If you haven’t yet heard, this Saturday 7th December is Small Business Saturday – a day to celebrate the very many small businesses we have in the UK, and the ambitious, hardworking entrepreneurs who run them. So, this Saturday, why not make your way to a small business near you – the sort run by people who are motivated by their passion and love for what they do. You’ll find them on your high street, residing in an actual shop with four walls and a door which perhaps has a bell that tinkles to announce the arrival of a new visitor – or even online, as there’s a whole world of small businesses who have taken to the web to sell their wares. I promise that you’ll find it a far more rewarding experience than buying from a faceless national chain. Go on, give it a go.
For ages now I’ve been resistant to posting too much ‘personal stuff’ on the blog, but I’m increasingly being told that I should. I’ve also had many friends, clients and followers ask how Dan and I are getting on with our new home, which we bought in February this year, so I thought it was high time I shared some pictures! Our initial house hunt had been driven by my desire for a period property, so when we ended up falling in love with a 1950′s semi, I have to admit at being just a bit disappointed that we didn’t have a house oozing with character. But then we found this envelope hidden behind a built-in wardrobe in the second bedroom…
In fact, the oldest note was a ten shilling note, and went right up to an old style five pound note. There were just a couple of each denomination in the envelope, which lead us to wonder… why was it there? And why such a varied range? Clearly they had been produced at very different times, so what were those notes doing together in that envelope? After a bit of research, we believe that these notes were linked to a tradition. The story goes that on your wedding day, you’d keep back some money that you were given as a token for good luck. On your ten year anniversary, you’d add more money to the collection. On your twentieth anniversary, you’d do the same. We have forty years’ worth of a beautifully romantic tradition in an old brown envelope, along with a couple of love notes. The shilling notes have been framed and have taken pride of place in our living room.
It didn’t stop there. We also uncovered this book…
This was dated 1948, and contains some really beautiful butterfly illustrations – the sort that you’d pay serious money for! I’ve scanned some of these pages and have framed them too – they’re too special to leave in a drawer.
It’s so wonderful that despite being a relatively young building, the house has told us some amazing stories already about the people who have lived here; who they were, what they did and what mattered to them. It’s lovely to build up a picture of the people who have been here before us and contributed to the story of our first home.
We came across this little beauty the other day, and I just had to share it with you. The Book of Guinness Advertising maps the advertising of the Guinness brand, which began in 1928 and looks at the ways in which the advertising has changed in a way which echoes social and political developments. From the immortal line ‘Guinness is good for you’ (can you imagine an alcohol brand saying that now?!) to ‘Guiness for strength’ (accompanied by ‘dig for victory’ images, it’s really fascinating to see the evolution of this world famous brand. You’d never get away with half of the stuff in the adverts on these pages nowadays, but it’s wonderful to see the rather charming innocence of advertising in an age where brands were able to do their thing.
It’s an unspoken rule in business that you don’t reveal your weakness. Actually, it’s become rather frowned upon to admit to weakness at all in life; in this age of online profiles we’re supposed to be constantly primped, preened and perfect. Weakness is bad, and not something particularly comforting to prospective clients (nor existing clients, for that matter). But rules are made to be broken, right?
I’m taking a brave step and admitting to one of my weaknesses when it comes to producing this blog: my photography. While I have a creative eye (thank god – it really would be a threat to my job if I was without that), I am no photographer. And I really do want to produce lovely, attractive photos for my blog. So why am I being stupid enough to admit this in a public space? Well, I know that my wonderful readers are an incredibly supportive bunch. While not all of you leave comments, I receive plenty of tweets and emails from those who have read a post and taken the time to pop me a little note. So I know that I am lucky enough to have a supportive and encouraging community behind me to cheer me on as I work towards creating a new look for this blog. I also know that by ‘fessing up publicly, I’ll have to work on my photography skills. There’ll more than likely be a good smattering of outtakes posted on my instagram page, and hopefully a respectable handful which make it to these pages. Let’s do this!
Image credit: The handsome chap in this photo is Charlie. Photo shot by me and editted using Adobe Lightroom
My lesson for the week: Talking to people is good.
As you’ll know from my last post, I’m midway through a Blogging Your Way course at the moment, and as a result my mind is constantly whirring with new ideas. In the course, Holly Becker talks about the way that opening up to new possibilities and opportunities as a blogger can really broaden your horizons. And it’s true, of course. I met up with Andrew from Grow Garden Care in Hildenborough yesterday for a wonderfully civilised afternoon tea – as a fellow blogger I was keen to bounce ideas around and compare notes on how blogging works for businesses. And as a result, we’ve hatched some really interesting ideas, which I hope to be able to share soon. If we’d kept ourselves to ourselves and not dared to share ideas, these opportunities wouldn’t have happened.
So this week, I urge you to share your ideas. Even the ones you think are a bit dusty and lacking in potential. Share them with someone. It can be a colleague, friend, your partner… heck, it can even be your dog if that’s who’s around (dogs make excellent listeners). But do it. The first step in making that fledgling idea a reality is to give it wings by sharing it with someone.
Typographic print by Dan at Ditto
I’m so excited to be on the amazing Blogging Your Way e-course with the inspirational Holly Becker. We’re just coming to the end of week two and I cannot tell you how much I’m learning! I’m so excited to start putting everything into practice, and it should mean that you, my lovely readers, will have a much more enjoyable reading experience with me. This month, I’ll be making lots of notes, thinking, planning and trying new things. I hope you’ll join me… this is all going to be a tonne of fun…
We speak to lots of clients who understand the importance of a great brand, but feel overwhelmed by the prospect of tackling the tricky business of their brand identity head on. Not to worry – I’ve got 5 tips for you to help improve your brand. You’ll find that you need help from a professional for a couple of them, but the rest you can do yourself.
1. Know your market. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Make a list of your existing clients who truly value what you do and are prepared to pay what you charge. What do they have in common? You need to engage with more people who fit this profile, so get to grips with why they choose you over your competitor, and what it is that they really love about your business.
2. Understand your niche. What is it that you do which makes you stand out from your competitors? Is it your approach, a unique feature to your service or your product that makes you more valued by your clients? If your niche isn’t immediate;y obvious then get brainstorming – you need to find a way of making your business different from your competitors in a meaningful way to your clients. Without a niche, you’ll be competing on price and pot luck – and that’s not a happy place to be.
3. Think about your personality. If your brand were a person, how would they behave? Would they be chatty and informal or serious and authoritative? The right tone of voice will engage the people you want to do business with, so make sure that your style reflects the personality of your brand.
4. Add value at every turn. The more value you offer, the less price matters. Fact. Map out ways you can provide more – that might be in the form of fact sheets, seminars, or tips to help clients make the most of your product. Go that extra mile wherever possible’ it’ll pay off.
5. Ensure that every communication is delivered with flair. It must be engaging and inspirational, and make clients really want to work with you. This is the point at which slick design comes into its own – well considered design will add value to your brand and reinforce your key messages through careful use of colour, pattern and typography. This is the bit we absolutely love!
Take a moment with a cup of tea and reflect upon how you can implement these changes in your business. Do let me know how you get on!