So what?

Chantal

“We’ve got 100 years of providing accountancy services.”

“We’ve worked with hundreds of satisfied clients.”

“Our products are the cheapest and best.”

“We listen to what our clients want and provide a tailored service.”

These are all phrases I hear at networking meetings, when people stand up and tell the room what they do. My question to them is “So what?”

So you’ve got masses of experience – so what does that mean to me? What is the actual benefit of that experience and how will it help my business? So you provide a tailored service – how exactly does that help me?

When I meet people at networking events, I want to know who they are and what they do. However, what I really need to know, before I recommend them to other people, or ask them to help me, is what benefits they provide through their products or services.

Next time someone asks you what you do, tell them (quickly!) and then answer the “So what?” question before they have the chance to ask it. Tell them how you can help them and make their lives easier and they will ask you the questions you really want them to ask about your business.

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Who cares about customers?

Chantal

As I walked into the shop, the assistant didn’t acknowledge me, as she was busy talking to her friend on the other side of the counter.

I started looking for a birthday card and caught a few snatches of their conversation. They were both talking, but not really to each other. Each one had their own agenda for the conversation – things they wanted to say – so they weren’t actually listening to each other.

Another customer walked up to the counter to pay for some cards. The assistant carried on her conversation with her friend, only speaking briefly to her customer to tell her how much she owed her. She did at least say thank you when the money was handed over, but she didn’t look at her customer. She was too busy giving her opinion to her friend.

I walked round the shop until I found a suitable card – about 5 minutes in all – and when I approached the counter, the assistant’s friend finally said, “Well I mustn’t keep you and it was nice to talk.” With that she left, leaving the assistant to give me her undivided attention. I was glad her friend had gone, because otherwise I’d have been tempted to say something to either or both of them. I only spent a few pounds in the shop, but that doesn’t mean I want to be ignored or treated like an inconvenience.

How difficult is it to pay attention to a customer, when they only need a couple of minutes of your time? If you only have a few minutes, how do you want your customers to remember you? For the wonderful way in which you made them feel, which leaves them wanting to come back again and again; or like they were intruding on your life and should never darken your door again?

What makes a good newsletter?

Alice

As a result of doing some research into what people think about e-newsletters, the answers have been varied and very interesting, fuelled by diverse attitudes and individualistic insights.

One thought is that e-newsletters need to be well crafted and sent to the right people.  Unlike paper newsletters, they are not a medium for lengthy and multiple information.  They are not constructed for leisurely reading-time or many chapters; the computer screen is not suitable for reading, as the light makes eyes tired and swimmy, concentration difficult to focus and, basically, we don’t have time to read newsletters when there’s a full in-box requiring our attention.

E-newsletters should contain only one subject that is relevant, wanted, needed and interesting. If readers consider it good value, gain knowledge and can see how it would affect them and their business, they are then more inclined to look forward to the next issue. The missives that go on for pages, endless scrolling down to find the crux of the concept, or constantly needing to provide alternative examples to make their point, will not only turn people off, but will result in maybe some valid information being missed amongst the padding.

There’s a misconstrued idea that your e-newsletter needs to be full of content. This is not the case: ideally one subject is adequate, as really it should be used to slam home a valid point via quick scanning methods into this time-starved world.  You could tell your readership about a particular post you’ve uploaded onto your blog, where you can elaborate more fully, and also have the benefit of receiving comments as feedback.

And then there’s your readers – are they right for your newsletter, or is the content of your newsletter relevant to them? You need to consider their time and how much is it worth.  Are you providing information that is worth reading, offering time-value benefits to their business, providing contribution that stands out from the rest, presented in a punchy, poignant and potent method to make your audience think, understand, react and come back for more? As long as you are providing equal merits in a quick-read format, then your newsletter will succeed.

5 ways to promote your blog

Alice

I keep an eye on many LinkedIn Groups, especially ones about blogging, and one question was asked ‘What are your 5 favourite ways to promote a blog?’.

Well, I couldn’t resist! So here they are:

1. Writing great content with excellent SEO through carefully chosen keywords.

2. Adding your blog to blogging directories to encourage a larger audience and therefore inviting comments and sharing your posts to other social networking sites.

3. Encouraging subscriptions through RSS and asking fellow bloggers to add your blog to their blogroll.

4. Telling everybody you know about your blog through your newsletter, leaving its URL everywhere like your email signature, on your merchandise, links from your website and other online profiles.

5. RSS feeds to social media profiles like LinkedIn where you can see the latest permalinks when they are published.

For me, the most important one of all is writing great content, because without that the other points won’t work successfully. And, of course, this needs to be consistent – set yourself a goal of contributing to your blog at least 3 times a week, say, if that is practical for you.

Some prolific bloggers publish several times a day (!), and I know of highly successful and accomplished marketers who unfailingly produce a mind-blowing post every morning. But you shouldn’t consider this a chore, it should become part of your business routine to think of subject matter that your readers might be interested in and that you can share with them. When you’re out and about, have your sixth sense switched on to watch out for blogging fodder, and have somewhere to jot down an idea when it comes to you for future reference. You’d be surprised what information can be transformed into a blog post!

How to write a book

Chantal

Last Friday morning I took myself out of the office and away from its distractions, so I could spend some time working on my book. Unless I set aside specific time and go somewhere peaceful – like my kitchen table – I just don’t seem to find the time to write. My poor book isn’t getting the time and attention that it deserves, so I’ve decided to treat it like a client and allocate time and space to it each week.

Last week’s task was to finish the proposal for my book. I want to find a publisher who will take it on, to handle all the setting, printing, promotion and distribution of the book, so I need to write a good proposal – a sales pitch – for it. My proposal talks about who should buy the book, what they will get from it and why any publisher would be mad not to take it on, because it’s going to sell so many copies! It talks about how I’m going to promote the book – through this blog, my newsletter, twitter and through running workshops on topics I’m covering in my book.

I’ve put together a table of contents for my book and this was a really good exercise to go through. It got me thinking about the main issues I want to write about – the chapters – and the topics within those chapters – the sections. Now each of the ten chapters (one for each year of my business) has four sections. I’ve written a summary of each chapter, explaining briefly what each chapter and section is about.

Now that I have that structure, writing the book is going to be much easier. Any time I have an idea of something to write about, I look for where it fits into the structure and write it into that chapter and section. If I’m stuck for inspiration, I can just pick a section and work on it. And all the time I’m writing, I remind myself that this book is about how to survive the first ten years in business; and that I want to inspire and motivate others to do the same. With that focus, I’m less likely to go off track and forget what I’m writing about and why!

Have you thought about sharing your experience and expertise through a book?

Promoting your business through CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)

Chantal

We’ve been working with a CSR consultant, Jo Sandford from Creating Synergy, to look at what CSR we’ve been doing in our business and what else we can do. Jo knew all the right questions to ask and and we realised that we’re doing more than we had thought. She also helped us set goals for what else we’re going to do this year.

So why are we doing CSR? Well, we’re doing CSR for a few reasons, including developing the skills of our team and finding new ways to promote our business. We’ve agreed that each of us in the business will spend a week working with a charity or voluntary group, giving them our skills and developing new ones. We’ll be keeping you up to date with what we do during the year through this blog. We’ll also be shouting about what we’re up to – through the press and online platforms – to show how we’re different from other marketing companies.

Many people try to do CSR. They offer some time or expertise to a local charity, or just give them money. If you don’t know what you want out of the deal, or what the charity could get out of it, you might get turned down or end up stuffing envelopes for a week. This doesn’t stretch you at all and doesn’t give you a good PR story. So find a friendly CSR consultant who can help you find the right project.

How can you use CSR to promote your business?