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Blog posts tagged online marketing

Four ways to make your small business look bigger

June 25, 2015 by Guest contributor

Four ways to make your small business look bigger{{}}Whether you currently run your business from your home or even your local coffee shop, all businesses must start somewhere. Giving the impression that your business is larger than it actually is could help you reach more customers and compete with the big players in your market. These four tips could help you to do just that...

1 Get online

Some 90% of the UK's population are active online, yet, surprisingly, 45% of SMEs in the UK still do not have a website. When a potential customer hears about your business the first thing they will do is search online, so it is important to have an online presence. Having a website will give your business the opportunity to reach more people and can include features such as giving visitors the option to sign up to your newsletter. When designing your website think about where you want your business to be in the future and not where it is at the moment. Just because you are a small business doesn't mean your website can't make a big impression.

2 Be smartphone savvy

With Google's mobile-friendly update having just rolled out it has never been more crucial to have a mobile-optimised website. Some 80% of internet users own a smartphone, but almost half of SMEs have a website that is not optimised for smartphones. Websites optimised for smartphones are designed to fit all screen sizes from iPhones to Androids. When designing your website, be aware that smartphone websites are generally much simpler than regular websites, so simplify and then simplify again.

3 Use a Skype number

Small-business owners often find that they are on the go a lot, whether it is meeting a client or travelling to a training course. You may think that it makes sense to use your mobile number as your main point of contact, however, using a landline number instead gives the impression that you are based in an office and thus own a larger company. An easy way to get around this problem is to have a Skype number. For a small fee you can have a country and area code of your choice and you can answer all calls via your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

4 Be more social

Social media provides brands with a free outlet to communicate and engage with potential customers. All big brands are expected to be active on the main social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Depending on your industry, you may want to make other social channels a priority. For example, if you work in photography, visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest could be the most beneficial. Aim to post several times a day and make your business an interesting one to follow by asking questions, providing tips and interacting with your followers.

Copyright © 2015 SJD Accountancy

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Make start-up growth easy with six simple tips

May 18, 2015 by Guest contributor

Make start-up growth easy with six simple tips{{}}You have an awesome product, but now it's time to scale. Other than word of mouth, how are you planning on bringing users to your product? If your answer is 'I don't know' or 'the subscribers' list' you might be in trouble. But don't fret; these quick tips that many start-ups ignore will help boost your growth without taking too much time out of your busy day.

  1. Get listed: There are numerous start-up listing websites that will help you build up backlinks – the main currency of search engines. Once you have backlinks, the Internet will do a lot of the work for you.
  2. Get press: If your product fills a niche or serves an industry, find the trade news sites and submit press releases to coincide with new features or products. This is a great way to build awareness and gain legitimacy for your product.
  3. Get social: There are a number of growth-building Twitter apps such as Crowdfire and Twitfox that will favorite tweets by people who are tweeting about things you like and bring them to your page. Make connections and grow together.
  4. Get creative: In a world where content is king, you need to start a blog and write content your users want to see and share. It doesn't have to relate directly to your business, but it must resonate with your customers. Feel free to think outside the box.
  5. Get friends: When you're creating content, be sure to “shout out” the products and people that you like. Nothing makes someone want to share your product more than you sharing theirs.
  6. Get smart: Use analytic tools such as CrazyEgg (creates a click heat map), Google Analytics, and live help software in order to learn from your audience. This will help you provide better customer service while also improving your user interface.

These may sound simple, but working at a company that lists web apps, you'd be surprised at how many of the start-ups we work with that fail to abide by these maxims. If you follow them, the customers will come.

Copyright © 2015 John Ray of web app marketplace Crozdesk. If you have a web app and would like the get listed on the site visit this page. Follow them on twitter @crozdesk.

What value a domain name?

August 27, 2013 by Guest contributor

What value a domain name?/web browser{{}}The domain name business can be extremely lucrative, with people willing to part with considerable amounts of cash to secure the perfect name for their hot new start-up or innovative product.

Although there are still a plethora of dot-com addresses available, most word-related domains were snatched up a long time ago, most likely they are being sat on by the owner until someone shows signs of interest.

If you are lucky enough to own a catchy or highly desirable domain, it can be difficult to reach an accurate and fair valuation. Likewise, if you are looking to purchase one, you must understand what you are paying for.

Although there are plenty of ‘estimation’ tools available online, their accuracy is often highly questionable and ultimately it comes down to one thing – how much the end user is willing to pay for it.


Due to the ever-decreasing effectiveness of exact match domains (eg,, etc) in the search engines, branding is the way forward. If a domain name is catchy and memorable, you can easily build up a strong brand around it. Better yet, a name that is pronounceable, while not necessarily forming a real word, is also a great alternative. For example, or or

If a domain name meets the above criteria, it’s almost certainly going to increase its overall value. Although they are hard to come by these days, a domain that is short in length, regardless of how pronounceable it is, will also hold a higher value.

When it comes to extensions .com remains king, with .net and .org generally being worth less. More and more obscure domain extensions are becoming available, making it easier to construct a word that incorporates the extension (eg In some circumstances, these can fetch high prices in auction. Although .coms are generally more valuable, it all comes down to what domain is right for your business.


The overall authority of a site is often the main factor taken into account where established domains are concerned. The rapid advancement of the World Wide Web coupled with the sheer amount of potential customers that regularly surf it, means people are happy to pay for a domain name that has value from a search engine optimisation perspective.

Important factors include:

  • Domain age.
  • Amount and quality of external links pointing to it.
  • Its historical ranking history.

A large number of low quality and ‘spammy’ external links pointing to a domain can have severely detrimental effects on its ability to perform in the search engines. This in turn can greatly reduce its value, due to the amount of work required to ‘clean up’ the link profile.

Always be sure to thoroughly explore a domain’s link data and consider using the Wayback Machine to view historical snapshots of what site used to reside on it.

End user

Taking the above factors into account may help you arrive at a rough valuation of a domain, but if you can’t find an end user (ie someone who might be interested in the domain), it is essentially worthless. An end user is usually someone looking to launch a new business or complement an existing one, who can greatly benefit from owning the domain.

Consider exploring the potential value of a domain name by simply searching on Google for any keywords it contains, and seeing who is currently advertising for these terms. If people are paying to advertise within the search engines for a term, the will most likely be interested in a matching domain name.

Post supplied by Mark Potter of ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host

Visit the IT Donut for a host of other blogs about domain names and other business IT related topics.

Make the most of online registrations

June 26, 2013 by Neil Cavanagh

Make the most of online registrations/sign up{{}}If you’ve just launched a new website, you may have a form that requires users to register to become a member so they can interact with your site, access premium content or undertake a free trial.

Why would I want users to register?

Registration helps you identify serious users who have shown interest in your site, because they have taken the time to complete the registration process.

Getting to the registration form

You should ensure that there is a link to your registration form on almost every page on your site. Using a service such as Google’s analytics will provide you with some wonderful information such as:

  • How the user arrived at your site – through a search engine, link from another site or link within an email.
  • Which pages the user viewed on your site.

Considering your registration form

A registration form should always be as simple as possible, and collect just the bare information needed to fulfil the process. The more fields you include, the more likely you’ll put users off finishing the registration.

Verifying that the user exists

There are many organisations and individuals who target legitimate sites for spamming on forums and posts. A piece of software called a ‘bot’ may try to register for your site so spam links can be posted.

You can help reduce the likelihood of a ‘bot attack’ by making a user confirm their email address through a unique link or by a ‘captchta’ phrase, which displays an image of usually two distorted words that (usually) only humans can read.

What should I do once the user has signed up?

The simple answer is just to wait and see what the user does on your website.

This information can give you a valuable intelligence for future marketing campaigns such as:

  • Which words to target for a pay-per-click campaign.
  • Areas of your website that require more refinement or promotion.

Contacting users

Your routes of communication should be clearly outlined in your terms of use, to which the visitor should agree before they register.

Better than cold calling

You’ll immediately have a warm lead that you can follow up. Not only can you get valuable information about your site, but you may also have a good opportunity to sell your product or service and find out more about what the user is actually looking for and what other sites they have researched.


Depending on your type of site:

  • Make sure your registration form collects as little information as possible.
  • Ensure that your privacy and terms of use policies tell the user that their data is safe and the future communication channels you may open with them.
  • Ensure the form is validated before it’s submitted.
  • Keep a track of your follow-ups, to avoid pestering your customer.
  • Give them the facility to opt out of future marketing communications.
  • Seek feedback on your website and service, particularly during a new launch.

Neil Cavanagh is the owner of Xpress Data Systems Ltd and has recently launched CamisOnline, an online business administration and management tool.

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How much do you know about your website visitors?

May 22, 2013 by Helen Major

How much do you know about your website visitors?/growth chart on computer {{}}If you have a business website with Google Analytics enabled, it can be fascinating to see how your customers and potential customers interact with you online. But that’s just a drop in the ocean in terms of competitive intelligence analysis. It can be a complex and expensive endeavour, but if you’re running a start-up and need comprehensive but free tools, here are a few that can provide excellent analytics if you’re willing to put in the time to learn how to use them. 

Do your ‘due diligence’

You don’t have to pay to view Companies House accounts if you can download them already for free online. In terms of company financials, Duedil (short for due diligence) is an excellent tool that provides free business intelligence such as insight into competitors, suppliers, investors, even clients – but you can also benchmark a business’s performance and growth over time, build sales leads and integrate social networks such as LinkedIn.

Avoid sample bias

Google Analytics, Google Trends for Websites and Google Insights for Search are all good sources to use because they’re integrated with the most popular search engine in the world. But it’s a good idea to go beyond Google and mine your data to get deep insight into your website’s analytics. Comparing data sets can help you avoid sample biases that come about from opt-in panels or toolbars so that you can get a more accurate picture of how your audience is behaving in response to your marketing efforts. For example, have a look at free SEOmoz tools at SEOBook.

Don't forget Facebook

Every day search engines are learning more and more about how people categorise and search for information, it’s an ongoing process. A big part of it in recent years is social media, whose busy signals search engines now indirectly recognise and attribute authority to. In other words, it’s important to use and understand social media to reach your audience – and watch and learn from competitors too! Have a look at FeedCompare, HootSuite, SocialMention and Google Alerts to analyse how your social media are faring.

Competitive intelligence doesn’t need to be expensive and complicated, and if you’re willing to work at it, you can get valuable insight on your partners, suppliers, clients and customers and get a step ahead in your business.

Helen Major has been writing finance-related blogs and newspaper articles since graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 2007. She is currently writing on behalf of Duedil.

The power of domain names

February 18, 2013 by Sally Tomkotowicz

The power of domain names/{{}}According to research carried out by, more than a quarter (28%) of new small-business owners wait months after they’ve registered their company name before they register their domain name, thereby risking losing out on their preferred website address.

In fact, our research suggests that about a fifth actually lose their preferred name and have to settle for a name that isn’t related to their company.

We surveyed 2,079 business owners and found that many were startlingly relaxed about owning their online brand – but come to regret this later on when they miss out on their preferred domain name.

Even many dot-com savvy firms established in the past three years have missed the boat. Most companies make the mistake of focusing exclusively on their company name, believing it to be central to the success of their business, without even thinking to check for their domain name first.

Your domain name is often more important these days than your mobile or telephone number, so it is a big oversight not to check whether it’s available before registering your company name. Customers will search for your .com or address every day, so not owning the most logical domain can be a real issue.

However, not all businesses are as forgetful about registering their company name. More than a third (35%) admit to registering their domain name before they launched their business, with 25% building their website before launching their business. About half (49%) also admit to registering multiple domain names to protect their company name or expand their business. 

Other key findings from our research include:

  • 84% of respondents launched their website within months of registering their company, with 12% building their website in a day
  • 10% took more than a year to get a website online
  • 27% have registered Facebook and Twitter accounts, but 54% still have neither
  • 25% might consider changing their company name, given the chance
  • 10% admitted to not being sure if they even like their company name.

Names are important, of course, and every one with plans to start a new business really needs to think carefully about their domain name. We encourage small businesses to consider registering their domain name before they launch their company, so they can get the name that best serves their business’s interests. 

Sally Tomkotowicz is marketing manager at Namesco, which provides online services for businesses and individuals.

A beginner's guide to online marketing

February 04, 2013 by Rashed

A beginner’s guide to online marketing /online marketing on key{{}}The internet has made it easier than ever before to find information. Hours, if not days, of going through newspapers, books and asking experts has been whittled down to a quick search on your favourite search engine.

With this increased level of trust in the internet, people are now becoming more accustomed to purchasing products online although there is still a significant proportion who prefer human interaction, as 45% of calls convert into sales at some point.

If you’re thinking of selling or marketing your business online, you should know it’s very competitive. But if done properly, the rewards can be great as well. Here are four quick tips to get you started

Become an expert in your field

As a new business with an online presence, gaining trust and customer loyalty can be difficult. The vast number of fraudulent websites means that users prefer to purchase products from sites they know of and/or feel they can trust. One way to gain this trust is to become known as an expert in your industry sector by creating a blog on your site and updating it regularly. Let your professionalism shine through by replying to comments on your blog and guest posting on other blogs relevant to your niche. 

Use social media to promote your business

Social media promotion is easy and it’s free, which makes it a marketing portal that should not be overlooked. Sign up to a social media site that you think would best suit your interests and post information such as news about your business, developments within your industry, new products as well as any special promotions you’re offering.

Analyse your site’s performance

Use tools such as Google Analytics and visitor level call tracking software to determine which parts of your site are converting the best. Once a cookie has been placed on your site, Google Analytics can show you which pages were viewed by your customers. This information can be used to determine which pages on your site and which marketing activity is converting and which are not.

Create specific landing pages

Unlike your homepage, which is designed to be the central page allowing access to other areas of your site, a landing page is designed to achieve a certain goal. This could be signing up to a mailing list, purchasing a product or even downloading an information pack. Use a landing page to help you increase sales of your products or services. Linking marketing activity for a particular product, for example, to the product landing page has been shown to significantly increase sales or enquiries for that product.

Rashed Khan has written this article on behalf of call tracking experts ResponseTap


10 tips for starting an online business

January 17, 2013 by Oliver Ewbank

10 Tips for starting an online business/online shop{{}}Starting an online business is not an easy undertaking, there are many considerations to take into account before you even get your new business off the ground. Often new businesses fail because they don’t plan adequately or neglect to consider the magnitude of the task ahead of them. Here are my top 10 tips for starting a successful online business.

  1. Identify your market
    So you’ve got an idea and a product (or products). Now it’s time to start thinking about who you are planning to sell to. This should help you to decide some of the fundamentals for your website, such as the localisations and designs you will be using.
  2. Set realistic budgets
    This is core to the success of your online business. Good web design and online marketing professionals aren’t cheap and cutting corners with companies offering their services for next to nothing is an accident waiting to happen.
  3. Pick the right domain name
    Getting your domain name right is a very important step, because once you have it you can do a lot of damage by changing it later. You need to ensure that it fits the brand, is easy to spell, as well as avoiding confusing words such as ‘dot’ or ‘dash’.
  4. Get your design right
    Choosing the look and feel of your site can be one of the toughest elements to get right because you need to ensure that usability and functionality aren’t distracted by pretty designs that don’t lead to sales.
  5. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
    Ensuring that your target market can find your site is essential to making your new business work and SEO is core to that. Doing this right from the start is essential to your site’s long-term visibility.
  6. Pay per click (PPC)
    Through effective PPC you can make sure that your target market see ads for your products for all relevant searches. Making sure you are running a competitive Ad campaign can be the making of an online business.
  7. Social media
    Social networks such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter are integral parts in the online business machine, allowing you to engage with your audience and attract new customers. Ensure you secure your brand name early for these.
  8. Brand protection
    Securing as many social profiles with your brand name as possible is important because this should ensure that you dominate the first page of search results, as well as protecting yourself against malicious use of your brand name.
  9. Pick the right host
    You really do get what you pay for here, and to make sure your site remains live at all times and loads as fast as possible you need to pick the most reliable host for your site.
  10. Maintenance and getting the right content management system (CMS)
    Once live, it’s a certainty that your site will need maintenance. Finding the best developer to handle the technical stuff and getting the best CMS for you is very important. 
  • Oliver Ewbank is a digital marketing manager at leading digital marketing agency He can be found on Twitter as @Koozai_Ollie. 

Three DIY link building tips for small firms

December 04, 2012 by Michael Smith

Three DIY link building tips for small firms/fragment of chain{{}}Having a website is only part of the marketing jigsaw. To make it purr you need to keep it updated with fresh, relevant content; optimise it for search engines; build a social presence, etc. A large part of the digital marketing puzzle is link-building, which increase the search engine equity of your website. One of the primary ways of doing this is by encouraging other relevant websites to link to it.

New websites and new businesses don’t need to invest thousands of pounds in SEO and link building campaigns. There’s a lot you can do yourself to get the ball rolling, which mostly involves a bit of hustle and some common sense.

Here are my three DIY link building tips for small businesses:

1 Who do you know?

One of the best places to start is by utilising existing business relationships. Chances are your suppliers, customers and other contacts will be more than happy to link to your website, it’s just a case of asking the right person.

List everyone in your existing business network. Ask them to link to you. Don’t discount those who don’t have resources pages. Ask to write a testimonial about their services or even contribute a case study about your experience. This way you’ll create value for them, as opposed to simply requesting a link.

2 Niche and local directories

‘Directory submissions’ have become dirty words in digital marketing, predominately because of the swathes that have been created solely for those looking to build links. Most will advise you to avoid them, because they tend to be flagged as spam by search engines. By submitting to them you risk wasting your time or worse – being penalised for overtly trying to manipulate the rankings. This doesn’t mean that all directories should be avoided – far from it.

Chances are they’ll be a few directories curated by people that are specific to your industry. These represent a relatively straightforward means of listing your business and getting a link. Try simple queries related to your niche and see what comes up. For example, if you manufacture pumps, just try ‘pumps directory’. Once you’ve mined that, search for something more general, but still relevant (eg‘process industry directory’ or ‘British manufacturers’ directory’).

3 Organisations and associations

Once you’ve cleaned up the directories in your niche, start thinking about industry bodies and associations. Check that any associations you’re a member of link to you from their website. If not, ask them to. Again, it might be useful to think beyond just asking for a link. How can you add more value to that community? Perhaps you could get involved more by sharing your business experiences on their websites. Are there any organisations relevant to your business that you’re not a member of that it might be worth joining?

Now what?

Once you’ve boxed off your connections, niche directories and organisations, you’ll have built strong linking foundations for your website. You might even have whetted your appetite to try a few more advanced tactics. If you’re ever unsure about whether it’s a good linking opportunity, just follow link building expert Eric Ward’s Litmus test: ‘Would you pursue the link if there were no search engine at all?’ In other words, would you want a connection between yours website and someone else’s, even if you weren’t doing it simply to build the value perceived by search engines? Follow this rule and you won’t go far wrong.

Michael Smith is a marketer at Leeds-based SEO agency 9xb.

Visit the Marketing Donut for more advice about optimising your website for search engines

Six good reasons not to feed your Tweets to Facebook and LinkedIn

December 22, 2010 by Alex Astell

It’s come to my attention over the past few months that more and more people are merging their Tweets with their Facebook and LinkedIn status updates.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes my Facebook and LinkedIn news streams are totally clogged with meaningless Tweets that have no relevance to me whatsoever.

So I thought I’d put together a few reasons why, as busy as you are, you shouldn’t feed every single Tweet to other social and business networking websites.

1 Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder

When a Tweet’s been fed into my news stream I know that the person who’s written it hasn’t written it from the website I’m using. It feels impersonal and can convey a lack of interest in what their Facebook or LinkedIn contacts are up to.

2 Twitter has its own language

Twitter is the only social networking site that has its own language to either tag a subject (#), reply to a Tweet (@) or Retweet (RT@).

These make absolutely no sense on other platforms (although Facebook now has a tagging feature that uses @) and can make your update look as though you're speaking in tongues.

3 The scrolling and frequency factor

This mainly applies to LinkedIn in my case. Several of my contacts appear to be feeding every single of their Tweets to LinkedIn. Bearing in mind that some people might Tweet 20 or 30 times a day, this equals a heck of a lot of RSI-inducing scrolling to find even one update that might interest me.

And talking of interest…

4 Why did I need to know that?

Facebook is generally for your friends to keep up with what you’ve been up to or for businesses to promote themselves. Therefore, the fact you’ve replied to a hilarious tweet (@DippyGirl lmao and rofl!!) won’t really have any relevance whatsoever.

LinkedIn is for business people to share knowledge, help each other and network. The fact that the roast chicken you cooked with your nearest and dearest last Sunday was delicious really doesn’t matter.

5 The walls have ears

Can you remember every single person you’re friends with on Facebook or connected to on LinkedIn? If not, be very careful to check your Tweets before feeding them to the other sites. If your boss is connected to you on LinkedIn he/she probably won’t appreciate knowing that you’ve just pulled a ‘sickie’ and sounded realistically croaky on the phone.

6 It’s not the size that counts – it’s what you do with it

With an extremely restrictive 140-character limit on Twitter and a more generous 420 characters for status updates, it would make sense to post to these two websites separately. You can be far more personal and descriptive on Facebook, so why not make the most of your update?

If you still feel the need to merge your tweets with other social and business networking sites, please remember to be selective.

Alex Astell of Manage My Website

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The catalogue is back

October 11, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

After years of believing the holy grail of marketing was a flashy website with plenty of SEO activity, online retailers are getting back to basics and placing the catalogue at the heart of their marketing campaigns. It’s a clever strategy and something small businesses would do well to take heed of.

In our age of information overload – hundreds of emails a day, blogs, Twitter and other social media – the catalogue (to borrow an analogy from a famous beer brand) quite literally reaches parts other marketing media can’t reach.

A catalogue is intrusive. It lands on your doormat or desk just when you’re not expecting it, with its “oh so evocative” photography and asks you to sit down with a cup of tea and see what’s the latest must-have.

A catalogue will travel round the house with you: from kitchen table to sitting room, up to the bathroom and your bedside cabinet. A catalogue can be marked, written on and well thumbed. You interact with a catalogue physically in a way you simply can’t with a website. And you can dip in and out of it at your leisure. In fact, you’ll probably revisit a favourite catalogue much more than you will a website. A catalogue is a truly powerful medium.

To sell successfully online, you need an offline strategy, too. The big retailers know that. The White Company, Viking, White Stuff, Boden and Isabella Oliver have been doing it for years. Small businesses understandably see doing away with their catalogue as a way to save money in a tight marketplace – but it’s a shortsighted strategy.

A catalogue is your branding tool. It will underpin your web and retail propositions and help your business become memorable. According to The Catalogue Exchange, when you mail a catalogue, 45% of recipients will visit your website. You compare that to an email campaign where if you get a 17% click-through you’re doing well and you can see why the big companies haven’t given up on direct mail.

For every £1 spent on a catalogue, The Catalogue Exchange says you’ll get back between £2 and £5 in store or online. And if you run a luxury brand – or any brand come to that – you need to differentiate or die. A catalogue, with its evocative brand images, space to properly communicate and the way it intrudes on your customers, will help you do that.

I’m not for one moment saying you should ditch your online marketing methods, but what I am suggesting is you look at where your marketing spend is going, and invest it in the activities that are going to give you the greatest return. Put together a proper strategy that you believe will bring you a real return. If you’re spending anything on advertising, you can afford to create a catalogue. Advertising will build brand awareness if you’re lucky (and you chuck lots of money at it). A catalogue will bring you a return on your investment.

Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing


10 top tips for budding ‘mumpreneurs’

March 08, 2010 by Antonia Chitty

Research suggests that as many as one in ten mums would like to run their own business. It can be the best way to get control over your working hours and spend more time with children, while still being able to contribute to household income. If you are a mum and want to run your own business, here are my tips.

1 List your priorities. What is important to you and what do you expect in return for running a business? Do you seek to make loads of money or are you simply trying to find a way to spend more time at home with your children?

2 Think about time. How many hours you can devote to a business. Be realistic if you plan to work around your kids. Remember – young children are especially unlikely to understand “mummy’s working”. Write down your which hours are possible, whether that’s 12-2 each day during nap time; 9.30-11.30 to fit in with nursery; 7-9 in the evenings or a combination of these on different days.

3 Research your market. All new business owners must do this by finding the answers to key questions. Will enough people buy your product or service at the price you plan to charge? Is your product or service unique enough to appeal? What competition will you face and how can you be different or better?

4 Write a business plan. Set out your aims and objectives – and the steps you need to take to achieve them. Pop into a local Enterprise Agency or Business Link for advice. See if they offer a free start-up course, which could be a great source of information and advice.

5 Decide your marketing and promotional tactics. Have a promotion planning session, during which you seriously consider advertising, marketing, PR and events. What method(s) are likely to be most effective for your business? Note on a wall calendar promotional activities you will do each month, but spend enough time each day marketing your business – it’s critical to success.

6 Promote your business online. Get a good website designed. Start a Twitter account in your business name. Create your own blog and blog on other sites. Start a Facebook fan page for your business. To make things easier, use Twitterfeed or Friendfeed to link your different networking sites.

7 Get registered. You have three months to let HMRC know you have set up as a sole trader (ie become self-employed), otherwise you could be fined £100. Alternatively, you might decide to form a company by filing the necessary forms with Companies House.

8 Keep good financial records. It’s easier to note down every item of expenditure from the start than to have to deal with an unruly pile of receipts when you have to complete you tax return. Many expenses are tax deductible, while you can also benefit from a series of allowances, too. Visit the HMRC website for more information – or seek advice from a good accountant.

9 Make the most of every customer. It is much easier and as much as eight times cheaper to sell to existing customers rather than having to attract and convince new ones to buy from you, so you must aim to delight your customers if you want them to keep coming back for more. As well as products, this must apply to your services, too. Whichever means is most effective, always maintain good communication with your customers. Keep them well informed and updated. Sort out any customer complaints quickly and satisfactorily.

10 Get help. Before starting up, assess your skills list and identify any that are lacking. You might need to find someone to help with your bookkeeping, PR, online marketing, sales, deliveries – whatever. You might not have the knowledge, time or will to do everything yourself. Providing your business can afford it, buying in help can free you up so your time can be better spent on something else. Explore all free sources of information and advice – including the Start Up Donut, of course.

After you start your business, you need to remain focused on your ideal work-life. If you’re not careful, running a business can easily and quickly take over everything, which means your home life suffers and this can affect how you feel. Have a finish time each day; put your work away when it comes; spend quality time with your family and make sure you set aside time to relax by and do things you enjoy.

  • If you’re serious about starting a business, check out my book at, it is written specially for mums who want to start a business. It covers issues ranging from business planning and start-up finance to arranging childcare and setting aside time for yourself.

Antonia Chitty, Family Friendly Working


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The simple life – three ways to gain success on the web

December 01, 2009 by Mark Sinclair

Start up business owners absolutely can’t ignore the opportunities that are available online to market their small business. As great an opportunity as there is, it’s also a pretty daunting task for a new business – especially if you’re not an expert in getting attention on the web. The good news is, keeping it simple is one of the best ways you can ensure that your website is ticking all of the boxes and serving the purpose it needs to for potential customers or business partners.

Stefan Tornquist, Research Director of Marketing Sherpa, talks about improving your search rankings organically through relevant website content. As a small business owner, how easy do you find it to write copy and articles for your business? Is it something you can do yourself, or do you prefer to outsource this job?


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Ten low/zero cost steps to make your business shine

June 26, 2009 by Lindsey Collumbell

Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return.  Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be.  Here goes …

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – where does your target audience go?  do?  read?  listen to?   Don’t waste time and money being where they are not.
  2. What is your USP? – what makes you different from your competitors?  Don’t just be another face in the crowd.
  3. Be an expert – write articles and get them published.  Register on and
  4. Sell the sizzle not the steak – highlight the benefits of what you do and not just explain what you do.
  5. Freebies – offer a free consultation/trial session/product.  Let people experience what you will do for them.
  6. Testimonials – if you have happy customers, shout about them.  Third party endorsements are worth their weight in gold.
  7. Case studies – these are expanded testimonials and allow you to show a problem you helped solve.  The media love these.
  8. Social networking – set up profiles on, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, UKBusinessForums, and start connecting.  They’re free.
  9. Network – people buy from people so get out there and meet people.  There are loads of networking groups out there.
  10. E-mail signature – include your contact details and a short sales message or link to something you want to promote at the end of each e-mail.  This can be automated.

The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money.  There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.

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Getting the basics of online marketing right

June 25, 2009 by Alan Gleeson

The growth in the use of the Internet in recent years has led to a huge shift in marketing activities to the online space. This article explains some of the key things for you to focus on to help you market effectively online. Secure that domain name early. The natural starting point is the creation of a website. Once you start your business it is important to secure the domain name in the markets you intend to compete in. We at Palo Alto Software, Inc and Palo Alto Software Ltd have lots of domain names ranging from (global), (U.K.), and (Ireland). These help ensure that prospective customers can find us easily by typing our name directly into a Web browser.

There are numerous ways you can build a website, from doing it yourself using available software tools, to hiring website specialists. Regardless of the method chosen you need to be completely clear on the main purpose of the website. Is it to sell products or to generate leads? Once the primary purpose is clear, you can then decide on the layout, alongside the look and feel.

Ensure your website is optimised

Given the hundreds of thousands of websites out there, it is worth reviewing a number to get a feel for the type of design and user interface you would like. Finally, when it comes to a website it needs to be ‘search-engine friendly’. This means that searches initiated from the likes of Google (using repetitive software, called ‘bots’) can find your site, scan it and identify the keywords associated with the website. Many firms offer Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services which are designed to help you achieve high rankings on the search engines, such as Yahoo! and Google. Most of the techniques they employ are widely known so you could choose to do it yourself. However, be aware: anyone promising top place listings on Google should be treated with caution. There are techniques (so-called black hat techniques) which can be used to game the system – however, Google has been known to punish sites known to be using such techniques, as BMW® found, to its cost, when Google delisted them in 2006.

As it takes time for a new website to get indexed by the search engines, it is likely that traffic will be low at the start. New sites tend not to feature in organic search returns for some time, but there are ways to drive traffic to your site using some of the methods described below.

Use Web analytics to improve your site

Once you have set up the domain name and site, you will want to understand how many users you are attracting, where they are coming from and how they are behaving on your site. Google Analytics is the most popular tool to manage this. It is available free from Google, easy to implement and even easier to use. If you want to see where people are going on your site, tools such as Crazy Egg® will help you improve the design of your site by showing you where people are clicking and where they are not.

Once the basics are in place it is now a case of creating awareness of the existence of your site and generating traffic to the site.

Get traffic to your site on day one

The quickest way to get traffic to a website is signing up for Google AdWords’ Pay-per-click (PPC) service. In the U.K. the vast majority of Web searches are via Google so this is the best one to focus on. This service lets you create adverts that appear when people search for certain keywords. You then pay according to each click you receive (hence the name ‘Pay-per click’). The main attraction with this option is that it is a highly targeted form of advertising, and you only pay when the prospect clicks on your advert and lands on your website.

Create unique landing pages

You need to decide where you want to bring the prospect when they click. Dropping users onto a homepage can be confusing, so you need to create a number of landing pages that are highly relevant to both the search term and the AdWord copy. For example, if a user searches for ‘marketing plan’ and the advertising copy is for Marketing Plan Pro® then the landing page needs to feature Marketing Plan Pro prominently. The beauty of running Analytics in the background is that you can measure conversions so you can identify which combinations of advert copy and landing pages are the most successful. After that it’s a case of testing, testing and more testing. A/B testing is a popular method where 50% of the audience is randomly assigned to see page A, and 50% to see page B. Whichever page results in the most conversions ‘wins’ and that then becomes the new default page.

Get websites to link to you

One well-known component of the Google algorithm that decides on the attractiveness of your website (which then correlates to a higher search ranking) is the number of back links to your site. The more sites that link to your website, the better, particularly if the linking site is an academic or government-owned site.  Each link is considered a ‘vote’ and votes from impartial sites such as academic ones are deemed to carry more weight.

Seek a presence on high-traffic sites

It may be possible for you to feature on larger portal sites by offering to support them with either new or fresh content or special offers. Steer clear of anyone offering you a tenancy agreement, e.g. you pay £1,000 per month to feature on a third-party website. These offers mean you bear all the risk and they rarely, if ever, deliver any meaningful traffic. Similarly, spending money on banners and buttons is not in vogue like it used to be – for good reason. PPC marketing is where your budget should be going – not on risky placements on websites.

Blogging is not all it’s cut out to be

A number of companies set up blogs to enable them to communicate with interested parties and customers on a more informal basis. Blogs are simply basic websites which contain a list of posts or news stories by an author, typically about a specialist topic. While they are easy to set up and maintain, they do place a demand on the blog owner or blogger to constantly update them. If you do not think you have the time to post news stories daily it is probably best to avoid the temptation of creating a blog. Other, less demanding forms of social media include placing comments on forums and participating in news groups.

The above activities should give you a flavour of some of the types of marketing activities you can undertake online. Others, such as issuing online press releases and creating newsletters, can also help you drive traffic to your websites. From there it’s a case of ensuring the design and offer are compelling enough to entice the user to buy from you, assuming that is the primary purpose of your website.

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