The Curse Of The Bad Customer

The Curse Of The Bad Customer

Do Bad Customers Run Your Business?

If you’ve never had one, you’re lucky.

If you have experienced really bad customers, it’s an experience that sticks with you for years, if not forever.

I’m not being melodramatic. I vividly remember my first really awful customer. I should have known he was trouble when he asked me to bring copies of my degree certificates to our first meeting, to prove my qualifications. Just to put it in context, he wanted me to help him market his storage and racking business, so quite what my degree in German & Russian and my MBA had to do with it, I’m not sure. Still, being the customer-pleasing person I thought I had to be, I duly obliged. It was just the start of an awful ‘bad customer’ experience.

He went on to take over my business and life for the next 6 months.

He would constantly call me up for meetings (he lived 40 miles away) and then berate me for wasting time.

He would pick holes in everything I did. Nothing was ever good enough and everything was my fault.

He used that as an excuse to avoid paying my invoices on time, if indeed at all.

My confidence was rock bottom. I constantly doubted myself and my ability. I began to think I was going crazy.

He was a bully, there is no question of that now I look back, but at the time I was caught up in constantly trying to get things right, because I didn’t feel I was good enough. He kept telling me I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be ‘sacked’ and I needed the money.

Now, if this is sounding like an psychologically abusive relationship, it had all the signs and I felt I had too much invested in it to walk away. For SIX MONTHS – for six months I put up with this madness. I’m only glad I saw the light before my entire business went down the pan (along with my mental health).

Who was running my business?

Certainly not me.

I was spending most of my billable time on the person who treated me worst, who didn’t value me or my time, who shouted the loudest and made me feel inadequate.

My worst customer was running my business.

He was dictating how I spent my time and energy. He dictated when I got paid. He influenced all my business decisions during that period – I didn’t have time to take on any nice clients as I was spending all my time trying to get his marketing right and finally do a ‘good job.

And I KNOW I am not alone because I hear this every day from small business owners in my groups. 

Their stories are different, of course, but the key points are the same.

They spend inordinate amounts of time and energy on the people who shout the loudest, who demand their attention (when they don’t deserve it), who treat them the worst and who make them feel like they are in the wrong.

They base their pricing on the people who tell them they are too expensive.

They are letting their worst customers run their business and they are so caught up in the drama and bullying that they can’t stop it.

It’s horrible but it happens all the time, to all sorts of small business owners.

It might even have happened to you.

I’ve heard all sorts of stories, from dress-makers and florists, to consultants and crafters, across every business sector you can imagine. Sometimes the bad customer is a person. Sometimes it’s a business. Sometimes it’s a big organisation that should know better. I’ve heard cases of bullying, of customers blackmailing small-business owners, threatening to shame them on social media (yep, had that one, too. She was a joy to work with!) or ‘get them closed down’. I’ve heard tales of small businesses held to ransom, with the ‘customer’ withholding payment for weeks or months, knowing the small business in question is relying on that money but also is too scared to take it ‘legal.’

It’s rife. And because most of the small business owners in question are busy trying to keep their head above water, maybe trying to raise a family or hold down another job while they build their business, the bullies get away with it.

So, my next question is ‘who should be running your business?’

Well, as far as I’m concerned YOU should be running your business. You should dictate how you spend your time and energy. You should decide who you want to work with and what sort of work you want to do. You should dictate your prices, so you make a good profit and therefore a good living.

Of course, you need to take notice of your customers – their feedback is invaluable, but make sure you are taking notice of the right customers. Not the bad ones.

I realise this is tricky because often, you need the money but what I’m saying is, even if you can’t afford to lose them now don’t base your business decisions on them in the future. Shape your business around the people who really value you, because they are definitely out there. You just need to work out who they are and get your business in front of them, higher prices and all.

Here are some things you can do reduce the risk of this happening to you:

  1. Have clear terms and conditions that state what is expected from you and from them. Cover things like deposits, cancellation terms, complaints procedure and the fact you will seek to recover outstanding payments in court. Put all the things in there that will protect you if a customer suddenly turned into an AWFUL customer. Make sure your terms are clear and cover you, if they change their mind or decide not to pay. You need to make sure you are not out of pocket and that you leave yourself time to fill that spot in your diary or get compensated for short notice, if you’re someone who takes bookings. Make sure they are given a copy and read it and SIGN it before you do any work for them.
  2. Take the emotion out of it. If you feel a customer is ‘turning bad’ then look at what is going on, without taking anything personally (hard, but try!). It’s very easy to get caught up in feeling upset and offended and worried but if you can step out of that, it’s easier to deal with the situation. You need to see where the customer is coming from and whether they have a genuine complaint. Has there been miscommunication? Has there been a clash of expectations? How can you put it right? Or are they really just trying to pull a fast one?
  3. Think like a business owner. What would a business owner (rather than ‘little old me’) do in this situation? What would a bigger business do? Are you being treated differently?
  4. Be prepared to say no. Be prepared to walk away. Bad customers often come sugar-coated and you sometimes can’t see what’s lurking beneath until it’s too late. If you get warning signs, get out.
  5. Go with your gut, but back it up with terms, conditions and contracts.
  6. Keep communicating. Sometimes things go bad because one of you gets sidetracked by life and the other side has no idea what is happening, so all of a sudden it turns into a ‘situation’ that could easily be avoided.
  7. Communicate in writing. You might need it later.
  8. Don’t give in to threats. If they DO shame you on social media when you have done nothing wrong, the truth will out. Just don’t get involved in an online slanging match – make a simple statement if you must, explaining you have all the evidence of the truth but you are not prepared to comment on a customer order.
  9.  Stay professional. Don’t let any of this put you off. In 14 years of running a business, I’ve only had a couple of eye-wateringly bad customers and each time I learned a lot.

Most customers are lovely. Just always remember, you are running a business not trying to be the most popular kid in the playground and sometimes it’s the tough decisions that will save your skin down the line.

Sometimes, too, it’s best just to walk away even if it means losing money because you don’t want to let the fight break your business but don’t be too ready to roll over and give in. If you heed my tips, above, you will be able to refer any bad customers back to them and show you mean business.

Oh, and if you have any advice to share, pop it in the comments!

If You’re Not Onto This, Your Competitors Will Be

If You’re Not Onto This, Your Competitors Will Be

There is a win-win marketing opportunity sitting right in front of you and if you’re not taking advantage of it, your competitors will. Maybe not today, but soon. Which is why you need to spend some time and energy thinking ECO!

Eco-friendliness and sustainability is a HUGE trend. In fact it’s more than a trend because getting rid of single-use plastics has turned into a formidable MOVEMENT that is sweeping across the globe (with a few notable exceptions 🙄.

Clearly, this is amazing news for our planet and everyone living on it but it also has a direct impact on you both as a consumer AND as a business owner, which is where I come in.

Only today I read an article about 9 ways to get rid of single use plastics in your bathroom. From wool-wrapped soap pebbles  to shampoo and deodorant bars, from fabric makeup-remover pads to washable cotton sanitary towels, the move away from single-use towards reusable and recyclable is thankfully here to stay. And it made me think of you.

My question to you is WHERE DO YOU FIT?

How can you be a part of it? How can you capitalise on it because I’ll tell you something – if you don’t embrace it, somebody else will. They will get the business you could have had purely based on their eco-focus in their business and that will HURT. Ouch!

Even if you think it just wouldn’t matter to your customers, think again.

Even if you think it’s impossible to do anything ‘eco’ in your business, it’s not. There will be a way. And I want you to read this and start thinking, not just because we all need to play a part in saving our planet but also because you can turn it into a big marketing advantage. Oh, yes you can!

If you make soap or skincare, there has never been a better time to be making hand-made. If you create things from fabric or wool you can look for ways to create reusable versions of things people usually buy and throw away. Think about the renaissance of towelling nappies, it’s not just traditional ‘eco’ families using them.

But what if you’re not a soap or skincare maker? What if you don’t knit or sew in your business? How can you incorporate ECO in your business in a meaningful way, that will make a difference and be a great marketing angle?

Well, I’ve a few ideas for you and even if I don’t directly mention YOUR sector think about those I do mention and how you might adapt the thinking to fit yours.

Virtual Assistants – how can a VA be eco?

Well, they can go paperless for starters. Many already have but how about their clients? If I was a VA I’d be thinking about offering a service where I help my clients become more sustainable in their business. From helping them create a paperless office, to doing research around eco-friendly suppliers, from helping them source sustainable packaging to enabling them to cut travel by doing more online meetings, I’d have a huge ‘ECO your business’ package I could offer to clients who have the will but not the time to do this.

Dog Walkers – how can they be eco?

Well, biodegradable poop bags are a good start but you might also choose to map your pickup routes to save fuel (good for your pocket and the environment). You might already be doing this but why not tell your clients and potential clients, so they understand it’s deliberate strategy? How about the clothes you wear? And what about the services you offer? Can you add value by selling small dog accessories like travel water bowls to cut down on single-use plastic bottles of water? How about dog leads made from sustainable bamboo fibre? And if you have to replace your vehicle, maybe you choose an electric one if it’s practical and use that in your marketing too? Your customers can feel good that their impact on the planet is lessened by choosing you as a dog walker. Cool, huh?

Wellbeing businesses – how can they be eco?

Well, mindfulness goes a long way towards making people more conscious of their actions. Mindfulness reduces stress, increases awareness of our behaviour and often has a knock-on effect of reducing materialism and mindless consumption. In other words if you can learn to be happy being you, you don’t need to buy ‘stuff’ to make yourself feel happy. That is a great eco strategy.

Herbalists and homeopaths might choose to post their remedies in reusable or recyclable packaging and do consultations via Skype, to save travel. How about sustainably sourced ingredients?

Chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths might send text appointments and do online bookings rather than using cards. They might choose massage oils from a sustainable source in recyclable packaging. They might have a plastic-free practise and use this as a marketing point.

Eco Ideas For Small Businesses With A Big Heart

How about other eco ideas for other businesses? Can you take back your packaging and recycle it if your customers send it back?

Can you offer refills?

One of my lovely students, Tina at Purple Nanny in Abbotsbury in Dorset has just started a refill service for all sort of household liquids and her customers love it. Some of them make a point of shopping with her just because she’s the only person in her area offering this. Not only does it save on packaging, it also has a feel-good factor and THAT is something customers love.

Purple Nanny’s bank of refill stations

Can you offer repairs?

I bought a beautiful leather bag from a little startup company based in a Canadian forest (yes really, the things you find on Kickstarter…) and they offer lifetime repairs for free if you send your item back to them. My only problem is it would take weeks and lots of money to send it back to Canada from the UK so I’ll look for a local cobbler if I need repairs, as I don’t want THAT on my carbon footprint!

If you’re in hair and beauty can you reduce plastic in the salon? Choose energy-saving hairdryers when they need replacing? Offer a shampoo refill service if your client bring back their bottles? Research the most sustainable and economical options for hair towels? Choose sustainable, reusable kit where you can (I’m not suggesting you reuse waxing strips, but what COULD you swap to that would mean you buy less and reuse more, while maintaining your high hygiene standards?)

Bringing Eco Into Your Business

Where can you save electricity? Save water?  Compost? Sustainably source?

Can you do deliveries by bike?

On foot? By go-cart? By horse?

Can you suggest things they can do with the things they have bought from you once they no longer need them? If you make cards, can you include a little list on the back of things you can do with a card that’s had its day? Turn it into a fan? Use it to prop up a wonky table? Make it into a jigsaw? Turn it into a new card?

Can you ask customers to send the items back once they no longer needs them, so you can refurbish or repurpose them? Can you give them loyalty points for doing that? Heck, can you buy the stuff back for a small amount that they can redeem against new stuff?

I’ve seen some great ideas from big and small brands, from a subscription service where you get a selection of pre-loved clothes for your growing baby each month to save you buying new clothing that will barely be worn before it’s too small (I’ve also seen a baby-wear hire service – similar but different) to a big brand (John Lewis) that will buy back your old clothes so they can ensure they are properly recycled.  From my husband’s business where they offer free repairs on all the tools they sell (which means the customers come onto the van and browse while the repair is getting done) to the free water refill campaign (Tina at Purple Nanny does that, too).

Here is a little clip of the John Lewis story with a link to the story in The Guardian. I did think there might be some shareholder schmoozing involved but one of my lovely readers, Catherine, advised me that John Lewis don’t have shareholders and are run co-operatively, which makes it EVEN MORE AMAZING! They are reducing their impact on landfill because it’s the right thing to do. How fab is that? As for the marketing, they made sure the press knew what they were doing because it’s a great story and got them tons of coverage, as you can see.

What can you learn from that? I’m thinking if you’re consciously doing something in your business that has a positive impact on the environment, you definitely need to be shouting about it to the local paper at the very least.

Your Eco Marketing Angle

With my business hat on, how can you USE any of your amazing eco ideas in your marketing?

How can you capitalise on it? You’re doing it anyway, so TELL YOUR CUSTOMERS (and potential customers) because most people will care and some people will care a LOT, to the point where they become fiercely loyal and supportive of your business.

Don’t assume you can’t make sustainability and eco-friendliness a part of your business. We all can.

And don’t assume nobody will care. They do.

And don’t assume your tiny efforts won’t make a difference. They will. To the planet AND your profits. Win-Win.

I would LOVE to hear how you are bringing sustainability and eco-friendliness into your business. Tell me your ideas. Tell me what you’re already doing. Tell me how you’re using it in your marketing. Tell me what your customers think of it. I can’t wait to hear from you!!

The £14 Shower Cap And You!

The £14 Shower Cap And You!

I know exactly how much this cost because I found it on the internet and put it on my Christmas list last year.
As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it and Helen, my little sister said she would happily buy it as her gift to me.
It was my FAVOURITE Christmas present!
It all began when I decided I would treat myself to getting my hair blow-dried every week. My hair is a mass of curls and although I love it and even embrace it in the summer, at this time of year it’s just wild. And not in a good way. More like the image below, the resemblance is uncanny, really
Me, without getting my hair blow-dried
So, I was spending money on getting my hair done and having a lovely break for an hour at the same time and then I’d go in the shower and my old shower cap would fail miserably. Hair would escape, blow dry was ruined.
I was not a happy bunny.
I figured there MUST be a better way so I Googled ‘shower caps for blow-dried hair’ or something like that and THIS came up and I knew my problem was solved. It’s marketing genius!
So, naturally it made me think of you.
‘Normal’, bog-standard shower caps are a £2-3 . This one was over £14 when we bought it. We, or rather Helen on my behalf, paid 5 times the going rate for the same thing and to me it’s still a total bargain because it makes my hairdo (that costs me around £20 per week) last MUCH longer. It solves my very specific problem and makes me happy.
WE HAPPILY PAID MORE AND WOULD HAPPILY DO IT AGAIN. I even made you a video, modelling said shower cap – the things I do in the name of teaching you marketing!

 

So, how can you apply that to your products and services? How can you stop being generic and think about a very specific issue or problem one of your Super Customers has, that you can solve? Something you can charge much more for and which they will happily pay because it’s worth it to them?
People pay more for solutions to their very specific needs or problems. Think about other times when people willingly pay more. Thinking about my own life…
I am a curvy 32HH and can’t buy ‘normal’ bras, bikinis or swimming cozzies but I still need them so I will pay more (slightly begrudgingly I must admit) to places like Bravissimo for products that meet my needs. For context I had to pay around £70 for a nice, but not THAT nice swimming cozzie in my size a couple of weeks ago. Ouch. But I paid it because I needed it.
I have a friend who is vegan who regularly happily pays more for vegan food because it meets a need and lets them eat things they wouldn’t have the skill or patience to make at home (according to them).
We pay more for organic milk in bottles because I’m trying to ditch plastic, I love local organic milk and I think it tastes better out of glass bottles. It’s a no brainer for me and I LOVE going out onto my doorstep and seeing the glass bottles lined up like soldiers on a morning.
How can you add a bit of marketing genius to your business by solving a very specific need and charging more for it, knowing your customers will happily pay because you made their life easier?
I’ll leave that one there.
You’re Fired! How To Ditch That Bad Customer Today!

You’re Fired! How To Ditch That Bad Customer Today!

Have you ever had a BAD customer?

You know the ones – your heart sinks when their number comes up on your phone. They’re a nightmare to deal with. They pay late, question every bill, nitpick your work and get all dramatic if you mention putting up your prices.

I remember one of my first customers I took on as a brand new self employed marketing consultant.

It was a man who lived around 40 miles from me, who sold industrial products. We met up to discuss working together and he told me he’d had a problem with all the other marketing consultants he’d worked with. He also insisted I brought my degree and masters certificate with me to the meeting to prove I had these qualifications. (I know, I should have known then…)

I listened sympathetically and (in my head) decided I would be the exception. I would be the GREAT marketing consultant he needed. I would save him. I quoted him a price – he said yes immediately. I was overjoyed I had  A NEW CLIENT. Yayyy!!!

Fast forward a few months when he had summoned me up to his house almost every week (and no, he wouldn’t pay mileage) because I’d made some sort of mistake or other. I dreaded his calls and emails. Everything was my fault. I was the same as the rest. That job cost me a fortune in diesel, unpaid invoices and self respect.

Something had to give before I snapped. Next time I got summoned, I spent that hour, those 40 miles, rehearsing. I decided I was going to fire him. I was scared witless and panicking (I hate confrontation and he was a bully) but I knew I had to do this for the sake of my business, my self esteem and my health…

That drive up there felt like the longest drive of my life. My heart was hammering in my chest as soon as I stepped out of the car. My voice shook and I felt unsteady on my feet but I said it. I said ‘I’m sorry, I can’t work with you any more. You’ll have to find someone else to help you.”

He was surprised, then argumentative, then angry, then abusive. But I survived. They were only words (albeit not very nice ones). I kept quiet, stayed professional and tried to let the insults slide off (easier said than done, he knew exactly what to say to push my buttons and make me feel bad).

But guess what? I did it. I fired him. I drove back home on a high, thanking my lucky stars I’d seen the light before it got even worse. I felt like I’d won the lottery.

Now, looking back I love that customer.

Why? Well, today I can see that he taught me so many lessons, and really big lessons at that. He taught me EXACTLY HOW I DIDN’T WANT TO WORK. He taught me what a BAD customer is so I’ve been able to avoid them since. He made me realise loads of things, quite early on and it’s saved me a lot of heartache since.

  • I realised I needed to be much better at managing client expectations.
  • I needed to price myself properly.
  • I needed to have proper terms of business
  • I needed to get part payment up front
  • I needed to be more assertive
  • I was determined never to be made to feel that way ever again by a client (or anyone)
  • I needed to STOP SAYING YES TO EVERYONE WHO WANTED TO WORK WITH ME.

I realised that the reason he nearly snapped my hand off when I quoted him is that probably nobody else within 40 miles would take him on – I’m sure his reputation preceded him.

Does Any Of This Sound Familiar?

It’s a pattern I see all the time.

The BAD Customer Phase

I think nearly every business owner goes through this phase of attracting bad customers at some point. Usually these are customers from our early days in business when we’d take on anyone who asked – we’d say yes to any job, no matter how ill suited we were, because it meant someone wanted us AND we’d get paid.

We charged peanuts because we were ‘new’ and lacking in confidence – we were just grateful for the business!

  • And then it all starts to go sour.
  • They don’t treat you well.
  • Their expectations are unrealistic
  • They are demanding but not in a good way
  • They have no respect for you or your time
  • They ring/call/email at stupid o’ clock and go crazy when you don’t reply straight away
  • They try to beat you down on price all the time
  • They find fault where there is none
  • They slowly but surely wear you down. You lose confidence in yourself and your business. You fall out of love with it and wonder why you bother.

It takes a while, and a whole lot of LOVELY customers to make you realise there is another way to work.

And even now, when you’re actually charging decent rates and attracting nicer customers or clients, you still hang onto these BAD customers, right?

You’re scared to let them go.

You have a bizarre love/hate sentimental attachment to them! It’s like an abusive relationship you can’t leave.

But Claire, you say, they’ve always stuck with me through thick and thin! They are lovely really, they just don’t know any better. They have cashflow problems, but I always get paid eventually. I’ve always been able to rely on their payments (even if they were paltry and late) to get us through….

Let me give you some advice.

Fire them! Now!

Why?

Well they are keeping you stuck. They are holding you back and keeping you down.

They are BAD for you and BAD for your business.

They are taking up time that you could be selling for a higher rate.

They don’t value you. They are taking advantage.

They are part of the ‘old’ business – not part of your future.

Bad business weighs heavy – your business can’t fly when it’s dragging old baggage with it.

You need to put on your big girl knickers and take action to stop this going any further.

Arrange to speak to them or meet with them. Tell then you’re sorry but your business is changing. Or you’re changing your focus. Or you’re cutting your hours. Or you don’t feel you’re a good match for them any more. Or tell the truth – say you can’t work like this any more and for both of your sakes, you’re going to cut them loose and set them free to work with someone else who is better suited.

There is a good chance they will be MAD. Spitting feathers. They will be (or pretend to be) offended. They will tell you that you’re unprofessional. That you’re making a big mistake. That they will tell everyone never to work with you. How very dare you. Or they will weep and rant.

And remember this rant, lovely lady because THIS – THIS behaviour is why you never want to work with them again.

No matter how much of a noise or scene they make, just keep telling yourself that it’s time to let them go. They are NOT your ideal customer. They are NOT good for you or your business. Stick to your guns. Don’t give in.

And above all else, you’re protecting your self respect. You are showing YOU that you value yourself (how can you expect anyone else to value you if you don’t value yourself??). And I’m going to say something a bit woo-woo here – That BAD customer needs to go to make room for an awesome new one who’s waiting in the wings. I promise.

Your BAD CUSTOMER Challenge

Deal with them this week – get rid. You will feel AMAZING once your knees stop knocking and I guarantee your business will be much better for it.

Go on, we’re all here behind you, sending you moral support and you’ll feel like you’ve won the lottery once they’re gone. What’s not to love?

And if you want to share any bad customer horror stories to make us all feel better, feel free in the comments. JUST REMEMBER NOT TO MENTION ANY NAMES OR ANYTHING THAT COULD IDENTIFY THE PERSON IN QUESTION. The last thing you need is a legal letter through your door!

8 Fabulous Ways to Use Pinterest for Business

8 Fabulous Ways to Use Pinterest for Business

If you’re targeting women with your business, especially if what you sell looks good in photos, then you need to consider using Pinterest. Think of it like a giant pin board with pictures of everything you’ve every dreamed of and more.

If you’ve never used it, it works like this – you set up your own board or boards, so you might have one called ‘craft ideas’ or ‘things I’d love for my birthday’ or ‘kitchen design inspiration‘ (you have have LOADS) and you then search the pins.

If you like any of them you can click the little heart icon in the top corner and it will show up on the image as a ‘like’ from you. If you want to add any to your boards, you can PIN it to one or many boards – this is called a repin.

You can subscribe to individual boards or to whole accounts, in which case you see everything they pin appear in your feed. When you like or re-pin images, your connections can see that you’ve done so and the images will appear in their Pinterest feed. Your aim is to build a following for your account and/or individual boards.

From wedding favours to craft projects, jewellery to flowers, clothing to garden design, kitchens, art, horses, you name it, it’s on there (and then some).

Pinterest can be pretty addictive, as you can imagine. You can lose hours or even days in there, looking at all the gorgeousness on display. *Sigh*. So, I guess I’d better give you a tip – set an alarm on your phone, allow yourself 30 mins or an hour and then CLOSE PINTEREST or you’ll never get any work done.

The key to Pinterest success is all in the quality of the images. You’ll see when you scroll down that the most beautiful images attract the most interest.

Now, not all of us have a photography studio to hand, so all you need to do is THINK about the image you want to create. Your phone camera is easily good enough if you stage the photo properly, make sure the lighting is great, use props if necessary. Bad images don’t get shared.

Look at how other people have created their pins. Use www.canva.com to get the right size and even use some of the $1 pre-designed templates to save you time. Pinterest could do wonders for your business – I’ve bought lots of things because I saw them on Pinterest, followed a link and shopped. Here are some ways you can make it happen.

  1. Tactical Pinning – Make It Easy To Buy

    When you create a Pin, think about your Super Customer – that person who is a great fit for your business, who loves what you do and is most likely to buy. Think about what they want to see. Create images that work for them. Write your description for them.

    If you share a photo of a beautiful product, use the web link for that pin to send them back to the product page on your website where they can buy it, rather than just linking to your home page.

    Make it easy to buy. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen something beautiful on Pinterest only to find that the Pinner didn’t link it back to their site and hasn’t filled in their profile with their website address so I would need to spend time searching on Google instead of just click, click, buy.

  2. Create Themed Pinterest Boards

    Say you’re a florist and you do flowers for weddings, corporates, Valentines day, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, instead of just having ONE Pinterest board with everything included, create separate boards. Create a Wedding Flowers board. Or even better, break it down again and create LOTS of Wedding Flowers boards – vintage wedding flowers, purple wedding flowers, yellow wedding flowers, minimalist wedding flowers, unusual wedding flowers. Do you see? In this way you can attract lots of different brides, who will be searching for just those things. It makes it easy to organise your images and means it’s easy for your customers to go directly to the board that interests them – customers love businesses that don’t waste their time.

    [Tweet “Customers love businesses that don’t waste their time – make it EASY TO BUY #tgmb “]

  3. Be More Findable On Google Using Pinterest

    Every time you create a Pin you can go back in and edit it. This is something you MUST do or you are missing a huge opportunity because Pinterest pins show up brilliantly on Google, if you do them right. Pinterest is HUGE and is just like a big search engine – one where YOU want to show up in searches. So, instead of just copying and pasting the usual boring old product description, put some effort into it.

    Put yourself into the mind of your customers and think about what they will be typing into Google. When you’re a bride, you search for specifics – not just wedding flowers. You search for a colour scheme, or a theme. Think about when YOU search on Google. What type of things do you look for. In my case, I’m a marketing and business coach for women but people usually don’t put THAT into Google. Instead, they search for ‘how to get more sales’ or ‘how to get more customers’ or ‘how to use Pinterest for business’. They search for specifics because they have specific needs at the time.

    [Tweet “Customers search for specific things – are YOU showing up in their searches? #tgmb”]

    This works equally well for osteopaths, business coaches, artists or any business – think about what your customers are searching for. What do they need help with? What are they actually looking for?  What words and phrases will they use? It’s not always what you expect but the easiest way to do it is to think ‘OK, if I was that person, what would I want?’ Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they want and need. This goes for ALL your marketing, not just Pinterest. Make every pin count!

  4. Get More Value From Each Pin

    Don’t restrict your Pins to Pinterest – if you’ve gone to the trouble of creating beautiful images, share them far and wide. Top tip: make sure you put your web address on your Pins, and even your logo or a watermark so if they get downloaded and shared it’s easy to see where the Pin originated.

    You can share your Pins on Facebook, there are apps that can do this for you automatically whenever you pin. Embed them in your website or blog. Include them in your e-newsletters. Make them work for a living! Get them out there bringing attention to your business.

    If you’re going to share on Instagram, which is also brilliant for images, you may have to resize your image to get it looking its best. www.canva.com is a free tool (with paid upgrades) that will let you take an image and easily resize it.

  5. Build Your Database With Pinterest

    Getting people to view your Pins is great but unless they are in the market to buy right now, they might like or repin your pin and then forget about you. That’s a shame because when the time comes that they ARE ready to buy, they might not remember to seek you out. They might be follow hundreds of Pinners and your lovely Pin might get lost in the mix.

    [Tweet “Likes and shares are very nice but leads are even better #tgmb”]

    So how can you stop that happening? Well, one way is to get them onto your email list. To use your Pins to whet their appetite and offer them a great incentive to join your mailing list, so you can share even more fabulous things with them. You could do this by running a competition and promoting it using Pinterest. You could offer a tempting freebie – an e-book, tips list, how-to video, something that your customers would LOVE to get their hands on and send them from the Pin to a sign-up page where they can enter their email address and get the freebie delivered in their email right away.

    That way you can continue the discussion away from Pinterest. You can send them regular value-packed e-newsletters that they will love and you can stay top of mind. That way, when the are ready to buy, you will be at the top of their list.

  6. Create A Shared Pinterest Board

    You can create public Pin board and invite people to pin. How could you use this in your business? Well, you might ask people to share the results of a recipe you Pinned, or a craft project you shared. You might ask them to share photos of their pets if you run a pet store. You might ask them to share their favourite inspirational quote Pin or their wedding day photos.
    Shared boards bring people together. It’s a way for you to add value for your followers and a place where you can also showcase your products and services to a willing audience. Shared boards are a great way to build relationships, to build your credibility and to find new customers, suppliers and collaborators – you never know what might come from a shared board!

  7. Private Pinterest Boards For Business

    When you create a new Pin board it asks you if you want to make the board private. So, why would you want to do this? Well, you could do what I suggest to my clients and create a business vision board on there that no-one but you can see. It means you can dream big dreams and find Pins to match. Vision boards are brilliant to keep you motivated, show you why you’re doing all this and focus your mind on the big plan. Private Pinterest boards are brilliant for this because searching and takes seconds, and you have the whole of Pinterest for inspiration.

    You can choose to share private Pinterest boards with specific people and so you could create customer mood boards, project overview boards, ideas boards. It’s a really easy way to share concepts or images in a beautifully-laid-out way and it’s dynamic – you can add and take away in seconds. You can be talking to a customer on the phone and say, OK I just added some more suggestions to your board, can you refresh it now?

  8. Inspiration On Flat-As-A-Pancake Days

    Running a business is TOUGH and some days you feel flat or emotionally battered. There’s nothing like a browse through Pinterest to lift your spirits and get you smiling. Find your dream home office. Gaze at amazing shoes. Laugh at gorgeous puppies. Create your dream vision board.

    Pinterest can recharge your batteries and make you smile on down days and that is just as important as anything else in business. Time dreaming, browsing and looking at things that make you happy is the magic ingredient we sometimes forget when we’re busy.

    So, whenever you feel fed up, tired out, sick of the business battles and need a lift, I’m writing you a virtual prescription to spend an hour on Pinterest, building your dreams.

PS: Buyable Pins, where you can buy straight from the Pin without having to be diverted off to a website, already exist in the USA. Hopefully it won’t be long before they hit the rest of the world and bring us even more opportunity to build our business on Pinterest.

11 Things You Need On Your Small Business Website

11 Things You Need On Your Small Business Website

I have a question for you. Is your website pulling its weight? Is it bringing business and sales? Or is it just sitting there, on the internet, pretending to work while secretly snoozing behind your back?

Hmmm? Well, if your website isn’t working the way it should, it’s time to give it a WAKE UP CALL.

  • Sometimes it’s a question of design over substance.
  • Sometimes it’s because you didn’t really know what you wanted when you had the website built (this happens more often than you might think).
  • Whatever the reason, if this is ringing alarm bells with you, it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve put together a list of the 11 things you should have on your business website if you want to attract the right people (people who are likely to buy), get them to spend their hard earned cash with you and keep coming back.

Not all of them are essential (there’s one even I don’t have yet) but if you have half of these on your website then you’re doing really well but the more you can include, the more awesome and effective your website is going to be.

1. A Very Clear Home Page

Not just clear, but aimed at your Super Customer. Your Super Customer is the type of person who is most likely to buy from you because you can’t market to everybody – here’s a blog explaining more about it.

Your home page is your shop window. It’s the first thing most people will see if you turn up in a Google search or they follow a link from social media and first impressions really do count.

You’ve done the hard bit, you’ve GOT them to your site, so don’t let the side down now! It’s time to take a good hard look at your home page through the eyes of a new visitor.

If someone didn’t know what you do, would it be 100% obvious just from looking at your home page?

Would a new visitor know what to do next? Would they know how to find what they are looking for?

You need a potential buyer to be able to quickly and easily find their way around and BUY, with enough information available so they can make their decision there and then without having to contact you or do more research.

Look at every section, every image, every headline, every bit of your home page (on desktop AND on mobile) and see how it looks.

Test it out on your ‘honest’ friends or family and ask them to be really straight with you (and don’t cry when they are!). It’s much better to get honest feedback NOW, so you can fix any problems and ensure your potential customers stick around later. (And you can always put a fake spider in their coffee later if they are particularly vicious. But just don’t tell them I said that.)

2. A Great ‘About’ Page

Your ‘about’ page is your chance to tell people about you and your business. It’s a chance to start a relationship with your visitors, to let them see if they feel you’re their type of person.

It’s your chance to tell your story and the story of how the business came about. It’s your chance to share your passion and enthusiasm about why you’re doing this and how it makes a difference. It’s your opportunity to SHINE! It’s what makes you different from every other small business AND big business out there because it’s all about the magic ingredient – YOU!

Don’t waste it by sticking a bunch of stuffy, sterile blurb in there that could belong to anyone!

Fill it full of your personality – it will filter out people who are a bad fit and attract people who ‘get’ you.

Give your about page a makeover now! Here’s another blog that will REALLY help your ‘About’ page to zing!

3. A Contact Page

You need a contact page on your website – even if you don’t want to share your home address or email address (in case you get hit by the spam bots) you can still easily add a contact form and let people get in touch.

But don’t just leave it at a contact form. That’s BORING!! If people are looking at the page, let’s make the most of it!

Put a little message from you on there. Something like ‘We love messages – it can get a bit lonely here with just me and the dog, so tell me something nice or let me know how I can make your day better. Or write me a poem, that would be lovely!” But in your own words – you get the idea. If you get the opportunity to make someone smile, then do it – life’s too short for boring contact pages!

While you’re there, put your social media icons on there too and encourage people to follow you.

Put your hours of business on there – even if you don’t own a physical shop with a door you lock at the end of the day, you still need to put boundaries in place. Put a map on there if people come to you.

Manage people’s expectations and let them know how long it will be before they can expect to hear from you if they enquire.

Put a picture of YOU! And your dog/cat/budgie/stuffed tortoise. Stand out for all the right reasons. Contact pages can be AWESOME too!

4. A Frequently Asked Questions Page

Take all the questions people ask you in the course of your business, from pricing, delivery, returns, plus any product related questions and put them with your standard answers on a page on your website.

This will make it easier for people to buy because you’re answering their questions while they are browsing – it takes away the barrier of having to contact you before they can make a decision.

It makes it easier to buy. And you can put a link to your FAQ page on your Contact page.

But why not get a bit quirky? Why not add in a few fun questions while you’re there. If you have a fab business name put the question ‘How did I come up with my fabulous business name?’ and say something like…”I’m SO glad you asked, here’s the story…” or if you MAKE things then add a question “How do you come up with your gorgeous ideas?” and you can make your reply something like this…”Ooh, you’re making me blush! Well, here’s how it works….”

You get the picture. No need for boring FAQs – make sure you have all the information on there so that people can easily make a decision to buy but add in your sparkly personality too, just because!

5. A List Builder

Just think about how many people land on your website – what happens to them if they aren’t quite ready to buy? They click away and you’ve lost them. That’s what!

Which is awful.

After all the trouble you went to, to get them there in the first place.

You have to hope they remember you when they ARE ready to buy but to be honest, some of them probably can’t remember their child’s birthday because they’re so busy, so what chance do YOU stand?

Hoping they remember is NOT a great marketing strategy, but luckily I have a MUCH better one for you.

Why not take the unpredictability out of it and grab them while they are browsing, so you can continue building a relationship with them even when they are long gone from your website? How? Start capturing your visitors’ email addresses, that’s how!

You need a reason for them to sign up to your email list and we call that a List Builder – and you need a List Builder on your website, toot sweet (that means RIGHT NOW in very bad French).

It could be as simple as a discount voucher or a tips sheet, maybe a little e-book or a ‘how to’ video. It could be a cheat sheet, a ‘which product is right for you’ sheet, a ‘how to choose the best photographer/reiki practitioner/doula/event organiser for you’ – you get the drift. And you can do this.

Think about what your Super Customers would love and what would entice them to hand over their email address. Remember to tell them they will be added to your mailing list when they sign up, just so you are marketing with integrity and they know what to expect.

6. Up To Date Information

I have lost count of the times I have been to a website and their last blog was in 2003 or their prices don’t stack up or the links are broken!

Or you can see the news page hasn’t been updated for five years and the social media stuff is out of date. They’ve put their Twitter account on there they haven’t tweeted for a year!

There’s nothing more likely to put me off buying from a website than seeing it’s been ‘abandoned’. That’s telling me they don’t bother with it and who knows if the company is even still in business? Is that REALLY where I want to spend my money? Yes, I know you’re busy. Yes, I know it’s hard to find time. But your competitors are making time. Just sayin’…

If you have a website, check it THOROUGHLY every 6 months or more often if you can. The more regularly you do it, the less time it will take each time.

Make sure all the links still work. Make sure the information is still correct. If you have social media accounts feeding into your site, make sure you’re using those accounts or take off the feed from your site. Half an hour spent every 6 months could mean the difference between someone buying or not buying. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

7. Blogs

Not everybody has a blog, but if you have one see if you can get it embedded into your website.

Why? Well, a website is a static thing and when you first publish your website the search engine ‘spiders’ will be all over it, indexing it to appear in search results and paying it lots of attention. But after that, if nothing changes then there is no reason for the search engines to take much notice. They might pop over a few times for a virtual spider cuppa with your site, find the doors closed and the shutters down and think ‘nothing’s happening here, I’m off to find someone with doughnuts’ and that’s it, gone!

A blog is the way to change it and it’s like sending out a party invitation to the search engine spiders to come over and have an indexing party.

Every time you put new content on your site (and a blog is the easiest and best way to do this) you’re giving it another chance to show up in a search. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

The other GREAT thing is once you’ve got used to writing a blog each month, you can use your blogs in LOADS of ways that will save you time in your other marketing. Yay!

8. An ‘In The Media’ Page

I want you to have an ‘In The Media’ page on your website. Yes, I know you don’t like showing off but this is an order – if you’ve been featured in your local paper then put it on your In The Media page. If you had a product featured in a showcase in a magazine, take a snap of it and get it on your In The Media page.

Any time you’ve had any mention in a magazine, newspaper, radio show or TV programme then get it on your website (unless it was that time you appeared on ‘You’ve Been Framed’ falling off the trampoline in an embarrassing manner, or the time you got a police warning for heckling the local traffic warden, in which case not).

I go out of my way to get featured in places like Marie-Claire or Huffngton Post or The Guardian, because it adds credibility to me and my business. For my audience it matters that I’m in those kinds of places – for YOUR customers it could be that the local paper or local trade magazine is brilliant!

Be proactive about seeking PR (here’s a blog to get you started) and shout about it on your website.

9. A Clear Route To Buying

How many clicks does someone have to make on your website before they can give you their money? No seriously, count them, because it matters. It makes a HUGE difference if someone is busy and just wants to blummin’ buy.

There are times I’ve been trying to buy something and the checkout process was SO longwinded I just gave up and went somewhere else.

I want you to iron out that process. Take out unnecessary steps. Get rid of hurdles. Make it REALLY easy for people to buy from your website.

If you’ve got twenty seven menu items squeezed across the top of your website, it’s really hard for someone to find their way through. Get rid of some, restructure them. If you’ve got tons of choices and adverts and buttons plastered all over your front page, people don’t know where to look. Simplify it.

If they have to fill in their details more than once, or you’re asking for their birthday or shoe size without a really good reason that’s NOT COOL. Cut it down to ONLY the information you really need.

Make it really obvious what somebody has to do when they get to your website. What do you want them to do?

Do you want them to join your mailing list? Do you want them to buy something? Do you want them to enquire? Really, there are only three things people should be doing on your site:-

  1. Joining your email list
  2. Making an enquiry
  3. Buying

If they aren’t doing any of these, how can you change it so they do? That’s your homework!

10. Videos

Hey, you! I can see you ducking behind the sofa! It’s time to come out and face the world. At the moment you’re hiding behind a website, hoping people will love your stuff and buy it BUT you COULD be your business’s greatest asset.

You could be making them fall in love with your business and with YOU, with the way you do business and with your obvious passion for your subject. You could be turning them from strangers into people who feel you’re a friend and that they know you. And guess what? Marketing is ALL about relationships – people buy people. Videos are awesome for marketing, so you’d better get over your video fears and start reading – it’s definitely worth it.

At the moment, your website is just a lot of code on the internet. Yes, it’s got pretty pictures and maybe even some amazing content but really, it’s not very dynamic. If you were behind a shop counter or market stall, you could build a relationship with a visitor in person. But when someone visits your site, you are not there in person, so how can you bridge that gap?

How can you start to build relationships with them? How can you help them to get to know you? What you need is to add some movement, some personality, some magic – and VIDEO is the answer. You’re going to have to get over yourself and over the fact that you’re shy or you don’t like the sound of your voice, or you could do with losing a bit of weight (in your opinion), or the fact that you don’t know what to say. Just talk! Be yourself. Think about what your website visitors would love to know.

Share some behind the scenes stuff . Share some ‘this is how I do this’ type shots. Introduce yourself. Introduce the dog. Film yourself opening a new delivery. Show off a new range. Whatever your Super Customers would love to see – just put yourself in their shoes.

No excuses, if you want your website to really work for you it’s time to be a video star – I promise your customers will LOVE it and guess what? Most people NEVER do this – they let their excuses stop them and, well, that’s their loss. Off you go, I’m ready for my close up Mr De Mille…

11. Great Photos

Have great photos on your website. Not BORING ones. Not same old, same old stock photographs of a goldfish jumping into another bowl or a red apple among a box of green ones. I actually might stick a fork in my eye if I see another of those. You can do BETTER than that!

Have a lovely photograph of YOU for starters.

This doesn’t mean that you have to fork out a lot of money for a professional photographer immediately (but definitely worth investing in as soon as you can afford it). See if you can get some shots of you at work – they can be rough and ready, taken on your phone, especially as you’re trying to convey what you do and use those for now. But please don’t use your wedding photo with the veil cropped off . We’ll know.

If you make products, do them justice! Even if you can only use your phone, make sure that you have them in daylight or otherwise get the best lighting you can, make sure you try and ‘prop’ them, it makes all the dfference. I’ve seen many a good small business website spoiled by badly lit, badly detailed photographs that just needed better lighting or some simple props. Don’t let that happen to you.

And if you’re ever tempted to pick a photo of a red apple in a box of green apples, unless you SELL apples, just imagine me sticking a fork in my eye because that’s what I’ll do if it see it and to be honest, it hurts so RESIST, RESIST, RESIST!

Do You Have Some Work To Do?

Do you need to lie down in a darkened room yet? Or are you feeling very smug and saying to yourself ‘just call me a website ninja’?

If your website needs a makeover, don’t despair. Just make a list of what needs doing and do ONE AT A TIME. Do the easy ones first. And if you struggle with writing, ask if someone can help you. This is important stuff !

Your website has got away with sleeping on the job for far too long – it could be helping you take a salary, it could be saving you loads of time, it could be SHOUTING about your business. If yours isn’t, then it’s time to put a rocket up it – no excuses, off you go!