then use this on their own blog. But there’s a danger with this. Most of these images are not royalty free. If you are using an image without the consent of the image owner, you are liable and could face legal action or be forced to pay a fee for the use of the image. Better practice is to use a stock image or create one yourself.

Of course, there is a danger with stock images too… in that some of them look too much like a stock image. Shy away from bland, overly corporate or cliché images and try and find something unique that fits in with your topic. In our next blog, we’ll be providing a list of great websites you can use to get truly inspiring (and mostly free) stock imagery so watch this space.

So there’s five quick tips on how to blog for beginners… and here’s a bonus one which is probably the most important of them all.

Tip #6 – Content is nothing without distribution

You’ve done the hard work of writing and publishing your blog on your website but you’re not finished yet. Unless you promote your blog and distribute it to your audience, nobody will see it. A blog is typically distributed in one of two ways.

  1. Through a newsletter to your existing database
  2. Through social media – this can be posted on your company page and also be boosted to reach new audiences by turning it into an ad. Don’t forget with social media, you can post your blog multiple times, simply by changing the headline image and choosing a different message to display alongside the link to your blog

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it with your connections and if you would like to discuss any of the topics covered, don’t hesitate to drop us a line on +44 (0)203 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

Is your business going nowhere?

I was speaking to a fellow business owner during the Christmas break and as normally happens when you meet someone in the same predicament as yourself, we ended up talking about our businesses. I spoke of the successes we’d had in 2016 and our aggressive growth plans for 2017. Meanwhile she spoke of a difficult year past and the likelihood of another difficult year ahead. Her business she felt, was going nowhere fast and on further questioning, it was easy to see why and best of all, how to turn the business around. So if you’re in the same predicament, thinking that your business is in for a tough year and feeling like your treading water or worse still, getting swept off downstream – here’s a few ideas to help turn it around.

Know your business

The first thing I did was to ask what the most popular products were and what the most profitable products were. Were they the same? If not, how can you make your profitable products more popular or your popular ones more profitable? By having intimate insight into your clients buying habits and understanding exactly what you make on each product or service you sell, you can get a better idea of what needs to happen to make more money in your business.

Get rid of loss leaders and replace with profit winners

Following on from the above, if you’re offering products that lose the business money or merely break-even, get rid of them. Similarly, if you’re offering products and services that no-one is buying, bin them too. Expand on the products and services which are the most popular and most profitable.

Don’t do freebies

If you’re a service provider (or a software provider), the chances are you regularly get asked to do stuff for free on the promise of future work. DON’T DO IT! Some people run their businesses by going round to service providers and asking for free stuff on the premise of future work that they have no intention of giving. If someone asks you for a freebie, tell them you’d be happy to offer the equivalent value of the freebie in the form of a discount on future invoices after the first month. If they’re really serious about forming a long-term relationship, they’ll be happy to snap that offer up. If they’re not and simply want a free ride, they’ll walk away. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Make a Plan

One of the most amazing aspects of my conversation with this fellow business owner was that her business was 5 years old yet she had never made a (i) business plan or (ii) a yearly sales and marketing plan. The result was that she was still paying herself below minimum wage and continuing her business in the hope that things would turn around.

  1. THINGS WON’T TURNAROUND UNLESS YOU MAKE THEM
  2. HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY

Take a snap shot of your business today. How many clients do you have? What’s the average spend per customer? What’s your client retention rate? How much profit are you making off how many sales? Now ask yourself, what are your targets on these points for the year ahead and how are you going to do it? Put a plan in place, pin it to your wall and follow it. Do you need more marketing, more events, better products, better aftersales, more repeat business? How will you do it?

NO PLAN = NO IMPROVEMENT.

Motivate and reward yourself

Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes. For me its regular exercise and the promise of a new tattoo or a weekend away if I hit a key revenue or profit target. If you work from home, think about investing in a hot desk so that you can get some social interaction with other small business owners. If you sit at your desk all day, think about going for a midday run or doing an exercise session off your iPad. What about new skills? Would a training course help you to make your business better? There’s plenty of free or extremely cheap training available on the internet if you know where to look and websites like Eventbrite will point you in the direction of meetup groups and training seminars. Look to the future, don’t live in the past or even the present. If you hit your aggressive growth targets, how is that going to feel? How are you going to reward yourself? Won’t that feel amazing? Make it happen.

Know when to quit

Some of you might be surprised by this. After all, who likes a quitter? The reality is though, if you’ve done the sums and your business isn’t viable or you’re really not enjoying it – throw in the towel. Don’t keep ploughing your valuable time and money into something which isn’t going anywhere. Seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that they’ve had businesses which have either not made it out of the starting block, or have cost them dearly and lost them money later down the line.

FAILURE IS NOT FAILURE…

Yes, you read that right. As someone who has had an expensive failure in the past, I’ll be the first to say the £10k I lost on a previous start-up was £10k well spent. The lessons I learnt from that have been invaluable in making a success of businesshands today and if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Just to add some colour to my £10k loss – the company failed because I didn’t put a plan in place. I didn’t calculate how much profit I would be making from each customer and how many sales I would need to make for the business to sustain me and fund its own expansion. When I finally did the calculations and realised it was going to be impossible to make a living from it, I closed the business down within 24 hours and walked away.  Painful yes, but it would have been far more painful to live in denial and continue for months, maybe even years before finally throwing in the towel.

If you’re a business owner or senior director and need help with your business, we’re here to help. Not only do we offer a comprehensive outsourced marketing department service to get your business seen and heard by the people that count most, but we also offer strategic marketing advice. For more information, call us on 0207 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this article if you’ve found it useful.

How to maximise your business potential during uncertain times

Whether you were for or against in last week’s Brexit vote, one thing that we can all agree on is that there are uncertain times ahead as we move to disconnect ourselves from the EU. But uncertain times don’t necessarily have to be bad for business. In fact, with a bit of creativity and positive planning – you could get your business in the best shape ever. Here’s just 7 of many things you can do, not just to protect yourself whilst the dust settles, but to stride forward and maximise your business potential as your competitors sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for answers.

Entice your customers into longer service contracts or into buying your product in bulk

Having a guaranteed pipeline of revenue is the perfect way to protect your business. If you have customers that are on a yearly contract and it’s coming up for renewal, entice them into a two or three-year agreement with a discount, free upgrade or some other special offer. You can also encourage customers whose contracts are not yet up for renewal to commit earlier to renewing by making a similar, time-limited offer. If you’re a business that sells a product, asking your customers to buy bulk “to guarantee a good price”, particularly in times of uncertainty is a no-brainer.

Look at exporting your good or services to outside of the EU whilst the exchange rate is low

You may not know this, but you can export services as well as goods and the UKTI are a perfect source of information and guidance on this. When the pound is week, your products and services become cheaper to foreign markets so if you’ve ever considered selling into new areas – now is the perfect opportunity to explore this further.

Bundle your products or services into something more enticing

McDonalds did it and it worked for them. If you’re selling individual lines of products or services, it’s time to think of your end market. Would they benefit from a product or service bundle/package at a discounted rate? We do exactly that here at businesshands with our outsourced marketing department services. Yes, your margins are thinner, but your turnover will continue to grow.

Use freelancers and outsourced service providers to enable your business to grow whilst minimising the risk

If you’re looking to grow, taking on a full-time employee when times are challenging poses a risk to the business. Instead look to freelancers, contracted staff and outsourced services providers to plug the gap and give you that extra flexibility to deal with changing economic circumstances.

Re-connect with former customers

The two easiest ways to get new business through the door are (i) upselling to existing customers and (ii) reselling to former customers. If you’ve had customers that have left you in the past few years, pick up the phone and find out how they’re getting on. Is there still a need for your product or service? If they’re with another supplier, what would it take to entice them to change?

Reach out to everyone on your database

Most organisations have databases (or at least spreadsheets) of client / prospect data they’re not doing anything with. Now is the time to make good use of it. Send everyone on your database an email to re-introduce your organisation and the products / services that you offer. If you need help with that, drop us a line here at businesshands on 0207 458 4788.

Spend more on your marketing

When economic times are uncertain, there’s a tendency to “close the shutters and bolt the doors”. Spending of absolutely everything gets put on hold until times improve.  But if you want to make the most of these times – you have to see this as an opportunity.  People still need your products and services and as other organisations retreat to “weather the storm” your marketing can make a significant impact in driving new business opportunities.

So there you go. 7 great ideas to help you maximise your business potential in uncertain economic times and there are plenty more ideas out there.  If you like this article, don’t forget to hit the button(s) below and share it and of course, if you would like help with your marketing – get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this post,

Chris

CEO – businesshands