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!

How To Get More Control Over Your Sales

How To Get More Control Over Your Sales

I was chatting to a lady the other day and she said ‘Claire, this business is bad for my nerves and my blood pressure. One day it’s fine, I have money in the business and then within days it’s all gone on staff costs, supplies and other bills. Then we have a quiet period with no money coming in and no idea when it will start again. I feel like I’m always playing catch up – like I’m on a rollercoaster and I don’t like it! I want to get off!’

I knew exactly what she meant. It DOES feel like a rollercoaster when all you want is a smooth ride.

You just want to know you have a steady stream of business coming in, with enough money guaranteed to pay all the bill AND your wages and without all the ups and downs and lurching from OK to broke. And then you add in ‘seasonality’ and ‘quiet times’ and it becomes like a big dipper.

It’s a real challenge though, because when your business behaves like that the only way to stop that rollercoaster effect is to change the way you do things.

You have to smooth out the bumps and level out the ride and that takes time and effort, but once you get there it’s SO much easier (and better for your health).

So, How Do You Stop Those Rollercoaster Ups And Downs?

The ups and downs are caused by a few things.

By not having a steady stream of clients, by not having a steady stream of money coming in and by not having a plan to keep sales moving all the time.

So, what can you do about it?

Well, there is one thing you can do that will change the way your business behaves. It will smooth out the lumps and take out the quiet patches.

And yet, hardly anyone does it.

And even when they do, they hardly ever do it properly and consistently and yet, it could TRANSFORM their business for the better.

What is it?

Build Your Email List!

This is one of the most under-rated areas of business EVER!

So many people don’t bother building their database or collecting email addresses – or worse, they collect them and do nothing with them – and yet it could be the ANSWER to most of their business rollercoaster problems!!

Let me explain. 

When someone visits your website, they might take a look around, find a few things they like but they don’t buy – why not?

Because it’s not the right time for them.

Either they are looking for something they don’t need right now, but are just researching (think gifts for upcoming birthdays or other celebrations) or they aren’t in a position to buy YET because they are saving up or need more information or to talk to someone else about it.

So, although they LOVE your stuff, they decided not to buy today.

So they go.

Forever.

And then they forgot what your site was called so even though they vaguely remembered how lovely it was, after a quick Google it didn’t show up so you lost them.

What are you going to do about it?

“What do you mean, what am I going to do about it?” You ask! “I can’t MAKE them buy, I can’t MAKE them come back!” I hear you say.

Well here’s the thing: you can’t make them buy TODAY but do you know what?

You CAN make them much more likely to come back and buy when they are ready.

How?

You can get them onto your mailing list and you can build a relationship with them. Yes, even despite GDPR. You just have to make it very clear what they are signing up to – your ‘regular newsletter packed full of exciting news and offers’. That’s it. Make sure you use a proper marketing software package like Mailchimp to ensure you conform to all the anti-spam regulations and you’re ready to go.

THEN you can send them your regular e-newsletter, packed full of things they will love and find useful.

You’ll share new product information, you’ll tell them about any sales or offers you have, you’ll talk about the business, you’ll suggest ways to use your products and services and you’ll include lovely testimonials from happy customers.

Every month.

That way, they get used to seeing you in their inbox.

They start to look forward to getting your emails and hearing from you.

They look out for your sales and offers.

They become familiar with your name and your business and your products and services.

A Transformation Takes Place

They change FROM someone who loved your stuff but wasn’t ready to buy (so they left your website never to return) INTO someone who looks forward to your monthly email and buys even when they hadn’t planned to because you put such lovely things under their nose all the time. 

You go from being ‘just another business’ to being the business they think of when they need what you sell. And when they are ready to buy, they will buy from YOU. It’s like magic. But it’s actually quite simple, really. You just need to stay in touch, keep sharing stuff they love and keep adding value.

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Not only do they get used to seeing you around in their email, they also start to get to know you (and people buy people, remember?).

They learn about your business.

If you’re clever, you’ll have videos and images on your website and social media pages of you and your team so customers know who they are dealing with – it will bridge the gap between you being an ‘untrustworthy stranger’ to being someone your subscribers feel they know.

And you can direct people from your newsletters to your website to find out more about you and your team.

People are much more likely to buy from you if they feel there is a ‘real’ person behind the business who loves what they do and can help them if they struggle with a purchase. This is where you have a HUGE advantage over the big faceless corporates who can’t manage that personal touch.

Smoothing Out Cashflow Lumps

And remember we talked about that lurching rollercoaster feeling of ups and downs in sales and money coming in? Well building your database and keeping in touch with your subscribers via regular e-newsletters is an antidote to that. It smooths out the big lumps. It steadies the ride.

Think about it. Most businesses rely on potential customers finding them on Google. If those people visit their website and don’t buy there and then, they have lost them. What a waste.

Not you though, you’re clever and you’ve got this covered. You know now you need to get them onto your email list and keep in touch with them.

And you’re sending them lovely newsletters packed full of things they will find interesting, useful and valuable.

And then every so often (in your usual quiet time) you send them a BIG DEAL newsletter. A newsletter with a FAB offer they can’t resist.

Do you think they will take notice?

Well, they will probably take far more notice of YOUR offers than those of any other random company who happens to tout to them.

What will actually happen is that you’ll have control over your sales.

Let me just repeat that in case you didn’t get it.

YOU WILL HAVE CONTROL OVER YOUR SALES

That’s MASSIVE!

Because 80% of your newsletters and newsletter content will be non-salesy, added value loveliness, when you DO send out an offer your subscribers will take notice. And BUY.

This is what I do with my business. It’s what ALL successful businesses do – because it works!

It takes time to build your database and build those relationships. You have to put some work in to establish your monthly newsletter and work out what your subscribers love to see and read. But once you get the recipe right, it really works.

When you send out offers, the people on your growing email list will buy. 

That counteracts seasonality.

It flattens out those horrible rollercoaster peaks and troughs.

It gets rid of the stress and the fear of NO SALES.

It works whether you have a physical shop or premises, or you’re totally online.

Quiet times are a thing of the past.

You just need to plan your e-marketing in a very simple way and you’ve got it covered (eg. January Sale, February Valentines, March Spring Offers, April Showcase, you get the idea)

So let me just recap:

  1. Build your database (another blog coming next week to tell you HOW to do that)
  2. Keep in touch every month
  3. Share information that’s topical, useful, valuable and interesting but not SELL, SELL, SELL
  4. Once in a while, on a regular basis, send out a BIG DEAL OR OFFER newsletter
  5. Watch the sales come in

Are you up for a challenge? The sooner you start building your list and e-marketing, the sooner the magic will start to happen. I can’t wait to see how you get on!

How to Write A Blog

How to Write A Blog

I know you read blogs because you’re reading this one, but how comfortable are you with writing one, and why on earth would you want to?

Let’s start with the WHY because it’s a biggie.

Blogs are all kinds of awesome. Your website loves them, the search engines love them and your Super Customers (the people who are the BEST fit for your business) love them, too.

When you write a blog, you create NEW CONTENT to put out there in your marketing and that’s important. Let me explain.

When you run a small business you need to get found on the internet. You’re up against the rest of the world, big brands, other small businesses and the rest of the craziness out there. It’s really hard to get seen and it can be REALLY hard to grab the attention of your Super Customers who are the main source of your income.

How do you get found on the internet?

Well, you need to show up in searches.

How do you show up in searches?

Well, you need to know what words and phrases people are typing into Google so your website can include the things they are searching for.

How do you know what people are typing into Google?

Well, you need to understand who they are, what they need and how you can help. That’s why I bang on about Super Customers ALL the time. Think about your ‘best-fit’ customers – what are they struggling with, where do you fit? Think about the words and phrases they would use. Get inside their head!

You won't get found by the right people on the internet if you don't know who the right people are. Click To Tweet

By writing blogs you are giving Google and other search engines more ‘stuff’ to look at to find a match. You stand a better chance of showing up in a Super Customer’s web search if you have 10 articles talking about the thing they are looking for, rather than one or none.

Also, depending on your business, some customers want to understand more about you, what you do, the way you work, how you can help, if you have helped people like them before, what the stages are, whether you are a good fit for them.

It might not matter so much if you sell hair bows (but don’t discount it because you still have some great blogs you could write and raise yourself above other bow-makers) but it definitely helps and matters if you sell wellbeing services, dog training, coaching, photography, handmade soap, I could go on – why?

Because people want to know if what you sell is right for them and blogs give you a chance (or many chances) to show them you’re a great fit.

Talking about your philosophy and methods as a dog trainer is a great way to attract people who love your attitude and will pay more to work with you.

Talking about your ingredients and their benefits is a fab way to help people decide if your soap and skin products are a good fit for them. Talking about your style and approach is a wonderful way to attract the right photography clients, especially if you can show them amazing examples, and stand out from the competition.

Talking about what you do and why it matters, regardless of your business, is a great way to filter out bad-fit customers and attract good-fit customers. That is a GOOD thing.

OK, now you know why blogs are wonderful, let’s talk about how to write one.

First of all, think about the BIG topics you can talk about easily.

If you run dance classes it might be the ways to master tricky moves , or how certain dances are great for your health, or case studies on how dance has helped some of your customers.

If you are an accountant it might be tax and software systems.

If you are a virtual assistant it might be productivity, software, organisation.

Think about your knowledge and your passion for your business. What can you EASILY talk about? What got you enthused about your business when you started? What fascinated you? What do you love about your business? What do you explain to customers and clients? What do they find interesting?

Once you have one or more BIG topics, you’re off!

You just need to break them down into smaller topics.

If one of your big topics is REIKI then your smaller topics could be

  • Reiki for stress
  • Reiki for sleep problems
  • Reiki for bad backs

Now, you might know that reiki is reiki and it just works (I know, my mum is a reiki master) but your Super Customers want to know how it can help THEM with their particular issue, so make it easy for them to find you. They might be searching for bad back remedies or stress or both, but you will show up both times.

If one of your BIG topics is HAIR BOWS then your smaller topics could be

  • School-day hairstyles (featuring bows in lots of cases)
  • Bow showcase
  • Party hairstyles (you guessed it, with some bows thrown in)

Every BIG topic can be broken down into several smaller topics and guess what? You only need to find 12 to have a year’s worth of blogs. And if you have a year’s worth of blogs, you also have a year’s worth of e-newsletter content because it’s the same thing – don’t write additional content for your e-newsletters if you can include short blogs or link to your longer ones! Reuse those blogs!

Parts Of A Blog

To write a blog you’ll need a title, an introduction, a couple of paragraphs and a little sign off. Don’t overthink it and DON’T let the mind monkeys tell you you’re rubbish at writing. You can do this.

Tip: Write the blog introduction last, because then you will know what you are introducing! Click To Tweet

The Blog Title

For the blog title, you can either go for attention grabbing or search-engine friendly.

Attention grabbing blog titles make people curious to read them, especially if they are a bit controversial. ‘Why training is BAD for your dog’ will get people’s attention, and as long as you follow up in the blog with the reasons why and show them a different way, they will find it useful.

Search-engine friendly blog titles mirror what your Super Customers are putting into Google. This blog is a good example. It’s not attention grabbing but it does what it says.

Introduction

Write this last if you’re struggling because it can often feel easier to introduce the blog once you know what you are introducing. It doesn’t have to be long, you just need to tell people what to expect or why you are writing this. ‘Lots of people on my Facebook page ask me for ideas on styling their hair with my gorgeous bows, so here are some quick and easy ideas for you’. Or ‘If you have seen the news, you will know that lack of sleep has been proven to be a big factor in weight gain, so let’s see how you can get a better night’s sleep when you’re trying to get fit’. You get the idea.

The main blog content

I reckon 3 paragraphs is more than enough (don’t take my blogs as an example, I can’t shut up once I get started!).  A good way to do it is to come up with three stages or three levels or three questions people always ask. Then just write 3 or 4 sentences for each one, based on what you would tell your Super Customers if they asked you about this subject. You know far more than you think!

The end of the blog

Don’t agonise over it. Come up with a little sign-off you can use on each one. It might be ‘hope you enjoyed reading about [topic], I’ll have some more fab facts in my next blog. See you soon!’

If you REALLY struggle with the idea of writing, see if you can record it on your phone and get a friend or family member to turn it into a blog. Loads of copywriters and virtual assistants offer this service too. If your spelling isn’t that great and you’re not sure where to put your apostrophes or you get their and there and your and you’re mixed up, ask someone to check it for you, who knows their grammar.. and switch on your spell-check but MAKE SURE IT’S SET TO YOUR LANGUAGE – American English spelling is very different to UK.

Finally, post the blog in the blog part of your website. Most web packages come with one built-in. If it asks you for key words, FILL THEM IN! You know what they are because you just wrote the darned blog – you just need to pick 2-3 words that summarise what it’s about, to help the search engines categorise it.

Then, post the link to your blog on social media, put the blog in your next newsletter, market it like crazy and if you can, look at your website stats and see how many visitors and readers you get. Once you get started, there will be no stopping you! Happy blogging!

How To Write A Brilliant Bio

How To Write A Brilliant Bio

Being able to create a brilliant bio is a very useful skill. There are times in your business when you need one and times you might not expect, when one comes in really handy.

Most people think that a bio is just the 40 word blurb you stick on your social media profiles, something they knock out in 2 minutes just to fill that empty space but it is so much more! Having a brilliant bio written out and ready can bring you new business, help you get media coverage, get you a speaking gig or a blog submission accepted and even help you make that 40-word blurb AWESOME as opposed to ‘meh’.

Why Would You Need A Brilliant Bio?

Imagine if the local paper got wind of how brilliant you are and are thinking about doing a quick article. If they look at your website and your ‘about’ page is about as interesting as reading a leaflet about fax machines, you have just MISSED a GREAT OPPORTUNITY. They may get in touch with you anyway, to get your story but if something else more interesting appears on their desk in the meantime, the opportunity has gone. If only you had a brilliant bio to include on there…

Now imagine they go to your website and you have an AMAZING about page including your bio with images (heck, even videos), your story about how you came to build the business and some other little gems we’ll talk about in a moment, NOW they are HOOKED. They want to know more. They want to SHARE your story because their readers will love it. You just GRABBED AN OPPORTUNITY with both hands!

When Would You NEED A Brilliant Bio?

If you ever fancy entering awards or a competition, you will need a brilliant bio. If you ever need to fill out your details on a selling site, you will need a brilliant bio. Same if you ever submit an article to someone, ask for or get offered a speaking gig or even want to approach your bank for a loan – your bio would be a brilliant part of your business plan.

The WORST TIME to write a brilliant bio is when you need one RIGHT NOW – EEEEK!

The BEST TIME is to start now and get it finished within a week, so you only have to update it when things change.

Your BRILLIANT BIO could create all sorts of magic in your business so we’d best get you started. These aren’t in any particular order, just start with the easiest and work on making the rest happen this week.

1 Your Story

Yes, we all want to know and your Super Customers especially. Tell us how this business came about, warts and all! Now, most people would write a boring paragraph about their last 10 years, which bores readers to tears. Not you, though! You’re going to do better. You are going to tell your story as if you’re telling it to your best friend. You’re going to add the high points and low points, the funny bits, your biggest disaster, the weird way you came up with your business name and how things are now. You’re even going to supply photographic evidence. You can edit it down afterwards (we don’t need to know EVERYTHING) but what you will be left with is a pretty concise version of your journey to building this business, in a style that feels friendly, approachable and funny – just like you! Definitely someone we would want to buy from, don’t you think?

2 Photos

Even if you hate having your picture taken, you NEED at least one on your bio. It doesn’t have to be you sitting there like a statue grinning painfully at the camera, in fact I definitely wouldn’t use that one (!). Instead, get a photo of you doing your thing. If you sew for a living, get someone to take a photo of you at your sewing machine. You can run it through some filters on Canva to make it mean and moody, or vibrant or black and white. Get photos of you in your workspace or out and about with the kids. Probably not your wedding one – they never really look right on business bios. Also, I’ve seen some brilliant bios where people have included photos of them aged 7 using a sewing machine for the first time, or wearing flares in the 70s when they used to be a Bay City Rollers fan before they became a very professional accountant. We want fun, personality and a peek into your life. People buy people – let them get to know you a bit.

3 Videos

Come back, stop running away! A video doesn’t need to have YOU in it! If you’re a maker or someone who uses their hands, you can set up your phone on a mini-tripod and do a quick video of your hands at work. You can use apps to create little slideshow videos of work in progress or finished pieces. If you run classes or go out on location, you can take little videos of you setting up, running the classes/ doing your thing or breaking down. You can video your workspace. You can use one of those animation videos to show what you do and how you help. You an use an app like Ripl or Lumyer or Adobe Spark to add effects to photos and turn them into videos. Videos can shortcut things – you can quickly show us what you do, how you work, what difference you make. GREAT to have in a bio!

4 Testimonials

Testimonials and reviews don’t just belong in one place. If you have lovely ones, share them in your bio! It’s a brilliant place to use them because they back-up the fab things you are saying about yourself with real-life customer feedback. You don’t need loads, just a few sprinkled throughout to break up the text.

5 Career Highlights

I love it when people include these. If you won Small Business Sunday on Twitter with Theo Paphitis, put it here. If you got ‘best cake’ in the village fete, put it here. If you met the Queen, put it here. Career highlights show the things that made you smile, the things you are most proud of. One of mine was meeting Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook in 2014 for the first time, another was appearing on The Apprentice and Radio One with my men’s make-up business, back in the day – but my proudest accomplishment was getting a Blue Peter Badge when I was 7 . If they made you smile, our bio is the place to put them.

6 Contact Details

That journalist needs to get in touch with you, so make sure you add your website, social media accounts and email/phone number. Your Brilliant Bio might be printed off and passed around. It might be given to the leader of the group that wants you to do a talk for them. It might end up anywhere, so make sure they can get in touch with you!

7 Synopsis

It’s alway useful to have a little box at the top that sums up what you do. If this beautiful bio of yours forms part of a business plan or funding application, having a 2 sentence summary ‘an award-winning florist who is a favourite in the Surrey gay wedding market’ or ‘a fabulous physio specialising in drunk-dance injuries’ can really set you apart from the crowd. It shows your human side, creates a talking point and becomes a bit of a soundbite if you are ever interviewed on TV or radio.

Useful Tips

Qualifications – should you included them?

Don’t go overboard on this though, it’s not a job CV. If you have a particularly wonderful qualification that is very relevant to your business, then include it in a section at the bottom. If it was fire-building in Girl Guides, maybe not.

Styling

You can use PowerPoint or Canva to create PDF files with images. If you’re including videos, they would only appear on your website, usually. Don’t go overboard with flowery fonts and loads of busy images. Keep it clean and simple, let the few images speak for themselves, let your words shine through.

You have a week. Go and create a beautiful and brilliant bio the media will love, as well as your Super Customers. You are so much more than a 40-word blurb – you’re awesome! But, before you go, TELL ME THE ONE THING out of this list you are going to do first!

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.