Friday, March 29, 2019

Guest Blog: Creative Ways To Boost Your Content Efforts

Taking to the guest blog today is Jodie from UK Web Host Review, sharing her top tips for creating creative content!

Creating new, relevant and engaging content is fast becoming one of the most important marketing strategies for entrepreneurs. Brands who strike the right balance gain more trust from their customers, position themselves as experts in their field and are better at bringing in new business, on top of keeping that which they already have.

These web content aficionados out-rank their competitors in search engine results, dominate social media and lead industry debates. But how does the typical entrepreneur keep up with regular content production demands?

It doesn’t have to be as challenging as you might think. If you get creative, you can give your content efforts are serious boost without breaking the bank or working into the small hours. Here are 5 of the most effective ways.

1.    Make the most of mixed media

Mixed media and especially video are one of the main content marketing trends to watch out for in 2019. 72% of people would rather watch a video about a product than read text and 80% say they’re more likely to read an article that contains coloured graphics. This doesn’t mean text is redundant, but that expanding your content repertoire allows you to tap into a growing market demand.

If learning how to string an engaging video together sounds like too much of a chore, try creating infographics using simple graphic design web applications like Canva, discussing relevant topics in a podcast, or throwing together a photo essay.

Different media work best in different industries. The wisest approach would be to consider the right media for your message and audience or have a look at your biggest competitors to see which they are using to engage with your congregation.

2.    Revamp and repost existing content

You don’t have to learn new skills to light a fire under your content efforts. The most prolific producers get creative by reusing and revamping what they already have. It’s more economical in both time and money to recycle. Savvy content managers schedule the reuse of every piece they post.

Creative reuse can involve writing follow-up pieces and special series from old posts, or adapting existing material into new mixed media features. Creating follow-up pieces to time-specific content such as ‘The Best Of 2018’ allows you to reference old links, redirecting traffic to them and reuse much of the content from the old post as your basis for discussion in the new one.

Creating a series out of multiple old and new post involves taking a selection of say 10 articles you already have related to building a business as a new parent, and bringing them all together as part of a ‘best of business parenting’ series. Always include at least 1 new article for every 3 older ones and launch your new series through your regular blog digest, newsletter or social media channels.

3.    Embrace user-generated content

For those who find themselves hard pushed to stick to a regular writing schedule at all, the user-driven content trend might just be the answer you’ve been looking for. In user-generated content, you provide a platform for your customers to interact with your business through submitting photos, reviews, videos, opinion pieces or sharing views across forums.

Your role is to provide space on your website for it, encourage people to post to your social media or ask your customers to leave reviews across other platforms. Some businesses prefer to create a regular blog segment solely for user-generated content, while others send out submission calls and set competitions.

User-generated content is one of the best ways to diversify your company’s media, with photos and videos being the most popular forms of submission. Your customers are also more likely to trust the views of other members of the public than they are anyone working on your company’s PR and marketing.

Between 53-64% of consumers want more opportunity to share their opinions about brands, so why not give it to them and save yourself some precious time?

4.    Really encourage sharing

The objective of boosting your content efforts is to spread the word about your business. One way to do this without creating a lot of new content is to market your existing content more effectively.

Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to get people to share your content is to ask them, yet a staging amount of posts contain no call-to-action. A call-to-action is a sentence at the end of your post that tells the reader/viewer/listener what you want to them to do next.

If you’ve written a long-form blog as a prelude to an eBook you’ve been working on, you should include a call-to-action for the reader to ‘check out’ your eBook. Similarly, if you’ve created an instructional video to help your customers choose between your services, you’ll want to ask those watching to share it with others who might be interested, or link to a ‘request a quote’ page where they can discuss with you their newly identified needs.

If you’re going to the trouble of making requests, you should make it as easy for people to follow through with them as possible. This means making it as simple as you can for people to share your content.

The most effective way to encourage sharing is to have prominent social media buttons within or at the end of your post. These features are included in all good website builders like these ones. But if your website is getting on a little, or if you’ve had one custom built, you can try adding a widget like Share This or getting to grips with the Click to Tweet application. 

5.    Go Personalised

If you’re feeling particularly innovative, or you’ve money to burn, now would be a good time to jump on the personalised content bandwagon. Not only is personalised content one of the fastest growing content markets, it’s also incredibly effective.

Personalised calls-to-action are 202% more effective than regular CTAs. It shouldn’t be surprising that this approach works. Most of the major media we interact with on a daily basis address us by name, or adapt to our peculiarities as we use them (think Google, Netflix, Facebook ads and so on).

Although the average Artificial Intelligence driven personalisation campaign is likely to be beyond the reach of most entrepreneurs, smaller business can get involved in small ways. If you send out a newsletter or regular content digest email, invest software that can address the receiver by name. Send your keenest readers a targeted email to additional or even gated (restricted access) resources as a way to say thank you. Or spend time responding to people’s comments on your posts across social media.

Creating enough relevant and enjoyable content for your customers is increasingly challenging. Without expansive, professional content departments small businesses often struggle to meet demands. But by being a little strategic and setting a few creative habits, you too can boost your content efforts in 2019.

If this blog has left you wanting more, why not take a look at our Develop Creative Content course, designed to help you create engaging content for your website, blog or social media. You can find out more here:

About the author: Jodie is a professional writer and editor, MSc Cantab. She aims to shed new light on mainstream topics through translating her expertise in the Social Sciences to everyday issues. She explores design, branding and market psychology, health and wellbeing and parenting topics.

You can find out more about UK Web Host Review by visiting their website here:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Construction Q take home a big win at the Northern Power Women Awards 2019

The Northern Power Women Awards marked their forth year at Manchester Central last night with Excelerate Labs very own graduate Construction Q taking home the Small Organisation of the Year Award. 

Construction Q at The Northern Power Women Awards 2019

Celebrating strong role models, gender balance and the nights theme of #WeCan, founder and director of the quantity surveyor firm Fiona Hull and her team at Construction Q were certainly at home in a room full of inspirational people.

Deciding not to follow the traditional career path into a female centric role, Fiona started Construction Q in 2010 and since then the business has gone on to work on successful projects ranging from £100,000 to one of their largest £30,000,00.

Spending her time supporting local charity events, Fiona has been a significant figure in helping to raise the profile of females working in construction, showing that an industry commonly thought of as a man’s sector is an inclusive workplace to all.

Construction Q are no strangers to winning awards, with them winning 'Woman in Construction Business' at the Excelerate Labs Celebration of Success awards in 2018. When speaking to Fiona in 2018, she spoke about working with Excelerate Labs and how Construction Q have been able to open themselves up to a wider networking opportunity helping them accelerate their business growth. “Excelerate Labs was a great sounding board for ideas but also supportive and full of suggestions for the business”

Helen Millne, Deputy CEO of The Women's Organisation presented the award for Mentor of The Year, sponsored by Excelerate Labs to Gill Hodgson, founder of Flowers from the Farm, a not-for-profit business that encourages the growth of British agriculture took home the award

Helen Millne and Flowers from the Farm 

Well done to all the winners and nominees of the night! The north certainly is one of the most exciting places to be at the moment and we can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store. 

If you are in Greater Manchester and would like to find out if Excelerate Labs can support you and your business, then get in touch with us today! Email us on

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

9 ways to implement gender equality into your organisation

The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 was #BalanceforBetter – a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.

The unfortunate fact according to the IWD is that women are still paid less than men, there are many more men than women in business and politics and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, a lot of great battles have already been won. We have female CEO’s and prime ministers; more women are starting businesses than ever before. And so, each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements on International Women’s Day.

However, we need to do more to push for gender equality and make real change, not just celebrate one day a year.

We need to be open to organisational change. 

Think about one thing you can change in your workplace that will promote gender equality BEYOND International Women’s Day and implement it.

Here are 9 of our recommendations that you could implement in your business to #BalanceForBetter once and for all.

1) Commit to tackling your gender pay gap 

According to the BBC, 74% of the companies they had information on reported a pay gap which favours men. "Closing the gender pay gap is not a quick fix, and employers may take time to see their gap close as they implement long term action plans," the Government Equalities Office said in a statement.

2) Offer flexible working hours and part time positions

Business in the community say that 43% of employees believe that flexible working would help them with stress, while 52% believe it would make them happier.

3) Adopt family-friendly policies 

Offer creche & childcare provision, leave to care for adult/elderly family members and decent maternity leave.

4) Invest in your female employees (training, development, pay a good wage)

Women’s leadership programs are necessary to accelerate women’s leadership aspirations. But just having a women’s leadership program isn’t enough. If it’s not done right, women can’t move forward.

5) Champion career progression for women into management and leadership positions 

There’s a large imbalance with men and women in leadership roles throughout business, only 17.3% of FTSE 100 directorships and 13.2% of FTSE 250 directorships are held by women. 7 of FTSE 100 company boards and 67 of FTSE 250 company boards are all-male.
This needs to change, we need to better the balance.

6) Promote diversity in all senses.

Whether it be gender, age, ethnicity, disability promote and aim for a diverse workforce. Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15pc more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35pc more likely, claims research by McKinsey & Co.

7) Eradicate stereotypes about women in leadership

It’s no secret that women get penalized for the kinds of behaviours that earn men respect for, when a man takes charge, he’s a leader. When a woman does it, she’s being bossy. Even the word itself is ridiculous; it underlines this double standard. Why would “bossy” be an insult? We need to work together to get rid of these stereotypes and let women be leaders just like men.

8) Talk less, more action 

We can get told the fact and figures over and over again but now we all need to do something to make a difference together.

9) Still stuck? Speak to women’s groups who work on women’s economic equality and seek advice 

Speak to experienced women’s groups who can advise you on how to implement diversity.

We Discovered #WomenCan on International Women's Day 2019 at The Women's Organisation

International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality.

 It began in the early 1900’s and is now recognised each year on the 8th of March. The day isn’t simply a celebration — it’s a call to action for everyone to continue to push for complete gender equality.

Women have a come a long way since the early 1900’s with many people believing most the battles have already been won for women but is not the case. According to the IWD website, women are still not getting equal pay, there are lower proportions of women to men in government positions, and women’s education is still being withheld across the world.

Battles have been won, but the battles aren't over yet.

To celebrate International Women’s Day here at The Women’s Organisation we held a special panel event with two inspirational women who are breaking the boundaries in business, celebrating the fact that #WomanCan because we believe that there are no limits to what #WomenCan achieve.

Sue Grindrod who is responsible for the strategic development and management of The Royal Albert Docks and is leading its next phase of evolution was first up on our panel

Also joining us was Marnie Millard who joined Nichols PLC in 2012 and was appointed her current role in just over a year of being with the company with a group turnover of over £130m. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to International Trade and Businesses in North West England.

The Women’s Organisation’s CEO Maggie O’Carroll started the morning off with a few words, she asked to audience to “think about what you can do to promote the next generation of women” as the audience was full of potential future business leaders and women already in business. She then went on to reiterate the fact that 100 years on we can’t give up the fight and there are still many battles to be won.

“We haven’t achieved everything we need to, there’s still a gender pay gap and we need to make sure there’s the same opportunities for all.” 

There are still many women who face huge challenges and they need our help.

Next, we welcomed Sue to talk, after working at Tate Liverpool and then volunteering as a member of the board for The Albert Docks she spoke about how she had to be “brave and know her worth.” She told the board she was going to leave then they offered her the job as CEO because of the incredible work she had already done for the docks, then led the team to gain the royal status for The Royal Albert Docks.

When speaking about personal development, Sue said she did a lot of training and developed through her work life experiences. She went on to add that every journey isn’t easy and it's hard work, but you will always find a way round these obstacles if you have the determination.

“Barriers will always be there, but you will always be able to get over them, use this determination and realise your true potential.” 

The inspiring Marnie Millard started by discussing the fact she didn’t go to University, in a world where University is sometimes seen as the only option, she reiterate that it isn’t and with hard work you can get where you want to be.

She spoke about how she did ‘ok’ at school but definitely wasn’t the smartest student but “Brains grow, the harder you make it work the better it becomes.” After taking nearly 4 years off from working when having her children, she spoke about wanting to find a job that excites her and that she could make a real difference in.

“Sometimes at certain points in your career you have to be brave, seize the moment and embrace it.” 

People doubted Marnie when she started her new job, meaning her family had to relocate and hire a nanny because of her long working hours but slowly it payed off and now she has her “dream job.” 

Marnie went on to add that always thinking about what’s next is the way to improve, don’t just settle for what you have now, strive for the best.

“Being out of your comfort zone is when you learn the most.” 

Thank you to our amazing panelists for taking the time out to speak to us and share their stories advice and experiences. They are two examples of extremely inspiring, hardworking and strong business women who really prove that #WomenCan.

Massive thanks to our event partners Natwest for helping make this event happen.

Friday, March 8, 2019

#BalanceForBetter International Women's Day 2019

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s campaign is #BalanceForBetter because if you better the balance, you better the world as balance drives a better working world for all.

Balance is not just a women's issue, it's an economic issue. 

The world needs more women in the boardroom, more women in government and more women in media coverage. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

A message by Erika Rushton to think about on IWD 2019 “To all of you diverse women aiming for, or already in leadership roles - know you are worth every penny you are paid. If you don't get as much as your male counterparts find an employer that values you, even if it's yourself!”

This blog features inspiring women in leadership who have shared advice and lessons they have learnt along the way. We hope this empowers you to push yourself to achieve your goals and add to a better-balanced world.

Rebecca Keegan “Don’t put too much focus on the end goal – be ready to adapt, be in the moment, celebrate career stepping stones and enjoy yourself along the way.”

Lizzi Doyle “You have to get stuck right in. Do the things you aren’t expected to do, make yourself known. Being a hard worker is one of the best reputations you can have.”

Abigail Harrison “Failure is the only option if you plan to succeed. All successful people have failed many, many times. Don’t fear failure, embrace it and use it to learn and grow.”

Alison James “In a busy, competitive and challenging working environment, it’s sometimes easy to forget to give yourself the credit and kindness that you truly deserve. Remember - remind yourself of how far you've come, never be afraid to share your successes and always remember that that you are equally as important as your colleagues. Encourage others as you would wish to be encouraged and supported yourself.”

Lisa Pearson “Get yourself into a place of accepting that staying inside your comfort zone isn’t going to equal a positive change or benefit to your career.”

Ngunan Adamu “Don't change who you are to fit in, disrupt the corporate status quo and be your own cheerleader.”

Claire Young “Have absolute confidence in your ability, the resilience to survive any knock backs and always look at the bigger picture. Don't sweat the small stuff.”

Jo Anderson “I have learnt that every prize has a cost. Being your own business is so rewarding in lots of ways but be prepared to make some sacrifices along the way.”

Dr Diahanne Rhiney “Success in business, particularly when you’re a woman, is often a slow burner. Develop your self-belief, work on your self-esteem and stick with your goals. If you remain true to yourself and your goals are well-researched, time and hard work will bring about success.”

Heather Waters “Believe in yourself, search for the support you need and ask for advice: “you don’t know what you don’t know” - don’t struggle on your own!”

Chelsea Slater “Keep focused on what it is you want to do. As a young female start up owner, many people have tried to give me advice that has slowed me down or veered me on a different path without me even asking for it. Having a business model canvas, values and a mission in place has really helped to keep me and my team focused on what it is we're trying to achieve, which means that we have clear objectives for when we seek mentors for help”

The final quote is from our very own CEO here at The Women’s Organisation, Maggie O’Carroll. Maggie is actively involved in female economic development policy influencing on an international, national and regional basis and is Chair of the UK Women’s Enterprise Policy Group and a member of the Women’s Budget Group.

“Be open to organisational change. This International Women’s Day think about one thing you can change within your workplace to promote gender equality. Have the willingness to be disruptive, innovative and inclusive.”

Let’s all strive together to better the balance.

If you’re thinking about starting a business or want some help for an existing business, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or to find out how we can support you.

The Women's Organisation plays key role in female entrepreneurship report

The Women’s Organisation has supported female entrepreneurs for more than 21 years and played a key part in a report that today calls for more opportunities for women, both in the workplace and in their own entrepreneurial right.

The Rose Report, issued on International Women's Day, has been compiled by Alison Rose, deputy chief executive of NatWest Holdings and chief executive of its commercial and private banking arm.

The Women's Organisation was involved in consultation and putting together focus groups of women entrepreneurs to provide interviews.

Its co-founder and chief executive, Maggie O'Carroll, is a key contributor to the Government-commissioned report which claims the UK economy could be given a £250bn boost if women entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to develop new businesses on the same scale as men.

The report claims that 6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared with 15% in Canada, almost 11% in the US and more than 9% in Australia and the Netherlands.

And it reckons that if the UK only matched the level of female entrepreneurship as other nations, it could add £200bn to the national economy, which rises to £250bn - worth four years' economic growth - if women were backed to the same extent as men.

However, despite describing the UK as the "start-up capital of Europe", it said, female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men.

In fact, a survey of 1,500 men and women, as part of the review found that access to funding is the number one barrier, mentioned by almost twice as many women as men.

The report said: At every stage of the business journey UK women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurialism than men.

"Only half as many women as men start businesses. Male entrepreneurs are also five times more likely than women to grow their business to £1m turnover, or more. 

"We asked over 1,500 men and women non-entrepreneurs to list all the reasons deterring them from starting a business.

"Access to funding is the #1 barrier, mentioned by almost twice as many women as men. Women are also twice as likely to cite caring responsibilities as a barrier than men."

And it claims: "The financial and other risks of starting a business also deter women more than men, while one in six women believe they lack the necessary skills and knowledge."

Ms Rose's report estimates there are 1.1 million "missing" female-run firms and sets out eight ways of boosting the number of female entrepreneurs.

These cover areas such as increasing funding directed towards female entrepreneurs, providing greater family care support for female entrepreneurs, making entrepreneurship more accessible for women, and increasing support locally through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.

Today's report said: "We believe these initial eight recommendations will together improve the access to funding, advice and opportunity for female entrepreneurs in practical tangible ways.

"They also provide a starting platform for the further significant and sustained action that we believe is required to ensure that every woman with entrepreneurial spirit can achieve her full potential."

It added: "We recognise that policy change takes time and that other factors may limit capacity to commit to new interventions at present.

"We hope the Government will, nonetheless, consider seriously in its forthcoming Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment Strategy the issues identified by this review and the advances made by global peer countries working to a common framework and goals.

"There is great energy and support for the recommendations proposed here, and for other initiatives already in place or planned.

"Only through concerted and coordinated action can the UK tap the full unrealised economic potential of women as entrepreneurs."

Ms Rose said: "The unrealised potential for the UK economy is enormous."

Maggie O'Carroll, Chief Executive of The Women's Organisation, said: "The economic imperative is compelling to have focused policies and investment to support female enterprise development in every corner of the UK - we must now turn this into real action."

You can download the full report here

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tips on improving your mindset so you reach your goals

The following is a guest blog from Marie Hall – mariehallempowerment.

Let’s talk about how important it is that your mind is in the right place for you to be able to pursue your goals.

In the beginning when all that you have is an idea, you must protect it. You don’t protect it by keeping it bottled up or hidden away. You want to share your idea and move forward. You want to be vocal about where you are heading. Get excited and energetic about it, create some momentum. Who knows what dots will connect when you put your idea out there?

How do you protect your idea, if not by keeping it to yourself? You protect it by adopting a strong and focused mind set. If you don’t, the first time you share your idea with a person who laughs at you or tells you that it can’t be done, you will clam up and possibly even give up. Your mind set has to be strong enough so that nothing will be able to phase you and no matter what you hear about how impossible it is, you will not be deterred. That is where this article will hopefully assist you in giving you some food for thought regarding the importance of the right mind set.

Understand that your idea is not their idea. They can’t see what you can see in your head, they may not understand just by listening to you describing it to them. Why should they be as passionate as you are about your idea, if they don’t completely get it? It is your idea that has come to you and it is therefore your job to make it happen regardless of whether anybody else believes in you or not. Don’t become disheartened or give up when somebody you thought would be excited, doesn’t understand. They don’t understand yet, but that must not stop you moving forward.

What about somebody’s negative view of your idea? All negativity can be turned into a positive depending on how you choose to receive it. A strong minded person recognises that a negative comment or opinion is not fact. A negative person is often somebody who gave up on their own dreams or a person of limited imagination. Their lack of vision and belief is a demonstration of their own mind set and not what they truly believe to be your capabilities. If you don’t have your mind in the right place ready to deal with negativity, you risk giving up at the first stumbling block. If your mind is in the right place, negativity won’t stop you.

So much can influence your mind-set without you realising. It’s the programmes you watch, the people you spend time with, the books you read. Your environment will affect you. Are there people or things in your life that you know you need to change, distance yourself from or remove? It may be what it takes for you to get focused, so that you can do what is required?

Will reprogramming your mind and the habits of a lifetime be easy? No, it will take change and that’s not always something that happens easily. We all approach change differently. Some will be quick and jump right in. Others will plan ahead and take it step by step. There is no right or wrong way. Just decide what you are going to change, commit and do. The more you adopt your new habits the easier they will become and the sooner you will experience the benefits.

Your attitude will affect the outcome. If you see change and growth as a hard slog and you hate it, then it is going to be a hard slog, and you will hate it. But if in adjusting your mind-set, you approach the task with a more empowering attitude such as;
·         This is going to be hard but I can do it.
·         I’m about to learn something new.

By simply tweaking your language and attitude, you’ll feel a tremendous shift.

Recognise that everything you do, starts at the point that you first decide to do it. So as part of the reprogramming exercise, from the absolute first moment the thought comes to you, be aware (self-awareness is essential) and note the language you are using. Are you setting yourself up for a fall before you are even off the starting blocks just by telling yourself the wrong things?

The questions people usually ask are;
·         How do we suddenly shift our mind-set after years of doing it one way?
·         How do we drown out the noise of other people’s opinions?
·         How do we drown out our own negative voice trying to keep us in our comfort zone?

It takes commitment, practice, self-awareness and listening to yourself. You will become the master of your own mind, giving none of your power away and always using the correct positive and empowering words.

You won’t get into the correct mind-set if you spend your days watching negative, dysfunctional drama or reading about the drama that celebrities are going through. Soap Operas can be pretty negative. As for tabloids? It is not essential news and it will not promote your strong mind-set.

What would serve you better as you develop your strong mind-set would be books. Biographies of successful people and big world changers. Look at some of the best-selling self-help, motivational, empowering books. In the car going to work or on the way home from the school run listen to an audio book. At night when you have time read a book, watch TED talks and motivational you tube videos, reach out to bloggers who talk about mind-set and going for your dreams and goals. This will all assist you in shifting your mind-set to where it needs to be.

Be present and take in every single step of your journey and please reach out to me if you would like to hear more of this sort of stuff, I am all about empowerment.

In it together.

Marie Hall – mariehallempowerment