Nine things that changed my life in 2016

Nine things that changed my life in 2016

So as another year draws to a close, it’s time for my customary post about the things that changed my life this year.

If you’re interested in previous years then you can check them out here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13,’14,’15

Ok so lets get on with it, here’s the run down (no particular order):

1). The birth of our daughter Alexa
This year we were blessed with our second child, and first daughter Alexa. I would obviously have been super happy with a brother for Oscar but I was secretly very pleased to get a pink one. The idea of having a daddies girl is quite appealing. Lizz and I decided (together) to create a video of the big day (don’t worry we took out the gruesome bits) so we had an amazing keepsake. You can watch that video here if you wish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTS9648qTRM

2). Our son Oscar
Ok so technically he didn’t arrive this year but watching his little personality develop has been absolutely magical and has enriched my life in a way that I’ll find hard to articulate. Whether starting to walk, uttering his first words or beginning to engage with us in a more human way, every single day there is something new to marvel at. I can’t wait to go through all that again with Alexa, while Im sure Oscar will continue to fill my heart with a love that is hard to comprehend.

 

3). Being Best Man for my Brother 
When my brother asked me to be his best man last year I was truly touched. As the majority of my friends have already tied the knot, I really thought my chances of getting this honour were running out. Then my brother surprised me and asked. I jumped at the chance. The minor mission of organising a stag do to Vegas was my first major responsibility and we all made it back alive so I guess that was a success. The wedding was an awesome day held at Ham Polo Club back in the summer. Stu and Caitlin seemed chuffed to bits so once my speech was over, I was a happy man.

 

4). The Appeal for Chris Tester
This is a story of solidarity and what people are capable of when they come together. On Christmas Night (last week) an old school friend of mine who I’d not seen for many years was shot in the head at his parents restaurant in Antigua while it was held up. The family started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the 90k needed to get Chris back to the UK for the treatment and care he needs. I picked up on the campaign on Boxing day when they’d reached 7k. I did everything I could, using all my knowledge of social media mechanics to help them promote the campaign. Within two days the campaign had raised 60k and within 4 it had reached the target of 90k. Chris is now on his way home and its all thanks to the amazing people who dug in and helped spread the message. Two things occurred to me during this horrible ordeal; the solidarity of old friends – people who hadn’t seen each other in 25 years came together and worked for the good of the campaign. I was just one of many helping spread the message, many of the rest I knew from days at Brentwood School. The second was the power of social media, without which, this would have been next to impossible and it may just have saved Chris’ life. Doing what I do, you’d not be surprised that I’m a huge advocate of this world but this amazing story just goes to cement my feelings that its not just about marketing and helping businesses, it can be focused for social good. In fact this was on a scale I’d not witnessed before. The campaign is still raising funds to help goto towards Chris’ care in the UK so if you’d be kind enough to share for me I’d appreciate it, even better if you’d think about donating: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/chris-tester-urgent-appeal/?

 

5). Vlogging (please check out my channel: https://www.youtube.com/alastairbanks)
Back in Feb of 2016 I set out to become a daily vlogger. I’d been watching the rise of the YouTube celebrity for a while and although it wasn’t my intention to become one of them, I wanted to see what it took to build an audience and to ensure I understood the medium so I could consult our clients on how to maximise their use of it. I knew it would take a long time to get off the ground so I set myself the goal of a year and away I went. I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be. Very few subscribers and less than a handful of video views for the first six months was quite disheartening. That alongside quite a bit of negativity from people close to me (about the reasons behind doing it) and it would have been easy to quit. This spurred me on if anything. I wanted to prove that I could do it and now, almost ten months on I’m really starting to gain traction. Speaking gigs, video production for others and wonderful engagement on some of my videos have been indirect benefits of this effort but I’m building for the future, its never been about the here and now. I don’t think people realise how hard these things are to get off the ground so if you’re thinking about life in ten years time, you need to be taking action now. My most popular video has now had over 4700 views (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_cryzBXSJg) and gets lots of comments which I do my best to respond to everyone of. I’d love for you to subscribe in 2017 and pass it onto to anyone you know who might find it of interest.

 

6). Podcasts
I really got into podcasts this year. What a great way of learning and growing as a person. One of the challenges of video is that you have to look at a screen and can do very little else while doing so. This is not the case with Podcasts. I listen to them in the car everyday and quite often in the shower too. Its an awesome way to get a shot in the arm every morning before work. My goto’s have been Gary Vaynerchuck’s channel, Boagworld, Tim Ferris and The Craft of Marketing but there is a podcast for everyone out there so I’d highly recommend looking into them in 2017.

 

7). Amazon Prime
I took the plunge and ordered a Firestick (aff link) this year. We’d had Netflix for a while and Love Film before that but Amazon Prime makes life so easy. We’re addicted to box sets so being able to watch Walking Dead, Vikings, Spartacus, Lucifer, Blacksails and The Killing to name but a few makes us very happy. Then when Grand Tour was released we were even happier (much to the annoyance of Simon who works for me at Optix). If you’ve not got yourself a firestick (aff link), go get one, you won’t regret it.

 

8). Casey Neistat
The first ever YouTube vlogger I got completely hooked on. Casey is a filmmaker from New York who made the transition from the big screen to the world of YouTube and did it in style. The quality of his daily vlogs was off the chart. Earlier this month he gave up the daily vlog having hit 5 million subscribers, his reason being that he needed to focus on new projects and that he was losing the passion in the daily uploads. He’s not done too much since but his first ‘feature’ video didn’t let us down. They built a drone big and powerful enough to pull him along in the air on his snowboard! If you haven’t watched and subscribed to his channel then you should. Watch the drone video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At3xcj-pTjg

 

9). Speaking Events
This year I had a number of opportunities to speak publicly for which I am very thankful. The more I do this the more I realise its where my heart lies and what I would like to be doing more of in the next phase of my career. The positive interaction, engagement and feedback I get from these events is my oxygen. This year I was lucky enough to speak on the London Business School and Exeter University’s MBAs as well as various other events all over the UK and as far a field as Copenhagen. Early in 2017 I’ll be flying to Barcelona so lets hope this is the beginning of another busy year of talks.

 

So there you have it guys, my run down of the year. Another one passes and this exercise once again serves as a useful reminder of all the good things that have happened to my family and I in 2016. We’re very lucky indeed and should remember that everyday.

 

What significant things happened to you in 2016? Have you gone through the journalling exercise above? It really helps clarify where you are and where you want to get to. I’d hugely encourage it.

 

So I started a YouTube Channel!

So I started a YouTube Channel!

My first four YouTube Videos are live and I’m loving the feedback I’ve had already – its quite humbling and suggests that its certainly worth persisting with. To bring you upto speed you can check out my channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/alastairbanks

For ease though, here are the first four videos – please forward on to students with an interest in personal brand or development, business owners and entrepreneurial friends, I will hugely appreciate it as it’s not easy creating content for a small following – you do question if its worthwhile.

My first video was about procrastination:

My second was about the most influential business book Ive ever read:

The third was all about Goal Setting:

And the fourth was about change and how important it is if you want to grow:

Please make sure you subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss anything. I’ll do my very best to make the content as useful as possible.

Thanks again

Al – @banksy6

6 things that changed my life in 2014

6 things that changed my life in 2014
Yes folks its that time of year again. While I’ve been a little light on posts in 2014 there is one that must be written. This one.

2014 has been an interesting year, one which has seen a lot of change in both my personal life and business dealings. In a year that saw Optix Solutions turn 15 and new ventures being started by my business partner and I (hopefully more on those in years to come) we may just have tried to do a little too much. As you probably know I’m a huge fan of change and believe it completely necessary for success however sometimes it can feel like you’re biting off too much and its important in those moments to take stock, remember what you’ve achieved and maybe even take some time out. So in this post I’m taking a moment to look at what happened this year and how it affected my life.

Don’t forget that if you’re interested in my posts from the last few years, you can find them here: ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13:

So let’s do the run down then…

1). Baby Banks on the way – Well this absolutely has to be at the top doesn’t it :)

I’ll be a father for the first time in Feb this year (well maybe a little earlier if you look at the size of Lizz!). I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time which is an unusual feeling. With everything in business, things are generally within my control. I can make decisions and live by them but here we’re talking about another life, one which I can only hope to guide without pushing too hard. I’m pretty sure I’ll be a good Dad but there are a few moments when I question if I have the skills and knowledge for what’s going to be the biggest change to my life so far.  I’m sure there will be more about fatherhood on this blog throughout the year so watch this space.

2). Re-Focusing is important however big the decisions

Three years ago our business was split about 75% design and build to 25% digital marketing. Now its almost flipped and that’s been a conscious decision based on goals and a vision we set out a few years ago. Steering a company with 15 people in it is not like a startup where decisions can be made quickly. If you get them wrong in the early days its fairly easy to claw back, with a larger company it takes time and effort and you have to get everyone on board taking into account their own individual drivers (which of course may not be totally aligned with your own vision). This year we’ve pushed harder than ever to adapt to the industry and its been an exciting journey which we are starting to reap the rewards for.

3). Ben Corbally

I hope adding Ben in here means he doesn’t get too much stick from the rest of the team. They aren’t those kind of people so I’m sure they won’t give him too much :) So why did Ben make this list? Ben is a young gun who joined Optix in late 2013 in our Digital Marketing team. He now works alongside me in the client facing part of the business and helps build the digital strategy for some of our newer clients. The reason that he makes the list is that he’s pushed me to think differently this year, to take a new perspective on things which I’ve made fundamental business decisions with. We’ve bought in new services (which has attracted new clients) and pushed ourselves more than I think we would have done without him. Ben you’ve been a delight to work with and I look forward to doing more along side you over the next few years. Exciting times ahead.
You can find Ben over on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bencorbally 

4). Vision for 2020

We re-wrote our vision story for Optix this year and delivered it to the team in September. The statement is our second of this type, the last one being done in 2012 and running out in September of 2015. Its written in the format of a story (from a clients perspective of Optix) and outlines some of the goals that James and I have set for the business. This new vision features everything from turnover figures hitting a million to owning our own building. Better get working then!

5). Finally bringing Project Management to Optix

OK so this is an area I’ll put my hands up and say we hung around too long to sort out. This year we’ve recruited Mr James Cassap, a heavyweight recruit for the business from Cambridge University Press who brings 10 years of project management skills to the business. One well known friend of the company has described the change as likely to look like Optix on steroids. I’m looking forward to seeing that next year. :)

6). Bellroy

Ok so a bit of a light-hearted one to throw in here but hey you need to have a bit of fun don’t you. A man’s wallet is a key item to have around his person. The problem with wallets is they are bulky things. They can affect the shape of nice suits and weigh you down. Bellroy know this too well and have invented a set of wallets which solve this problem. I bought one this year and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that everytime I use it, its an absolute pleasure and puts a smile on my face.

So there were six of my year-changers. I’m looking forward to 2015 for personal and business reasons and I’ve got a feeling that next years post will have some pretty special points in it.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a prosperous and healthy 2015

Now Your Thoughts
 
  • So what changed your life this year?
  • Who and what made an impact on your 2014?

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

–Update to Post Mar 2014–

For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.

The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.

Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.

As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?

If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?

p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.

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. 

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

Business cards for new start-ups

Business cards for new start-ups

In the interest of full transparency, today see’s a sponsored post from Leslie Harding who approached me a while ago to write about a topic I feel is important to you guys. When starting Optix Solutions, 13 years ago I quickly gained the nickname ‘business card’ with my peer group. At almost every opportunity I gave a card to anyone who would have one. It was a necessity back then to get the business off the ground. When Leslie sent me this post I was delighted as its a topic I’ve not written much about before. Enjoy…

Author Bio:
Leslie Harding an Events Management graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University who has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and business development.

Many people argue that business cards have become somewhat obsolete since the 1990’s. Are they a worthwhile investment for start-ups?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were used to signal the arrival of someone important to your home or town. Today they are used as a way of self-advertisement much as they were previously but nowadays it is a less grandiose gesture, and more of a common attribute in business meetings. Which is why it is important to understand why they are a solid investment for any new business start-up.

Business etiquette
Etiquette, seemingly an old and outdated formality can have a surprising effect on our modern lives and business. Business cards are very much about business etiquette.  It is very much part of the corporate custom to swap business cards with people you meets at trade shows, conferences and such like. It is the first point of call for anyone you meet on a professional level and offers an extended first impression of you and your business.
You should also consider having double sided cards printed if you plan on working or expanding into different countries. Make sure your business cards are suitable for the foreign market and have them printed with the language of the country on one side. If you personally hand someone a card make sure you hand them it with their spoken language upwards.

Up close and personal
It is suggested that business cards help to increase personal relationships in the business world. They are important for this reason. Business is arguably all about contacts, people buy from people and connections are important. Business cards help promote personal relationships in the working world. Your business card is an extension of you and the first impression you give, the two should go hand in hand. Make it personal and professional at the same time, many people suggest a photograph of you helps to enforce this idea and also helps people put a face to a name, literally.

Advertisement
Business cards as mentioned are an extension of you. They are the second, “first” impression people are given of you. They should reflect you and what you do purely and simply. They are a way of self-promotion and advertisement and you should make sure you have more than enough when attending conferences and meetings with potential suppliers or business partners etc. Make them simple but effective.

Design
Your cards should express you and what you do. They should be eye catching and have relevant information on them only.  You should stick to the simple, “who, what, where, when and how to contact you” layout, your contact section should include your social media and website information. Keep your design clean and not too over the top, although a little personality won’t hurt covering your business cards in Hello Kitty is not relevant unless you’re running a fan club.

Cheap cost not cheap quality
You do not have to pay through the roof for marketing materials. Starting a new business is expensive and where possible you shouldn’t cut corners especially with your marketing materials as these are what your investors and customers see. This doesn’t mean you need to re-mortgage your house.  There are plenty of options out there it’s just about shopping around and finding the best deals, companies offer free online personalisation and often free sample bundles. This is a great way to test the water and a cheap but professional quality source. Business cards are still widely used and for new business start-ups they are a great way of selling your company to potential investors, partners and your clients and customers. They are by no means the only reason you will succeed but if forgotten about can reduce your impact in meetings, imagine going to an interview without having prepared or leaving your CV at home.

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

8 of my top articles, all in one place…

One of the things its easy to forget when you’ve been blogging for a long time is all the great posts and content you’ve put together over the years. All that effort you put in, potentially lost in the mists of time.

Unless a user finds your posts by a search engine, its unlikely they’ll navigate back over years worth of content – lets face it, who has the time for that?

There is an easy solution to this though – A ’round up’ post. A collection of posts from your blog linked to from another post just like this. It could be your ‘favourite 5 articles’, ‘7 posts you’ve written on a  particular topic’, it could just be a random mixture you want to highlight for another reason.

So with that in mind, here is one from me.

I use a tool called Postrank (owned by Google) to help me work out which of my posts are well received and which flop. It scores on all sorts of metrics like comments/shares etc…

So here are my top 8 posts of all time according to my post rank stats – enjoy:

1). Here’s a great way to loose some customers – I got quite miffed one holiday in Cornwall a year or so ago and decided to rant a little on my blog. Right or wrong, this post topped the charts!

2). Do what you do best and delegate the rest – A post about my framework for delegation, essential as your company grows.

3). 7 Super useful resources for busy business owners – Gotta love a list of useful resources. It seems other people did too.

4). Facebook Places – Are you Aware – One of my most commented on posts so it clearly hit a nerve. A post about thinking before you ‘check-in’

5). If I were a solicitor… – Here’s a post for all solicitors thinking about how to use social media. Loads of great ideas, crowd-sourced from others as well.

6). The sale ain’t made ‘til the bill is paid! – Putting together a policy on money and collecting it is essential to any business, large or small. This post gives some hints and tips on this topic.

7). 5 traits successful business owners have – This one got a lot of traction. The title speaks for itself.

8). Cash Flow is King! Guide to setting up a cash flow forecast – My most visited post (and one of my oldest) by a long way. It proves that if you give a bit of value away you get search engine listings and lots of traffic in return.

Now Your Thoughts

  • If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog and have others you think I’ve missed out please do highlight them.
  • Have you thought about doing a round up post yourself? Its really quite fun to reminisce…

Photo courtesy of Fabio Marini under creative commons

p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.



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8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

8 Simple Steps to Email Marketing Loveliness

Some of you might be wondering why I’m writing about email marketing today – it’s old hat isn’t it? With all this new social media buzz, there is surely no place in the world for email marketing is there? Well I believe there is and I intend to tell you why and how you can use it to grow your client base today.

Let’s settle one thing quickly – if you’re reading this, thinking about buying a database from someone on a street corner (or even  a more reputable source) then this article probably isn’t for you. I’m focusing today on using your own valuable data, built up over years possibly.

I want to start with a story. About a year ago a guy approached Optix having met me 6 years ago at a networking event. I’d agreed with him to receive the Optix newsletter and we both went our separate ways. Optix kept in touch with him by way of our monthly newsletter and recently he became one of our largest clients. He’d watched the business grow and liked what he’d seen.

Here are a few sure fire ways to use email marketing to help your business grow:

1). All about the data – A good email marketing campaign revolves around good data. Make sure yours is clean or you’ll just be throwing money away.

2). Build your data – what can you give away to build a database of leads/contacts/prospects? This year we launched our free social media policy generator: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/free-social-media-policy-generator/ – A tool of real value which also helps us build leads – true ‘Inbound Marketing’.

3). Split Test your email subject lines – A good email marketing system will split test campaigns for you. It will take 50% of your database and send two different subject lines, content variants or from names and then track the most successful delivery rate, then send the winner to the other 50% – using this will give you better open and click through rates.

4). Spam & Client Testing – Emails show up differently in different email clients. Now email is consumed more and more on mobile devices you need to make sure your email is designed and developed for all these variants. This again is something a good system should be able to do for you. If not, make sure you ask your designers to consider this.

5). Deal with bounces – If an email bounces (doesn’t reach its destination) it can be for a couple of reasons. A soft bounce may infer a problem with the routing of an email to someones email box/server and is likely to be ok next time round. A hard bounce means that email doesn’t exist any longer and should be cleaned from the database – no point spending money on people that won’t ever answer!

6). Use Autoresponders – When you signup to something on a site have you ever received an email a few days later which follows it up…and then again a week or so after that? You’re part of an autoresponder system. Clever marketers know that it takes a few ‘touches’ to get to a sale but tracking and sending emails to everyone that signs up with your site manually would be far too inefficient to deal with so autoresponders help to do this for you. Used cleverly, these are extremely powerful tools

7). Segment your data – If you’re blasting everyone in your database in one go you’re probably not getting the most from it. Segment your data into interests/purchases made if you’re running an ecommerce shop or even simple things like male/female if this makes a difference to your customer. For example, I’m not hugely interested in the latest dresses from Reiss (a favourite shop of mine) but they don’t send me that because I’m segmented in their database.

8). Tie into your Social Profiles – If you have a fantastic Facebook page and a tremendous Twitter presence then make the most of them. Ask people to sign up for your updates – if you don’t ask you don’t get after all. Don’t bombard them but a few calls to action every now and again is fine.

It’s time to get clever with your email marketing – it’s still one of the most powerful tools in the online marketing toolbox.

Oh and if you’re looking for a provider, we have our own that you can find out more about over at http://www.envirosend.co.uk

Image courtesy Ramberg Media Images

Now Your Thoughts

  • What’s worked or not worked for you when you’ve marketed by email?
  • Got any tips for the other readers?

How to Rock a Tradeshow

How to Rock a Tradeshow

For those of you who follow me on Twitter you’ll know that this week I attended The East London Expo in Dagenham. It was a great event but it highlighted a few things for me which I felt were worth blogging about this week. Hopefully if you find yourself getting ready for an exhibition, you can take some of this advice and use it to your advantage.

First things, first – Expo’s are not cheap. You have the price of the stand, the cost of travel, the cost of the equipment and printed material and (don’t forget this one), the cost of your time. If you’re going to invest in this, you need to be sure you’re going to make proper use of it.

So rather than tips today I’ve made a list of thoughts for you

1). Prepare, prepare, prepare – Think out your stand well in advance, work out the dimensions, what you’re going to have on there in the way of furniture and plan it properly (we marked ours out with tape first to see what space we had).

2). Watch out for the ‘snatch and grab’ brigade – Yes, those people who walk round and take every bit of literature going as if it were to be part of a collection or something – placing expensive material near the front of the stand allows this group to do this and guess what, you’re not going to get any work from them – don’t waste it.

3). Seminars – Many shows I’ve been to over the years have had seminars running at them. These are usually unpaid speaking gigs but they give you the ability to raise awareness of yourself and your company. I highly recommend putting yourself up for these talks, at which you can of course invite people back to your stand afterwards to chat further.

4). Dress Appropriately – Suit and smart clothing may be best for your business but if you have branded clothing this goes down especially well because you’ll be walking about a lot. At the expo this week I even saw someone dressed as a spark plug!

5). You’re there to learn, not to sell – POW – you weren’t ready for that one were you? I lost count of the times that I walked around shows and people on stands practically accosted me and pulled me into their stand and waffled at me regarding their service or product. Sound familiar? What had these guys done? They’d spent their valuable time telling me about their business (which by the way I wasn’t really interested in) while their perfect client walked past, saw they were busy and walked on.

6). Them not you – A quick cursory glance at your stand name and then the inevitable, ‘So what do you do then?’ Heard that one before? Crikey, I must have heard that 300 times this week. I almost always respond in the same way (this works at networking events aswell by the way) – ‘We run a web design and online marketing agency, but hey that’s not important, what do YOU do?’ Turning the question around on someone allows them to talk about themselves and for you to learn…that way you’re far better placed to work out which of your services might be able to help them.

7). The next step – Work out what your next step is for the show. What is the perfect outcome for you? Do you want hundreds of cold lead business cards that will probably take you ages to follow up and get back to or would you like fewer, but more serious appointments or at least phonecalls booked? I know which one we go for.

8). Follow up material – If sending out follow up material is important to your business then make sure it’s prepared before the show so all you need to do when you get back is hand over the addresses and away you go.

There are probably hundreds of hints and tips for tradeshows so I could go on but I’ll let you guys take the stage and add some more

Now Your Thoughts

  • What howlers have you seen occur at these events?
  • What’s made you smile and think that’s innovative?