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.

 

 

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

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

Book a review call now

Is your business ‘self-harming’

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

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

My first business ‘self-harming’ experience

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

They didn’t.

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

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

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

My second business ‘self-harming’ experience

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

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

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

Your business – your responsibility

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

Outsourcing safely

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

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

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

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

Complacency

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

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

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

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

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

Your team

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

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

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

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

The tell-tale signs

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

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

You don’t know what you don’t know

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

You know what you know

You know what you don’t know

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

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

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

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

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

Stop your business ‘self-harming’

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

Book a review call now

Marketing or Product 1st

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

 

Google the answer

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

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

 

Product failure visibility

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

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

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

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

 

The common ground

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

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

 

The result

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

Product 1st

Probably by around a 60:40 split

 

The reality

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

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

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

Book a review call now

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

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

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

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

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

LinkedIn Profile Strength

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

1. Beginner (<50%)

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

 

2. Intermediate (50%)

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

 

3. Advanced (75%)

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

 

4. Expert (90%)

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

 

5.All Star (100%)

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

 

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

Completeness vs Quality

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

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

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

An ‘All Star’ Plus profile

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

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

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

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

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

 

The benefits

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

 

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

Book a review call now

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.

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.

 

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.

Finding your ideal client with LinkedIn

Describing your ideal client can be really hard. But if you don’t know what you are looking for, it’s very hard to find it. Lots of marketing courses will take you through creating your customer avatar – a written description of your target client. They will encourage you to go into quite a bit of detail and in areas you might not immediately think of as relevant. For example, are they married, do they have kids, what car do they drive etc. The objective is to build a clear image of the target client so that when you write your marketing material, whether it’s a sales letter or an e-mail, you make it more personal. You appeal directly to them, identifying their problems or pain points before offering your solutions.

It’s a great approach and can really work well if you can get into that mindset. But many business people struggle with the avatar approach. It feels false and somewhat trite. So what else can you do?

Your best existing clients

If you already have clients, which ones do you like working with most. What is it about working with them that you enjoy. Are these traits you could look for and identify in other potential clients. For example, if you are selling a business coaching programme, your best and most engaged existing clients will be those that really want to improve their own business skills by learning and taking action. Those that constantly come up with excuses for not doing stuff will be ones to steer clear of.

Clients you don’t enjoy working with

It’s sometimes easier to identify who you don’t want as a client than those you do want to work with. If you have been in business any length of time you will have come across difficult or awkward clients. The ones that want to pay the least and ask more fussy and irritating little questions until you wonder if they are really worth doing business with. Likewise, some potential clients might be looking for things you don’t offer.

For example, in my project management training business I don’t want to attract prospective clients that are looking for a Prince 2 qualification. I don’t offer the qualification because the training for it is geared towards passing an exam, and not focused entirely on becoming a better project manager. So I don’t want to work with people that see that as their best route to being a project manager. If they want the Prince 2 badge to meet the requirements of a recruiter but want to learn the real business of project management with me, then they are in my ideal client domain and I’ll help them understand Prince 2 and recommend courses from someone else to get them through the exams.

So now that you have a good idea of who you want to work with (or not, as the case may be), how do you find them? This is where LinkedIn comes into its own for the business to business salesman or entrepreneur. There are two distinct strategies – finding people by where they hang out and finding people by how they describe themselves.

Where they hang out

Most industries, professions or interest groups will have a number of LinkedIn Groups active in their field. You need to find and join those groups. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your existing clients and see what groups they belong to and join them. If they require invitations, ask your existing client if they would be prepared to help get you an invitation. Once in, what and listen first before then starting to comment and contribute. Always obey the group rules and never, ever, sell directly in to the group. If you give value to the group and demonstrate your worth, they will seek you out to buy from you.

Make sure you hand out in groups that your target clients use and not those of your own industry. For example, if you are selling accounting services don’t expect to find clients in accounting related groups. Join those to keep up to date with your profession. Instead join groups relevant to the client sectors you are targeting. So if you are looking to service IT Contractors, join those sorts of groups and post useful information about IR35, claiming business expenses etc. If they are useful, you’ll soon get enquiries about your services from the group members.

How clients describe themselves

LinkedIn has a very powerful search capability. Even for users of the basic free profile you can search for people using keywords and narrow down the search by location. The results can be astonishing. If you have one of LinkedIn’s premium accounts you get up to eight additional filters which you can use to narrow down your search criteria to pinpoint your ideal targets. If you are looking for an obscure role but have target companies where you know that sort of role exists, search for the company and scroll through the employees that are on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t find the right person, you might identify a connection who could find that person for you.

So with LinkedIn you can identify the right person. If they are in an active group you can use your contributions to provide a reason to connect directly. If they are not in a suitable active group my earlier posts describe how to get connected in the right way.

That’s client acquisition sorted then!