Spotlight On Women In Business In The UK

The March/April 2014 edition of the FSB’s The Voice Essex is a spotlight on women in business in the UK.

The front page trumpets that there are around 860,000 SMEs where women are the driving force.

That’s 18% of the 4.8m SMEs in the UK.

And another 1.2 million women who are self-employed.

In fact, of the UK’s business owners between the ages of 30 and 49, there are more women on top than men.

Certainly my experience as I do the networking circuit in my local area is that there are just as many female business owners as there are men.

And, whilst their male counterparts rely on the old boy network, the woman are up and out there on social media. In the US, the stats say that women dominate all the social networks except LinkedIn. As evidenced by this great infographic:

Social Media Training for Women in Essex, UK

If you would like to find out more about our social media training courses in Essex or online, give us a call on 01702 476517

Women have an amazing determination to get up and get on with it when they see an opportunity arise. Many are developing their own business alongside running a home and raising children.

Without female majority-led businesses, there would be a £130b blackhole in the UK’s economy.

Give this month’s The Voice a read – it is full of inspiring women, including my friend, Jo Curtis of Women In Business.

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ShowRooming – Researching In The Shop But Buying Online

showrooming

ShowRooming

I had not come across the term ShowRooming before but enjoyed this interesting article by eConsultancy. ShowRooming is the action of researching (or trying) products by visiting a local store and then actually buying online.

The effects of showrooming?

A friend of mine had a baby shop on a local high street. It eventually went into liquidation. Apart from the astronomical business rates, the main reason for this was that prospective parents would come into her shop to try pushchairs and prams and, whilst in the store, research the cheapest vendor on their mobile phones. Invariably it would seem to be cheaper online. So away they would go.

Some would return a few months later when the product did not meet expectations or had malfunctioned and then try to return the goods to her! They could not understand that, if they did not have one of her receipts, she was not liable to deal with their problems. Especially when it was going to cost her money to send things back to the manufacturer.

And she was not alone in experiencing this type of behaviour. A local television and hifi outlet regularly has people trying to return small electrical items that they have purchased via a large online retailer – because they are the local registered stockist of such products.

Why Showrooming is not always a good idea

What consumers don’t seem to realise is that things may seem a little more expensive when you buy them locally, but you have the convenience of being able to take them back to the shop if things go wrong. It’s here that customer service really kicks in.

What you don’t realise when you purchase that massive tv either online or from a major electrical superstore is the extra mile that your local store is prepared to go when it comes to setting it up with your existing system and dealing with any faults. Will the online supplier sit down and explain how the buttons on the remote control work?

So, I asked the lovely David Hughes of HB Electrical to tell me some reasons why people should buy a television from his store in Leigh-on-Sea rather than an online provider.

1) On line providers only offer a 1 year warranty
2) Don’t just look at the warranty offer – it may be all parts and labour but what are their call out charges?
3) If your TV is wall-mounted, will they take it off the wall to inspect or do you have to do it.
4) If your product needs repairing, do they collect FOC (free of charge) or do you have to take it to them? Remember, if you use carriage to return it, how much would it cost to use a carrier company both ways, lets say for a 42″ TV? And don’t forget to insure it for damage.
5) Do they offer standard install and set up charges? If so, what do you actually get offered as part of that charge? Extra charges may apply just to reconnect your existing equipment.
6) Damaged pixels? Check what they call “within tolerance”.
7) B Grade – Is it really brand new or a returned piece of equipment from someone else.
8) Is it fake? It may have a “branded” label but there are scammers selling online.
9) Are you being offered the right advice for you rather than for profit?

The internet only promotes cheap prices as their selling tool. If i was buying a £1000+ TV or sound system, I would want to consider all of the above. We have seen many examples over the years where cheap up front ended up costing a fortune.

My rant to could go on as we have seen on many occasions the hidden charges/extras that people end up paying when it seemed that, on the face of it, they were getting a great deal.

The ticket price is not always the end of the story.

Speaking to another local electrical retailer last year, I learned more about keeping trade local. Just because it seems to be cheaper online, you really need to examine model numbers closely. In many cases, you are about to purchase an inferior online version of the appliance you are looking at in store. It may well not have the same functions. That’s why it is cheaper.

So, there you have it. Showrooming is not the same as shopping around because you will not be comparing like with like. In terms of the actual product or customer service.

Keep trade local.

Social Media Plan – Using LinkedIn and Facebook for Business

social media plan

Social Media Plan

If you want to make sure that your time on Facebook is as effective for generating leads as your weekly breakfast meeting, you have to work out a proper social media plan.

A Social Media Plan for growing your visibility and building good connections

Know, Like and Trust is the lynchpin of any effective networking, whether you’re online or in the real world. If someone knows you, likes you and trusts you, they are far more likely to employ you or refer you to a contact.

But you don’t build Know, Like and Trust by bumbling into a breakfast meeting and storming the individual conversations. There is an etiquette to be observed. And good manners need to be observed online too.

So, if you see someone that you think could prove a useful contact on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to get a mutual connection to introduce you. Don’t just spam them with the default LinkedIn invitation to connect. If they don’t know you, they are likely to ignore it. It’s like being cold called.

We also have LinkedIn’s new rules coming into play. In the past, the advice was to connect with everyone to get to the magic 500+ connections marker. This gave you the most visibility in searches on LinkedIn. However, they are now advising that users should not connect with people that they don’t know. At one of my LinkedIn workshops, an offline advertiser called me out on this. “But I want to connect with everyone and I want them to ask me to connect with them! The more people I can connect with, the more I get seen!”

This is true. But if you give a little bit of your stardust to someone by connecting, you are also giving the impression that you are approving of them as a potential business partner to other users. If you connect with just anyone, the power of Know, Like and Trust within LinkedIn starts to become diminished. Especially as some of LinkedIn’s paid accounts use the facility where potential employers are able to contact connections for references. Too many people saying that they don’t know someone well enough to give a reference and LinkedIn’s house of cards starts tumbling down.

It’s the same with Facebook. If you agree to add someone as a friend that you have never met, you are letting a stranger into your personal online world. And giving them access to all your real friends… as well as your day to day activities. A survey by the Legal General revealed that there were as many as 66 strangers in the average Facebook user’s Friends list.

We have a responsibility in the online world to help to keep each other safe from spammers and scammers.

A Social Media Plan for turning fans into customers

And, on the subject of Facebook, we come to the eternal complaint of the business owner. Why isn’t my Facebook Business page working for me? Normally because you don’t have a proper plan for your social media efforts.

People put up random status updates on an irregular basis and expect other users to engage with them.

But are you only connecting with people on diverse and mundane subjects that have no relevance to your business? It’s all very well building know, like and trust… but you also have to give them a reason to recognise you as an expert in your industry.

You need to think outside the box. Produce status updates that are interesting but which can work an angle that leads back to the products or services that you offer.

It’s no good putting up status updates that only say ‘We’re fab and you should use us’. Think about the advertisements you see on television. They try to appeal to different emotions and then work their product into our psyche. They are not always ‘obvious’ in what they are doing. Building brand awareness is good. But it needs to be a good mix of different types of message. From the subliminal to the ‘in your face’.

On Facebook, they have given you custom tabs below the main cover image where you can send people to get more information about what you do. It can be a place to buy a product through an online shop. It can bring your website right into Facebook. It can be a place to sign up and receive discount vouchers. Or show everything you have on Sale. Or somewhere to sign up for a regular newsletter.

These tabs are all about lead generation. Getting fans to a place on Facebook where they can become customers.

To find out more about improving your Facebook page, enter our competition to win a Free Facebook Page critique.

LinkedIn have watched Facebook’s success. And that platform is becoming more and more similar. We now have a newsfeed where individuals can post relevant content to show that they are leaders in their field. Or to make it obvious that they are up for a joint venture. And we also have proper Company pages where status updates can be posted for followers to like, share and comment on.

They also have product sections where companies can highlight their offerings and existing customers can leave recommendations. You need to make sure that you fill these out too. Another way to turn followers into customers.

And it’s another place that you now need to have a plan for your social media. You could post the same status updates simultaneously or schedule them to post at different times on your Facebook business page and your LinkedIn company page using Hootsuite. This builds brand awareness but you can also have a link to the relevant part of LinkedIn or Facebook where users can find out more about that specific service…

Hootsuite is also great for regular posting to Twitter – both automatically and manually. It allows you to monitor what is happening across all your social media profiles.

Google+ is not dead – it’s growing slowly but surely as Google start to make it indispensible to local business owners.

Pinterest and YouTube allow you to post images and videos that give your business brand awareness and keyword searchability.

But if you don’t have a coherent plan behind all this posting, it just becomes like throwing something against a wall and hoping it will stick.

Find out more about building a social media plan for your business

LinkedIn or Twitter For Small Businesses? Some Social Media Stats

usefulness of social media to small business owners infographicGreat infographic by the online Wall Street Journal on the usefulness of the various social media platforms as they are perceived by small business owners.

Social Media Stats about LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and small business

And it accompanied an article discussing the fact that small business owners find LinkedIn more valuable than Twitter when it comes to helping to promote their business.

Of 835 businesses questioned by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International this month, just 3% felt that Twitter had the most potentially beneficial to their companies. This compared to 41% in favour of LinkedIn, the social media platform aimed at business people, which came top of the polls.

From my own point of view, it was interesting to Google my own name and see where my Twitter profile came up in comparison to the profiles of the other social media platforms. Working on ‘Jo Shaer’, whilst Google+ (I was logged in to Google), Pinterest, LinkedIn, Slideshare, YouTube and my business Facebook page came in on the first page behind my own various websites, there was no sign of my Twitter profile on the first ten pages. My websites had totally pushed it off the SERPs for any meaningful position.

Social Media Platforms and SEO

It was not until I tried ‘joshaer’ as the search term that Twitter came in on the front page. The meta title read LollipopLocalSEO (JoShaer). Now this is most likely because I have JoShaer as the @part of my address. The User name. Whereas most people will have their accounts set up with their real name as, well, the Real Name option. When I first set up my account, you only had one name. So, perhaps Twitter does better when profiles have been set up under the more modern method.

However, I couldn’t see any Tweets indexed until page 3 either – and that was a response by someone else to something I had written.

I think the real problem with Twitter is the staccato nature of the shortened interchanges. Only being allowed 140 characters can be quite challenging for many. But, more than that, the nature of Twitter for most of the people that I can see is to acquire followers who become friends, rather than potential customers. There is a lot of chit chat and people try to crowbar in a business link now and again but it doesn’t seem quite right in most cases.

I think it can work on an individual basis in that you build a relationship which encourages someone to come to you when they need your service, but not really on the scalable level required to make the effort worth the return on that investment of time.

If you have followed the teaching and ensured that you have targeted followers who are interested in your niche, then you may have better luck in procuring business from this platform but, on the whole, my experience has been that – unless you’re working in social media or have some form of media connection, then Twitter might not be the best place to expend your energies for your business.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has successfully acquired worthwhile business through Twitter from a variety of customers.

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Facebook Help For UK Businesses

Do you want our help to :

  • Learn how to use Facebook safely – in terms of privacy and the amount of personal information that is visible?

  • Know how to use Facebook effectively for your UK business?

  • Stay within Facebook rules when operating your Page or Personal Profile?

  • Get better online visibility through Facebook Ads or Promoted Posts that get your content into the newsfeeds of more of your fans or their friends?

  • Increase email opt ins to your mailing list through a sweepstake contest for a great prize?

  • Encourage more activity on your Facebook Business page with a photo competition or sweepstake

  • Help your customers to stay on Facebook by offering the option to shop from your page?

  • Facebook Help For UK Businesses

Lollipop Local can provide training courses and workshops that teach you how to use your Page and the various tools to get the most return on your marketing investment.

These can be done in person in the comfort of your own office (depending on your location) or we can work with you on Skype.

We can also manage the tabs and apps that allow you to run Facebook competitions within Facebook’s guidelines and help you grow your email list to market to people who have shown that they are interested in your products and services.

We also have the ability to bring your website or shop to your Facebook page so users don’t have to move away from the platform.

Call us today on 01702 476517 to find out more.

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