Category Archive Coaching

Byadmin

Planning “Super”​ Growth for 2019?

6 Simple “Screen Test” Steps for Business Growth

The super organised and resourced amongst you will no doubt have neatly prepared and signed off plans for the new year and beyond. Even the smug amongst you will still have nagging doubts over what the next year may bring. A.I., blockchain, global trade & nationalist tendencies, cybercrime, economy and yes, we cannot forget Brexit.

Whilst there’s no shortage of negative news there are also positive aspects to living in the latter 2010’s heading into the 2020’s, but what of the planning process and where to start?

Here below is my film quote themed list, of 6 steps, that will hopefully help in your planning process.

Everyone who names the films these quotes were taken from will be entered into a prize draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher and each entry, no matter if correct or just funny, will be matched by a £2 donation to Children in Need.
So, either add your entry to the comments below or e-mail me direct via david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk – and good luck!

Now on with the planning…

1. “You can’t handle the truth” – The most important factor in creating a successful plan is to truly understand the current position. Seeing the present situation either through rose tinted glasses or negative pessimism will not help establish an accurate platform to work from. Why not gain an external perspective from a trusted third party? Also, whilst you’re at it, permit yourselves time to step back from the day to day stresses of running the company. This can prove invaluable in setting a realistic starting point from which to plan ahead. Tried and tested tools you’ll be familiar with include PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technology) and SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities & Threats) to help with your situational analysis.

2. “To Infinity & Beyond” – We don’t quite need the Buzz Lightyear warp drive, but a vision of where the business would ideally be in three years rather than the end of 2019 will lift sights beyond the immediate horizon. This is helpful as it can permit broader thinking as to the business model, its market and essentially the “bigger picture”.

3. “Show Me the Money” – We’re not in business simply for the hell of it, so consider both the revenue, profit and thereby costs that this growth is going to create and map the money projections from year three back to year two and then the next 12 months.

4. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Once the thinking has started around where the business is heading consideration as to the resources needed to deliver is essential. There is little point setting plans that are going to be unrealistic unless the people, plant and systems are there to support its objectives.

5. “May the Force be with you” – Having set out ambitious plans for growth it’s now time to use your “laser” focus and powers of collective creativity to articulate a series of defined projects that will deliver your first 12 months goals. Each project should be accompanied by clear objectives.

6. “These go to eleven” – Keep your eyes, ears and hands on the controls. The best plans can all too frequently be delayed or derailed through the day to day pull of a busy business. This is the reason why ongoing measurement of project and planning progress is essential to your overall success. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for each key action and what is expected of them by when.

If the above works for your business you can always produce a sequel for 2020.

Don’t forget to submit your film titles and remember every entry no matter if correct or just humorous will guarantee a donation to Children in Need.

If the above has sparked thoughts of growth planning, feel free to share your thoughts via David.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

NB. There are currently significant funding opportunities for SME’s to support business growth, leadership and management development activities.

Byadmin

Give Your Time an MOT

Do you run your day or does the day run you?

Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;

  • Do you find yourself easily distracted?
  • Do you take longer to complete relatively simple tasks?
  • At the end of the working day do you feel deflated as its mostly been unproductive?
  • Is your sleep pattern disturbed?
  • Are you tired more often than energised?
  • Do you get irritated by little things?
  • Are you checking your e-mails several times an hour?
  • Is your smartphone always on and close to you at all times?
Thought Leader

Thought Leader

If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life.  We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done.  Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time.  It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.

Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage.  It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.

There are very many causes of negative stress.  It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.

The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty.  Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well.  As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year.  Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.

Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem.  First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP.  If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.

Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress.  The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety.  The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and

My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career.  What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.

I have a theory.  Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma.  Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.

Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined.  Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up?  All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us.  As life moved faster so did expectations.  News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.

So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction.  I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those?  I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.

 

  1. Limit screen time – deliberately my first rule. Just see how productive you can be if you step away from the screen, PC, MAC or Smartphone.  Browsing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or even your e-mail inbox can drain your productivity, step away and see the benefit.  One final point – turn the smartphone/ tablet off at night several hours before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
  2. Allow yourself to do fewer tasks. Give yourself a break, the trick is to focus on the things that are important so work out what they are and stick to dealing with them.
  3. Let prioritising and self-analysis of productivity become a habit
  4. Exercise and have a healthy diet. When we’re time starved we cut corners and often that can result in too many fast food meals which can leave us feeling sluggish and demotivated.  Drink can also be used as a self-medication for stress but conversely it can add to feelings of depression and hinder a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Get organised. Being tidy with a system for filing important information can help enormously with your efficiency and taking control of your environment.  It’s true that a cluttered office can lead to cluttered thinking.
  6. When something just has to be done allow yourself scope to lock yourself away to concentrate on the job in hand.
  7. Don’t be phased by a long “to do” list break the tasks down into absolutely must do’s down to non-priorities. Take them out one at a time.
  8. Don’t always start with the biggest task or greatest priority. We all perform better at different times of the day. If you’re an early bird and sharp first thing but fade after 4pm make sure you keep those taking tasks to the morning.  If you’re otherwise inclined reverse it.
  9. Set time limits for certain tasks. You may have a job that’s going to take days possibly weeks.  Set aside a proportion of time to take it on and work though it systematically.  Break it down into sub tasks and monitor your progress.
  10. Reacquaint yourself with the word “No” be polite but assertive if you don’t have the time to take on a particular project don’t be afraid to say so – often things that seem urgent to others are not as pressing as they seem.

If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.

David Laud

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Byadmin

When Social Goes So Wrong – Reputation Management

One of the great benefits of social media is its instant connectivity and accessibility to so many individuals across the globe.  This benefit however can become a distinct disadvantage when things are not all rosy in the social media garden.

SMFL 01 Clooney full size

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s just look at a few examples.  Staff with the responsibility of posting content on behalf of your business decide to boost the reach of your messages by tapping in to a popular hashtag #.  It can be harmless and often look unprofessional, more akin to jumping on an overburdened bandwagon.  One such recent example is #PlutoFlyBy .

Nice pun from the bathroom accessory guys…

Space is all over the news with the#PlutoFlyby, so let us help YOU save space in the bathroom

Or this one from a US Italian restaurant chain…

Have a breadstick on us, Pluto! You’ll always be a planet in our eyes. #PlutoFlyby

Mmm… awkward and looks a little desperate however it’s not malicious and no one is harmed in the hijacking of the hashtag.

Moving on to corporations creating their own hashtag and it backfiring; now that can be an interesting spectator sport.

#MCDStories McDonalds marketing team expected nothing but genuine “nuggets” of wholesome stories, instead they created a McFlurry storm of negativity as tweet after tweet tried to out-score the other on their terrible experiences. Ouch!

Even classy supermarket Waitrose hasn’t escaped the hashtag howler brigade. Their #Waitrosereasons campaign generated a stream of pretentious and pompous tongue in cheek tweets that played on the expense of shopping at the store.  This included a tweet suggesting the shopper always transferred shopping to tesco bags so neighbours didn’t know they’d won Euromillions!

Yes we can laugh at the big brands getting it wrong but what if it happens to you and your business.  We are all vulnerable to attack as soon as we “put ourselves out there” but how do we respond if someone genuinely takes against your business or someone who works in it.

Examples that hit the media spotlight often involve high profile individuals.  Kevin Pietersen brought a successful claim for defamation against Specsavers when their Facebook and twitter advert suggested the ex- England cricketer tampered with his bat.

But it’s not always possible to hit the troublemakers for six.  Bed and Breakfast owners Martin and Jacqui Clark failed to win their case against TripAdvisor after they had received very poor reviews on the rating site.  The Judge refused to reveal the identities of those making the post which had caused the Clark’s to lose business.

This leaves something of a hole in the world of social media where trolls can continue to inhabit and inflict their pain without fear of retribution.  In my view this should be addressed rather swiftly as the proliferation of rating sites has led to many attempts to “game” the sites for competitive advantage.  If a review is fair the reviewer should have no fear of being seen.  If they are allowed to remain anonymous the opportunity to post false and defamatory messages is made far too easy.

What Should You Do

  1. You have the right to take legal action if a post mentions you or your business by name or by reference makes it clear who the message is about. For a successful claim of defamation it must be considered offensive leading others on hearing or viewing the comment to think less of the referenced person/ business.
  2. Defamation cases fall into two categories.
    • Libel for the written word e.g. newspapers, e-mails, texts, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.
    • Slander refers to the spoken word – overheard or recorded.
  3. If you are the subject of an offensive comment on social media report it, block if it’s a tweet. Unfortunately Facebook’s policies are rather inconsistent but still report any messages that cause genuine offence.  Most social media platforms now have options to block foul and abusive posters.
  4. If it’s defamatory content my advice is not to engage with the person posting. Many celebrities and businesses have fallen into the trap of trying to “manage” the situation by responding directly. It’s a natural urge to do so but often creates a stream of communication that escalates without resolving.
  5. If not considered abusive or defamatory – let’s say it’s a publicly visible negative message/ complaint received mentioning a product, service or person within your business. Then you should seek to take the matter away from the public gaze.  If on twitter follow them and ask for a follow back to enable a direct message DM which only the two of you can see.   Message them on Facebook or better still ask for an e-mail address or if appropriate phone number so you can deal with the matter directly and without additional public interference.  Often with big brands, as seen with the hashtag examples, one negative comment can quickly lead to a feeding frenzy of vented spleens. Engaging publicly with everyone can quickly become a full time job.
  6. If your own quick actions as above fail to solve a problem of defamation or if the comments are visible in other mediums such as Google search you may need to call upon the help of a professional.

There has been a great deal of media attention around high profile cases of social media based defamation including Kevin Pietersen, Lord McAlpine and Russell Brand.  As a result there’s been a threefold increase in cases across the country as more of us gain an appreciation of our rights.  The numbers are still pretty low, only 26 matters  2013-14 but the year before saw only 6 cases.  Source: Thomson Reuters – Practical Law

One of the biggest problems a victim of social media trolling can face is the challenge to find anyone to listen.  The huge social media corporations are notoriously oblique in their “face to face” relations with users.  Facebook, Twitter and Google have layer upon layer of FAQ’s, help forums and suitably straight-jacketed reporting processes.  If, as many find, your problem doesn’t tick the right box you’ll have a merry old time attempting to get a sensible answer or swift resolution.

If you find yourself in such a situation please drop me a line.  Over the years I’ve had a number of successful outcomes for clients dealing with Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter.

David Laud

Make an enquiry here:-

Byadmin

Is Marketing Dead?

Headlines of a similar nature have been peppering business news feeds for a couple of years now.  It’s a dramatic supposition. A management function that has breathed its last, passed on, is no more, has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker, stiff and bereft of life, it rests in peace.  Apologies I slipped into a Monty Python moment there.  Just holding with that “Dead Parrot” thought, it does at times feel as though traditional marketing methods and traditional practitioners have been nailed to their perch to give an impression of life where actually none exists.

Marketing Dead

What do I mean when I suggest Marketing may have “shuffled off its mortal coil”? 

Of course as a discipline it’s somewhat absurd to think that it no longer exists or matters but in my view and that of many marketers its traditional construct is no longer relevant in today’s world.

Lecturers and consultants have been surviving on a diet of “P’s” for a very long time to provide a Platform and Purpose to their approach to marketing.  In its day Product, Price, Place and Promotion were a big hit and can still be seen as the core thrust for setting a marketing strategy.  The trouble with a diet of “P’s” is that it can cause wind, and there’s lots of it around.  The classic 4 P’s are just not going to work.

Why?

In today’s socially enabled World building a marketing strategy almost exclusively on a “Push” approach of promoting your product or service, is not going to cut it.

Today when customers wish to engage with a supplier to purchase goods or services they have a variety of sources to choose from before they make a decision:-

Personal social networks, peers and opinion formers or as Malcolm Gladwell refers to them, connectors or mavens in his book Tipping Point.  These are the new, trusted salesforce that businesses need to engage with as their reach and influence can prove invaluable to building brand profile and loyalty. These individuals are actively responding to questions raised within LinkedIn Groups, Facebook forums, Twitter or a picture of the proposed purchase on Snapchat, Pinterest or Instagram seeking feedback from followers.

Search – yes of course internet search remains a key element of the process. Customers will “Google” a term appropriate to their need but typically, for more complex or high value items they will in the first instance consult with their own networks.

Consumers are becoming increasingly tired of TV advertising hence the introduction of “red button” Shazam and interactive ads that seek to offer a greater experience and hopefully generate a community conversation that increases brand profile.

Case Example – Socially Grown Brands

The emergence of Aldi and Lidl as major supermarkets in the UK is largely down to good old “word of mouth”.  Whilst the ads are clever, they are but a supporting act to the real promotional drivers who are converted shoppers demonstrating their prowess in managing the family budget.  The previous snobbery surrounding a visit to a budget supermarket has been superseded by a need to save in recessionary times, an issue that still faces very many households.  Once the stigma is removed newbie shoppers who were prepared to “try it out” became evangelical in their praise for the shop that cut their weekly spend without a loss of quality.

Aldi have neatly tapped into this growing number of customers by introducing social media campaigns encouraging them to share their stories such as #AldiChallenge.  Lidl launched a TV campaign in 2014 that also played on the kudos of knowing something your neighbour doesn’t with #LidlSurprises .

Whatever spend these two supermarkets put into their advertising it is clear that the biggest single factor in their success has been the conversations between friends, families and trusted members of social networks.

The Envero Brand Trust Index 2014 – extract from www.envero.co.uk

 

Envero’s 2014 Brand Trust Index surveyed over 30,000 consumers covering over 2,500 brands in 20+ countries.

 

The Index measures people’s willingness to positively recommend brands (advocate) but also to recommend against them (detract), and the underlying drivers of this recommendation behaviour.

 

Richard Evans, Envero managing partner says:  “Aldi has seen by far the biggest increase in net recommendation, which measures advocates minus detractors, of any brand in the survey since 2010, when it didn’t even make the top 100. Now it’s number 21 and if it continues to increase its advocates at this rate it will soon be in the UK top 10 ahead of any other UK supermarket.”

 

The Future

Whatever we call it and let’s face it marketers love to give things a name, we won’t entirely lose the “Marketing” moniker but we should certainly look at what is being done in its name.

Traditional thinking is dead and any marketer who is not fully conversant with social technologies and considering community engagement strategies might want to think about an alternative career.  The World has changed and it’s not going back, we are living in an exciting and scary time of global connectivity.  You can equally grow or destroy a brand in hours with the right or wrong communication.  This is why it’s important to understand the new media channels and essentially those who use them.

New marketing is a conversation, connection and an interest in communities linked virtually via distinct networks.  CEO’s and business owners should be challenging their marketing departments to show how they are proposing to take the company forward in light of these seismic changes.

As far as I know there isn’t a definitive guide to navigate these new waters – most likely this is due to the pace of change, which has been such it would be out of date by the time it was published.  At such times, like the Wild West, snake oil salesman proliferate with their cure all solutions.  Be it SEO, Social or straightforward customer acquisition there are no simple answers.   When looking to grow your business you should back your instincts and look to trusted resources to achieve the objectives.  Look for recommendations, testimonials, talk to others who have similar issues and don’t make hasty decisions.

Traditional thinking is now akin to driving whilst only ever looking in the rear view mirror.  This “brave new World” is throwing up quite a few twists and turns requiring innovative, entrepreneurial thinking and eyes that are firmly on the road ahead.

Suggested To Do List :-

  1. Challenge the status quo – review current activities, plans their impact/return
  2. Review resources/in-house and outsourced
  3. Conduct thorough evaluation of proposed resources/seek out trusted recommendations
  4. Create a plan to deliver social engagement in target areas
  5. Factor in a mechanism to continually update the plan based upon emerging technologies/ trends
  6. Set realistic parameters for success ie increase profit, Klout score, brand awareness, network size and relevance
  7. Share the plan internally
  8. Measure results regularly and hold resources to account

 

Byadmin

Marketing – Is it really all about the 3 C’s – Content, Content, Content?

Pick up a copy of a business magazine, webinar, SEO whitepaper, workshop agenda or open one of those hundreds of marketing tip e-mails [not all such e-mails are the same of course 🙂 ] and the chances are you’ll not go far before the word “content” is mentioned.

Content Marketing Plan

Content Marketing Plan

If you want your website to be a successful shop window for your company you need it to be well furnished with content, lots of it, all shapes and sizes, colours, creations and categories……or do you?

Call me an old cynic…but when I start to sense a trend forming and a bandwagon being jumped on I have a natural inclination to run in the opposite direction.   Sure SEO is important but what if you produce masses of poor content?  All that will prove is that you’ve created a big website full of “stuff” that nobody is going to read let alone share.  Surely the idea with this facet of marketing is to produce quality, focused material that appeals to those who you have identified as your target audience.   Badly written and presented content will have the adverse effect.  I would argue that even if you did rank higher as a result of your prolific production once anyone clicked on it they would be more inclined to bounce straight out again.  This would only create a negative impression.

Ok back to basics, what is “content”? Does anyone really know or is it just another “buzzword” that sounds good but has little thought behind it.

 

Content varies from the obvious written word, blog, news update, article to more visual and increasingly popular sources such as infographics, webinars and other video based productions such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope.

Just for starters WordPress report that there are 42.6 million blog posts per month. Now imagine how that number is going to escalate with the buzzword of the year “content” driving marketing activities.  Add to the written word the growing trend of video posts and you’ve a very busy and somewhat cluttered space in which you’re trying to make a name for yourself.

Typical Examples

A)     You can just see the common scenario developing where a young marketing manager, having read all the latest guides, asks the MD to produce a blog for the company.  The MD is very busy but she knows this buzz of blogging and “thought leadership” is the thing she really should be doing…so she writes one.  It’s not great but it is her first effort.  The marketer doesn’t feel that they can correct the boss so is left with no option but to post it.  No one comments on it, it’s only read by staff internally who universally agree the MD should stick to running the business.

B)      Or what about a situation where no one in the business has the time to write an article or blog so they look around for help.  Now for the purpose of balance I must advise that yes, there are excellent copywriters, journalists, wordsmiths who have both the intelligence and skill to produce high quality “home grown looking” material that is both informative and easy to digest.  Unfortunately given the “content” Goldrush we have no shortage of prospectors panning for nuggets but finding fool’s gold, those who look the real deal, talk a good game but simply don’t understand enough about the business and the best way to communicate with their target audience.  In this example the business spends a large chunk of their annual marketing budget on an agency who simply fails to connect with the client and produces low grade results albeit in large quantities.  The company sacks the agency when the MD asks a few pertinent questions at a board meeting such as “Do they own a dictionary” “Have they met our production team” “Why are the web visits up but the engagement down?” The result, the agency blames the client and the resultant lack of business demonstrates the importance of having a well thought through strategy that involves communications that connect with the target audience.

So what should you be doing?

  1. Know your audience and understand what they want, how they consume information and if indeed an MD blog is the way to grow your business profile.
  2. Google does seek fresh and relevant content so it is an idea to have your website populated with dynamic regularly updated and appropriate material.
  3. Don’t overlook the use of video or slides as content alternatives but ensure they are well scripted, planned and executed and not “handmade”.
  4. Don’t follow the competition, find your own voice and methods of communicating that speak of your business, its culture and strong sales points.
  5. Whilst it’s important it’s not all about digital.  Consider the offline use of content such as print, face to face and traditional broadcast mediums.
  6. If you can make use of the writing talent within your business.  It doesn’t need to be perfect but be prepared to offer constructive criticism to ensure that the finished article is as professional as possible.
  7. Provide training – consider bringing in a professional writer/ journalist to deliver a session on writing for a specific audience.
  8. Don’t make it a one hit wonder. Take responsibility for driving the content creation within the business.
  9. If you do outsource vet the suppliers with terrific care. I would strongly counsel against allowing an agency to run social media sites for your company however more complex written material may need external expertise to deliver. Seek out those who are prepared to understand your business and offer true bespoke material rather than a factory production line.
  10. Last but by all means not least, be clear as to your objectives and strategy. Ask the question IS CONTENT CREATION THE CORRECT SOLUTION FOR MY BUSINESS? If so what will work and where are you best employed to deliver optimum returns. If not don’t be badgered by the bandwagon promoters, trust your instincts.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog please contact David Laud via twitter @davidlaud or call 08456 446624

Byadmin

Business Development – Why You Need to be Thinking LinkedIn

There are no shortage of “top tip” type posts extolling the virtues of marketing you or your business on social media platforms.  Many offer useful practical advice and are indeed helpful whilst others appear to offer nothing other than the basic, obvious and on occasion not all together accurate nuggets.

In this latest post I’m sharing my advice for busy professionals who are already on LinkedIn but have yet to enjoy positive engagement or would like to improve on the current level of activity.

Before I begin there is the all-important question, why bother with LinkedIn?  I’m not going to assume that you’re already a fan of the platform and just raring to go.  You might be rather cynical and need to be convinced of LinkedIn’s worth or have adopted a more passive relationship with the site.   Alternatively you might be super keen but as yet just not “cracked the code” and finding a lack of solid engagement frustrating.

In the current connected world we live in it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time and space to develop new business opportunities, make new contacts and re-introduce yourself to old acquaintances.  We need to make use of tools that help organise our lives and for me there are few better than LinkedIn. It provides a five star Rolodex, virtual environment connecting you to a world of opportunity.  The beauty of LinkedIn is that it is very likely those companies and decision makers you want to stay in touch with are already using the site.

OK, you get it, everyone’s gathered in this global networking thing and you should get more involved…but how?  You’ve connected with people you work with, clients, university chums and a few professional contacts you picked out of your e-mail address book.  You’ve liked a couple of posts and updated your profile, even changed the picture.  What you’re struggling with is the “next step”.  You see a number of regular contributors and they seem to spend a great deal of time pushing theirs and others content, but you don’t know if it’s generating anything for them other than the obvious recognition they get.

The truth is there is no set rule or winning formula to create a stream of new business opportunities.  If anyone suggests this they’re over promising and very likely you’ll quickly become frustrated at the results…or lack of them.

For me the key is in identifying the business development methods that work for your organisation offline and adopting a similar approach online.  For example if you work in professional services it’s unlikely that bombarding prospective clients with sales messages will do it for you.  Delivering useful information via seminars and following up on enquiries generated as a result would be one example more suited to the sector.  In this example you can use LinkedIn to post content reflecting your particular expertise and encourage engagement through comments to start a conversation.

I would also strongly encourage you to have a plan for your online activities and set a target for creating new business opportunities.  This will help to retain a focus on why you would invest time online and avoid time stealing distractions that don’t move you toward your goals.

Before posting any content it’s worth reviewing your profile and making sure that it accurately reflects how you wish to be seen.  Often we focus on job titles and our internal corporate terminology to describe a role but it might not be clear to others exactly what you do.  Create your own elevator pitch that clearly explains who you are and what makes you somebody that others would want to connect with.  There’s no harm in checking out other profiles and adapting elements you like into your own if it’s an aspect that you’ve previously struggled with.

When you started on LinkedIn you probably, like me, got terribly excited and started joining dozens of groups.  The fact is we don’t always have the time to give to all the groups and over time you’ve realised they’re also not very active.  Give your groups a refresh, be ruthless and stick to those where you feel you’ll have the best possibility of engaging with potential new clients/ customers or those who’ll refer you to others.

Groups offer an opportunity to join a conversation on topical issues that affect a sector or service you have an interest in.  Try and avoid joining groups that you feel comfortable in because they’re populated by others who are in a very similar line to you.  Ask the question “What will this group bring to my business?”  If there isn’t a clear answer don’t join.

We all have connections in our network who are prolific bloggers, some offering very useful and reliable quality content, but it is hard to keep to this standard if you set out to post every day.  You should consider posting your own content but keep it to topics that are relevant to your area of expertise and provide helpful insights for your network.  It could be once a week, twice a month or once a quarter but if frequency is low, step up the conversations you participate in with your target groups.

Posting from LinkedIn, rather than placing a link to external content offers your best opportunity for engagement. It is easy to draft your copy in an external document, proof read it and then copy and paste into LinkedIn.  To access this function you need to be in the “Home” section of LinkedIn and click on the “Publish a Post” option.  There are also options here to “upload a picture” and “share an update” the latter typically involves content from other sources such as your own website or news channels.

The biggest obstacle that many busy professionals face is time or rather a lack of it.  To make LinkedIn work for you it’s a good idea to set yourself a plan of checking in with the site twice a day and having e-mail notifications set to let you know of your group or post activity.  Set yourself a target of post frequency and keep an eye out for inspiration from news items, articles and events.  Overall it’s better if you can get into a routine of using social media sites to support rather than interfere with your working day.  By being organised and structured in your approach you will be more discriminating in the content that you consume and create.

Key Points – Quick recap

  • Review your profile and view it as if you are a potential client/ customer. Take time to look at a variety of profiles and adopt ideas that would work for you.
  • Consider the précis “elevator pitch” for your profile.
  • How do you generate new business offline? Consider how you would adapt this approach on-line and set a plan and target in generating interactions and new business opportunities.  Include in this plan the time that you will invest and frequency of posting your own original content.
  • Review your groups and concentrate on those that offer opportunities to engage with prospective customers.
  • Keep a journal of interesting news, articles and items that will provide the inspiration for your posts.
  • “Publish a Post” of your own original content on LinkedIn rather than uploading hyper-links from external websites. Remember this is distinct from the “share an update” option which will often involve posting external links and is a great way to bring your connections to your website or share the content of others in your network.
  • Remember to carefully proof read your post before publishing, a second pair of eyes can be invaluable.

The above is obviously not a definitive guide to using LinkedIn but provides guidance that should help improve your engagement and ideally grow your confidence in using the world’s largest professional networking site.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below or e-mail me david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

Byadmin

9 Tips to Help Manage Your Biggest Assets

It’s surprising how many times we can make assumptions of others in the workplace and often underestimate the workload and stresses those in senior roles deal with. As a junior and middle manager I too fell into the trap of thinking the “boss” was not always engaged with the important stuff and didn’t understand what it was like at the coalface. Of course the chances were that not only was the boss aware of the issues they too were under enormous pressure and keeping many plates spinning on may poles, your universe of interest being just one.

 

It's getting harder to keep things from falling down - Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

“The life of a typical business owner is becoming ever more stressful –  keeping many plates spinning on many poles”

The need is as great now as it’s ever been for business owners, directors and senior managers to understand how they can best inspire, motivate and manage the human resources around them.
The “boss” today has to look at markets that are increasingly competitive. There are very real pressures on expenditure and real need to maximise returns whilst customers are expecting “more for less” and the opportunities for growth harder to define and find.

Having recently worked with a number of clients with similar issues I thought it timely to look at some ideas to help better manage the essential asset of most businesses, their people.

 

Time Management
How many times do you find your blood pressure rising when a member of staff saunters in at 9.15 a.m.? The fact is, strict times for starting and finishing a job may apply to specific jobs that require production schedules or the presence of those offering direct customer engagement. For many others, especially those in technical or creative roles, a 9 to 5 doesn’t really apply. What we should look at is not the hours spent sat at a desk but what was produced in the time they were at work. You could have the most punctual person in the world working for you but that doesn’t automatically make them better than someone who might arrive a little later. To overcome stresses and possible squabbles amongst staff offer a flexible working schedule and consider working from home as a genuine option. Remember to measure and manage what’s produced in that flexi time.

 
Match roles and tasks to those best suited
Square pegs and round holes, yes it’s a very real problem for many businesses. Here’s a “for instance” – Derek’s worked in sales administration for years but is actually far better suited to working in IT and training others on how to get the most out of the software used in the company. How do you work this out? Talk to staff, make an appraisal a proper appraisal and assess real strengths and weaknesses and personal aspirations and likes. Quite often a secret interest or passion can become incredibly useful to a business. It helps to know what those special interests and skills are and to keep an ongoing dialogue with staff as things rarely remain static.

 

Bright stars should work on the biggest opportunities
The high flyers in a business need sufficient air space to demonstrate their skills and offer the greatest return for your organisation. Too often talent is held back or restricted through traditional hierarchical structures and/or short sighted managers. The outcome? The talent leaves for a job where they can truly realise their ambitions. If you want to keep the best and get the most from them allow a little latitude, remove the shackles and allow them to take responsibility for their own projects. Building experience in such a way is invaluable and often rewarded by increased loyalty and performance.
Set stretching but achievable goals

No one should suggest that we avoid measuring performance, quite the contrary but at the same time we shouldn’t become overzealous with our expectation and demands. Realistic, stretching but manageable objectives shared and understood by the team will provide the motivation to reach for the target. Too tough and it quickly becomes a disincentive to try and too soft and staff may believe they’re on easy street and get distracted with other non-essential matters.

 

Put your trust in the team and let them know you trust them
Without a fundamental level of trust between business owners and staff, conflict, stress and aggravation often follows. People like to know that they are valued. Demonstrating trust through allowing self-control of their tasks, time management, resources required and engagement with goal setting can prove immensely motivational.

 

When things go wrong don’t seek out someone to hang it on

Things will and often do go wrong. The way in which you handle the failures marks out the culture of the business. By way of comparison our own true character is often shown in adversity. It’s all too easy to find and single out the cause if it’s an individual, they may well admit to their part in the process. Remember Alan Sugar is playing a role in a TV show on the Apprentice and it bears very little relevance to the day to day running of a company. Be positive in the analysis and just ensure that the team understands where things went wrong to avoid the same mistakes happening again. In the same regard don’t desperately hang on to a failing project, be brave, assess the prospects and if the expected outcome looks unlikely to materialise, provide a positive review and close it down. It’s pretty de-motivating working on a project that just isn’t delivering, better to re-focus efforts on more positive opportunities.

 
You’re the boss but you don’t have to have all the answers
All too often I meet with business owners who shoulder an enormous level of responsibility and in their minds the expectations of the workforce. Often they themselves apply the added pressure assuming staff are looking to the owners for the answers to every strategic and operational issue. This again reflects the culture of an organisation and if a “control freak” management style permeates the business, employees will sit back and expect that controller to manage them and make any major or even minor decision. That weight of expectation can be lifted by getting staff to think for themselves, make their own decisions and participate in planning.
• Give staff credit for successes
Don’t forget we all like to receive positive feedback and know we’re good at our jobs. Recognition and rewards are a very important factor in building and maintaining positive team spirit and momentum.

 
Managing Change
In my experience the vast majority of employees can cope with and manage changes in their working patterns very well. A lack of communication however can seriously jeopardise the chances of capitalising on a change in business direction or move to new markets/ products. The more you involve staff at the earliest juncture and keep them updated the better the chances of success. Change can be worrying for some, so avoid big surprises by communicating as outlined above and cut off any negative rumours or grapevine that left unchecked may undermine your best efforts.

It’s true to say that managing people is one of the toughest aspects of running a business. Get it right and it not only has the prospect of providing a turbo boost to hit targets but also make the owners lives far less lonely and stressful.

David Laud – follow me on twitter @davidlaud

Byadmin

Growth Accelerator – A Practical Approach to Improved Performance

We all need a virtual or actual boost in our businesses now and again.  It’s too easy to become complacent, comfortable or afraid of making any changes that might make things “different”.

Growth Accelerator

What many successful businesses do is harness a culture of continual evolution never settling for the status quo.  This can be massively helped by recruiting staff who don’t fear change and have their own streak of entrepreneurism.  If this is harnessed to a leadership team with clear goals and a strategy to enable attainment of the objectives the future will look bright.

Unfortunately certain sectors contain more than their fair share of risk averse personalities and they can in turn keep a business locked into a mode that ensures it fails to capitalise on new trends and seek out opportunities.

Smaller organisations can rely on the owners far too much and expect them to feed the company through their efforts to win new customers.  For a large number of proprietors the challenge of running a business alone is enough to fully occupy them and the additional responsibility of bringing in revenue gets consigned to a “to do” list that rarely gets actioned.

So what can be done for these many ambitious but largely stagnant businesses?  How can they rekindle the pioneering, energetic and challenging spirit that formed them?

There are any number of resources available to the average business – but this in itself can prove to be an inhibitor as too many options can prove confusing and ultimately fail to deliver the desired result.

The same may be said of certain third party agencies who approach business owners direct and feed their anxieties.  They make promises to provide the solutions sought but end up costing the company an expensive fee and wasted time in pursuing false hopes.

On a more positive note I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with the Growth Accelerator programme.  The phrase “Growth Accelerator” for some seems to conjure up rather dubious pills that might be promoted via spam e-mail but I can assure you it is no quack solution. This is a well organised and effective initiative for commercial enterprises covering three core areas:

  • Business Development
  • Innovation
  • Leadership and Management Development

Growth Accelerator provides access to finance to assist the companies in achieving their agreed goals.

What is reassuring about this programme is the assessment and selection of coaches and clear focus on quality service and the ultimate delivery for the businesses taking part.

Growth Accelerator is available to businesses registered in the UK who have fewer than 250 staff and a turnover less than £40m.  Essentially they must be looking to grow their business by 20% – turnover or profit.

The Growth Accelerator process uses template guides that are introduced by experienced coaches offering a highly visible and effective tool to help the business see their future growth over a 3 year period.

It’s certainly not the only option but it is currently one of the most popular initiatives sought out by businesses wishing to grow but to do so in a manner that is both practical and sustainable.

If this is something you would like to explore further please feel free to drop me a line and we will put you in touch with your regional Growth Manager.

David Laud

 

Byadmin

The Power of Personal Branding

Later this year our first born turns 20.  Her generation has been the first to grow up in the “social” World we all now inhabit.  Migrating from MSN messenger a brief flirtation with MySpace before Facebook appeared on the scene.  Now she can count twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to the portfolio of sites that enable her to connect and share with friends.

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

In the early days it wasn’t quite as all-consuming as it is now.  Accessibility was limited to time on Dad’s laptop or PC but as we all know now smartphone and tablet proliferation provides instant easy access.

 

As a parent we will naturally be protective over the sites visited and posts read and made by our children but it’s not always easy to build and maintain trust whilst coming across as an Orwellian control freak.

 

Parenting is one thing but what of ourselves?  Are we immune from the attractions of social media and the desire to connect and build our own virtual networks?  For some the thought of sharing aspects of their lives on any potentially public platform is just too scary or ridiculous to consider.  For others it opens a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Successful social media entrepreneurs have created impressive personal brands that can equal that of a large business.  Commentators and influencers are now being actively sought out by the traditional brands to aid them in their quest to understand and grow their own sphere of influence online.

 

What about you?  Do you see yourself as falling into the “personal brand” category?  From my perspective anyone who is prepared to put themselves out there with a unique and homespun message that

shares even a small part of their lives has created a brand.  The difficulty with such a notion is that people see a brand as belonging to something far greater than an individual, its Nike, Coke, Apple, Dyson, Virgin…. But just consider the celebrity brand.  Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jeremy Clarkson; there are hundreds of examples.  One of the most stunning examples of an individual harnessing the power of social media is that of Barack Obama and yes he had a team behind him but the principle of Obama the brand, his message and reach through social media is a lesson we can all draw upon.

 

If using social media for personal or business purposes or in my case a schizophrenic combination of both you really should take time to think about how your persona is presented.  I often see accounts on twitter where individuals are obliged by their employers to state that the tweets produced are their own and not associated with the business they’re fronting.  I understand why these statements are made but I do fear they undermine any efforts to positively promote that business, it gives an impression that they are free to talk behind the businesses back rather than be trusted to offer opinion and general comment on the world around them.  If you’re worried about what someone might say in the name of your business or by any loose association, don’t give them the keys to the account!

 

Back to the personal brand idea – what should you be doing to make the most of your social media presence?

10 Tips for Personal Branding with Social Media

  1. Think about why you’re investing time in social media sites
  2. Be careful not to imitate others, be original and find your own voice.
  3. Draw up a short list of simple objectives, what do you want from all this time you’re investing?
  4. Consider setting yourself some basic “house rules” for social media use such as:
    • No swearing
    • Respect others
    • Block negative contributions from your network
    • Protect and enhance your reputation
    • Add value to your network
  5. Ask for feedback from others who you trust to give an honest appraisal of your online persona, does it match your own thoughts?
  6. Don’t get hung up on social ranking scores
  7. Focus on the level of genuine interactions
  8. Regularly review where you are against your objectives and don’t be afraid of changing them
  9. Update the profile pic to keep things fresh
  10. Try not to take yourself too seriously

The last on the list could easily be top.  One of the biggest “turn offs” is the overly earnest, terribly persistent and infuriatingly opinionated narcissist.  It’s really not a good look; but given the personality type they’re often so self-obsessed they don’t see what we can.

Being aware of your personal brand is not taking yourself too seriously it’s actually taking responsibility for your current and future reputation.  Most employers and clients now “Google” the names of individuals who they might be working with.  It’s clear that those who have strong, well established and consistent content will put themselves in the frame for future work.

As far as branding goes…it really is getting personal.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

Follow me on Twitter

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Is the Marketing Plan a Dead Doc?

I sense that the traditional marketing planning process has taken something of a back seat in recent years.  I don’t have definitive proof just anecdotal comment from fellow marketers and business owners but I suspect there’s a trend developing.

Putting a Plan Together

Putting a Plan Together

The main reasons for our failure to plan appear to be time, or rather the lack of it.  When I’ve pressed on the subject many get defensive and point to a myriad of additional excuses such as;

  • Lack of resource to help with the process
  • Nothing wrong with the plan we have just need to update it
  • Too many day to day distractions
  • Other areas of the business are a priority

Plus the rather worrying comment I overheard recently “It won’t make any difference if we plan or not, it’s just a piece of paper and no one ever looks at it”

You might be surprised to hear that I have enormous sympathy for those making these comments.  I agree that you need the resources, time and a clear focus as to what the planning process is going to deliver for you.

In addition to the above statements I also get the impression that the increased emphasis on social media activity has created a challenge for many marketers, to “keep up”, innovate and manage the relatively new medium.  This creates a dilemma for the marketing manager/director or business owner.  As soon as you set out what you intend to do in your carefully prepared plan some new development, platform or nuance emerges that overrides the plan and requires either a re-write or more likely just enough reason to ignore the original plan.

Given the pace of change and pressures the obvious question would be, is the traditional marketing plan redundant, defunct and a “dead doc”?

My answer is yes and no.  Yes the traditional method of planning out a year’s worth of activity, by product, service or person by location with expected outcomes, in fine detail with budgeted expenditure and suppliers, has a diminished value.  It can still be worth undertaking as a broad guide to budget and activity and shape thinking but not as a firm “set in stone” plan.

If plans are going to have any real influence and ongoing relevance on the direction and success of the business they need to be dynamic and almost entirely built around a full and detailed understanding of the customer.  That’s nothing new…I can hear you cry and I would agree.  Many marketers already create their own flexible planning processes incorporating new technologies that are adaptive to customer behavioural changes.  The opportunity is in migrating businesses to this approach so that the thought of planning remains key and is not considered a waste of time.

How do you do this?  Well there are no easy “off the shelf” answers.  I know there are hundreds of marketing plan templates, just “Google” the words and you’re spoilt for choice.  The problem is that they are generic or too specific and invariably don’t relate to YOUR business.

 

The best advice is to follow a simple process…and for me it involves breaking down the overall plan into manageable projects.  Here’s how……

 

  1. Talk to the business owners about the process and intention to set out a new plan
  2. Avoid making assumptions – obtain current intelligence across the business (examples)
    1. Financial performance
    2. Customer data (including satisfaction surveys)
    3. Website Google analytics
    4. Social media stats
    5. Advertising performance
    6. Competitor analysis
    7. Market research
    8. Factor in any political, economic, legal influences
    9. Skills audit of marketing staff – identify training need

 

  1. Review overall company objectives and assess relevance and need to update
  2. Map out financial targets by product/ service/ office/ individuals
  3. Create marketing project plans for specific segments of the business and include
    1. The objectives
    2. Owners of the project
    3. Team members and roles
    4. Suppliers i.e. web designer, SEO agency, printers
    5. Platforms i.e. press, social media channel, radio station
    6. Timeline of activity including regular review points
    7. Costs
    8. Results and analysis (this should be factored in as an ongoing aspect of the project)
    9. Overarching schedule of the projects providing simple helicopter view of the marketing team’s actions to ensure that it is planned, not overly ambitious and achievable within the timescales suggested.

Today’s marketing professional needs to be an accomplished project manager, not necessarily an expert in any one particular field but capable of co-ordinating resources with the help of a straightforward plan.

Creating a method for the business owners to view and engage with the project plans as they develop would also help maintain “buy-in” and might be possible through a form of shared software platform or intranet.  This can also be used by the project team to monitor their progress and avoid “lag” by identifying issues such as a specific element that has failed to deliver.

As you might have gathered I’m a huge fan of project planning and management.  It’s obviously not a new concept but it lends itself perfectly to a dynamic fast paced environment which most of us find ourselves in.  Not so much re-inventing a wheel but adapting it to move faster, have greater grip and flexibility.

If this is a topic you have experience of or would like to contribute toward please feel free to comment or tweet me @davidlaud

David Laud

Byadmin

Law Firm Management – Survival of the Fittest

Charles Darwin knew a thing or two about evolution.  If I can cast my mind back to my human biology lessons, the term coined by the great naturalist was “Natural Selection”.  It took a little while for this radical theory to be accepted by the mainstream scientific community but now it is universally seen as the reason we, as humans, exist in the form we do today.  Of course not just humans, we can trace the origins of all living creatures through this process.

Crisis? Perhaps you need to adapt to survive...

Crisis? Perhaps you need to adapt to survive…

If Darwin were alive today he would no doubt be fascinated by our individual and organisational development.  He might also see how his theory can as easily be applied to businesses as it can to individuals.

A sector currently experiencing a significant series of evolutionary events, shaping their structure, relationships and existence is the legal profession.

Just last week we heard of yet one more familiar north east name going into administration.  The loss of 50 jobs and a history of 250 years, gone.  They are not the first in this recent wave of firm closures and they most certainly won’t be the last.

Why are we hearing of so many failures?  The answer, as in any scientific evaluation, is not straightforward.  The truth is that the myriad of challenges that have conspired to arrive at the door of law firms in the UK are individually manageable with care but when they arrive in rapid succession, they create a chain of events that leave only the very fittest and dynamic of practices standing.

The Law Society reported toward the end of 2013 that over 400 law firms had closed in the preceding 12 month period.  Last week the same organisation revealed that more than 4,500 solicitors had simply not arranged to renew their practicing certificates.  Without it they are unable to carry their work.

The events that have brought about the closure of so many firms include;

  • The recession resulting in SME’s looking to save cost by avoiding lawyers’ fees – (Law Society Gazette May 2013), larger corporations driving down fees and personal clients unable to get divorced as they can’t afford to put their affairs in order. The property market is also only just waking from its lengthy hibernation.
  • Personal Injury and Medical Negligence solicitors impacted by the Jackson Reforms seeing an immediate drop in fee income, volume of instructions and the departure of claims management companies from the market.
  • The Government removing legal aid for divorce and failure of mediation to replace the lost fee income.
  • Introduction of the Legal Services Act and “Alternative Business Structures” enabling non solicitors to offer legal services and large corporations such as Co-op, Direct Line, DAS, BT entering the market.
  • Professional Indemnity insurance cover proving increasingly difficult to obtain, suppliers in the market cherry picking only the very best risks and others facing excessively high premiums.
  • Solicitors Regulatory Authority introducing burdensome and expensive measures such as Compliance Officers for legal practice and finance.

These facts and more point to a series of tremors in the legal world that have built to form a seismic event.  The consequence of these factors is when the dust settles the clients, both personal and business will have far less choice.  On the upside, of those firms remaining we can be assured that they are resilient and very likely to be focussed on the needs and value they can bring to the client.

The conclusion we can draw using Darwin’s theory is that having survived the natural selection process those still standing will be fitter and more prepared for the future.  The advantage existing firms have at this time is their opportunity to still act, adapt and ensure their survival and avoiding a Dodo dilemma.

David Laud – Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP

Byadmin

The Best of Times or the Worst of Times? – Surviving and Growing in an Unpredictable Period

I’m fed up with hearing that we’re living in “interesting times” we’re not.  We’re actually living in the times outlined by Dickens in a Tale of Two Cities.  I’m sure you all know the opening chapter of the book word for word but just to remind us……

business navigatorIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – [Extract from chapter I, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

 

 

Anyone else feel the contemporary connection with these words?

2014 has presented as a year where we are seeing economic recovery, employment levels rising and an all over feeling of optimism, well so certain politicians would wish us to think.  I’m not against a healthy bit of optimism, by nature I’m drinking from the half full cup most of the time but in reality there is still an awfully long and hard journey ahead for many businesses and thoughts of instant solutions are really not helpful.

 

If a business is going to survive and thrive it needs to have a strong realistic vision of its future, a plan for managed growth and control over its costs.  Leaders of these businesses need to retain and recruit the staff that share a passion for making that organisation the best in its particular sector/ sphere of operation.  It’s not easy, it takes time.  Things go wrong, deals don’t come off, recruits fail to live up to expectation and customers can change their preferences at the least expected moment. What you shouldn’t do is panic.  Retain the belief in the business and acknowledge that the World is partly mad and partly sane, you cannot predict everything nor expect to be continually on the back foot.

 

Even though we’re in what still feels to me like a futuristic date, 2014, the words of Charles Dickens in the opening of the classic Tale seem as appropriate today as when they were first penned some 150 years earlier.

 

Whether you do face the best or the worst of times I see it as a period for calm heads and a return to the principles of good solid business practice with, of course, the energy, enthusiasm, creativity and originality that will deliver sustainable success.

 

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer

 

follow me on Twitter @davidlaud

Byadmin

Spinning Plates, Juggling Balls & Shot Selection – How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy

Devising a successful marketing plan hasn’t always been easy but your options were pretty straightforward.  Depending on budget and market your choices were clear and experience along with a good creative agency would go a long way to delivering results.

It's getting harder to keep things from falling down - Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

It’s getting harder to keep things from falling down – Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

Those factors of experience and creativity still exist but in the digital age we’re now confronted by a multitude of potential channels and measurement tools many of which are relatively untried and untested.

The variety of digital channels and the parallel phenomenon of shifting customer behaviours pose new challenges for today’s marketer.  The need for organisations to have digital marketing experience has become increasingly important, almost essential, as we start a new year and many of us look to plan for growing the income and profit of our businesses.

For those who rely on 3rd party agencies for digital channel support it can prove frustrating and expensive especially if their promises fail to deliver the expected results and the rationale for failure is dressed in uber geek jargon.

My advice to any business owner or marketer is to trust their instincts, not to forget the basics of solid marketing principles and not over complicate plans by throwing in every new channel.  If you set up a new social media platform account remember you must be prepared to deliver regular appropriate and original content.  That account management takes time and resource and can detract impact of your marketing efforts from areas that will deliver tangible returns.  It may also damage the brand if the execution misfires.

 Key Tips for Multi-Channel Marketing Plans 

  1. Be clear as to who is responsible for what.  Establish clear roles, responsibilities and set out and communicate expected outputs. Don’t overlook potential internal departmental conflicts such as I.T. v Marketing.
  2. Don’t lose the overarching objective in the mass of opportunities and options. Increasing twitter followers looks good but is it delivering a return for the business.
  3. Put the customer at the centre of your planning and thoughts of how best to engage and enhance brand and convert to sales.  Facebook might offer a rich source of demographic data but may not be the environment where potential or existing customers want to interact with your business.
  4. If you can’t or don’t know how to measure it don’t do it or a better option, find out how to.
  5. Use tools to support your efforts eg Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Followerwonk, AppAnnie
  6. Keep the boss informed. If you’re struggling to keep up with digital trends just imagine the difficulty those who don’t use the platforms on a regular basis will have in understanding what they do.  Consider creating a simple FAQ or SWOT on each marketing channel to share with colleagues and the senior team.
  7. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be possible to test channels in a low cost simplified manner to gauge the mechanics and opportunities therein. Be sure you always follow no. 4 in such circumstances.
  8. Don’t see the plethora of choice as a problem but an opportunity. A positive mind-set can free you from debilitating inertia brought on by a lack of decisions.
  9. Keep agencies on a tight brief with clearly defined objectives and review progress regularly (at least monthly).
  10. Keep the radar turned on.  Whilst there’s already an abundance of channels to spend our budget on technology is moving fast. Voice recognition and intelligent interaction with Apple’s Siri and Google’s alternative are just one example of how search technology is developing.
  11. Don’t get lost in the technology.  Traditional marketing channels can and do deliver strong returns with well co-ordinated and executed campaigns.
  12. Don’t be afraid to use your networks to ask for help.  LinkedIn groups and professional bodies can provide very useful intelligence.

Personally I love a challenge but with so much “noise” in the on-line and off-line marketing world it’s often hard deciding on which path to take.  Such difficulties in selecting which channels to invest in is a very common problem, reassure yourself you’re not alone.

Meanwhile I’ll continue spinning, juggling and making those shot selections, doing my best to keep up.

If you have a question or suggestion on this topic please feel free to comment or contact me via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer

Byadmin

Marketing – It’s a Dirty Word

I still encounter those who see marketing as at best a necessary evil and at worst a practice of smoke and mirrors with no substance.

iStock_000028922460_Small

This unwarranted prejudice is borne out of a lack of understanding of the core principles of marketing.  Sceptics who poke sticks at marketers often suggest that the acquiring of customers is not difficult.  Winning new business is not connected to marketing activity.  They believe that by producing a quality product or service customers will return and promote to others.  That method of gaining customers can often be effective but the marketing element should already be interwoven with production and customer experience and not simply be seen as a blunt instrument of advertising or PR before or after the fact.  Ironically sceptics often employ marketing techniques, unaware of their natural ability to develop the business.  MD’s don’t always connect their activity to marketing which they see as a separate collection of basic promotional actions.

If you were to survey 100 non marketers and ask them for a definition of marketing the chances are over 50% would reference advertising within their response.  The truth is marketing, certainly for me is “The Business of Business” a little more than creating and placing an advert.  To be an effective marketer you must understand all you can about your customers, the financial model that produces the product, where the margins kick in, the mechanisms involved in delivering the product and the experience of customers once purchased.  The entire scope of the company, its infrastructure, inner workings and technical elements must be understood to contextualise a successful approach to develop the brand and thereby grow the business.

All too often when recruiting or appointing a marketing resource business owners go into the process with a narrow pre-determined idea of what the person will add to the mix.  They focus on PR or advertising.  They might also worry about the need for a better online presence rather than consider an opportunity to involve the marketer in helping with business planning and setting a strategy.

Typical Marketing Professionals Skill Set

  • Account Management
  • Administration
  • Advertising
  • Analytical
  • Brand Marketing & Management
  • Business Development
  • Client Relationship/ Customer Care
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Content Marketing
  • Contract Negotiation
  • CRM/ Database Management
  • Creative
  • Direct Marketing
  • Displays
  • Event Planning
  • E-mail marketing
  • Financial
  • Interpersonal
  • Leadership
  • List Management
  • Market Analysis & Research
  • Market Strategy
  • Merchandising
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Order Processing
  • Planning & Project Management
  • PPC
  • Presentations
  • Product Research
  • Problem Resolution
  • Product Management
  • Product Promotion
  • Professional
  • Public Relations
  • Purchasing Inventory
  • Quality Control
  • Reporting
  • Sales Tracking
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Supplier Management
  • Teaching/ Training
  • Team Player
  • Time Management
  • Troubleshooting

An added challenge for many is the “hobby” marketer boss who believes they can play “the marketing game”.  We all consume so many marketing messages each day it’s not surprising that a boss or client might suggest they have the answer to a new advertising campaign, website or sponsorship deal.  Don’t for one minute think I’m against business owners or bosses getting engaged with the marketing activity.  I’ve spent far too long in my career trying to encourage such interest to fight it; but it can be difficult for junior, less experienced marketers to put a counter view forward when the ultimate decision maker insists on having their way.

Where experienced and effective marketers set themselves apart is in their ability to distinguish “good ideas” from the ego driven project.  They need an ability to swiftly reflect and analyse any newly presented opportunity, establish the potential impact and make recommendations in plain jargon free English.  That particular skill can save organisations a large chunk of their marketing budget.

A very good example of the scale of the challenge for today’s marketer is their need to stay on top of the terabytes of information related to digital marketing.  Without necessarily being an expert the modern marketer must understand the principles of SEO, (search engine optimisation) PPC (pay per click advertising) Social Media, Mobile Technologies, Online Advertising and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  Interpreting Google Analytics and having the confidence to reject or accept digital agency proposals are also essential attributes of those holding the responsibility for marketing in any organisation.

Yes it’s complicated out there but life is these days.  We can either keep up or give in and outsource management to the wave upon wave of niche agency suppliers promising to deliver success.  Without the confidence borne out of our own knowledge of specific marketing processes we’re left with fingers crossed just hoping that the agency knows what they’re doing with their sizeable budget.  Personally I don’t see it as an option.  We owe it to ourselves, clients and employers to provide the very best level of expertise and professionalism and demonstrate that more than ever we have the knowledge and the spark to drive businesses forward.

Far from being a dirty word marketing is the discipline that business owners need to embrace wholeheartedly.  They need to seek out the very best qualified practitioners to work with, provide resource and trust them to deliver.  David Laud – FCIM Chartered Marketer, consultant.

Byadmin

Is It All Good With You? – Leadership & Self Confidence

Have you ever faced the dilemma of thinking how best to phrase the opening line of an e-mail? The trend appears to be for the “hope all’s good with you” or “hope this finds you well”.  Nothing wrong with this, it’s polite and shows an interest in the well-being of the person you’re engaging with.  But on the receiving end of such an e-mail are we ever tempted to tell it how it really is?

Self ConfidenceImagine the shock if your reply started, “Thanks for your e-mail, in answer to your question I’m extremely anxious, not sleeping well and very concerned about the future of my business.”

That would be rather “awkward” and put the recipient in an uncomfortable spot as to how to answer such a statement.  But in one way this answer to the original e-mail is refreshing as it’s truly honest.

The difficulty of course is that no one wants to admit to fragility or weakness, stress or worries suggest failure.  The reality is at some time or another we all suffer from varying degrees of stress and have genuine doubts over either a business or personal direction and our own capabilities; especially when we’re up against it and under pressure.

The media regularly reports on the trend of business confidence sourced from trade and sector specific surveys.  I’ve always suspected that they are very heavily skewed, with a positive spin put on the answers.  Respondents will want to talk up their own position and only express genuine concern when it is a globally recognised issue such as the height of the recent recession.  After so much gloom we’re desperate for good news and we don’t want to disappoint.  But it’s easier to consider business buoyancy over the rather more personal and potentially painful analysis of our own self-confidence.

So is our level of personal confidence that important?

The answer is clearly “yes” – A leader’s self-confidence is at the heart of business success and growth.  Through the recessionary period many tens of thousands of business owners have faced tough decisions and trading conditions which impact on their personal outlook and mood.  With shoots of recovery appearing there’s an expectation that these entrepreneurs and owners will simply click back into overdrive and quickly return to their super confident persona.

The truth is it is not that easy to turn on confidence, it relies on a number of factors and will differ for each person depending on their own leadership skills, life experience, measure of success and management capability.

Optimism and confidence are crucial attributes for business leaders as those who work for them look to the signals from the boss to determine their own feelings of security.  It’s not hard to see that a forward looking buoyant and confident business owner will engender a positive atmosphere throughout their organisation.  Not that it’s entirely all down to the one individual but if they’re not confident and positive in their communications it will send an uncertain message to others and lead to discontent and discomfort amongst the workforce.

Ironically for certain senior executives their outward view is often believed to be positive whilst the reality is far from that perception.  Body language and tone of voice might seem minor elements compared to the content of any communication but we know that as humans we take in a wide range of signals and are naturally very adept at translating them.

If not sure how you’re perceived ask a few trusted colleagues for their unbiased appraisal, it might be quite an eye opener.

Without a clearly understood vision for the future, business owners will be likely to react to situations as and when they arise leading to “knee jerk” responses.  This will not breed confidence amongst the workforce no matter how well a leader presents their decisions.  A lack of management consistency often creates feelings of uncertainty amongst staff heightened in times of trading difficulties and increased competitive pressures.

At the heart of the corporate confidence issue is the conviction of a clearly articulated and implemented strategy to take the organisation forward.  Whilst insecurities and concern still exists in many sectors those who’ll survive will have calm, assured captains steering the business on a course to deliver a strong and sustainable future.  With plans in place and everyone understanding their role all who share the journey can themselves grow in confidence and far more readily contribute to the success of the business.

Below are 5 suggested tips to assist leaders develop a stronger feeling of self-confidence.

5 Tips to Build Self Confidence

1. Pragmatism over Perfection.  Don’t get hung up on the felling that every decision and act you make must be perfect and borne out of your instinctive powers as a leader.  Making the right decisions can often prove difficult but remember there are frequently situations in business where there is no right or wrong response.  Be logical and gather the data you need to make an informed decision.

2. Commit to your Decisions — Communicate with conviction and provide details of the outputs from the decision.

3. Failure is an Option – Mistakes will happen and that’s life but make sure that lessons are learnt from any failure and not repeated.  The best leaders freely admit to shortcomings and can identify how success was often borne out of projects that didn’t initially deliver.

4. Body Language — We all have moments of fear and trepidation in our lives but if others are looking to you for direction you need to show courage and calmness especially when under pressure.

5. Enjoy the Moment and your WorkWe can spend a great deal of time at work especially if you’re the owner or senior manager of a business.  There will be good and bad moments but make sure you celebrate the successes with your team and be there to pick everyone up when a deal fails to materialise.

David Laud  david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk    Twitter @davidlaud