Archives for December 2009

Our Christmas 2009 'opening' hours!

Although we are a virtual company, we’re real people with families and commitments, so we have to have time off occasionally!

Between Monday 21st December and Thursday 24th December we will be available by email only. Emails will be checked regularly, and you should expect a reply within a maximum of 12 hours.

We are closed on Friday 25th December until Monday 4th January, although email will still be being checked and dealt with during those times.

Nikki, Shaun, Leigh, Bob, Mark Rob and Helen wish you all a very Merry Christmas and here’s to a fantastic 2010!

Card company christmas card

Picture courtesy of The Card Company Ltd

OK, so WHY should I give stuff away for free?

Woman's Hands with RoseA message that I’m constantly trying to get across to my clients is the power and value gained by “giving stuff away”. With a business that uses the Internet, it’s important to establish yourself online and giving stuff away is one of the quickest and most effective ways to do this. You don’t have to give up your valuable patents to share your knowledge with potential clients and lay the groundwork for turning freebies into paying customers.

Demonstrating Expertise
How does someone know that you can do what YOU say you can do? Demonstrate it. Make a Video Clip or write an article demonstrating just how much knowledge and expertise you have in your field. It can’t fail to impress and when you impress, you make an impression – leave a good impression and they’ll remember you, which means they’ll come to you when they need your help.

Establishing Credibility
Getting someone to buy something from you online is tough. How do they know who you are and how can they trust you? People buy from people, and the Internet causes a bit of a problem with that sales philosophy. So, extend your personality into cyberspace by giving away your knowledge and advice. Establishing credibility online is about convincing people that you can be trusted. The more they can find you efficiently demonstrating expertise, the more credibility you’ll establish and that means people will buy from you.

It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks
So you write an article about how to turn your blue widgets into red widgets, or you demonstrate your own skill with a YouTube clip. People are impressed by your skill and knowledge. But once they have a go at it, they quickly realise that it takes skill and knowledge to do it like you do it. So they give you a call…

Everything you give away will include your branding. Imagine it’s basically an advertisement for your brand, product or services. But instead of just distracting them – the intention of most ads, the freebie is actually useful to them – helping them see you as helpful and making you the first point of call when they need your expertise, product or service.

Linkable You
If you put something out there that’s genuinely useful, people will link to it. Links can help with search engine rankings as well as provide all valuable traffic.

Referable You
When people like something, they’ll refer other people to you – which means you get free marketing.

It’s been my personal experience that every time I give stuff away for free, I end up getting dozens and dozens (if not more) of leads from it.

But won’t people steal your ideas and run away with your fortune? No. Ideas are ten-a-penny. It’s the delivery that counts.

But won’t people just be able to do stuff themselves without your help? Well, if it was that easy in the first place, they wouldn’t need you anyway.

Zig Ziglar once said ‘You can have anything you want in life, if you’ll help enough people to get what they want’. Give it away and it’ll come back to you.

Tell me in the comments below what YOU give away for free and how it’s helped you to bring in leads and sales.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Stephen K. Will

Have you developed your ‘Circle of Credibility’?

I’ve been talking about this for a while, but this is the first chance I’ve had to put thoughts into words properly, so hopefully it will ring a few bells with some of you!

We’re all pretty much aware by now that one of the first things a potential client does when considering working with you is to ‘Google’ you – they’ll head off to google and type in your company name, maybe your director / owner’s name, and probably look through a few listings to see what others are saying about you.

The results that are shown here form the basis of what I call your ‘Circle of Credibility‘. Your Circle of Credibility is the extent to which you appear to be credible online. When someone searches for you, what’s the impression you get?

Without a doubt your company website should be appearing on the front page of those results, whether the search is for your company name or your boss’s name, but what else can appear in that search result to help compound the good feeling the potential client is going to get? And just as importantly, what can appear that can make you look bad?

The Good

Your company website. Ideally your website will be in the number one position, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have prominent links showing to the main areas of your website, including testimonials.

Your website is probably the first thing someone will be looking for, so make sure it contains some great testimonials / reviews, and shows you at your best. Case studies, examples of work and quotes from happy clients are great for showing you in a good light.


– Your blog. Whether your blog is attached to your website, or a separate entity, it gives any potential client a flavour of your thoughts, opinions and expertise. A quick read through a corporate blog can often tell you much more than a company website, as a blog tends to be more informal and have more of a ‘personality’ – make sure yours is visible and showing the side of you that you want people to see.

– Your Twitter profile. Of course, this is only a good thing if you WANT people to find it, and if you’ve thought about your company image and brand while posting tweets 🙂 If your Twitter profile is full of ‘Got a hangover and don’t know the name of the man I woke up with this morning’ then it’s probably best if you give it a different name 😉

However, if you use your Twitter profile as part of your company brand then having it show up as one of the results for your company name is a good thing.

Your LinkedIn and online networking profiles. Along with places such as UK Business forums, UK Business Labs, Xing,, BT Tradespace and more, your LinkedIn profile shows that you appear in various places online that are related to business. These profiles, especially if very active and up to date, show that you’re not just a fly by night, and that you can be tracked down in the event of any problems. This is especially important if you’re a ‘virtual’ company, in my opinion.

Articles you’ve written. Whether they are articles on your own site, or articles on somewhere authoritative such as Ezine Articles, having your content easily findable shows you spend time promoting yourself, and those articles could be the difference between you showing your expertise or becoming just another ‘also ran’ in the competition for someone’s business.

Interviews. If you’ve been asked to do interviews and the transcripts or audio files are online, then they’re a great way for a potential customer to learn more about you – if you’ve not been asked to do interviews, start making it known that you’re available!

Videos. Whether it’s your very own YouTube channel, or videos on your site, having videos show up in the search results for your company name is a good thing. Not everyone likes reading reams of text about how great you are 😉

Your Facebook profile and / or  Fan Page. This is only a good thing if you’re aware that your Facebook profile could be seen as part of a ‘fact finding’ mission by potential customers. If your profile is available to all (and Fan Pages are by default) then make sure it shows your best side, not just your wild and possibly drunken side 😉

Basically, you want the search results for your company or your name to show a well rounded promotion of your company and services. When people see your website, your blog, your Twitter profile and Facebook Fan Page, numerous articles written by you, interviews, videos etc, they see that you’ve been around a while, that you’re not going anywhere and that you’re probably the person that they want to deal with.

That’s why we always recommend to our clients that they have up to date profiles in as many places as possible, that they blog and write articles regularly, and that they bear in mind their Circle of Credibility, no matter what they’re doing online.

Need help with some of the things mentioned above? Drop me a line to

Getting a Facebook Fan Page username / vanity URL

Lots of people have set up a vanity URL for their Facebook profile, making it easier for people to remember their Facebook profile address – mine is

But not everyone realises that they can do the same for their Facebook fan page.

Simply visit where you should see the following (with your name replacing mine, of course!)

fbunClicking on the ‘set a username for your Pages’ should bring up a list of any fan pages you are Admin of. Then you can choose your name.

Choose something easy to remember, and relevant to your business. I went for

Remember though, once you’ve chosen it you can’t change it, so choose well!

Also, you can’t get a username until you have 25 fans, so make sure you’re promoting your Facebook fan page well!

There are more details on Vanity URLs / Usernames for Facebook Fan Pages here:

Feel free to post a link to your Fan Page in the comments below – I’m looking for good examples to feature in future blog posts.

Don’t have a Fan Page? Check out our limited offer for Facebook Fan Page Creation

Better Business Focus – free downloadable business magazine

We’re featured in the December issue of Better Business Focus, with our article “10 Ways to Make Article Marketing Work for You”

Better Business Focus is an internet-based monthly magazine that is
personalised to your firm, underlining your credentials as a specialist
business adviser. It will strengthen your clients’ confidence in your
firm and demonstrate that you are a progressive and innovative
organisation, willing to go that extra mile…

It was a bit of a surprise to us, as we didn’t know we were going to be featured (hence the rather dodgy picture of Nikki!), but they tell us that “Better Business Focus is an internet-based monthly magazine that is personalised to your firm, underlining your credentials as a specialist business adviser. It will strengthen your clients’ confidence in your firm and demonstrate that you are a progressive and innovative organisation, willing to go that extra mile” so we’re not really complaining!

There are some other good articles in there, and you can download it with this link: December_Bizezia

You can find out more about Better Business Focus at

The Natural Life Cycle of an Online Networking Forum

Following on from my ‘Isn’t Social Media just what we’ve always done?‘ musings yesterday, I ended up chatting to an online friend about the forerunner of the Online Networking Forum, the Mailing List.

Mailing lists were a simple way to interact with people in a certain group – everyone signed up to the list, and when you posted a message, it went out to everyone else on the list. Sometimes there was a moderator who made sure the list wasn’t spammed to death, and you could usually opt to receive a digest of posts, or each post as it came in. It sounds a lot more complicated than it was!

There’s a classic post from 1995 that talks about ‘The Lifecycle of a Mailing List’ and it’s always struck me that the same principles apply to a lot of online networking forums, be they social or business focused.

I THINK it was written by a chap called Michael Forster, and it was originally posted to the Net Happenings site, but I’ve had it saved in my ‘always keep’ files for what seems like forever, and it still strikes me as apt whenever I come across it, so I’d like to share it with you:



Every list seems to go through the same cycle:

1. Initial enthusiasm (people introduce themselves, and gush a lot about how wonderful it is to find kindred souls).

2. Evangelism (people moan about how few folks are posting to the list, and brainstorm recruitment strategies).

3. Growth (more and more people join, more and more lengthy threads develop, occasional off-topic threads pop up)

4. Community (lots of threads, some more relevant than others; lots of information and advice is exchanged; experts help other experts as well as less experienced colleagues; friendships develop; people tease each other; newcomers are welcomed with generosity and patience; everyone—newbie and expert alike—feels comfortable asking questions, suggesting answers, and sharing opinions)

5. Discomfort with diversity (the number of messages increases dramatically; not every thread is fascinating to every reader; people start complaining about the signal-to-noise ratio; person 1 threatens to quit if *other* people don’t limit discussion to person 1’s pet topic; person 2 agrees with person 1; person 3 tells 1 & 2 to lighten up; more bandwidth is wasted complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves; everyone gets annoyed)

6a. Smug complacency and stagnation (the purists flame everyone who asks an ‘old’ question or responds with humor to a serious post; newbies are rebuffed; traffic drops to a doze-producing level of a few minor issues; all interesting discussions happen by private email and are limited to a few participants; the purists spend lots of time self-righteously congratulating each other on keeping off-topic threads off the list)


6b. Maturity (a few people quit in a huff; the rest of the participants stay near stage 4, with stage 5 popping up briefly every few weeks; many people wear out their second or third ‘delete’ key, but the list lives contentedly ever after)


Have a think about the forums you participate in right now – which stage are they at?

Social Media Marketing – it's what we've always done, isn't it?

ScaredI was speaking to someone the other day about the ‘advent’ of ‘Social Media Marketing’ and found myself saying “But Social Media Marketing is just what we’ve always done, isn’t it? Forums, mailing lists, groups of like minded people – we were doing these things 10+ years ago!”

And it’s true – or at least *I* think it is.

It’s sad to see so many people running scared of Social Media, worried they’ll get it wrong, worried they don’t know what they’re doing with this new and fancy technique of marketing their business / website. When really, it’s not that different to what most people have been doing all along.

In 1996 I didn’t take part in forums so much as email mailing lists and bulletin boards – a similar concept, just a little simpler. There was no Facebook, but there were social forums around that people used to promote their business as much as themselves. OK, so we didn’t have Twitter, but promoting yourself in your email signature was a big thing at one point.

What I’m trying to say is that Social Media Marketing isn’t  a big and scary beast you can’t tame. It’s mostly common sense and thought, wrapped up in a little bit of planning and a lot of tracking.

You might not always get it quite right, and sometimes you might feel as if it’s a bit of a waste of time, but at the end of the day, if you can’t afford a so called ‘expert’ to help you, then trial and error is as good a strategy as any, in my opinion 🙂

Creative Commons License photo credit: Capture Queen ™

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