Posts Tagged ‘business’
How Well Do You Know Your Clients? And How Important is it That You Do?
The last time I went to the hairdresser, I sat down and complained “My hair just isn’t working! It’s only been five weeks since I last had it cut; usually it lasts for eight weeks. Something isn’t right.”
I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for a couple of years. Why? Because Lou at Electric Hair now knows me really well – and she knows my hair really well! “Don’t worry, I know exactly what to do,” Lou reassured me.
Once my hair had been washed, Lou set to work. And then she told me why I was having a problem with my hair. A few months before, I’d cancelled my regular appointment with Lou, because I was on crutches and couldn’t get into Oxford, to Lou’s salon. Even if I had made it to her, there was no way I could have made it up her steep stairs. So, instead I arranged for a friend to drive me to a local salon to have my hair done there. I thought they’d done an OK job, but Lou hadn’t been that impressed. “Now I have to sort out the damage they did all those months ago,” she told me.
I was amazed that Lou remembered that I’d been somewhere else to have my hair cut. “That’s why my clients stay with me,” she said “Because I get to know them and what they want. And if they do ever go somewhere else, I have to sort out the mess left by someone who doesn’t know them like I do!”
The end result? A hair cut that works and will last as long as I need it to! And a happy client for Lou, who has booked her next appointment and will keep going back. And a happy client who keeps recommending Lou and Electric Hair to everyone!
What’s the Best Way to Get Referrals? By Saying Thank You!
I keep hearing people talk about ‘referral strategies’ and a number of my clients have asked me recently about whether or not they should set up ‘referral partnerships’. There are lots of different ways to generate referrals in your business, depending on what you want to achieve. I have to admit that I don’t have a strategy or any referral partners, but two of my largest new clients have come about this year through referrals. (In all, over half of my new business comes from referrals.) I’m going to tell you the story of how I have found some new clients this year, to encourage you to look at how you can easily generate more referrals for your business.
A few months ago, my client Sue asked me if I would speak to one of her contacts, who needed some marketing help. She told me a bit about this person and her business, and at the time, I didn’t think I would be able to help her – it wasn’t really my area. However, I agreed to see her and gave her what advice I could. As she didn’t actually want to spend any money on promoting her business, as I suspected, I wasn’t able to help her beyond that. However, I sent Sue a handwritten card to and thank her for the referral.
A little while later, Sue introduced me to Tamara, who she had met at a networking event. Tamara was looking for marketing support for her new book, so we met up to talk about it. I sent Sue another thank you card, because it doesn’t take long to do and doesn’t cost much. At my meeting with Tamara she asked me to provide her with marketing help for six months, so to thank Sue properly, I sent her a bottle of champagne. I wanted to send something that I knew Sue would enjoy and that would properly show my appreciation. The email she sent to thank me for the bubbly made me laugh, because she said I was very naughty to have sent it, but she loved it!
A couple of months later, Sue asked me to speak to yet another one of her contacts. She did it with the caveat that if it turned into more work for me, I was to promise that I would still look after Sue and provide her with the high level of support she expected. I went to meet Don and his business partners, and at that meeting, they booked me to spend a full day with them, to help them prepare a Marketing Strategy for the coming year. That piece of work alone is worth more than many of my other clients spend with me over six months, so this time I wanted to send something to Sue that reflected that value. A case of champagne? Tickets to the theatre? I wasn’t sure what she would like most, so I called her business partner and asked him. “You won’t go wrong with John Lewis vouchers,” Graham told me. So a £100 John Lewis gift voucher was sent to Sue. This time, her reply email told me how she’s returned home from a tough day to find a handwritten envelope with the most wonderful surprise inside, which turned her day around! Don and his partners have since asked me to provide them with an ongoing marketing support service – they are now one of my biggest clients.
And all that came because I sent one simple thank you card for a small referral that didn’t even turn into work!
When was the last time you properly said thank you for a referral? What will you send the next time you receive one?
My Top (Seven) Business Books
At a networking meeting I attended in the summer, the speaker told us about her list of top ten business books. They were all books she’d read and she knew many of the authors. It was her take on the best books – not the Times bestseller list. It was a great idea, so I thought I’d look through my bookshelves and tell you about some of my favorites – seven of them, at least.
Master Your Inner Critic, Release Your Inner Wisdom by Melanie Greene. Do you have a little voice inside your head, or on your shoulder, who tells you that you’re not good enough? Mine is actually mentioned in this book, as Melanie helped me deal with him in one of her workshops, as she was writing her book. He’s now under control and this book can help you deal with yours too. Find out more here.
Enlightened Business is a jewel of a book, created by Joolz Lewis from Enlightened Business. It’s not just on my list because I’m mentioned in it! If business for you is about more than just making money and working silly hours, if it’s about giving something back and looking for the real reason that you run your business, this one is for you. It’s a beautifully written handbook for people who want to make a difference through their work and business. You can buy your copy here.
Attracting Perfect Customers by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogniez. This book changed my business and changed the way I work with my clients. It shows you how to attract to you, the clients you really want to work with. No more putting up with difficult clients or late payers or people who never say thank you! And it makes your marketing so much easier too. You can easily find this one on Amazon.
Who’s Paying for Lunch? This is the best book I’ve read recently about how to get more sales and is written by my client Tamara Howard, from Verve Consulting. If you run a small or medium sized business and want to sell more, then this book will show you exactly how, with no messing around. Buy it online here.
Blow Your Own Horn by Michael Trigg. I’ve read a number of books about speaking and presentation skills and listened to many good speakers talking about how to do it. Michael’s advice really stands out! The book is very easy to read, despite being packed full of tips, tricks and ideas to try out. His technique for using ‘Magic Notes’ is just brilliant. This is a very clever way of putting all the key points for your talk onto one piece of paper. I tried it out and was really pleased with how much it helps. I even wrote a blog about it here! This is another you can find on Amazon.
Roget’s Thesauraus. This is my bible when I need a different word for business (organization, company, entity, vocation, job, chore …) or a shorter word for ‘Conference’ (‘event’ works well!)
One in Ten. Of course this one has to be on the list, because I wrote it! It is the story of the first ten years of the life of my business and I really just wanted to share some of the ups and downs. I’ve spoken to many new business owners who are surprised by how tough it can be. If someone told me, honestly, how hard the first few years would be, I’m not sure I would have started my business. If someone had told me that, just as you think everything is going fine, something or someone will come along and knock you back down again. So this book is the one I would love to have read, just as I started my business, because it is full of honesty about the mistakes I made; but it’s also packed with advice on how to keep going and build a business you love – which is what I have now! One in Ten is my way of sharing this with you. It’s currently on offer for just £10 + postage and you can order a copy here.
There are loads more great book out there that will help you with your business. Which ones do you recommend?
Take Your Business on Tour!
When Appletree turned 10 years old, I celebrated by writing a book full of the lessons I’d learnt, to help other small business owners avoid making the same mistakes. It took a few years to complete the book and publish it and the ‘soft’ launch was last year.
Starting on 1 October 2014, I’m taking my book on a grand tour of the UK, visiting dozens of cities up and down the length of the country. How will I manage this? Read on to find out and see how you can use this technique to promote your business – even if you haven’t written a book yet!
My first Saturday job, at the age of 15, was in my local bookshop – The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough, in Wiltshire. For someone who already loved reading and writing, it was an ideal place to spend time (and be paid!) My love of good literature and travel books grew in the four years that I worked there in my spare time and holidays. Tidying the Children’s section was always fun, too!
Many years on and that book shop is still open and going strong. For this reason, I’m taking my new book on a tour of independent bookshops around the UK, to show my support for them and to tell the world about some of the creative marketing that they’re doing. One in Ten is about finding the inspiration and motivation to keep growing a small business and I admire all the bookshop owners who are doing just that.
So how am I going to get round them all? Well, I have to confess that I’m going on a virtual book tour! I won’t actually be visiting any of the shops in person, but I will ‘appearing’ at each one, online. Here’s how I’m planning the tour, ready to launch on 1 October.
Are you on Twitter? I started by looking up independent bookshops on Twitter; they’re quite easy to find. My plan was to ‘visit’ one a day, so I built a list of about 50 who are active on Twitter. If they hadn’t tweeted for a few months I didn’t follow them.
Can I find you on Facebook? Then I searched for my 50 bookshops on Facebook. The good ones have links from their Twitter pages directly to their Facebook pages and they made it through to the next stage of the list and earned a ‘Like’ on their pages.
What about your website? Despite being on Twitter and Facebook, a couple of the bookshops I was interested in didn’t have websites, or had ones ‘under construction’, badly designed or infrequently updated. They didn’t make it onto the final list.
The end result? A list of book shops that I can ‘visit’ every day in October.
The key to this tour and way of marketing my book is that I’m taking an integrated approach. When you can tie all your marketing activities together, you’ll get much better results than individual, stand alone activities. In the same way, I’ll be using Twitter (@TopMarketingTip), Facebook and my website to promote the tour.
So the next stage of the integrated approach was to create a marketing schedule that shows me where I’ll be and when. I’ve put my selected book shops into the schedule and I’ve added in networking events where my book and I will actually appear. I’ve included a blog every week, to promote the tour and the book and details of other blogs that I’m guest writing, or where I’m being mentioned.
In addition to all this, in August I started to ask people who have already bought One in Ten to review it on Amazon. Those reviews will be featured in the tour, too.
Marketing doesn’t work over night and it certainly doesn’t happen without a bit of planning. I’ve spent the last couple of months planning this book tour, which means, that when it’s launched today, it should really fly.
Why not come and join me along the way?!
In the A – Z of Marketing, X is for … Finding Your X Factor
To celebrate the forthcoming launch of my virtual book tour on 1 October, here is a section from the book for you to enjoy!
Running your own business can be very rewarding; it can also be extremely hard work. The small business market place is particularly crowded, with more and more people deciding to set up their own companies. If you’ve been made redundant, become frustrated with the long hours and expensive commute that leaves you no time for your family, or you just want to be your own boss, you might be one of these people. You’re not alone. Almost 500,000 new businesses are formed in the UK every year, so you need to develop the strength to keep going, no matter what. The lure of working shorter hours can all too soon turn into very long hours just to keep afloat. The desire to have no one else to answer to means you actually have to cope with having no one else to talk to and no one to turn to for advice and support.
If your business is just you, you need to develop an even higher level of resilience and persistence, as you take responsibility for the entire business. You need to get really clear on your strengths, because they will keep you going and keep your business ahead of your competitors. You need to find your X Factor.
One of my clients, Elizabeth, wrote an issue of her newsletter about the importance finding your X Factor. She advised that one of the best ways to discover it is by asking other people. “So what is my X Factor?” I asked her. Her reply surprised me. “It’s your drive, focus and ambition.” It surprised me because I’d never associated myself with those words. In the previous section of this chapter I wrote about the importance of rewards and celebrations; acknowledging your strengths is just as vital and was something I didn’t do very well before.
What is drive? Drive is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s a desire to do something and get somewhere. You could also call it self-motivation. It’s a vital ingredient required for running your own business, because unless you have an investor pushing you to grow your business and pay back their investment, you’ll need to rely on your own drive. Unless you have a mortgage to pay, children or animals to feed, or holidays to take, you won’t have the drive you need to really go places. A few years ago, the term ‘lifestyle business’ was coined. Some people love admitting to running a lifestyle business – one that earns them enough to live their lifestyle, a company that is just them and will probably just close when they retire or decide to move on. Other people take offence at being branded this way. They are the ones with the drive to do more with their businesses, be that building a company that can be sold or taking on staff and providing for their lifestyles.
What about focus? Without focus you lose your way in your life and your business. It’s about having clear goals and targets to aim for. In 2006 when I first saw my new home, Appletree Cottage, it became my goal; I focused on it for the twelve months it took before we could move in and take on staff in the office in the garden. Then I lost my way for a while, as I didn’t have another clear goal to aim for. Things changed when my new focus became reaching ten years of business. The way was lost again in 2010 when I put too much focus onto one project and took my eye off the main business, as you’ll read in the final section of this chapter. Now my focus is very clear. We have monthly and annual targets for sales, profit, number of members of staff and days of holiday. Breaking the large, long term goals down into medium and short term ones gives us a really clear focus in the business, from one month to the next. The results speak for themselves as we hit each target!
Are you ambitious? Personally, I had never seen myself as ambitious, until Elizabeth identified my X Factor. Throughout my life I’ve been competitive, which could be considered similar. However, being competitive for me was actually about proving to other people that I was good at whatever I was doing – it was the physical proof I needed. Whether it was the number of staff I had working for me, the turnover of the business or the colour of the dressage rosette I won, it was always a comparison against someone else. I needed more staff, a higher turnover or an enhanced placing to show that I was better. Running a business that nearly fell apart twice – once because I worked so hard in an effort to prove how good I was and a second time because I would not consider ‘failure’ – has taught me the difference between being competitive and being ambitious. With the former you’re always up against someone else; with the latter it feels like doing things for the right reasons. When I ran my first London Marathon I decided that I would run my own race. It was not about competing against anyone else on the day; it was about my ambition to finish in one piece.
So what’s your X Factor? What core strengths do you have, that will help you succeed in your business? It might be just one main strength, or it may be a combination of a number of them. To find out what it is, ask the people who know you. Then write it down ? put it on the wall by your desk so that you can see it every day and remind yourself what it is that makes you and your business great. Your X Factor is what will keep you going when times get tough. It’s what will help you build a great business.
Find your X Factor to keep your business going.