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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Using Santa for trustworthy content

Baby in a Santa suit is trustworthy and cuteRight now, Santa and all things Christmas are popular topics and adding these keywords to your content can be useful.

At any time of year, using topical words and common events in your marketing can be valuable. For example, think about a chocolate company that advertises all year but leading up to mid February, they use more romantic concepts to tie in with Valentines Day.

If you don’t sell gifts, however, you may not think Christmas and Santa can help your marketing.

Actually, you may be surprised at how you can use current events to promote your business (and I’ll give some ideas later in the week) but here is an example from Jeff Bullas where he used Santa in a heading and one tip to tie an article on building trust to the Christmas season.

Let’s face it, are there many people more trusted than Santa? Would people trust your business based on your online presence?

If you do try to link your business in with Christmas, Santa or some other major event, it is important to do it in such a way as to build and maintain trust; make your message relevant to the added keywords rather than just adding topical words in a heading or description for purely keyword and SEO purposes.

 

* Image courtesy of Love Santa

Care for your brand

Your brand is the sum of every interaction your business has with someone – it’s not just having a nice logo and a pretty website.

With social media, I think  many people forget this connection between brand and every interaction.

I just saw a tweet offering tips on building a ‘complete business empire’ which I would only trust from a professional with business experience and knowledge. However, the picture associated with that Twitter account was not part of a professional brand – the rear view of an almost naked woman is perhaps more suited to a different profession…

So is the tweeter not business savvy at all, and perhaps even a con selling nonsense, or is someone mixing their personal and business profiles online?

In general, I think separate personal and business social media profiles is the best way to keep your brand on track. Or be very careful that anything you put online works with your brand – for example, I have only one Twitter account so it is always appropriate for my business persona and I never tweet anything I wouldn’t say to a stranger or prospective client. In comparison, I use a personal page on Facebook for friends and a business page for connecting with clients and people interested in clear communications.

So what does your twitter or Facebook picture say about your business?

Do you agree that the choice of social media images has an impact on how your business is perceived? I don’t think it’s just me who doesn’t find a woman’s legs a symbol for business knowledge…

Building your integrity

Would you buy anything from a business you didn’t trust? Or a business that you’ve heard bad things about?

Most people wouldn’t so it is crucial to ensure your business is trustworthy and maintains that image. Honesty, integrity, straightforward, transparent and respect are all parts of that trustworthy image.

Here are some key activities to show your integrity and trustworthiness, gained from watching people do the opposite as well as showing integrity even when it’s hard.

  • pay your suppliers on time – or discuss it openly if you can’t do it as timely as expected. What’s more, do not hire new suppliers if you are in debt and know you can’t afford to pay them – doing so is one of the fastest ways of destroying your credibility and risking legal actions
  • take responsibility for yourself, your business and even your team. Blaming others and looking for excuses doesn’t put you in a good light and can worry protective clients and suppliers hat they will be blamed for future issues – not good for building trust!
  • be honest – don’t make grand claims on your website, own up to errors and tell clients what they need to hear (rather than what brings you a quick return)
  • be open – share bits of information about the people behind the business. That doesn’t mean tell us all your son’s achievements or what you had for breakfast, nor give out private details, but let people know the human voice of a business as well. For example what impression do I give when I occasionally mention I am a cub leader?
  • be transparent – put your pricing and/or policies in easy-to-understand terms in an accessible form (I hate websites that don’t show delivery prices until you finish the shopping, for instance) and let appropriate negative comments remain (although I suggest answering them as well!)
  • be professional and pay attention to small details so people can trust you will do a good job for them
  • be consistent so people learn that you always do things the same way and that they can rely on that
  • take care with where and how you promote your business – and ask for help. Being open about needing help is one thing but publicly asking for help on many aspects of your business  gives little reason to think you can provide the promised services. As my role is to prepare content, I can post online that I need help with preparing some graphics but a coach publicly asking for funding to set up anything is dubious
What other ways have businesses earned your trust?

Reading resources

I’ve managed to catch up on some newsletter and blog reading in the last few days so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting ones so you can benefit from them, too.

All related to business today, some back-end details (like blog security) and some customer related issues, but all worth a read. In order that I think of them…

How to do yourself out of a thousand bucks – the ethics of business

Social media, trade secrets and why you shouldn’t give a rip about the competition – great message and enjoy the graphic too!

Why perfect is the only acceptable business measure

5 easy tasks to outsource as you grow your business

how to keep your WordPress blog secure

Working at home blog carnival –  in particular, I liked the included posts by Eldon and Blogging your passion (and my own of course!)

Customer Service Carnivale

Preparing business for difficult times 

Happy reading! If you have any comments on these posts, I’d love to hear them…

So when is it?

I just followed a link to a site about a small business expo/summit to see if it would be of value to me.

The link showed a list of presenters but where and when were more important questions for me. Fair enough, I followed a link so I didn’t go to an introductory page so clicking to another page is reasonable.

time dates linked

Link important information carefully

“Where is event” is in their menu which is fantastic so I now know it is in Sydney.

It took 5 more clicks (including clicking on the “program” link in the menu – the program just lists times on a Wednesday…) before I found it is on July 27. To be fair, I then checked the home page but it isn’t listed there either.

It’s a  pity an event supported by big business and with Government speakers can’t make it easy to find critical details on their website, but it’s another lesson for those of us responsible for communicating to clients and prospective clients – identify the key information and make it easy to find.

Making key data easy to find is more than putting in on one page, too – if people enter the site at different pages or read a few pages before looking for the key data, you want them to find it easily too.

So include key data on every page (in a footer or a graphic for example) or have a clear menu item on every page.

What is key data? Well here are some examples:

  • contact details
  • location where relevant (don’t assume an online store doesn’t need this as people like to know which country they are ordering from if nothing else)
  • event details like dates and locations
  • who you are – a business, organisation or personal name should be prominent
  • shipping information (for an online store)
  • terms and conditions (it may not be the first thing I look for, but when I need to know the terms I must be able to find them)

How do you react when a website lacks (or hides, deliberately or by poor thought) key details you are after? And, no, I am not going to that expo (although not entirely because the date was obscured).

When writing is important for business

Pen writing on a blank pageMaybe you don’t think writing is a key skill in business presentation, or that putting any old word on paper is good enough to make your point. Obviously I think good writing and clear communications are important but I just read an article listing some examples of when writing is more important than speaking for a business.

Even if you use someone else to write ad copy, website content, articles, blog posts and other obvious writing tasks, the following list shows that business writing is a necessary skill for any business owner or manager:

  • making a visual impact – spoken words alone aren’t always enough, even in a training session when visual aids and handouts are valuable. Seeing things in print makes them more believable and easier to remember, so writing can have a bigger impact
  • setting rules and guidelines, such as policies and procedures. Imagine having verbal policies in a large company – it would be easy for people to forget or misunderstand what they’re told, and some people would simply choose to do things their own way. Writing out procedures ensures consistency and forms a record of your expectations
  • making complaints have more power in writing – they are taken more seriously, are more likely to be followed up on and form a record for any future interactions. Further, it ensures your actual complaint is received as the person you complain to may not be the one who can act on it so a verbal message could be changed
  • responding to complaints is also good in writing – it shows you genuinely care about the customer’s experience with your business and gives you the opportunity to show what you have done to prevent the issue happening again
  • giving feedback and recognition has more impact if you take the time to write it down, and your written message may be kept for a long time. Whats more, if you make the written message public (including just on the business noticeboard or intranet), your compliments carry so much more weight and make people feel truly valued
  • complex ideas are not easy to grasp so a written explanation gives people the chance to reread it for understanding and have it as a reference later
  • written communications form a record of what was ‘said’ and needed. This has two advantages – it helps you remember details and complete a task correctly and it also helps protect from ‘he said she said’ situations
  • writing an agenda for meetings can save a lot of time and frustration as the agenda keeps everyone on track and they can prepare ahead of time. Likewise, minutes of meetings form a record and reminder of tasks to be done
  • involving new people becomes much easier if information is in writing – for example, if you change project managers part way through, the new manager will know what has been done and what to chase if they get written notes to follow

Again, some of these tasks can be handed to a business writer, but others you need to do yourself (in which case, hopefully my blog is one resource for helping you write effectively!)

Do you have other examples of when being able to write is critical in business?

Issues with running a business blog…

Running a blog to support your business in some way can be a good marketing move although it doesn’t suit every business or every business owner/manager.

Like everything else in business, just because running a blog is a good idea doesn’t mean it is easy to do or doesn’t have issues for the people behind the business.

So what are your biggest hurdles with running a business blog?

Gift certificate for business services?

Leading up to friend’s birthdays and Christmas, gift certificates for product-based stores and personal services (eg a massage or facial) are often considered as a convenient gift the recipient can redeem for whatever they want.

There is also value for the business giving out gift certificates – quiet promotions, value add, follow on sales and cash flow in particular.

So would you give a business service gift certificate?

Here are a couple of situations where I think it could work:

1. a friend has just started their business and is overwhelmed with the things to do’ so you give a voucher for a VA’s services

2. as a web designer you know there is more than good design required for success so with all projects above $x you give a gift certificate to a professional writer to kick things off

3. instead of giving a bottle of wine or box of chocolates, a business gives out vouchers for a business service to enhance clients’ business. Obviously they need to be complementary businesses with a similar market so a business coach could give out vouchers for bookkeeping, a designer could give a voucher for a printer and a writer could give gift certificates from an IT support business.

4. you want to give a friend/client the means of improving something about their business, just because you like them or you can see their business really needs the help

5. it is the anniversary of your business relationship or someone starting their business so acknowledging that with something that will further their business (rather than a hamper or bunch of flowers) gives more meaning to your gesture

Have you ever thought of giving a gift voucher for a professional service? If you’ve done it, how did it go?

Superannuation increases?

There is a move to increase the basic super contribution rate for employers on behalf of their employees, taking it from 9% to 12% (in a few increments).

The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, AIST, (and others I believe) have an online petition to show the Government the concept has the support of the general population.

Do you support it?

Maybe you haven’t even thought about it so here are a couple of my ideas on the topic:

  • an extra 3% of your salary each year has to give you a better chance of financial security in retirement so who would argue with getting it?
  • we’re often told we have an aging population so I have long thought I will need my own money (super or otherwise) as there may not be much of an age pension when I retire – again, more super from an employer has to help that!
  • an extra 3% on top of employee’s salaries could easily add up for any business owner so businesses may find the concept stressful, but
    • it isn’t immediate so businesses can prepare
    • if businesses have to increase prices to meet the 3%, living expenses will have another increase
    • base salaries (for new employees) may get reduced slightly so that packages aren’t significantly higher and that again may leave people financially tight in the present

From a purely super point of view, I totally agree with moving the minimum to 12%; from an overall perspective, I’m not so sure what is best and will need to read up on the potential impact – and I’d love to hear some different opinions from business owners, too.

Maximising topics

Last week, I aprticipated in Blog Action Day(BAD09) with over 13,000 other bloggers – we all posted on the topic of climate change in order to make everyone aware of this important topic.

While everyone wrote about climate change as the theme, there were many different angles covered – for example, I listed green decisions for my business to inspire other businesses to fight climate change and I read posts about conserving water, marketing, using local foods, some affects of climate change (affects on western society caused by direct climate changes) and things we can do to stop climate change.

This made me think about using a limited topic can provide many blog posts and/or articles – as well as about climate change of course!

Even if you limited yourself to business related aspects of climate change, there were many different ways you could have participated in BAD09. Here are just some of the business angles to show what I mean:

  • tips of how to reduce a business’ impact around the office
  • discussion of how manufacturing businesses can reduce their emissions
  • discussion of how business can contribute to the solution
  • opinions on carbon pricing and how it will impact small businesses
  • list some business ideas that will help the planet
  • low impact marketing ideas
  • how climate change has impacted on a particular business or industry – or is likely to in the next decade or half century
  • discussion on political and social factors affecting how a business can implement greener processes

So next time you are looking for something to write about to promote your business, look back at old or obvious topics within your business and see if there is a different angle you can discuss – there usually is!

Not only does discussing different angles give you more blog posts/articles, it also:

  • gives you the opportunity to share more of your expertise in a niche subject
  • lets people read about different aspects and therefore be more informed
  • gives people who may use your article (e.g. website owners and other bloggers) more choice about what angle of the topic to use and that increases the chances or your article being read
  • demonstrates your knowledge and that you have more than one dimension
  • enables you to link between posts more easily

Use your words wisely, and your topics thoroughly!