As the final easing of lockdown restrictions in England had arrived and evidence suggests tourism hotspots are likely to see unprecedented levels of trade over the coming months, with the appetite for staycations continuing to grow, businesses owners should seek to maximise the future potential from all this custom.
Richard Andrew, Head of Accounting at Armstrong Watson, says that following a turbulent year of closures and uncertainty in hospitality, there’s a risk business owners will become so busy with the day-to-day operations they might miss the opportunity to make the most of the revival in trade.
Here are five top tips for maximising recovery opportunities in the hospitality sector:
Prices: We’re seeing significant inflation in hospitality prices as demand outstrips supply. Households have saved more than £50 billion during the pandemic and there is an appetite to experience life and spend money now. Be bold when reviewing your prices and consider your competition.
VAT Savings: In contrast, VAT registered accommodation providers may wish to offer incentives for payments of deposits and full balances received before the VAT uplift in October as any monies received before then will only be liable to 5% VAT. The VAT is calculated according to when you receive the money rather than when the holiday happens, so it may be worth sharing some of the savings.
Build contacts: For these reasons there is no better time to build up your customer database so that you can advertise to them in future and provide special deals for direct bookings. While it’s almost impossible to operate as an accommodation provider without relying on online travel agents such as Booking.com, reducing the reliance on these agents will increase future profits significantly.
Monitor costs: Hospitality businesses took the opportunity through various lockdowns to reduce their overheads, seek cheaper deals and minimise costs – something they should not lose focus of as they get busier.
Reward staff: Hold onto your staff and ensure you reward them correctly. If you’re trying to recruit then you will need to consider how you can provide flexibility in work patterns, recruit in nearby locations or offer rewards for new staff referrals. Ultimately, if the staff aren’t available you will be forced to restrict opening hours to your most profitable times of the day or week. This can yield some surprising results where profitability can actually improve above full opening hours. It all depends upon your business model.
For advice and support to ensure you make the most of the boost to trade over the coming months and maximise all the potential opportunities please contact Richard Andrew on 01539 942050 or email email@example.com
You may not realise but there are already a lot of things about your business that make it accessible in different ways. This post isn’t about the physical, structural changes you can make. It’s about the fantastic things you already have to offer, and how one of the easiest ways to let people know about those things is by making the most of your website.
Most people will check your website before they visit to find out about the things you sell, serve or the services you provide. They’ll have questions about price, range, flavour, availability and so on. Many of your disabled customers will also have a million other questions, and it can be hard to find the answers. Make it easy to find the answers and you’ll find that we’ll choose to spend our money with you.
Make your business the choicest choice
From my perspective as a disabled customer, there’s nothing I value more than someone giving me the power of information so that I can make my own choices. Often information can be left out because it isn’t obviously important to most people. This isn’t a surprise as there are so many things to consider when it comes to accessibility, and it’s not possible to know everybody’s needs. But, you can give as much information to people as possible so that they can figure things out. After all, we know our needs better than anyone and you know your business better than anyone.
Here are some of the accessibility features of your business you might not have thought to shout about:
Your café, restaurant, shop or salon’s premises
The different light and noise levels in your restaurant: Brighter areas might suit someone with visual impairment, dimmer areas might be better for people who are caused discomfort by bright light. Let people know about the different areas in your premises so they can make an informed choice about where to sit.
The floors in your shop: If your shop has a step-free entrance and is level throughout, shout about it. Similarly, if there are areas which are up a step then get out your tape measure and let people know exactly how high that step is. It might affect their choice of mobility aid, footwear or whether they can shop with you on a day where they can get up the step.
The door into your salon: Doors which open without any physical force needed are an obvious benefit to a lot of people. So don’t forget to say if your premises has an automatic door. Even if the door isn’t automatic, let people know how it opens. Does it swing? Is it heavy? Does it have a handle or a push bar?
How are you inside?
Have a good look around your premises and describe everything you can about them. Do you have wooden floors or thick carpet; fresh flowers on every table; smooth jazz playing in the background? Think about how things change throughout the day; are you particularly busy mid-afternoon but quiet in the mornings? If there are areas in your premises that are quieter, brighter, darker, warmer, cooler etc. then let people know.
Add the information to your About page, including text and photos (as well as alt text, see my previous post for tips). Give measurements of things like step height, door width, table height etc.
Ideas for details you could include
Level/step-free access – Do you have a temporary ramp? Don’t forget to let people know this too and how to request it.
Busy and quiet times.
Toilet – How big is the room/stall? Do you have a table/shelf in there for belongings? Is there a step into the room/stall?
Music and noise levels.
The nearest parking.
Useful photos of: tables and chairs; inside the premises; the entrance (including door and door handle); the W/C.
Get the competitive edge
For a great list of the features that are important to many of your disabled customers, take a look at AccessAble’s list of accessibility symbols. Even if you don’t have all these features it gives useful insight into the kinds of things that might be important.
Make a video tour
Start outside and give a visual tour of the insides of your premises, describing as you go, making sure to add subtitles and captions to your final video. Try to get everything in shot and give people a good idea what to expect on their visit. This doesn’t have to be a boring informational video, it can be fun and on-brand. Unless your brand is ‘boring informational’. Then go to town!
You and your team’s top-level customer service skills are one of your best accessibility features. So don’t forget to tell people everything you can about them.
Everyone is friendly and welcoming: This is a great feature for all your customers but can be especially important for anyone who might be anxious about going out.
You’ve done disability awareness training: Knowing that a business’ staff are aware of people’s various physical and communication needs is wonderful. It can reduce the anxiety for many customers who may have had bad experiences with other businesses in the past. If your team has done recent disability awareness training then shout about it.
You are fantastic communicators: Do any of your staff know BSL (British Sign Language)? Even a staff member who knows some basic signs can make a big difference to a customer’s experience.
You could include names and photos of your staff on your ‘Meet the Team’ page. Show how friendly and approachable they are. Including a bit of information about their hobbies and interests might help some people feel more comfortable when communicating with them.
Get the competitive edge
Can someone get in touch with a particular member of staff? Could they then be served by that same member of staff? Having already had contact with someone can make it easier to ask about access needs or just make someone feel more comfortable in your business.
Your menu is available on your website: When done correctly, your blind or visually impaired customers can read your menu. Added bonus: if you aren’t providing a menu in another format, (eg. Braille or large-print) then people can check your menu in-house using a screen reader on someone’s smartphone, for example.
Not just an image please
When your food, drink or services menu is provided as just an image, ie. a .jpg or .png, it can’t be easily read by a screen reader. This is because there’s no text in it, only images of text. Similarly a PDF may also contain images rather than text, or the text may be formatted incorrectly so when it’s read out by a screen reader it’s not in the intended order. Of course including photos as well is a great feature!
Make it a web page
In the same way you’d build an About page, you can build a menu page. It doesn’t need to do anything fancy, in fact keeping it simple makes it more likely to be accessible. The biggest tip here is to use headings to their full potential. For a great example, see Shambles Kitchen’s online menu. Don’t forget to add alt text to any images you do include (see my previous post for tips).
Get the competitive edge
If your menu changes regularly, keep it up to date on your website. Include all the information that’s on your in-house menu; including allergens (for food and drink) and pricing. When someone’s choosing whether to visit your business or accessing your menu online while they’re at your venue, this ensures they’re getting the same information as everyone else.
Your booking system
A customer can add comments to their booking: Someone may need to ask for an extended time slot, be seated downstairs or need room for their guide dog. This is a wonderful feature to help open a conversation with a customer.
Say it at the start
Include the information at the beginning of the booking process, ie. ‘you can leave a comment when you book if you need anything in particular or would like us to get in touch.’
Get the competitive edge
Make clear all the conversation channels you have. Give all the standard contact details as well as any direct messaging services you’re using. Anything like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter etc. Just make sure you’re telling people about the ones that are monitored where they will get a response.
YDRF will shout with you!
Hopefully you can see just how many of the existing features of your business would encourage more disabled customers to choose to spend their money with you. Once you’ve identified these things then let York Disability Rights Forum know and we’ll help spread the word amongst the lovely disabled community in York!
The ‘purple pound’ refers to the collective spending power of disabled people. In the UK that equates to £249 billion, and this spending power also translates into online shopping. According to We Are Purple, around 4.3 million disabled online shoppers are clicking away from websites that are impossible or unpleasant to use. By making some small changes, businesses in the UK can open up access to the potential £11.75 billion they’ve been missing out on.
In these guest posts I’ll be writing about how businesses can earn more of those ‘purple pounds’ by improving digital accessibility practices. Over the series I’ll be writing about how your website can give opportunities for improved in-person customer experience (an important one for hospitality and service-based businesses). As well as inclusive marketing and the quick, easy things you can do to reach more disabled customers. But first I’ll be talking about online shopping.
This past year or so has shown how much of an advantage online shopping can be. Many businesses have needed an online offer and more of their customers have had to shop from home. Although things are slowly moving back to shopping in-person for some, maintaining an online shop remains a sustainable and secure way forward for a lot of businesses.
The good news is you don’t need to create a ‘disabled friendly’ version of your website; a website which gives disabled people a better customer experience gives everyone a better customer experience.
So, here are 4 easy things you can do to start making your website more accessible.
1. How does your website sound?
When people use a screen reader to visit your website, they hear it rather than see it. It’s likely that the text on your site can be read out, but how about the images? Making sure an image is given something called alt text means that blind and visually impaired people who are using a screen reader will hear a description of the image.
An easy fix
It’s really straightforward to add alt text to the images you use. Most website editing platforms allow you to enter alt text when you upload an image or add one to a page. The option may be under an ‘edit image’ menu.
Aim for an accurate but concise description. For example “A bright red shirt with long sleeves and a collar. It has two large flap pockets and red buttons.” There is no need to start the description with “A photo of…” as a screen reader will always say “image” before reading out the alt text.
Alt text has an added benefit in that the description you enter will display where an image should be if someone’s internet connection is on the go-slow.
Advice which suggests that cramming keywords into image descriptions improves SEO (search engine optimisation) is outdated. A good user experience, signalled by fewer click-aways, for example, bears much more weight these days.
2. Lovely! But just how tall is that flamingo-shaped lamp?
It can be easy to forget to give enough detail about a product, especially when you’re really familiar with it. But for anyone who can’t, or chooses not to, visit a bricks and mortar shop, product information is the thing that can make you the sale.
Many people whose physical access to shops can be limited, myself included, need details, details, details. Information that is important to me may not be obviously important to everyone. But if those details are missing, I’ll go somewhere else. For example, I’m looking for a water bottle which will fit in the holder on my wheelchair. I need to know the diameter of that water bottle, so I’ll buy one from the shop that gives me that information. You may not always be able to predict why the information is important, but that information might be the thing that gives you the competitive edge.
An easy fix
Think about the amount of time some people spend inspecting your products when they’re physically present in your shop and aim to give an online customer the opportunity for this same experience.
Visually impaired people who don’t use a screen reader but can’t see product images clearly will also benefit from thorough product descriptions. Plus, for everyone, information means choice!
Look at Amazon listings. I’d rather not buy from Amazon. Like most people I’d rather shop local and support York’s businesses. But sometimes, Amazon gives me the information I need. A great tip is to look at the level of detail in Amazon listings for a product similar to yours and aim to include as much relevant information.
3. Click here, go where?
When you have enough sight you might find your way around a website by visually ‘scanning’ the pages. It’s usually easy to see which section is where, what looks interesting, as well as where the links are. When using a screen reader, finding out what’s on a page might mean listening to every bit of content. But, there are ways to ‘scan’ the links on a page. There is a tendency to link the words ‘more’ or ‘click here’. If those links appear in several places on a page, this results in a screen reader scanning for links and saying ‘more’, ‘click here’, ‘more’, ‘click here’… This doesn’t give a customer any information that suggests where the link goes or what it’s referring to.
An easy fix
Again, this one is really simple to do by making your link text meaningful. Instead of “For information about our sustainability practices click here.” use “Find out about our sustainability practices.”
4. Was it good for you too?
It’s impossible to make your online shop 100% accessible to every person. What you can do though is make it easy for everyone to let you know what they need and ask how you could improve. Over on the YDRF website, we have a notice in the footer which asks people to give us feedback on our content. We also regularly ask people if there’s anything we can do to make our website better and ensure we take action on those things.
An easy fix
Give as many options as possible for contacting your business; phone, email, on-site contact form and postal address.
The Big Hack is a great place to do some reading about how you can make your business more accessible to disabled people.
So that’s it! Four easy steps you can take to start making your online shop more accessible to disabled people and earning more of those ‘purple pounds’.
Whatever your job role, stress is something many of us contend with. I think we can all agree that the last 12 months have brought new stresses to our lives, that certainly weren’t in our job description. Many of us are still working from home and for a large percentage, we will be split between home and the office now, even when things return back to normal.
The health and safety executive says that 35% of work related complaints are due to stress, so it needs to be taken seriously. As stress can hugely impact both health and personal lives, it’s an issue that employers and individuals must place as a priority for healthy, happy employees but also for an engaged and productive company.
With stress awareness month running through April, organisations are using this as a focus for their wellbeing workshops to support their people, reduce stress and improve performance.
So the good news is that you don’t have to have a stressed out workplace, encouraging implementation of these tips will enhance the support you give your people so that they can cope with these challenging times.
Start and end your day
If you’re in the office, you usually follow a fairly regimented routine, whether that’s getting up and stopping at the shop, or grabbing a coffee, so it shouldn’t be any different if you’re working from home. Get up as normal and ‘start’ your day, get dressed and ready as you usually would. I know I feel so much more productive if I am ready for the day, as opposed to just getting up and sitting down at my laptop! Ending your day when you’re at the office is easier as you can simply get up and leave, but at home you’ll need to create an act that essentially is the end of your day, whether that’s going for a walk, clearing your desk, or just doing something you enjoy.
The companies I’m working with are investing in support for their people around healthy boundaries and managing stress to improve performance because they are seeing that working hours are merging into the evenings and weekends, leaving their employees struggling to switch off or feeling under pressure to get through an incredible workload as well as juggling childcare when you’re essentially at your office all day and night!
Prioritise – make that list
Stress tells us that everything is a (perceived) threat, that it’s urgent. Everything you need to do is not necessarily a life and death situation it doesn’t need to be dealt with there and then.
One thing that can instantly make you feel less stressed is to write everything down. Getting thoughts, tasks and reminders out of your head will give you space to think clearly, come up with a plan and be able to prioritise and delegate where needed.
And, don’t forget to factor in lunch breaks, or time to rest or just get away from your screen. After all, if you were in an office you’d be at the kettle a few times a day, or over at a colleagues desk for a chat every now and again.
William James, an American psychologist once said: ‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another’ and this ties in perfectly to my next top tip, which is to breathe. By allowing ourselves time to take a deep breath in and a long breath out, we are giving ourselves time to choose another thought. The act of deep breathing takes your mind away from the initial anxiety in your mind, it calms down your internal systems and it will help prevent you from spiraling into a panic. Practicing a breathing technique every day is easy to implement and has huge benefits.
As we head into warmer weather, getting outside for a walk each day, even for ten minutes is hugely beneficial.
Stress is relieved within minutes of time in nature by reducing your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and reducing muscle tension and blood pressure. Nature also boosts dopamine and endorphins production both of which promote happier feelings. Taking a rest is necessary. It allows you to refresh your brain so that you return to work with higher productivity and better performance.
Speak to somebody
There are two strands to this, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, speak to your manager, quite often a lot of stress you’re feeling will just be your own mind and thoughts, but they might be able to help spread some of your workload. It might also be that you’re just feeling ‘zoomed out’, its so easy for businesses to get into the habit of just having meetings for meetings sake. Zoom calls can be exhausting as they stimulate our senses, so if you can free up time to get work done by dipping out of some meetings, that’s also worth mentioning.
Secondly, speak to colleagues. That’s it, plain-simple human interaction. If you were in the office you would be talking, so try and stay in contact despite being at home. You never know, you might be the only interaction somebody has that day. This can often help just make you feel better and less stressed too, by providing a distraction and taking a moment away.
As humans we’re hardwired to experience and respond to stress, but these simple tips can help you adjust your thinking to better cope. Stress can make us feel overwhelmed, unhappy and out of control, so its important to have some mechanisms to turn to. For more advice, get in touch with Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Langton has 10 years experience in supporting performance and mental wellbeing in organisations. She helps leaders with 1:1 coaching and organisations with virtual training and workshops. Emma regularly provides insights on leadership and mental wellbeing on her Lessons for Leaders podcast and has been featured in Forbes, Metro and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio and The Press Business Section. www.emmalangton.com
Would you like to better reach your customers online and generate more sales? Little Seed Group’s Annabel Mulliner guides us through how you can create an effective customer journey through your digital marketing strategy.
Understanding how your customers interact with your business is crucial to securing and retaining loyal customers. Visualising and planning a customer journey is a great way to do this. It can help you to understand the key touchpoints between you and your customers across different marketing channels, and help you provide a consistent and positive experience with your brand. But where do you start with this?
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map should provide a picture of every experience your customers have with your brand. It should show you your customer’s journey from their initial interaction with your brand online, through to their first (and subsequent) purchases. And if your customers aren’t reaching that all-important final goal, the map should help you to fix this by creating a more cohesive digital customer experience.
It may be helpful to think about your brand as a person. What impressions can you gain of someone through their social media accounts? If they have a website, how about that? Do you get a complete picture of who they are, and what they stand for?
In this article, we’ll be focusing on digital interactions. But of course, offline aspects like your customer’s experience with your product or service, or offline marketing like postal correspondence, can also factor in.
How do your customers interact with your brand?
Creating an effective customer journey map will help you to better understand how your customers interact with your business, and which channels are creating the most leads for you.
Using channels like Google Analytics and Hot Jar, you can track a customer’s journey and investigate why they are leaving your site, rather than moving through your website or making a purchase. By doing this, you can notice patterns in customer behaviour.
Your aim is to ensure their journey is as straightforward and as reactive as possible. This means offering solutions along the way so that they are confident in your product or service, for example by providing unbiased customer reviews.
Before they buy
A customer will likely view or engage with your brand on different platforms in a couple of ways, rather than seeing a one-off ad. Some examples of how a customer might interact with your brand before purchasing include:
A promoted ad on their social media feed
Finding your website through a search engine
Reading a branded blog post
Once you’ve identified these, think about how the customer interacts with your brand when and after making a purchase. This will include:
Ordering and paying for a product
Your returns and complaints processes
Email correspondence: have they opted into newsletters at the time of ordering? Do you send follow-up emails to request a review? What other channels are you linking in your emails?
Your customer’s interactions with your product or service also factor into their customer journey – arguably, it’s the most important factor in them returning to your business. If you are a hotel, how are you measuring customer satisfaction? If you are selling t-shirts, what sort of feedback are you receiving from your on-site reviews and social media comments?
Let’s map it out
Creating a visual representation of your customer journey can help you to keep track of all of these elements. This could be post-it notes on your office wall or an Excel spreadsheet. Hubspot has some free customer journey templates available if you aren’t sure where to start.
Once you have done this, you should better understand what is engaging your customers across your digital marketing channels, and what’s putting them off. You should also have an idea of which channels are performing well, and which less so – and more crucially, which ones are best suited to reaching your target audience.
For example, you might realise that because your audience 18-24, Instagram is the best channel to reach them, and that you need to focus your efforts on creating better content and building your following. Or, you might find that some of your web pages aren’t performing well because they need more information adding to them.
Now you’ve got your customer journey as it is, it’s time to improve it! You can improve your customers’ digital marketing journey in a variety of ways.
Now that you’ve identified moments where your customers may experience issues or dissatisfaction with an area of your product or service, you can work out at what point to intervene and improve customer satisfaction. You can identify areas where your customer service could be more proactive.
For example, if you are facing a high volume of orders resulting in a postal delay, you could send your customers a message letting them know so that they won’t be disappointed. Or perhaps you could use a live chat feature to resolve issues on the spot.
Target your audience
Your customer journey should help you better understand the demographics of your audience and target them more effectively. Finding out what your customers do and don’t want from your brand should give you a clear picture of what sort of people they are and how you can reach them.
For example, a chef leads a busy professional life and doesn’t have time to sift through loads of information. Instead, information needs to be both concise and informative. Or, a clothing retailer looking for mannequins will want to see pictures of the mannequin in different clothes to get an idea of whether it will suit their clothing ranges.
Improve your web content
If people aren’t staying on certain pages, you should edit your web content to make it more engaging. You can do this by adding subheadings and pictures, and by rewriting your copy to make it easier to read. This might involve shortening sentences and choosing less complicated words. You could also add inbound links to other site pages to help customers find out more about your brand.
Would you love to improve your website, but don’t know where to start? York’s own Helen Reynolds of Ink Gardener Copywriting shares some insights to make your website content shine.
Here she expands on her recent ‘How to wow with your web content’ presentation for Make It York’s Connect Over Coffee online meet-up.
The power of words
Hi! I’m Helen and I love words. Before going freelance, I was the web editor for First Choice Holidays and the Lake District National Park. With 20+ years’ experience of websites, I’ve a pretty good idea of what works best.
A swishy website is a like a picture frame. You need the right words inside it, known as ‘copy’, to attract customers and Google’s search robots.
Your 24/7 shop window
Keeping your business website up-to-date may be the last thing on your To Do list. But I guarantee Googling you is one of the first things a prospective customer does.
Websites are as much a part of your ‘digital footprint’ as social media.
If you cringe when someone says “I’ll look at your website” you need to sort it out NOW.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Many people get nervous about changing web content. But websites are meant to be updated.
Your website should be set up so that you can’t break the design or layout. It’s like putting a new photo in a frame. You don’t pry it open with a screwdriver and re-glue it. You just update what’s inside. The same happens when you use a content management system like WordPress.
Worried about making a typo? You can correct it more easily on a website than a printed brochure. Plus Google ranks websites more highly that are updated more often. So it’s a win-win!
How to communicate clearly
Messages – be they on papyrus, carrier pigeon or on a web page – are just words. However the best ones:
keep the target audience in mind
use the right tone for that audience
are clear and concise
Good content makes people more likely to listen to what you have to say and feel positive about you.
Tip: Keep asking the question “So what?” or “What’s in it for me?” as if you were a customer to check you’re on the right track.
Your website isn’t for you
As the expert, you already know it all. Your task as a web content writer is to answer what your audience wants to know, not what you want to tell them.
Tip: Start by answering the questions you get asked every day. A FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page is a great spot to address tricky issues. For example there might not be free parking outside your premises, but you deliver for free within a 10-mile radius. Try to follow every negative with a positive.
But who is your audience?
In an ideal world, you’d now turn to your business plan’s target audience section. But in reality, how often does this get updated?
Instead I recommend imagining four ideal customers and making up a question or issue for them.
For example, someone investigating wine bars might ask “What sort of non-alcoholic drinks do you offer?”
Of course you should list these on the menu and make sure they sound appetising. But why is the person asking? Could they be the designated driver for a night out? If so, they’d welcome a list of the nearest car parks and handy drop-off points too.
The big school teacher in the sky
If someone doesn’t understand something, it makes them feel stupid. And people don’t buy from people who make them feel stupid.
But the idea of impressing teacher somehow still haunts us in our working lives. You don’t get extra marks for using jargon or longer words on the web. In fact it’s highly likely Google marks you down for them. Find out more about the Flesch-Kincaid scale.
Just write how you’d speak to someone on the phone, rather than in a PhD dissertation.
Jumping around the lily pads
Once upon a time we read books and newspaper articles from the beginning to the end. But then along came computer screens, and then mobiles. Mobiles with screens the width of a newspaper column.
Do you print things out when you want to check it? That’s because our attention span improves by 25% reading paper rather than on screen.
On a screen we scan the headline, flit to the side, then scan down to the next header. Our eyes skip around a screen in a F or E shape. That’s why short and sweet works best.
Be a copycat
This article has lots of headers. And lists. Sometimes I ask a question. Or start a sentence with an And, But or So. This is the friendly, conversational style that works well on the web.
What to look out for: a checklist
Keep sentences short
Google marks down websites which use long sentences. Try to use sentences of 15 words or fewer. Avoid semi-colons. Check your testimonials, and split sentences if necessary.
Use active verbs
Passive verbs describe something happening to someone/thing – “The project was delivered by Make It York”. Active verbs sound more energetic – so “Make It York delivered the project”.
Use a question as a header followed by an answer
Whatever follows “I’d wish people would stop asking” is what you need to answer.
Break up blocks of text with subheadings and bullet points
Remember the lily pad!
Reduce the jargon
Always explain acronyms in brackets, for example YCC (York City Council)
Write as if you’re talking to someone on the phone
You don’t get extra marks for longer words and can sound pompous. Swap them for friendlier terms, for example:
prior to > swap to: before
commence > start or begin
the particulars > the details
in order to > to
in the event of > if
regarding > about
on receipt of > when we get or when you get
in excess of > more than
Use ‘We’ and ‘our’
It sounds friendlier than using your company name all the time.
Don’t embolden or italicise whole paragraphs
This makes text harder to read for people with visual impairments such as dyslexia.
Keep capitalisation to a minimum
Capitalising Every Letter Can Look Old-Fashioned.
Never use ‘Click here’ for links
Always underline a relevant word for a link. That way, read-out-loud software will say ‘Links: rooms, gallery…’ rather than ‘Links: click here, click here…’ Google likes this too.
Call to action
Put your call to action – a link or what you want your reader to do – at the end of a sentence.
Make a start
At the end of the day, your customer wants to know:
You know what you’re doing
You’re not going to run off with their money
Just start with one paragraph, then the next and soon you’ll be wowing with your web content. Good luck!
More about Ink Gardener Copywriting
Helen Reynolds founded Ink Gardener Copywriting to sow web content for businesses, from holiday cottages to cathedrals. Her services include a Website MOT and web content packages.
Thank you in advance for reading my blog, it’s always interesting to see people wanting to learn more about someone else, what they do and why.
My name is Ian Sadler, married to Nicky who works at the well-known York company, Aviva. I have a stepson Sam who is studying music at Leeds Conservatoire to be the next Hans Zimmer! I’m a big fan of walking currently, I feel the lockdowns have encouraged us all to get out into the open spaces of our local areas to learn more about it and recharge the batteries. We need it!
For the past 30+ years my role has been about Customer Service, doing it, managing others to do it, and partnering with others to appreciate it, deliver it and understand the importance of the customer and your team. Without a good team and paying customers, you don’t have a business.
Since 2011, when the acronym for Customer Experience (CX) appeared, we were already delivering good to great service, but what is CX and why bother?
You and I, each and every day will interact with businesses who we may use, or may not. Typically, two very simple things need to happen as a given:
It’s easy to do
How often have you encountered a delay in being able to get hold of someone on the phone, by email, or finding a member of staff when visiting a venue? We all live in a world of instant delivery and therefore there are no excuses for not being easy to do business with.
In your own businesses, no-one is judging you against your competitor. They are comparing you against the best experiences out there. Ritz Carlton, John Lewis, Disney, First Direct, Apple, Amazon etc.
You may be a business which has existed 100+ years, your widgets are the best widgets in the world, or you have the best valued product or service. All of these are good facts, but what impact does this have your future customer? The one who might visit again, the one who might tell others about you, the one who might spend a little more.
The customer perception is your reality and I regularly use this image to explain what happens each and every day.
The person on the left seeing 4 (see picture below), is the business owner/the team, they think business is going well. Customer numbers might be up, the team is working OK together, and profits are good.
However, the person on the right seeing 3, is you. You’re the customer who’s using the business but feel a piece of the jigsaw is missing. One, two or many more things went slightly wrong. Or in other words, there was room for improvement. What impact of these small things, will it have on your business in the future?
When you think about your customer, remember it isn’t about what you do or how you do it, it’s about how you make people feel. Perception is king.
What we have learnt from brands we love
In my role, I love providing insight and solutions to help motivate teams and support business development and growth. To share 6 things, we know from customers of the brands I mentioned earlier, these are important to get it right for you:
Be helpful (go the extra mile)
Be easily contactable
Provide a seamless process
Deliver on your promises
Are you achieving all of the above? If you are, then is your online feedback a fair reflection of this?
Measurement is important, but integration is essential
More and more businesses understand the importance of gaining feedback from customers. How many times have you been asked to complete a survey this week?
I can think of many customers who are still upset at that piece of negative feedback they received 5 years ago. But what is it you do today to understand how your customers feel? And then what happens?
Please do ask for feedback by verbally talking to customers, use digital survey systems, insight6 offers one for £50 a month for 3 months. Or run focus groups with your customers and team. Whatever the feedback is, you must use it.
I would encourage whether feedback is good or bad, use it to motivate you and your team to keep doing what’s right. Where customers highlight opportunities to improve, look at the touchpoints during the experience. Have you mapped your customer journey in the last 12 months?
Delivering a positive customer experience is easy, people make it difficult as we create processes and systems which pulls against this:
“Putting the customer at the heart of your business”
The next time you make a decision about your business, put a chair next to you. Imagine your customer is sitting in it, or better still let a member of your team act as the voice of the customer.
The aim is to make sure whatever decision is being made is for the benefit of the customer. If it isn’t, then more than likely, it doesn’t need doing.
We care about, and partner with businesses
We work with attractions, farm shops, hospitality, legal firms, opticians, retailers, plus much more across the UK and Ireland.
We specialise in helping you to retain customers, gain new customers and sell more!
If you would like a no-obligation chat, I’d be delighted to speak to you.
Born and raised in the beautiful city of York, I have been influenced and inspired by my city’s heritage, culture and home-grown brands. York is not only rich in history, cobbled streets and chocolate making but it is also a modern city. Vibrant and full of life, a source of inspiration to many businesses and individuals to build their brand story around.
What is the purpose of a brand story?
You brand story is your purpose, your mission, your voice and your vision. It tells your customers what you are about and what to expect from you. It determines what you stand for…and what you don’t stand for. It is the guiding principals of your business and helps shape your business decisions and bring clarity and direction.
It’s the reason you get out of bed every day and work every single hour without a break till someone tells you to stop! It’s what connects you with your customers and when used effectively can be the most powerful tool to market your business.
What should I consider when writing my brand story?
Remember branding is not just about the visual – it’s what your business is about, what it stands for and your tone of voice.
What is your business about and not about? Be clear what your businesses is and isn’t about. Telling your customers what you don’t do can be just as powerful as telling them all the wonderful things you do, do.
What is the essence of your brand?
What do you do differently?
What’s your tone of voice? Conversational, high energy, knowledgeable, genuine, professional, calming?
Who is your target audience? What’s their gender, age, are you targeting families, professionals, hobbyists? Are you able to supply locally, nationally, globally? How affordable is your product?
How do you want to be perceived? Friendly, helpful, thorough, environmental, charitable, innovative, fun & wacky, creative?
What is your strap line? Or how can you sum yourself up in one sentence? Here a couple of great examples from local businesses:
When it comes to the visual aspect of your brand story this is usually the first way people will discover your brand. So making a good first impression is vital to setting out what your brand story is about and what people can expect from you. You want to spark their imagination, excite and delight them and even bring fond memories to the forefront, connecting with them on a personal level.
The York Cocoa House branding pays homage to the great chocolate makers of the city and York’s chocolate heritage. Many local families will have a connection to the chocolate industry and York Cocoa House draws on those memories to connect with their customers. The simple, honest brown paper packaging allows the decadent, handmade chocolates to sing at the forefront. This stripped back approach also fits with the companies brand values of producing a fairer chocolate that not only tastes good but also does good.
Partnering with an artist is a great way to help illustrate your brand story. Finding someone with a style that fits your brand can really add layers to your story telling and also gives you a wider audience instantly by tapping into that artists fan base. Local artist Emily Sutton created illustrations for Bettys café which were used throughout their packaging to evoke memories of traditional activities such as enjoying an afternoon tea whilst people watching from the grand tearoom setting.
By allowing customers to purchase products with these unique designs customers are whisked away to the Bettys café every time they open the cupboard and reach for their tin of tea to make a cuppa. If you are interested in learning more about working with artists please get in touch as I can help connect you with the right partners for your brand through my local artist licensing programme.
If you are starting to write or review your brand story I have created some simple activity sheets to help you work through these questions as well as a couple of completed examples which you are welcome to download for free. I’d love to hear your brand story so please do share yours with me!
How can I tell my brand story effectively?
Writing your brand story is key to knowing where you are coming from and how to market your business to potential customers.
Use your brand story to form the language of your marketing tools such as website, blogs and key words. To ensure the language, look and feel of your brand is consistent throughout every single touch point of your business create a mini style guide. This should include current logos, fonts and phrases as well as graphics, photo’s and brand imagery. Free services such as Canva are great tools to set this up.
REMEMBER: A consistent brand look and voice makes you memorable, trustworthy and appealing!
Social media, websites, newsletter and the like are all essential parts of marketing your brand but which ones are most relevant and effective for your business? Which tools allow you to best express your brand story?
How else can you make an impact, allow customers to experience or taste of your brand and how can you educate your customers and allow them to interact with you?
York Mumbler is a community focussed business whose primary objective is to keep parents of York informed about what is going on in the local area. In October half term they hosted a free, community Goblin trail at Rowntree Park. This covid safe activity allowed families to get out the house with young children and explore the local area. The Goblin trail gave York Mumbler, usually a digitally focussed business, the opportunity to have a physical presence in the city and reach a new audience.
My top tips:
Establish and write down your Brand Story
Define what your business is AND isn’t about
Create a Brand style guide and update your current customer touch points to ensure you project the same messages – verbally and visually – throughout
Asses your marketing tools and develop those that are most effective for your business
How can I help you?
Having spent 14 years managing global brands in the consumer goods industry I had a strong desire to be better connected to the city that had shaped me. Yorkshire Brand Stories was born to enable me to work with local brands I felt passionate about and made a difference within my community.
If you are looking for help writing your brand story or building your brand please feel free to get in touch and have a no obligation chat. If you are interested in learning more about my artist licensing programme I would love to grab a cuppa with you are share the secrets to this lucrative industry.
Jackie Black, director of Digital Business Communication Ltd
Many managers have been thrown unexpectedly into working virtually and consequently, do not feel they have the experience or know-how to lead their teams as well as they would like.
But I would like to pose the question: how is leading a virtual team different? And what new skills do you need to be an effective virtual manager?
In fact, there should be very little difference in how you lead your team in a virtual environment and the skillset remains practically the same. In the early days leading a virtual team often requires much more effort: your team need to feel confident that you are there to support them, listen to them and provide direction whilst allowing them perhaps, a greater degree of autonomy. Resilience at this moment in time is also extremely important for both you and your team.
You may also need to up your game in terms of how you use technology. There are myriad of software programmes, tools, apps, and platforms out there which can make working virtually easier and there are plenty of experts ready to offer you advice.
I have worked with many international virtual teams over the last 7 or 8 years, helping them to work together more productively and to communicate with each other more effectively. More recently, I have also become a digital champion for the Digital Knowledge Exchange and, as such, mentor small business owners who want to build their digital skills.
I would like to share the following tips on how to lead a successful virtual team. I hope they will be helpful to those of you who, six months down the line, feel they need a few pointers:
Take a moment to reflect on how you communicate as a team. Do you have a robust set of protocols or best practices for team communication? These best practices will provide a firm foundation for collaboration. They will also allow individuals to voice expectations and raise doubts before miscommunication and confusion arise. Investing time and energy in getting the relationships and procedures right will lead to greater efficiency and productivity in the long run.
How does the team like to communicate internally – WhatsApp, Messenger etc.
Response times for emails and messages – what is reasonable in these challenging times?
How and where do you share information – Share Point, Trello, Google?
How should feedback be given – is an email acceptable?
What is your meeting style – formal or informal?
Individual team members often experience a sense of isolation and a lack of connection with others in the team. You, therefore, need to be adept at keeping your team engaged and feeling included.
Is everyone clear about their role in the team? Who do they report to? Who they can turn to in a crisis? What can you do to make this as transparent as possible?
What does work-flow look like for your team? Have all the relevant processes been adapted to the virtual workplace?
Does your onboarding/induction process for new team members allow for the fact that they will most likely not meet the rest of the team face-to-face for a long time? How will they forge new relationships? How easy is it for someone new to your set up to learn the processes? What support will you provide?
How do you encourage collaboration? Research ways for your team to work together easily through document sharing tools like SharePoint or in project-based tools such as Trello.
Is there a regular time slot during the day/ week for socialising as a team? Is it sufficient or can you do something to make it more meaningful? How do introverts in your team feel about ‘performing’ on camera in meetings? Are the extroverts able to cope with working alone for significant periods of time?
Are you truly ‘visible’ to your team – do you check in with individuals on a regular basis to see how they are coping emotionally and physically? How do you let them know there is still an ‘open door’ policy in this virtual workplace?
Trust is fundamental to the success of your virtual team. Research shows that teams who are thrown together at short notice, for a short period of time, or to work together virtually, form what is known as Swift Trust.* In this case individual team members are willing to put aside their usual distrust of each other if they believe they are reliable and will keep their promises. Achieving a goal or completing a project on time takes priority over everything else.
Whether you need to build Swift Trust or something more permanent, the starting point is surely for the team to get to know each other. At this stage, hopefully your team members do know each other to a certain extent. However, we should never underestimate the importance of building and strengthening existing relationships. So, invest time whenever you can in creating opportunities to do just this.
In addition to familiarity, trust is often based on things like competency, integrity, empathy, reliability, consistency, sharing, mutual trust and similarity.
How do you demonstrate to the team that they can rely on you? And are you consistent in your management style?
How do you know the team is confident in your competence as a leader? Do they have opportunities to give you feedback and how?
Do you involve your team in decision making? How do you empower them?
Are you open with your feelings? How willing are you to share information?
How do you show the team that you care about them?
In what way do you show your team that you trust them?
Resilience, as I have already mentioned is vital for everyone working in the ‘new normal’.
Resilient teams will learn how to improvise in this situation, but it will necessitate constant adjustments and no doubt mistakes will be made. The key is to learn from these mistakes and find ways to bounce back.
Having a strong support network motivates people to keep trying, so as a leader it is important that you do what you can to strengthen the relationships amongst the team. Show them that you are a part of the team and not an outsider, that you empathise with them and even if you cannot solve all their problems, by working collectively you will be much more effective.
Who in the team needs most support in terms of resilience? What can you do to help?
In what ways could you monitor levels of resilience among the team?
Could a buddy system help build or maintain resilience? How could you implement this?
Resist the urge to micro-manage and DO NOT succumb to spying on your team. Statistics show that many people working from home are equally as productive as they were when they were in the office, if not more. Many have successfully adapted to their new work environment and, having the freedom to manage their work-life balance is a major factor in motivating them to keep going.
*Swift trust is a form of trust occurring in temporary organizational structures, which can include quick starting groups or teams. It was first explored by Debra Meyerson and colleagues in 1996. In swift trust theory, a group or team assumes trust initially, and later verifies and adjusts trust beliefs accordingly.
It seems that no sooner have we wrapped our minds around one set of guidelines a new set is either being introduced or planned. Long gone it seems are the days when we can plan ahead, and along with it, it seems, that we can no longer look forward to what the future may look like, we can no longer be motivated or excited by what’s to come as the future seems so uncertain.
But more than that, it seems, that no sooner have we got used to how our business is going to operate, no sooner have we come to terms with how our business looks like, when the sands shift again and the whole landscape changes. The nature of responding to an external factor which is ever changing means that never before has running a business been so uncertain as it has now.
What cannot be ignored is the emotional impact that this can have on every business owner, their staff, and all whom they do business with. As human beings we’re not lovers of change at the best of times, yet here we are being faced with it on an almost daily basis.
What I have seen with clients who have come to me over the last six months is not uncommon. Higher levels of stress, anxiety, worry, fear for the future; clients who don’t know if they will have a business in one month let alone six and don’t know what the fallout from that will be; clients who have changed, adapted, and changed again, exhausted from having to constantly respond.
When we talk about businesses, it’s easy to innocently overlook that what lies behind every business is a person or group of people, all struggling and trying their best to make sense of what has happened this year; human beings with complex emotions and ever changing states of mind, reacting to each and every different set of circumstances and making decisions based on that. If life didn’t feel too much like a rollercoaster before Covid 19, I’d be surprised if it didn’t now.
In my experience I have found that when we have more understanding about our state of mind it enables us to navigate an ever changing landscape with more ease and resilience. It’s a little bit like driving a car but innocently believing that you only have reverse, then someone gives you a driving lesson and you discover not only you do you have 5 other gears, but also a steering wheel and a mirror!
In this blog I share three insights that clients have had over the past few months, I hope you find them helpful, you may find the concepts interesting or logical, but I invite you not to stop there but to be open to what you hear, what ‘insight’ or realisation that you may have when you read them.
You are built for the unknown, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
I remember the conversation with my client clearly, it occurred to me to question ‘what would happen if, as humans, we’d never had a fresh thought?’ My client, took a moment to answer and then replied, ‘we would never had evolved! We’d still be in caves!’ I then asked, ‘what would happen if from this moment we never had a fresh thought again?’ realising where I was pointing, he replied, ‘We’d be stuck, we’d wouldn’t move forward at all, we wouldn’t be able to work things out, have fresh solutions’. We then reflected on times when he had ‘figured things out’ when a solution or workaround had occurred to him.
Whilst it may have seemed like a ‘lucky break’ at the time, what he saw that he was experiencing, was a consequence of the deeper intelligence that every single human being has access to – our capacity for relevant, in the moment, fresh thinking, that literally enables us to evolve to the circumstances that we are in.
We are built for the unknown, even if you don’t feel like that sometimes. Our ability for fresh thought enables us to evolve, grow, change and come up with solutions for problems that we don’t know exist yet.
There is both power and value being in the present moment.
One thing that humans have which is an incredible gift is our imagination. It’s certainly been a factor in our evolution, that we are able to imagine what something could be like (and then be able to share that with others). However, there are times when we use this gift in a way that is not quite as helpful. Another client of mine, was doing just this. Her business had been badly hit by Covid regulations to the extent that it had virtually closed. When we spoke her mind was understandably racing, every sentence started with ‘what if’. She was no longer in the present moment with me but 2, 3, 4 months into the future, visualising exactly what that looked like and imagining what her reaction was going to be. The glitch if you like in our system, is that our bodies don’t know that we are imagining and respond as if all of that future thinking is happening ‘right now’. She was so stressed and anxious, she was tense, she wasn’t sleeping and nor did she know what to do. She was like a rabbit in headlights.
After we had chatted for some time, her mind settled, and she was more in the present moment. It is fascinating that we are able to do that, to bring ourselves back into now. Being in the present moment can be very valuable and powerful.
When she saw that it was her imagination, her thoughts, that were taking her into a future, a future that she couldn’t possibly know what it was going to look like, she calmed almost instantly. She also had the insight that when she imagined the future, she innocently forgot about her ability for fresh thought.
However, what started to happen was that she noticed when her mind was settled, she could hear that deeper intelligence more, she experienced fresher thought. She was therefore able to come up with some new ideas as to how she could serve her clients in a new and different way – resulting in the longer term survival of her business.
To react is human, noticing that state is transformational.
As humans, when our circumstances change it’s understandable that we react to them, we like things to stay as they are, we like to feel like we know what is coming around the corner. So when circumstances change unexpectedly, we become disrupted – our imaginations take over, we become fearful, worried, stressed or anxious. All of these are normal human reactions – like a stone being thrown into a beautiful lake – there are ripples!
A recent client was doing just this, with every client that cancelled, every regulation that changed, every plan that had to be altered, she experienced a negative reaction, become despondent and often made a knee jerk decision. However, what she found was that some time later, she had a different perspective on the situation and she’d either have to change or alter her position to accommodate this or even worse, she’d criticise herself for reacting that way.
When we had our discussion she was frustrated that she responded in this way and wanted to stop being this way, she could see that it wasn’t helping her business to be consistent and resilient.
Humans react, it happens, and just like the ripples in the lake, if left alone we too settle by ourselves. Trying to stop the reaction or prevent it from happening is a bit like patting down the ripples on a lake – it has the effect of making it worse or even prolonging it!
During our discussion what my client saw was that having such a reaction was human, it didn’t need fixing or preventing, she didn’t need to be immune to life! However, what she began to see is that she had an ‘in built’ system of settling and that by noticing when she was in a reactive state of mind, she could hang fire on decisions until she was more settled and clearer minded which resulted in better quality, consistent, decisions and she experienced more resilience.
Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Coach & Consultant, Tedx Speaker, Writer & Yorkshire Post columnist. She delivers state of mind training to organisations and coaches individuals privately. You can find more information at andreamorrison.co.uk
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