Taking Your Product From The Studio To The Customer

I've been working with a variety of start-ups over the course of the last few months, and have been surprised to find that the majority of them spend 99% of their energy and time designing, developing and defining their product(s). This is important - products need to be great to survive the marketplace, but having prospective customers before you have even launched is critical. You can have a great product, but if nobody knows about it, you don't have a business.

The most successful start-ups I have worked with are the ones who launched half-finished products, or even non-existent products to the market. These startups simply started talking and engaging with consumers right from the start. As a result, these are the startups who are able to involve customers into their product design and development to determine whether their ideas are feasible, and can then create superior solutions and products. These are the start-ups who get to understand who their customers are and what their messaging needs to be, enabling them to build a better, bigger and more engaged following.

With my own start-up, I started engaging with customers at the design stage before we even reached production, this meant that by the time we had a product to sell, we had well over 1,000 engaged users to speak to. You don't even have to speak about your product - just start speaking about and sharing topics that your target market are interested in. Then, you can sell your product.
 

The key to success is to start before you are ready - Marie Forleo

1. Start engaging with potential customers (e.g. on Social Media) with behind the scenes shots as you are getting ready for launch - this is a great time to show off your team or personal brand.
2. Release product updates requesting feedback from customers and industry experts.
3. Start targeting influencers and journalists to share your story - there is often a few months between contact and results.
4. Carry out Market Research - start learning about your customer and their needs, so you can embed the results in your product development and design, as well as your branding efforts.
5. Build your database - having prospective customers signed up to your newsletter will prove to be invaluable for when you launch. It's a direct way to reach and engage with them from the start.
 

Talk Like A Person, Not Like A Brand

WHO is your brand?

The world is a cluttered place, and there are more and more businesses and brands out there able to get in front of customers. Because of this very thing, consumers are more selective than ever with who they choose to associate with, and the ones which are going to stand out, are the ones which connect. I can personally relate to the fact that very little catches my interest when I'm online, which shouldn't be the case when there is so much opportunity to do just that.

"Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell." Seth Godin

Relationship building starts with creating a connection, and connecting with people is far easier and richer than anything else. People connect with people and what they believe in, so bringing a human element into your branding and marketing efforts is more important than ever. It sparks interest and builds trust.

So who is your brand?
Are you funny, rebellious, serious, polite, cheeky, charming, authoritative, aggressive, open? Giving your brand a personality is one of the most important elements of brand development. 

Talk like a person, not like a brand.

Even better; is there an actual person behind the brand? The founder? The leader? Are they someone your customers would enjoy associating themselves with? If you are a one-man band, this should be a given. Make sure your name and personality is all over what you do, as it is you that your customers want to engage with. 

If you are building more of a brand, many people will suggest that involving a founder will not benefit long-term goals if the founder has an exit strategy in place. However, if you're just starting out and this is something that is going to increase the ability for you to engage your customers, perhaps due to your personal story, or even just your character, do it. There will be no attractive exit without customers. Consumers enjoy engaging with brands that have a story, with a person behind it who they can actually connect with.

Who is your team? Who is making the brand happen? This is another great way to show your customers that you are not just another brand, and that there are real people behind it.

“There are, basically, three kinds of people, the unsuccessful, the temporarily successful, and those who become and remain successful. The difference is character.” Jon Huntsman
  1. Write in the first person. People connect with individuals, and if you are constantly saying "we", that connection is going to be more challenging. 
  2. Display your heritage and timeline. This is a great way to show your customers where you have come from and where you are now, giving them a glimpse insight into your journey, and encouraging them to join it. Adding a photo of the founder is also a great way to show who is behind the brand, this is even more important if your company is B2B. Potential clients want to see the face of the person they're going to be working with.
  3. Be Open. Show clients/customers behind the scenes of your business and the behind the scenes of your life! Instagram is a great way to share this.
  4. Be honest and transparent. The more digital our lives get, the more we desire something genuine. Stay true to who you are and what you do. Stick to your values and constantly offer value to your customers. Be consistent, be accountable and be responsive. 
  5. Customise your emails and make them more real. I don't mean your marketing newsletters, I mean your regular emails. Email with as much as interest as if you are talking to a friend. Sign the emails with your name. Introduce yourself properly if it is the first time. The way you email is marketing, and your personality needs to be consistent not just when you personally send an email, but across Customer Service, HR, Finance, Marketing, PR, and every other facet of your business.
  6. Use video. Post videos of yourself so your customers can truly get to know you.

The Future Of Retail - 2016

The future of retail is something that fascinates me. It's not just about the latest gadgets or advanced technology, it's about the overall customer experience. One that is omni-channel and consistent.

Consumers are more sophisticated than ever; we expect more than just a transactional experience and we expect to receive what we want, when we want. Amazon have just rolled out their one hour delivery in certain UK destinations, exclusively for prime customers. The amazing thing here is not only have Amazon's obsessive focus on the customer led them to achieve customer satisfaction through instant gratification and the ultimate convenience, they have achieved another consumer goal, the feeling of exclusivity. The feeling that this service is only open to us loyal customers who pay for the privilege, makes the service look and feel so much better, and in turn it will be no  surprise that our loyalty continues to grow. Through a click of a button on my smartphone, tablet or computer, I could have what I want at my door. And it's made to feel great.

On the other side is Fenwick - they have beautiful department stores, and ones which do offer a great customer experience (shopping and dining). However,  if you go online you are faced with a static website. If I wanted to continue my shopping experience, I would have to go to the brand's personal e-commerce site, in the hope they have what I want, and the customer experience will feel completely different. I feel uneasy thinking about it. Fenwick also decided to launch a beauty loyalty card - or cardboard rather. It still requires the use of a pen, and I've probably lost 3 already. 

Bricks and water retailers who decide to join the e-commerce world by purely uploading their entire catalogue online have completely missed the point.  At the same time, purely e-commerce retailers need to join the high-street (pop-ups will do), and create an exceptional offline experience. The new consumer (Millennials and Generation Z especially), don't just want to transact with you. They want to shop online, on mobile and in-store all at the same time. They want convenience, to receive what they want instantly. They want to be made to feel special. They want to be rewarded for their loyalty. They want to interact with open and honest retailers. They expect exceptional customer service, 24/7. They want their experience to feel personal and completely seamless. I could go on, but you get the gist.

Retailers in 2016 need to be asking themselves: When my customer walks through the door, how can I create an interactional experience for them, which continues seamlessly when they go online, on mobile, and on social (and vice-versa)? How can I create convenience? How can I encourage loyalty that feels exclusive, is easy, and fits through all of my channels?

Start-ups are answering all of these questions, and are fulfilling them so well that they are going to outperform large retailers who are failing to keep up. 

Women In Business: Have More Confidence

Last night I went along to an event hosted by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation to encourage more females to drive the entrepreneurs agenda, and ultimately to entice them to join the programme. On the panel sharing their experience was Jane Michell (Jane Plan), Reshma Sohoni (SeedCamp), Lucy Stonehill (BridgeU) and Rikke Rosenlund (Borrow My Doggy).

Key takeaways:

1. Nobody has all the skills they need when they start. At the end of the day, confidence, charisma, resilience and people skills is what is going to make you stand out in business and go further than your competitors. Confidence is especially lacking in females; we always think we aren't good enough or can't possibly make it. Confidence is what is going to set you apart, so find it.

2. Be careful when you start your business. Build and work on free time, build in an embryonic way and ultimately, hope. Leaving a job to focus on a business is risky, but as long as you have a strong network around you and money coming in as well as going out, you can make it.

3. It's important to understand every part of your  business, but you don't have to be able to do it all. Surround yourself with support and people you trust.

4. Create the very best possible experience for your customers. The best product or service never wins - it's how it is executed and how much value you give to your customers.

5. Get over rejection. Share your ideas; the more you are rejected, the more time you may not waste pursuing things which won't work.

Finally, 5 pieces of advice from then panel:

Rikke: "Do something you are passionate about and care about - not for the end valuation".

Jane: "Be prepared for the journey".

Reshma: "Find a good partner. The entrepreneurial journey isn't a one year journey, so you need the right person beside you".

Lucy: "Surround yourself with powerful networks".

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, applications for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation are now open.

5 Quick Email Marketing Tips

You may have 1000's of followers on social media, and 1000's of website views, but all of these stats aren't half as valuable as the subscribers to your newsletter. Why? Those who enter their details to join your mailing list are either current customers (whose details you have because they have made a purchase, or signed up to a service), or they likely have an intent to purchase (why else would they give you permission to clog up their inbox?). These points are based on the assumption that you haven't bought, borrowed or stolen email addresses for your mailing list (bad idea), and these are genuine subscriptions.

Based on the above, the communications you send out via email are extremely important. You want to continue to engage your customers & potential customers (so they buy [or buy again], refer their friends, follow you on social media etc).

Below are my top 5 tips to get the most out of your email campaigns:

1. Determine your goal
Are you sending out the email because you want sales? Do you want more likes on your Instagram channel? Twitter? Facebook? Do you want the recipients to refer their friends? Do you want to invite them to an event? Do you want to make them aware of a new product or launch? Do you want to inform them more about your brand? Do you want to direct them to a particular page on your website?

Determining your goal is the most important part of conducting an email campaign, as based on your goal may determine who you are sending the email to, when you are sending it, what it will look like, and the content it will have. 

2. Make it personal
Email is a great way to make your customers feel special, and develop a sense of trust, but you have to have the information to do it properly. For example, addressing the recipient by their first name is always a nice touch, but it means you have to have collected their first name when they signed up. If you know their date-of-birth, you can send them personalised content on their birthday, or split the content between your younger and older customers. If you know their gender, and your product is gender sensitive, you can spilt the campaign between males and females. Even better is if you know their interests and behaviours. 

There are so many great things you can do, but most of these require you to have collected the information at sign-up, so it is worth looking into doing this. Or, you could put together an exciting email to your subscribers to get this information. My last blogpost about Valentines Day may be a great excuse for you to "get to know" your customers a little better, and ask for this information.

Other ways your can personalise your emails based on available behavioural data:
> Date signed up (have they been subscribed for a while or are they new?)
> Date email was last opened (are they engaged or disengaged?)
> Purchase history (so you can determine what they like, send add-on purchase emails, or information about their purchase).
> Click-through history (do they tend to click on certain links in your emails?)
> Location (if they have already made a purchase, you can send them localised content if relevant)
>Abandoned Checkout - Some website platforms like Shopify have this information available, but if you don't have this and you have a high volume of visitors, it is worth investing in. If somebody has started the process of purchasing but hasn't quite checked out (i.e. they have gone far enough to leave their email address), you can send them an email with a hint, reminder, or discount.

3. Be Responsive
This is really a given; a high percentage of users open their emails on their mobile phone, and therefore it's important your emails look just as great on their desktop, tablet and mobile.

4.Provide a Benefit
For your email to be opened again and again, you need to be offering something valuable to the recipient. To do this requires a good knowledge of your customer and the type of content they would be interested in receiving. The more valuable your emails are, the more likely you'll create a desire within your customer so they will open them, click through and convert.

5.Have a Clear Call-To-Action
Calls to action can often be the email’s only purpose - to get recipients to perform a task. Therefore, a good call to action should be clearly visible, persuasive and compelling. A simple "Click Here" is often not enough, it needs to give your readers a clear idea of where they will be taken to. For example "Shop Now", "Download the App", "Read More", "Compare".

6. Clickable Subject Lines (1 more tip for luck)
The subject line you create has to make the recipient want to click onto the email. Keep it short and sweet. Ask a question. Be personal if you can. Make sure it's clear and matches the content inside the email (a good open rate does not equal a good click through rate). Often creating a sense of urgency is also a great tactic, as customers are often encouraged by feeling they may miss out if they don't hurry. Importantly, keep testing A/B subject lines so you can figure out what works well and what doesn't.

Feel free to get in touch.  LinkedIn | Twitter. 

Why Your Brand Should Celebrate Valentine's Day

Ok, so you might think that Valentine's Day isn't for your brand. Cringy? Tasteless? Not Relevant?... 

Jumping on the back of themes from relevant holidays, and integrating them into your marketing efforts creates a unique opportunity to creatively reach your audience. There is so much out there, that you just have to find new ways to grab your audience's attention, and standard day-to-day marketing just isn't enough. Valentine’s Day has the potential to remind consumers why they love you, and for you to show that love in return.

5 ways you can incorporate Valentine's day into your marketing efforts:

1. Share love. Just a little bit of love shared on your social channels and email marketing activity is a nice touch. Perhaps you can use this an excuse to say thank you to your customers. Importantly, make sure your campaign and tone of voice is consistent across all the platforms you are using to share this message, and don’t try to appeal to everyone – know and understand your audience, and what kind of message they would like to receive. Key here is to try and make it as personal as possible.

2. Gift. Customers love feeling like they have got something for free. Encouraging sales by offering a gift-with-purchase, or sending out a voucher to be redeemed on Valentine's Day orders, is a great way to give to your customers, whilst also generating an uplift in sales. 

3. Create a Partnership. If it doesn't make sense for you to offer a gift, deal or service on Valentine's Day, or if you simply can't afford to, you can join together with somebody else to offer an incentive to your customer that you simply can’t fulfil on your own. You then also get the benefit of the dual brand following. 

4. Run a Competition. Running a Valentine's Day themed competition may be a great way to encourage engagement. As Valentine's Day is all about giving, sharing and love, you can make the most of this by encouraging your customers to share your content. You can launch this competition on one social media platform, but don't limit it. Think beyond Valentine's Day and link the campaign to your website to encourage email sign-ups, or encourage following on other channels.

5. Get Personal. Already hinted to at #1, personalisation is extremely important, and Valentine's Day is a great time to make the most of it. If you have the tools to do this, send out personalised emails addressing your customer, or send them a handwritten note. Even better, perhaps Valentine's Day can be the time that you collect more information from your customer; during sign-up or as part of an email campaign, you can ask them for more information (name, date of birth, gender etc). Think: "Let's take this to the next stage" "Let's get to know each other" 

 

Stick To Wholesale Or Open First Retail Unit?

Anyone who is wholesaling will quickly agree that it is a difficult business. The retailer often swallows a lot of your profits, and you can loose control over your products. Suddenly, you’re having buyers dictate what products they take, in what colour, and in what quantities. And then, you have to wait 30, 60, 90 and often 120 days for your money. It’s expensive and dangerous. And then after all that, they can just decide not to work with you again. Just like that.

However, thinking of the larger picture, it can work. It works if you are dealing with the right retailer, who is going to get you the right exposure you need. You may not be directly successful from a financial point of view, but indirectly you will build up your customer base and become a more trusted business. Plus, that customer who walked into that small shop in Kensington High Street to try on your shoes, may just end up buying them directly off your website – or telling their friend to! Just go in with your eyes open, have contracts in place and make sure you trust the retailer you are dealing with.

Then there’s the option of having your own retail outlet... (assuming at this point you already have an ecommerce site).

The negative: Finding a shop in an appropriate area with enough passing trade is a mission itself, and then there’s the rent, the rates, the fit-out of the shop, and all that goes with it.

But then there are the positives, and there are plenty...
A. Pop-up shops are becoming more and more common. You no longer have to commit to a long lease, so the risk can be substantially reduced. 
B. You get the entire mark up in your pocket (obviously minus the overheads). 
C. You can decide what you put in your shop, and when.
D. You're in control. That colour isn't selling well? Just mark it down.
E. You can meet and speak to your customers, and give them a streamlined customer experience.

How to find a pop-up (the basics).
1. Find your key locations, based on research as to where your customers are or spend their time.
2. There are a few great middlemen who connect retailers with landlords looking to fill spaces, such as Appear Here and We Are Pop-Up. However, seeing as there is a middleman involved, you won't be getting the best of deals...
3. Go directly to the landlords. Find out who owns the units in a certain area, and contact them directly if you have seen a space available, or to see if they have any spaces becoming available. If they have an empty space, they will be only too happy to fill it for a short period of time. Some landlords (if you push for it) may even give it rent free (with only rates to pay), if they like what you're doing and think you'll bring people to the area. 
4. Make sure there is passing traffic in the locations available (unless your press is going to be so great that you can drive people there).
5. Make it even less risky and share the space with other brands who are align with what you do. That way, your costs are lowered and you'll  be bringing even more people into the store.
6. Use the space efficiently by finding one with enough space to hold stock or where you can work from, so you don't have to pay for a warehouse or office space while you are there.

My advice?
Although there are plenty out there who no longer believe in bricks and water, I believe that pop-ups are a really great way to test your market, make sales (at the right time and in the right location), and spread awareness about your brand (and drive more people to your website). If you have the finance to do so, definitely start with a pop-up (and all going well you can commit more permanently), and continue to wholesale to selected and trusted retailers who are going to help grow your business in terms of exposure. All of these things will ultimately build your brand presence and lead to more online sales, which is the goal for most modern retailers.

10 Ways To Reach Bloggers To Sell Your Product

Last week I published a post about How To Get Press With No Contacts Or Budget. This post was really well received so I thought I'd write one with a focus on Bloggers. This has some similar tactics, but a few different approaches are needed.

1]: Create your list. Spend a couple of days compiling a list of the bloggers you want to target. These will be bloggers who's readership matches your target audience. This may be a instinctive guess, but doing things such as looking through their social media following to see who is engaging with them, is one way to find out. If the blogger you are after has an agent, they will have a media pack they can send to you too with a breakdown of their readership.

[2]: Understand them. Do a little digging on the posts they typically write about. Is their blog lifestyle focussed, product focussed etc? If you do this, you can engage with them when you write to them by mentioning a previous post and how much you liked it. It's often a good idea to let them know you are a fan by choosing a article to mention which wasn't very recent, so they think you've been a reader for some time. For example, starting an email with something like "I've been reading your blog a while now, since you wrote that post about X" will really connect with them. Bloggers love to know their content is loved, and if you are one of the people who love it they will be more inclined to speak to you.

[3]: Start small. Bloggers with a small readership are just as important as those with a large one - their readers could still be your customer. Make sure you reach out to as many low-profile bloggers as you can, as they are most likely to be interested in featuring you without any form of payment or incentive - they will likely just be flattered to hear from you. These bloggers are also more likely to use your imagery and share your content multiple times. 

[4]: Be human. Talk them through something personal about how you started or why you are where you are now. Tell them what it would mean if you could get some publicity in their blog and why it would really interest their readers. It would be great if you could find something you have in common with them too that you can mention. 

[5]: Blame the customer. Let the blogger you are reaching out to know that your consumer visits and loves their blog, and they have told you this! Even better, let this be the very reason you have reached out to them.

[6]: Bypass their agent. If you are looking to speak to a blogger with a large readership, they likely have an agent who is only interested in talking to you if there is something in it for them. However, reaching a high-profile blogger directly is really difficult without a personal connection from a friend or family member. If you're like me, and your friends and family seem to be very badly connected (or so they tell you), you have to try other routes. Firstly, look up the blogger on LinkedIn (often their blogging career is a sideline, and they have another profession), and if you have any mutual connections that is a great place to start. Another worthwhile attempt is typing their name into Facebook, you just never know what friend may know them!

If the above fails, make sure you check out their FAQ pages. Sometimes they have another email lingering in there, or their assistance's email.

[7]: Offer an incentive. Other than the obvious of sending them a product, If you can afford to give a blogger a % of your sales, this is a great way to entice them. Worth noting is that some large bloggers will only use their chosen affiliate programme, which is often not accessible to a small startup (e.g. RewardStyle). However, there are some affordable affiliate programmes out there which some bloggers will use such as LeadDyno or Affiliatly

Another incentive they may be interested in, is offering a discount to their readers. Bloggers love offering their readers great content and offers, so by providing a unique discount code to their readers may be the only thing you will need to do.

[8]: Meet them. This may seem difficult, but actually, bloggers are all over the place at the moment speaking at events. Make sure you keep informed as to when and where they are, and arrive early to grab their attention! 

[9]: Write them a letter. Bloggers often have addresses to send products to on their website, or at the hands of their agents. If you are struggling to get a response from them, drop them a well-presented note. Once they have that, you can email them to ask if they have received it.

[10]: Engage with them. Make sure you are commenting on their blog posts and liking their social media posts. The more they see you, the more they will remember you.

The above are just some ways you can reach out to bloggers, but if you have any questions do get in touch. :)

Why You Need To Talk To Your Customers

Everything in your business should start with your customer's wants, needs and behaviours, and the best way to reveal these is through customer research. It is amazing how many companies try to do research without actually engaging in conversation with their customers, and purely relying on quantitative data. I do agree that quantitative data is extremely important and insightful, but it's limiting if that is all that you rely on. 

Quantitative data tells you what your customers are currently doing...

For example: 
Let's imagine you own a supermarket, and based on your data, it seems that your core customer is a Female, 30 year old (who, for the purposes of this example, we will call Daisy, for no reason at all other than the fact that I like the name Daisy). She lives just outside the City, spends £30 per week on shopping, usually on a Saturday morning, and her shopping basket is mostly made up of raw ingredients and fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Therefore, it would be wise that on a Saturday morning, you make sure you have delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the majority of your communications are going to be about fresh food and cooking from scratch. You won't create much content around family shopping either, as it doesn't seem likely that she has a family, seeing as she is spending only £30 per week. Etc Ect. Very useful information.

However. Little did you know...

Daisy is a busy professional. She shops on a Saturday morning because that is really her only time off, and she does her shopping after her morning run. During the week, she works long hours in the City, and what she really wants to buy on a Saturday morning is easy-to-cook food for her weekday lunches. However, she ends up buying these from elsewhere as she finds you have quite limited stock of healthy options, and the ones you do have are also a little too expensive. Also, Daisy holds dinner parties every Saturday night for a small crowd of friends. She goes to a local wine store to buy her wine, as you don't have her favourite Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, you don't seem to have much choice for wine at all.

Seeing as Daisy is your core customer, if you knew the above you may introduce or expand a new line of product, you might bring easy-to-cook healthy recipes and advice into your communication, you may communicate to her at different times etc.

Above is just a small glimpse (perhaps not the best of examples, but one nonetheless) into what kind of information you can find by talking to your customers, to make their lives easier and better. Knowing your customers goals, aspirations, beliefs, trusts, challenges and where they spend their time, is key to:

> Identify problem areas
> Recognise new areas for expansion
> Target in the right way
> Target at the right time
> Define your value proposition and marketing messages
and ultimately... make well-informed decisions, and move forward. 

The above is somewhat linked to my previous article, which talks about finding the "Why" to your business. Why is your customer is better off with you?

Small companies and start-ups can go about talking to their customers by sending out emails, surveys, engaging on social media, picking up the phone, or running small focus groups with a select group of people. However, usually these end up being friends and family, which isn't so insightful. It is also really important not to just learn about your current customer, but also your target customer and competitor's customer. There are some agencies out there which can connect you to the consumers you are looking to talk to (e.g. Q Research London is my family business), but if you don't have the budget, standing on street corners with a clipboard, going into offices or shopping centres, or cold calling, can get you some of the answers you may need.

The Mom Test is a wonderful book if you are just starting out and looking to learn how to gain the most authentic feedback.

Happy Monday :)

How To Encourage Referrals

Recommendations from people you know will always be the strongest motivator for purchasing, and will always be more valuable than any other form of marketing or PR. Referrals aren't just limited to friends, family and colleagues, it can come from any source the customer trusts. This might include news publications, customer reviews, testimonials or influencer opinions (bloggers, for example).

Why? If you hear a positive opinion about a product, brand or service from somebody you know or trust, you automatically trust the brand/organisation significantly more and will be more convinced to purchase. Brand trust is something companies spend thousands of pounds trying to achieve, but by encouraging referrals you can authentically achieve this much better than any other way.

There are many ways of encouraging referrals. I've listed my favourite 7 below:

[1] Create a referral campaign. Reward customers for sharing your brand by providing them with an incentive. You can also reward the receiver if they make a purchase on the back of the referral. Dropbox's famous referral programme gives you and your friends 500MB additional free storage space, up to 16GB, when you refer. Uber did something similar, giving you and a friend money off a ride when you refer. Importantly, what you give to the referring customer has to feel as food as to the new customer. There are some great programmes out there to help you set up your referral campaign... Some of them include: Woobox, MentionMe, Ambassador, ReferralCandy, Friendbuy, LoyaltyLion,  & Referrify.

Note: A referral campaign doesn't have to be online. Last Christmas I gave all my customers who purchased in November or December a voucher to either use for themselves, or to give to a friend for Christmas. The receiver of the voucher would never know it was a freebie!

[2] Create sharable content. Encourage individuals to share content on their social platform, and you can reach potential customers who not only now know about your brand, but have found out about it through somebody they know.

[3] Implement exceptional customer service. Encourage customers to go away shouting and screaming about how amazing their experience was.

[4] Encourage influencers to talk about your brand. These influencers need to have a readership as close to your target market as possible, and you can reward them with a free product, or a % of sales. There are a few great programmes out there depending on the size of your company and campaign, which  automate referral campaigns like this. I used to use one called LeadDyno, which integrated well with my Shopify store, and was extremely cost effective. If you are working with a really high profile blogger, they may ask for a one-off fee instead or as well as their commission. If you can't afford the larger influencers, there are plenty of other bloggers out there with smaller influencers who may be willing to do it for a minimal fee, or no fee at all. These influencers are just as important as the big ones.

[5] Make it easy to refer. For example, have a link visible on your website or email campaigns, where in one click the customer can share content (via social, via email etc). Don't make it possible just for those who purchase, have it available to as many visitors of your company as possible. You can have it visible on a home page, account page, a separate landing page or in your emails, for example.

[6] Encourage Reviews. People trust what other customers say about a company, so make sure you encourage reviews. Do this by making it easy for them to leave their review after they have purchased.

[7] Surprise your customer. A great way to do this is by sending gifts either randomly or event specific (e.g. Christmas). By giving to a customer you will encourage them to give back, and one way they may do this is by recommending you. You could even do this by sending them a note a few months after purchase just checking up on them that they are happy with their product/service, and offering them any tips or help.

It's worth noting that although I have focussed on referrals in this post, a lot of the above ideas are also relevant to increase retention. I'll focus on a retention post soon. :)

How To Get Press With No Contacts Or Budget

Seems impossible, right? That's what I thought when I started out. I knew I had to get my brand out there, but how was I supposed to when I didn't know any journalists in the right space and had no PR background at all?

It's simple really. 

[1]: Create your list. Spend a couple of days compiling a press list of journalists in your space. You can do this by looking up the email format (e.g. firstname.lastname@email.com), and then finding their names on the website or their LinkedIn. The press-list I put together when I started is one of the most valuable lists I own. Journalists may not stay at the companies they are currently at for years at a time, so the list may become outdated if you don't keep on top of it, but they tend to stay as journalists so having their names and contact details in one document is extremely useful. If you want a particular contact, do get in touch with me. I probably have it.

[2]: Understand them. Do a little digging on their most recent articles and what they seem to be interested in. If you do this, you can get a flavour for what they like writing about and tailor your email in a way which will excite them. A little more importantly, you can start a conversation with them and/or grab their attention by connecting with them on a personal level. For example, starting an email with something like "I read what you said about X last week, and it inspired me to reach out to you" sounds great. Or "Your words in yesterday's column were really thoughtful. I wondered what you would think about writing a piece on X?".

[3]: Be human. Don't pitch your business cold, but talk them through something personal about how you started or why you are where you are now. Tell them what it would mean if you could get some publicity in this particular publication and why it would really interest their readers. Talk to them, not at them.

[4]: Blame the customer. This always works... Saying "I think my story would interest your reader" doesn't sound very convincing. However, if you start with the customer by saying "my customers always tell me how they can see my story/product in their favourite publication X, which has encouraged me to reach out to you". This makes it sound like there is a demand from their readership, it sounds good.

[5]: Get an introduction. This is the best way to get talking to a journalist. One way I have done this before is by purposely contacting somebody in the wrong department, asking them for the contact details or an intro to the right person. Even if they don't make a direct introduction, if they have passed on their details you can start the email by saying "Person X has passed on your details, I think you may be able to help" For example.

[6]: Link to your website. When you're talking about your business, make sure it's always linking to your website so they can take a look at what you do easily.

[7]: Add visuals. If your business is product based, it is always good to add a few visual images at the bottom of your email. However, don't put too many or the email may be too large to reach their inbox.

[8]: Keep it brief & well-written. Journalists don't have time to A) read a long email, or B) re-write information. If you can give them something polished that they can almost copy and paste into a story, they are more likely to run with it. Their deadlines are often tight.

[9]: End the email with a question. Encourage the journalist you are reaching out to, to get back to you. Something like, What do you think? Is this something you'd be interested in? Can I grab you a coffee to show you what we do?

[10]: Grab their attention with your subject line. Journalists get hundreds of emails per day, and unless they know the sender or are attracted by the subject line, they won't open it. One example is to take a look at the headlines of some of their recent stories, and try and replicate it with your own content. 

[11]: Keep chasing. You'll be lucky if 10% reply to you, but don't be disheartened. Keep following up with them as you may have caught them at the wrong time during your previous attempt(s). A lot about securing press is good timing, so keep trying until you find the right time. One other thing, if you get an automated reply that they are out of office, make a note in your diary when their return date is - drop them another line then or the day after. In the automated replies they may also give contact details of other valuable contacts, so make sure to reach out to them too.

[12]: Don't call. Everyone will tell you something different here, but in my experience, don't call unless you have an introduction of some kind. Journalists get so many calls and just don't have the time to speak to you over the phone, especially if they don't know who you are.

[13]: Write them a letter. No luck with email? Send them a brochure/info with a handwritten letter, telling them what you want to tell them. Once they have that, you can email them to ask if they have received it. Chances are, they will reply. 

[14]: Engage with them. Engage with key journalists on social if you can. Follow them using your brand account on Twitter/Instagram etc. If they haven't replied to your email previously, drop them a tweet.

[15]: Show off. Tell them about other press you have been in (if possible). If journalists can see you're getting interest elsewhere from other great publications, they will be interested!

 

The above are just some ways you can get the attention of journalists, but if you have any questions do get in touch. Some of the press I have been in is listed below. Best of luck!




How Anyone Can Build A Website

The days of paying thousands of pounds for a techy web agency to build your website have gone! 

I remember when I was in the process of starting my first business, I went along to meet the CEO of a very large organisation for some advice. One of the things I remember him saying to me was - "But, this business will require so much investment. Your website, for example, could cost tens of thousands of pounds!". I looked at him in so much confusion, and asked "But, what about Shopify?". At that point, the confusion on his face looked worse than mine, as he responded "What's that?'.

One month later, I had a fully functioning, neatly designed website up and running. One that looked great and did the job just how I wanted it.

1. It cost me £10.99 for my domain name (this needs to be renewed yearly).
2. It cost me £18 for the first month (+£18 ongoing - there are a few different packages depending on what you need. I also found a discount code somewhere saving a few pounds).
3. I spent £80 on a more advanced template, but there are plenty of free ones.
4. I paid someone techy £100 to fix a few things youtube videos couldn't help with. Although if I put my head to it and had the time, I probably didn't need to pay this.
5.I spent £60 for a student to take my first lot of photos (homepage banner images and product images combined). That is very cheap but the images were still pretty good.

So that's £268.99 excl. VAT to set up. Not thousands after all. Plus, once i launched the site, the amount of people asking me to pass on the details of the "people" who built it was crazy, as it looked so great. 

So this is how it works. At the moment, there are probably about a hand-full of decent DIY website builders out there (see the end of this post), and each one is better depending on what you need it for (e.g. portfolio, ecommerce, blog)...

Typically you pay (1)a monthly fee which usually includes the hosting of the website, (2)a one-off cost for a template design (unless you choose a free one, of which there are loads), and (3) if it's an ecommerce site, a very small % of sales (typically between 0.5% - 3% depending on your package). If you don't have a domain name already, (4)you can purchase a customised domain easily through the website builder during set-up, or separately depending what you are comfortable with. 

A lot of these website builders have really amazing step-by-step instructions and videos to get started, to help you work with the template you've chosen and to customise it. If you need a hand setting up, there are also a lot of people out there who can help for a fairly small fee, either to set it up for you completely or to make any changes you aren't comfortable doing. For example, if you want to make a change to the template design, it may require some knowledge of coding. Or perhaps you're not very computer savvy and you don't have the time to get your head around it. Setting up these types of websites is something I can help with, so get in touch if you need.

My favourite DIY stylish website builders on the market are listed below. These have fully responsive templates too, which means your website will look just as great across devices:

Shopify - This is great for an ecommerce site and the site I used to build my ecommerce business. I found it super easy to set-up and get started.
Squarespace - Although you can use this for ecommerce, I think it's better for a portfolio or a simple website and blog without an ecommerce function. I used this to build this current website!
Big Cartel - Great for ecommerce and they have a free package for less than 5 products which is good.
Wordpress - The wordpress.com website is great for simple blogging, but if you're a little more tech-savvy, the wordpress.org site which is self-hosted, is great to set up any site including ecommerce, with loads of customisable plugins. I personally found wordpress.org much more challenging that Shopify, as it took me hours to get my head around it. So like I said, I think this one is for the more tech-savvy!
Weebly - I have never used this but have heard it's great especially for simple websites, a bit like squarespace.com

There are more out there, but the above are probably the best if you want something that looks young and is responsive too. Good luck!

 

 

10 Pinterest Tips You Need To Know

Pinterest is a channel I have always struggled to grow, but slowly but surely I'm getting to know how to use it effectively. My top ten tips below.

1. Titles should be keywords, as well as descriptions.

2. Keep descriptions short.

3. Don't use hashtags (Pinterest doesn't recognise them at the moment).

4. Boards on the top row get picked up by Google first. Keep alternating them.

5. Use your own images.

6. "How to" Images get pinned the most.

7. Convert your account to a business account.

8. 80% of pins should be inspirational or informative, with 20% being about your brand.

9. Don't tag someone else's image with your URL.

10. Pin regularly.

Put your customer on your wall

When I say put your customer on your wall, I mean actually. A picture of your customer, printed/drawn and stuck on your wall in full-view via whatever means necessary.

Alongside the picture, include the following information. Do your research and make sure it's accurate. This is your core customer, but you can have as many of these as you like. I would recommend having your core customer followed by 2 secondary customers.

Gender:
Age:
Occupation:
Personal Income:
Lifestage (married, single, cohabiting; family, pre-family, empty nester):
Children's ages (if applicable)
Location (e.g. city, suburbs):
Reads (newspapers/magazines):
Finds inspiration in:
Where are they online (social channels used):
Spends weekend:
Hobbies:
----
Related to your business
Customer's Goals:
Customer's Challenges:

 

 

 

Why Is Your Customer Better Off With You?

I was introduced to the WHY, WHAT, HOW model a few years ago, and was reminded about it while I was on a marketing course very recently with a good group of friends from The New Entrepreneurs Foundation (an amazing programme I joined after University).

I believe that in any business this is the best place to start. This model suggests starting from the inside out in every aspect of decision making, by starting with the WHY. Why are you doing what you are doing? Once you have determined that, everything you talk about after makes so much sense, to you and everyone around you.

For example, let's talk about branding. This could be something you are doing at the very early stages of development if you are starting out, or you could be a large business who has gone off track and you're needing to go back to your core and rebrand or reposition your business. Branding is just as much the way your brand looks on the outside (product/website/logo/social), to how it looks on the inside (employees,customer service,emails). Therefore, everybody in an organisation needs to fully understand why the business exists, so that the end person (the customer) understands too. Once they understand, you've hit gold.

Why - this is your purpose. What value do you add to your customer? Why are they coming to you, or why should they come to you? Why do you exist? IMPORTANT: THIS IS NOT "TO MAKE MONEY". Making money is important, but this cannot be your reason for existing. Your reason for existing is customer centered. Your customer does not want to buy from you so that you make money. FACT.
- Do you make their life easier?
- Do you make their life more exciting?
- Do you make their life happier?
- Do you make them feel good?
- Do you make them healthier?


There are so many possible WHYS, but this is extremely personal to your business and something I would suggest spending good time thinking about. Once you've figured it out, share this with everyone. It  deserves centre stage on your website, your communications, and should be embedded in your product/service.

How - this is the means you have do fulfil your why. This is the route it takes for you to get your WHAT to your WHY.

What - Every organisation on the planet knows what they do; if you are product based business, this would be your product. If you are a service based business, this could be your main offering (e.g. a consultancy, events organiser etc.etc.etc.), or piece of software.

The how and what are easy. The important thing is starting with WHY in all aspects. Branding is one example, but it can be translated into every aspect of business decision making. If you start with the why, it's easier to set goals, build teams, engage customers, and ultimately head in the right direction.

Hello

Hi!

I've written many blogs in my time on the internet, but this one I'm going to actually maintain (hold me to this, please). 

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Olivia. And thanks for finding your way to my website, I'll try and make it worth your while. I'm 23 years old and I have been working on all sorts of interesting things, but the one I am most proud of is the business I ran for the last two years. I built a brand on the internet, which actually made sales. Quite a lot of them. With no marketing spend whatsoever. As you can imagine, I've learnt tonnes about marketing, engagement, consumers, branding, amongst a  variety of other things, which to me, are vital.

Due to various reasons, I'm moving on to better things and hence have time on my hands to write and share all that I've learnt and am continuing to learn.

Enjoy & feel free to drop me a message to say Hi.

Olivia x