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Is your website working for you?

Your website is a real asset to your business. Is your website working in the way you want it to? Is it bringing you new leads, new sales, supporting customers, making your free resources available easily to your clients?

Is your website working for your businessYou will know if your website is working for you by the results and measures you check regularly – sales, enquiries, traffic, downloads. So, if your website isn’t working quite how you want it to right now, read on. (If it is, and you’d like to be a guest on our #tipsforbusiness interview series to share how you’ve got your results, please get in touch. Other business owners would love to hear from you).

3 tips to get your website working for you

Add content regularly to your website. This could be new products you add, or resources for your clients to download, or creating articles of interest to your ideal customers. It will depend on your business and the purpose of your website.

By adding content regularly, you’re telling the search engine bots (that crawl around your site every so often), that your website is alive and well, and that your business is available to serve customers in your particular area of work.

Think about it. If you visit a website and it’s not been updated since 2014, what do you think about that business? Ready to serve you? Or out of business?

Create links to your website from other relevant websites. Essentially, if your website is showing up in relevant business directories, and industry, or local searches, (where your customers are looking), you’ll be creating quality backlinks to your website. The more backlinks, the more your own website will be well thought of by the search engines.

There’s more about this on our Commenting article, which is a perfect way for you to start creating backlinks to your website from relevant.

If you ask a friend to refer you to their favourite restaurant you trust them right? So, all backlinks are doing, are telling the search engines that your website is a recommeded place to go for xyz information.

Ensure everything is working on your website. Sometimes we update a page, or remove a product that we no longer stock. However, if we’ve linked to this page or product somewhere else on our site like on a blog post when we first introduced this product to our range, or when it was on special offer, that will create a missing link on our website.

The easiest way to check that everything is working well, is to regularly check your google webmaster tools. If you haven’t got this set up yet, our tech team can sort this for you, as it’s a valuable tool recommended by the search engines.

When you reach a web page that’s no longer there, what do you think about that business. Is that website working for their business?

Need help getting your website working?

We know it’s not everyone’s favourite thing, getting technical. Or even focused on your website asset. Many business owners we speak to find their website, and online marketing scary. It’s just not “their thing”. However, those same business owners aren’t flush with cash, and/or don’t trust others to touch their websites either.

We’ve created a 10 step process to walk with you, so you can learn how to get your website working for you.

You can download our free checklist by adding your email below , or join our 10 step programme to walk you through each step and make sure you understand each part of it.

The first 10 applicants will pay only £97 for this 10 step programme, done at your own pace, which includes a one hour audit and action plan call, plus a year content planner, (together worth £114), then the price goes up to £197.





If you want to talk to us before you buy this programme to check it’s suitable for you, use ourcontact page.

 

 

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Building a strong brand starts with you

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Sashka Hanna-Rappl last week about branding your business. Sashka helps businesses create their soul brand, capturing your uniqueness, so that your ideal customers can find you through the strong brand you create together.

Sashka helps you create a strong brandApart from having fun and sharing stories in our half hour together, Sashka shared some ideas for business owners as to how to create a strong brand, using your life purpose as the starting point. She calls it reverse marketing – starting with you, not your customer. It’s not the usual way of creating a strong brand, that you’ll find with many marketing agencies, or branding specialists.

However, it works.

Just think about it. If you can capture all your passion for your business, plus how your product or service helps your customer, then that’s it isn’t it? All in one go, you’ve created something that is identifiable to potential customers and they understand why buying from you is just right for them, and not your competitor.

How to create a strong brand

We all know, and can list strong brand names. We often know the stories behind how the brand grew, or started, or how it developed. Think of Apple and Steve Jobs. Whether you buy their products or not, can you feel the essence of the brand from the story you know? Simple, effective, giving the customer something beautiful and strong to communicate with others/listen to music easily.

Sashka’s advice about creating your brand, from reaching into your soul first, may sound a bit unusual. So think about that now too. If you could get your passion, your story, the why you run your business, and the benefits of what you do for customers into your brand, do you think you’ll sell more?

Yes, I think that’s right too.

People buy from people, and we all love stories, so why not think about our business in the same way. Why should our business, which is what we want to earn our living, and create a pension for us and our family, not benefit from all the things we love & attract us to buy the things we want in our lives?

Know your Life Purpose. Sashka said, “this isn’t your why”. Now to my mind, it’s the WHY that Simon Sinek talks about. It’s not, “I want to buy the extras so we can go on holiday”,or, “I’m creating a pension pot so I can travel when I retire”.

What are your Core Values? The things which are running through your body all the time. The things which without them you feel lost. In Sashka’s workbook, she says, “Your values are your Zone of Genius in Communication. This is where your inner strength and energy will often come from”.

Listen to Yourself. What others think isn’t important here. Not your partner, nor your customers. Starting with yourself can seem selfish, but if the words your using for describing your business aren’t coming from you, or are your words, they won’t sound genuine. Listening is so important to business owners.

Know that words can change. When you’re working on this reverse marketing to get really clear about who you are, and why your business is different, remember that you’re in charge. Your words can change, remember our conversation about words that sell? You are allowed to have some fluidity in the words you use, even though your core values will remain the same.

I’ve seen many business owners spend a lot of time, and money, on getting business cards & paper, and websites built around words that someone else created for them, which didn’t feel right. It was a clumsy way to start their business. Some pulled through and made it work. However others, it didn’t start with them, and the customers didn’t come as the business didn’t attract the right people.

Be You. Be Honest. Sometimes we don’t know exactly why we’re being drawn to a particular colour, or image, or word. Trust yourself. You’re a business owner, and totally in charge of yourself and your business. Give yourself some time to create your strong brand before sharing with others.

Are you ready to create your brand?

Let’s start with Sashka’s book, Soul’d Out, and/or a Find your Why session. I’ve used both of these methods, hand in hand to create the brand words I use in my business. They feel right to me, and hopefully you can see my passion for helping other business owners succeed come through. There’s still work to do. There’s always work to do.

Don’t be afraid of being you, and sharing your soul, to create your strong brand. Your business will thank you.

I’d love your thoughts on branding & how you’ve created your brand for your business.

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What happens to your business when you’re not in the mood?

We all have days, and weeks, when we’re “not in the mood” to work, to talk, to play, to network, to do business, to serve customers. Really, it’s true. Don’t hide.

There’s many reasons for this not being “in the mood”, some of which are:

  • hormones (males and females are both affected)
  • moon cycles (whether you like it or not, moon cycles exist and affect our daily lives)
  • energy (or lack of it, which in turn can be caused by a number of factors)
  • holiday (just back from one, or about to go on one)
  • emotional challenges (children, parents, partner, friends)
  • unwell

is your business always in the moodSo, what happens in your business when you’re not in the mood?

I’m asking rhetorically really. You don’t have to confess, unless that will be helpful for you. I guess I’m asking you to reflect and review your business, and all aspects of it, so that when you are having an “off day”, your customers won’t notice, and your systems will pick up the slack.

Tips to ensure your business is always in the mood

  1. Support team. Having a support team around you is crucial. Whether it’s family, friends, or staff (on-site or remote), people who can pick up the slack, or the important tasks when you’re not around will help keep customers happy and the business running smoothly.
  2. Email auto-responder. Setting this up, as soon as you know you’re not “in the mood”, will ensure that you can get on with getting yourself back on track, and customers can be still be served efficiently. Do you have another team member you can encourage emailers to contact, using a click through link ideally – a general office email that you know will be checked?
  3. Answer machine message on your phone. This should be fairly easy for you to set up, and amend as your circumstances change. Again, referring callers to another number which will be answered, or giving a clear idea when you’ll get back to them, will help keep everyone informed and happy.
  4. Ordering supplies automatically. Whilst you want to control costs, there’s nothing worse than running out of milk, or toilet rolls is there? So, having some stock items for staff, or for your customers, on regular order that you check every couple of months in your stock review, will ensure nothing is missing, even if you are.
  5. Directory of contacts and contractors. When you’re not in the office, can your team contact your IT support, or plumber, or suppliers, to ensure that the business can function. Having a list of contacts and approved contractors, (even if they are your friends who help out), will ensure that if your partner has to take control whilst you’re unwell for a short time, they can do what they need to keep things running smoothly. Your contacts and contractors will also be more sympathetic as you’ll have built a relationship with them which always make things run more easily.
  6. Be honest….as honest as you can be. With yourself as well as those around you in your family and support team. If ‘life stuff’ is happening sometimes we don’t know what’s going on, so regular reviews of how best to run your business with the facts you have about your situation will serve you, your customers and your business in the best light. If you need to cut your hours, be honest. Cut them. You can only do your best, and be your best if you have the right energy and support to carry out your business tasks.

Every business is different, and each of us as business owners will react in a different way to the situations we face day to day. Whilst we are our businesses, our business can often function without us being involved 24 hours a day, or 7 days a week.

I often say to clients, “what happens when you go on holiday?”. If we can sort out the right support and structure for our business to run whilst we’re away on holiday, we can put systems and support in place for those times when we’re not in the mood, due to life’s little challenges.

Whilst being “in the mood” for business may sound flippant, we’re being honest. We’re just trying to get you to think about the wonderful customers you’ve got and how they’re going to be supported if you’re not around. The Business Cheerleading Club could be part of your support structure. A safe place for your support, and also ideas as to how you can get the right support whilst you’re away, or not on top form. You never know, you may even meet your ideal assistant, or collaboration partner there! That’s certainly been our experience so far.

What tips would you add to our list? What do you do to ensure your business is always in the mood?

 

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What is business support

What is business support in your business? Is it the support you get as a business owner, or is it the functions within your business to support the whole business to run efficiently?

I think business support is both these descriptions, but it will also be different for each business.

As a small business, you are naturally doing all things in your business – from product management, to customer service, to bookkeeping and marketing.

As your business grows, you may not actually do all these functions yourself, but you’ll have support for aspects of your business.

Business Support Services

what is business supportThis term is generally used for business admin, finance and legal functions. In more recent years, this term has been used when you outsource any aspect of your business to someone else who will take that task on for your business. Marketing, PR, IT support, social media, book keeping and general email administration are all services offered, and used by businesses.

As your business grows, you may find that you create business support services within your staff team, (or remote support staff). Think about it. You need each area of your business to run efficiently, and sometimes you need people to support all aspects of the business. For example, cleaners in your office or shop are supporting the business. They are part of your support team.

What is Business Support

For me, business support is your support structure for you to grow your business. This may well be the staff, (and contract) team around you.

  • It’s also your training, learning, development, and keeping pace with new technology and software.
  • It’s your business coach who helps you work out your next steps, and encourages you to put in place the actions you need to do to take those steps.
  • It’s your networking group, (online or offline), who will be your cheerleading team, and tell others what you do
  • It’s your family and friends who will be there for you as your business grows

Where, what and how do you get your business support?

Is it from one place – a support company who provide you with the business support you need? Or is it from a variety, a mix of all the above? Have you thought about your business support team recently? What’s working? What maybe needs reviewing?

It’s interesting that since I started Action Learning Sets, and the Business Cheerleading Club, I’ve been more conscious of my own business support structure. My family and friends and what I need from them. My coaches and mentors. My networks.

I’m really enjoying the journey, it’s fab – Karen, Karen Peddie Holistics

It’s beneficial to air a problem, and put it out there. It makes you think more deeply about it rather than it rolling around in your head. It’s lovely to have other people’s ideas & then work out what’s right for me. I recommend being part of an Action Learning Set, whatever stage of business you’re at.”, Jane, Created4U

I started Manage Those Things to help business owners, like you, manage those things you can’t, won’t or don’t want to do. That’s classic business support. But the business club and more focused coaching & action learning are directly supporting you as a business owner to give you what YOU need to support your business growth.

Let’s talk through YOUR business support and check it’s the right mix for the next year of your business development. NOTE: Business Cheerleading Club members get one to one support £20 a month cheaper than booking one off sessions.

What is business support to you?

 

 

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Instagram Stories are a perfect way to tell your customers more

Instagram is currently used by over 200 million people each month, with 60 million photos uploaded every day with 1.6 billion likes. It’s a growing social media platform, which some people love, whilst others “don’t get”.

As a business, it’s an area you should certainly be considering using. Even if it’s just noticing what’s going on and seeing if your ideal customers are using instagram at all. More women are using it, and if you’re target market is women 26 – early 50s, then you should definitely check out instagram, as that’s where your customers are spending some of their time.

You may not even know what instragram stories are?

A new feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile. As you share multiple photos and videos, they appear together in a slideshow format: your story.

With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.

Introducing Instagram Stories, August 2016

instagram storiesInstagram stories appear at the top of your screen when you’re looking at your instragram feed.

They can be video or a series of still photos or images. They don’t add to your normal instagram feed, and they disappear 24 hours after you’ve posted it.

Viewers can send you direct messages from your story, but there’s no public comments, making engagement directly with you, so you qualify the person’s interest in you by their response to your story.

I had the pleasure of learning more about instagram stories from Claire Jones-Hughes of Clarita Digital in an #inconversationwith interview, which you can view in full here

She explained that instagram stories are like a news feed, and shares current ideas, events and thinking.

 

Tips for using Instagram Stories for your business

  • Less is more – as long as it’s quality. Once a month could be enough
  • Consistency is crucial. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Start with committing to one post a month, then increase from there
  • Ensure your profile is up to date, and branded for your business & the links work
  • Have 9 photos uploaded to complete the grid people see straight away – at least 6 for starters if 9 feels too much
  • Spend time engaging with others on instagram – relevant comments and conversation
  • Create 15 second videos (from instagram app) of your event, your product, customer feedback
  • Use hashtags in your stories to help people find you
  • Don’t share across to facebook that have lots of hashtags (facebook doesn’t like it)
  • Ask your customers what they want to know about you and your business, and use that for your instagram stories

Next steps for using Instagram Stories

instagram stories tips for businessWhat I learnt from Claire, was to give it a go. Try it. Have a play. See what works for you, and what you enjoy.

That’s great for me, and my style, that’s how I learn best.

I know that’s not for everyone. Claire is available to help you and has a free webinar coming up soon.

We’ll be carrying on the instagram story conversation in the Business Cheerleading Club group, to support each other to start, learn, develop and improve. There’s plenty of space for you to join us there too, for all sorts of business support, not just about instagram or social media. Claire has also agreed to do a workshop for club members on instagram in May, (open to guests at a charge of £29).

Let’s connect on instagram – We’re at tracey_jane_hughes – what’s your account?

Have you used instagram stories? What’s your story with them for you and your business?

 

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How to create flexible working business case

This week I’ve had the honour of accompanying two business owners to celebrate their flexible working businesses at the Mum and Working Awards. Both started, and run their businesses, around their young families. They both created a flexible working business case for them to work through with their husbands before taking the step of setting up by themselves.

The awards were and inspiring couple of hours, with many of the judges sharing their own flexible working decisions with us. It wasn’t all about business owners either. Julie Baker, Head of Financial Inclusion and Enterprise at Nat West, shared her story of how she created not only a flexible working business case for herself and family when she wanted to carry on working and developing her career. She also came up with an idea for a friend of hers who was working nights, whilst her husband worked days so they could manage looking after their own child. Julie created the flexible working business case for this lady to become a child minder, look after her own child as well as Julies, and create a more family friendly home life for her family.

We heard from more than one woman who’d been working in businesses which wouldn’t, (or couldn’t?) consider flexible working. So they set up their own businesses, to find the right flexible working environment for themselves and their families. It felt very much, “I can’t get what I’m wanting here, so I’m going to create it myself”.

Inspiring.

As I write this, on International Women’s Day, with the slogan, PRESS FOR PROGRESS, it feels like we shouldn’t have to write a flexible working business case, but it should be a core value in our society. Every business, large and small, should understand that working flexibly ensures skills and talents remain in the business and economy as a whole. Even though some jobs or roles may be difficult to organise flexibly, there’s no reason not to believe that flexible working is important to our economy.

Your business may also need more flexibility to respond to fluctuations in customer demand. So looking at your flexible working plans, and how things can work best for your business, using a flexible work force, should be part of your business review process.

Creating a flexible working business case

Whether it is for yourself, or your business, creating a business case for flexible working will help you see the opportunities and challenges.

Things to consider in the business case:

  • What do you mean by flexible working
  • How many hours are the minimum required for the job to be done well
  • Where does the work need to be done
  • How can each team member remain part of a team whilst working flexibly around each individuals needs
  • What are the core functions and hours of the business and how will they be staffed
  • Can technology help flexible working in the business
  • Is training needed for team around how flexible working will benefit them and work in practice
  • How will communication need to change for flexible working to be effective

It’s not necessarily about reduced hours, or working at different times of the day. It’s an opportunity to look at your business processes and identify what has to happen, and then work out the how & who will make it happen.

For yourself, if you’re creating a business case for your employer, or partner, think about the end result you want. Is it about continuing to do fulfilling work, but reducing your hours. Or is it about putting children, or caring responsibilities first?

Flexible working businessBoth Emma, from bras4mums, and Zoe from Bournemouth Bra Lady created a flexible working business case for themselves, and have created their businesses around their families. They were both finalists of Self Employed Parent of the Year, showing just how much that planning has helped them create the flexible business they want.

If that’s what you want, you can do it to. If you need help seeing all the options, personally, or for your business, book a call with Tracey-Jane & let’s explore together.

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Are you managing difficult conversations at work

Difficult situations are never easy to deal with. Some will need us to have a difficult conversation, which makes us feel uncomfortable. We may prefer to avoid the conversation, or the situation altogether.

What happens then? If we avoid it?

The situation often gets worse. We feel worse about the situation. Other people may be affected, and not feel great about whatever it is that’s going on.

At home we may find we’re taking our work frustrations out on our partner and family. They may get frustrated with us, and a spiral of uncomfortable and difficult conversations may happen. We may shout and get upset. We may not sleep as well as usual.

All because we’re not managing difficult conversations at work effectively.

How to approach difficult conversations

Whatever our approach is, the first thing to remember is:

  • the conversation needs to happen

If we avoid having that conversation, the situation will get worse, and it’s likely that feelings will get out of control from the original situation that occured.

When managing difficult conversations, it’s important to remember to:

  • listen to the words that are said
  • listen to the words and actions not said out loud
  • listen to your feelings

Listening is such a skill, that many people, including business owners, forget to use it. Allowing someone to talk whilst you simply listen, allows them to say what’s on their mind.

Having the conversation, to move things forward, is often more important than the words used. I’ve known people put off having the difficult conversation as they spent so long on trying to find the right words to use, that the situation was overtaken by other events, and everyone involved felt much worse.

It’s not always easy managing difficult conversations at work,  but we must do it. It the issue is affecting your work place, it may also be having an impact on other staff, partners, and most definitely customers. If there’s an “air” about the workplace, it’s not always comfortable for others, and good work is unlikely to be happening. Your top quality customer service may also be affected if you’re not managing the situation as well as you could be.

At the end of the day, it’s your business & you’re responsible for all that goes on within it.

Managing difficult conversations at work – Workshop

Managing difficult conversations with Simona Frumen

The hardest part, in my experience, is starting the conversation. Once you’ve started, the people affected are happier that it’s being talked about.

That’s why our next Business Cheerleading Club workshop is all about How to Start that Difficult Conversation, with expert mediator and lawyer, Simona Frumen. Anyone can join this, by booking your place , (if you’re a member of the club, this is free for you & details will be sent later this week). The workshop will be recorded if you can’t join live, and you’re welcome to ask any questions, or share a situation you need help or advice with, in advance.

As a mediator I was leading their difficult conversations without shaming, humiliating or hurting the parties involved.When we resolved their issue, they were so grateful for the relief they felt.

Simona Frumen

Club members get the opportunity to share situations and get help from other business owners to work out the next steps, and get support when managing difficult conversations at work.

What’s your experience of managing difficult conversations at work? Le

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How commenting can increase your website ranking

It’s not just about being online, or “doing social media” that helps your online visibility. Whilst conversation and commenting may feel a bit old fashioned, they’re actually a fabulous way to increase your website ranking.

Now it’s not just me saying this, I learnt this from Alice Elliott, from The Commenting Club, in our conversation this week.

in conversation with Alice Elliott, the commenting clubAlice has been studying blogs, comments, online conversations, and the correlation with website rankings for the last 6 years. Commenting went out of fashion in about 2014 when spam increased and caused the larger blog sites to stop comments on their posts altogether. Commenting moved to twitter, a micro-blog site, and conversations grew more remotely.

Many people complain about how social media is used for “getting at” others, and in some ways you can see how it’s happened. The art of conversation and commenting has been lost when people only see a snippet of someone’s views.

Tips for commenting (& being commented on)

Alice gave us many tips for commenting on other people’s blogs, on LinkedIn, on You Tube. The summary is below.

  • Your comment needs to be relevant
  • Don’t be afraid to disagree with the writer. They’ve started a conversation and you’re joining in with your view. On your own website, don’t be afraid of sharing comments which disagree with you either. It shows you accept others views
  • Allow conversation to happen naturally in the comments section
  • By allowing conversation, you’re allowing a community of readers to develop who will share your work with others
  • A comment can be a mini-post of your own. Don’t write more than 500 words, and ensure it’s not longer than the original post
  • When you add your url to your comment, use a url to a relevant article on your own website. That keeps the conversation alive and shows other readers that you have experience in the topic being discussed

Alice suggested starting with trying to write 5 comments a week on other people’s work as a starting point.

How does commenting improve your website ranking?

commenting starts conversationEvery comment with a link back to your website adds a back link to your site. Every relevant conversation to your website (and the pages you link to), adds a tick in the search engines box that your site has good information about your topic.

When you reply to the comments on your own website, you’re adding more engagement on your site, and that’s creating more links and visibility to the search engines that your site is an expert in your topic.

Commenting develops your reach. People may see your name in different places, and start to look at what you do as they agree, or disagree, with you, and they want to know who they’re talking to.

Where do you find places to comment on?

Use keyword searches to see who’s talking about the subject you want to talk about. You may already be following some blogs relevant to your area of work. There’s lots of different ways to keep on top of other blogs, such as Feedly, and Digg.

You may just set aside some time to look at interesting things and make comments where you want. Your online commenting doesn’t have to be all business related. In fact, Alice suggested that simply being yourself and adding to conversations where you want, shows you at your best.

You may be in a networking group (online or offline) where you can read each others posts, comment and share them. That’s a great way of reading a wide variety of content, and sometimes practicing your commenting, if you’re not too confident to start with.

Commenting is about creating relationships, so whenever you comment, think about that. It’s not just about getting the backlink to your website. How can you engage with the author to develop your mutual understanding? Could you cultivate customers through commenting?

I found our conversation fascinating – the whole interview is here.

Online Visibilty Workshop Friday 27th April

Book your place to learn how to grow your online visibility by commenting HERE

If you want to learn more about commenting, take a look at The Commenting Club. There’s lots of articles to give you a flavour, and with Alice’s support you may well want to develop your commenting skills.

We also encourage sharing and commenting in the Business Cheerleading Club, where members share their website posts for other members to comment on and share – that networking I talked about earlier.

What’s your experience of commenting? Do you enjoy it? Are you a regular commenter?

What #tipsforbusiness have I missed off this list?