Hello! It’s Saturday and so it must be a small business chat (update) … and here we’re getting into the holiday spirit with Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. I originally featured Debbie in March 2013, when she’d been going for a few years and had added a second property to her portfolio two years previously, and this was her plan for the upcoming year: “I’m still learning a huge amount on the marketing and social media side, so I hope to have ventured into Twitter and several other areas of marketing. I think this year is more about consolidating what I already have. If the business expands in the future, it will be as an agent for other local properties. I can then pass on all the experience I’ve learnt, to help other owners. I’ve been asked several times already, but I’m not ready for that leap yet!“
So, how did Debbie get on with her marketing and social media? Did she consolidate or did she expand? Grab a cuppa and read on to find out …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I’m perhaps a little further behind where I hoped I’d be, but I have made definite progress, so I’m not beating myself up over it!
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I wanted to get into Twitter and I certainly have. I have built up a good following on there and I’m sure that will just continue to grow. I am a softly, softly networker; I have simply chatted to people on there on a couple of networking hours and have made some really good connections. I have a Google plus account but it’s not very active. Google is now offering me a new page to link with my Google Places entry, so things are very messy at present, as I don’t want two pages.
I’m using a web designer to try to help me get through this very challenging maze! I still have the same website, but instead of employing someone, as originally planned, I’ve decided to build my own with support and lessons from a website designer. It’s taking a long time, but I’ll get there eventually! I stay active on Facebook and through this have met the most fabulous group of ladies. We set up a group called Small Business Support Group and we help each other in business as well as chat about our personal lives. I now have a virtual office, which is great after so many years of working alone! Some of us have even met in person last month in Birmingham, with more meetings planned for the future.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Everything takes twice as long as you hope! Google has changed many things in this last year and I have been hit by less traffic to my website, and I’m sure this has also affected the listing sites I advertise on. I wish I’d known that the winter was going to be bad for bookings; I would have done a better marketing drive last Autumn. However, I’ve done lots of marketing this year, so things are on the up again!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Be the person you are, especially within social media. Don’t try and just sell, sell, sell; people like to connect with real people and get to know the person behind the business. Always be willing to adapt and change things if they are not working. No business progresses into the future unless they explore new ideas and take on new challenges. Don’t be afraid of competitors, but learn from their success (or failures!) and simply be the best you can be.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I will have a new website with all the bells and whistles, including the ability to fill out forms online. Currently I send out a word doc which does bring occasional problems. I will have learnt a lot about WordPress, various Google products and the dark art of SEO! The business has a mascot now, a cuddly dog called Charlie. I hope my guests will have taken him out and about exploring Norfolk and sent me photos. I have lots of ideas in my head to build on my customer loyalty and reward them in some way. I will have a logo (that’s in the pipeline) and new business cards, and hopefully will have built on my brand name even more. It’s all very exciting still!
I think Debbie’s done a very important thing in running her own website but with the support of a web designer – that’s a super idea and means that she maintains control of the content and operation of the site, while having expert advice on how to go about it. I meet too many people who have no control over their own website at all, and have to pay to make the smallest update – I really do think that Debbie has found a good solution there. It’s great that she’s found a group of like-minded people, too – I wouldn’t be without my support group of fellow editors as well as other general small business people. A case study in how to do it, then, and how lovely that she’s still excited by it all. I look forward to finding out how Debbie gets on over the next year!
f you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.