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.

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What I’ve Learned About Great Stories

Once upon a timeIn my work I talk a lot about stories. But what exactly do I mean? Here are a few tips I have learned along the way about telling great stories and the benefits this approach can bring to you and your business:

  1. Great stories sell. Finding the great story in your organisation or about yourself is key first step in any marketing or communication plan. The story then tends to reveal inherent and obvious promotional opportunities.
  2. Great stories are genuine. The bonus of this approach is that the key selling points are authentic and the benefits are real. This instantly raises the comfort factor for the seller because they feel confident about what they are offering.
  3. Great stories are a delicate balance between fact and aspiration. You need to present who you are and what you have achieved as a case for where you want to go and who you want to be.
  4. Great stories are drafted from the audience’s perspective. What do your customers or potential clients want to hear about you? What will motivate them to act? What will stick in their minds about you or your organisation?

Stories can take different forms and can be drawn from a range of sources. A company needs internal stories to support staff development and culture plus external stories to sell organisational key messages to relevant audiences. The stories may focus on the achievement of one strong leader or on the commitment of many working towards a shared goal. In some cases the stories are obvious yet in others it may require more strategic questioning to tease out the threads and pull them together as effective messages.

In my view, a carefully crafted story with memorable key messages will always be a more effective form of communication than a list of services could ever be.

Can you think of organisations or people who are telling a great story? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Why Straight Shooter?

Melbourne Business Center

Melbourne Business Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who have ever named a business you may agree that if can be a very difficult thing to do. The company name is a key component of your brand, so you want it to be authentically representative what the business is offering. You want it to be original and clever enough to be memorable for your audience. And practically speaking, it needs to be available for corporate registration.I registered Straight Shooter as a business around ten years ago. My husband and I had just moved from Sydney to Melbourne with our 7 month old, first-born son. Starting a consulting business seemed like an obvious option for me. I felt I had the knowledge and the confidence to work with clients and began ticking off all the tasks required to start a small business.

Deciding on the name was the hardest task. Because the consultancy was all based around me and my experience, it was really important to get a name that reflected who I am and what I stand for. It took a few weeks of discussion. Over this time I did all the things I now recommend to clients.

I thought about my skills to come with a list of words to describe myself. I considered what I wanted to achieve with the business and how I wanted to be perceived by potential clients. I added more and more words to the list.

For interests sake, I thought about Leah Taylor Consulting – an obvious choice yet one giving no actual indication of what my clients should expect. This name was discarded as I felt I could do better.

Straight Shooter was on the shortlist as it captured things about me which I perceive as valuable – and I hoped others would too:
• I am compulsively honest
• I am not afraid to share my opinions based on my experience
• I believe that simple solutions that get to the heart of a matter have more chance of succeeding than plans based on convoluted theory and rhetoric.

Armed with my shortlist of options I began to test market my ideas. I spoke to family members and friends to determine their ideas about me and how these might be translated into a business name. There is certainly a risk in approaching family for comments and criticism of your ideas and I’m sure some families can be worse in than others. Of course you need to be prepared to wait a few minutes as your nearest and dearest take the ‘give me’ opportunity to highlight your best and worst characteristics – sometimes in a not so constructive manner. But in the end you should break through to get heartfelt and valuable words and ideas from those who know you best. Thankfully my experience was positive and the feedback I received was useful.

Finally in a conversation with my older brother, the name of my business was decided when – unprompted by me – he said he thought I was a straight shooter. I trusted that his opinion matched my gut feel on the name. I felt sure enough to move forward. I held my breath until the final ASIC searches confirmed that the name was available and that the registration process could begin.

So I was all ready to roll with Straight Shooter Marketing and Communication Pty Ltd. Until I was offered a new in-house Marketing role that was too good to refuse and I rejoined the corporate world, shelving the consulting business indefinitely.

So ten years on from its instigation the Straight Shooter story continues. The intervening decade has taught me so much more about marketing and how it can be applied for different individuals and businesses. I have so much more to share now.

Whether you are just starting out in business or are decades into your career, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your story – and perhaps even tell you a little more of mine.

Life can take you where you least expect it, but it certainly makes the big picture story much less predictable.

What do you think of the name Straight Shooter? Leave your comments below.

A Tribe of Scribes

I have a new theory that we are all connected. When I say all, I mean all of us that are compelled to share our story with the world – bloggers, writers, songwriters, dancers, artists and creators of all kinds. Those of us who have an innate inkling that we have something to say that just might be interesting enough for someone else to appreciate. Those who feel and act upon that moment of confidence or nagging curiosity which implores us to test our instinct, to make our work available and to steady ourselves to react to the reactions.

Storytelling is unquestionably the most effective way to teach, to learn and to understand about yourself, about others and about the world. For those of us who are incurable storytellers – those who simply cannot resist the urge to share – we play an important role in history, for our families, for our communities and potentially something much bigger.

You see I believe that at some point, many years from now, sociologists studying this period will refer to it as ‘The Age of Sharing’. An unprecedented time of chronicling, enabled surely by technology, but delivered by an army of storytellers enthusiastically brandishing their thoughts, ideas and experiences. Scientists may dig a little further to uncover a part of the brain that specifically relates to compulsive storytelling. They will trace this genetic link back through the lineage of the great storytellers of our time to hypothesise and prove that we are indeed direct descendants of ancient scribes who chiselled in stone and painted cave walls and gilded castles and churches to document the stories of their generations. They will find that we are all connected as one large, enduring tribe of scribes just trying to make sense of life and do our part to record our history.

So today I want to celebrate storytelling and revel in my place as part of the tribe. To seriously and responsibly fulfil the legacy of all those who have gone before me.  To teach, to learn and to understand.

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.