Marketing a small business in 2011 – ten tips

I am going through the process of updating my own marketing plan (its ALWAYS much easier to be objective and create marketing strategies for other people!) and it has made me think about & question some of the things which I do routinely to promote my business.

So I’m going to put these down into a list – its by no means a top 10, must do action for every business, but I hope that reading this will give food for thought and encourage you do make conscious decisions to try something new to add to what you do already.

The important thing is to make sure you are consistent, use a few of these things together to give an integrated marketing approach and plan ahead to target the right audiences.

2011 is coming up on us very fast and November is traditionally a busy month in business – do you have an eye on what will happen to your revenue in the New Year? Now is the time to lay those foundations and get your marketing plan written now so that you can be ahead of your competition and hit the ground running after the festive period.

  1. IDENTIFY your target audiences
  2. UNDERSTAND what messages will work most effectively for them
  3. attend some NETWORKING events to promote your business to the right audiences
  4. create an OFFER which you can promote to your audiences
  5. use ONLINE marketing tools: website, blogs, facebook, twitter, articles
  6. use your EMAIL SIGNATURE to promote the main message you are communicating
  7. arrange some FACE-TO-FACE meetings to explore future orders
  8. think about what news your company has which would be interesting to send as PRESS RELEASES
  9. find out if there are any opportunities to give PRESENTATIONS to groups
  10. be CONSISTENT, communicate REGULARLY and be CLEAR about your story

If you are clear about what you are going to do, then it makes it much easier to follow through on your actions and create the momentum that you need to have a brilliant 2011.

We’ve only got 10 weeks of 2010 left, so make the most of it and PLAN AHEAD :)


Alison x

Why I launched a business called My Pinkie Promise

 Banner design

Morning, its a dreich day in Dundee this morning, but I am looking forward to a business lunch with someone I respect immensely in the local business community. My thoughts as a small business owner are turning to 2011 and what that will mean for my business. I know that I need to drive it forward and be in control – something which I have come to realise is a strong motivator for me now that I run my own company.

I’ve been telling my ‘how I came to be in business’ story a lot over the last 18 months or so and sometimes the conversation comes round to how I chose the name. So that has inspired me to blog about it.

I knew when I launched my business that I wanted a strong brand which would stand out from the crowd. I was also very aware that I should consider having the kind of name that ‘does what it says on the tin’ but lets face it, Alison Henderson Event Management & Marketing Consultants makes a horrific web address, and an even worse email one. I’d need to give out 12-inch rulers as business cards!

So we sat down as a family (me, my husband Jimmy & my son Fraser) and had a bit of a think. We came up with loads of names and one of them really caught my imagination. For all of you out there with children, I’m guessing you are more used to the whole intertwining pinkie finger thing which is a binding promise to your child to take them to the cinema/football/park or whatever kind of activity you promised to do, that you double-promise to follow through on. Well, my husband ALWAYS did this with our son (it was their thing) and I loved the whole concept of it. Of course we could always have called the company ‘Cross Your Heart’ (for all you oldies out there who remember Playtext bras!) but its not got quite the same ring to it.

I knew that for me it symbolised how I would follow through on promises to my clients and it had a very strong and quirky feel to it.

So I began the process of working on the branding with my designer. I gave him a design brief (because its so important to be clear to your designer on what you want) and we began to design the logo, colour palette and business cards. I’ve never been a pink girly type of person so in the beginning I wanted greens & blues (?) but to give him his due he persuaded me to also look at a pink/grey/silver option. We also looked at quite a few font types – you need to carefully choose your business fonts to fit in with the messages you are portraying in your brand communications.

So after a couple of revisions to my branding, we were done.

When the file went away to the printers it was agonising: what if I didn’t like what we had come up with?

It was like the birth of a baby – a bit of fun at the beginning (just as well it started with my husband!), an incubation period with the designer where the brand grew and changed shape, then the birth of a brand with the delivery of my first business cards. I was (and still am) so excited by the whole process.

When I collected my cards, the printer said that they would display the cards on the wall in the shop because they were one of the most striking cards they had ever produced!

My Pinkie Promise Business Cards

What is great about the business brand, is that it makes people interested in what you do, want to know more and it stands out from all of the other business cards in a pack. There is one big drawback: I’ve never won a business card draw….it must be subliminal. But I can live with that.

What’s also very important for me is that I have a strong brand which I can use to create a suite of sub-brands when I am ready to do so.

I also love to work with businesses: bringing their brands to life, helping them create strong strategic marketing foundations and marketing materials which have punch! I am very fortunate to work with a really amazing & talented bunch of people who are very good at understanding what design & print that I need for my clients. They run their own small businesses and understand the challenges that we all face, which makes them adaptable, quick to respond and deliver when they say they will.

Sometimes a client will wonder why I place so much importance on setting out their brand values, creating a mission statement and understanding what makes them tick. But a business which understands what it believes in, where it is going and how to describe itself, creates an immensely strong impression to the outside & inside world. We all need a vision!

Social Media for Business

Social Media is definitely a very good way for small businesses to take news about their business out to the wider community.


There are pitfalls that surround using social media of course – here is the summary from my 14 page ebook that was sent out for free to my PREVISION marketing group members.


The thing with social media is that of course it doesn’t cost you much in the way of hard cash to do – but how much time are you spending on it that you could be working at your day job and earning money?


You need to have a balance – and of course, make sure that the people who are connected with you via social media are your target audience, not just your pals!



  • Make sense
  • Be consistent
  • Be knowledgeable about your subject
  • Keep going with a platform that you have started
  • Do regular updates on EACH of the platforms you have begun
  • Create tags to help define your content
  • Have a strategy
  • Do cross reference your other social media where possible
  • Understand who your audience is and which platform you will find them on
  • Collect encourage feedback & reviews from your customers to publish on social media pages
  • Have a call to action


  • Make spelling mistakes
  • Have links that don’t work
  • Steal content from someone else
  • Spam people with the same messages over and over again
  • Buy lists of followers, or use software to generate lots of followers
  • Send out endless drivel about your personal life
  • Be negative about other businesses
  • Share very personal information that could leave you open to identity fraud, or burglars!

Just remember and include some of yourself in your updates, have fun but remember: you are doing this for business so have a strategy!

 Alison x

Summertime and the livin’ is easy….

 Little Miss Sunshine!

I can’t believe so much has happened in my business since I wrote my last blog:

I was awarded a brilliant new event contract to run an exhibition alongside the Royal National Mod, Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival which will last for 3 years (to say I am pleased is a MASSIVE understatement!).

I held my first ever PREVISION layar marketing workshop which brings businesses together to work on their marketing & business planning, giving them access to my marketing expertise and the huge value of their shared experiences. We had a very successful morning at West Park Conference Centre in Dundee – they looked after us very well.

I finalised the marketing planning work for 3 existing clients and began work with another 4 more – I really enjoy working through this process with my clients. We analyse their current business situation and use the work to identify the business objectives that need to be brought to life by their marketing. The next stage is looking at target audiences and how we will take their message to them to make the customers roll in. Of course the final measuring & control stage is of utmost importance too and I walk away from a client knowing that they have a structured plan for their own marketing which will work really hard for them and when we come to do our review 3 months down the line we can then make some informed judgements about what is working for them.

I gave a presentation to the EQ Accountants staff on Marketing Planning & the use of Social Media and it was a very engaging session.

I had a week away on the West Coast of Scotland which was great for recharging my batteries (and getting them a bit damp in the Saturday night downpour) and since I came back I’ve been talking to some students about internships or summer placements.

I’m knew that the life of a small business owner would never be dull anyway!

It was amazing during the month to discover that many of the business people that I meet suffer from one of the same major factors that I do – how do you balance all the things that you have to do and also do all the things that you want to do?

I’ve always worked hard up to the wire on projects, and definitely need a deadline to motivate me – I’d be really interested to hear from others on how you juggle your different work schedules – and how do you fit in home life around running your business?

I can honestly say that I am having the time of my life – I guess that life really did begin on my last birthday in August 2009! Or at least cemented the new life that I was living. Running your own company is hard work, but having a passion for what you do and really enjoying it brings enormous personal satisfaction.

Anyway am now away to lie down in a darkened room for an hour: NOT!

Enjoy the sunshine :)

Alison x

Motivation… need to keep yourself topped up!

A respected business contact of mine shared a quote with me today and it sparked me to write this post.

First a little bit of background: I was approached this morning by a friend who asked me to help her out with a motivational talk she has been asked to do to some prefects on the cusp of ‘growing up’ and leaving school. When we were discussing some of the things she could cover, it struck me that what she was going to say was just as relevant for me and my current business life as it will be for her audience.

Sometimes you just have to be in the right frame of mind to let in a lightbulb moment like that, and I guess today was the day!

We talked about how she should use the right elements of her own situation and experience to talk about thinking and planning for the future. Recommending that you take part in outside interests so that others (employers in the young people’s case) would look at you and find you interesting. I know of some cases where people like to see that you do competitive sports as it can show that you have drive.

And I couldn’t stress enough that she should talk about the importance of creating a plan, for at least the next 3 years, to give something to focus on and drive them forward. My friend currently has a 5 year plan and wondered what that would say about her! She’s going to share her tips on how she plans and give some practical examples to show that it really helps to keep you going in the right direction.

I also recommended that she tells them to get input from their friends and family – if you tell other people what you are doing, then they can often help you with ideas you hadn’t thought of. And for parents, it can relax them and show that their child is thinking responsibly!

It struck me that this was TOTALLY valid for the situation that most of us are in in our working lives, and creating a plan & sharing it can help to manage stakeholders (like partners, bosses, husbands etc). And how many of us lose focus because we simply haven’t planned properly?

It made me go online and ask my twitter, facebook & linkedin buddies how they keep themselves motivated. And among the answer’s was Gary’s quote which I love!

So if you are looking for motivation, the quote below could be something to print off and stick on your wall so that you see it every day!

And if its focus and motivation you are looking for in your business life, and you think that being involved in a planning workshop every quarter would be a good thing for you then have a look at my PREVISION marketing group page – I’m really getting excited and am sure that all the participants will get a great deal out of it.

Have a good day!

Alison :)

“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.”

Social media – do you or don’t you?

I’ve been working this morning creating a couple of new social media pages for the businesswomen’s network that I Chair: Women Ahead.

Have a look at the twitter page @womenaheadgroup and join the Women Ahead facebook page

I am finding more and more when I am advising my clients on their marketing strategy that people are still very unclear on how or why they should use social media. I always say that using social media MUST be done as part of your overall strategy – after all its just another piece of your marketing toolkit.

So first of all, what are some of the options?

These are just some of the sites which will appeal to a large cross-section of people who are active in social media. There are others which can be of specific interest, depending on your business & customer type.

The other consideration is of course your time – you need to be putting in a little bit of regular time to keep the communication going, otherwise your ‘connections’ will lose interest and all the hard work you put into attracting them will be lost.

Here are a few examples of how businesses can use social media to reach audiences.

If you are a customer facing business like a hairdresser, using a Facebook page & Twitter to tell people in your local area about any offers you have on, or new products that they can try, should work well. You should also be sending out hints and tips to showcase your expertise and give a bit of extra added value to those people who connect with you. You can also use competitions to encourage people to become connected and recommend your page to their friends.

If you are a photographer, having a Flickr photostream lets you display your shots, tell people what projects you have been working on, and link to your website to raise your profile.

YouTube is a good way to either give people an insight into you and your service, by recording a short video telling them what you do, or to show your premises, highlight an event you ran etc. Again, linking to your website will drive inbound traffic, and will improve your Google rankings. And you can publicise the video via other pages like facebook and twitter too.

LinkedIn is an online network mostly used by people in business to allow them to connect to business contacts, take part in group discussions and ask for online recommendations of their product or service by their peers. It is also used for recruitment. I recommend LinkedIn for firms who are selling a product or service to other businesses – its less relevant for consumer facing targetting.

The social media arena is a bit like shifting sand, as the popularity of sites rises and falls – for example,, which was heavily used by a younger audience and has now been left behind as people shift to Facebook.

Not so long ago, it was unusual for businesses to have much of a website, now you need not only a good website, but you should be using social media to interact and have conversations with your audiences. You need to take the news about your products and services out to people – your competitors will definitely be doing it!

I run several pages for my clients, who find that this is the best way to tackle social media – its easy for me to do it. Their audiences aren’t aware of any difference, and the business owner can get on with what they do best – delivering their product or service.

If you are interested in finding out more about how I can help your business communicate through social media, or want some help to get the ball rolling, get in touch!

Have a good week,

Alison x

Dundee’s Business Show

Well I am shattered today!

It was an early start for the My Pinkie Promise team today. We were exhibiting at The Business Show at Dundee’s West Park.

It was Donna’s first exhibition with me to promote My Pinkie Promise, and today we talked to a LOT of people about the marketing services that we offer. She did a very good job and it made such a difference not to be on my own at an event like that. I was able to get round and talk to the other exhibitors, though I did cry off the speed networking today.

Many thanks go to Janet & Joan from Events for Business for putting together such a good event – they will be talking to us very soon about the Fife Show, I’m sure.

We were very pleased with the responses when we told people about our Foundations of Marketing service which involves our 1-2-1 business support for companies looking to put together plans for the development of their marketing, business planning & communications.

And we did some research on an exciting new development coming from My Pinkie Promise which was also incredibly well received and will be coming to a venue near you in the not too distant future.

So now we’ve got a bit of planning for that, a lot of follow-ups to do from today’s show – and a couple of people who want us to go in and work for them straight away.

I am a very happy but tired bunny who is away to curl up with a good book and try to switch off a bit. Running my own business is very rewarding but extremely hard work – I would definitely recommend it though.

I’ve got a business trip to Inverness coming up on Monday, followed by a marketing presentation to a group of Dundee business people so I will probably do a bit of unloading on you next week once I have recovered from all that.

Have a good end to the week!



PS Did I forget to mention in ‘print’ that I had one of the best weekends of my life last week when my beloved Dundee United won the Scottish Cup! My family had a great day out to the game, followed by a whole weekend of celebrations, culminating in a pitch invasion at Tannadice from my 11 year old son: what a blast. Roll on next year! :)

Happy Wednesday?

 Little Miss Sunshine!


Just a short note from me to day to comment on what a difference a couple of things make to my working life!

1. The sunshine. Its a glorious morning today and it completely changes my outlook and suddenly I’ve got more focus and motivation to get things done.

2. A good cup of coffee. Well ok, so I am now actually onto my second one of the day – but that’s because I’ve been at my desk since 7:30am

Of course, I could have both of those things but still be a grumpy old so-and-so so I guess the fact that I totally LOVE what I do for a living also has a major impact on things.

As I write this, its dawning on me that I am into the second year of my business and I feel immensely proud of what I have accomplished since setting up My Pinkie Promise, my marketing & event management consultancy in 2009. I thoroughly enjoy being in business and the variety of my work, added to the spark of new creative projects, really keeps me from getting that ‘same old same old’ feeling that can crop up in our careers.

Self-employment is obviously not for everyone – and one thing that I particularly miss is the social interaction with work colleagues. I guess I’m lucky because my job involves attending business meetings and networking with people. Plus meeting new clients and finding out about their businesses so we can bring their marketing and communications to life means lots of human contact. So working for a part of the day from your solitary desk means you need certain skills to keep you on track.

I have a brilliant book called “Eat that Frog” from Brian Tracy which still gives me lightbulb moments – if you have an issue with time management or procrastination, I’d highly recommend it.

Today I’m working on a few things (maybe I need a book called ‘Plate-spinning’!):

  • bringing a client’s target audiences to life: understanding how they buy; what messages are right for them and how we will reach them – and planning her business launch
  • creating an event plan for a brand new ‘Experience’ event for another client who wants to showcase her business, and those who use her service too
  • kicking off another marketing project for a client, and
  • working on the emails, and next lunch event for Women Ahead, the businesswoman’s network that I Chair

Anyway, enough rambling from me – I hope you are having a good Wednesday too

Alison x

How to be a good business ‘Scout': Be Prepared

Give yourself a Tick

When I meet business contacts at events, I often wonder whether people think ahead about why they have decided to attend an event, who they had hoped to meet there, and what they expected (if anything!) to get out of going along.

Sometimes the attraction of a business event is the programme and speakers, but often we go along to an event because we are also hoping to get the chance to talk to people about what we do. And of course there are networking events we go to which are dedicated to finding out about others and spreading the word about our own businesses.

And we should be thinking carefully before we go about what we want people to remember about our products and services – and how we can get the chance to follow-up and tell them more.

I have attended events where it is obvious that the people you are talking to are not even really listening to you – they are just waiting to get the chance to sell their own products or services to you and then move onto the next person. They are usually the serial business card collector who are desperate to grab as many cards to take home and somehow they believe that will turn into a whole bunch of orders for them!

Or the other end of the spectrum are those people who are running a business, and who have a very good service but who are painfully reticent at the thought that anyone will be interested in what they are offering. I’ve noticed that these people don’t usually have a product to sell, and part of the problem is that they are finding it much harder to ‘sell themselves’.

So if you feel you would like to be better prepared for attending your business events, read on! In conjunction with Eugene Clarke from The Communication Exchange, I will be running an interactive workshop which will show you how to integrate all of this into your wider marketing strategy and ensure that you prepare well, evaluate & follow-up.

We will also show you how to be ready for introducing yourself & your business at business events, networking and group situations. We will make sure you are prepared and feel confident.

Do you ever attend events where you see lots of the same people and find it difficult to create that spark of attention?

Or do you look at a sea of new faces and wonder how on earth you will say the right thing to sell you & your business and make them want to find out more?

Do you ever wish you could replay your introduction because you said the wrong thing or missed out on the most vital piece of your business?

Do you know why you go to certain events, and do you get to meet the people who you are likely to be able to do business with?

Come along to ‘StartRight’ on Tuesday 18th May 2010 at Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce, City Quay, Dundee: 5.30pm to 7.30pm and we will help you find the answers!

Email for more details or call 07552 167801.

Put some Spring into your communications

So its officially Spring now – and with the clock change about to be upon us too this coming weekend, are you taking advantage of this forward momentum in your businesses?

You should definitely be looking at your marketing strategy at this time of year. We are about to move into the second quarter and you should be reviewing where your business has been coming from during 2010 and ALTERING your marketing strategy to take full advantage of this.

Are you comparing new business trends against Q1 of 2009 – can you see that one area in particular is performing well for you….if so DO MORE OF IT!

Marketing should be a well thought out, methodical exercise to attract more of the same customer into your business, and it doesn’t matter whether you are selling a product or a service – or selling to direct customers or other businesses.

You should have a clear idea of who your target audience is – and there are likely to be subsets within your broad audience. So you should understand your customer, how they buy, what messages work well for them – and where they are most likely to find out about you.

That way, you can begin to COMMUNICATE & INTERACT with them and have lasting relationships that mean they come back time and time again – and recommend you to others.

And if you find that you have tried a few different ways of marketing – with some careful measurement you can see what has worked, and what hasn’t – then you should now be altering your strategy to do more of what has worked, and less of what hasn’t. So its not rocket science – but a discipline none-the-less.

Very few businesses are keeping as close a track as they should of where they get business from – of course, you will have a gut feel for it, but don’t allow this to stop you doing the proper measurement and tracking – you might be surprised at what patterns emerge.

I’m currently offering a free one hour marketing consultation for small businesses. So if you know anyone who would be interested in having a chat about what I can do to make their marketing more effective, please ask them to email me at

Have a good week,


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