Design your Advert

To be most effective in business, you need to know who you are selling to. – Unknown

Last time we looked at why we need to advertise our products but this time lets look at the advert itself.  It is easy to just bung a few words and a splash of colour on to a piece of paper but is that really the image we wish to portray to our clients.

KISS – Keep It Simple (Stupid)

This is a well-worn acronym in the advertising world but so important.  The simpler and easier the advert the more clients you will attract.  Remember that often the reader has only a few seconds to take in the whole concept of an advertised product or service so if the advert is crowded with words, cryptic hints or bland typography your reader may well not have the time to process the information.  If you are putting up a poster along the road for people to read at 30 mph it needs to be clear with memorable contact information, otherwise, the moment is wasted.

However, there are some additional things that can bring an advert alive.

  1. Colourful – up to 3 or 4 colours tying in with your logo colours will give you an advantage.
  2. Seasonal – if you are offering seasonal produce then moderate your advertising accordingly and remember most publications will have a lead time that is longer than you expect for deadlines.
  3. Comfort – we all want the easiest softest route to our ends – so imply it with a wholesome advertising campaign
  4. Safety – ties in again with comfort above but it is an important element for our clients so advocate safety within your advert.
  5. Emotional and Emotive – if you can trigger an emotion you are halfway to winning a new client before you need to do anything more. Love, children, pets, a broken heart, we’ve all been there and a nice hot cuppa or chocolate really does make the pain better even if only for a moment.

Social Media

Social Media plays a large part in your promotion these days.  It does however require the time and skill to produce a balanced programme.   Most platforms or forums will not allow you to post advertising material or competitions without strict regulatory guidelines.   If you are posting information the accepted ratio is 1 in every 9 posts may be adverts.

The accepted rule of posting is
Facebook  2 posts per day
Twitter  2 – 3 posts per day
Instagram – up to 10 posts per day

That works out at a lot of time creating exceptional content even if you were posting the same advert regularly.

Social media is also an important medium for a certain customer.  Is your customer looking at their phone constantly throughout the day?   Are they the kind of people who comment all day on other posts?

What about those who do not use social media? There are many such as those in highly visible and caring positions.   Head Teachers, Doctors, Prison Officers, Police are all well paid with the disposable income you may want but due to the nature of the positions are not permitted to have certain accounts.   Retired people who have grown up without the necessity of technology may well have the income and the time but not the inclination to sit at a computer screen all day. If these fall into your client bracket, then spending hours creating beautiful informative and helpful posts will be wasted when it does not reach them.


It’s your business, be passionate about it, don’t just advertise – ask for an editorial alongside an advert.  Tell people about yourself and why you are selling this product or service, why you believe in it and so should they.   It is preferable to write the editorial yourself because no one else can understand your product like you.  Testimonials will help and as we are very visual creatures throw in a few images.

Your customers are buying You…  Sell yourself.

Be Original

There is only one you with all your experiences and knowledge so when you create a company or product be original.  Don’t let yourself be swayed by another similar brand and try to cash in on their success by copying what they do too closely.   It will only lead to confusion and goodwill is hard-earned.  If they lose their goodwill you may well find yourself tarred with that brush and having to work at re-inventing yourself.

Just as you are original, so is your customer unique, so target your marketing to that one individual.  Everyone reading it will think it is targeted at them, in particular, giving them a personalised reason to buy from you.

Brand Awareness

Branding is not just a logo at the top of a sheet of paper.  Branding includes your logo, your tag line and your colours.  It is how a company or product is promoted through design, marketing and advertising.

Whatever marketing you choose, keep your colour scheme in line with your logo colours.  Make sure the website colours are the same.  If you use business cards these should tie in with your colour scheme and logo.  Be warned though: some internet-based product designers are cheap and easy to use but they are not selling you the licence to use their icons or designs.  So your cards will not be copyright free to use in adverts or stationery or even on your website.

Your brand should be synonymous with you.

Read Material Carefully

Ask yourself: Would I buy my product/use the service I am promoting? Read your marketing material and advertising from the potential customer’s perspective: Is it clear? Does it make sense? Have I made it easy for the customer to know how to contact me for further information or to purchase?

 Proofread: carefully check all adverts, marketing material and editorial text for typos, errors or omissions. Ask someone else to check them too. It’s surprising how you can miss things when you already have in your mind what you expect to see. A wrongly printed phone number won’t bring you custom!

Talk to the Experts

If we can help in your marketing plans or guide you towards local advertising, please get in contact.



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Target Your Marketing

 It is not about selling – It’s about creating value for your audience.- Jerry Allocca

This is the beginning of a  two-part blog about marketing; in particular why we advertise.

Congratulations, your research has been done and you discovered a need; you diligently sourced the components or equipment to offer the perfect value for money.  Now you have the most wonderful product or service ever invented and you are ready to launch yourself on an unsuspecting public.

A big expensive splash in a national Sunday paper should do the trick.   It will certainly get your name out into the wider world and will cost a small fortune which you will hope to get back tenfold with such a promotion.

What if it doesn’t go that way?

As Jerry Allocca stated, it is about creating value for your audience who in this case would be your customer.  In order to offer value and know how to create it you need to define your customer.

Define your Customer

If you have researched the need for your product you already know a bit about your customer, but you need to know more about them to target the right people.

Where do they live? – if you are based in North Dorset and your product, service or shop is a local one, then focus your advertising in North Dorset rather than a national or even a county wide publication.

Where do they Work? – If your business is a physical premises, do they pass you at lunchtime when they are looking for somewhere to escape their desks?  Are they popping past your shop window to get their coffee on their way to work?  These may be the people with disposable income you want to entice in.

What age are they?  If you supply things for children is your customer the child or the mother who pays over the money?  Way out and extreme style shoes may appeal to the wearer but the parent looking for school shoes is the person you need to draw in.

What Gender are they?  The customer may not be the same person who does the actual buying of flowers or a treatment.  A romantic husband may be easily swayed by a happy wife if she feels she is being spoilt.

What do they need?  –  Nurture their requirements, sometimes it is about offering a bit more for the same price.

What do they read?  Do they go out and buy a paper, a magazine or an advertising guide and if so are they buying it for the articles or news?   A reader’s attention span is short and so your advert needs to be opposite where your customers’ eyes may linger on a page. Is the publication free to the reader, and delivered to their home? Are there already advertisements for similar or competing products or services, which may give you a clue as to whether this is a worthwhile place to advertise?


Let’s face it advertising costs money and sometimes when we are on a tight budget, we feel it is wasted money.   Stop that thought and wonder why companies such as John Lewis, Coca Cola and Tesco’s to name a few, spend so much on their Christmas advertising. Apparently Barbour spent £9 million on its Christmas advertising last year. It is one of the reasons why they are successful: they do advertise, and they know the benefit of using their budget on promoting themselves.   We would not propose spending that kind of money until you have a national or international product that will be sold to everyone in the country. Budget for your marketing and spend that budget wisely. In your set up costs allocate some funds for marketing for the first six months to a year until you are making enough to cover this expenditure.

Be realistic, how much can you afford?  Marketing is essential but if you pre plan your marketing strategy it can be cheaper than you expect.  Use small local firms for your branding, logo, business cards and web design. Larger national companies have more overheads and are likely to charge more for their services.

Many advertising media will give better terms for a package or series of adverts.  It does mean you are committed to the package for the duration but you need to get your name out there so a package will serve you far better than a one-off.


It has been proven that advertising works in a subliminal way on our brains.  Repetition builds trust and with trust comes the confidence to buy.   If you advertise regularly, your branding and logo are implanting themselves on a future customer’s memory, building a feeling of trust.

If you can afford it advertise in as many different media as you can using the same style advert, colour blocks and logo.  If funds are tight then target one publication and stick with it during the term of your package. Advertise each time they produce an issue.  If you have an advert in a weekly publication but only once a month you could almost put money on people missing it because they, like you, only buy it once a month and not the same week.

Drip feed your presence so the client knows where to find you when they need you.   Just because you are a heating engineer don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to advertise in the summer.  It is precisely then that your client is seeing your advert and building up trust in you to invite you into their home to mend or service a faulty system.

If we can help in your marketing plans or guide you towards local advertising, please get in contact.

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Speed Networking – “Speed Dating” for Business?

“5 minutes, your time starts now”. You are sitting in front of someone who you have probably not met before, and you are going to impress them enough that they, or their contacts or colleagues, will want to use your services or purchase your products.

Think speed dating – five minutes to know enough about a person to decide on a second meeting. Or in this case, can we be of help to each other in the future?

This concept is likely to take participants out of their comfort zone. So we put on and facilitated a speed networking evening for the North Dorset Business Group to give some insight into what to expect.

Firstly, and before you attend the event, prepare your ‘elevator pitch’. This will be a 30 second description of yourself, what you do and what you would like to communicate. Think about what you are trying to achieve: new clients, a new job, an entry into a group? Be prepared, be concise, and keep that goal in mind. Set realistic goals and outcomes that allow you to deliver the message that you want and are able to facilitate. Be very focused: there is little time for waffle or small talk.

Over a meal we led group participants through elevator pitch concepts and then everyone stood up and read theirs out. Moments of self-consciousness and awkwardness followed – but in a supportive arena, everyone learned more about the technique and gained confidence as a result.

Now to put the theory into practice. As the 5-minute stopwatch was pressed, everything went very quiet! But gradually the conversations started, and by the time the 5 minutes was up it was difficult to stop the chatter.

So that’s it – speed networking – easy wasn’t it? Actually, no. There is lots of behind the scenes work involved, setting it up, preparing delegates before bringing people back on target and helping them to be focused, as well as coaching through elevator pitches which are alien to many, and Vale Secretarial can help with all of this.

If you are considering taking part in a speed networking event, here are a few tips:

  1. Understand the concept. It is very focused. The contacts you make may not directly help you but you want to impress them enough to recommend you to their contacts or colleagues
  2. Be prepared. Have your elevator pitch ready. Remember you only have a short time to make an impression.
  3. Keep your goal in mind. Set clear and concise objectives, identify your needs and seek out the people who may lead you to fulfilling them.
  4. Respect, truth and manners. Don’t let the ‘speed’ element of the meeting be at the expense of courtesy. There’s enough time to smile, shake hands and be polite.
  5. You will gain from giving. When you help others, they want to help you, and this applies to speed networking just like anything else.
  6. Be aware of your personal brand. Are you dressed according to the expectations of the event? Are you communicating your core values and basic principles? Are you looking past a first point of contact for potential fits? Be aware of your posture, your body language and the response of your counterparts to the way you are delivering your message.
  7. Ask questions as well as delivering information. “What do you do and how can I help you do it better?” “What made you decide to come to this event?” “What inspired you to start doing the work you’re involved in now?” “What are some strategies that you’ve found to be helpful for your recent work?” Answers will trigger the next questions and help the conversation to flow and be relevant.
  8. Take notes. This will help to remind you of the contacts you met, the context and a summary of what was said, and identify which contacts to follow up at a later date.

Successful speed networking is a skill, and as with any skill worth mastering, it takes practice. However, it could assist you in building your business, finding more clients, establishing a wider net of contacts and developing self-confidence.

And should you one day decide to attend a speed dating event, who knows what avenues your newly gained skills could lead you down…….

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General Data Protection Regulation

25th May 2018 is a date which should be etched in the mind of anyone responsible for a business or organisation – large, medium or small. This is the date when GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) officially becomes law – and affects any business working with or holding any kind of personal data. There are hefty fines threatened for those who fail to act to protect the data they hold.

What do we do now?

Don’t ignore GDPR and hope it will go away!

As a business you need to consider what data you store about employees, clients or anyone else about whom you hold information. This could be genetic, biometric, political, religious, or concerning sexual orientation in addition to basic information such as name, address and age.

Because the circumstances of every business or organisation are different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ set of rules which can be universally applied. So take some time to consider the following:

  1. Check your data handling systems, databases, what information they hold and what you need to keep. Establish what permissions you now need, to hold this information; find out what you must destroy.
  2. Where do you store the information you hold? How do you share it? For example do your staff use it on unsecured personal phones, laptops etc. Is it locked in a secure place? Who holds the keys? This applies not only to client information but to staff records.
  3. Communication – do you have a policy of telling people what you hold, what it will be used for and who will use it?
  4. Access – what policy do you have for staff or clients to access the information you hold on them?
  5. Consent – do you have consent to use this information?
  6. Children – this is a particularly important area which must be looked at carefully
  7. Data breaches – what processes do you have to prevent a breach, and what is your policy for informing and reporting a data breach should it occur?
  8. Data Protection Officer. Do you have a person responsible for data protection compliance within your organisation?

If you are unsure about what to do, find an expert who can assist you. They can help with data audits or advise you on your company’s individual needs. For smaller organisations it may be preferable to outsource the role of Data Protection Officer to someone with the relevant expertise.

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Take Back Time

So you finally realised your goal – you launched your own business, enabling you to do what you know best, using your skills, knowledge and training. It is exciting, terrifying and many other emotions in between. It is up to you, now you are your own boss, but all the profit will come back to you now. That first big client signed up, you did a fabulous job and more work is coming your way.

But why is time so elusive now you are running your own company?

It hasn’t taken long for you to discover the big hurdle, professional paperwork. You may have computer skills, but spending hours trying to set up an accounting system and keeping up to date with invoicing, or sending out emails, is eating into your day and soon you find you have no time to take on new clients. Maybe costs are running away, too, as you struggle to keep track of expenditure.

When you were working for a company as an employee, all this was taken care of by the secretaries, the accounts department and the receptionists. Your business can’t afford these departments, currently there are not enough clients to sustain a secretary or administrator and anyway you wanted to be a free spirit and not be encumbered by employing others.

So how can you claim back your time?

Vale Secretarial can help you take your business back to productivity by taking on the boring and mundane jobs while you go out and be the best in your field.

We can give you a professional persona through social media and marketing, blog writing and data input.

We can offer old fashioned secretarial skills, producing reports, invoices or spreadsheets. With our knowledge of digital accounting systems we can work with you on your accounts.

We don’t ask to be employed, we will work for you on a regular or ad hoc basis. You don’t have to pay for holiday or sick pay, and there is no national insurance, PAYE or pension cost to you.

If we can help you get back to the job, give us a call. We would love to meet you for an informal chat to see what we can offer you.

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Reasons to hire a Virtual PA

“Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow”

As your business grows you may need help occasionally, more regularly or may be you are downsizing to remain competitive.   As you look around for help consider just six reasons why a virtual PA may be your answer.

1     Cost savings

Virtual PAs incur none of these costs, they come per hour or per day.   Unless you specifically decide to advertise for one, they are available without any recruitment cost.   Virtual PAs are self-employed, they cover their own costs, do not claim for holidays or sickness and are often far more qualified than the average person you may find through normal channels.

Because they have chosen this freelance route the virtual PA may charge more than your original hourly rate for an employee but without all the extras you will find you could save in some cases up to half the cost.  The table below is based on an employee working 20 hours at £8.00ph and for illustrative purposes only (also includes employee at £15ph and Virtual PA at £15.  It includes NI contributions, Employer Pension costs, holiday and estimated sick pay.

2      Improved business productivity

Routine and recurrent procedures do not require the knowledge and experience you may have and can be dead tasks not permitting the business to grow and mature.  A virtual PA will master the process quickly and efficiently releasing you back into productivity activities.

3       Focus on core operations

Imagine working on a quote, sketching a plan, doing the job you spent years preparing for.   Do you remember why you began training for your chosen career path?  Was it a love of a subject or a passion to create the end product.   Are you doing that now or are you bogged down in a quagmire of phone calls, reports, invoicing and accounting.  Go back to your core operations and leave the admin to someone who is passionate about these tasks.

4      Access to up to date skills and technology

Technology is changing all the time, as soon as your staff beg you to invest in a new computer, software and programmes they are already out of date, no longer supported and in some cases obsolete. Not to mention the regular training required just to keep up with changing industrial advancements.   Most virtual PAs have contract software giving them constant support and up to date equipment.  They spend their own time and money investing in training, allowing them to offer a range of contemporary and futureproof resources and skills.

5       24/7/365  

Virtual PAs work strange and non-conventional hours which can dovetail nicely into your world of practical working day and catch up.  They are often around during the holiday season, with some night owls and some morning larks.  They work from their own space and can pick up emails at all times of the day.    They also tend to work in packs opening up a complete and interleaved root network of skills and availability assuring you of continual back-up.

6       Makes life less stressful

Do you work to live or live to work?  Let go of tasks that you can hand over and create a better work/life balance.  After all we may all be working far later into the autumn of our years than we ever anticipated as youngsters in our first jobs.  Virtual PAs are there to help and to create a sustainable future for you and your business.  Use One!


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