Make first impressions count

Make first impressions count

Have you thought lately about how your business is packaged and how that packaging affects the first impressions people have of your business? Oh, but I don’t need to I hear you say, I don’t sell products, only services.

Well, this is where you might be going wrong. Everything that represents your business needs to have thought and consideration put into how it is packaged or presented and what impression it gives to your potential customers.

This can be in the form of marketing material, your website and you personally.

What first impressions do you get from packaging?

Take luxury products in a department store.  What stands out about the packaging?  It is usually of a higher quality and both looks and feels good.  So if you are in the luxury product or a professional industry such as a solicitor, consultant or interior designer, all your business presentation needs to represent this.

Your business cards should be of a higher grade paper and feel good to the touch.  This can have a subtle subconscious effect on the user that will help them with how they perceive your company. If you have inferior, cheap, flimsy business cards, the user may subconsciously think you offer an inferior business also.

Your website should also be considered as packaging for your business.  If it is a quick cobbled together effort with poor layout, you may well lose out to your competitor who has spent a bit more time, effort and money in getting theirs right.  If you go to the newsstand and see a magazine that looks cheap and poorly done, you don’t expect the quality of the content to be as good or professional as one if the top magazines.  Your website has the same effect visually.  If yours looks poor quality and cheap, people will be deterred from reading further no matter how good your offering is.

How do you package yourself?

And think about you.  You need to package yourself to represent your business.  a lady selling wedding dresses who wears a stained badly fitting tee shirt and too tight jeans with her stomach hanging out over the top is unlikely to inspire confidence in a bride who wants to be advised how to look her best on her special day (unfortunately this is a real life example I came across).

Don’t let your branding deter your ideal client

We have spoken about luxury branding here and you need to make sure if you are not looking for top end clients that you don’t create a brand that makes you look out of the price range of your target market.

I made this mistake myself with a previous business.  I had a property staging company that dressed homes for sale at an affordable price that would help attract buyers and secure a sale more easily.  I got my branding wrong and my business marketing looked more suited to an interior design business which my target market thought they would not be able to afford.

I have known someone refuse to contact a gardener for a quote as they believed he would out of their price range as he drove a brand new range rover.  He wasn’t expensive and would have been better off driving around in a small van on his business travels.

So think carefully about how you package your business and the perception that packaging has on your potential clients.  Make sure the first impressions your packaging gives out are the right ones for your business.



A few alternative home office ideas

A few alternative home office ideas

Do you work from home?  Do you have your own private workspace that is a pleasure to be in, or are you stuck in a cramped corner with the family constantly traipsing through?

I started to hit a mental block with my business and was finding previously enjoyable tasks somewhat tedious.  It took me quite a while, and, to be honest, a friend pointing the fact out to me, that as my business had grown so had my need for a larger office space.  I had outgrown my little study area in the family home.

But what was I to do?  I could not afford to rent an office and, to be honest, did not have the need for one.  But I did need my own space where I could spread everything out and not feel the need to tidy up before friends and family came in.

So I started looking into other options and came up with the following:


When I had specific projects to work on, I could go to work in a local work hub and rent either a desk or office space on a daily basis.  This would have the benefit of both not being disturbed and also giving me a strict deadline to work to in order to get the task complete.

Garden office

This one was the most appealing.  There are a range of garden offices available at every price and every size.  Dependent upon the space in your garden you can simply clear out an existing shed or area of your garage, insulate it and pop in a small heater and lighting, or go the whole hog and have a custom built structure erected.

office garden

image courtesy of


Now, I hadn’t thought of this, but one of my clients went out and found an old caravan for a measly £175 on the internet. It was old and ugly and a hideous murky brown colour.  But by the time she had finished, it was painted cream on the outside, had the interior ripped out, a beautiful wallpaper applied to the walls and a desk and chair in situ.  It was the perfect office space for her at a very small cost.


If using caravans or sheds, you do need to take into consideration security and insurance and make sure the structure has a dual purpose so you don’t get hit by business rates.  But they can be very cost effective ways of getting that space you need.

Do you have a quirky alternative home office?  Please post your pictures on the Facebook page

When free holds no value and can be detrimental to your business

When free holds no value and can be detrimental to your business

When running a small business it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking we have to start off giving things away for free in order to build our reputation.  Whilst this method of building brand awareness may have some benefits, it needs to be thought through and the results measured, in a very controlled way.

Why?  Because free holds no value in the mind of the recipient and by giving too much away you may be causing problems for your business. In the majority of cases I have seen, when someone gets something for free, they do not perceive and appreciate the full value that the product or service they are receiving is really worth.

I know of a couple of small businesses who have spent time creating vouchers for a massage or facial and promoted this through a competition and then the voucher hasn’t been use by the winner.  A waste of time, effort and money for all involved.

I know of a lady who spent time setting up a free workshop to teach dance classes where a good number of people booked and reserved the spaces and yet only one actually turned up.

In my own line of business there are often opportunities for fully funded business support.  Whilst many people who take advantage of this truly do appreciate it, there are those who have the mindset that free holds no value and therefore it is unlikely to be worth much to them so they fail to attend the workshops or appointments they are booked on and deprive others who would have benefited from having a place.

This is demoralising for all concerned and puts in jeopardy any future opportunities that may have been in the pipeline.

But why is this?  Because no matter what the price of the thing that has been received, if it is given away for free, subconsciously that product or service is worthless to the recipient.  During some research on this subject I came across many examples of this.

The psychological effect of free

One was a person who had received a book worth hundreds of pounds for free (they didn’t enlighten me on the actual book as it must have been quite special for this amount of money!).  On the same day they made a purchase of a book on Amazon for £10.  And which did they read?  The one they had paid for.  Because this had been paid for with their hard earned cash they perceived its value as higher than the one they had received for free.  Crazy huh?  But true.

With free workshops and funded support, maybe people don’t turn up because they think there is a catch.  Otherwise, why would it be put on for free?  That word ‘free’ has such a negative effect on us psychologically.

So if you are a small business owner considering a free offer, think carefully if you can really afford to put this offer on.  What is it going to cost you to run the promotion and provide the free offer?  Can you afford to lose this money?

If you go ahead, measure the results very carefully.  I do not have exact figures to provide you with but from research have discovered that an incredibly small percentage of people who receive a free offer will ever go on to purchase at full price in the future.  These people tend to be bargain hunters and so just sit tight until another freebie comes along.  They are not your target audience so do you really want to waste time dealing with them?  Unfortunately they have the attitude that free holds no value to them.

And if you are the recipient of a free offer, think twice before accepting.  If you don’t see the value and have no intention of using the freebie, let it go to someone who may be more appreciative

4 top tips for directory advertising

4 top tips for directory advertising

Directory Advertising

There are literally thousands of different directory publications, both print and digital. These include local and national general directories along with specialist trade publications.

With the decline in print advertising, directory advertising has become a relatively low cost method of marketing your business.  And most online directories offer a free listing.  Research the better ones and get yourself listed.

How to choose which directory to use

One of the best ways to decide which online directories to get listed in is to do an online search for your keywords and see which show up in the results.  These are the ones in which you want to have your business listed.  Also have a look at where your competitors are advertising and ask your customers which ones they use.

Free or paid?

Thomson Local,, BT and tend to appear frequently in results. Don’t get hooked into paying for these directories.  Try them out for free.  A word of warning now though, once you sign up for a free listing, you may start to get frequent sales calls.

If you decide to go for a paid for option, negotiate for a good price.  The advertising rates shown are rarely set in stone.  By finding out the print deadline for a publication and then calling as close to this as possible may get you a considerable discount.

What to include

When placing your advert, you need to try and make your ad stand out from the numerous ones that will be alongside you.  Remember that all important company strapline?  Include it. Use that one short statement that will grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to find out more about you.

But most importantly ensure your contact details are clear and stand out.  There is no point placing an advert and then having the phone number so small that no one can read it.

Measure if it is working

As with any marketing, you need to be able to determine if this type of advertising is working for your business or not.  To be able to measure the effectiveness of your efforts include a different email address for customers to contact you or ask them to quote a code when calling.



Don’t make this mistake when hiring a new employee

Don’t make this mistake when hiring a new employee

Do you make this mistake when hiring a new employee?

It is said that small business owners waste more time and money on poor recruitment decisions when hiring a new employee than any other area of their business.

There is a huge cost in advertising the position, reading through C.V.’s and conducting interviews. Then there is the wasted salary of the employee who fails to stay.  And it is not only their salary but the salaries of the other staff who have trained that person and helped them settle in combined with the time it took and loss of other work being completed during this time.  Then there is the negative impact of employee churn on existing staff.  If they see people coming and going it is bound to affect their own faith in the company and may leave them feeling unsettled.

I have sat through many recruitment processes and seen the results of a the right person being taken on who goes on to be a valuable asset to the business and the inevitable bad mistake that leaves frustration and upset behind.

The secret behind hiring a new employee

So what is the secret to taking on an employee that has the best chance of working out and becoming an asset to your small business?

I believe it comes down to getting the balance right of knowledge, skills and attitude.

Too many employers read C.V.’s and rely solely on the skills and experience or knowledge the applicant professes to have.  And this is where I believe they get it wrong.

Yes, of course, an applicant has to possess certain skills and knowledge dependent upon the role, but I firmly believe the first and foremost attribute a new employee requires is the right attitude.

They can have the best skills in the world but if they have the wrong attitude, they are doomed from the start.  I have seen the most skilled of people join businesses I have worked with but it is apparent from the outset that they do not share the passion for the business and quite frankly, I believe some have had a personality bypass!  They have no intention of trying to build relationships with existing staff and are just there to take their salary and run.

On the flip side, I have in the past come across individuals who did not possess the skills required to join the business but had such a fantastic attitude, I took the gamble and employed them.  In the three instances that firmly stick in my mind, all three became top employees and performers in the business.

Why?  Purely because they had the right attitude, they wanted to work for the business and were willing to learn without bring along their own pre-defined opinions and ways of working.  They soaked up all the training required and soon had skills that far exceeded those of their peers.

“I rate enthusiasm even above professional skill”
Edward Appleton

Of course, this cannot work in every environment.  It is no use employing an airline pilot purely because they have a great attitude but have never flown before.  If you are in an industry where you can take some time to nurture an individual who really wants to work and is willing to learn, the time and effort to bring them up to speed with the skills required could be well worth it.

So think twice before being impressed by that well written C.V. when hiring a new employee.  Look beyond the paperwork and find out more about the person themselves to see if they possess the right attitude for your small business.  You never know, you many just find yourself a diamond in the rough.