Take 10 – How to engage users and manage reputation on Social Media

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With an estimated 2.3 billion users worldwide, social media provides huge opportunities to grow your customer base and build powerful relationships. According to Time magazine, 81% of consumers would have more faith in a company if they use social media, and millennials (those born from the early 80s to early 2000s) will be more likely to listen to social media users when making a purchase decision than anything said by government, business, or religious institutions.

However, making effective use of your chosen social media platforms isn’t easy. In our Take 10 series we’ve already looked at how to get started on social media, and how to take advantage of Facebook advertising. Now we want to look at some simple tips on how to build engaging relationships with your customers while managing and protecting your reputation.

1. Speak naturally

No one wants to talk to a robot. Social media is about connecting with people and building relationships, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come across in your posts. Getting a stock reply can make people feel unvalued, whereas being personal will help build trust in you and your brand. Engage with people and talk to them directly by using ‘you’ and ‘your’, and make sure you keep the tone consistent if more than one of you are posting.

2. Replying is more important than talking

Any opportunity to speak directly with a customer is important, whether it’s on social media, email, phone, or on your website. The difference with social media is that your response is in the public domain, so you can quickly gain or lose fans depending on what you do.

If you hide away from replying to a complaint, people will speculate or get more frustrated. If you try to challenge them, it could escalate and get worse. Take comments seriously, show empathy and apologise. Even if it wasn’t your fault, say you’re sorry they’ve had a bad experience. Provide information if possible and ask for details so you can call or message them directly.

Think of it as any other customer service channel. If you take time to respond to people and give them a great experience, you’ll add to your reputation and customer loyalty. Remember to use their tag (@name on twitter, name on Facebook etc) so that your post then appears on their network. Then if they like or share your response, you get a free advert of your great service!

Social media reputationHaving invested time and effort into their Twitter profile, Newton Farm Foods now have customers tweeting about their visits to their cafe and posting pictures of their flower displays.

3. Turn everyday events into content

Creating content doesn’t have to be time consuming. Capturing everyday events is an easy way of adding content for your social channels, and can help promote your products to your customers.

When anything gets you excited, take a photo and share it. It could be some fresh stock in your store (It’s strawberry season and these have just arrived fresh from the farm!), a new van for your fleet (Meet Terry, the newest member of our crew), or hiring a new staff member (We have a new Pastry Wizard joining our kitchen today – say hello to Jenny!).

If you’re setting up a seasonal display, or have filled your warehouse with 10,000 boxes for your peak sales period, let people know. These ‘behind the scenes’ posts help customers get to know your business better, building on your relationship while promoting your product or service. Always remember to tag users and use hashtags to reach a wider audience.

4. Curate content, start discussions

You don’t have to come up with everything yourself. Sharing articles, news, and photos from other sources is a great way to add variety to your posts and bulk out your content.

Think about what your customers are interested in that relates to your business. If you’re a bakery maybe that’s pictures of superhero cakes on instagram. If you’re an IT company it could be an exciting new technology launch. You can then use those posts as the starting point of a discussion — ask for people to share some favourite cake examples of their own, or for opinions on the news article you’ve posted.  

By adding content from elsewhere you avoid talking about yourself all the time and coming across as too salesy. Your followers will then get more value from your social channels, be more likely to engage with you, and be more likely to return.

Social media engagement
Pampeano ran a competition asking their followers to post pictures of any Pampeano gifts they received at Christmas, getting customers to talk about their products and creating a buzz around their brand.

Remember, engaged customers will advertise your business for you

Whether you’re one man band or have an in-house marketing team, managing social media can seem too time consuming to be worth the hassle. However, with a little effort, social media can turn your customers into brand ambassadors, building stronger relationships with them and giving you free advertising all at the same time.

Take 10: 5 top tips for hiring and retaining talent

Quick and simple ways to boost your business in just 10 minutes

For the latest in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at how to hire and retain the best employees to help progress your business in 2017.

Talent

We all know that staff turnover costs business owners time and productivity. However, most businesses don’t regularly calculate the cost of losing good staff. ‘The Cost of Brain Drain’ report by Oxford Economics concluded that the loss of an employee earning £25,000 a year or more costs a business on average £30,000. This significant figure includes all the logistic costs of finding a new worker and the impact of getting them up to speed.

It may seem obvious, but a key way to retain good staff is making sure you find the right person for a particular role when hiring. This should be someone who’s technically capable, but is also a good cultural fit for your business. It’s said to be particularly important to have employees with social intelligence in a small business; people who are able to navigate social situations and work well with others, remembering that lots of practical skills required for a job can be learnt.

Once you’ve found the best candidates, however, there are simple measures you can take to ensure your workforce remain happy and productive. Below, we’ve set out just some of the ways you could make this happen for your business:

1)    Having a clear business mission can help foster loyalty

Having a clear business mission and making sure your employees know their part in achieving this goal is a good way to keep people mentally and emotionally tied to your company. For example, if you run a chocolate factory, your overall mission might be producing top quality chocolate but you need your workforce to collaborate and produce an extra 500 boxes a month in 2017 to increase turnover.

Small business employees, in particular, tend to have a breadth of responsibilities so it’s important to communicate exactly what a job entails and what you need or expect from your staff. Setting achievable goals can help employees feel satisfied whilst keeping your business on track to reaching your overarching goal.

These goals will also help you reward employees who do a good job either by recognising their achievements publicly or in terms of a monetary reward, for example a bonus scheme or salary increase, to keep staff motivated. Many businesses also reward staff loyalty by giving those who meet performance goals and work for a number of years at the business extra holiday for example.

2)    Finding out why your employees like working for you can help you focus

You may think that your workforce is happy, but unless you ask them you can’t be certain you know exactly why they like working for you – it may not be exactly what you expect! Conducting employee surveys, or simply asking employees what motivates them at work and what they like or dislike, is a good way to understand what makes your business a good place to work. It can also help you cultivate a good working environment, and make simple changes which could have a big impact. It’s important to remember, however, that some employees may feel happy giving feedback in person whereas others might prefer filling in a short survey.

Contributing to the future of the business by taking part in a feedback initiative will give your employees a sense of ownership and responsibility, and will help foster loyalty. Talking to your employees on a regular basis can also help make sure your business is adaptable should circumstances change and will ensure you can all work to the same new goal.

3)    Clear career development structures can help boost morale and productivity

Are your employees aware of the development opportunities and training you are willing to offer to further their careers? Outlining your approach to career development and giving employees a clear path to advancement is a good way to help boost morale and productivity.

This could be making sure your managers spend time coaching employees, which will help good performers while minimising poor performance, or sending employees on external training courses which could benefit both you and them. For example, if you run a cafe and your top employee wants to go on a nutrition course think about how you might be able to use this new skill set to benefit your business.

Promoting from within is also a good way to boost morale and reward your best workers. Although in some circumstances you may need certain skills or a fresh approach to a particular project which can come with an external hire, where possible giving your staff opportunities to progress internally can help motivate all your employees. The challenge will be ensuring you build up a pipeline of employees suitable for promotion.

4)    Offering competitive benefits can help show you care about your employees

Following the Pensions Act 2008, businesses must now have a pension scheme and contribute to employees pensions. However, offering additional benefits such as health insurance, for example, can help give you the edge when hiring employees and research shows it will also result in reducing the time your workers are off sick.

Other perks you could consider include offering flextime or allowing your staff to work from home if appropriate. These types of benefits can go a long way to showing you’re willing to accommodate your employees outside lives and will empower them.

5)    Everyone loves a freebie!

Whether it’s free fruit in the office, breakfast on your boss once a month, a couple of beers on a Friday afternoon or being able to have their online shopping parcels delivered to the office, small gestures, which don’t necessarily have to be a significant financial expense to your business, show that you care and want to help your employees manage their lives. Your employees will appreciate the gesture and these small acts could help keep them happy and healthy, which will ultimately benefit your bottom line.

These are just 5 ways you could motivate and maintain your workforce. As mentioned however, small business employees and their owners often have lots of responsibilities, so once your business reaches a certain size it’s worth considering hiring a human-resources specialist to oversee and streamline your employee structure and processes. This could take a load off of you and will ensure your employees are treated fairly.

We hope you found this post useful. In the next instalment of Take 10, we’ll be looking at reputation management.

The Funding Circle team

Take 10: Get the most from your sales call

Quick and simple ways to boost your business in 10 minutes

 

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Good sales calls are critical for any growing business, because no matter how good your product or service is, sales are what drive your bottom line.

Whether you have a dedicated sales team or just one person who handles all your phone enquiries, ensure you’re getting the most from your sales calls by reading over our 7 tips.

1. Be prepared

Before you pick up the phone, take every step to make sure you’re prepared. What is the agenda you’d like to cover? What are your key messages? Write this down clearly, so you can refer back to it during the call. Are you clear on what your goal is, what you need to find out and what the next steps are?

If you’re outbound calling, is there any information you can find out about the customer beforehand to help drive your conversation?

2. Introduce yourself and your company

When you’re on the call, the first thing to do is introduce yourself and your company – this could be the first interaction you have with a customer so it’s important to get this right. Be  professional, but human – no-one wants to talk to a robot!

3. Know what you’re offering

It may seem obvious, but knowing what product or service you’re offering and what the benefits are is really important. You should be able to answer almost anything the customer throws at you. Confident answers will inspire confidence in both you and your product, which are essential to closing that sale.

4. Listen

The best sales people listen to their customers – what their problems are and what they need, so you can find a solution that’s tailored to them. Put the benefits of your product in their terms, help them visualise what it can do for them personally.

5. Build rapport and show interest

Learn all you can about your customer. The next time you speak to them you can then have a genuine conversation about their needs and the solution you have come up with. This will show the customer they’re important to you and help to build trust into your relationship.

6. Follow up

Follow up on your call with an email to thank them for their time, highlight what was covered and, most importantly, what the next steps are.

7. Practice

Not all calls will result in a sale but there is always a positive to takeaway. Use every rejection as an opportunity to reflect on what didn’t go so well, so you can try a different angle on your next call.

As the founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom, said, “You shouldn’t be afraid of failure – when something fails, you think, ‘What did I learn from that experience? I can do better next time.’ Then kill that project (or sales technique) and move on to the next. Don’t get disappointed.”

Enjoyed this?

Have a read of other Take 10s, including how to write a press release and how to be smart with your time

Take 10: How to be smart with your time

Quick and simple ways to boost your business in just 10 minutes

Time

For the sixth in our Take 10 series, we’re looking at how to manage time effectively so you can make the most of your day and effectively drive growth for your business.

We’re all busy rushing around, juggling work and other commitments, and it’s easy to feel there isn’t enough time in the day. We understand that time matters to our business community, so to help you boost productivity when time is of the essence we’ve put together the below 5 top tips.

1) Stay in control with a to do list

Whether you prefer to write one at the beginning of the week, the night before or each morning, a handy to do list will help free your mind to concentrate on the task at hand. And, there’s no better feeling than crossing a completed task off a list!

To help focus your mind it’s important to write down achievable tasks, as according to a LinkedIn study, 63% of us create to do lists but only 11% admitted to completing all the tasks on their list in a given day. We’re all guilty of re-writing the name of a larger project on every new to do list, but writing manageable goals will help you make progress and ultimately finish the project more quickly.

For example, if you’re looking to implement a new email marketing system, you could break down this task into manageable chunks: do research one day and aim to ring your two favourite providers another.

Top tip: Wunderlist is a free to do list planner which works across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web, helping you to sync your personal and professional to do lists online.

2) Become more effective by considering the impact of each task

You’ve got your to do list and you’re ready to get cracking, but it’s important to take a moment to think about the impact of each task. Before getting started, we’d suggest prioritising your list by looking at:

  • whether the task will drive growth for your business
  • approximately how long it might take
  • is it urgent or could it wait if necessary

It’s always tempting to do the easy, quick or more enjoyable tasks first, but prioritising your list by looking at the impact it’s likely to have will help you use your time more effectively. It will also help manage expectations should a colleague have an urgent or last minute request, as you’ll be able to say which items you are prioritising and reorder if necessary.

3) Make time to get things done

You now know approximately how long tasks will take, and which you want to prioritise, so why not block out time in your diary. It could be half an hour each morning to plan out your day, a couple of hours to focus on those accounts you never seem to get to, or 5 minutes before or after a meeting to type up your notes or prepare.

Scheduling time, as you would a meeting, will help you understand what’s achievable and minimise interruptions.

4) Beware the exploding inbox

Research by Warwick Business School found that office workers deal with 10,000 emails a year, and that figure is only rising as we’re becoming more and more connected. Whether it’s colleagues, clients, marketing emails or family and friends it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of emails in your inbox. However, having a succinct email filing system or tagging urgent emails can help you take back control.

Emails can also be extremely distracting when you’re trying to focus on a particular task or project. Don’t be afraid to minimise your email window and focus your attention completely on the task at hand!

5) You’ll be more productive if you take a break and perhaps have a kit kat

Whether it’s a cup of tea, a walk round the block or just doing something else for a few minutes, regular breaks which take you away from work can be revitalising. Research by app DeskTime found the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.

It’s impossible to be productive constantly for many hours without taking little chunks of time to re-energise. You’ll find yourself much more effective as a result, and the time can often help you become more creative, or even solve that difficult problem.

Similarly if you have a daunting task, for example updating lines of a spreadsheet that will take a long time, intersperse these larger projects with short and easily achievable tasks to help keep you focused and boost morale.

We hope you found this post useful. In the next instalment of Take 10, we’ll be looking at how to upskill your sales.

The Funding Circle team

Take 10: How to write a press release

Quick and simple ways to boost your business in just 10 minutes

For the first in our Take 10 series, we consider the art of writing a press release. No matter what size you are or the industry your company is in, being able to write a press release is a must for any growing business.  

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What is a press release and why are they important?

A press release is a way to announce important business news to stakeholders, such as existing and prospective customers, and the media.

Let’s look at an example. Say you run a restaurant and you want to announce you’re opening a new one in the area. A press release is your way of communicating this news, helping you to attract new customers and staff to the premises. You may also want to use this as an opportunity to forge partnerships with local suppliers.

There are three main points to think about when you’re writing one:

1. What is the one thing you want to tell people? Think of this as your key message.

2. Why is this information interesting and attractive for a journalist to write about?

3. How do I ensure they pick the right message for my target audience?  

Now let’s look at the structure of your press release.

The headline is your key message.

Paragraph 1 should tell readers the story around your news. If someone was to only read the headline and first sentence, they should know what the story is about.

    Harry’s Pizzeria to open locally-sourced restaurant in Brighton

    Harry’s Pizzeria, the popular family-run pizzeria, has announced its expansion by acquiring a new premises on the seafront, in a bid to become the first restaurant serving only Sussex-sourced produce.

Paragraph 2 will include more detail on the first paragraph.

    Following its launch in 2010, Harry’s Pizzeria has gone from strength to strength, continuing to serve local food to local people. With over 15 employees and a regular customer base, the restaurant will now open a second premises on Main Street in June.

Paragraph 3 is where you can talk in more depth about your business – your elevator pitch. In the above example you could consider writing about what Harry’s Pizzeria is, where it came from and why you chose locally-sourced produce for the second restaurant. Keep in mind you may be speaking to readers who have never heard of your business.

Add a quote or two from the most relevant spokesperson or people – anyone from the restaurant owner to a CEO.

Add ‘END’ at the bottom, followed by contact details and any notes to the editor, including how you calculated figures in your release for example.

Finish up by adding general information about the business, otherwise known as your boilerplate.

You should aim for your press release to be no longer than 1 side of A4 and accompany it with a cover email, which can highlight anything else which may be of interest to the journalist, such as the offer of an interview with a spokesperson. And don’t forget to add the date!

Sending it out to journalists

Do some research to find out if anyone has written about a similar topic recently – they may want to follow up and write about something similar again. It’s also worth knowing when journalist’s deadlines are so you can send your press release across at the right time. National deadlines tend to be early in the morning, whereas regional press are likely to have a deadline day for the following week’s paper.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. Come back for the next installment of Take 10, where we look at the benefits of having your business on Google Places. 

The Funding Circle team