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!!

Would You Pay To Shovel Poop? I Did…

Would You Pay To Shovel Poop? I Did…

I did, today. And last Wednesday. It’s not me doing the poop shovelling, I hasten to add but Chloe, my 9 year old daughter. She is horse-mad and has been having weekly riding lessons for a few months now, so when ‘Easter Pony Experience Days’ were mentioned, she was all for it. Here is the advert from her lovely riding school (below)
You see where it says ‘stable management lesson’ and ‘practical activities’? That’s basically mucking out the stables and cleaning tack.
Yes, there were lots of other lovely activities but a good part of the day was learning to look after the ponies, which is mainly the messy stuff.
Chloe won’t even clean her room without a huge fight, so when I saw THIS photo I was a bit gobsmacked…Chloe has the purple and pink coat on…

Chloe with her nose far closer to Pony poop than I would ever have thought possible…

So, naturally it made me think of you.
Chloe won’t clean her room but she will happily shovel pony poop when it’s part of a Pony Experience Day because it’s fun and it’s something she doesn’t usually get to do. It’s a new experience. How could you use this in your marketing?
Let’s think about it…People will happily pay for an EXPERIENCE.
The riding school isn’t daft, they get a bunch of horse-mad kids in doing work that they would usually pay staff to do but it’s a win-win because the kids LOVE it. So the riding school SAVES money, while MAKING money AND has delighted customers.
How can you use that in your business? What do you do that people would pay to learn? What would your customers love to EXPERIENCE that is part of your daily business activity?
Be a florist for a day? ‘Sew your own cushion’ workshop? ‘How to set up your own Yoga Business’ taster workshop? ‘Self-Assessment Made Fun’ masterclass (might be stretching it with that one…).
Remember, Build-a-Bear and Pick-Your-Own farms have made an entire business out of charging people to do something other businesses have to pay staff to do.
I’ll leave that one with you – let your imagination run wild and remember not everyone gets the chance to do what you do every day and some people would PAY to experience it….How could you use it in your business?
Let me know what you come up with, I’d love to hear from you,
Love, Claire xx
Facebook Video – Getting Over Your Fears

Facebook Video – Getting Over Your Fears

If you’ve been putting off doing Facebook video because it’s way too scary, this is for you.

In my last blog I shared Facebook expert Mari Smith’s excellent blog post about the changes going on at Facebook and the top things we can do to get Facebook working for us. She was very clear it was all about video and I shared her top 10 tips along with my own input and explanations on using video in your Facebook marketing and business.

I’m going to take those Facebook video tips one by one and show you how you could use them in your business. So, in this blog we’re going to tackle number 1 – focus on video but this is a HUGE topic in itself, so I’ll cover some today and the rest over the next couple of weeks. This is going to be a mammoth FACEBOOK VIDEO MASTERY series, I think you’re going to love it!

Video already takes priority in Facebook’s newsfeed. It’s only going to get bigger.

If you have tried putting videos on your Facebook page you’ll hopefully have found they get much better engagement than other posts? Obviously it depends on what’s IN the video, but if you can crack this, you will get lots of video views, which improves your Facebook page engagement, which in turn helps your page get seen by more people. At a time when it’s harder than ever to get seen on Facebook, it’s definitely worth grabbing video with both hands while its working well.

So, why might you NOT be using videos yet?

Let me take a guess…

Oooh, maybe you feel like you’re not ‘right’ for video. You might think you’d like to lose a bit of weight before going on screen? Maybe you keep telling yourself it would be better if your hair was tidier, or your voice was different or you had a more photogenic ‘look’. Hmm?

Or maybe you’re using the ‘I’m not techie enough’ excuse? I can’t ‘do’ videos! What about the editing? What do I use to record ON? Do I need a tripod? It’s all too scary!

Maybe you’re up for it but you’ve got video block – whenever you think about doing a video, you get stuck on what to make a video about? I mean what could you say that your customers and page fans would want to hear and watch? And what if they don’t like it? Oh heck, what if they laugh at me?

Blimey, what a lot of reasons NOT to do video! If you’ve talked yourself out of it before you recorded a single second  of video I’m not surprised!

But let me share something with you. I’m going to tell you how to work with and around all those reasons and excuses above.

GETTING PAST VIDEO FEARS AND OVERCOMING THE EXCUSES

Creating videos for your business, whether for your website or social media can be a nerve-wracking experience. It triggers all sorts of insecurities within in us about our appearance, our self-worth, our value – so why on EARTH would you want to drag all that up?

What if people laugh at me? What if they think I’m too fat/thin/ugly? What if I sound stupid? What if they think I’m unprofessional? What if my friends / old boss / mother-in-law see it? What will they think? What if people realise I’m just winging it and don’t really know what I’m talking about?

Run away! Run away! Why would you even want to go there? Even I had a wobble with those as I wrote them but do you know what? We all feel like that. Even people who are on TV every day!

But wouldn’t it be great to NOT worry about all those things? I mean, if they are holding you back from doing videos, imagine what else they are stopping you doing?

What if I told you these fears are not important and definitely not worth worrying about? What if I told you nobody really cares what you look like or sound like, as long as there is something for them in the video? What if I told you there are some things you can do to make Facebook video MUCH easier? It’s true!

Remember, it’s not about you

The first thing you have to realise is, it’s not about you.

People don’t watch videos ABOUT YOU unless you are a celebrity (sorry!) unless it’s an ‘about me’ video on your website (which is an awesome idea) but generally in our world, as small business owners (with big ambitions) people watch our videos to get help. They watch our videos to learn something they need to know or to see if they are missing something.

As long as you are sharing something interesting, relevant and of value TO THEM they don’t care what you look like or sound like, as long as they can understand what you’re saying. Occasionally you might get a nasty comment because Facebook does have trolls. I’ll tell you how to deal with them in a mo.

They want to know wiifm

What’s in it for me? Why are you reading this email? To see if I share something that could help you in your business, right? A tip, an idea, a new way of looking at something. Well, that’s the same for your Facebook fans, email subscribers, in fact anyone you come into contact with in your business.

Once you realise that, the whole Facebook video ‘thing’ gets much easier. What do your fans and customers want to know? What could you share that would help them in their life? What would make them take notice? What words or phrases could you use that would grab their attention? What are they thinking about or worrying about that you can help with? What would make them happy? What would they find intriguing?

“Why does my dog eat grass?”
“How long should my baby nap for?”
“Should I send e-newsletters to my customers?”
“How do I deal with email overload?”
“Why aren’t people visiting my website?”
“Why has my silver jewellery gone black?”
“How can cheese help my concentration?”*

*I have no idea how cheese could help your concentration, but if you know the answer then I know a load of people who would love an excuse to eat more cheese!

Think about what your customers and Facebook fans might be putting into Google. Think about what YOU put into Google! I know, right? Weird and random things (if you’re anything like me) but if you can figure out what your fans are bothered about, then YOU can be the person showing up on Facebook videos in their newsfeed with the answers!

What if I get a nasty comment?

It might happen, it might not. Depending on what you’re sharing, you might ‘trigger’ someone who then feels hurt or upset or angry or jealous and makes a nasty comment. The more controversial you are, the more likely this is to happen.

If you’re not controversial and you’re just sharing how you painted your latest picture of a puppy, it probably won’t happen. If you’re talking about vaccinations, politics, parenting, money, anything that people are likely to have strong feelings about, you’re probably going to get all sorts of comments, good and bad.

So what do you do? Well, understand first of all that people are very brave when they are on Facebook and will say things they would NEVER say in real life so they are unlikely to be a real threat. Don’t reply. Don’t bite. Don’t engage. Ban. Delete. Move on. No matter how hurtful a comment might be, don’t let it get to you. Don’t let it hurt you because then they win. Let it slide off and have a way of dealing with it so it doesn’t ruin your day.

As someone who has had ALL sorts of nastiness happen on my Facebook page I can tell you this is easier said than done – but for your own sanity you have to just ban (so they can’t comment any more), THEN delete the comment, then do something that requires you to focus so you can get them out of your head. Whenever you catch yourself dwelling on it, STOP IT. DON’T LET THEM WIN. Focus your precious time and energy on making your business stronger.

If you can’t BEAR the thought (yet) of putting your lovely face on a video, in my next blog (coming soon) I’m going to show you that you don’t have to be ON video to make a video.

And in the following blog  I’m going to give you some great ideas for Facebook videos.

And that’s just part 1! After that we’ll cover video production tips, technology tips, different types and sizes and lengths of video, monetising video, captions, and more! You’ll be a Facebook video pro before you know it.

How To Deal With Copycats

How To Deal With Copycats

I had a question this week from a lady saying someone had copied her entire business, from her website to her social media posts – there were just enough differences for it not to be a direct duplication (she had used slightly different images) but to the casual observer, they may as well have been the same business.

This was no coincidence. The copycat had been a ‘fan’ of this lady’s business for a while and clearly loved it so much that she decided she’d do exactly the same thing.

Now, I totally understand what this feels like. I’ve had it done to me several times, even by people who should know better, but here’s the thing. It’s complicated.

It can drive you mad or it can drive you on. It’s your choice.

I’ve had weeks where I’ve been CONSUMED by someone copying me. It’s driven me crazy. I’ve deliberated about what to say to them. I’ve thought about how to respond. I’ve grumped and grouched and grumbled about the CHEEK of them. How bloody dare they?

The trouble is, when I’ve done that I’ve been SO consumed by grouching and anger that I didn’t focus on my business. Blogs went unwritten. Plans weren’t actioned. I was too distracted.

Which is interesting.

Because the actual copycat didn’t NEED to have any effect on my business. I could have ignored them. I could have put them out of my mind and let them stew. I could have chosen not to give them any attention or energy.

But by grouching and grumbling, and looking through their social media and website to see exactly HOW much stuff they had copied I gave them LOADS of energy. I also got myself totally wound up. And MY business suffered because of that.

So I actually LET the copycat harm my business when I didn’t need to let it happen.

Now, I understand that sometimes the copycat is someone you know. Sometimes it’s someone in the same town or social circle. Sometimes they are too close for comfort. Which makes it awkward.

I understand that sometimes trademarks or plagiarism are involved and you have to take them seriously and go legal. I understand that people stealing your photos is definitely NOT ON.

But, here’s the thing.

You are the original. You are the one being copied. And it’s up to YOU to rise above it.

You can choose to bicker and grumble and fight, but your business will suffer.

Or you can raise your game. As Michelle Obama said ‘when they go low, we go high’ (my absolutely new favourite quote ever).

So however angry and annoyed and frustrated you feel, you can choose to direct that energy at them or you can choose to use it to fuel your business.

You can choose to GO HIGH.

What does that look like?

It means you don’t get emotional with them. It means you deal with them like a business owner and keep things professional. You can email them and tell them to cease and desist from using your photos and intellectual property – it’s good to get legal advice on this if you can afford it. RocketLawyer sells templates online for all the main legal letter types in the UK.

It means you don’t lower yourself to their level and have a slanging match.

It means you stop looking at their stuff and stop thinking about them. It’s not easy but it’s your choice to do so. Block them on social media and unfollow their accounts. Choose not to look at their website or Etsy shop or whatever. Choose not to have them in your life. If you need to keep an eye on whether they are stealing your images, ask a friend to do it for you so you don’t get consumed, then go back to point one and deal with them professionally and without emotion.

That way you’re not driving yourself mad.

It means raising your game by coming up with new, better, things that are YOU, through and through. Develop your brand so that people know you for it. Put all your energy into making your business strong and well-known. Put your energy and passion into creating something that nobody else can come close to. Be the original.

There will always be copycats. And the better-known you become, the more copycats you will attract. But they don’t have your passion. They don’t have your ideas. They don’t have your experience and knowledge and imagination.

They are not you.

And because they are just copying and not putting their own ideas and imagination and passion into their business, they are setting themselves up to fail. I see it time and time again.

A business like that can only compete on price, which is a bad business model – they can’t compete on being better or different or unusual because they are copying someone else.

So, it’s a tough one but here are my thoughts.

It will HURT when you find someone blatantly copying you.

It can drive you mad or it can drive you on. It’s your choice.

I would choose to put the energy into MY business.

I would choose not to fight, but to HARNESS my anger and frustration and make my business even better.

I would choose to go HIGH.

17 Small Business Saturday Marketing Tips

17 Small Business Saturday Marketing Tips

Small Business Saturday is the one time each year when the world’s eyes are on small businesses – certainly in the UK (December 3rd 2016) and the US (November 26th 2016) there are major initiatives backed by Government to encourage people to shop small and/or local. Lots of focus is put on bricks and mortar businesses who are battling with big high-street retailers, especially around Black Friday, but Small Business Saturday is a chance for ANY small business to make your mark and tap into the buzz.

Here are 17 ideas to help you make the most of Small Business Saturday, no matter where you are in the world.

1 – If you have a shop or other premises, download the posters and window stickers from the Small Business Saturday website (here’s the UK ONE and here is the US ONE) for your country and put them up where customers can see them.

2 – Download the Small Business Saturday logo and banners and use them on your website to show you’re taking part.

3 – Create special Small Business Saturday Facebook and Twitter headers using Canva.

4 – Tweet photos of your products, premises, staff and customers using the#SmallBizSatUK or #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag in your tweets – especially if you have SBS themed pics.

5 – Follow the #SmallBizSatUK or #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtags on Twitter and see what other businesses are doing – see if you get inspired to do something that will work for your business.

6 – Retweet tweets with those hashtags to help other businesses spread the word and there’s a good chance they will do the same for you.

7 – Have a special Small Business Saturday promotion or offer just for that day – mention in your email newsletters and social media posts that you’ll be having a MEGA SBS day and build the buzz!

8 – Ask your customers what promotion they would love to see – maybe give them a choice of 3 or 4 on social media and ask them to vote for which mega deal they’d love to see.

9 – See what is going on in your local area that you can link with – some towns and cities host special SBS events, local newspapers will have special SBS features (be warned they are usually chargeable!) and there may be special Twitter hashtags you can use or town-specific Facebook pages you can use to join in with the local campaign.

10 – Host an event either alone or with other businesses. I’ve seen this done really successfully both on an industry theme (maternity, bridal) and in a local area (a street of shops) where everyone had posters and window stickers on their premises, website and social media. I’ve also seen shops create a ‘trail’ where customers had to visit each shop and take a selfie and the selfies with the most votes on Facebook won a prize, also one where customers got a stamp and full ‘stamp cards’ were entered into a prize draw to win a hamper from the shops involved.

11 – If you can’t do an event, why not just have mince pies, or balloons, or bunting – something that will encourage people to come in and feel part of the celebrations. Invite your local brass band to play in the street or the local majorettes to do their thing – see who’s up for a performance (just let your local council know if you’re doing this in case they need to sort traffic or other issues).

12 – Record a video for social media from you and/or your team all about your Small Business Saturday plans – talk about why you’re doing it and the difference it makes. Don’t get hung up about how you look or sound – just talk from the heart and share why Small Business Saturday matters to you and have a laugh, too. Post it on Facebook, put it on your website, link to it from Twitter, tag your local paper and radio station when you post it on social media so they are aware.

13 – Make the most of trending topics on Facebook – any topic that is trending automatically gets much better reach than other posts so join in the trend!

14 – In the UK the Small Business Saturday team choose 100 businesses to represent all small business – those on the top 100 list get lots of mentions on social media and even get invited to Downing Street. You’ve got to be an early bird to get that one – the results are announced in August each year.

15 – Tell everyone you know that you’re part of Small Business Saturday and ask them to support you – if you don’t ask, you don’t get and they are not mind readers.

16 – See if you can get some PR coverage – there’s a good chance your local media will already be doing something and, let’s face it, they are going to cover the most interesting/exciting/newsworthy events so make yours one or all of the above! You just need to drop them a tweet or an email letting them know your plans and see if they are interested – be brave!

17 – Be proud. Shout about your business. This is the ONE day of the year when the world makes it easy for you to be seen and heard as a small business so make the most of it!!

Remember, once you’re in the marketing swing of things, don’t let it rest there.

Just because Small Business Saturday is over doesn’t mean you stop shouting – make the most of the buzz and energy you created and build on it. Keep tweeting, posting and shouting. Keep in touch with the media you contacted and tell them about other interesting things you’re up to, after all you know them now.

Keep up the momentum. Small Business Saturday is not just a day, it’s a leg up and it’s up to YOU not to waste it. What are you waiting for?