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marketing and related technologies.

Prepare your business for road bumps

With more than 600,000 small businesses set up in the UK each year, it’s almost expected that many will fail – with some sources quoting up to 80% of small businesses failing within the first year. But prepare yourself for some road bumps and your business could stay the course.

Whatever the precise failure rate is, it is not insignificant. It’s tough work keeping a business afloat and it takes a special kind of person to weather the storm. Someone who is not put off by the failure stats (or they feel safe in the knowledge that their venture will be different). But it also takes someone who knows that there will be many bumps along the way and is prepared for them.

Whatever your reason for setting up your small business, you need to be aware of the risks. Whether you want to be free from the shackles of a corporation, or feel you have a specialist skill or you feel highly motivated to sell a particular product or service, perhaps you are a woman returning to work and looking for a new opportunity to be self-employed – you will need to be the type of person who can overcome hurdles and obstacles and push through when things get tough.

On a recent interview for our podcast we asked Matt Watson from Stakify how he overcame hurdles in business. “Well, it’s always a struggle when you’re trying to start a business … The reason I keep going more than anything is that I’m passionate about what I do, I’m passionate about the problem I want to solve, and I don’t want to fail – failure is not an option so we ask how can we keep moving forward. Whatever the hurdle is we’ve got to figure it out, keep going.”

But how do you ensure that your business will be a rip-roaring success rather than simply a means of throwing away your savings and spending long hours at tasks you are tragically unprepared for? There are some obstacles that most businesses will face at some point, and it’s your passion to see the business survive that will help you over them.

In another interview with Gina GeoGhegan, of Wild Fizz Kombucha, we asked her what it takes to get through the tough times. “If the sole reason is cash, you know ‘I wanna be a millionaire’, then don’t do it – you need to have passion. It’s the passion that takes you through, that makes you, on a Saturday night at 3am, with a newborn child, to try to figure out how you’re gonna pay for the next production line. That’s what keeps you going. You have to really love it. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and you have to love it.”

Just like in life, it is these roadblocks that can either make your business stronger and more resilient, or it can break you, and you end up as one of the business failure stats. But you can take steps to avoid the latter. The first of which is to recognise that setbacks are inevitable and to see them as opportunities to grow.

“…you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure. You will learn that this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming—or possibly thriving because of—them. Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity…” Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage

When you experience a setback, you can get bogged down or you can grow. What distinguishes a successful business from a failure is whether you get discouraged and contemplate giving up or you embrace the setback, learn from it and move on.

One crucial step in helping your business succeed is to be aware of the main problems that will tip the balance between a successful business and a failure. These could be…

Finding customers – A tricky one for new businesses. If you don’t know where your customers are likely to hang out, then you can’t tempt them with your product or service. There are multiple ways to place your offer in front of your ideal customer, find the one that works for your business. Read this excellent tutorial on how to use Facebook to find clients.

Lack of capital – While some small business owners assume they need access to a considerable sum in the beginning, others think that this can lead to uncontrolled spending and poor decisions. Staying as debt-free as possible helps you to avoid tying the company up and allows your business to grow at a manageable rate. Keep overhead and operating expenses to a minimum in the first couple of years.

Getting paid – When you’re running a small business, your primary focus is going to be on acquiring new customers and clients, but this can be to the detriment of your accounts receivable. Be organised and invest in accounting and invoicing software to ensure your customers are being invoiced and are paying you on time. Stay in control and maintain cash reserves if you can.

Employees – Your employees are the face of your business so make sure you choose wisely. Just one great member can be the making of your business and adversely one harmful team member can be the downfall of it. When you have the best team possible, make sure they know that they are important to the business by offering regular praise and acknowledgement. They will need constant motivation to perform at peak level.

Marketing – There’s little point dipping your toe into numerous marketing ponds and hoping something will bite, this just wastes your time and money. You’re much better off with only one or two channels that you feel most comfortable with, and mastering these.

Also, once you have customers, you must do what is necessary to keep them. So create long-term customers and keep them happy with regular contact such as email marketing so that you spend less on attracting more customers.

Burn out – As a business owner, you probably spend way too many hours at work, which can become exhausting. Study after study has shown that too long hours at work can adversely affect productivity and can lead to burn out very quickly. Schedule in plenty of time out and then you can face adversity with a fresh perspective. Start with a sustainable working week – aim for 40 hours.

Scaling revenue – In such a competitive marketplace you must find ways to scale your revenue by creating upsells, raising your prices and marketing your product or service as a premium brand. Focus on constant growth to move forward and upward.

Learn the lessons – With every failure or setback there is a lesson, make sure you understand what it is. There are also many others who have experienced setbacks in their business who are willing to share this with others. Socialise with people who’ve been there, done that, and learned the key lessons. But also read, listen to audio books and podcasts to see how others have overcome their hurdles.

Everyone who has successfully run a business, from the multi-millionaire author to the successful small business entrepreneur – has experienced obstacles. There will always be one lurking around the corner. Know that it will happen at some point, have a strategy for dealing with it and you’ll be better equipped to keep your business on solid ground.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Interview: Stackify with Matt Watson

On this episode Ben interviewed Matt Watson. He’s been an entrepreneur since he can remember selling his first business at 29 for over 140 Million dollars. He now runs Stackify, Fullscale.io, as well as few other side projects, and joined Ben to share some of his challenges in building the businesses and how marketing played its role.

 

Image Credit: Matt Watson, Stackify Founder.

Interview: Wild Fizz Kombucha with Gina Geoghegan

Ben met Gina during a demonstration of how to make a fermented tea called Kombucha, at a small food fair run by River Cottage down in Axminster. He was fascinated by the process of this magical gut reviving drink but also in her passion and clarity of the presentation.

Ben caught up with Gina a couple of weeks later to find out about her company Wild Fizz and how she got started. Gina’s story and openness on her business are well worth listening to.

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Invest in the seeds of your evergreen marketing

It is easy to get bogged down into the constant struggle of reeling in profitable business. And in a tight economy, it’s understandable why we might tighten our belt and trim off the frills. But it’s worth remembering that marketing is one of the key strategies for getting in that new business and building the foundations for eventual sales.

Obviously you need to be sensible, so think about your evergreen marketing; by evergreen marketing I am talking about a marketing idea or concept that will last beyond the next couple of hours, weeks or even years, perennially providing you with new strands of business.

The top four evergreen strategies I would recommend investing in are:

Video

One of the top marketing tools to give your customers value or deliver a personal touch, I cannot express how much I value video. Working around the clock on platforms like Vimeo, YouTube you are able to hook business from worldwide markets.

Whether it is a how to guide, vlog, casestudy, testimonial or product overview it will certainly benefit your business. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, less is always more and you may even be surprised at how affordable it is.

If you don’t have the capacity to create a short video, think about making a slideshow animation from images or using animated GIFS to help catch your audience’s eye.

Website Facelift

In a world of instant gratification and with many of us carrying a computer in our pockets it seems ludicrous if you do not have an online presence. A handful of pages is better than nothing. The absolute basics should be a clear message about who you are, what you can deliver and how to get in touch with you. This is often the first glimpse into your business so make the effort and make sure it gives a professional vibe.

With current online web design sites such as Squarespace or WordPress their really is no excuse. Even hiring a professional web designer is a reasonable cost for most busineses. Giving your site a facelift does not have to be expensive and often needs just a review of the text, images and search optimisation.

Don’t have a website? At the very least make sure you have an online presence using a Facebook Business page or Google My Business profile. How else will your customer’s find you?

Blogging

Informative and educational articles is where you will capture today’s audience. If we want to know something we ask Google.. delving into a world where at a click of a button we can find out how to fix our washing machine or learn how to perfect a certain recipe.

Whether it’s an informative article or a more informal account of what is happening in your business. The more information you share online through articles on your site, the more this will help capture your audience. By writing and sharing something of true value you are instinctively building trust with your customer by proving that you know what you are talking about. Sharing helpful tips and tricks will make you more memorable and possibly prompt a return visit or even a recommendation.

It will also help boost your website up the Google ranks as the search engine robots favour sites with quality and relavent content as it increases the amount of time that is spent on the site, reduces the bounce rate and increases the number of pages visited per session.

Don’t forget all of the content you are gathering could be translated into a video at a later date!

Case studies

You can huff and puff until the cows go home but nobody can sell your business more than your previous clients. When investing in a new venture or purchase the majority of people these days will search online and read the reviews to help them determine which company they would like to go with. If you are good at what you do, be open. Contact your previous customers and ask them if they would mind giving you a review or sharing some feedback. You never know you might find that you learn something from the feedback which could streamline your business further. Whether it is a short statement, written or filmed interview it will add an extra layer of authenticity whilst reminding them that you still exist and could even prompt further work.

It is important to be careful about what you invest in but don’t be afraid to invest in marketing ideas that are fun or novel as often that is the stuff that hooks in your audience. We are all bored and numb to so many of the mainstream marketing campaigns so think of how you can be different and about what your customers would find helpful.

 

Image credit: Adrenalin by Artem Bali from Pexels

Something Inventive 26: A very friendly bunch

Al and Ben are joined by seasoned podcaster and Mac enthusiast, Karl Madden to talk about the latest iteration of Intelligent Tracking Prevention from Apple. Karl also advocates that every business should get into podcasting or video.

If you have any feedback, ideas or topics you’d like covered on our podcast we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch via our contact page, leave a voicemail on 0800 881 5805 or mention @RatherInventive on Twitter.

Listen on Apple Podcasts app

Something Inventive is an entertaining and lively podcast on creativity and the web. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or search for ‘Something Inventive’ in your favourite podcast player.


Episode sponsored by Ticked-off.com

Check out the sponsor ticked-off.com. When you sign up let us know and I’ll extend your trial for 2 months.

Show notes

 

The Hosts

Al Osmond (@inventiveal) – An unusual mix of logical thinker with a creative eye
Ben Kinnaird (@benkinnaird) – Knower of Social media, SEO and ‘the Web’

Be part of the show

Tweet a service or product you’d like to promote, mentioning @RatherInventive and the hashtag #podvert and we’ll read it out over the coming episodes.

If you like the show please give us a rating in iTunes and we’ll read out your comment. You can do this from the podcast player on Apple.

Thanks for listening!


Audio edited by Donalize – ‘Goofy Vocal Groove‘ intro music by Dave Girtsman – Image Credit: Drinking Liquor and Talking On Dining Table Close Up by Helena Lopes on Pexels

Whitespark’s guide to optimising Google My Business

An informative look at tweaking and improving your Google My Businesses from Whitespark so you get the best chance in local search.

One area I think that’s important to me is to being found are reviews.

For local businesses, it’s no longer enough to rank. Your presence in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Position) has to stand out in order to attract new customers. Reviews play a critical part in a business’ ability to differentiate from the competition and can impact rankings.

The Impact of Reviews:

– Listings with reviews instantly stand out because they have the golden stars.

– Google showcases your reviews in the branded KP (Knowledge Panel) and also adds review highlights.

– Google also features a section of reviews around the web giving your total reviews and average rating, which means if you have reviews from other third party sites (or even on your website) then your KP will expand further.

– Reviews can bring in more business and provide valuable feedback.

 

However, I wasn’t aware of this new review condition from Google.

You cannot review gate – if you are using a review platform or any review software to encourage customer feedback, you have to provide all users the option to leave online reviews. No moving the negative/unhappy experiences to a different landing page.

 

I find a lot of the information from Whitespark valuable, I recommend you signup to their newsletter if you are interested in performing well in local search.

3 reasons your website is repelling your customers

Tuba in shop window

You go to your local town to do some shopping. One shop entices you with its window display, and you head for the entrance. Only to find that the door is jammed, and you can’t get in. You can see people in the shop, but no matter how much you try you cannot access that store. Eventually, someone comes to the door and mouths through the glass that the shop is closed. You come back the next day and the situation hasn’t changed. Would you be frustrated? Would you shun that shop forever more and go somewhere else?

So why would you think that your website is any different? You may be proud of your new site, with its branding and its colours, even its poetic and whimsical copy. But does it actually work?

Your website is the face of your company, and you don’t want to give the wrong first impression. Perhaps one of the buttons lead to an error page, maybe the images don’t load, or worse – the website displays that annoying 404 message. There is just too much competition for your customers to turn to, so don’t give them a reason to go.

So, what are the 3 main reasons you could be sending your customers to your competitors?

Inadequate mobile optimisation

In 2017 mobile shopping became the most popular method of shopping for consumers with research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), showing that smartphones were the devices most used by consumers for online shopping, at 41%, during the 2017 Black Friday weekend. And this trend is set to rise with a research report from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Google and PayPal forecasting that around two-thirds of online retail in the UK will be via mobile by 2020.

It’s important for the survival of your business that you adopt a mobile-first mentality. This means, at the very least, checking that your website is optimised for mobile use but ideally ensuring that your visitors’ experience of your site is as good from their mobile as from a desk or laptop.

If your website is not mobile responsive and doesn’t proportionally resize to different size screens or you don’t have a mobile version of your site, that’s not going to go down well with those customers who shop from their mobile. Indeed, statistics show that 40% of users will click over to another website if they are not satisfied with their mobile experience or have difficulty completing a mobile transaction.

Slow website speed

I remember the days of dial-up. Minute upon painful minute of waiting to access the internet. These days everyone is impatient, and most of us won’t wait even 2 seconds for website content to load. And a study by Kissmetrics shows that 40% of us will abandon a site entirely if it takes longer than 3 seconds.

But it’s not just our impatience that is driving this behaviour. A fast website is the sign of a professional and reliable enterprise and having to wait longer than 10 seconds means a site is unworthy of our attention. We relate speed of loading to efficiency, trust, and confidence. But, we relate having to wait with incompetence, insecurity, and to a lack of credibility. The impact of this can be catastrophic for your business. And there is proof in that pudding with some of the biggest companies testing this out. Amazon’s tests showed that if they slowed down by just one second, they would lose $1.6 Billion every year.

Find out why your website is taking its sweet time. For example, slow-to-load mobile pages could be the result of a large number of javascript files and plugins. Image file sizes could affect it too. Look into it and fix it or find someone who can. The impact on your business is just too drastic to leave it to sort itself out.

Pingdom speed test tool


Test the speed of you website on Pingdom, you should be aiming for under 2 seconds.

Poor User eXperience (UX)

We expect a seamless experience when visiting a website. It has become a basic requirement across all platforms and devices, and a site that doesn’t conform to this standard doesn’t stand a chance.

If your website delivers good content and clear conversion opportunities you are maximising your chances of conversion – a recent study from Forrester Research showed that a user-friendly website could raise your conversion rate by up to a 200%.

If, however, you are trying to entice with over-the-top, eye-catching trashy content and/or inundating your visitors with newsletter sign-ups and in-your-face ads, you’re simply going to annoy more people than you attract.

Instead, avoid the garbage. Make the buttons tap-friendly by making sure all buttons, links and calls to action have the appropriate size and margin to prevent errors. Ensure users can tap-to-call. Use infographics and videos rather than reams of text to relay your message. Make it easy for users to navigate, read and tap on menu items.

You need to know your site works, and that all the functions work as designed, and you also need to make it easy for users to navigate and use your website. Otherwise, you might be inadvertently encouraging your customers to go elsewhere.

Your website is the way people buy your product or service, and this is becoming increasingly the case with more sales happening online than ever before. You have only seconds to influence your visitors so ensure that they are accessing a high-speed website, optimised for mobile use and that they are presented with an excellent user experience.

Make sure your customers don’t have to struggle to access or find your products or services, because with the highly competitive nature of eCommerce, your customers will not hesitate to go elsewhere if even the slightest headache arises, and this comes at a considerable cost to your business.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Our Five Favourite Web Chat Apps

A client recently asked for our recommendation on which website chat app to use and as I’ve only have experience with Olark in recent years I thought it would be worth reviewing what’s currently available.

I picked five listed below based on whether they were recommended elsewhere, if I’d heard of them before or on the clarity of the offer and the systems design.I evaluated each chat app as a potential customer chatting to the vendor’s operator judging each on how quickly I got chatting, if I was hounded at all to begin with, what integrations they had and of course the cost. Hopefully this will give you a little more information to refine down your selection to test out.

Summary: JivoChat and Olark stuck out for me as a cost effective way to get started but Zendesk looks like a good step up to a fuller chat and customer support system with better integrations when time and budget allow.

Tawk.to

Tawk.to web chat sales website screenshot
  • Chat only. Free with option to pay for branding removal or chat agents
  • Need to enter email/name to start chat
  • Admin is browser only as far as I can see

Olark

Olark web chat sales website screenshot

https://www.olark.com/pricing

  • Chat only from £12/mo/agent but have free plan capped at 20 chats/month
  • Automated messages to start conversations based on rules such as referring URL or location
  • Message templates for quicker responses
  • Integrates with many CRM apps
  • Needed to enter email/name to start chat
  • Exit survey and ability to send copy of the transcript by email

JivoChat

JivoChatweb chat sales website screenshot

https://www.jivochat.com/pricing/

  • Basic version free for 5 agents. Pro version (£7/mo/agent) includes canned responses with some automation message automation
  • No questions to start the chat, was initiated by operator
  • Have desktop and mobile apps as well as browser app
  • Have API/Webhooks
  • Simple exit survey to capture sentiment (thumbs up or down)

Zendesk

Zendesk web chat sales website screenshot

https://www.zendesk.co.uk/product/pricing/

  • Chat from £12/mo/agent
  • Email software £5/mo/agent. Includes basic Knowledge base/FAQ system
  • Optional Answer bot from £38/mo/50 queries
  • Chat box doesn’t pop up automatically. Not able to test out the chat feature
  • Mobile and browser apps from what I can see
  • Have API/Webhooks

Intercom

Intercom Inbox web chat sales website screenshot

https://www.intercom.com/pricing

  • Chat from £38/mo unified comms inbox to manage chats. Can also manage social (Twitter/Facebook) direct messages
  • Help document/FAQ management £35/mo. Includes an operator bot to surface relevant content
  • Initial bot interaction asked for name/email/company/employees. Seemed slightly slower process to other companies
  • Chat box didn’t pop up automatically
  • Mobile and browser apps
  • Have API/Webhooks

Let me know on Twitter which chat apps you use or the experience you have using them on other websites

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Something Inventive 25: I’ll get back to you in a minute

Al and Ben talk about the importance of being a fast responder and our thoughts on the WXG 2018 conference.

If you have any feedback, ideas or topics you’d like covered on our podcast we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch via our contact page, leave a voicemail on 0800 881 5805 or mention @RatherInventive on Twitter.

Listen on Apple Podcasts app

Something Inventive is an entertaining and lively podcast on creativity and the web. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or search for ‘Something Inventive’ in your favourite podcast player.


Episode sponsored by Ticked-off.com

Check out the sponsor ticked-off.com. When you sign up let us know and I’ll extend your trial for 2 months.

Show notes

 

The Hosts

Al Osmond (@inventiveal) – An unusual mix of logical thinker with a creative eye
Ben Kinnaird (@benkinnaird) – Knower of Social media, SEO and ‘the Web’

Be part of the show

Tweet a service or product you’d like to promote, mentioning @RatherInventive and the hashtag #podvert and we’ll read it out over the coming episodes.

If you like the show please give us a rating in iTunes and we’ll read out your comment. You can do this from the podcast player on Apple.

Thanks for listening!


Audio edited by Donalize – ‘Goofy Vocal Groove‘ intro music by Dave Girtsman – Image Credit: Waiting by Aurimas

5 ways to be memorable

Man with beard wearing a suit and tie

There are plenty of reasons why brands and businesses fail, don’t let a lack of differentiation be your failure. Make yourself memorable and you will stand out.

The last thing you want is to be forgotten as soon as you’ve met a potential client. You want to remain in their head for as long as possible so that if they ever need your service or product, you’ll be the first to mind.

Whether you’re simply networking or actively selling something, you want to know that you won’t be forgotten as soon as you walk away. So, how can you be memorable?

1.   Don’t try to be better, be different

There’s little point trying to be better. Everyone is trying to be better. Whether it’s being more efficient, more sophisticated or more professional, there will always be someone who does this better than you. It’s just too difficult to make an impact this way.

Instead, do what you can to stand out from the crowd – do things differently to what everyone else is doing.

How do you make car parts interesting and different? I hear you ask. Or personal finance? Just take a look at Brittney Castro, who raps about her niche – personal finance! If she can do something different with a subject as dry as personal finance, then you can certainly put an interesting spin on your photography, website development or kitchen design business.

Think Apple. They don’t do anything particularly better, but they do things differently. They don’t do what every other mobile device company does. They forge their own path, and people love them for it.

You may think it a bit risky to try to do things differently with your business. After all, you may put people off with an off-the-wall approach, right? But, in a world where an abundance of choice is available for everything we could possibly need or want, the only way to stand out is to do things differently.

2.   Don’t follow the herd

Closely related to ‘doing things differently’ rule is to show your individuality. We’re all unique. We have different lives, different backgrounds and different connections. So, when we create a business around our unique experiences, skills, and values, our brand or business should be unique too. Yet, there are so many doing the same things. They’re scared of showing their real selves.

Trying to hide the traits that make you unique will not make you memorable. Yet, we do it to blend in, much as we did at school, where to show our uniqueness meant certain harassment. But if we want to be memorable we can no longer think this way.

Richard Branson is one for showing his uniqueness. His many crazy publicity stunts, such as attempting to fly around the world in a hot air balloon or drive across the English Channel in an amphibious car wearing a tuxedo, as well as his non-conventional approach to business, has earned him the name of being one of the world’s best-known entrepreneurs.

We must strive to celebrate our uniqueness. Do crazy stunts, wear colourful stripy socks to work, grow a perfectly trimmed beard if that’s what you want to do. Wear flowery dresses rather than a neat boring suit. Share what makes you different, unique and human and you will be remembered.

3.   Show your passion

Show the love you have for your work. Positivity and passion speaks volumes and if you have a real, honest enthusiasm for your work, you will not easily be forgotten.

Showing passion is a huge advantage for a business competing in a crowded market. If you’re passionate about what you do, and you show confidence in how you express it – you’ll stand out.

4.   Be synonymous with a niche

I used to call myself a copywriter, which encompasses many different types of work. People would glaze over, either with boredom or with a lack of understanding of what a copywriter actually does. But for the last year I’ve been predominantly doing business blogging, which is what I love doing most of all. So, I now tell people this is what I do. It gets me a lot more attention because it’s so specific. It doesn’t mean I won’t do general copywriting but I specialise in blogging – and have lots of enthusiasm for it.

When you’re telling people what you do, be specific. Be synonymous with one thing in your field. Be a champion for a niche category in your industry. So instead of being a photographer, be a newborn baby photographer. What you call yourself defines how people will remember you. Don’t tell people you work in marketing, that’s a very broad subject. Tell them you are a branding expert. To stand out from all the other marketing people you have to define yourself by your area of expertise.  Put yourself in a different box to everyone else in your industry and you will be more memorable.

5.   Be a good listener

Your customers crave attention, we all do, and we all want to feel like we matter. By showing your interest in learning about them and their lives, hearing their aspirations and their ideas, you are telling them that they matter, and you will stand out from the crowd as someone who really listens.

People can smell a fake a mile off so if you’re pretending to listen, when in fact you’re just waiting for the next opportunity to speak, you are like the majority of people – and therefore will not be memorable. Show an interest in what others are saying and think about your response. People appreciate sincere conversation.

These days the key to getting attention in the business world is to be remembered.  You want to be the name at the front of people’s minds and on the tip of their tongues. So, distinguish yourself from the crowd, make a powerful impression and stick in the memories of people you meet. Present yourselves in such a way as to be unforgettable.

Image credit: Pixabay