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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Keeping your customers close – even from a distance

If you're a small business, keeping in touch with your customers is more important than ever

If you've got a loyal band of customers that come to your high street business, shop or cafe on a regular basis, you might not be in the habit of contacting them by email or text. But if you are suddenly forced to close your doors for unforeseen circumstances (say a member of staff test positive for coronavirus or your shop is flooded out by heavy rain), your regulars will undoubtedly miss you as much as you miss them.

The coronavirus pandemic emphasised the importance of engaging with your customers. While it's true that some people find emails or text messages from businesses intrusive, many small, local businesses found that customers did want to hear from them. Your customers will want to know how you and your staff are doing and many want to keep on supporting you. If you run a local business, customers will see you more as friends or family than a corporate entity.

Keeping in touch is about make meaningful connections and showing your customers that your heart is in the right place. Tell people about any services you are offering, keep them up to date on opening hours and any takeaway or delivery service you might be offering. Let customers know what your business is up to.

So, now's the perfect time to create an email newsletter and start using text messaging to keep in touch with customers.

Ten steps to creating great customer emails

  1. Use a reputable email service provider (ESP) that can manage your mailing list, deliver the emails and track responses. Free ESPs include Gmail and Zoho Mail.
  2. The first thing people look at in their inbox is who an email is from. Don't use a cryptic from address; your business name is best.
  3. Create a simple design that reflects your brand and includes strong images, compelling headings and engaging text. Less is more – recipients won't want to wade through too many words. Using HTML for your design will look more professional but it's not essential.
  4. Get the content and tone of voice right. Your emails should be tailored to your audience. Don't forget subject lines – an interesting and relevant subject line will lift your open rates.
  5. Avoid using spam terms in your subject lines – such as £££, cash or even FREE – because the emails are likely to go straight to the junk folder and won't be seen.
  6. Include a call to action in your emails and make it easy for customers to take the next steps – links should be easy to spot and landing pages should be relevant to the call to action.
  7. Check your customer details are correct; everyone you contact should have given you permission to get in touch.
  8. Always offer recipients the chance to unsubscribe; at the same time, advertise your email newsletter on your website and via social media and make signing up easy.
  9. Establish regular emailing habits – weekly is often best – but don't bombard customers with emails. Try sending your emails at different times to find out when your customers are most likely to open your email. Most ESPs allow you to automate email sends.
  10. Check out your email analytics to see how many people opened your emails and clicked on links. Monitoring the data over time can help you improve your results.

How to use text marketing to keep in touch with your customers

Despite - or maybe because of - the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in regular contact with family, friends and neighbours via digital means more than ever before.

People of all ages are using their phones to reach out, offer tips and share funny clips – especially on WhatsApp. In other words, we're all glued to our phones. And research tells us that 98% of texts get read. So, now's a great time to keep in touch with your customers by text message.

Here are five ways to make text marketing work for your business:

  1. Keep it short and simple - make sure recipients can easily understand what you are offering and how they can benefit.
  2. Include a call to action and a link.
  3. Insert names, appointment times or other details into your messages to make them personal and relevant.
  4. Make sure all recipients have opted in to receive your messages and always offer a simple opt-out option.
  5. Don't be annoying - target your texts, don't bombard people with messages and avoid too many images and video.

How to spread the word if you don't have customer contact details

  • Update your website and give visitors the chance to sign up for emails and texts.
  • Ask anyone you do contact to pass on your messages to their friends and neighbours.
  • Use social media to reach out to individuals and groups in your area.
  • Post information about your business in your shop window.
  • Tell your local paper or radio station if you are offering any new services such as takeaways or home deliveries.

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