Using Social Media to Enhance Employability

I’m really excited as tomorrow I’m going to be spending the morning with students at Exeter University, talking about Social Media and how it can help their job prospects. We all know its a tough world out there right now and getting a job is a lot harder than when I left the same University, 12 years ago.

I’m excited because when I was there, I didn’t have any of the tools available to these guys to help my search for work. Those who want to give themselves a head start in life really do have a fantastic opportunity to do so.

So here are my top tips to any student looking to use Social Media to enhance their employability potential.

1). Without wanting to start on a negative note, the first place to start is understanding privacy settings and what employers these days use the web for – Googling your name. Have you Googled your name (that’s mine by the way) to see what turns up? Have you checked to see what information people can turn up on you on Facebook without being logged in, or through a profile that is not friends with yours? If not, I suggest you do, because rightly or wrongly prospective employers will be doing so.

2). Right lets get positive now. If I could give one piece of advice to a prospective employee it would be to start blogging. How many CV’s do you think every job you go for is going to attract? How many of them link to a blog which shows off their knowledge, thoughts & personality? Not many I bet you. So here’s your number 1 chance to stand out. With tools like WordPress so easy to use (and free), you can start a blog today, while you’re at Uni and demonstrate to future employers 1000 times more about you, than you can on your CV.

3). Start listening & learning. Use tools like Twitter to start searches for people tweeting in the area you’re looking to get work. Build up a picture of who is about and begin to engage with them. Getting to know a prospective employer before you’ve even applied for a job could just give you the edge you need when it comes to interview time.

4). More Learning. Really?!? Yup ‘fraid so. The workplace is very different to Uni life. Find industry experts and influencers in your field of choice and follow them on sites like Twitter. Learn from them, create your own posts about the things they say on your newly formed blog. Find the thought leaders out there and start to build up real world knowledge of what business is really going to be like.

As an aside, if you’re into Business & Marketing here are a few great people/companies to start with:

Chris Brogan
, Seth Godin
, UnMarketing
Mashable & Econsultancy

5). Make LinkedIn your corporate network. In the business world many of us use LinkedIn as our corporate network. We keep personal stuff to Facebook so that’s not much use to connect with us on. Twitter is more difficult to build close connections on quickly, it takes time. Start to add people you meet at job fairs/events/shows/out networking and build your numbers. Know people in the local business community (family/friends etc)? Add them too. Numbers lead to leverage in LinkedIn and as you take your profile wherever you go in your working life, you should start to see this as one of your most valuable assets.

6). Be Proactive – When I’m looking to recruit, I want someone that stands out. I want someone that makes the effort to go the extra mile. I want someone that doesn’t just send me in a CV and hope for the best. Recruitment is expensive for us company owners. You can not only save us money but show you’re different by finding me on LinkedIn and sending me your details. Ensure to tell me not just about your skill set, but why you want to work for me, what you can bring to my company and why you’re different. You’ll be ahead of 95% of other candidates already and if you’ve done everything else I’ve said above I may not even bother seeing anyone else!

Guys, if I were looking for a job now I’d be really enthused by all the ways I can make myself stand out. The question is….are you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any more tips for the stars of the future?

The Secret to Great Customer Service

The Secret to Great Customer Service

Be where your customers are… Mind-blowing isn’t it. I hope I didn’t set your expectations too high with that title! :)

When I’m discussing social media communications with clients, one of the concerns they often have is that their customers may not be active in these spaces. It’s a valid point and one that is worth spending some time on. I was recently talking to a client of ours in the plant hire business. They weren’t sure if Twitter was going to be of use to them as a business. As we discussed this in their boardroom, a client of theirs pulled up outside in a van and walked into the hire showroom. This was clearly a ‘man and his van’ outfit. Lets call him Derek’s Diggers for the purpose of this post.

Derek and his small business are going through a tough time at the moment. Work is not easy to come by, there is an awful lot of competition and he needs as many ways of reaching his target audience as possible. You can bet he is probably networking, putting leaflets through doors, maybe cold calling and in this day and age if he isn’t active on sites like Twitter yet, you can bet he will be within a year or so. For the small to medium business without large marketing budgets, social media is seen as a relatively cost effective way of marketing. In the majority of cases these sites have free signup so Derek can start to build his following and create business opportunities in a tough market.

I asked my client if they had an email database of their clients? The answer was yes… I went onto explain that looking after clients in social media space provided another, excellent way of reaching out to these important people. By finding and following these companies/individuals on sites like Twitter, they could spend time understanding their prospects businesses, adding value to the relationship with them and ultimately build stronger and better relationships. The penny started to drop.

Your clients may or may not be on sites like Twitter and Facebook, Google + or LinkedIn, but before you discount any of them from your comms mix, make sure you spend time finding out. I truly believe its hard to put a value on retention of current clients, not to mention finding the new opportunities that lie within these exciting online platforms.

Why not spend some time today seeing who’s active locally on Twitter: https://twitter.com/search - Use the advanced options to play with your postcode settings. Try your clients names, both personal and company (I find searching for these in Google is often easier than Twitter itself). Once you’ve found your clients, put them into a list using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and keep a close eye on what they are saying, so you can be the first to congratulate/help/just say hi occasionally. Do the same on LinkedIn, Facebook and G+ and I assure you, you’ll reap the rewards over the long haul.

Now Your Thoughts

•    Where do you find the majority of your clients hang out? Is one platform better than another for you?
•    Do you have any other tips for client retention?

Thank You!

Thank You!

As I write this, at 8am on the morning of my birthday, I’ve already received numerous texts from people, tweets, linkedIn messages and facebook wall comments wishing me many happy returns. I’m actually quite overwhelmed by it. Thank you so much everyone. Many of the people on the social networks didn’t even know me a few years ago and they’ve taken the time to stop by and wish me the best – this is one of the reasons I love this medium – the ability to build relationships :)

Without wanting to get too nauseous I thought rather than a ‘list of things to do’ or a ‘top ways to….’ blog, I’d simply write about the things I’m grateful for, something I think everyone should do once in a while. It’s a positive thing to do, so even if you don’t publish it like I have, maybe do this for yourself in private – it might help put things in perspective.

Health – Another year passes and I’m in good health which has to be up there as one of the most important things to be grateful for. I’ve joined the gym this year and intend to work on this part of my life even more in 2011. Fit body, fit mind after all.

Family – I’m incredibly grateful for having a supportive family. My parents are always behind everything I do and while they are not necessarily in my life everyday, they have a huge bearing on where I’ve come from and where I’m going. A special mention here goes to my brother and his partner who had my niece, Tilly, last year – the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen and someone that has made me think much more about work/life balance.

Friends – My friends and partner are unbelievable. A close nit group, spanning the country & lots more abroad. Intelligent, enthusiastic, gregarious people who I owe an awful lot of why I am ‘me’ too. People I can turn to in time of need and most importantly, people that I know will keep me smiling and laughing all day long.

The Optix Team – No one has had it easy over the last couple of years, business in general for the country has been tougher than it’s been in a very long time so I’m thankful and grateful for my business and my team – without whom, it wouldn’t be possible.

You – Finally I’d like to thank you. For reading this, for sharing it with friends, for commenting and spreading it. It makes it worthwhile.

You can put your sick buckets away now guys, normal service will resume next post. Just thought this might be a nice little break from the norm. :)

Now Your Thoughts

  • What are you most grateful for? It would be great to hear…

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

A few days ago a new website popped up called ‘Please Rob Me’ and it got me thinking, are all these location based applications and websites a cause for concern or not? It’s certainly very exciting, so does this put a dampener on the whole thing?

If you’re new to the location based games world then let me bring you up to speed as quickly as possible. This is another one of those big ‘Internet crazes’ (Some say it could be the new Twitter or Facebook!!). Once again, the UK finds itself a little behind the US but it won’t be long before we start to catch up and see a lot of people playing these location based games. In America there are literally thousands and thousands of people online but in a town like Exeter where I’m from, in Devon, there are only a handful of people playing (all testing the water much like myself).

Here’s a really simplified overview of how these games work:

  • Via a mobile website or application, a user/player ‘checks-in’ to a location – usually a place of work/cafe/restaurant
  • User is geo-targeted by mobile device so they can only log in if they are actually in the vicinity.
  • User then gets rewards in the way of points, items and badges for checking in
  • User can choose to post this to social media sites like Twitter or Facebook – This is where much of the outrage and the idea of Please Rob Me has come from
  • Leaderboards (in some games) give a sense of competition and keep users interested (stickiness)
  • In the US, clever business owners are catching onto publicity/marketing opportunities for these games – for example, in one of the games if you check-in the most times at a location you are known as ‘The Mayor’ of that place – Cafe’s/Restaurants are rewarding these loyal customers with good deals or even freebies. In some cases, it goes further and points built up on these games can actually be traded as currency at these locations – old fashioned loyalty schemes packaged in a new and exciting way.

There are two big players in this arena with a number of other applications also using location. The two big players in town are Foursquare and Gowalla, with services like Google Buzz and Yelp also determining your position to give you location specific data or tell others where you are.

As I noted in the bullet points above, this is an exciting opportunity for savvy business owners to cash in on the new ‘mobile generation’ and over the next 12 months this will be an interesting market to watch in the UK. It’s one that I certainly intend to continue using and advising my clients on.

So – The Flipside – Should we all be frightened about using these new websites and apps? Are we really telling people when we’re not in and that we’re an easy target to burgle? My opinion is that in some ways this service opens us up to potential risk if used incorrectly. Like most services online you need to approach them with a degree of common sense, if you do this, then I don’t see why you can’t enjoy the benefits of services such as Foursquare and Gowalla and the exciting new opportunities these will bring to the UK.

I just want to throw in a few reasons why I don’t think you should be worried:

  • A lot of burglary is opportunistic – If someone is planning via Twitter and other social media sites then my guess is they are going to go to other serious lengths to get into your property anyway
  • Just because I check-in somewhere doesn’t mean my partner/housemate/dog/cat/friends aren’t at my house ready for any unsuspecting would be Twitter burglar (see my points below for word of caution)
  • A huge proportion of homes are empty in the day while people go to work – should we all stop working because we’re letting people know we are not at home?
  • If someone wants to see if you’re at home, they probably only need to walk by your house and make a few quick decisions on whether you are there or not (car there/lights etc…)
  • I would guess that a stake out of a house is far more effective than a stake out of someone’s twitter account if someone really wants to get to your property
  • A check-in doesn’t specify a time period – you could be checking in just as you leave a location and are on your way home!

The Dutch creators of Please Rob Me claim to have created the site in order to point out the risks involved in using these services – If this is the case, I personally think they should go a little further in giving some tips to users on how to minimise their risk. As they don’t, here are mine – please spread them round to people you know using these games:

  • Don’t check-in when you are at home – That tells people where you live in the first place
  • Don’t let friends and family check-in when they are at your home – See above….
  • Don’t check-in mentioning you’re with your partner/housemates – Even though you’re out and about, they may well not be
  • Don’t check-in on holiday – now that’s a risk I don’t believe is worth taking
  • If you want to be ultra cautious and as it’s not time specific, check-in when you’re just leaving the venue and on your way home

If you start playing these games, do it with a degree of common sense and have fun – the opportunities they present are fantastic.

Is your marketing material all about you?

Is your marketing material all about you?

I learnt a valuable lesson about marketing once which fundamentally changed the way I view the composition of marketing material for my businesses. This was the lesson: It’s not about me/my business, it’s about the needs of my prospective clients. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but it’s all to easy to talk about yourself when putting together this material. I challenge you to look at your own material now (yes this minute – go and grab it) with a subjective head on and consider how it would read to someone you want as a client. Have you told them how great you are? Have you told them how much experience you have, how many years you’ve been in business and the fact that you’re one of the best in your area at what you do? Is this the main message? Guess what? Your prospective clients don’t care. They have their own issues, their own challenges and their own needs to satisfy. They don’t care if you’ve got over 50 years combined experience in your market, they probably don’t care if you are the number one company offering XYZ in your area! These maybe useful to know and perhaps you should have these as after thoughts but they shouldn’t be your main message. What you actually need to do is define the audience you’re trying to reach, why they might need to buy what you offer and then heres the clincher – solve their problem for them (or at least tell them that you can solve it somehow).

When you start thinking about marketing like this, it requires a different style of thinking, a different outlook on the production of this important material. In my opinion there are far too many companies out there simply ticking a ‘marketing box’. They produce some material saying how great they are, they send it out either electronically or via snail mail and then saying ‘Yeah good job guys, that’s the marketing bit done’. They then wonder why they are not getting results and why the phone is not ringing off the hook. Next time you’re putting together something which is marketing your business, try and think of how it will be viewed in terms of the buyer. If you’re like me then I’m sure that everyday you gets lots of letters, glossy flyers and brochures across your desk – how many of these end up in filing cabinet Z (The bin)? A large proportion I’ll wager? Now think about what made you pull that one thing aside to actually spend some time looking at? I bet it added value for you in some way, or helped towards, or claimed to be able to solve a problem you have? The success in direct mail and e-marketing can be quite low so you need to make sure you make it work for you. It can be expensive after all. If you’re looking for inspiration then I can thoroughly recommend signing upto the Glazer Kennedy Insiders Circle. These guys are legends at preparing marketing material which really works. You can also check them out on their Facebook page or follow Mara Glazer on Twitter. You won’t be dissapointed.

One last tip – Not all of us are or ever will be marketers so when you produce drafts for your next brochure of sales flyer, try sending it out to friends and colleagues who could be potential buyers and ask theem to be as constructive as possible. Be prepared to have it ripped apart and get ready for the critiscm – Don’t get defensive if its not what you want to hear – after all you don’t want to send out something that’s going to get you nowhere do you? The end result will be a more successful campaign and hopefully better conversions into real business.

Most importantantly – Have Fun :)

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

2009 saw an explosion in the social media world here in the UK. Yes, some early adopters were on a lot earlier than that but the majority of people that were still ahead of the curve, found their feet last year. Personally I found it very easy to get involved in everything going on and each new piece of technology, so much so that sometimes I think many of us (myself included) forgot about the masses of businesses out there looking in, on the social media world and wondering what it could do for them. A lot of these businesses were/are major sceptics and see social media as something only young people or ‘geeks’ take part in. I’ve decided to take stock in 2010 and remind myself of what I’m good at; coaching small, medium and large businesses on how to get the best out of these tools in their everyday business lives. I’m looking forward to talking to everyone from taxi companies in our local town to large nationals about social media and how they can use it to gain exposure and extra business.

I was asked to speak at a Best Of (Exeter) networking event about this topic last night. The audience ranged from people who didn’t know what Twitter was, to advocates of social media and its use in business. I decided to take them on a journey of tips which it made sense to share with you today. If you know SME’s that are aiming to get into social media then please pass on this post….I make no bones about this being basic, but let’s not get caught up in ourselves – the huge majority of people out there still need help from the very beginning.

What follows are Banksy’s 8 top tips for social media success:

1.  Learn about the subject – Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away – it won’t, social media is not a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about marketing and will become part of the main marketing mix for many businesses this year. Find yourself a local course to go on in order to learn the difference between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re reading this in Exeter then my good friend Dave Thomas at Bluegrass IT runs an excellent social media course which will get you upto speed.
Once you’ve done a course…..

2.  Create a strategy – Don’t just fall into the trap of setting up a Twitter account/Facebook page and hoping for the best – It’s important to create a strategy that outlines what your goals are, who your audience is and how you’re going to measure results – only then start using the sites we all hear so much about. Oh and by the way strategy creation and implementation are something Optix can help you with (shameless plug J)
OK, so you’ve gone on a course and put together your strategy now…..

3.  Download tools to help you manage your accounts – Possibly the number one question I get is – How do you have time to do this all? Well it’s about being clever with your time. There are numerous tools available to savvy social media users – one of the best being Tweetdeck – This allows me to post to Twitter/Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time. There is an iPhone app which allows me to post on the train, in the car waiting for meetings and sometimes even walking along :) It really doesn’t take that much time from your day, don’t use that as an excuse!

Right, you’ve got your tools downloaded and ready to go – now you need to build a following/fans…

4.  Network Locally – Setup local searches on Tweetdeck for the town you live in – I’ve met more people in the last year through social media than through any other method. Exeter (my town) has a vibrant community of 500+ members. If you start to follow people tweeting about your town and talking to these guys and adding value to them, just watch your number of followers and fans rise (don’t get too caught up in the numbers game – its far more about quality than quantity)

Now you’ve got a following – what can you do with it? Here is one tip…

5.  Use it for Research – People get caught up in the sales side of social media a lot – ‘Is it bringing in business?’ Well one of the main benefits in my opinion is the power of research. I needed a Hotel Booking System last year and tweeted about this to my following – within a few minutes I had 4 or 5 good quality recommendations for companies to use and people to speak to. Go back to the olden days (2008 and before :)) and I would have asked a search engine, got a lot of results I didn’t know anything about and hoped for the best. A change in the way we search is coming….

6.  A specific tip for LinkedIn – You can use LinkedIn to find people (This breaks down the barrier of the gatekeeper) It tells you if anyone in your network knows this person and gives you a way of asking to be introduced via your contact. The more savvy sales people among you will see this as a fantastic resource. I was reading about a local company that had gained investment the other day and as an entrepreneurial type, I figured that had potential for Optix – Invest means a change of website/online strategy I hoped. I typed the company name into LinkedIn and BAM – MD/FD/MarketingD profiles and one of them knew someone I knew! I asked for the connection and we are now speaking….that all took me about 5 mins by the way. Would you rather be cold calling or being clever with social media tools?

7.  Monitor – Even if you’re not convinced social media is for you, it’s happening out there – I monitor my name/my business name/my staff and terms including the services we provide. It may produce opportunities for me or at least tell me where I’m being discussed in a conversation and if I need to be involved.

8.  Create a staff policy – If your staff are out there on the Social Media platforms you need a policy to help them understand how you expect them to engage with others and how they can help your business. A cohesive team effort by staff on social networks such as Twitter works wonders and helps re-enforce your brand. At Optix we have about 6 of our staff all working together to promote each other and the business on the networks, we link to this from our company team page here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/team-optix/

So that concluded my own tips but hey, this is social media so I wanted to do a little experiment to show the group that people were out there and ready to help. So last week I tweeted the following:

“Hi All, I’m running a talk on Social Media for SME’s this week and have had the idea of crowd sourcing  some advice. If you could give one tip for a company looking to get into Social Media, what would it be.”

All the post’s below show people from as far away as America taking their time to help me with this talk in Exeter – This was social media at work:

  • If small business: start with a commitment to listen and seek understanding above all else. No crass self-promotion. – Trey Pennington – Greenville in the states
  • Manage your time on it explicitly. It can be addictive! :)Martin Howitt (DCC)
  • Be yourself, communicate back and embrace – Matt Young – Heart FM
  • Social Media doesn’t exist in isolation. Make sure it’s consistent (tone / message) with your other communications – Jon Alder – Alder and Alder
  • Research & appreciate the difference between each SM channel b4 you jump in, consider your strategy for each. Be yourself. – Sarah Knight – Sarah West Recruitment
  • Do your research: Can SM help you to achieve your business objectives, is your audience using it, and if so, where are they – Gemma Went – Red Cube Marketing
  • Strategy & policies are very important. Be authentic. Ask your customers what THEY want from you :)Kristen Sousa – Optix Solutions
  • Don’t just imitate – lift restrictions for *your* audience, without overestimating participation levels – Scott Gould – Aaron & Gould
  • Keep it real and have a believable personality, it’s ‘social’ media at the end of the day, not just about business. – Mark Cotton – SW Head of Big Lottery Fund
  • My advice – understand how/why others use it, but do what feels right for you – Patrick Smith – Joshua PR

Although basic advice for many of you reading this I’m hoping to bring social media to the masses in 2010. If you’re someone looking for help in this area then please contact Optix to see what they can do for you – see you on Twitter :)

Scott Gould vs Alastair Banks – A Case Study

Ok – back to me again! I have to warn you I’m feeling a bit mischievous today, hence the title!

I realise that this blog will be read by people that don’t know either Scott or I so before I go on, I just want to give you a quick heads-up on who Scott is. He runs a relatively new (2008) ‘Experience Marketing Company’ in Exeter called Aaron & Gould. You don’t need to know us either – what underlies is an important message for new business owners or people trying to make a name for themselves.  That’s probably all you need to know. Let’s move on….

Did you know that most business owners (SMES) are more often than not, sales people? They have to be in order for their businesses to succeed. They normally can’t afford to pay someone to go out and sell for them so they have to sell themselves (this is why some of my networking/sales posts are so critical if you’re starting up). There is nothing wrong with this – it’s how I started and it forms the basis for my post – you see times have changed in business and it wasn’t until I met my new pal Scott Gould that I realised quite how much (Well I realised but this really brought it home).

When I started Optix Solutions I shamelessly gave out my business card to everyone I met – The way I saw it, the more people that knew about Optix the better. In certain circles I was known as the networking king – visiting every meeting I could, wherever it might be and giving away more and more business cards. In fact this got to the point where even my best friends, who didn’t know me through work circles, lovingly gave me the nickname of ‘business card’ :) Happy Days! To be honest, I still live by this mantra – you never know who someone might know, so what are you waiting for, exchange contact details and see where it goes. In fact, only last week I sat on the buffet service on the train back from London and met a senior partner from Deloitte, a guy from Reuters and a product designer. The guy from Deloitte asked for my card and the chap from Reuters and I exchanged details – all over a meal and a two hour train journey from London to Exeter – The point is, that might not go anywhere – but equally I may well have my biggest sale next month from it. If I hadn’t exchanged cards, it certainly wouldn’t have given me any chance at all.

Back in 1999, Social Media certainly wasn’t around – in fact, Google wasn’t even around (well, only just). Man, I’m starting to worry that I sound old writing this now. :) I should mention at this point that it took me years to become well known – even in a small town like Exeter. I would guess that it was a good 5 years before I was trusted on the networking circuit.

Now roll on 10 years and I meet this chap, Scott, through our mutual love of Social Media and especially Twitter – I think I’m right in saying that from one of my first tweets about Exeter he popped up with a friendly ‘hello’ and said if I needed any help that I could contact him’ – What a gent! We’ve since become friends and Scott and I have done some work together. Optix also sponsored the fantastic event that he put on a month or so ago – Like Minds.

I’m pretty sure that by his own admittance he would say that at the start of this year, his name was not very well known in Exeter. He was a true start-up, had a few clients and was looking around for work. Through use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter he was able to connect with quite literally hundreds of people in the Exeter area in a very short space of time. I watched this process for months with great interest. He was essentially doing what I did when I started, but using new technologies and platforms to achieve it – and doing very well at it. For the first part of the year very few people had actually met Scott but many new his name – they’d connected on Twitter and other platforms, but slowly and surely people soon started to meet him at tweet ups and events and then of course he blew everyone away by organising Like Minds entirely using social media (read my article on that here). Now he’s known all over the town – in fact some might say it’s the Scott Gould show at the mo ;) (He will love that one!)

Scott has successfully used modern tools to network the area, gain trust and reputation and he now stands in a great place to capitalise on that and take Exeter, Devon and possibly the World by storm – All in less than a year. I take my hat off to him, I really do. What took me years to achieve, Scott has done in a far shorter period of time. I wish him well.

So to summarise, in case anyone missed the point of this post – Use social media to build your networks locally, gain trust and reputation. Make sure you network online and offline and as much as possible and you’ll reap the rewards in business. To help you along the way I’ve picked out a few of the tactics Scott would have used to achieve what he has – you too can use these, starting today:

  • Follow your local town/city name – Setup a search for the town/city in any of the major tools such as tweetdeck and actively engage with people mentioning the name  – There are also directories like twellow that you can use to find people and now twitter has its ‘lists’ feature, many people have setup local lists which make it really easy to find local ‘tweeps’ – For those of you in Exeter – Here is the search for Exeter on Twitter done for you already.
  • Use social media as an ‘Enabler and Extender’ – Try and take your contact through the following process – tweet/email/call/meetup – You may be lucky enough to do business as a direct result of SM but its more likely that you’ll need to meet up, so use the tools to gently take people more quickly through this processes which might have taken months or years in ‘olden days’ – circa <2007 ;)
  • Have a clear result – Who do you want to attract/connect with?  Have a strategy, even if  its as basic as ‘I want to talk to business leaders/influencers in my town’ – Filter out what you’re not interested in and have a strategy in place.

Scott and I have recently co-founded TAGS Tweetup in Exeter with Dave Thomas – If you’re interested in finding out more then please take a look at our new Tags blog for information about the next event.

Now go and put a brew on and come back ready to use your new found tactics to build your network and of course, as always, please let me know about your success.

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited by thebestof to attend a seminar by legendary American sales trainer Jeffrey Gitomer in London. Not really sure what to expect, I booked my place purely on Nigel Botterill’s (CEO of thebestof) account of him. I have a great deal of respect for Nigel as a businessman so knew it couldn’t really go wrong. It was a full day and I came away with pages and pages of notes and action points, all of which I’ve written up today, while still fresh in my mind.

If you’re interested, Nigel also posted on his blog about the event entitled, ‘Are you a Winner or a Whiner?’. Well worth a read.

Now I’m not going to try and break down a whole day into one post, so I thought I’d pick up a few of the key points for you, especially if you’re in sales yourself or are starting/just started a business.

People buy people – we know that right? Well I guess most do but I’m sure sometimes we forget. Jeffrey pointed out on MANY occasions that ‘sales’ is quite simply about being friendly – to EVERYONE!

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!

If you make yourself an industry leader in your sector, so indispensible that people want to buy from you, then the time spent doing that will be far better used than making sales calls and giving people your brochure (Jeffrey refers to this as puking on people lol – he also has a fantastic New Jersey accent which I really wish I could convey in this article). So the main premise of the day was to stop thinking about how to sell to someone and starting thinking about how to make them buy. I’m afraid though that this isn’t easy, it takes hard work, something many sales people simply aren’t willing to put in. Do you think just because it’s a Saturday it means I’m not going to blog about work! If you have that mentality, this probably isn’t for you – and neither is a career in sales!

A few top tips from the day that I’ll certainly be actioning myself in the coming weeks:

>> Get creative – Your business card should be a talking point – If the person you give it to doesn’t say ‘wow – cool card’ rip it up and start again!

>> Get video testimonials from clients – This is 100 times more powerful than saying how great you are yourself. If you can walk into your prospects and show them other happy clients waxing lyrical about you you’re on a winner.

>> Talk to your customer’s as if they were your Grandma – I personally love this one. He literally says, add ‘, grandma’ onto the end of any line you’re about to say to a customer and if it doesn’t sound right, don’t say it!

>> Use Social Media – It ain’t going away – THANK YOU JEFFREY – ‘nuff said! J

>> Become your client’s friend – if you make a sale, you make a commission, if you make a friend you’ll earn a fortune. A nugget of gold.

If you get the chance to see Jeffrey then don’t question the money – you’ll make it back 100 fold. You can see and get more information about him on his website here: http://www.gitomer.com or follow him on twitter here: http://twitter.com/gitomer or become a fan on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/JeffreyGitomer

I have already (before the event) purchased a number of Jeffrey’s books and would whole heartedly recommend you consider buying them.


The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness – You can buy it from Amazon here.

Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude: How to Find, Build and Keep a Yes! Attitude for a Lifetime of Success

I’m now off to buy these other books in his range (I didn’t even know these ones existed until yesterday!):

Social Media ROI and Likeminds – WOW

Friday the 16th of October saw Exeter welcome a new social media conference to the Westcountry – Like Minds. My company were lucky enough to be one of the local sponsors and our logo sat impressively on the big screen behind the speakers alongside the like of Magners and Starbucks – not bad exposure I say :)

The reason for this post is to try and reach a few more people and explain the power of using social media in your business. I’ve also been flying high on a wave of social media love since the conference on Friday and want to tell the world about it :)

A few facts first:

  • The conference tackled the issue of ROI in Social Media
  • There were over 200 people there
  • Over 500 watched the conference on Ustream – A live stream of the event – still available here
  • People interacted with the conference in real time from all over the world – Even Stephen Fry the Twitter God dropped in digitally to say ‘Hi’ to everyone there!
  • The twitter fall, which was projected onto the screen while panelists were talking had thousands of tweets on it
  • Two of the keynote speakers flew from America especially to talk at the conference
  • Another keynote speaker – @darenBBC worked for the BBC for some time and was instrumental in putting Microsoft and IBM together as well as working on the iplayer!
  • The last keynote speaker – @mazi is in charge of social media for SKY!

Now here’s the thing – The two guys in charge of this whole event @scottgould and @drewellis didn’t even know each other this time last year! They met on Twitter and through a building of trust using social media, became closer until they decided to launch likeminds together earlier in the year. Now take into account that every single one of the sponsors bought into the event and the organisers purely because of social media. None of us knew Scott or Drew this time last year but like they had done, we had met through our love of social media and innovative thinking. Amazing as this all sounds, its even more amazing to think that this WHOLE event was put on and organised using social media – not a single bit of traditional advertising was used – Scott interacted with and finally met @treypennington and @thebrandbuilder on twitter (our two American friends) and after a visit earlier in the year by Trey, they agreed to talk at the conference – Another victory for social media.

Now Exeter is not known for its conferences or foresight when it comes to technology so to get the numbers mentioned together in a room was a remarkable achievement. I’ve been working in Exeter for over 10 years now and never seen anything like it.

If you want to see the interest in the conference and everything it’s generated since, take a look at the hashtag #likeminds on twitter here. An amazing event experience.

Social media has the power to break down barriers like nothing I’ve experienced before, for example I sat next to one of my competitors all day as we tweeted and retweeted each other on the twitter fall. We then shared dinner that evening (with others I have to say ;)) and it just made me marvel at how important getting ‘like minded people’ together really is. We have undoubtedly become closer due to social media and I’m thankful for that. I also met a lot of fantastic new people at the conference and cemented relationships with others – I literally cant wait for the next one.

Likeminds in itself was a testimony to what social media can achieve if implemented correctly. The return on investment for all involved was huge.

If you’re not using Social Media in your business yet then I strongly suggest you start thinking about it. Of course, if you’re stuck, then Optix Solutions can give you a helping hand :)

Social Media in Business

Even by the internet’s rapid standards, the rise of Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Stumbeupon has been nothing short of meteoric.

With hundreds of millions of people worldwide using social networks regularly (Facebook now has 200 million active users) and their popularity continuing to grow on a daily basis, they represent a massive marketing opportunity to switched-on business.

In Exeter, Social Media is taking off with a large group of users networking regularly together. Next month sees the first social media conference in Devon organised by my friend @scottgould. Optix Solutions are amongst the sponsors and are very excited about hearing and meeting @treypennington and @thebrandbuilder who are both flying over from America especially for the event. Tickets by the way can be bought here: http://alikeminds.org/

The big question for me, is still whether or not a brand can embrace Social Media as well as a person can. I believe there is room for both and there is no question that many high profile businesses have done extremely well from Social Media. Dell, Starbucks and Google all use Twitter well but is there a case for smaller SME’s to make it work for them?

My Opinion: YES! MOST DEFINATELY and I’ve experienced this with my own business. However, whether you run a business or a personal account there are certain ways to go about things and certain etiquette you need to get used to. Within Optix, we encourage our staff to have their own blogs/twitter accounts/social media pages and without a question of doubt this has lead to stronger relationships with our clients who are also using social media and to new work and relationships with people we would almost certainly never have come across without it.

Here are the twitter feeds of some of the guys in Optix (oh and Optix own one is @optixsolutions – we use this for info on our business, special offers, news and site launches):

My Own Twitter Account: @banksy6
Al Gleave (Bus Dev): @alpenwest
Kris Sousa (Sales/Support): @kristensousa
Nick Watson: (Developer) @nickizzle

There is so much I could say about Social Media and Twitter in particular but I’m aiming this at new business owners and entrepreneurs so lets just set you along the right path with some good solid advice on why you need to start thinking about Social Media in your business.

Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips for making social media work for you.

1). Allow people to share your business successes and stories with others – FOR FREE! You can do this by adding a tool to pages on your website that allow anyone surfing, to very quickly share your content with others. Popular tools include Share This and Add This both of which do the job more than adequately. If you’re not sure what I mean by this then take a look at the Devon Air Ambulance website that my company Optix Solutions have just launched and scroll right down to the bottom of the page. You will see a green icon with ‘share this’ written next to it. Click it and see how easy it is to share that website on Facebook/Twitter and many, many other websites out there. Think now of the power of just one or two users sharing that website with potentially hundreds or maybe even thousands of trusted contacts and friends that they have on their own networks. Its almost a no-brainer to have this added to your website these days. If you don’t know how to add it or need help then drop me a line :)

2). Build contacts, relationships and networks online – I’m sure if you’re starting a business, in your early years as a business or an entrepreneur of any kind, you are probably networking offline? Am I right? Well Twitter and other social networks allow you to find people with similar interests and values and then connect with them. The rest is up to you as it would be offline. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a short-term gain, its not. Invest in social media and you’ll reap the rewards later.

3). Leverage social media for your other forms of marketing – Social Media is a great way of generating traffic for your blog or website. Users may then go on and look around other services you have to offer on these websites. In fact, although this blog is starting to get a good reputation with the search engines, the largest referrer of traffic to it each time I post is Twitter. This is because I put the word out to my network each time I post and people visit….which is great:)!

4). Become known as a ‘thought leader’ – This is really about building authenticity in your brand – be it personal or business. It’s a brave/stupid person that tries to sell directly from social media – it just doesn’t work. You need to show others that your posts/tweets/content can be thought provoking and hopefully interesting  so they will engage with you if they feel it’s right to do so. Don’t push marketing material out to them too much or you’ll simply lose followers and contacts.

5). Even if you don’t believe in social media yourself, others do and they could be talking about you or asking for help. There are a myriad of tools out there which allow you to monitor mentions of phrases, including your own brand. I for example, have tools set up to monitor mentions of my company name as well as my own name. Our company monitors local tweets, and anything to do with people looking for web design work.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is not meant to be, in anyway a full break down of social media and what it can do for you, its merely a teaser. I do hope in the future to focus on the individual networks and go into a bit more depth for you on how to get the best from each of these, however in the mean time I recommend reading the Chris Brogan’s blog post on social media here for some great tips:

http://www.chrisbrogan.com/50-ways-marketers-can-use-social-media-to-improve-their-marketing/

Consider today what you want to achieve from social media, consider your audience and which sites they might be using and then put together a plan for yourself and of course, if you need help – drop us a line. Good luck.