How we give you better leads than Google AdWords – for a fraction of the cost

If you’ve tried growing your business online with Google’s AdWords service, you already know it’s not for everyone.

The costs are increasing year on year. You’re competing with giants like Amazon that will happily spend £34million-a-year on paid search advertising. Even small businesses routinely spend upwards of £6,500-a-month on PPC, according to online advertising experts WordStream. 

With some popular keywords costing as much as £38 per click, it’s easy to see why so many people struggle to make this kind of marketing strategy work for their business. It takes great deal of research and technical know-how to get up and running – and that’s where Bark comes in.

We provide an affordable service that sends you better quality leads than you typically get from paid search advertising, at a fraction of the price. That’s why we believe every small business can grow quickly and easily with Bark.com.

Yet some people seem to think we’re more expensive than Google.

So today we’ll show you how we beat AdWords on both quality and price – and why, if you aren’t already, you should start winning new customers with Bark right away.

The real problem with online advertising

The promise of “pay per click” (PPC) advertising is simple: if the people who click on your ads spend more than it costs you to provide your services and run your ads, you turn a profit.

Sounds easy, right?

The problem is, only a very small percentage the people who click your ads actually end up spending any money.

Imagine you’re a DJ looking to promote your services in Manchester. Let’s say you put an ad on Google which costs you 50p per click.

Being fairly tech savvy, your website is decent. But you know a high percentage of the people who click your ad will just be browsing. So, based on what you’ve read online, you expect around 12% of them to ask you for an estimate.

That means you can get 100 clicks for £50, and generate roughly 12 enquiries. That works out at £4.17 per enquiry.

Mind you, not all those enquiries will be useful. You might be busy on the day they need you, their budget might be too small, or they might be too far away for the trip to be worth your while.

But let’s assume 75% of the enquiries you get are for jobs you want to do. So from 100 clicks you receive nine valid enquiries, costing you £5.55 each.

Even though you respond promptly and politely to each of those nine people, only six of them get back to you. Perhaps the other three weren’t really serious in the first place. Maybe they simply forgot to respond. It’s annoying, sure, but these things happen.

You still have six potential customers who have read your quote – and each of which has cost you £8.33. But, of course, most people will shop around to make sure they get a good deal.

In our experience, people like to get 2-5 different quotes before they make a final decision. So let’s assume each of your leads has also contacted two other sellers – giving you a one in three chance of securing the business.

That should translate into two new customers, and an average cost per booking of £25.

Here’s what Bark does differently

Ask a marketer what’s different about Bark and he’ll say we’re “further along the buyer journey” than Bing or Google. What that means is, there are fewer opportunities for the buyer to drop off.

We handle all the PPC for you completely free of charge, and hunt down quality leads for your business using a variety of other techniques.

Then you can see exactly what your potential customers are looking for in advance, from their budget, to when and where they need your services – and everything else you might need to decide if they’re right for you.

Plus, you’ll never waste money on people who aren’t serious about hiring you, as we’ll refund every estimate you give that doesn’t get read.

Now, the average Bark gets just over two responses, and each potential customer may have tried somewhere else too.

You can respond to a DJ Bark for just five credits, which will usually cost you £5 + VAT. So if we assume they’ve contacted two other pros in total, your chance of winning the business is one in three again.

That means, in this example, each booking costs you just £18, and you save 28% compared to what Google would have charged you.

That’s why we believe Bark is a smarter, more effective way to find new customers online – but the story doesn’t end there:

You could save another 30% today

The bottom line here is that, in many cases, using Bark to grow your business can be much better value than other lead finding services.

Of course, every business is different, and it may be that PPC strategies work well for you – and if so, that’s great.

But if you’d prefer not to bother with the hassle and expense of managing an AdWords account, and don’t want to deal with the expense of hiring an agency to do it for you: we can help.

Not only can we often send you high quality leads at a fraction of the cost of Google AdWords, but you can also enjoy extra discounts on packs of Bark Credits – making our service even more profitable.

In fact, if you open a new Bark account today you’ll be able to claim an extra saving of 30% on your first credit pack.

It’s free to sign up, and we’ll start sending you quality leads right away.

So, if you’re not a Bark member already…

Click here and claim your FREE account today.

Why our “per response” system is the best of all possible worlds

One of the most frequently asked questions in our recent Seller Feedback Survey was why we don’t operate on a subscription or commission basis.

It’s a good question…

And we agree that, superficially, those options might seem appealing.

But, as you’ll see here, they lead to a rigid service that’s unfair to you, your customers and your fellow Bark pros.

That’s why we believe our “per response” model provides the best of all possible worlds for everyone involved. It helps us provide our buyers with a great service, and it makes it easier for you to close the deal!

Plus, it lets us guarantee you’ll only pay for a lead when the buyer has read your response to their Bark and seen what you have to offer.

Here’s why we believe this is the right model for you:

What’s wrong with a subscription model?

Under a subscription approach, you’d pay a fixed monthly fee to use our service – something we’ve experimented with in the past.

The main advantage of this kind of model is that you know in advance how much you’ll be spending on leads each month, and are able to plan your budget accordingly.

But sadly, this leads to some nasty unforeseen consequences.

  1. | Bad for magicians, blacksmiths and chimney sweeps

First up, the subscription model unfairly penalizes pros working in niche categories. It means pros in popular niches tend to do well at the expense of other businesses.

We get many more GardeningPhotographyDJ and House Cleaning Barks than we do for AcupunctureMagicians and Mechanical Bull Rental, for example.

Since the idea of Bark.com is to provide buyers with a “search engine for everything”, this goes against what we stand for.

We need people to feel they can turn to us for anything in order to promote repeat business. So we needed to create a service that works for the pros in all of our categories.

In this way, we believe we can generate more leads for everyone – including the pros in our most popular categories.

  1. | No good if you work out in the sticks

Similar problems arise for businesses based in rural areas.

If you cover a densely populated area – such as London, Manchester or Birmingham – your service area covers more people, which means more Barks for you.

But we offer a nationwide service that helps people find the pros they need no matter where they live in the UK.

And that means a subscription model is generally poorer value if you’re in the Highlands, Devon or anywhere with clean air and grassy fields.

Again, this would limit the growth of our service outside of major cities.

  1. | But also rubbish if you work in the city!

So, the only people who win under a subscription model are those of use who live and work in the city, right?

Not quite. These people receive loads of Barks for not much money, but that creates its own problem: competition.

Imagine for a moment you have a friend named Jeff.

Jeff is a photographer based in London. He’s paid his subscription for the month, so it’s now in his interests to respond to as many of the Barks that come his way as possible.

He finds he’s getting quite a lot, so he puts together a generic response, which he copies and pastes into every response to save time.

Now imagine every photographer in London is doing the same thing – what does that mean for our buyers?

To begin with they’d get bombarded with way more quotes than they wanted. At most they might choose one, and then they probably won’t use us again – bad for everyone.

To combat this, we could introduce a cap on the number of responses each buyer receives to five, or so. But how would that work?

If it’s “first come, first served” there’s no way to guarantee we’re sending our buyers the best possible pros. Sending them the five cheapest quotes would encourage a race to the bottom, limiting your potential profits. Giving priority to our seasoned pros would put off our newer ones.

In short, capping the total responses any one Bark can receive under the subscription model seems unfair to you and your fellow pros – but unless we did something like that, it would mean far too much competition in urban areas.

So, the subscription model doesn’t work for any of us…

But what about a
commission model?

As far as we’re aware, absolutely no one in this industry operates like this. It just doesn’t work very well.

It would be great if you could simply take commission based on the confirmed work you you secure through our site.

But there isn’t any reliable way to do this without making it much harder for you to secure the business in the first place, which is something we absolutely want to avoid.

It should be easy for you to grow your customer base using the leads we send you from the Bark website.

But keeping track of the commission we’re owed would lead to draconian measures that would be unpleasant for everyone involved.

  1. | Pricing becomes a right pain

First, the process of closing a sale would likely get longer and more drawn out.

It would require more back-and-forth between you and all your potential clients. We’d need to know what commission to charge, so you’d need to agree all your prices up front in our Bark Messenger.

This also creates an incentive for pros to “lowball” their quote on Bark, to pay less commission, and then add on extras direct with the buyer at a later date.

All this has the potential to be off-putting for our buyers – especially, for Barks where you need more information from the buyer before you can provide them with an accurate quote.

Some jobs are tricky to explain unless you do it in person or over the phone, which brings me to our next problem.

  1. | Dodgy dealers ruin things for everyone

Our current business model is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to contact your potential clients. You can send them absolutely any contact information you like to help them get in touch.

If the best way to win their custom is by phone, that’s fine by us. If you prefer to interact by email or text, that’s fine too. And, of course, our Bark Messenger is tailor made to help you connect with potential customers.

But the commission model presents us with a problem:

Some sellers might simply ask their customers to call them for a quote and try to keep all the commission for themselves.

Now, we’re certainly not saying you’d do a thing like that. In fact, we’re sure you wouldn’t – but I hope you can appreciate the problem.

The upshot is that we’d need to redact your contact information from all the posts you send in the Bark messenger.

It would mean blocking out any phone numbers, email addresses, and website links you tried to include in messages to potential customers – something we absolutely don’t want to do.

We’d look bad, and it would be harder for you to convert the business.

And that’s not the only problem…

  1. | We don’t want to be chasing you

Imagine that Bark is operating on a commission basis and you’ve just closed a huge deal.

Let’s say you do loft conversions and you’ve just landed £30,000. Even if we only charged 3% commission, you’re looking at a £900 cut for us.

When would you like to send it over?

The simplest answer is for you to send it as soon as the deal is agreed. But then you could be out of pocket for days until the customer sends you their payment – maybe even weeks.

If the sale falls through for whatever reason, suddenly you’re £900 out of pocket. You might reasonably expect a refund, so we’d need to hire a team to handle these claims – adding to our overheads and driving up the commission we’d need to charge in the first place.

There’s a similar problem with sending the payment after you received your fee from the customer.

We’d need to hire a team to follow-up on all deals and make sure pros don’t forget to send it over. That would be expensive, thus driving up the commission we charge, and lots of hassle for you.

Besides all else, it’s not really what any of us here at Bark HQ signed up for – we want to help you grow your business, not chase you for money!

And that’s really the crux of the issue: the commission model is incompatible with what we’re trying to do here at Bark.

Remember, we are a search engine for everything – from lawn mowing to legal advice – and different pros generate differently sized commissions for their services.

We don’t want to chase thousands of London photographers to make sure they don’t forget to send the odd £10 here and there.

And we don’t want to focus our efforts on promoting big ticket items like construction work, when most of the people visiting our site are looking for things like Gardening, DJs and House Cleaning.

We want Bark to work for everyone who uses us…

And that’s why we decided to make using our site a simple as possible.

Why “keeping it simple” is best for everyone

We settled on our current “per response” model because we feel it strikes the best balance for everyone who uses Bark.

Buyers who use our site get a manageable number of responses to their Barks, and they can contain everything they need to hire the pro that’s reached out to them.

It helps us cover the entire country, without unfairly penalizing pros in rural areas or operating in ultra-niche businesses.

And it means you can use our service hassle-free, while still having a really strong chance of winning the business of the buyers you reply to.

  • You can use Bark on an ad hoc basis to fill any holes that crop up in your schedule without worrying about whether you’re using it enough to justify the subscription
  • If you use us more regularly, you can still benefit from a cheaper service by taking advantage of the discounts we offer on larger packs of Bark credits
  • And, best of all, it lets us ensure we can cover 1000s of different categories, in 1000s of locations across the country and ensure that our Sellers only pay for what they use.

Decisions on pricing strategy are the subject of much debate at Bark HQ and are not taken lightly. We’ve considered every angle on this, and we hope you can see how we arrived at the business model we use today.

As far as we can see, this provides the best value for buyers and pros alike, while at the same time keeping the service quick and simple to use.

That said, we will only be successful if it works for everyone who uses Bark.com – so please feel free to share any feedback with our Customer Service Team by emailing team@bark.com.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Why Service Areas Matter

Following some feedback from a recent seller survey, we felt it would be helpful to run you through exactly how service areas work.

The whole point of service areas are for you to ensure that you are getting Barks relevant to you and your business. The Barks you receive are generated through the service areas that you cover. They can be added and edited at any time. Please see a few important questions and answers below which should hopefully give you a better understanding on how they work:

Set Service Areas
Service Areas Tab

“What are service areas?”

Service areas are a combination of the area you cover geographically and the service you provide as a professional. You put in what it is you do as a business (by selecting one of our categories), a location and then set a radius in miles accordingly (up to 30 miles around one location). There is no cap on the number of service areas you can add to your profile. The more service areas you have – the more Barks you will potentially receive. 

“I don’t get enough Barks”

Try extending your service areas. It is always worthwhile covering a wider radius just to see what might come in. If a high value job comes through, you may feel it’s worthwhile travelling that little bit further. So long as an email alert is not going to be a nuisance we would always suggest covering as wide an area as feasibly possible. It’s better to see what’s out there than not. Of course, if you get something that is not relevant or of interest then there is absolutely no obligation to respond.

Extend your Service Areas to get more Barks
With a 30 mile range this Seller had 15 matching Barks. A 10 mile range only gave 5 matching Barks

“I get too many Barks”

Great that you are getting a high number of enquiries, but we only want to be sending you over relevant leads. If it is because they are coming in too far a field, you can reduce the radius you cover to make it smaller – this will then stop so many leads coming through to you. If you are receiving the wrong type of enquiry, you can simply remove this service area. You will find a small ‘X’ which will remove this for you. 

Remove Service Areas
Click the small X to remove a Service Area

“I cover the whole of the UK”

At present, we do not have a feature that allows you to cover the whole of the UK with one click. That said, you can put yourself down as covering every major city with a 30 mile radius (we have the cities listed in order of popularity at the bottom of each page). For example:

  • Web Design in London with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Manchester with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Bristol with a 30 mile radius
  • Web Design in Liverpool with a 30 mile radius
Service Area Locations
There is no limit on the number of Service Areas you add.

You will then be alerted to all the Barks placed in these areas.

You can find a list of the top UK cities here

“I cover many trades as a supplier”

No problem at all. Like with locations, you can have as many of our categories as you like listed in your service areas. You can also have a different radius set for each one so you can cover a smaller area for the lower value jobs and then a larger area for the higher value jobs. We would always suggest adding in as many categories as possible so you can see the other types of enquiries we receive which could be relevant to you.

For example, someone in the Gardening industry might have the following:

  • Gardening in Richmond with a 5 mile radius
  • Landscape Design in Richmond with a 30 mille radius
  • Fence repair in Richmond with a 10 mile radius. 
Vary Service Areas by category
You can vary your service areas by category if you’re willing to travel further for larger jobs.

If you are having any difficulties with service areas then just give the customer service team a call on 0207 1172 656 or email team@bark.com – we would love to help.

The 7 Deadly Sins stopping you winning new business

Our customer service team often get asked how Sellers can ensure they secure the business when responding to a Bark. As with anything, there are no guarantees, but there are some things we see Sellers doing that harm their chances.

In association with Nick Hewer from The Apprentice we’re bringing these together in a video and Blog post covering the “7 Deadly Sins stopping you winning new business” and providing guidance on how to quote.

Sin 1: Not addressing the Buyer by Name or getting the Buyer’s name wrong

  • If you know the Buyer’s name – use it. It shows you’ve read their details, shows a little care and makes a great first impression. “Dear Mr Jones” looks so much better than “Dear Sir”, or worse “Dear Sir or Madam”.
  • One watch-out though – make sure you type it correctly. If you address a Buyer called “Beverley” as “Baverly” (yes that has genuinely happened) it’s unlikely you’re going to hear from them again.
How not to quote
Make sure you get the Buyer’s name right

 

Sin 2: Copy Pasting Stock responses to save time

  • We know it’s quicker to have a ready-made “Dear <insert name here>, I would love to do your job for you please call me on <insert number here> or email <insert email here>”, unfortunately it just doesn’t work very well.
  • When a Buyer is reading the responses – and they could get 3 or 4 they’re choosing which Seller to work with – it’s far more likely that they’ll go with the Seller who’s taken the time to tailor their response to the Buyer’s needs as the Buyer will be thinking: “yes, that’s exactly what I need”.
  • You may think that Buyer’s can’t spot a copy pasted message, but trust us – they can.
  • The average response is around 500 characters long – about a paragraph – and there’s a balance to strike: Write too much and the buyer will get bored, write too little and they may not be interested.
How not to quote
Try to write a quality response if you want the business

Sin 3: Not giving details on what your quote covers

  • There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a job and sending an invoice including materials only to be told by the Buyer “I thought the quote included materials”.
  • The best Sellers are clear from the start what’s included in the quote and, more importantly, what’s not.
  • Including this helps reassure the Buyer that they won’t get stung and makes it more likely that they’ll choose your business.

Sin 4: Not including a price

  • Pricing can be a touchy subject: Price too high and the Buyer may rule you out before reading the details; too low and you risk making less money than you could do.
  • Where price is relatively standard e.g. a pricing a job per hour it’s relatively easy to share a price with the Buyer with confidence that you won’t be overcommitting.
  • Where you don’t have all the information needed to price accurately or the Buyer’s specification is vague this can be much more difficult, however most Buyers still expect at least a guideline price.
  • Our advice is to always give a price, giving comments to support and marking as an “estimate” if needed. This allows scope to discuss with the Buyer later as more information becomes available.
  • For example, if you don’t know how much a garden Landscaping job would cost you could estimate based on the average cost of other jobs you’ve done and include comments along the lines of “price subject to survey” or similar. Alternatively, you could give your usual minimum price and mark the price as “minimum price given, final price subject to discussion”.
  • Around 60% of our responses have a price attached and Buyers tell us this is useful to know so you may be missing out on business if you don’t give a price up front – particularly if your competitors do.

Sin 5: Not including usable contact details

  • At Bark, we want you to secure the business so we always make it easy for the Buyer to see your contact details.
  • When the Buyer sees your response they can click to view your website, profile, contact details or ask you to call them so it’s vital to ensure these are up to date on your Bark Profile Page.
  • One complaint we hear from Buyers is that Sellers aren’t available to answer the phone when they call – we know that it’s likely you’re on another job of course but the Buyer may not.
  • If possible give a phone number that can always be answered – Buyers may not call back a second time if you don’t answer right away.
    It’s also a good idea to include your contact details in your response to the Buyer too. We’d recommend doing this in a signature that is the same each time, something like:

Kind Regards
Bob Jones
Company Name Limited
bob.jones@companynamelimited.com
01234-567890
www.companynamelimited.com

Sin 6: Poor spelling and grammar

  • When your response includes poor spelling and/or grammar Buyers will get the impression that your work will be of a similar standard.
  • Some of the most common things we see are:
    • Using i instead of I.
    • Missing apostrophes, for example: “youre” instead of “you’re” (we also get the occasional “ur”!!!)
    • Using capitals in the MIDDLE of a sentence for no real reason.
Poor grammar response
Poor spelling and grammar turns Buyers off quickly
  • You can get plug-ins for your browser that check automatically as you type, so you don’t need to check in a word processor (e.g. Microsoft Word) before responding.
    • One we’ve found useful is Grammarly, which is available free. It doesn’t check everything but does a pretty good job
    • If that’s not for you then there are loads of free tools available online that can check what you’re writing
    • If all else fails, read your response twice before clicking reply just to make sure it sells you in the right way.
  • Be doubly careful that your profile has no spelling errors, as every Buyer sees this. You can review and update your profile by logging in here and then clicking Profile.

Sin 7: Not selling your business

  • It’s very easy to answer the specific customer requirement, without actually saying why the Buyer should choose you.
  • Remember yours may not be the only response and you want it to stand out.
  • Do you have a portfolio of your previous work? If so, include some pictures, or a link to the page on your website that shows what you’ve done with similar jobs before.
  • Do you have professional qualifications? Explain what they are, and why they mean you’re a great Seller to choose.
  • Do you have positive reviews on Bark or other sites? If so reference them – we automatically show your Bark review ratings to potential Buyers.
    • Did you know you can get your customers (Bark or otherwise) to leave a review for you on Bark? All you need to do is send them the link from your Profile Page
    • Why not send the link out to your previous customers now to build up your reviews right away? 
    • Also include the link on your website so you keep getting new reviews from your customers – Bark or otherwise.
Sell your business to win the Buyer's
Sell your business to win the Buyer’s

No Seller wins every time, but hopefully our tips can make sure it’s you more often. If, for whatever reason, you aren’t successful we recommend you follow up with the Buyer to ask why. Some will tell you and you can use this to adapt your future pitches and improve your chances the next time a Bark comes along – which won’t be long.

What are your tips for quoting? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Nick Hewer Twitter Q&A – The Answers!

Nick Hewer Twitter q&A

On 6th October 2015, we hosted an engaging Twitter Q&A with the highly successful businessman, Nick Hewer. Nick gave us an insight into the business world and offered advice for budding entrepreneurs on the hashtag, #AskNick.

Nick Hewer is well known as the host of Channel 4’s Countdown, and from 2005 to 2014 he appeared as Lord Sugar’s adviser on the British television series, The Apprentice. Nick has been working with Bark.com since our inception, so we were delighted to have him take over our Twitter feed, offering valuable business advice and providing career inspiration along the way. If you haven’t yet seen it, here’s Nick explaining how Bark.com works earlier this year.

Missed out on the Q&A? Don’t worry, because we have compiled Nick’s answers for you to digest below!

Nick Hewer Opening Q&A

Question 1: 

Question 1

Question 2:

Question 2

Question 3: 

Question 3

Question 4:

Question 4

Question 5: 

Question 5

Question 6: 

Question 6

Question 7: 

Question 7

Question 8:

Question 8

Question 9:

Question 9

Question 10:

Question 10

Question 11:

Question 11

Question 12:

Question 12

Question 13:

Question 13

Question 14:

Question 14

Question 15:

Question 15

Question 16:

Question 16

Question 17:

Question 17

After a fantastic Q&A, Nick signed off…

Nick Hewer end of Q&A

Thanks to everyone who got involved in the Q&A! Was your question answered? Is there anything else you would like to #AskNick? Let us know in the comments below!

And while you’re at it, make sure you follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page or visit our blog to keep up to date with Bark news, tips and advice!

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Tying Up Loose Ends Before Going On Your Travels

The flights are booked, the selfie stick has been bought and your blog is up and running. Going travelling, or indeed moving abroad, is one of life’s most exciting adventures. All that stands between you and wanderlust is the passport checks and baggage reclaim, right? Wrong… You can’t just up and leave without tying up the loose ends your bound to encounter in the run up to your trip. From learning the local language to arranging a new home for your pooch, here’s some words of wisdom from the wise heads at Bark for you to bare In mind before you board that flight.

Home From Home

Preparing to move abroadWe’ll start with the obvious, your property. A big decision needs to be made here. Do you cash in and sell your home, or do you let it out for the duration of your stay abroad? It can be very tantalising to sell your property. Prices have increased in value by around 40% since 2011. However, you’ll want a safety net in the form of shelter in the scenario that your travels turn into a holiday from hell and you want to return pronto. That leaves us with renting. First, you need to ensure your insurance and mortgage providers are happy for your property to be converted from owner-occupier to rented. It’s best to find an expert mortgage advisor to help you with this part. What’s more, you’ll need to maximise the rentability of your home and spruce it up a bit before finding a suitor. That may require a professional to come in an address that niggling plumbing problem, or a handyman to fix the small jobs. Then there’s the small issue with tax. Landlords and property owners living abroad will still have to file a tax return every year. Sound complicated? You can always ask a tax professional to lend you a helping hand.

Learn The Lingo

Preparing to move abroadYou may think that you’ll pick up the local language easily once you’re out there and going about your daily life, but its always best to gain a grasp of the language of the country your heading to before you arrive. Us Brits are notorious for showing up on foreign soil and expecting the locals to be fluent in English– don’t be one of them. Be it Spanish, French, Chinese or whatever language you’re looking to learn, there’ll be a professional on hand to get you speaking like a local in no time. Just to us what language you’re looking to learn and we can find the ideal language professional. Capisce?

Store Those Memories

Preparing to move abroadAnother major headache of moving abroad is deciding what to do with your belongings. Most airlines these days place limits on how much you can place in the hold or in the cabin. If you’re renting out your place, you wont be able to keep stuff there, and we doubt your parents will be happy holding refuge to every possession you’ve deciding against taking with you on your travels. Your best bet is putting it into storage. It’s safe and secure and saves so much hassle. What’s more, it’s reassuring to know that your cherished possessions are stored, ready to be reunited with you when you return. If you go down the storage route, you’ll need a removal professional to transport your possessions to and fro. Or, if you prefer, you can always do it yourself and hire a van to get the job done.

Dog’s Life

Preparing to move abroadThis advice may tug on your heartstrings, so a word of caution against proceeding if you can’t face the prospect of giving up your best friend. One of the harsh realities of moving abroad is leaving your loved ones. Giving up a pet can be especially tearful. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your pet receives the best care possible in your absence, and if you intend to return in the not too distant future. If worst comes to worst and you have to say goodbye to your pooch for good, you’ll need to find a professional pet adoption agency.

Goodbye, Farewell

Preparing to move abroadSo, you’ve tidied up the home ready to let out, the taxman knows you’re heading abroad, and happy in the knowledge your pet is in safe hands. All that’s left to do is throw the biggest going away bash in history. This is your chance let out all the stress of preparing your move abroad and say goodbye to all your loved ones. You’ll need to plan this thoroughly. If you simply don’t have the time to organise your own do, you can find a professional to plan the party for you. From preparing food and drink, to finding the right venue, the team at Bark can ensure you get the perfect send off.

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Hosting For The Masses: Ten Street Foods to Wow Your Guests

Summer barbecues may seem like a distant memory already, but as the colder months approach, there are still plenty of opportunities to celebrate and host coming up in the calendar. So, why not really go all out to impress your guests with your culinary prowess?

At Bark.com, we’ve seen requests for all manner of catering rise as hosts look to spice up their socials with dishes from around the world, so if you’re looking for a little inspiration, why not try one of our top ten street food picks to get the party started.

  1.  DIY tacos and burritos: A simple Mexican staple, but easy to personalise, lay out the wraps and taco shells, and provide bowls of chilli con carne, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole and an array of vegetables. People can pick and choose as they like.Street Food Trends 2015
  2. Bubble Tea: Becoming ever more common in the UK, this beverage first found popularity in the streets of Taiwan. Traditionally a cold milk tea mixed with tapioca balls, there are now a variety of flavours to choose from – milk or juice based – and fruit jellies or popping balls that can be included for a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative drink.

    Street Food Trends 2015
    Popping onto the UK scene
  3. Poutine: Straight over the Atlantic from Canada, Poutine seems like the perfect complement to a boozy evening. Chips, gravy and cheese…what more could your guests want?
    Poutine: Summer food trends 2015
  4. Bunny Chow: This South African delicacy really gives you options. Hollow out some bread and fill it with a curry of your choice. This fun dish is great for soaking up alcohol, but maybe keep the napkins at the ready.

    Street Food trends 2015
    Dig deep for Bunny Chow
  5. Arepa: Heading to South America, this slightly thicker flatbread dish is popular in Colombia and Venezuela and it is usually filled with a combination cheese, egg and avocado.Street Food Trends 2015
  6. Jerk Chicken: Something a bit more familiar here, but a well-loved dish-if you can handle the spice! You could serve this with rice, or make it more of a casual party food by skewering it with peppers and pineapple.

    Street Food Trends 2015
    It pays to be a jerk
  7.  Currywurst: This idea of curried sausage may seem odd to some, but citizens of Germany swear by it. The sausage is steamed and then fried, sliced and served with a spiced tomato sauce. Leave in a bowl or serve with chips – whatever suits your guests.

    Street Food UK trends 2015
    The ultimate German street food
  8. Ceviche: This Peruvian speciality may not be ideal for all but the blend of raw fish marinated in citrus juices and seasoned with onions and chillies can be served with a variety of side dishes such as sweet potato, avocado and corn. It’s certainly among the lighter options! What’s more, go the extra mile and wow your guests by gaining a firm grasp of the local dialect.

    Street Food Trends 2015
    Image courtesy of The Pescertarian and The Pig
  9. Burek:  Go to a street stall in Bosnia and you’ll be greeted by many different types of pastry goods. The main flaky favourite is made with ground beef but there are alternatives filled with egg and cheese or potato and onion. If these don’t suit you, why not explore with your own flavour combinations?

    Ten street food trends UK
    Burek: Perfectly Flaky
  10. Banh Mi: All over Vietnam, you’ll see stalls serving baguettes, covered in mayonnaise and pâté, filled with pork or meatballs and garnished with cucumber, carrots, coriander and chillies. They’re a firm, if slightly messy, favourite among tourists, but perhaps worth cutting into smaller bite sized pieces for an easy to handle snack.
Street Foods UK Trends 2015
Banh Mi: A tourist favourite

People will always remember the food from parties so if you can pull some of these off then it will help to make yours one to remember for a long time! Or have the dishes but save yourself the trouble and find a caterer or even a professional chef to do the hard work for you – we won’t tell if you don’t!

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

An easy guide: How to build an online presence for your small business

We are surrounded by media. From when we sit at the bus stop in the morning to when we chill out in front of the TV in the evening, we are constantly targeted by large companies and brands who are desperate to gain our attention. This has become increasingly prevalent in the age of social media, which has provided another avenue from which brands can target us, even drilling down into our demographics and interests. With that in mind, small business owners now need to make sure that they are developing an online presence, to make them stand out in industries that are already heavily saturated.

It’s common knowledge that online presence means brand awareness. Nowadays, how you present your brand online is similar to meeting a customer for the first time. Your online brand is essentially what people think of you when you are not available. Online presence is often a test of credibility for many technologically savvy consumers, who would rather connect with businesses online first before making a purchasing decision. This poses an opportunity to impress and capture the attention of potential customers. These days the first port of call when looking for information about a product or a service is to ‘Google’ it, meaning online presence is crucial if you want to make your business a successful one.

So how can you become a major player in this competitive age? Here are 5 ways to effectively maximise your online presence:

Branding 

No matter how big or small your company is – branding matters. From word go a clear and consistent branding strategy should be developed, which can be pumped across all online channels to create brand recognition. According to the founder of The NY Brand Lb, Mary Van de Wiel, “without a brand you ultimately lack an identity, a presence – and a purpose.” You should think about your tone of voice and your values, as well as your visual aesthetic. Not particularly creative? Don’t know where to start? Then maybe you should find a graphic designer who can help you pinpoint what your business is about in a visually appealing way.

Communicate your brand
Shout loud about your brand

Website Design and Development 

You never know who will be knocking on your virtual door at any time of the day or night – so make sure your home on the Internet is kitted out for new visitors! Creating and more importantly maintaining a website is a useful tool for every business. Here, you can shout loud about your portfolio of work and maybe even offer your tuppence-worth via a company blog. Your website needs to be functional and user friendly, and this is where a professional with experience in website design and development may come in handy! Once you find the right web developer, start thinking about optimising your website. This will make sure that your website performs well on search engines – just like the aforementioned Google! Be front and centre of the online world, and drive traffic to your website with the help of an SEO professional.

Web Site Design
Build a user-friendly website!

Social Media

You’ve developed your brand, and mastered your website. But how can you enhance the visibility of your brand even further? The key is to make sure you are on social media – which is both effective and cost effective. Social media not only helps you to grow your customer base by reaching a wider audience, it also helps you to promote brand recognition and loyalty. Find a social media marketer who can help you maximise channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Although not the most widely used social network, G+ should also be maximised. Effective use of G+ can determine your inclusion and ranking in the carousel of businesses that appear at the top of the Google search results. As well as aiding your SEO, there are also advanced features available to businesses using G+. Check out G+ for yourself and add Bark.com to your circles!

If you’re feeling particularly competitive, you might want to also get set up on new and emerging social networks like Snapchat and Periscope. The opportunities are endless!

Be active on social media
Engage with your customers via social media

Email Marketing

In this day and age, almost everyone has an online presence in some form, even if it is just an email address. Email marketing is a sure way to stay on the radar of potential customers, and it can definitely allow you to establish profitable relationships in the long term. This is to be used wisely, and should not be spam abuse. Instead your emails should offer something to the consumer – be it special offers, industry news or company updates. Feeling a little confused? Then find an email marketer to help you get the job done.

Build a customer database
Build a targeted email marketing campaign

Online Directories

Regardless of how strong your online presence is, you won’t be able to sit back, relax and let the cash flow in. You need to get ahead of your competitors, who are battling against you with extensive advertising budgets. If a customer can’t find you when they are searching for a product or a service, then you simply won’t get the business. Joining an online directory like our very own Bark.com ensures that you are placed directly in front of the right people, often for a very minimal spend. No matter what service you provide, learn more about joining Bark by visiting our Pro-Centre.

Incorporating a targeted email marketing campaign with your slick new branding, user-friendly website and engaging social media strategy will set your small business on a path to success, all with the added help from an online directory like Bark.com!

Do you have any other tips for small business owners? Let us know!

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

 

Top tips to clear away those post-freshers blues

It’s so easy to get caught up in the joys of freshers week after the stress of getting to university and the nerves of meeting new people. And after all, fresher’s week is a time to relax and find your feet. But when the freshers cloud of cheap vodka and dodgy kebabs begins to fade, it can be hard to re-adjust and know what to do with yourself. Here are some tips to help clear away those post-freshers blues and get yourself going for the year ahead.

DJ set
About last night…

Quick off the block: It’s tempting to miss your first few classes – you’re exhausted from your first week and probably suffering from fresher’s flu. However, these first classes give out a lot of information and if you fall behind now, it’ll mean missing a lot of nights out later in the year. Try and make as many as possible and if you absolutely have to miss one then e-mail your lecturer to try and get some information.

Explore: It’s pretty safe to assume that most of your fresher’s experience took place in a kitchen, some questionable dark clubs and the local chicken shop. So get out and explore the area you’re in! Go for brunch, join a local sports team or get rid of all those fresher’s toxins with a nice spa day and massage. As an added bonus, you can get discounts for so many of these activities at the freshers fare!

Class Of University Students
Reminder – lectures are what you’re here for!

Supplement: It’s nice to have some down time, but remember you’ll never have this much free time again. You’ll probably regret it if you don’t make the most of your spare time at uni – so take up something on the side of your studies. Whether that’s photography or another language, broaden your horizons and you never know when it might come in handy.

Don’t feel trapped: Many students will spend freshers with their flatmates – mainly because this is easy and can help them feel more secure. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with these people for your entire life or even until third year – you can find friends in your classes or societies too. Do try and keep your flatmates on side though, you do still have to live with them and you don’t want to end up in a passive aggressive notes-on-the-butter stand off! 

Get some kind of routine: Okay, so we’re not going military style but try and get something of a schedule. Nobody wants to be left with a 3000-word essay to write the night before it’s due with a hangover, all our plates to clean and a massive pile of washing (cleaners don’t tend to fit in to the student budget – although for the lazy of you, we can help with finding a cleaner!) It is inviting to “forget” about tasks like this, but they are all part of university life, and getting on top of them can make the difference between grades.

Change course: Don’t be afraid to switch subjects – it’s better to do it early than to find yourself going into 3rd year with a course you hate. Do give things some time to settle though, as you might start to enjoy the course once you get into it. If this is on your mind go and speak to your advisor, head of department or even the careers department – all of whom are well placed to comment.

Budget: The most talked about – or the most ignored subject for students. Blowing all your money during freshers may seem like a great idea, but when you’re eating 18p instant noodles along in your room for the three months you might regret it! Many students do go into their overdraft so try and find one with no interest, but also thinking about getting a part-time job. It’s a great way of meeting new people and exploring the town a little more, and can help you make ends meet. 

 instant noodle
Trust us. You’ll regret it

If you’re looking for different opportunities of chances to learn new skills why not check out Bark.com to get help from professionals in your area?

For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our other blogs?

Rugby World Cup 2015 – Let the games begin!

At last the gusto, chatting and mind games can finally come to an end as we find ourselves on the eve of the start of the Rugby World Cup. This is not any ordinary World Cup being hosted in England. You feel a repeat of their run to the final in 1991, the last time the tournament was played on home soil, represents the bare minimum most fans, players and pundits expect. We at Bark.com have been as guilty as anyone in getting excited and with friends across the Severn Bridge becoming sworn enemies over the next couple of weeks; it promises to be a tasty pool stage.

Rugby World Cup - England 2015 garden party
Have yourself a ball this Autumn

The plan is that much like the class of 2003 and the Ashes Winning side of 2005 and the football team of…oh wait… this side has the ability to inspire a nation. It may lead to younger children looking for coaching or perhaps for those already playing and seeing the size of those on the field, regular trips to the gym or hiring a personal trainer may be on the cards. It could well be the flexibility of the players that has you in awe and in that case don’t be afraid to do a Ryan Giggs and hire a yoga instructor or find a Pilates experts but there is always the far more appealing option of finding a hiring a massage therapist to ease those muscle aches and pains.

If participating isn’t for you then there is still plenty to do as a spectator and a number of ways to enjoy the experience. While most would have been unable to get their hands on tickets or flat out refuse to pay the extortionate fees, the TV at home or pub with friends represents a decent alternative. You may want to host a rugby-related event for friends and family, or you could leave the barbecuing to the expert and let the good times flow. If you’re really going to get in to the tournament, you may also be keen to look the part and get the shirt of your choice to help support your team; you will not be struggling to find Rugby World Cup memorabilia for the next six weeks.

BBQ enjoying World Cup
We don’t want any shrimps on the barbie…

Hope can often be one of the worst human emotions but hope is exactly what this English team represents. If a tricky group containing fellow heavyweights Australia and Wales can be negotiated and South Africa can be avoided in the quarter-finals then England can expect to go pretty close to claiming the Webb Ellis Trophy which they last won down under in 2003. An encouraging Six Nations performance, much-improved display against Ireland in their final warm-up and a patriotic Twickenham crowd who will be present throughout has given renewed confidence to this mercurial but inexperienced England side.  The likes of Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and Andre Watson all have the ability to be match winners on their day but none have ever played so far as a minute in a World Cup match. Be bold, courageous and back your skills should surely be the advice to let these young flyers flourish.

You only have to look back to 1995 and the victory for the Rainbow Nation and the iconic image of Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar to see the enormous unifying nature that the tournament can offer. Let’s hope the country can take heed from that competition as well as the feel-good factor of the 2012 London Olympics and get behind the home nations and give the whole country a lift.