Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Attract your ideal customer with effective marketing

Over the last decade, I have been delivering support to other business owners as a either a franchisor, via my own businesses or from within a membership organisation.

By far the biggest request for support is with marketing and how to find new clients. So this article shares some of my key thoughts and the areas that I have consistently spoken about at conferences in the past.

To enable you to promote your business most effectively to prospective clients, you have to consider three key areas:

  • What are you offering – having a clear proposition for your clients
  • Strategic marketing – understand who you want as clients and how you will capture their interest to engage with them
  • Tactical marketing – how you will take your message to the market and attract clients
You can read the full article on my LinkedIn Pulse listing at 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

All I want for Christmas...... my top 12

If you have heard me speak before, then apology for the repetition, but you will know that I make a huge reference to the strong link between our business goals and our personal goals.

So in reality as a business owner I truly believe you have to be totally focused on the fact that whatever you want for Christmas will only be delivered from the performance of your business, especially if this is your sole source of income. You may not be able to buy that personal gift or have the treats of the family Christmas you desire, if the business is not generating the turnover, profits and importantly the cash that you need to deliver what you want or need from a personal perspective.

From my work with entrepreneurs, this links with what I believe every entrepreneur wants at this time of year. A successful, growing business, with good prospects for the New Year and that therefore delivers all those personal goals and objectives.

Firstly I would like to look at the phrase 'successful business'. I truly believe that success is importantly always as defined by you and not what you hear, read or see in others. Those that strive to be something or someone else rarely achieve this. So what do you truly want that will then define success to you once it has been achieved?

I also believe that we should be continually looking to grow our business, as in reality we never stagnate and we are either moving forwards or backwards.

So what about good prospects? 
Well here are my top twelve suggestions for your list this year, that I believe will help take your business forward in the New Year.

  1. Have a clear vision about your business and know your reason 'Why'. As I wrote about in my previous article, knowing the strong reason 'Why' is a true motivation. Without a vision, it is likely you will set some incorrect objectives and potentially implement a strategy that takes you in a different direction.
  2. Know your goals and plan the high pay off activities that you need to deliver to achieve those goals. Have goals for the next year, the next month and what you want to achieve in the week ahead. Ensure you plan your goals effectively and consider the obstacles and solutions before you plan any action steps.
  3. Ensure that you have a proposition that your prospects clearly understand and which is considered relevant from their prospective.
  4. Stand back from the business and implement strategic planning. Then allocate regular time to review and consider your plans and to execute the small steps as much as you strive towards the big vision.
  5. Focus on your marketing. Have an effective lead generating, inbound marketing plan and build this into your business as a systemised approach to the way you work.
  6. Utilise the expertise available from outside your business. This could be an existing trusted adviser like your accountant or consider hiring a coach or mentor. This can be invaluable resource to help you consider your strategies and tactics. Running your own business can often be lonely when it comes to planning and big decisions.
  7. Only work with your 'ideal' clients and generate multiple streams of income from those clients. Too often I see people taking on anyone and only offering one product or service. There are obvious synergies you can find with any product or service and surely you are the best person to offer those that your customers are buying.
  8. Hire good people (whether employed or external). Hire "the right people" and the resources you need to fit your business requirements and keep them.
  9. Understand the personalities in your business. Most critically your own, but also those of your customers and suppliers and importantly the personalities in your team. Do they compliment each other? Can they work together? Do you understand the personalities and how to get the best from them? Which personalities suit which role in your business?Do you know who are the dominant leaders who can think big, who are the influential people suited to sales, the compliant followers, the reliable resources or the grafters who like to get stuck in and deliver more than many expect? Do you know who needs written information to perform at their best or those that need praise in public to be motivated?
  10. Know what a work / life balance truly means to you. If you do and can define what you will do with time, then you are more likely to achieve it. We all know that with rest or another focus you will become more effective at other times.
  11. Be productive by knowing what you do best and also at what time of the day you deliver certain activities at a premium standard. For example, are you creative and best thinking about new innovative ideas in the morning or do you like to understand the numbers in your business and the end of the day is an ideal for this activity.
  12. Be proactive. Don't wait for it to happen, make it happen or it may never happen.

I hope you found this article thought provoking and I wish you every success in the future with your own business.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Why hire a mentor?

I guess the first place to start is to consider what actually is Mentoring?It is described in many ways, but perhaps the best definition that I have seen is that Mentoring is a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the Mentor) assists another (the Mentoree) in developing specific strategies, skills and knowledge by sharing their own experience in a thought provoking manner to enhance the person’s professional and personal growth.

Quite often a mentoring relationship is considered longer than a coaching relationship, but I in fact see many similarities and depends on the support desired.

The term mentor has previously been commonly used in the workplace by companies whereby a senior colleague may mentor a junior person as part of their personal development and growth within the organisation.

In my opinion, a mentor helps you develop with a combination of effective questions and guidance, whereas the role of a coach is more focused on developing the solution from within,

So what is a mentor. I feel the role is very well described by Virgin Startup as 'The role is about guidance and helping your entrepreneur to achieve their goals and realise their potential. You’ll help them understand problems, identify solutions and implement their plans.'

A mentor is likely to save you from many hours of worry and procrastination, help you maximise your time, and save you money, by sharing proven strategies and their experience to help you avoid the common pitfalls or make the mistakes quite often made by others trying to do everything themselves.

Many of my clients come to me because they want to start a business or are now at the stage to grow their business, but perhaps don't know where to start, how to effectively build the right foundation and how best to apply the skills that they have in the most effective way.

When choosing a mentor, you should consider what you need in a mentor and what skills or areas of the business that you would like to develop with their assistance.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Understand and use your true motivation in business

Why do people start their own business and what motivates them?

There are a number of personal reasons why people start their own business. Some see an opportunity, some suffer a personal situation such as redundancy or unemployment, whilst others have a family history of self employment or consider it as a way of earning their living.

Understanding your true personal motivation can help you think about the goals you may set yourself and provides a measurement for success as defined by you and not as defined by others looking at your business externally. Success means different things to different people. You need to define what success means for you and this will certainly help you to find the ways to achieve it. If you do not know what you are aiming for it is unlikely you will ever achieve it.

Understanding your motivations will help you identify the real purpose of your business and its aims and objectives. So for example, if it is a bigger house for your growing family, then how will the business generate the turnover, profits and ultimately the cash for this?

Motivations such as “I simply do not want to work for someone else any more” in my opinion is not a strong enough motivator on its own. So what does truly motivate you.

One you know your motivators, then you can make decisions based on these. So for example, you are motivated by working for a defined 'ideal' customer. If you are approached by someone who does not meet this profile, you have a choice. You are invited to a business networking event, which would be nice to attend, but is no match to your true motivators. Again you have a more informed choice to make and consider if this is a good use of your time.

You should also consider planning your exit from day one. You need to have a vision of your exit from the business, so that you get the timing right for you. Too often business owners say my business is my retirement nest egg, but in reality when they come to retire it may not be the right time to sell or the value may not be as expected. So consider the need to groom successors and how to exit at your chosen time, not when other pressures may dictate. Then plan your business to build towards that exit plan. So for example, if you want to sell for a price of £250,000 in 15 years time, what do you have to achieve in the meantime to get there? Possible exit options include: your family succession, selling the business in full or in part, flotation of the business, a merger or simply closing down the business.

It is so powerful to know your true motivators. If you link this with effective goal planning, great time management and your strong vision of success, I do believe you will face less obstacles along the way.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Our 7 top tips to improve your sales meeting conversation rate

So you have invested in your marketing and created opportunities. These are our 7 top tips to ensure you convert more of those prospects to paying customers.
  1. Test different approaches with your prospects – what you say, wear, handout, offer or even the time you meet may influence your success
  2. Be honest with yourself. Review your discussions & know why you are not converting
  3. Know your market and demonstrate your awareness
  4. Remove the risk to the buyer such as giving a guarantee
  5. Listen to your prospect & match their need with your benefits. Consider the pain for the prospect by not buying from you, or the gain they would experience
  6. How clear is your Unique Selling Point to the buyer. Not just in terms of the message, but how is it important to your propect
  7. Know the influencers of your prospects decision, such as their partner, advisers, employees, existing supplier and online references.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The top three marketing activities for Bookkeepers

This is my answer to the question I get asked all the time when speaking to groups of bookkeepers or working with clients on a one to one basis.

Q.What are the top three marketing activities for Bookkeepers?

A. My research from working with Bookkeepers for many years with ICB, as a franchisor and from my own personal experience of running my own practice shows the top three activities are:

1. Networking - not just attending breakfast meetings, but understanding who is truly your network of key business influencers and what are you then doing to create and maintain a strong trusted relationship, so that people get to know, like and trust you.

2. Referrals - Having a proactive strategy focused on generating referrals of your ideal customers. Much more than just networking, but also taking consideration of what will encourage people to refer new business to you. How are you building credibility and also making it easy to refer you. Knowing the 'what's in it for me' factor for a referrer will make a huge difference to your referral success. 

3. Maximising your online presence led by a web site focused on your ideal customer. Yes social media and online marketing are making an impact, but still without question is the power of a good web site. A web site that tells your ideal client, from their perspective, what you offer to save them time, money and pain. After all your social media activity and other online presence such as a blog or email marketing may drive people to your web site to read more, sign up to a newsletter, download a paper or just then pick up the phone to make contact with you.