Blog - news & articles
Have you told your customers about your buggy facilities?
Sorting out someone else’s business and marketing challenges is always so much easier than sorting out your own isn’t it. It’s hard to imagine why they can’t see the blindingly obvious; for goodness sake, why don’t they just get on with it.
But then you refocus on your own blank sheet of marketing brainstorming paper and it all feels rather harder. Ideas grind to a halt and inspiration simply won’t flow. How can you possibly find new ways of selling your sproggits to all those customers who haven’t yet worked out how much better you are than all your competition?
Which is why you need to start by thinking about your customer and not you. Not in terms of what you can sell them – but just in terms of who they are. I mean properly thinking about who they are – not glib phrases like ‘small business owners’, or people who are ‘interested in health’. It might sound harsh to
Playing to win – the only safe way to get down the slope!
Twenty plus years ago I had a very serious ski accident – over the years I’ve had 7 major knee ops, more physio than can possibly be good for anyone and I have some pretty impressive Xrays. Quite a lot of metalwork going on knee-wise I promise you!
Which, not surprisingly, means that ski slopes can be a challenging place for me. I’m 100% fine providing it’s sunny, wide, flat, cold (but not icy), not bumpy, not crowded and, preferably, devoid of Italians (they can be a bit mad on skis!). So, as conditions rarely meet my demanding criteria, it won’t surprise you to hear that ski slopes aren’t always great for me. I’m often very scared and I’ve probably had to face more of my personal demons on skis than in any other place.
One thing I learned skiing is that
The joy of being SMALL! And the BIG business benefit too!
What is it with the many small businesses that are obsessed with looking BIGGER than they really are?
I come across it time and time again, with websites being opaque about how many there are in the team, using ‘stock’ photography showing bland teams of ‘happy’ employees when in truth there are only one or two of them. And hiding where the business is based, when they really working from a small studio, local office or even a home office.
When you are trying that hard to look BIG, often the net result is you actually look SMALLER as a result.
It’s not that I don’t get it. Business owners are worried that if they look like they are a one-man-band working from home, people will think they don’t have the capacity or skills to do the job that’s needed.
Is it just me, or can most business owners not spot a gift horse, even when it pitches up and asks nicely for a bag of hay?
Me and 'the man' headed off out last Saturday for our first ever Groupon experience at the Dog & Pheasant, near Witley in Surrey. We had bought a '2 steak meals and a glass of wine' deal worth £45 for £22.50. A good deal we thought - and you can't beat a good steak in a nice British pub, especially when it's just down the road, you haven't been there for ages and you've heard that the Chef is pretty good.
From the pub's perspective, they would have received just £11.25 for this deal so we can assume that they weren't doing it simply for the money. It probably covers their costs but no more. So, some smart thinking here as they are wisely investing a 'cost of acquisition' in order to bring in new customers to experience what they do.
So why did it all go wrong? Groupon voucher apart why, for £6.25, was I served a glass of slightly cool, flat Prosecco? And why was it ungraciously replaced (by the landlady) with a glass of slightly cool fizzy Prosecco with not so much as a 'sorry about that - is this any better'? A bad start and an indicator perhaps of where the customer sits in their psyche.
The steak was excellent - a lovely piece of meat that just melted in the mouth. But when we asked for a nice glass of posh Cote du Rhone to go with it we were told we couldn't because that wasn't the wine that was included in the deal. We offered to pay the extra but the answer was still 'No' - something to do with Groupon and receipts. So, let's just be clear here - I want to spend more money with you, but I can't. Really?
We ordered pudding and were told the Sticky Toffee was the best we'd ever taste. It was OK but very small and over-cooked at the base and a disappointment given the build up and we told the waitress.
The bill arrived and it was wrong - only by +80p as they'd added up the wine and the steaks and taken then off the bill rather than simply deducting our £45 voucher from the total - and we couldn't be bothered to argue. But you have to wonder if they had any idea about the deal they were offering customers?
My huge thanks to Tom Evans who joined me as a guest speaker on a webinar I ran last week – and who taught me something I simply hadn’t realised about using my left and right brain together.
Most people’s experience of working ON their business involves them staring at a blank sheet of paper, or making lists - or both – and invariably without proper focus and therefore often without results. Compare that to times when you’ve really felt ‘in the zone’. Time seems to stand still. You get loads done. And such amazing ideas? Wow!
So what makes the difference?
As Tom explained, it’s to do with how our left and right brains work. Put simply, the left brain is the more analytical – it likes lists and structure and order. The right brain, in contrast, is the creative part. All wild ideas and ambition. What about doing this? And that! Oh and that too!
So, if you want to generate new marketing ideas for your business, you most definitely need a good dose of the right brain. But if you can’t create order from these ideas and turn them into action, they’ll end up a bunch of scribbled on the page or in your head.
You need to get them working together.
Getting ‘in the zone’
Tom advises that you should invest 5 mins at the start of any time spent working ‘ON’ your business with an exercise to get your left and right brains working together. That’s the secret of getting ‘in the zone’.
Simple ways of doing this include : creating a ‘mind map’ of your agenda / thinking, or a doodle. Going for a walk is really powerful. As is meditating. All have the effect of slowing your breathing down and bringing calm into the session. And that’s what makes time ‘stand still’.
You don’t have to be a ‘tree hugger’ for this to work – it’s not a matter of belief but a matter of fact. Give it a try next time you sit down to work ON your business and you’ll be amazed at the impact on your outcomes.
If you’d like to find out more about Tom Evans and his work on ‘bending time’, visit his website at www.bendingtime.info
It’s one of life’s truisms that some people have to face much tougher challenges than others. The outstanding opening to the Paralympics yesterday brought this point home only too well. No-one wants to indulge in patronising ‘didn’t they do well’ thinking but I can’t help but contrast their amazing ‘just get on with it’ spirit that is evident throughout the Paralympic movement, with the ‘it’s all a bit too difficult’ attitude that is all too evident elsewhere.
It’s all about making choices isn’t it? Yes, life’s tough – but I am where I am and I need to make a decision. Either I sit here and indulge myself in 101 good reasons why this is hard to do – or I can get on with it.
Which brings me to why some business owners are doing really well right now – and many others aren’t. I know, the economy isn’t that great. And Europe, well where do you start? The High Street is declining and no-one is spending. Oh, the weather – well that’s kyboshed the ice-cream and sun cream trade. And so on and so on.
I’m not unsympathetic but this kind of thinking simply does not help. ‘We are where we are’ is something I always come back to – no point moaning about how we got there. The only relevant discussion is ‘where do we go from here’?
The fact is that there is a LOT of money out there. I believe Rolls Royce sold more cars last year than ever before. Gucci and Prada still seem to be thriving. Costa and Starbucks are still selling coffee at three or four times the price that can be justified by the ingredients alone.
The simple truth is,the money is out there but we all have to fight that much harder to get our target customer to spend their cash – and spend it with US. Doing the same stuff we’ve always done just won’t get the results you want. Trying something new just might.
When the Olympic logo was launched a few years back, it was greeted by almost universal ridicule … lots of ‘my five year old could have done better’ comments. But I say ‘well done’ to the team who stuck to their guns and who went on to roll out an truly impressive identity programme which has become the lynchpin of the games.
It proves the point that an identity is so much more than a logo which, truth be told, is where it ends for most businesses. They get a logo designed or – worse still – design it themselves or do it ‘online’, stick it at the top of their letterhead and website and, to all intents and purposes, job done!
There are three key parts of this identity that have made it so successful …
All visual identities have a practical purpose – whether it’s just your business card and a website or, in the case of London 2012, an extraordinary array of applications. Signage, uniforms, publishing, marketing, ticketing, tele-visual requirements, PR, merchandising and so on.
You can’t simply unify the thousands of items involved by sticking a logo on them. The ‘graphic support’ element needs to extend the principles of the logo cleverly so that every element is unified into a total ‘look’. You simply cannot mistake the London 2012 image when you see it. And that’s clever.
The only way you can achieve a totally unified look is by painstakingly creating a complete graphic identity that can be easily – and accurately – deployed by hundreds of suppliers.
If you look closely at the Olympic coverage you will notice a whole series of constants …
Passion and purpose
The fact is that the games have been supremely well organised and I for one am truly proud to see Britain plc showing itself off so well on the world stage. The logo and identity have pulled everything together and make it really easy for people to enjoy and experience the games, whether they are reading about them in the press, watching on TV or live at one of the venues.
And that should be the case in your business. If your ‘identity’ stops at your letterhead, the chances are that your target audience won’t really ‘get’ what you do, which will be costing you ££££s. If you have a clear passion and purpose, and you have invested wisely in design to help you express that through every part of your business, then the chances are you are already on the right road.
So ask yourself, does your ‘identity’ stand up to Olympic style scrutiny?
Are you one of those business's where a premium product just wouldn't work? I hear it all the time - but I challenge you to think differently and see for yourself the benefit in terms of extra sales.
The facts speak for themselves, a clear percentage of your customers will pay extra for added value, if you let them.
A premium offer essentially gives your customer a high level of added value, disproportionate to the additional cost. And, for the business, the additional value is not costly to provide. Essentially a high-margin extra where both sides benefit.
This is reasonably commonplace and easy to deploy in most B to C sectors. Different levels of membership to just about anything. Spa day packages. Hampers to send as Christmas gifts. Set menus in a restaurant. Delivery levels when you buy online. Types of barbecue in any given range. Lambswool versus cashmere sweaters. Laptops with a super processor and software bundle versus the standard set up. And so on. And so on.
Yet, despite this, many businesses simply don't offer these options and are simply leaving money on the table.
Many of the business owners I talk to tell me they are stuck in a rut - they struggle to see how they could do things differently or get different results. Are you missing out on some really obvious improvements to your marketing? Are you wearing a set of those 'I've been in the job too long' blinkers?
Do you remember the last time you had a 'first day' in a new job? If you are a business owner it's likely that it was some while ago - in my case, 32 years ago!! Blimey.
Remember what it was like; that feeling of not knowing anything. Everyone else being 'in the know' and you feeling like the outsider looking in. But I bet you also remember the moments of utter clarity where you said to yourself ... 'I wonder why they aren't doing x?'. After all, they did it at your last company and it worked brilliantly - but these guys aren't doing it at all? Why would that be?
One of the universal sales truths is that the new guys in the sales team often get far better results than the old hands. Why? Well because they don't assume they know the answers. They have to 'dummy up' with customers as the only way not to look stupid is to keep asking simple questions and learn about their new market the hard way. And, in doing so, they tend to come up with solutions that the 'old hands' don't even consider.
In my last article, i argues why premium packages could work in all businesses. However, once you start to realise the potential, you can begin to test out different package pricing to help you achieve your sales goals.
Think about how you have bought in the past ... given the choice of two levels of package, we tend to opt for the lower one - no-one wants to pay top price after all.
But given the choice of three, we tend to opt for the middle offering - no-one wants to be the cheapskate either! And, with clever testing of how you position the middle package, you can even make the top package the no brainer.
Here is a brilliant example - these are the actual results from an online and hard copy access package offered by the Economist...
Is your business a passion free zone? And is your website really reflecting why you love what you do? If so, you need to run a quick passion audit as its absence is likely to be costing you dear in terms of lost sales and reduced margins.
There are tens of thousands of choices for how to make a living, so there is a reason that you selected that one thing. Your original ‘passion’ for want of a better word. The driving force that compelled you to start up on your own.
X years down the line it is often difficult to remember exactly where it all started – the struggle of finding customers, managing cashflow, coping with staff and dealing with troublesome technology start to become the daily reality.
So if I mentioned finding time to get back to your original ‘passion’ you might just laugh in my face! But your passion is critical … if you aren’t passionate about what you do, how can you expect our customers to care? And customers who are passionate about your products are VERY profitable for you.
Ask youself ... "If you had to get it done by X date - or you'd die ... could you do it?" That's a very powerful question and I urge you to ask yourself - and the honest answer 99% of the time is YES, of course I could.
On Saturday night Facebook was awash with comments about the X Factor's embarrassing technical problems (apparently there was a power cut at the BT Tower in London) which meant the show ran later than scheduled.
Millions of viewers had tuned in ready for another instalment of the live shows only to be greeted by clips from the auditions! Outraged and confused they immediately took to the social media platforms to discuss the possibilities of what might be happening backstage but these were managed efficiently by representatives who were monitoring the social media airwaves. There were even rumours that bad boy Frankie Cocozza had taken the producers hostage at one point!
Many business owners are fearful of raising their prices or offering premium products to their customers.
But consider this ...you are almost certainly selling everything for less than you need to.
And you are selling less of it than you would at a higher price.
After all - if you live by price, you die by price. All other things being equal, the only way customers can compare your product or service is on price. You have effectively commoditised your business and slashed you margins in an attempt to buy sales.
However, if you've done your homework and have got your positioning right, you are working with a high-value database where you can target specific groups of customers and you have a strong communications strategy reminding them of how great you are and why they should buy from you, it becomes much easier to charge higher prices AND increase your sales volume.
Do you have a a premium priced product?
Are you up selling to your customers?
Fact - 20% of your customers will pay for a premium product - but only if you make it available to them.
Do you have any kind of premium product for your customers? For example, in the Entrepreneur’s Circle, we offer a 100 club option. Members pay more to get additional benefits, more one to one time with Nigel Botterill, additional time at meetings, front row seats, more online access and so forth.
Universal studios is another great example of premium pricing - $120 dollars for a standard one day pass, versus $210 for a VIP express ticket - and they sell out 1000 tickets every day - 365 days a year. That's over $32 million in revenue a year with minimum outcosts - and the fact is that the park was open for 10 years before they introduced it!
As a great example of upselling - by offering additional products ... I don't know if anyone has been to the Empire State Building - but it's possible to buy ...
A total now $89 rather than $21 - and a LOT of people are happy to buy it!
Every business needs a premium price option. And every business needs a strategy to up-sell. Does yours?
Fact 1: It's much easier - and cheaper - to make sales to someone who has already bought from you and experienced what you do, than it is to find a brand new customer.
Fact 2: Most business owners know this ... but completely ignore it.
Fact 3: Most businesses spend most of their marketing budget trying to get brand new customers.
Building and refining your database is critical if you are to be effective at reselling to your existing customers. Apart from the obvious, fields that you need to include are:
And finally, specifics relevant to your business ...
The more tailored, relevant and 'niche', you make your communications, the better they will work for you. People often get bogged down with 'frequency' as being the big issue in regular marketing programmes when, in truth, recipients won’t worry about frequency if the content is useful and relevant. And your database will help you achieve that.
Fact 4: Communicating regularly - and frequently - with your existing customers and prospects will be the easiest and cheapest way for most established businesses to double their sales.
Fact 5: Using multiple media - well! - will have a dramatic impact on your response.
Fact 6: The More you communicate, the more you will sell.
Use a combination of:
Can you honestly answer the question 'how do your customers and potential customers perceive your business?'
In reality most business owners cannot - they make assumptions based on their own beliefs and don't take the time to do the research necessary to make an honest assessment of where they sit in the local marketplace.
Questions like, what does your business stand for? What are you best known for? Where do people think you sit in the competitive landscape? Are you thought of as different to your competition and, if so, for what?
Yes, it takes time to gather this information - don't rush the process and gain only a superficial analysis - but in costs very little, just your time. But you will be SO much richer as a result and it will help you transform your revenues and profits.
You need go no further than the typical high street to see the impact of clear positioning, supported by marketing that continually reinforces the central message. Jamie's Restaurants, GAP, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer and many more.
Do not be fooled. Clever positioning is NOT the preserve of the bigger businesses. You can - and should - do it too.
Titles and names matter
My old friend Nigel Botterill often quotes 'bananarama syndrome' - in other words, it ain't what you do - it's the way that you do it!
Why is it that, in a Mother's Day promotion, 'The Ultimate Mother's Day Gift: the Family Portrait' outsold 'Family Portrait Mother's Day Gift' by THREE times in a split test in an email campaign?
To say 'I tried emailing, but it didn't work' doesn't cut it. It's all in the execution and split testing is an easy way for you to learn what works better in your business. Over time you'll build up valuable information about how to position your offering in your advertising and promotions for maximum benefit.
Remember, you need to do the hard work upfront, to make the selling easy.
Nigel Botterill shares his thoughts on how to earn more by learning more....
'I read an interesting blog post on Brian Tracy's website over the weekend and I thought I'd share my thoughts on a few of the points it raises.
The article talks about the fact that you can't get better results by working harder to apply what you currently know. If you want to earn more in the future, you need to learn and apply new methods and techniques consistently.
I really resonate with this message - I am a firm believer that committing to your ongoing learning and development is an essential part of becoming super successful.
Tracy likens it to
and I think this description is bang on.
The first thing Tracy talks about in his article is that 'Leaders are Readers' and I couldn't agree more. I read A L-O-T of books and apart from the fact that I enjoy reading, I also make sure I've always got a book or two on the go because I know it's one of the most effective ways to make sure I stay ahead of the curve! I've usually got a book in the car and one by my bed and I'll pick them up whenever I have a few spare moments! You don't have to set aside hours or days at a time to read but it's important that you DO make the time somewhere.
Have you read the books on the Entrepreneurs Circle reading list yet? What about the 'Book of the Month' featured in the Circular? Do you read those? If not, you're missing a trick!
Tracy also talks about surrounding yourself with the right people - learning from people who have been there and done it, attending seminars and courses to expand your knowledge.
Many of the most successful business owners I know will fly hundreds and even thousands of miles to attend business conferences regularly to learn from people who have achieved whatever they aspire to achieve. I do it myself and I can tell you from experience that the difference it makes in my business each time is phenomenal! There will always be a few nuggets I can take away to implement in my business straight away.
The good news is that everything I learn at the conferences I attend is passed on to you and all the best business books I come across are recommended to you ... but at the end of the day, YOU are the only one that can commit to using this information to your advantage and implementing what you learn as a result!
I'm 100% committed to my own continued learning and making sure you have everything you need to build a super successful business - the question is, are you committed to using all of it?
In talking to many business owners on this topic and it has become clear to me that far and away the BIGGEST enemy of all in terms of time management is email. It is ubiquitous and pervasive. It's available 24/7 on smart phones and iPads, on lap tops and desktops. It seems to demand instant attention and has the power to throw all your best-laid plans out of the window.
If you can crack this problem, you'll suddenly get your life back I can promise you.
There are all manner of possible solutions - why not try at least one or two and see what happens ...
Good luck. You are not alone.
I make no apologies for banging on about how you should use your time wisely. If you are a business owner you must surely realise that time is potentially your biggest enemy - but also your most powerful ally if used well.
But there is the crux of it all. If used well. It so often is not with people blindly throwing their time at all and sundry with no apparent plan or ability to differentiate between what's useful and what's not. The classic case of confusing 'activity' with 'productivity' - or 'busy fool' syndrome.
Some simple tips will make planning how you use your time so much simpler and effective ...
In my series about how your time is one of your most critical business growth tools, I'd like to consider the degree to which business owners unconsciously and willingly throw their time down the drain on a daily basis.
Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Duncan Bannatyne and Nigel Botterill. All successful business people and all, you may be amazed to discover, restricted by the same number of hours and minutes in a day as you. The difference is in what they do with that time - and wasting it is likely to feature high on their 'criminal activity' list.
Most of us don't consciously waste our time - we don't sit there thinking 'oh, I can't be bothered, pass the crossword', but in our unconscious behaviours we achieve exactly that. Little things that happen day in day out and which conspire to eat away at our time like a hungry and persistent caterpillar.
For example ...
Is your 80/20 balance working?
We've all heard of the 80/20 rule and how the 20% - of anything - is the part that counts the most. Given a normal 7.5 hour working day, 20% of this is 90 minutes.
Your brain can operate at high performance for 90 minutes at a time - preferably uninterrupted so the brain can stay focused - and you can achieve SO much in that relatively short space of time. If, by better time management behaviours, you could salvage 90 minutes a day to work ON your business, just imagine the heights you could achieve.
So ask yourself...
Ultimately it is with your CONSCIOUS behaviours that you will grow your business. So please be conscious about how you spend your time and become the master of your destiny rather than the victim of your poor management.
The best thing about running your own business is that there is no one to tell you what to do.
BUT ... the worst thing about running your own business is that there is no one to tell you what to do!
Never were truer words spoken to me and my huge thanks to my dear friend Keith Thomas who enlightened me back in 1988 when I was struggling in the 'early days'. It's intensely empowering when you finally understand that the only accountability that you have as your own boss ... is to YOU!
Or, in other words, you really need to WANT this if you are going to succeed because - I've got news for you here - no other b***er gives a damn but you.
In order to achieve your goals you need to turn vague ideas and notions into 'targets'. Something tangible you can aim for. Most of us are pretty familiar with the 'I'm gonna build a £1million business' kind of a target but we are generally less comfortable with the 'by when' factor. The TIME target in other words.
Committing to time targets is critical; a vision without a deadline is simply a dream but add in a deadline and suddenly you have a tangible goal.
But, of course, an equally critical factor is keeping to your commitments. I'm guessing that when you say to a client or customer that you will do X by Y that you are pretty committed to doing it. But do you show as much integrity to your commitments to YOU?
My experience of business owners is that, in the commitment hierarchy, they slot themselves somewhere between 'bottom of the heap' and 'seriously not important' on the 'to do' list. Now, I'm not telling you that your priorities are wrong - that really is a matter for you to decide - but I am telling you that seriously successful people have a habit of placing their own needs pretty high on the priority list. Growing their business is paramount and is deserving of their time and energy.
So, as in all things, the choice is yours. But if you do want to grow your business you need to make yourself accountable - clear goals with time and financial targets - with absolute time integrity. So that when you say you'll have the new website written by Y date, you mean it - black and white, absolute, no grey areas.
After all no other b***er is going to do it for you.
Following my look at the Zappos customer philosophy and company culture, I conclude my series based on Tony Hsieh's book 'Delivering Happiness' with a look at the challenges of 'being different'.
It may have started by accident, but Tony Hsieh and the team at Zappos soon began to realise that what they were doing was radical in every regard. From the way they look after customers, to the way they treat their suppliers and team. Of course the final focus always has to be the bottom line - this isn't some airy-fairy altruistic organisation - but they simply realised that you don't have to slavishly follow what everyone else does in order to be profitable.
Of course it's easy to say ... "Oh they're an American online shoe retailer, how can that apply to me?" Or, "it's alright for them, they are a major corporation - it's simply not possible to do that when you are a local accountant, caterer, chiropractor or whatever ..."
The challenge to you is to find the parallels for your business. You don't have to copy what they did, and it won't all apply but the are lessons here for us all.
The key here is that they ...
We are all familiar with the 80/20 rule ... and in business that means that 20% of your sector are successful at what you do, and 80% are mediocre at best. Even amongst the 20%, only the top 1% are outstandingly successful and only the top 5% would qualify as VERY successful.
So when you decide to follow the 'norms' for your sector, you are taking a very big risk. The majority of your sector are doing only 'well', 'ok' or are 'failing'. Is this really the standard you want to adopt?
As Mark Twain famously wrote in best part of 100 years ago,
How very true - but not easy at all .....
How many times have you heard the hackneyed phrase 'people are our most important asset'? Let's be honest, we all know this is usually just so much worthy corporate talk and, when the chips are down, this 'asset' will be the first out of the door when sales drop.
Following my series based on the inspiring Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of the billion dollar Zappos online retailer, this article looks at the way their company culture and the value they place on their staff has contributed to their considerable success.
Hsieh is honest that the culture came about largely by accident to start with. He hated the fact that his previous business and spiralled out of control as it grew, and that he hardly knew the team; he decided that would never happen again. However, there was initially no structured plan and the culture just grew on it's own.
The turning point came when they started to grow at a pace and the question arose as to how to find people who would fit in and contribute to the business. The result was the birth of the Zappos employment 'speed dating' technique, run by members of the team and which surely has to be one of the most extraordinary interview processes I have ever come across!
Initially the culture was just 'understood', but the need to articulate it became clear and now the team all buy in to a set of written and agreed 'values' that include a responsibility to develop yourself, and to be 'a little weird'!
Manifestations of their culture, from a business point of view, are:
No wonder Zappos was voted "Best company to work for" by Fortune Magazine.
As the business owner you may well be the creator of the your business's purpose and vision, however it is your team that actually delivers it to your customers. Can you honestly say that your company philosophy and values fully express your business vision? Are your staff even aware of your vision? Could you express what your team values are?
Zappos are quite clear on this. They are in no doubt that their company culture drives their services, which differentiates their business, which creates loyal and profitable customers. It's simply a direct link from company culture to the $s on the bottom line.
Worth thinking about I'd say.
I recently read an outstanding book called 'Delivering Happiness' written by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos of an online shoe retailer that went from zero to $1billion sales in just 8 years. This was no whiny, self-satisfied business guru telling us how clever he had been. No. This is a humble, human and inspiring guy who simply wants to share his absolute passion for building an alternative company culture that has become all encompassing.
The question to us all is clear - could we find a way to do it differently too? Are we so locked in the 'norms' of our sector that we can't see another way to do whatever it is that we do?
This is the first of three articles based on this book that look at the underlying parts of his story - custom service, company culture and 'being different'.
This is a very clear business philosophy and begs the question - 'what's yours?'.
For Zappos, this philosophy manifested itself in several ways ...
So, no delays in receiving your order, no being held in a call queue, no being fobbed off on the phone, no cost to returning unwanted items, no up-selling, no frustration. Goodness - does that sound like your Internet shopping experience? Of course the 'realists' will list the many operational issues in this approach, the unnecessary costs, the industry norms, the issues in handling customer service teams and the need to closely 'manage' their output.
Well reader, you decide. This is a seriously profitable company with an unerringly loyal customer base. I challenge you to consider who's got it more right and what lessons can you take away about the 'WOWs' you offer your customers?
Working with clients to get their marketing materials together is rewarding in many ways - but far more rewarding is what happens when they really get stuck in and make stuff happen on their own.
No external consultant can really get involved in the way a client can for themselves, if they have the mind to do it - and sadly some don't!
Which is why I was so pleased to receive this fab testimonial from a lingerie retail client just recently, as it showed they were engaged on so many levels...
We were at our local garden centre the other day. We're the world's worst gardeners, though we really love our garden. Under instructions from our wonder of a gardener we set off to our local garden centre to get a particular fertiliser product. On our way through we were, of course, quickly seduced by the fantastic array of new season garden furniture. We sat on everything - practically laid down at one point - and no-one, not one single member of staff could be seen to capture our very obvious interest.
Having singled out on particularly attractive set that would work well in our courtyard area, we consider the price of £725. Was it too much we wondered? I know, I said - I'll check on the Internet. Which I duly did and found the same set on a specialist site priced at £675. But ah, I said, these guys locally may be able to deliver this weekend and the weather is lovely - let's see if they will do a bit of a deal and maybe we'll settle halfway.
So we went on a search - and no-one, simply NO-ONE could be found to assist. There was even no-one manning the extensive, up-to-£1500-a-shot barbecue area. So my husband went off in wider search and came back some while later, alone, only to find that I'd already found - and bought - the fertiliser on Amazon, plus had found the garden furniture on a website with 15% off that weekend and already bought and paid for it too. It was delivered three days later. £608. Internet 1. Local shop nil.
So tell me, why had they invested in barbecues and some very smart garden furniture if they had no intention of actually helping people to buy it? No doubt they are a candidate for the 'times are tough out there' mentality.
We also have a small property in France and we desperately needed some new furniture there. I went back to the Internet people and asked them if they could organise getting our order sent to France ... 'Oh sorry, we can't to that - we only deliver in the UK' came the reply. This time the bill would have been just under £1000. Business must be good for them I guess.
So I found another local garden centre who sold the brand we wanted - I posed the same question to the extremely helpful and very attentive assistant (garden centre A take note!); his reply was immediate. 'Of course we can do that for you. There is a small freight company locally and I'll get it all sorted with them'. Right answer. Kerching!! Local shop 1 - Internet nil this time.
So the question is – are you thinking it through? Are you making it as easy as you can for customers to buy from you? Or do you have front line ‘saboteurs’ who don’t have their eye on the bottom line like you do?
Just the other day my husband and I were at a well-known Surrey pub having lunch. They did just about everything right - upsold the food (it was fab), upsold the wine (at £6.25 a glass in a giant crystal goblet I was happy to pay as they'd let me taste it and it looked gorgeous!), but when it came to bringing the food to our outside table and being asked for another round of drinks, the reply came 'oh, I'm afraid we don't do table service'.
Doh! What did you just say?
What were they thinking? Of course, so much better to let our lunch go cold while we queue for drinks, or for us to simply not bother buying a second round. Heaven forbid a simple bit of initiative and 'oh, we don't normally, but leave it with me ...' which would have worked wonders. No doubt they'll be moaning that takings are down and it's tough out there.
In contrast, the delightful Stag at Eashing near to us, has invested in a proper ‘outdoor’ area. A well-designed area full of tables, all-weather canopies and heaters, plus there is a server’s station dedicated to outdoor customers; they proactively come and ask you if you’d like more drinks or food. All in all, they make you feel relaxed and welcome. Plus of course you spend more.
Now, you tell me – who’s got it right? What is it with business owners who just can’t see opportunity when it slaps them in the face? And then, of course, blame ‘the economic climate’ when things don’t go well for them.
Happy customers are the answer to all economic woes. If you make it easy for people to spend their money with you – they’ll spend it. It really is no more complex than that.
Is it just me, or do other people wonder why some people go to networking meetings. I call them the passive networker People who go to networking events and who don't follow up... did they just go for the breakfast?
You know, you chat at the meeting and agree to send each other some stuff and to connect - which you duly do - and that's it, the last you hear from them. They don't reply to your email (even with a polite no thank you!) and they don't send the info they promised. There's no response to your LinkedIn request and no follow back on Twitter.
What were they doing there? Are they are simply ticking boxes by turning up? If so, it's a waste of their time - and of mine too. Of course they'll be at the front of the queue telling you that networking didn't work for them and that business is tough right now.
I’m not advocating ‘aggressive networking’ – the person who presses their business card into your hand and makes a sales pitch within the first five minutes. And I don’t advocate ‘blanket emailing’ after the event (unless there is a very good tactical reason, such as promoting a specific offer you raised at the event). But ultimately we all know why we are there, and it’s to build relationships and ultimately build business. And surely the starting point is following up from meetings, doing the things you said you would and ‘connecting’.The basics of building relationships.
What happens after that is down to time and opportunity, but at least give it your best shot by getting the foundations in place.
Just remember – there is a difference between ‘networking’ and ‘networking activity’ – one involves simply turning up. The other involves making it an active marketing tool. Which one applies to you?
What are we going to do on a Wednesday night now that the Apprentice has finished for the season? All that perfect blogging material lost to us!
Let’s be honest – they were priceless. Literally.
I wrote a blog a few weeks back about ‘really needing to know the numbers in your business' – and Jim’s blunder with the basic numbers for ‘Caracus’ proved the point perfectly. They didn’t know the basics...
And it wasn’t just that they didn’t know the financial facts – they hadn’t even considered this when developing their brand, the products, the shop setting. They were so carried away with their ‘concept’ that the detail of ‘ the money’ simply got forgotten.
But, in truth, is this so very far from reality? Most business people I know couldn’t tell you what profit they made last month or last week? And they’ll give you lots of very good reasons why this is really difficult to do – operational issues, problems with checking stock levels, time, staff – you name it. But the fact remains; do you imagine that lord Sugar doesn’t know the numbers in his business? And he has many.
There are three critical numbers that all business people should know ...
Keeping on top of the numbers takes effort of course – but the reward is being in absolute control of your business – and not looking an utter numpty – like Jim did – when asked the basics about your business.
I met a lady last week – Jane - who simply LOVES what she does for a living. And that’s helping people manage their debts.
I can’t think of the last time I saw someone who smiled so much and simply exuded ‘I love my job’.
For her, helping people take control of their lives and get back ‘on track’ was all the reward she needs for being in business. Sure there are some challenges along the way – after all, many people who are in debt may not be the world’s best at doing the things they’ll need to do to put their lives in order, but I bet Jane has a better chance of getting them to do what’s needed than most simply down to her attitude and energy.
How many people have you met that don’t seem to want to do what they are doing? They can’t be bothered to smile. They can’t be bothered to call you back. And they can barely be bothered to sell you anything. Yet, I guarantee they’ll still be moaning about ‘a tough market out there’.
People like that usually think it’s YOUR responsibility to do business with them. NO! It is always your responsibility to make people want to work with you – remember they have a choice and ask yourself why anyone would genuinely chose YOU given the many options your customers have.
In today’s market, simply ‘being there’ is not enough. No one does business with anyone who’s just ordinary. Unless you are ‘wowing’ your customers, you need to accept that it’s only a matter of time before someone else will.
So Jane, thank you for reminding me about the basics. I’m not in debt ... but if I ever was ... !
In 2011 the market place is simply tougher than it used to be three years ago - for EVERYONE. No matter what your business.If you want your business to succeed ...
The honest truth is that no-one gets rewarded for being just ‘ordinary’ anymore. You have to strive to be better than the rest at the very least.
Just ask yourself the question ... "why should one of your hard-working customers put their hand in their pocket and give you some of their hard-earned cash?"
And you’d better come up with a really good answer. In 2011 you need a profound reason for your business to exist - and you needing to make a living is NOT a profound reason!
Success demands the delivery of an exceptional experience for the buyer ... from first contact, all the way through the sale and beyond.
Whatever you do, please don’t be comfortable with just being ordinary. Strive to be extraordinary!
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
We live in a world of witty or insightful 120 character tweets and short, sharp snippets on Facebook, So sometimes writing a more detailed and informative blog can seem daunting and time consuming. However this should NOT be the case.
There is no specific length for a blog, it can simply be a paragraph. Providing the content is well structured, compelling and engaging, people will come back for more.
Finally, remember the hardest part is starting, go for it!
What are your blogging experiences? I'm interested to know more ....
There are a lot of people in your industry doing what you, fighting for your clients and your money. When was the last time you REALLY looked at your customer service? What do you customer actually say about you to their friends (have you ever checked?)– is that helping or sabotaging your business?
The most frustrating thing is that delivering customer service does not mean having to spend £000s on clever schemes and people, it's about attention to the small things and doing things that your competitors don’t or won’t do.
At our next monthly Entrepreneur's Circle meeting in the Guildford and Dorking areas in June (20th & 21st) we will give you real practical easy to action tools that can make a REAL difference to what you do, how you do it and most importantly to how your customers feel about you
Would a whole bunch of your customers talking about what an amazing service they got from you be useful???
Looking forward to seeing you in June; we have some brilliant local business owners coming down and I am looking forward to working with a great group of forward thinking business owners who really want to take a big leap forward together.
If you spend all your time - all day, every day – working IN your business, you will always limit the level of your success.
If you look at the classic characteristics of highly successful people, you will see that they ruthlessly focus on building their business rather than being lost in the detail of DOING it.
So if you want to be truly successful, you need to find time – ideally EVERY day – to work ON your business. Use this time to achieve one marketing job every day and, little by little, you will gradually fulfil your plans and start to see the rewards of your hard work.
But bear in mind your time spent MUST be uninterrupted time. We’ve all experienced the relatively minor task that is still incomplete at the end of a busy day. It could have been easily resolved in 30 minutes with the phone and email switched off. If you want to make progress, you have to find this time every day and be disciplined with yourself and your team.#
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
The broad brush approach to marketing is DEAD! But, remarkably, it’s still the method used by most businesses when they communicate with their customers.
As you segment your database you make your information more relevant and more personal – which means it will be more welcome. In other words, the more relevant and more personal you can make it, the better sales you will make as a result.
Think about the different ways in which you can segment your database, and hence tailor your communications to match …By product – did they buy the gas barbecue or the charcoal barbecue. The tools you try to sell them and free recipe ideas can then match their exact product type, making them much more likely to read on – and BUY!
And with clever technologies so easily available these days, sending personalised communications is extremely easy to – not just ‘dear customer’ but ‘dear Jill’.
More relevant. More personal. More sales!
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
Did you know that 97% of businesses don’t follow up more than 4 times (in fact, most don’t follow up more than once!!).
BUT ... 81% of prospects don’t make their purchase until after the 5th contact!
Which means that a lot of businesses are throwing away the chance to grow their businesses – significantly!
Of course, we’d all get tired of simply receiving more and more emails ‘chasing up’ our enquiry, so you certainly need to be more creative than that. Mix up the techniques – try a phone call, an invite to a customer event, an additional survey option and so forth.
Remember, they always have the option to ask for you NOT to communicate with them – especially via the ‘unsubsribe’ on your emails.
The right information!
Bear in mind, if you are sending the right information, to the right customer – but simply at the wrong time - it is still the ‘right’ information. However, you do need to make sure the information is ‘right’ – so don’t miss out on MUST No. 5 – segmentation!
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
We Brits can sometimes be our own worst enemies. Especially when it comes to ‘lead capture’. After all, it is quite ‘rude’ to ask someone for their name and email – they may think we want to stalk them!
You simply have to get over this. Capturing your leads is critical to your business – if you are serious about taking charge of the relationship between you and your customers you need to capture your leads.
So what’s your bait?
On your website…
The classic ‘lead capture’ device is ‘sign up for our newsletter’. But you really need to ask yourself why your potential customer would want to clog up their email with yet another e newsletter? – so do try to be more creative than this.
Think carefully about what bait you can offer to ensure they willingly leave you their contact details.
Make sure it’s clear there is only one thing they need to do to get the ‘free info’ – and that’s to leave their information. You need to be ruthless about this and think carefully about the construction of each web page with a clear call to action. Don’t give them the option of simply drifting away!
At the till …
Again, don’t just revert to the ‘newsletter’ option, can you offer to send them great offers for loyal customers? A birthday voucher? Invites to preview evenings? Customers are MUCH more likely to leave their details when they think there is something in it for them.
At shows and exhibitions …
Remember, when you are exhibiting, your ONLY purpose is to collect leads. Good leads. So don’t get distracted with vague champagne prize draws and business card bins, you need to get much more creative than this! Otherwise you’ll just end up with hundreds of unqualified leads from disinterested individuals, making follow up painful and pointless.
If you get your ‘lead capture’ mechanism right, the bigger and faster your business will grow.
As author Geoffrey Gitomer says, ‘You have to do the hard work in order to make the selling easy’!
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
It’s so easy to get lost in the detail of the ‘doing’ of your business, that it’s all to easy to forget to stop and look back at the big picture.
Where are you headed with all this? What are the big goals over the next six, 12 and 36 months in terms of your target numbers of customers, your turnover, your profit and even your business asset value. Are you building a business that might have a value to someone else?
Think about it –have you ever tried using a SatNav and not putting your destination in? Pointless! Sure, you get the chance to change direction along the way – and thankfully the ‘voice’ doesn’t reprimand you for going wrong – it simply readjusts the journey, telling you how to get back on track with your journey.
Planning for your business is no different – it’s a journey, not a precise itinerary and you may need to make adjustments, but ultimately you ALWAYS have to know where you are going or you simply will never get there.
How much profit did you make last week?
Any accountant could tell you that your profit equals your revenue less your fixed and variable costs [P=r-(fc+vC)].
But if i asked you how much profit you earned last week, could you tell me? At worst, what about last month? If you are relying on your accountant to tel you – 6 months after the year end – how profitable you were last year, you are not demonstrating one of the key characteristics of successful people. They simply ‘know their numbers’. Do you?
Your marketing ROI
And do you know how cost effective your marketing is? Your return on investment? Are you even tracking what works? Are you using Google Analaytics? Call tracking numbers (for your ads and leaflets)? Or are you just asking customers?
If you know what’s working and where you are getting the best ROI on your marketing budget – you never have to have a marketing budget again! After all – if you kept giving me a £1, and I kept giving you £5 back – at what point would you tell me you’d reached your maximum budget?
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
Remember, your business is like the Parthenon – held up by MANY pillars. If you’ve ever visited the Parthenon in Greece, you’d have seen that there are pillars missing, and even some that simply don’t reach to the top and aren’t holding the roof on at all. And yet it is still standing? After thousands of years.
That’s because those Greeks knew a thing or two about marketing! Well, something like that...!
The fact is, in a structure with many columns, it simply doesn't affect the over strength if one or two simply fall over.
And your business is no different.
If you are reliant on one, two or three pillars the truth is your business structure is VERY unstable. It won’t take more than a puff of wind to cause a major collapse. These pillars are supporting the strength of your revenue and if you are over dependent on too few, whatever success you are achieving right now is an illusion - you are masking a MASSIVE vulnerability. Pray that the market doesn't change. Ever!
Take some time to sit down and think about just how many pillars you are using in your marketing – everything from email marketing, and Twitter , direct mail and good solid networking. Because, if you don’t have at least 12 pillars, you are missing out on customers, on revenue and, most importantly – PROFIT!
Source: Nigel's Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle
The Entrepreneur’s Circle is a brilliant new business Club that’s just taking off in Surrey. Founded by serial entrepreneur Nigel Botterill – the guy who started the BestOf phenomenon - it’s all about helping small business owners escape mediocrity and become super-successful.
It’s not networking and it’s not all talk. It’s about practical, do-able practical tips that really support your success. Nigel really understands how hard it is for small business owners to keep up with the explosion of marketing and business development activities that you need to be doing nowadays to stay ahead of your competition and the Entrepreneur’s Circle simply helps you break it down and create your game plan.
I’m Nigel’s eyes and ears in Surrey and i’m on the lookout for small business owners with a real desire for growth. I’m running monthly meetings in the Guildford and Dorking areas and the next meetings are on 10th & 11th of May. I’d be delighted if you would be my guest – the theme for the next meeting is ‘The Seven MUSTS of effective marketing’ so it’s bound to be really useful to you.
Plus, if you’re up for it, Nigel is doing one of his monthly Entrepreneur’s Circle national events at Windsor on 7th June. It’s a full day of working ON your business rather than IN it and again, I’d be delighted if you’d be my guest. He is an absolutely inspiring teacher and he really knows how to get people committed to taking action. You’ll be there with a hundred or more other successful small business owners sharing ideas and tips on growing their businesses.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Watching businesses cope with the changes in the market place this last year or two, I have been struck by the difference your attitude can make.
Those with an 'if it's to be, it's up to me' attitude seem to have weathered the storm far better than many by taking responsibility for the outcomes they want to achieve. I strongly believe that, as a small business, even in tougher times it's more than possible to grow your business - often simply by doing the things that most of your competitors can't be bothered to. By raising your head above the parapet and making yourself heard.
Social media for example - everytime we run a webinar or an article on this up and coming area, it's far more popular than anything else we put out. But how many of you can truly say you've mastered the skill and are using it strategically to grow your business? How often have I heard 'oh, Twitter's not for me', or 'I don't understand how it all works'?
If you think and act like a winner, you'll have a great message to shout out to your marketplace - by whatever means available. You owe it to your business to gather the right tools around you - and learn how to use them. Your winning attitude will immediately set you above your competitors.
The featured article this month features a book called 'Dream On' by John Richardson. A business guy who went from being a long handicvapper to playing scratch golf in under a year - in no small part due to his attitude. He has many lessons to teach us all. See article>>
Nigel Botteril's Entrepreneur's Circle
I am also delighted to report becoming more closely involved in Nigel Botterill's Entrepreneur's Circle. Nigel is a serial entrepreneur with several £multi-million businesses. He's one of the most entertaining and inspiring speakers I've ever met and his 'Circle' is to help and inspire SME businesses of all types.
I'll be running events for him from next month in the Surrey and Hants area (Farnham, Woking, Guildford, Haslemere, Dorking, Reigate and Redhill) and will be sharing loads more of his ideas with you over the weeks and months ahead.
You'll love it - 'Can Do' runs through him like a stick of rock!!
The biggest marketing tool in your armoury is your attitude. If you believe it can be done, are focused on the way ahead with plenty of commitment - watch out!
I recently read an amazing book called 'Dream On' by John Richardson. An ordinary business guy from Northern Ireland who decided to see if it was possible for an regular (not good!) golfer to be able to play one single scratch round inside 12 months. He thought people would support him and give him loads of encouragement and was astonished when so many people told him 'it couldn't be done'. It seemed they were so vested in their own lack of vision it caused them pain to help him with his. Even top pros in the golf world were disparaging.
Well, with a lot of hard work and determination he did it with just four days to go,after masses of training, a big focus on his psychology and attitude, and an invisible friend called Seve!
How many customers have you missed out on this year because you are not using Social Media properly?
What are your competitors doing on Linked In that’s helping them get ahead of you?
If you are NOT using Social Media (Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, etc) properly in your business, then you’re almost certainly losing business and you’ll have no idea about how to answer the questions above.
FACT – Social Media is where people are. Every day.
FACT – It’s FREE.
FACT – It’s easy (when you know what to do) to engage with people via Linked In, Twitter and Facebook and turn them into paying customers ...
FACT – Most businesses in the UK are either not using Social Media at all, or are dabbling with it, because they don’t know what to do. Neither are smart strategies.
FACT – Those businesses that are using Social Media properly are getting ahead of their competitors, are growing more quickly and have miles better relationships with their customers.
No time for Social Media!
I know a lot of you will think 'I don't have time for this' - but the question is 'can you really afford not to ignore the biggest trend on the Internet since Google?'. Even if you only make a small start, it's a step in the right direction and skills will quickly grow.
If you are interested in finding out more about Social media, you might be interested in our online BluePrint Social Media Training Programme ... watch a demo here and let me know if you'd like to join ...http://www.socialmediablueprint.co.uk/demo/
I do worry about the future for businesses that don’t seem to realise that their best marketing tool is their service. Get that right and customers will return time and time again. You don’t have keep slogging uphill to find new customers if your current ones stay with you - AND they refer their friends and contact to you.
Take my experience in Homebase recently. I simply wanted 3 ‘made to measure’ matchpots of paint for our hall decorating project. They take a lot of time to make up individually and time, that day, was something I was very short of.
So help me I said – what do we do? The lady then suggested that they make up the paint pots and I collect and pay for them later. “But that’s what I asked for in the first place!,” I said. “Well, I’m just trying to be accommodating,” came the e reply.
So yes, eventually I got what I wanted – but good customer service shouldn’t be that difficult. Surely the answer to most questions should be a straight 'YES' and work back the logistics from there. It will be what differentiates the chaff from the wheat over time after all.
This weekend I spent nearly £3000 in HomeBase. Surely I am the sort of customer they should embrace and cultivate. Big companies have a bigger issue to resolve – getting that ‘can do’ attitude right down onto the shop floor can be a struggle. But there is no excuse in a small business.
You are the front line – are you embracing your customers with a ‘yes’ first, and worrying about the ‘how’ later?
Want to comment? Do you have any exampled of how customer service you experienced forged a loyal bond with a business?
Change, for many people can be a difficult thing. It can be both exciting and scary. Old habits die hard, and that is often why change programmes meet resistance, stall or fail. But perversely, in my experience many people want to change their lives or their business in some way, but find it difficult to get started or to sustain the change for long.
Personally I relish change. I find it stimulating, refreshing and energising. But despite the fact that change is inevitable (particularly in the countdown to 2012) there is still incredible resistance to change inside ourselves and in the people around us, such as our staff and our clients.
So against that backdrop what are the key elements of successful, sustainable change?
Articles should have personality. Passion and energy – not just factual content. Not only does this say more about you, but it’s also much more engaging and easier to read.
Your blog is not about telling the world about how clever you are or showing every detail of your technical prowess – very few people want to engage with that. However, they do want to understand what you stand for – what’s important to you, your style, energy and direction. All of these things that set you apart.
Blogging was originally a term devised to describe a ‘personal log’ online – ‘State of the nation’, ‘what I am working on today’ and opinion pieces, for example. However, it has now become a generic term of online articles that are broadcast out to people who are interested in what you do.
The key word here is ‘broadcast’. In other words, articles don’t just sit on your website – you broadcast via an RSS reader (stands for really simple syndication) and to your Twitter, Facebook and Linked In accounts, plus any other social networks you are part of professionally.
Telling people about what you do and the way that you do it – consistently! - is simply vital in terms of your day-to-day marketing effort.
If you are wondering what on earth you would write about in your blog, focusing your content around a theme for a period of, say, one or two months at a time, can have an empowering effect on your blogging skills.
Ever left a meeting with a prospect and realised that you did most of the talking and you found out very little about the prospect and their buying motives?
All you ended up doing is what we call, 'unpaid consulting'. Where you educate the prospect, give away your knowledge and expertise, but fail to get any commitment in return.
The problem occurs for a number of reasons...
What exactly is a brand?
It is certainly so much more than your logo and your strapline and you need to work on your ‘brand’ – or ‘business personality - in order to bring it to life for clients and prospective clients.
To me it’s about defining the manner in which you do business – the passion and the energy that you bring to what you do. It’s the reason your customers will decide to do business with you – rather than a competitor. And most importantly, it’s the reason they will stay with you. For without a compelling brand or personality, you are highly vulnerable to competitive attack. After all, what is there to keep them loyal?
What exactly is a brand?
It is certainly so much more than your logo and your strapline and you need to work on your financial planning ‘brand’ – or ‘business personality - in order to bring it to life for clients and prospective clients.
To me it’s about defining the manner in which you do business – the passion and the energy that you bring to what you do. It’s the reason your customers will decide to do business with you – rather than a competitor. And most importantly, it’s the reason they will stay with you. For without a compelling brand or personality, you are highly vulnerable to competitive attack. After all, what is there to keep them loyal?
According to AdMan Peter Druckner, ‘the aim of marketing is to know and understand your customer so well that the product or service fits him perfectly and sells itself.’
You have to understand your customer – get inside their head.
You MUST create momentum for your marketing to count.
Doing bits and pieces here and there will never be fully effective – as Gary Herbert, the great Ad man used to say – Motion beats meditation!
And to gain momentum, you have to take ACTION.
In my opinion, the search for perfection is somewhat overrated in marketing – it’s often an excuse for not taking action.
One of the most powerful pieces ever written on this subject was by Mark Twain, well over 100 years ago – and it still rings as true today as it did then. It starts with this thought-provoking phrase ...
”Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
And goes on to say…
"The majority in your business, industry or profession are wrong about most – if not all – of their beliefs about how to be successful in that business, industry or profession.
"EVERY population divides roughly into 1%, 4%, 15%, 40% and 40% groups. Many more at the bottom than at the top.
I read question in IFA Life earlier this week from a new CFP planner wanting advice on how to build his business. He’s got the qualifications, done all the training and is ready to take his excellent proposition out to the market place. And of course, that’s where it all gets difficult – he’s finding that solicitors and accountants aren’t really supporting him and don’t really ‘get it’. And where does he start with the general population?
Good question. No-one ever said it would be easy which is why you need to organise you marketing to give structure to your daily marketing activity. The alternative is to risk the ‘all things to all men’ scattergun approach. Fear of missing out on any opportunity makes you spread yourself too thin. Save
I suggest there are three useful strategies to help narrow marketing activity down.
In a difficult business environment, most businesses owners will say that marketing is the most important activity they need to be doing to improve their business. Is that the case for you? And, if so, is it the first thing you do every day?
The reality is that, whilst most people say it’s a really important activity, it ends up being something that get’s left until after everything else has been done. I’ve got news for you – everything else will NEVER be done, and if you don’t prioritise marketing and make it something you work on every day, it simply won’t happen.
When you are selling, the only person who should get emotionally involved in the sale is the prospect. Yet it's difficult for salespeople not to get emotionally involved, especially when they have been working on an opportunity for months and their pipeline has very few other opportunities in it!
When you need the sale your judgement and actions become affected. Prospects can easily sense this, especially in final negotiations. When you need the sale, you will find yourself discounting and giving things away.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to find you are spending half you time marketing your business and precious little actually doing any business! What with updating your website, writing pithy articles for the local press, attending networking meetings, sending newsletters to your client base and heaven knows what else, customers will need to form an orderly queue – you’re far too busy!
In our experience, businesses often lose their way with their marketing as they have no real confidence in what they are doing. So they end up taking far too much time trying to do a bit of everything in the hope that something will work. This is not only a flawed plan with regards to creating marketing traction, but it is highly time-ineffective too. Hence results are diluted and confidence wanes further.
LinkedIn is a brilliant tool for networking in business – no doubt about it. But frankly, of little or no use to anyone if you are sharing your profile with only a handful of connections. I mean, would you turn up at a network event that only had three others in the room?
Networking is most definitely NOT the place to be keeping your light under the proverbial bushel – and social networking platforms even more so! If you don’t up the ante by extending your network you are wasting a really valuable resource.
CProject has been voted one of the best loved businesses in Guildford, and second nationally as a PR and Marketing Consultants, according to a massive nationwide search run by TheBestOf to find the best local shops and companies in towns and cities across the UK.
The results of the two-week campaign reveal that Vanessa Lanham and CProject came a close second (by just one vote!) to Boo Design, a boutique design business based in Peaslake.
Vanessa Lanham from CProject said,, “When you are a small business so much of your own personality and energy goes into each project and it is fabulous to hear that clients really appreciate the efforts you make. In difficult days for many businesses, testimonials can make all the difference between clients choosing one supplier and another.”
As an example, one testimonial described Vanessa as “...a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm”. As well as winning in Guildford, CProject also came second the National category for PR & Marketing.
The benefits of social networking as part of an integrated marketing strategy – one CFP practice tells us the facts support the theory
Social networking in business is becoming increasingly popular – the number of available seminars and discussions on this subject alone certainly testifies to that! But does it really stack up in practice or is it just an excuse for not doing any ‘real’ marketing?
Martin Bamford from Informed Choice in Surrey talked to us about the results they have been achieving - and it makes persuasive reading. In fact, Martin can tell that, just a year ago, just 3% of their business came direct from the internet and social networking – today it is an impressive 17%.
At your first meeting with a prospect, the prospect should be doing most of the talking. The Sandler approach suggests that the prospect should be talking for about 70% of the time.
Typically, however, for these reasons the opposite tends to occur :
Integrating your marketing is fundamental – not an optional extra. If your prospect reads one thing in the newspaper, finds an alternate message on your website and is taken on another tangent when you direct mail them, don’t be surprised if confusion abounds!
On the other hand, if all three elements support one another and reinforce the client’s buying decision, you’ve suddenly breathed life and energy into your marketing with a simple case of one and one equalling three.
Yet despite this obviously beneficial formula, why do so few businesses employ the simple principles of integration.
I’ve introduced loads of connection to LinkedIn and they all think it’s a great idea – but when I check up to see how they are doing I’m met with incomplete profiles and no photographs. So why would anyone want to get to know them better?
And Linked In is a hugely powerful search tool – the words in your profile are what it will use to help people find you and the services you provide.
Quick tips for building a better profile...
How many times have you sent a prospect literature, agreed to call them back and then they never take your call or they say, "I haven't had a chance to read it, give me a call back in few more weeks"?. Then when you call back, they still havn't read it!
Prospects have learnt that appearing to show interest is an affective way of getting rid of salespeople. Unfortunately, most salespeople still see it as a buying signal and waste hours chasing prospects who just aren't interested.
How many times have you wasted your time giving presentations to prospects who could not afford your product or service?
Of course, salespeople that present before discussing money and budgets are hoping that even prospects with no money, will get so excited they will magically find the money from somewhere.Another problem is that by waiting until the end of the presentation to discuss budgets and money, the prospect won't be concentrating on what your saying but thinking, "I wonder how much this is going to cost?".
The answer seems obvious. Yes, a page 1 listing would be most desireable! But is search engine optimisation – SEO in web jargon - to achieve this really the black art that many specialist consultancies make it out to be? It is quite likely that you will have received email flyers and telesales calls from various SEO experts offering to get your website listed on page 1 of Google.These companies present an impression that SEO is some sort of back office technical function - a dark art even! - that will transform your website and your business with some clever technical jiggery pokery. But what they conveniently forget to mention is that the fundamental building block of genuine SEO is good old fashioned marketing intelligence and research information. Using this as a sold basis you can quickly get to the bottom of how SEO can work for your business.
Earlier in 2009, I decided that CProject needed to know more about the world of social networking and how it relates to business. In my head I just couldn’t see how Facebook or Twitter had any relevance to me or my clients ... but then I got an invite to join LinkedIn and I decided to take a closer look.
I have since become quite a convert and now have 150 or so first level connections, 20+ testimonials and access to thousands more contacts. Yet, each time I invite contacts to join me I am nearly always met with the same response – “It seems like a really good idea, but what do I do now?”
So I am writing a series of short articles on the basics behind LinkedIn and other social media, and each month (staring from January) there will be a simple step for you to build your knowledge and experience. So if you fancy being part of LinkedIn – do join me on the journey.
If the 'recession' has achieved anything useful, it has been to force many businesses to stop and think very carefully about their marketing habits. Complacency and habitual patterns – ‘we always do it like this’ – are easy traps to fall into. Nowadays, it’s the people thinking or doing things differently that are succeeding against the odds.There are all sorts of examples … Harley Davidson is now marketing bikes specifically to women. Restaurants are setting up wine clubs, cocktail groups and cookery classes to fill down-times, boost trade and promote their business all in one go. Hyundai cars in the US are offering a 2 year moratorium on lease car deals if the customer loses their job – the buyer can walk away from the deal with no impact on their credit rating. In one stroke they made it OK to buy in a difficult marketplace.
Do you want to know how to gain a lot of extra business – fast? Stop losing customers! There’s not a business right now that hasn’t lost customers in the last year or so – the trouble is, you may not know who they are, why they left, where they went, or how much it cost you.
You need to stop the loss! Half the time the reason customers leave is because someone simply came along with a better or different offer. They were there when you were not. In a market place where customers are worth their weight in gold, you need to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
How many referrals did you ask for and get last week? If you have successful clients, at least 50% of your new business should be coming from referrals. If it isn't then you need to work out why. Statistics show that you are 33% more likely to close business from a referral and sales cycles are 50% shorter.
So why don't salespeople ask for referrals? Because most simply do not know how to ask or feel uncomfortable asking. Just like selling, you need a system for getting referrals.
Two of the most popular topics I get asked about are blogging and email newsletters. But one question that really stands out in popularity is the "Should I be blogging or sending out email newsletters?"
So, if you are a little confused about what to focus your efforts on and which to get up and running in your business, here are some points to consider.
There are a million excuses why you can’t succeed in the current business climate. The trouble is, none of them really wash. The fact of the matter is ...
Continue to invest in marketing and your company will be well placed when the upswing comes. Everyone is saying it, everyone believes it … but very few tell you “how”.How can this difficult business goal be achieved?
Budgets are under pressure and customers aren’t buying. Where can you find the resources which will make the essential difference to your business?
We recommend to clients that they get back to basics.
Use this downturn as an opportunity to take a fresh look at the business. Where is it now? How did it get there? What was it that originally made it successful?
For any expanding business, there is no more exciting phrase than 'unfulfilled potential'. Those words often go hand-in-hand with the internet and now, with the medium well and truly established as mainstream, the opportunity has changed. The question is no longer: "Are we on the web?" but: "Why are we on the web?"In reality, most company websites are still largely static; just e-versions of their existing print-based marketing materials — a passive, lifeless approach which serves only to satisfy their own need to feel part of the electronic revolution. A website that presents basic information is no more effective as a marketing tool than a business card in a huge shop window. The time has come for every firm to fully exploit the investment they have made in their website.
When revenue is static or declining the first priority is efficiency and cost effectiveness! Businesses that do well in a recession minimise their costs whilst maintaining or even growing their revenue.What does this mean in practice?