A Simple Formula To Grow Your Email List Fast

Your email list is the most effective way to connect with your audience after visiting your website. Everyone is busy today, visitors come and leave your website fast, and visits are usually quite short. Because of that, many visitors will forget your business as soon as they leave your website and won't come back again.

It’s said that people need at least seven exposures to brand messages before they make the decision of purchasing from that brand. But if website visitors come and go so quickly, how can you re-connect with them another six times more? The answer is by building an email list.

In last week’s post on The Journey From The First Visit To The First Sale, I talked about how to engage visitors so that they become customers or clients. Part of this engagement process involves collecting visitors’ contact details to stay in touch after they leave your website.

The problem is that today every business wants to build an email list and send communications to their prospects. We are reluctant to give our email details to any other business, as we don’t want to inundate our over-saturated inbox with more email marketing.

There is only one reason why we may give our contact details away, and that’s because we get something valuable in return: a lead magnet.


What’s a lead magnet?

A lead magnet is an incentive given to a prospect in exchange of their contact details. It’s usually exclusive and fabulous content or a sale incentive.

The lead magnet content doesn’t have to be too long or complex, just quick and simple, relevant to your audience and highly actionable. It does need to resolve a common problem or challenge that your prospects may be experiencing.

Here are some lead magnets ideas:

How-To ebook or guide
Report (e.i. income report)
Cheat sheet, checklist or resource list
Stock photos
Fonts, icons and other graphic design elements
Access to member-only areas
Video training, ecourse or webinar
Software download, WordPress plugin or online tool
Free trial or freemium content
Coupon, discount or free shipping
Sale material (price list, floorplans, etc)
Event tickets
Product samples
TIP: Make sure that your freebie looks professionally designed. A great free tool to create a great PDFs and graphics with no design skills is Canva.

To know more about how to create a great lead magnet also read this other post by Steve Scott.

How to build your email list with a lead magnet?

So you have a fantastic piece of content and want to use it to build your email list. Here is what you need:

1.    Lead Magnet
2.    Catchy call to action (CTA)
3.    Landing page (optional)
4.    Opt-in form
5.    Email Marketing system (in this post I’ll be using MailChimp)

And these is how it will works:

Create a button with a call to action: Download FREE***

Learn how to create a great call to action in this other post

    Find the appropriate placement for your CTA

    Top menu bar
    Page header
    Blog sidebar
    At the bottom of post
    Page footer
Tip: Go above the fold whenever possible to increase the number of visitors that see your CTA. Popup forms could be both very effective for conversion and very annoying for visitors who are not interested.

    Create opt-in form to collect name and email details. You can do this directly from your CMS (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc..) or from MailChimp.

    From SquareSpace - edit your page or post, click on Inset Content block and select Newsletter or Form.
    From MailChimp - go to Lists, select your list, click on Signup Forms › General Forms, and the signup link should be right there. Copy the code and paste it on to your web page or blog post.

    Your opt-in form can have different formats:

    • Embedded form: directly on your page, post, header, footer or sidebar.
    • CTA button: visitors must click on the bottom to display the form.
    • Top-bar announcement: the form is displayed at the top of the page.
    • Pop-up: the form is displayed on top of the page and you must close it to read the page.
    • Slide-up: the form is displayed in a corner of the screen and can collapse or expand.
    Tip: The number of fields on the form causes the most resistance. Compare the amount of information you ask for in your form to the value of the information you are offering.

        Create MailChimp list of subscribers

    Access your MailChimp account and go to List > Create List

        Link your opt-in form with your MailChimp list.

    Go back to SquareSpace and click on Edit Form > Storage > MailChimp > Select your list from dropdown menu. List

        Customise your opt-in form Thank You message.

    In your SquareSpace Form editor click on Advance and edit your post-submit message. Let your subscribers know that you have sent them a confirmation email to their inbox to confirm their subscription.

        Edit Thank You message to include the downloadable file.

       Go back to Mailchimp. Find your list and click on it. Click on Setting > List name and defaults > Send a final welcome email > List Forms from designer.
       Within List Forms from designer go to Create forms > Forms and response emails.
       In the dropdown menu select Confirmation “Thank You” Page. Hover over the default text and click on “Edit”. Add your text with a link to your downloadable.

        Test your opt-in form.

        Promote your freebie outside your website. Here are some ideas:

        Google AdWords
        Facebook ads
        Facebook groups
        Google + communities
        Pinterest Group boards
        Twitter ads
        Instagram ads
        Add CTA + link to your email signature


    To know more about converting visitors into leads, and leads into repeat buyers or clients, download my FREE conversion funnel guide, with tool checklist and action plan, and lead the journey to your business growth.

    The Journey From The First Visit To The First Sale: Converting Visitors Into Customers

    The single fact of having a website won’t bring customers or clients to your door. Not even if you have a lot of traffic. The process to get a new client is usually slow and requires creating familiarity and some love in people’s hearts.

    While some first-time visitors may be ready to make a purchase straight away, research has shown that the average visitor will have to engage with your brand, at least, seven times before they‘re ready to make the decision to purchase.

    If you have a website, you need a plan to make your first-time visitors come back again and again and again… until they become buyers or paying clients. The journey taken by visitors until they become buyers is called the conversion funnel.


    The conversion funnel can differ from website to website, depending on the nature of the business, but it usually has four steps - plus two extra ones for repeat businesses or sales:

     Awareness Acquisition Retention Conversion Loyalty Advocacy


    1. Awareness

    Strangers become visitors

    The first step in this journey is getting people to visit your website. No visitors means no chances to introduce your business and offering to others who may be interested in buying from you or working with you in future.

    There are five ways to lead traffic to your website:

    1. Direct - people who find your website in your business stationary, off-line marketing collateral, or any other piece of printed material, and type the website address directly into the browser.
    2. Organic - people who find your website in the organic results (non-paid) of search engines.
    3. Paid - people who find your website in the paid results of search engines and advertising or paid links in third-party websites.
    4. Social - people who find your website through social media forums, chats, hashtags, etc.
    5. Referral - people who find your website in online media outlets, blogs or any other third party website that’s talking about your brand and includes a “non-paid” in-bound link to your website.

    However, traffic is not always equal to sales. Many visitors may be just browsing the Internet, and visiting your website among another 20 competitor’s websites. Chances are that they forget your name as soon as they leave your website.


    2.    Acquisition

    Visitors become prospects

    Every great relationship starts with a first date. Imagine one of your friends knows someone who thinks he or she could be a good match for you. You follow your friend’s advice and decide to go on a blind date. You’ll go to this first date with three goals in mind:

    1. Getting to know each other, your personalities, your interests, your hobbies, etc.
    2. Causing a great first impression and inspire trust.
    3. Getting her/his phone number to stay in touch

    That’s exactly how your first visits work.

    When visitors land in your website for the first time, you must set a good first impression and gain their trust. Good design and compelling content are your main tools here. In this other previous post, I shared some do's and dont's to make your website trustworthy.

    After a positive first impression comes interest. Your visitors will be interested in knowing more about you and what your business has to offer. Your About page, Service or Product pages, portfolio or lookbook and other tools like videos, downloadable brochures, etc, will provide more information on who you are, what you do and how you can make a positive impact on their lives.  

    Finally, if your visitors like your business and are interested in your offer, they may want to stay in touch. Make sure your website has links to your social media pages and opt-in forms to collect their email details.


    3.    Retention

    Prospects become leads

    Your first date is over. It went well and you got your date’s phone number! She or he has even accepted your Facebook friend request. What’s next? You both want to see each other again!

    Once your prospects have left your website you want to make sure they come back again. If they have connected through social media or email, you can now send them links to interesting content on your website that keep them hooked.

    Now content marketing is key.

    There are many ways to deliver your content: blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, webinars, etc. In this other post, I give you 8 ideas to produce highly engaging content.

    Good content engages people and opens a communication channel with them, who may leave a comment on your blog, like or share a post in social media, attend a free webinar, etc.

    The spark is there!

    The problem with getting people’s email addresses though is that everyone has way too much in their inbox. It usually takes a bit more than a simple “Sign-up today” call to action to convince someone to give you an email address. You’ll have to give them a good reason for it, like accessing exclusive content, free downloads, etc.

    To find out more about how to convert prospects into leads also read this other post, by Trent Dyrsmid, Founder at Groove Digital Marketing.


    4.    Conversion

    Leads become customers

    Your visitor loves your brand and is now in need of your products or services, therefore, he or she is ready to hire you or purchase from you.

    In e-commerce websites, the end of the journey is typically the purchase. In service websites, it may be to request a quote or proposal, book an obligation free consultation, make a booking or appointment, or enquire about your services by email or phone. That means that there is, at least, one more step to complete the conversion process.


    5.    Loyalty

    First-time buyers become repeat buyers

    Someone has bought your product or hired your services, now is your opportunity to impress your clients with an outstanding service. Why? Because every satisfied customer or client will:

    • Hire you or buy from you again in future.
    • Recommend you to others

    It’s also a lot easier to sell a new product or service to an existing client than taking any new visitor through the entire conversion funnel until he/she becomes a buyer.


    6.    Advocacy

    Customers become referrers

    Many people won’t search in search engines, read review sites or blog posts if they already have a friend or family member who has made a recommendation to them. These “recommended” visitors are probably ready to hire your services or purchase your products on their first visit to your website.

    The conversion funnel is not needed here. They become customers immediately because they trust someone’s advice, who is already one of your existing clients.


    Your turn

    Now you know the journey from your first visit to your first sale, you can implement this strategy directly into your website. Download my conversion funnel guide, with tool checklist and action plan, and lead the journey to your business growth.


    How To Find Your Ideal Niche


    'What’s a niche?' and 'how can I find mine?' is a common question asked by many new entrepreneurs. Everyone knows finding a niche is key for any business to succeed, especially small businesses, but many struggle finding theirs.

    There is common a tendency in both life and business to try to please everyone. But we know not everyone will like us the same. Some people will love us, some other won’t. There’s no difference in business, we cannot be the perfect fit for anyone in the market.

    For example…

    A freelance web designer may not be a good fit to develop a complex website for a medium/large corporation. That website may require a team of professionals specialised in different areas of web design and development. On the other hand, hiring an agency to create a simple website could blow up a small business budget.

    Targeting smaller groups will allow you to easily connect with them, understand their aspirations and needs, as well as come up with better solutions to their problems. Also, in smaller markets, the competition is typically lower.

    A niche is an opportunity to find a solution for particular problem or satisfying the needs of a specific group of people, which is typically called target market.  This solution can be:

    • A product
    • A service
    • A platform or website

    In this post today, I’ll take you through the process of finding your ideal niche with real examples from my own business.


    advantages of being niche

    Many business owners feel that by establishing a niche will reduce opportunities and narrow their sales. However, it’s the complete opposite. Finding a niche means your business will have better chances to success because:

    1. you get a deeper understanding of your clients’ needs and can offer a more refined service
    2. you can simplify your business model and streamline your process and marketing efforts
    3. your message gets clearer and easier to understand
    4. your competition is lower which makes easier to get noticed and stand out
    5. your specialised solution can gain customer's loyalty quicker and you come easily to mind for referrals
    6. your fee/price can be increased, as specialised services or products can usually command higher fees than generalists.



    How to find your ideal niche?

    Step 1 | Finding your specialty

    When you are a small business, you cannot be an expert in everything. There are always things that you can do better than others. That’s your specialty.

    A specialty is a combination of things you love doing - your passions - , are really good at - your abilities - and have done many times before - your experience -.

    Being an expert on something also implies knowing something in depth. For example:

    • A technique – when you are an expert on a particular area, subject or tool. For example, as graphic designer you can be an expert in 3D design.
    • An industry – when many of your clients belong to the same industry you can claim an industry expertise. This is a common approach in bloggers.
    • A geographic location –many people prefer buying from locals or hiring local professionals. So proximity and local knowledge can also give you a competitive advantage.
    • A group of people – you can be specialised in an age-bracket (massage for babies), in a gender (men underwear), etc.
    • A style – when your aesthetic is different and unique to everyone else’s. This specialty works quite well for creative businesses.

    As I explained in this other post on Lessons Learnt From My First Year In Business, one of the mistakes made when I first started my business was to offer as many services as I could.

    On my second year, I niched down my services to focus on graphic and digital design, and took the other marketing services out of my offer. I also was lucky enough to have a variety of creative businesses among my clients, so I could claim my specialisation in this industry too.

    A good example…

    One of my lovely clients, interior visualisation company Living 3D, combined the owners’ passion for interior design with their experience in kitchen design and fantastic SketchUp skills to start a business specialised in 3D visualisations for kitchen and bathroom companies.

    TAKE ACTION: To find your own specialty ask yourself the following questions:
    • What are you passionate about?
    • What are you skilled at?
    • What are your knowledgeable on?
    • What are you more experienced on?

    Step 2 | Finding your ideal costumer or client

    Knowing what you can do and love doing for others will lead you to the next question: who are those “others”? They are those who need and value your product or service, and are willing to pay for it.

    For example…
    Who may need my graphic and web design services? New businesses and start-ups will always need a new brand and website. Also, young company with a few years of market success they often need to take their businesses to a next level having a more professional brand and website.

    TAKE ACTION: to find your ideal client ask yourself the following questions:
    • Who's in need of my products/services?
    • Will they value what I can do for them?
    • Will they be willing to pay for my time/product?

    This other post by Lauren Hooker of Elle&Co describes7 Tactics to Help You Get to Know Your Ideal Customer.

    Step 3 | Identifying problems or needs

    The more connected and knowledgeable you are about your target market the better you will understand their challenges and specific needs.

    For example…

    After launching a new brand and website, my clients usually want to start a marketing plan to promote their businesses. They need search engine optimisation, media exposure… but they rarely have the budget to hire SEO specialists, social media experts, public relation agencies, etc.  So, I identified the need to develop a marketing strategy on a small budget.

    TAKE ACTION: to identify opportunities ask your market the following questions:
    • What would they like to achieve through their business?
    • What's stopping them from achiving it?
    • What would they like to have in order to achieve what they want?

    I found client conversations, Google searches, blog comments and forum questions the best ways to understand my target market struggles. Surveys can also be an excellent way to get this information from your market, although conducting a survey requires specialised software and professional knowledge on market research techniques.

    Step 4 | Researching competitors

    Now you can find out who is already providing solutions to those needs and how. Ideally nobody else would be already offering a solution, but if they are, then try to find a way to resolve the same problem in a different and better way than the others.

    For example…

    Back to my target market, in the Internet you can find many marketing books, guides, blogs, marketing plan templates… But I could barely find anything specialised in the creative industry. I couldn’t find any marketing workbook/planner either, so I found here a possible niche.

    TAKE ACTION: to research your competition ask yourself the following questions:
    • Who is already serving the same market needs? (your competitors)
    • How are they doing it? (their solutions)
    • What hasn’t been done yet? (your possible niche)

    Step 5 | Designing specialised solutions

    Working with a small group of people will allow you to quickly identify specific needs and easily study how others are already serving those needs. So you can come up with a solution to satisfy the same needs in a different –or just simply better - way to your competitors.

    For example…

    I developed a solution to help creative businesses to identify marketing priorities and plan their promotional activities by themselves, on a small budget and with no marketing knowledge. Although there were some marketing books on the same topic, I presented my solution in a format that others didn’t: a printable marketing planner/workbook (you can find this product at my shop)

    This digital format makes my product conveniently available everywhere 24/7. The workbook format makes it very actionable and easy to use.

    TAKE ACTION: when designing your solution ask yourself the following questions:
    • Is my solution unique and different to everyone else?
    • If my solution is similar to others, how do I differentiate myself?
    • What are the benefits of using my solution vs using the competitor’s solutions?


    Step 6 | Evaluating profitability

    You may come up with a great solution for a market, with very low o none competitions, but unfortunately you make no money with it. Before spending your time, money and energy in launching a product or a service ensure that:

    •  Your target market is not too small,
    •  People in your market understand your product and find it easily,
    •  They can and want to spend the money you’re asking for it,
    •  The product has good profit margins.

    For example…

    For many months I researched the possibility to produce printed copies of my marketing planner, but it wouldn’t have a global research, and the local market was too small to make my planner profitable. I also tried many different ways to sell this product online, until I found Etsy the most effective.

    TAKE ACTION: before developing your product or service ask yourself the following questions
    • How can I reach my target market?
    • Who is influencing my target market?
    • How much should I sell my product for to make a profit?
    • How much the competitors ask for their solutions?
    • Does my solution have better value for money than the others?
    • Ideally, how many monthly sales should I make for my product to be profitable?

    Wrap up

    A niche is a combination of passions, skills, knowledge, experience and ability to make money with all of this. If you’re very passionate about something but there is no one willing to pay for it there is no market out there for your passion. If you just follow the money, not a passion, you will be easy to beat by your competitors.

    To know more about finding your niche also read:

    Christmas Marketing Champaign for Small Businesses

    Christmas is just around the corner and we are all getting excited. It will be time to celebrate, to share and give, to thank and especially to spend… a lot! Which it's good news for any business.

    Brands around the world spend lots of money and efforts in holiday marketing campaigns. If you are a small business owner, you won’t want to miss the opportunities that the holiday season can bring to your business too.

    Aware of the fact that a small business cannot invest as much as a big brand in their marketing campaigns, today I’m bringing a 6-week marketing plan for small businesses, with over 22 low-cost or inexpensive actions that you can implement this holiday season.

    “ The entire point of Christmas Marketing is to broadcast the Christmas Spirit while explaining what your business has to offer”
    Christmas Marketing Ideas For Small Business, by Transition Marketing.

    WEEK 6 - Planning

    This week is all about planning your marketing campaign. Think about every relevant marketing material that will be used during this holiday season and work with your designer to create your marketing collateral and branded elements.

    Produce a holiday catalogue and/or gift guide – design and print (or just online) catalogue with product recommendations and gift ideas. You can also look for opportunities to get listed in bloggers’ holiday gift guides.
    Design branded holiday elements – your designer can create unique branded designs for shopping bags, wrapping paper, gift tags, greeting cards and more.
    Decide your holiday incentives – everyone looks for deals and ways to save more during this time of year. Incentives can be free shipping, discounts, free promotional items or buy-one, get-one-free deals.
    Create gift cards and certificates – when people don’t know what to buy for someone else, gift cards are a lifesaver. Make sure you have plenty of gift cards ready for the holiday season.


    WEEK 5 - Communicating

    This week is all about starting to communicate your deals via email marketing, social media channels, your website and your brick-and-mortar store.

    Launch your email marketing campaign – email your catalogues, gift guides, offers and special discounts to your subscribers.
    Create a seasonal area in your website - add holiday related products or services and make the announcement in your home page and social media channels.
    Host a Holiday Pre-Sale – promote your Christmas specials by offering a sneak peak of your seasonal sales.



    This week is all about getting into the Christmas spirit by bringing your decorations out and dressing up your business for the holiday season.

    Dress up your shop - If you have a window and a storefront create a Christmas window display. If you're in an office setting, some Christmas-inspired floral arrangement will look professional and ultra-stylish.
    Start a Christmas Countdown – build the excitement and create a sense of urgency in your potential buyers by starting a countdown in your website and adding some tweets and Facebook posts.
    Add festive graphics to your website, your e-newsletter, your social media pages and your email signature.




    This week is all about spreading Christmas cheers by giving away things to thanks your buyers for choosing your business and attract new potential customers.

    Start your gift-wrapping service — Christmas is a busy time for everyone and gift-wrapping services can be a great add-on or complementary service to offer in your store, as they can save a lot of time to your buyers.
    Run a holiday contest or giveaway – The prize can be a great opportunity to showcase your products or services. For example, the prize can be a hamper with some of your products or vouchers to try your services for free.
    Create a free (industry specific) downloadable – A holiday survival guide, a downloadable craft template, a Christmas recipe ebook, or any other piece of content that can be valuable to your customers and show your industry expertise.
    Hold a “12 Days of Christmas” event - Offer a different discounted product on each of the 12 days in the lead up to Christmas or team up with other business to give away something every day during the 12 days.




    This week can be dedicated to showing appreciation to those who have contributed to your business success along the year.

    Send greeting cards – acknowledge clients and suppliers by sending greeting cards. Decide if you will be sending e-Cards, paper cards or a special gift.
    Host an Open House day - If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, consider having an open house to celebrate the season. Treat your visitors with free samples, cookies, beverages, candy or hot chocolate, and organise a raffle.
    Organise a fundraising campaign - Choose a cause that matters to you and makes sense for your brand. Get your customers involved and make them part of the cause. Some ideas are:
    • donate goods and services to charity
    • volunteer for a charitable cause
    • offer discounts or free gifts for customers who volunteer to a charity
    • donate a percentage of each sale to a charitable cause
    • host a gift-giving tree to collect gifts for underprivileged kids
    Hold a Christmas party - celebrate your success over the past year with your staff, special clients and suppliers.


    WEEK 1 - Scheduling communications


    During this week, you can focus on scheduling the last pieces of your marketing campaign to make sure that the last minute communications go out while you enjoy a stress-free Christmas week with your family and friends.

    Schedule social media to auto-post - Use services such as Buffer or Hootsuite to auto-post your holiday greeting for Christmas and New Year in social media.
    Send holiday greetings emails – and wish Merry Christmas your email list subscribers by email.
    Communicate your holiday business hours – update your website with an announcement that includes your holiday business hours and closing days, as well as your holiday delivery deadlines for the following week.
    Schedule an end-of-year email update – You surely have big plans for 2016 and want to share them with everyone in your email list! The firsts days of 2016 are a great opportunity to wish a happy New Year to your email list and let them know all your exciting plans for the New Year.


    The holiday season offers a great opportunity to burst your sales and increase your revenue as well as strength existing relationships and expand your brand awareness. No small business should miss these opportunities as they only come once a year.

    Just remember, the key to a successful Christmas marketing campaign is planning ahead.

    How to Make Marketing That People Love

    Gift from Sugar Paper and desk accessories from Kikki.k

    Gift from Sugar Paper and desk accessories from Kikki.k

    Marketing has a lovable problem. People don’t like marketing. We feel annoyed when our favourite TV show is interrupted by an ad, we delete any commercial email in our inbox and get furious when we answer the phone to just a telemarketing call.

    If consumers hate your marketing, how are they supposed to like your brand? The big challenge companies and marketing professional have always faced is to make marketing that people love.

    The digital era has changed the traditional ways to make marketing, becoming more valuable, appropriate and personalised for each individual.

    Modern marketing in the digital age is not just about numbers and processes.
    — Jon Miller VP and co-founder at Marketo

    In today’s post, I’m sharing some tips to make marketing that people love. If your audience love your marketing they will engage with your brand. By creating emotional connections with your audience, you increase your chances to find new clients and leverage existing ones.

    1.    Know your customer/client

    Any business trying to connect with a certain type of customer needs to create a comprehensive profile of exactly who that person is. This is what in marketing is called ‘buyer persona’.

    Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers. By having a detailed knowledge of your buyer persona, you’ll be able to tailor your content, messages, products and services to meet their specific needs and address their concerns and challenges.

    Some effective – and free – ways to craft buyer personas are:

    • Through your web analytics, you can get geographical and demographical information.
    • Through their social media activity and engagement
    • Through interviews or surveys
    • Through market research and public reports

    This other article by Emily Winsauer explains in more detail how to create buyer personas.

    2.    Create valuable content

    Once you have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is, you can produce content that is relevant to them.

    Your clients want to see that you understand their concerns before working with you, so your content must be around what really matters to them:

    1. Solutions to their problems or answers to concerns.
    2. Tools and tips to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.
    3. Articles to entertain and make them laugh

    Produce content that help people enhance their lives and make it easier or happier somehow. You can find some ideas:

    • Through your clients and prospects conversations
    • Through questions and comments in social media groups and forums
    • Through Google Trends to know what people search for in Google

    In this other post published previously in my blog you can read my simple formula to write engaging content.

    3.    Deliver the content in different formats

    Traditional marketing used to be disrupting, and that’s one of the reasons why most people hated it. The audience is now in control.

    By delivering content in different formats, your audience can decide when it’s the right time to consume it and how, whether it’s reading a blog post, attending a webinar or listening to a podcast while they’re driving.

    In this other post, I give you 8 ideas to present your content in different formats (with infographic)

    4.    Personalise your messages

    Knowing your client also allows you to personalise your communications, by using their names in emails, etc.

    Understanding individual interests and needs also will allow you to produce more specific content and send to each individual content around only those topics that they are genuinely interested in.

    • Personalise emails with each individual’s name so that they don't look like an automated bulk email.
    • Create a private client area in your website with a personalise welcome message.
    • Send email alerts based on each subscriber’s specific interests. By checking content topics of their interest in the registration form you can create different email groups based on those interests.


    5.    Align your marketing to the buyers’ journey.

    Every buying cycle has four steps: awareness, research, comparison and purchase. Your marketing messages will be different for those who are just discovering your brand, versus those who have already bought from you.

    By creating different marketing actions for each of these four stages, you will be able to deliver more relevant messages to each group, making your marketing communications more effective.


    6.    Make your clients/customers feel special

    Your business success depends on our capacity to build long-lasting and positive relationships with different groups of interest. Buyers are the most obvious group of interest, as it’s easier selling a second product to an existing customer – or being hired again by the same client – than finding a new one.

    To make your customers feel special always give them a bonus after purchasing from you. For example, give them a discount for their next purchase or a gift for loyal clients.

    Other groups of interest are your suppliers, your local community, your social media followers, your blog readers, newsletter subscribers, bloggers and influencers, etc. Think about what bonuses you can offer to each of these groups.

    For example, give your newsletter subscribers free downloadable content, offer your blog readers a free ebook or invite your local community and bloggers to an exclusive event.

    To know more about how to build relationships with these different groups of interest read my previous post on Key Relationships For Small Businesses.

    Wrap up

    Making a lovable marketing is about marketing people as you like to be marketed yourself. Think about what value you are offering to your audience and whether it will be beneficial for them somehow.

    Are you a small business owner? What are your tips to make your marketing loveable? What do you offer that people love?

    8 Formats To Produce Highly Engaging Web Content

    Yes, we know… blogging is extremely useful for expanding your brand presence, improving your visibility in search engines and growing your web traffic. There is also a strong correlation between blog post frequency and customer acquisition.

    However, with the big amount of blogs populating the blogosphere, it’s getting harder and harder to make your blog stand out the crowd. So the question is how small business owners can produce high-quality content for their blogs and websites to differentiate themselves? And how can they produce this content in an inexpensive way?

    When we talk about producing high-quality posts, written content is not the only way to deliver your message. There are other dynamic and creative ways to present your web content that will engage your readers much better and make your blog or website stand out.

    As I explained in this other post on how to write for blogs, the process to write a good blog post can be summarised in three simple steps:

    1. Identifying a common struggle of your target market (choosing the topic)
    2. Writing about a possible solution to that problem (crafting the content)
    3. Presenting this solution in the most visually appealing way (adding value)

    In today’s post I’ll focus on this third step, by introducing 8 different ways to create highly engaging content to add value to your blog. By utilising any of these web content formats you will give your readers something to take with them - to save, print or share - after visiting your website and reading your posts.

    1.    Infographics

    They are a visual representation of information or data. They can be very useful to explain technical information or to quickly convey the key points behind complex data. Infographics can make your post more visually appealing and easier to understand.

    Infographic formats include timelines, flow charts, annotated maps, graphs, etc.

    A good infographic is an excellent SEO tool that can generate high-quality natural back-links. A well-designed infographic on a hot topic can be also shared across many social media platforms.

    How to produce your own infographics

    If you don’t have design software such a Photoshop or Illustrator, or simply don’t have design skills, you can still create infographics with the help of some free web-based tools like or In this post published by Creative Blog you can find other 10 free tools to make your own infographics.

    2.    Podcasts

    They are audio-content that your visitors can download and listen in their own time. For many internet users, podcasts are a more convenient way to consume your content, as they can be listened while the user is performing another task, like driving, walking, commuting to work, etc.

    Podcasts are a more dynamic way to present educational content or blog interviews. The interview can also be transcribed or summarised in a post.

    How to produce your Own podcast

    A great tool to produce podcasts is Audacity, an open-source editing and recording program that’s compatible with most operating systems and works well for beginners. To find out more about how to use podcasts to grow your business read this other article by Digital Trends:

    3.    Video

    Video formats are another way to produce visual and interactive content for your blog and website. Studies have shown that posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts.

    They are great ways to present how-to and DIY posts or tutorials.

    Within the video formats, you can also find webinars. These are live, interactive online meetings. Viewers can attend live sessions and participate by asking questions or can watch recorded video after the session at anytime.

    How to produce your own video-tutorials and webinars

    Although this option seems difficult to produce, current technologies allow everyone to easily record videos from any device (including smart phones) and upload them on to YouTube. Also, screen-recording tools, like Camtasia, can help you easily produce video-tutorials on software or digital tools.

    Here is also another great post on How to Do a Webinar Using Free or Inexpensive Tools, published by Right Mix Marketing.

    4.    Slideshows

    Online presentations are another way to share knowledge in a visual way. The advantages of using online presentations are:

    1. Any company produces presentations on regular-basis, so they may be a material that is already done and you just need put it online.
    2. They explain a topic in-depth combining text, images, charts, embedded videos, sounds and other interactive elements.

    How to produce and share your slideshows

    MS Powerpoint is the most popular tool to create slideshow and pretty much everyone who knows how to use a computer, know how to use this tool. Another alternative to create presentation is Prizie (from $10/month)

    Once your presentation has been created, platforms like SlideShare allow users to easily upload and share their presentations and PDF documents.

    5.    Case studies

    Case studies are short explanations of a project your business has worked on for a client. They describe a problem, show how you implemented a solution and detail the achieved results.

    Case studies are a very effective piece of content marketing, as well as a great way to build your business credibility and position yourself as an industry expert. They allow your business to share its success and prove potential clients that you have experience resolving their problem.

    Case studies can be presented in a dedicated blog post or web page, like I do in the Featured Projects of my website, or in a PDF document than people can download, print and read on paper. The length of the case study will determine the format. If it contains more than 1500 words is better to put it on a PDF document.

    6.    White papers

    White papers are reports on one specific topic to sum up research done by your company on the topic, discoveries from a customer survey, or statistic information collected by digital tools or technology.

    White papers are typically short in length, and people can download them from your website in PDF format.

    White papers are great to create back-links. Also industry publications or any other media outlets could be interested in publishing your work, which would give your company an excellent free promotion.

    How to produce your Own white papers

    A white paper usually a very professional document that has to be created with design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. To know more about how to how to write an effective white papers and use it to promote your business also read this other article by OC Search.

    7.    EBooks

    eBooks are an essential part of any successful inbound marketing program. However they can be also time-consuming and more difficult to produce. eBooks are more extensive in length, and not only they need good content, but also a good design. For that reason, they are not usually available for free.

    However, when they are given away as a freebie, they are a great way to build your email list. To do this, ask the visitor to subscribe to your list before downloading the document.

    How to produce your Own eBooks

    If you have a collection of interesting articles or blog posts on a similar topic, you can compile them in an eBook. To format your document you can use MS Word, but if you intend to sell the eBook I’d recommend leaving the layout and formatting to a designer, who can professionally do it with InDesign.

    8.    Downloadable templates and free tools

    When you write a how-to post, it could be a good idea to give your readers a downloadable template to put into practice what they just learned in your blog.

    Like ebooks they are also a great way to grow your email list, by asking the reader to subscribe your newsletter to download the template.

    In this other post on how to create a professional style guide for your blog or website you can see an example of downloadable workbook or template to implement what the post explains.

    How to produce templates

    Depending on the template they can be simply created in MS Word or PowerPoint, or professionally done in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.

    Your turn

    When visiting a blog, what's your favourite way to access the content?

    How To Promote Your Brand In Third Party Blogs

    Every day there are more companies that trust bloggers to build their brand reputation. Blogs are a powerful tool to connect brands with their target market, by introducing and recommending products or services to their readers.

    Since online advertising is becoming more ineffective every day - 80% of people totally ignore paid ads on search engines and websites – blogs are now a very popular and cost-effective way to promote any business online.

    A few years ago, third party blogs used to be a great way to promote a business for free. However, as blogs started to grow in popularity, and became more professional and effective as marketing platforms, bloggers’ inbox got inundated with press releases, content submissions and many other requests.

    Today it’s harder to get your brand featured by a popular blog than what used to be a few years ago. It’s also not so common anymore to get those features completely free.

    If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur looking for ways to collaborate with blogs, in today’s post you can learn the key benefits that external blogs can bring to your brand as well as the most common collaboration ways.

    How blogs can benefit your brand

    I’ve been a blogger for over 7 years (through my other blog), and have worked with hundreds of brands. Although blog collaborations have been widely used by many brands all around the world for many years now, people is still unsure how blogs can benefit their brands.

    Here are the key benefits that collaborating with third party blogs can bring to your brand:

    1. Reach - Lead traffic to your site can be hard. Your business may have its own blog to increase traffic and leads. You have probably written more than a docent of posts already and still have noticed no improvement in your stats.

    Many popular blogs receive thousands of visitors every day and can connect your brand with large audiences in a faster way than your business blog.

    2. Search Engine Optimisation - Getting featured by blogs is an effective way to increase your link popularity, which can also improve your position in the search engine rankings.  

    Many blogs have already been online for a while, update content on daily basis, have a well-targeted readership, good online reputation and are pretty adept at getting near the top of search engine result pages. A link from a popular blog can be a gold coin for your business website.

    3. Influence - According US research 81% of blog readers trust their favourite blogger’s advices, and 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on the recommendation of a blog post.

    Bloggers can try products and make recommendations based on their own experiences and opinions. Those recommendations are read by thousands of readers, and the majority of them will trust the blogger’s advice.

    4. Content Marketing - Good bloggers can turn their blog content into effective marketing materials, creating content that is relevant, valuable and interesting to their readers. When the content is good chances are that readers comment, like or share the blog post.


    Effective ways to get blog features

    1.    Quality visual material

    In today’s visual world, beautiful images are your best advertising. Unless the blogger is a good photographer – or works in conjunction with one - professional and styled photographs are difficult to get by bloggers. However, every blogger knows good visual content can set a blog apart. So if you can produce those high-quality images, bloggers will be delighted to feature your brand.

    Although producing that visual material will have a cost for the brand, this is a good way to be featured by blogs at no cost. Bloggers may find your photos in your website, blogs or social media channels, and approach directly to you to ask permission to publish the images.

    Those photographs can become a great marketing investment if they can also be used in your website, your marketing collateral, press releases and social media. Articles with images get 94% more views over those without an image.

    2.    Sponsored content

    A sponsored post is when a blogger receives payment to publish an article that includes at least one contextual link to the sponsor's website.

    According to a recent report from Zig Marketing, 67% of bloggers say paid sponsored content is their most profitable revenue generator. Fees range from $25 to $500, depending on their Google PageRank, traffic, link popularity and keyword strength.

    When approaching blogger always ask for their media kit. In this document bloggers provide information on fees and blog stats.

    While some bloggers may accept an article written by the company – or a guest post - I only accept sponsored posts in my blog if I write them myself, for two reasons:

    • I want to a keep consistent style and make sure that my blog is written in my own voice.
    • Articles written by inexperienced bloggers may end up being boring, low quality or overly sale content. If they’re written by an agency it could be even worst, as they may try to include links to several of their client’s websites, even if they aren’t relevant to the blog audience.

    To know more about how much bloggers charge for sponsored content, also read this article published by Marketing Profs.


    3. Product reviews

    Bloggers usually write about things that they have experienced, discovered or learned. So another efficient way to get some links back to your website is by sending one of your products for them to try and write about it.

    While the main topic of a sponsored post doesn’t necessary has to be the brand or its products – it could be any other related topic that gives the blogger the opportunity to include a link to the sponsor’s website – in the reviews the blogger has to talk directly about your product.

    Blogosphere study 2.jpg

    Before approaching a blogger to ask for a product review take into account that:

    • The product has to be relevant to the blog readers.
    • Ask the blogger first; don’t send your product without knowing whether the blogger will be interested in reviewing your product.
    • Many bloggers might also have a minimum value of product to accept reviews or they may still have a fee (see chart above).

    4. Giveaways

    Bloggers can run giveaways on their blogs, and call their readers to participate in the competition by commenting the post, or liking or sharing it on social media.

    Although, giving something for free seems like a great way to build up your social media base and lead traffic to your website, it's not always easy to make people participate. To run a giveaway through a third-party blog take into account that:

    • The prize must be relevant to the blog audience and worthy enough for readers to participate.
    • Participation process must be simple and easy, just following the brand in social media, sharing a post or leaving a comment will be enough effort for readers.
    • Giveaways also take time and a lot of promotion efforts so bloggers may still have a fee to run the giveaway through their blogs.

    To know more about running giveaways also see read this article published by Today Made.

    5. Events and Meet-ups

    If you are organising an event to promote your business, you can also invite some local bloggers to attend. If the blogger attends and likes your event she/he will also write about it.

    Before you approach a blogger to invite them to your event, take into account that you need to give a good reason to the blogger to take the time and effort to attend your event by:

    • Offering an exclusive event for the bloggers, like a free workshop on an interesting topic relevant to bloggers.
    • Offering something in return to thank them for their attendance, like a free subscription on a valuable online tool or industry magazine or a gift bag.
    • Having built a previous relationship with the blogger – by previous collaborations with their blog – to give a blogger a reason to attend

    In this article by Bonjour Blogger you can learn more about how to organise an event for bloggers, or you can also read my article on event marketing for small business, to learn to plan and host a memorable event.

    6. Affiliate Marketing

    The reason why this is a favourite way for many brands to advertise in blogs is because they only pay for it when a sale has been made through the adv. Through affiliate advertisement the blogger will get a percentage of the sales lead through their blog.

    Popular affiliate sites in Australia are Commission FactoryLinkShare, Clix Galore or DGM, or you can also use popular sites like:

    If your blog topics are more diverse, you might consider a program such as VigLink.

    To know more about affiliate marketing in blogs you can also read this article by Amy Lynn Andrews.

    Wrap Up

    Now that you know how bloggers usually collaborate with brands you can use what you learned in this post to design your own marketing strategy to promote your brand in blogs. even though these ways to collaborate with blogs are not the only ones, they are the most common and widely use.

    16 Free Must-Have Tools For Small Businesses

    Over the many years I worked for big international organisations I never had to worry about software. It was always provided and paid by the company and all I had to do was to demonstrate I could use it.

    During all these years I got so used to working with different virtual tools that they became essential to do my everyday work.

    But when I started my own business, software became an expensive cost that I couldn’t always afford. Therefore, I needed to find similar solutions to the ones I used to use in my job, but at a minimal cost.

    Last week, as I was organising my bookmark folders, I realised over the last couple of years running my business I managed to find a good set of free tools that I couldn’t do business without. These tools might be equally useful for many other freelancers and small business owners, so I collected all of them in this post today to tell you how I replaced expensive software with free and open-source solutions saving a huge amount of money to my small business.



    Time-management Tools

    1. Trello

    I used to work with a notepad next to my desk to organize my daily tasks and a desk full of project plans, calendars and post-its. But when I started to work from home – with a 3 years old constantly around – I had to keep my desk completely empty. So I found Trello.

    Trello is a free web-based project and task management tool to make to-do lists, checklists, workflows, deadline reminders, etc. Trello has replaced all my sticky notes, notepads, planners and workflow charts with a simple and very easy to use tool, where I keep all organized in just a virtual dashboard. I can connect from any computer, share dashboards with others and work collaboratively online.

    2. Evernote

    This tool has replaced my ideabooks with a simple virtual workspace. I find Evernote really useful for blogging or developing creative projects. When an idea comes to my mind I take notes in Evernote, when I see something inspiring in a book or magazine somewhere I scan the image and take it with me, when I’m researching online I’m constantly clipping websites and articles and save them in here too, etc.


    Finance and invoicing

    3. FreshBooks

    When you work for an external company, there is usually a finance accounts team looking after everything that has to do with payments. When you work for yourself you’re your own accounts team. Invoicing my clients used to be a daunting task for me, until I found FreshBooks. This tool allows me to create, send and manage invoices online and even collect payments online by credit card, Google Checkout or PayPal.

    If you work with others (employees or contractors) it’s also a great way to track the time that each of them time dedicate to their projects and pay them accordingly.

    Even though this app has a small monthly fee, it saves me a lot of time, and in business, time is equal to money.

    4. Wave

    I also love Wave as it’s similar to Freshbooks but 100% free! However, if you work with employees or contractors, Wave has some limitations, like for example, the payroll feature is only available in US and Canada. But it’s still a great way to invoice clients and keep accounting books up to date, and it can also be integrated with credit card payments.


    sale tracker

    5. Square Up

    As I also sell digital products, I used Square Register to tracks my sales and inventory, send digital receipts, access analytics and create reports for me to analyse what’s working and where to improve. Their card processing feature is currently available in the US, Canada Japan and Australia.


    Document Sharing

    6. Dropbox

    This popular cloud storage service allows me to store my documents in the cloud instead on my computer (saving a lot of space), share them with clients and collaborators and access to them from any computer, so I can travel light! Dropbox is free up to 2GB of storage.

    7. Google Drive

    This is the other popular cloud storage service, that offers up to 5GB of free storage, but as everything with Google, you need to access through a Gmail account.

    Both are very similar and I use one or the other depending on the client’s preferences.

    8. WeTransfer

    One of the most common problems that many of us usually have is that we work with very heavy documents that need to be sent to by email and we end up constantly getting notifications of quote limit reach from our email provider.

    Many email providers also limit the size of the attachments to 10 MB, so here is where WeTransfer saved my life. It allows me to upload heavy documents and send a notification to their receptor to download them from his end. There was a time where I had to constantly send CDs and USBs by post, that’s not necessary anymore.

    Even though WeTransfer doesn’t allow you to store the document for longer than 48 hrs, it’s still my favourite to send big files that cannot be sent by email.


    Communication tools

    9. Skype

    In my old company I used to have a videoconference room with a huge screen and an audio system to meet and work with virtual teams all around the world. Now I have Skype at home and love it!

    This free video conferencing system not only saves me a lot of money in international calls, its instant messaging feature is a great way to be connected with clients or collaborators, send quick messages and share files, making me less dependant on the email.

    I also use constantly the sharing screen feature as it offers the possibility to run virtual training sessions and assist my client with technical issues not matter where they are (or where I am).

    10. Google Hangouts

    Google Hangouts used to offer something that Skype didn’t offer for free: group video calls. Now Skype also offers this feature. Google Hangouts does the same than Skype but it requires every account to have a Google Plus account, which adds an extra task in the registering process.



    11. Zoho

    Since I started my career in Marketing and Communications, InterAction seemed to be the standard CRM for big corporations. Now I use Zoho to manage my clients and love it. It has so many features: account management, lead management, sales tracking… and yes, it’s totally free!

    12. Really Simple Systems

    Before finding ZoHo I used to utilised Really Simple Systems, a web-based customer relationship management solution with full suite sales, marketing and customer support platform. It has a lot less features and functionalities than ZoHo, which it’s not necessary a bad thing, as it’s actually much more simple and easier to use, and provides enough features for freelancers and small business owners.



    13. MailChimp

    Although both Zoho and Really Simple Systems have an email marketing feature integrated, MailChimp is the most popular email marketing system. What I love about it is that is integrated with SquareSpace and many Wordpress pluggings, making the entire setup process much easier.

    MailChimp allows me to collect email subscribers, design e-newsletters and email communications, send them to my email lists and track statistics.


    Social Media

    The most common problem in social media marketing is time management, as having a strong social media presence requires time and skills to engage, listen and respond to your audience.

    14. Hootsuite

    This social media monitoring tool allows me to schedule posts, manage all my social media activities and track analytics in just one platform.

    15. Buffer

    After using Hootsuite for a while, I found Buffer who does exactly the same than Hootsuite but with a much user-friendly interface.

    Although both systems support Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Linkedin if you also have Pinterest or Instagram you will need Viraltag - for Pinterest scheduling - and Schedugram - for Instagram - to manage these other platforms.


    Image editor

    16. Gimp

    As a multimedia designer for me it’s a priority to buy design software like Photoshop but there’s a great open-source image manipulation software that does photo retouching, image composition and image authoring too, and that software is Gimp. So unless you are a designer and need Photoshop integrated with other design tools (like Illustrator, InDesign, etc…) you can save a good money downloading this other software for free.

    You turn

    Which free tools do you find essential to manage you business and why? Do you know any other great tool for small business?


    Why My Website Is Not Converting

    One common question that many clients and potential clients frequently ask is “why my website is not converting visitors into customers/clients?”

    The conversion problem has a lot to do with your message, the way in which you deliver it through your website and its impact on your audience.

    In today’s post I explain some of the most common reasons why many websites don’t convert properly and how to fix those issues by using the example of one of my latest website projects: WA Mortgage Advice Website.


    Too much copywriting, too difficult to read

    Your website must offer relevant information about your business. But too much information is overwhelming and will make visitors feel intimidate and leave without reading your webpage.

    Writing for the web is completely different than writing an essay or a paper. Website copy must be scannable, actionable and shareable.

    • Scannable means that your visitors understand your key messages by just glancing at your web page.
    • Actionable means that your content encourages people to take action.
    • Shareable means that your visitors find your content useful and will share it so that others can also benefit from it.

    For example…

    My latest project is a mortgage broking website. The financial industry has a complex language with a lot of jargon. A clear and easy-to-read copywriting was an essential part of this website project:


    For more tips on how to write for the Internet also read this article from Enchanting Marketing: Writing For The Web Vs Print .


    Important information hidden below the fold

    Not only it’s important how you present the information, but also where you place it. Information positioned in the upper half of a web page and so visible without scrolling down the page is what we call above the fold. Everything else is below the fold.

    If visitors have to scroll down to find important details in your website, chances are that they leave without even noticing them.

    Analyse your web copy and extract one key idea per page only. That idea must be positioned at the top of the web page. Further information and details can be placed after.

    What are those key ideas?

    • Your unique selling proposition
    • Your key benefits
    • Call to actions like ‘book’, ‘enquire’, ‘call’, ‘download’…
    • Contact details

    Tip: banners and header images should not take more than half of the screen; otherwise they will be hiding important ideas below them and below the fold.


    Lack of credibility

    Your website may not be encouraging trust among your visitors. Some reasons may be:

    • Visually unappealing design - it’s all about creating a good first impression. A clean and well organized website design speaks about your professionalism and how much you care and invest in your business and clients.

    Avoid too many colours, graphic elements or call to actions that can cause distractions and make your visitors get lost.

    • Lack of contact information – for many people who search for a product/service in the Internet, location convenience is important. For many others working with people who are accessible and easy to reach when they need them is essential.

    Your business address, direct phone numbers and email addresses or even an online chat app can help you gain credibility and trust among your audience.

    • Lack of social proof – social media followers, reviews and client testimonials can help you build credibility in the Internet. Focus your marketing efforts on connecting to people through social media and getting feedbacks from clients and industry experts.


    Lack of direction

    When visitors land in your website, they don’t know what they have to do. You have to show them the path, indicate what comes next and what they should do while visiting your site. How? With call to actions. 

    A call to action is an invitation to interact with your site by:

    • Signing up for a newsletter
    • Downloading information
    • Making appointments/bookings
    • Getting a quote
    • Etc…

    The more they interact with your website the better will get to know your business.



    Lack of attraction and engagement

    Relationships are key for any business success, and especially to sell services. Visitors who are in need of your services want to know you first before hiring you.

    How do you build a relationship in the Internet? Engaging your visitors through social media, newsletter sign-up forms, blog and comments and everything else that allows you to keep conversations and communicate with your visitors after leaving your site.

    In this other post I explain how to grow your business by building relationships.

    Tip: proof you’re willing to help not just to sell, but by answering questions in social media and blog posts, and offering free tips, free first consultations, etc.


    Wrong message, wrong keywords

    Another common reason of poor conversion is often the message itself. Being too generic, trying to appeal a broad audience or offering too many services can confuse the audience or make them leave your website with the feel that you are just ‘another one’.

    But being too generic and too broad also has another consequence: poor keyword strategy. If your keywords are too wide, you may be leading a lot of traffic to your site, but only a small percentage of those visitors are actually potential clients.

    To avoid this you must:

    • Find what makes you different and unique and highlight this differentiation in your home page, above the fold.
    • Be specific, target a niche and narrow your offer to only those services that you know best.
    • Focus on long tail keywords that are more specific and have less competition in search engines.

    For example, if my client, a mortgage broking business, focused on generic keywords like ‘mortgage’, there is so much competition already for that word that chances are that he will never get noticed. Instead we focused on long tail keywords like ‘First home loan advice’.


    In conclusion, conversion rates have a lot to do with your website copywriting. Learning to write for the Internet can improve significantly your leads and opportunities obtained through your website.


    Common Problems Of Marketing Design Services

    Something I learned from working with designers and creative businesses is that many of them usually share similar challenges marketing their business. In this post today I’m bringing five common challenges shared by many clients and industry professionals.



    Challenge 1  /  Finding Your Uniqueness

    One of the biggest problems in the design industry is the over-saturation. There are so many designers out there that makes it really hard to get noticed.

    People always have the same question about your business: “why should I hire you over thousands of other businesses in your industry?” Having an answer to that question is vital to your business.

    Solution: If you want to stand out, find a specialisation

    There two simple ways to find what makes you unique and different to everyone else:

    • Find a niche – take a look at your clients and see if you can identify anything in common, at least in some of them. It could be the same age range, same interests, same lifestyle, etc. If you offer services to other businesses, see if some of them belong to the same industry. If you find a pattern you can claim a specialisation in a particular niche and focus your marketing efforts on it.

    For example, I focus on designers and creative businesses, as many of my clients belong to that industry. Having experience on that particular niche offers an immediate competitive advantage to new clients: they can benefit from the lessons I learned working with other similar businesses.

    • Find an area of expertise – As you cannot be an expert for everything narrow your offer to only those services that you know best. This focus will bring clarity to your business, and help you identify the skills you need to develop and master that particular area of expertise.

    When I talk about specialisation, many clients get concerned. They think by claiming a specialisation they may lose business opportunities. Specialising yourself doesn’t mean that you wont be able to provide other services or work with other industries, but it will help you stand out in this over-saturated market.

    In this other post I explain how offering a wide range of services was one of my own first mistakes and specialisation was one of the lessons learnt from my first year in business.



    Challenge 2  / Finding New Clients

    Another common struggle for many small businesses is finding new clients. Again the market oversaturation makes it difficult for many new businesses to build a portfolio of clients. Tight start-up budgets makes it hard to invest in marketing and advertising which also minimises the opportunities to gain new clients.

    Solution 1: get new leads by word of mouth

    Family and friends can help promote your business by word of mouth. Also target your local community, small businesses like supporting each other. And above all leverage your existing clients.

    Finding a new client is the result of many hours of work, communication efforts and meetings with prospects. It’s easier to sell a new product/service to an existing client than find a new one. Focus on giving your clients the best possible service, as chances are that they will use your services again in future or even refer some new business to you.

    In this other post I explain how building relationships can help grow your business.

    Solution 2: Share information and help others

    Many of those who use Internet everyday are looking for answers to resolve a problem. Sharing your knowhow through your website or blog can help others resolve problems and help you build relationships with potential clients, while positioning yourself as an expert in that particular area.

    Having a blog, writing a free ebook, creating video tutorials or offering free e-courses are different ways to share your knowledge with others in the Internet.

    In this other post I share some useful tips to treat your blog as a business and make it profitable.



    Challenge 3  /  Keeping the cash flowing

    Many small businesses constantly go from very busy to very quiet times. Unfortunately money stops coming during those quiet times and you never know when it will start coming back again.

    Relying on selling only customised services to clients can be a risky strategy for a small business. Situations like not being able to find enough clients to support your business, losing some clients or needing some time off could have a negative impact in your cash flow.

    Solution: Diversify your offer

    If you find a niche, explore every business opportunity within it. Find other needs that this niche may have and that can be complimented with products.

    Sell products, not just services. Those products can be physical or digital goods (i.e. anything downloadable), courses or subscriptions.

    For example, I support my business by selling different types of digital products in third party websites. In periods of low activity I focus on producing new designs to add my catalogue.



    Challenge 4  /  Publishing Your Pricing

    When someone looks for a design professional the first question in their minds is “how much is it going to cost me?” If you don’t have pricing in your website, many people might assume your price range is above the average.

    However, quoting design services is a complex exercise that needs to take many different things into consideration. Every project has different specifications that need to be discussed with the client before you can quote their jobs.

    On the other hand, charging your clients on an hourly basis can end up being unfair for the client. Experienced designers can come up with ideas quicker and can complete a job faster than a junior designer. Even if the hourly rate of a junior designer is cheaper you could end up paying more for their services.

    Solution: package your services

    Packaging your services as if they were products will allow you to set a fixed price. You can always re-calculate the price of any project that requires some extras or add-ons but at least the client gets an idea of how much your services can cost. It will also save you time quoting jobs and replying enquiries about your rates.



    Challenge 5  /  Being Over Capacity

    This might actually be something very positive for a small business. The problem is that if you don’t have a team to support you in busy periods, you may struggle to keep up with everything on your plate.

    How to manage several projects at the same time, look after existing clients, promote your own business and find new clients without losing your sanity? The answer might be ‘outsourcing’, but before thinking of hiring some extra help you can try something else more cost-effective.

    Solution: build production processes

    Organise your job in steps that can be repeated in every project. To do this, you can use the quiet periods to create templates of proposals, emails, etc that you can customise quickly for every new client. This way when you are overcapacity, you can save time in managing clients and projects to spend some more in providing a good service.

    This other post by Lauren Hooker of Elle and Co. explains how to use 17Hats to organise your process and client workflow.


    Here is also another interesting reading found in Mighty Deals blog with six ideas for increasing your customers to your design services.

    Surely, these are not the only challenges that designers and creative business have to face, or the only solutions to the problems above, so feel free to contribute! Leave a comment and share any particular challenge that you face or/and any solution that you came up with for them.