The world of small business is becoming increasingly turbulent, with more small businesses being created every day and only 80% of them surviving past the first year. Small Business Advice Week wants to help them succeed, and one of the best ways to do that is to constantly analyse what you are doing and what is working.
When you know for sure which methods are bringing in consistent revenue, you can expand on those methods, or restructure your resources to better focus on what you know is working. The only way this can be done is by consistent analysis: measuring what you’re doing and using your data to see how you are truly performing as a business.
This analysis will result in a considerable amount of data that needs to be refined into an easy-to-understand action plan, but that can take time, resources and money you may not have.
However, the 9 Spokes smart dashboard gathers just the key data from your business apps and brings it into one place through easy to understand visuals, or widgets, that you can digest quickly. There’s no arduous sign-up process of tedious data entry for hours before you can start to see results. The 9 Spokes business dashboard allows you to sync up the cloud apps and software you’re already using, so you can get started right away, as well as get the recommended apps for your industry.
The immediate benefit is saving time, something small businesses can never have enough of. But you can also gain more certainty that is hard to come by when trends are constantly shifting due to new trends, social media fads and changing markets.
Focus is something many SME owners are desperately seeking in a world that has so many distractions. Knowing where you’re going and why is invaluable, and will reassure you when things don’t seem to make sense. Many business leaders say they rely on intuition or ‘gut feeling.’ But numbers show how you’ve grown, and how you’re growing. They show trends, patterns, and can predict the future, if you know how to use them. 9 Spokes can do all of this for you, so you can get your business into the best possible position it can be in for the next day, year, or decade.
Alex from World of Cycles, a bike shop in Dundee, uses 9 Spokes’ free cloud-based platform to create a single view of its key metrics. It allows him to plug in his apps like eCommerce system Shopify, retail management software Vend, Facebook and Twitter for social, and accounting software Quickbooks, among others. This means he can immediately see the key health check metrics like sales staff performance and the performance of marketing campaigns in one place.
“Before setting up 9 Spokes, the day-to-day running of the business sounded quite disjointed. Software was available, but there was nothing that brought it all into the same space. Before that we wouldn’t know what the most popular item was, how staff were performing or what we had sold week by week.
“It’s made us more profitable because we can see what our most important products are and what’s performing well, so that we can only have our most important products in the store,” says Alex.
You’re only as good as the tools you have, and 9 Spokes is both a tool, tool-box, and tool catalogue, giving you everything you need in one place. You can customise your own dashboard to see the metrics only you want to view, so 9 Spokes can give you deeper insight across your financial and non-financial areas of your business.
This is why Small Business Advice Week has partnered with 9 Spokes, because it provides small businesses with a degree of knowledge and focus that can give them a clear understanding of where they are and where they’re going.
Having everything in one place gives you more clarity and control over your business, which is something you can’t afford to turn down. Best of all, 9 Spokes is completely free to join, no credit cards details required! Get your own dashboard free here by joining at https://www.9spokes.com/.
It’s no secret that first impressions are critical in business, if your company makes a visual impact straight away you’re more likely to be seen as professional, reliable, and credible. This can be achieved through strong logo design, the use of white space on either a business card or website, even the font can change how you’re perceived. Visual appeal can be assessed within about 50 milliseconds, so it is imperative that your design is flawless, or you will lose out.
‘Design is thinking made visual.’ – Saul Bass
This Small Business Advice Week, take a look at your choice of design themes, and if they aren’t working for you, consider giving them an overhaul. Here are five areas that might need some attention:
The logo is the face of your company, that can say more about your company than you can. Having an instantly recognisable symbol that people link to you means that you have made an impact in their lives. Your logo is your business, it is a visual stamp that will be on everything you do. Make sure it’s a good one.
A bold colour scheme helps set you apart from the crowd and will make more memorable and recognisable. This stretches across all elements of your branding: your logo, business card, website, any merchandise you may have. Keep it consistent, if you mix and match it lessens the impact and could confuse potential customers.
Fonts can help build your brand in small ways. It’s not just the words, it’s the way the words look. This can dictate the tone of your business, building gravitas and class through the use of a traditional script, or taking a bolder modern approach.
Use of Space
It can be tempting to cram as much information about your business into every space you own. You want people to know about you, to know what you do, and to understand what makes you better than your competitors. But if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with messy or confusing layouts that don’t effectively communicate what you want them to. Overloading your customers with information will annoy them, and will send them running to the next company.
When utilised correctly, space can be calming, directing people’s eyes where you want them to go, letting them move through what you’re showing them at their own pace.
No matter what content you’re putting out: blogs, videos, motion graphics, infographics, it all relies of graphic design. It should be the foundation of everything you do, the style informs and accentuates the content. There is always a way to make something look better.
If any of this has made you pause and re-appraise your business’ design, consider hiring a graphic designer. Amateurish design will kill interest in you almost immediately, good design will make people stop and take notice.
Let us know what crucial design choice changed your business for the better @SmallBizAdvWeek
In the world we live in today, to some extent all businesses are online businesses. They have to be. If you don’t have an online presence, for all intents and purposes, you don’t exist.
One of the best ways to build that presence and start gaining attention is to set up a blog. It should be about your sector, not necessarily just about you. People want to read about things that they can use, if you can provide insight into your industry or the world of business, people will be interested. If all you write about is yourself, they won’t be.
Blogs should be helpful, interesting, and tackle an issue that your customers regularly face. They can be tactically filled with your key SEO terms to boost your ranking while also cementing you as a reliable presence that serves a definite purpose. Check out our other blog post if you’re wondering what SEO is.
If you get people going back to your site consistently, it will cement you as a credible source of information, and that will benefit you immeasurably.
The content itself should be engaging, focused on something that you know is of interest to your customers or others in your field. A post about how to solve a specific problem, or one that analyses an issue you regularly face will not only be interesting, it will present you as a company that understands the needs of its audience.
Besides SEO and building credibility, blogging also allows you to directly engage with your audience via social media and sharing. If you write a blog that people find useful, they’ll share it, which is not only good for your exposure, it also doubles as an endorsement of you and your services. People are more likely to trust and use a business if it has been recommended by a friend, which is what sharing is tantamount to in the digital age.
By presenting yourself as an expert, what you are offering your readers is your knowledge, that is the product that your blog is selling, which in turn sells your business. Making a name for yourself is difficult, but the only way to do it is to start making content that people can use. Once you’ve built up a body of work, you effectively have a large resource of free knowledge to offer you customers and visitors. This is impressive, and commands an air of authority that cannot be bought or manufactured out of thin air.
Lastly, it will allow you to research your own industry and gain a greater perspective of where you are in relation to your competitors. Having a deeper understanding of the field helps you understand why your business works the way it does, and how it could work better. Blogging gives you the freedom to think about your work in an abstract way, and can potentially give you an epiphany by stimulating you in ways your normal workload can’t.
So this Small Business Advice Week, if you don’t have a blog on your website yet, set one up today. You won’t regret it.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s a process where you tweak minor things on your website in order to increase your visibility when people search for your sector. Essentially, the higher you rank on a search engine, the better your business appears to your customers.
If you appear on the first page of Google for example, you are far more likely to get visited, and therefore more likely to turn that visitor into a client. If your business is the first up on Google for a given search query, that means you are indisputably credible, reliable, and ready to help that customer with whatever problem they have.
This establishes you as a leading brand, putting you literally above the rest, giving you the best possible platform to spread your messages from.
SEO is something you can work on in small chunks regularly, and will improve how you appear online. But it takes time. If you want a quick fix, this isn’t it.
That being said, there are a handful of relatively simple ways you can improve your ranking in search engines just by changing how your website appears to the bots (pieces of code that trawl the web every time a search is made) that can have a big impact.
However, it is important to remember that this system should not abused – search engine companies are fully aware of how people attempt to manipulate SEO systems beyond what is necessary: if you spam their bots with unnecessary or untruthful content, they will penalise or even drop you from the engine entirely. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about this process. The most important thing to remember is that the bots want to help the customers connect to you. Their job is to find what the customers want –what you provide- and show it to them. If you make that process easier or faster, the system rewards you. If you play the game without cheating, you can win, and win big.
SEO takes a long time to come into effect. Don’t expect results overnight. You should set some measurable goals in a reasonable, achievable time frame. Do you want to increase your traffic? Your leads? Your conversions? Of course, ideally, you’ll get all of these. But depending on where you are with your business, different things may be better for you than others, and you need to prioritise the things that will benefit you the most.
If you’re just starting out, you need to start getting paying clients, so you may want to have generated six clients in six months through your website. If you’re established, you need to maintain brand awareness, so you might want to double your site visits in a year. So put yourself on a time line, set specific, measurable goals, and get on it. If you don’t have analytics set up on your pages, that’s step one.
Google analytics is a service that tracks how many visits your site gets, and can be configured to show you where those visits come from, so is a must for any business.
Once you’ve got analytics set up, it’s crucial to use it. If you aren’t understanding how and why what you’re doing is working, you aren’t really succeeding. You’re just being lucky. So watch where your leads come from, and how many you convert from visitor to customer. Once you understand what works and what doesn’t, you can double down on the things that are getting you business, and change the things that aren’t.
Your goals need to push you, but make sure they’re realistic. Adapt them over time, tweaking them as the needs of your business change.
What To Do:
First, look at the title of your website. Does it have your company name? Does it have a brief description of what you do? And does it appear when you hover over your browser tab? What you want is a little box to appear when you point your mouse on the top of your internet window with that information in, that is what the bots scan to find out what you website is about. It’s called a meta-title. You can set it in the page settings of your web-building platform.
If you include things irrelevant to your customers or your business, you won’t rank as highly. Likewise, if you include dozens and dozens of works that are technically relevant but don’t make sense, you’ll be bumped down the list.
The main thing to keep in mind is that while you’re trying to appease pieces of code, those same robots are designed around helping to create a smoother experience for its users. So if you focus on making your visitors happy, you’ll make the bots happy, and they’ll move you up the search list. That’s a win-win-win.
The next most important thing to focus on is the actual content on your pages. The bots will scan every word on your site, so it’s important to maintain a consistent amount of key word mentions for whatever you want to be found for. Again, it’s crucial to strike a balance between a good level of what you’re aiming for, and not overloading the bots to such a degree that your page becomes a minefield of repetitions.
To do that, imagine you’re a customer who has just found your page. Write it for your ideal customer, someone who has the exact problem you solve. What are their complaints, their frustrations? How can you help?
It’s important to consider who actually goes on your site, and who you’re trying to attract. There are many different type of content you can put up, all of which will help present you as a credible business, while engaging the visitors. Blogs, videos, infographics and pictures, and FAQS can all be informative or entertaining, can all be shareable, and can all be useful to you no matter what business you’re in. Tailor your content to who you want to target. They’ll appreciate you far more, and will be more likely to use you.
You should also use links to establish credibility, and make your site more versatile and accessible.
One: It might help your customers better understand your topic, providing them with some key information. Anything you think might help your customers is a good thing to provide them.
Two: It boosts your SEO. Links to and from your site all increases your validity in the eyes of search engines, so include some in relevant places for valid reasons, and you’ll be climbing the ladder without having to do any work, and helping your customers at the same time. If you’re lucky (or if you ask nicely), some of the sites you link to might even link to YOU on their sites, so get networking.
It's more important than ever to make sure your business is seen first. SEO can help you appear in front of a massive audience, and will immediately give you credibility before you've even been clicked on.