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Do you relish the prospect of going smartphone free?

Beacon_Kandu-marketing_Ruth-Buckingham

I broke my smartphone screen recently.  Sadly, it was the second time in about 3 months.  Both times my 3-year-old was involved and this time for a variety of reasons, I haven’t got around to fixing it or replacing it yet.

In the meantime, I have been using a simple phone which “just” does calls and texts.  You can imagine the euphoric first few days of being off the grid.  I realised how great it was to not be constantly scrolling through my social media feeds and my son loved the opportunity to play snake!

Indeed, I started to notice some positive behavioural changes which mirrored lots of the articles I had read previously, usually around New Year or times when people feel overwhelmed by the constant need to be connected.  A recent article in the Guardian talked about the group of Silicone Valley tech experts who are also starting to switch off, due to concerns of addition and lack of focus that social media can bring.

Positive changes brought about by lack of access to my beloved smartphone

I make more calls.  Going back to a t9 keyboard has meant that it takes quite a while to send a text. It has been nice to speak to people for a change.  I have a proper conversation with that person rather than to-ing and fro-ing with instant messenger. I also find that I need to make a conscious decision to get in touch with a person and find out how they are doing, rather than surfing around seeing what people are up to.

I’m more productive.   I have shared posts about this before but it really does ring true, I only have access to email near my laptop so am more focused on the task in hand.

The reality

I have realised that at heart I do love my tech, I mean really, really love it.  This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, after working for BlackBerry for over 10 years.  I “just” need to learn to manage the amount of time I spend engaging with it.   I feel like I have lost a part of my brain.  I use it to record so much information and to plan out work, personal and family life.  For example, I hadn’t realised how much I use Whatsapp to communicate with people.

The productivity tools have been particularly noticeable in their absence, especially my calendar & colour-note app.

I admit, I am even feeling the loss of Instagram.  It’s a fledgling thing for me but I do love the camaraderie, the giggles and generally the inspiring and creative posts that people put on there. I also use my smartphone as a camera and take daily pictures, whether it be of the kids, plants or nice seasonal scenes.  We moved house recently for the first time in ten years.  It was pretty momentous and yet we don’t have any snaps from the day or images of the new house as yet.

What about you?  Do you think you would miss your smartphone if you were without it?  Does it rule your life or help you manage tasks more efficiently?  I’d love to hear tips on balancing its value and the addictive nature of being always-on.

*About Kandu Marketing*

My name is Ruth Buckingham and I am a Freelance Marketing Consultant. I run Kandu Marketing, which I set up in Jan 2016.  My aim is to provide marketing support to SME and SOHO clients.  This includes, but is not limited to, copywriting, content marketing, digital marketing and marking strategy in Buckinghamshire and beyond.  My blog is a mix of business tips, observations on life as a freelancer and the challenges of being a part-time working mother.

How to improve engagement on your LinkedIn pages – for SoHo Businesses

This week I have been helping a client work on improving and building on their personal and Company LinkedIn pages.  LinkedIn was previously perceived as primarily a platform to look for your next job.  Now its a huge business network that professionals look to in order to increase their business knowledge and engage with others in similar communities.

With over 20 million users signed up in the UK, it is a fantastic place to build up your company’s brand presence at relatively low cost.  If you are one of the users who may have signed up in the past but not really made the most of your profile, then these simple tips can help you improve engagement on the platform.

Firstly, if making multiple changes on your profile, it may be worth switching notifications to your network off until you are ready to present your shiny new profile to your professional network!

Step 1 – Only share your profile changes once you are ready

While making changes/updating your profile, its best to switch notifications off.  Once you are happy with the profile, you can change this back.

  1. On your own profile page
  2. Click the pencil icon
  3. At the bottom turn the switch to “no”

Step 2 – Fine-tune your profile

Be sure to add a profile picture, this is essential as many people will not connect without a real person’s picture.  Please use a picture that is ideally in colour, smiling and looking at the camera.

Read through your profile, or even better, have a friend or colleague read it through.  Make sure that it truly reflects you and your business and that any small typos are corrected.  Once you have finished this step, leave it 24 hours and read it again.

Step 3 – Build your connections

This doesn’t have to be a mammoth job – Look to connect with 10 contacts that you either have worked with, or are suppliers or clients.  An ideal goal is to get above the 500 connection mark in order to be found more easily so keep going if you are on a roll.

Send personal messages to new connections explaining why you wish to connect with them and how you have worked with them in the past.

Step 4 – General Housekeeping

  • On your website, add a LinkedIn button to your contact us details, directing people to your company page.
  • Every time you post a blog or update page then add sharing buttons to Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Step 6 – Content & Engagement

This can be the clincher which often drops off due to time commitments or other priorities taking over.  Think about the type of audience you would like to engage with and look to curate and post relevant content which is of use to them.  It doesn’t all need to be written by you, it can be 3rd party content but be prepared to engage in conversation on these topics once you post them.  I see many reminders that these are called “social” networks for a reason.  It’s all very well using time-saving schedulers to post new content (I’m guilty of this!) but it can really help to start building relationships when you comment or feedback to people’s posts or indeed go and look for groups on your specialist subjects and get involved there.

If you really can’t face writing content or posts for LinkedIn then see if there is anyone else in your business that could take it on or look to outsource to a good quality copy-writer or Digital Marketing Specialist.

What are your top tips for engaging with LinkedIn?  When have you found it the most value and what companies do you like to follow?  Get in touch or contact me through my website.

Why business plans matter

When January rolls around each year, there is a proliferation of blog posts and newspaper articles outlining the importance of planning, whether it be for business, marketing, or life in general.  Why should the planning cycle just be limited to certain times of the year?

Goals help to create opportunities and provide focus

As a fledgling freelancer and ex-corporate girl, I must admit I do love a good plan and I duly noted down a few objectives for the following 12 months, mainly about growing my client base from 1 to…more than 1!  Four months down the line and its time to review progress.  The good news is that some opportunities moved on more quickly than expected, hence the lack of activity on my own blog.  I can now be found most evenings researching topics, writing, editing and wondering how I’m going to squeeze in an episode of Line of Duty as well.

All this to say that I think the plan helped, to frame conversations with people in my network, to realise what next steps needed to be taken and to be realistic in my approach of balancing work and family commitments.

Is your marketing plan a “living” document?

I admit I used to pay lip service to this particular element of the process and I’m sure I’m not alone. However, now that I am flying solo, I am re-visiting January’s plan already with the following 6-12 months in mind.  Perhaps this is due to the increased element of control and freedom that comes from freelancing.  If plans are only made in January to be re-visited the following year, this can be restrictive.  Apart from it being an added pressure, its not possible to know the macro-events that may be around the corner.

Networking can be fun

Especially when its with women who you have known for getting on for 20 years!  As a lover of words and books it will come as no surprise that I am quite introverted, so its great to be able to talk with people I started my working life.  I love to see the different paths we are all following and share our trials and tribulations along the way.  Another blog to follow on the power of the work “BFF” at some point.

Email has been my salvation in my working life, both technologically and in my approach to communications.  I am so thankful to live in this era of social media which can inform, educate and entertain us all, so long as we manage it properly!

How do you feel about planning?  Do you need help with goal-setting for marketing? The key point is to frequently refer back to your original goals and check that your business is moving in the direction you want it to go.  Just like a good recipe, adjust the details if necessary!

4 interesting blog images I captured last summer

Yesterday, whilst browsing my Twitter feed, I clicked on yet another list of how to write the best content for clients.  I was reminded that aside from a headline “hook”, another key goal is to get great images and capture the reader’s attention.

On our family holiday to the Isle of Wight this year we took the “proper” camera with us so that I could get some images of my own to use instead of free stock photos.  It was refreshing to be taking shots that weren’t family snaps.  My husband and I also enjoyed coming up with captions for a blog post.

1. Even of its prickly, it can still be an opportunity

Thistle & Bee Kandu Marketing

2. Sometimes the best ideas come from old classics

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Punch & Judy

 3. Don’t get roped into a project that doesn’t fit your skills or objectives

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Twisted Rope

4. Make sure you know where and what the beacons are that guide you

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Beacon

 

These are some suggestions, but feel free to add more in the comments section!

 

Delighted to achieve my inbound marketing certification from Hubspot

As Dory would say “just keep…learning”

I can admit this now but until January I had never even heard of Hubspot or the term “inbound marketing”.

Shall I load up the excuses now?   For starters, I am UK based and my Marketing degree was almost 20 years ago!  Let’s face it though, after a while its easy to get comfortable and not keep updating skills and knowledge in favour of getting on with day to day tasks & distractions.

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The course was delivered completely online over around 12 hours and it was great to update my skills about the latest in marketing, inbound terminology and the customer lifecycle.  I thought I would share 3 tips that I took away specifically related to getting started and attracting potential customers to your website.

  1. Create your Buyer Personas

    Creating your buyer persona should be an essential part of your Marketing & Business Plan.  Who are you actually selling to?  Why would they want to buy your product or service?  What are their day to day pain-points?  How can your product or service help?  Once you have a number of buyer personas you can start to use these as the basis on which to plan your content and key-word strategy.

  2. SMART goals

    I can’t pretend I didn’t know about this one.  However, what are your goals for your business?  Will you be able to look back in 6 months and be satisfied that all your work was geared towards achieving that goal.  Take some time to sit down and review the goals you set at the beginning of the year and assess if you are headed in the right direction.  If the goal seems too massive, break it down to bite-size chunks and use a friend or mentor to be a sounding board as to whether it is realistic or achievable.

  3. Blogging

    This is one of the best ways to attract customers to your website, at all stages of the customer lifecycle.  Revert back to your buyer persona and think about what problems or opportunities they might be facing and how you might solve them,  help them take advantage of, or at least provide some light relief.  One great tip from an Iconic Digital training session was to try not to “We” all over your customers.  I think that’s brilliant but is much harder to achieve than to appreciate!

If you want to learn more about Hubspot certification, head on over to their website.  Or, if you are looking for any support in creating or implementing an inbound marketing strategy please feel free to get in touch.

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p.s I also signed back up to the Chartered Institute of Marketing – an organisation I also joined when I graduated and completed a post-graduate diploma with.  Why am I telling you this?  Well, just in case you haven’t heard of inbound marketing or hubspot either!

 

Does part-time equal smarter working?

I’m all for supporting anything that promotes how flexible work can beneficial for  businesses as well as employees.  So I loved hearing about Powowow now launching another initiative promoting flexible working.

I have been working “flexi” or “part” or “compressed” time for the best part of seven years.  I have constantly been called “lucky”, even as recently as this week.  I count myself as very lucky, but wonder if anyone has ever said to previous bosses/clients how “lucky” they are to have a part-time worker.  Anecdotally a previous manager told me how great it was that I completed full-time objectives on part-time pay.  I think it was what we used to call a “disguised” compliment.

However, it seemed odd to me that the #smarterworkinitiative was launched in the first week of the school holidays.    I love my job and I love the flexibility it offers.  I hope that I also offer my clients more experience for less cost as its over fewer hours.  But I am very much in the minority.  I can only think of a handful of other friends and colleagues in a similar situation and these cases have inevitably come around through either networking or working for themselves.

The school holidays are such an odd time for a part-timer.  In some ways we have more time as the day is longer than school-hours.  However  usually our kids are going through some kind of patch-work quilt of holiday activities, clubs, relatives, friends and that panacea that is the over-priced family summer holiday!  Sometimes it can be tricky to maintain focus and not feel the holiday relax mode spreading through the whole house-hold.

Its week 1 of the school holidays and this week has gone well, I’ve managed to work a few extra hours and even get some family chores done but I must admit that even being part-time and “flexible” I do prefer the routine of the school term when I can clearly switch between business and childcare focus at the same time each day.

So here is my #Flexie from earlier in the week, catching up on social media from the car before picking up and heading to the paddling pool – keeping it all in perspective after all its the #smarterworkinitiative after all isn’t it!?

#Flexie

 

Award winning, sounds good doesn’t it?

Buckinghamshire Business Awards 2016

Thinking back to January, one month into the job and it was time to complete an award application for my  new client.  What a quick way to “on-board”!  It meant spending time with the team understanding more about the business and poring over strategy presentations.

At my last job, I was with the company over ten years so it was a steep learning curve to get my head around new industry, new products and a new approach generally.

So, these are my top tips:

Do your research

Understand why the award is important, what does the company hope to demonstrate to its customers, suppliers and indeed staff? Spend time looking  at the resources that have been provided, the awards organisers want you to be successful so there is usually a handy toolkit.  Have a look at previous winners and see how they approached it.  Most importantly be sure you have a clear understanding of your product and service.  Think about how can you portray this in a simple manner and make your business seem worthy of passing to the next level.

Demonstrate that you meet the judging criteria

When you submit your application keep checking back to ensure that you have met the criteria for each category.  It’s a bit like an exam question – whilst the judges may love to hear about your amazing business in minute detail, if you only have 200 characters to do it in, or need to demonstrate innovation be sure to have shown your passion for your business within these parameters.

Be prepared

Use your application as an excuse to go back to basics and check that the business plan you wrote makes sense and is easy to communicate.  By entering the award you are opening yourself up to scrutiny about sales figures, investment and what values you have as a business.  Entering an award can also be a great way to recognise changes that may have taken place in the business over the course of a few years and validate a new approach both for you and your staff.

It doesn’t all stop when you submit your application

When your team are ready to proceed with the award submission, remember, it doesn’t stop there – especially if you are lucky enough to be selected as a finalist…or better still a winner!   Enjoy the visits from judges, this is a fantastic opportunity to bring to life your business “story” and show off your business.  Use all the things which are different about your business and that perhaps are more visual or emotive and let these stories come to life.

Award winning really does sound good, especially after one or two glasses of bubbly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurrah, football is on the telly 24/7…

…I really really really don’t like football.

No really, it’s not (just) because I’m Scottish and my national team doesn’t feature.  It’s not because I lived in Glasgow for years and witness plenty of sectarian clashes.  I just don’t really get it..

Anyway, I digress, the real reason I am delighted, is that I have a to do list as long as my arm split between work for my current client, getting set up with this website and every day life with a young family.  So, while the telly is rubbish I will ban myself from my kindle and use the time to focus on three wins, one for each area of life.

First, attending an awards ceremony this week as finalists in two categories, its the first award entry  I completed back in January so I’m excited to see the result – more on this in another post.

posh bag2

Next up, getting going with the website, a few more tweaks needed and then its time to start tweeting, linking and joining and generally spreading the word.

Lastly, we need to book a summer holiday, one that is cheap yet luxurious, fun yet relaxing, sociable yet peaceful and definitely no football!

 

 

 

Keeping it fresh and learning about digital

Recently as part of my work with a current client, I was able to attend several short training sessions hosted by Bucks Business First and delivered by the wonderfully dry Nigel Temple.

Its 9 pm on a bank holiday, the shopping has just been delivered and its time to write another blog.  Nigel suggested starting to write at 5am in the morning, hence the reference to the time of day.   We have two young kids and I think my daughter woke me up at 5am the day after the course – so I did have a little chuckle to myself at this suggestion!

What 3 tips did I  gather about increasing digital presence for a small businesses?

  1. Social media really does matter – if you aren’t doing it now, your competitor will be.  Even if you are super busy working or just life (see note above) you need to dedicate time or money to communicating with clients past and future.
  2. Keep your website as simple as possible.  The average person can manage up to 9 menu items before they switch off.  Be sure your site states clearly who you are and what you sell, how people can get in touch with you and why visitors might want to learn more about what you can offer.
  3. Think about your audience, nobody cares what your problems are, unless you can demonstrate that they can be solutions for the issues they may be facing.

Another thing I gathered was that people who enjoy writing tend to be avid readers.  This weekend I started (and finished) the latest Maggie ‘O’ Farrell novel “This Must Be The Place”.   I DO love reading so please get in touch if I can help with any copy-writing requirements.

Just. Write. Something

In the last six months I have gone from full-time mum to fully functioning part-time freelance Marketing Consultant.

In working with my first client I have been fortunate enough to be allowed the freedom to write copy about engaging topics – sustainable buildings, innovation in product design and Corporate Social Responsibility to name but a few.  Head on over to the Monodraught website if you want to read more.

I’ve also started to up-skill in digital & social marketing and as a result I have been led to start to build my own website and write my first blog, but what to write about?  According to the training I should be thinking about my audience, blogging once a week, becoming a thought leader, picking inspirational topics…and yikes, its quite a combination, and would be enough to put anyone off!

So I’ve decided: Just. Write. Something…oh and pop a picture of the kids in, apparently cute pictures are good for viral marketing…

F&A
London calling

I’d love to hear from you on particular topics which may be of interest, in the meantime this blog will be a heady combination of marketing insight, flexible work musings and the odd piece of non-work copy.