Taking the plunge…., or my 4 best pieces of advice to becoming a twitter socialite!

I have a lot of fun using twitter as a tool to help me market my small business.  I’m not sure how cool that is to say, but it’s true.  In my social media conversations with business owner clients, the two main reasons they don’t use twitter in their business are:

  1. They just don’t “get it”
  2.  They imagine it to be a chore, and NOT fun

Partly, I enjoy it so much because, by nature, I’m social and that helps when you’re using a tool in the social space.  It’s easy for me to join in random conversations (either face to face in a coffee bar queue, or online) about stuff I’m interested in.  In the online environment that stuff also happens to include what I do for a living.  I’d use twitter (and have done) just to be social, though, because that’s what it was invented for!

However, not being a socialite like me (dahling!) doesn’t mean you can’t use twitter successfully for your business.  In fact, I know total introverts who use it with great success.  An introvert’s apparent shyness in face to face interactions can completely disappear in the twitter environment.  The successful author of the book Social Prospecting for Twitter, Veronica Pullen, is proof that having Aspergers can even give you a competitive advantage in the world of twitter.

Putting aside an individual’s social skills and disposition, though, how do you, as a business owner, embrace twitter for business if you:

  1. Don’t get it and think it’s a complete waste of time?
  2. Find it a chore to do?

Here is my best advice from what I’ve learnt on my journey so far.

Decide what you are going to use twitter for.  Deciding this up front will mean you have a clear goal of what you want to achieve – that way, you can measure if it’s working.  When you start seeing results, you stop feeling like it’s a waste of time.  When I talk to new business owners about how I’ve successfully gained ACTUAL clients through using twitter, their reaction is “You mean you can get new customers that way?”.  Yes, you can, if that’s what you want.  My more established businesses have launched new products based on the powerful customer insight and feedback that twitter has given them as part of their market research.  Larger companies I’ve worked with, who have grasped the twitter nettle, understand the value of twitter as the world’s largest focus group as well as an opportunity to provide truly outstanding customer service.  In my opinion, the hardest part of embracing twitter is deciding WHAT to use it for, rather than IF it should be used!

Be sociable!  Saying this can have the strangest effect on people.  I’ve had clients who’ve started squirming in their seat, looking desperately uncomfortable at the thought of “being social” when they take themselves and their business so seriously.  The truth is, even the most social amongst us (I include myself in that group) are very likely to feel self-conscious at what it means to be sociable in business.  It’s quite normal.  At the beginning of your time on twitter, it can feel like turning up – alone – at the world’s biggest cocktail party!  Awkward!  My best tip to overcome this self-consciousness (which might sound weird but stick with me on this….) is to imagine you’re wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak!  This will allow you to wander through the cocktail party (twitter) listening in to interesting conversations, and who’s having them, without being noticed.  If the conversation of a certain group isn’t relevant or doesn’t inspire you, you can move on (invisibly) until you find a conversation you’d like to join.  Then you can throw off your cloak and get stuck in.  Yes, it feels weird at first jumping into conversations already happening but that doesn’t make it wrong – especially if you’re polite.  Above all, remember….be a human!  Business is about relationships after all, and relationships are made by people.  Once you get used to “being sociable” it feels a lot easier and starts to become fun!  How you sell yourself, or your business, once you’re comfortable will be the topic of a future blog!

Be sociable BUT remember that twitter is a public face of your company.  This is where the fear comes in for some business owners.  When your company grows in size – the possibility of a PR disaster can give the C-Suite sleepless nights.  When you’re a solopreneur, it’s relatively easy to put forward your company face – your business is YOU.  When there are more people in your organisation, and twitter has an employee resource, it’s a different story.  Clear guidelines are needed for that resource to understand HOW to present the company face.  Remembering your twitter resource is a person (or a team of people) will help you (the business owner) work out what they need to understand to represent the company successfully – this needs to include what kind of tone and style of engagement is acceptable WHILST they are being sociable.  A rule of thumb to apply which won’t constrain the human-ness of their twitter interactions is to ask the person/team to “Think about what you say before you put it out there.”  Guidelines can be as simple as Hubspot’s “Use Good Judgement”.  For me that equates to “Don’t say anything that would look bad splashed across the front of tomorrow’s newspapers!”  Being clear about guidelines for a twitter person/team may eliminate the fear a company CEO has of getting twitter wrong, and, instead, reap the benefits (eg, improved response times for dealing with customer service complaints).

Try to view your twitter ROI in more than financial terms.  Yes, you can deliver a financial ROI from using twitter (have your revenues/profits increased or your costs decreased?).  However, one of its best advantages, particularly if you’re a small business, is the way twitter can help you start to get noticed.  Using twitter can grow an online audience much faster than you could (on your own) if you were networking, for example.   If you’re a larger organisation, you can measure consumer attitudes to your brand using twitter – insight directly from your customers about your brand may be unnerving to hear firsthand, but is, nonetheless, essential to measure brand health.   Check out more detailed information on the ROI of Social Marketing by Nate Elliott, from Forrester Research.  Twitter can provide you with a bunch of raving fans and a rich vein of insight into the minds of your customers – now don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to have some of that to give your business a competitive edge?

 Still unconvinced?  Share your thoughts in the comments box below – if you’ve had some bad (or good) experiences, I’d love to hear about them too.  In the meantime, if this has convinced you to get started, I highly recommend you read Hubspot’s “30 Terrible Pieces of Social Media Advice to Ignore” and choose your social network to get started on.  Good luck!

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5 Things You Need to Do to Market your Product/Service, or What Do I Do To Get Customers?

I’m writing this post for some of the hardworking people I’ve been meeting out there who’ve got a fantastic business idea/created a sexy new app/designed a new product or service for people who really need it in their life.  All your friends and family have told you it’s brilliant and you’re feeling like now it’s time to launch into your market.  You know it’s time to spread the word so that a bunch of people start trampling their way to your door, but how?

Whether you’ve just started in business, launched a new product to add to your range or whether you’ve been in business for a while, but not seeing the demand you’d expected for your product/service, most people will have asked themselves at one time or another “What do I do to get more customers?”.  Here are my top 5 suggestions to get your thinking started:

  1. Have a clear picture of who your customer is.  Do you know what your ideal or probable customer looks like?  How old are they?  Are they men, women, teenagers, grandparents?  What is a typical day like for this person?  What do they like doing in their spare time? Ask yourself as many questions about them as you can to build up a really good profile/avatar/persona.  If you take the time to get to know who your customers are, it will make it easier for you to go about finding more of them.
  2. Find out where your ideal customer hangs out.  Do they congregate on social networks, do they meet at toddler groups, do they commute, go to gyms and what are their hobbies and interests.  This kind of information is crucial to helping you decide the best way to talk to them and the right kind of marketing material to use and how to contextualise your messages to them.
  3. When you’ve established who they are and where they are, attract some more by engaging with them.  Seriously, I mean talk to them….directly as if they were a person (yes, customers are people too!).  Ask them questions about how they feel about your product – do they like it, would they buy it, if not, why not?  What changes would they make to it to improve it?  A business that listens to the needs of its customers will attract more potential customers to it, and will be easy to recommend to other potential customers.
  4. Decide how and where you are going to talk to them.  If you’re new in business or you don’t have a huge marketing budget, the ways you can engage with your customers need to be no and low cost.  However, bear in mind these options are labour-intensive, so the cost to your business will be the time you spend on them.  If you have an existing database, you can email them for free using mailchimp.  You can conduct market research, prospect for customers and grow your audience using social media and you can attract customers to you by writing great content about what you do best (e-books, blogs etc).  
  5. Write a plan.  Honestly, if there’s one suggestion I implore you to take on board, it’s write down your 90-day plan of what you are going to do.  90 days is manageable to think about if you’re in the early days.  It’s also a useful length of time to test any new product, if you’re an existing business, so you can measure how successful each activity is, and whether it is working!  Not all marketing activity works and you need to be as keen to stop doing what doesn’t as you are at continuining and improving upon what is working.

If any of this advice sounds useful to you and you need to know more, please feel free to follow my blog.  I’ll be writing more about marketing in general, and also useful tips for those of you solopreneurs/microbusinesses who have to do everything and don’t always have the time.  If you have a specific question you’d like me to help you with, post it in the comments below and I’ll answer it for you.

In the meantime, and while my website is under construction, if you want to find out more about what I do and how I can help you market your business and get you more customers call me on 07881 581 801.

Have a great day

Fi 🙂

Life at the coalface, or what you can do if you don’t have a website & you’re an entrepreneur

I still don’t have a website – I must be the only new businesses owner/professional marketer/entrepreneur who doesn’t, right?  I mean, anyone who doesn’t have a website and wants to be taken seriously in the digital marketplace and get customers (especially a marketer) doesn’t stand a chance, do they?

Well, not entirely.  I’m not saying it’s easy – in fact, it’s pretty labour intensive, as most of my connections are being made face to face through networking and on social media which requires manhours (or womanhours) from me.  However, I AM making connections and I’m getting people interested in what I have to offer – from a marketing perspective, I’m doing what every start up needs to do when they get going – my market research.

Since  my last blog, I have managed to complete my business plan AND a cash flow forecast for the next 12 months – that feels like a massive leap in taking myself seriously.  I now know how much  money I have to earn from my business to keep the bailiffs away, and it’s totally doable.  Now I just have to do it (gulps)!

One thing I’m really finding difficult is to decide what domain name to use – should I use my name (don’t feel like I want to) or should I use something like http://www.amarketingpairofhands.com or should I go really obscure with something like http://www.blueaubergine.com (which doesn’t do anything that it says on the tin!).  Marie Forleo did one of her great videos about this exact issue which you can find here if you’re interested.  My learning from this was it doesn’t really matter in the end – you can always change it.

So, while I’m waiting for the money to come through to build my website, I thought I’d put out there some of the services I’ll be offering my start up clients and microbusiness/SME clients.  If you fall into either category, I’d love some feedback on whether these are services you’d find useful, so please drop a comment below if you have an opinion.

Launchpad

(Define your trajectory) – £250

Ideal for new businesses in the planning/early set up stage.  Particularly good for solopreneurs or micro businesses (less than 5 employees)

  1.  Answer initial questionnaire on where your business is at (this will take you a good 90 mins)
  2. 1-2-1 session with me (2-3 hours) to help me understand your business objectives
  3. A 3-step action plan to get your marketing going by recommending a course of action

The 3 Step Plan is:

  1. A written profile of your ideal customer and how to find them
  2. What to do to position yourself in your market place, by building up your presence, reputation and gaining an audience
  3. What marketing channels to use and how best to use them for your needs

Booster

(Define your Marketing Plan) – £550

Ideal for SMEs (under 20 employees) who have been in business for a minimum of 2 years and still don’t have a defined marketing plan for how they generate new customers and reactivate dormant ones.

  1. Answer initial questionnaire on where your business is at
  2. 1-2-1 session with me (5-7 hours) to understand your business and its objectives
  3. A complete 6 month marketing action plan broken down by activity, channel, cost, success criteria

A marketing pair of hands

( aka do the work for me please, I just don’t have the time!) – £500 per month (suggest 3 months min for activity to show results)

Ideal for SMEs who just don’t have the time to undertake the marketing activity that they have already planned

This will include (but can be redefined as required on a client by client basis):

  1. Designing an email template (if not already done), writing the copy for 2 e-blasts to existing database of customers (maximum 5,000 emails on database) and sending them OR writing copy for 2 blogs
  2. Using one preferred social media tool for prospecting for new 20 customers/JV partners (depending on needs of business) OR set up a new social media channel and educate on the best way to use it for prospecting and building up a presence with an engaged targeted audience (max 50 followers for twitter, 20 Fans on FB)
  3. Arrange meetings with 2 prospective customers/JV partners of your choice for you to showcase your service or deliver your perfect pitch/show your samples etc.
  4. 1 local PR opportunity to promote your business/services/charity work
  5. A “diagnostic” on your website and suggested improvements to improve google rankings

Be my Marketing Director

£1,000 a month

  1. Define customer acquisition and retention strategies and discuss adoption of inbound marketing strategy
  2. Advice on setting up a CRM (if not already in place)
  3. Defining and implementing an email strategy/blogging strategy
  4. Using one preferred social media tool for prospecting for new customers/JV partners as well as advising staff on the company guidelines for use of social media
  5. Arrange meetings with 2 prospective customers/JV partners of your choice for you to showcase your service or deliver your perfect pitch/show your samples etc.
  6. Define a PR strategy to promote your business/services/charity work
  7. A “diagnostic” on your website and suggested improvements to improve google rankings

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below if you made it all the way to the end of this list!

Oh yeah, next item on my to-do list is my marketing plan…looking forward to adding “completion of website” to it!

Fi 🙂

Inside the head of a marketing diva….aka the road to entrepreneurship!

Hello my lovelies.  It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks since my last video blog and wow, has it been a journey.  To say I’ve been up and down like a diva’s drawers (without any of the physical benefits!) is an understatement – I go from feeling elated, empowered and totally certain that I’m doing the right thing to do business the way I want, to feeling crippled with self-doubt and the negative self-talk I’ve been listening to all my life.

An update on the video blog for those who’ve been asking – I got to about day 10 and realised that I was running before I could walk.  I had no website as a call to action to send anyone who was watching my videos to buy my services.  I had no clear outline of my products.  I was carried along on my enthusiasm for the medium of video (coz it’s really cool and exciting), but not what it could do for my business (this was a hard thing to admit to myself especially as a marketer).  So I thanked the very amazing, delicious and lovely Michelle Holmes for helping me on my way and I bowed out of the challenge.

So what did I learn from that experience?  That I need to curb my initial excitement for learning something new (which I love doing) and measure where in my priorities that activity ought to come.  In this case, it will be after I’ve finalised my website (which is my e-commerce platform, ie, where people will buy my stuff) and after I’ve put together what services my clients are going to buy.

I’ve learnt a lot about living in the headspace of an entrepreneur over the last 10-12 weeks or so.  It can feel lonely and overwhelming and I often find myself telling the negative committee that meets in my head to sit down and shut up!  On the other hand, talking to a potential new customer, as well as people who can help me or want to partner with me in joint venture opportunities makes me feel really excited and hopeful about the possibility of achieving my financial goals through having my own business!

Here’s a little shopping list of some of the top things that I’ve learned:

  1. There is so much out there to learn from – that internet thingy is really very powerful isn’t it?  What the heck did we do before Google and YouTube?
  2. I have a database (I have about 100 business cards from people I’ve met networking over the last 12 months)
  3. I am prospecting for business and I don’t even have a website or any business cards, but it’s not holding me back
  4. I know loads of stuff!  It’s causing me snow blindness….
  5. I have friends who know loads of stuff and can help me with what I don’t know how to do and better still, are massively keen supporters of what I’m trying to do!
  6. I’ve met so many people starting a small business who are confused about marketing.  Underneath the umbrella title of “marketing” are areas of marketing specialism which can feel overwhelming for a business owner to get to grips with.  It reminds me I’m on the right track!
  7. Getting my marketing knowledge out of my head and organised into some way I can help my clients is not as easy as I thought it was going to be – and it takes a long time and lots of focus!  Thank you Ania for getting firm with me!
  8. Sometimes you just have to say no, that’s not my priority for the time being.
  9. I am unique – there are people who will want me to help them with their marketing and there will be those who want a man in a pin-striped suit to help them.

There’s a load of other stuff that I’ve learnt too, but I’ll save some of that for future blogs, some of which I may even turn into video tutorials for my youtube channel!  The aim of these will be to hand-hold you step by step through any detailed process, so you don’t have to blunder your way through like I am.  Having said that, blundering my way through is only another way of saying “being on the journey” and journeys can have bumpy bits and dead-ends as well as wonderful views and feelings of excitement because you’re going somewhere!

In the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on!

Fi

My “Super Fly” video challenge, or, who needs a New Year’s resolution?

Ok friends.  I think I’ve gone on enough about what a difficult journey I’ve been having lately.  It’s time to tell you about a challenge I’ve involved myself in this January, which will not only help me, it will help my clients too.

Let’s back-track a little.  At the end of last year, I found myself in the situation of having two clients, but with no website to tell other people about what I do, and no real plan for what I want to do long term.  I have a short-term plan, which is to make enough money a week to come off benefits.  I know I’m good at helping my entrepreneurial mummy (and daddy) friends with their marketing efforts on their own businesses, but I’m still struggling to believe I can make a business out of that in the long term.

As a marketer, I know how important it is to promote your business, to identify, attract, get and keep good customers.  But without plan, a website, any testimonials or really anything to prove I can do what I say I can do, how might I do that?  I don’t have any money to spend either – all in all, I don’t have much of anything, apart from a desire to do something.

Cue arrival of  the “Super Fly” video challenge – ta da!  Thank you for your very timely FB post Veronica Pullen!

For this challenge, I have to make a video every day for the month of January (that’s 30 videos).  In that time, I’ll learn about what it takes to make a good one (by doing a few bad ones I suspect), getting comfortable being in front of the camera and generally how to best promote myself and my business as authentically and credibly as I can.  I’ll be able to interview my clients about what results we’ve achieved, I’ll be able to blog about it while I’m building my website and best of all, I won’t have to spend vast sums of money!  Oh yes, and I’ll have some fun along the way too!  And you lot might even get a laugh too – I’m planning to post the odd video or two in the hope that you’ll see me improve and  maybe the odd blooper or two thrown in for a giggle.

I’m not going to post my Day 1 effort – mainly because I swore in it, and I’m only just learning how to edit my videos – but also because it was so bad!  However, today’s wasn’t too bad, apart from the waffle.  Our challenge today was to talk about a book that influenced us and to get the people viewing to post their book recommendations, so here you go.

I’d totally love your feedback on where I’m going with this, so please post a comment under this blog.  Also, if you think I might just be able to teach someone you know how to get the best out of video for their marketing efforts (based on watching me on my journey), then let me know too.  Alternatively, if you won’t take my word for it, watch this lady in action, who has set the 30 day challenge – she really knows what she’s talking about.

Looking forward to your feedback!

2012….that was the year that was….n’t!

Phew!  I’d like to say it’s been an interesting year, and I guess it has in some ways, but mostly it’s been pretty shit.  It didn’t even start that great although I encouraged myself to look positively at the potential it might have.  Now that I’m looking back at it I could almost slap myself for feeling so hopeful.

To recap, I started the year nursing a broken heart and doing part-time work in a job that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled with, but which was paying the bills and life was reasonably comfortable.  I was asked to join another company doing something I really enjoyed, for a bit more money for the same hours and working from home and I started to feel things were looking up.  4 months later I was made redundant, which left me feeling unsure of myself.  However, the timing was just before the boys broke up for school holidays, and I had some savings, so I thought I’d take time out to spend time with them and start looking for work in September.  And I got to December and was still looking.  What a shock to the system that was.

I’ve got skills – I mean good skills – and loads of experience doing what I do well and an award to prove it (I won “Marketing Person of the Year” for British Airways)…..and I couldn’t get a job?  Ok, let’s re-frame that – I could have had a job, but not the position I wanted, neither the hours, the industry, the salary nor the location.  I could have had a job working 10 hours a week, but really that meant working about 20 hours, just being paid for 10 (seriously, is that how employers are approaching things these days?)  Or I might have been able to have the position I wanted if a) I could get anyone to read my CV or b) I was prepared to accept at least £10k less than I used to be paid 4 years ago, even with my new-found knowledge and experience on my CV?

Where I’d been feeling unsure of myself earlier in the year, I now found myself doubting everything about myself, including my abilities as a mother, daughter and a friend.  I started to feel I had nothing to offer, no real skills and, frankly, vulnerable.  I found myself talking in a much less positive way to the people around me, and I caught them looking at me strangely.  This wasn’t the Fiona they knew talking and although everyone around me offered great advice, none of it seemed to help.  I genuinely didn’t know what to do to help myself when everything I tried seemed to fail.  So I did the only thing I know how to do….I just kept talking.  To my friends, my mother, my children and I kept posting on twitter and Facebook and chatting to the mums in the playground.  I look back on these last 5 months now and feel completely humbled by the amazing support I’ve been shown.

So where does that leave me at the end of 2012?

Through a flukey set of circumstances, I have now found myself  working a few hours a week (so far) as a freelance marketer for small businesses, for 2 fabulous clients. The reason I say it is flukey is that an accidental twitter post was what my clients responded to.  My twitter post (in its mistaken form) actually became the one thing I wasn’t doing – asking for what I wanted.  Ta da!  I mean, I knew this, but I wasn’t doing it (slaps self!).  I guess maybe the messages just take a lot longer to get through to some of us than others!

Dare I hope that 2013 might turn out to be something a little bit better than this year….possibly.  Could it even be quite good….maybe.  But however it turns out, I feel I’m ready for it because of what I’ve learnt this year.  Thank you 2012 and goodbye.

How do you know if you’re having a mid-life crisis?

Is it an age thing?  Is it a body thing?  Is it a state of mind thing?

I’m only asking because I think I might be having one.  I presume I qualify from an age perspective (47th birthday looming).  I certainly qualify from a body perspective (muffin top morphing beautifully into full-blown middle-aged spread!)

However, it’s the state of mind thing that’s making me feel the most like I qualify.  Always an enthusiastic human with a positive outlook on life, humanity, the planet etc, I am becoming, er, morbid.

A chronic fear of death has driven me to “achieve” in every aspect of my life (work, motherhood, partnerships, extreme sports!).  Because of the fear that death would catch up with me unsuspectingly, I have lived a very fast-paced life and packed in a lot!  Now that I have found the time to slow down a bit, I have a encountered a new fascination/obsession with death.

It’s in my thoughts every day.  Thinking of it makes me ask myself things like “What are you here for Fi?” and “Is this the kind of person you thought you would end up being?” as well as the “Is there anything else you still want to do before you die?” type of question.  It also makes me consider stuff I’d previously have been too fearful to.

The other day my mum told me about a woman she’d heard about, who, in her 50s, decided that if she wasn’t already dead by the time she was 70, she would commit suicide.  When this woman told her daugher her decision (her daugher was in her 30s) she was – understandably – a bit shocked.  She told her mum “not to be so silly”(!) but her mother was adamant.  It was never mentioned again, but true to her word, when her mother turned 70 she took the pills and controlled her own destiny.

A few years ago I would have had the same reaction as the daugher, but today, I kinda get it.  The way I feel now is that if you’re lucky enough to reach 70 in reasonable health and with all your marbles and you’ve had a great life, what exactly is there to look forward to?  An ageing, infirm body or a debilitating disease of the mind like dementia or Alzheimers, or worse still, a state pension?  What will it feel like to imagine your children having to take care of you if you are really unwell and feeling like a burden?  Let me be clear, I am NOT for one minute advocating suicide here, and I’m not saying that all people at 70 are “old” or “mentally ill”.  What I am saying is that I can understand why a person might choose death if it was their choice and they were happy with that decision.  I would never have imagined feeling that myself or even  understanding that concept…..and yet here I am, writing about it, and getting it.

Maybe I’m just weird (it’s not beyond the realms of possibility)!  Or maybe it’s just about where I’m at in life.  This may or  may  not consititute a “crisis”.  Alternatively, it may be merely a realisation that I’m entering the second phase of my life which is starting with middle age instead of ending with it.  The end of this second phase is death.  If I run now, I’ll only end up closer to it.  Maybe it’s time to face it and embrace it or…..well not sure what the alternative is (panic maybe?)!

I haven’t really got the energy to panic, so I might just go for embracing it.  If I imagine myself as a 70 year old, I can’t see me choosing to decide not to be here any more and taking matters into my own hands (unless I end up with nothing but the state pension!).  However, I can see me being comfortable with my lot, having lived my life the way I wanted.  That feeling will come down to being ok with my life choices and I am the only one who has been responsible for those.  That sounds quite grown up – maybe I’m not having a crisis after all…..!

Let’s face it, there may be still a lot of time for some quite good stuff still to happen between now and when I die, so there’s still hope.  And where there’s hope there’s life…..and where there’s life, there’s death.