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Here’s everything you need to know about how to start a blog.
There are so many different things to think about when starting a blog, and so many different blogging platforms you can use.
But first, we need to establish what type of blog you want to set up.
What type of blog?
Firstly you’ll want to have a goal in mind. What are you aiming to achieve through your blog?
Do you want to pull in more users to your sales pages by writing about your brand, to increase its publicity?
Do you want to build a blog that promotes brands and products from other companies?
Or do you just want to set up a blog documenting your travels around the world?
In order to pick the best website builder for your blog, you’ll want to have a grasp before you start of how big you’re planning on your blog being, whether you’re going to monetize it, and what type of blog it’s going to become.
For example, if you’re planning on building an affiliate blogging programme, where you promote other brand’s products and call readers to action to buy the products, you’ll be writing a lot of content and will benefit from having a more comprehensive blogging system with lots of plugins to promote sales.
But if you’re looking to just set up a personal, or a personal brand blog talking about yourself and your brand, you may not perhaps need as many comprehensive features as you would if you were building an affiliate blog.
You may also want to build an online portfolio of your work, which could require an entirely different piece of blogging kit, as opposed to the traditional blog that hosts articles and journals.
3 things you’ll need to start your blog
1. A blogging platform
After you’ve identified the type of blog you want to set up, plus whether you want to monetise it, you’ll then need to pick a blogging platform suited to your needs.
Many people chose to operate on WordPress as it is one of the most comprehensive blogging systems going, but they forget platforms like Wix and Squarespace that are great for both helping you save and make money and are best suited for those who are less tech-savvy and are new to the blogging game.
If you’re blogging for business, you might want to think about using LinkedIn for your business blog.
There's also other free platforms such as Reddit and Medium.
2. A hosting platform
Every website needs hosting to store their website’s information on the internet.
A web host is an online service provider that will store your website’s information on one of its servers and keep your website online.
The best web hosts will perform a variety of functions for you, for example, Wix is an all-in-one package that will host your website for you, allow you to register a domain name, and has easy to use website design tools to help you start your blog.
Web hosting can be expensive for new starters, so make sure you pick the best value for money host that can cater to the amount of traffic you have running through your website.
3. A domain name
I’m sure by now you already know what sort of blog you want to set up, whether that’s a travel, blog, a blog accompanying your online store, or perhaps an affiliate marketing product review blog.
You’ll have a niche and an idea and now all you need is a name. Every website online has what’s called a domain name.
It’s included in the website address at the top of your search bar.
You’ll need to register a domain name after you purchase a hosting plan, to enable customers to find your site quickly and easily.
Pick a great domain name that is easy for customers to read and type into Google so they can find it easier online.
Do’s And Don’ts
Here are a couple of top tips to bear in mind when building your blog.
Don’t use complicated language too soon
With that in mind, do include language that your target audience will understand.
But remember they are still here to learn, so don’t drop people in at the deep end right away by using complex jargon off the bat.
Define terms and spell it out in layman’s terms for people at the outset, and as the post goes on, then introduce more complex writing.
Introducing technical jargon at the start of your posts is an instant turn off for most readers.
Don’t waffle – Keep it succinct
People want to get to the punchline now.
43% of people admit to skimming through blogs to get to the information they need, meaning to get your blogging site converting leads, you need to engage the reader early on and offer information succinctly throughout your post.
Plus don’t make your blog too long. Depending on what you’re writing, a lot of people will see large volumes of text and will switch off immediately.
There is no set limit for what a good and bad amount of text is, that’s something you’ll have to figure out per your industry, but from my experience, the shorter, the better.
Don’t make headlines too long
Also ensure that your headline is not more than 60 characters long.
If it gets too long it won’t rank well in search engines and people just won’t want to read it.
Check out this headline analysis tool which will analyse the effectiveness of your proposed headlines.
Don’t plagiarise or use credited images
Copying other people’s work is lazy and can land you in a lot of hot water in extreme cases if you breach a copyright regulation.
But it’s also just unfair on the person who has worked hard or been creative to write that work.
The same goes for images, people need to make a living from the content and photos they’re taking so don’t steal that off them.
Do write killer headlines
People are like goldfish. You only have about 3 seconds to get their attention.
That’s why it is important to write catchy, funny, and enticing headlines to draw your reader in.
One good way to do it is to use the “How To” and “10 Best” strategies.
These sorts of titles telling people ‘How to set up a blog’ or ‘the ten best web hosting platforms’ are search engine optimised, lead winning titles that rank highly in Google searches.
Try them out and see!
Do post regularly
The key to creating a great blog that builds leads is posting regularly. Although it is not the best idea to post regularly.
Ideally, you want to post 3-4 times a week to get the best influx of traffic to your site.
You’ll also want to check out when’s best to post for your target audience, for example, if you’re in the FOREX market, you’ll want to post your blogs perhaps at 8 AM, before the markets open when city workers are on their staring at their phones on their morning commuter trains to the city.
Check out these content marketing platforms to help you automate your blog posting.
Do share on social media
Share your content far and wide on your social platforms. Everyone is on social media these days and its outreach is simply phenomenal.
That’s why you should always share your posts to your social channels to get greater traffic on your website, and include share buttons all-around your blog to invite your readers to share your articles too!
Check out these social media marketing tools to help you automate your posting and increase content engagement.
Do use SEO keywords to drive more traffic
In a nutshell, SEO keywords are the phrases people put into search engines when they are looking for information on a certain subject.
They are how you get found on your website. Depending on what you are writing about, there is always a set of keywords relating to that topic that you can implement, to help you show up higher in people’s google searches.
For example, people might regularly search in google, ‘what is the best compost for growing sunflowers?’
When you come to writing about growing sunflowers in your blog, you might want to use these words or incorporate this question into your blog somewhere, to help you rank higher on Google.
These SEO tools to help you find keywords and improve your blogs SEO performance.
Do use call’s to action to take your readers to the next step
If you don’t challenge your reader at the end of your blog to follow you on Instagram, or check out your sales pages, you’ll never get the leads or sales you are looking for.
With that in mind, build compelling calls to action at the end of each of your posts, to pull readers into taking the next step.
Check out our landing pages design guide to see how to implement calls to action on your site.
Do identify a target audience
People will often tell you to write as though you were in the shoes of the person you’re looking to bring to your website, but it’s true!
Identify what type of people you’re writing to, for instance, if you’re writing a business blog about FOREX trading, you’ll write with potential traders in mind who have one eye on the stock market and the other on your blog.
Or if you’re a wedding florist, you’ll set your portfolio up to target those people looking to get married in the next year.
Blog Leads, Sales & Results
Blogging is one of the most influential marketing strategies in the world and the best bloggers can reap some awesome rewards for producing some truly awesome content.
It is fairly straightforward to get started and we advise if you’re a small business, or someone with minimal blogging experience, to try out Wix or Squarespace first before you jump into using more technical platforms like WordPress.
Once you’re up and running remember our top tips on what to do and what to avoid when writing your blog.
Plus don’t forget to think about optimising and adding useful applications to your site to help you build and grow your content.
If you haven’t done it before, designing a small business website can be daunting.
There are literally hundreds of options out there when it comes to tools that claim they can make the process easier, cheaper or more effective.
This guide will tell you exactly what you need to know to get started.
First, there are some technical terms to do with designing a small business website that are important to learn.
Key website terms
What is a domain name?
A domain name is a website’s unique name, like google.com. It’s how people access the site.
Before you start designing a small business website, it’s important that you find a domain name for your business.
What is website hosting?
Once you’ve created a site, it needs to be ‘hosted’ online before people can visit it. You can do this yourself, but it’s much cheaper and more common to pay another company to host your sites for you.
There’s a lot of website hosting services out there – and not all of them are good.
For small businesses just starting out, a shared hosting package should serve you ok. For those expecting more traffic or wanting a website with lots of images and pages, we recommend a cloud hosting package.
What is a website builder?
Making websites requires writing computer code, which is often difficult and complex. Website builders are tools that let you create a site visually and provide templates to make it quicker.
If you're new to creating a website for your business, we recommend using a no code website builder. They use a simple drag-and-drop design system, and you work off a template, which keeps cost low.
Website builders come with everything you need to get started, including an online shop function, web hosting, security and other user features.
There are dozens of different website builders available, so we recommend you compare to find the best for your type of business.
What is an SSL certificate?
An SSL certificate is how sites prove that the connection between them and their users is secure and can’t be hacked.
If you’ve ever seen a padlock next to a website’s domain name in your browser, that’s because it has an SSL certificate.
You need an SSL certificate if you’re doing anything with sensitive user information, like passwords or bank details.
What you’ll need to get started
There’s a lot that goes into designing a small business website. You’ll need both a website builder to create the site and then a hosting service so people can access it.
Depending on the website builder you use, however, hosting might already be included, so you can hit two birds with one stone.
If you’re familiar with the process of buying a domain and hosting a website yourself, then services like WordPress, Weebly or Shopify are good choices to start with, as they give you a lot of control over how your site works.
A domain name and URL
Your domain name is your site’s first impression, so it’s important to get right.
If your company is already established, the choice is easy – get a URL that matches its name as closely as possible.
As a general rule, you want your URLs to be as short as possible while still being easy to read. Rather than having lots of words broken up with hyphens, try to keep your domain name to just one or two words strung together.
Lots of hosting sites will tell you the estimated price for a domain name before you buy it, which means you can make a more informed judgement about whether a simpler yet more expensive name is worth it versus one that’s slightly less elegant but much cheaper.
How should you design your website?
You’re finally ready to start actually building your website. But it’s very likely that you don’t know where to start – web designers spend months, if not years, researching the best way to design websites, after all.
There are hundreds of little ways that you can tweak the way your website looks and feels to bring in more visitors and turn them into customers.
But getting the fundamentals right is much more important: if your site looks ugly or is slow to load, people are going to close their browser tab right away.
Here are some basic guidelines you should follow when designing your website:
Keep it simple
The best way to start designing a small business website is to keep it as simple as possible.
Focus on the information the user needs to know, and avoid anything that distracts from that.
Rather than cluttering up the screen with lots of flashing text or pointless widgets, give top priority to the content users visited your site to see.
In turn, this means you should make navigation between the different pages of your site as easy as possible.
That’s why almost every site has a ‘nav-bar’: a horizontal strip at the top that contains links to all the main pages of your site. This means that no matter where they are, the user knows that they can always get back to the homepage easily.
When it comes to displaying content, you should make use of titles, subheadings, and bullet point lists to visually break up the text.
This causes much less stress on the eyes while reading and makes the entire page look more professional.
You should also be thinking about accessibility from the start. There will be people visiting your site who are colour-blind, or have to use a screen-reader to browse the web.
Designing accessible websites is a topic unto itself, but some important tips are to use large, easily-readable fonts and not rely on colour to convey important information. If you use any images, they should have ‘alt-text’ – short written descriptions for people using screen-readers.
On the web, images are definitely worth a thousand words.
Good images provide visual relief for the people reading your site, and they can help give it a more professional appearance overall.
One thing to note with images is that you should make sure their file size isn’t too large. Your users will have to download the images to use your site, and if you make them wait too long, they’re going to get frustrated and leave.
There are lots of ways to find good images for your site. You can, of course, upload images or photos you’ve created yourself.
There are also many websites where you can find royalty-free stock images to make your pages that little bit more interesting.
You’ll often see this saying when reading about website design: “content is king!”
Good, high-quality content is the only reason people visit websites. It doesn’t matter how impressive your animations are or how much money you spent on bandwidth if your content is boring or unoriginal.
‘Content’ is a deliberately broad term, because it can mean almost anything.
The easiest kind of content to create, text posts, is also the most common.
The big advantage of text content is that it’s cheap to make and a natural place to slide in keywords for your SEO marketing.
When designing a small business website, content can also include videos or audio that you’ve made.
Having lots of different kinds of content on your site is a great way to bring in different audiences and increase your overall traffic.
What features should a website have?
Every website is different, and it should be uniquely based on your business. That said, when designing a small business website, there are some features that basically all websites should have.
One of them is mobile accessibility. It’s more common nowadays to browse the internet on a smartphone than a desktop computer, and if your site isn’t designed for it, it’ll break on mobile browsers.
Most website builders will automatically make sure your site is mobile-friendly, but you should still test it yourself to make sure everything looks right and none of your site’s functionality is broken.
Another universally important feature is the ability to search through a site’s content. People usually visit sites because they have something on their mind already, and rather than wasting time trawling through every link on your site, they’re going to want to be able to quickly search for the specific content that interests them.
As a consequence of this, you should make your content easy to search for. This means good keyword usage, as well as clear, descriptive titles that tell the reader what the piece is about.
What not to do
When you’re designing a small business website, there are lots of pitfalls that are easy to fall into. Many people over the years have thought that putting in big, flashy animated images would be a great way to get people’s attention – turns out, it usually just annoys them.
Here are some of the most important things to avoid when designing your site.
- Ugly, unprofessional or hard-to-read fonts. Stick with standard fonts like Arial or Helvetica, and keep in mind that users can override your choice with their browser settings.
- Avoid the use of garish or overblown colours. Putting a bright yellow background on your page will hurt people’s eyes and make them turn away immediately.
- Never have content that autoplays. There’s nothing more infuriating than when you open up a website and it immediately begins playing a video or music track that you then have to hunt down and mute.
If you’re just designing a small business website, however, that complexity usually isn’t necessary. Consider using one of these website builders to make the process of quickly getting your site up and running easy and stress-free.
What should be included in a business website?
A business’ website should include all the information that an interested customer is likely to want to know. This includes basic details, like the company’s name, location, contact details and opening hours.
It’s also a good idea to include an ‘About Us’ page to give people an overview of your company’s history, what it stands for and what you do today.
Finally, every business site should include a ‘call to action’ that urges readers to take the next step with the business, whether that’s buying a product, calling a telephone number or signing up for a newsletter.
Are you looking to amplify your business, grow your brand recognition and gain repeat customers? If so, an email marketing campaign is exactly what you need.
The rise of companies using digital marketing strategies has skyrocketed in the last ten years, and it’s not hard to see why!
Every day 3.9 billion people across the planet log on to check their emails, and that number is expected to rise to more than 4.3 billion by 2023.
Compared to other marketing strategies, email marketing may be one of the most powerful tools a business can use to put its brand out there.
If you are looking to increase sales, engage with your clients, or increase brand awareness, you should consider setting up an email marketing campaign.
If you’re a newcomer to this type of marketing strategy don’t fear, we have put together this easy to use guide, containing the best email marketing tips, to help you build a successful marketing campaign.
What is email marketing?
Email Marketing is the process by which businesses and brands use emails to promote new products, services, and news about their operations.
Think of it as like receiving a promotional pamphlet in the post, delivered to your inbox.
Companies will normally collect a list of email addresses from customers or subscribed clients, create content that is tailored to their clients, pack that in an email (with a call to action), and send it out to their mailing lists.
5 benefits of email marketing
If you’re a business owner, you’ll constantly be on the lookout for new clients and opportunities to grow your brand.
There are 5 main benefits to email marketing. They are:
- Increasing sales.
- Increasing traffic to your website.
- Promoting your brand name out to a wider audience.
- Engaging with your community.
- Getting feedback on your services.
By sending emails directly to people who have signed up to your mailing list or have previously bought from your store, you are directly interacting with your customers and can use this tool to collect insights from your audience about their consumer experience.
Ultimately helping you improve your business.
Why you should be doing email marketing
By sending out exciting and eye-catching content to your followers, you can vastly increase the amount of exposure to your brand.
This is a can be difficult to get right, as your emails have to stand out against the flood of other mail going into your target’s inbox.
73% of millennials say they’d prefer businesses to communicate with them via email, according to HubSpot.
So, how do you set up an email marketing campaign?
Step 1: Clients
To start, you’ll need to identify the goals of your strategy. Do you want more sales? Are you looking to gain insights on your consumer’s journey?
Once you have established your goals, you can focus on the key question of any marketing campaign which is, who is your target audience?
Normally your target audience is clients who have bought from you before, or prospects that have expressed an interest in using your products or services.
To start reaching your client’s inbox, you need to get permission.
Remember GDPR? It’s illegal in the UK to direct-market to anyone’s inbox without their consent.
So, you have to get prospective recipients to give their permission to receive marking information before you start adding them to your mailing list.
One way to do this is to post ‘call-to-actions’ on your website.
For example, if you run a travel blog, at the end of each post, get people to sign up to your mailing list and offer them some sort of value proposition or a lead magnet to encourage them to sign-up.
Many marketers offer their clients freebies, like a cheat sheet of resources, a free webinar, or a discount code.
Signing-up to your email list could grant a website visitor access to exclusive content, insights, industry news or product offers.
For now though, when offering a value proposition, keep in mind who your customer is, and offer them something that is going to create interest.
Step 2: Pick an email marketing campaign service
This is an important tool for an effective email marketing campaign.
You don’t want to have to use excel or an outdated email folder, if that can be avoided.
Email marketing services can help you create highly engaging email content, send automated and personalised emails to a large audience, and segment your mailing list into small groups.
Plus a good service provider will give you the ability to track and see how your email marketing campaign is performing.
You can compare email marketing servicesto find what works best for you.
Step 3: Segment your mailing list
Use your email marketing services provider to segment your mailing list and build content-specific email campaigns, tailored for each group.
For example, you might build a more detailed and comprehensive email for users who are frequent customers of your site, but for newer customers, you may send them a more basic introductory email to introduce them to the services you offer.
As the emails each group will be more relevant to them, this will result in a higher open rate and greater engagement.
Step 4: Write killer subject lines
Subject lines are so important as they are the first thing a subscriber will see in their inbox.
It’s crucial you write compelling subject lines so you grab their attention immediately and encourage them to open the email.
Remember you’re competing with – potentially – dozens of different commercial emails each day, all competing for that persons’ attention. Be different.
35% of email recipients open an email simply because of its subject line.
Keep your subject heading short and snappy, under 60 characters.
Step 5: Create an eye-catching design
How well designed your emails are, is proportionate to how many leads you will gain from your email marketing campaign.
It is critical to create an eye-catching design that will engage the recipient and encourage them to take action.
The best emails will use a vertical layout, keeping the email looking clean and fresh, and avoiding too many images.
Using email marketing services allows you to pick from their database of templates and then use their drag and drop feature to create the email.
Step 6: Get personal with your content
Email marketers only have around 3 seconds to catch their reader’s attention, according to Movable Ink.
That’s not a lot of time, so you need to be creative, but personalise the content of your email to grab your audience’s attention straight away.
You want to align your subject line with the content of your email.
Use your email marketing service to create an eye-catching email, with content that will build trust with your readers. You want to present yourself as an authority in your industry.
Make sure you keep content concise and targeted to the audience, as readers get easily bored when there is too much text.
Plus, write in a way that speaks to the person directly, as if you’ve met before. Add some humour, tell a story.
Humanising your emails puts the reader in a more trusting mindset that you’re not just another automated email trying to sell them something. Give value to the reader.
Our top tip: Use power words build greater engagement in your email copy.
Words like free, instantly and new are 3 examples of persuasive power words that can create action among your readers.
Step 7: Add a call to action
You’ve created and sent the perfect email. Your target reader opens it and reads it. What do you want them to do next?
This is your opportunity to direct the reader to a landing page on your website, your social media, or to buy a product.
Keep call to actions simple and easy to follow.
To achieve maximum engagement, make sure your call to actions are personalised to provide them with benefits they need, plus there is no harm in displaying them in large boxes on your email, making them easy to find.
I hope this blog helped. Please share it if so!
So, you’ve decided to go for it, start a business and sell products online for the first time.
Congratulations! This easy guide will help you learn exactly how to start an online business.
We’ll go through each step, from setting up your website and how to market it to what kind of business you should legally register as.
Let’s get started.
You hopefully already have some idea of your business model.
Businesses fail all the time due to a lack of planning, so you shouldn’t rush this – think everything through carefully.
More specifically, planning how to start an eCommerce business means you should have a firm idea of your audience.
Who are you selling to?
This will affect the kind of site you create, how you design it and how you’ll market it to them.
Beyond that, what makes your website special?
This is called its USP, or unique selling point – the reason someone would visit it over Amazon, eBay or anywhere else.
If you don’t have a good answer for this, you should get one before launching.
Figuring out how to start an eCommerce business that will hit the ground running also means getting your supply chain functional before you go public.
If you already have a supplier lined up, that’s great, but if not, consider looking on sites like Aliexpress to find a third-party drop shipper who can help fulfill your orders.
Domain names and registration
Getting a website domain name
We’re now getting into the practical details of how to start an eCommerce business.
The first step is registering a domain name: this is like a plot of land where your company’s website is going to live.
There are three things to know about domain names:
- They’re your website’s chance to make a good first impression
- You can’t change them once you’ve bought one (without ruining your website's SEO progress)
- Some are more expensive than others
You want one that captures the name and purpose of your business, but isn’t too competitive (unless you have money to burn, that is).
Prices of domain names can vary depending on the provider, so you're always best to compare.
Registering your company
The next step in preparing for how to start an online business is to register your business.
There are 3 main options for online trading – sole trader, limited companies or partnerships.
Each comes with different responsibilities and benefits. Registering as a sole trader is easiest, but it ties your personal funds to the business, which entails risk.
Starting a limited company means you’re at less risk if the company goes under, but you have more duties when it comes to reporting your finances.
You’ll also have to pay more fees and taxes than if you were a sole trader, where you simply keep all your profits.
For new entrepreneurs, it’s usually best to start off as a sole trader because of how quick it is to get started.
You can always register as a limited company later if you want to expand your operations or hire employees.
The UK government’s website has information on setting up a business and the requirements.
Your new eCommerce website will also need to comply with data protection law.
Do you need an internet merchant account?
If you research how to start an online business yourself, you might get confused by the mention of ‘internet merchant accounts’.
To put it simply, these are like special bank accounts online traders use to help reduce fraud. You need one to accept card payments online.
However, if you use a website builder to create your site, they’ll let you link with several ‘payment processors’ or ‘payment gateways’, like PayPal or Square, which skip this step by acting as big merchant accounts for all their users.
To make your own life easier, you should make sure to choose one which handles all of this for you.
Choosing a website builder
Once you’ve got your domain set up, the next step is to decide how you’re going to create your site.
The easiest and cheapest option is using a website builder, which lets you make a site with a visual editor, rather than manually writing computer code.
There are several options out there, so it's best to use a website builder that matches your requirements, as there is no one-fits-all. Here's a useful guide to give you more information on website builders.
Website builders enable you to get your site online in a matter of hours, not days, and you can see exactly what it’s going to look like before you take it public.
This is because website builders typically offer free templates that you can use and modify to take most of the hard work out of creating a site’s basic design.
If you’re unsure which website builders are best, you should check out our comparison page to learn more about what you should expect from the products you find online.
A big benefit to using these sites is that they’ll often also ‘host’ your site.
One of the more confusing parts of learning how to start an online business is realising that simply creating a site doesn’t mean other people can see it.
It first needs to be hosted, which means putting it on a server that other people can download it from.
It’s possible to host a site on your own computer, but you likely don’t have the specialised hardware or internet connection necessary.
Instead, you should let website builders or dedicated hosting services handle this – it’s cheaper and easier.
Creating the website
Alright, you’ve chosen a builder. Now for the fun part – actually creating your site!
You might have been planning website designs since you first decided you wanted to learn how to start an online business.
If so, now’s the time to start putting it into action.
If not, try looking through the website builder’s library of pre-made templates for inspiration.
You’ll be able to change your mind later, so don’t worry about being locked into your choices just yet.
You’re going to want eCommerce features on your site, so it’s a good idea to choose which payment provider you want at this stage.
You don’t want to leave it until later and find out that the payment portal doesn’t work with the design of your site.
Different website builders work with different payment processors.
Once you’ve verified that the payment system is working, it’s time to start actually adding products to your catalog.
This process differs slightly depending on your platform, but the basic principle is always the same.
You’ll need to fill in the product’s title, its category, if it has any variants (different colours, for example), prices and amount in your inventory.
Many website builders also offer inventory managers that will handle some of this work for you.
With all of your products filled in, take a look around your site. If everything looks OK, go ahead and launch it – congratulations, you’ve just started your online business!
Marketing your website
Once your site is live, you might think it’s finally time to sit back and relax for a moment.
Unfortunately, your work is only just beginning!
When learning how to start an eCommerce business, nothing is more important than understanding how to market your hard work.
Digital marketing is fundamentally different from traditional advertising. Pay-per-click models, like Google Ads, make it more economical for small businesses to start ad campaigns right away.
Rather than relying on word of mouth, you can kickstart your site by buying spots in Google’s search results for keywords relevant to your content.
But what if you don’t want to pay? That leads into the complex topic of Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO.
Without turning this blog into a novel, it's going to be impossible to discuss SEO. But please know that it is vital and it takes time to see results.
Social media and email marketing are also vital, regardless as to what sector you're in.
I this blog gave you some useful things to think about?
If you're setting up a new business, here's a helpful guide and checklist of everything you need to do.
This easy guide to data protection for small business in the UK will give you all the information you need to make sure you’re up to date with legal requirements.
You’ve probably heard of terms such as GDPR, and you’re most likely wondering what you need to do to comply.
You could be given a heavy fine or made to pay compensation if you misuse personal data or don’t comply with regulations on data protection for small business.
Read-on for everything you need to know.
As a business owner, whether you have staff or you’re a sole-trader, you’re responsible for protecting the data (personal information) of anyone who comes into contact with your business.
This includes customers, account holders, suppliers and staff.
What is personal data?
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Home or business address
- Date of birth
- Financial information, such as bank details
- Health records
- CCTV footage
- Delivery information
- Staff working hours
Data protection principles
The UK GDPR sets out 7 principles on data protection for small business:
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
- Purpose limitation
- Data minimisation
- Storage limitation
- Integrity and confidentiality (security)
Golden rules: Data protection for small business
- Holding personal data should be fair and lawful. You should only use this data in ways the person would reasonably expect.
EG: They have provided you with their email address in order to receive a booking confirmation.
- Explain to people why you hold their data, what you plan to do with it, whether it will be shared with other organisations and why, and how long you’ll store the data before disposing of it.
- You must also make people aware that they have the right to see the information you hold about them and correct it if it’s wrong; request their data is deleted; request their data is not used for certain purposes (such as marketing).
- You have to have a privacy notice (described above) before you collect any information from anyone.
Compare internet security products here, or read our cyber security guide.
You should have security measures in place in order to keep the data safe.
This could be ensuring that all computers are password protected and have antivirus installed, or filing cabinets are locked.
The security measures are your choice, but they must be suitable for the sensitivity of the data you hold.
For example, health and financial records would require a higher level of security.
Check out the 10 best ways to protect your business from cyber security threats.
What you have to do: 5 Steps
Here’s what you have to do to comply with regulations on data protection for small business:
- Make a list of all the personal data your business holds or is likely to come into contact with
- Make sure the data you hold is secure (as discussed above)
- Tell the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) how your business uses personal information
- Respond to a data protection request, if someone asks to see what information you have about them
Responding to a data protection request
You could receive a fine if you don’t respond to the request or provide the information requested!
According to guidance set-out by the UK Government, if someone asks to see the data (information) your business holds on them, this is what you have to do.
You must respond to their request within one month, and provide the information free of charge.
Before you respond with the information requested, you must check the identity of the person making the request and remove any data which does not relate to them.
You must provide confirmation that you are processing their personal data, a copy of the data, details of how the data is collected, used and disposed of
You must respond to them in writing or by email if they have submitted the request via email and have agreed to receive correspondence by email.
Your response should be clear, easy to read and understand.
Recruitment and managing staff records
You must keep any data you collect on staff secure – lock paper records in filing cabinets or set passwords for computer records, for example.
Only keep the information for as long as you have a clear business need for it, and dispose of it securely afterwards – by shredding, for example.
A low cost HR software is a great way to keep staff and applicant details stored safely. Compare HR software for small business here.
Any data you collect on staff or applicants must be kept secure.
Lock paper records in filing cabinets or use a secure cloud storage system for digital documents.
You should only keep the information for as long as you have a clear business need for it, and make sure you dispose of it securely afterwards.
Your staff have the right to ask for a copy of the information you hold on them.
This includes information about grievance and disciplinary issues.
If a staff makes a request to see this data, you must respond to their request within 30 days.
You must give your business name and contact details (or those of the recruitment agency) on job adverts.
You should only collect the information you need on digital or written application forms.
Don’t ask for irrelevant information.
You should securely dispose of data you no longer require.
As discussed earlier, when processing personal data, you must inform people what you are doing with it.
You can make this available on your website or as a paper copy.
For more information or advice on data protection for small business contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
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Seeing your business grow is incredibly exciting but also very challenging.
In this guide, we’ll show you 26 new ways to grow a business.
If you want to grow your business, keep reading. Our tips are easy to understand, action and see the value in.
All you need to do is give them a go!
Let’s get to it.
1. Know your buyer
How well do you know your target customer?
If you don’t know their age, sex, education and interests, then you don’t know them well at all.
Creating buyer personas is the best way to change this. Buyer personas are semi-fictional archetypes that represent your audience.
You need data to create personas.
This data can come from things you know, analytics, surveys, market research and competitor analysis.
Your personas will change and develop over time as your business grows and changes.
Customer personas will grow your business by keeping your sales and marketing activities highly targeted. Relevance is the aim of the game.
2. Become the leader in your industry for customer service
The key to Amazon’s success was they solved their customer service challenge early with live chat.
By allowing customers to contact them 24/7 with a clear resolution framework, they satisfied customers even when they had complaints.
Being courteous and available is the key to great customer service.
You can also grow a business by following Amazon’s lead.
This could be as simple as responding to an email in minutes or making a phone call to resolve a complaint rather than waiting for your customer to call you.
Good customer service increases customer satisfaction, stickiness and lifetime value.
Happy customer, happy business!
3. Make it as easy as possible for customers to contact you
You can increase sales and improve customer satisfaction by making it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you.
Give people several ways to contact you. A phone number is always good, but only if you take calls quickly. A 3 minute holding time is the max.
Contact information should be easy to find.
Simple tricks help to grow a business, like adding a phone number at the top of your website, adding an email address to your social media, adding a CTA (call to action) button that opens a message form and live chat.
4. Use a chatbot to be available 24/7
Chatbots deliver automated 24/7 customer service.
They are powered by artificial intelligence to answer questions intelligently.
You can deploy a chatbot to manage conversations in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to empower customer experiences.
You can also add them as a contact method on your website.
This means that customers can get answers to their questions quickly, which is especially important for increasing website conversions and creating happy customers.
Adding a chatbot to your website is a quick way to help grow a business.
Compare chatbots for your website.
5. Use a CRM to build profitable relationships with customers
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.
CRM software is a digital customer database which amalgamates data about your customers for deeper insights into your audience.
It then enables highly targeted sales and marketing processes within the software.
This basically means you can have all your customer data and sales leads in one safe place, enabling you to keep track of customer communication, marketing and make the most of sales opportunities.
The results of using a CRM help you grow a business:
- Unlock the value in structured and unstructured data
- Gain better knowledge of customers
- Increase customer retention
- Communicate with customers better
- Collaborate with and manage teams
- Follow up on leads and enquiries automatically
- Automate targeted sales and marketing activities
It’s an incredibly important way to grow a business though repeat sales, lead follow-up and effective marketing.
Compare CRM software for your business or check out this guide to the best CRM for small business.
6. Give your sales team the skills and knowledge they need to sell
How many times have you asked a salesperson something, only for them to go and check with their manager?
These situations harm sales because they introduce friction to the buying process.
People are more likely to buy when the sales process is smooth and easy.
By giving your sales team the skills and knowledge they need to properly service your customers and close a deal, you will significantly improve the sales cycle and help grow a business.
Sales will grow and the cost of sales will decrease. This is the key to increasing profitability.
7. Create brand consistency
Every touchpoint of your brand – the logo, products, services, colours, tagline, website, social media profiles, guest posts, text, images, videos, podcasts – needs to have consistent branding.
Otherwise, what is the point of having a brand if you dilute it?
Brand consistency means making sure your audience is consistently exposed to your core messaging.
This creates a unified experience and makes sure that your audience can identify you.
Your brand is at its most powerful when it is consistent.
8. Diversify into new income streams
Diversification is an age-old growth strategy that involves penetrating new markets, targeting new customers and adding new products and services to your core business.
It can open up a world of opportunity to help you grow a business.
You could bring completely new products to market, upsell existing offerings, resell, cross-sell or become an affiliate.
Anything that brings income into your business – but not at the expense of brand dilution – is worth considering.
9. Increase your liquidity to fund growth projects
Your liquidity determines your ability to cover short-term financial requirements.
If you have poor liquidity, you will struggle to fund projects to grow a business.
You can increase business liquidity in several ways:
- Invoice sooner
- Track payments in and out
- Pay off liabilities sooner
- Cut back on certain costs
- Increase profitability
- Sell unproductive assets
- Consider using long-term finance (with a fixed low interest rate)*
Consider using an accounting software to help keep track of invoices and expenses, and automatically chase late payments.
Compare accounting software to help grow a business.
10. Put your business on the map
If you are a local business, you can claim a Google My Business listing and Bing Places listing to show up on Google Maps and Bing Maps.
When correctly set up, your listing will show up in search results when people search for a local business.
This will create visibility which in the long term will help to grow a business.
11. Encourage customers to leave reviews
Customer reviews are essential if you want to grow a business as they reduce the biggest barrier in the way of any purchase – proof your business is any good.
Potential customers often need to be convinced of the quality of your product/service to buy it.
Reviews provide social proof, make you look trustworthy, help customers make decisions and increase sales in the process.
12. Partner with other businesses to run cross-promotions
In Egypt, crocodiles let plovers pick food from their teeth. The crocodile gets its teeth cleaned and the plover gets to eat.
The point is, if this unlikeliest of partnerships can work, you can make partnerships with other businesses work.
A partnership could be something as simple as referring customers to each other, forming an affiliate partnership, or cross-selling your software with a complimentary product from another company (WordPress plugins do this all the time).
Partnerships, cross-selling and cross-promotions are a great way to grow a business by leveraging the success of others and increasing sales.
This is especially true if you partner with someone who is bigger than you or an industry leader.
13. Sponsor hot events in your industry
Over 90% of consumers feel positive about brands after participating in events and sponsorship is the easiest way to get in on the action.
All you need to do is pay your way in or make a charitable donation if the event is non-profit.
Event sponsoring is fantastic for increasing brand awareness, lead generation, market research, promoting your business and gaining audience insight.
It requires no work and the more events you sponsor the better the results.
It can be an expensive way to grow a business though, and you may not see instant results. None the less, it’s a great way to increase brand awareness.
14.Build email lists to increase email marketing engagement
Email lists segment customers based on their content preferences.
By creating email lists, you can run highly-targeted email marketing campaigns.
Email becomes more personal and you can create better relationships with customers.
Compare email marketing tools to help you grow a business.
Check out this 7 step guide to email marketing. We also recommend this article by Neil Patel.
15. Harness SEO to show up in Google
SEO is the art of getting your website to the top of search engines (primarily Google).
SEO is THE best way to grow a business online – but also the hardest.
It requires long-term investment, but the results can be astonishing.
We’ve seen people grow a business online 300x in the space of a few months!
You can use SEO tools to plan your SEO strategy and take care of keyword research, site and page analysis, competitor analysis, link building and more.
Compare SEO tools for check out this list of the 10 best SEO tools to grow a business.
16. Create SEO content to achieve top search engine rankings
SEO content is essential for dominating Google and an effective way to grow a business online.
It targets specific keywords and includes product pages, category pages, local pages, blog posts and more.
Here’s how to create it:
- Identify keywords
- Identify what content ranks best in Google for those keywords; this could be an article, product page, case study or something else
- Produce high-quality content in the format Google likes
- Double or triple up the word count of the top-ranking page
- Optimise content
- Track progress using an analytics tool (Google Analytics and Google Search Console are your best options, and they’re free).
17. Run a PPC campaign to grow sales
If done correctly, pay-per-click advertising campaigns are a great way to grow a business by increasing sales.
They are easy to measure because you set a budget and pick your keywords.
You then measure the cost-per-click and track conversions to see how much each sale costs you.
18. Develop a content marketing strategy to fuel lead generation
What types of content will build you an audience? What types of content does your audience enjoy? Where is the best place for that content?
How will you ensure your best content gets discovered? What actions do you intend to inspire?
Your content marketing strategy will be driven by these questions.
By deep-diving into the relationship, cause and effect of your content with your audience, you can create long-term value and grow your business.
Compare content marketing platforms to help you grow a business.
19. Encourage user-generated content to make customers ‘stickier’
Encouraging user-generated content is a great way to build a relationship with your audience.
This helps grow a business by making customers ‘stickier’.
The main forms of user-generated content are comments and reviews. These can be image, text, video or audio-based to suit the content format.
20. Focus content on your target audience to ensure relevance
Many businesses are guilty of missing the wood for the trees with their content. This often leads to content that stagnates and produces no value.
The first thing you need to do is create customer personas (see the first point of this guide). This will allow you to create audience groups.
Each piece of content you produce will target a specific group. This will keep your content relevant and increase engagement.
21. Engage with communities and answer questions to build authority
Answering questions where your customers are is a great way to take advantage of popular online platforms.
You can answer questions on social media, Quora, Yahoo Answers, forums, blogs in your industry or any other places where your potential customers are.
Answering questions helps to establish authority and builds brand trust which in time will help you grow a business.
22. Increase website speed to increase conversions
A one-second delay in page loading time will drop your conversion rate by 7%.
Slow websites convert no one because no one has patience. People have been spoiled by fast web experiences and demand this everywhere.
Use PageSpeed Insights to measure your website now. PageSpeed is also a Google ranking factor, so a fast site is necessary for SEO.
Check out this list of SEO tools that can help you speed up your website.
23. Use web analytics on your website to make data-driven decisions
Analytics is the single most important website tool at your disposal. It’s as essential to your online success as your website is itself.
Analytics tools track visitor sessions using cookies.
These cookies provide visitor data, including age, sex, location, language, browser type and device type.
You can use this data to refine your SEO and content marketing strategy.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the best choices, and in most cases, they will be the only analytics tools you need.
24. Use heat mapping on your website to understand visitor behaviour
If web analytics tools tell you what is happening on your website – what pages are most popular, bounce rates, time on page – heatmapping tools tell you why.
Heatmapping will help you solve website abandonment and increase conversions by providing data on user behaviour.
It records visitor sessions so you can see how they scroll, interact with and consume your content and pages.
We recommend trying Hotjar and Crazy Egg.
By ‘plugging the leaks’ in traffic on your site and seeing where people are getting stuck, you can make improvements to your site.
Over time, this will help you grow a business by improving conversions.
25. Leverage the power of social media marketing to create a community
Social media marketing involves creating and sharing content on social media to achieve branding and marketing goals.
There are several social media marketing tools you can use to schedule posts, track click-through rates and monitor engagement.
You could do everything manually, but tools make life a lot easier. That’s why pros use them.
The key to social media success is to be on the right platform for your type of business.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest – these all have different audiences and demographics. Quality over quantity is the right approach with platform choice.
Social media marketing is an essential weapon to grow a business.
Compare social media marketing tools, or check out this guide to 69 social media marketing tools.
26. Display social proof to prove the quality of your product/service
Reviews, testimonials, case studies, accolades, awards – these are golden nuggets for your business.
They are proof that the service or product you provide is fantastic. They could be all you need to boost sales several times over.
Display social proof prominently on your website.
Promote it on social media. Make sure your customers see it.
Make it a key part of your customer’s journey. In doing so, you will reinforce the value and quality of your brand.
Did these 26 ways to grow a business provide a few fresh ideas? If they did, be sure to share this post. Good luck!
- Unlock the value in structured and unstructured data