Friday 26th February 2010

Some of you may remember a blog I wrote recently that was a slightly different follow Friday, if you read further down you will find it. It’s the one from Friday 29th January.  I cried when I wrote it, and apologise for making others cry when they read it.  But it needed to be said. It was about a very special girl, Carrie-Louise Robe who is the daughter of a very good friend of mine.

I am sorry to have to update you with the sad news that Carrie passed away at 4.00am on Thursday 25th February, 2010.  

Beautiful, brave Carrie was given just a few days left to live back at the end of January.  She was only 14, and had a rare form of cancer called T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.  Despite having a bone marrow transplant in 2007, she was told before Christmas she would have to endure more Chemo, have operations on her knees, and so much more. She was a very poorly little girl, and through it all she always thought of others before herself, never feeling sorry for herself, or allowing others to feel sorry for her.  To put this in perspective, for nearly half of her short life she suffered. Life stinks sometimes, it truly does.

She battled to the end and went out smiling; every photo of her I saw had the same beaming smile!

I am asking you to do something for me in Carrie’s memory. I’d like you to consider joining the British Bone Marrow Register

It’s easy to do, you just let them know next time you donate blood. It’s as simple as that.  Both my husband and I have been on the register for years.  There’s a chance that you could be a match for someone who is seriously ill.  By joining the register you have the chance to save a life.  It’s too late to help Carrie, but there’ll be someone else’s daughter or son, wife or husband out there who desperately needs your help. I know that some of you would love to do this, but for health reasons are unable to join, if that’s the case please just share this blog with your friends and family.

If you would like to support Carrie’s memory, I have set up a JustGiving page in her name in support of one of her chosen charities, Clic Sargent, with all money donated in Carrie’s name, in an effort to help other children and families suffering from cancer.

I would deem it a great personal favour if you would consider joining the Bone Marrow register or make a donation to Carrie’s charity, or even both.

I apologise for copying sections of this from my original blog, but right now am too upset to start telling the tale totally afresh.  I also borrowed the idea for the verse below from one of the facebook pages her friends set up for her, to show they loved her and wanted her to get better.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,

I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,

I am in the graceful rush

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,

I am the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,

I am in a quiet room.

I am in the birds that sing,

I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there. I do not die (Mary Elizabeth Frye)

I would like to dedicate this blog to the memory of Carrie-Louise Robe, whose bravery, amazing outlook on life, and fabulous smile continue to fill me with respect and awe.  Rest in peace Carrie xxx

Guest Blog: E Mail Marketing Overview by Phil Monk

What is Email Marketing?

Put really simply it’s the use of electronic mail for marketing purposes. Of course it’s a little bit more complex than that. Email marketing is a form of direct marketing, it allows companies to easily and cost effectively communicate with their customer base and target and acquire new customers.

Email marketing is often used in conjunction with other forms of traditional marketing such as direct mail and newspaper and magazine ads.

The advantage of using email is that it’s a lot quicker to get your message to a large number of people, it’s certainly cheaper and more often than not you see the results of email campaigns a lot earlier than other forms of traditional marketing.

Let’s look at some of the basics of basics of email marketing.

Mailing Lists
If you want to send emails to people you need their permission it’s as simple as that. We’re not talking about emails you may send to a friend or colleague, we’re talking about regular emails you may want to send to your customers or people who visit your website and want to know more about your products or services, so if you want to use email marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy make sure you have peoples permission to do so – this is actually a legal requirement.

There are a number of ways you can do this. You could build your own opted in list via your website or you could buy an email list from a reputable data supplier to promote your list.

You can email those who people who have supplied an email address as part of a sale or if you are emailing them about a similar product they have purchased from you as long as you give them a means to unsubscribe at any time.

Take every opportunity to grow your email list. Make your sign up box prominent on every page of your website. So many companies fail in this. Keep it simple, first name and email address are all you really need, you can collect other data later.

Make sure you keep your email list clean, remove those you ask to be unsubscribed, remove hard bounces and incorrectly formatted email addresses – this is best practice.

Send regular email campaigns, at least once a month if you can, fortnightly or weekly is even better.

Use a reputable Email Service Provider (ESP) to broadcast your campaigns through. ESP provide the software to manage every aspect of a campaign from creating your message, through to managing your marketing lists and most importantly reporting on results.

Make sure you create both text and HTML versions of your email (ESP's often have easily customisable templates you can use) this is known as a multipart message, depending on your subscriber’s settings either the text of HTML version will be delivered.

The advantages of HTML include being able to add images to your message (don't overdo it) use different fonts and colours and generally make your message more attractive. HTML has the added advantage of being able to track the number of people who actually open your message.

Test, test and test again. Ideally you should test every campaign you send, whether it's subject lines, creative, landing pages, time of day, which day of the week.

Make sure your subject lines are relevant to the content of the email, it's tempting to write an attention grabbing headline to get your email opened but if the content doesn't match the subject line your efforts have been wasted.

Make sure your content is engaging and informative and actually fulfils the reason your subscriber joined your mailing list in the first place. Your content can be used to build awareness of your products or services, educate your customers and build your credibility, sell your products or keep them up to date with new developments or services but make sure it is relevant.

Measuring Results
The most common stats that everyone tends to look for when looking at the results of a particular campaign is the open rate, and while this is important to a point, it's not the only stat you should be looking at. Obviously it's important that your email gets opened, but it's also important that your subscribers act on the message it contains. Other important stats to look at include your click through rate – how many people clicked on the links in your email to find out about your new product or service, or visited your website; email is a great way of driving traffic back to your site.

You didn't open your email and why? Was the timing wrong? Bad subject line?
Also look at the links people clicked on, did they just click on the first link in the email and ignore the rest, which links and which content proved the most popular.

If your email was selling something, how much did you sell? What was your return on investment for that campaign?

All of this information can be used to improve further campaigns.

Phil Monk

Follow Friday Recommendations February 19th 2010

This week’s follow Friday is a website @toptentips. They are on Twitter so it’s a proper follow Friday, however, it’s really the expertise that is published on the site that I am recommending.

You know when someone shows you a really great idea and you sit back and think I wish I had known that before? Well this site is full of really great ideas I am recommending. Each contributor can only write once, so you get all their experience in one solid feature.

And the best bit? It’s free. This is a site written by the experts in their own fields. They are sharing with you their personal top ten tips to help you start, grow and improve upon your business. It is a fabulous resource, and I really wish it had been there when I started out last year.

As some of my followers will know, I have a bit of a pet hate, it’s people or companies who take advantage of small and start up businesses and want to charge them for information and services that frankly they could have got elsewhere for free or actually isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

This site is such a breath of fresh air; it’s all about collaboration and that sharing of knowledge. And the contributors ask for nothing in return. As I said, they are experts in their field. There are already twenty features on there, with more to follow over the coming months. The next article to be released is all about Tendering, and is written by a member of the Institute of Directors who has been involved in bids with values ranging from several thousand pounds to tens of millions of pounds. I know a lot of small companies who will really benefit from this information.

I have been told by the site managers that they are currently accepting pre-registrations. It’s free to sign up, and your business will receive a free listing in the open directory that will be incorporated into the site. To me the best thing about registering is that they will email you the new features in advance of them being released, so you don’t have to miss out on any new releases.

There are some great features on there already, some of which are written by people I already follow and respect a lot. I look forward to following the other contributors and learning from them as well.

They have a hashtag on Twitter #TipOfTheDay

You know how I feel about sharing information and collaborating with each other, and this site fits right into my philosophy. So if you are in business and want some guidance or you just want to add to the project, follow @toptentips because it is all about collaboration for small business. And take a moment to read their Social Networking policy at the very bottom of the page. I think it’s a great description of Social Networking, not that I am a Twitter addict or anything! Oh yeah, forgot, I am!

The website can be found here:

Recruitment Agency Insight - Guest Blog from Kevin Wright

Love them or hate them Recruitment companies are everywhere. When  I go to my local newsagent or takeaway they get into conversation about what I do, so I tell them ,then they tell me “Oh there was one on every street corner in 2007” and then they tell me today they see none. I believe they get this impression from their rare trips to town but look up at shared office blocks and you will see that there are now more than 15,000 of us in the UK.

Every company has to hit targets and has to make sales, be this by way of cold calls, snail mail, television marketing, media advertising, the one thing all companies have in common is they are there to make a profit and to do this they have to sell their service. When I and my team have made what is known as a cold call I am often somewhat shocked by the lack of interest from the third party.

I am not going to guest blog about how fantastic recruitment agencies are now offering  great deals, but what I am going to do is offer you a true insight into recruitment methods and why a recruitment company / agency is good for your business. At the right rate of course J

As I said all companies have a goal and that is to make a profit and to achieve this we market in different ways. A recruitment company does not really have much free marketing available to it. We have to pay our respective job boards a set monthly fee to post positions, then we have to filter these down into suitable candidates. Without being rude you can get responses from people that are not skilled to do the job – take a look at this example.

I sent a speculative CV to a potential company I wanted to do business with. When he received my email he mailed me back and said “Thanks Kev I have just paid £1,500 to advertise my position in the local paper, I think I will be ok Thanks” – Ok I thought this is a rejection for now so I will just file this accordingly. (2 weeks). I emailed the prospect back to ask how his advert went; he then got back to me and said “Is your offer still available? It seems to have been more hassle than it was worth” – Further investigation led me to no surprise, they had a small ad and the online free ad on the jobcentre was scary,it was lacking substance and the benefits of the position.

Without being rude, the Ad made it look as if anybody could apply, which of course you can, but let’s be realistic you need to have some experience especially in this £18,000 basic + *% comm role anyway and us recruitment consultants are fully trained in writing a good Ad to attract the correct applicant. With the boards we utilise and pay for we have ample space as the job centre limits you to around 800 words. 800 words is not enough if you are serious about attracting the correct candidate.

So there he was with £1,500 gone with a total of 1 placement from this, I offered him a deal, I explained a little more about what I do, how we do it, and how this would save him time and money in the long run, he quickly agreed to allow me to recruit for him.

Now back to marketing.  We have to pay for all of our candidate and client marketing; however there is the Job centre which is cool. There are people who have been unemployed for long amounts of time and are looking for work and you can get some good people from there, but the chances of you filling your post to your specific requirements is dramatically reduced as opposed to using a recruitment agency. If I have not made it clear, we pay for our candidate marketing with companies who have invested in SEO to get their posts to the top of Google; this gives us a far better chance of filing your positions for you. We are able to select a shortlist of how many people you need and present it to you, and the best bit about it - what? They all match what you are looking for to the letter therefore whatever you pay an agency is worth it as opposed to pointless media advertising and Job centres ads (depending on the role)

Have a great 2010 everybody

TimeEazy Recruitment

Follow Friday Recommendations 12th February 2010

Firstly, apologies that the blog is so late today, but I have been very busy working with some of my great Clients and also spending some family time with small child and my other half.

So who would I like to recommend for follow friday this week...

I have so many great friends and people I follow on Twitter that this gets harder every week, the list could go on and on, but that's because so many great people interact with me on there.
You can always check out my lists on Twitter, they are a good indication, but this week I have decided to concentrate on people that have interacted with me this week.

@carolinewalsh2 came up with a great banking contact for me, who fits my requirements exactly, thank you, and I hope your networking event this morning was a success.

@efficiencycoach has been a great coach for me, and it's not all business you know (although she has transformed that), she makes sure you look after yourself as well, it's the whole package, it's kind of like when you are a kid and you have to think before you do something 'what would my Mum say?', well, before I do things now I think 'what would Heather say?', and because of that voice in my head I have taken better care of myself this past few weeks, and it is starting to have results. So yes, she could quite rightly say 'I told you so!' now. Thank you Heather.

@bradleyvast really made me laugh last week, and I love hearing about the projects he is involved in, it reminds me of the best bits of my old job.  He is the perfect tweeter, a bit of personal, some interaction and some business as well, and I am sure you won't be disappointed if you follow him.

@thedervman and @MandeeCA deserve an extra special mention, they are my lovely neighbours, and if Carlsberg made neighbours, it would be these two.  Dervman shares my love of gadgetry and geekiness and Mandee shares my love of crafting and scrapbooking, and for some reason they think small child is wonderful! We have had some great muddy walks, introducing them to the village, and Dervman has some interesting perspectives he likes to share with us.

@xingsmoothies deserve a mention, thanks to Twitter I have found loads of great people here in my home town, but Simon has done something I never thought possible and encouraged me into a healthy shop! Not only that, I look forward to my weekly visit and the 'Blueberry Hug' with anticipation. Only time will tell if he will ever get me to sample the wheatgrass, though he does seem to have made it his mission in life. I cannot say I am enamoured of the stuff after seeing him make it, the waste coming out of the machine looks like something you peel off the bottom of the lawn mower when you have finished cutting the grass. Tomorrow's visit should be rather interesting.They also do fantastic work with schools, teaching the kids about healthy options but also how to set up their own juice bars, teaching them vital business skills. How cool is that.

Special thanks have to go to @Studio4York for my new profile picture this week, he had very hard material to work with bless him, and has made me look very professional, but rest assured it's still good old Northern Lass underneath. And thanks to Jane from @confidentladies for the introduction.  I hope to be able to work with Rob again, he has a great portfolio covering everything from weddings to model shoots and commercial.

Outsourcing - Guest Blog from Colin Fraser

Thanks to Colin Fraser from Maximum Attitude Business Coaching for this week's guest blog on Outsourcing.


I thought I’d base this blog on outsourcing. Something that in principle business owners talk about, but in the case of small business, owners rarely do it. Why is that?

Why do small business owners feel that their main niche is to offer that personal service, to be at the end of the phone when required? Does this not breakaway from why you run your own business?

Many owners will defend themselves by saying that the customer likes it, it keeps them loyal, but then they would because you’re giving more than what they’ve paid for.  The customer/client will know they can get more ‘bang for their buck’. They will push and push until you have to have the awkward conversation and say no more.  So make sure you pre-set exactly what the client will receive and what they won’t and also what you will receive for that service.

Back to the subject why outsource, in some way or another whether it being by using a accountant for more than just your books, or just going on forums either giving or seeking advice and information, we all outsource. Do you outsource for the right reasons and in the right way?

How many people spend there day not doing their actual job of being a business owner?

I used to work for a manufacturing company where the managers used to spend their time sourcing kit and materials rather than managing their team.  The reason for this was the person who was supposed to be finding the right kit wasn’t doing their job right.  Did he know what he was expected to do? , was it in his contract, was he ever asked  why he didn’t do it right , so he probably never knew or was he just playing the game. So what happens if this person doesn’t do his work, the next person in line has to pick up the pieces, but this means they won’t complete theirs, and so the trouble starts until it reaches the mangers, who end up doing someone elses role instead of there own.

For this reason owners are nervous about outsourcing and getting help, because they just don’t trust anyone to do it like they would. If clear roles and responabilities are laid down covering all aspects of the job, then there should be no reason for anyone to complain.  When outsourcing and recruiting, communication is key to make sure they know what is expected of them.

Outsourcing is critical for any business owner to do, it has to be controlled and monitored but needs to be done to ensure growth within any company.

Think what you could achieve if you weren’t doing these small admin jobs that could be done by others.

Weigh up the costs of outsourcing work against business growth you could achieve by concentrating your efforts on the future rather than last weeks pay role, plus don’t forget about the time saved to allow you to spend more time with family and friends, which is by far the most important thing in life.

 Outsource to maintain growth and balance in business and in your private life.

Colin Fraser

Guest Blog: Undertake your own PR Campaign

Thanks to @RachaelBlogs from Twitter for this week's blog on Undertaking your  own PR Campaign

No one knows your business like you do and that makes you the perfect person to undertake your PR campaign. 

Getting publicity is fun but remember at the end of the day it’s there to do one thing and that’s to achieve your objective. It’s great to see your name in print or be the one they come to when they need that all important quote but if it doesn’t get you more clients, make more money or raise awareness of your business then it’s a waste of time.

There are multiple ways you use public relations to get your message out but as press releases are still one of the most popular ways of getting your message in front of journalists and editors here are some top tips for writing an effective press release…

Create a headline...
That makes the reader sit up and take notice. Keep it short, active and descriptive.

Be Newsworthy and Creative…
Do you think your local paper cares that you’ve launched a website? Or that you’ve hired a new member of staff? Of course they don’t. But think of putting a creative slant on it, is your new team member doing something fun for charity, does your website have a function local people can use etc. if you can’t think of a decent news angle flick through the newspapers and see if you can tie in your story to an existing event.  Whatever you do, make sure you make it interesting.

Know your publication…
This is vital, please get to know the newspaper or magazine to which you are sending your release and tailor it to suit that audience. As a journalist there really is nothing worse than wasting your time reading poorly targeted releases.

Put the most important information at the beginning...
The reporter should be able to tell what the release is about within the first two paragraphs. 
Remember to use the ‘who, what, where, when, why and how’ structure.

Avoid hype and keep it real...
Your press release is not designed to be a sales pitch. If you submit a sales pitch the journalist will sniff this out instantly and you won’t get any further than the delete button. 
Be creative; think of a newsworthy reason for your release.

Get to the point...
Use language that’s going to get your reader excited about you and your news. Don’t waffle, get to the point and give the reader what they want to know.

The one page rule
Writing a release doesn’t have to be an essay, in fact if you have to write more than one page then you are not getting to the point.

Contact person...
Never forget to include details of a person that a journalist can contact. You never know when they’re going to contact so make sure the nominated person is always ready and accessible.  Journalists don’t have time to keep chasing you for quotes or facts so ensure that you know your stuff.

No jargon...
You may understand what you’re saying when you use jargon but your reader and the readers of the publication you are targeting may not. If you are aiming at consumer press stay away from all jargon. If you’re targeting specialist and business to business press it is acceptable to use jargon and technical terms but do keep these to a minimum.

Don’t just say it, show it...
Try to avoid just saying something is unique or the best instead push home the benefits of what you’re saying for example will save money, will save time, make life easier, etc

Be specific and add details...
Your audience needs to be able to know how your product or service works. It is far better to use too many details than too few. It is a fine line between waffling and giving the correct amount of information so ask someone unfamiliar with your business to read through and describe what you’re trying to say.
Don’t just trust your word processing program to catch the mistakes. Read and re-read to make sure that not only are your spelling and grammar perfect but your sentences make sense.

Use your blog!!
Blogs are a great way of getting your message out; journalists are now turning to bloggers to provide them with interesting stories so make full use of your blog and ensure you update it on a regular basis.