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Work from home successfully

Work from home successfully

In the UK in 2012, around 13% of the workforce work mainly from home. That is an increase of 21% since 2001. In America, the increase has been 41% since 1999 and where the States leads we tend to follow.

At Toolkit, we know many of our clients run businesses from home, so here’s a helpful guide to enjoying the lack of a morning commute but not falling prey to some of the pitfalls of working from home.

Here are four of the commonest problems home workers face, and how to keep on top of them.

1 – Focus.

When you shut the door and jump in a car before setting up at a desk you can leave the troubles and distractions of home behind. When you stroll from the shower to a home office, the dishes are screaming to you from downstairs, the television is a few steps away and there’s no internet filter or logging to stop you logging on to Facebook for a couple of hours.

It’s a good idea to try to replicate the positive features of a work place in your home office. Try to set up an area that is just dedicated to work, so when you shut the door you know it is time to put your business head on. If you still struggle to forget that you’ve promised the kids to put some shelving up in their bedroom, try taking a break from the environment as a whole – take a walk and get a cup of coffee.

2 – Boundaries

In an office, you’re in a very defined environment dedicated to getting things done. Personal calls are put on hold until the end of the day and your partner knows that you can’t be expected to get the shopping done while you’re dealing with work. This can go out of the window when you’re at home all day.

Again, bringing a professional environment and schedule to your home office can help build boundaries. It’s crucial that you let people know that your job is just as tough as theirs is and is to be treated with the same respect. Making sure you’re at your desk at 9am and you take the same breaks you would in a nine to five job can help too.

3 – Overworking

Once the distractions of day-to-day life and building a schedule have been conquered, there’s another danger lurking: not turning off. Envious friends might thing you’re enjoying a lie in and coffee and cakes whenever you fancy it, but it can be far too easy to forget to stop work. There are no colleagues leaving at 5pm and turning the lights off to remind you that it’s time to stop.

Set strict boundaries and don’t neglect your social life. Particularly if you are running your own business, it can be tough to know when to say ‘enough is enough’. Working hard comes with the territory for most self-employed people, but if you’re going to last the long haul then you need to work to a schedule that isn’t going to burn you out.

4 – Isolation

Saying goodbye to office politics and poisonous gossip can be one of the great joys of working from home. However, it’s likely you’re going to be spending most of your time on your own, and that can take its toll. Loneliness and isolation can, over time, become serious issues and even lead to problems with depression.

If you’re working from home, you’ll need to recognise that you need to put some effort and planning into maintaining a social life too. If you can keep their use to reasonable hours then sites like Twitter and Facebook can replace the interactions of the coffee room. Some jobs, even when worked from home, can provide a good deal of interaction, make the most of it and talk to people by phone or Skype rather than emailing when possible.

Look to business networking groups for some real life contact that could help your business prosper. A growing trend in the States is for home workers to come together and share offices and it’s coming to the UK, Sharedesk now have British offices for sharers.

Working from home is a great opportunity for most people, and as technology advances, it’s only going to become more common, so if you do have the chance, make the most of it.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, Website Designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Top 10 for your social media marketing

 A Top 10 for your social media marketing

Social media is the new front line in business marketing. Customers love the instantaneous interaction with the companies they use and businesses have a free channel to speak to existing customers and win new ones.

Toolkit can help you get the most out of these powerful new platforms – from Facebook to LinkedIn, Twitter to YouTube - with a range of social media services. We’ll get you set up with great looking and easy to use, branded social presences.

There are possible pitfalls to social media though and this list from digital marketing specialist Mike Alexander contains some tips every business should bear in mind online.

Creating your profile

1 – Make sure you use your web domain and your full company name when you set up your social media profiles. It’s an opportunity to get your brand name across, don’t waste it.

2 – Keep your branding consistent across all your social media pages. Don’t use a different name on, Twitter and Facebook, you’ll only confuse people

3 – Keep your personal contact information away from your business profiles. Set up new pages for your business and keep them well separated.

4 – Post a company profile and make sure you classify your profiles in the right industry; it will help people find you.

5 – Don’t pontificate on your business profile. Personal views are just that, personal, and should be kept away from your work. Not everyone will share your views and some people will shop elsewhere if they don’t like your opinions.

6 – Make some plans before you start. Toolkit can help you set up a social media plan. Even if you don’t get help it’s a good idea to work out what you hope to achieve from your social media presence, how you intend to go about it and to define some measurable achievements.

7 – A dead, silent profile is more damaging to your business than no profile at all. If you don’t have the time or inclination to interact with customers through these channels then simply don’t open them. A page or profile with no activity makes your business look dead and can soon fill up with negative posts from customers.

8 – Be active. If people are going to talk to you, you need to play your part too. Remember not to share too much in the way of personal opinion, but be an open and engaging presence on social media. Look for people who may be interested in your services too, they won’t just come to you, there are millions of businesses online and you need to do some work.

9 – Make use of your existing marketing efforts to link with your new social media presence. Email your database and ask them to join you and add links to your profile or the addresses to all your marketing materials

10 – Images and videos are powerful and likely to be shared. However, beware of people’s sensitivities and don’t post anything that could offend.

11 – Be yourself. Use “I” or “we” when you write online. Avoid overt advertising, that’s not why people use social media, if you have something interesting or useful to say people will soon start to love your profile.

12 – Try to make your posts open to response – questions and polls are great ways to get people taking part. But limit your posting, you don’t want to get blocked as spam.

13 – Social media may get you some new customers, but it’s more likely to be a way to keep existing customers coming back. Look for new customers with advertising and Search Engine Optimisation – ask Toolkit about SEO services that really work.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, website design company in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.    
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You must think like Google and ignore Google

Why you must think like Google and ignore Google

If the internet has a god, it is Google. There’s a reason why Google is at the top of the internet’s food chain, it’s because the company vastly improved the way searchers could find information, and that’s the business they remain in.

Google solved a problem that had stumped previous search engines. Marketers were desperate to get their pages to the top of the search rankings, by any means necessary. The development of search engine optimisation, or SEO, meant searchers were soon being directed to poor quality websites that had learned the way the search engines worked and got to the top of the rankings by stuffing their pages with the right keywords.

Google fine tuned their methods and used ‘off page factors’ to determine whether a site was of use to their searchers. Essentially, they used links to pages, and then links became the currency of the SEO industry.

This might be academic, but it contains an important lesson to any business that operates online. Learn Google’s rules and live by them. And Google’s rule number one is that they have to give their searchers the best possible experience.

This rule also applies to Adwords, Google’s advertising system. This means that if you run an Adwords campaign, you need to bear Google-think in mind because they apply the same thinking to ads as they do to all other search results.

Google has two sets of customers, the ones who pay them for advertising and the ones who use their page to search. Of these, the second group are far more important to.

So what can small businesses learn from the Google commandments.

1 – Think like Google

Google know that their billion-dollar empire is based on very shaky ground. Setting a new home page is the work of a second and if someone comes along who can provide a better search experience then the world will flood to their page.

Google’s two over riding rules for advertising are:

The ad must answer the question the searcher asks, and,
The page to which it is linked must be high quality.

The advertisers fee comes after that.

2 – Ignore Google

It sounds like a contradiction, but once you’re aware of Google’s defining rule, you need to forget the search engine and think about the searcher.

Google changes its rules periodically, and it’s a good idea to keep your eye on what they’re doing via their very informative blogs. High quality content has recently risen in ranking importance, as has social media.

However, the best way to succeed with Google is to ignore it, and certainly don’t try to fool it or you could end up on the end of what has become known in the industry as a ‘Google slap’. Provide good quality content – and advertising - that is relevant to your business, that is easy to find and that answers the questions that people ask.

Toolkit can help you understand how Google views for your site, with our new Site AnalysisReport. We can also help you understand and get the best from SEO. Just call to find out how we can help your site prosper.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, web design company in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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5 stereotypes you should avoid

 Five social stereotypes your business should avoid

Social media marketing has so many positives for small and medium sized businesses – it can be virtually free and it’s the ideal forum for showcasing the things that the big companies can never match you for, passion and personality.

However, it also involves a bit of thought and the cultivation of some skills. Ask Toolkit about our social media services. We can help get you started with profiles across all the most important social media sites that will soon be sending customers to your website.

This fun list, from Boston, picks out five negative social media stereotypes it’s a good idea to avoid like the plague in your social media marketing business dealings – they’re probably not very attractive on personal pages either, but that’s another thing entirely.

1 – The Needy Whiner.

Always needing reassurance and attention, this insecure type is a real turn off. Avoid it on your business profiles. Don’t beg for likes from your friends or fans, if you do get them they’ll arrive at your page already resenting you. The personal and professional are bound to cross on social media – it’s the sort of medium it is – but the best way to attract new fans who will actually support your brand is with useful, interesting or entertaining content, not because you went to school with them.

2 – The Snob

Don’t festoon your social media profiles with jargon and smart-looking buzzwords, you’ll come across badly. And, don’t boast or be tempted to slag off the competition, it’s simply unattractive. If you have the better product or service then you need to demonstrate that, not just shout it. That way you’ll win genuine supporters and avoid mutually destructive slanging matches.

3 – Too Much Information

You will almost certainly have personal friends on social media who fit this stereotype. Everything – no matter how tasteless – is shared in all its excruciating detail. That’s fine; in fact, a whole coming generation of digital natives may well grow up with the Facebook wall as the equivalent of the school bike sheds. However, don’t let your business fall into this category. Draw some lines and stick to them. Insider information is best kept for insiders – do we really care if the companies we use are 15% up in sales this quarter? And keep your politics, sporting allegiances and hobbies to yourself on your personal page unless they’re actually relevant to the business you are in.

4 – Out Of Control

For sole traders who are what they do, this can be tricky, but it is worth sticking to if you can. Keep your personal life and professional life separate online. Your lunch, your night out, your broken heart; all are of limited interest to someone who wants to employ you or buy what you sell.

5 – Where Did You Go?

Leave ‘em wanting more is a showbiz clich√© that has no place on social media. Social media marketing is all about conversations, so don’t start one and then wander off – it’s rude for one thing and will leave your customers looking for someone else to talk to. Create content that inspires engagement and then engage. If you can’t, or won’t, commit to that it’s probably better not to get involved in social media in the first place. Post regularly, but not so frequently that you become an irritating noise, and think about everything you post.

These tips should help you engage successfully with your social media fans, friends and followers. If you’d like help with getting started with these exciting sites then give Toolkit a call on 02380 633 644 and ask about our social media services.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, website designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Website of the Week - Eden Hair

Eden hair wanted to redesign their website to match their new print work branding.

Not only this our client wanted to update their images in the slider, to be more up to date with the latest trends.

Along with this we added some key social media icons to connect all online media together. We also integrated the Facebook Feed too, keeping people up to date without navigating away from the website.

Page dressing has been used to promote key elements of their business encouraging visitors to click through and find out more.

View the website here:

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Mid Month Blog - Social Media

Make social media top of your friend list

Social media is so much more than a diversion. Any business that ignores social is missing a tool that’s still largely free, is very easy to use and that your customers love.

In the United States last year, a Nielsen survey recorded a 37 per cent increase in the amount of time spent on social sites. In just one month, Americans spent 230,000 years logged onto Facebook and its peers.

In the UK, Barclays have just released research on the hospitality industry’s social media use. Almost a third of their respondents said they were getting a quarter of their sales this way, with 13% putting half of their deals down to social. Google now uses social media to rank sites.

However, just because they’re free and fun, you shouldn’t relax around social media. Link everything back to your site, making it a social media hub, and keep a consistent image and brand message even in casual conversations.

American marketing man, Rich Brooks, has posted a list of social tips that are almost effortless but which should pay dividends.

Ask Toolkit about their social media services, which will help you get started on these exciting platforms and manage your accounts across multiple sites.

First up for Brooks are sharing buttons for your site and links to all your social pages. You might be sending a prospect away from your site, but they’re still interacting with you and you can always set the links to open in a new window.

His next point concerns blogs. At the very least, you should have a weekly-updated blog. Link it to your website, which should promote the blog even if it’s hosted elsewhere. Toolkit can set you up with a Blogger – Google’s platform – account and have their own content management systems that trump the web freebies on security and design.

Thirdly, get your camera out and tell your story. Video is easy to consume, compelling content, and it’s increasingly easy to make. Would you rather read how to, say, change your headlight bulbs or watch an expert walk you through it?

Next, take your offline marketing online. If your sales efforts include public speaking, upload your slides to your site; do it free through Slideshare and get double value from your efforts.

His fifth tip is to use the social bookmarking sites. StumbleUpon, Reddit and Delicious have millions of busy users and every time you add something new make sure they know about it. Outside bookmarks count for more, so arrange a swap deal with friends, you’ll all benefit.

Tip six is a ‘Like’ box. It brings Facebook to your site and makes liking you that little bit easier, something that will be broadcast straight to your new fan’s friend list.

Seventh is something that’s very much at the heart of what we do at Toolkit: keep updating. That means your site as well as your social pages. If you add automatic feeds from social channels though, try to separate out your personal profiles – your customers probably don’t care how disgusted you are that Nigel Adkins was sacked as Saints boss.

Finally, Brooks sings the praises of QR codes, those little black and white, crossword-puzzle boxes that smart phones can scan. Use them wherever you can, offline and on. And, consider where users will land: design a special page for them, and remember they’ll be on mobile devices so ask Toolkit about adapting your site for this booming area of browsing.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, website designer Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow. 
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Three social tips from three giant brands

One of the best ways to look at your marketing is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. It can be hard to step away from the passion you invest into running your own business, but to get a clear-eyed perspective take a look at the brands you follow on social media and ask yourself what you get out of that relationship.

Marketing expert, Todd Wasserman, says that your fandom is likely to be based on one of three attributes.

You’re either connecting with a personal interest or passion. Being entertained by the brand’s ‘personality’. Or, you’re getting information that you can use.

These strategies are used by massive corporations that spend megabucks on their marketing and branding strategies and there is no reason why small businesses can’t follow their lead.

These three approaches can be mixed and matched, but according to Caitlin Franke of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, finding which suits your business and focussing on that strength is the best strategy.

Here are some huge brands that successfully follow one of these marketing paths. All these examples are taken from America, but take a look at the social media strategies of some British brands and see where they fit and what you can take from their experience.

Three successful ‘passion brands’ are Red Bull, Nike and Whole Foods, the upmarket, health food superstores.

Nike is a natural fit for this. Many - although anyone who’s seen how sports brands have expanded into everyday fashion will know it’s not all – of their customers are buying their products to indulge in their own athletic interests. They’re naturally interested in sporting achievement and want to emulate their heroes. The Nike social media message makes this celebration of achievement its central message.

Red Bull are one-step removed from the actual sporting action, but make action sports the focus of their social media marketing. It’s consistent too, their sponsorships – from Formula 1 to the Red Bull Rampage mountain bike race – tend to emphasise dangerous, adrenaline-soaked sports and their Facebook cover image is of a snowboarder not someone sucking on a can of their drink.

Whole Foods know that the people who are willing to spend on their high-end products must have a passion for food. To match that, they focus almost all of their social media marketing on providing recipes their customers can use to get the best out of the expensive ingredients their bags are full of.

Two examples of the ‘personality brand’ are found in much unhealthier territories. Oreo cookies and Skittles would be pushing their luck if they tried to pull in extreme sports fans.

However, they can successfully give their products a friendly, engaging personality. You can see the same thing in the way M and Ms are marketed as living, cute, funny individuals.

Both these brands try to make their followers laugh. Oreo with a long-running set of visual puns and Skittles with some clever wordplay, for example: “The frenemy of my frenemy is my enefriend”. If they hit enough funny bones then their name will be shared and retweeted right round the social web.

Informative, or ‘transparent brands’ don’t have time for such artifice, instead they provide useful content on what they do. It’s a common approach for technological companies – Apple being, perhaps, the exception that proves the rule.

IBM runs 32,000 blogs from its staff, providing useful technical knowledge about their own products and the tech sector in general. Motor manufacturers and financial brands also tend to follow this straight-faced approach – no-one wants to buy a car or some insurance from a bunch of clowns.

As the social media world gets ever more diverse and challenging for businesses – are you signed up on Pinterest and Instagram yet? – then having a clearly defined strategy that can operate across all platforms is even more valuable.

At Toolkit, we recognise that some businesses need a little help to get started on social media and to learn how to get the best out of it. Ask about our social media set up services, which will give you a professional-looking, easy-to-use means of reaching thousands of potential customers at a great value cost.
Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, website designers based in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.  
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Read me! Five tips to get your content read

The wonderfully named Custard online marketing agency has published a nice guide to getting your content read.

It starts with a frightening number (which is already massively out of date): your website was just one of 644 million active sites last year. That’s an awful lot of content.

Much of that content will be terrible, you’ve probably seen some of it yourself, but some of it will be great but ignored.

Custard came up with five tips to insure that your content is both high quality and highly visible and working for your business.

The first is to find a niche and to become an expert in it. We’ve talked before about the way Google is changing how it ranks content, and large quantities of badly focused content just don’t cut it any more. Become an expert in your field and readers will want to hear from you. You can use the Google Authors programme to further boost your rankings and establish your expertise.

Secondly, Custard recommends engaging with your readers. Toolkit can help you set up a blog where you can respond to comments and start to talk with your customers. Be warned, this is the web, and you’ll almost certainly come up against some mindless and even unpleasant criticism. You won’t be alone. Don’t let that put you off, and keep engaging with your audience. It’s a fair bet that if Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci and Einstein were somehow miraculously reincarnated as a combined super brain and started to publish online, the first comment under their work would be, “ure an idyot”.

Custard recommends interacting with all your commenters, always thanking them for their input, and to include a call to action at the end of all your content to get things started. Publishing to a regular schedule helps people find you more easily.

A good title is Custard’s next tip. Newspaper headline writing is an art and it’s something you should try to learn – amidst all those billions of pages you need something smart and snappy, honest and entertaining to make a reader stop and take the time to read beyond the top line.

Fourth in the Custard top five is Search Engine Optimisation. This isn’t a matter of tricking search engines, but learning to think how they – and their users - do. There’s a lot you can do yourself to optimise your content for the search engines. Keywords are important, as are common search terms – answer the questions that people are asking – and you should bear this in mind whenever you write web content.

Toolkit can help you with SEO too, from content tips to an analysis of how search engines view your site. Just get in touch.

Take every chance you can to promote what you write too. If you’re not linking to your site on your own Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profiles then it’s pretty certain that no-one else will either. These are free and easy ways to share your good news, don’t neglect them.

Custard’s final tip is to make yourself useful. Sometimes this can seem counterintuitive, as it involves telling people for free what you’re going to try to charge them for. But sharing the tricks of the trade and producing good quality how to guides in your speciality is a great way to establish that you know what you’re talking about and will only show you and your site in a positive light.

You can contact Toolkit on 02380 633644 or email support@thetoolkit.co.uk to find out more.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, web designers in Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Creativity is key with social media marketing

Creativity is the key to social marketing

Mashable has put up a decent guide to social marketing from a food truck that prowls the streets of Tallahassee in Florida. That might seem rather industry-specific, but the lessons our intrepid waffle makers learned can be applied whatever your trade is.

The first thing our food truck has done wonderfully successfully is get their name plastered all over a major internet news site. If your business has an interesting story to tell then you can get thousands of pounds worth of publicity – whether in your local paper or on a trade site - for free by telling it.

The first thing the owners of the Lazarus food truck did was to take note of what their fellow mobile caterers did online and pick out what would work for them.

The key sites were Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. All free. Foursquare is a location based site designed specifically for smartphone users. Its members ‘check in’ when they visit a venue and can interact with each other and post tips and lists about the businesses they use. It’s bigger in the States at the moment, but it’s easy to sign your business up as a venue.

Lazarus’ owners came up with four social media tips.

The first must do for them was SoLo, or social media and location-based technology. They linked all their accounts, so that whenever they parked up it was broadcast across all their profiles. They also gave social media customers an incentive to promote their business by checking in – when they got a free drink all their followers and friends were told, with Lazarus’ name shared along with the good news.

They also found businesses which weren’t competitors but which served similar markets and worked together. Lazarus had a big following amongst college students, so when a local boutique opened up looking to reach the same market, Lazarus told their fans and were invited to park up outside the opening.

Some link ups are obvious – wine and food are a good match, football fans tend to like pubs with Sky – but by taking an interest in what your fans and followers take an interest in you might open some new marketing avenues.

Secondly, the Lazarus crew got creative to encourage their fans not just to look at their content but to take part in it too. For them that meant a poll on favourite waffle flavours. The poll was run on Facebook but promoted on Twitter with a nice, catchy shareable hashtag.

The third lesson they learned was to use social media as a customer service too. Bad news can spread quickly on social media, so they reacted to any bad customer experiences with apologies and coupons for when things went – as they inevitably will – wrong. Encouraging people to spread the good news was also vital, our waffle crew asked for tweets about great servers.

Their final lesson was to tell their story. Why is the truck called Lazarus? That’s an interesting story, and helped give their business a personality that customers could relate to. They also made sure they appeared as real people with real interests outside frying batter – local concerts, sporting fixtures.

“We try to just be sincere, humans who happen to have a food truck. And we’ve found that it works.”

Any business can learn from this little success story, and Toolkit can help your business build an effective social media presence by setting you up on all the main channels and advising you how to use them to your best advantage. Call us on 02380 633644 or email support@thetoolkit.co.uk to find out more.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, website design Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow.
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Windows 8 - The beginning of the end for PC's?

Windows 8 could kill the PC, but not yet

Do you use Windows 8? It’s just as controversial as any release from Microsoft, and it’s also very different. It’s the first edition of the world’s dominant operating system designed with tablets in mind. The recent news that Google has become a ‘mobile first’ company further confirms that there is a big swing away from the traditional desktop PC.

Research from the NPD Group suggests the days when PCs walked the earth will, inevitably, come to an end. Windows 8 is a key signifier of this shift, but the author’s report, John Buffone says the big machines have a while to go yet.

Buffone said, “There is a significant amount of functionality that is best conducted on computers.” 

This functionality is ‘content creation’ – writing, designing, photoshopping and so on – but a lot of content consumption is shifting to tablets and phones. Entertainment doesn’t need a keyboard and a mouse, making entertainment does.

The report found that the average online household (in the States) has 2.4 pcs and only 1.4 tablets.

NPD found that simple browsing, including Facebook use, is shifting to mobile. Twenty-seven per cent of tablet owners say they now use their PCs less for going online.

This change – like most change in the online world – is happening at a frightening pace. That Microsoft has seen the future and decided that it will be mobile, can be seen not only in the Windows 8 set up, but in the near-simultaneous launch of its own tablet, Surface Pro.

The silver bullet that will finally kill off the PC is a laptop or tablet that can handle both content consumption and creation.

Industry expert Patrick Moorhead reckons that will happen next year. He bases this on the plans of the people who make the bits and pieces that power our computers. Chip and processor makers are already producing the gizmos that match the low power consumption and high performance that tablets will need to work at both ends of the market.

Toolkit can help you optimise your website for mobile browsing so you won’t miss out on this growing segment of the online market. Call us on 02380 633644 or email support@thetoolkit.co.uk to find out more.

Get in touch with Toolkit Websites, web design Southampton, Hampshire, UK and see how we can help your business grow. 
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