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.

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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.

Book a review call now

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.

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Building trust in a cynical world

Building trust in a cynical world

The world is becoming a much more cynical place. Trust is much harder to win.

Add to that the exponentially increasing volume of marketing messages that everyone sees day in, day out and it’s no surprise that your marketing e-mails are getting opened less and less often.

Even getting people on to your list is proving harder to achieve. Traditional lead magnets such as ebooks are less effective and you are having to give away more and more stuff to gain a subscriber.

Is it all worth it?

Is there another way?

 

Demonstrating credibility and authority

 

Building trust requires a number of factors:

  • You need to demonstrate your expertise
  • You need other people to sing your praises
  • You need to be there for you clients consistently

Are you trusted?

Only when all three factors are present will you be able to develop trust and build a rapport with your target clients. They need to see that you know your stuff. That other people recognise you for it, and that you will be there when they need you.

 

Getting the word out there

There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your expertise and start to build that trust, but they boil down to two approaches:

  • Speaking
  • Publishing

 

Networking

network headsSpeaking can take a number of forms. The most basic is networking. At most networking groups there are a number of opportunities to talk about what you do for your clients.

Firstly there is the general conversations over coffee, breakfast, lunch or drinks. But don’t be the meeting bore, telling everyone you can grab about how fantastic your business is. That’s sure to make you the most unpopular person ion the room. Instead ask people about their businesses and the problems they are facing. Offer some tips or help. Maybe recommend someone you know that could help with a specific problem.  Become known as the person that helps others solve their problems without selling them anything.

There will be other opportunities to speak about your business at networking meetings. Most groups give everyone a 30 or 60 second slot to talk about their business. Don’t go for the hard sell. Focus on the benefits of working with you and offer something valuable if you can. You are looking to gain trust, not alienate people.

You may get invited to do a 10, 20 or 30 minute slot where you can go into much more detail. Again, make sure you are delivering valuable content to your audience, using stories and case studies too bring what you do to life, and then make a compelling offer to tempt the audience to become customers.

 

Speaking at events

Allen ruddock speaking at a conferenceSpeaking at an event is a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and build trust. Providing it’s the right type of event the audience should be jam-packed with your ideal target clients. The fact that you are the one on stage gives you a natural authority – the event organisers have entrusted you with an element of their reputation and that rubs off in the mind of the audience.

If you are also exhibiting at the event, you have the opportunity to drive traffic towards your stand where you can then capture contact details for follow up conversations. The number and quality of leads always increases if you are speaking at an exhibition.

You may have, or could identify, joint venture partners. Other non-competing businesses that have a similar target audience where you can cross sell each other’s products or services. But even where there is limited opportunity to cross sell, you might be able to find speaking opportunities. I work with a number of professional firms such as accountants and solicitors where I get invited to speak at events they are holding for their clients. By including something on the agenda that’s relevant to the audience but not related to their own services they are delivering value to their clients and may actually get better attendance at the event.

 

Podcasts and interviews

There are many business podcasts and slots on local and internet based radio stations and to charnels. These can be a great way to demonstrate you expert authority to a highly targeted audience. It’s always a good idea to agree the format and general direction of the interview so you can prepare some examples that promote you in the best possible light.

 

Publishing a book

Get yourself publishedPublishing a book is now within the grasp of almost everyone. There are many courses and workshop programmes that you can use to coach you through the process. You can acquire an ISBN number, even for your lead magnet ebooks and become a self-publishing author. You can even get you books converted into Kindle format so there is no need to go to print.

Having a book published, especially if you can go the extra mile and get it on Amazon, adds a huge amount to your credibility. Don’t expect to become a multi-millionaire from it – even the best business books don’t make huge amounts – but it can be a game changer for your credibility.

 

Blogging

For many, the thought of writing and publishing a book is just too daunting. But writing a blog is well within the capability of anyone passionate about what they do. The blog needs to deliver value to the reader and not be an overt sales pitch from start to finish. A clear call to action is an absolute must and it might be appropriate for that to be a sales offer, depending on the subject matter and how often you have made offers previously.

 

Getting the message out there

Getting your message broadcast

Whether you are speaking or writing, you need to get your stuff in front of an audience – your audience. That’s where knowing your target audience and where they hang out becomes important. You need to know as much about your target clients as possible so you can identify them and then use the media channels they use to let them know about your content.

For most business that means social media. You need to know which social media channels you clients use for both business and pleasure. Then you can target them with information about your speaking events, your book or your blogs. Repeatedly engaging with them over a period of time, showcasing a range of content, will start to build your credibility and authority and therefore start to build that all important trust.

 

Getting others to talk about you

What other people say about you builds trust and is 1000 times more powerful than abnything you say yourself

What other people say about you carries a thousand times more weight than anything you say about yourself. So you need recommendations and testimonials and to get other people to re-broadcast your stuff on social media.

Your testimonials can’t be added to your website, to your product or service sales pages and broadcast via social media. All these channels will add to the social proof you need to build your credibility and expert authority. Once established, you won’t need to go looking for clients – they will come to you, because the trust you.

Get a head start – use LinkedIn properly

Whilst other social media channels can broadcast your stuff, including other people’s opinions of you, LinkedIn is the only platform that can do all that but with independent 3rd party recommendations built in as part of the core system.

The various elements within the personal profile provide a powerful basis for you to demonstrate the value you bring to your clients. Written in the right way, your profile can speak to the problems and pains your clients face that you can help remove, or to the hopes and desires you can help them achieve. All reinforced with personal recommendations direct from your clients.Social media strategy

For this reason, LinkedIn should be at the heart of your marketing and social media strategy. I use other social media channels to drive traffic to my LinkedIn profile to demonstrate my credibility and expert authority, and to my website to consume more of my material, gather contact details and make valuable offers.

 

If you’d like to understand how you can harness your LinkedIn profile to drive your business, then book one of my free profile review calls. Numbers are strictly limited so book today by clicking below.

Book a review call now

 

Speak to you soon.

5 Reasons why your website sucks

If your website doesn’t grab the reader’s attention it sucks. Period. And you only have 3 seconds to do it.

Attention spans for the average web user are dropping all the time. With so much ‘noise’ out there if you don’t pique the readers interest fast, they’ll move on.

The rule of 3’s

You may have heard me talk about the rule of 3’s before:

  • You have 3 seconds to grab people’s attention with your headline.
  • Then you have around 30 seconds to get their interest. Do it well and…
  • You get three minutes to convince them – at most!

So does your website pass the test?

Here are my top 5 reasons why your website sucks:

Lemon 1 It’s all about you and not about your clients. I’ve lost count of the number of sites I have seen that “we” all over the internet. We do this, we do that, aren’t we great. That’s not the way to win your client’s trust and build a rapport with them. Go back to marketing basics and apply them to your website – now!

Lemon 2The end user experience is cr@p. This could mean a number of different things from broken links, disjointed headers as you scroll, slow loading pages right through to inability to read it on anything other than a widescreen desktop. Over 50% of web traffic is now viewed on a mobile or tablet. Make that 90% for Facebook ads. So if it isn’t responsive your website sucks.

Lemon 3It’s irrelevant. Traffic doesn’t just find your website – it gets there because it was sent there. Either you sent the reader there to check you out or you put out some form of marketing that sent the reader to the site. But if the page you sent them to isn’t directly relevant to why you sent them there, your website sucks. This is such a fundamental principle that Google even built it into their algorithm for calculating where your pay per click ads will feature. That’s how important it is.

Lemon 4Your readers don’t know what they should do. What do you want your website visitor to do? Are they to sign up for something? Should they book a call? Should they download something. Without clear direction they WILL do something – and it will probably be to click away from your site.

It’s Lemon 5stale – like yesterday’s French bread.  People like to do business with dynamic, responsive organisations. If your website hasn’t changed in the last six months that hardly denotes dynamism. If your last blog post was 12 weeks ago and your Twitter feed shows tweets from a few weeks back, they are going to wonder if they will get a similar level of attention as your client. I’m not saying you should be making daily changes, but regular content refreshes are essential.

That leads nicely into how I can help……

achieve-365-logo

You may have heard me talk about the achieve 365 library. It’s a growing and constantly refreshed repository of the best business advice available to entrepreneurs. That advice has been gleaned from a team that has built 8 separate £1m businesses over the last ten years. And it’s practical advice, not airy-fairy theoretical waffle. The advice is distilled into a series of Implementation Plans, each one covering a particular aspect or creating, building or running your business.telephone

And yes – there is an Implementation Plan covering your website. It’s a checklist covering 14 different aspects of how to turn your website into the ultimate conversion machine. Don’t let your website be a lemon. Book a free 30 minute call with me and find out how Achieve 365 can help you. Just click on the link here or on the phone and book your call.

3 big myths about the internet

DILBERT © 2016 Scott Adams. Used By permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights
reserved.” Below the image for me to comply with my usage rights.

 

The internet is a fantastic resource. But as with any fantastic resource, you have to know how to use it properly – and I don’t mean which buttons to click or how to use Boolean logic in search terms. I mean how to treat everything you read and find on the internet with a degree of caution.

You see there are 3 big myths about the internet that everyone forgets at least once in a while. And these myths can be very expensive. Expensive in terms of the amount of time wasted (just look at the Dilbert cartoon in the feature image), penalties, fines and law suits, and in poor decision making.

 

Myth no.1

If it’s on the internet it must be true – so said American president Abraham Lincoln in a Facebook post.

Yeah, right! Too many people would believe it though. I don’t mean the obviously stupid “truths” like the won I just “quoted”, but many millions of little and not so little things, and often because they’ve seen it repeated a few times. Well, sorry to burst you bubble, that isn’t true. And just because 10 or 100 or even 1000 people on the internet say something is true, that doesn’t mean it is. Marketers often talk about getting social proof like getting your tweets retweeted or you Facebook posts like. That doesn’t make them any more true than when they were written. 100 people believing a lie does not make it true.

So do your due diligence. Check that your “facts” really are facts. Look for authoritative sources to validate your findings.

 

Myth no.2

If it’s on the internet it’s free. Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t;’t mean it is yours to use freely. And the internet is public domain. The number of people that copy images from the internet to use in their bl;of posts, in their presentations, in their brochures, is huge. The risks that they run in doing so are huge.

All images are owned by the person or company that created them and you can only use the image with their permission. And that often comes with a cost. It’s usually a small cost – often just $1. There are some places which offer use of images a genuinely zero cost. But if there is a cost, be sure to pay it because if you use an image without permission then it could cost you a whole lot more. At least one image supplier regularly monitors the use of its images on the internet and if the appropriate licence fee has not been paid the offending company or individual will get a demand from the image owner’s lawyer demanding the image is taken down and no longer used and a large penalty paid (several thousands of pounds) or else court proceedings will be started.

If you have I used an image illegally you will lose. The fine/penalty imposed by the court may be less than that demanded in the lawyers letter but don’t forget to factor in the amount of your time and that of your team, not mention legal fees etc etc and you can see how the costs will mount up.

Play by the rule – saying sorry after the event just doesn’t cut in this situation.

 

Myth no.3

Free training on the internet can save you money on paid training. This is the example in the Dilbert cartoon featured image (which I have paid a licence fee to use by the way).

This myth isn’t as clear cut as the first two as in the longer term, if you find a really good source of high quality free training in the area you need it, then you can save money. The problem comes about from trawling through all the dud courses before you find the gems. You might get lucky and find the gem quickly, but then again, you might not. You might use the gem supplier many times so, on average, the wasted time is relatively low. But most training in small to medium size businesses is specialist in nature and used for only a few people at most so this is unlikely to be the case.

At the end of the day, what else could you be spending your time on to drive your business forward than wasting it trying hard to find free training to save a few pounds. Implementing the lessons from a quality paid course will generate more savings or revenue increases than the cost of the course so spending time to avoid the cost of the course is just a waste.

How do you avoid wasting time finding a good quality course though? Couldn’t that be as wasteful and looking for the free ones? Yes it could and that leads nicely into how to overcome these myths.

 

Myth busting

Before the internet we used to use recommendations to find potential suppliers. We’d go to trusted and renowned publications and books for information. We’d meet people and get to know, like and trust them – before we bought.

Well today, we do the same thing but faster – because everything is faster with the internet – right? Well, perhaps not. We are always being pushed to be faster but maybe

We should just slow down a little and be a little more discerning about the sources we use and who we trust. Yes the internet has extended our reach but we still need to do the appropriate due diligence.

We need to build trusted networks of contacts and advisers that we can rely on to sort out the wheat from the chaff. To find those gems without the painstaking and time consuming trawling through the search engines. Where is the best place to start for businesses?

 

LinkedIn

Yes, LinkedIn is the trusted source that can overcome many of the myths of the internet. Providing you do your due diligence on your network and recognise who you can rely on, it can help with identifying the right sources of information, the right suppliers, the right training courses.

Why is LinkedIn so good for this? Because the best people engage poactively on LinkedIn sharing their knowledge and experience freely. If they are wrong or are trying to scam people, the collective community challenge them, out them and they go quiet or get removed.

Recommendations on LinkedIn provide a strong guide to the quality, reliability and efficacy of the people you engage with. These recommendations cannot be faked – they have to be written by other LinkedIn members. And if you see recommendations for someone from people you know like and trust, they carry a huge weight.

So LinkedIn is the place to find those trustworthy resources. And by extension, if you want to be seen as a trustworthy source, whether of knowledge, advice, services or products, you need to have a powerful personal profile. That’s what I help my clients achieve – just check out my recommendations and then check out my LinkedIn Business Advantage Programme. Take your credibility to a higher level today. Click the link or the image below.

 

LIBusAdvProgLogo

 

I Know……..but it won’t work for me

People have opinions about pretty much everything and preconceived ideas about most. They are based on their own behaviours and habits. Those behaviours and habits have been developed over years of working and are conditioned by the environment they operate in and the people surrounding them. They’ve become ingrained so when you suggest they try something new or different you get the response “I know, but that won’t work for me because….”

The top 20%
In any particular type of business, how those businesses are doing breaks down as follows:

  • 20% are failing
  • 60% are getting by
  • 15% are on the up and getting there
  • 4% are getting it right
  • 1% are super successful

The people that say “I know….” are typically in that first 80%. They are failing or struggling. Either that, or they’ve never plucked up the courage to leave corporate life and start a business. They are not open to new ideas or trying to do things differently. But the problem is that if you keep doing the same old stuff, you’ll get the same old results. If you want to make a step change in your business’ performance, you need to make a step change in how you run your business. You need to be open to new ideas, to different approaches, to trying things that you haven’t done before.

The average of 5
If you are in the top 20% and aspire to be in the top 5% or even that elite 1%, then you need to avoid the “I knows”. You need to surround yourself with successful people because it is said you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. You need to learn from experts. People that have been there, done it and have cupboards full of t-shirts.

I know, but LinkedIn won’t work for me….
I encounter a lot of “I knows” when I talk to people about LinkedIn – even with otherwise successful business owners. They think LinkedIn won’t work for them because of their preconceived ideas about LinkedIn:

  • It’s an online cv.
  • It’s for keeping in touch with old colleagues.
  • Only recruiters use it for business.
  • I don’t use it because I just get spammed with sales messages.

The reality is that LinkedIn is the hidden gem in social media marketing.

  • Because people load their cv’s (with job titles et al) you can find your ideal business prospects very easily using the advanced search facility.
  • And because people keep in touch with colleagues in the same line of business, finding one ideal prospect often leads to a bunch more.
  • Because people want to be found easily by recruiters they stuff their profiles with key words – the very keywords you need to find your target prospects.
  • Yes, you will get some spam messages, but no more than you get in your e-mail inbox. And they are just as easy to delete and it’s much easier to report people as spammers and block them from messaging you again.

Smart business owners use LinkedIn to promote themselves and their businesses. They use it to find and connect with their ideal prospects. They use it to bypass gatekeepers and get direct conversations with decision makers. They’re in the top 20% heading for the top 5% – if they are not already there.

If you want to use LinkedIn to propel you towards the top 5%, connect with me on LinkedIn – uk.linkedin.com/in/allenruddock – and send me a message with “I want to be in the top 5%” as the subject.

Other people’s advice can be dangerous

Can you get advice from the internet? The internet is great. Need some information – the great Google is at hand to provide thousands of articles published by well meaning ‘experts’. But can you trust what you read?
Wikipedia is another great resource, but it’s not validated. It relies on the general reader to correct any mistakes. It’s edited by its own users. There is no wealth of background research to back up it’s articles. Many of the people that posted entries may have done that research but you can’t tell. You take it on trust.

Friends and family
So when you need advice about your business – about a tricky decision you have to make – where do you turn? Many business owners turn to family and friends – the people that know and love them best. But is that wise? How many of them run their own business? Have they ever faced a similar situation to you. Are they applying ‘big corporate’ logic to your problem because that’s where they work? Are they being well meaning without understanding? Can you trust other people’s advice?
Most advice is given from the perspective of the giver. If the giver has never run a business, their perspective may not be valid in your situation. My sister-in-law was talking about what my son should do in relation to a situation he found himself in at work. He works for a small IT support company. She was talking from the perspective of having worked in the NHS. The advice, though well intentioned, just wasn’t relevant.
Similarly advice from friends who work in large corporates should be taken with a health warning. I have certainly learned a lot from my large corporate roles and assignments that I have adapted and applied to running my own business. But the key was the adaption. The experience had to be adapted and applied in a relevant way. If you can do that adaption, the advice could be useful. But if you are in the midst of a crisis or critical decision, now might not be the time to try it.

Professional advisers
You’d think this would be a good place to go for advice. If you have chosen the advisors well, then you could well be right. But you often choose your professional adviser more like a supplier. Can they deliver the service I want at price I can afford. I need my accounts, tax and payroll sorted. So you select the accountant that offers the best value for money service. Few business owners chose their accountants on the wider advice and guidance they can offer. When starting out you want to be compliant as cheap as possible. The more enlightened accountants will be highlighting their value added services, but many start up business owners will feel they are being sold unnecessary services.
I know one property investor whose accountant discouraged him from the strategy he was proposing to follow because he thought it was too ambitious. The accountant was not a property investor and had no experience of managing the accounts of property investors. The investor wisely changed accountant.
Another accountant discouraged a client from signing up a coach because the effective hourly rate for the coach was more than his client earned per hour. He should have been looking at the benefits the coaching would deliver for his client which far exceeded the total cost of the coaching programme with a payback of less than six months and a guarantee of free ongoing coaching until full payback was achieved. What’s more, the coaching would enable the return to be repeated continuously at no extra cost making the return on investment ever increasing.
So taking advice from advisers can be good, but only if you have selected the adviser for that purpose and they have relevant experience.

Networking groups
Networking is an important part of developing and growing your business. It can help you find clients and suppliers and provide a reassuring environment. Many new and established business owners can find it a lonley occupation. Even if you employ staff, you are the business owner and it can feel like a lonely place. Networking can provide interaction with like-minded business owners facing similar situations.

But be wary of turning to a networking group for advice. If you know the members well and know they have faced similar situations and dealt with them successfully, you may get good advice. But many people attend networking events just to catch up with contacts or to try and find clients. The aim is not specifically to help each other grow and develop their businesses so you may not get the advice you need.

Who you hang around with matters…
…a lot. There is a train of thought that says you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. In business terms, that is why many successful business people join mastermind groups or business clubs with like-minded business owners and lead by experienced, knowledgeable and successful entrepreneurs. They surround themselves with successful people that want to become more successful. Such mastermind groups or larger business development groups or clubs are there to help people develop and grow their businesses. Yes, networking takes place, but that is very much the secondary objective.

So when they need advice, they have a ready made pool of people to turn to that have faced similar situations themselves, or know someone that has. Successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes. Really successful entrepreneurs learn from other people’s. Grow your network of successful business owners and with it your pool of helpful, useful advisers.

Coaching and mentoring
The other source of excellent advice is to find a coach or mentor. Someone who is focussed on supporting you in achieving your business goals and has the relevant background, experience and network of contacts to help you on your journey.

Who do you turn to for advice and guidance? What experiences have you had of good and bad advice. Leave a comment below and share your experiences.

 

Goal setting – don’t aim for mediocrity

goals - resetIt’s midway through the year so it’s time for reviewing goals and objectives for your team and your business. It’s a frustrating time for a number of reasons. A survey of small businesses found that on average owners only spend 2 days a year working on their businesses rather than in them. I spend a full day every quarter on reviewing my business objectives for the year, getting in to detailed specifics for the next quarter. That’s without the other time I spend planning and building my business and it’s systems to support my clients.

So, do you have goals and objectives for your business and your staff? Many don’t and that’s my first frustration. How can you adjust your strategy if you don’t have one in the first place? Goal setting can be hard but it’s a habit well worth developing.

The second frustration is with those that do have goals or objectives. It’s because they are typically set up to target mediocrity. When goal setting for your team or business, be challenging.

Objective setting
Most people are taught that objectives must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

I don’t have a problem with S, M and T, but achievable and realistic? That’s where mediocrity sets in. It sets people and businesses up to underachieve. As a counter I often hear people say that they have set stretch targets – still achievable and realistic, but designed to encourage people work a little harder. I don’t want people to work a little harder, I want them to work smarter – much smarter. I want them to think differently and challenge what they do and how they do it. You see, if you always do what you’ve always done, even if you do it a little harder you’ll still always get what you’ve always got.

I want my business and my teams to achieve a lot more. To do that we need to approach things differently. We need to try things, challenge the norm and innovate. To encourage people to do that I like to set big, hairy arsed goals that can’t possibly be achieved by just working harder.

By all means stick with SMART goals, but make the A Aspirational and the R Relevant. Then make the objective BHA – Big and Hairy Arsed! Aim for the stars not the end of the street. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve.