The Magical and Wonderful Powers of a Blank Piece of Paper

freeimage-4816466-highA blank piece of paper can solve all the problems and mysteries of the world. Well, in my little world at least, it is a trick that has certainly worked wonders. In business and for personal matters, when things seem cluttered or decision making is difficult, a crisp, white, blank piece of paper seems to save me every time. A blank piece of paper can magically make the impossible seem possible. With that one clean piece of paper, you have a chance to take back control or a moment to start over.

You know the feeling, don’t you? You sit down at your desk and survey the scene. You phone is blinking with unanswered messages, you are drowning in email backlog, your calendar seems to be double-booked until Christmas and the piles of files resemble a fortress, protecting you from anyone who tries to enter your office to discuss anything that might require you to do any more work. When everything seems urgent, where on earth do you start?

When you are overloaded and busy beyond measure, this is exactly the time you need to stop, breathe and map things out. I know it seems hard to believe, but give it a try. Get some paper and a pen, find a quiet place away from distraction and then just think. Start writing or drawing or mind mapping. Write lists or schedules or ideas. Scrawl down a bunch of swear words if you think it will help. Lay it all out on paper. Transcribe what is going on in your head.

The next step is to start to make connections to find a way through your thoughts. Perhaps use a different coloured pen to literally draw circles and connecting lines across the page. Alternatively, write positive words or ideas to counter any negative thoughts or number each line in order of priorities. Turn the mess on the page into a plan to move forward. Acknowledge the issues then focus on the solutions. Flip the page over and write up some simple resolutions or action points that feel manageable and achievable.

I’m sure psychologists would have some specific medical terms or titles to describe this process, but I just call it Thinking Time. People who work with me would often see me steal my preferred A3 sized paper out of the photocopier draw (I can never find the stash in the stationery cupboard). I find my best Thinking Time happens after lunch. I try to find an empty meeting room or close my office door. Using a red pen I just sit and think and sort my thoughts. I find a 20 minute session is usually enough to get some clarity and confidence about what needs to happen next.

While Paper Power is brilliant in times of stress, it is even better if you use it regularly each week or month to keep things on track and maintain a positive outlook.

We used this technique with our overscheduled son this week. We could see he was cracking under the pressure of school and sport and high expectation – mostly of himself. He was tired and generally unpleasant – far from his normal state. We started with a blank page on the table and together added activity after activity until he could see his packed weekly schedule laid out in black and white. He could visualise the peak times and appreciate the gaps – precious space and time to relax and enjoy just being a kid. The perspective was valuable and provided immediate relief to us all.

The power of the magic blank page cannot be underestimated. Try it today.

What methods do you use to find order and see clearly in work and in life?

Just 1 Percent

tn_timingThe way I see it, with every excuse you make about marketing, you are giving away a little bit of control of the future success of your business. You are divesting the potential of all of your hard work. I mean what is the point of working so hard to build a business, if you are not doing everything possible to tell people about it.

So today I’m hoping to give you a wake up call. I want to convince you that even if you only have a small amount of time – and even if your marketing budget is non-existent – you can create habits to actively marketing your business and share your story.

Let’s start off with talking about time. Sure time is a limited resource. I haven’t come across an app yet that has found a way to squeeze more than 24 hours into each day – but I’m sure it’s not far away! Until this is available to us, we are stuck trying to fit too many things into too little time. So when faced with this, how can you carve out time to focus on marketing?

Let’s start with baby steps…

I want you to do a calculation. Work out how many hours you work on average each week. Then work out 1% of this time. For example:

40 hours per week or 2400 minutes x 1% = 24 minutes

This 1% is how much time I want you to spend on marketing this week.

Using the example of 24 minutes across a whole week – what could you achieve?

Here are 10 suggestions

  1. Phone a customer or contact you think might be a good target for more business and just have a chat
  2. Map out the key points of an article on a topic in your area of specialisation
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile
  4. Hold a short meeting over coffee with 3 colleagues to ask them what they are working on and discuss cross-referral opportunities
  5. Research and register for a networking event relevant to your industry
  6. Review your customer or client lists to see if you can think of new ways to get to know their businesses better
  7. Set up a meeting with one of your key clients and ask them to show you around their operations
  8. Find an article that may interest your customers or contacts and email a link out to them
  9. Send a birthday card to a long-term client
  10. Refer an opportunity to a business contact or colleague – what comes around goes around.

Any of these activities has the potential to bring more work into your business or – at the very least- to raise your profile in the minds of your contacts or customers, reinforcing who you are and how you can help them.

It doesn’t have to take lots of time or money, but a little bit of marketing can bring great results.

What did you achieve with your 1% of time? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Learn to Love Marketing

If I told you that there was something you could do to build your business or your profile – every time and without exception – would you do it? Of course, the answer is marketing. Marketing is one thing that you can do to actively build your business or your profile. I suspect you already knew this, right?

Now if I said there was a way of marketing that you could do without going too far out of your comfort zone, would you believe me? If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable about marketing, you need to know that there is a better way. There are simple activities and habits you can apply that plays to your particular strengths and they will work.

There are a lot of businesses that simply do not do enough marketing and there are even more people who will do everything to avoid marketing. There are lots of reasons for this and throughout a twenty year professional services marketing career I think I have heard most of them.

Have you ever thought or said one of these?:
• I don’t know anything about marketing so I wouldn’t know where to start
• I don’t have time for marketing – I am too busy running my business
• We’ve tried marketing in the past but it never seemed to work
• We don’t need to do any marketing because we already have enough work coming in
• I can’t afford marketing. I don’t have a marketing budget
• I pay a marketing manager to do it for me
• Marketing is not the sort of thing we do in this industry. It’s just not the done thing
• I can’t charge back marketing time to my clients so I can’t justify doing it
• I did some marketing at the start of the year and I’ll do a bit more next year
• My customers can find me so that’s all that matters
• I’m just too busy. Marketing is not a priority in my business.

For a long time as an in-house Marketing Manager I pushed my internal clients to use traditional marketing methods. For a long time I asked my clients to trust me and let me prove that if we stuck to the marketing plan, the results would be clear. I employed all the tenacity and creativity in my Marketing Manager Bag of Tricks. I came up with great marketing programs that I knew would work, did all the legwork, rolled them out and asked for support from my colleagues who seemed very enthusiastic. But when it came time for them to step up and do their bit, things fell flat.

I could see that my clients were uncomfortable. There were times when I saw colleagues avert their eyes as I passed them in the corridor in case I asked them to do something marketing-related. Some were upfront and told me marketing was not their thing. Others made half-hearted attempts to do their bit just so I would tick them off my follow up list. In organisations big and small, only a very small number of clients ever went the full distance, did what was required of them and boosted me as I battled through from one campaign to the next. To them I will always be grateful.

I have been lucky to work with brilliant, educated people throughout my career – successful businesspeople that had achieved great things. Yet these same people were clearly put off by marketing. They weren’t being lazy or rude towards me, they just couldn’t bring themselves to do these tasks that made them feel so out of their depth. Even small things like making a call or setting up a meeting with their clients seemed an insurmountable step for some to take.

I knew there had to be a better way. So I’ve given up the daily fight to push traditional marketing to the masses. I’ve set up Straight Shooter to teach a better, more comfortable way to market.

Through Straight Shooter I can show you how Marketing can be practiced as a series of ongoing habits or behaviours. These habits can minimise the stress and eliminate the “hard sell” that so many professionals dread.

And through this blog I hope you will teach me. Leave a comment and tell me what is working for you or what isn’t.

So let’s start this journey together as we get our story straight and learn to love marketing.