Our Christmas gift to you

Sometimes we might  seem a bit selfish, but it's not because we don't want to share, it's really because we're so busy helping our clients be the best they can be in their businesses. So we thought that, as it is the season of giving and you have all given us so much support, we would take some extra time to put together a few tips on how to improve and market your business in 2016. It's a bit of a longish read but you'll find it totally worth it. Some things we'll even do for you for FREE. Happy Christmas!

Many small businesses wonder why they aren't getting enough sales. The answer is usually the same for most - they're not allowing any time or budget for marketing. Even we struggle to fit in enough time for our own marketing. With so many social media and other online options available, a small-business owner can really do a lot to promote their product or service on a very modest budget.

Here are our recommended, tried-and-tested methods to get your business much more visible and professional, with not too much money and a little bit of work. Use it to put together your 2016 marketing plan.

When last did you update your website? (Ours is going to have an overhaul soon too). Website trends and functioning change seasonally and if you don't keep them updated, in time your website will become invisible. An outdated or badly designed and poorly functioning website can do your business more harm than good. It is important to make sure all the content on your site is up to date and the design is attractive, clean, easy to navigate and responsive (ie. can be viewed easily on all devices).

How can we help?
we can give you a FREE website assessment. Just drop us an email with your website url and ask, and we'll email you back what we think and where you could improve on the design and functionality of your site.

Most websites are static unless there's a blog happening on them. The more action happening on your website, the more visible it will be in Google searches. And the best way to keep your website 'busy' is by running a blog. Decide how often you're going to post articles: weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Whenever you decide to blog, make sure you stick to it.
And blog posts don't have to be long but they should be interesting and informative. For example, share something interesting about your product or service, different ways of using your product/s or benefiting from your service, info on your clients and staff members, etc. Visit some well-known blogs to see how they do it and mimic their style to help you get started. Here are some to look at so long to get you inspired:

A hairdresser: http://theconfessionsofahairstylist.com/
A mechanic: http://humblemechanic.com/
A beautician: http://www.jessicabeautician.co.uk/
A lawyer: http://www.lawblog.co.za/blog/content/
An accountant: https://www.appletreebusiness.com/blog/
A vet: http://avetsguidetolife.blogspot.co.za/
A dance teacher: http://www.artisandancestudio.com/blog/
A printer: http://blog.print-print.co.uk/
A bakery: http://blog.magnoliabakery.com/
A clothing store: http://www.necessaryclothing.com/blog/
A recruitment company: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/
A furniture company: http://lexfurniture.com/blog
A promotions company: http://blog.pinnaclepromotions.com/

To start, make a list of possible titles for your blog posts for the year ahead and then fill them in with info. Each post shouldn't be more than 3 paragraphs long and should always include an attractive photo. You don't have to be a wonderful writer to be a blogger. We recommend the free blogging platform www.blogger.com to get you started.

How can we help?
Send us your blog address and we'll let you know what we think of your blog, or email us your list of blog titles and we'll let you know if we think they're catchy or not for FREE.
We can also help you generate ideas to write on and we can proof read or edit your writing to make sure the English and grammar are correct and appropriate for your readers. We can even set up a blog for you and teach you how to use it.

Facebook is probably the most prominent application for online visibility at the moment. When someone Googles your company, often your Facebook business page will come up before your website. There are lots of ways to maximise your online presence using Facebook. Here are our favourites:
  • Make sure that your Facebook page is up to date by ensuring your short and long descriptions in the info section are filled in. Check that your contact info is correct and you have a location included so you business is 'on the map'. You don't have to include a street number, just the street name and area.
  • Choose and upload an attractive photo for your cover image and make sure it is something your target audience can relate to. Keep text in your cover image to a minimum, maintaining focus on the graphic.
  • Your thumbnail ('avatar' for oldschoolers) should always be a clear version of your logo and never a photo of your product. If your business page is about you (ie. if you're a personal trainer, model or an author) then it's okay to use your photo, just make sure it's a great one, taken professionally.
  • Try and post something on your Facebook business page every day to help keep it active and searchable. All your posts don't have to be about your business, they can be focused around your business, e.g. if you're in the motor industry you can post info on how to change a tyre, etc. It just requires a little out of the box thinking. One of the best things about posting on Facebook is that you can schedule your posts in advance, or even backdate them. Facebook gives prominence to images so make sure that you include a great image with each post.
  • Share your business in Facebook groups where you're allowed to advertise.
  • Consider running some targeted paid advertising on Facebook, i.e. a promoted post, page boost or advert. Costs start from about R12-20 per day. You can choose how much you want to spend and how many days you want to run your promotion for. This is a very economical way to reach a large number of people in your immediate vicinity.
  • If you don't have a Facebook business page yet, it's easy to create one and it costs nothing more than your time. When you're logged into your personal profile, just to go www.facebook.com/pages/create and get started.
How can we help?
Send us a link to your Facebook page and we will email you back some pointers for FREE on where and how you can improve your page.
If you're pressed for time or really technologically challenged, we can set up a Facebook page for you (you need to have a personal profile, though).  We can also help you improve your page by designing you an appropriate cover image, helping you generate post ideas and even scheduling posts for you and setting up paid advertising campaigns. When you order a Facebook page setup package from us, you get our FREE Facebook Marketing ebook too.

Sending out regular emails to your clients (no more than once a week) is a great, free way to keep your company top-of-mind.
We highly recommend Mailchimp for your bulk emailing. It's free for up to 2000 recipients and comes with a LOT of great templates. It has a user-friendly drag-and-drop format that allows you to create professional-looking emails in minutes, complete with social media buttons, Facebook share and personal address options, among other great features.
All you need to do is open an account (www.mailchimp.com), upload your mailing list and create your first campaign. You will have access to a report detailing who opened your emails, how many times, what they clicked on, etc. It's very useful. Plus it allows split testing so you can send out 2 different but similar emails and see which one gets the best response. You can also link MailChimp to your website and Facebook page for new clients to subscribe to.

How can we help?

Send us a test email of your first campaign and we'll let you know for FREE how you can improve on it. Or, if it sounds like too much hard work, we can help you set up your account, upload your contacts, design great emailer campaigns and send them out for you.

Fewer and fewer small businesses are using printed items nowadays. Letterheads are hardly necessary any more now that everyone is using MS Word and Excel. Very important: make sure that you convert all correspondence created in Word or Excel to PDFs before emailing them to anyone. Just go to 'save as' and select 'PDF'. Why? Stuff in these programs moves around when they are opened in different versions; and if you use a font someone else doesn't have, when they open your file it is going to change to something else and mess up your layout. Plus, PDF files can't be fiddled with but Word and Excel files can and you don't want someone changing figures in your quotes.

Printed flyers and pamphlets are giving way to Facebook advertising, and product brochures are being replaced by online brochures and catalogues. The only stationery item that is still being printed to any large extent by most businesses is business cards, probably because they are small and economical. And header cards or labels are also still fairly common print items for businesses with products.
If you do have any printed stationery or packaging make sure it conforms to your branding, is professionally designed, and attractive to your clients.

How can we help?
Send us the print files for your stationery and we'll let you know if they're up to standard for FREE, and where you can improve on the design or format.
We can also look at your printing requirements, give you ideas on where and how you can save on printing and, of course, design anything you need to have printed so that it is clean, professional and properly configured. We can even organise printing for you or steer you in the right printing direction.

This section is included last, because maximum success of all of the foregoing is dependent on it. Your branding - or your company image, look-and-feel, whatever you want to call it is your business personality. There are some really important factors regarding your branding that most small business don't consider but that could make a huge difference to sales. The most important of these are:
  1. Is your logo in alignment with and appealing to your target market?
  2. Does your branding reflect the message you want to put across to your clients?
  3. Do you have your branding files available in a high quality format that you can use consistently in marketing?
If you answered 'no' or were unsure about any of these, then you probably need your branding upgraded before you go all out on punting your business all over the place.

How can we help?
Send us your branding and a bit of info about your company and we'll send you back a FREE assessment on whether it is professional and in alignment with your target market. If it isn't then we can help you by cleaning up your logo, supplying you with a set of high resolution files of your logo to use in print and online, or even redesign your logo completely so it helps your business to perform better.

And there you have it! If you've read this far you should have a fairly good idea on where your small business is in the greater marketing scheme of things, whether you're doing everything you can to get yourself out there, or if there's a lot more you could be doing.

We hope this has been helpful. Feel FREE to email us with your assessment requests or any queries to design@cosmic-creations.net.

Yours in small-business greatness.

All content Copyright © to Jo Petzer 2015