Raising your profile with the ‘right’ trade shows

Trade shows can generally be a bit of a waste of time… BUT choose your event wisely, and plan properly, and it can be time well spent raising your profile, making contacts, and generating new leads.

We have probably all been on the receiving end of an approach from the smooth salesman who phones out of the blue, uses our name just a few too many times (you know the ones), and offers us a free space at the perfect event. But are trade shows the right channel for our business, and if so, how do we know that this is the right one at the right time?

Well here are just a few things to consider before making the leap.

A free stand does not a free exhibition make

Although it’s very flattering as a small business to be told that the show organisers would really like YOU at their show – so much so that they are willing to eat into their profits just to get you there – you should still ask yourself why they are so keen. Especially if it’s near the show opening day. If it’s a show that you have seriously considered in the past, and would consider testing, then it would be rude not to accept their kind offer. However, if you do go down that route, be aware that a free exhibition stand does not mean a free exhibition… not even close.

The cost of the stand or space alone can be just a small part of the final budget – particularly if it’s at one of the bigger trade events. Once signed up you might find yourself being pressed into paying for extras like electrics packages, lockable cabinets and data pens. Then of course there will be the small matter of managing and staffing the stand – who will be there? Will it be you or other staff members – if you have them? Will there be the additional costs of accommodation and travel to consider? Not to mention time out of the office. Also, what will you have on display – literature, demos, giveaways? However you do it, it will all cost money.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. What about the event itself…

Is it the right show at the right time for your business?

What is the focus? How big is it? Who will be there (visitors and exhibitors)? Will the visitors be the right people for your business? …and will there be enough of them to make it worth your while? It may well be a show that typically attracts 10,000 visitors but if none of them are the right people then you are definitely wasting your money and time. Depending on your business a smaller event that attracts 200 of the right people would be a better fit, assuming that they can find your stand, and engage with your business, when they’re there.

Do your research, give the organisers a thorough grilling, and make sure you check out what others in your industry think of the event. Will they be visiting, exhibiting or speaking at it themselves? If not why not? If the people you want to engage with are not going to be there, then there’s no point in taking a stand but you might want to send someone along to check it out for future consideration.

Have you got the right products for a trade show environment?

If your product is something that needs time to absorb, or a lengthy explanation, a trade show might not be the right place to do it justice unless it can stop visitors in their tracks. For a more specialist product you might do better to organise your own event. You could even consider working with the organisers to run a reception alongside the main event while all the relevant people are in town.

Have you got something specific or new to launch?

If you have a new product or service to launch, a trade show can be a good way to get it in front of a larger audience. In which case you should make sure that you take full advantage of the add-ons, such as press releases, show guides and other pre-show promotional activities. These are usually offered to exhibitors as part of the package – use them to let visitors know what you will be showcasing so they can come to your stand and see for themselves!

If you do decide to do it make sure you do it well

This may be the first opportunity for many of your target market to see your products, so make sure you make a good impression. If you have gone to the trouble of getting a stand, make sure that everything on it looks professional. It’s worth investing in a decent display stand as you will be able to use it again. Even when it’s not on duty at an exhibition it can be used in your reception area (but do make sure that it’s looked after).

Be very clear on your show objectives

Make sure that everyone staffing the stand knows why they’re there and the potential benefits to the business. Whatever your objectives, measure the results post-event and use what you learn to inform any future decisions on exhibiting.

What do you think? Have you had a successful trade show experience? Let me know in the comments.

photocredit: deathtothestockphoto

Why using LinkedIn will help you grow your business

Did you know that LinkedIn has over 347 million users and every second two new people sign up to join the network?

That’s a lot of people, providing a lot of potential opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their operations.

So how effectively are you using LinkedIn?

Can you imagine what your business would be like if you were able to capitalise on even a sliver of that potential?

So often I see business owners dismiss LinkedIn because they think it’s only for people in the ‘corporate’ world and not relevant for their business.

Of course LinkedIn is a great tool for people in the corporate world, but what really matters in deciding whether the network is useful for your business purposes is not what you do but what your clients do.

For example, if you’re a business coach then LinkedIn is perfect for helping you grow your network of ideal business clients. Or if you run a printing firm providing services to local or national businesses then it makes sense for you to be on LinkedIn too.

However, LinkedIn can also be useful if you’re providing a service that involves clients who work in the corporate world. So a personal trainer, for example, who works with stressed out executives should seriously think about how they can use LinkedIn to grow their business. An holistic therapist who helps people gain more energy and achieve greater focus should certainly be using it. As should a stylist who helps people climb the corporate ladder by creating the right visual impact when they walk into a meeting.

Your business may not solely focus on people in the corporate world, but if a segment of your clients are employed and work in Corporate Britain then LinkedIn is a social media tool you should really be taking advantage of.

So for a wide range of different reasons, more and more entrepreneurs and small business operators are using LinkedIn as their ‘go to’ social media tool.

Read on to find out if that should be the case for you too.

Building relationships

A big part of the reason why LinkedIn is so useful for so many small businesses, is because it’s based on connecting people who might otherwise remain separated. The platform opens up the possibility of building relationships with individuals who are less than six degrees of separation away from you and who just might be your ideal clients.

In fact, providing you’re consistently connecting and engaging with people, there’s every reason to think that you’ll be able to connect directly with lots of individuals who are really interested in your services.

Social media is all about sharing thoughts and ideas and providing valuable content to the people you have chosen to connect with. Providing you are always doing this and sharing other peoples’ great content too, then reaching out and creating a connection has never been easier.

Bragging rights and wrongs

One of the most difficult things to do is ‘brag’ about your achievements in a way that doesn’t turn people off.

In the real world, even if you have a wealth of experience and knowledge in your field, you wouldn’t start reeling off bullet points of you CV to everyone you meet as if they are nuggets of wisdom. Can you think of anything worse?

But at the same time, you also want to put your best foot forward without coming across like a pushy sales person. And that’s where LinkedIn plays a fantastic role in helping users strike the right balance.

How many times after meeting someone or hearing about someone do you check them out online? As soon as you put their name into Google, nine times out of ten you’ll find their LinkedIn profile. And the great thing with LinkedIn is that you’re able to ‘brag’ about your achievements but in a factual way that doesn’t make you come across like a pushy sales person.

If you have 20+ years experience, held senior positions, been responsible for a large work force, or worked at a ‘big four’ or ‘magic circle’ firm, then putting all that information on your LinkedIn profile demonstrates the breadth of your experience. It’s factual information that’s accessible to anyone.

So, you can see how your LinkedIn profile enables you to ‘brag’ without coming across as being brash or arrogant.

Using LinkedIn as an unpaid sales team

You should think of your LinkedIn account as being part of your digital sales team, so make sure your team has the right tools to help promote you and your business by doing the following:

  • Make sure your profile is client centric – click here to download your checklist on the Do’s and Don’ts of creating your network ready profile.
  • Endorsements are the equivalent of ‘Likes’ on Facebook and their importance is growing, so encourage your contacts and clients to endorse you.
  • Recommendations are gold dust. Always ask your satisfied clients for a recommendation after you have completed the work. With your client’s permission you can also use their recommendation on your website, in your proposals, webinars and sales letters, so make sure you get as many as you can.
  • Add your contact details to the contact tab. If a potential client is looking to connect then having your details available is an absolute must. You should also make it as easy as possible for your clients to get in touch, so ensure you have a relevant email address, mobile number and website address clearly visible.

Converting connections into clients

The worst thing you can do when you connect with someone, is to send them an email promoting your product or service – it doesn’t matter how nicely you put it, as soon as that email lands in their message box they will know that you’re only interested in selling to them. When someone accepts your invitation to connect or vice versa, do the following:

  • Review their profile and send them a welcome email – look for commonalities in their profile and make a quick reference, and then invite them to tell you a bit more about a specific element of their business or job role. Use statements like, ‘I’m really curious to find out more about xxx’ or ‘I see we are both interested in xxx’.
  • Don’t put pressure on people to respond by sending them another email saying that you haven’t received a response. The fact is some people will respond whereas others will not, and if you send a communication pressuring them to respond it will turn people off no matter how politely you phrase it.
  • When you get a response start to engage with the person as you would at a networking event, offer something of value like a great article you recently read or a YouTube video you think might be of interest, or maybe someone to follow on LinkedIn. Remember this is all about getting to the next stage in the development of your working relationship with this person, so be ready to take one step at a time.
  • Always take advantage of the opportunity to congratulate someone on their new job or work anniversary.

Using groups to raise your profile

Groups are a fantastic way to participate in communities with like-minded people and to strengthen connections; it’s another way of building your network. Take a look at the Women Unlimited Group on LinkedIn and the activities that are going on there for example.

Now there is an amazing feature about groups. By default you cannot send messages to people you don’t know on LinkedIn, but if you’re in the same group, this option becomes available – how brilliant is that!

This function opens up a lot of fresh potential for making new connections but it can backfire with overuse. The danger is that you may become perceived as a spammer if you send out too many messages or requests, with LinkedIn users now able to block people in a similar way to Facebook and Twitter.

However, being active in a group by responding to questions and posing questions, will heighten your profile in the group and if you selectively reach out to people then you are far more likely to be seen as a valuable resource rather than a spammer.

LinkedIn is a powerful social media tool. I would love to learn about your experiences and results with LinkedIn, so please leave a comment in the box below. And if you have any questions about LinkedIn also pop them in the comment box.

And finally, if you would like my checklist on Creating your network ready profile on LinkedIn, click here to download.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

Take yourself out of your business for one day!

You may often hear people like me (aka Business Coaches and the like) banging on about the need to spend more time working ON your business and less time working in it.

But just what does that mean?

What exactly should you be doing in that time working ON your business?

Firstly, it definitely doesn’t meaning spending an hour or so on social media, reading newsfeeds, sharing funny quotes and re-tweeting other people’s content.

As a general rule of thumb, working ON your business is about working on longer term goals rather than short term wins.

It’s about getting back in control, versus feeling out of control.

It’s about being proactive instead of reactive.

It’s about growing your business, as opposed to maintaining it.

It’s the important, non-urgent work, not the urgent but unimportant stuff.

Working IN your business is where most small business owners are spending their time – in other words, they’re doing a ‘job’.

In order to grow your business and achieve your goals, you simply have to commit to spending some time to work ON it.

But, you may still be struggling to understand exactly what this means to your business, and just what exactly these important jobs are that you should be doing.

So, to help you do this, here are some specific areas you should be focusing on as a business owner, and where you can work ON your business.

Strategic Planning

This is about stepping out of the day to day, and looking at your business from a ‘big picture’ perspective.

Typical activities to consider here include:

  • Produce a Marketing plan
  • Review your goals and long term objectives
  • Competitor research
  • Assess the resources you need to achieve your goals e.g. new website, new premises, team members etc.

Profit Planning

This is about understanding where your profit comes from, what your targets are and how to manage your business to achieve these targets.

Typical activities to consider here include:

  • Review your pricing and margins
  • Monitor and manage your outgoings
  • Assess how to increase customer average spend
  • Negotiate with your suppliers

Marketing

This is about being clear on who your target client is, communicating your message to them, and building the relationship.

Typical activities to consider here include:

  • Implement your Marketing plan
  • Follow up on leads
  • Design and review your ideal client profile
  • Keep in touch with current and past clients

Your Team

This is about making sure you have the right people, and the right skillset, around you to grow your business and achieve your objectives.

Typical activities to consider here include:

  • Delegate more of the ‘job’ type work
  • Develop and lead your team, whether inhouse or outsourced
  • Identify and create the job descriptions for your team
  • Your own development as a leader and a business owner (often overlooked!)

Innovation & Product Development

This is your creative time, to assess and improve your current offerings and identify which new ones to progress.

Typical activities include:

  • Review your current offerings and see how you can improve them
  • Decide which offers to remove if they are not selling or not profitable
  • Progress ideas for new offers and test them
  • Survey your customers for their feedback

Systems & Processes

This is all about putting systems and processes in place that will free up your time from doing the ‘job’, and improve the customer experience

Typical activities include:

  • Automate your monthly invoicing
  • Standardise your new customer process
  • Map out your credit control process
  • Create templates of emails and documents that you regularly use

So, the above suggestions should have given you some ideas on exactly what you should be doing to work ON your business, but how do you fit the time in to get it done?

Here’s how

Weekly

Schedule in your diary for an hour at the start of each day to work ON your business. If you can’t manage an hour, then do what you can. If you can’t manage each day, then do what you can. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make in just 30 minutes, 3 times a week.

Monthly

Schedule in a day (or half-day) to focus on the business owner tasks.

Quarterly

Take yourself out of your business for a day, solely to work ON your business.

Book these times in your diary right now, and then do it!

No-one else can make it happen except you.

What action are you going to take right now? Leave a comment to let me know.

10 Easy steps for sales success

Getting sales is so easy, right?

After all, you’ve got a great product or service that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, which works like a dream and offers fantastic value to everyone… Trouble is, getting sales actually isn’t easy – is it? Because having all of the above doesn’t guarantee people will be queuing round the block. Finding the right people to buy from you at the right price is an art. It’s a subtle blend of getting many things right, with a healthy dose of good old fashioned persuasion to seal the deal.

So who wants to know the secret recipe?

I have identified 10 simple steps that you can follow, which in my experience can make all the difference. I’d like to share them with you. Interested? Well then grab yourself a drink and welcome to the party…

Step 1 – Know who you are talking to

You’d never arrive at a party without knowing at least some of the people who are going to be there right? So do your research and find out about the people you want to hang out with. Remember your product is not for ‘everyone’. Everyone is no-one. The more clearly we know who we are talking to, whether on line or face to face, the more easily we will be able to connect with them. Get really clear not only on the age, gender, demographics of your target audience, but ask yourself where they might go on holiday? What do they have for breakfast? Which paper do they read? What do they wear? Where do they shop?

Do you recognise ‘your people’ when you see them?

Step 2 – Catch their attention

Once you’ve got to know your people, then you need to get their attention. Now pole dancing round the lamp is one way of getting noticed, but probably not how you’d want to be remembered, so think about how people get your attention at parties. Some are great at dancing, some make eye contact, some come and chat and some you just bump into. There are many ways to get people’s attention but generally we don’t like to be cornered by the party bore who goes on and on about how amazing they are!

Playing loud music and having flashing images in your web site is not going to appeal to bookish introverts, but teens might love it (which is why you need to know who your people are first). Simplicity and stillness is as attention grabbing as colour and noise. If the first way doesn’t work, have a go at another way. Remember that whilst you want to catch people’s attention, you want to do it authentically. You need to be you. Some of the rugby club songs caught my attention at University but it didn’t mean I wanted to date a rugby player.

Pay attention to what grabs your attention and gain inspiration from others.

Step 3 – Ask open questions

When you’ve got their attention, find out about them. Ask how they are? What they think? What they feel? What they like and don’t like. Ask questions and be genuinely interested. There’s no point asking about football at a party if you hate it; the listener will see through it and go find someone else to talk to.

Ask about things that are of interest to both of you.

Step 4 – Listen and listen some more

There is nothing worse than finding yourself having a conversation with someone, only to notice their eyes checking out everyone else in the room behind you. This isn’t a sales pitch where you are extracting information for your own sake, this is a conversation where you show you are interested in what your people want and need so you can serve them. Listen to what they say, reflect it back, check you understand, empathise. The more you know and understand your people the more they will feel they know you. Let people know you are listening. Reply to tweets, messages and emails.

Be genuine…

Step 5 – Trust

There are some people at parties we have small talk with, and never see or hear from again. This is not who you want to be. We want to leave this party with new friends and people to hang out with. Listening and asking open questions helps build trust. Think of where you get your hair cut, your car fixed, who looks after your kids? We go back to people we trust. You are building a relationship here, whether on line or face to face, people do business with people they trust.

Be honest …

Step 6 – We are more likely to be persuaded by someone who is like us

I remember a friend inviting his girlfriend of 3 days to a party where the dress code was black jeans, DM’s and more black. She came in white and pink heels and they left the party pretty quickly, as she felt out of place. She could have stayed, she could have got chatting, asked questions, got interested in other people – then they would have seen her, not her outfit.

Find something in common with your people. If you are a white, straight woman trying to connect with a black, bi woman, find out what you have in common. Do you have kids? Are you single? If you’re a coach and you’re trying to persuade a manufacturing firm to buy your services, find some common ground? Do your research into what makes them tick and understand their language, so you can communicate in a way which works for them. There’s no point talking about ‘feelings and transformation’ to people who like ‘doing and getting on with things’.

Use their language to build rapport.

Step 7 – Make your message understandable – loss or gain condition

As a teenager, we either went to parties because we really wanted to have fun (gain) or because we thought that if we didn’t, then other people would think we were sad and square (loss). No one wants to part with money unless there is something in it for them. Charities persuade us to hand over money to prevent crisis, starvation, abuse – this is the ‘loss condition’. When we give money to charity we feel good as we have helped make something better (gain). Think about how your people will genuinely lose out, if they don’t come to you?

No threats though – people can see through it. If you are cheaper, say it. If you are expensive but have years of skills and experience, say it, because they could go somewhere else, but they wouldn’t get what you can offer. What problem can you solve for them? How can you help them with a pain in their life?

What are the advantages of being one of YOUR people?

Step 8 – Credibility

Tara could persuade me to go to a Northern Soul all-nighter. Clare could persuade me to go to Brazil.

Why?

Because Tara can dance Northern Soul and Clare lived in Brazil. They have credibility.

People are persuaded by people with credibility. If you have qualifications, let people know. If you have worked with people and organisations people will recognise, let them know. If you have got great testimonials, let people know. Even if you’ve changed fields, your skills, status and experience from your old work life still matter, let people know about them.

Credibility is built by actions. So do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

Step 9 – Follow up and stay in touch

So you’ve met all these great new people at the party who’ve handed over their emails, phone numbers or Facebook connections. Now follow them up. You’re not a teenager playing hard to get, you don’t have to wait 3 days before calling. Follow up and get in touch straight away. Show you remember them. Show you enjoyed getting to know them. If you don’t, someone else will and they’ll forget about you.

Build on that first contact, and develop, grow and nature your relationships.

Step 10 – Know when to quit

So you went to that party, you met all those people, now you’ve invited them to your party and you’re home alone eating all the crisps by yourself and feeling sad. Don’t. Not everyone is for you. If you’ve done all of the above and the people you think should be your people are not joining your party, then they’re not your people. It’s not that you’re wrong or that they’re wrong, you’re just not a good match.

So know when to politely walk away and find new people to hang out with.

Fight for your right to party

So it’s time to grab a taxi home, but as a last thought, remember that persuading customers to buy is just like partying. It’s about finding people to hang out with who you ‘get’ and who ‘get you’. It’s about creating win-wins and on-going relationships. Relationships take time, there’s no rush, enjoy yourself and go with the rhythm.

Enjoy!

How do you treat the sales process? I’d love to know.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs with a new ‘self-assessment’ kit

Despite a dramatic increase in the number of women starting a business in the UK, women here are still lagging behind other more mature entrepreneurial communities. Women in the US are still twice as likely to start a business as British women.

MP Lorely Burt’s recent report Inclusive Support for Women in Enterprise, concluded that if support meted out by Government Departments and local authorities were ‘inclusive’, it could lift Britain’s GDP by 10 per cent by 2030.

Gender gap

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of self-employed women has increased by 34% since 2009. By comparison over the past five years the number of self-employed men has risen by just 15%.

Enterprise Nation’s Home Business Report 2014, found that of the 2.9m homepreneurs in the UK, 64 per cent of them were women – equating to around 1.7m women running businesses from home, contributing an estimated £180bn to the British economy alone.

So why are they still not reaching their potential?

Studies show that the problem around women starting is not ability or commitment – more that they are likely to find it more difficult than men to obtain finance, they also have a lack of awareness of the support available – as well as that level of self-belief that often propels men towards higher growth.

Self assessment kit

A new Government-funded Skills Assessment Kit (launched last week) works on the basis that women have exactly the same ability as men to start-up, and through gentle questioning, identifies gaps, and suggests an individual training and advice programme to address these issues and unlock female potential.

This in turn will help in time to dispel the myth that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to display the qualities of a classic risk-taker stereotype. The hope is that it will lead to a world where being steady, careful and competent is also a key predictor of entrepreneurial success.

The Self Assessment Toolkit is designed to help women-led firms reach their potential by identifying gaps in knowledge, experience and confidence, and offering practical help to take their business to the next level.

It has been developed by small business network Enterprise Nation in conjunction with psychology experts and moderated through focus groups and early-stage trials conducted with female entrepreneurs.

Practical help

Open to both men and women, although concentrating its efforts to attract and help more female users, the kit teases out niggles and worries through subtle questioning, analysing the answers to build a picture of strengths and weaknesses and outlining a programme of support. It will even supply contacts and offer introductions to relevant accredited experts via the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

The marketplace lists more than 11,000 experts and business coaches all over the UK including Northern Ireland and Scotland, who can offer advice on marketing, leadership, building a team, digital know-how or finance.

Hosted by small business network Enterprise Nation, it is hoped the new free-to-use kit, which comprises a questionnaire and produces a bespoke training programme, will also encourage more women to consider entrepreneurship as a career path.

To take the test, go to follow the link here.

DIY PR with Colette Ballou: Don’t miss this!

Here is a great video by Colette Ballou – President of Ballou PR. Colette was awarded the title of most Inspiring Fifty Women in EU Tech. Ballou PR has offices in London, Paris and Berlin; each one opened by Colette herself. Whilst Colette’s message is for tech start-ups the advice she gives works for anyone wondering how on earth they can DIY their PR.

Don’t miss this – she seems so natural and humble – a real entrepreneur. One of her top tips! Tell the truth and everything will work out fine…

Does the success of your business depend on you?

For many of us, we are our business – whether we call ourselves the business owner, director or solopreneur, we are the person that makes the difference.

So how could you impact your business success if you recognized and developed your leadership potential? Your reluctance to increase your prices, the client who expects you to be available 24/7, the team member who is demotivated; these are all leadership issues.

Effective leadership is key to the success of any enterprise and if you’re not leading your business then who is? None of us operate in a vacuum and our success depends on others. You may have a small team or there are relationships with clients, contractors and suppliers where your leadership and influence can make or break the business.

Perhaps you feel none of this is relevant to you, but guess what? You are already leading! As the business owner in those relationships, how you behave, what you prioritize is being ‘watched’; the signals you give out are telling your team and other key business partners how to respond to you. So if you keep letting your supplier deliver late, you are leading them to believe it’s acceptable, when in fact it may be having serious consequences on your service. They are taking their cue from you – some of that may work but some may be leading to failure. So wouldn’t it be useful to look at your leadership and identify what does and doesn’t work, then you can decide what to do about it.

If you can lead yourself, you can lead others

So how can you become more effective as a leader? Whatever your business situation there is one important person you need to lead and that is yourself.

We are often the person that gets in the way of our success because how we see ourselves, what we believe is possible for us and the business, directly impacts the results we achieve as well as our business relationships.

By understanding why you are the way you are, and clarifying what is most important to you, your true leadership will start to emerge. That self-awareness will in turn offer greater insight into the people around you. From that insight you will develop your natural influence, which is a key part of becoming an effective leader.

True leadership is about building relationships with others, which is why your relationship with yourself is so important. For example, if you don’t take the lead and manage your boundaries with that demanding client, that will impact your other clients, quality of service and your self-esteem.

Start by asking yourself these three questions

  • Who are you as a leader?
  • Who do you want to be as a leader?
  • How are you stopping yourself becoming the leader you want to be?

If your business success really does depend on you, can you afford not to invest in your leadership?

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

The one tool that you need in your business to be productive

I work a lot with business owners to help them become more productive in their business, and a question I’m often asked is, ‘What techniques can you recommend to help me manage my time better?’

People are often surprised at my answer. It’s not Pomodoro or GTD or any of the latest apps and trends.

In fact, I’ve seen lots of people using so-called ‘time management techniques’ as a form of procrastination, and spending more time ‘managing’ their time, than actually getting anything done!

My favourite way of managing time more effectively is actually right under your nose, and something you probably already use.

It’s YOUR diary

Whether you prefer an online diary or a paper based one, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you. Your diary is quite simply the best time management tool you have when used correctly.

Most people however use their diary in a very reactive way, to book in appointments and meetings with OTHER people.

And then they’re left wondering why they never have any time left in the week to work ON their business, progress that new project, do some planning, analyse their numbers and so on. It simply comes down to taking back control of your diary and using it in a more proactive way.

Three simple ways to start gaining control and managing your diary better, is the 3B approach:

Boundaries

As in, set some!

Do you have clearly defined start and finish times for working, or do you tend to use more of a ‘let’s see how much I can squeeze in’ approach?

It’s very easy (particularly when you’re starting out) to just keep going, and work into the evenings and weekends, then wonder why you’re feeling exhausted and have no time for a life outside of your business.

Decide what you want your working hours to be, and stick to them!

Having clients contact you all hours of the day?

Decide how you want to communicate with your clients and then let them know. Set the expectation clearly so that they know the best way to contact you, and when to expect you to reply to them.

Batching

You may well have come across batching before – it’s simply about putting the same or similar types of tasks together in your diary.

For example, if you have lots of face to face meetings, it’s more efficient use of your time to book them all in together, rather than being out for a meeting, then popping back for an hour, before rushing off to your next meeting.

Or maybe you have some admin that you need to do on a regular basis. See how you can batch it together so that you get it all done in one go. It means you’re in the flow of what you’re doing, rather than stopping and starting, and doing a bit here and a bit there.

It can also help free up a chunk of your diary to batch together the tasks you need to do, to work ON your business.

Buffers

If you’re always running over and not getting everything finished each day, you’re more than likely simply trying to cram too much in.

It’s much better to build in some buffer time each week, to allow for the times when something takes longer than expected, or those unforeseen client emergencies, or poorly children etc.

Each week make sure you schedule in some allocated buffer time, and if you don’t end up needing it, I’m sure there are always useful ways to fill it! It’s standard in project management to build in buffer time to allow for the risk of something running over.

Start using this in your weekly diary and see how it takes the pressure off, and, by using this with boundaries and batching, you may even start to reclaim your evenings and weekends, and start to feel like you have all the time you need.

So there you have it, the 3B approach to managing your diary, and your time, more effectively.

Which of these are you going to start applying in your business? Leave a comment and let me know!

Photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

How to succeed in tech – top tips from 6 female founders

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to some of the women taking the UK tech scene by storm. These women are heading up some of the biggest technology companies in London, running extremely successful websites that help female entrepreneurs to network, and are founding some of the most successful up and coming start-ups in the UK.

We got in touch to find out what their secret to success is and discovered they all have one thing in common; these women will never put a limit on what they believe they can achieve in life and they are all absolutely fearless!

Be fearless!

“I am often quoted as being fearless, with the ability to “move mountains.” Success is defined by not being afraid to look at every situation and – to “#OwnIt” … When we are at peace with our abilities, anything is possible.”

Jennifer Arcuri, Founder of InnoTech Summit

Understand the sector

“Business success is driven by the execution of great products that match clients’ needs, and the ability to scale a business model. It has nothing to do with gender, so women can succeed similarly to men. They just have to understand the sector, start projects and work with both men and women, with no preconceived ideas.”

Nathalie Gaveau, Founder of Shopcade and PriceMinister

Live the life you want

“A woman succeeds in a sector dominated by men, by focusing on her own definition of success and achieving that, and not giving a damn what anyone else thinks. My definition of success is living the life you want and doing the work you want to do, in a way that creates and leaves lasting benefit in the world, and makes a lot of money in the process. I emphasize that last part, because we don’t get taken seriously as women, until we get taken seriously financially. I believe the future of business is doing good and making money simultaneously, and I’m out to do that with both my startups, IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn.”

Cindy Gallop, Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld

Channel your inner confidence

“Don’t focus on it being a male-dominated industry. Channel your inner confidence (even if it feels like you’re faking it sometimes!) You’ll find success by doing what you do best and just getting on with it. Success is following your passion and finding happiness in how you spend your life.”

Lora Schellenberg, Managing Director of Girls in Tech

Inspire others

“I never saw my gender as a barrier early on in my career, however as my career progressed I became acutely aware that there were less and less women around me. The numbers of female CTO’s and CIO’s has improved, however there needs to be an equal representation of both men and women at the top of our industries. I truly believe that women who hold senior technology roles have a responsibility to inspire other females technologists to pursue their true potential, be it mentoring, sponsoring or just sharing stories about their career paths.

In terms of success, everyones definition is different and mine changes daily. Sometimes my definition of success is merely to clear my inbox!”

Vanessa Vallely, Founder of ‘WeAreTheCity’

Be determined

“I think the easiest way to success is to be determined to succeed. I think that women hear ‘no’ more regularly than their male counterparts in this industry, however my choice is not to focus my time and energy on those that say ‘no’. I’d much rather keep searching for and focussing energy on those who are willing and able to say yes.

Success is relative to the person with a goal in mind. My vision is to give every child an equal opportunity to be successful using superhero characters and the technology we have at our disposal. Ultimate success will be seeing that vision become a reality. That said, I celebrate the steps I take in getting there – from the email from a parent saying my app has made a difference in their home, to winning an award, to a feature on the news or in a blog post like this. It’s a privilege to be able to do what I love to do, help others and make a change to the society we live in.”

Erika Brodnock, Founder of Karisma Kidz

Are you a woman trying to carve out your niche in tech? Let us know in the comments below…

Photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

Lead magnets – What are they and why every small business should have one

If you’re building your mailing list you need an incentive to encourage people to join your list. That incentive is called a Lead Magnet (because it attracts leads!). Other names are “opt-in incentive”, “freebie” or opt-in giveaway”. It’s something of value that you offer in exchange for a prospects’ email address. The days of sticking a “Sign up for my newsletter” form on your home page and expecting people to sign up are long gone. The bar has been raised much higher and, as you know with the increasing volume of email we all receive every day, people are much more selective about which lists they sign up to.

What type of lead magnets can you offer?

Traditional lead magnets are ebooks, cheat sheets, checklists or tip sheets. These are easy to create and a great way to showcase your expertise to your potential customers. Here are a few examples from MMSpark (the first shows the “Squeeze” page the lead magnet is promoted from)

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You can also get a bit more creative and offer an e-course, video series, or even a free download of a piece of music, app (if you’re selling software), WordPress plug-in, or screensaver. One of my clients offers a free mp3 meditation track to her potential customers.

Or you could offer a unique strategy as Matthew Woodward does on his pop-up lead magnet offer:

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The do’s and dont’s of lead magnets

There are a few golden rules for creating the best lead magnets:

Firstly, make sure your audience can get a rapid benefit from your lead magnet. They need to see that what you’re offering works for them and give them something they can quickly put into action to get a result. It doesn’t matter how small that result is as long as they’re getting demonstrable value.

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#2 Ideally you should be solving ONE very specific problem or pain. Here’s a great example from Ryan Deiss where he’s offering Facebook ad templates that you literally copy and paste.

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#3 Give away your best stuff. Don’t use an old blog post that you dust off and stick on your website. Remember this is your prospective customer’s first interaction with you and you want to impress.

#4 Keep it short. Your lead magnet is showcasing your expertise and giving your prospects a quick win. It doesn’t need to be War and Peace and less is definitely more online these days. In fact, I heard a well-respected online marketer speaking on this subject recently and he said your lead magnet should be no more than one-page.

#5 GoPro with your images. Regardless of whether you’re offering an ebook, mp3 or e-course always have a professional image for your lead magnet. I always recommend Fiverr.com to my clients for their covers and images, or you can have a go yourself using Canva or Picmonkey, and Boxshot 3D (turns 2D covers into 3D which looks much better).

#6 Use an amazing headline. The title of your lead magnet should be compelling and attract your ideal customers. List headlines work well, such as “5 Top Tips To…” or “3 Quick Steps to” as do “Blueprints”, “Checklists” or “One-pagers”. Always talk about the benefit of the lead magnet and what it can do for your customer.

When and how do you deliver your lead magnet?

The main hub for your lead magnet is your website. It’s best to create a “Squeeze” page especially for your lead magnet. That way you can direct people to that page specifically to sign up for your lead magnet. The page should have no distractions or competing Calls To Action and the ONLY thing your prospect can do is to sign up for your lead magnet.

TOP TIP: Make it easy for your customers to sign up for your lead magnet. In fact, make it so obvious and simple that anyone can do it. And tell them where to “Enter your email address” and then “CLICK HERE FOR INSTANT ACCESS”. Studies have shown that telling people what to do (even when it seems blatantly obvious) increases sign-ups to your list.

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Other places to offer your lead magnet!

As well as a dedicated squeeze page, you can offer your lead magnet on the sidebar of your website so it appears on every page.

You can also use a WordPress plug-in (my favourite is “Magic Action Box”) to automatically add a mailing list sign-up box under every blog post

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Add a ribbon to your website (that runs along the top of your header or navigation bar)

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TOP TIP: You can’t have too many sign-up forms so sprinkle them liberally across your website.

Where and how do you promote your lead magnet?

Everywhere!

Once you’ve created your lead magnet (step 1) and your squeeze page (step 2) you can include the link to your squeeze page in your social media updates. Schedule regular promotions to this page using Hootsuite or Buffer so that you create a steady stream of leads.

Promote your lead magnet in your ezine or newsletter

You can also offer your lead magnet in social media groups and communities.

TOP TIP: If you’re using MailChimp you can create a sign-up form which appears as a tab on your Facebook page. It’s a great way to generate leads for your business, and build your mailing list.

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Steps to creating your lead magnet

#1 Create a lead magnet that offers a solution to an ultra-specific problem, and solves ONE thing for your target market

#2 Condense your lead magnet down into one cheatsheet, blueprint, guide, checklist etc.

#3 Spend time writing a compelling headline

#4 Get a professional cover designed

#5 Create a “squeeze” page on your website to promote your lead magnet

#6 Create a “thankyou” or “download” page to deliver your lead magnet

#7 Use a professional email provider service like MailChimp or Aweber to create the sign-up form for your website, collect emails and send an automated series of follow-up messages.

#8 Promote your lead magnet everywhere and watch as your mailing list starts to grow

If you’d like to learn more about creating a lead magnet to build your mailing list and see the process in action, you can access a webinar I ran recently “Lead Magnets – How To Create A Blockbuster Compelling Free Offer In One Day

How are you using Lead Magnets to grow your list and build your business? I’d love to hear your results and ideas in the comments below.