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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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

book a free business review call with Allen today. Just click on the button below

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How to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile

There are over 450m user profiles on LinkedIn, many of them small business owners.  The vast majority of those small business owners say they don’t get anything out of LinkedIn. But super-successful small business owners know how to leverage their LinkedIn profile to find, connect and engage with their ideal prospects.

 

It all starts with a powerful personal profile, because LinkedIn is a personal, professional networking site. I have set out below seven of the key areas of your personal profile to focus on:

 

1. Re-structure your LinkedIn profile to deliver value to the reader

You can move most LinkedIn profile sections to create a better presentation of youThere are a lot of sections within the LinkedIn profile, but only the first few are static. You need to re-order the others to gain maximum effect. Think about how you want your prospective readers and clients to see and interact with your profile. LinkedIn’s standard order is targeted at job seekers and is almost certainly not the right order for you as a business owner. Take a look at how I have structured my profile: www.linkedin.com/in/allenruddock

 

 

2. Your profile photo – create a great first impression

Create the right first impression with your LinkedIn profile pictureYou only get one chance to make a great first impression. What is going to make that impression better – a smiling professional head and shoulders shot with you looking onto the camera or the holiday snap of you in full ski-gear on the slopes at St Anton? I think you know the answer, but in case you have any doubts, don’t do what some people do and leave the LinkedIn profile photo blank.

 

 

3. Your headline – 120 characters of pure gold

Headlines matter - make sure yours speaks to what you do, not you job titleHeadlines are important – just ask any newspaper editor. They entice people to read more. But what about you profile headline? When you accept a connection request LinkedIn invariably streams a load of people you may know to the page. Scroll through and look at their headlines. Most will say CEO, Owner at…, MD of… or something very similar. Not very enticing! They are all missing a golden opportunity to tell a prospective client what they could do for that client. This is my headline:

 

★Helping Businesses Increase Sales by making Productive Online Connections ★ LinkedIn Coach & Trainer ★ Business Coach★

It says what I do for people. How does your headline stack up?

 

4. Be contactable – use your contact info like a business card

Don't hide you contact details on your LinkedIn profile - be contactableIs your business card blank apart from your name? Of course it isn’t. So why hide your contact details on LinkedIn. Things like your address and phone number are only visible to your 1st degree connections and those people who have sent you an InMail and you have accepted their request to share information.  Too many people hide their contact details on their LinkedIn profile, or don’t put them on there at all. It’s online networking so make it easy for potential clients to get in touch. One of my most read LinkedIn posts was on this subject. Click on “Don’t play hide & seek with your LinkedIn profile” to read the post.

 

5. Keep your summary succinct and client focussed

Make sure your summary covers the key points succinctlyMany people don’t even bother with a summary section. What a missed opportunity. This is the place to tell your prospects all about the benefits of working with or buying from you. It’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for your clients. Keep it punchy and relevant to the pain you’ll take away or the desire you’ll satisfy.

 

6. Add a company page

Company pages demonstrate you company's expertise, products and servicesA company page gives you the opportunity to showcase your business as a whole and any specific products or services that you want to highlight. You can get each employee to connect their LinkedIn profile to the page to help spread the word to a wider range of connections. Once again, focus on what’s in it for the customer. I hate to see “we”ing all over LinkedIn

 

7. Recommendations and endorsements – get them, and lots of them

Get Recommended for your skills and ex[pertiseWhat somebody else says about you is worth a thousand times more than anything you say about yourself. This is where LinkedIn comes in to its own. It is the only mainstream social media platform with a built in system for people to recommend you. They can’t be faked – the recommender has to do it. That is what makes recommendations specifically, and LinkedIn in general, such a powerful system. Make sure you use them in the right place in you LinkedIn profile to support your expertise. Don’t just leave them in the Recommendations section.

 

Endorsements aEndorsementsre much more widely used but are much less powerful. I get endorsements from connections I have never met or worked with. All they have to do is click to say they endorse you. I think endorsements are useful in a negative sense though. If someone says they are Google Adwords expert but nobody has endorsed them for it, you might question the validity of their claim. However, just because 99 people have endorsed them for it doesn’t mean they are any good. Recommendations are what’s really needed for the social proof.

 

These 7 points are really important but there are plenty of other areas to be considered. Why not download my 12-point LinkedIn profile refresh checklist. It’s a one-page tips sheet covering the above and more. Click the button below to get your copy.

Sing up and download your free 12-point LinkedIn Profile Refresh Checklist
12-point LinkedIn Profile Refresh Checklist

Click here to book a 15 minute LinkedIn profile review with AllenBut if you are serious about getting the most from your LinkedIn profile book a free 15 minute profile review with me. My diary is here. Just click the link and set up a call. Here’s the link again: https://calendly.com/allen-ruddock/15min-profile-review or click on the phone.

 

Blogging to build your credibility

 

 

You’re good at what you do – right?

You’re products and services are ‘best in class’.

But how do you convince prospective clients or customers of this?

How do you build the necessary trust and rapport with them and build that all essential credibility?

 

Testimonials, reviews and recommendations are by far the best source of credibility, but if you are just starting out it can be hard to gain enough of these to really make a difference. And they may not show the breadth and depth of your offerings.

 

A great approach is to showcase your knowledge and capabilities by delivering value to your prospects free of charge. And the easiest way to do that is blogging about the business you are in.

 

Notice I said about the business you are in and NOT about your business. Your prospects are not interested in your business (at least not yet). But they are interested in the business you are in.

Because you’re in the business of solving their problems.

Of taking away their pain.

Of providing the benefits they need.

They just don’t know that you can do that yet. So you’re going to tell them – through your blog.

 

Blogging – a short history

Blogging has been around since the internet started.

It started with hobbyists using the internet as an outlet to share their thoughts, views and knowledge on their hobbies.

Some started to turn this into a business by writing about subjects people would pay for like stock market tips, of technical help in the early days of personal computing. Some charged for their best stuff and others sought to monetise their blogs through banner ads.

 

Then companies big and small cottoned on to the idea that a blog was a great way to engage with their clients and prospects. The market became crowded with lots of ‘me too’ blogs either focussed on the companies themselves or on generic industry news and tips – just look at the websites of the accountancy firms and budget time – they all blog their assessment of what the chancellor has announced.

 

Most of these blogs are just noise and provide very little real value to the reader.

For you, that’s both good news and bad.

It’s good news because if your blog really delivers value to your prospects it’s easy to stand out.

The bad news is, how do you get noticed in amongst all the dross.

 

Content first

Let’s focus on the content of your blog first. Once we get someone to look at your blog we want it to have the wow factor to keep them coming back and also telling other people about it.

Your content needs to focus not on what your business does, but what your knowledge can do to help your prospective client.

Let me give you an example.

One of my blogs is about everything to do with project management. I have a business that offers project management consulting and training, but I rarely mention either of those business aspects in that blog. Instead I focus each blog post on a potential problem area and discuss the causes and potential solutions for the problem. I’ll weave in examples of how I have dealt with similar situations for my clients. I use the post to demonstrate my understanding of the problem and how my experience can be used to find and implement solutions.

All the while I am giving real world examples and demonstrating my knowledge and capabilities.

I’m building my credibility.

 

Some business owners think they will struggle to find suitable topics or material to write interesting or informative blog posts. But that is often because they are thinking of blogging about their businesses and not the problems and pains of their prospects.

Turn your thinking on its head and things will become clearer and easier.

Even then, the ideas can dry up so you need to have some strategies to find new ideas in your back pocket. Here’s a few to get you started:

  1. Look at what the leaders in your industry (or similar industries) are talking about, then swipe and deploy (see last week’s blog for more on this)
  2. Look through the press and news coverage to see if there is some news item you could leverage or put a slant on for you field of business
  3. Look for the national day of ‘X’ or the international week of ‘Y’ – no matter when in the year, there is always some sort of weird or wonderful national or international day or week. Just Google ‘international days’ or something similar and you’ll see what I mean. It can be a great trigger for a blog post
  4. Look at what’s happening in your business right now. This post was inspired by a conversation after a related talk. Many of my project management blog posts are inspired by situations I see in my consulting or training.

I use Evernote or OneNote to note down blog ideas or clip web pages or articles that could form the basis of a post. I sync the notebooks between all my devices so I always have somewhere to capture an idea when I get inspired.

 

Frequency and length

There are no right answers here, but plenty of wrong ones!

 

Blogging once every three months isn’t going to get you a following or build much credibility. I think it has to be at least monthly and preferably weekly. But don’t set yourself up to fail. Consistency will build your credibility much more than random intermittent bursts of posts. So create a plan and map out your posts. Pace yourself and you won’t run out of gas.

 

How long should your posts be? Short enough to keep your reader interested, but long enough to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding. It will depend on the subject matter. Some people get hung up about optimising their posts for Google and the other search engines. That requires writing anything from 1000 to 1600 words per post. That can be daunting when starting out on a regular blog and could stifle your enthusiasm very quickly.

I write for my audience – any hits as a result of searches are a bonus.

One of the most frequently read blog posts is Seth Godin’s. Most of his are less than 300 words.

Ironically – this post is turning in to one of my longest.

 

Getting your content read

Great content is worthless if nobody reads it.

So how do you get your wisdom in front of your ideal prospects.

I use social media – primarily Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

For Twitter I look for where my target audience hand out. For small business owners I will target small business organisations such as chambers of commerce and organisations like The Best of…. I follow the people that follow them and invariably get a high percentage of people following me back. Once I have followers I tweet about my blog posts to grow my readership. If you want to learn more about how to grow your Twitter following read my blog post “6 steps to growing your twitter following“.

 

LinkedIn is a lot more targeted. I deliberately connect with my target audience. Once connected they get my status notifications, including details of all my new blog posts. I addition I join groups that my target audiences belong to – it’s where they hang out. I then post links to my blog posts in those groups. All informational – no selling. Look at my blog post “Making the selling easy” which talks about using LinkedIn to make it easier to sell to your targets. If you are reading this on the first day of posting there may still be time to sign up for my free webinar on the same subject. Click here to find out more.

 

So that’s great content created and two excellent ways to share it. Expert authority on its way.