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How To Start Planning & Prepping Your Small Business For Success in 2021

2021 is right around the corner and if you’re like us, you have no idea where the last year went. The time has flown by and although 2020 has been quite a tough year it doesn’t mean we can take a break. Only 50% of small businesses have a marketing strategy in place for 2021 and that has to change!

Now’s the time to start planning and prepping for the year to come. It’s time to make 2021 an unforgettable year for your business (for all the right reasons)! 

It’s time to set yourself some achievable goals, make a clear plan for your online content, and stick to your plan for success throughout the year. 

So, let’s take a look at how you can prepare and plan ahead for 2021. 

How to set SMART goals for 2021

Hold up, first things first – what are SMART goals?

SMART goals are the key to your success in the year ahead.

They’re goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Setting SMART goals will help you stay motivated and achieve your business goals in 2021 – and let’s be honest we could all use help after 2020. 

Create specific goals

Having goals are great, but try to stay specific when coming up with what you want to achieve in 2021. Your goals should be fleshed out enough that you know exactly what it is you want to achieve when thinking about them. 

It’s easier to achieve something that’s specific than something that’s vague, here are a couple of examples:

  • ‘Make my website better’ is vague – ‘update my website with a lead funnel and email campaign to increase my conversions by 50%’ is specific.
  • ‘Update my LinkedIn profile’ is vague – ‘Add an optimized bio, add past portfolio pieces, and update my work history’ is specific. 

Don’t forget to take into account social distancing, travel bans, or event-cancellations in your goals. 

We might have been surprised in 2020, but now that we know about the possible restrictions we can come to the table better prepared for 2021. 

Have measurable goals

If you don’t have an end point in mind for your goals, you won’t know how well you’re doing, what you’ve already achieved, or how much you have left to do. 

Try to track your progress using analytics and data collected throughout the year. For example, if you’d like to increase the number of visitors to your site by 30% this year then keep an eye on your Google Analytics to see how many people are visiting each month during 2021. 

If you’re not noticing much of a change then you’ll know your current marketing tactics aren’t working so it might be time to change it up a bit to hit those targets.

Make goals achievable & realistic 

We’ve put these together because you can’t have unrealistic achievable goals, and we’re pretty sure you can’t have realistic unachievable goals either! 

There’s no point in setting a goal for yourself and never being able to reach it. That’s just going to make you feel demoralized and unmotivated. 

The best way to figure out if your goal is achievable and realistic is to ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you have the resources available to achieve this goal?
  • Does the goal fit with your financial plans?
  • Do you have the time available for this goal?
  • Does it match up with what you want to accomplish?
  • Is it relevant to the growth of your business?
  • Does it benefit your business?

If you’ve got a resounding yes, your goal looks good to go on this front!

Time-bound goals

The last part of creating a SMART goal is to make sure it has a time restriction. By setting a timed goal you’ll be more accountable which means your goal isn’t going to slip away from you and just become another lost dream or ‘to-do’ item. 

If that sounded a bit dramatic to you it’s because it was dramatic – don’t lose sight of your dreams! Or your goals for that matter, and add a definitive time frame to them so you’ll know when you need to complete them by. 

Start building your content calendar

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, content is king and to survive and thrive in 2021 you’re going to have to get ahead of the curve and start planning your content out for the next year.

By planning out your content in advance you’ll be able to make sure that you’re producing top quality content every week. This will keep your audience entertained and solidify your presence as an expert in your niche. 

Having a content strategy helps you:

  • Produce high-quality, relevant pieces of online content
  • Avoid rush posting and getting it wrong or making mistakes
  • Organize themed content to come out during holidays and celebrations
  • Create a schedule that you’ll be able to stick to
  • Write consistent content that keeps your audience entertained
  • Get to know your target audience better
  • Improve your brand’s reputation and reach
  • Improve your SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Make delivering content easier
  • Save time by creating content in batches, before it’s due to publish

When you’re planning your content be sure to write down the different topics you’re going to write about, potential blog titles, what times your content will be published at, and where you’re going to promote it. 

You should also take SMART goals into consideration when planning out your content for the year – your entire 2021 marketing strategy should be a cohesive machine. 

Think about new ways of working for 2021

Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 has seen an increase in working from home. This has caused a lot of business owners, just like you, to rethink the way they run their business. Continuing to work in the office and on-site is an advantage but it might be worth considering what is best for your business and your team. 

Has working from home been a positive experience for your business? 

Ask yourself whether you’ve benefited from your employees working at home or if it has had a negative effect on your workplace. 

Working from home is known to improve staff well-being and retention rates, plus it can decrease your company’s overheads. 

However, working from home might not work for some. If your staff members are less productive at home or don’t have the proper set-up to work comfortably at home, then you might have to accommodate them with an in-office space. 

Talk to your staff and make a plan of what to do regarding work in the future. With the likes of Slack, Zoom, and eCommerce platforms being so user friendly and widely available, your company has all the things it needs to thrive online. 

Don’t set it & forget it

The last important thing to remember when preparing and planning for 2021 is to follow your plan. There’s no point in developing an awesome plan for the year only to forget about it a couple of months in and go off track. 

Not following your plan means that you’re not going to be able to accomplish your goals. You might lose out on potential clients and you could end up falling behind your competitors. 

If you don’t want your competitors to get all the attention then be sure to stick to your 2021 plan!

The end of one year and beginning of a new one can be a stressful and panic-fuelled time of the year for any small business but don’t worry there are ways you can get organised and stay on track for the new year!

If you’d like help organizing your 2021 plan then get in touch today, we’d love to help you out

How To Pivot Your Business Online During The Pandemic

How To Pivot Your Business Online During The Pandemic

Businesses are faced with tough challenges every day, that’s just one of the ‘perks’ of being a business owner. However, 2020 has been a tougher challenge than most of us have ever experienced before – and it has definitely made the lives of many business owners a whole lot harder. 

Many companies that aren’t digitally native are having difficulties trying to stay afloat. COVID-19 has really taken its toll with many small businesses struggling due to both the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. 

This pandemic has affected people all over the world but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. 

You can pivot your business, tweak how it operates, and adapt your strategies to survive this economic crisis. Come out on top by pushing your business into this new, upcoming digital era. 

Back in June, the US Chamber of Commerce reported that 1 in every 5 businesses had to close temporarily (19%) or permanently (1%). More than 80% of smaller businesses are making plans to change in response to this pandemic – and you should too. 

But, how do you pivot your business to endure the impact of COVID-19? Well, in this article we’re going to go through 6 things that you can change to adapt and thrive during the pandemic.

Get products online & start selling again

If you’re a traditional retailer, take a moment to look at what type of stock you sell. Is there anything you can sell online? Have you seen any similar products being sold online from other stores? Check to see if your competitors are selling online. 

Many businesses that already have an established online presence, or who conduct their entire operation virtually, will have an advantage over other stores that are just embracing the world of eCommerce. However, just because you’ve always been a brick-and-mortar store before doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade to selling online. 

If ever there was a time to build a virtual store for your business, it’s now. 

There are endless eCommerce platforms to choose from where you can easily sell your products, including:

  • Shopify
  • WooCommerce  
  • Magento
  • BigCommerce

…and plenty more. Hook up with a web designer and see what suits your needs most – and get selling!

Word to the wise: focus on attracting local customers first

If you’re relatively new to the eCommerce scene, don’t get ahead of yourself trying to advertise to the entire world. During tough times, people like to support local businesses. Think local and explore ways you can focus on customers in your area. 

For example: 

  • You can offer free local delivery 
  • Offer curbside pick-up
  • Highlight locally-sourced products to keep interest in your area
  • Use social media to promote your business 
  • Set online ads to target your area
  • Claim and optimize your Google My Business profile

Use Zoom to provide your services virtually

Are you a service-based company at a loss of what to do now that you can’t physically get to your clients? Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there are ways around it!

By using Zoom, FaceTime, or any other form of video software, you can still give your clients the services they need – but in a different way. 

For example, If you’re a personal trainer you can get your clients to book in for virtual PT sessions. Teach a virtual fitness class that your clients can follow along with at home. 

Or, maybe you’re a beautician or hairstylist. Why not set up some online guides or video explanations on how to do professional makeup, hairstyles, and other beauty treatments at home?

Even healthcare professionals are moving their services online with telehealth facilities offering online appointments. 

It is possible to shift your services to the online world. If you’re at a loss for what you could do then get in contact with us and we’ll try to help you out with a few ideas. 

Update your website to match the needs of your customers

If you’re going to delve into the online world, then you’re going to have to update your website to match your niche. 

How do you know what needs updating though?

Well there are a few ways of doing this. Try speaking to current customers. In times of crisis or panic, one of the best things to do is talk to your customers and listen to what they have to say. 

You can post customer feedback surveys to get a feel for what their concerns are and what challenges they’re facing. Check customer feedback and analyze your data from sales to build a picture of what your customers want and need at a time like this.

Pay close attention to local news so you can identify customer pain points caused by the pandemic – people’s needs have changed dramatically in the last 9 months. 

By being ready you can build strategies that will better fit the needs of your niche and your community. 

From this, you can start to adapt and refurbish your website. Change your website into something that speaks to your customers and provides them with the solutions they need for their problems. 

Harness the power of local SEO

We mentioned briefly how focusing on selling to local clients is important. In the short term, advertising to local community groups, publishers, radio, and whatever else your audience looks to for their information is great. 

Long-term, harnessing the power of local SEO (search engine optimization) is the ultimate way to attract local clients to your website. 

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is what helps your business become more visible in searches by people in your local area. It also helps your business get to the top of search results for local queries. 

By making some changes to your website, your social media, and by creating (or updating) your Google My Business profile, you can improve your local SEO. 

How to improve your local SEO

  1. Create a Google My Business account (if you already have one great! Don’t forget to update it with new information, pictures, opening hours etc.)
  2. Get some reviews on your social media or your Google My Business from happy customers 
  3. Create website content based on local events, news, or attractions 
  4. Use local keywords such as the name of your city, town, street, etc. 
  5. Take advantage of online business directories like Yelp and YellowPages

By improving your local SEO your business will appear higher on the search engine results page in all relevant local searches. This means more local customers will be aware of your business – and choose you over national competitors. 

Reach old & new customers online with digital marketing

Your customers are out there just waiting for you to reach out to them! You can connect with them where they’re hanging out by investing in a new, solid digital marketing strategy. 

Social media ads are the quickest direct way to target your potential clients. Everybody is on social media and by setting up ads that target local consumers you can encourage them to support your local business. 

You can also retarget previous customers to see if they’re interested in purchasing your products or services again. 

If you have a list of customers, set up an email marketing campaign and email them offering discounts or free shipping on their next order. You can even suggest similar products to the ones they bought before to help entice them back. 

Cut out what you don’t need 

If you’re thinking of moving online then you might not have a need for that second location – or your brick-and-mortar store at all. If you’re able to and it makes sense for you, think about closing your physical shop down and move exclusively to online sales (at least for the rest of the pandemic). This will help save you some money on rent. 

If you don’t have a lot of space for your stock consider selling the old, outdated stock at a lower price online. People love a bargain and sales bring in a lot of interest. You might easily get rid of some stagnant stock by offering it at a lower price and they might just buy something else while they’re there. This is a great way of freeing up capital stuck in old stock that’s just taking up storage space.

It’s important to keep that cash flow healthy right now, so if you can cut expenses, or free up cash, do it! 

There’s no denying it – we’ve all got a difficult year ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Many businesses have successfully pivoted into the world of eCommerce and flourished as a result. 

If you’d like help figuring out how to pivot your business into the digital world then maybe we can help, get in touch today!

5 Ways To Update Your Website For The Holidays

5 Ways To Update Your Website For The Holidays

That holiday feeling is in the air once again! Festive music is playing, Christmas trees are being decorated, and companies are starting to spread their own holiday cheer online. 

With fewer people going out and about this holiday season (thanks coronavirus!), many companies are putting in extra efforts to make it special online (and increase their online profits as a result). 

The holidays give you a chance to update your website, clean up your online presence, and connect your products/services to more people. 

Here are 5 of our most effective ways to update your website for the holidays, make your customers happy, and help you bring in more sales for the festive period.

1. Add some holiday flair 

We don’t know what it is about the holidays but even seeing a company change their logo to a ‘festive version’ gets everybody excited. 

Let your designers get a bit creative this holiday season and put some holiday magic onto your site. 

You could even do some holiday-themed discounts like:

  • The 12 days of Christmas sale where a new item goes on sale every day.
  • Christmas stocking add-ons, where every purchase over the holiday comes with a little free holiday-themed gift!

You could ask your design team to come up with some creative festive graphics to go with any of your holiday-themed promotions.

2. Highlight your best-selling products/services

People are already out there looking for the right gifts to give their loved ones this holiday season. So, all you have to do is show them your best products and services. 

Feature your most important items, or services, for the holidays front and center on your website. This way it’ll be the first thing your visitors see when they load up your home page. Add an eye-catching banner or a pop-up that grabs attention.

Your sales team probably knows what items are going to be big this holiday season – they talk to your customers every day, and know what they’re looking for. So, see what they think will be popular this year. Make sure what they highlight is easily accessible to your visitors, as soon as they load up your website. 

Have a special holiday-only offer? Create a section on your home page (preferably near the top) that promotes it.  

3. Remove any unnecessary distractions from your website

Ok, so we just said add your bestsellers to the home page and update your banners etc. – but don’t forget to take other stuff off the home page to make space! 

During the holidays it’s easy for websites to get full of new items, new offers, promotions, contests, discount offers, and so much more – which can be a massive headache for your site’s visitors. 

With so much going on, visitors can feel overwhelmed – and nope straight out of your site. 

It’s simple:

  • Cut back on the pop ups – try to stick to one on entry, one on exit. 
  • Always create (and stick to) a page hierarchy! Keep the important items on the top and everything else lower down. 
  • Don’t let videos or music autoplay when your website loads – this isn’t 1997 (and it sucked back then too).

Stick to these few rules and keep your website distraction-free. 

4. Update your blog & social media profiles

One of the best things you can do to get the word out that your company is going through a festive makeover is to update your blog and your social media!

  1. Post some holiday-themed blogs showcasing your amazing products/services. You can promote your products by writing blogs with titles like ‘Top Gifts For The Holidays 2020’ or ‘What To Buy Your Partner This Year For Christmas’. 
  2. If you donate to a charity for the festive period, make sure to highlight your annual donation with a blog and social updates. 
  3. Post festive-themed social media updates. Whether you DIY it with professional-looking templates, or you get professional graphic designers (like us!) to do it for you, make sure you update your banner photos, profile photos, and include a festive post for the big day.
  4. If you decide to go with a fun holiday-themed promotion like the 12 days of Christmas sale then you can post a new, fun holiday graphic everyday promoting the product or service that’s on offer. 

Another great thing to post near the holidays is a fun team picture of you and your team. Get everybody to dress in funky Christmas sweaters and maybe some antlers or elf ears and take a group photo to post on social media and on your website. 

5. Make sure all your essential details are correct

Now, this last one might sound a bit obvious but the holidays are a busy and stressful time. So, we don’t blame you if during your holiday site makeover some of your contact information or your pricing got a bit mixed up. 

Be sure to check over all your phone numbers, your email, and any other contact information. 

You’d hate to think that customers were trying to contact you in a holiday emergency but couldn’t get through because of the wrong number! 

You should also double-check that all your pricing is right, especially on sale items. Wouldn’t it be awful if you highlighted your fourth day of Christmas sale item and the price wasn’t even on sale! We’ve all seen those viral posts of products discounted by a cent – don’t be that guy this year.

Lastly, make sure all your service information is up to date and matches the hours and times you’re doing over the holidays – that includes special hours on your Google My Business profile too. 

The holidays can be an exciting and stressful time but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of fun with your website. It’s a great time to grab some new customers too – the number of people searching for companies like yours is going to be higher than any other time of the year, so make sure you’re making a great first impression.   

If you’d like help figuring out how to create the perfect festive design for your website then maybe we can help, get in touch today!

What is a brand strategy and how do you build one?

What is a brand strategy and how do you build one?

With a well-researched, in-depth brand strategy you’ll be able to reach the people you want to attract to your business and turn them into long-term loyal customers. 

Sound good? It is!

A brand strategy is like a roadmap for where you want to take your company – without one, you’re just shooting in the dark, hoping to attract customers. 

But what exactly is a brand strategy and how do you create one? Let’s take a look. 

What is a brand strategy?

A brand strategy is basically a long-term plan to develop a successful brand for your company, to achieve specific goals you set.

It includes these three main components:

  1. What your brand stands for
  2. The promise you make to your customers
  3. Your brand’s personality and how it’s conveyed in your marketing materials

There are more elements to a complete brand strategy, but getting these three basics right will help to set you up for success. 

Think of them like laying your foundation for building up a strong and reliable strategy for your company.

First up – tackling target market research

Researching your target market and understanding who your audience is will help you find them, grab their attention, and turn them into paying customers. 

One of the best ways to understand your target audience is to understand how they think, what they feel, and know what they want. So, how do you do that? Customer personas. 

What is a customer persona?

Customer personas are a detailed description of your ideal client. Like a personal profile They help you understand the motivations behind their buying decisions. This will help you know who you’re trying to connect with, and what makes them decide to buy. 

When you’re creating customer personas, there are a few questions to take into consideration:

  • What is their age? 
  • What is their gender? 
  • What is their educational background?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What industry do they work in?
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have kids? 
  • What’s a typical day like for them?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • Where do they get their information from?
  • Where do they prefer to shop?
  • What did they buy recently?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • How can you help them?

Know where to find your audience

Knowing where your audience hangs out online is everything. You can’t connect with future customers if you’re in the wrong place. 

There isn’t any point in fishing in a pond that has no fish in it, so don’t waste time or money advertising where your customers aren’t.

If you want to figure out where your audience is, ask them. Ask current clients where they get their info from. Send out a few surveys. Set up a focus group – do whatever you can to understand where your ideal clients are hanging out and why they choose to spend time there. 

Once you know all these answers – it’s time to start developing your brand strategy.

What do you need to develop a brand strategy?

There are a couple of things you’ll need to create to develop a solid brand strategy for your business:

  • Clear objectives
  • The right brand message

Let’s take a closer look at both of these brand development necessities.

Defining your brand’s objectives

Your brand’s objective is its purpose. It’s the reason your company exists, what it stands for – basically, why you bother doing what you do. 

If you don’t have brand objectives already, here are a few questions to think about: 

  • What problem does your brand solve?
  • How does your brand make your audience feel?
  • Do your clients trust you – and if they do trust you, why? 
  • What is the story behind your brand?
  • What’s the long-term goal for your company? (…we’re talking more than a paycheck here, go deeper – what’s your driving motivators?)

Once you’ve clearly defined your brand’s objectives, it’s time to start crafting your brand messaging to get that across to your audience. 

How to create the right brand message

Your story matters to your clients. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, your story will sell your services/products for you. Your brand messaging should tell them this story. Ultimately, you want to create a message that evokes emotion and inspires action in your clients. 

Why do we tell stories? Because a good story isn’t forgotten easily and the better your brand story is, the harder it will be for your audience to forget you. 

By creating your brand message around your company’s story, you’ll be able to attract your target audience – and they’ll form an emotional connection to you and your brand. 

What’s the big deal about an emotional connection between your customers and your company? Your audience will become loyal – and help spread the news about your company with their friends and family.

Creating brand guidelines

As soon as you understand your audience and have your messaging set, it’s time to think about how exactly you’re going to deliver that message. 

Start getting creative and think about your logo design, the fonts you’ll use, what colors best suit your business and what sort of tone of voice and imagery will work for what you’re trying to say. 

All these elements are key to creating a recognizable brand. 

Brands tend to evolve over time so it’s important that you set up some creative guidelines for your team. This will make sure that your branding will always match your story going forward. 

Now – with all that done, it’s time to start implementing your brand strategy!

Want help with your brand strategy? Get in touch with our team today.  

The best alternative to Feedburner: Follow.it

The best alternative to Feedburner: Follow.it

If you’re not familiar with feedreaders, they are a great way to organize multiple sources/websites in one consolidated location. Kinda like bookmarks but without the need to remember to go through your bookmarks every day, because that’s so 2004.

For a long time, I used Feedburner but when google reader became defunct, I moved over to other platforms. Some of them were okay but for the most part, I stopped using them because they either went out of business or didn’t really deliver.

I recently learned about follow.it, and started using it for this site (see the subscribe box in the sidebar) and I thought I’d share more about it here.

What is follow.it?

Follow.it is a feedreader, yes, but it’s also a way to turn visitors into subscribers, send them notifications about new content you’re creating, and then get those subscribers back to your site.

Does that sound like a funnel to you?

It is and I love it. Follow.it worked really hard to figure out a way for publishers to acquire new subscribers and get them coming back to their site. As we already know, only 2-4% of initial website visits will result in a conversion, so this is another way to capture your visitors and provide them with value (updated blog content) and then get them to come back to your site later to reengage with your services/offer.

Customizations for Subscribers

A lot of subscription tools only think about the publishers, but really the most important users are subscribers. We need subscribers to see the content they want to see and Follow.it gives subscribers various options to customize the information they receive using filters, which can be broken down by keywords, tags, authors, and even popularity.

Email Notifications

The inbox is still where most people live on the internet. More than 50% of people check their email at least TEN times a day (I KNOW!). The great thing about Follow.it is that they automatically check your website for updates and if there’s new content, they send out a notification to all your subscribers. BOOM!

No extra work on your part and your subscribers are getting the latest news from you right in their inbox.

Easy to setup

Follow.it makes it super easy to add a subscribe to your website and there are multiple customization options available. It’s basically plug-and-play. I was able to get our setup in less than 5 minutes!

They also provide thorough documentation, including a how to on moving from feedburner to follow.it.

Pricing

Follow.it offers a free plan that covers most of what you’ll need to get started. But they also offer two paid options with additional benefits like statistics and changing the subject line for your emails. Check out their pricing page for more details, because there are a lot of extras!

Both of the paid plans are based on follower count and very affordable. For example, it would be approximately $25/mo for 2500 followers on the highest (super cool) plan.

Statistics

If you do decide to go with a paid plan, statistics are included, which I highly recommend. What we don’t measure, we can’t change.

From total follower count…

To the number of clicks on messages. Knowing what content resonates with your audience is key in understanding additional content you should be creating.

Overall I’m really excited to see where follow.it continues to go with their product. I’m loving the email notifications and the statistics. And the fact that it’s so easy to set up is great.

So if you haven’t already, go to the sidebar and follow our blog so you can get our updates in your inbox right away. And let me know if you decide to use follow.it on your own blog. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.