Successfully Promoting Your Business Online…

Clitheroe Chamber of Trade and Commerce

Clitheroe Chamber of Trade and Commerce

Continuing with the principal of sharing our online knowledge, and helping everyone understand the power of the internet, we were recently invited to give a presentation to members of the Clitheroe Chamber of Trade and Commerce entitled ‘Successfully Promoting Your Business Online.’

The evening was the first of its kind, and something the Clitheroe Chamber are hoping to make a regular feature, so it was great the night was a huge success and hopefully everyone was able to take some knowledge from the evening.

It was good to see so many people in attendance and, as promised, if you would like to download a copy of the PowerPoint Presentation it is available here: Successfully Promoting Your Business Online.pps (7.01Mb)

It may also be of interest to see the online video outlining the latest internet statistics which had to be removed from the presentation due to time constraints: Social Media Revolution 2011 (YouTube Video)

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Introduction into Social Media for business

Andrew Hale Photography, Clitheroe

Andrew Hale Photography, Clitheroe

I’ve been asked to give brief talk by Andrew Hale in Clitheroe as part of his photography studios first year business celebrations with a particular focus on introducing social media for business. Now complete there is a lot of relevence to businesses of all shapes and sizes and hopefully something for everyone so here is the presentation transcript in full:

Over the last few years, social media has quickly moved to be a very powerful marketing tool and any businesses already using Facebook, Twitter and Linked In effectively will swear by how essential it’s become.
In this short introduction it will be impossible to explore every social media avenue but I will hopefully manage to give something of an insight into why social media should be integral to almost every media campaign and lay the foundations to set you on the right path.

Traditional business customer relationships are changing. No longer do customers only purchase because of a business’s selling power but largely because their peer group tells them to.
A few years ago, before social media took off, there was a shift in online purchasing with the inclusion of customer reviews for products and services on many large retailers websites. Large businesses quickly identified that while they could write 200-300 words selling a product or service 2 or 3 5* reviews meant much more to customers.

Suddenly the corporation wasn’t the main sales driving force but its customer base was.

With the advent of Social Media this way of doing business has been extended to a much larger audience and it’s now more important than ever to use this market to your advantage and to embrace the technology to help grow your business.

As an example it’s usually helpful to look at a traditional marketing approach and how this has changed in today’s market. Usually a business would produce a set of leaflets, flyers or adverts and mail or publish these to their perceived target audience.

Return on investment has always been poor and monitoring results is nigh on impossible.

If your business could target just a few individuals with a real interest in your products and services, and you nurture that relationship correctly, your customers are quickly going to recommend you to their friends who, in turn, will recommend their friends and in very little time our none descript mailing list or advertising schedule has become 200-300 key individuals who perfectly fit your demographic and are interested in what you’re promoting.
Before embarking on the great social media takeover there are two key things you need to establish.

Firstly who is your target market? As with any promotion and advertising it’s important to know who you’re trying to target so you can channel your efforts in the correct areas. Secondly what means of communication do you have available to you and which would be best suited to access your target market.

Most businesses now have their own website. This has become as important as presenting a business card and is usually the main port of call for any potential clients. 90% of the time customers, no matter what channel they found your business through, will check your corporate website before purchasing or engaging with the business.

Websites are a great way to get across your corporate and branding message in a way you have complete control over. This control is essential because while many social media forums allow you to promote your business it’s always on their terms, under their rules, and most of the time these can be restrictive or subject to change at a moment’s notice. A website is yours to do with what you want and should be the main focus in informing your target market about your business.
Social media should then be seen as satellites around your website, used to draw people from all different areas.

Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are probably 3 of the most well know forms of social media and each one caters for a different target market but all are best for consumer based activity. Linked In is the social networking site for business to business but the principals are largely the same as Facebook. There are no rules on how each should be used but there are some generally accepted practices.

Blogs are usually best attached to corporate websites to supplement core content and expand and demonstrate business knowledge. Your core website won’t change very often. The business history, location, opening hours and services for example will be fairly static and while important to customers, once they know this information they won’t need to return so how do you keep your brand in their mind.

Blogs allow you to communicate more updatable information in the form of news or featured articles that visitors can browse and review, subscribe to and respond to all without ever leaving your website.

If, for example, you had a photography studio the website would be pretty straight forward as already mentioned but add on a blog about the latest photography technics, tips for amateur photographers or details on how to get the best of night images and already you’re creating a sense of community. This is where you have to be mindful of your target audience and always driving sales and if you had a retail business for example this becomes a much easier as you can list new stock items, purchasing decisions and promotions all in the blog domain.

Blogs can be very powerful but must be used to create a sense of community for your customers and not be purely a selling tool. Like a website, you still have to get people to your blog in the first place and while search engines like the update frequency and relevant content of a blog it’s still a potentially costly exercise.

Facebook in particular is ideal for contacting large amounts of customers because it already has an interconnected community of millions; 750million in fact as at September 2011 with 3 billion visits per month. And Facebook is still growing! Facebook users are already recommending items to each other and telling friends what they are, will be, should and shouldn’t be doing and getting your business into that loop for the right reasons can be marketing gold.

For almost any business to consumer organisation, getting a presence on Facebook is essential. Again it depends on your target audience, and if they’re on Facebook themselves, but with most of the world connected chances are they will be.
Unlike Facebook for personal use Facebook for business is driven by Business Pages. These are setup by individuals, usually the business owners or IT department, and these pages are liked by Facebook users so your news feed appears on their own Facebook home page. It’s generally best to keep Facebook posts short and snappy and, like a blog, involve customers more than constantly giving out information.

While there is massive value as a business in posting about your latest product promotions, acquisition or blog posts, helping to drive traffic to your site, Facebook users like to be engaged so ask questions, get them involved and give them special promotions. Instead of a simple ‘Today we’re giving 10% off’ why not write ‘Come in today, mention our Facebook promotion, and get we’ll give you 10% off anything.’ Suddenly you’ve made your Facebook community feel special and they’re much more likely to engage your business and recommend you to others.

Facebook is great for regular, short snippets of information, and gets you involved in a huge potential online community. Twitter on the other hand is much more immediate, even shorter and targets a whole different sector of people.
Twitter has the same homepage news feed idea as Facebook but with messages limited to 140 characters, while Facebook is unlimited, these are generally shorter and there are much more of them.

For business purposes this should be seen to be the same as Facebook but the earlier promotion would generally become ‘Come to see us for the next hour and get 10% off’ because with the speed Twitter posts are updated any messages will be quickly lost.

Pointing people to the latest blog post, business update or related online resource is all possible on Twitter but generally this is more one way than Facebook and doesn’t require the same interaction amongst others. Users themselves filter your content so while it can feel a little lonely Twitter is generally more of a broadcast, information in service.

Twitter users have to find you. There is no recommendation system like Facebook and you aren’t informed when one of your friends starts following something you may also like. One of the best ways to grow on Twitter is to give people something to re-tweet because this generally contains a link back to your news feed and if people like what’s there they’re likely to follow you.

One of the single biggest tips on getting the most out of any social media website is to get involved on a personal level and don’t keep churning out the same corporate message. On twitter particularly re-tweet relevant links and always accredit the original poster and on Facebook link to other interesting pages, not always your own.

Despite the seemingly one-way setup of Twitter it’s important to be prepared for two way, and potentially more, conversations as people tweet and reply to tweets. I’ve personally had an excellent interaction with a few businesses over the previous year, notably with London Midland, a train company running from Crewe to London.

Usually my Twitter feed is updated with service announcements on train services up and down the London Midland network and many of which I ignore. On the one occasion it affected my train I wrote a response asking what the alternative journey plan was. I got a response, updated my subsequent response with a better plan and was thanked by the London Midland service team on Twitter. Basically, due to a problem, we had to get off at Northampton and there were no trains to the next station. They recommended waiting for a replacement bus to take us to the next stop, which could have been hours, so I found local bus service for £2 that did the same thing and pointed out this would be refunded as part of the London Midland compensation package which they agreed with.

Personally this was quite a frustrating but there was someone there to talk to without incurring extra costs or waiting in call centre queues and the whole Twitter conversation was also played out publically meaning anyone else following or looking for the same travel plans had the information to hand and London Midland had to do no extra work to achieve this.

Twitter for business can be a very powerful thing but only if used correctly and like Facebook traditionally works best for business to consumer interactions.

As well as the websites outlined above there are countless other social networking options available but they pretty much all work in the same way with a sense of community, news feeds and personalised update pages others choose to follow. Linked In is basically Facebook for business, so great for Business to Business interactions, while sites like MySpace specialise in their own areas, music in this case. Blog sites such as Blogger are great for social blogs, not attached to corporate websites and YouTube is a great way to share and host videos.

It’s impossible to overstate the need to focus on your social media objectives and bear in mind that the impact of social media is very difficult to measure directly. Due to the sheer number of outlets available and never knowing what the next big thing will be I always recommend social media as supplementary to your own professional website. That way you’re only putting all your eggs in a basket you hold and if suddenly Facebook is replaced anyone only using Facebook for their online presence has to start all over again.

To start making the most of social media you need to identify your target market, find out what they’re already using and engage them on that media. Done properly you can have a priceless direct link to your ideal customers but beware because done badly the whole world can see it

To download this presentation as a PDF, please click here: Introduction to Social Media for Business PDF

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Top 10 Fringe Jokes 2011

Nick Helm with this 2011's Dave award

It’s that time of year again! Here are the best jokes from this 2011’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival which was won by Nick Helm with an excellently relevent effort!

1. Nick Helm – “I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

2. Tim Vine – “Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.”

3. Hannibal Buress – “People say ‘I’m taking it one day at a time.’ You know what? So is everybody. That’s how time works.”

4. Tim Key – “Drive Thru McDonalds was more expensive than I thought … once you’ve hired the car …”

5. Matt Kirshen – “I was playing chess with my friend and he said, ‘Let’s make this interesting’. So we stopped playing chess.”

6. Sarah Millican – “My mother told me, you don’t have to put anything in your mouth you don’t want to. Then she made me eat broccoli, which felt like double standards.”

7. Alan Sharp – “I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure.”

8. Mark Watson – “Someone asked me recently – what would I rather give up, food or sex. Neither! I’m not falling for that one again, wife.”

9. Andrew Lawrence – “I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can’t even be bothered to check my OWN voicemails.”

10. DeAnne Smith – “My friend died doing what he loved … Heroin.”

And of course the list would be complete without mentioning some of the WORST jokes out there too…

1. Tim Vine – “Uncle Ben has died. No more Mr Rice Guy.”

2. Vladimir McTavish – “The Lockerbie bomber put Lockerbie on the map, well he nearly took it off it too.”

3. Josh Howie – I’ve got nothing against the Chinese. Don’t get me Wong.

4. Card Ninja – “I went to see this show and the guy said ‘Hey kid do you like magic?’ And I said ‘Yeah!’ So he asked if I wanted to see a trick and I said ‘Yeah!’ So he said ‘think of a number, times it by 2 and if it’s odd …’ Oh no, he’s a MATHmagician! “

5. Tom Webb – “Due to the economy, profiteroles will now be called deficiteroles.”

6. Nathan Caton – “Postcode wars? That sounds like a really [rubbish] BBC game show.”

7. Andrew Bird – “My wife’s eating for two. She’s not pregnant, just schizophrenic.”

8. Mark Olver – “During my first murder I was like a dyslexic having my back teeth removed … losing my morals.”

9. Andrew O’Neill – “A song for the colour blind: “And I think to myself … why did I become a bomb disposal expert?”

The original story was posted on the Telegraph website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/edinburgh-festival/8720290/Edinburgh-Fringe-jokes-top-10-best-jokes-at-this-years-festival.html

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First press coverage for Sawley Studios

Bowlands online business brewing

Our article in the Clitheroe Advertiser

With the completion of local brewery website www.bowlandbrewery.com we thought it would be an ideal time to try to get some press exposure for ourselves and our Quaystone web management software and where better to start than the local newspaper?

It’s taken a little time (they only publish business news once a month) but lo and behold there we are, the biggest story on the page! The complete press release is below if you want to read the whole story but wow, we’re very happy this weekend indeed!

To see the full article, click here (360Kb PDF)

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Brewing for online success

Following a highly successful year in terms of both sales growth and product awards, the Bowland Brewery is opening itself up to a wider audience through its brand new website www.bowlandbrewery.com and it is continuing its policy of using local suppliers wherever possible.

The site has been developed in partnership with local online agency Sawley Studios to raise the profile of the brewery and to ensure that the company’s emphasis on product quality is reflected in all of its external communications.

Within days of launch the new website showed a marked increase in visitors and online enquiries and feedback for the new design has been extremely positive.

Richard Baker, owner of The Bowland Beer Company said, ‘We’ve had a very exciting year with loads of awards at beer festivals, the launch of our Artisan Gold range and over 20% more sales than the previous year; we’ve been looking for a local internet partner to give us a great website for some time and Sawley Studios demonstrated an excellent understanding of our requirements and an impressive client base.’

‘Having watched the development of the site it was exciting to see a leap in visitors and positive feedback almost overnight and we already have some big plans to extend the site  and promote the brewery and visitor centre even further.’

The Quaystone Website Management and E-Commerce system has been developed by Daniel Williams, former manager of the Spread Eagle, Sawley and even at this early stage has already enjoyed considerable national success. With a formal launch and marketing campaign planned for September and sponsorship of a major awards ceremony in Liverpool, Sawley Studios are heading for a very busy end of their first 18 months trading.

Daniel Williams commented, ‘Sawley Studios is growing quicker than all of our projections and I’m delighted to be able to offer our extensive online knowledge to a whole range of local businesses. Taking a break from website development and managing the Spread Eagle, Sawley for several years, Richard and I already had an excellent working relationship and I was delighted when we were contacted to discuss the development of an improved online presence for Bowland Brewery.’

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Top 10 Fringe Jokes 2010

Tim Vine - 2010's Funniest Joke Winner

Tim Vine - 2010's Funniest Joke Winner

Another excellent Fringe festival and here’s this years best (and worst) jokes!

The top 10 festival funnies were judged to be:

1 ) Tim Vine “I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”

2 ) David Gibson “I’m currently dating a couple of anorexics. Two birds, one stone.”

3 ) Emo Philips “I picked up a hitch hiker. You’ve got to when you hit them.”

4 ) Jack Whitehall “I bought one of those anti-bullying wristbands when they first came out. I say ‘bought’, I actually stole it off a short, fat ginger kid.”

5 ) Gary Delaney “As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn’t afford a dog.”

6 ) John Bishop “Being an England supporter is like being the over-optimistic parents of the fat kid on sports day.”

7 ) Bo Burnham “What do you call a kid with no arms and an eyepatch? Names.”

8 ) Gary Delaney “Dave drowned. So at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt. Well, it’s what he would have wanted.”

9 ) Robert White “For Vanessa Feltz, life is like a box of chocolates: Empty.”

10 ) Gareth Richards “Wooden spoons are great. You can either use them to prepare food. Or, if you can’t be bothered with that, just write a number on one and walk into a pub…”

Competition organisers Dave said each judge sat through an average of 60 performances, totalling 3,600 minutes of comedy material.

Judges also selected some of the worst jokes of this year’s Fringe, which included:

Sara Pascoe “Why did the chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side.”

Sean Hughes “You know city-centre beat officers… Well are they police who rap?”

John Luke Roberts “I made a Battenberg where the two colours ran alongside each other. I called it apartheid sponge.”

Emo Phillips “I like to play chess with bald men in the park although it’s hard to find 32 of them.”

Bec Hill “Some of my best friends are vegan. They were going to come today but they didn’t have the energy to climb up the stairs.”

Dan Antopolski “How many Spaniards does it take to change a lightbulb? Juan.”

Antopolski’s inclusion in the “worst joke” list comes just a year after he won the Dave trophy.

Story from BBC News Scotland:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11053202

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Brilliant Design Resources #001

designers toolboxOK, so apologies to anyone who already knows about this but I’ve managed to stumble across one of the greatest design resources and I just wanted to share the love…

I think everyone will find something in here, be it paper sizes, general design information or my particular favourite the web browser elements built as Photoshop layers to help designing websites:

http://www.designerstoolbox.com/

In particular:

http://www.designerstoolbox.com/designresources/

I’m happy to continue this ’series’ if anyone has a similar resource you think I should know about and share with the world please leave me a comment.

Go forth and share the love!

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Top 10 Fringe Jokes 2009

Edinburgh Fringe Logo

Just to prove this isn’t going to be all development blah and business advice I do have some down time (occasionlly). I found this on the BBC website and thought I should share it with anyone wanting a giggle…

The Top 10 Edinburgh Fringe jokes were judged to be:

1 ) Dan Antopolski - “Hedgehogs – why can’t they just share the hedge?”

2 ) Paddy Lennox – “I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting’.”

3 ) Sarah Millican – “I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they’re up where they belong.”

4 ) Zoe Lyons – “I went on a girls’ night out recently. The invitation said ‘dress to kill’. I went as Rose West.”

5 ) Jack Whitehall – “I’m sure wherever my dad is; he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just very condescending.”

6) Adam Hills – “Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you’re going to get it, but it’s going to be rough.”

7 ) Marcus Brigstocke – “To the people who’ve got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn’t invent it!”

8 ) Rhod Gilbert – “A spa hotel? It’s like a normal hotel, only in reception there’s a picture of a pebble.”

9 ) Dan Antopolski – “I’ve been reading the news about there being a civil war in Madagascar. Well, I’ve seen it six times and there isn’t.”

10) Simon Brodkin (as Lee Nelson) - “I started so many fights at my school – I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn’t finish a lot of them.”

Story from BBC News Scotland:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8216991.stm

Edinburgh Fringe Official Site:
http://www.edfringe.com/

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Does my business need a website?

wwwImage

The internet is one of the fastest growing phenomena’s of recent times and it’s showing no sign of letting up. From the early rise of a simple link between two computers to the dot com crash of the 90’s and on to social networking it appears that with faster broadband speeds and increasing numbers of home connections the internet is not only here to stay but is becoming a viable communication channel that’s getting hard for any business to ignore.

So, does your business need a website?

Quite simply, yes.

Adoption rates for internet sites are now at the highest levels ever. More people are connecting to the internet every day, more people are searching for information every day and more people are using the internet for sourcing products and services both locally and nationally every single day. The internet is now becoming as essential as gas and electricity and even the UK government is working to get broadband access to every home in the country by 2012.

The internet is now a socially accepted standard and no longer the in the realms of computer nerds. Everyone is getting better-connected and therefore better informed. Choices are no longer made through convenience but through informed decisions. The internet is finally getting used for the purpose it was intended and that is to better communicate ideas and to share information.

Not only empowering the overall global population, the internet has also completely levelled the playing field for businesses.

You no longer need a massive budget to advertise and promote your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Information can be specifically targeted and you can promote yourself and your business at a time convenient to your customers.

Anyone using traditional advertising and promotional methods has usually been working blind. Adverts only last days or months and flyers and leaflets can be even shorter. Used in exactly the right context, in exactly the right place, to exactly the right people these are still very powerful communication channels but how do you get to the right people? Using the internet, if someone types into their favourite search engine ‘I want your type of business near me’ you’ve already got a priceless captive audience and you’ve also got an immense opportunity for shameless self promotion.

Getting listed on search engines is priceless to any business and is almost an entire art in itself, but it all starts with building a successful website.

You’re no longer limited to a small square space in colour or black and white. You don’t have to carefully select 10-15 words for a single line of text. You can upload as much, or as little, information as people need. Add images and video, sound and upcoming events, news or useful information; the possibilities are endless. All of this can be going on at 11am when someone’s on a coffee-break in the office or 8pm when they’re relaxing at home. Most importantly you’re giving this information to people already looking for what you have to offer.

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