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Welcome…

Thank you for finding my blog; I hope you enjoy reading it and also find it useful.

So why am I writing a business blog?

In answer to that, I guess I need to start at the beginning. I’ve never been one for lots of rules and taking orders from other people. I know it’s a fact of life and at some point we all have to, but I wanted to minimise these things as much as I possibly could and so at the age of 21 I started my first business.

As both my business and my commitments grew (a mortgage and a growing family) so did the rules and having to do what others say. But I still wanted to ‘play’ a little at business and at the same time earn some extra money for the fun things I wanted that my mortgage payments wouldn’t let me have, and so I’ve always been involved with other businesses; mostly successful but some not so.

Building businesses successfully from scratch, coupled with the knowledge gained of other business sectors, has given me not only a great deal of enjoyment but also invaluable practical experiences.

For the past eight years I have concentrated on providing support, marketing advice plus a wide-range of other business learning to my clients. Often this has led to mentoring and consultancy.

And, I guess, that is why I’m writing this blog because other business owners might find my ideas and experience useful.

600grms of prawns

I was sailing around Corfu last week; it’s something my wife (and family) does most years at this time. We enjoy the end-of-season sun, increased winds and the fact that things are not quite so busy due to places beginning to close up for the winter.

During our week we eat out most evenings, love the fresh fish (and glorious prawns in Sayiadha), and it’s what happened on a couple of these occasions that I want to talk about and how the little things can make such a difference to your business success.

First the prawns in Sayiadha; the Alekos Taverna is famous for its prawns and you can buy them by the kilo. You can have them grilled or fried and they recommend a kilo to share between three people. We had 600grms grilled with a wonderful salad of our choosing – simply delicious. But what really stood out here was my starter as I fancied something that wasn’t on the menu. I spoke to the person looking after the fish and asked if I could have grilled sardines. ‘Of course he replied.’ I thanked him and then added that I only wanted four. ‘No problem’, was his reply and when they arrived they were perfect.

Will we eat there again? Of course; hopefully next year.

The second occasion was at the Gouvia Marina when we were about to depart for home. It was pouring with rain so we decided to get a quick breakfast; Greek Yogurt, honey and fruit. It wasn’t long before every table was full and most people were turning a small coffee into a very long stop. Chatting, playing on their mobiles or just reading, as in my case. I noticed that people were waiting for a table and started to feel guilty about just sitting there hiding from the rain when the owner was losing business.

We decided to leave and while my wife popped to the restroom I started to gather our belongings together and motioned to the waiter that he could clear our table ready for the people waiting.

The owner noticed what I was doing and came over and put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘Take your time. You are on holiday my friend, there’s no rush’. His attitude was so different to that of other restaurants I’ve been to in other parts of the world.

Will be go there again next year? Once again – of course.

So, what small things could you be doing in your business that will keep your customers coming back time-after-time? Get the small things right and you could see a major change in the success of your business.

You’re no good to me!

I was at a networking event once; it was in a nice restaurant, lovely evening, great food and pretty good wine.  Just a typical, well to be honest, better than average, networking event with well over one hundred people intent on doing business or just having a good time.

I’ve been to many similar events – some good, some bad – but I have never witnessed what I did that evening.  I have to say that even I was speechless!

I’m sure that we have all seen the inexperienced, or just plain bad, networker who thrusts their business card in your face and says “If you ever need a (whatever it is) you know where to find one”, and disappears as quickly as they appeared. But this person, at this event, took it a whole stage further.

He walked up to the person I was standing behind and said, and I am not making this up, it really did happen, “Hi.  Have you got a will?”  The startled man said, “Yes” and this guy just said “Well you’re no good to me then”, and walked off.  I still can’t believe I heard it or saw it happen.  Needless to say, I avoided that person for the rest of the evening.

So, what’s my point?  Other than the fact this is not a good way for anyone, ever, to act when at a networking event.

Well it’s simple. Networking is about the beginning of a relationship; it’s not about selling whatever it is that you are selling.  Not at the event any way.  It’s about helping people; it’s about building relationships that hopefully will be rewarding and beneficial to both parties, over many years.  Above all, it has nothing to do with a quick sale and moving on to the next prospect.

If you treat networking with respect and forget the quick hit, I promise you networking will bring you the rewards that you are looking for.

Good but not quite Carling!

Do you remember the Carling adverts? I think I like the cricket with the nun’s one the best, but I also like the office escape. If you don’t know the adverts, it’s where a guy does some amazing feat just to fail at the very last moment.

And that is exactly like a great many businesses’ marketing. There is some great marketing about but most fails just when it might have converted into a sale. And that’s just the case with a piece of direct mail (door drop) we received from one of the estate agents in our town. We were just about to put our house on the market when a card dropped through our letterbox.

‘Just SOLD in your area’. The design was good, the photos lovely, each picture had ‘sold’ printed on it – just what we needed. But then I turned over the card and they lost our business.

You see they are looking for ‘…similar cottages to yours…’ because they can sell more. Well we lived in a large three storey semi-detached Victorian house. And to my mind, if they don’t know the difference, that’s going to be a problem for me.

Now you might be thinking that some delivery company did the door drop. Well, even if they had, a good estate agent would know which roads were lined with cottages. As it happens I saw the person doing the door drop; it was a suited young man who looked very much like an estate agent. Now I’ll be fair, in our road there are both cottages and houses, but that’s where the ‘good but not quite Carling’ comes in. This guy (the estate agent) to a point was doing a great job, but he failed just at the last moment, because he wasn’t thinking about exactly where he was posting his marketing cards and it cost his company business.

So, is your marketing Carling or not quite Carling?

Sherlock Holmes gets it!

I watched an episode of Sherlock recently, ‘The Sign of Three’, and I must confess I was beginning to think that maybe I could be doing something better with my time.  But, the last ten minutes, or so, saved the day; because it made me think about business.

So, what’s Sherlock Holmes got to do with any business?  Well, he’s a pretty good detective, and in business we should always be looking for clues, such as to business trends, customer delight and staff morale – to name just three.

And something that caught my attention was when Sherlock was ‘helping’ Mary with the seating plan for her wedding.  She asked Sherlock if this particular person should sit at the top table and Sherlock said no.  When Mary asked why Sherlock replied, ‘Because he hates you and barely thinks about you.’ She replied, “Really?”  Sherlock then explained, “…Second Class post, cheap card, bought at a petrol station…”

The thing is this is also the case with many businesses.  They use 80gsm paper, manila envelopes or cheap off-white, thin card, Second Class stamps, leaflets printed on their inkjet (often crooked), and much, much more; everything for as little money as possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should throw your money away.  But, when talking to clients and prospect customers, what does cheap stuff say about you?  And, more importantly, what does it say you think about them (your client)?

As Sherlock says, do you barely think about them?

Little things can make a bid difference to the success of your business so make sure you get them right.

99 Red Balloons

I’ve just listened to one of my favourite songs from the ‘80s, ’99 Red Balloons’ by Nena and it reminded me of a presentation I attended some years ago by BNI Executive Director Andrew Hall. If you ever get the chance to hear Andrew talk I highly recommend it as he tells the most amazing stories which are all linked to business success. And it is one of those stories that I want to relay to you now. Although Andrew tells it much better than I will, I think it is so powerful but at the same time so easy to implement.

The story is about selling and comes from the time that Andrew used to sell balloons in Battersea Park.

At the time Andrew had a team of fourteen sellers and what made him unusual was that he trained his team in how to sell a balloon. He didn’t just give each member of the team a bunch of balloons and say ‘go sell’. He did a far better job than that, and this is what he did. It really is what makes the difference between doing an okay job and a brilliant one. And it’s so simple.

It goes something like this. When someone approached the seller, Andrew’s seller would say “Would you like one?”, and that’s where most normal sellers would stop. And in most cases this seller would get a ‘No’ or a shake of the head. But Andrew’s sellers were well trained, and before the person approaching them had time to speak, they added the ‘killer’ line, “Which one would you like?”

They had been presented with a simple choice, would they like the red balloon or the blue balloon? The result? Hundreds of balloons sold.

So, how does this story help you?

The answer is simple. Most people when selling ask the prospect if they would like to buy whatever it is that they are selling. Therefore it is easy for the prospect to say ‘No’. But, if instead, you can provide your prospect with a choice then your conversion will increase.

It can be as simple as asking, “Will you be paying cash or would you like me to invoice you?” Either way they are giving you their order.

If you can find your ‘Which one would you like?’ offering your sales will climb.

And, should you need any help then please do contact me.

£100 Bar Tab

Collecting the details of your clients and prospective clients, and keeping in touch with them, is essential to your future success.

And I really like this simple little card that I picked up at my local just last week.

It offers the chance of a £100 Bar Tab. Now that has to be worth my name and address. But there are also another couple of nice things offered.  A small gift when you sign-up and the promise of a little treat on your birthday.  Well at least I know I’ll have one present to look forward to!  But they also have a clever promise, a guarantee, especially useful for those worried about handing over their details to companies.  They will “… NEVER, EVER, EVER rent, sell or share your information”.  That’s a nice reassuring touch.

Their fishbowl was already pretty full with completed cards when I dropped in and there was even a pot of pens conveniently close by.  Not one pen mind you – about thirty.  Another bit of good thinking.

So, what simple mechanism can you put in place in your business to collect data and ensure yourself a brighter future?

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.