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.

 

Facebook Ads and YouTube PreRolls

Facebook Ads and YouTube PreRolls

You may well know that my wife and I are expecting our second child anytime now, the due date was actually Saturday, which has been and gone. So I took the opportunity on Sunday to go and shoot some Ads for Facebook and do a YouTube PreRoll. I wanted to talk to you about how I’ve done that and the options you have available to you when you do so.

So, with YouTube you can put a video in front of other videos that people are watching, they get the chance to skip the Ad after about 5 seconds, so you really have to capture their interest. I took some advice from good old Gary Vaynerchuck and started my video with “Hey guys, I know you’re here to watch something else, but I hope you will just give me a minute of your time”. With Facebook I obviously didn’t do that, but I did create something very similar that goes up as a sponsored post and tells the user a little bit about me and gives them a link to the YouTube Channel. As Facebook owns Instagram, it also goes on that platform.

Once you upload the videos to these platforms, they are both incredibly good when it comes to audience targeting. With YouTube you can target by demographics – things like age and gender. Then you can also target by areas of interest, so if they are interested in Business, for example, it will show the video to people watching business based videos. With Facebook it goes a little deeper than that. Demographics again, but the interests section is a bit more interesting in my opinion, because it actually relies on what the user has typed into their profile. If for example they have said they are interested in business or digital marketing or entrepreneurship then my sponsored Ad will show.

Having created the Ads I now need to measure, evaluate, then refine them. I’m probably going to run the Facebook Ad for the next two weeks, then I’ll move onto the YouTube PreRoll for the following two weeks. I will then look at the results side by side and see which gave me the greatest return. I particularly like the fact that on both platforms I can get in front of the right people who should be interested in my content and ultimately generate more impressions, subscriptions and views on my channel, helping me to build my audience.

I’m interested to know if you are using these mediums in your business? Are you using Facebook targeting? Are you using YouTube PreRolls? If not, you might be missing out on opportunities. If you are using them then let us know if you’re having success and what tricks you’ve learnt. I’d love to know.

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

Just Do It

So today I embarked on my first trip into YouTubing. I created my first video called ‘Just Do It’, aptly named because I wanted to just get something up there, learn from it and improve. I’ll let the video do the talking. If you like it and you want more, please subscribe and share.

 

How to use video in your business

How to use video in your business

Video is changing the market. A few years ago it was too expensive to record things for small businesses. Professional cameras, capable of good enough quality were out of reach to Joe Public and bandwidth costs for hosting video on your website were outrageous. The game has now changed, you can get a flip camera for just over a hundred quid. These Internet friendly cameras allow you to point and shoot on one button, then via an inbuilt USB connector, upload direct to sites like YouTube or Vimeo or simply onto your computer to store for future use – oh and by the way that’s in HD too. They are quite simply the easiest pieces of technology ever!

At the time of writing this, Amazon actually have a sale on the HD version which is normally £160 and is now about £130. I’m not sure how long it’s on for so get yourself over there and get one quick – I promise you won’t regret it: http://amzn.to/cNBqGU (aff link)

So why and what should you be using Video for in your business?

Here’s a few ideas for you:

Here’s why it’s worth it:

The Optimisation Game – If you upload your video to YouTube you get two bites of the ‘optimisation cherry’ – Yes, Google own YouTube meaning they have dibs on two of the largest search engines in the world. More often than not you’ll see YouTube video’s shown in search engine results and guess what folks – those are free to get listed in (well apart from the time taken to video them of course) Doing a review of a product on video and uploading it to YouTube is likely to gain hundreds if not thousands of views. With a clever bit of manipulation and optimisation, you could be pulling in traffic you never thought possible.

Video adds credibility – A client of yours can speak more credibly about you than you can about yourself. You are bound to talk about your business with verve and vigour. Having a client talk about your service/product adds authenticity and credibility in bucket loads.

Video conveys more information – There are so many more dimensions on film. Mannerisms, passion and emotion can be seen and evoked with film.

Video shows personality – It can tell a story better than an flat image.

My online marketing business has it’s own YouTube channel over at: http://www.youtube.com/optixsolutions – check it out for a few ideas.

One thing I must say, is that however good flip cameras are, there are limits of what they can achieve for you and this is where I recommend working with a good video production company such as my friends over at KOR Communications who specialise in the production of high quality video and the services that surround that. Companies like KOR have a background in broadcast and can help you with media training (how to conduct yourself on film etc), they can write scripts and they can edit and brand – something you might not feel comfortable with yourself if you’re doing say a corporate video about your business – My experience tells me not to mess about with that kind of thing yourself – get the pros in  :)

So have you had success with video? What’s the feedback been like around what you’ve produced? Can you link us to any of your work?

Oh and don’t forget that deal at Amazon: http://amzn.to/cNBqGU (aff link)

Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

Presenting – Pleasurable or Painful?

As an entrepreneur or business owner you’re going to find yourself in positions where you are presenting – Fact. This could be for any number of reasons including raising finance, selling a service/product or simply marketing your business. At Optix Solutions, a large part of our marketing plan is devoted to giving seminars & talks where we aim to educate and give our audience value while not over selling our services. No one likes to be sold to, it’s important therefore that our presentation skills are good. I never stop learning this subject – there is always room for improvement.

Over the last 10 years I’ve provided countless seminars and presentations for pitches, so today I thought I’d share with you my ten strategies for a successful presentation.

1). Watch Others – I’ve learnt more from watching engaging speakers and noting down things they do, than from reading any written material on the subject. Find motivational speakers and absorb everything they do; how they move, what they say and how they interact with the audience. I strongly suggest looking up conferences that have good keynote speakers – Seth Godin (marketing guru) is as good a start as any. There are lots of videos of him on YouTube.

2). The Fear – You’re afraid right? Yeah, most people are but a bit of fear can go a long way (did I just make that saying up?). Seriously though, some nerves can be a good thing; they heighten your senses and pump adrenaline round your body, allowing you to work at an optimum level for the time you are presenting. Admittedly, if they are completely overwhelming it might be wise to work on them with a professional, especially if you’re going to be presenting a lot. There are loads of tactics for getting over nerves but the one I use is to keep reminding myself that the people I’m presenting to are only human – they got up that morning and pulled their socks on just like I did! It’s amazing how that Board Director or Chairman just suddenly got a lot cuddlier.

3). Prepare – The old faithful – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” Benjamin Franklin. I would never dream of rocking up to a seminar or presentation unprepared, it’s asking for trouble. Make sure you’ve rehearsed a few times and you know the length of time you’ll take. Obviously this should fit in nicely with the time slot you’ve been given. I also try and second guess some of the questions that could be coming at me if it’s a Q & S format so I’m as ready as I can be for them. Be careful however, not to ‘over prepare’, you don’t want to be reading parrot fashion off slides if you can help it and sometimes if you rehearse too much that’s what can happen. I usually run through a presentation twice before hitting the main event for real.

4). Turn up early – There is nothing more stressful than rocking up to something you’re speaking at late, not to mention how unprofessional it looks. Make sure you are there well in advance of the first attendees and ready to setup. You know it’s not going to be simple to connect your laptop to that projector, so why leave it till the last minute? Turning up early also allows you to work out the room: What the acoustics are like, how the seating is laid out, the lighting and anything else that could put you off or make you uncomfortable in your presentation.

5). Summarise your presentation early on – Telling your audience what you are going to talk about upfront is beneficial as it sets the scene and their expectations. Always begin with what you’re going to cover later and keep it simple as possible. If you’re making a short presentation then try and keep it to only a few points.

6). Aim your presentation at your audience, not yourself –
Although you could be an amazing keynote speaker that people would pay to come and watch, I’m guessing that like me, most of my readers will be using presentations to build their personal or company brands in one way or another. If this is the case then remember one thing – your audience want solutions to their problems and needs – they don’t want to hear you babble on about how amazing you are and how great your services could be for them – aim the material at their needs. Understand your audience before the presentation if possible.

7). Long Wordy Slides? No Way Jose! – Long slides with lots of boring text won’t be remembered. If you’ve prepared well, as I mentioned earlier, then you should be able to talk around the content of a slide. Less, in my opinion, is better. In fact, this last year I’ve watched many more presenters using single slides with just one graphic (we all know that visuals work well – picture/thousand words blah blah blah) and a one or two liner to bring home their points. These are fantastic and certainly a route that I intend to adopt on my quest for better presentation skills in the future.

8). Humour – Try, where possible, to inject humour into your presentation. This will break down the barriers with your audience and engage them more. Once your audience is laughing it will help no end with those nerves I mentioned earlier. People connect with humour, if you’re struggling, then why not get others to look over your work and see if they can see opportunities for the occasional jokey image or funny reference. A caveat here though – be careful with humour and public speaking – the last thing you want to do is offend your audience. Steer clear of taboo subjects for jokes.

9). Connect with your audience – No-one wants to listen to a boring, stiff, monotone presenter. The best speakers I’ve seen work the room – it’s an art I tell you. At the most simple level make sure you connect (eye line) with as many people as possible. Focusing on one individual will alienate the rest of the room. If you want to take that a step further and feel comfortable doing so, then engage with a few people one on one (and by name if poss). If you aim a question at one or two people you’d be amazed what that does to the rest of the audience – they soon start listening, thinking it could be them next! I always try and move about a little in order to inject a bit of life into my talks (I have a habit of pacing) – I also use hand gestures as much as possible to control the room (one very effective one is to put your own hand up when you want others to respond in the same way). If you are going to pace about, then it’s good that you got there early so you can test if your shoes will make a distracting noise on the floor – I kid you not, it’s one of the first things I look for. :)

10). Be unique – You want to be remembered don’t you? You didn’t just get up and spend all that time in front of that frightening audience for nothing did you? Do something unique if possible – give value away where you can (especially if it allows you to follow up after the event). If there’s a call to action for your audience, make sure they know what it is. Thank them for listening.

Although I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, I’ve learnt a lot about presenting and public speaking in the last 10 years – I’m fascinated by the art of it and intend to continue honing my skills over the rest of my business life. I hope this article will help a few people with their own fears or questions about the subject. Good luck…

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.