GDPR – are you ready?

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a topic that’s been worrying a lot of small businesses over the past few months. It comes into force on 25th May this year (yes, next month) and affects anyone “who has day to day responsibility for data protection”.

You can find the Information Commissioner’s Office (ico)’s advice here.

One of the people who have reassured and informed me the most on how to prepare for GDPR is small business legal expert Suzanne Dibble. In her own words, “it’s not quite as scary as the headlines make out”.

If you haven’t prepared yet or you’ve started but would like to check that you’ve got everything correct, then Suzanne runs a GDPR group on Facebook, has a GDPR training webinar that you can watch, and a GDPR compliance pack that you can purchase from her website too.

For more articles on GDPR, have a look at the following links:

Suzanne Dibble:  Don’t be afraid of the GDPR wolf – what is GDPR?

The Telegraph: How SMEs can prepare for GDPR

Business Matters: Simple ways to make your website ready for GDPR and The GDPR & its impact on businesses in the UK

Talented Ladies Club: How can you protect your mailing list from GDPR?

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How to be authentic in business (and why I was terrible at selling make-up)

Authenticity in business is a phrase I hear a lot these days. Whether it’s being used as a response to hard-sales and cold-calling or a method to build trust with your customers, it sounds wonderful but perhaps a little vague. What exactly is it to be ‘authentic in your business’?

My past life as a Virgin Vie lady

When my children were toddlers, I signed up as a rep for Virgin Vie. Remember them? They’re not around anymore but, as the name suggests, Virgin Vie was linked with the Virgin Group. They sold cosmetics, body care products, jewellery, in fact everything that their American and firmly established rival, Avon sold.

At the time I lived in a small village where everyone knew everyone else’s grandma and outsiders, like my family and me, were looked at as somewhat odd. Despite my ‘oddness’, I made a number of friends and when I started out in my new capacity as a Virgin Vie lady I somehow persuaded them to hold house parties where I could display my glamorously packed and somewhat overpriced wares.

While my husband tackled the children’s rebellion, sorry, bedtime, I dressed up, applied my Virgin Vie make-up and generally coiffed my appearance, leaving my house later with a goodie bag of, well, goodies and my heart stuffed far up past my tonsils.

It was the same for each party. I would be greeted by the evening’s host and introduced to the party-goers, then I would lay out an attractive display of shiny goods and make my presentation.

I always made a decent amount of sales and repeat orders generally followed. In fact, I had mums stopping me at the school gates to place orders. My supervisor was happy with me. My husband was pleased that I was bringing in money. My status as ‘odd’ seemed to melt away (or it was now an acceptable oddness). Yay – go, me!

Except, I didn’t feel any level of ‘yay’. I felt, well, wrong. Being a Virgin Vie rep gave me an excuse to get out of our toddler-invaded house on an evening, dress up, go to parties, and contribute towards our household income. There was nothing wrong in any of that. It just wasn’t me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a night out and a reason to dress up as much as anyone else but combining it with sales and sometimes having to put on a false smile (like when one parent spent the evening ranting to me about how Power Rangers was turning her son violent) while I described the virtues of a product I would personally never use, had me screaming inside.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a rep for a company such as Virgin Vie or Avon.  There are a lot of hard-working, successful individuals out there  making a living from just this kind of opportunity and I applaud them.

It wasn’t the role itself that was wrong. It was me in that role because I wasn’t being the ‘real me’. I was putting on a false face to represent a brand I didn’t believe in.

This is where ‘authenticity’ comes in. The authentic me enjoys dressing up but equally is happy to go bare-faced, and dress in jeans and a t-shirt. Make-up is a nicety, for me, not a necessity, so I couldn’t, in all honesty, sell it in the way that Virgin Vie wanted me to.

I’m also not a natural salesperson. I’ve learned how to sell over time, but in a way that feels ‘authentic’ to me, and I never like to sell something to someone that I feel isn’t of true value to them.

So how does authenticity work in business?

For me, being authentic in how I operate my business means,

  • Doing what I say I will do. Remember the Ronseal advert, “Does exactly what it says on the tin”? My point in a well-sealed nutshell.
  • Selling and providing a product or service that I believe in, and that I believe is of value to my customers.
  • Being reliable so that my customers know what to expect from me.
  • Being responsive. If a customer, even a prospective customer, goes to the trouble of dropping me an email or leaves a comment on one of my blog posts, I answer back, even if it’s only to say thank you.
  • Presenting myself on this website, in my blog posts, in emails and across my social media accounts in a way that sounds like me. I don’t pretend to be anyone other than Fi.
  • Being consistent, in the content I create and the regularity in which I post that content here on my blog, in emails or across social media.

And here’s the good bit. When I act in an authentic way, I grow more confident in my abilities, my business and ultimately, in me.

So, what about you? How will you be authentic in your business today?

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7 reasons to have a business blog

Does the thought of blogging for your business fill you with dread or, like me, are you a blogging enthusiast?

I’ll admit it now, I love to blog. I blog for my other business, I have a writer’s blog, and obviously there’s this Fi Phillips Copywriter blog too. I’m never happier than when I’m tapping away at the keyboard creating my latest blog offering.

There are some wonderful business blogs out there, many that I visit on a weekly basis, but equally I come across business websites that are blog-less, or worse still, have started a blog but not posted in months (sometimes, years).

I get it. Maintaining a blog requires commitment, ideas and time. Worse still,  revealing your personality in a blog article can be scary.

I’m not a writer.

My business takes up all of my time. I haven’t a second to spare on writing blog posts.

I’m not interesting. Why would anyone want to read my blog posts?

I wouldn’t know what to write.

Those are just a few of the reasons I’ve heard from business owners. All of them are honest  reactions and I totally understand, but with a little forward planning and a dollop of self-confidence, any business owner can develop a healthy blogging habit.

Still not convinced? Let me explain how writing a blog could benefit your business.

  1. Build a bridge between you and your customers

So you already have your bank of customers. Some come and go. Others provide you with regular work. You can’t just assume though that they’ll remain to be your customer forever. To maintain your working relationship, you need to do three things.

First, you want to stay at the forefront of their mind so when they next need to use your kind of services or buy the type of product that you sell, you’re the one they go to.

Second, you need to build on your relationship with them by adding extra  value.

Finally, you want to stay in touch with them and keep them up to date with any developments in your business.

Writing a regular blog post can fulfil all of those.

  1. Prove to prospective customers that you could work together

You know your business and exactly what value you can offer to a customer, but anyone new who comes across your website or social media doesn’t.

Posting regular, relevant and authentic (it sounds like you) content to your blog begins the process of introducing your business to any prospective customers or contacts, and the more they come back to read your next blog post, the more they’ll come to know and trust you.

Blogging is your chance to get your foot in the door of anyone new, grab and hopefully maintain their attention.

  1. Answer your customer’s questions

What do your customers regularly ask you about?

What kind of problems do they have (especially problems that your business can solve)?

What are the challenges of your industry and the business world in general?

What’s in the news that might raise questions?

What do you think needs further explanation?

Add value to your customers and readers by providing the answers they need. It might be about your business and how you can help them. It might be about the latest trends in social media. It might even be to do with how their own business is developing.

Listen out for possible questions in conversations, physical or emailed, with your customers and contacts. Pay attention to the news and any forums or business groups you’re involved with.

You could even make it a regular feature of your blog – this month’s customer question.

Fi’s tip: If you can’t think of any customer questions to answer, then ask. Send out an email to your mailing list or post on your social media, asking what questions they need you to answer.

  1. Show your personality and tell your story

Remember when I mentioned in point 2 about posting ‘authentic’ content. That’s how you show your personality, by writing your posts and social media in a way that sounds like you.

Regardless of whether you provide a service or sell a product (or both), very few people like faceless organisations. People like to buy from people – people they understand, people they feel they could get along with and, ultimately, people they trust.

Share your story. That doesn’t mean you have to write a full and revealing autobiography of your life. It could be,

Share as much as you feel comfortable with, but enough to show that you’re a human being too.

  1. Create content that you can share (and that can be shared by others)

Don’t just write your brilliant article and then leave it sat lonesome on your blog.

  • Share it on your social media. I use Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
  • Mention it in your mailing list emails. In fact, it’s a great reason to send out an email. “Look, guys. I just posted this on my blog.”
  • Re-share your posts every so often, although not to the point that it turns into spamming. Also, do not duplicate your content. Google will penalise your website.
  • When writing a blog post, link back to your past posts if you feel they’re relevant.
  • Even if you can’t do this for every blog post, make the majority of them ‘ever green’, that is, about subjects that aren’t seasonal or linked to current news.

Each blog post should be the start of a process, not just the end product.

  1. Take your very own slice of the internet and own it

It’s fine, in fact incredibly helpful, to use social media to promote your business, but when you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whoever else to raise your visibility, you’re handing over complete control to them, their rules and their algorithms.

Having a website, and a blog, means that you can control what appears there. You don’t have to worry about word count, or whether your title is deemed to be ‘click bait’. You don’t rely on likes, shares or any other deciding factor on whether your post is seen.

Rather than considering your blog to be a second rate citizen compared to your social media accounts, see it as the ticket to visibility and SEO (search engine optimisation) that it is.

  1. Get in front of that traffic

Although you may update and alter your website from time to time, it generally won’t change. Once someone has visited, and discovered all the information they need, there’s no real reason for them to look at it again.

A blog that features regular, relevant and well-written posts provides that reason, and the more a prospective customer visits your site, the better the chance that they’ll become an actual customer.

There’s another benefit to repeat visitors too. If they keep coming back to read your blog posts, then they obviously like them. If they like (hopefully ‘love’) your blog posts, then they won’t want to miss them.

Cue the ‘subscribe to my mailing list’ button.

 

Blogging doesn’t have to be a chore when you see it for the valuable business tool that it is. Why not have a go? Let me know how you get on.

 

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How and why I chose my logo

Using a logo offers a certain professionalism to any business website or materials. It channels a business’ personality, builds  familiarity and trust, and hopefully makes you stand out from others in your industry.

People remember you and your business when they see your logo, so isn’t it the obvious thing to create a logo that you’re proud of?

When it came to picking my logo, I wanted something that reflected my personality – creative, straightforward, friendly.

The ‘creative’ element came with my choice of colour. Orange is traditionally connected with creativity. It’s ‘friendly’ too.

The two fonts I used, the white FP and the black full name, reflect two parts of my personality trio too. The white handwriting-style font is relaxed and approachable (friendly) whereas the black writing is plain and easily legible – my ‘straightforward’ element.

Seeing as my logo will appear in all kind of places and not just my website where it’s obvious what I do (you only have to look at the website address – fiphillipscopywriter – to get an inkling that, yeah, she probably does some copywriting), I wanted it to be clear what services I offered.

I didn’t want to leave anyone who saw my logo in any doubt what I did for a living so I added the words beneath my name,

Content – Copy Writing – Social Media

with a dot in between each phrase in the same shade of orange as the circle that the white FP sits on.

One of the reasons that I wanted the orange circle with white writing was so I could create a button from it, still recognisable even when separate from the entire logo, for site icons and on other materials.

I also produced a version of the entire logo and the button in a shade of grey for times when colour might be distracting or not possible.

Finally, I put together a style sheet of all the colours and fonts in my logo so that I can use them for future marketing materials and to match against any images I may use.

I like my logo. It feels like me, and even if I do say so myself, I’m proud to present it to the world.

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