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Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles are important because?

In my two previous posts ( http://ow.ly/Zfpn30bKoSK ) (http://ow.ly/1HcK30bYKwv)  we have discussed the importance of understanding social styles.  If you are engaged in business learning to successfully communicate with your employees, prospects, customers and clients is the key to your success.   Knowing your social style and the attributes of the other social styles is vital in building solid relationships.

Today, I want to discuss the Expressive style.

What is the Expressive Style?

 

Expressives are…expressive.  They are open, energetic, excited.  They love to share visions and ideas.  They love to talk about themselves. They like an audience and applause.  They love to tell people what to do.  They are people oriented rather than task.

 

They are risk-takers, competitive, creative and enthusiastic.  They love to get results through people. Relationships are very important to them. They love the exchange of ideas and want to get to know you personally.

 

Their primary motivation is recognition.  They want to stand out from the crowd

 

Expressives want to know the big picture. They want a good grasp of the situation before getting down to the details.  They want to know the essential details, but don’t care about getting too deep into them. They want to collaborate with you on things that support them.

 

Expressive have much in common with Directors and Amiables. They are diametrically opposed to Analyticals.

What is dialogue with an Expressive like?

 

Here’s what you can expect when engaging with an Expressive.

  1. You should find out about their visions and how they expect you to help.
  2. Find out what other people need to be involved in accomplishing their vision.
  3. Expressives are usually very open about sharing information they think you need.
  4. They like a fast paced, focused discussion.
  5. They are casual about their use of time.
  6. Watch for openings in the conversation where you can slide in questions.
  7. Figure out a way to show support for their ideas and decisions.

 

What is the most effective approach to an Expressive?

 

When approaching Expressives, you need to quickly establish who you are, what you offer, and what they have to gain by working with you.

 

Other things to include are:

  1. Stories about people you both know.
  2. Share “exclusive” information
  3. Reinforce their vision and enthusiasm
  4. Take time to develop a personal relationship
  5. Leave time for socializing
  6. Talk about their goals and ideas they find stimulating.

 

 

In Conclusion

 

Learning how to effectively communicate with other social styles is a simple, yet amazing way to build trusting, solid relationships with your clients. Try it.  You’ll be stunned at the results.

 

Note:  The material in this blog was developed from information featured in “The Social Styles Handbook” To find out more, please click on the link below to order Larry Wilson’s great book

(Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s affiliate)

 

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com
Social Styles 2-Learning About the Director

Social Styles 2-Learning About the Director

Why are Social Styles important?

 

In my previous post ( http://ow.ly/Zfpn30bKoSK ), I discussed the 4 social styles people use to communicate with each other.  We all fall into one of these styles. People in some of these styles communicate easily with one another, yet others can’t seem to communicate at all.

 

Why is it important to know these approaches?

 

Want to build meaningful relationships with your prospects, clients, and customers? Then you need to understand these styles.  More important, you need to be flexible in the way you approach people of different styles.

One thing I want to emphasize here. This is not about being manipulative in any way.  It is about learning how others engage the world.  Remember Dr. Stephen Covey’s famous dictum, “First seek to understand and then be understood.”

Today I want to discuss the social style known as the “Director”

 

What is the Directors style?

 

Directors are take charge people.  They are very task oriented and laser-focused on results. They also tend to tell people what to do and not ask a lot of questions.

Drivers have strong opinions, they are direct and to the point.  They love challenges.  They are very likely to correct, challenge, modify or add to others ideas.

Drivers tend to be impatient.  They want results quickly or at least have a well defined time line.

Relationships are secondary to Drivers.  They want to see the task defined and the plan to achieve it first.

Details are important to Drivers, but they are not much interested in every little nuance.  They do want to make sure every possibility has been covered.

Directors have much in common with Analyticals and Expressives, but are diametrically opposed to Amiables.

 

What is dialogue with a Driver like?

 

First conversations with a person are known as the dialogue stage.  This is where you will discover a person’s Social Style.  Here is what you can expect when first engaging with a Driver:

  1. They expect you to be task oriented.
  2. They want to make efficient use of their time. Keep up the pace.
  3. Ask fact-finding questions that will help you understand their priorities.
  4. They want to learn about you and how you might fit into their business. Don’t wander off into personal discussions.
  5. They want to know how your ideas can support their agenda. Remember, they want to be in control.
  6. They will let you know they want to make the final decision. They want to know the odds of success.
  7. Follow up immediately with any requests or additional information you agreed to supply.

 

How should you approach the director?

 

Approaching the Director requires a bit of a balancing act.  You need to be direct.  Don’t wander.  Yet, you need to take time to build trust as this is very important to a Director.

Other areas to include are:

  1. Be sure include a purpose statement at the beginning. Let them know why you are meeting.
  2. Focus on the Director’s ideas, goals, and interests
  3. Present facts that apply directly to them. Focus on benefits.
  4. Be prepared to provide lots of information.
  5. Don’t engage in small talk.
  6. Include a payoff statement. Let them know what you intend to accomplish in your meeting.

 

In Conclusion

 

As a small business owner, one of your greatest challenges is building relationships with your prospects, clients, and customers.  Understanding your social style and theirs will help you accomplish this with amazing ease.  I urge you to find out as much as you can about this subject by reading Larry Wilson’s great book “The Social Styles Handbook”. 

Just click on the following link (Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s affiliate):

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com

Note: This blog was developed from information presented in  “The Social Styles Handbook”.

 

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)

Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

You betcha.  Knowing your target audience is the key to any successful small business.  Here’s a great post from Sivler Egg Media explaining why.

Why Is Understanding Your Target Audience So Important?

 

Many businesses think they know their target audience inside out. But if they took a test, how well do you think they would actually understand them?

Yesterday we spoke about how it’s really effective to create a balance between what is right for your business and what your audience wants. There’s no point in having a Facebook page if your audience isn’t primarily on Facebook, right?

There are so many things to consider when it comes to finding your target audience. And our post on it recently was so popular, that we’ve decided to expand on this topic more in the coming weeks. But for now, we bet you want to know why understand your target audience actually matters so much.

That’s why we’re here today.

 

What is a target audience?

 

When you type in “definition of target audience” into Google, this is what appears:

A particular group at which a product such as a film or advertisement is aimed.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

If only.

I actually think the definition is the opposite to the one above. Today, a business doesn’t create a product and say, we’re going to aim it at X group of people. They find the group of people they target (the target audience) and create products they know their audience needs.

So it’s not as simple as a one-size-fits all approach. Your target audience can be made up of people who have different needs and goals, but come to your business because they all relate to something on some level.

Here at SilverEGG Media, we write long, detailed posts about particular topics within the digital marketing industry for two different audiences:

  1. Our clients and other businesses looking for our services – through our content, we show them that we know what we’re talking about.
  2. People within the industry who either work in it or have a strong interest in it – these people want to better themselves in their field, to learn new skills to improve.

So we try to find the balance between speaking to both audiences. But some businesses have two completely different audiences to write for.

Imagine if someone had an accident and you were partly responsible for it. If you told your friends about it, it would be much different to the story you told the insurance company, wouldn’t it? Because they’re two different types of audience – you tailor your story to fit the needs of each one. And it’s exactly the same for your business.

Your target audience is made up of people that can understand and engage with what you’re saying. They’re people who come to you for a reason. They’re people who will keep coming back to you, and bring new people to see what you have to offer too.

 

 

Four Reasons Why Understanding Your Target Audience Is So Important

 

You can solve their problems

 

Why do you want people to visit your business? There could be many reasons – entertainment, advice, services – but ultimately you’re doing one thing for them.

Solving a problem.

Whenever people visit a website, they’re looking to find something. It could be something as direct as someone visiting a wedding cake website, because they need a wedding cake. Or they may not even know they’re looking for something – they’re just hoping to find it.

Once you identify why your audience is coming to your website, you can make some really good choices. You can decide what categories you’re going to talk about and what information you’re going to include. You can create and make a list of resources to give to them. You can do everything possible to thoroughly solve their problem, each time they visit your site.

 

It’s the key to effectiveness

 

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know your audience. Digital marketing today is about building strong, loyal, lasting relationships with people. Which is why it’s so useful to have an understanding of them.

You can understand them as real people, get to know them, find out what they like and where they go when they’re online. And that, dear readers, is the key to effectiveness.

Everything can be planned around them. From what time you send them an e-newsletter, to when you publish a blog post, to when you interact with them on social media.

Think about it – if your audience is predominantly busy mums with small children, is first thing in the morning or early evening going to be the right time to connect with them?

Not really.

But if you target commuters, early evenings and first thing in the morning would be the ideal time to connect as they browse their phones on the way to work. By understanding their habits and behaviours, you can maximise your appeal.

 

It enables you to define your value proposition

 

In the same way as solving problems, understanding your target audience also allows you to decide what your value proposition is going to be – what can you offer them? Why should they visit you?

Your value proposition can be seen to define what your business does, uniquely. If you find this difficult to do, it means you don’t understand your audience. Because when you do understand them, it’s easy. You know what you want; therefore you can package it to them. And what you give to them depends on what they want.

 

You’ll see results faster

 

Marketing takes time. And it’ll take even longer if you don’t know who your audience is. It’s no good assuming things about them. If you create content based around their assumptions, your audience will become lost. They’ll be alienated and forget to visit your site.

That’s why the aim with most of our content is to teach people – that means it appeals to both of our audiences. The more you appeal to your audience, the more it will grow.

 

Conclusion

 

Understanding your target audience is an ongoing task. People are always becoming interested in different topics and looking for new things – but you can be more successful and achieve more simply by understanding them. Keep with up them, and they might just stick with you.

Sign up for more articles like this by filling out the email request in the right hand column.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
  • Join our email list.
  • Contact me for more information

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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