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The Smashing Business Blog

The Blog from Smashingbusiness.co.uk. We're all about helping you run a "Smashing Business." Whatever your niche, we hope you find some inspiration or help here. If you'd like us to feature a particular topic just email us at hello@smashingbusiness.co.uk

What do you charge for? Or do you give back to the community when you can?

Ben Lumley - Friday, December 11, 2009
What things do you charge for? What's your reaction when someone asks to do something a little bit different with your product or service? Are you receptive to something out of the ordinary or do you flatly refuse without a second thought?

We took our two daughters to see Santa this week at the local tourist attraction. Joining the queue I marvelled at all of the added extras that Santa was offering apart from having to pay for a 1 minute sitting with the big man himself. Not only did the man in red want me to pay for my daughters to see him but photos, rides on his sleigh, and drinks for parents were all added extras. Fair enough I get that. It was a local event run by local organisations so the pull of all that potential money must of been huge. I get that. I understand. I have no problem with paying for kids to see Santa and may even stretch to the odd added extra if I'm in a good mood.

My problem with today's little festive outing was that if I wanted to take a picture of my kids with the special man I couldn't, I had to let the (so called) professional photographer take the photo and then in order to take it away with me I had to pay for it. The reason given for this was child protection. By not allowing me to photograph my own children they were ensuring that my daughters were being protected. The real reason however wasn't protection but revenue generation. Someone from the organising committee had obviously twigged that it would be a nice little earner to charge for taking memories away from the event.

What has this got to do with running an online business? Well go back to the three questions I asked right at the start of this post. Do you charge for absolutely everything you can or are you more relaxed and give something away for free? If someone comes to you with a suggestion of how they could use your product or service a bit differently are you excited or do you flatly refuse?

Look at Twitter. They built a platform and then opened it up to the world of developers to allow them to create some amazing applications using the API. Rather than keeping things close to their chest they said "look we've got this great platform come and have a play and build something cool with it." Most importantly they did it for free.

Gone are days when you can run an effective business online, especially a small online business and not even consider giving something back to your community. If you charge for absolutely everything and give nothing back to the community that surrounds your products and services then your customers will find someone else who does.

So how can you do that?

1. Free trials
2. Discounts for renewing subscriptions
3. Seasonal offers and discounts
4. Offer free advice via a blog
5. Offer limited offers to email subscribers
6. Share relevant links via Twitter
7. Offer savings for bulk buys
8. Price match or price promise
9. Free gifts
10. Free consultation sessions
11. Freephone customer services number
12. 24/7 support

These are just some of things you can do to give back to your customers. Do you do any of these or do you see the benefit of charging for everything you can? Let us know in the comments

How to Promote Your Brand on the Biggest Social Network Around, Facebook

Ben Lumley - Monday, December 07, 2009
One of, if not THE biggest player in the Social Media / Web 2.0 world is Facebook. With over 350,000, 000 active users on the books and with over 50% of them accessing their accounts on a daily basis, Facebook is a platform that as a small business owner, you simply can’t ignore.

If you’re actively promoting your online business on somewhere like Twitter and you’re not doing a similar thing on Facebook then you’re potentially missing out on a massive market. I can’t stress how important Facebook can be to your website and business marketing strategy. 

As a person or as a Business? 

When trying to promote something through Facebook there are two ways that you can do it. Promote from your personal account as you or promote through a Fanpage? It’s a personal choice really and will depend on your business but here are a few things to remember. 

1. If you are going to promote your online business through your personal Facebook account (if you have one) then you have to consider how your existing friends, people you might have known for many years, will react to you promoting your business. Most may not mind but you don’t want to alienate an old school friend you’ve just reconnected with after 15 years by pushing your product on them. 

2. If you’re going to do it from your personal account you also need to consider your customers and how they will access the information you’re providing. Take a look at the Smashing Business account on Facebook for example. Because it’s not attached to my personal page anyone in the world with a Facebook account can access it, they don’t have to send me a friend request personally to follow us. Also if you go check out the Smashing Business page right now you will see stuff about us not my embarrassing holiday pictures from last summer.

3. If you are you’re brand and business e.g. davidsmith.com then promoting your products and services via your personal account might be a good thing. I have a friend who runs a site called The Infopreneur (I reviewed his site recently in our new series Great Sites That You Just Can't Put Down) and his personal Facebook page is his business. He makes a great success of it so it is possible to be able to promote your business off a personal account. 

My choice. 

My personal preference would be for a Fanpage however. 

My thinking for this is simple. It provides a more professional look and can allow anyone to follow your updates via Facebook. You can post photos, videos and links to your Fanpage just like you can on a personal profile, allowing you to spread the word about your business out to your community.

Here are some ideas for making the most of Facebook as a tool to promote your business. 

1. Link from your website.

At the bottom of this site is a link to our Facebook Fanpage and there’s also one at the bottom of each post. Over promotion? Well maybe but it does mean that there are regular reminders to readers of the this blog that they can follow us on Facebook and stay updated with all of the latest news and blog posts. 

By linking on your site you allow people to know that you have an area of Facebook that is your own and that they can access it. By advertising the fact you are part of one of the biggest social networks around you are more likely to add to your community, gain followers, and potentially convert followers into sales. 

2. Ask your Facebook friends to join the party.

When I created the Smashing Business page on Facebook after the site launched the first thing I did was invited all of my friends on my personal account to become fans of the page. I instantly gained a few fans and the page has continued to slowly grow since then.

Every once in a while I send a update to our fans to thank them for following us on Facebook and I also ask them if they know of anyone who would find the page or the site useful to invite them on our behalf. You’ll never get anything if you don’t ask. 

3. Don’t use it like Twitter. Facebook is a different animal

With Twitter it’s more acceptable to repeatedly promote something by repeatedly posting the same tweets over a long period of time. The kind of people who use Twitter are desensitized to that, as long as it’s not overdone, and you can therefore promote things more often through that channel. Facebook is different. 

People who use Facebook don’t want to see the same Status Updates repeated 40 times over a 7day period from the same person trying to sell their business. Facebook is better used when you simply post something once and create an ongoing stream of content. Users want to see what you’re promoting just once not over and over again. Bear that in mind when you’re updating your Facebook status for your business.

Note: You can advertise on Facebook via your Fanpage but as it’s something that we don’t currently do here a Smashing Business, so I didn’t feel it was suitable for me to discuss how that works having no personal experience of it. I will though in time. If you have experience of advertising on Facebook why not lets us know in the comments. 

How do you promote your online business on Facebook?

I know what my customers want!

Ben Lumley - Thursday, November 26, 2009

No you don't. Get over yourself.

If you approach your online business with the mindset that you are able to solve some problem that your customers may have then you stand a chance a making a success of things.

However if you think that you know what your customer want because they don't because they're stupid then pack up shop its time to go home.

Don't ever second guess your customers. To do so will take you down a road of certain failure.

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