Well I’ve got my Xmas tree put up – put up in the loft, that is! Nevertheless it will soon be time for those seasonal decorations to make an appearance.

Time then to be thinking about the important dates for your promotions over the Xmas and the New Year:

Fri 21st Dec Schools break up for Xmas* & Winter Solstice
Mon 24th Dec Xmas Eve
Tue 25th Dec Xmas Day
Wed 26th Dec Boxing Day
Mon 31st Dec New Year’s Eve
Tue 1st Jan New Year’s Day
Sat 5th Jan FA Cup Third Round weekend
Mon 7th Jan New school term begins*
Fri 25th Jan Burns’ Night
Tue 5th Feb Chinese New Year
Thu 14th Feb Valentine’s Day
Fri 15th Feb Schools break up
Mon 25th Feb Back to school

* These are the recommended Gloucestershire school term dates. Individual schools and colleges may differ.

I expect you know from your own experience that reading online is different from reading print. It therefore follows that writing online needs to be different to the way you were taught to write for print.

To get technical for a moment, research has come up with the concept of the bi-literate brain. This describes the differences between reading print, known as deep reading processes, and online, described as non-linear reading.

So how do digital readers differ from print readers?

• Online people read up to 25% more slowly.
• They tend to scan text looking for key words, hence writers need to use SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques and include these key words.
• Online readers tend to have a specific objective and to want to complete that objective quickly. They want relevant information, so put it at the top of the page.
• If your page doesn’t provide what a reader wants easily and quickly, they will search for one that does!
• Online reading is not linear. Readers will be jumping about from site to site, topic to topic, so bear in mind that interactivity is the key.

At last we have seen some sunshine! If you are starting to think about summer promotions, here are some of the important dates you need to remember:

Mon 4th June Schools first day of term*
Fri 15th June Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival weekend
Hu 14th June Football World Cup starts
Sun 17th June Father’s Day
Thu 21st June Summer Solstice
Mon 2nd July Wimbledon Tennis begins

I understand that some people find it really difficult to say “No”, especially if it means turning down work. On the other hand, if you say “Yes” to everyone you leave yourself wide open to all sorts of problems.

You can soon find yourself bogged down with too many tasks to do, not able to prioritise them and ending up making a poor job of most of them. In the short term you may make plenty of money that month but longer term your clients and customers will be taking their business elsewhere.

Think about these four ways of turning away work while knowing that you are doing the right thing in the longer term:

• An existing client asks you to do “just one more small job”. You already have a heap of work on for them. Say you’d love to do the extra job but ask which of the other jobs you are doing for them it can replace as you just don’t have the time to do them all equally well.

I am convinced that word of mouth recommendations are the lifeblood of most small businesses.

Potential customers want to believe they are making the right choice by buying your product or services. Hearing people say good things about your company increases their confidence in you and helps persuade them they haven’t made a mistake.

Here are 10 really easy ways to provide good customer service and get people saying good things about you and making recommendations.

1. Provide excellent value. It should go without saying that your product or service should be first class and competitively priced.

I know it is still August, the sun is still shining and the kids are still on their summer break but it is time to think about some important dates and interesting anniversaries for your promotions over the next three months:

Mon 3rd Sept School term begins*
Tue 4th Sept Google was founded 20 years ago by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Sun 23rd Sept September Equinox
Thu 11th Oct 60 years ago the first edition of BBC sports programme Grandstand aired
Fri 19th Oct School half term holiday begins*

If you are just starting up in business you will be looking at getting a stationery pack together. In my view the most important item is a business card and here are the reasons why:

• Professional stationery makes you look like a professional business. It is what people expect of you.

• It is an opportunity to get some information across quickly and easily. The name of your business is a must, of course, together with a contact number.

If you have social media presence (eg a Facebook page) include that too.

I read the other day that nearly a quarter of the world’s population use Facebook. That’s a huge potential market and while I don’t expect you to reach those figures it shows the potential audience social media has.

So what can you do to increase your share of the social media market? Here are 10 tips to get you thinking:

1. Outsource. You’ve got plenty on your plate already without adding the time needed to market successfully on social media. You need a specialist to help you. You could hire someone to dedicate themselves to your social media marketing but it might make more sense to hire someone who is an expert, such as an agency or freelancer.

Despite the bitterly cold current weather, Spring is definitely on its way. I always think that it’s an ideal time for a promotion tied in with one of the many notable dates.

Here is a brief schedule of some of those coming up in the next three months:

Thu 1st March St David’s Day
Sun 11th March Mother’s Day
Fri 17th March St Patrick’s Day

I know that if you are working for yourself one of your most valuable commodities is time. Why is it, then, that there never seems to be enough of it?

If you want to create more time for yourself you have to learn to work harder, faster or smarter. The chances are that you are already working flat out so that rules out both harder and faster.

Instead you can use these four simple tips to work smarter and save time into the bargain.

If you are still debating your New Year’s resolution, I have a suggestion for you.  Why not switch to Direct Debit payments for our services?  

You will find there are plenty of benefits when using Direct Debits:

•    It helps you spread the cost.  Rather than having to pay a large sum up front you can instead spread the payments over a period of several months.

•    Your payments are guaranteed.  Your bank will give you an immediate money back guarantee in the event of them making an error in your Direct Debit payment.  You will also receive advance notification of any changes to the payment date or amount and have the right to cancel at any time.

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