Is your business ‘self-harming’

Let’s be clear from the start – business ‘self-harming’ is about the stuff going on in and around your business and NOT your staff doing things to themselves. Fail to address the areas I am going to talk about and it could have a harmful effect on you, your staff and your customers because your business will under-perform and could even fail.

I have seen many instances of business ‘self-harming’ and heard of even more. I’ve even experienced it myself. Twice!

My first business ‘self-harming’ experience

The first time was with my first consultancy business. I was fresh out of the corporate world and with a former colleague we set up a fledgling project management consultancy. We knew our stuff and had great experience so thought clients would come knocking on our door.

They didn’t.

Do you feel like your hitting yourself with a mallet trying to move your business forward?So we threw ourselves into networking and got a few assignments. But that only brought in an intermittent flow of work. We never learned how to market ourselves and our company properly. It was as if we kept hitting ourselves over the head. Eventually, my business partner threw in the towel and returned to corporate life.

That lack of understanding how to market the business was a classic example of business ‘self-harming’. It’s one that many business owners fall into. After all, you probably started your business because you are good at what you do and you’re really passionate about it. But being good and passionate won’t get the business in front of your target market. So when I started my next business, the first commitment I made was to learn all I could about marketing.

That’s me safe and avoiding future business ‘self-harming’ right? Wrong!

My second business ‘self-harming’ experience

So I learned how to market my business and I had a steady stream of consulting roles with the occasional trading client thrown in for good measure. One of my key marketing pillars was LinkedIn, supported by my website, blog and Twitter. So around the middle of 2015 I decided to add LinkedIn coaching and training to my business offerings. I still spent the majority of my time on client site as a programme management consultant so I decided to outsource some of the marketing for the LinkedIn business. This seemed to be working fine but in reality I was unwittingly committing business ‘self-harming’.

As a business owner, you have to take full responsibility for everything that happens in your business. Outsourcing doesn’t take away that responsibility. When I decided to focus more on the LinkedIn and social media side of my business I brought the outsourced marketing back in-house. That’s when I discovered the business ‘self-harming’ I had inflicted on my business.

That’s right – I had inflicted it. The outsourcing firm had done nothing wrong. I hadn’t specified my requirements clearly enough. In fact, I had been busy, so I hadn’t thought carefully enough about what my requirements were before I dumped on the outsourcer. As a result, when it came back in-house I suddenly found a load of broken links because the place lead magnets were previously stored wass no longer accessible to my systems. I found that promo codes and pricing were a bit of a mess – because I hadn’t specified how codes were to be expired and when prices should change. I’m still sorting out the self-made mess so if you spot a broken link to a download or page please do let me know.

Your business – your responsibility

OARBoth of my business ‘self-harming’ experiences are really examples of me, the owner, not taking full responsibility for my business. For not getting myself educated enough in how to run and market a business. Being great at what you do and/or having a great product is nowhere near enough to create a successful business. That’s why so many businesses fail. That’s why more business owners should get a coach or mentor. Someone who can step back and see the wood for the trees or take that helicopter ride over your business and help you see it from a different perspective.

Outsourcing safely

Taking responsibility doesn’t mean you have to do everything. In fact, trying to do everything as you start to grow your business is another form of business ‘self-harming’. It keeps you from doing more of the most valuable stuff in your business. Few, if any, business owners are good at every aspect of running their business. And even if you are good at doing some things, they are probably not a good use of your time.

When I outsourced my LinkedIn marketing I did it badly. Because I had learned a good bit about marketing and could talk the same language as the outsource company I allowed complacency to creep in and didn’t clearly defined the requirements, objectives and checks. I should have known better. You can learn from my mistake.

Bookkeeping is the classic example of something to outsource. Knowing your numbers is vitally important – and we’ll talk more on that later – but preparing them is probably not the best use of your time. With the right accountant and bookkeeper you can devise a sound process with all the right checks and balances so that you can outsource your bookkeeping without any fears. You need to be absolutely clear on responsibilities, service levels and what the outsourcer needs from you to be able to complete their side of the bargain.

Properly defined and managed, outsourcing is a great way to grow your business without the need to take on more staff

Complacency

Don't let compacency leed you to business 'self-harming'I’ve already alluded that complacency was a key factor in my outsourcing problems. Complacency can be very dangerous. It usually sets in well things are going well and your business becomes comfortable. A steady stream of leads, new customers and revenues just where you want them. Then BAM! Something changes out of the blue and the business is knocked sideways.

How is this business ‘self-harming’? You can’t second guess every eventuality or potential even that could affect your business. In fact, I always encourage people to deal with what is in front of them and not try and second guess the market, the government or the weather!

But if you allow your business to become too dependent on one marketing pillar, on one customer, on one member of staff, that is business ‘self-harming’ waiting to bite. I have heard of one business that was doing very, very well thank you very much. But it was totally dependent on certain features of Facebook, and when Facebook changed the rules, their business died overnight. Literally – revenues instantly went to zero.

All of the social media and internet platforms are constantly changing. Google AdWords were, for a number of years, highly profitable for many businesses. However, increased competition and changes to algorithms have meant that for lower value products or services, AdWords are a now lot less profitable.

So don’t be complacent in your business. Have multiple viable marketing pillars. Create solid, repeatable processes to remove key-person risk in your operations and keep fully abreast of what is happening in your market.

Your team

If you have people working for you in your business there is the potential for further business ‘self-harming’. This isn’t in anyway saying your staff are out to damage your business. It provides their livelihood so they are unlikely to do anything to deliberately damage the business. But it can still happen.

We’ve already touched on key-person risk. This is where key parts of what happens in your business become reliant on the ability or skill of a particular member of the team to perform them. What if they decide to leave? They are probably moving to better themselves rather than damage your business, but it has the same effect. What if they fall ill or can’t work for other reasons. You need to have in pace robust processes, fully documented so that the key person can be replaced, either temporarily or permanently. Things might not run quite as smoothly or efficiently at first, but they will still run.

Good processes are important right across the business. And you have to test that the process is working as expected with the intended results. I have seen many instances where a business owner or manager has communicated what they want to happen but not followed up on the implementation. As a result the actual impact can be very different to the desired impact. That can lead to dissatisfied customers, unhappy staff and potentially lost revenue.

Processes need to be regularly tested and updated. Otherwise bad habits can creep in and good habits get forgotten. Do you have an upsell process that staff should follow when dealing with clients? Are they following it – all the time? So much business can be missed – and therefore lost – because people forget to follow the basic processes laid down. Sometimes they just become a little lazy and need reminding. Is your business missing out?

The tell-tale signs

Numbers that dont add upHow can you tell if there is business ‘self-harming’ going on in your business? Knowing your numbers is key. If you have well defined processes they should produce metrics to tell you how the business is performing. Whether it is the number of leads being generated, where those leads are coming from, the number of conversions, the number of customers, the average value of a transactions, monitoring the trends of these numbers can tell you how things are changing in your business. Coupled with the knowledge of what marketing activity you are undertaking and what is happening in the market in general, you can assess how your business is performing and spot the areas where revenue and profit are leaking away.

Add in regular process reviews and improvements and you have an effective health check system for your business

You don’t know what you don’t know

The toughest form of business ‘self-harming’ to spot is that caused by not doing something you should be doing. There’s an old saying that looks a little odd at first:

You know what you know

You know what you don’t know

But you don’t know what you don’t know

At first the second and third lines seem to contradict each other. “You know what you know” is pretty obvious. But then there are some things you know of but don’t know the answer to. You know what marketing pillars you are using but you don’t know how the market will react to each of them. Over time that becomes more of a known.

But then there is the stuff you don’t know anything about – even perhaps its existence or, more often, it’s potential value to your business.

LinkedIn often falls into the “you don’t know what you don’t know” category for many businesses. They know it exists but have preconceived ideas about it and don’t think it can work for their business. After all, it’s just a CV library for recruiters right? Or a contact book for old colleagues perhaps? Those are the very reason it is hidden goldmine for business to business customers.

It’s that closed mind “I know, but it won’t work for me….” attitude that is the business ‘self-harming’ here.

Stop your business ‘self-harming’

If you’d like to address the business ‘self-harming’ taking place in and around your business, especially with regards to LinkedIn, book a free, no obligation review call with me by clicking on the link below. Speak to you soon.

Book a review call now

Marketing or Product 1st

What comes first, marketing or product? That was the subject of a passionate debate at one of my networking groups this week. I’ll keep the outcome back until the end of the post because I think the value is in how the debate went.

 

Google the answer

Whenever there is a question, lots of people immediate reach for a browser or app and pounce in the question to their favourite search engine. If you do that with product verses marketing you’ll get a lot of pro-marketing articles in your results.

That’s probably not too surprising as the exponents of marketing are pretty good at marketing what they do. The marketing 1st team obviously did the same as me as they quoted from many of the articles I read in their statements.

 

Product failure visibility

One of the arguments put forward by the marketing guys was that a lot of people have what they think is a good idea for a product but end up failing because there is no market for that product. They sp[end hours, days, weeks or even years perfecting something that nobody actually wants to buy. The marketeers argue that if you start with the marketing you find out if there is a market before you develop the product.

Dragons Den – the UK TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their products to get backing from investors was cited as the prime example. Most pitches get rejected ted because there isn’t a market.

Product failures are visible and, often painful for the inventor-entrepreneur.  But test marketing fails just as often, if not more often. But because the marketing gets lost in the mass of daily messages we face it is pretty near invisible.

Product failures being more visible than marketing failures does mean that the marketing first approach is therefore right.

 

The common ground

The biggest thing to come out of the debate was the amount of common ground between the two sides.

  • You must have a clear concept for your product as a minimum starting point.
  • Market research is a fundamental ‘must have’, whether that is part of product development or marketing, or both.
  • You need to have a clear target market – the idea that you could sell to everyone will only result in you selling to no-one if you don’t segment.
  • Marketing can sell a bad product if there is a valid market.
  • No amount of marketing will sell a brilliant product that doesn’t have a market.

 

The result

The hour long debate concluded with a vote by the audience. And the winner was…..

Product 1st

Probably by around a 60:40 split

 

The reality

The reality is that the most successful businesses have great products, great marketing and phenomenal customer service. And to get there the plan builds in all three from the outset. If you focus on one aspect to the exclusion of the others you are likely to fail. That’s how visible product failures and hidden marketing ones occur.

When I talk to clients about how to leverage their LinkedIn profiles to grow their businesses I ask them what benefits their clients will get from buying their product or service and who those ideal clients are. We focus not on what the product or service is, but what it gives to the client. Product first but closely followed by who the product is for and the problem it solves.

If you’d like to have a chat about how you LinkedIn profile can position your product to your ideal target clients click on the link below and book a free 15 minute profile review. It could just change your perspective.

Book a review call now

#HubHelp – the hidden mastermind within your network

Tee concepts of the ‘mastermind group’ and the ‘hot seat’ are far from new.

Napoleon Hill described the mastermind group principle as:

“The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind [the master mind].” The ‘hot seat’ is the way of giving individual members of the group particular focus.

A typical mastermind group is specifically organised as such by an experienced facilitator or facilitators who are recognised experts in whatever the group’s primary field is. Typically in business, this is about marketing and business building, development and growth. As a result they are often expensive and quite structured. Great if you can afford it.

But if you look at Hill’s definition, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Farnham Hub

One of the business groups I belong to is the Farnham Hub, a group stared back in 2013 by Emma Selby. From the outset, the Hub was always designed to be something more than just another networking meeting. The format is to meet at 9am every Friday for breakfast and yes – networking.

But at 10am the decks are cleared and one of the VIP member’s or a special guest presenter delivers an hour’s presentation-cum-training on their area of expertise. I talked about the secrets of using LinkedIn to grow your business last Friday before the discussion that prompted this blog.

At around 11am we take a quick break, grab a drink and then reconvene to work together in smaller groups discussing how we might implement the day’s topic in our own businesses. We then finish with general discussions on challenges and ideas.

The presentations are all very informative and useful but, as with all knowledge, the value comes from the implementation. The working groups often result in specific action plans for people to go away and get things done in their businesses, and that’s where the real value lies. In effect these group discussions are mini-mastermind sessions and it was in discussing some of these topics along with a challenge of how we could do more to help each other through collaboration, that #HubHelp came about.

The plan is for Hub members to call out topics they need help with in their business by posting #HubHelp and a description of the challenge in our Facebook Group. Based on interaction and feedback from other members a topic will be tabled each week at the regular Hub session and the collective knowledge and experience of the typically 12-20 attendees will focus on resolving the problem.

To paraphrase Spock from Star Trek:

“The brains of the many, solve the needs of the few”

What has this got to do with you?

You may not be a member of The Farnham hub or its sister group The Guildford Hub (but if you live in the area I strongly advise you give the groups a try – the first meeting is free as well), but I bet you belong to one or more other networking groups. They will typically offer the opportunity for you to say what you do, for someone to give a short presentation, a chance to exchange referrals’ and maybe even have 5 minute 1:2:1’s.

But just think about what you have in the room. A diverse range of businesses all with varying degrees of experience, knowledge and contacts. Why not leverage the knowledge in the room with the mastermind concept to help each other solve problems?

A problem shared is often a problem solved. Why not create your own #NetworkHelp sessions in your networking group and harness the power of the collective.

To paraphrase Spock once again, “May your businesses live long and prosper”

Let me know if you decide to give this a try. I’d love to hear how you get on. If you want to come along to either the Farnham or Guildford hub here’s a link: http://businesshubs.org/

Don’t be fooled by LinkedIn’s ‘All Star’ profile rating

Does your LinkedIn profile have an ‘All Star’ profile rating? Did you add sections in to your profile to get your rating up to the ‘All Star’ profile level?

If you answered yes to either question then LinkedIn will be very happy because you are helping them satisfy their core revenue generating clients – the recruitment consultants. It will have where you are, what you do and what you’ve done in the past. All great if you are a recruitment consultant sifting through profiles looking for ideal candidates for the role you have to file.

But having an ‘All Star’ profile won’t necessarily help you in your business. In fact, it could lead to a stream of unwanted sales messages from over-zealous sales people mining LinkedIn for keywords to identify potential clients. They look for CEOs, MDs and Owners in certain lines of business that they consider ideal targets for their products or services. Don’t blame them even if it is annoying. Your inviting those messages because of your profile.

For LinkedIn to be useful to you in your business you need an ‘All Star’ Plus profile. Before we get in to what constitutes an  ‘All Star’ Plus profile, let me explain a little about LinkedIn’s profile strength assessment.

LinkedIn Profile Strength

There are 5 levels of profile strength and all are driven by how complete your profile is:

1. Beginner (<50%)

You get this status just for setting up your profile and completing some basic information including name, 1 job, location and 3 skills.

 

2. Intermediate (50%)

As for beginner plus a profile photo and a minimum of 3 connections.

 

3. Advanced (75%)

As for intermediate but you need to add details of your education, industry and a post code. You’ll need two previous job positions and a minimum of 50 connections.

 

4. Expert (90%)

As for advanced but the number of skills required increases to 5 and you need to have 3 recommendations.

 

5.All Star (100%)

As for Expert but you also need descriptions under your work experience, a completed Summary section and belong to some Groups.

 

The profile strength circle will always show a small gap at the top. That’s partly because there are a number of minor sections that no everyone can or will complete. So the profile is considered to be 100% when all the core sections are completed. Some people have suggested a gap is left to indicate thee is always room for improvement.

Completeness vs Quality

LinkedIn’s ‘All Star’ profile rating depends on you completing the key sections and having a minimum level of connections, skills and recommendations.  All of this can be achieved with a poor quality profile. Let me give you an example.

Your profile photo. To get an ‘All Star’ profile rating if you have a profile picture – any old profile picture. It doesn’t even have to be of you. When I assess someone’s profile I have 15 things I consider when assessing the quality of your photo. That may seem a little anal, but you only get one chance to make a first impression and your profile photo is a key part of that first online impression.

So you may have a ‘complete’ profile, but if the quality of the content is not up to scratch you won’t achieve my ‘All Star’ Plus profile rating.

An ‘All Star’ Plus profile

An ‘All Star’ Plus profile is a complete profile just as in the ‘All Star’ profile description, but this time it has high quality content that is targeted at, and valuable to, your target reader – your ideal prospects.

That means your profile is not about you, but about what you do for your clients. It’s about the benefits they get from working with you or buying your products, never about the products or the services themselves.

Your headline tells your prospects what you do for them, not who you are or your job title. (that also reduces the chances of sales people spamming you)

Your summary and current experience describes their pain, their challenges or their desires and how your business overcomes those challenges or meets those desires.

Your past experience, education and other sections are there and completed to open up connection possibilities.

 

The benefits

A top ‘All Star’ Plus profile requires a lot of thought, a certain amount of up-front effort and then regular updating. But when coupled with a targeted campaign to find, connect and engage with your ideal target prospects in the right way, it can lead to a stream of leads varying from warm to red-hot and all without so much as a hint of overt selling.

 

If you’d like a free 15 minute assessment of your  ‘All Star’ profile and some tips on what it would take to get to  ‘All Star’ Plus then book a call with me. Click on the link below, but hurry, the number of calls I’ll take are limited.

Book a review call now