Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How I Took the Plunge and Started My Online Business

In 2016 I was made redundant from my job in primary education that I had for 15 years. I had found it very fulfilling but I decided to have a complete change and do something different.

To get some immediate income I advertised two rooms in my home for rent with,and found renters very quickly. You can read more about how simple this was in my post: 

3 Simple Ways To Work From Home

After some internet research I decided to start my own business online,and was encouraged further by reading the book 'Copy This Idea' by the successful English entrepreneur businessman Andrew Reynolds. You can get a free paperback copy of this book just by paying the post and packing costs here

I started my online business as an affiliate (I earn commission on products I recommend online) and this has evolved as I have gained more knowledge about using social media, blogging and the internet to grow and market myself online. I have met knowledgeable, friendly people through social media and would recommend using it to meet prospective customers and useful contacts, and it is also a valuable source for knowledge-based articles.You feel like part of a community of like-minded people. 

It is a fact that for most businesses today you have to be visible online. I am learning to apply the life-long business skills I have already to my new business Neater Works, in which I review and recommend people, services and tools to help small businesses and home based entrepreneurs. It is my mission to help small businesses and start-ups get noticed both online and offline, because I am passionate about supporting local business in order to keep small communities alive  

I can now provide a service to improve website search engine rankings ,for example by creating schema maps and using the best keywords appropriately, as well as improving online visibility overall. A website has to be visible in order for potential customers to find the business or service they are looking for. If they don't land on your site, they will use somebody else.

If you have been thinking of starting your own online business I would say that it is challenging and stimulating but never boring. Research your chosen niche carefully to make sure that there is enough demand, then go for it! I cover this topic in another post here:

How to Choose a Profitable Niche Market for Your Small Business

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A Big Lesson for Small Business Owners

Recently I went to get a new tyre from my local tyre shop. I always get great service there at a very competitive price. It's not a fancy place though, as they mostly handle used tyres from written off vehicles of all shapes and sizes. It's a popular place but it's really just a huge yard stacked out with mountains of tyres in different sizes. They also have a small workshop where they fix punctures and do all that mysterious wheel balancing stuff etc.

I was last there only six months ago but today the regular chap was nowhere to be seen. Instead there were two guys with foreign accents who I have never seen before. The place was transformed - all tidied up and organised so neatly, with all the tyres racked up according to their size, every tyre correctly labelled with white chalk. There were neat, printed signs prominently displayed, showing the price ranges for the various tyre sizes. and contact phone numbers for these two guys, together with their names. They both wore t-shirts with their name, contact number and the company name on the back. There was also a new, covered area for working under. It was like the place had been given a complete face-lift and it looked so much more professional. 

Usually the tyres are in heaps and they have to do a bit of searching for what a customer wants, although the boss is so skilled he knows exactly what he's looking for, just with a glance. I asked the guy who served me if he was now the owner. 

"No", he replied, "I just work here, but I asked if we could improve it and the boss really liked it." 

I told him I liked it too and made a joke with him, asking if he had got more pay as he deserved it.

"No," he said, "but it doesn't matter." 

He was clearly proud to have made such a difference. Although he probably hadn't worked there long, the boss was obviously open to suggestions for improvement and the effect was remarkable. That shop had been exactly the same for years and it probably was doing ok. However, just a few ideas from a fresh pair of eyes has taken it to another level. I can't wait to see how the business is changed the next time I visit.


So - employers and leaders, whatever size your business, involve your team and ask for their ideas. They might just make a huge impact that you never would have thought of.

Do you have any stories of employees being involved in change-making? I would love to hear them.

Friday, 23 June 2017

How To Make Your Small Business Stand Out From The Crowd

We have never had more choice as consumers, yet it often feels as though every retailer is selling the same things. As a small business owner you need to draw attention in a crowded market place, but how do you actually make your business stand out? Is it worth the effort when big corporations are so dominant everywhere?

In a recent survey of 1500 consumers by Yell Business Directory, 87% felt that small businesses do have some advantages over a large company. With this encouraging statistic in mind, here are some proven ways to make your small business stand out from the competition.

Personalised Service

We are all customers at times and we know how we like to be treated. Of the 1500 consumers Yell surveyed, 62% chose a local business due to the personal service they received. 

A friendly, knowledgeable approach can make the customer feel valued, and this can reduce the influence that price may have in the customer's mind.You can also gain a better understanding of how the prospect feels and therefore focus on the reasons why your product or service might be right for them. 

My local pet food supplier always jokes and chats with his customers, making them feel like friends who just happen to shop there. He can offer advice and recommendations on products and will order items specially for you that he doesn't normally stock. Price usually becomes irrelevant to me when I go there, and the experience makes me keen to support his local business. This benefits us both.


Decision making can be tough these days with such a vast range of choices as a consumer. A personalised approach can assess the customer's needs and tailor to them appropriately. Once you understand their scenario, you can offer a small range of options so that they are not overwhelmed by too much choice. 

See related article: 

Another advantage a small business has over a large one is that you can react more quickly to customer feedback and act to improve your service. It is well worth investing in ways for you and your team to do this so that you gain an advantage over the competition.

Added Value

Small businesses can increase their revenue streams by adding value in the form of customised services and loyalty schemes.My osteopath offers an optional service at the customer's home (at a slightly increased rate), which is clearly more convenient to the customer. 

A local independent cafe has started a loyalty card scheme so that after you have bought nine hot drinks you get the next one free. This is easy for the cafe to administer with a simple tick box on a card, and encourages customers (plus guests) to visit more often. The trick is to make it relevant and worthwhile to the customer, and simple to carry out.

See related article:

Focus on your USP

In the Yell survey, 40% of consumers said they favoured local businesses as they are prepared to 'go the extra mile'. What are you prepared to offer that a customer can't get from the big competitor? Will you operate outside the usual hours or visit the customer at any location or distance? Make sure you mention your USP in all your advertising, website and social media. Remember to tell your customers in any person to person contact too. 

My daughter has just started German lessons with a tutor who visits and teaches on site at companies with a link to other European countries. She also offers 1:1 lessons at a time and location of the student's choice. Her flexibility is her USP and is the basis of much of her work.

Recommendations and Testimonials

Standing out from the crowd will build your local reputation and that will result in personal recommendations. Make sure that you routinely ask for testimonials and publish them regularly on all your advertising and internet channels. Keep them updated as it can be off-putting if the latest review is from two years ago. Customer reviews contribute heavily when choosing an unfamiliar local business, as search engine directories are often the place where a customer starts their search.


Have you heard about Google My Business? This is an easy to set up, free directory listing which can showcase your business name, contact details, opening hours, photographs, location and map. You can link it to your website or set up a one page site on your listing for free. It is very straightforward to do and will increase your online visibility. Go to Google My Business here

There are similar free listings available from Yell, Yelp and Bing Places for Business, and there are many others. 

Another place to list your small business is in local magazines, which tend to rely on local advertisers for revenue. Very often, older members of the community start their search there if they have no personal recommendations to go on, as they may be less likely to use the internet. You can really focus your ad copy on your local target market this way, and although it is paid for, the rates tend to be very inexpensive. You may also pay for flyers to go inside the publications, which can gain further attention to your business and its services. 


For the customer, small businesses are more flexible than large corporations and may offer a better solution. They are more easily contacted and usually cut out the middle man, which often reflects a keener price or quicker delivery. The personalised service makes the whole purchasing experience so much pleasanter and more memorable for customers, and they are then more likely to return and recommend you to others. 

More and more new businesses these days are offering tailored and customised services and existing small businesses need to keep abreast of this trend in order to remain viable, Whatever your niche, think about ways you can be different to the competition and focus your efforts on that. Have you come across any other successful ways to gain attention in a crowded market place? I would love to hear your comments.

Related article : 

Top 5 Ways To Increase Your Sales

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What Is WebFire And What Can It Do For You?

Whatever type of business you are in, it is vital to be visible online in order to generate customer interest and repeat business. WebFire is a powerful, automatic software system that can be used by anyone to increase traffic to a website, and find and generate real time leads using user-friendly tools. The software is not at all techie, uses everyday language, is very straightforward and does all the hard stuff for you.

WebFire helps you get more traffic, rankings, leads, exposure, and sales online regardless if you're an online or offline business, or even if you're brand new. It has over two dozen tools to help you in such areas as SEO (ranking on Google and other search engines), leads interested in your products, creating and distributing content for articles and videos , and social media.

For instance, you can find out if there is anything wrong with your site in terms of SEO and get it instantly fixed using the tools. It has keyword tools to help you choose best domain names, check out product niches, competition and write content articles for your site.

if you want to bypass the need to even rank and just find leads of people highly interested in your niche or in what you could be selling them, WebFire can do that for you. 

Or if you want to get more exposure out there for your content, videos, or social media, WebFire can help you with that too.

If you are a digital marketer, WebFire can help you find free traffic and real time leads – people looking right now for whatever you promote. If you write articles and blogs to point online traffic to your product, WebFire can easily create more than one version of these or turn them into videos using another tool.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Webfire has a tool to optimise your website for Search Engine Optimisation and instantly fix any problems. Schema maps can be created so that your site gains instant visibility on page one of search engines. The keyword tools can be used in various ways including content writing and searching competition. product niches and best domain names.

Local business owners can utilise the tools to dominate their local area and ensure any online searches point straight to them. 

If your own business is in marketing services and support to local businesses, WebFire tools can help you create analyses and reports on customer websites, fix SEO issues, create schema, get them ranked easily, as well as finding new leads and opportunities to enhance their business. It can also find keywords in any niche, help you create a domain name that will rank highly, even show you expired domains that ranked well and are available to purchase.

Real Time Lead Finder

There is a tool with a keyword search facility to find people talking in real time on social media which can be used for any topic/ product/niche. You can join their conversations, interact to answer questions or direct them to your blog/website, and this may generate leads. Another tool uses specific keywords to find questions being asked in real time on forums and blogs, and again you can follow the links to interact and respond to their concerns and provide solutions. This may result in directing them to  articles, blogs and offers. or to your site for further information, or your products that may solve their problems. Either way, those responses will be available online for many other people to see, and potentially, follow the links.


Even if you don't yet have a business or a website, you could become an affiliate for companies in any niche and use WebFire in all of the above ways to find leads and promote your product(s). You would then earn commissions on the products you sell across the web, including WebFire itself.

Article and Video Creation

You may know how important it is to have information articles on your website these days. All good online businesses include relevant blogs or articles on their sites now because if your business provides value to the potential customer in a 'non-salesy' way the prospect will be more likely to return to your site again and either leave their email address or purchase product. WebFire has a resource bank of articles on hundreds of topics and a tool to 'spin' articles into multiple versions so that you keep your blog/website fresh. Another tool can turn articles into videos which is an increasingly effective way of getting traffic to your site.

Automated Article Writing

If you are a blogger or article writer, the makers of WebFire have an exciting new software tool called Robot Author, powered by Artificial Intelligence technology. This tool has been developed over 3 years, and the programmer responsible has been honoured by the US President in recognition of his work. It can research the internet on almost any topic and produce unique, written articles for you, with no copyright issues, to use any way you wish. It can even insert relevant images for free. and post the content daily to your site, automatically. You may also include promotional links to any product or service you sell.

Support and Training

As a WebFire member you have access to multiple training videos, as well as weekly live training webinars to help you get the best out of the tools.These provide ongoing ideas and strategies to use the tools in all sorts of online business as well as updates on what is working well in online marketing. The support desk is first class

WebFire can boost your business to another level, or can help you start one. Find out what it can do for you now here

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

How To Get Your Customers To Make Up Their Minds

These cute kittens are all from the same family and look quite similar, but there are differences in personality, colour and gender. How do you choose the one right for you? 

What happens when a customer is trying to make a buying decision? How do you make sure that they make a purchase without feeling overwhelmed by too much choice?

The decision-making process isn’t nearly as simple and rational as we might think. All decisions - from those that are life-changing to those that are seemingly insignificant - take some amount of energy. We all enjoy having the freedom to choose; however, constantly facing an almost endless array of options is overwhelming. In fact, too many options can be so draining that they lead to“paralysis by analysis” - an experience in which you face so much decision-making difficulty that you fail to do anything at all.

Research examining decision-making found that customers are initially drawn to an abundance of choices, but then confusion sets in because of information overload. The decision then made is not necessarily the right one for them. Essentially, the more options you are given, the more likely you are to regret the option you ultimately selected (assuming that you were able to avoid “analysis paralysis” and make a choice at all).

By taking a few steps to simplify the decisions facing your customers, you can improve sales and increase customer satisfaction.

1. Narrow down available options

Take a survey of the products or services that you currently offer and eliminate any poor performers. By providing fewer choices you’ll reduce the difficulty of the decisions facing your customers.

2. Provide default selections

Individuals experience even greater difficulty when selecting from options that they know little about, or options that are incredibly similar. Provide recommendations and default selections for each category of products or services that you offer.

3. Allow limited time returns or refunds

A limited time return or refund can help to encourage decision-making by reducing the fear of regret. If customers know that they have the option to return an item they find unsatisfactory, they will be more likely to make a purchase.

Are there other ways you have found to help your customers make up their minds? I would love to hear your ideas below.

Related article:

How to Turn Browsers Into Buyers Hungry for Your Product

Monday, 22 May 2017

Turn Browsers Into Buyers Hungry For Your Product

You know that feeling when a sales assistant pounces on you when you enter their shop with "Can I help you?" or "Need any help?" It's off-putting to most of us and we often reply with "I'm just looking, thank you" and we frequently leave the shop empty-handed before they approach us again.

In fact, the assistant should probably be asking, "What can I help you to find? Do you know what you're looking for yet?"

In an actual shop, many times a customer doesn't know quite what they want because they have not yet seen the range of products available, or they didn't even know they might need it. Or they could be doing some research there, getting an idea first of what is around.

With the wide use of the internet today, there are so many ways that a buyer can find information on a product, they likely know exactly what they want BEFORE they arrive at your website or shop. 

First, they research the thing they are thinking of buying and at that point will type different words into their browser to a later stage, when they know exactly what they are looking for. A person researching juicers for example, may type 'the benefits of juicers' into their search engine.They might visit a number of sites for 'juicer reviews' or 'best juicers' before getting an idea of what products are available, pros and cons, features, prices etc. 

Now they are narrowing the search and may be certain they want to have a specific feature on their juicer so may search for 'masticating juicers' for example. However they are not quite there as a buyer until they have shortlisted their options.Once they have decided to look for specific model(s) they are in 'buyer' mode. They are then likely to type 'best deals on XYZ masticating juicer' into their search engine.

In order to achieve sales with your website it is important to have an understanding of buyer keywords. For a website to show up on search engine pages in the first place, you must have the right words or phrases within the content of your website.

Here are some useful buyer keywords to target on your site:

low priced
low cost 

If you were an ecommerce site or an affiliate selling juicers (eg for Amazon) you should have a blog or page on your site reviewing juicers - benefits, pros and cons, features of particular models, brand names and model numbers - all to inform and help the potential customer finalise their decision. Your article would then point them to a link where they could make their purchase  Provided your site has been optimised with appropriate keywords for when their search first begins, they arrive at your site and you should end up with a satisfied customer.

For an in-depth look at this topic read the excellent post by the influential Sam Hurley here: 

How to intercept Adapt & Influence the Customer Journey

Sunday, 21 May 2017

How to Choose a Profitable Niche Market for Your Small Business

When considering an online home-based business you will probably have some ideas about the niche that appeals to you and these are likely to be based around things that you are interested in. However, making your business profitable in that niche can be tricky to get right.

There are two key things to consider:

1. Is it something people are searching for online?

Do some research on what are the most popular products people are buying by checking out Amazon and eBay.

On Amazon, go to Shop All Departments and you will be able to see the top best sellers in every category. There is a Hot New Releases tab too, which is updated hourly. Also try the Movers & Shakers tab which shows the biggest gainers in sales rank over the last 24 hours.

With eBay you can see the most popular searches, most popular stores, and the most watched items.

Another useful site is Global Sources Online where you can see the top 20 best selling items in lots of different categories from thousands of suppliers and millions of products around the world.

These three sites will give you important insights on where to focus your own efforts.

2. Narrow your niche so it's less competitive

Once you have decided on your niche, narrow it down from a general product to something more specific. For example, 'Pet Products' is a general.niche, but if you go for 'Dog Training Products' or 'Homeopathic treatments for Dogs' you have narrowed it down to something specific. You then choose appropriate buyer keywords to attract potential customers to your product There are many keyword tools available online, many that are free to start with, that you can use to research best keywords for your particular niche/product..You can do this by typing Keyword Research Tool into your search engine. 

See related post 

Turn Browsers Into Buyers Hungry For Your Product

So, now you have some ways to get started in a niche that interests you, and if chosen properly, you can begin to make it profitable.


Movers & Shakers