Using LinkedIn Groups to generate business

LinkedIn Groups to generate business

LinkedIn groups could be hugely beneficial for your business. The key is using them in the right way.

LinkedIn Groups basics

There are a huge number of groups on LinkedIn. Some only have a handful of members. Others have 10s or even 100s of thousands of members. Some are very active whilst others are pretty much dormant.

You can be a member of up to 100 groups but I would suggest that a smaller number would be more appropriate if you are going to get any value from them. Why is that? Because the value comes from engagement and that requires focussed effort.

There are groups covering pretty much every profession, industry sector and area of interest.

Why are groups so beneficial?

The effective use of LinkedIn is all about engaging with your network of contacts. There are a number of ways you can engage with your network. You can message your first tier connections privately through LinkedIn. You can also engage with anyone who comments on your status updates or posts, but these are all public conversations. That’s a pretty limited number of people. You could buy a premium subscription and get a monthly allowance of InMails which can be sent to ANY LinkedIn member, but that can be expensive and most people look on InMails as sales messages.

That’s where groups come in. You can send up to 15 messages a month to fellow group members. It used to be unlimited but there were concerns about the number of sales and spam messages being sent so a restriction has been introduced. Replies and responses don’t count towards the limit – only the original message.

Connecting to group members

If the 15 messages per month limit is constraining, why not connect with the group member and then you can message any time. Normally you can only connect with someone on LinkedIn if they are a 2nd tier connection (i.e. connected to one of your 1st tier connections) or they are an open 3rd tier connection. You’ll know because you can see the connect button.

Fellow group members are considered to be part of your close network so LinkedIn allows you to send them connection requests.

Which LinkedIn groups should you join?

Many business owners get this wrong. They join LinkedIn groups related to their type of business. These are great for keeping up to date with what’s going on in your sector and for demonstrating your expertise within your sector. But your clients are unlikely to be members.

Instead, you need to join groups that your prospects and clients are members of. Now since groups are run by individual LinkedIn members, you will have to request to join and get the owner or moderator’s approval. Some have strict entry criteria to stop people pitching to group members. Others are more open. Sometimes a recommendation from an existing member can get you in.

How do you decide which LinkedIn groups to try and join? If you have a clear understanding of who your target client is (your customer avatar in marketing speak) then the groups they are likely to be a member of should be part of that customer description.

The best place to start is your existing customers. You should be connecting with all your best customers (and getting recommendations from them, but that’s another topic). See which groups they are members of, then try and join the ones relevant to your business. They should be full of members just like your existing customers. Our existing customers may be able to get you membership by recommendation of some of the more closed LinkedIn groups.

What to post in LinkedIn groups

The two biggest mistakes people make when they join a group are:

  • Blowing their own trumpet
  • Making a sales offer

People do business with people they know, like and trust. If you join a group and immediately start sounding off about what you do and your latest offers you’ll get ignored or banned. And if you get banned, it can impact your use of LinkedIn on a much wider basis.

When you first join a group spend a while watching how the group operates. You may be invited to introduce yourself and if you do, keep it short, factual and low key. Say you are looking forward to contributing to the group and gleaning insights from other members. Don’t make it a sales pitch.

Then start contributing to discussions. Offer thoughts and advice, but again, don’t be pushy or salesy. After a while ask your own questions. Share your relevant content and that of others from outside the group. Once you are established in the group, and if it is permitted in the group rules, it may be appropriate to share the occasional offer. That doesn’t mean every week!

The key is to offer valuable content and insights without selling. Get it right and group members will be coming to you asking for your products or services.

 

Of course, joining the right LinkedIn groups and saying the right things in them will be wasted if you don’t have a hugely powerful personal profile that demonstrates just what you can do for your clients. Helping clients create that profile and then become members of the right groups and get their content and engagement strategies right are some of the key aspects of my LinkedIn mastery programmes. If you would like to find out more, book a discovery call with me. Here’s a link to my online calendar:  https://calendly.com/allen-ruddock/30-minute-1-2-1

Book a discovery call with Allen

KISS – as in Keep It Simple ….

We’ve all heard of the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Wikipedia says it was a design principle noted by the US Navy in 1960 but there are examples going back way further than that.

Model T Ford
The original ‘keep it simple’

Henry Ford’s first production car was available in any colour you like, so long as it was black A classic example of simplicity. He didn’t want to complicate his production process by having to cater for multiple colours.

Customer requirements

Now there will be some people reading this blog that say we need to give customers choice, because that’s what they are demanding. After all, if you go to buy any car today you will be offered a range of colours, trim levels, engine sizes, optional extras etc. etc. In fact, the concept of a standard production car doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s not what people want, is it?

Well, all this complexity comes at a price. In the age of automation a lot of the complexity is handled by the manufacturing systems ensuring the right colour accessories are in the right place on the production line to match the chosen colour scheme. But that makes the production systems more complex. More complex to design, more complex to build and more complex to test. And complexity means cost.

An example of simplicity

Let’s bring it back to a practical example. I’m launching a new business with my wife. Its called Motorhome Heaven and we will be hiring out a fleet of brand new motorhomes for people to take touring holidays in the UK and Europe. I say a fleet because that is the longer term plan, but we are starting with two, a 2-4 berth model and a 4-6 berth model.

Two different styles to target two different market segments. As the fleet grows, we will buy more of those two models so spares and maintenance are simpler. They are both based on the same Fiat engine, cab and chassis.

We are equipping the motorhomes to a high standard. But it’s a common standard. The same crockery, pots and pans, cutlery, linen packs etc. etc. We will have two of everything for both motorhomes, plus spares to cater for breakages.

Why? For simplicity. No chance of putting the wrong items in the wrong van. No having to replace the entire contents of a van because something got broken and is no linger in production. We simply swap things out from the spares, no matter which van it was on.

It’s simpler on turn around day too. Rather than worrying if the contents are clean enough for the next hirers, we swap them out for a complete set that we know is clean enough. We can check and clean (if necessary) the incoming set at our leisure, not during the short turnaround window between hires.

Optional extras are kept to a minimum and only reflect genuine differences in needs with a cost implication such as UK vs European insurance.

Where ever possible we are keeping it as simple as possible to run the business, and as simple as possible for our customers to buy from us.

Steve Job’s ‘simple stick’

I’m half way through reading a book at the moment. It’s called Insanely Simple – The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success by Ken Segall. It’s all about Steve Job’s obsession with simplicity. In it, Ken describes what Steve did when he came across unnecessary complexity within Apple. He would wield his simple stick. In one example a new version of a software product was being proposed adding colour functionality to an existing product line. The proposal was for two products and two price points, one with colour and one without. But this meant double the advertising, double the merchandising, double the training etc. It meant complexity. So Steve hit it with the simple stick. One product including colour. Keep it simple, end of story.

Choice adds complexity and makes decisions harder

Steve Jobs didn’t want his customers agonising over whether to pay the extra for the colour version or make do. He didn’t want his sales teams learning different product sets and pricing levels. But most of all, he didn’t want his customers to be confused or put off from buying by the complexity.

Complexity through choice
Sweet complexity

Not sure what I mean? Give a child a £1 bag of sweets that you know they like and they will be delighted and grateful. Take a child into a sweetshop full of all their favourite sweets and tell them they can spend that £1 on whatever they want and you are in for a long afternoon. Why? Because they have to make a decision or maybe several decisions. I can have 1 of those and 2 of those. Or I could have 2 of those and three of something else. Decisions, Decisions.

It’s the same when you go out to dinner and the menu is extensive. By the time you’ve all read and chosen what you want you’ve probably wasted a third of the evening. And then the waiter apologises because that item is out of stock so you have to choose again because they can’t keep a lot of everything for such a diverse, extensive menu.

Your customers are no different. Give them too much choice and making a decision becomes bewildering or just plain hard. And when something is hard, people walk away. Rather than make a decision about what to buy, they make the decision not to buy.

Complexity in what we do

We had a talk at one of the Business Hubs I’m a member of recently on the subject of the apps we use in our business. The breadth of apps and the functionality available is incredible. But the thing that struck me most was that with each app we add to our PC or phone, we are adding complexity. We try to do things quicker, more fancy, more ingeniously. And each step adds complexity. More passwords to remember. More steps in the process. More complexity.

As many of you know, I help my clients make productive online connections to grow their business through the use of social media in general and LinkedIn in particular. I see a lot of other coaches introducing complexity to what they recommend clients do. Try this trick or that feature – you might get an edge.

You might, for a while until LinkedIn or Facebook or Google changes again. And the one thing that is constant with social media is change! You might until you trip over yourself because of all the interactions. You might until you miss out a step because it was one of so many little tricks and tips you use.

In my experience, people buy from people. People they know, like and trust. People they have built a relationship with because they are authentic, giving of themselves and their knowledge. Personal, authentic, credible. Simple.

Wooden stick isolated on white backgroundSo why not apply the ‘Keep it Simple Stick’ to your business. Rid yourself of complexity and simplify things for your customers.

If you’d like to have a chat about how I can help you keep things simple in your use of LinkedIn and social media, click on the button below to book a free call. It’s as simple as that.

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The gift that keeps on giving

We’d all like to receive the gift that keeps on giving. One that delivers something for your business every single day.

Something you can turn to any time you want some business growth and know that it will deliver.

Something akin to having your own personal cash machine that dispenses cash whenever you want, but not from your bank account, but instead straight out of the bank accounts of your clients.

No, I’m not suggesting you hack your client’s bank accounts. Used wisely, this gift that keeps on giving will have your clients willingly opening up there bank accounts to pay you for your products and services.

 

So what is this magical gift that keeps on giving?

 

Why your clients give you their money

To understand this gift, you need to understand the psychology behind why customers do business with you.

People like to do business with people.

More specifically, they like to do business with people they know, like and trust. So to get them to open up their bank account to you and buy your products and services, you have to get to know them.

You have to build that trust.

 

How to build trust

Build trust through your actions

Be personable and get to know your prospects. Prospects become much more engaged when you talk about them rather than yourself.

So find some common interests, ask questions, be engaging.

Don’t splurge out your company history and all your latest offers.

Don’t go on about how awesome your business is. They mostly don’t care.

It’s there problem they want solved. So give them some free help or information. Stuff that is really valuable to them.

Show them just how great you are, without the merest hint of bragging or bravado.

 

Credibility

What your clients say about you speaks volumesYour prospects will be much more impressed with what others say about you than anything you say about yourself.

So lead them to where those glowing testimonials can be found, without ramming them down their throat.

Demonstrate your credibility by publishing articles demonstrating your knowledge and getting them read and commented on.

With credibility comes trust.

 

What is the gift?

What is the gift?

So is trust the gift? No.

 

Is credibility the gift? No.

 

Is the gift is a system and/or a process? No.

 

It is based on a system and a process. A system you almost certainly have, but don’t use properly. A process you probably don’t use or follow properly.

 

Have you guessed it yet?

 

Its…..

LinkedIn

 

But not LinkedIn as most people know or use it.

 

The gift of LinkedIn is:

  • A powerful personal profile that delivers real value to your prospects and clients.
  • A powerful personal profile that demonstrates your expert knowledge.
  • A powerful personal profile packed with glowing recommendations’.
  • A powerful personal profile that builds TRUST.

 

And the process? The process is what you do to make use of that powerful personal profile.

  • A process of drip feeding valuable content to your connections and followers.
  • A process that gets you seen by your ideal prospects because of where you post and comment.
  • A process that finds your ideal prospects.
  • A process that allows you to connect and engage without selling.
  • A process that induces your prospects to ask to be your client.
  • A process that you can repeat, over and over again.

 

A powerful personal profile and a process that means LinkedIn is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

One great gift deserves another. Learn how to give the gift of LinkedIn to your business with the LinkedIn Business Advantage Programme – at better than half price – that’s £100 off! Just enter the code GIVING at the checkout.

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Do what you competitors are too lazy to do. Get the advantage today and give your business its best ever present.

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New Year, New You

New Year, New You.

Sound familiar?

You’re determined 2017 is going to be different. It’s going to be the breakthrough year.

The year when you finally smash your goals.

You’ve made all the resolutions, set all the objectives, so let’s go for it right?

First day back

It’s the first day back at work and reality dawns.

The inbox is full of belated best wishes for the festive season, interspersed with the first bills of the new year (note to self – always ask for bills to be dated 3rd Friday of the month so the first day of January isn’t so depressing).

You desperately search for signs of orders, but nobody’s been buying over the holiday – at least not your stuff.

All of a sudden, those 2017 targets and goals seem a lot further away and if you are not careful, January will be gone in the blink of an eye and you’ll only have 11 months to achieve them. Well, ten and half really because everything stops mid-way through December.

 

Don’t get depressed

To paraphrase an often quoted  saying, I’m not saying this to depress you, but to IMPRESS upon you, that it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can have a New Year, New You, but it takes a bit of realism and action to achieve it. None of us have developed super powers over Christmas that have transformed us from the business person we were to a combination of Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Alan Sugar. That sort of instant transformational change just doesn’t happen.

But with a bit of planning and determination, a gradual, incremental change can. And that is how your 2017 goals will be achieved. Not in January in one big bang, but incrementally, month by month throughout the year.

 

A realistic plan

Most plans that I see business owners create are idealistic rather than realistic. They set out what they would like to achieve, often ignoring the reality of business life. As a consequence they start to fall behind the plan quite quickly and become disillusioned with the whole process.

So the reality of week 1 for 2017 is most likely that there will be a lot of cr@p to sort out. So put sorting it out as the number 1 task in the plan. Attack it with gusto and get it dealt with. Clear the decks within the first day or so that the rest of the week, and then the rest of the month become clear.

 

Default diary

The number 2 task is to set up (or refresh if you already have one) your default diary. These are the regular diary entries for activities you need to do to grow your business and hit your 2017 objectives. Here’s a screenshot of mine for mid-February.

Default diary

There are no client meetings or client work activities booked in, just activities and time slots for me to work ON my business rather than IN my business. In my example,

The Hub meetings are aa combination of networking, business promotion and personal development and the connections meetings are networking sessions. These are important for me as they keep me in touch with my target market – other small businesses.

The 90 minutes sessions are the key to driving my business. I separately plan out what I am going to work on in my daily 90 minute sessions 1-3 weeks in advance. Here’s my 90 minutes plan for the first week in January:

  • Monday – Write Motorhome Heaven website copy (I know – it was a bank holiday, but we need to get the website live)
  • Tuesday – 1st draft of content for Customer Avatar module for LinkedIn Mastery programme
  • Wednesday – Finalise content Customer Avatar module for LinkedIn Mastery programme
  • Thursday – follow up old leads
  • Friday – Weekly engagement e-mail and blog post for next Tuesday

This 90 Minutes plan is a mixture of stuff to develop new business opportunities (Motorhome Heaven website and Customer Avatar module of the LinkedIn Mastery programme) which will deliver my longer term 2017 goals, immediate business generation (follow up on old leads), and keeping me front of mind with my target customers (engagement e-mail and blog post).

 

Your plan

Your plan needs to deal with today’s reality and then have a similar mix of tasks that will:

  • Deliver stuff to move you towards your longer term objectives
  • Deliver immediate business
  • Keep you front of mind in your target market

By setting aside chunks of time each day to work on something specific that will deliver against one of the three points above, you will move your business forward every single day, one step at a time. If you do this and then look back in three months’ time, you’ll see the impact has been transformational. Transformation through increments.

 

A lasting change that keeps on giving

Making this change to how you manage your diary – your time – and starting to regularly work on your business is a change that will keep on giving. It keeps on delivering benefits to your business and to you. You’ll find you have more time because you are planning and delivering the important stuff that will deliver your goals first, rather than trying to squeeze things into marginal time, the evenings or weekends.

Another change you should consider making very early in 2017 is how you use LinkedIn.

Most business owners have a LinkedIn profile, often a left-over from a previous corporate life. They read just like an outdated cv and do nothing for their business.

The problem is LinkedIn is not like Facebook or Twitter so business owners struggle to understand how to use it effectively. That’s great news for the business owners that are prepared to find out how to use LinkedIn, because they can steal a march on their competitors. They can do things their competitors can only dream of.

 

Two key aspects to success with LinkedIn

First and foremost, LinkedIn is a professional networking site so you should have a powerful profile that clearly demonstrates your expertise and authority in your filed of business. That way when a potential client, supplier or employee checks you out on LinkedIn, your already over half way to convincing them to do business with you before you have even met them.

Once you have that powerful profile, you can then go prospecting. Because LinkedIn is populated with people’s CVs, and CVs are stuffed with keywords about their jobs, roles and responsibilities, it’s very easy to find potential clients. With LinkedIn’s powerful search engine you can search not just by keyword, but also by industry, role, location and much more.

What’s more, all those great existing clients you have are probably connected to former colleagues and contacts in the same line of business at other companies. So connect with your clients and you will have an instant insight into a wealth on potential new clients, especially if you get your clients to add a recommendation to you profile.

 

LinkedIn Mastery

The LinkedIn Mastery programme that I mention in the planning section above is a 5 week programme where I help my clients create that powerful personal profile then use it to prospect for new clients that tightly fit their target market.

Revamping your profile and learning the process is a one-off task and if you then build using the process into you 90 Minutes plan – it only needs a 30 minute slot once a week – it’s a task that will continue to pay dividends throughout 2017 and beyond.

There are group and 1:2:1 options for the programme and some January special offers if you act fast. Follow the links below to find out more:

LinkedIn Mastery 1:2:1 Programme

LinkedIn Mastery group Programme

Using LinkedIn properly could be the one action you take that does enable you to smash your 2017 goals. In 5 weeks, 5 incremental steps, you could transform the way you find and win new clients. Click on the links now.

 

 

What makes your business unique?

People like doing business with people. Not anonymous brands or websites. That means they like doing business with you. You are what makes your business unique.

Yes, you may have a compelling proposition put together a little differently to how other people do things.

Yes, you may have excellent customer service – better than anyone else in your local market or niche.

But in reality that is your stamp on your business.

 

It’s why successful small or micro businesses sometimes struggle to grow. How do you keep that personal touch as you grow your team and your customers come in to contact with more and more of your staff?

It’s not about rigid controls and regimented processes. Good processes are essential but it’s also about learning the art of hiring the right staff. Staff with an ethos and attitude that matches your business style. Hire the right staff and give them the freedom to use their initiative and the “you” in your business will grow and develop. That is how the “you” in your business evolves into your business brand.

This is how the likes of Apple and Disney have developed incredibly strong brands – by allowing the “you” of their creators to grow with the business.

 

Spreading the word

Communicating what makes your business unique is the key to making your business successful. Your satisfied customers are the best people to do this. What they say about you is a thousand times more powerful than anything you say about yourself.

But you can’t just rely on word of mouth to grow your business. You have to leverage your testimonials and recommendations through all aspects of your marketing. Through your website, through printed media and through social media.

Social media is becoming ever more critical in this with ‘social proof’ being one of the first things potential customers look for. What are you saying about yourself on social media and, more importantly, what are other people saying about you?

Whilst platforms like Twitter and Facebook are great for getting the word out and getting you noticed, they don’t offer much to show the client what they will actually get. For that, most businesses drive people to their websites.

But most websites tend to be very product or service centric and not so much about the customer.

 

Turning social awareness into social proof

This is where LinkedIn comes in. Through your LinkedIn profile you, the business owner, can speak directly to your customers frustrations, pains or desires. You can explain how your business can solve their problems or deliver on the desires.

LinkedIn’s recommendations system means you can get genuine testimonials from your best clients, backing up what you say and delivering the social proof you need. By driving prospects either directly or indirectly to your LinkedIn profile you will turn social awareness into solid social proof and make it much easier to convert prospects into customers.

Social proof process

 

Leveraging your LinkedIn profile

Once you have that powerful personal profile you can leverage it to find, connect and engage with your ideal prospects through LinkedIn through a simple five stage process:

Customer targeting with LinkedIn

  1. Define your ideal prospect – the tighter the definition, the easier they will be to target.
  2. Use LinkedIn’s powerful search tool to find prospects on LinkedIn
  3. View your ideal prospects’ profiles and find a reason to connect
  4. They view your powerful profile and start to see the benefits you offer
  5. Follow up on connection by starting a dialogue – no selling allowed

Get the engagement process right and they will ask to work with or buy from you. LinkedIn makes the selling easy.

 

Build your own social proof

A well-crafted LinkedIn profile setting out how your clients benefit from your business provides a powerful platform of social proof that you can use to find, connect and engage with your ideal prospects. Book a free profile review now and get started right away. Just click on the link below.

Book a review call now

LinkedIn reminders – a lead-generation goldmine

Social media platforms by their very nature encourage us to be social. So they prompt us to engage with our connections, friends or followers by sending us little reminders of events – anniversaries, birthdays, what we were doing 2 years ago etc.

Now for most social media networks, these are a prompt to be just social because you don’t talk business on them. Yes, you might send around the odd offer but it’s interrupt marketing.

LinkedIn is a different type of social media. It’s a business networking tool. So whilst LinkedIn reminders are no different, you can use them differently. You’ll get LinkedIn reminders for birthdays, work anniversaries, new jobs and more. But the social element give the perfect lead in to talk business. On LinkedIn people expect you to talk business, while being sociable.

 

Using LinkedIn reminders – a real example

Let me give you an example that happened to me. I got a reminder that it was one of one of my connection’s birthday. I had done some work building a system for their company around 6 years earlier. Here’s the actual conversation from LinkedIn with only the contact and client names changed to protect confidentiality:

 

On 12/29/2015, Allen Ruddock said the following:

Happy Birthday Sally! Hope all is going well for you at XYZ Ltd. Allen

10:45 AM

On 12/29/2015, Sally said the following:

Many thanks Allen Yes all good – how about you? Sally

11:05 AM

On 12/29/2015, Allen Ruddock said the following:

Very good thanks. How is sharepoint holding up for you? Allen

10:14 PM

On 12/30/2015, Sally said the following:

Sharepoint is good, but we are in desperate need of ‘upgrading’ it. If you have any time available to discuss I would very much appreciate it. If I don’t speak to you before happy New Year. Sally

10:05 AM

On 12/30/2015, Allen Ruddock said the following:

Hi Sally, Very happy to come in for a chat about Sharepoint. Are you in the office today/tomorrow with some time for a coffee? Allen

10:16 AM

On 12/30/2015, Sally said the following:

I’m in the office tomorrow until lunchtime so could have a coffee and a chat in the morning if that’s good for you? Thanks Sally

 

From a simple tailored happy birthday message and a willingness tp engage, I reconnected to an old client and generated a new business opportunity. How powerful is that?

LinkedIn reminders provide opportunities like this every single day.

But only if you are connected to your clients and prospects.

But only if you tailor the suggested message. Make it personal.

It didn’t take much – just enough to show I had taken the trouble to engage and not just sent the standard message.

Notice that I wasn’t selling, I was just asking a question. But it opened the door.

 

Missed opportunities

So many people take the lazy option and just click send on the standard message. As a result those messages end up in the trash folder. They get as much attention as it took to send the message. A single click. Delete!

Facebook will tell you it’s your friend’s birthday and invite you to write on their timeline. You have to write something personal. Don’t let the LinkedIn reminders ‘helpful’ message make you lazy. Take the trouble you would on Facebook and make it personal. Make it engaging.

 

Do you want these opportunities?

Spotting and taking opportunities like this is what I work with my clients to achieve.

Having the right profile to get the connections that generate these opportunities is where it all starts.

Why not book a free profile review call and start to uncover your opportunities. Click on the link below.

Book a review call now

 

 

There is no Status Quo in business

There is no such thing as the status Quo in business. Your revenue/profits/costs will not continue at the same level if you continue to do what you have always done. You know:

  • The same old marketing
  • The same old prices
  • The same old competition
  • The same old… you get the picture don’t you?

Except that it probably isn’t the same old competition. Your competition has moved on. They’re looking for new ways to attract your customers. They’re under-cutting your prices, offering tempting bonuses and creating new products or services. And there could be new competitors too.

Your customers will have moved on to. They could be looking for something new, something different.

Even if you’ve kept you prices the same, your costs will have changed so your profits will have changed too.

It’s a bit like a tug of war – you trying to pull revenue and profits one way and your suppliers and the market pulling against you.

It feels like a huge battle just to stand still, just to achieve the status quo in business.

 

But I want to grow

But what if you want to grow your business, to really take it to the next level? The ‘same old, same old’ just isn’t going to hack it. To overcome that inertia you need to make a step change. You need to think different, think ‘outside the box’ (I normally hate clichés and business speak, but this one is on the money), because the same old marketing will bring the same old results – declining revenue and declining profits.

 

1-4-15-60-20

These are the five key numbers in any market, segment or area. So in your business, in your area:

  • 1% are super successful. They are the Richard Bransons or Apples for that business/area.
  • 4% are doing really well and aspiring to join the 1%.
  • 15% doing OK. There’s room for improvement, but they are winning more than they are losing.
  • 60% are getting by. They are the businesses I described above. The one’s struggling to achieve the status quo in business.
  • 20% are really struggling or even failing.

That means at least 80% of the business like you, in your area are GETTING IT WRONG! They are stagnating or declining. They are trying to maintain the status quo in business and it just isn’t working. Do yourself a a favour – don’t copy the 80%.

 

What can I do Allen?

If you look at your market you’ll realise that most of your competitors are doing the same sorts of things. Similar marketing, similar prices, similar offers, similar services. But the standout leaders – the 1%, 4% or 15% will be different. It may not be immediately obvious how they are different, but they will be different. They probably charge higher prices and you’ve never quite worked out how they get away with it. They achieve customer loyalty you can only dream of.

How do they do it? It boils down to two core things.

Positioning

The best businesses position themselves as just that – the best at what they do. Through a combination of innovative marketing, excellent service and being well, just different. Look at Apple. Their core markets are computers and phones – two very crowed markets. Yet Apple created the Mac and split the market into two. The Mac market that it owns and the PC market where every other company fights it out.

Likewise with smartphones. They created the iPhone – a market they own, and everyone else fights it out on android/Windows/Blackberry etc.

So how can you make your business the best at what it does in your area or segment? How can you position your business in the eyes of your market? The first part is about you and your business. What is your unique selling point – your USP?

Systems

To be the best in what you do it means you have to deliver to the highest standards day in, day out and in a way that is consistent with your business’ brand and image. That requires systems. Good systems allow you to run your business efficiently and with the knowledge that what is delivered will almost always be of the right quality. And on the odd occasion when something goes wrong, you’ll have your best system there ready to deal with the problem and wow the customer with how much trouble you have taken to put things right.

It’s these systems that are often hidden from what you see in successful businesses.  You will have seen the positioning, but it’s the systems that give the substance to that positioning.

 

How can a small business achieve all this?

Let’s tackle the two areas in reverse order. Putting in place great systems is neither hard nor expensive. The hard part is deciding what the system needs to do. In other words, what are the detailed elements of the product or service that you deliver. Once you have that you can create systems and processes to help you and your team deliver to the desired quality. It might be as simple as a set of paper based checklists. It could be barcoded stock and handheld barcode reader.

Whatever system you design needs to simple enough for you and your team to implement and work with consistently. It’s then down to training people how to use the system. Don’t forget to explain why the system is important and what it is trying to achieve. The more context you provide, the more accepted and adopted the system will become.

Getting your positioning right can be a little trickier. Many businesses try to position themselves by talking about themselves and their products:

  • We are the leading company in…..
  •  We have been serving this market for over 20 years….
  • Our range of products is second to none…..

And so on. But this is all about them and not about their customers. The latest ads for Microsoft Windows 10 and the related Surface Book and PCs have been all about what the end users can do with the products and not about the products themselves. Your positioning needs to be about what your business does for its customers. Show you understand their needs, their problems, their desires. Then show them how you can meet those needs, ease or remove that pain or satisfy that desire. That is great positioning.

 

How can you do all this on a small business budget?

Social media.

Social media has been the great leveller for businesses of all sizes. For little or no money you can position your business for what it does for its customers and get that message in front of those customers. And LinkedIn should be at the core of what you do on social media.

Whatever business you are in you, the business owner, should use LinkedIn to position yourself and your business. It is the first place anyone doing business with you is going to look to check you out. If they find a rubbish profile that looks like a stale cv you’ve already missed a trick.

Instead, you need a profile that screams the values of your business. One that is packed with value-added information that delivers useful information to the customer. One that has videos and articles about what you do for your customers. One that is packed with glowing recommendations from existing clients.

Whether you are business-to-business or business-to-consumer, a powerful LinkedIn profile is the number one way to position you and your business. Now you can use the appropriate social media channels to get in front of your target market and guide them to your profile to show them why they should do business with you.

If you are selling business-to-business then LinkedIn is almost certainly the best social media channel to find and get in front of your ideal customers. With over 450m profiles worldwide and over 20m in the UK along, your target market is on there. Their profiles are packed with the keywords you need to search for and find them and with the right non-salesy approach, you can develop strong business relationships that ensure they come to you to meet their business needs.

 

Get free advice on positioning your business with LinkedIn

If you would like to find out more about using LinkedIn to

  • position your business and
  • find and engage with your ideal prospects

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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.

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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.

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#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/