What do you do? And how do you tell people?

When you go to networking meetings and someone asks “What do you do?” can you answer succinctly, in a way that leaves people wanting to know more? Can you get your message across in one minute – or less – in a way that everyone can understand? Or do you leave people confused, bored or even put off by what you say?

Courtesy of the great Mike Harris, who set up companies like Egg and First Direct, I’d like to share with you a process I’ve learnt recently. We tried it out at an LGL lunch in Oxford at the end of September and it went down really well. Here’s the process:

  1. What’s the big idea? What do you actually do, or want to do? You need to be able to say it in one line, without using any jargon or ‘weird’ language. At this stage you don’t need to say how you do what you do. I used to say “I’m a marketing consultant” and have realised that the word ‘marketing’ puts many people off; and some people just don’t understand it. So now I say “I work with coaches, consultants and trainers who are too busy to find new clients.” Simple, clear and succinct.
  2. Why should I listen to you? This is where you tell your audience why they should carry on listening to you. Give them your credentials. If you’re the only person who does what you do, say so; if you invented what you do, or have won awards doing it, then say so. For me, I tell people that I’ve got 16 years of experience helping other companies to find new clients. I also say that 11 of those years have been spent running my own successful consultancy, finding new clients for coaches and consultants.
  3. What’s the problem? So you’ve got all this experience, but what problem do you actual solve for your clients? What have you noticed people struggling with? As an example, I’ve noticed how a lot of consultants either have too much work (and no time for life or doing any marketing) or they don’t have enough work (and therefore no money for life or doing any marketing.) They spend their time going up and down a rollercoaster, going from feast to famine and back again. And they want to get off the rollercoaster!
  4. Sell the solution. Once you’ve got the audience’s attention by showing you understand their problems, you can tell them about the solutions you provide. Tell them how you can help them. At Appletree, we help coaches, consultants and trainers to get off the feast and famine rollercoaster, by doing lots of marketing for them. We keep the marketing ticking over in the background, while they get on doing what they’re good at – and what they’re paid to do. With regular marketing, we help them get a regular flow of the right sort of clients, to keep them busy and earning the sort of fees they deserve.
  5. Put your heart into it. You can go through the first four stages of this process and still leave people uninterested in what you say, if you don’t put your heart into it. You need to show your audience why you care about what you do and how passionate you are about it. I hate seeing coaches and consultants struggle with their businesses, especially when I know there is something that can be done about it. It’s my mission to put an end to the struggle of running a coaching, consulting or training business. I want to inspire people to succeed by following their passions.

So think about how you can explain what you do, without confusing people with jargon from the outset and by being really clear on what you do and why. Put some heart into it and the next time someone asks you what you do, try out this clever process and see what happens. If you’ve been used to seeing people’s eyes glaze over, or have people drift away from you before you’ve finished answering, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Let me know how you get on?!

And if you want to try this out with a group of like-minded people, join me at the Ladies & Gentlemen That Lunch north Oxfordshire/south Warwickshire meeting in Farnborough on 5 October, when we’ll be running a mini workshop during lunch.

FastTracking: Smart moves for smart businesses

One thing I see quite regularly in business is the need for new blood. Many small businesses find themselves in a cycle – the ‘feast and famine’ rollercoaster. They spend lots of time doing marketing, generating new exciting work and clients and then get wholly distracted by the work these clients bring in. It’s wonderful to see growth, but then they can lose sight of their marketing. Suddenly the work dries up, or they learn to cope with their demand so they start a massive push for marketing again. But the new work coming in leaves them too busy to focus on their marketing again.

It’s such a simple problem, but once you’re on this rollercoaster, it’s almost impossible to get off. Businesses are left being either too busy, or not busy enough. And when they aren’t busy enough, they figure out how to get too busy again. Surely, structure would help? Inconsistent marketing leads to inconsistent results. You’ll never have a steady income of clients, workflow or finances that way. A successful small business knows how to maintain a consistent stream of work and how do they do it? Consistency and planning. So, I’ve been working on a way to get small businesses out of this cycle, and am very excited – this would change a lot of businesses for the better.

FastTrack Your Business in Just One Day is an interactive workshop that will show you how to plan your marketing and fit it conveniently into your busy schedule, to give you a regular flow of new clients. It’s a smart move for any business to make. The workshop will help you create a plan that you can take away with you and put to work in your business, straight away. We’re going to cover things like where to go with your business; how to get there; which clients can make it happen for you; and the best marketing activities you can use to attract them. In just one day, you can walk away with a clear plan to follow – one that’s appropriate to your business. This is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme, which is why I’m looking forward to it. This is a workshop that could change the way you see marketing and your business.

There’ll be opportunities to network with other businesses, alongside exercises and practical advice – it’s a unique opportunity to meet people at a pivotal time in their business marketing. If you’d like to join me, click here to find out more and to book online for just £49 +VAT for the whole day.

What’s the best marketing you’ve done this year?

Chantal

What marketing have you done that has really worked? What have you done that hasn’t been a great success? What was your best effort and what will you be doing more of less of next year?

2010 has been a busy year for Appletree so we’ve taken a look at the different marketing we’ve done, with different levels of success. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for different marketing to try out next year.

Have a party. In August 2010 Appletree turned 10. We celebrated by inviting our clients, friends and suppliers to a Birthday Party in September. We put a marquee on the lawn outside the office and arranged for some delicious food to be served. We caught up with people we’d not seen for ages and introduced people to potential clients. What can you celebrate next year?

Do something for someone else. Each year, everyone in our business can spend a week of their paid time with a project for a local community. Dianne helped organise a volunteers’ day in Newbury, persuading many local shops to take part – taking to strangers is not something she used to enjoy doing. I will be visiting a prison, to spend time with people who might not have anyone to listen to them, without passing judgement. Alice will be listening to people at the local elderly care centre and writing down some of their stories.

We’re doing this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to improve our skills and to give something back to local community. Being able to tell people about the work we’ve been doing is an added bonus for our marketing. For your own CSR Review and Report, click here.

Do more networking. We bought another business this year – a networking company called Ladies That Lunch (and men too). Networking is one of the best ways to promote businesses and running the meetings allows us to share out networking experience, while bringing people together. We have big plans for next year, with new groups opening up. Take a look at http://www.ladiesthatlunch.co.uk/ to see when and where you can network with us.

Write a book. I’ve been wanting to write a book for a long time and this year, with the 10th birthday of the business, I got the idea to write a book about how to survive 10 years in business. Each chapter is divided into a number of sections and each one will be available to buy separately next year as a workbook and video.

Beginning to blog. In February we launched our blog. Clients had been asking about blogging – should they be doing it? What’s the best system to use? How does it work? So we started testing it. We now post three times a week, sharing advice and ideas with the world. We linked our blog to our Twitter account followers hear about new posts. Now we can set up blogs for clients and give them advice on how best to use a blog to market their business. Click here to find out how we do it.

So what has been our best marketing this year? We’ve done a lot of different things and there’s been no one thing that has brought the best results. What has worked best has been the integration of is all. Our CSR has been talked about in our blog; we talk about the book at networking meetings; we share marketing and networking tips on Twitter. Our marketing pulls in the same direction so in 2011, whatever marketing we decide to do, we’ll be making sure it’s all integrated and working together.

Why competition is better than collaboration

Chantal

Some networking groups only allow one person per ‘industry’ to attend their meetings. For some of us, this is not as simple as it sounds. If you’re in marketing, you could be involved in PR, online marketing, off line marketing, copywriting – or all of the above. If you ‘do websites’ you might do SEO, or website development or website design. This means that at these meetings, there could be four or five different ‘website’ companies, all only allowed to promote a small part of what they do. At other meetings, there’s just one person who does all the elements, to the exclusion of lots of other people.

This is the competitive way of doing business. This is where you ignore and avoid anyone who might do anything vaguely similar to what you do. This is a very narrow minded way of doing business.

Other networking groups allow as many people from one industry to attend. This means that you might get more than one accountant in the room, or three life coaches around the same table. Is this a bad thing? No it’s not, because not every accountant does exactly the same work. Not every life coach works with the same type of clients or issues. And then there’s the chemistry of the ‘people buy people’ issue.  Just because someone provides the service you need, doesn’t mean you have to work with that person. The chemistry needs to be right.

The collaborative way of doing business is much more fun. This is where you can meet other people from your industry and share ideas, best practice and clients with each other. While I run a marketing company, I know that there are other marketing people out there who have knowledge and expertise in areas in which we don’t. They might have a different, better or cheaper way of doing things, so I can learn from them. I can also work with them, to provide a fully comprehensive service. Sometimes we’re approached by potential clients who are not ideal for us. Instead of just turning them away, it’s much better to be able to refer them to someone who can help. That’s much better for your reputation too!

Do you do networking in the competitive way or the collaborative way?

Twitter isn’t just a gossip engine

Alice

Twitter isn’t just about sending your followers chatty messages constrained to 140 characters, or valuable tips that can be shared. You can use it like a search engine too, or a method of exposing your complaint and getting results!

Like a search engine: I have seen many questions put out on Twitter. If you have many followers, and they are of good callibre, you are guaranteed a response within a very short time, in some cases immediately. Popping a question into Twitter can provide some interesting answers, certainly a question Chantal asked recently about finding new venues in Oxford and Reading for her networking group Ladies That Lunch… And Men Too came up with lots of suggestions, and we all know that personal referrals carry much more weight than the same information found in a directory or similar listing capacity.

As a method of complaint: A friend of mine was having trouble with BT. In exasperation she tweeted her grievance to her followers about it, expecting only to get commiserations back from her friends. Instead she was tweeted by a BT representative, asking her what the problem was, and offering her his telephone number so she could discuss it properly with him. She did this, the problem was recognised and a solution was offered, BT honoured their promise to amend the problem, and within minutes my friend had her telephone working again.

These are just two examples of how to use Twitter effectively, for both business and personal use. Obviously these scenarios can be swapped over, but it is the fact that a communication tool like Twitter can be put to practical use as well as chatting to find out the latest and to feed your blog in order to spread your expertise.

When you speak, does the room listen?

Chantal

Do you go to networking meetings and leave not remembering what many of other people said they do? Do you go to presentations and stop listening after the first five minutes?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, it’s because the people talking didn’t do enough for you to listen them.

Does the same happen when you speak? Do people forget what you say?

If you answered yes to these two questions, then perhaps it’s time to think about the impact you create when you’re networking and what you say. I’ve seen people start a presentation by telling the audience that they’re nervous and that they’ve never done this before. That just leaves the audience focusing on the nerves of the speaker and not listening to what they say. I meet people at networking meetings who talk and talk about what they do, without telling me anything useful. I stop listening and start wondering how I can get away from them.

So, if you’re nervous, don’t tell the audience, because they probably won’t notice. If you’re really nervous, get some help with speaking in public – Toastmasters International is where I learnt and I recommend it all the time. If you spend networking meetings going on about what you do, without taking a breath, think about how to be concise and what to say to present your business in just a minute – which is only about 120 words.

When you invest time in networking and speaking in public, make sure you get the best return for your investment by making sure that the room listens when you speak.

What makes you different?

Chantal

On 1 September 2010 we took over running Ladies That Lunch … And Men Too.  This networking group has been running for about 7 years and I was a member when it first started. We’re now looking to grow the business, opening new venues and increasing the membership. To do this we need to know what makes this networking group different from others and what we can do to make stand out.

Here are some of things we’re looking at:

  1. The venues – what makes our venues better than others? What level of service do they offer? What’s the atmosphere like?
  2. The website – is it easy to use? What value does it add to membership?
  3. The networking lunches – what’s on the menu? How many people attend each meeting?
  4. The added value – what else can we offer our members? We’re looking at running workshops and asking our members what else they want

You can translate this into questions to ask yourself about your own business and what makes it different from your competitors.

  1. What does your office/location say about your business?
  2. Does your website deliver the right message?
  3. Does your service actually provide what your customers want?
  4. What value do you add?

When we’ve answered these questions, we’ll let you know! If you’re a member of LTL you might notice some improvements. In the meantime, think about what makes your business different from your competitors and then tell the world about it.