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Monday, 24 September 2012

British Society?

So how many of you last night stared at you TV in bemused silence as various talented people were passed over for potential ratings grabbers?  I know I did.. Now whilst I won't go as far as some to say that Rylan Clark has 0 talent, how a "Singing" contest would consider him better than the likes of Joseph Welan now that strikes me as just plain wrong and it wasn't just in the "Boys" category.

Now this isn't the first time it's happened and I'm sure not the last.. we've seen the Jedwoods come and go and all of the drama queens and rating boosters that keep the show paid for but really is it simply just about ratings?

We were given a glimpse of the "judges minds" as we overheard that Joseph was a nice guy you could have a drink with but was he star material..?. well yes but clearly too nice, decent and talented as opposed to loud and simply irritating!

At what point do we as viewers simply say enough?  I'm not uneducated, I'm not an idiot and so therefore really don't want to be treated as such.  I'm actually more likely to continue watching a show where genuine talent battles it out than have TOWIE wannabees screeching and peacocking around the stage just getting their 5 minutes of fame.  Yes I realise it's my choice and I know where the off button is.. my argument here though isn't that I'm forced to watch the ratings boosters get the shot whilst the talented go back to work it's the perception that so many of need something to be wrong in order for us to watch.

It's the same on so many shows and the reason that as a rule I don't watch reality TV, are the British public so dummed down now that it takes the kind of people you'd never associate with or would avoid at any social gathering to make you pick up the phone and vote.. and vote they will.  Each week these non-acts will carry on thanks to morons with more money (or income support) than sense.  You only have to turn on daytime TV to see the kind of person I'm talking about here. 

Is this really what British society is today? 

I realise that it's "light" viewing but to me it's a reflection of everything negative about the get rich quick idealism promoted by these shows, how young people can feel that by being talentless, ignorant and just annoying you can get father than those who work hard and have a genuine something about them.


All opinions are my own!

Monday, 17 September 2012

How To Keep Going

Attending network meetings I often hear people asking how to stay motivated when business seems slow or the phone isn't ringing.  Or how to keep focussed when daily life seems to intrude on business time.  Being self-employed friends and family don't always take business hours seriously and think it's ok to pop in at anytime.
It's not easy especially when you work alone and don't have a team of people helping to reinforce your confidence, so how do you do it? 

One way is to talk to other business owners, sometimes working from home or by yourself can leave you feeling very isolated and make you doubt yourself so mixing with other business owners can help you to see that your not alone and there are others in a similar position.
If you're not able to attend meetings then social media is another way of connecting, it's also a way of observing trends - financial drops, holidays etc. Just being able to reach out and connect can be all it takes to give you a boost and keep you going.  On many occasion it's been a person I've never met that has in 140 characters or less made me smile or given me that boost I needed not to give up.
Also set yourself smaller goals, we often set ourselves impossible targets and then are disappointed when we can't reach them!  Whilst its incredibly important to have a long term plan it's equally important to set realistic "to do" lists that you know you can complete. Some weeks it's all about being day to day and not focussing on 3 months time.  That doesn't mean that you're failing or that your business doesn't have what it takes for the long haul it just takes away a little of the pressure and helps you see the smaller successes!  We often miss the little things when our eye is on the bigger picture and that little job you did that wasn't much of an earner but that made the client really happy is just as important (if not more so if you've achieved at a time when you're feeling bad about yourself).

I think the key thing is to realise that every bad day, every negative thought, every decision to give has been felt by those we seek to emulate, those who seem to have it all, you're not alone in this you just have to reach out!

I'm always happy to chat or offer any words of support and you can connect with me on Twitter http://twitter.com/taryn_creative or at www.creativethinkingcdm.co.uk

 Taryn Lee

Thursday, 19 April 2012

How To Benefit From Social Media

So here we are with the second installment of my "How To" series, now I could simply fill this post up with lots of stats and bamboozle you with amazing website growth stories but that's not going to help you to utilise it for your own business..

Lets be honest here we're ALL very busy people, one of the things I hear most is "I don't have time to do social media", now in recent times you would simply ring the local paper tell them you want a credit card size ad, send them your text and forget about it.. of course you were then charged what seemed like the cost of your first born son for the privilage but the hassle was theirs and not yours.  Today there is more ownership for marketing especially in small businesses and this indeed does take a certain amount of time.  So what's the best way..?

As with all business decisions take time to review the different platforms, understand their position within the spectrum of social - business and don't rush in joining as many as you can in one hit..
Whilst the scattergun approach may get your website seen in many different places it's unlikely you'll have the time or inclination to keep them up to date once your initial spurt of enthusiasm has worn off.

The obvious candidates are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Myspace and Google+ of course you can then branch out and look at more niche marketing sites but initially these are the sites best placed to get you started.

So do you need all of them? -  No is the simple answer. 
In my opinion every business should have a Twitter and a LinkedIn account as the bare minimum. These are both at the "business" end of the spectrum and allow you to not only network socially but also promote your business to people that are  interested in hearing from you.
Many businesses are simply not suited to Facebook, and having a static page with no "Likes" or content can potentially be more damaging than not having one at all.  A site that isn't updated or current can give the impression that a company is no longer trading..

Does it have to take all day everyday and will you still have time to actually work..? Well unless you're me then no you shouldn't be on social media sites all day!!  There are a couple of "good practice" rules to get into and then it's down to you to invest as much time as you realistically can afford.
As I mentioned earlier though it IS important that you don't allow your sites to become dormant, try to do something every day so that people begin to get to know you, remember you and ultimately use you!!

So best practice..

  • Use a platform that will allow you post to more than one site at once, I recommend Hootsuite but there are others such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic. This means you only have to say it once and saves you valuable time.
  • Post on the move.  Most of us have a phone that can connect to the internet, so use this.  If you're out and see something worthwhile then share it (although please see my earlier blog regarding Twitter and coffee shops!!).
  • Set aside 1 day a month.  Use this time to schedule business tweets, write your blog and update your website.  Once that's done you can then use any other time for sociable posts that allow potential customers to see you as a real person.  Remember people buy from people NOT companies.
  • Acknowledge.  If someone takes the time to comment, mention or Re-Tweet you then acknowledge it.  Get in the habit of being friendly and good mannered.  In some ways the internet and mobile phones have encouraged people to become less formal in their business relationships and common courtesy can be overlooked at times.  This isn't good practice and as they say manners cost nothing!
Social media is here to stay and is an invaluable tool for any business especially SME's that have little or no marketing budget.  All of these sites are free to use and the only cost is your time.  Can you afford not to?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

How To Find A Good Web Designer

A few years ago any networking event you attended would be abound with accountants, estate agents and solicitors but that's now all changed.

How often have you found yourself sat at a table with a solicitor, banker and 3 web designers/online marketing experts?

It would appear that we have evolved and grown and found that there is a huge market for our services.. "Great" you'd think.. well no not necessarily.  Like all sectors we have our fair share of sharks, con-men, wannabees and the just downright awful! So how do you pick your way through this mind field and find a professional in an area that you're unlikely to have a huge amount of experience?

I have lost count of the amount of times I've had clients come to me having been ripped off for hosting or basic maintenance, hearing how much they've been charged for a simple static website or worse have someone tell me they've given up on the internet because they've had such a bad experience..

Part of the problem is the availability of code-writing software such as Dreamweaver, free template sites and schools teaching a little "media" as part of the curriculum.
Being able to buy a "Create Your Own Will" pack from WHSmiths does not a solicitor make me and unfortunately a lot of "web designers" are doing no more than filling in the blanks of a pre-made document.  Even more scary hiring cheap labour from India and having no concept of how to fix the bugs once a site goes live.
So how DO you choose a good, reputable web designer?

I've listed a few points below and I hope that these will help you to avoid costly and business damaging mistakes..

  • Ask for referrals.. Seems simple enough in a social media world where everyone is scratching each others back BUT it works.  If I'm going to refer someone I'm going to make sure that I know, like AND have seen or had experience of their work. After all it's my reputation on the line if I pass a bad referral.
  • Check out their website.. Ok so anyone can have an all singing all dancing website but you can still glean valuable information here.  If their site is all Flash driven chances are they have some whizzy kid out of uni and little experience of SEO, if their site is tired and dated then they're not moving with the times and will be unable to help you move your business forward, equally if it looks like everyone elses then chances are it's template driven and they're not offering you bespoke no matter how much they say they are. I realise I'm generalising here but you get the idea.
  • Compare prices... Cheap is not necessarily bad and expensive not always the best! If it sounds too good to be true then chances are it is and look for hidden costs, if it makes you suck in a breath then you're paying too much!  In todays market a ball-park figure for a fully bespoke CMS (Content Managed System) site with basic SEO should not cost you any more than £700 - £900, a template site that's been customised for you will be significantly less.
  • Talk to them.. again really obvious advice but until you speak to someone you don't know whether they're going to be someone you can work with.  A good designer might not have to meet you in person BUT they should be able to get a feel for you and your business ethos in a very short time. If they don't "get" you then they cannot accurately create a site that reflects your company and its direction.
  • Know what you want.. How many times have you gone into a shop not sure about what you wanted and come away unhappy with the purchase because the shopkeeper has bamboozled you? Have a look at other websites, think about what you want the site to do for you business and know some terminology. No one is expecting you to speak code but do try to find out the basics - we don't need to be car salesmen to know what FSH, PAS, VGW mean.
  • Finally find out about aftercare.. once the site has gone live that's not the end of your web designers job.  You need to know that you can get help, advice and follow up service such as SEO, social media and marketing help. 

As with any professional read their terms and conditions, find out how long they've been in business and if possible look at what they've done before.

A few terms to help:-

CMS - Content Managed System -  a good one will allow you to add and remove pages (including on a drop down menu) update your content, allow you to upload images and re-size them, add spreadsheets, pdf's or any other item you want to display on your site.  Don't expect to be able to change the basic site layout though!
SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - how your site is ranked and found in search engines such as Google.
Analytics - how your site is performing, there is no reason for you not to have even a basic monthly overview of performance.
PHP, HTML, CSS,JAVA - these are languages and scripts that a designer will use and shouldn't expect you to understand!!

Hope that helps to provide  a little more insight and gives you confidence to find the right designer for you.
If you need any more information please don't hesitate to contact me.
http://creativethinkingcdm.co.uk/contact.php

How to...

I decided to write a series of blogs  based on a "how to" approach.. I'm often asked how can I improve my web presence? How can I use social media or how do use Twitter?

So I thought why not put together a useful list of helpful suggestions to get you going..

I've decided to tackle the things I know about so I can't tell you how to create a million pounds but hopefully I can help you avoid online scams and marketing pitfalls!

So this first in the series will be "How to find a good web designer". With so many about how do you know which one to go with.. I'll give you a list of things to look for, questions to ask and reasons to avoid...

Following that we'll have "How to benefit from Social Media" and why EVERY business needs it.. "How to improve website rankings" and what scams to be aware of.. "How to network sucessfully" when not to be boring or a sheep!  and finally "How to ask" when to do it yourself and when to ask for help..

If you can think of any other blogs you'd like to see please comment and let me know!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Internet Marketing- Why?

I'm often asked especially being in Lincolnshire where the internet and anything that "grandad didn't do" is viewed with suspicion, why internet marketing should be used and how can it benefit local business?

The answer is quite simply that without it your small business will get lost and that you're missing out on a huge target audience.

I usually ask my clients just how much money annually do they spend advertising in local papers such as the Telegraph. Bearing in mind that a credit card advert can cost as much as £45 - £90 per week depending on the publication, some small businesses may be paying up to £4000 per year on this form of advertising alone!
Now taking into consideration the cost of a small CMS well written and SEO competent website and you're talking maybe a quarter of that. 
Your weekly advert may reach your immediate area but your website is global! 
Ok so I'm not suggesting that the local plumber wants jobs all over the UK or world BUT why not all over the county?
The point is, the more people that know of you the more work you will bring in..

How many people still advertise in the yellow directory (you know which one!) simply because they always have and are really happy if when the salesman comes they can get a discount? Yet if you ask someone if they know of a good plumber 9 out of 10 times you'll be pointed to a website or a search in Google...

A few years ago internet marketing was specialised, a bit clunky and cost a whole heap of cash.. today that's not the case.  Website prices have come down, there is a far bigger percentage of people using it and free social media platforms make it a hugely attractive and economic way to advertise your business.

A few facts for you just to show the importance of social media to your business:-

  • If Twitter were a country it would have the 12th largest population in the world..
  • For the first time, in 2010, ending a 23 year run, Pepsi Cola pulled out of advertising in the Super Bowl switching instead to Social Media.
  • Back in January 2010, the site had 350 million active users across the globe, it now has in excess of 640 million – half of which login daily. Based on this figure, Facebook has seen a 40 percent increase in daily usage over the past 12 months.
  • LinkedIn has grown by an impressive 100 percent from last year, it now has over 100 million users across the globe 

Don't let a fear of the unknown hold you back, it's not that scary once you step inside.. come and see for yourself!


If you'd like to know more or would like some help getting started then please drop me a line.. taryn@creativethinkingcdm.co.uk

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Twitter Do's and Don'ts

So by now you will probably have come across Twitter.. unless of course you're one of my clients in which case don't worry it's not that scary!!!
Understandably running several accounts at any one time I find I spend a LOT of time in the world of Tweets, Hashtags, Lists and Dm's and more and more frequently I'm grinding my teeth..
In order to prevent a trip to the dentist with ground down teeth I thought I'd put together this little list of twitter etiquette..

Do:-
  • Pay it forward - RT (or retweet to you newcomers!).  If you read something interesting, helpful or see someone asking for help then RT.  It costs you nothing and increases your own chances of being RT'd.
  • Mix personal in with business.  Proven over and over is that people buy from people NOT companies. It's hard enough online to show that you're a human being funny, caring or intelligent but you wouldn't walk into any networking meeting or party and simply repeat over and over your company strapline - Twitter is no different. Show you're real!
  • Leave enough room to be RT'd!!! PLEASE.  If one thing frustrates me on a daily basis it's this.  I love RTing but I hate cutting off domain links or important info.  Try to only use 120 characters, you are less likely to be RT'd if there aren't enough characters for it.
  • Acknowledge RT's.  Manners maketh man they say and again it costs nothing to be polite.
Don't:-
  • Use every opportunity to promote yourself! Yes I know that sounds like a contradiction but nothing will lose you followers like a Tweet like this "Thanks for the RT if you need new windows/SEO/loft insulation click here.." know when not to!
  • Tell us you're in a coffee shop!  Unless of course there's a brand new flavour, great discount or any other reason for us to visit. Same for buying fishfingers in Tesco the only people that want to know that are Birds Eye and Tesco!
  • Ignore DM's (direct messages) you wouldn't ignore someone saying hello in a corridor why do it here, it could be that opportunity you've been waiting for.
  • Ask for someone to DM you when you're not following them or visa versa. Remember you can only DM if you're both following each other!
  • Give Up.  Sometimes it might feel like you're talking to an empty room but trust me persevere it really is worth it in terms of business online presence.
Twitter is a fantastically powerful tool if used the right way or an incredible waste of time if abused. Hopefully the above will help you make it through the pitfalls.

If you'd like to know more or need help running you campaign then please drop me a line! taryn@creativethinkingcdm.co.uk