3 Simple Ways to Keep up-to-date with Social Media Changes

3 Simple Ways to Keep up-to-date with Social Media Changes

A statement I often hear is, ‘you can keep ahead of things because you live in this industry’. In many ways this is true. Things are changing so quickly and I have a great team around me who often pick up the latest changes way before me. However, there are a few quick tips I can give to help you stay ahead of the curve and learn about what’s new in the world of digital marketing.

1). Use Google Alerts: You may be using these already for your company name/competitors but its also great for keeping an eye on when changes happen in the industry. For example setting up a google alert for the term ‘LinkedIn Updates’ will then email you each time there is a mention of this term online. You can then decide whether you check it out or not.

You can setup alerts here: http://www.google.com/alerts

2). Blogs: The big tech blogs often break info on updates before others. Here are a couple of good ones (you can subscribe to them by RSS meaning you receive the info in your inbox the minute they update their sites – Guide to doing so can be found here)

http://techcrunch.com/tag/linkedin/ (links to the ‘LinkedIn tag’ within Techcrunch)

http://mashable.com/category/linkedin/ (Links to the LinkedIn Category within Mashable)

3). Social Dashboards: If you really want to take it to the next level then you could consider using social dashboards to track pretty much everything – here are a couple of good free ones.

http://www.netvibes.com/

http://topsy.com/s?q=linkedin+updates

So there you have it, a few easy ways of keeping uptodate with the latest changes in the industry. Please feel free to add more and make this a really useful resource for people.

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months

 

 

 

 

 

For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. 

Work-life balance – A debate

Work-life balance – A debate

Today I have a day off.

But what does that mean for a business owner? Is it really a day off, where you completely stop thinking about work or is it a day off in disguise, where you pretend to do other things while secretly thinking about your next big work project or just check a few emails to make sure the office hasn’t burnt down?

My post today is less about tips or advice and more about stimulating the discussion around work-life balance and what it means for you. I’ll start and you feel free to dip in on the comments section below, I’m genuinely interested to get your points of view.

For about the first 5 years of my business I worked almost every weekend I could. I’d never leave the office before 7/8pm and put everything I had into it. Personally I think it’s difficult to get a business off the ground without that level of commitment, unless you’re incredibly lucky. I guess this instilled a work ethic in me which I find hard to shift now. I have other commitments now, a wife, a dog (as of last week!), a cat and I’m sure in time children will follow. I enjoy skiing and trips away with friends, all of which have been afforded to me because of the long hours I’ve put in over the years. If I’d opted for a career which allowed me more of the ‘life’ in ‘work-life’ would this have been possible? I guess I’ll never know but I do know a lot of people along the way have told me I work too hard and maybe they’re right…maybe they’re not.

The key I guess is that I love what I do. Granted, it’s not easy all of the time and when it’s tough, it’s really tough but I wouldn’t swap it. Do people tell you to slow down? Have you cracked running a business and living a life outside, completely switched off from it? Do you have secrets to share?

So let’s discuss, debate, play devil’s advocate with the topic of work-life balance and share thoughts on the way you work and play.

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/seeveeaar/

Why is Management Accounting Important?

Why is Management Accounting Important?

I’m lucky enough today to have a guest post from my friend and the management accounting expert to my business, Ben Didier. Rather than spoil the show, I’ll let his post do the talking.

Can we afford it?

One of the biggest jumps that often shock people when moving from employed work to running a business, is the shift in thinking about spending.  In everyday life if we want something; an ipad, a new TV, a holiday, then we look in the bank; if you have the money then you can, if you don’t then you can’t – simple (or you can borrow or save up).

Spending in business works in a fundamentally different way, it is not about what you want, it is about what that spend will give back financially. What is the Return on Investment (ROI)?

The business owner or director may often ask finance: Can we afford a new sales person?   I would advocate looking at the situation in a slightly different way and ask:

“What do we need to do to be able to take on a sales person?”

If a new sales person can bring in more than they cost each month (to be fulfilled by the existing team) then yes, it’s a good move.

In practice there is more to it; sales people generally take a few months to build up a pipeline of work so the business effectively pays the salary for no return at the start.  Then there are additional cost of travel, communications and IT, not to mention the extra delivery capacity required if none is spare.

It many not be more sales directly, perhaps better IT or a new administrator means you can turn out more work in a month.

If for every pound you spend on marketing you get back two pounds of additional gross profit (income after raw materials) then that is money well spend.  Contrastingly buying a gold-plated chair for your office because you like it, is not going to pay you back much.

The fun part look looking at projections – amounts and time scales.  If you need an extra £5k per month in sales to cover costs of a new sales person, then you need to ask some questions:

Can your business handle the extra work?
How many more production people would you need?
How long would it take to build up to that level of extra sales?
Can you fulfil it with your current equipment and office space?
Is there the cash in the bank to pay the salary for 3 months with no additional sales?
At what point do you expect to break-even?

Ask yourself “What if…”

If your top current salesperson finds 5 new clients per month, then expecting a new employee to get 10 per month would be ambitions, but 2 per month should be easy.  That is the kind of situation-modelling that can help shape your expectations, allow you to take considered risks, and monitor progress in an informed way once you have made that investment.

It doesn’t always work out, but if you have thought through the risks, then at least you know the company can still continue if it doesn’t.

Benjamin Didier
Exeter Commercial Accounting

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola/

How to be a great salesman – A few tips I’ve learnt along the way

How to be a great salesman – A few tips I’ve learnt along the way

Sales can be a dirty word to a lot of people. For me, it’s the life blood of any company, after all without sales, you have no work and without work you have no money. SO I’m sorry folks, if you were thinking of starting your own business and thought you could side step this one, you’re going to need to be incredibly lucky or have invented the next big widget that everyone wants!

I’ve been selling for 13 years. I started when I was just 19, in Exeter (UK) in a world that was dominated predominately by guys that were 40+ and had been in business as long as I’d been on this earth! A scary place and one that I made lots of mistakes in. Here are a few tips I’ve learnt along the way.

1). Qualify, qualify, qualify

When you get to that wonderful point where people start making enquiries, you need to qualify whether they are a fit for your business. The gut reaction is always to take anything that comes your way (especially when you start out). The truth is this leads to lots of unnecessary running around for nothing, dealing with people who don’t respect you and bad business. It may well be that you need to pay the bills but my honest feeling is that if I had my time again, I’d have spent a significant amount of time working out who to target and going for them rather than the scatter gun approach I used back in the early days. Does your sales process include a qualifying step?

2). Make friends

It’s a cliché to say that people buy from people. That said, it’s completely true. If you can’t bond with a prospect within 10 mins of meeting you’re going to struggle. No one wants the sleezy sales person with all the answers (did we ever want that?). We want someone human that understands our needs, our problems and then demonstrates knowledge and the skills to help us with both. Quick tip: When you first go into someone’s office, take a look around the walls for things you might share in common; pictures showing a certain sports persuasion, certain types of books, posters or pictures. Don’t go overboard or change the lifelong football team you’ve supported to that of theirs – it may just be that when the time is right you can bring something less sales related into the conversation and take the pressure off the meeting.

3). Talk openly about money

How many times have I sat there talking to someone I thought needed a website and in my head I know this project is 10k but after two meetings and a proposal I’ve found out they only have a budget of 2k? Too many to embarrassingly mention! How about using a line like this to get you started (yes in your first conversation). “So John, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. Our ecommerce sites start at around the 10k mark. There are cheaper alternative options which certainly have their place in the market. Before we meet to discuss all the exciting functionality, how does that sit with you as I know neither of us would want to waste the time of the other?”. You need to work on delivering this in a nurturing way but it can be done and it will save you days and days of wasted time.

4). Build relationships

There are lots of quotes about how much easier it is to sell to current clients than it is to secure new business. Some say 5x, some say 7. Whatever the true number is, you need to work out a strategy for building your client base and selling within it. I tell you one great way of keeping clients loyal – look after them. Amazing isn’t it! Don’t look for the quick buck, keep an eye on their needs using social media sites, be there to help them when they need it. Try and hook them up with your other clients, try and find them sales without the expectation of getting something back in return. Don’t allow yourself to get so blinkered that all you do is look for that next new sale or you’ll make really hard work for yourself.

5). Connect

In this day and age, my clients and prospects can connect with me in many different ways and where possible I always do my very best to respond quickly. They can get me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, Google+, my mobile and a number of other places if they want. I don’t turn off at 5:30pm (maybe a bad thing in some people’s books). I’m available because I want the edge and if that edge is helping someone after hours because I can then I’m there.

6). Become a student

…of your industry. Sales these days is about positioning yourself and becoming a trusted advisor for your clients. If you’re the goto guy for something (a product/service etc) because you know the most about it and how it can be used to solve your client’s challenges then you’re going to make sales. If you simply turn upto work, make a few cold calls and go home at 5:30 then good luck to you, I’ve got a felling you’ll be looking for work elsewhere soon.

I’m interested, do you consider sales a dirty word? What are your experiences of selling and can you add any more tips to this list which will help the people reading this?

 

Photo Credit: Lacey_and_Cielle via Compfight cc

5 things you might like to consider when starting a website

5 things you might like to consider when starting a website

1). Firstly a website is just the start of your online presence. So many people rock up to a project thinking about their budget in terms of the capital outlay on their website. They often don’t consider the marketing and comms resource they’re going to need to put into getting it off the ground. The website you create for your business/service/product should really be the start of your online journey so make sure you’re ready to budget just as much (and probably a lot more) on what happens next.

2). Is Google important to you? Goole drives around 90% of all UK web searches. In industry terms that’s a ‘bucket load’ and can’t really be ignored. If you want your website to show up in search then there are a number of things you need to consider and to be perfectly honest although there are a number of things you can play with yourself (I wrote about this topic a while ago here), it’s probably an area that you want to talk to an agency that specialise in if these results are critical to your success.

3). Where does Social Media play a role? Unless you’ve been blanketed from the world for the last few years you can’t help but notice that we live in a far more connected world than we used to. Our lives are being dominated by the large social networks – the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest seek our attention and allow us to feel more connected than ever before. As a business you need to consider your audience profile and then work out where they hang out. If Facebook’s not right for your business then don’t worry about it – spend your time wisely, you don’t have much of it.

4). Get clever. In the world of email marketing we have these things called auto responders. They are essentially automated emails, triggered on an event. When you create a website consider bringing these into play (most web agencies won’t recommend these unless you ask by the way). Set them up for when people fill out your contact form, signup to your newsletter or download your latest whitepaper. Oh really? You don’t have a whitepaper?

5). Create compelling content. If you want to be found/shared/loved/evangelised/bought from you need to be better than the rest and one way to start this process is by creating compelling content. Things like whitepapers, ebooks, blog articles, infographics, videos all help to get you out there. Your mission however is to try and create things others aren’t. By the way, a by-product of this point is also more success with point 2.

The guys over at Optix Solutions (a digital marketing agency I co-founded) are mustard at the web projects – give them a call if you want any advice on 01392 667766. If you’re after email marketing help connect with @olyharisson on twitter who heads up OptixMail – he’s the master.

Now Your Thoughts

  • What essentials do you think you need to take into a web project?
  • Have you got a few tricks in your locker you’d like to share with us?

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/

 

 

 

Express & Echo Entrepreneur and Employer of the Year Awards!

Yesterday I learnt that I’ve been shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of the year award at my local paper’s business awards, and my company, Optix Solutions has been shortlisted for the employer of the year award. A proud moment for both the company and me personally.

Now the personal award is in the lap of the judges but the other award is being put out to public vote and is being judged on number of tweets received in support.

It would mean a lot to me if you’d just take a minute to vote for Optix Solutions here: http://www.exeterbusinessawards.co.uk/shortlist/employer-of-the-year/

I try not to ask for much from you, so that when things like this do come up, you’ll consider reaching out and helping me :)

What would be even sweeter is if you’d consider sending a tweet to your followers asking them to vote aswell. I’ve even written something for you here:

“Please follow and vote for @optixsolutions in their local award for employer of the year. They really deserve it :) http://bit.ly/10T1zyH”

If you’re in any doubt, we’ve backed up our claim to glory with a blog post here

Thank you all. I promise I’ll be back with educational content again soon.

A case for failing

A case for failing

Today I have a guest post from a guy that I consider a close confidant to my business and me personally. I’ve worked with Andy for over two years now in the areas of sales and management. He’s delievered huge value to my business as a coach and trainer. Andy is, in my view, the sales and management guru in the South West. In this great post he talks about a particular favourite topic of mine, failing! Take it away Andy.

When was the last time you failed, didn’t complete an important project on schedule, fell short of achieving a meaningful goal or simply didn’t accomplish what you set out to do?

If you haven’t failed lately, that’s unfortunate.  Because accompanying every failing experience is an opportunity to learn and to grow.  People who never fail are, for the most part, people who never take chances.  They typically don’t set goals, or if they do, they are ones which are easily achieved or within their capabilities. Those people rarely suffer major disappointments but at the same time, they rarely accomplish anything great.

Life is richer and work more fulfilling when you set goals that take you out of your comfort zone – when you have something challenging to aim for each day.

But you can’t set goals, especially stretching goals unless you’re willing to risk failure.

Why?

Because you won’t succeed at everything you set out to accomplish, even after several attempts.  But don’t let that scare you – a valuable lesson will have been learnt.

If you’ve been afraid to take risks, afraid to fail….STOP.  Think about what you’d like to accomplish in life, what you’d like to be known for, where you’d like to go and the relationships you’d like to have.  Take time to let the idea of moving your life to another level sink in.

Identify the steps or tasks necessary to accomplish each of your goals.  This gives you a sense of control over the outcomes and allows you to work steadily towards success.

Challenging goals can make the difference between a mundane life and an exhilarating one…but only if you’re willing to risk failing.  Are you?

You can find out more about Andy here.

Photo by fireflythegreat

 

The Icarus Deception and Seth Godin

The Icarus Deception and Seth Godin

This week, Seth Godin made a rare appearance in the UK and I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket. I’ve been a huge fan of Seth’s since reading his book ‘Purple Cow’ 4 or 5 years ago and applying many of the principles within it to my own business. Since then I’ve read a number of his books including Lynchpin and most recently, The Icarus Deception, the book this event was based on.

Seth has inspired me for a number of years so I was keen to see him live. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Icarus Deception deals with the fact that we are living in a revolution and that most people are struggling to see it. We are moving from an Industrial Economy (think big brands, big spends, loud marketing noise) where everything revolves around greater efficiency, cheaper products and where people are pushed to be average, to what Seth terms the Connection Economy where the connections you make and the opportunities you take to create ‘Art’ will be the most important element to your success in the future. The problem is, not enough people create art.

So what is art? Art is something new. Art is being different. Art is something you made before others. Art is something you probably tried to create time and time again, not being afraid to fail along the way. Are you making art?

A particular theme that interested me is that as we grow up we’re taught not to make art. Schools are there to teach us to stand in straight lines, to conform, not to speak up but to go through the system – junior school, high school, university, job. When are we told its ok to make a ruckus? I certainly can’t remember being given that instruction. The title of the book, the Icarus Deception refers to the Greek myth about Icarus who was taught, while attempting to escape from Crete, not to fly too close to the sun or his wings would burn and he’d fall into the sea. Of lesser mention is the fact he was also taught not to fly to close to the sea or the mist from the water would make his wings too heavy and the same fate would occur. Where are we teaching future generations to fly? Higher than ever or within their comfort zones, where its nice and safe?

A fascinating story using the company Lego was used as means of an example. Allegedly they were suffering grave problems back in the 80’s/90’s, as they stuck to their belief that every product they made should be able to be used for at least two different things. We were told the company was almost bought to its knees until one of its team came up with the idea of selling lego model kits that children (and I’m sure a few adults) could put together themselves. The company was saved and why? Because kids want to follow instructions, to make something perfectly, NOT to make art, NOT to stand up with something new and different and say, “I made this”

So what does it take to make art then? It takes the willingness to fail, over and over again (something I wrote about here). It takes grit and determination. It takes the need to overcome your ‘lizard brain’ and when others say you can’t do it, to carry on. It takes the ability to dance with fear (a favourite phrase of mine) and be ok with ‘this might not work’.

The Icarus Deception is a fascinating book and one that I’m excited about sharing. I for one embrace the connection economy. Am I creating art? Maybe not enough, but I intend to challenge myself with this question on a regular basis.

Are you creating art? If so, please share it with us, after all, an important part of this economy is to be able to stand up and say, ‘I made this’, whatever others say.

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WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

Last year I changed my blog over to the Generate Theme on the ‘Genesis framework’ offered by the guys at StudioPress. A number of people have asked me why I chose it, so today I thought I’d explain my reasons. Its also worth me saying that the links in this article are aff links because having had personal success with this combination, I signed up to help promote the StudioPress option to others. It’s important to say that I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t getting value from this myself.

Firstly, a wordpress theme actually sits on top of a framework and having done a lot of research into companies offering good solutions for both, I decided to take the recommendation of Chris Brogan who at the time, also used this combo. I believe he’s on a custom theme on top of Genesis now.

SEO: One of the main reasons I chose this framework was for its optimisation (SEO) value. Here’s an excerpt from the studiopress website explaining why it’s so good.

“State of the art code and smart design architecture make it easy for search engines to see what you’ve got. With automatic updates to the Genesis Framework, you never have to think about it again. Your code will always be up to date and fully optimized.”

And boy is it…Having added this article to my blog today, it was almost certainly appear in Google within a couple of days, sometimes I’ve seen it enter their index the same day.

Design: Once you run the Genesis framework you can use a number of what they call ‘child themes’ on top of it which means that I can have a different look for my blog without the need for a designer or developer at a touch of a button.

Support: If you need support then the guys over at StudioPress are second to none. That’s worth paying for in my opinion.

Security: In terms of security, they’ve employed security experts to help with locking down the insecurities that wordpress can suffer from. Obviously nothing is totally infallible but they’ve down what they can to make this the best they can.

There are also a plethora of other custimisation/widget options which I won’t bore you with today.

If you’re looking for framework to go with then I can definitely recommend genesis or any of the studiopress products. For more info on the themes they offer, make sure you check out their great theme chooser.

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