Happy Mondays (no, not the band, although I do hear that they are reforming for a tour one month this year).

As I got in the car to drive to work on Monday, it was with a sense of relief after surviving the usual chaos of getting everyone out of the house on time and in the correct clothing and the right bags and kit for the day.  My thoughts then turned to the day ahead and what it might bring.  I am lucky enough to be doing a job I really enjoy, that is providing marketing advice and support to small businesses in the area.

Some days of course bring challenges and it can still be hard to summon enough positive energy for the day ahead, particularly on a Monday.  What does make this easier for me though, is that the clients I work with are a really positive group of people.  We work with business owners who are facing these seemingly tough times, but are amazingly positive about how they are going to make their businesses successful.  This positivity really does have a knock-on effect on us, and how we go about giving them the best marketing advice we can.  But we are constantly reminded about how hard life is at the moment, with no apparent easy way out of it, all of which we find far too negative.  The subject of recession and tough economic times is actually banned in our office.

It was interesting then to hear on the radio, during my journey in, that it was ‘Happy Monday’, apparently the happiest day of the year.  According to psychologists, the combination of getting the first pay cheque of the year and booking a summer holiday makes Monday 31st January the highpoint of the year.

‘We each experience an average of ten major happy days every year but none is happier than January 31, or Happy Monday,’ said Dr David Holmes, senior psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University.

So, I thought are my clients going to be extra happy today?  Perhaps not, but what it did make me appreciate is that although the people I work with do face challenging times, they work hard to be positive.

Building your own business, brand or company takes time, energy, and a lot of work. Why do I think my clients are so positive? One reason I believe is that they all set realistic goals and a schedule to work towards them.  We work with them to create a marketing plan with realistic business growth objectives.  Our services provide the marketing activities which helps work towards those goals. The reward from the time and energy spent on their businesses is realised through those goals being accomplished.  If small steps are taken to maintain or grow your business, you are more likely to continue that cycle of hard work, commitment and achievement.  With achievement and reward comes positivity, whatever the challenges faced along the way.

So let’s all keep positive, and have a few more Happy Mondays this year, or any other day of the week for that matter.

Taking your ideas for a ride – or why I can’t write a book (Part 2)

On 20 September I blogged about my client and riding instructor, Debbie, who thought I was joking when I suggested that she write a book. (Click here to read Part 1.) I knew it would be a great way to promote her services and to share her knowledge with some of the thousands of horse owners in the country.

Well, after Debbie stopped laughing, she agreed to spend half a day with me and Sarah Williams, The Book Consultant. Sarah has published many books herself and now helps business owners to write and publish their own books. She’s working on a clever process that will allow even more people to get the ideas out of their head and onto paper. Unsurprisingly, she’s writing a book about it and when it’s out, I’ll let you know. Without giving away too much at this stage, Sarah is developing a specialised thinking and planning process. She avoids putting too much structure into ideas too early on, keeping the structure as loose and provisional as possible, for as long as possible. The way she did this with Debbie was to start by asking her what riding is all about. The negatives and positives all went onto a flip chart – all carefully colour coded. Then she asked Debbie about the process she goes through with new clients (riders) and again the answers went onto the flip chart. All this took a couple of hours and really gave us time to explore the ideas and issues in plenty of detail.

Then we took a break for lunch (and a glass of wine – very important for the creative process!) After lunch we went back to the flip charts and suddenly things started dropping into place. From all the ideas and the loose structure, we could see chapters and sections of the book start to emerge. At the start of the day, if we’d asked Debbie what she wanted to write about, I don’t think she’d have known. But when Sarah asked her now, she could see quite clearly the important aspects that she wanted to write about. Out of the colours and words on the flip charts – out of the provisional structure – came a plan and a process for the writing. How clever is that!

Many people who want to write a book just don’t know where to start. 95% of the people who think about writing a book don’t ever do it. If you really want to write a book – to promote what you do and build your reputation or just to share your ideas – then don’t be one of that number. Get in touch and Sarah and I will see what we can do to help you get the book written and then promoted to the world.

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.

The secrets of marketing

The secrets of marketing

There are a number of secrets to great marketing. You don’t need to spend lots of time and money trying to work out what’s best for your business, because other people have already done the trial and error. You can learn from them and save your business a fortune.

One of the secrets is that as ad hoc marketing doesn’t work. Ad hoc marketing is where you pay for one advert in a special magazine supplement, because the salesman told you the magazine will be sent to thousands of your target client. But it’s going to people who haven’t asked to receive it and who won’t actively use the supplement to search for your services. They might not even know that they need your services and solutions. The salesman also told you that he could give you a great price for last minute space, so you paid it without checking your marketing budget, or making sure that the magazine would be read by your ideal clients – the people who really want to work with you.

Another big secret of great marketing is that you need to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. This means that you have to measure all your marketing activities. If you keep plugging away at a particular marketing tactic, even though it’s not working – not bringing you the enquiries or new clients that you want – then you should stop doing it. If you’ve run the same advert in the paper for three months and it hasn’t done what the salesman promised, then either stop doing it, or change the advert – the wording, the size and/or the position. When you’ve been going a particular networking meeting for six months and you’ve not met any of your ideal clients (and the people who have met don’t know any of them either) then it’s time to stop going and try out a different group, or a different message.

So measure your marketing and you’ll be able to do more of what works and get more from your marketing budget.

The importance of long-term marketing

Alice

Businesses have a varied view of what marketing is for, and how it can be used, and it invariably depends on their financial position, the product or service they are promoting, the mindset of the management, the resources available to them, both personnel and technical, and the general attitude towards marketing and selling tactics.

But it has been noted by researchers that small businesses and sole-trading entrepreneurs are stealing a march over the larger organisations. This is because they are far more flexible in their approach towards marketing practices and how it can affect their businesses.

The other thing to note is that these smaller outfits are far more likely to accept the fact that marketing can and will take a long timespan before any results start to materialise. Impatience and impetuousness may be prevalent in both kinds of businesses, but the larger corporates may have demanding bosses, crippling financial forecasts, unreasonable objectives and impractical processes that overshadow any marketing strategies, however carefully they have been put in place to create optimum results.

It is these smaller businesses that are able to see or realise that marketing is a long-term objective that are able to benefit the most from it. This all depends if they are willing to be consistent with providing content for blogs and newsletters, contributing sociably on social networks, spreading their expertise through social media and offline networking and speaking engagements, maintaining a high visibility on the web through blogs, articles, RSS feeds and constantly responding to what their past, present and prospect clients and contacts are doing.

If your company expects immediate returns, do selling, not marketing. Instant ROI may be obtained through various pushy methods, but can it really be compared to that gained through long-term marketing, principally obtained through relationship building, research into customer understanding and responses, providing what is requested or desired, and filling the niches opened up by the misdemeanours of the larger organisations.

Long term marketing results in long term relationships and proven sustainability from your customers. Even so, once acquired, there is no time to sit on your laurels – the pace must be kept up to maintain this much sort-after and coveted friendship, by providing more benefits to make their lives better, and more relationship-building tactics to keep them from converting to the competition.

Therefore you can see how this cannot be achieved through short-term methods without your prospects turning up their noses because they don’t know anything about the company or what it is providing, or losing them immediately afterwards because they haven’t acquired enough knowledge about how your business works for you to gain their trust and appreciation. If you haven’t bothered to take the time to woo your customers to fall in love with you, how can you expect the relationship to last?

Use LinkedIn effectively – starting with your profile

Alice

The social networking site for business has to be LinkedIn. Anyone in business should have a profile that is properly completed and updated. Failure to do so is like submitting your CV with gaps and omissions, which would certainly not impress a prospective client or employer – since it is both these targets you should be presenting to.

Let’s examine a profile. Apart from your name (and it is you that the LinkedIn profile should be about, not your company) there should be picture of you. Any decent head and shoulders photo will do, so that your profile visitor can see what you look like.

Under your name is a brief description of your profession/job, which acts as your signature throughout your LinkedIn activities. This short phrase could be regularly revised to see what response it brings.

Next comes the status update, where you can write your latest comments and provide accompanying links that you would like to share with your LinkedIn community, and on Twitter if appropriate.  It will default to your latest activity, such as your blog feed, if you don’t update it regularly.

The next area resembles your CV, which should be fully completed to list your current and past positions and your latest education status. It extends to show how many people have recommended you, how many connections you have, links to your websites and blogs (which can be optimised), a link to your Twitter profile and your LinkedIn URL (which can be personalised).

Below that is a summary of what you do in your current role.  This is something that should be carefully constructed, consistently updated, and written with your prospective client or employer, not to mention search engine optimisation, in mind.

LinkedIn also provides applications that allow you to show your latest presentations and feed your blog posts and tweets into your profile. All this activity shows your online proficiency outside of LinkedIn, plus extra exposure to your business and expertise status.

Don’t forget to fully complete the experience area. Here you can describe in detail about your present and past positions, which should be regularly revised. Attached are links to ask for recommendations, which are listed below prominently showing what others say about you, your business and your effectiveness in performing within your industry.

If you are members of any groups, these will be listed with the latest connection at the top. It is all very well being a member of a group without some sort of contribution, which is listed in your activities section in the right column.

As well as listing your latest activities in LinkedIn (your updates, new connections, blog post feeds, plus any questions you have asked or answered and groups you have contributed to), the right column also lists any groups you share with others, recommendations you have given recently, and other profiles that the viewer has also visited.

A particular section is revealed once you become an expert in an Answers section (I am privileged to have given a best answer in graphic design, search marketing and blogging).

You can see examples of all this in my LinkedIn profile, built up over a number of years. There is no reason why you cannot have something similar, it just requires time and effort to update and improve it.

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?