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The Stunningly Simple Secret Part 2

The Stunningly Simple Secret Part 2

Busy or effective.  Which one are you?  Did you know it’s possible to do away with almost 80% of your to do list?

Here is a myth about being self-employed.  You start a business.  You work 80 hours a week to build it up.  In 5 years or so, you are a roaring success.

In my last post (http://successfulcm.com/2017/04/28/stunning-simple-secret-improves-productivity/) we discussed how you can choose the hours you want to work, and then use the 80/20 rule to accomplish the 20% of important activities to produce 80% of your results.

 

But what about the rest of the pile?

In this post, I’ll discuss ways you can take the other 80% of your To-Do pile and dump it, delegate it, or delay it.

What Can I Dump?

The first thing to do is to look at your pile and pick out the problem areas wasting a lot of your time.

Remember the 80/20 rule works in all kinds of ways.

Who are the 20% of customers, clients, or prospects causing 80% of your headaches?  How much do they contribute to your bottom line?  My experience is the ones who constantly complain about stuff many times are just trying to shift the blame for their own flaws.  Fire them.  You are better off without them.

You don’t have to be nasty about it.  I have said to clients, “I’m sorry.  I think I’ve done all I know how to do for you.  You’ll be much better off finding someone else who can (fill in the blank)”

If it’s a prospect, you can say, “I’m sorry.  I just don’t think I’m the right person for you.”

I think one of the most wonderful things about being self-employed is the ability to choose the people you want to work with.  Helping others to solve their problems or achieve their goals should be a joyful experience.  If it’s not.  Move on.

What are the time wasters?

  • Email- Probably the #1 time killer.  I’d be willing to bet you 95% of the mail in your inbox is crap.  Get rid of it.  If an email does not relate to getting you business somehow, delete it.  If you get irrelevant emails from the same sender more than once, assign the sender to your junk or spam file.Only look at email twice a day.  Pick the times.  I review once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Outside of those times, I turn the email completely off. Those emails that are business related should be answered within 24 hours. Keep your emails focused.  Stick to one subject if possible.  Answer it and move on.

There is one caveat here.  If you are emailing a customer, client or prospect about a specific subject and you find you are trading 3, 4, or 5 emails to no result, pick up the phone and call.

  • Phone calls. Turn off your phone during the day.  No…your business will not suffer.  Put a voicemail greeting on your phone that says, “Sorry I am not available to take your call.  Please leave a message.”   If someone won’t leave a message, they are not interested in doing business with you.  That said, here is the caveat.  I call it the “Sunset Rule.”  All calls received before 4 PM should be returned by sunset the same day.  Even if you don’t have an answer for the caller you are telling them you received their call, they are important to you, and you will contact them again when you have an answer for them.  If you are getting more calls than you can handle on an issue, you may want to consider delegating.
  • Meetings. There are two kinds of meetings. One on one meetings with a prospect or client to discuss projects or work in progress.  These are OK.  You should build an agenda for the meeting.  Publish it ahead of time.  Stay focused.  Try to hold the meeting to an hour.  The other kind of meeting is a committee meeting, general discussion, exploration, presentations, pitch sessions, etc.  Avoid these like the plague.  Nothing is ever accomplished here.  One of my favorite quotes is from the humorist Dave Barry, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

Delegate

If you are a one-person shop, the way I am, this gets a little more challenging.  You have decided how many hours a week you want to work.  You have chosen the most important things to focus on. You have dumped everything you can.  There’s still stuff left. Now what?

One thing you can do is hire a virtual assistant.  Sources for virtual assistants can be found online.  Be very careful here.  The tendency is to hire a virtual assistant and then simply dump on them everything you don’t want to do.  This is a recipe for disaster.  You would be wise to eliminate the activity completely before you delegate it.

A virtual assistant should be treated as any other employee.  Interview them for compatibility.  Pick a specific function you want them to do. Train them how to do it.  Then turn them loose.

Let’s take the example from the previous paragraph.  You are getting a ton of phone calls on a specific subject. Imagine you are a consultant.  You have offered a free half-hour of your time to discuss a certain issue.  People are calling to book an appointment.

Train your virtual assistant on how to answer questions about the half-hour session. Give them the hours and dates you are available.  Have a separate phone number for booking the appointments. Google Voice is great for this. Turn them loose.  Inspect the results daily at first, then weekly.

You can also delegate out to contract workers and/or freelancers.  Again, you must be careful to confine this to specific functions with clearly defined procedures and goals.

Delay

Finally, there is delay.  This is really a default tactic.  There is stuff in your pile that isn’t part of the 20% getting you 80% of your results.  You can’t (or won’t) dump it.  Now what?

Delay it.  Actually, what I mean by this is ignore it.  Most of the time, this junk will just melt away on its own.  If there’s something in there that must be done, it will rise to assume crisis proportions.

In Conclusion

The idea here is to use your work time to be effective.  Focus on only those things that produce results.  Let the rest go.  This isn’t always easy.  Those things outside of the 20% of effort producing 80% of the results will sap your energy and distract you from the important. The inconvenient truth is you’ll never get it all done.  There’s always one more thing getting added to the list.  Focus on the 20%, Dump, Delegate, or Delay the rest.  You’ll be surprised how much you get done and how good you feel.

Stunning Simple Secret Improves Your Productivity!

Stunning Simple Secret Improves Your Productivity!

Getting it all done when you’re the only one there can be frightening. How can you improve your productivity?  Using Pareto’s simple 80/20 rule can cut your work week in half

You wanted freedom.  You wanted to do something you loved. And…you wanted to get paid for it.  So you went into business for yourself.

Now you have this huge list of stuff that needs to be accomplished to get your business off the ground.  How are you going to do it?

Is one of the reasons you went into business for yourself is you were tired of 50 to 60+ hour weeks working for someone else?  Are you now worried all you’ve done is buy yourself another job?

The ugly truth is unless you take control, you’ll never get it all done.

What is The 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule was originally proposed by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896.  It simply states 20% of the causes generate 80% of the effects.

I’m sure you’ve heard this in one form or another.  For instance, “80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers.”

What this means to you is 20% of your effort will generate 80% of your results.  Now you have to figure out which tasks constitute the 20%

Pretty straightforward, right?

But Wait…There’s More

It turns out there’s one additional thing you need to know.  It’s called the law of diminishing returns.  Here’s what it means.

If 20% of your actions deliver 80% of your results, you are getting a 4 to 1 return on your effort.

If you increase your effort (more tasks) to 23% you should drive your result to 92%, right?Chances are it won’t.

The law of diminishing returns states for every added effort, you will receive an ever decreasing result.

So, increasing your effort by 3% might only yield a 5% increase in results.  Another 3% on top of that might yield another 3%.  Keep on that path and you will get to the point where no matter what you add in effort, you won’t get any better results. And…you may never get to 100%

A Radical New Concept

Here’s a radical new concept for you.  Choose how many hours a week you want to work.

Yup, you heard me.  Instead of attacking the entire pile of stuff you think you have to do and whacking away until it’s done, choose how many hours a week you want to work.

Got it?

Here’s your new goal.  Look at your huge pile of stuff to be done.  Remember 20% of the stuff in that pile will generate 80% of results.  Look at each task in the pile and ask if it is part of the 20%. Estimate how long it will take to complete it.  Put it on the list for this week.   

Keep this up, until your weekly hours are filled.

Then resort the tasks in order of importance and put them on your calendar.  Be aware, you don’t want more than 2 mission critical items on the calendar in any one day.

Now focus on each task in order.  Work on it and it alone until it is done or your progress is halted by some outside event.

What Happens to All the Rest?

Everything else in your gigantic to do pile can either be Delayed, Delegated, or Dumped.

This will be the subject of the next blog in the series.

In Conclusion

You will be amazed at how productive you become.  You have to be brutal in your application of the sorting process. Knowing you have only so much time to complete mission critical items forces you to work on those items most important to your success.  Plus you will have the added benefit of creating more free time to do stuff you enjoy.

PS.  This concept and many others are more fully discussed in Tim Ferris’ wonderful book “The 4 Hour Work Week”  I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is running a small business.  You can order a copy of this book by clicking on the link below.  (Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s affiliate)

Best Hire: Employee or Independent Contractor?

Best Hire: Employee or Independent Contractor?

As small business owners, sooner or later we are faced with hiring our first employee.  So which kind is best: full time employee or independent contractor?  Here’s a great post with all the pros and cons. 

The Pros and Cons of Hiring: Employee vs. Independent Contractor

BY LAURA SHERMAN | SMALL BUSINESS


[This article is a piece of part 11 of our Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business – scroll to the end to see the other parts]

As a small business owner you will need to determine whether to hire full time employees or use independent contractors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are basically the same thing. They aren’t.

Although you pay both kinds of workers to do tasks for you, they are not viewed the same by the IRS. And if the IRS suspects that you are not classifying your workers correctly, they might audit you.

The IRS defines independent contractors in this way: “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”

So, if you own a restaurant and hire two waiters, they would be employees. However, if you contracted a local handyman to come in as needed to fix anything minor that breaks in your restaurant, they would be an independent contractor even if you pay them hourly. The waiters show up to your place of business and work under you, while the handyman has his own business and simply shows up and fixes things his or her way.

There are pros and cons to hiring full time employees and independent contractors. Most small business owners wish to avoid the added overhead of having a slew of employees, but some don’t have a choice. You’ll need to evaluate your situation to determine what is best for you.

Advantages to hiring full time employees

When you hire full time employees, they will work for you thirty or more hours a week (fewer hours makes them part-time) and will usually have a long-term commitment to you and your business. The advantages to this type of relationship for you, the employer, are:

  • These employees will feel pride in their position in your company. Most people want the security of a job, but they also want to feel the satisfaction of working for a company that they can call home. They want to feel that they are an important part of the team. If you give them that, they may go the extra mile.
  • The hourly wage for a full time employee is often much less, because they have job security. If you were to hire out for the same work with a freelancer, you can often expect to pay quite a bit more.
  • You don’t need to scramble to find help when your workload increases. If you only rely on independent contractors and need urgent help, your favorite freelancer might be booked. Or it might cost you a lot more to hire one last minute.
  • You don’t have to wear all the hats of your business yourself. Instead you can delegate tasks permanently to others. This frees up your time to do the tasks best suited for you.
  • You don’t need to continually train staff on how you like things done. Your employees know you and can do the work without the need for continual direction.
  • If you want to take a vacation, you can be assured that someone is holding down the fort for you in your absence.

Disadvantages to hiring full time employees

As you consider whether you want to hire full time employees, you’ll need to consider the downside as well. There are certain requirements that come with having employees:

  • Although it isn’t mandatory, most full time employees expect benefits, like health care and vacation time. As you interview potential candidates, they will most likely be interviewing with other companies as well, who offer such benefits.
  • You’ll need to pay their salaries like clockwork, even if your business has a lull. In order to cover their paychecks, you’ll need to have a reserve of money in your bank account.
  • You’ll have specific payroll paperwork that is legally required. Along with this, you’ll need to withhold your employees’ taxes, social security, and Medicare.
  • You are responsible for your employees’ training and professional licensing requirements. These vary from state to state.

Advantages of hiring independent contractors

Small business owners usually prefer to hire freelance workers for jobs when they need help. There are distinct advantages to sticking only to independent contractors:

  • Although you usually pay more per job or per hour, you will most likely save money overall since you aren’t required to pay them any benefits and do not need to commit to a salary.
  • You have greater flexibility. When you work with an independent contractor and it isn’t a good match, you simply don’t hire them again. When you have an employee that doesn’t work out, you may need to fire them, which isn’t always easy.
  • You can hire the right person for the task needed, contracting someone with a specialized service. They often have many years of experience, so you don’t need to train them.
  • They are responsible for their own permits and professional licenses.

Disadvantages of hiring independent contractors

While hiring independent contractors has many advantages, there are some drawbacks as well:

  • You lose some control over how tasks are preformed, because you can’t closely monitor their work. You can guide them, but usually they aren’t on site and will run their business their way.
  • They are hired short term, so you might not get the same worker for the next project. They usually operate on a first term, first serve basis.
  • They have no sense of company loyalty, but are a hired gun for one specific job. They are not part of your staff.
  • They will not promote your brand, but their own. Their work is done under their business name, with their logos, etc.
  • All copyrights will be owned by the independent contractor, unless you draft an agreement stating otherwise.

There are times when the line between employee and independent contractor can become blurry. For instance, how do you classify a virtual assistant? In order to answer that question, you must evaluate the situation.

Does the virtual assistant have her own company name, work for you on a project-by-project basis, and operate independently with limited supervision? Most likely, they would be an independent contractor. However, if she works for you forty hours a week and you are her only client, she might be an employee.

Understanding the difference between an independent contractor and a full time employee will save you a lot of headaches in the future. Set up your business with the type of workers that you need for long-term success.

5 Dangers of Fast Growth.

5 Dangers of Fast Growth.

As Small Business Owners we know growth is the name of the game.  But, did you know you can grow too fast?  Here’s a great post warning you about what can happen.

5 Dangers of Overly Fast Small Business Growth Strategies

By Suzanne Kearns
Posted in: Small Business

 

Comments1

business growth team plantWhen you start your own small businesses, you immediately start thinking about growth. Maybe you just dream of eventually opening a second store, or you might envision becoming a huge conglomerate or one day franchising the business.

Growth isn’t just admirable – it’s expected. But often, small business owners don’t consider that growing a business too quickly can eventually cause the company’s demise. You can easily find yourself lacking working capital, which is one of the biggest contributing factors to the failure of one in six new small businesses.

You and your business can avoid the dangers of overgrowth. By managing your business correctly and scaling up at a good pace, you’ll guide your company on the path to success. Whether you’re running a home office or a company with many employees, the key is planning.

Make sure you know the five biggest risks associated with sudden, unexpected growth.

1. An Overbearing Debt Loan

If you don’t plan properly for an increase in business, you can wind up taking on far too much debt. Growth takes money, and especially during the early stages of growth, working capital will be low. Many business owners take on massive debt to feed the growth machine, and a vicious circle begins. Increased orders require you to take on more debt, and so on. Too often, the cycle breaks only because the debt becomes so high that it topples the business. Even though more money is coming in, you owe even more and can’t cover debts.

 

For example, if you owned a housecleaning business and suddenly began to get more customers, you’d need to purchase more supplies and probably hire some more help. These positive developments would involve a lot of cash flow, and they can quickly turn negative by eating up all of your reserves. The new business is good, so you give incentives to your existing customers to send you referrals, leading to even more customers. Again, you need more staff and supplies. Perhaps you go as far as adding a company car with your logo to spread the word and support the increased workload.

Your working capital completely depleted, you take the next logical step: getting a loan. At first, it looks like the increased profits will more than cover the credit payments. But while the client list is growing, the debt is piling on more quickly, and keeping up with payments becomes a struggle. The growth was good, but it came too quickly and caught you unprepared as a business owner. Better fiscal management would have allowed for controlled growth based on revenue and profits.

2. Being Unable to Satisfy Your Customers

As a small business owner, you’ll be thrilled to be in high demand. But you need to be sure that you can supply the level of service your customers expect. Personal attention is a key selling point that attracts customers to a small business, especially when you’re involved in an active local community. In the face of unexpected growth, you’ll face the challenge of maintaining quality with the increase in quantity.

Consider the case of the home cleaning service. With a manageable number of clients, you can easily give each one the personal attention that makes your company special. In fact, that personal touch is what got everyone talking about you, spurring the recommendations and the increase in business. While it’s inevitable that the bigger a business grows the less interaction the owner will have with the clientele, unless you manage expectations, some clients may end up feeling put out – and they’ll stop coming to you.

The answer to this problem is – again – managed growth. Calculate how many new customers you can take on without turning your back on the clients who got you started. As you grow, bring on a customer support staff to promptly attend to all of your clients’ needs.

3. Forgetting Your Original Goal

In an effort to expand your business, you’ll be tempted to move into somewhat related – but unexplored – territory. The housecleaning business, for example, could be growing at a comfortable pace when a satisfied residential customer encourages you to bid on the contract to clean a commercial building. It’s tough to resist the prospect of big contracts and new opportunities, but straying from your original business model too quickly can create a volatile situation. While you’re striving to succeed in an untested aspect of your business, you’ll be forced to turn your back on the duties and client base that got you started in the first place.

Entrepreneurs naturally want to try new things, and success often requires taking a risk on new ideas in unproven areas. But you have to carefully consider how much time you can devote to a new plan, and budget accordingly. More importantly, make sure you maintain the safety net of your current customers and business model. If your expansion effort doesn’t pan out, you need to be able to rely on the original concept.

4. Losing Employees

Any small business owner will tell you that your best employees are the lifeline of the business. But when a business experiences quick growth, lines of communication can break down. If you’re surprised by your business’s growth, you’ll get preoccupied with keeping up, and if your employees aren’t ready for it, you’re in trouble. You need to let your employees grow with the business, but training them for management and leadership positions takes preparation. If you catch your staff members by surprise, and you’ll likely lose them. For a small business, losing employees – especially longstanding ones – means losing institutional memory, customers, and money.

In the case of our cleaning business, getting wrapped up in all the new business could easily alienate an unprepared employee in charge of the residential aspect of the business. Without guidance and support, that staff member is left in the field guessing at what decisions are best for the company. Since this employee isn’t trained for management and doesn’t have your insight into the business model, you’re probably going to be unhappy with those decisions, and your customers will be dissatisfied too.

5. Focusing on the Short Term

It’s amazing to watch a company in the middle of a growth spurt. Cash rolls in and business owners think that they’re on the way to the top. Profit and loss sheets look good, and it starts to look like worrying about bills and cutting  business operating costs and expenses will be a thing of the past.

 

But a dangerous trap lurks in these bright days. In the search for good news, you can make the easy mistake of looking only at short-term profits. Instead, consider the plans that you’ll have to implement to sustain long-term growth and success. Don’t lose control just because you see a few good weeks and months in store. Making rash decisions to boost one day’s profits can cost you something – your cash reserves. And if you’re unprepared, those good days will suddenly end.

Remember that company car with the cleaning service logo? It may have been a little premature to have taken on the expense of a brand new car and decal work. Celebrate your success, but don’t overindulge.

Final Word

For your small business to succeed, the name of the game is growth. But growth is very complex. It’s hard enough to grow in the first place, so make sure that you handle it properly when that success comes. Keep your eye on three areas of the business: your systems, your staff, and your cash reserves. Successful growth requires taking the time to plan and prepare to sustain all three as your business increases.

4 Simple Steps for Winning Customer Service

4 Simple Steps for Winning Customer Service

What is the biggest challenge facing small business owners today? “How do I compete against the big guys?”  Here’s a simple two word answer: Customer Service.

How many times have you heard it?

  • I could never talk to a real person.
  • They kept switching me from department to department
  • I was on hold for 15 minutes and then got cut off.

Do you think these folks will ever come back?  91% of them won’t (source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)

Here is a startling statistic.  80% of companies surveyed say they deliver “superior” customer service. Only 8% of their customers say those same companies deliver “superior” customer service. (Source: “Customer Service Hell” by Brad Tuttle, Time, 2011)

This is a huge need in the marketplace just waiting to be filled.  And…guess what?  People are willing to pay for it.  According to an Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/Right Now in 2010, 9 out of 10 U.S. Consumers surveyed would pay more to ensure a positive customer experience.

Everyone Counts

Tapping into this unmet need does require you, as a small business owner, to adopt a certain mindset.  I’m going to quote Michael Connelly’s hero, Detective Harry Bosch here, “Either everyone counts, or nobody counts.”  This means there is no deal too small, no request too unreasonable.  Your goal is to say, “How can I help?” and then try to provide a solution.

I’ve had people ignore me because a deal was too small.  I have news for you.  You never know where a deal is going to lead.

When I was in mortgage banking, I had a nice couple come to me for a small house loan. The Realtor representing them was new in the business and didn’t understand financing very well.  This couple owned a house free and clear.  They had a contract on it and were going to put the entire proceeds from the sale into the new home they were purchasing.  As I remember, the new loan was about $40,00 and I had no trouble getting them approved.

A week before the closing, things began to go wrong.  The buyers of my clients home couldn’t get their loan approved because of poor credit and were going to back out.  Without the proceeds of that sale, my borrowers couldn’t go forward with the new purchase.  My borrowers called me and explained they wanted to help the couple buying their old house if possible. Could I figure something out?

I sat down with my borrowers and their Realtor.  I showed them how they could take a small equity line on their existing home and use it as the down payment on the new home.  Then I showed their Realtor how to write a lease-option agreement on the old home with a purchase date 3 years down the road.  This meant the purchasers of the old home had 3 years to straighten out their credit.  My borrowers would have three years of rental income. They could use this toward the payments on the new home and pay their loan down when the deal finally closed.

The result?  I turned a small loan into a bigger one.  My borrowers were happy.  They referred 4 of their friends who were buying or refinancing to me.  The Realtor starting giving me first shot at all her business.

My point? Ya just never know.

Now, I know, we can’t help everyone. But…we can try to make them happy even if we can’t help them.  If you can’t solve their problem say so. And, tell them why.  Then try to refer them to someone who might be able to help.

Basic Stuff

Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the World Champion Green Bay Packers, would start each new season by standing in front of his players, raising a football in his hand, and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  He would then proceed begin practicing the most basic blocking, tackling, running, and passing drills.

His message?  The basics count more than anything else.

Here are 4 basic rules of customer service.  Follow these and you will be richly rewarded.

Rule 1.  Treat everyone you meet as though they were your highest paying client or customer.  You never know.  They might turn out to be just that.

Rule 2.  Answer your phone calls.  Some years ago, I worked for a medium sized commercial bank. They had a rule called “The Sunset Rule.”  This meant if you received a phone call from a customer before 4 PM, you were to call that customer back by sunset the same day.  Even if all you did was call them back and say, “I’m working on your issue, and I don’t have an answer for you yet.  I should be able to let you know by_______.”  That customer knew they had been heard.  That bank had the highest customer service ratings of any financial institution in town.

How do you feel when your calls aren’t returned?  When companies don’t call me back, I assume they aren’t interested in my business.  That’s OK with me.  I’ll find some body else.  But guess what?  If someone asks me about XYZ company, I’ll say, “Don’t bother calling them.  They’re not interested.”

Which way do you want people to remember you?

Rule 3. When you tell someone you’ll do something by a time certain, do it.  Better yet, do it before it’s due.  Why is that so hard?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call people and say, “Where’s the thing you promised me last week.”  When you don’t deliver on time, you’re telling your customer they aren’t important to you.

If you can’t deliver as promised, call the customer on the phone.  This is crucial.  Do not email, do not text.  Do not leave a voice mail (unless you are asking them to call you back).  Speak to them directly and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve run into an issue and have to move the delivery date to X.”  The customer may not be happy, but they’ll know where they stand and that you cared enough to let them know.

Rule 4.  When you make an appointment, show up on time.  When I was in the Navy, we used to go by Navy time.  That meant if you were due to be somewhere at 2:00 PM, you showed up at 1:45.  No excuses.  If you showed at 2:00, you were late.  If you can’t be there on time, call or text.

Whose time is more important, yours or your prospects?

Think these simple things aren’t important?  Think again.  According to the American Express Survey of 2011, 78% of consumers surveyed have bailed on a transaction, or not made an intended purchase because of a bad service experience.

An Inconvenient Truth

Today it is possible for you to reach millions of people on the internet. But, you still build solid business relationships one customer at a time.

As a small business owner, you face competition that is bigger, better funded, and offering cheaper prices. It seems as though it’s David against Goliath.  But you can beat Goliath every time with superior customer service.

Why Customer Service is Your Most Important Function

Why Customer Service is Your Most Important Function

As small business owners, we are all worried about going up against the “big guys”.  Great customer service is the best way to out perform your competition every time.  Here’s a great post telling you how.

How small businesses can deliver good customer service

Satisfied customers remain loyal to you and recommend you to others. Alastair Kight, managing director of GRITIT, offers five simple steps for delivering good customer service

waiter carries tray

Skills can be taught, so it’s more important to employ staff with the right attitude, says Alastair Kight. Photograph: Paula Solloway/Alamy

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About this content

Alastair Kight

Monday 5 November 2012 05.46 ESTLast modified on Tuesday 6 November 201210.53 EST

Customer service is the badge that every company wants to wear because satisfied customers remain loyal to you and recommend you to others. New customers require time, effort and a significant marketing budget to acquire.

It’s not hard to keep customers happy, even though we all know from bitter experience that few companies get it right. All that’s needed is to put their needs at the heart of everything you do. Following these five simple steps will help.

Engage with your customers at every opportunity.

Communication is vital because your customers want to feel valued and respected. They’re also looking for peace of mind that they can trust you will deliver what you promise.

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Tracking the market and anticipating your customers’ changing needs will enable you to think innovatively and stay ahead of the competition. This can be done by:

• Communicating regularly with your customers to understand their changing needs.

• Conducting regular customer feedback surveys so you get an honest assessment of your business from the people that matter.

• Monitoring the wider economy and analysing how changes will impact your customers.

• Tracking your competitors so you understand where you are in the market and how you can differentiate.

Offer clients flexibility, so they get exactly what they want

There’s no point listening to customers if you don’t then give them what they want. One size does not fit all, particularly in a tough economy, and you have to be able to cater for most budgets. Put systems in place that enable your staff to work within a framework, but also give them enough flexibility to offer bespoke packages. This could be, for example, a pay monthly option, or a rebate agreement, which pays a refund to clients when the average number of service visits are not required.

Employ the right people

You are only as good as your weakest member of staff, so you need to hire carefully. It doesn’t matter what the management team promise, you will only deliver when the people at the sharp end are doing their jobs well. At GRITIT, we’re not focused on a candidate’s qualifications or skills because our comprehensive training programme will teach them. Instead we hire people for their attitude, which is far harder to teach. Those with the right attitude are also often the most willing to learn.

In our business, operations staff work under the most extreme conditions, are on call 24 hours a day and they never let our clients down. In fact, they often go beyond the call of duty: this may involve spending extra time, for example, clearing snow that is a potential hazard from areas of a site that are not part of our contract.

Develop your staff

Even if employees join with the right attitude, they may soon become disillusioned if you don’t involve them in your decisions and give them the opportunity to develop.

Making your staff feel valued will help them to give their very best every day which in turn benefits your customers. Some approaches will suit individual businesses better than others, but these programmes have helped us:

• Mentoring: encourage staff members at all levels to mentor newer team members. Not only does it give them pride and drive to unlock other people’s talents, it develops stronger teams.

• Training: put a comprehensive training programme in place so that staff can see how their development will progress step by step.

• Additional opportunities: use regular appraisals to identify other opportunities which will broaden your employees’ skills and add value for your customers.

• Internal awards: public recognition when a member of staff has gone over and above for your clients will encourage others to do the same.

Invest, invest, invest

Investment in staff is vital, but to be able to offer the best in customer service, you must also invest in the best equipment and systems. If you don’t, then you’re asking your staff to keep customers satisfied with one hand tied behind their backs.

Finding the right systems for your business is vital. If you don’t have the skills internally consider outsourcing or recruiting an expert. You’ll need to spend time working out exactly what you need technology to do to support every aspect of your business and then develop a system that’s customised to your needs.

We’ve invested in a pioneering management platform that enables us, among other things, to communicate instantly and effectively with customers and the operations teams, and track vehicles and operators in real-time. Importantly, we can utilise the most up-to-date weather forecasting services and automatically, via weather forecasts, trigger gritting and snow clearance services. These innovations undoubtedly help our staff to deliver an exceptional service.

Customer service has never been more important; in the current climate consumers are shopping around and demanding more value for money. Businesses that thrive will not pay lip service to customer service, but instead ensure that everything they do is based around doing the very best by the people who choose to buy from them.

Alastair Kight is the managing director of GRITIT, the winter risk management specialists.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To receive more like this you can become a member of the Small Business Network here.

We’d love to hear your views and thoughts in the comments but please remember not to disclose personal identifiable details.

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

Ever wanted to start a small business?  It can be the most fun you’ve ever had.  Here’s a great post telling how to do it it in 6 simple steps.

 

A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business

Image credit: Shutterstock

Matthew Toren

MATTHEW TOREN

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Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

 

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AUGUST 6, 2015

A great small business always starts out as an idea, but you have to transform that idea into action. That’s where many individuals can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s understandable to freeze up at the deluge of things that are required to get a business started, but getting going is actually easier than you might think.

Like any big goal, if you start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to tackle enough of the actions necessary to get started. Here are six ways to break down the process and simplify getting started with your own small business.

1. Write a one-page business plan.
The key to a successful small business, especially in the startup phase, is to keep things simple and costs low. Costs don’t just mean your monetary costs, but also your time.

Many would-be small-business owners fall into the trap of trying to create the world’s biggest and most robust business plan. You’re only going to need that if you’re seeking investment or financing, and even if you will be seeking either of those things down the road, I always recommend small-business owners start out with by testing their ideas first before investing lots of time and money.

Related: Why You Must Really Know Yourself Before Starting a Business

So to get started, create your own simple, one-page business plan that is a high-level overview of the small business you’re about to start.

Define your vision. What will be the end result of your business?
Define your mission. Different to a vision, your mission should explain the reason your company exists.
Define your objectives. What are you going to do — what are your goals — that will lead to the accomplishment of your mission and your vision?
Outline your basic strategies. How are you going to achieve the objectives you just bulleted?
Write a simple action plan. Bullet out the smaller task-oriented actions required to achieve the stated objectives.
That’s it. It might be longer than one page, but it will surely be more organized and shorter than a full business plan, which could take weeks to write. If you need more information on the one-page business plan, or want to write out a full-blown finance-centered business plan, you can check out the book I co-wrote with my brother that has a robust explanation of both, Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market From Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who did it Right.

2. Decide on a budget.
While I highly recommend you keep your costs as low as possible, you’ll still need to determine a budget to get started and how much you’ll be able to spend. If you’re self funding, be realistic about numbers and whatever you anticipate your budget to be. I’ve found that an additional 20 percent tacked on for incidentals is a realistic overage amount that helps you plan your burn rate.

Your burn rate is how much cash you’re spending month over month. It’s an important number for you to figure out to determine how long you can stay in business before you need to turn a profit.

You should set up your business with profitability in mind the first 30 to 90 days. It’s possible. But have a budget reserve so you can survive if things go leaner than expected.

3. Decide on a legal entity.
Filing paperwork to start a business costs money. Often, depending on your state, it can be a lot of money. You’ll need to account for city or municipality licensing, state incorporation or business entity fees and more. Do a thorough search ahead of time to determine what the filing fees are for your city, county and state before starting any business.

Often in the initial “test” phase for your small business, it can be wise to start as a sole proprietor, as it means less paperwork and up-front expenses. That can save you some big-time cash while you determine the viability of your business. Do be aware though that acting as a sole proprietor can put you at personal risk, so you’ll want to weigh the benefits vs. risks and then speak with a local attorney or tax professional to decide which is smarter for your short-term vs. long-term goals.

You can always file for a business entity once you’ve proven in the first three to six months of business that you’ve got a viable, sustainable model.

Related: When Starting a Business, Beware All the Taxes and Regulations

4. Take care of the money.
Whatever business entity you decide on, keep the funds separate from your personal accounts. This is a big mistake that makes tax time and financials so confusing. It’s really easy to set up a free business checking account with your local credit union or bank. All you’ll need is your filing paperwork, sole proprietor licensing information and an initial deposit to get set up from most financial institutions.

Don’t pay for an account or get any kind of credit lines yet, just get a holding place you can keep your money separated from your personal accounts. This should take you no more than hour at the financial institution of your choice.

5. Get your website.
Regardless of whether your business will be brick or mortar or online, you’ll need a website and that means securing a URL. Popular domain sites such as HostGator and Go Daddy will allow you to search for the website domain address of your choice and purchase it for as little as $9.99.

If you’re starting an online business, you can tie your domain to an online shopping cart and store front such as Shopify for a low monthly fee, or you can build a basic website yourself on top of your URL with do-it-yourself drag-and-drop site builders such as Weebly for a low fee. Both are less than $100 a month.

6. Test sales.
You have enough of a foundation now that you can start testing some sales. Try to spread the word in inexpensive and creative ways.

If you have a service-based business, get involved with your local chamber of commerce or small-business chapter immediately and ask what resources are available for you to speak, present or share information about your business. If you have a product-based business, test the viability of your product at local swap meets, farmers markets or other community events to test what the public really thinks (and if they’ll purchase) from you.

Drive traffic to your website through simple Facebook Ads with capped budgets, or set up a simple Google AdWords account with a budget cap to test if traffic is going to your site.

You can follow these six steps by yourself for not a lot of money. It’s a fantastic way to test the viability of your small business before throwing all your time and money into an unproven idea.

Related: The 5 Daily Essentials for Building a Successful Online Business

 

Here’s Why Blogging is Important for Small Business

Here’s Why Blogging is Important for Small Business

As small business owners we hear a lot about things like blogging and social media.  Our first reaction usually is “I don’t have time for that.”  I encourage you to think again.  Here’s a great post explaining why blogging is very important for small business.

September 30, 2015 // 8:00 AM

Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketing

Written by Corey Wainwright | @Corey_bos

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I had a co-worker email me the other day asking for a blog post about the benefits of business blogging.

“It’s for a friend,” she said.

Sure it was.

I told her I’d shoot over one of our up-to-date blog posts about why businesses should blog and … I couldn’t find one. Whoops. Quite the meta mistake.

Download our free guide to business blogging here for even more reasons why you should blog, and how to get started.

So I’m doing it now. If you’re trying to explain one of the core tenets of inbound — business blogging — to your boss, a coworker, your mom at Thanksgiving, whomever, then send them this post. I hope it helps.

The Benefits of Business Blogs for Marketing

First, if you don’t know what a business blog is, this post, “What Is Business Blogging? [FAQs]” should get you up-to-date.

On the same page? Cool. Let’s move on to why you should use blogging as a marketing tactic.

1) It helps drive traffic to your website.

Raise your hand if you want more website visitors. Yeah, me too.

Now think about the ways people find your website:

  • They could type your name right in to their browser, but that’s an audience you already have. They know who you are, you’re on their radar, and that doesn’t help you get more traffic on top of what you’re already getting.
  • You could pay for traffic by buying an email list (don’t you dare!), blasting them, and hoping some people open and click through on the emails. But that’s expensive and, you know, illegal.
  • You could pay for traffic by placing tons of paid ads, which isn’t illegal, but still quite expensive. And the second you run out of money, your traffic stops coming, too.

So, how can you drive any traffic? In short: bloggingsocial media, and search engines. Here’s how it works.

Think about how many pages there are on your website. Probably not a ton, right? And think about how often you update those pages. Probably not that often, right? (How often can you really update your About Us page, you know?)

Well, blogging helps solve both of those problems.

Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means it’s one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines and drive traffic to your website in organic search. We’ll get into more of the benefits of blogging on your SEO a bit later, but it’s also one more cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking in frequently to see what new content to surface.

Blogging also helps you get discovered via social media. Every time you write a blog post, you’re creating content that people can share on social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest — which helps expose your business to a new audience that may not know you yet.

Blog content also helps keep your social media presence going — instead of asking your social media manager to come up with brand new original content for social media (or creating that content yourself), your blog can serve as that repository of content. You’re strengthening your social reach with blog content and driving new website visitors to your blog via your social channels. Quite a symbiotic relationship, if I do say so myself.

So, the first benefit of blogging? It helps drive new traffic to your website and works closely with search engines and social media to do that.

blogging-inbound

2) It helps convert that traffic into leads.

Now that you have traffic coming to your website through your blog, you have an opportunity to convert that traffic into leads.

Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. The way this works is really simple: Just add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post.

Often, these calls-to-action lead to things like free ebooks, free whitepapers, free fact sheets, free webinars, free trials … basically, any content asset for which someone would be willing to exchange their information. To be super clear for anyone unfamiliar with how traffic-to-lead conversions work, it’s as simple as this:

  • Visitor comes to website
  • Visitor sees call-to-action for a free offer
  • Visitor clicks call-to-action and gets to a landing page, which contains a form for them to fill in with their information
  • Visitor fills out form, submits information, and receives the free offer

If you scroll down in this blog post, you’ll see a call-to-action button. In fact, 99.9% of the blog posts we publish have call-to-action buttons … and yours should, too. That is how you turn that traffic coming to your blog into leads for your sales team.

blogging-inbound-image

Note: Not every reader of your blog will become a lead. That’s okay. No one converts 100% of the people who read their blog into leads. Just get blogging, put calls-to-action on every blog post, set a visitor-to-lead conversion rate benchmark for yourselfand strive to improve that each month.

3) It helps establish authority.

The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes. This is a particularly handy tool for Sales and Service professionals.

Can you imagine the impact of sending an educational blog post you wrote to clear things up for a confused customer? Or how many more deals a salesperson could close if their leads discovered blog content written by their salesperson?

“Establishing authority” is a fluffy metric — certainly not as concrete as traffic and leads, but it’s pretty powerful stuff. And if you need to tie the impact of blogging to a less fluffy metric, consider measuring it the same way you measure sales enablement. Because at the end of the day, that’s what many of your blog posts are. Think about the sales enablement opportunities blogging presents:

  • If prospects find answers to their common questions via blog posts written by people at your company, they’re much more likely to come into the sales process trusting what you have to say because you’ve helped them in the past — even before they were interested in purchasing anything from you.
  • Prospects that have been reading your blog posts will typically enter the sales process more educated on your place in the market, your industry, and what you have to offer. That makes for a far more productive sales conversation than one held between two relative strangers.
  • Salespeople who encounter specific questions that require in-depth explanation or a documented answer can pull from an archive of blog posts. Not only do these blog posts help move the sales process along more swiftly than if a sales rep had to create the assets from scratch, but the salesperson is further positioned as a helpful resource to their prospect.

4) It drives long-term results.

You know what would be cool? If any of the following things helped you drive site traffic and generate new leads:

  • Trip to Hawaii
  • Going to the gym
  • Sleeping

Good news, though! That’s what blogging does — largely through search engines. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you sit down for an hour and write and publish a blog post today. Let’s say that blog post gets you 100 views and 10 leads. You get another 50 views and 5 leads tomorrow as a few more people find it on social media and some of your subscribers get caught up on their email and RSS. But after a couple days, most of the fanfare from that post dies down and you’ve netted 150 views and 15 leads.

It’s not done.

That blog post is now ranking in search engines. That means for days, weeks, months, and years to come, you can continue to get traffic and leads from that blog post. So while it may feel like day one or bust, in reality, blogging acts more like this:

blogging_compounding_returns-1-1

So while you’re hitting your snooze alarm, surfing in Hawaii, and pumping iron, you’re also driving traffic and leads. The effort you put in yesterday can turn into hundreds of thousands of views and leads in the future.

In fact, about 70% of the traffic each month on this very blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month. They come from old posts. Same goes for the leads generated in a current month — about 90% of the leads we generate every month come from blog posts that were published in previous months. Sometimes years ago.

We call these types of blog posts “compounding” posts. Not every blog post will fit into this category, but the more evergreen blog posts you write, the more likely it is that you’ll land on one of those compounding blog posts. In our own research, we’ve found that about 1 in every 10 blog posts end up being compounding blog posts.

Screen_Shot_2015-09-22_at_11.57.42_AM

To me (and hopefully to you), this demonstrates the scalability of business blogging. While you might not see immediate results, over time, you’ll be able to count on a predictable amount of traffic and leads for your business without any additional resource investment — the work to generate that traffic and those leads is already done.

If you’d like to learn more about the long-term impact of blogging and how to reap even more benefits from the blog posts that are ranking in organic search for your business, check out this blog post, “The Blogging Tactic No One Is Talking About: Optimizing the Past”.

Secondary Benefits of Business Blogging

There are other reasons businesses might want to blog, but I think they’re smaller and stray from the core benefits of blogging.

For instance, I love to use our blog to test out big campaigns on the cheap — before we invest a lot of money and time into their creation. I also love to use our blog to help understand our persona better. And while this shouldn’t be their primary use, blogs also become great outlets through with marketers can communicate other PR-type important information — things like product releases or event information. It’s certainly easier to get attention for more company-focused initiatives if you’ve built up your own audience on your own property, as opposed to pitching your story to journalists and hoping one of them bites.

These are all great side effects or uses of a business blog, but they’re secondary benefits to me.

If you’re looking to start a business blog or get more investment for one you’ve already started, the reasons above are a great place to start arguing your case.

Are you already well underway when it comes to business blogging? Just starting out? Share your thoughts on business blogging below and what you’re looking to get out of it.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

What are the 6 Simple steps to success?

What are the 6 Simple steps to success?

We all want to be successful. Volumes have been written on the subject.  Courses and Seminars abound on the subject.  Yet the amazing truth is there is a simple 6 step formula anyone can follow that leads to success in any endeavor.

Here they are:

  1. Know where you are.
  2. Know where you want to go.
  3. Take action
  4. Evaluate the results.
  5. Adjust the action taken in light of the feedback obtained in step 4
  6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 until you achieve success.

“Oh come on!” I hear you say.  “It can’t be that easy.”

Wait…I didn’t say it was easy.  I just said it was simple.

Let’s break it down.

Steps 1 and 2

I think steps 1 and 2 should be taken together.  And…not necessarily in order.

In my experience, most people choose “Know where you want to go” first. This your goal.  It can be big or small, business or personal, but this is what you want. It’s the reason for going through this whole process.  If you are doing this for the first time, I suggest you choose a small goal to try the process out to prove it works.   

Go ahead.  Pick a goal.  Now.

Got it?

Write it down.

Before we leave this step, let’s make sure we know what success looks like.   

You should state your goal in the positive as if it were already achieved.  It should have a completion date.  It should be very specific.  So specific that if I called you on the completion date and asked you, “Did you achieve the goal?” your answer could only be “Yes” or “No”.

Let’s say you wanted to learn how to fly.  Your goal could be, “By December 31st of this year, I have obtained my private pilots license.”

Now, let’s go back to step one: Know where you are.

Knowing where you are is the starting point.  Once you can compare that to where you want to go, then the action steps will begin to appear.

Where are you?  Let’s develop a list based on the goal of learning to fly.

1.  Where do you live?  Where is the nearest airport that has an FBO (Fixed Base Operator) where you can learn how to fly?

2.  How old are you?  You must be 17 to get a private pilots license.  There is no upper age limit as long as you can pass the physical.

3.  Are you physically fit? You have to get a 3rd class medical certificate from an FAA Certified Flight Surgeon.  This is usually not an issue as long as you do not have a physical condition that would prevent you from safely operating an aircraft.

4.  Do you have the time to devote to obtaining your license?  Time is an issue.  You must have at least 40 hours of flight time.  However most students need more to become proficient enough to pass the test.  Figure at least 60 hours to be sure.  Plus, there is travel time to the airfield, and ground school.  There is also study time on your own.  You will probably spend 3 hours studying for every hour of flight time.  Total study time…180 hours.

5.  Do you have the financial resources to accomplish your goal?  This is the big one.  Here is a break down of what you can expect:*

  • Aircraft Rental.  60 hours in a  Cessna 150 at $90/hour.  $5,400.
  • Instructor.  40 hours at $45/hour.  $1,800
  • Materials and Exam fees. $600.
  • Flight Test Aircraft Rental.  $135
  • Aircraft Renters Insurance.  $350.  (You need this.  You don’t want to be responsible for a $30,000 airplane if you make a bad landing)
  • Grand Total?  $8,285

*Note:  These rates are estimates and will vary based on aircraft type, fuel cost, local instructor rates, and area of the country.

I want to pause just a moment to apologize.  If you have no interest in learning how to fly, this list is boring you to tears. I went through it for a reason.  Your goal can be fuzzy.  If you’ve never done it before, you can’t know all the components of achieving it. But, you must be completely honest with yourself about where you are now!  Failing to do this may doom you from the start.

Steps 3 and 4

Step 3 is take action.  Now we are getting somewhere.

Let’s go back to learning how to fly.

The first logical action step would be to call the FBO at the nearby airfield you found and ask about flight instruction.  Most FBO’s offer an introductory flight, either for free or a reasonable cost.  On this flight, you will spend an hour in the air with a flight instructor, learning a few basic maneuvers to see if this is for you.

Action step #1:  You go take the flight.

Step 4.  Evaluate the results.

Did you enjoy it?  Or, were you motion sick and on the verge of vomiting most of the time?

If you were motion sick, then you may decide this is not for you.  If so, you can abandon this goal, and save yourself a lot of time and money.

Let’s say you loved it.  You are so excited you can’t wait to get back in the air again.

Step 5

Step 5 is to adjust your actions based on the evaluation of the action taken in step 4.

You loved the flight.  You like the instructor and feel you can learn a lot from him or her.

Based on that, your next step is to sign up for the course.

Step 6

Step 6 is to keep repeating steps 3, 4, and 5 until you are successful.

I have a couple of points here:

1.  You don’t need to plan too far in advance.  If you were accurate in your self assessment in steps 1 & 2, action steps will appear in natural order.  If you plan too far in advance, you risk losing the flexibility to adjust when things go wrong.

2.  Keep it simple.  As humans, our minds try to make things complicated and constantly look for trouble.  The key is to focus on what you want. Obstacles will appear. When they do, ask yourself the magic question, “How can I (insert here the obstacle you want to overcome).

Going back to learning how to fly:

  • Action Step: Get the training manuals and start studying
  • Evaluation:  You find the material interesting and not too difficult.
  • Action Step: Take the ground school test.
  • Action Step: Start flying with instructor- learn basic maneuvers.
  • Evaluation:  Some maneuvers are easy, some are more difficult.
  • Action step:  More practice on the difficult maneuvers.

And So?

You can’t fail.  Yes, things will go wrong.  Yes, you will make mistakes.  But every mishap, every mistake, gives you feedback you can use to adjust your next action.  Keep going, and you will succeed.  The only way you can fail is by quitting.

Remember, Thomas Edison ran more than 10,000 experiments before he found the material to use for the filament in the incandescent light bulb.  That’s persistence.

If you would like to receive more information like this, click on the following link to sign up for my email list.

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4 Elements of a Successful Blog Post

4 Elements of a Successful Blog Post

As small business owners, we are told we need to blog if we are going to be successful.  But, no one tells us how to go about it.  Today I thought I’d post some quick guidelines outlining just how to construct a successful blog post.

There are 4 Elements to a good blog post:

  • Headline
  • Lead
  • Body
  • Call to action

These elements combine to form “the upside down pyramid.”  This is a style of writing common to newspapers today.

Let’s look at each of these elements in detail.

How Important Are Headlines?

The answer is…very.  Studies show 80% of internet readers never click past the headline.  The headline’s function is to spark the reader’s curiosity enough to get them to click through to the body of the article.

You don’t have to write the headline first.  Many bloggers write the body of the blog, then go back to create a compelling headline.

Here are some of the things a good headline does.  Your headline should do at least one or two of the things on this list.

  • It’s short. The best ones are 8 words or less.
  • It grabs your reader’s attention.
  • It asks a question.
  • It makes a promise.
  • It stirs curiosity.
  • It makes an offer.
  • It challenges the reader.
  • It introduces a compelling idea.

Here’s a few other suggestions to help make your headline compelling:

Use “how”, “what”, “why”, and “who” in the headline.  How to get a college degree online. 

Use numbers.  10 Reasons Small Business Owners Need a Blog.  Studies show readers prefer headlines using numbers.

Be careful with superlatives.   Studies show 51% of readers prefer headlines with one or fewer superlatives

Make it simple…and powerful.  Click Here to Save Money!

Remember, your goal is to get the reader to open the blog post.  The headline is the bait.

The Lead

If the headline is the bait, the lead sets the hook.

The lead is usually short.  It contains the whole point of your blog post right up front for the reader to see.  It should contain the one thing you want your reader to take away from your post.  But, it shouldn’t tell them everything.  Leave something out the reader can only get by going to the body.

The Body

The body of the blog post contains the information supporting your headline and your lead.

It’s important to note, most people scan internet content, they don’t read it.  You need to break up your content to fit this pattern.  Your paragraphs should be short.  No more than 3 or 4 sentences at the most.  Studies show internet readers skip long paragraphs.

Your sentences should be short.  No more than 8 to 12 words. Avoid compound sentences.  Use the active voice.  Avoid adverbs as much as possible.  You can use italics, bold, or underlined text for emphasis.  Be careful though, too much of this can be distracting.  Use numbers in your text.

Write in plain English.  Avoid jargon or buzzwords.  Make your tone conversational.  Imagine you are sitting down with your best friend over a cup of coffee, telling about the story of your post.

Lists are easy to scan.  You should use them where possible.  You can use bulleted lists or numbered lists or both depending on the length of the post.

If your content is long, break it up with sub-heads.  This helps the reader skim the post and find what interests them.

Speaking of length, how long should the post be?  The answer is: As long as necessary to tell your story.  You should make the post at least 300 words.  Why?  Because, posts less than 300 words are not ranked by Google.   Google indexing and ranking are important. You want to build an archive of posts for your readers to find.

When you’re done, read the post out loud to yourself.  Doing this will reveal clumsy structure or natural breaking points. If it doesn’t flow as you read it, your reader won’t get it either.

Call to Action

Your post should always end with a “Call to Action”.

Ask your reader to do something.  Click here to:

  • Sign up for my course
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And so…?

That’s it. I hope these guidelines will help you as you create your posts.  Blogging can be a lot of work.  It can also be a lot of fun.  You’ll get a lot more responses if your blog is structured so it’s easy to read.

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