To go along with my Business Tips Live session this week, I thought it would be useful to write up the Tips I've shared in a Blog, so they can be read later too.
So just a quick reminder what this is all about first, over the coming weeks, I'm hosting Business Tips Live sessions on my Instagram profile, www.instagram.com/franminifiebrandphotography along with a number of knowledgeable speakers:
Weds 5th May at 7.30pm - Me, talking about General Tips from my own experience.
Weds 12th May at 7.15pm - Dan Bull talking about Social Media
Weds 19th May at 7.30 - Maddy Shine talking about getting found by google (SEO)
Weds 26th May at 7.30 - Tori Elliot talking about Brand
Weds 2nd June at 7.30 - Jules Roberts talking about Maximising your Digital Presence
But first, we're starting with me and my Tips. Thought I'd share a few of the things I've learnt over the years to get the ball rolling.
So before I became a photographer, I worked in Marketing for YEARS. In a marketing agency and in the marketing department for businesses (sometimes I WAS the marketing department because they were very small businesses). I also had my own retail and eCommerce business for a few years (selling via my own website, plus Amazon and eBay shops). I did things right... I did things wrong. And I learnt a LOT.
Since becoming a photographer, I started working with a lot of businesses, including lots of start ups and young businesses (and plenty that have been running for years). And I work as a marketing consultant on the side. And I hear the same questions, and problems, over and over again from those I'm helping, which was the inspiration behind this series.
So the speakers who are joining each week are going to be covering lots of the tips I wanted to share, so I thought I'd start with some more general tips. The Admin tips.
So let's go.....
Tip 1 - DO THE FUCKING WORK! All of it.
Something I hear a lot is how surprised people are with how much work running you own business is. Lots seem to think you just get a name and a logo start posting on Instagram, invite some friends to follow you and sit back and wait for the sales/bookings.
Then wonder what the hell to do next when that doesn't work.
Running a business involves so much more. And I know that many of you reading this will know that already. But over the last year there have been so many people on furlough, or made redundant, who have started businesses, turned hobbies into a 'side hustle', and they are usually the ones who are taken by surprise (and sometimes, sadly, give up, because they don't know what to do next).
You wear a lot of hats as a small business owner. You are often:
...... and so many more!
And the reason these roles exist in a business is because they need to be done. And they are often invisible to anyone outside of the business as generally they all happen behind the scenes.
And they all need to happen for your business to work, whether you do them yourself, or you outsource them.
And if you want to get customers/clients/sales/bookings.... whatever it might be... you will need to work on your marketing. Your Website. Your Social Media. You'll need to keep an eye on those numbers. Those costs. That ROI.
And I hate to say it (in a world full of Instagram Memes promising that if you 'Manifest' it, it will happen), but you can sit there 'Manifesting' until the cows come home. Unless you do the actual work, no amount of manifesting is going to bring money into your business and make it a success. Hard work, making mistakes, learning from them. The marketing you do, the product you provide, that's what is going to bring the money in.
2) Keep track of your ROI. Watch those numbers.
So over the next few weeks we'll be talking a lot about how to attract clients through social media marketing, your website, your brand etc etc. But once they've found you, and they buy/book, and the money starts to come in from that marketing work, you need to be watching HOW that money got to you. How those paying customers came to be your customers/clients.
What marketing activities did you do, that successfully brought in those paying clients?
And while you're at it, asking yourself what your ROI is (your Return On Investment).
If you spent money on an advert, how much money did that end up bringing in to your business? How many sales? Were they immediate purchases, or bookings? Or is it a slow burner and will make money over time (like subscriptions or repeat customers)? What is the 'Lifetime Value' of that customer? What was your CPA (cost per customer acquisition)?
This might be a bit too much detail to think about right at the start, but later down the line, when you're trying to improve your ad conversion rates, or you're refining your marketing strategy, these are all things to think about. And it's a whole lot better than throwing a lot of stuff at it and seeing what sticks (if anything) each time.
Consider also how much time you spend marketing your business on Social Media (I am so guilty of not doing this enough! I think most of us are). Because guess what? Time is valuable too (VERY valuable!). Those hours are worth something. Imagine you were paying someone (or pay yourself!) for those hours you work managing your social media. Was it worth it? Did the time you spend on there get enough bookings/sales to justify it?
I'm not suggesting that if you're trying this stuff at the beginning and it doesn't work that you should just scrap it all. By looking at it with this stuff in mind, and learning from it, you can improve on it. Work out what you can do to improve your Return On Investment. Streamline those activities so they work well for you.
3) Watch those accounts. Money Matters.
This comes hand in hand with watching your ROI. It's something I know I could (and should!) do better. And I learnt some valuable lessons in this when I had my shop. My profits could have been so much better, and I could have been paying myself a better wage.
What are you spending?
And what are you getting in return for that spend?
Is it necessary? Or adding value?
Have you spent a shit load of money on leaflets, business cards and materials that haven't actually got you a single client, booking, sale or even enquiry?
Create a Profit and Loss statement (just a spreadsheet. Microsoft office has a free template, or google it and find something suitable). If you have accounting software it probably already generates one for you based on what data you're entering.
They're not just for accountants. They allow you to see very quickly where you are financially, what expenses might need looking at and improving, and how your income is looking. You can use them to work out how much you need to increase your profit by increasing your total revenue, or how much you might need to increase your sales to justify moving to a premises (for example).
So why is this important?
Look around. Look at all the businesses that have closed out there because they are no longer financially viable.
Did they close because they didn't have enough Instagram followers? Or because they didn't have a facebook page? At the end of the day, it all comes down to Money. Are you running a charity? Is it a hobby? Or is it a business?
How many customers/clients/sales do you need to break even?
How many do you need to pay yourself a good wage?
How can you get your business to a point where it is achieving this?
Look at Dragon's Den, and all those questions they attack the poor sods in front of them with. There's a reason they're asking those questions. Same with a Bank if you need a business loan. Profit is not a dirty word. You can have a massive turnover, loads of customers walking through the door each day and still fail because the business isn't making enough money (Debenhams, Mothercare.... all had plenty of social media followers too).
And for you personally, you need to know that you can earn money from running your business and pay your own bills with that money. Your mortgage company doesn't give a shit how many followers you have on Instagram, how many visits your website gets, or what's going on with your mindset. They care about how much money gets paid into your bank account.
Money Matters. It's easy to forget this when you're busy trying to get your business 'out there'.
4) Marketing - Websites and Social Media
We'll be covering lots about this in the coming weeks. But just to lay the foundations for what will be discussed, let's just talk some basics.
What do you do when you need a product or service? You need to find a plumber for example (if you don't already know one)?
You Google it. I bet.
And that is exactly what your customers do when they are trying to find your product or service (whether it's specific like 'hairdresser in paignton' or generic like 'gifts for mothers' day).
So if you don't have a website, what turns up about your business when someone googles what you provide?
Lots of small businesses I talk to only use social media, and haven't bothered with a website. And that's fine. But consider the above, and how a lack of website might be impacting on your business?
And if you want reassurance, further info, to research a company, product or service you've seen on social media before you fork out your hard earned cash, what do you do? Do you check out their website?
I like to think of it like this. Your website is your hub or 'business premises' (shop, office, whatever you want to call it). It stays where it is, you manage it, you control it, it holds all the products and services and all the information about your business.
Your Social Media is your billboard or advert. It's telling people that you exist, introducing your products and services to new audiences and reminding people who already know about you that you exist. And drives people to your website.
And Google? Google is that friendly mate who you ask "where can I get....?" who then tells you how to find the shop you need to visit to get just what you need.
5) Experience your business as a customer.
And by that I mean literally try it out! Every so often, go trough the same process your customer does. I'm doing this at the moment, and I used to do it all the time as a Product Marketing Manager. I would buy our products, go through the purchase flow, or sign up to our various subscriptions and experience it all as a customer does.
You can check it all makes sense, is easy to use, that everything is clear and there are no technical glitches.
This can really help with conversion rates. Often, if there is a technical problem or something isn't clear or easy to navigate, for example, with a payment process, your customers might not tell you. They might just think 'sod it' and go somewhere else (ever done that yourself?). And you will never know. You just end up with fewer sales than you should have had. Or fewer sign ups. Or fewer enquiries. For something that often could just be fixed or improved.
This kind of thing can help you see where you could make improvements to your customer's experience, things you might be missing from your website, or things that could be done better.
So.... next week!
We'll be talking to Dan Bull about Social Media. Hopefully I'll be able to convince him to do a guest blog too.
And if you'd like to watch the Instagram Live version of this and any of the other talks, be sure to visit my Instagram profile www.instagram.com/FranMinifieBrandPhotography - all of the Live talks will be available on my Instagram TV.