Monday, 15 June 2009

How to Market Your Business Effectively Part 1 Advertising

It has been said that the average customer needs to have contact with a product or service approximately 7 times before they will seriously consider buying it. Is this true? And if it is how can we make contact with our potential customers?

From my experience it is important that a person feels they can trust a product before they buy it, and that trust can be formed by repetitive contact and can take some time to build – this is where the traditional wisdom of ‘7 contacts’ comes from.

There are three main ways of reaching your potential customers, Advertising, Networking and PR. First let’s look at Advertising.

However when we look more closely it is easy to see that some forms of contact are more likely to build trust than others.

Advertising is wonderfully effective at reaching a large amount of people with the minimum amount of effort on your part. However it does take time for this to pay dividends. How long it takes depends on the type of advertising you use.

To illustrate this let’s look at how a company advertising Yoghurt would make it effective. They could place the advert in a classified section of local magazine; this is likely to make people think that it is a very small company, possibly only just starting up, with not a lot of money to spare. They are unlikely to think it is even possible to buy the yoghurt in their local supermarket so would be less likely to look out for it. The exceptions to this are the people that really want to support small local businesses and if this yoghurt happens to be organic they are likely to get a few orders.

However if they have taken a half or full page advert in a national glossy magazine and have requested to have it placed in either the ‘food’ or the ‘health & wellbeing’ section they are likely to make a much more trustworthy impression straight away. Why? Because the advert is bigger it is first of all more noticeable, it also suggests that the company can afford to advertise, meaning that they are an established company and other people already buy this yoghurt. This is reassuring for potential customers. The placement of the advert can also add gravitas to it, the articles on either side are written by experts and the very fact of being placed amongst such allows the yoghurt to bathe in the reflected glory.

There are other ways of advertising too, one is the ‘advertorial’ when a ‘feature’ on the yoghurt would be inserted in place of a regular advert, although in most glossy magazines this will have the heading of advertising feature so customers will know that this is paid for. However, as an advertorial can contain so much more information that a regular advert, it can be an excellent way of building trust within the customer base.

And magazines are not the only places to advertise, there are also billboards, radio and television. Billboards are likely to be seen by the same people over and over within a short space of time so can be very valuable, however as these customers are usually whizzing past it may be that they have passed it several times before the information has been absorbed. And the more information on this kind of add the less likely it is to be absorbed – it’s much better to put a web address than a phone number on here for people to find out more.

Radio and television adverts both build trust more quickly when they are done well, why? Well this kind of advertising usually relies on actors ‘recommending’ the product, talking about it the way your friends or family would talk about it. Products with a large advertising budget will usually go out of their way to hire celebrities that are already perceived as trustworthy by the public to endorse their product such as Gary Lineker for Walkers Crisps.

The design of the advert will also make a difference to how the product or service is perceived, this does not mean it has to look ultra professional, but it does have to look right to your ideal customer base, if you are trying to attract big business it is best not to use a daisy as your logo, likewise if your ideal customer base is female and creative, having heavy block initials may also have an off putting effect.

Now you know almost everything you need to take into consideration before placing an advert, but there is one last point you need to consider, how many times do you run the advert?

Particularly with print advertising it will take a certain amount of repetition to build trust with your customer base. 1 advert, whether it be full page or classified will not work well. The larger the advert the more noticeably it is so you will find it works more quickly, however in order to not be forgotten you will still need to run it regularly – once you are established look at entering an advert at least once every 3 months to stay in people’s minds. If you are running a classified advert you will need to run it every month for at least six months for it to be effective, and to continue to run it every month for it to stay effective. This can be expensive.

Generally for small businesses or soloprenuers I recommend taking a minimum of a quarter page advert for a 6 month run followed by repeating the advert every other month. Local magazines are much cheaper than national magazines but before you decide which is for you look at where your customers are, if they are national then you should aim to advertise nationally as soon as you can afford it.

I hope this information has been useful – look out for part 2 which covers networking to promote your business!

Friday, 8 May 2009

How to present effectively (Part 1!)

I’ve been asked recently about how to present effectively and it occurred to me that this is a skill that most people would like to enhance. However, this is a very big topic and I know you are all busy, so in this blog I will talk about 1 aspect of presentation skills, and suitably enough that aspect is timing!

Timing a presentation is a vital aspect of presenting well which is why I’ve chosen to focus on it first. After all if you have a room full of colleagues they need to get back to work at some point! Or it may be that you are presenting just one section of a training, so if you overrun you may be setting others back as well.

And most importantly – if you talk for too long you will not only lose your listeners attention but also waste your own valuable time!

So how long should a seminar or talk be? Well that does depend very much on your subject matter and on the time allowed, it’s fairly easy to keep an audience’s attention for 15 minutes of a lecture but then often the minds will wonder, if your presentation needs to be longer than this you need to be in charge of where that attention wonders! You can do this by asking questions or setting exercises, and I’ll deal with this more thoroughly in another blog.

But now let’s focus on another aspect of timing and that is the timing of your words.

What I mean by this is how quickly you speak. I’ve been thinking about this the past week after hearing two contrasting pieces of information on the same day. The first I heard when I was listening to somebody speak on this same topic as I am now and this highly respected public speaker was pointing out how the pace at which you speak can enthuse or bore your listeners.

He was suggesting that in order for your enthusiasm to transmit itself to your audience you need to speak as if you are excited! Your words should be racy and dynamic, the tone of your voice should be light not heavy and you should encourage your listeners to sit on the edge of their chairs avidly listening to you to keep up with what you are saying.

Conversely the same day I heard a snippet of information on the radio. The speaker – apologies I forget who it was, was stating that the reason why Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy were such powerful orators was because they did precisely the opposite. Both of these great men spoke at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. It is interesting to note that most other politicians speak at a rate of 200 words per minute.

So how fast should we speak to give the greatest impact to our talks?

Although I agree that it is necessary to keep the listener excited I believe there are other and better ways to do this and galloping through the presentation. For example you can vary the tone and expression of your voice or use the suspenseful pause, both of which I shall come to in a moment.

I have also observed from my own experience that talking slowly CAN become boring for the listener, as I mentioned, the great orators are known to speak at approximately 150 words per minute, there are 60 seconds in a minute so saying one - word - per –second – will – quickly – drive – your – listeners – to – distraction!

So if you keep to an approximate pace of 2 words per second you will be hitting just the right pace.

But how do we do this? To begin with you need to be aware of how many words you are writing to fit the time allotted. So when you are writing your speech, bear in mind that 1500 words will equal approximately 10 minutes of pure speech, as you are likely to be including pauses, varying the rate of speech and even asking your audience questions from time to time it is better to aim for 1250 words per 10 minutes instead.

Practice however, as with any skill, really is the key. When I first began teaching this many years ago I would hand out kids story books – MR Men ones to be precise, and get my group to practice reading them out loud to each other as if they were reading to kids, this is a great way to start and even better with a real child! If you don’t have one then offer to babysit a friends occasionally – I’m sure they’d be grateful!

Another way – if you have the time is to model great orators, did you know you can download the transcripts of Barack Obama’s speeches? And watch them on YouTube? Why not print the words and try to match your pacing to his?

One last quick tip on this – breath control is very important; a lovely way to practise breathing smoothly and deeply is to buy a tub of bubble mixture and aim to blow big slow bubbles.

I come now to tone and expression, if a monotone is used whether you are speaking too quickly, too slowly or at just the right pace, your listener will find it hard to differentiate the words and their meanings and so lose interest.

So you must vary the tone of your words, but the expression is also important. What is expression? What does it mean? Well expression is the emphasis – or lack of, that you put on certain words. It is using your voice to show that you are asking a question, or expressing surprise, or feeling sad or maybe pondering a mystery.

Talking of mysteries I now come back to something I mentioned earlier that so many people seem to think of as a completely unfathomable mystery. The Pause.

You all know what the pause is, and how useful it can be in so many ways, but I have had people ask me how to do it. It sounds very flippant to say just be quiet – and it really isn’t all that easy to do as when we are nervous we will rush to fill any silence with a sound to distract the audience and make us appear more confident. But this doesn’t work; in fact it makes us look more nervous!

So now I will let you all into a little secret I was taught many years ago.

When you first start adding pauses into your speeches, the easiest way to do this is to count to 2!

As soon as you get to the place you want to pause, take a breath and in your head count 1 (elephant) 2(elephant) then begin to speak again. The reason I am asking you to add thinking the word ‘elephant’ into the equation is because it takes an entire second to think the word, therefore you won’t rush the counting and end up with no pause still!

Depending on your speech or presentation you may want to experiment with this and use longer pauses from time to time. For example, if you have asked your audience a question, it will usually take them at least 4 seconds to respond so don’t rush the pause here. However a 2 second pause is usually just the right length.

I hope you’ve found this useful, there’s a lot more information to come and I’d love to hear your comments and feedback on this and what you’d like me to write about in the future too!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

How to create an effective Goal

Having a goal seems like the easiest thing in the world, after all dreaming of our hearts desires is automatic. However, as Diana Scharf Hunt said ‘Goals are dreams with deadlines.’

So how do we create an effective goal?

There are several key elements that I believe make a goal very powerful.

Firstly write it down!

Why? Well in 1953 a group of Harvard students were asked which of them had a specific written goal, only 3% of them had. When revisited 20 years later that 3% had accumulated more wealth than the other 97% put together!

Then you have to be specific about what you want, saying you want a career in television is very different from saying that you want to be the most in-demand producer in the UK earning at least £500,000 pa. This helps you ensure you get what you want … and you get it the way you want to get it so that your ethics and values are not compromised.

The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it. ~ Charles DeLint

In addition to this the goal should be measurable … like a route that has been planned one stage at a time and it should contain statements that you can use as evidence to prove that you have achieved some, or all, of your goal.

You will also find it much easier to attain your goal if you are solely responsible for it, there is little point having a goal that states I will get a payrise as soon as my boss thinks I deserve one!

The next thing you need to do is ensure the goal is has a deadline and I recommend ‘future pacing’ your goal which means you are writing it as if you have already achieved it. It should go like the example given below.

It is the (insert date) and I am feeling (insert emotions) because (insert goal).

I achieved this by (list milestones on route)

When you future pace your goal you visualise it as a reality, increasing your positive outlook and using the law of attraction to draw it into your life.

How does this law of attraction work? Well, in a nutshell, it means you get what you focus on. This is common sense and scientific fact.

Scientifically speaking we are all subject to a barrage of information all the time, and our brains can only process a specific amount of that information at a time. So we have something called the reticular activating system that helps us to tune out ‘useless’ information and tune in to information that we need.

To put this in the context of your goal, if it states that you are working in television, your ears will ‘prick up’ every time something to do with this is mentioned, leading you to new opportunities.

Common sense wise if you think about a problem you are more likely to find the solution than if you don’t think about it!

Also if you have a more positive outlook you are more confident and attractive to others. For example if there are 2 people going for same job, both with the right experience and qualifications, but one with a future paced goal and therefore more confidence and focus, which would you hire???

Lastly, to make sure your goal really impacts your life - read it out, at least once a day, this keeps it fresh in your mind and strong in your heart.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Want to grow your business? Grow yourself!

The idea that we should be growing our business year after year has become rather narrow – these days it seems only to mean that we should see an increase in revenue – usually by a minimum of 10%. However one of things that this latest recession has highlighted very strongly to me is that businesses need to grow in different ways. For example, a lot of the high street giants that have recently folded have been stuck in the same rut for years and haven’t taken the time to keep their brands fresh.

Having said that, most small business could learn a thing or two from the big boys and one of those is investing in training for employees, and by employees I mean YOU!

The first step towards this is to figure out how much you can afford to spend on your development, training budgets vary but I recommend setting aside a minimum of 5% of your revenue to put towards future training costs. So if your revenue is £50,000 per annum then £2,500 of that should go towards training.

TIP – always check to see how much of this can be covered by your business expenses and therefore be tax deductable.

Then, before you even start thinking about taking courses or anything else take some time to define your business goals for the next 5 years, bearing in mind what type of lifestyle you want to be living throughout this time. It’s important that you write these goals down and read them as often as possible. If this is difficult brainstorm it with a friend or with a coach.

Once you have done this start looking at the type of training you think will be best for you. In order to do this effectively, first break your business into different areas such as admin, product development, sales and marketing, budgeting and so on, then answer these questions:

1. What are you already good at?

It’s always tempting to improve areas we are already good at and although there is no harm in this make a deal with yourself that for every ‘pleasurable’ learning you undertake, you will also undertake a ‘challenging’ training.

2. What are your weaknesses?

Do you have a brilliant product but no customers? You need to learn about sales and marketing!

3 Which of these weaknesses will be the best to strengthen now?

When I first went into management and knew I would be spending a great deal more time on the computer so I went out and bought myself a teach yourself to type CD rom in order to improve my speed and save myself time, I’m not the worlds fastest typist but now my fingers do a fairly good job of keeping up with my brain! However when I set up my own business I employed a graphic designer to do my logo as I knew I could not get proficient enough quickly enough to make training in this area cost effective, ultimately you want to be spending as much time as possible doing what you are passionate about.

Then start thinking about the best way to get your training requirements met, check local business associations, the chamber of commerce and tax office in your area, a lot of them will have free or subsidised training you can take. Also look online at sites like learn direct or, if you wish, The Open University (many other universities also offer online degrees too).

There are other ways to learn new skills, one of the common problems business owners face is having to talk in public about their business, an excellent way to overcome this is to join your local division of Toastmasters, a club that teaches you how to speak in public and gives you plenty of opportunities to practice in a supportive environment as well as feedback on how to improve.

Another fantastic way to develop yourself is to pick up a book … if you think about how many hours you spend reading or watching TV for pleasure it’s easy to see how much more could be accomplished. We do need our downtime too though so what I recommend is looking at using a quarter of those hours in more positive ways. Develop a reading list that will help you grow, include on in books specifically about your specialisation, books from business experts, books about developing the habits of successful people and biographies of people you admire.

Once your list is in place – join the library and request the books … that way it won’t cost you a fortune and any books you know you want to keep you can always buy later. Or increase the amount of positive literature by buying audio books that you can listen to in the car or while taking your dog for a walk.

Another key area to growing ourselves is to maintain good health, exercise increases the supply of oxygen to the brain making you cleverer, and endurance exercise such as long distance running slows your brainwaves slightly making you more creative! Particular foods can help increase your IQ for a few hours! And not forgetting relaxation … investing in a week off work will dramatically increase our productivity when you are back, so much so that you achieve far more than if you hadn’t had a break.

These are just some of the things you can do to start growing yourself, I also recommend using a professional coach or a friend you trust and respect to help you with this, after all it’s very easy to get so bogged down by the day to day work that you defer all the improvements you could make to some later date when have time. If you know somebody else is going to ask you if you’ve done something that you yourself have defined as important to your business you are far more likely to do it, after all if you don’t make time now … you will have less time in the future..

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Making Happiness a Habit

I had an excellent conversation today, I’ve recently made big life change and moved into a big house with all my family, My mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and of course my daughter … quite an unusual step for a 38 year old western woman! Well my friend Tessa was asking me how it was going and I replied that I’m loving it as “we play lots of games and eat together most nights.”

She commented that “So many families nowadays forget that... and I think it's so important.”

The conversation continued as follows;


It is - we've rediscovered it really because we'd forgotten it too.


I hear you... Grant and I were talking the other day about couples (a friend is getting divorced) it is so important to not change/forget the little stuff that you love to do together, whatever it may be but it’s so easy to forget, to get carried away with daily life and routine and not take time...


I think that’s part of the key it needs to be built into the routine - happiness needs to become a habit ...

So here are 10 Easy ways to make happiness a habit

  1. Compile At least 1 CD of happy tunes to play.
  2. Spend a little time every evening writing down what you are happy about, grateful for or have achieved that day.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Read funny or uplifting books.
  5. Set yourself a target for spending time with people that make you feel good and monitor it.
  6. Watch comedies on TV.
  7. Spend much less time with toxic people.
  8. Figure out what you really enjoy doing and do it.
  9. Do something nice for someone else, if possible, a stranger.
  10. Play really silly games and don’t forget to throw out the rules sometimes! (This brings to mind a spectacular evening with Tessa and other beloved friends where we turned Pictionary into a game of Charades … sounds easy? Not when you pick words like Jellyfish or World Wide Web to act out!!!)

There are a lot more ways to be happy and I look forward to reading your suggestions too!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Become a Fan of Failure

I am a fan of failure; this might sound like an odd statement, after all failure is universally hated and feared, the mere thought of it is often enough to stop people in their tracks. This is hardly surprising, as children we are taught that failing is a bad thing that will bring recriminations and shame. Then when we leave school and start “climbing the ladder of success” it seems that the only place to be is the top and to get there we have to be perfect.

But do we? A friend of mine recently told me that she’d received a quote from saying that “anything worth doing is worth doing badly!”* I jumped up and clapped – “Yes exactly!” I said “After all if you never do it badly how will you ever get good enough to do it well?” A baby doesn’t learn to walk without falling down a lot. In fact there are some incredibly successful “Failures” out there. For example Bill Gates, first company Traf-O-Data flopped, Henry Ford”s first two automobile businesses failed – he said Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” And Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper because he had "no good ideas", he then formed Iwerks-Disney Animation Studios with a fellow animator but it flopped after just one month. He later said “You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

I had another conversation this week with some other mothers at my daughters school, concern was expressed that our schools sports day may go the way of so many others in England and be banned because the competitive spirit they create is considered “unhealthy” by the powers that be. Let me be clear, when I was at school I was terrible at sports and completely understand the humiliation that those of us constantly last across the line feel. My daughter is no whiz on the playing field either so I do not defend this from any craving for personal glories provided on the field. However people are not equally talented in all arenas and any one of us could get smug if not tested in ways that we struggle in. Knowing that we are not phenomenally good at everything helps us to be a little better at empathy, the foundation of exceptional communication, and therefore can help us be more successful in every other way.

However even an ardent fan of failure draws the line somewhere and for me I draw the line at anyone labelling themselves a failure. Maybe they have failed at something, or even several things but there are so many aspects to each and every one of us that I don’t believe that it is humanly possible to be a failure. Besides, so often when we fail at something it is that very failure that inspires our greatest efforts as well as provides the leap in understanding we need to succeed.

As Thomas Edison said “I have not failed, I have merely found 1000 ways that won’t work”

So go on, go for it – if the worst that can happen is that you fail, well that’d be wonderful too!