Lucinda Brown owns Trillamar, a company that helps clients to elevate their online sales and marketing, delivering powerful web solutions as a purse-friendly budget. Recently, she honed her skills at a more grassroots level – with fantastic results!
When I started my business, Trillamar, in 2003, I didn’t have much of a business network – all my clients were referred by friends, former colleagues, and occasionally my parents! Seven years and much business success later, word of mouth via an existing and trusted relationship is still the main way I land new work.
A great example of how this worked for me recently started with a trip to the hairdresser. As every woman knows, the relationship between client and hairdresser is a sacred one that exists on absolute trust – I don’t give the responsibility of transforming my bad English dishwater blonde into California fabulous to just anyone! I’ve been going to the same guy at Goodform Salon in West Hollywood for a cut and colour every since I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago, and there’s nobody else I’d let touch my hair. I love going there so much, I’ve been known to schedule appointments on my birthday – a little gift from me to me!
My cool, hip hairdresser is a father of three, and during one of our many long conversations, it came to light that the recession was hitting him hard. He had a cash flow problem after loaning his father some money and asked if I would mind pre-paying for my next appointment in exchange for a discount.
I didn’t mind at all, but his predicament got me thinking about how I could help boost his sales and marketing – after all, that’s what my business does! I decided that rather than put a band-aid on his problem, I could not only fix it, but leverage our relationship to bring about a new flow of clients for us both.
Trillamar then designed and printed up some new Business Cards for my hairdresser, with his contact information on the back, and a variety of new promotions on the front to drum up new business. Naturally, I used MOO Business Cards. What’s great about them is that you can have any number of different images on the front of your cards, so we could really get creative with lots of different types of haircut promotions – something for everyone!
The best part is, when I sent him his new cards, I also included a selection of my own (also designed by MOO). So if a new client happened to mention how much they liked the cards, he had an easy segue way to mention Trillamar too – and to hand out my card!
So what’s the outcome? I’ve learned that there are 5 ways to build up your client base from within your existing network!
1. Tell everyone that you are open for business. People like to connect their friends and colleagues. Isn’t that what social networks are all about? But they aren’t going to know to do it unless you tell them to. So don’t be shy!
2. Create some promotions for new clients. Even if the new business isn’t a big revenue generator, once people are comfortable working with you, bigger projects will hopefully follow. But while promotions are great marketing, don’t work for free. If they don’t pay you, you can’t call them clients.
3. Bring more to the table than existing clients expect. Promotions are good, but many clients prefer free advice in your area of expertise. Try a direct marketing mail-out to let people know there’s more to your services than they think.
4. Be open-minded. Some of our best web marketing success stories have come from listening to clients’ ideas and feedback, and tweaking them to make them amazing.
5. Be worthy of people’s trust. There is inherent risk in any business transaction. Minimize that risk by being transparent to work with. Be considerate of a client’s time, but make sure you always communicate the most important details, such as what actions they need to take, when they need to take them, what they get from you in return and when they get it.
“Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” Thomas Edison, inventor.
The same number of a fruitful entrepreneur will concur, everything begins with a basic thought. At this point, you’ve likely got an incredible thought for another business, and you’re raring to go – however by what means would you be able to advise in the event that it’s really going to be a win?
All things considered, shy of a precious stone ball or a time machine, there’s no chance to get of knowing without a doubt whether your enormous thought is the one that is going to transform you into a fruitful business visionary. Be that as it may, there are a couple ways you can try things out before you bounce in!
Listen to your instincts
While there’s no reason you should already know everything about the industry you’re about to try and excel in, it should feel like the right one from the very start (even if it turns out it’s not!).
What’s your advantage?
Richard Moross, founder and CEO of MOO, had no contacts n the Print industry when he started the company – what he had was a very strong belief in the uniqueness of his idea. Which means that even if you’re a novice in the market your idea falls into, there’s no reason hard work and research shouldn’t make you successful.
However, there’s no reason you shouldn’t also try and play to your strengths, especially if this is your first time setting up a new business. So ask yourself some tough questions:
– Who are your contacts?
– What are your specialties?
– What unique abilities can you bring to the table?
– Do you have the time to make this work?
Know your market
Take a simple product – let’s say toothpaste. That’s one market, right? But then there’s toothpaste for sensitive teeth, whitening toothpaste, brightening toothpaste, children’s toothpaste…the list goes on. Within every market, there are a huge number of sub-markets, and the more niche you are, the better chance you’ll have of making your mark.
Ask a friend to do a Q&A with you, asking you the following questions (just as a starting point – feel free to add as many of these as you can think of!)
– Who are your customers?
– What do your customers want?
– What do your customers do?
– What do they want from your product
This should help you work out where your product or service stands, who it’s currently aimed at – and whether there’s room for expansion. It might even show you that there’s a gap in the market you hadn’t realized was there.
Do your research!
There are a few simple ways you can do market research for free before you start spending any money. The beauty of the social network explosion means that you’ll be able to find out quite easily if your own personal contacts would be interested in the product or service you’re considering.
– Set up a survey on SurveyMonkey and send it to your friends – real and on Facebook! Get them to circulate it, and get as much data as you can. Really think about what questions you need to ask – data such as “How much would you pay for this product” is invaluable when later considering your potential profit margins.
– Talk to everyone – and anyone! Ask strangers, people at parties and anyone else you come into contact with what they think of your idea (if it’s entirely unique, try not to be too specific – you don’t want anyone to steal it!). Informal chats are just as valuable as survey results – as long as you remember to write down what you find.
– Keep your eyes and ears open! Tools like Twitter, Google Insights and Google Trends are always buzzing, and magazines and newspapers are always on top of trends, and sometimes even ahead of themselves. If there’s zeitgeist in the air, can you fit your business into it?
– Browse the web! There’s a great site called Springwisewhich has hundreds of ideas from entrepreneurs on it – its great for identifying popular markets, or even for trying to predict which markets are up and coming. And places likeFocus.com allow you to ask questions about your idea and get answers from business experts – remember, friends often don’t have as much expertise as you need.
– If you’re making a product, try selling on eBay or Etsy after you’ve done some market research – if nobody buys it, it’s probably not a great product!
Ask yourself the right questions
There are no easy answers to these questions – they involve research, time and patience. But they’re worth asking – particularly if it’s your money you’ll be spending!
– What is the profit potential of this idea?
– What is the degree of financial risk involved?
– How easy will it be to start this company?
– What funding will I need?
– Is this a sustainable idea?
– Is this industry overcrowded?
Give each answer as a mark out of ten – then decide if you’ve scored high enough to jump in.
My methodology is to part sure correspondence into two unique territories: Engagement and Connection. Engagement is head based – information of the item, value, forms and so forth. Association is very distinctive and is heart based.
The separation amongst engagement and association is frequently starkly found in presentations and pitches. Why does your rival win the work when your engagement was incredible or to be sure superior to theirs? It’s basic in a considerable measure of cases – you didn’t associate.
Think about it. If we only required engagement why do we invite prospective employees in for a face-to-face interview? Because we need to double check that what they wrote in their CV is true (engagement) and then see if they fit into the team and (let’s be honest) discover if we like them (connection). That balance of engagement and connection makes for a great communicator. However many employers hire ‘engaged’ employees who find it difficult to genuinely connect at the likes of networking events.
How to connect
So how do I connect then? Well if you don’t go within you’ll go without. This is an inside job. One of the best situations to practice making connections is attending a (very much dreaded) networking event. There are many reasons to avoid these events, like the fear of being judged, looking foolish, being snubbed etc. However the general theme is centred around the notion that they don’t feel good enough.
The more people I talk to about this issue, the more I’m convinced that you could substitute the word ‘good’ for ‘professional’. Yes you have to be professional but that doesn’t mean being wooden, insincere or cold. In my view, being professional means that you need to be:
1. Fit for purpose (qualifications and experience to do the job)
2. Focussed (the ability to pay attention to the job in hand)
3. Fastened in (passionate about your job)
4. Friendly (approachable, empathic)
5. Fun (able to self deprecate and enjoy rather than endure your day)
So don’t hide behind old perceptions of what professional once meant to you. Find the genuine passion you have for your job and wallow in it. That passion is contagious and will help you connect. Be kind and treat others as you’d like to be treated and enjoy rather than endure your day. All these little tweaks to your approach will encourage connection.
Finally, a great way to connect with someone is to add value or become a resource. Before you attend a networking event, sales meeting or trade show, check out a news or trade journal article that might be of general interest to most people at the event. Then talk about it and offer to send it on to those you meet. This is an effective way to connect and engage!
Artisan food delivery service Knoshbox works extremely successfully with the subscription service business model. Co-founder Richard Belton says “I love the subscription e-commerce model. It makes predicting and planning for growth that much easier.”
Want to grow your business? Check out Richard’s top tips for expanding your clients base.
1. Think hard about design
Design should be beautiful. You spend countless hours perfecting your homepage and UX, but what about thepackaging? Provide a seamless experience for clients by designing product packaging that inspires and excites them. Apple is a company that has mastered this, and rumour has it they test hundreds of packaging variations in a secret unboxing room. Think about design aesthetics from your favorite companies for ideas.
2. Tell Great Stories
Share the stories behind your products: what makes them special? Create content around your product or service that people actually want to read. Set up a dedicated company blog for keeping your audience updated on developments, new products, and tips relevant to your niche. Tumblr is our blogging platform of choice, where we share stories behind the foods we feature and photos from our travels.
3. Focus On Your Strengths
As the founder of a startup, you are required to be somewhat of a Swiss Army knife of skills and abilities. You’re versed in all aspects of running your business and often carry responsibilities that may not be your forte. Focus on your strengths and outsource the rest. Time is a precious and fleeting resource, so accept that you simply can’t be the best at everything.While a budget to outsource work may not exist, there are many incredible free online tools, apps and resources at your disposal – make sure you find and utilise the ones that work for you (see below).
4. Communication Is Everything
Communicating your message clearly and concisely to customers and vendors can be a challenge. With most subscriptions, the products and vendors featured change every month. This means you’re often working with new procedures, new chains of command, and new personalities each month. When in doubt, send that second email, make that third phone call, and write that thank you email to your customers.
5. Create Experiences
As the founder of a startup, part of your job is to find inspiration in the world around you and channel that energy into building exciting and memorable products. Nobody remembers what they ate for their birthday dinner two years ago, but they probably remember the great time they had with friends and family. Strive to build quality products that create memorable experiences for customers.
6. Bootstrappin’ Resources
There are many great free or low cost services available to help grow your subscription startup. Here is a short list of some of our favorite tools and apps:
Mail Chimp – Email Newsletters
Unbounce – Custom self-hosted landing pages
FriendBuy – Referral Marketing Program
Olark – Live chat customer support
Instagram – Photosharing app
Luckily, getting started is easier than you think – just follow these simple steps!
1. Decide what products to sell
It’s important to work with products that you’re passionate about. After all, you’ll be working these products several hours a day, so make sure it’s something that won’t bore you in the future.
2. Pick the best ecommerce solution for you
Depending on your budget and level of expertise, you’ll need to decide which type of online sales suit you – do a Google search to find a choice of ideas:
Hosted – Hosted solutions house your website on their servers, as well as provide web-based software to build and power your online store. It’s perfect if you don’t really want to build your own website!
Licensed – Licensed solutions are out-the-box platforms that you install onto a computer. Unlike hosted solutions, you’re required to find your own hosting – so they’re good for someone a bit more experienced in back-end “tech stuff.”
Open Source – These typically free downloads require you to build your site from scratch. While this is a great choice for full customisation, you’ll need a heavy programming background, or will need to hire someone to build your site.
3. Start building your store
Depending on the type of solution you chose, you’ll need to learn its functionality and begin setting up your important pages, such as your product and category pages, homepage and content pages.
Remember your branding and design every step of the way – these are important elements to the success of any ecommerce site. In other words, your site needs to represent your brand all the way – it’s that kind of trustworthy familiarity that keeps customers returning.
4. Pick a domain name
Your domain name is the web address where customers find your online store. This is a big business decision, so don’t take it lightly. If you can, pick a domain name that’s short, simple and describes your business. After that, decide on your extension (.com, .biz, .net) and register it with a domain name registrar.
5. Get paid
We’re all in business to make money, right? So decide now how you’ll receive payment from your customers. Many first-timers start off with PayPal or Google Checkout, but can also accept credit cards directly on your site. Make sure you research credit card processing options, making sure you’re fully clear on all of the rates and fine print.
6. Market your business
Once your website is ready, you’re missing just one thing – customers. Whether you leverage email, social media, SEO or other forms of online marketing like blogging, it’s critical that you share your store with the masses
Did you realize that 94% of purchasers examination items online before purchasing? On the other hand that 3 out of 5 individuals use seek as their go-to shopping resource?*
The truth of the matter is, keeping in mind the end goal to contend in today’s advanced world, organizations must be online to achieve their clients. Moving towards advertising yourself online can plague, however don’t stress – there’s no wrong place to begin! Here are Google’s main 5 tips for taking the online jump.
1. Set your goals
Start by choosing one or two objectives. For example, do you want to drive visitors to your website, generate more foot traffic to your store or restaurant, or gather emails for a newsletter?
Be as specific as you can about your goal. Putting numbers and targets to your goals will help you stay focused (and feel great after you meet or even beat those targets!).
2. Get to know your customers
Talking to your customers can be the best research you’ll ever do. Learning how they found you, or what they think about your website, can help you understand what you can improve your marketing techniques.
Putting a survey on your website or using social media sites to connect with your prospective or current customers are ways to get a feel for what types of people may be looking for your product or service.
3. Check out the competition
Ask yourself this question – how are your competitors reaching customers online?
– Do they have a website, social media profile, or online yellowbook listing?
– How are they marketing to customers – search advertising, group buying programs or post online videos?
Research can help you think about how to differentiate yourself from the crowd. No two businesses are the same, so don’t feel that you need to copy what others do online, but do use it as a benchmark while your create your own strategy.
4. Don’t be scared for your strategy to fail
Taking time to think through your plan before you begin can dramatically improve your results. Create a budget, find tactics that work within your budget and commit a certain amount of time to your goals.
Many successful online marketers take a “test and refine” approach, which is just a fancy way to say, don’t be scared to fail and learn. The best thing about online marketing is that nothing is printed and hard to change. For example, you can alter the text of an online ad almost instantly if it isn’t performing well. With online marketing, experimenting is key.
5. Track your progress
Online marketing makes it easy to measure program performance, so learn how to track and understand your results. Most online marketing programs, such as search or social media advertising, provides you with analytics or measurements of your ad campaign. Read the results, then revise which programs you spend money on depending on performance.
Once you’ve set the goals to create a website, list your business online or start placing ads, your business is on the fast track to reach more customers. As with anything, practice and persistence will lead to online marketing success. And remember, it isn’t how fast you get online, but getting there that counts.
Importing goods from abroad can save your business a lot of money – and similarly, exporting British made goods (to places with an healthy appetite for them!) can make an excellent profit.
But if the prospect of researching the how/who/what of the import/export business seems daunting, don’t worry – it’s simpler than it seems! Have a look at these top tips for successful international trading.
I’m buying! So I’ll need to:
1. Do a thorough check
You need to make sure the company you’re buying from is legitimate. How? Use this checklist:
– Do a reverse telephone look-ups to check the company’s details against their telephone number
– Avoid companies that only use mobile numbers or free email addresses as contact information (or a dodgy looking website)
– Ask the company for bank information or business certificates
– Request references from other clients
– Get in touch with your embassy in that country – they should have access to a list of registered businesses
2. Be specific about the goods
Send diagrams, sketches or photographs of exactly what you want to buy and get them to send you samples – even if you have to pay a small amount, it’s worth it. Your supplier needs to understand precisely what you expect and how they can meet your needs.
3. Safe payments
Don’t send money directly to the supplier. Always use a safe international payment system that will offer you some protection if there’s a dispute over the goods.
I’m selling! So I’ll need to:
1. Consider the cash flow
It’s likely to take longer to see your money if you’re exporting your products abroad – so do consider the time it takes for the product to be shipped to its destination, and plan your budget accordingly.
2. Taxes and Excise
You are responsible for ensuring that you pay the correctduties, taxes and excise on anything you export. Find out what you need to pay before you begin trading and make sure these costs are factored into your pricing.
3. Grants and Funding
There are a number of enterprises which offer funding and grants to companies who export so take some time to do some research into what might be available to you.
Let’s say you want to search for a product or service on the web. You’ll go to a popular search engine, type in your search, and look at the first five results that come up.
These five companies or individuals have made sure they’re at the top of the list by using SEO – Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a highly effective way of driving traffic to your site, which is why it’s absolutely crucial to building a successful business.
For a new business, freelancer or budding startup, getting your product or service into the top 5 search results can be tricky. But the good news is, you can boost your own profile very easily by yourself.
All you need to understand is how SEO works. Think of it like this – how can you find out information about a person you don’t know? It’s simple – you meet the person, and you ask other people about the person. And that’s exactly what search engines do. They:
– Meet your website by analyzing your content and coding (on page optimization)
-Ask other sites about your site by analyzing back links to your site (off page optimization)
So where should you start? Let us help you! Here are our top tips for successful SEO.
1. Target the right customers – do your keyword research!
Most business people will agree that launching a business without prior market research reduces the odds of success. Well, the same goes in the online world, especially when it comes to SEO.
The key question is “What will my ideal customers search for when they are looking for my service / product online?” And the best way to find out is the Google AdWords tool:
– Type in the keywords that best represent your business and select your target market (geo location and language). Google will then suggest the most popular keywords searches related to the keyword(s) or phrases you’ve just typed.
-You’ll then see what your customers are searching for – and how many of them are searching for it. This allows you to choose the best keywords to target.
Golden Rule 2: Optimize Your Website
Once you have selected the relevant keywords, you need to tell search engines that your website is all about these words, and also make sure your website is easily accessible to search engines. How? By placing your keywords in the right spots.
Some of the methods below are a bit technical if you don’t have a working knowledge of HTML, so if it gets confusing, ask a tech savvy friend or developer for help.
-Put your keywords in your page title.
-Use the keywords that you are trying to optimize on your page, but don’t overuse them (1-2% in the body content is plenty).
-Put the keywords that you are trying to rank for in your headings (H1 tags)
-Make sure you have a sitemap.xml (you can download a good free sitemap generator at A1 Sitemap) and you have submitted it to Google Webmasters Tools.
-Deny search engines access to your admin or draft web page areas through your robots.txt file.
-Reduce the number of outgoing links on your pages, including creating what’s known as No Follow links.
As mentioned above, the above tricks can be quite technical and you may need an SEO Expert to advise you. There arelots of good services that can do this for you cost effectively.
Golden Rule 3: Tell The World About Your Website
Now that you know what keywords you want to rank for and have optimized your pages, it’s time to tell the world (and the search engines) about your business. The objective here is to get the maximum number of links back to your website.
Here are three simple ways to get back links:
a) Guest Blogging
This is a very easy technique you can apply to pretty much any niche – simply find bloggers writing about topics related to your topic and offer to write a high quality blog post for them in exchange for a link back to your site. Simple.
The result? You reach out to an audience that’s already interested in what you’re doing and get a high quality link for search engines.
b) Niche Directory Submission
These days, directory submissions are generally considered as low quality link building. But if you do a quick Google search and submit your website to directories specialized in your niche, this can be a great asset – Google rates relevancy.
The result? If a link to your site is placed on a website with topical correlation to yours, it can carry a lot of weight.
c) Social Media Marketing
The internet has evolved to revolve more and more around the sociosphere, which means that while once, social media links were seen as low quality, they’re now rising in profile. As head of Google spam Matt Cutts suggests, the key is not to spam links on your Facebook wall, but rather to find authorities on social media and convince them to tweet about your site, and share your link on their Facebook.
The result? It will help SEO and attract quality traffic to your site.
Remember – SEO is not a race! It will take 2 or 3 months for a new website to achieve and maintain meaningful search engine rankings – so don’t be tempted to spam thousands of links at once to your site (known as Black Hat SEO) or you may get blacklisted – and disappear from search engines altogether! Instead, follow the rules above, and you could double or triple your profit within 3 months. Yay!
Having a strong brand identity is crucial to any business – and an eye-catching and unforgettable logo is an integral part of the brand. We asked Rob from Logoworks to explain the power of a really effective logo.
It’s critical for a new venture to quickly establish a memorable identity for itself—with good service and a good product. A new business needs to stand out from all of its competitors and anyone else that does something similar. But once you do that, you need to help your customers remember you.
A good logo acts as a visual reminder for your customer about the experience they had buying from you in the past. A unique icon or type treatment can help a customer easily identify your business as the one they had a good experience with.
What value does a logo add to a business?
That’s a tough question to answer, at least quantitatively. What value do you place on a customer’s ability to remember you and to come back for more? What is it worth to a business to appear professional? What’s the value of an identity that employees, customers, and other stakeholders easily recognise and like (or even love)?
These things can be worth millions to a business owner. So it’s no wonder that big businesses often spend enormous budgets on their logo identities. And just about every big business started as a small business, so it makes sense to pay attention to your logo early on—even if you don’t have a big budget to spend.
What are some of the most successful logos in the world—and why are they so memorable?
Three key factors: simplicity, consistency, and the use of only two colours.
Think of a few large companies that you are familiar with and they generally have a good logo. You don’t even have to like the company or its products, so much as just recognize what they are doing – people like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Virgin, BP, Nike, or Nestle.
They use no more than two colors (and still look good in black and white only). And they are used consistently the same way everywhere you see them. Some of these logos haven’t changed in decades.
You’ll never see the Coke logo in blue. You’ll never see the Nike logo on an advertisement that promotes laziness. You’ll never see the McDonald’s logo on a high-end eatery. Why? Because by using their marks consistently over time, these companies have made their logos easy to recognise and associate the logo with the products they represent.
Can business owners see an immediate difference in how others view their brand with a logo?
The short answer is yes.
A logo makes a business appear more professional, and sometimes bigger than they may actually be. So a business that uses its logo effectively may do business with larger partners or more customers than a business with a poor logo or no logo at all.
There are a lot of elements that go into developing a great brand, and the logo is only one of them, but it certainly helps to have a strong, recognisable mark for your business.
What makes a great logo?
– Have a design that looks good in black and white and use no more than two colors (there are exceptions, but they’re few and far between).
– Keep it simple – the more complex the design, the longer it takes to recognize and remember.
– Be consistent on all forms of marketing and advertising – it should always look exactly the same.
What makes a bad, unsuccessful logo?
Simply do the reverse of the three things that make a great logo and you’ll get a lousy one. Logos that try to do too much, or are cluttered with complex icons, too many colors, even a long business name and legal terms, usually don’t turn out too well. The same can be said for a logo that is used inconsistently—blue and green on your delivery vans, red and black on your website, and purple and yellow on your Business Cards. It just ends up confusing your customers.
What are a few tips you recommend to customers who don’t know what they want?
You can prepare for the logo design process in three stages:
1. Think about your business. Ask yourself:
– What are you trying to accomplish?
– What message do you want to communicate with your customers?
– What stories will your customers tell about you?
– Are there any images that come to mind when you think about this?
– What are some logos that appeal to you?
– What kinds of images will appeal to your customers (they may not be the same as images that appeal to you)?
2. Think about your competition. Ask yourself:
– What are the messages they use?
– How is your message different?
– What colors do they use?
– What can you do or say to stand out from them?
3. Think about where you’ll use your logo. Ask yourself:
– Does your business use uniforms, business cards, or have retail outlets?
– Will you be doing business online?
Once you have some answers, you’re ready to start the logo design process.
Are there any bad ideas when it comes to logos or can you work with anything?
There are definitely bad ideas when it comes to logo, but it all depends on the situation. You probably wouldn’t want to use risqué or suggestive icons for a day care center or nursery school, but that same image may be entirely appropriate for a gentlemen’s club or a men’s magazine. Conversely, you wouldn’t want to use a crayon or children’s script font for a stockbroker, but these images would be entirely appropriate for an after-school program. The important thing is to think about what’s appropriate for your customers and how they would respond to the images you use in your logo.
A new business needs a fully functional website – but if you’re just starting out, how do you make a great one without busting your budget?
Luckily, there are a lot of free and easy website builders that have revolutionised the process and even made it – dare we say – enjoyable? Have a look at these 10 simple steps to getting a professional website up and running.
1. Ask yourself…
– What do I want my website to do?
– Who do I want to visit my website?
– What should I name my website?
– What do I want to say in my website?
2. Pick the perfect domain name
This is critical; it’s how your customers and the search engines will find you.
– Make sure it really represents your business. If the same name is available as the name of your business, that’s ideal.
– It should be short, descriptive and easy to remember.
– Work out if you want a .com, .biz, or .org (if you’re a non-profit) site.
Of course, these are just a starting point – we’ve got loads more helpful tips for choosing the perfect url!
3. Look around for inspiration
What’s your favourite website – and why do you like it? Often, the greatest work is spawned from respectful imitation, so do some surfing and pick out a few sites that look the way you’d like yours to look, considering things like design, colour scheme, and layout. Don’t copy – just get inspired!
4. Keep it easy on the eye
It’s a well worn cliché, but less is always more – overly long pages of content can be off-putting.
– Break copy down into separate sections to minimize individual pages.
– Use short, precise words in your navigation links (eg. About us, Services).
– Important navigation links should remain constant on every page and organised in order of importance.
5. Find your font
Of course you want to be memorable, but don’t be fooled into thinking a fancy font is the way to do it!
– Stick to reliable fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Georgia or Verdana and you won’t go wrong.
– For text and heading styles, stick to one or two typefaces and two or three type sizes and colours.
– For ease of use, keep link colours in line with the page colours.
– Don’t use all-caps text for anything other than a heading – nobody likes to be yelled at!
6. Image is everything
A good quality image can make a website look instantly professional (and of course, the reverse is also true).
– 10 to 20k images on a page is more than plenty.
– All image files should be low resolution (72dpi). As a rule of thumb use GIF format for computer-generated graphics such as simple logos, buttons or animations, and JPEG format for photographs or scanned material.
– Reduce the image dimensions of your file before saving it for Web. Try Fotolia or iStockphoto for cost-effective stock imagery.
7. Slow and steady won’t win the race
Loading speed is key to getting repeat visitors (and in our experience, anything over 15 seconds is too slow).
– Avoid unwieldy images, videos, audio and other large files. Most editors like Photoshop or Picnik offer optimisation tools to reduce image file size.
– If you’re confused, give this online image optimiser a try.
– Not sure how slow is too slow? You can always test your site’s download speed and make adjustments.
8. Check your work
You can have the best looking website in the world, but if you’ve got spelling and grammar errors, nobody will take you seriously. Proofread everything, then get a trusted friend or colleague to go over it again.
9. Don’t play hide and seek
To get visitors to your site, you need to let them know you’re there! Make sure your site is search engine optimised(SEO). Think about keywords and ensure they’re included in your website copy, meta-tags and messaging.
10. And finally….promote yourself online
There’s lots of options, including Google AdWords, a “pay-per-click” advertising program. Social networking is also a great, inexpensive way to get the word out, and post links to your new website. You can also write a blog, and articles that link back to your site.
These days, if you run your own business, you really do need to be a jack-of-all-trades. But if you want to impress your existing or potential customers and clients, it might sometimes be important for you to look like a larger operation. There’s lots of things that you can do to give people the impression that you’re a bigger outfit than your really are, and that starts with the creation of a dynamic virtual office environment.
Voice over IP (or VoIP), also known as Internet telephony, has given many companies and organizations new and innovative ways to promote themselves and run their operations. Businesses are no longer shackled to the bricks and mortar of an office block. Even small home-based businesses can create a virtual office environment that helps them compete with much larger organizations all around the world.
There are numerous highly successful small businesses and sole traders that augment their current operations by creating a virtual office. These days you can sit at home working a full eight-hour day from your living room and still give off a professional image thanks to the technology that’s now available. Companies such as Gradwell VoIP are experts at helping you setup and get started.
One of the most effective and impressive pieces of technology in the virtual office is Internet telephony. VoIP can offer your business many advantages and cost-saving opportunities. But with VoIP there are some simple things that you can do in order to promote your business, regardless of your location or the size of your organisation.
You can produce a professional greeting message so that when a customer or client calls you, they are welcomed to your organisation in style. Larger businesses with much bigger budgets can usually afford to do this, but not the little guys. However with business VoIP, it’s all part of your package.
Using VoIP, you’re able to give a caller on hold something to different listen to, with on hold music. Sound like an expensive option? Not with VoIP as it’s all achievable with even the most basic packages, just upload your own music and away you go. You can even record your latest sales offers or an update of what your business has recently achieved to play at regular intervals over the hold music. Boast about your company’s success and let potential customers know what a successful operation you run. You can create, edit and arrange your voicemail prompts all from one computer. Change your answer phone message from anywhere in the world with a few clicks. Keep in touch with your customers and clients by having all calls routed directly to one number. It really is that simple.
You can also send and receive faxes from a single laptop, without the need for a cumbersome fax machine, so your office can go with you anywhere that you go, without giving customers the impression that you’re the Chief Cook and Bottle washer.
Deciding to become an entrepreneur is very exciting – and once you’ve found your big idea, you have to move forward. If the thought of writing your very first business plan throws you in at the deep end, don’t worry – you’re not alone!
Untrodden paths can be intimidating – because how do you know what goes into a Business Plan when you’ve never written one? With that in mind, we’ve come up with a simple guide to writing your first Business Plan that we hope makes it a bit clearer.
Section1 – The Summary
What’s this bit about?
– This is a synopsis of the key points of your entire plan, mentioning a little bit of everything from every other section of your Business Plan.
– It should be no more than two pages long, and as interesting and informative as possible. Remember, bank managers are busy – it may be the only part of your plan that actually gets read.
Why do I need it?
The point of the summary is to get the person reading it interested in your ideas, and give a very clear idea of exactly what those ideas are, and how they’ll be carried out.
Write the summary last, not first. It will be much easier to highlight the most relevant key points after you’ve written the entire thing up.
Section 2 – The Vision
What’s this bit about?
This is where you describe very clearly an overview (or your vision) for the reader of exactly what it is that your business is going to do. It’s the “Who, what and where” of your plan.
What goes in it?
– Who you are
– What your business does (and which sector it falls into)
– The history of the business (is it brand new, or have you inherited an old one that you want to revamp?)
– The launch date of the business
– Your plans for the future of the business
Keep your language direct and to the point. Nobody is impressed with fancy language – the simpler the better. If you’re not sure, get a friend to read it through and let you know if it makes sense.
Section 3 – The Marketing and Sales strategy
What’s this bit about?
The marketing strategy is where you explain why people will want your product or service, and the Sales strategy shows you’ll get them to buy it. Simple!
What goes in it?
This is where all that research you did when you evaluated your business idea gets put to use!
The Marketing section is made up of your answers to the following questions:
1.The market – how big is it, what are its general patterns and what factors are currently affecting it?
2. The customers – who are they, how old are they, what makes them interested in what you’re offering?
3. The competition – who are they, what do they do, how do they do it, their strengths and weaknesses and how big are they in the market?
4. The future – are there expected changes in the market you’re aware of, how will this affect both you and the competition?
The Sales Strategy is made up of your answers to the following questions:
1.The customers (again!) – who has already shown interest? How will you go about attracting more people like this?
2. The pricing – do you have a system? If not, what research will you do to put one in place?
3. The promotion – how to you plan to spread the word – direct mailouts, advertising, email, PR etc?
4. The sales – will you go door-to-door, over the internet, telesales, retail or a different plan? Do you have the skills in your team to manage this?
In this section, make sure you also outline a brief contingency plan to show you understand that markets, sales and customers are not static, but can change at any time.
Section 4 – The people
What’s this bit about?
Who you decide to work with is important to potential investors. They want to see that they are handing over funding to a person who values skills and expertise (and has some themselves!)
What goes in it?
Show whoever is reading your plan that you have the right balance of skill, ambition and experience to make this business a success. Key areas to highlight are:
– Operations (the day to day running of the business)
– Training and recruitment plans
Plan how much you intend to pay each person and why they justify their salary (based on what they will contribute) – this kind of attention to detail will show potential investors you’re committed.
Section 5 – The Operations
What’s this bit about?
This is all about practicalities – where you will work, what facilities you’ll need, and how much it will cost to get it all up and running.
What goes in it?
Quite simply, information – focused on the following areas:
– Location – where will you be based? Do you own or rent? Is it a good location? Do you need to make a physical product here, and if so, will you need money to do so?
– Management system – do you have a system in place that can manage the information of your business, like stock and supplies? If not, will you need money to get one?
– Technology – what IT capabilities do you have? What do you need that you don’t already have?
Don’t hide anything here – if all you have is an old PC from the eighties, there’s no point in pretending that will be enough to run a business because it won’t, so say exactly what you need.
Section 6 – The Money
What’s this bit about?
In one word – numbers. This is the bit where you take all the previous information about your new business, and convert it into figures and financial projections. This is so you can show you will be able to survive in business for at least 12 to 18 months while paying salaries. (Obviously if you’re not great with numbers, you might want to get someone to help you out with the details!)
What goes in it?
You’ll need to provide a 3 – 5 year plan for the following:
– How much investment you’re looking for (if any)
– How you plan to pay it back, and by when
– Where your income will come from
You’ll also need to write a detailed 12 month forecast which includes:
– Sales forecast
– Profit and loss forecast
– Cashflow statements
– Contingency plan forecasts (in case business is slow)
Include a section on Risk Analysis – it shows you are thinking clearly about what might go wrong. This includes unexpected actions from the competition, failure of your equipment, acts of God, and problems with sales and deliveries – anything you can think of that might affect your ability to function smoothly. Again, if you don’t know anything about it, speak to someone who does – start by asking someone who already runs their own business to point you in the right direction.