Monday, 21 December 2015

The power of reflection

When considering your time, the one thing you can't do is worry about the past. It is a reality that you can not do anything about the past, it's gone, it's already happened. However it is my opinion that you can always reflect and learn from any outcome.

Always ask the question; did it happen for a reason, the right reason?

There may have been circumstances or luck that contributed to the result, but you have to honestly ask yourself the question of whether it was meant to be that outcome. For example, another question; Did your contribution influence the outcome or was it always likely to be that output with the input you gave? Did you want an outcome, but you simply hoped and did not proactively make it happen?

Hopefully the outcome is more often than not that of what you desired, but it won't always be the case. So how do you react to the disappointment of not achieving your desired outcome? I truly believe much is about how we react to such circumstances, as some people we allow the negativity to impact any future action whilst others will implement changes with determination to make it happen in the future.

Last night I was watching the BBC Sports Personality programme, where you see so many that have given focus to what they desire. At times their ability may hinder the goal, but quite often it is reflected by commitment and focus of the activities required for success.

From my work with entrepreneurs, it is the power of honest reflection that makes a winner stand out from a competitor. What can you do to take away learns from all your outcomes?

Next time you achieve or don't achieve a desired outcome, then reflect what you did well to repeat it and consider what you could do better. If you did something that contributed to the negative experience, then of course don't repeat it. If you could do something differently in 2016, then commit to do this without any distraction.

Monday, 16 November 2015

How do you build trust with your prospects


"Your prospects have to know, like and trust you before they will buy"
If you have heard me speak before or followed me for some time, you will know I have a repetitive message when it comes to your marketing. Your prospects have to get to Know, Like and Trust you before they will make a purchase from you.

I have spoken and written before about how we can market our business to raise awareness with our ideal customer and ensure that they Know of us whilst using pull marketing techniques that they get to Like us.

However this blog focuses on how do we get total strangers to trust us and believe we are the right choice.

Unless you are a totally online reliant business, then the first action that I recommend is to get your prospect offline as quickly as possible. Yes to have a conversation with you by telephone of face to face, but more importantly because people are more sceptical about online content.

Whether you are online or offline, you have to convince your prospect that you are authentic and have the skills and resources to deliver your offering, promises and the solution to their pain or problem.

So here are 8 ways you can help your clients to get to know you further to the point of Trusting you for that further conversation.

1. Testimonials - If possible video testimonials, as they are considered more genuine than written versions. They should be from ideal customers, cover off the common objections you receive, give a value to your contribution and come from a named person in the business

2. Endorsements - You product or service may lean towards a celebrity endorsement from a notable figure, however if you are building trust in a local market or within a networking group then these may simply be well known local figures or members. Written endorsements are great, video endorsements are fantastic. Even LinkedIn endorsements have their value.

3. Your Bio - what does your biography say about you? Many About Us pages on a web site do not get the time of day the business truly deserves. Ensure you get the brag factor and me / us messages in balance with the copy that engages the prospect with information about how you will add value for them.

4. Badges, Accreditations, Professional Memberships, Qualifications, Awards - These build a picture of your skill, knowledge, ability and integrity. For me, images are more powerful than just covering a mention in your copy.

5. Have a guarantee - Can you make a guarantee that is something your competitors would also feel uncomfortable offering? Guarantees take away the risk of the purchase but also demonstrate that you believe in your offering with absolute confidence.

6. Case Studies - can you give details on situations with your existing customers that the prospect can relate to. If the prospects understand you can help similar people to them, then they have more trust you are the solution for them. If you can, don't just write about it but use video and pictures to show the evidence of the case.

7. Be referred - can you develop a referral strategy that drives referrals to you. The prospect will have been referred by someone that they already trust and who they believe also trusts you, so have a low reason to doubt you.

8. Make an offer, but give the reason why - Prospects don't like to think that you have something to hide or are trying to con them into a purchase. So for example, if you are offering a discount on the last remaining items, then say why. Perhaps you are changing a range or it is end of line. Prospects will respect this honest approach.



Friday, 30 October 2015

Having something of value


You may know that I volunteer as the Commercial Manager at Didcot Town Football Club. The club were this week awarded Live TV coverage of their next FA Cup game due to being the lowest ranked minnows left in the competition. So on the 8th November we play Exeter City, live on BT Sport at midday.

For me it has been an interesting week speaking to people about sponsorship packages in relation to the match and negotiating the packages that suit a win / win situation.

However it has highlighted the fact you will read or hear many times. We all have to ensure we have something of value in our offering from the eyes of our prospective customer.

Selling sponsorship opportunities has been a tough task this season with as you would expect the question "well what's in it for me". You have to have tough skin and be prepared for many slammed doors. All good experience! At times, it has been hard to gain £50 from some business owners who don't really have a brand to promote and can't describe their business quickly enough to display with value on a pitchside banner or in a tannoy announcement.

That in itself is a learn for me. We talk about the one minute elevator pitch, but is that too long? We should perhaps focus more on a short, attention attracting, headline or strapline that grabs the attention and gives us the right to give our one minute pitch.

However the biggest reminder this week came when we were given TV rights with BT Sport, because from that point for many the price was not an issue. We even had one sponsor turn up at the ground with his advertising board and said just charge me what you think is fair to display this board. He had previously declined my approach one month ago as he perceived the club had nothing to offer him with attendences around 100-150. However as soon as we are expecting 2800 for one game with TV coverage then he wanted to be part of it.

When you have something that is truly valued and providing a unique opportunity to receive, then you can command a premium price. We usually charge £300 for a banner on pitch side for the whole season (maybe 35 games). For this one, live televised, game we are charging a minimum £750 and I have not had one objection.

So what are you offering your prospects that they truly value and then enables you to command a premium price?

Monday, 14 September 2015

£459 million lent out via Peer-to-Peer lending

For this latest blog, I would like to share some information kindly provided to me by FA Simms & Partners.

Peer-to-Peer lending has lent out more than £459 million during the first quarter of 2015. This figure supports the UK SME market’s desire to seek investment from non-bank finance platforms.

When the banks went into decline during the recession, their lending to SMEs diminished which gave way to the non-bank finance industry to rise up and offer competitive investment opportunities to micro, small & medium sized businesses. A recent survey of 1,000 SMEs by Liberis, Business Friendly Finance show figures to support the increase in demand in alternative finance. The Business Monitor research showed that 30% of these small businesses have applied to an alternative funding provider for their finance.

Christine Farnish, Chair of the P2PFA said: “These numbers are excellent and reflect the strong industry growth into 2015. We are continuing to see strong appetite in the consumer market and a significant increase in lending flow to businesses to.”

There are two types of finance lending available; Equity Finance and Debt Finance. Equity finance can be used during any stage of a company’s growth from start-up right through to well-established. Debt finance would be used as a short-term capital solution to a current cash flow issue. Whether you are looking for equity finance or debt finance, there will be a non-bank platform available to fulfil your needs all which provide competitive advantages to a bank’s financial help.

You can read the full article at http://www.fasimms.co.uk/latest-news/the-rise-of-non-bank-lending-to-smes

For further information please contact:
Martha Wood, Marketing Manager
mwood@fasimms.com
01455 555444
Available Mon – Fri 9am – 5.30pm

Monday, 31 August 2015

Focus on your ideal customer and resist trying to market to everyone

You may argue that your product and service can be purchased by anyone, but if you want to make the most of your marketing resources in terms of money and time, then can I suggest that you look to focus your activities on attracting your ideal customer. So why?
  • Your ideal customers usually make up most of your profits
  • Working with ideal customers is much more rewarding and enjoyable
  • You can concentrate your marketing efforts more efficiently
  • You can better understand the need and how you match your benefits
  • You will be able to better identify any expectation gap
  • You can easily adapt as you know your environment
So the best ways to identify your 'ideal customer' is:
  1. Customer profiling - review the trends of your top 20% of customers or the think about the customer you want to attract. Age, location, sex, role, attitude, turnover, employee size, aligned with your interest or values, etc
  2. Segmentation - use demographics, classifications, life cycles, psychographics and contextual marketing to focus on your ideal prospect. Personally I like life cycles. What support does someone need when a child, in education, getting married, buying a house, starting a job, running a business, retiring etc
  3. Market research - ask your ideal prospects, not your friends, some key questions such as what they expect, where they are buying now, why, and how often they buy.
In preparation of your approach, look to put yourself in your customers shoes and answer:
  • What is their real pain and problem?
  • What is their motivation to buy from you?
  • How do the benefits of your product or service solve this pain or problem?
  • How will you present these benefits in a sales meeting or an elevator pitch?
  • What are the likely objections you will receive? (so you can prepare for them)
Then the challenge is how do you find them and how do you make contact? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Buy a trusted mailing list and write to them or call them (or pay someone to do it for you)
  • Use LinkedIn to identify and attempt to connect or engage, either directly or via groups
  • Networking events - but research where do they really go and network themselves 
  • Advertise - if you know what they read and why
  • Exhibitions - do they attend trade shows, seminars, events that you can sponsor or have a stand?
  • Referrals - who do you know who touches your ideal client? Can they refer you to them?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Attracting & Keeping your Best People

One of the challenges I see with my clients is the attraction and retention of the best people to build an effective team.

The definition of team is perhaps captured by Katzenbach and Smith, 1993, Harvard Business School. “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.“

An important point here is that your team is bigger than those on your PAYE scheme. It includes your suppliers, associates, trusted advisers and your network.

Good teams have distinct roles, interaction, solve problems together, are goal driven based on productive output not feelings, where all individuals are subservient to the team and there are no passengers.

Within a team, you can categorise roles and responsibilities into four areas. Someone who is ‘Responsible’ and therefore carries out activities. An individual may be ‘Accountable’ being responsible for the outcome. Someone may be ‘Consulted’, where their opinion is sought and makes input to activity. Others may be simply on an ‘Informed’ basis, where they need to know.

Failing to define workplace roles and responsibilities can create tension, lead to miscommunication and inefficiency within your business.

To undertake these roles there are three basic skills within a team, Communication and Negotiation, Analytical and Creative and Organisational skills. A good team has a balance of them all.

Firstly we have to attract the best people to our business. So here are some thoughts:

How much thought goes into your advert? Are you simply looking to recruit and replace someone with anyone or are you seriously looking to attract the best people? Does the copy of your advert provide the reason why the best people should and would apply?

Are you offering a competitive package? Yes money is a huge motivator in the sector, but it is not everything. What else do you offer? Perhaps accommodation, gym membership, food, pension, tips, shares in the business etc. All these contribute to attracting the best people, but they also want to work with the best people, align with a good reputable business, be in a role that meets their expectations, desires and wants, but importantly can see a bright vision led future.

Do you know who you want to attract? Have you profiled the best people? Have you identified someone you want to attract? What would they want to come and join your team?

So once we have them, what can we do to keep the best?

Well firstly we have to evaluate and know they are the best. There is always an investment in new team members, but ongoing or advanced investment is best committed to the right people for your business.

The best can only be measured by firstly knowing what your effective performance standards actually look like. These can be created as a team, but importantly are established for an individual creating clarity and a tool for measurement. The key areas to cover when developing your key performance indicators that should then help you describe “fully satisfactory” performance are:
  • Base them on the position, not the individual. 
  • Observable for fair measure 
  • Meaningful, reasonable and attainable 
  • Expressed in terms of Quantity, Quality, Timeliness, Cost, Safety, or Outcomes 

Strategies to help you retain the best include, performance evaluation, reward and recognition plus personal development.

Too often a business clearly establishes the performance standard, communicates this to the individuals (sometimes ineffectively) and then does no more until it is considered not to be working and lets the individual leave or sacks them. What are you doing to evaluate your teams performance, review the outcomes, learn and develop the individuals for continual improvement?

People who feel appreciated are typically more positive about themselves and their ability to contribute to your business. Most people like the praise to be given in private and in public, but it is critical to know your people and how giving praise motivates them. Your best people are usually the ones with positive self-esteem, so it makes sense to recognise their efforts and show your appreciation by saying ‘thank you’ for their hard work and contribution.

Be innovative with your reward schemes, by considering how you best reward individuals, the team or the whole workforce.

For personal development, there are two areas for consideration. Their ongoing management, which is personalised based on the role and their other Training & Development which is usually delivered as part of the induction, on the job or via external training providers.

Training and Development needs usually fall into one of four areas:

1. Legislation requirement (first aid, fire, food hygiene)

2. Technical (the how to, hands on including management)

3. Behavioural and attitude, soft skill training and development

4. Something of personal interest more than the business that you are prepared to support

And finally be aware of an individuals behavioural style. Different styles may be required for different roles and many good teams attract many different types of people. Be aware that behavioural styles can complement or conflict with others and different styles may need managing or leading in a different way.

We wish you every success in attracting, recruiting, managing and retaining the best people.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Step Change to Significant Business Growth


On Monday, I spoke at a breakout session at The Bookkeepers Conference in Birmingham.

My presentation was titled 'The Step Change to Significant Business Growth - The 10 essential steps that will give you control, confidence and consistency to significantly grow and run your business like clockwork.'

During the 30 minutes, I shared with the delegates the key areas of my Clockwork programme, where I support my clients to ensure that they work on the high pay off activities that drive the results they target to deliver their vision, goals & objectives. In summary, the 10 areas are:
  1. Know and analyse your starting point - Where are you now? Create the strong foundation from which to grow. Understand your current skill gap (personally or as a team). Ensure you are prepared for growth with the infrastructure, systems and people.
  2. Making the time for your priorities - How to make time to grow. Commit time to your important but non-urgent tasks (marketing, planning, team development). Plan your diary and tasks effectively. Understand your interruptions to manage them (who and what).
  3. Your mission, vision, goals and objectives - Known your vision with clarity. What is your real reason why? Understand and use your motivation to help you make decisions. Achieve your goals and objectives with effective goal planning and focus on your high pay off activities.
  4. Know your ideal customers - Profile your ideal customer. Who are your vertical markets. Where do they look for suppliers or someone who solves their pain or problem? Truly understand their pain or problem and understand what you 'really' do to alleviate this for them. Does your content say to the reader, yes that is me, yes that is my problem, yes this is the person who can help?
  5. Positioning your business - What is your USP / differentiator? How do you package what you offer or know? How do you position your pricing model.
  6. Your marketing tactics - Consider the many options to take your product or service to market, but which are best lead generators for your ideal customer attraction. Ensure you are consistent, so that what you say verbally is consistent with your web site as inconsistency will confuse your prospect and when they are confused they look elsewhere. Effective Networking is about building your network, protecting your network, proactively work your network and making it the king of your marketing.
  7. How to win more customers - Know your sales funnel and buyers journey. How do your prospects get to know, like and trust you? What is your sales process when you attract interest and how systemised is this? Remember people buy solutions to their problems not your job title or label.
  8. Make your numbers work - Understand your financials. Not just the black and white numbers, but the trends and analyse with rations. Remember turnover and profits are only as a result of other activity, so what are your key success drivers?
  9. Maximise your people investment - Your team is more than those you employ. Include your suppliers, sub contractors, trusted advisers and your network. How do you attract, select, manage and retain the best people. Keep people focused on the CORE (Commitment, Ownership, Responsibility, Excellence).
  10. Making your business work like clockwork - Understand you role in the business (business owner or technician). How do you let go, trust and delegate. How do you systemise your business so that it works like clockwork. Continue the 7 steps of business growth (more leads, better conversion, sell more, increase value, improve margins, cross sell, retain longer)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Test and Measure your marketing activities

I have an underlying belief that drives my goal planning success. I truly believe that anything you measure usually improves.

Of course the focus on such matters will naturally help you to improve. However again and again I experience the fact that by measuring one activity you tend to find yourself working on the smaller elements that deliver the improvement.

For example, you measure the number of new customers you win each week or month, because you know that increasing your clients by x will deliver your financial goal for the year. However with the focus and desire to achieve this number, you actually increase the number of conversations you are having, thereby improve the number of leads you generate, so have more meetings and therefore win more customers. So in summary it is simple - better activity leads to improvement.

From a marketing perspective, the key is to know which activities to focus on and what numbers to aim for.

Firstly, can I recommend that you test and measure your marketing activities to better understand what works, what needs a tweak and what does not work, so should not be repeated.

I speak with many business owners who simply do not know which part of their marketing is working for them. I find it common that all marketing activities are viewed as one and there is no measure of how a new customer specifically finds you.

It is also common for a business to know that the latest new customers came from a specific campaign, but do not know what it was about that campaign. So for example, the last email marketing communication generated 5 new clients. Great, but why? Was it the headline, the content, the background colour, the image used or the offer? It is recommended to test different versions of what works to learn more about your success and drive further improvement. If you simply do more email marketing without knowing the reason why, then you will miss a trick.

So can I encourage you to measure your marketing activity to the level that you can specifically identify which part of your marketing worked for each new customer and each new sale.

Once you know this, you can then start to test different variations of that activity and then gradually improve this even further until your marketing becomes even more powerful and profitable. So for example, your last batch of new customers came from your Google Adword campaign, but by testing different alternative messages or calls to action, can you gain even more enquiries.

People say to me that measuring is too difficult and therefore unreliable. Well the easiest way to find out is to ask. You could ask verbally or use email or online tools to ask the question. You need to be asking each new customer how they found you and why they brought from you. However please ensure your questions drill down to find the true reason which may not be the first reason they give you. For example, you may ask and the new customer responds "I found your web site on Google". However when you ask the deeper question, you identify that they searched for you because a friend passed on your name.

There are many other ways to identify your true lead source. Can I suggest that you try and use codes or references within your marketing material that you ask the prospect to quote to receive your offer. You should utilise your online analytics from your web site or social media platforms to identify lead paths. Why not try specific landing pages for any campaigns that drive people to your web presence. These such actions will get you much closer to the results you desire from your activity measurement.

The second part is from your measuring, you know what numbers to aim for. This clarity provides you with the information you need to drive the activity you need to get the desired end result. So if you don't know your conversion rates at the different stages of your sales process, then how do you know what target to set. As a very simplistic example, you know that for every meeting you have, you are invited to quote 75% of the time. From those quotes you have given you convert 50% to sales. So if you want 12 new customers this year, you can confidently set a target to ensure you have 32 meetings. By having 32 meetings you know that your measured conversion rates will give you those 12 new customers. So that is target number one, but what other activities do you need to measure to ensure you undertake the activity that generates those 32 meetings? How many networking meetings do you need to attend? How many referral requests do you need to make? How many phone calls? How many social media posts? How many online campaigns?

It's simple. Once you know what marketing really works for you, then you know what to do more of in the future.

I wish you every success with your lead generation and customer acquisition.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Who is a true Key Business Influencer (KBI)

If referrals are a key part of our clients marketing strategy, then we work with them them to build a robust strategy that considers their key business influencers.

These are not contacts in their network that are 'nice to know', but people who are 'advocates' of their business and are willing to influence the success of the business with referrals or recommendations.

Many business owners have a long list of contacts in their network, usually with the hope of obtaining a referral, so one activity we recommend is to rate your contacts from 1 to 5, with the following scale:

1 - Nice to know and have in my network, but unlikely to refer in next 12 months
2 - Nice to know and possibly could refer in the next 12 months
3 - Good to know and may refer
4 - Great to know and is likely to refer with personal attention
5 - A 'KBI' who currently refers business.

If you can't score them, as not even nice to know, then remove them from you network!

This simple exercise gives you focus for your limited resources. Be pro-active and diarise time to speak to and meet with your contacts that you have rated 4 and 5. Consider a contact strategy that keeps you on the agenda of your KBI's.

It should also be your objective to move your contacts up the scale from 'nice to know' rating to a 'referrer'.

How you do this will be different for each individual. However a personal touch, whilst knowing what is important to them and the application of focus will move your contacts closer to the desired 'KBI' status.

This was one of my regular snippets by email, If you would like to receive my bite size snippets on a regular basis, then you can subscribe on my home page www.entrepreneursmentor.co.uk 

Friday, 10 April 2015

The relationship between Bookkeepers and Accountants

What is your views around the relationship between Bookkeepers and Accountants. Here's a few of my own http://m.accountingweb.co.uk/article/bookkeeper-and-accountant-relationship/574943

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Today marks the end of another tax year

Well another tax year ends and another year has flashed by leaving us thinking where did those last twelve months go!

So what do we need to be thinking about now and in the next year ahead to ensure we maximise our personal tax position and not pay too much tax?

Today being the last day of the tax year, means it's the last chance to use up all your current tax allowance. So is there something you were planning to do that you could do right now, such as making a change to a low emission company car or investing with qualifying capital expenditure?! Perhaps you have some surplus cash to maximise your ISA or pension allowances, but it may now be too late to receive the recommended independent financial advice or visit the bank on Easter Sunday!

However on a more serious note, firstly you need to ensure that you update your Payroll software to take into consideration the new tax rates, personal allowances and bands.

If you have employees, then don’t forget to issue those P60’s! Also don’t forget the Employment Allowance is continuing, so the £2000 per year resets tomorrow.

Do you run your own business? Do you pay yourself a minimum monthly wage for Tax and NI purposes, with the majority of your income taken by dividends? If so, you may need to consider slightly increasing your monthly amount due to the new bands.

You may be considering a year-end Dividend, but what would be the impact of declaring the dividend in the new tax year instead? This is a serious consideration for many in or near the high rate tax band or those that are claiming child benefit or tax credits.

If you claim mileage allowance from your business or employer, then tomorrow is the day to reset the accumulative miles you have claimed in the tax year. This is especially important if you claim many miles and have exceeded 10,000 in the tax year.

We all also need to consider what is new for our position going into the new tax year. Perhaps something from the budget will impact upon us, such as the new marriage allowance? Perhaps our business or employment is changing in 2015/16 that will see an impact to our individual income in the next twelve months. So do you need to change anything to maximise your position?

Also what did we learn? What happened in 2014/15 that changed our tax liability? What did we have to complete differently on our tax return? Or what do we wish we had done last year that would have saved the amount of tax we will have to pay for this past tax year?


And finally, I recommend you seek advice of your own business advisers. For example, what does your accountant suggest for you personally? Mine has already suggested many areas for consideration in 2015/16, as I plan to dispose of one business and invest in another. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Build Trust with your prospects

Your prospects are bombarded constantly with marketing messages, news and technical detail, so one of the best ways to capture their interest, amongst all the noise, is to build trust.
Everyone is skeptical about most of what they read, especially online, so look to start relationships and build trust before making your sales pitch. 
Obviously the key is knowing the signs of when a prospect is ready to buy, but unless you are retail then it is unlikely the purchase will be made on immediate first impressions unless there is strong brand association and brand recognition.
So what can you do to build trust with your prospects? Here are 5 tips:
1. Have great testimonials - The best testimonials are of course from your best customers and preferably from those that fit your ideal client profile, or are in your niche vertical market, because then your ideal prospect will relate to them more. Written testimonials are good, but ideally try to capture your testimonials on video as evidence in its purest form that they came from an individual. You should look to lead the content of your testimonials and try to get the provider to explain their story, the before and after of using your product or service, why they purchased and what difference it made.
2. Gain endorsements - in the world of advertising we see the power of celebrity endorsements. How many products has the David Beckham brand helped to sell? For many businesses a celebrity endorsement is not easy or cheap, so is there a supplier or a respected industry lead that could endorse you? Could you be seen as a writer of articles for news to your ideal prospects? Can you align with a leading supplier in your industry as a user or expert? 
3. Tell people about you - Ensure the 'About Us' section of your web site introduces you from a human perspective. What will your prospect want to know about you or how will they want to relate to you? Avoid the Me, Me, Me statements and tell your story in a way that engages your prospects to say "yes I want to speak to you".
4. Offer a guarantee - What can you offer as a guarantee that takes the risk away from the decision to purchase? If you are willing to back your offer, then your prospects will lean towards you more.
5. Share your badges - people associate their trust with accreditations, qualifications, memberships and awards. So look to share with them your badges with a logo copy and reference on your web site.