Down at the local pub!

I was speaking at the same event as Penny Power and as I was on stage directly after her decided to sit in on her session.  She was talking about social media and how so many people get it wrong, as they just broadcast rather than take part in a conversation.  She likened it to moving in to a new village, popping down to the local pub, opening the door and announcing “I’m an architect” rather than going in and sitting at the bar, buying a drink, getting to know the locals, and then them finding out, in time, that you were an architect.  And, it got me thinking.

So many people do just the same when networking.  You meet some, in fact lots, at every networking event there is, they just introduce themselves and then say, “I’m an architect; here’s my card.” And that’s about it!  You can obviously replace architect with: accountant, solicitor, printer, web designer, business coach, mobile phone supplier.  Need I go on?

Well networking is just like social media; it’s about starting a conversation.  It’s about building a relationship.  It’s certainly not about a quick ‘hit’ and moving on.

If you are going to be a really successful networker, to really benefit from networking, you have to be prepared to make an effort, to really get to know the people you meet, and that takes time.

So, please don’t rush in with “I’m an architect”. Instead ask about the other person, have an interesting question or two to ask, and never ‘push’ your business card.  And when they do ask what you do, because they will (it’s the polite thing to do), please don’t say, “I’m an architect”.  That’s just so boring!  Have something interesting to say, like “I help people to live in the home of their dreams!”.

Start a conversation, agree to meet again, contact each other by email, and build a long term relationship, that if mutually beneficial, will bring far greater rewards than anything a quick ‘hit’ will ever bring.

Earn more just by dressing up!

Making a good profit can be a hard thing to achieve, In fact, at times, any profit is hard to make, but so many business owners make this more difficult than it need be.  There are so many ways to make more profit and one of those is to simply charge more for what you do.  Again there are many reasons for charging more for your service but one of the best is just dressing up!

I will assume that you are very good at what you do and that you give an incredible service.  But now I will give you two examples of how the same business might be sold.  For each I will just concentrate on three areas, but I’m sure that you will get the picture.

Method one:  The owner drives up in a dirty three-year old car, his business card is flimsy and has a number crossed out on it, and, to be honest, he looks like he has been away camping for the last few days.

Method two:  The owner drives up in a beautifully clean three-year old car, his business card is branded and printed on a heavy board, and he looks as if he is going somewhere special.

Now remember they are providing exactly the same service.  Which would you more likely give your business to?  But, more importantly, most people would pay more money for the service provided by the second method.

There is another point to my example: you knew the service was the same in both cases, but what if you didn’t?  Who would you have chosen to buy from?

‘Designer’ goods are all about dressing up: charging more and making more profit.  Okay the quality of a £4 pair of jeans from the supermarket is not the same as that of a ‘designer’ pair, but a great deal of the price paid is for the ‘look’ and not totally the product.

So, if you want to increase your profits, why not just try ‘dressing up’ a little? Believe it or not – it does make a difference.

Kick Started

Everyone I know received a bit, or a great deal, of a kick start when they first got their business going; and in fact still do today. It may have been their mum and dad, brother or sister, a friend, another business owner, someone famous on TV, someone in history, or at a live business event. The possibilities are endless but it can make a large difference to someone’s success.

The same is true when things get hard; finding a person that will give you a ‘kick’. The trouble with many business owners is that when their business is running they don’t like to ask others for help when things are tough as it seems weak. Many also think that they know more than most others so they can’t in fact be helped. Often that is a big mistake because often a ‘kick’ makes you think differently – it’s not an obvious answer.

Kickstarter exists to help bring creative projects to life and it can make an enormous difference to how you start a project; a new business.

During the lockdown my son has written a comic book. He has been planning it for years but being ‘locked down’ he was given the time to work on it and Kickstarter gave him the ‘kick’ and the knowledge to launch his comic. I have to say that it has been great and I’m really looking forward to getting my printed copy.

So, now maybe the time that you need a ‘kick’, from a friend, or a mentor, the important thing is to improve the way your business operates, adapt the current situation, and make sure that your business is successful going forward.

If you like adventure have a look at my son’s comic book; it might just give you a little kick (in more ways than one). You can see it here.

Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.

How are your ten best customers doing?

Do you ever wonder how your ten best customers are doing?  In fact, do you know, right now, who your ten best customers are?  If not, I really urge you to find out without delay.

Depending on your type of business, knowing who your best customers are today, six months ago, a year ago, can give you a valuable insight into your business.  Is the order changing.  Have some customers disappeared and others taken their place?  Is their spending going up or falling?  Armed with this information you can not only thank those spending well, but, more importantly, if sales are falling, find out why, and hopefully, be able to do something about those customers before it is too late.

However, back to my original question.  Do you know how well your ten best customers are doing?  Why should you care?

Well, if you know how your best customers are doing it is a good predictor of how your business will be doing in the future.  If your best customers are doing well the odds are that you will be as well.  If, on the other hand, your best customers are finding trading difficult then again it is likely that you will be too.

If, as is more likely, some are doing well and others are not doing so well, do they come from a particular market sector?  If the answer is yes, perhaps it would be worth looking for more business from a successful market sector.

Can you offer this successful market sector something extra?  Something that will get you recognised as a leading supplier in the market place?

Then again, if a client is finding trading difficult, how can you best help them?  Or maybe you should be careful as to what level of business you do with them.

Knowing who your best clients are and how they are doing can be a real key to your own success.  So, please take some time this week to find out who they are and how well they are doing and you could have a great idea as to how well your business will be doing over the coming months.

Does your business card leave people in the dark?

You’ve been out networking, had a productive time and given out lots of your business cards.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your card?  Is it, and more importantly, are you remembered, or does it just end up in the rubbish bin?

Is, in fact, your business card worth keeping?

I ask this because all too often I am handed a card that just has a name and a mobile phone number on it.  Sometimes it will have a company name, but often the company name gives me no clue as to what the person does.  And likewise, the email address doesn’t either, as often it is just a name with a number added to @.

If your card is anything like this the chances are that it will end up in the rubbish bin.  After all, I can hardly ring you up and say, “I’ve no idea what you do, or where you are based, but let’s do some business.”  It’s just not going to happen!

Now you might be thinking I’m not very good at networking, as having met someone I can make notes on their card (not always possible on some cards), which of course I do, but, and it’s a big but, why take the chance on someone else making notes about you, when you have the perfect opportunity to tell them exactly what you want them to know?  Why risk your business card ending up in a bin somewhere?  Wasting your very valuable time spent networking.

In any market place you need an edge over your competition: that something extra.  So, why not increase the odds of your business card being kept, improving the chance of future business, by simply improving the information on your card?

A man’s place!

I was out with a friend of mine recently when a coat in a shop window caught her eye and she asked if I minded if we went in so that she could try it on.  Well what does a gentleman do in such circumstances?  “Of course not”, I replied cheerfully.

While she went off to try her coat I did what most men do on these occasions; try to keep out of the way, not look too bored, and of course say the right thing when asked (only joking).

So, I had a look around. The shop was certainly full of some beautiful clothes, but that wasn’t what had got my interest.  It was the fact that this business owner really knew their stuff.

They had some very nice looking shoes; expensive.  However, it was the sign behind them that was just brilliant.  It said that they only purchased a small number of shoes so that they remained exclusive and when the shoes were gone, well that was it, they were gone.  So if you loved the shoes you had better buy them.  They had covered it all; quality, fashion, scarcity and fear of loss.

David Wimblett Shoes

However, it was the next thing I spotted that I really liked.  A magazine, lying on a small table. On the cover was a beautiful woman in a red dress (I love red).  On two sides of the table were chairs and they were out of everyone’s way.  I sat and picked up the magazine.  Underneath was a magazine about motor racing, under that a magazine on shooting, and then one on sport.  This was just perfect.  And then ‘the penny dropped’.

What a brilliant idea!  Keep the man happy and guess what? The lady will spend more.  And she did.

But, there was still one last thing to come.  The loyalty card. And even this was clever.  Firstly, my friend had already earned four points and she only needed ten points to get her first reward, but the really smart thing was that the card stayed in the shop.  Therefore she could never forget it and miss out on those valuable points. But even better, anyone could use it for her; so even more custom for the shop.  Now that’s very clever.

Obviously my friend would return, she also had a place where people could buy her presents (and she would earn extra loyalty points), and of course those people might buy for themselves and the whole process would start again.  As I said – very clever.

So, what could you do in your business that would have the same result?

Smashed!

Work progresses well in our lovely new home in the Surrey Hills. In our garden we have the more usual birds but also ducks, pheasants and a heron (I think he is fishing).

Currently we are working on the design of our en-suite and have spent a great deal of time choosing the furniture, tiles, fittings and taps. One of these items was a lovely white ceramic counter top basin chosen to go with a lovely oak vanity unit found on the internet.

The unit arrived well packed on a pallet but without the basin. This it turned out was coming from another supplier. A few days later a delivery man arrived at our door and, as he handed me the box he was carrying, I heard the sound of broken ceramic. I suggested he take the box back but he replied that his was to deliver not take returns (not the best customer service).

When I opened the box my fears were realised as the basin was smashed to pieces. What surprised me was that a ceramic bowl could just be placed into a standard cardboard carton without any additional packing.

smashed sink

A quick phone call, resulted in the company apologising for the mishap, that they would get a replacement basin sent out immediately, with extra packing.

Pretty good customer service and I have to say that I was pretty impressed. After all, mistakes happen and it’s how they are put right that makes the difference.

A couple of days later another delivery man knocked at my door and as he handed the box to me I heard the same sound of broken ceramic.

When I opened the box, there was the smashed basin. Again just placed in a cardboard carton; the extra packing consisted of a layer of bubblewrap wrapped around the outside of the carton.

Needless to say I didn’t ask for a third bowl to be sent but instead asked for a refund (given) and sourced, as it turned out, a far more beautiful basin locally.

But this is what I don’t understand. How is this business making any money? Two basins delivered and smashed and no sale – no income at all.

Even more mystifying is what sort of manufacture puts a delicate ceramic basin into a plain cardboard carton without any packing? I’m sure a little polystyrene would have done the job.

I can only assume that these basins are normally collected (even that doesn’t make any sense) and not delivered by courier, with no thought being given to the extra requirements of that service. But even then, when pointed out, no proper thought was given to a process that clearly wasn’t working.

So, are you providing a service that may have changed in some way that needs some extra thinking to ensure that you are providing the best possible service?

I love this mailing!

It’s taken me a while for me to write this blog because I didn’t want you, my reader, to think I was easily taken in. But I just love this mailing.

It arrived on my doormat some months ago and I knew exactly what it was; someone was trying to sell me something. In fact I put the envelope, un-opened, straight into the recycling. As I say, I knew exactly what it was. But something at the back of my brain was nagging me. ‘You’re not average’, it was saying. But I knew it was just a ploy. ‘Forget it!’ I told myself.

Envelope Mailing

I did forget it for a while but finally succumbed, retrieved the envelope from the re-cycling and opened it. And, of course, I was right. I was trying to be sold something I didn’t want.

But, that’s the point of great marketing – or, more importantly, a great ‘hook’.

You have to get opened whatever it is that you are sending out. You have to get the next paragraph of a letter read or the line in an advert. And the way you do that is with a brilliant ‘hook’. Be it a Subject Line of an email, the Headline in an advert, the title of a letter, the first words on your website, and yes, the words on an envelope.

Your most important job is to get people to read about whatever it is that you are selling and the better your ‘hook’ is, the more enquiries, and therefore sales, you will get.

Do this right and people will just have to open (read) and see what comes next. Almost against their will!

One tip, write your copy first and then work on the headline until you get it right.