Small businesses are the very lifeblood of the equestrian and rural industry, and I’m delighted to use my blog as a way to help showcase these. This might be through ‘a few minutes with…’ or similar interviews where I interview people from small businesses I love, or even including small businesses as part of blogs I’m writing in the form of collaborations. I also use my blog to help educate small business owners, providing information and tips to help them really make progress in their businesses.

In addition to the articles you’ll find here, I do also put out a lot of content on my social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in particular, and also on my YouTube channel, to help inform and support small businesses on their journey.

And don’t forget about the Small & Supercharged Facebook group. This free group allows small businesses, particularly those connected to equestrian, canine and country industries, to chat, ask questions and network in a closed group. Search ‘Small & Supercharged’ on Facebook and answer the three questions to join in.

How to get testimonialsIf you read my previous blog about testimonials, you might be wondering how you can get them. And I’m here to help you with that. So how do you get testimonials and how can you ask for them without feeling ‘weird’? Here’s a quick guide to how to get testimonials.

First of all-  do a good job. Yes I know goes without saying, but before you ask anybody for a testimonial, you need to make sure they’re happy with what you’ve done. Not least because the testimonial received back is likely to be a bit noncommittal if they aren’t! It’s also going to be a bit awkward if they’re not entirely happy! Moving on from this though…

  • Ask people for testimonials. Yes, you read that correctly. Ask people for testimonials. Don’t just assume that they’ll think to send them over and offer them. If you know that they are pleased with the work you do/have done, just ask if they’d mind sending over a few words that you could use. You’ll be amazed how quickly people say yes if they’re happy with the work you’ve done.
  • Make sure all testimonials are genuine. Do not fabricate them. They lose all value if they are made up.
  • Display a testimonial with pride – ideally create a section on your website where you can put the testimonial so people can find out more about you. Also say who the testimonial came from and, ideally, link to that person’s website too.
  • Thank people for the time they’ve taken to leave your testimonial and help you. Even if it’s just a line – they have decided to associate their brand with yours, so make sure you thank them.
  • Use your testimonials. Yes, put them online, but use them on your social media too, to reach your hard earned following – these people have already become part of your following, so let them find a bit more about you. You could also look to add them to your email signature (in rotation), on newsletters… you can actually make quite a lot out of a testimonial if you think about it the right way.

Do you have any tips? What was the best testimonial you have ever received? Please comment below! And never one to miss an opportunity (!), please have a look at my reviews and testimonials page here if you have a few moments to spare!

 

Should you sponsor someone?This blog is all about whether or not sponsorship is a good idea for you and your business. In my business group, Small and Supercharged, many people talk about sponsorship and it’s a subject that I think many business owners think about. Many feel it’s a ‘no brainer’ or something that they must do, but I’m here to tell you it isn’t. This is something that I am passionate about, actually, I’ve written about it before and produced some videos too…here’s a link to my previous blogs, videos and even a podcast!

You have to make sure everyone wins from the arrangement

You might think I’m anti sponsorship. I’m not. I’m against the wrong kind of sponsorship where nobody really wins long term. The sponsor feels they have no return on their investment, and the person who is sponsored gets support cut very quickly, because they haven’t delivered. Who wins here? The person who secured the sponsorship received some product, maybe even a bit of money, but not for long. And now they have a bitter taste about the business they were working with, and the sponsor has a very bitter taste about them and, often, sponsoring anyone else. No one wins. This is why sponsorship isn’t always good. However, I’m here to give you some food for thought on sponsorship – here are my top 10 things to think about…

  • It’s not a no brainer. You don’t HAVE to sponsor anyone, so take your time and make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and you’ve worked out a way that it can benefit you and them.
  • Pick carefully. If you’re in business, you will get a LOT of people asking for your money and products. Don’t feel pressured. Pick carefully.
  • Work out what you want from the deal. Do you want social media content? Blogs? Vlogs? Videos? Would you like your sponsored person to come to events and maybe your shop? Would you like them to wear your logo when they’re out and about? Have a list of what you’d like.
  • Be flexible. A list is good, but listen to and consider other ideas provided by the potential sponsored person. They might have other sponsors and, therefore, some of your wish list isn’t possible, but they might have some other thoughts that could work.
  • What are you going to do for them? Can you help promote them to your audience through the content they provide? Sell yourself as well as them.
  • Be clear. Be crystal clear on how often you expect contact. How many blogs/vlogs a year/month, for example? Don’t assume anything. Also explain what could happen if these aren’t provided, for example, will the support stop?
  • How will you do it? Most people support with product, especially to start with. Some sponsors call people supported with product ‘ambassadors’, some people say they’re sponsored. It’s terminology really.
  • Look at people’s reach. Make sure the people that you’re choosing to work with have a reach and a network that’s of use. And don’t just look at the number of people who like a Facebook page. Look at the interactions and engagement.
  • Look at the quality of the content. They might produce a blog each week and fill their Instagram feed with pics, but if the copy is full of typos and the pictures are poor quality, are they right for your brand?
  • Look at personal accounts too. If you sponsor someone, it’s not just their ‘official’ page that you need to look at. Look at personal Facebook pages too. See how they behave in their ‘personal’ life. It matters. Nothing is that private when it’s made it onto the internet.

What do you think about sponsorship?

I’d love to hear your experiences with sponsorship. Have you attracted a sponsor? How did it work? Do you sponsor people? How does it work for you?

If you run a small business, in whatever industry, you’ll feel a pressure. One moment you’re dealing with sales, then marketing, then accounts, then IT, then despatch…and that’s just on a good day! Many small business owners feel pulled in all directions and, at the same time, they’re being bombarded with information. Things they should be doing. Things they could be doing. Especially in terms or PR, marketing and social media. How do you find clarity? Get focus? Get goals? Working a small business coach or mentor, that’s how! And that’s exactly why I do through my small business coaching.

Different areas of business require different areas of expertise, but one essential part is marketing. Nowadays, marketing isn’t just shoving an ad in Yellow Pages and waiting. Oh no. It’s printed media, it’s digital media, it’s collaborations, it’s video, it’s social…the list goes on. You know you need to be doing a combination of the above. You know it’s really important for your business. But your head is so busy with a never ending to-do list and you don’t really know where to start. So what do you do? Lots of people do nothing. And that’s not going to get you anywhere. Start with small steps. There are many sayings that talk about this concept, but it’s true. Now, if you really want help, structure and someone who has your back, working with a small business coach could help you in a big way.

Now, small business coaching, as I see it, isn’t all about cheerleading and telling you everything is going to be fine if you just think really hard. No. I’m afraid it’s not going to cut it. I’m all about action, achievable goals, accountability and NOT spending your life savings/having to sell organs to get all important coverage that will get you in front of your target market. Sound good? It is. I know, that’s a bit arrogant to say, but I’ve worked with a number of small businesses in a range of industries, from equestrian and country to food and recruitment, and ALL have achieved great things. And continue to. How cool is that? Could small business coaching help you?I’m not your average business coach. I’m not your average PR, marketing and social media consultant/coach…or whatever you want to call me. I invest in my clients – I want them to succeed. To win. Why? Because they deserve it and I take their success personally.

But won’t you need a mortgage to work with me? No. No you won’t. I’m not saying that my prices won’t go up, but I really enjoy working with SMEs, and that’s why my charges will always be reasonable. I know I could charge more. I know I could charge a lot more if I’m being 100% honest with you, but I like working with people long term, being part of the team, seeing the growth and development. I’m all about the relationship. Most people have a Skype/FaceTime session a month with follow up notes and then we review, plan and execute month on month on month. And if you ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, I will know someone who will. I’ve run my own business for a number of years too, something I created from nothing that continues to go from strength to strength, so I’m not some 10 year old life coach who hasn’t been there are done it. Of course, I’m not the finished article, NO ONE IS, because systems change and it’s important to grow and develop and evolve. I’d say Facebook was pretty good. But that doesn’t stop Mark and his team building new products and improving it, does it?

My particular strengths are in anything to do with the promotion of your business to your target market. So, that’s PR, marketing, social media, collaborations, working with influencers, video, etc. etc. I’m a bore about social media and why you should be doing it. I’m passionate about working with good people. I could go on…but the chances are you have a to-do list longer than your arm, so I’ll just ask you drop me an email if you’re interested about small business coaching.

A little while ago, I put together a video all about collaborations and how they can help your business – called how can collaborations help your business. If you click on image, you’ll be able to see the Youtube video about this. But as I know not everyone can view videos as easily as they can read a blog, I wanted to write it down too.

How can collaborations help your business?

Collaborations can be big for your business is SO many ways. They can help to increase your reach, add authority, add value, and strengthen your connections with different brands and sub communities in your sector. Of course, if it was just as easy saying you were going to collaborate, everyone would be doing it!

Who should you collaborate with?

Choosing who to collaborate with depends on the objectives of your collaboration. So have a think about that before you take the next step! However, in all cases, whether you collaborate with a brand or a person, make sure they align well with your business. All businesses have a ‘profile’, by which I mean an image and values that it’s important to maintain. So look for people and brands who fit this. They don’t have to be mirrors of yourself, but should have the same ‘vibe’ or ‘feel’. Why does that matter? Because if you’re looking to promote a service or product, the people who are going to be most interested will fit a similar profile. Of course, if you’re looking to branch out in another area, looking for something in your new space is a good plan, but make sure their key values match yours, because otherwise there will be a disconnect and wasted opportunity. You can collaborate with pretty much any business or individual if they’re a personal brand – the world is your oyster!

How much does it cost?

In many cases, depending on who you pick to collaborate with, the cost might be zero. Yep. Free (by which I mean not money exchanges hands). How? Because if you pick carefully and really think about what you’re doing, the company or person you’ve chosen to collaborate with can gain just as much, if not more, than you. Yes, if you’re running a competition, you might have to give product, of course, but ‘value’ doesn’t have to be in pounds, shillings and pence. If your offer or opportunity adds value to your collaborator’s audience too, everyone could win and no one should be out of pocket.

What do you mean, everyone could win?

The thing about collaborations is it shouldn’t be all about you. In fact, the best promotional opportunities I’ve ever worked on ensure that everyone gets something out of it. This means that everyone wants the collaboration to work well, which gives it an infinitely greater chance of success.

Should you use a designer to help you with your website? The depends on a number of factors. I had a designer help me with mine (and I’ll tell you why!), but it’s also perfectly possible to produce a really good website yourself, especially if you use a nice template.

When I decided I was going to redo my website, I got on good old Google and started looking at Should you get a designer to help you with your website?templates. WordPress templates to be exact. Now, I usually have a designer, well, my lovely designer Amy, help me with my websites. Why? Because she’s better at it than I am. Simple as that. Can I tweak a template? Yes I can. But it would take me eight times as long, it wouldn’t look as good, I’d get frustrated as hell when something went wrong, and I’d always be concerned I was about to break it in a way that meant there was no going back. Although, for the record, I think the latter is quite challenging to do.

So why bother with a template? Because it will save you a fortune. If you have a site built from the ground up by a designer it can be really expensive. It’s just a simple case of time, and creating a completely bespoke website will take your designer a lot of time. For some people, this is the only option – they don’t want something ‘off the peg’, they want something bespoke. And that’s fine. But you’ll have to pay. The other option is the template.

You can get free templates on WordPress. And some of these are nice. Or you can buy a template (I think this one was about $50 ish?). When you buy a template (in my experience!), you get a lot more options and everything is, well, it’s just better. I’m not a designer, but I like nice design, and it doesn’t take a lot to imagine my colours and branding on a nice template, but on a more basic one, I know there’s going to be more design work involved to get it to look like how I want it to. With the features I want. I did discuss the template selection with my designer before I purchased it too, so she made sure that she was happy with the backend and could make the changes easily. Again, this step will save you time and money in the future.

I work with Amy, my website designer, because I really like her work and I have worked with her for years. She understands my quirks. And she’s got a really good eye for design and detail. And I like that. More to the point, I can send her a list of things I want fixing and she’ll do them, while I carry on with the work I do that earns me the money to pay her. I do enjoy a bit of web design, and I love writing the copy, but I know there’s a trade off – should I spend four hours learning to do something that I will probably never need again, or do I ask Amy and pay her for the 30 mins it will take her. Well, probably more like 15 minutes actually. See, it’s that simple. Not only is Amy better at it than I am, it’s cheaper for me to use her…because my time, just like yours, has a value.

Now, there are exceptions to my thoughts above. If I was time rich, I’d have done more myself, because I would have been able to enjoy the process and the learning aspect of it. Because I wouldn’t be thinking ‘my to do list is getting longer and the phone keeps ringing’, I’d be immersed in it. Equally, if I wanted to offer a web development service, I’d put the time in and be Youtubing like a mad thing to learn how it all works.

So, do you need a web designer to create or help you with your site? It’s completely up to you – are you time poor, or time rich? Do you want to learn a new skill? Are you looking to improve your web development skills for your business or is your website just a platform rather than a showcase of your web design skills?

Equestrian PR and marketingYou may have noticed that we’ve updated our website to include a whole raft of other services, but don’t worry, equestrian PR and marketing is still an important part of what we do! Here’s a bit more info.

In the beginning…

Originally, when Rhea Freeman PR burst into life, the focus was entirely on equestrian PR and marketing. As time moved on, the client list grew, and many equestrian clients also had interests in country, shooting and agriculture, so the contacts lists expanded to accommodate other areas of business that were connection to equestrian,

Equestrian PR and marketing was changing

Now, alongside this, the way equestrian PR and marketing ‘worked’ was changing. While the magazines were still very much part of the mix, social media exploded and started to play a hugely important role in a brand’s overall promotion and marketing. In fact, nowadays, social media is some people’s only method of promotion…and they have very good businesses from it! However, with the different platforms and the nuances of each of these, it became important to expand and develop our learning and understanding, to be able to offer a more comprehensive service our equestrian PR and marketing clients. And we did this. And then some. And we continue to learn all the time – as platforms evolve and develop and technology improves.

And then there was the overwhelm

Many businesses of all sizes can feel overwhelmed by this – by the rate that things are changing and how the old way doesn’t cut it anymore. They feel they should be ‘doing more’, but they’re not really sure what they should be doing or how to do it. They know what they want to achieve, but getting there seems like a mammoth task and they don’t know where to start. And that’s before you even think about how to plan content, be innovative and post natively in the spaces you want to be known and visible on. Sound familiar?

And then there was coaching

Demand grew for a ‘helping hand’ kind of service. Something that after a lot of thought (way too much thought!), we’ve called coaching. So now, in addition to offering equestrian PR and marketing, we also offer marketing and business coaching services. A lot of clients come from the equestrian sector, but we also work with people in food, retail, country, fashion and lifestyle. To date, most companies have some link to equestrian and rural, but as the way social media works is not all that niche, again, it made sense to open up the area we operate it. As we work WITH businesses and individuals through the coaching and consultancy services we offer, we’re able to combine our knowledge of marketing and social media with the client’s knowledge of their industry…with great results.

So, there you have it – a little explanation about the new website, the new look and the new services available. Find out more about our coaching services and equestrian PR and marketing services on the main website, and don’t forget to contact us here if you’re interested in finding out more!