How to blog for a successful business

Question: What do chocolate, slug pellets and daffodil bulbs have in common?

Answer: They can all cause serious toxic reactions in dogs.

There you have it… the making of a blog post! Having looked at why it is beneficial to your business and your client attraction to blog, I thought you might appreciate a blog post on how to blog.

Reasons people don’t blog

  1. I can’t see the point.
  2. It takes too much time.
  3. I can’t write!
  4. I don’t know enough.
  5. No-one is interested in what I have to say.

If you can’t see the point then please revisit this blog post, which speaks to the value of dynamic content, for your current and future clients. After that, do a quick Google search for “reasons a business should blog”.

If time is your issue, then look at what you gain from blogging:

  • Increasing Google’s interest in your site.
  • Creating value for your clients.
  • Increasing the chance of new clients finding you.
  • Demonstrating your expertise to prospective clients.
  • Building client relationship and trust (they are getting to know you).
  • Building a mailing list so that any future product or service you want to unveil, has a wider audience.
  • Rising above your competition.
  • Developing your own knowledge and skills.
  • Speaking out of your brand. This will help to attract your ideal clients to you.
  • Feeding traffic to your Facebook page and vice versa.

Do you have time not to blog?

If you feel you can’t write well enough, there are so many ways of blogging that don’t involve essay writing. Here’s a few:

  • How to blog
    Every picture tells it’s own story.

    Picture stories – “A day in the life of a dog walker.”, “How to groom your husky.”, “Great dog walks in Wallsend.” and “How to make wholesome dog treats at home.” all lend themselves to predominantly being pictures.

  • Reviews of equipment, toys, food etc., you don’t even need to write them. Ask the other dog owners you know to do a review for you.
  • Blogs of the “10 great articles about separation anxiety.” or “My favourite YouTube training videos.” are perfect for almost zero writing but great value to others.
  • Interview – anyone of interest, like a groomer, trainer, behaviourist or vet.
  • Interview – your clients about their experience of your business. Keep it real, by inviting them to express the niggles as well as the joys.
  • Present a collection of dog poems.
  • Write any list based post. Then the writing kind of takes care of itself. Things like “10 reasons why…”
  • Invite others to write something for you.

If you feel you don’t know enough, you’re in good company. Almost all creative educators experience this from time to time. There are two responses to this.

How to blog
You can do it! Have fun…

Firstly, you don’t need to know all about every detail of a topic, to make what you have to say useful to someone else. If you need convincing this video might help. Secondly, the whole world wide web is available to you, to research a topic before you begin. This doesn’t have to take long. I generally start writing, and then Google things as they arise, if I am not 100% clear on what I am saying. This might be once or twice in the process of writing a blog post. Another option, is Googling before you begin and skimming the top 4 or 5 articles that come up. I tend to do this if writing about something I know really well, just to be sure I have all my ideas straight and haven’t missed anything out. It just save me time.

If you think no-one is interested in what you have to say, think again. I have a really high email open rate among my clients when I send newsletters out to showcase new blog posts. People are engaged. Your clients will want to engage with you; they actively want to know you better. After all, they are entrusting their canine family members to your care.

How to blog – the nuts and bolts

  1. Pick a topic
  2. Choose a keyword – a searchable word or phrase that your post will rank for in Google.
  3. Create a catchy title that includes the keyword.
  4. Decide on a suitable format (photos, bullets, question and answer etc.)
  5. Find a hook – something that will hold the reader’s attention at the beginning. Then, just write. If your inner critic tells you its not good enough, write anyway. Keep going, and don’t worry about perfection until the end. You can edit, improve and correct once it’s ‘finished’.
  6. Complete the body of the post using headings, short paragraphs, bullet lists and links to other interesting content. If you are writing, try story telling, and offer interesting examples to keep the reader focused. Try to use your keyword a few times in the headings and in the post.
  7. Keep the tone conversational – be authentically you. If you are ‘teaching’ you may want to be a little more formal.
  8. Include a call to action – this can be to sign up for your newsletter, to call you, to ask for comments, or even to purchase something, depending on the nature of the post.

Once you are finished, read it through out loud and check for errors, spelling and grammar mistakes. Tweak and re-read.

There are all kinds of apps and plugins that help with SEO, creating a meta description (that bit that you see on Google search results, under the website URL) and such like, depending on which web development software you use. I use WordPress, and Yoast SEO is an excellent plug in for that.

Above all enjoy the process. Use it to enrich your knowledge of subjects that interest you. Find out what’s new in the area you are writing about. Have fun!

 

 

 

Why your website might be causing you to miss out on clients

Five years ago, I set up a typical pet service, business-centric website. It was beautifully designed by my IT specialist daughter, and was made up of a few pages of business related content. I loved it! It felt shiny and appealing, and it certainly show cased Custom Canine Care; who we were and what we did. If you go ahead and click on that link, you’ll see a very different site; a dog related info-blog, where messages about the services we offer are no longer the focus.

Why your website might be causing you to miss out on clients

The years between when I started off and today, have seen the internet explode into an ethereal world of well over a billion websites. Only a tiny fraction of these are ever seen by any one person. The “sorting mechanism” for all those sites are the search engines; the unchallenged giant among them, being Google.

Google’s mission statement is:

to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

website might be causing you to miss out on clients
Web marketing is relational

In other words, Google exists to put useful information in the hands of those who search the web. Their ways of measuring and achieving this, have led to huge changes in the way that Google rates a website. These changes are reflected in the shift we see online, towards many websites – in all kinds of industries and interests – becoming information or info-blog based. Sites with new, trustworthy and useful information are rated highly. Sites that are stagnant, inaccurate, unimportant (to users – measured by things like time spent on the site and links back to the site, especially from social media), become irrelevant.

So what do you want from your business website?

I imagine the one word answer to this, from most business owners, would be:

CLIENTS!

So let’s dig a little deeper. Perhaps we want clients to stay on our page and read about us and our services? Why? Presumably, so that they will find us attractive, a good fit or good value. But what determines value to a client?What is attractive to a motivated, invested prospective client? What keeps them on your page? What tells them most about who you are and what you can offer them? Believe me when I say, it’s not a monologue you wrote yourself about how caring and professional you are! Believe me also, when I admit that I did that too.

What do your clients (current and future) want from your site?

Information, yes, but still not your self-review. They want diverse, rich information about dogs in general, about the way your day looks and why you think home boarding, or group walks, are a good idea. They are looking for information about products they would benefit from, training methods (writing about these goes a long way to matching you up with “good fit” clients) and local dog friendly pubs.

They also want someone else to tell them that you are great! This could be auto-generated reviews that you can link to or testimonials by real people, who are willing to be contacted to back up the virtual stuff. Clients’ pets’ pictures with stories go a long way to adding authenticity and interest, but be sure to get the client’s approval first.

Providing answers to their questions, will often be the thing that first draws a prospective client to your site. Do you sound like you care? Do you seem to understand the issues clients often need help with, regarding their animals? Do you come across as confident and calm? Generous and helpful? Will their pet be in safe hands?

Value! Clients want value – and I don’t mean just “for money“. All the things listed add value for the client. The more they can get from you as their primary pet care-giver, the more value you are adding, and the more attractive you will become.

Happily the things that make you attractive (via your website) to a new client, are the same things that make you “sticky” to an established client. Never stop looking for ways to make your website work for you in developing client relationship and trust.

Making the leap

So throw out the old 5-pages-of-info-about-me-and-my-business and make it your mission to start creating a rich, interesting, ever changing, growing, online space, for you and your clients to enjoy.

The majority of pet care related searches involve either Google or Facebook, so ideally you want to have both covered. In the next blog entry, I will address how to develop a blogging site without writing content yourself, for those of you who don’t want to create original content by writing. Following that we will look at what Facebook has to offer, and how you can best promote your business there.

 

Who is your ideal client?

I am fairly certain that one of the keys to running a successful pet care business is focus – zooming in on the detail of what you want to do, how you want to do it and who you want to do it for. This post looks at the WHO. Who is your ideal client?

Before you say anyone and everyone, let me remind you why that’s not true. It’s so easy, especially at the beginning, to get caught up in trying to be all things to all prospective clients, for fear of having no actual clients. Being unfocussed is the perfect route to doing nothing with flourish and getting overwhelmed and burned out by your business. You can’t do it all, for everyone, and I hope that this post will help you to find out who your ideal client is, so that you can focus on doing it beautifully for them. Once you do, you’re one step closer to that ideal client finding you, because you can market yourself and your business more effectively.

So, who is your ideal client?

Take a few moments to answer these questions in as much detail as you can:

  • Where would my ideal client live?
  • Which service would they want me to provide?
  • What species would they need care for?
  • What gender would they be?
  • What kind of job would they do?

    Who is your ideal client
    Ideal client?
  • How old would they be?
  • Would they use the internet? A mobile phone?
  • What would they be most motivated by? [Price? Flexibility? Experience? Personality?]
  • What would the client’s animal(s) be like?

In my early days, I would have responded to these questions vaguely, truly believing that we could cater for almost anyone who enquired about our services. Over the years this has shown itself to be patently untrue, and my own answers to the question “who is your ideal client?” are now clear and defined. It makes screening clients so much easier, and screen them, we all must!

I am now essentially the admin hub for 7 independent contractors, one of whom is me. My answers are to a degree defined by what my ICs will do, and because of this they do get refined over time. This is how I would answer in April of 2016:

  • Within a 15 minute drive through daytime traffic from the business address. [Makes sense for walking clients, boarding clients come from as far away as they are willing to travel but long distances may cause them to go with someone more local in the future, and I am always looking for client longevity.]
  • Dog walking, home boarding. [We also provide house sitting and day care, but I would only take on new clients for those services if they met very tight criteria.]
  • Dogs [We no longer provide services for any other species.]
  • Female [Although we have male clients, almost all of my fully engaged clients – those who I anticipate lifetime service use from, are female.]
  • Teacher, nurse, shift worker. [Our ideal client wants our unique selling point – flexibility]
  • 25 to 55 [Again, most of my fully engaged clients fall into this age range, but I have some clients of all ages].
  • Yes and Yes [Because I use Pet Software I do need clients to have an active email address, and a mobile phone for things to run seamlessly. This also means that they can access our info-site and e-newsletter, offers, diary dates etc.]
  • Flexibility and experience [These are our unique selling points and we know that we will be a better fit with these clients because we will be able to give them exactly what they need.]
  • A cheerful, dog-friendly, doesn’t pull on the lead dog, or two!
Who is your deal client pet sitting business
Ideal client?

Now, just because my ideal client is this person, that doesn’t mean I don’t accommodate any clients who fall outside of these parameters.

However, knowing these criteria, helps me to spot a client who would present me with a number of difficulties, and I am usually happy for these clients to go elsewhere.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to focus on what you really want (and are able) to provide, and then focus on finding the clients who genuinely want what you are offering. We’ll look at marketing to find your ideal client in a future post.