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?

 

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.

Your health is your wealth! Alternative ways to keep your mind and body healthy from Bark.com

We live in a rat race. It’s a lifestyle where we’re constantly exposed to stress, with increasing workloads, hectic schedules and an expensive cost of living. Long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, less time with loved ones and the length of time spent commuting has led to emotional exhaustion. Commencing burnout in 3…2…1…

According to British psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, the overall pace of life has increased by 10% worldwide since the 1990s. You may even find that some places have seen an increase of 20%! Advancements in technology have contributed to a rise in the collective sense of urgency. The rate at which we communicate and work has increased, contributing to more stress-induced illnesses. A vicious circle, you may agree!

At Bark.com, we believe in working hard. However, we also see the importance of a more harmonious work-life balance. With that, we’ve taken inspiration from a variety of our Sellers to compile a list of alternative ways to fix ailments and keep your mind and body healthy – particularly in this hectic world we live in.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine and is most commonly used to treat pain. Acupuncture is a technique where thin needles are inserted into the body at specific points, to manipulate the ‘flow’ of energy or Qi. Like blood in the circulatory system, Qi goes through the body via pathways, which are called meridians. According to the University of Miami, when factors like stress, injury or poor nutrition disrupt the regular flow of Qi, health issues follow. Acupuncture can also sometimes provide a boost in your immune system, which is key if you lead an unforgiving and fast paced lifestyle. Not only is Acupuncture good for pain, it is also a natural way to treat anxiety. Experts claim that it works faster than therapy, while keeping you drug-free at the same time. If this alternative treatment is for you, why not search for an Acupuncture specialist in your area?

Acupuncture in practice
Let the Qi flow…

Reiki Healing

Taking inspiration from Asia once more, next on our list is Reiki Healing. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. But how does it differ to Acupuncture? Reiki is based on the principle of ‘laying on hands’ to activate healing and restore physical and emotional wellbeing. During Reiki, a therapist can channel energy into a patient by means of touch, so it is once again a natural healing process. Reiki is a very spiritual type of healing, but there is no religious belief associated with its practice. Reiki has become very popular recently with therapists practicing across the UK. Need to find the balance? Then find Reiki Healing practitioners near you.

Reiki Healing in Practice
Channel your energy with Reiki

Hypnotherapy

What do you think of when you think of Hypnotherapy? Do you see hypnotherapy as something that is associated with comedy? Do you see hypnotherapy as a way to end an addiction? What about stress relief?

Hypnotherapy is more frequently being used for stress and anxiety treatment. So if life is becoming too exhausting, maybe now is the time to search for a hypnotherapist who can help you through it. Like many alternative treatments, hypnosis can help you relieve and manage your stress levels, but it also aims to eliminate or reduce the problems causing the stress internally. Oftentimes, for example, there are things that have happened in the past that we have not dealt with. Hypnotherapists claim that they can help you change the way your mind tells your body to deal with certain situations – ultimately helping you to stay relaxed and in control.

Hypnosis treatment in practice
Take control of your mind…

Massage Therapy

If Reiki, Acupuncture or Hypnotherapy are not for you, then why not choose to go down the Massage Therapy route instead? Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, you can choose from among 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, techniques and movements e.g. Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports and Hot Stone Massage. Similarly to the other therapies, massage can provide stress relief as well as help with certain medical conditions. Before you find your Massage Therapist and get booked in, you might want to ask yourself why exactly you want the massage. Do you simply want some ‘me time’, some relaxation or do you need relief from a health condition? Be mindful of this to make sure you’re getting the best massage for your needs.

Therapist doing massage
We all need some ‘me time’…

Have you tried any of the above, or do you have a favourite alternative treatment? Let us know!

For other top tips and advice from Bark.com, why not check out our other blogs?

September is the new January… improve yourself and your skills with Bark.com

Forget New Year, September is the perfect time for new beginnings. Summer has been and gone, the days are getting shorter, the evenings are getting darker and the air is cool as winter slowly sets in.

There’s something different about September, which makes it more of an annual turning point than January. September sees the start of a new academic year, and even though the Bark.com team have been out of school for quite a while, we always feel a sense of renewed determination and eagerness as September sets in. We think of September as a clean slate, a time of self-evaluation and a time to start a new project. With that, we’ve put together the top ways to improve yourself and your skills this September – all with the help of Bark.com!

Learn a language

Have you ever thought about learning a second language? Learning another language not only opens your mind and teaches you about different cultures, it also makes you stand out in a competitive job market where skills are key; think amazing job opportunities and salary increases! Need more convincing? Research the cognitive benefits. Many physiological studies have noted that the brains of bilingual people operate more efficiently than single language speakers, particularly in the areas of decision-making, multitasking and memory. Find French lessons, German lessons, Spanish lessons or even Chinese lessons, you’ll at least have some fun bragging rights by the time you become fluent!

Find language lessons
The world is your oyster!

Conquer the fear of public speaking

What’s your greatest fear? Do Spiders scare you? Are heights not your thing? Do you avoid deep water like the plague? All of the above are amongst the top 10 greatest fears across the world, but what was number one in the USA? You guessed it – public speaking! As Jay Leno once said ‘I guess we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy’. If you’re one of those people who can’t stand the thoughts of speaking in front of a group, then take the fear into your own hands and find public speaking lessons this September – you won’t regret it!

Find pubic speaking lessons
Get ready to take the mic!

Channel your creativity through photography

Are you Instagram crazy, a filter fanatic so to speak? Did our latest photography blog inspire you to unleash your inner photographer? Search for photography lessons this September and go from amateur to pro. From shooting to editing, this is a fantastic creative outlet to explore before the year is out. You’ll have your own studio before you know it…

Find photography lessons
Channel your creativity through photography

Protect and empower yourself with self defence

Feeling empowered is a great feeling, particularly when it comes to safety. I’m sure many of us would like to feel safer on our streets as we go about our daily lives. The numbers of people, especially women, taking the necessary steps to feel more secure is increasing. Self-defence classes are popular, as students can learn how to predict, prevent, identify and avoid violence. When we think of self-defence we immediately think of just martial arts, but the crucial difference is that self-defence combines situational awareness into the mix. Find the self-defence classes which teach you the skills you need to keep yourself safe in this big bad world!

Find self defence classes
Be prepared, protect yourself!

Dance like no one’s watching!

Looking for an activity that is good for personal fitness and is enjoyable at the same time? Get your dancing shoes on! Creativity is one thing that dancing can provide that regular gym exercises can’t. As Contanze Mozart once said: “Dancing is like dreaming with your feet”. This type of exercise is also both aerobic and anaerobic, so you will always get a full body workout. Whether you like ballroom dancing, tap dancing or hip hop dancing, there’s a genre for everyone. Side step to Bark.com to find the best dance lessons in  your area.

Find dance classes
Express yourself through dance

We hope we have motivated you to improve your skills this September. If none of the above are for you, then browse our lessons and training page for more inspiration. Let us know which one you choose and remember; Orange is the New Black, Tuesday is the new Thursday, and September is the new January.

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

The Do’s and Don’ts of DIY: When to Leave It To The Expert

Let’s be honest: We all fancy ourselves as a bit of DIY genius. No job is too complex or great. When it comes to doing it yourself, any danger of causing serious injury or seriously botching up a job goes out the window; it’s all about ego and proving that not every job requires calling ‘The Man’.

In the real world, however, there is only so much the common homeowner can achieve when deciding to do a touch of handy work around a property. More often than not, it pays to get the expert in. Here’s a list of some household tasks that shouldn’t be too difficult to handle, and those that most definitely require a professional. If you’re one of those who thinks you’re a DIY jack-of-all-trades, look away now…

Don’t Get Wired On Electrics

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Anything electrical in your home that requires attention is best left untouched. Not only do you skirt with the obvious risk of electrocuting yourself, meddling with the wires behind that dodgy plug socket could wreak havoc on your home’s entire wiring. The appeal of deciding to fix a light fitting without the costly expense of calling in a professional may seem alluring, but just think about the potential spiralling costs in the event you botch it up and need to find a professional electrician to rewire your whole home. Bottom line: Don’t fiddle with electrics.

Electrician expert wiring plug socket
Leave electrics to the expert

Different Strokes

Moving on to something a little safer, there’s nothing wrong with attempting painting inside your home. Obviously there’s more to it than simply taking a pot of paint to your walls, but it’s certainly one of the more ‘doable’ DIY projects. As Interior specialist Gemma Cheney writes in the Guardian, there are tricks to adding a professional touch to your painting: “preparation is everything”. For ease and for covering a larger area, a roller is probably best, but for the more intricate jobs, a paintbrush is more ideal. The beauty of it all is that even if you do somehow manage to make a hash of it, you can always hire a painter and decorator to save the day.

Painting DIY indoors property
Unleash your inner painter

Avoid the Waterworks

When it comes to plumbing, there are a handful of simple jobs that do not require a plumbing service: a leaky tap, installing a new shower head or unclogging a drain are all perfect and scalable jobs to keep you occupied at the weekends. However, the more complex tasks will require a professional plumber. Much like trying to fix a problematic wire, fiddling with your home’s plumbing could have disastrous consequences that could leave you more out of pocket to fix than if you called the plumber in the first place. Moving away from the job at hand, hiring a plumber has other benefits. He or she will help you stay within your planned budget and will likely get the job done within your envisioned timeline.

Plumbing expert DIY
Time to call in the Plumber?

Take it Outside

Of course, DIY isn’t just contained to your home; the garden represents a wide range of DIY jobs you can do yourself, from mowing the lawn and painting the fence, to the more difficult bricklaying or pond installation. You may laugh, but there is a method to mowing the perfect lawn, but it’s probably not worth calling in the man. However, installing that nice, new water feature or building a new shed is probably better left to the professional – Bark can help you find local Bricklayers if you need them. Regardless of perfecting the bricklaying when building a new shed, there are also legal complication such as obtaining planning permission that a professional will know inside out and offer guidance. On top of all that, there’s the slight issue of landscaping. We’d all love a garden that wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show, but left to your own devices you could just as likely end up with the garden from hell. Again, probably best to hire a landscaper for that major redesign.

landscaping gardening expert DIY
Shaping your dream garden

Inspired to Do It Yourself? Consider calling in a local professional first. Bark.com has a wide range of house and home services to help spruce up your property.

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