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Posts Tagged ‘acorn marketing’

Imposter Syndrome in small businesses

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

I had a pretty rubbish week at the end of January.  I won’t go into all the gory details, but it reminded me of an article I’d read in the past about ‘Imposter Syndrome’.  The article said that “Research from AXA PPP healthcare reveals that one in five SME owners suffer from Imposter Syndrome – the fear of being exposed in your job as a fraud, inadequate or a failure despite evidence proving you’re successful and capable.”

That week I felt just like this and it made me wonder how many other small business owners feel like this too?  What brought this about was a nasty email from an (now ex) client, slating the work that I did for them, my costs (which are extremely competitive I will have you know) and my knowledge.  It was an email that came completely out of the blue and just knocked me for six.  Communication had been good, feedback had been excellent and I’d really helped them (so they told me).  So, to get an email contrary to that was really upsetting.

I consider myself a very professional businessperson.  I treat others how I would expect to be treated myself, am honest and loyal to my clients.  I studied hard at university and continue to study with my CPD, I’ve gained over twenty years’ experience, am a Chartered Marketer with great clients and testimonials and have won several awards.  Yet, I still sometimes feel like I have Imposter Syndrome. Receiving an email like that, or a bad comment about you/your work or meeting a tricky client can really knock you down.

I never imagined that I’d run a business – I didn’t have a clue where to start, but was thrown into this situation when I was made redundant and I just got on with it.  In that respect I have to pinch myself sometimes that I’m coming up to my eight year anniversary.  There is no way I’d be doing what I’m doing eight years down the line if I wasn’t any good.

Findings in the report suggested over half of SME owners affected (52%) admit that low self-esteem led them to feeling like an imposter, with four in ten (42%) comparing themselves with others and over one in four (27%) doubting their decisions.  

So, my message to anyone out there who might feel like they have Imposter Syndrome is to just go for it.  You are good at what you do; otherwise, you would not be in the situation you are in.  Believe in yourself and others will too.  You are unique and the service or product you offer is unique to you and you should be proud of it.  You don’t need to compare yourself to others, be confident in your strengths and what you do.

Finally don’t ever feel like you’re on your own, there are so many other small business owners out there, so get out and meet them, go for a coffee with someone you trust and build a supportive network around you.  A good talking to can often sort you out (as my husband regularly does!)

So, I’m back on it this week!  Bring it on!

 

 

 

Ref:  https://www.businessleader.co.uk

 

Christmas Marketing – is it too late to plan?

Monday, November 12th, 2018

It is never too late to get on board with the Christmas Marketing train – unless you’re reading this in January!

As a rule of thumb when I work with clients we start planning Christmas campaigns in June/July for promotion in August/September, with a final push in October/November.  Of course, this depends on what you’re selling.

Think about creating a month-by-month marketing plan and adding all the big occasions for marketing throughout the year – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Summer Holidays, and Halloween etc.  Think about what products/services you are going to offer during these periods and how you will promote them.  This ensures that when the time comes it’s not all panic and you’re planned and prepared – knowing what you are going to do well in advance.

You can get any brochures created, e-news campaigns planned and flyers at the ready.

However, if you’re a bit late off the mark, what I would suggest is doing a bit of Facebook advertising – it is simple and cost effective and you get to see results.

Perhaps try emailing your mailing list (if you have one) with last minute offers.

Get in touch with the local press – is there a press release you can send or an eye-catching photo to promote what you’re doing?

What about running a special offer or promotion – Buy One Get One Free or similar?

Competitions go down a treat on social media – is there something you can give away that people would love in time for Christmas

There are lots of little tips and tricks to try with your Christmas Marketing, but you might just have to be a bit creative.  In 2019 try to plan in advance, I’m sure you’ll see a big difference!

If you need some help with your marketing planning drop us a line to see if we can help!

Scary Marketing – get the basics right

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

I have worked in Marketing for almost 20 years now and my beady eye is always on the lookout for great campaigns and ideas.  However, it’s so much easier to spot scary marketing.  It just makes me sigh and my heart sinks when I see a piece of bad print, a poorly constructed website or shocking social media.

Here are my top tips for getting the basics right

1 – Plan

You may have a fantastic idea or product that you want to market, but many people jump in feet first without having a plan in place.  Think about the 7 Ps’ – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Processes, Physical Evidence (there is some really useful information here https://www.professionalacademy.com/blogs-and-advice/marketing-theories—the-marketing-mix—from-4-p-s-to-7-p-s)

Do you have a business plan?  Great.  Do you have a marketing plan?  Think about how you are going to sell your product or service, who your customer is, how they will find out about what you are selling.  By taking a bit of time to plan things out can really help you understand what direction you should take.

2 – Brand

Getting the brand right is so important.  There is nothing worse than seeing a ‘clip art’ logo, inconsistent design work or just no design at all with documents created in publisher.  A good brand reflects your business.  It tells people whether you are professional, if your product or service is good value or quality.  It shows you have taken care and attention in making your brand and business work, rather than knocking something together yourself.

It doesn’t have to be expensive and once it’s done you can use it for years to come – if you’ve got it right the first time around.

 

3 – Website

A good website is like a shop window to your business.  Get this wrong and people will leave as soon as they visit.  I won’t be cruel and pick anyone out, but often the worst websites I see are ones that have been built in-house.  “My friend can build websites” or “I watched a YouTube video” are things I’ve often heard.  Again, websites don’t need to cost the earth (trust me you don’t need to pay 5K for a basic brochure website!)  There are some free sites you can use, but they can be time-consuming and if you run into difficulties there is no one technical for you to get help off.  You’re on your own.  It can all get a bit messy – and does it actually work?  It may look pretty, but can it be found on Google, can people read it on a mobile phone, do people actually look at it?

 

4 – Social Media

Social media is a fantastic platform to get messages across, tell people about your brand and bring your business to life.

When using social media, think about what you want people to know about your business.  I see a real mix of how people use social media.  Some people go all out in telling their personal story on their business pages, which is fine and it’s great to add personality into a brand, but do we want to know what they ate for breakfast?  Then, in contrast, some people are so professional and salesy it just puts you off and no one will ever read your posts.  Getting the right balance is key.  Think about the tone of voice – are you professional, are you friendly, are you a bit crazy and kooky?

I have also seen people getting a bit #hashtag happy.  #literally #using #a #hashtag #in #every #word #they #type #in #a #post.  Aggggghhhhhhh don’t do it!  There is no point and it is not effective.  The point of a hashtag is to make the word searchable #a #in #they are not something that people are going to search for in social media, so you don’t need to use them.  Be a bit more clever with them, for example in a post about marketing I may use things like #marketing #socialmedia #Instagram etc, which would help people find my post.

 

5 – Print

Another pet hate of mine is poor printing.  If you want to be a professional business, your printed materials should be too.  There are many online, cheaper printers, but I would recommend talking to your local printer, who often give excellent rates and can print better quality.  They will let you know about different types of paper you can use, if the artwork is right and if any images are poor quality (another massive pet hate of mine – make sure you use good quality images for print – not one you copy off the internet!)  They will often do the design work for you for free too!

If all else fails delegate and pay a professional!  I am rubbish at maths so use an accountant.  If I need legal advice I will call my solicitor – it’s the same with marketing.  If you don’t know what you’re doing there are loads of marketing professionals out there who can help, investing and bit of time and effort into your marketing can really reap rewards!

Click here to find out more about Acorn Marketing (Cumbria) Ltd could help with your marketing.

Every day is a school day

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

There has been so much back to school marketing around recently it got me thinking and reminiscing about my old school and University days (crikey it’s 20 years since I started Uni this year!)  Everyone always used to say they were the best days of your life and anyone who has been to university will know that they really are!  However, when you leave school or Uni your education does not stop there.  I feel I am always on a continuous journey of learning whether that’s in life, motherhood or work.

When I was in paid employment, I often attended training courses to broaden my skills, whether that was health and safety or leadership management.  However, since being self-employed this has changed slightly.

A few years ago, I decided to become a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).  I wanted an accreditation that proved that I was a legitimate marketer.  There are so many cowboys in the industry and I wanted people to know I was genuine and I actually know what I’m talking about.  At that point, I had about 15 years of experience in marketing, which was enough to prove to the CIM that I was fit for the title.

Ever since I have undertaken a path of Continued Professional Development (CPD) whereby I attend training courses, read books, watch webinars, mentor people – generally try to keep on top of my game.  I record the work I do and undertake reflective statements on what I’ve learnt and how I will implement this in my own work.

By doing this it has ensured that I am continuously learning and developing, being the best marketer I can be.  So, for me, every day is like a school day as I learn new things about myself and my business and continue my education and gain more experience in the wonderful world of marketing.

School Marketing Acorn Marketing Cumbria CIM certificate

My 2018/2019 CIM certificate

 

Juggling act

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Running a business and being a mum really is a juggling act!  I’ve spent the day writing social media plans for next month, whilst I’ve got a roast in the oven and washing on the line.

For many years my business was my baby, I put my heart and soul into it.  It was my life.  But, since I became a mum (and step mum) things have changed.  I now have two babies to look after!  Most days I manage to do some form of work, but I’m often checking emails whilst building a jigsaw or reading a book to my little girl.

However, despite it being a juggling act I actually get the best of both worlds.  I can be at home and have precious time with my daughter, but then run a successful business as well.  So, how do I do it…

  • Be organised

My biggest tip is being organised.  There is no way I could do what I do if I was not super organised.  I have lists for each client and what we need to do, plans for social media, plans for advertising, plans for future plans.  I then have a weekly list of everything I need to get done that week with priorities, I even then have a notepad, where I write down what I need to do each day.  I know it sounds a lot, but when you’re juggling ten or so clients at a time, you need to write everything down and plan everything.

I also then have lists at home, shopping lists and lists of what we’re going to eat each day for tea.  I have a work calendar and also a family calendar, so everyone knows what they are doing and when.  My little one is only two and a half, so I think this planning is only going to stand me in good stead when she starts school!

  • Communicate

It is also really important to communicate well.  Not only does it help you to be organised, but it ensures my clients (and family) are happy.  I have a rule that I will always answer emails in 24 hours, or even just acknowledge people if I can’t give them an answer right away.  I also pick up the phone.  We often fire out emails when we’re busy and I’m guilty of that, but if I have something tricky to explain about a piece of work, or if I need a question answering urgently I use the good old telephone to sort things out – an art, which seems to be getting lost these days!

  • Support

Probably the key to my success is the support I have from family – particularly my Mam and mother in law.  Between us, we share the childcare.  If I have an important meeting to attend, I know one of these great women will jump into action, swap shifts and be there to help.  April goes to Pre-school in November, so I will have even more time to get things done!

  • Give yourself a break

I recently let things get on top of me.  I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and felt like I was doing a million and one jobs all the time with no respite.  It seemed like I put everyone at the top of the list apart from me!  I discovered a book called The Self Care revolution, which is fantastic and really gives you a handle on how to manage things, coping mechanisms, stress and how to ‘give yourself a break’.  I think we’re all too hard on ourselves to be perfect at everything whether that is work, motherhood, looks, ageing, weight loss and some times, we just need to take a step back and realise that actually we’re good at what we do.  We may not be perfect at everything, but we’re doing our best!

I now make sure I take some time out for me, cinema, spa days and a daily dose of Yoga.  Have a read…it could help you too!

  • Enjoy it 

The biggest thing is that I love my job.  I enjoy meeting clients, forming relationships, doing marketing and seeing projects come to fruition.  I also love being a Mummy (as most mothers do) and although I say I’m juggling, it’s not really juggling as it’s just life!  It’s what I do and I love it.  I get the best of both words, being a Mum whilst running a successful business.

If you are thinking of starting your own business and you’re a mum, I’d say go for it.  Yes, it will be hard, yes, there will be times when you want to go back to 9-5, but the rewards far outweigh the negatives.  There is no looking back!

Morrison Construction invests in virtual reality induction

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

A £50,000 investment has been made by Morrison Construction to create a new virtual reality (VR) induction as an engaging way to provide education on site safety.

Today the induction, developed in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland with the expertise of 3D animation specialists Animmersion, was unveiled at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre in Blantyre.

The site and construction teams from the Morrison Construction Scottish Water business were heavily involved in the eight-month development process to create a realistic experience for induction participants.

Industry experts who attended the event learnt about the VR experience for site induction and had the opportunity to take part in a live demonstration to experience the technology first-hand.

The induction, set in a Computer-Generated Imagery construction site, allows users to immerse themselves in the animated environment as they navigate their way through three modules using goggles and hand controllers.

These modules allow users to become familiar with a construction site, recognise common dangers and complete a simple activity on site emphasising the importance of correct safety procedures.

The first module asks the participant to identify the safety board, key staff and important locations such as the muster point on site.

Participants are required to mark key site dangers such as buried services with red flags, receiving a mark on the completion of the second module.

An interactive task in the third module is set on a site where underground services works are taking place demonstrating the consequences of not being aware of safety risks.

Morrison Construction Scottish Water Operations Director, Stephen Slessor said:

‘‘We are very excited to showcase our VR site induction, providing an engaging way for employees to receive vital safety training. Today marks this significant investment in site safety by Morrison Construction and I would like to thank members of our team and our project partners for their valued contributions.

‘‘Health and safety is our number one priority at Morrison Construction and we believe this real-time learning system can benefit the wider construction sector by enhancing traditional site processes. Using this VR induction allows participants to make mistakes in a safe environment.’’

University of the West of Scotland Senior Lecturer in Construction Engineering, Mohamed Abdel-Wahab said: “It is great to see Morrison Construction launching this innovative VR induction.  VR application in the construction industry provides an effective means for health and safety training. It helps to raise awareness of on-site hazards and ensure compliance with HSE guidelines, thereby reducing the likelihood of on-site incidents. This project is an exemplar of university-industry collaboration for the application of VR. We can only make a difference and change industry’s practice through truly collaborative endeavours such as this.”

 

N.B – Press release from Morrison Construction PR team.  Acorn Marketing (Cumrbia) Ltd helped with event oranisation of this event.

Lake District brewery launches wholesale ales

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Brack’N’Brew, the micro-brewery based at the Brackenrigg Inn on the shores of Ullswater has recently launched a range of 500ml bottles to complement its existing real ales brewed on site.  The wholesale beers are being stocked across the UK and the local brewery has seen a spike in sales as a result.

Brack’N’Brew was born in March 2015 when an old horse stable at the back of the Brackenrigg Inn Watermillock, was converted into the brew house.  After a few months of trialling recipes, the first ale named ‘Boathouse Blonde’ was brewed and served in the bar at the Brackenrigg Inn.

The Brewery currently has five regular ales available at the Brackenrigg, Inn, including Alfred’s Golden Ale, The Rambling Bookkeeper Bitter, The Steamer Stout and Aira Force IPA.  Seasonal ales make an appearance throughout the year; including a Marmalade ale as part of Dalemain’s Marmalade Festival on the 17th March.

The new 500ml bottle range, has been well received locally and is stocked in a variety of bars, restaurants and shops across the county including Chestnut House in Pooley Bridge, The Sunn Inn Newton Reigny, The Kings Arms in Stainton, Glenridding Mini Market, The Royal at Dockray, Beer Shop Ambleside, House of Malt in Carlisle and Embers Bar in Carlisle.

The bottled beers are also being shipped further afield to Leicester, Nottingham, Wigan, Ingleton and Clitheroe.

Ben Clementson is the Master Brewer behind Brack’N’Brew’s Ales and has been with the brewery from day one. Ben comments,

“We always had a plan to sell our beers in other establishments across Cumbria right from the start.  The range of new bottles have been very well received and we have noticed an increase in sales as a result.  We are very much looking forward to working with more stockists across the country.”

As well as supplying their 500ml bottle range of beers to retailers and bars, Brack’N’Brew is looking to supply their cask ales to an exclusive number of pubs in Cumbria.  The Brewery wants to ensure the exclusivity of the ales, but hopes to supply a select number of establishments with their range of ales in the next year, as well as opening an online shop to sell their bottled craft ales via the internet.

 

ENDS

General Data Protection Regulation for Marketing

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

General Data Protection Regulation for Marketing

The law is changing in 2018.  It will affect all businesses and the way you do your marketing.  It will affect the way you do any email marketing, make sales calls or send direct mail.  I wrote a blog for a client recently about it (click here) and attended a seminar to try and understand what it means for marketers.  I have to say it’s not one of the most exciting things I’ve written about, but it is something everyone needs to be aware of in 2018 and implement changes.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation by which the EU intends to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU).  It is set to replace the Data Protection Act of 1998.  The GDPR will apply in all EU member states from 25 May 2018.

What do I need to do?

I would suggest you address this as soon as you can and be prepared…don’t just wait until May to sort it out!  If you want to read more in-depth, click here and read my client blog.  Alternatively here are a few things to bear in mind that might get your started…

1 – Think about what data you are collecting.  You might not think you collect any, but if you use Google Analytics, you collect data about who visits your website – even their IP address.  Quick Fix get a privacy policy on your website that indicates how you use any data you collect.

2 – You need to explicitly ask permission to send someone email marketing.  They must opt-in.  It is not OK to assume you have permission, hide it in your privacy policy, or have a box that someone must untick.  They might once have been allowed, but they’re not anymore.  get consent now…don’t wait for the deadline.  On website contact forms/registration forms etc make sure you add tick boxes so people can ‘opt-in’

3 – It is now not only their permission you have to ask for, you also need to record when they gave you permission and log when they opted in.  If you get an email notification when someone registers that may be enough, but you must keep the email secure.

4 – People have the right to tell you to stop marketing to them and you must make it easy for them to opt out of any future email marketing.  Make sure you have that unsubscribe button on your email.   If it is a printed mailer, make sure you have a phone number/address that people can contact to stop receiving things.  Make sure you keep a list of their details and stop sending them things, otherwise you could face a big fine.

5 – Is your website secure?  Does it have a little padlock symbol in the address bar, or did you get an SSL certificate?  If you store any data whatsoever on your website, you must have an SSL certificate, which encrypts the transmission of any data.  Even a contact form can be passing data, so it is safest to have one.  Ask your web designer about it.

6 – You don’t need explicit consent to send a mailer, letter or brochure, provided you make it clear how they can stop receiving them in the future and the content is relevant to them.  This comes under ‘legitimate interests of your business’

7 – there is a misconception that GDPR only applies to personal data, but it applies to business data as well, even if you only email corporate email addresses the law still applies.

As a member of the Chartered Institue of Marketing it has been important to me to try to understand GDPR for my business, but also to advise clients as well.  I don’t know everything and am still doing lots of research and learning, but I hope that I can become more knowledgeable and in turn help my clients.

Watch this space for further updates

 

Top 100 in England

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

The ‘Parent Power’ supplement from The Sunday Times has been published, citing Hunter Hall School in Penrith as one of the Top 100 Independent Preparatory Schools in England.

The paper, published on Sunday lists the Top 100 Schools based on SATs results taken in 2016 from  Preparatory schools across England. There are over 600 such schools who are members of the Independent Schools Association.  The results have been published by The Times for the last 25 years and uses a ranking system that aggregates the averaged scaled scores achieved by children in tests in reading, grammar and maths.  Hunter Hall achieved a score of 312 based on 15 pupils sitting the tests.

The way that SATs have been calculated since 2016 is via a new aggregate system, which looks at a scaled scores ranging from 240 to 360, (the old system based was based on the percentages of children reaching level 5 in tests).  The Sunday Times states that schools that get the best out of every pupil are the ones who have fared best in the list.

Hunter Hall is one of only seven schools based in the North West of England to make the Top 100 and the only school in Cumbria to make the list.

Donna Vinsome, Head Teacher at Hunter Hall School comments,

“We are absolutely thrilled to be listed as one of the top 100 schools in England.  This is another wonderful accolade for us and helps to substantiate what we as staff and governors feel; that children get an outstanding education at Hunter Hall in all areas of the curriculum both inside as well as outside of the classroom.

Hunter Hall was inspected recently by the Independent Schools Inspectorate who gave them a glowing report with 100% in all areas of compliance with no actions for improvement. They have also recently been shortlisted for two TES Education awards.

Donna continues,

“All these successes are down to the hard work and dedication of our fantastic team of specialist teachers we have at Hunter Hall School and the dedicated children we have the privilege to work with every day. I believe we are incredible value for money, giving children the best possible start in life from 3 through to 11 right here in Cumbria”.

Double celebrations for Hunter Hall School

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Hunter Hall School in Penrith, had important visitors at the end of September as the Independent School’s Inspectorate (ISI), an independent body approved by the government’s Department of Education called for two days.

The inspectors who visited Hunter Hall School; Cumbria’s only stand-alone preparatory school, looked at many facets of school life including the pastoral welfare of the children, safeguarding procedures and all aspects of health and safety. Parents and children were asked to complete questionnaires and the inspectors spent time talking to children, staff and governors, as well as pouring over policies and procedures and monitoring their implementation.

The school was delighted to get a 100% complete clean bill of health and therefore continues to be an outstanding school of excellence.

All standards were met with no further action required as a result of the inspection.  The children, staff, parents and governors were thrilled with the outcome, a report richly deserved. Head teacher of Hunter Hall School Donna Vinsome said,

“We are absolutely thrilled with the results of our latest inspection.  It has been a very worthwhile exercise and whilst it was never in any doubt what a super school Hunter Hall is, as a place to educate children, it was wonderful to hear a ringing endorsement that the school had met each standard with aplomb!”

Hunter Hall School opened in 1985 and has provided an independent education for hundreds of children from around the area since.  Hunter Hall School provides a strong foundation for learning, with exam results and senior school destinations including 11+ pass rates extremely high making the school a very appealing place for children to begin their education.

Mrs Vinsome continues,

“We work very hard to ensure our school and our pupils flourish and the results we achieve through inspections, exam results and secondary school places are evidence of this.  All the team and each of our pupils should feel very proud”

Hunter Hall School continues to provide very affordable independent education with fees well below the national norm offering extremely good value education. Fees are also inclusive of after school care which helps many hard working parents knowing that their children are being looked after at the end of the school day with fun structured activities taking place.

TES Education awards

Another reason to celebrate this week is that the school has been shortlisted for two awards from the Times Educational Supplement in the annual Independent School Awards – for Marketing Campaign of the year and an Independent State School partnership award

The awards, which take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London in February, celebrate those schools making remarkable strategic contributions to independent education.  From individuals to teams, TES look to applaud excellence and reward innovation; providing benchmarks for the sector as a whole.

ENDS