If you have a Facebook page, you may be getting increasingly frustrated by the low engagement or eyeballs you're getting on your posts. A recent change to Facebook's algorithm means that the posts from family, friends and groups will be given priority.
That doesn't mean you should get rid of your Facebook business page. But you do need to ensure that the content you share on your page is going to generate conversations between users, and not in a spammy way. Ways to boost the visibility of your page posts include using live videos, not sharing links that send people off Facebook, paying for advertising and creating content that gets people talking.
But what about groups. Should you create a Facebook group for your business? After all, the new algorithm specifically says that groups will be given priority. But is running a Facebook group just another job to add to your to do list? Will it actually do anything for your business?
I run two Facebook groups. One supports my business, the other is the business. Here's my experience of running groups and tips on how to do it.
The Campfire Club
This is a free Facebook group I set up as an extension of my Campfire brand. I set it up because I know how hard it can be running a business. It can feel lonely, overwhelming and demoralising when everyone else seems to be nailing it, yet you're battling to make any money. Sometimes you just want to ask a quick question or get advice, without having to pay a fortune for an expert's help. So I set the group up as a way to have a virtual campfire with a warm, supportive and friendly vibe. It's my way of giving to people who may not be able to afford my services.
How I run it:
I have three set days to drive discussion:
What does it do for my business?
I set this group up a year ago. At the time I didn't have a Facebook page and I had a basic website. I didn't have a business. All I had was an idea - to get more women out walking and to help them connect. I set the group up as a way of doing that. It has grown to over 900 members and is largely the business. For now (I am working on other ideas behind the scenes). It acts as a way for women to find other women to walk with, share ideas, pictures and walks.
How I run it?
What does it do for my business?
Facebook groups have given me a completely new way of connecting and communicating with my ideal target audience. Yes it has added to my workload, but the insights the groups have given me have been invaluable. So would I recommend having one? Yes - if you have a community that you want to learn from and a business you want to grow. Be sure you know who your audience is before setting it up. Keep it targeted and you're more likely to be successful.
How to set up a group
Got any tips on how to manage a Facebook group? Share them in the comments. And if you want to join either of my groups, feel free.
Click here for the Campfire Club
Click here for Glamoraks (women only)
I often hear small business owners say: 'I spend so much time marketing my business but it doesn't seem to do anything. I still don't have enough business.'
That could be because they're marketing in the wrong place, to the wrong people, or using the wrong messages and attention grabbing stories. Or they could be too tactical. They see an opportunity and think,' Heck I need to do something for that!' and they cobble something half-heartedly together at the last minute. Funnily enough, it doesn't work. I speak from experience here. I have often seen last minute opportunities (which I could have planned for) and pulled something together at the last minute and lo and behold, tumbleweeds.
For other small business owners, they know that they need to put out regular content but they are stumped as to what they should say. They are all out of creative ideas.
What they need is a strategic plan. And that's not as scary as it sounds. It simply means thinking more carefully about where you want your business to go, who you're trying to reach and how you can help them - and then making sure that whatever marketing you are doing, supports that.
Which is why I will be running an hour-long workshop on Wednesday 17 January at 10am to help you get strategic and focused in your marketing to help your business grow. It will cover:
You will also get (if you haven't already got it) my free content calendar that plots out all the major events, initiatives, awareness days, anniversaries and more throughout 2018. It comes in a pretty to look at version and an easy to print one. PLUS you get my free plan template, which we will use as the workbook for this workshop.
You will leave with a clear sense of where you should be heading. More than that, you will be able to confidently cut out a bunch of stuff you're currently doing if it isn't moving your business forward. Less work with better results. And did I mention that you'll be buzzing with ideas that you hadn't thought of before?
I'd love to have you join me. The cost is just $35 (£25 approximately) which is nothing for an hour of training, advice and super useful documents that go along with it.
I was at a networking event recently and was asked 'what do you do?'
Now the short answer is: marketing, copy and communications. But the bit that I do most and love best is the clarity bit. My challenge is that it's so hard to explain.
I found myself sharing examples of work I'd done for clients to make what I do more real. I could see the expressions on people's faces change from one of blankness to one of 'oh yeah, that would be really useful.' So what was it that made people go from politely glazed to animatedly interested?
Story telling. That's what.
If I said that I 'help small businesses get clear on what they want their business to be', it doesn't mean anything. But when I told them a story about how I actually helped a client change, they got it.
Story telling is what I do for my clients. And it's what you can do too to bring your business to life for your ideal clients.
Let me make up a story to explain.
You're an accountant. You've left the corporate world and decided to set up on your own. You think you've got your target market sorted: small businesses who can't afford the big accounting firms.
In your head you know that you hate corporate bullshit and you're a lovely, warm, funny person - despite being an accountant (sorry accountants). But you've got this hangover from the corporate days that tells you that you need to come across as serious and professional because, you know, you're an accountant and money is a serious business. So you create a website that shows WHAT you do for these small businesses e.g. tax returns. You may even go to great lengths telling them HOW you do it for them ....with your wonderful step-by-step, bite sized packages.
But you don't tell them WHY YOU. And you don't show them how you are different. You don't show them that funny, warm, lovely side of your personality (which incidentally is what makes you different from all the competitors. No-one is you).
You choose a name like: Whizzy Accounts. You think you're being different and showing off your fun personality. But you're still just another accounting firm with a more brightly coloured logo perhaps.
What if you flipped it over and made your lovely, warm funny personality front and centre of your brand? They're going to be working with YOU right? So make your brand and the experience they have working with you match.
What if instead of dreading doing tax returns, they wanted to come and see you? Because when they see you, they have a laugh and a lovely cup of tea and it just feels relaxed. So why not call it Tax over Tea (or something that you spend longer than the 10 seconds I just spent coming up with) that demonstrates not only what you do but your entire vibe and how it helps them?
Paint the picture of what that feels like. Show photos of you having a laugh with a client while you drink cups of tea. Sure you do tax returns. But really what you do, is take a truly shitty part of running a business and turn it into something fun. Isn't that awesome?!
Your approach should be front and centre of your brand story. And I don't just mean having a cup of tea as part of your logo (in this particular case). Remember, a brand is so much more than a logo. It's the entire story you tell people in every single interaction they have with you.
One thing to remember as you tell your story: You need to tell it in a way that shows how you help your ideal client. This isn't about you and how wonderful you are so much as it's about how your wonderfulness helps them. There's a subtle but important difference.
So ask yourself: what is your story? What sets you apart? Are you telling that to your clients?
No? Then change it.
A final thought: doing this can be hard as it's difficult to see ourselves clearly. We're too self-critical or close to what we do. Sometimes we need someone to hold a mirror up to us and say: hey, you are THIS. If you need someone to hold that mirror for you, drop me a note. That's what I do. Find our more here.
If you're a parent, summer holidays have either started or will be soon. Even if you're not, summer is typically a quieter time for businesses as everyone heads off to the beach or drinks their bodyweight in Pimms while burning sausages on a bbq.
This quieter period is a brilliant time to catch up on the big projects you've been planning on doing but haven't had the chance to get to yet. Things like giving your website a makeover, or changing your business direction, plotting out new products or services, creating new marketing campaigns or comms plans for the rest of the year.
While others are sunbathing, you can be plotting out the rest of the year so that come September you are ready to roll!
Some ideas to use the quieter weeks well:
Here's how I can help you over this period:
Clarity - if you want to change your business in any way, whether that's new packages, new clients, an entirely new direction, new messages, I can help you get the clarity you need. I recently helped Juliet, a coach, restructure her packages. This is what she had to say:
"I just wanted to say that I've had time to go through the summary doc in detail and love all the ideas, the ones we discussed and the new ones. And the angles you've suggested for the copy. I'm now in the process of restructuring my services and creating new material. Argh so much to do, but it's fun too and am feeling a lot more positive about the future of the business."
Copy - if you need fresh copy for your website or any of your marketing materials - perhaps a job lot of blog posts or newsletter content for the next few months, I can write this for you. You can lie on the beach while I take care of the words you just can't seem to find. Return to a heap of new content all done for you. Here's how I helped a nutritionist, a new product and a life coach find the words they needed.
Communication - if you are finding it hard to come up with regular marketing updates, I can help you either with one-on-one coaching, or by spending an intensive day with you planning, brainstorming and training, or by writing you a communications plan that you can roll out. Here's what a producer of babywear said after I had a one-on-one strategy day and wrote her comms plan:
"I found the session very useful and feel like you managed to put into words what the brand stands for. I also think we nailed who the target consumer is. Thanks so much for the comms plan and for all your work – looks very comprehensive! I will start reading this evening – excited to get started with it!"
Publicity - a quiet period is also a good time to learn a new skill. So whether you want to spend just £49 and 75 minutes listening to my PR Masterclass on how to get in the press fast, or you want to get an in depth understanding of how to get in the media on an ongoing basis with my Publicity for Solopreneurs course, use the time wisely! I also have a PR Firestarter Kit that gives you the tools to get your story out to the press with minimal effort. Summer is quiet for media too and they are always on the hunt for good stories. Use the lull to get fabulous publicity.
I also have kids on holidays so will have less time available to me so get in touch ASAP if you want my help with any of this before I get booked up. Email me.
An Irishman, a Mancunian and a Liverpudlian walk into a bar….well actually it was an office in Leeds where I was meeting them to take a brief to help figure out their general brand strategy and web copy for their new venture. They knew what they wanted to do, they just didn't know how to say it.
Development and property managers for £1 million plus developments, they needed a website that had gravitas to appeal to their clients. But more importantly, it needed to be different from all the others out there that seemed to put buildings - rather than people - front and centre. That was the brief.
We got to work. By work, I mean I listened to the banter between these three friends as they spoke about what they felt made them different. Sure they had heaps of experience. And yes, they did think differently, cleverly and delivered amazing service while leading from the front. But we still hadn't nailed THE big idea. There was work to do.
I left the meeting with copious notes and a smile on my face, because they were genuinely funny guys. Back at my desk I scratched my head. What was it that was really different about their business?
Then it hit me. It was them.
They were this business. Their individual personalities, the fact that they love sport, hiking together, that they all bring different strengths to the party. They were a team. And when they work with their clients, they pull the client's team together.
So I led with that - teamwork. I found images that demonstrated teamwork in sports, something we all agreed would appeal to their clients too. The same images also reflected some of their other values: challenge, adventurous spirit and being at the top of their game. We opted for simple, crisp black and white images to set off their bright pink logo (which in itself is pretty different for this sector).
I wrote their web copy in a personal yet professional tone of voice, with concise, punchy words, not corporate speak. It had to be human to reflect them, while still having the gravitas to appeal to clients.
It took a few drafts, as we refined and tweaked it so that all three were happy.
But we got there in the end. Their designer created their site. I wrapped up their brand style guide. Now their website is live. Thanks to John, Justin and Graham from Box Clever for a project that was brilliant fun. All the best in your new endeavour.
This is what they had to say:
In January I launched Ignite, a new service that turns an idea into a business. While it was initially aimed at people just starting up their business, it quickly became apparent that it was also hugely appealing to existing business owners who needed a business refresh.
Many of us when setting up a business decide on a name, logo, website and direction pretty quickly. But as we start working with clients, things change. Our services adapt to what our clients want. We fall out of love with some bits and want to refocus on others. Sometimes that means a new name, a new logo, new packages or services and it almost certainly means a new website is needed.
One such client was Cynthia Sillars. She is a natural health practitioner. Before going through the Ignite process, Cynthia felt her branding and website were dated. She no longer offered some of her services and wanted to add new ones. But she couldn't alter her website because of the way it had been created. You can see her old site here.
It was time for a fresh start.
We started with a strategy call to get really clear on what Cynthia was offering, who she was offering it to, how she helped her clients and the best way to reflect what it was she did as it's fairly complex and difficult to explain. Here's what we got clear on:
Speaking to Cynthia, one thing became clear - her belief in the healing power of nature. In one of those weird synchronicity moments, I said to Cynthia that to me she takes her clients on a journey. Her imagery should be around a path, walking outdoors, going on a journey into nature. And she replied that those were the exact images she had already pinned to her Pinterest board. Spooky.
In another slightly surreal moment, I mocked up a logo which I thought reflected Cynthia, despite never having met her face to face. When I asked her what type of logo she was thinking of, she said she'd like something that looked like her handwriting. She then sent me a scan of her handwriting. It was an almost identical match to the font I'd selected for her logo.
We had the basics in place. While I began work on her web copy, my designer Meg created a logo and brand palette.
Writing the copy was another challenge. Cynthia offers a broad range of services, many of which are exceptionally complex to explain. They also had to be written about in a way that would appeal to her clients, many of whom don't need to know how they will have their health problems fixed, they just want them fixed. This was a case of cutting back. Less is more.
With copy, imagery, fonts and branding in place, Meg set about creating the website. Cynthia wanted something simple that she could change and adapt as she needed to, including adding blog posts. We advised her to create a free opt in to build up her email list. We gave her pointers on what it should cover, suggested title names and set up her Mailchimp account so that she could start to build an email list.
Meg also designed her Facebook header, her Mailchimp newsletter template and branded up her free opt in ebook. Finally Cynthia received her Next Steps guide and marketing plan template so that she could crack on with marketing her business.
We've both been on hand throughout the process to answer any of Cynthia's questions. In just 30 days, her website went from this:
You can see the website here. We have advised Cynthia to get her own photographs taken that reflect each of her service sectors - the path, the journey, the view - which she will be doing down the line. For now though, she has a beautiful looking website that captures what she does for clients without being overly medical, overly complicated or too wordy.
This is what Cynthia had to say about the process: “I had been searching around for ages to find a web designer, one who was affordable and who could help me get through my problem, which is that I’m over methodical.
Each of them had something to offer, but in the final analysis, when it came to the copy, they said ‘That’s your bit – you write it’.
A chance meeting with a colleague after Christmas put me in touch with Melissa. I knew straight away that she could do the bit I couldn’t, plus Meg could do all the web design.
Job sorted, it was an intensive 14 days of putting the copy together in a way that truly expressed what I do, but in a way that would make it entirely accessible to everyone.
Then on to the web site, learning how to use the back of the site (so easy!) putting together Mailchimp, tying in the Facebook page, and setting up the fonts on my computer so I can maintain ‘brand’.
I’ve been in practice a long time, but the start-up package called Ignite, with it’s one stop shop approach, was perfect for me because I’m busy and needed to get the job finished in the quickest possible time.
Thank you Melissa and Meg, you were both so helpful."
Would you like to transform your business? The Ignite package is no longer available, but with the Clarity, Copy & Canvas packages, you can go through a similar transformation for your business.
This month I was contacted by a lovely lady who needed some help turning her idea into a business. She asked if I could help her with her web copy and give her a sense of what her website could look like, although she'd create the site herself - my copy & canvas package.
We had a call. She outlined what it was she did for clients and gave me an idea of what she thought her site should look like. She's an online business manager. She handles all the technical, process-driven, project management back end stuff for successful online entrepreneurs who are helping people transform their lives. Carolyn felt that her website and words should demonstrate what she did by being no-nonsense, process focused, using images like puzzle pieces or cogs, to reflect how she pulls all the different parts of a business together.
I suggested she flip her thinking.
Instead of having a website that reflected what she did, why not create a site that would demonstrate how working with her would make her clients feel?
Her clients - typically women who tend to have very feminine brands - are overworked, stressed, having sleepless nights. Carolyn takes all that stress away from them. Working with her lets her clients relax, rediscover their love for their business and actually get a full night's sleep. Interestingly, although Carolyn didn't want swirly, girly fonts, she did say that her favourite colour was purple and that if her website had a smell, it would be lavender.
I started with her ideal clients. I thought about the type of websites they had, the imagery they used, the vibe they gave off. I knew that they would be more drawn to something similar in style. These are not process people, so a website using techy type imagery and words would turn them off, not on. I put myself in their shoes. How would I feel? What would calm me if I was stressed out and at breaking point with my business?
The solution was immediately obvious. Lavender. Known for it's relaxation and sleep inducing properties, it is also feminine and likely to appeal to her ideal clients. I used that as the central theme running throughout the site. I sourced free images, wrote the copy and gave a very clear brief as to how the site should be structured.
I asked my designer Meg to create a brand palette to reflect the site that Carolyn could work from. Then we sent her the words, website outline, suggested imagery, a Pinterest board with links to the free images and the style guide.
Within 48 hours of the initial call, Carolyn had her site up and live. She has a business she can now take to market that will appeal to her ideal clients. This is what Carolyn said about the process:
“I contacted Melissa about creating the copy for my website, little did I know that my experience with her would not only completely change my mindset about what my website “should” be like but she was able to also clearly articulate my unique service offering. With one conversation, she created copy and set the tone for my brand in a way that represented me a way that I never could have gotten to by myself.
When she delivered her first draft, I literally sat in my car with tears of joy – she was able to articulate my value in a way that I’ve never been able to do in as succinct a manner. Looking forward to doing more business with her in the future.”
If you are writing copy or creating a new website for your business, follow these tips:
If you'd like the words and design to revamp your business, take a look at the Copy & Canvas options.
There are many scary things you will face as a small business. Here are just a few:
For today, I want to focus on the fear of communications, specifically the five fears that are probably affecting your ability to communicate and what you can do about that.
1. Fear of 'communications'
Let's start at the beginning. A lot of people actually get a glazed look when I say 'communications'. What is that? It sounds vague. You might be afraid to even lift the lid off that can of worms, preferring to stay blissfully ignorant. For others, you know it includes things like social media, blogs, newsletters, PR, webinars etc. But you don't really know what they are or how they work or which you should be doing or why. And that can result in you either doing nothing or trying to do it all and not doing a particularly good job. You might find yourself signing up to every free (or not free) course going to learn more about these things. You're desperate not to get left behind so you clutch onto every passing offer to help alleviate your fear. You can end up feeling even more fearful than before you started.
Breathe. I want to help you get over this fear of the term 'communications'.
Communications is any way in which you communicate with your target market. That could be a telephone call, at a networking event, via social media like Facebook and Twitter, through a blog or customer newsletter, or getting your story out to the media, writing articles or great web copy, or running teleseminars, webinars and hangouts. Stop thinking about it as a fancy technical term that you need to learn all about. Start thinking about it as 'talking to customers'. It doesn't matter which of the tools you choose, communications is simply about talking to your customers. Not so scary right?
2. Fear of speaking to customers
Oh. Perhaps it is still scary if you are actually scared of speaking to your customers. In which case, you need to ask yourself why you are scared. Is it because you don't feel you know enough? Are you worried they won't like what you say? Do you feel like a fraud? Are you scared of coming over like a salesy salesperson? Do you not actually know what you want to say?
Breathe. Here's how to get over this fear of talking to customers.
Start by figuring out what it is you actually do, what problem you solve for customers and who those customers are. You don't have to be an expert. You don't have to know EVERYTHING. You just have to know who you can help, why and how. Once you've got that figured out, talking to them becomes easy. Still not sure? What do you find yourself advising people all the time? When do you feel most confident talking to people? Focus on those things. Don't see customers as customers. See them as a people with a problem that you can help them with. Nothing too scary about that.
3. Fear of not knowing what to say
So you know what communications is and you know what problem you solve for which customers. But you have no idea what to actually say. Where do you start? Who will listen? Your mind is blank. This is a simple fear to overcome.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What issues are they facing? Do you know how to solve that issue? Voila! You have just got your first bit of content to communicate with them. Go from there. What else are they experiencing? How else can you help? What is happening in the world that you can comment on? It's like making small talk at a party. You might start off unsure of what to say, but once the communication starts flowing, new subjects crop up. So just get started. One foot in front of the other and soon it'll be hard to shut you up.
4. Fear of getting it wrong
What if you put something out there in a blog or social media post or newsletter or press release and someone disagrees with you? What if you get the etiquette wrong? What if you really don't know how to use the technology? What if you give an opinion that is controversial and disliked? What if you don't have a fixed opinion?
Take another breath.
First of all, have a little think about just how big the wide world is, how many people are out their trying to communicate at the same time, how many Facebook and Twitter users there are, how many newsletters are sent out daily, how many magazines, newspapers and news sites there are. Now unless you do something extremely bad (think murder, racial slurs, seriously inappropriate comments) most of what you say will get lost in the ether. So if you make a few mistakes while you are starting out, trust me, no-one will know or remember. You might think, well why bother then? Because people - those customers who matter - will remember you when you consistently feed them good stuff. My point is, if you make the odd mistake in the beginning, who cares! Learn from it, even talk about how you made a mistake and what you learned from it. Be humble and human and people will understand. And remember, if someone disagrees with you, well good for you. It means you've reached someone. Enter the debate. You never know where it might lead.
Think of it this way: You know that feeling just before you jump into a swimming pool that you know is cold? You don't want to get in. You put a toe in and yank it out. You slowly creep in, one step at a time. It takes ages as you gradually adjust to the water. Eventually you're in the pool, but by then everyone else is already having cocktails at the bar. The alternate way is to just dive right in, deal with the shock but get swimming far more quickly. Just take the plunge!
5. Fear of being successful
This might seem odd. Why would anyone be afraid of success? But the truth is, success can bring more responsibility, more pressure, more commitment. Let's say you make cupcakes from your home kitchen. A local papers tries them, loves them, raves about them and before you know it you have a queue of people wanting your cupcakes. You don't know how to handle the demand and go into meltdown. So you decide it's safer not to do any of this communication malarkey in case it gets out of control.
Trust me, that is a nice problem to have. That said, growth can be scary. But remember why you set your business up in the first place. What was your motivation? Even if you only set up your business as a hobby with no intention of turning it into a major enterprise, ask yourself: why shouldn't I? Success doesn't mean having to do it all on your own. It just means you need to alter your goalposts. If your communication gives you growth, that is worthy of a high five. Embrace it. Be proud, hang on tight and keep communicating.
So my Halloween challenge to you is to get over any communications fears you may have. Still feeling fearful? Then ask questions below or jump onto my Facebook page where you are welcome to have a chat with me. Or simply give me a call. I am not scary. I can help you figure out what you should be saying, the best way to say it and help you come up with what to say. You're not in this alone. I'm here to hold your hand and make this journey less frightening.
Here are ten steps to creating a communications plan:
It's worth noting that plans do change. Particularly with social media, you need to be able to react to news and breaking events as they happen, but if you have an outline plan in place, you have a good, solid foundation to start telling your business story from day 1.
Take a look at my Campfire Marketing Coach-sulting Package if you want help creating a plan together.
Feel free to ask any questions about planning in the comments section below.