Business Growth Masterclass No. 11: How to Craft Powerful Offers

Hello there, once again, and welcome to the latest instalment of my blog series, The Business Growth Masterclass. This is the 11th in the series and I have called it “How to Craft Powerful Offers

As ever, before we get our teeth into this vital subject, I just need to check you have taken on some action fromthe last Business Growth Masterclass:

Checkpoint:

  • You have identified which marketing materials you need, and which you can live without.
  • You have completed an audit of your existing marketing materials, and identified opportunities for improvement based on the criteria in The Business Growth Masterclass no. 10.

Focus on using powerful offers to generate leads, not to close sales.

Powerful offers that drive your audience to take action can be used in your business to do a myriad of things. They’re great for moving old or overstocked product, overcoming buyer objections, eliminating purchase risk, or even just building your customer database.

Well-crafted offers are also fantastic lead generators – which is what we’re going to focus on in this Master Class. In this case, the offer is designed to get potential customers to identify themselves, not to close sales. Once those potential customers have identified themselves – they’ve taken action to redeem the offer – they enter the formal sales process and you can convert them into a loyal customer.

Offers designed to be lead generators drive more qualified prospects to your business. They weed out the buyers who would take advantage of your offer, but who are not otherwise a part of your target market.

I’m going to show you how to speak to your target market’s “hot buttons” and emotional motivators, instead of simply crafting an offer based on financial savings or bonuses. Let’s get started!

In this Business Growth Master Class we will cover:

  • The elements that make an offer ‘powerful’
  • A step-by-step process for creating a powerful offer
  • Types of powerful offers
  • Examples of powerful offers
  • Testing and measuring your powerful offers

A powerful offer is irresistible to your potential customers’ emotional motivators.

In simple terms, a powerful offer gets people to respond, or take action. It will provide enough motivation for the reader to pick up the phone, visit your website, or walk into your store.

Often, powerful offers are called irresistible offers because they seem too good to pass up. They make your target audience think, “Wow! This is the chance I’ve been waiting for!” or, “I’d be mad not to take advantage of this opportunity!”

Using emotional motivators in your offer (and in your headlines and copywriting, which we’ll review in upcoming Master Classes) will drive qualified prospects to your business, and will make the job of converting customers into repeat business easier and more cost effective.

A powerful offer will feature an element of urgency or scarcity as a key motivator for action.

If I offered “2 for 1 Mother Daughter haircuts” every day of the year, chances are I wouldn’t have a stampede of prospects at my door. I would likely draw a few new clients a week, but the majority of those who saw the offer – even if they were interested – would probably put it off for later.

When you create an offer for lead generation, you want your prospect to take action as soon as possible. Now, let’s face it, we’re all procrastinators at heart, so you have to give your audience a reason to take action without delay.

So, instead of just “2 for 1 Mother Daughter haircuts,” I could offer, “2 for 1 Mother Daughter haircuts, Mother’s Day weekend – 20 spots available, book your appointment today!” This offer has an element of urgency – the offer is only valid for a two-day period – and scarcity – there are a limited number of appointments during those two days.

Here are some other ways I could use scarcity or urgency to ‘sweeten’ the offer:

Strategy Scarcity / Urgency Example
Limited time offer Urgency 2 for 1 Mother Daughter haircuts – Mondays from 1pm to 4pm.
Limited supplies available Scarcity Free! Mother’s Day gift (£50 value) with purchase for the first 20 customers on Mother’s Day.
Seasonal specials Urgency Mother’s Day Special: buy one, get one free on any service in our spa, Mother’s Day weekend only.
Free gift with action Scarcity Bring your mom in for a free haircut on Mother’s Day, and receive a salon bonus pack, worth £45, absolutely free!
Daily deal Urgency Book an appointment with us by the end of the day, and we’ll add on a free haircut for your daughter.

Let’s walk through an easy step-by-step process for creating powerful offers that will generate qualified leads for your business.

1. Establish who you are trying to target, and what you want them to do.

Like all of your lead generation efforts, you need to establish who your target market or audience is before you can attempt to reach them. In most cases, this will be the target market you originally identified. In my hair dresser’s salon example, the target market is middle-class women aged 18 to 65 with an interest in the latest trends in fashion and beauty.

You may also wish to segment that group of people into a more specific category. I could limit my target audience to those women in my target market with daughters.

Secondly, you must be clear about what you want your readers to do, and ask them to do it in your offer. Since you’re creating an offer to generate leads, in this case you want readers to identify themselves in some way, and make contact with you. In my example above, I asked customers to call and reserve their appointment today. You may ask your readers to come to the store for a free trial, or place an online order.

2. Identify the emotional motivators or “hot buttons” that will get your target to take action.

Using the categories below, decide why your target market needs or wants what you have to offer. How do they feel in general about your product or service? What problem does your offer provide the solution to?

  • Safety and financial security for self and family
  • Convenience and time management
  • Freedom from worry
  • Self-improvement
  • Acceptance and recognition from others
  • Basic needs, including food, shelter, love, personal maintenance, etc.

In my example, I’m targeting the emotions associated with the bond between mothers and daughters, especially on Mother’s Day, and their common interest in beauty services. The offer alludes to an opportunity to spend time with each other, an activity for Mother’s Day, and a way to save money while doing so.

3. Once you have identified the emotions you will try to target, determine which type of offer will work best.

Free Offer
Ask your potential customer to act immediately for a free reward. This is a great lead generator if you can offer a solution to a common problem for free. Examples would be “Contact me now to receive your free 10-page guide to financial freedom,” or “Act now and get your first month of home security for free – a £99 value!” Try to include the pound value of what you are providing for free to increase the perceived value.

Guarantee Offer
Guarantee the performance of your product or results of your service, and you’ll take away the fear many customers feel when making a purchase. This is a great way to overcome barriers when a customer is making a large or important purchase, or when safety and security are involved.

  • Money-back guarantee: full refund for unsatisfied customers.
  • Double-your-money-back guarantee: double refund for unsatisfied customers.
  • Long-term guarantee: one year, multi-year or lifetime guarantee.

Free Trial or Demonstration Offer
Another great way to reverse purchase risk is to offer a free trial (7, 14, or 30 days) or to provide a free demonstration. This works with all kinds of products or services, and allows the customer to convince himself that he needs what you have to offer. Those customers who are concerned about making the right purchase decision will be put at ease by this offer.

Package or Value-Added Offer
This offer appeals to customers looking for convenience because their needs are met in one place or one purchase, like start-up kits and special packages. Packaging products also increases the perception of value, often without adding costs. For example, offering a free printer with computer purchase.

Premium Offer
Always offer premiums over discounts, as they will better serve your bottom line. Reward purchases with bonus products or services, and you’ll give new customers an incentive for choosing your business over the competition.

3. Draft several hard-to-refuse offers based on these motivators.

Brainstorm as many different types of offers as you can, using emotional keywords or hot buttons. Depending on the type of business you have, and the products or services you offer, you may wish to focus on a single product or service, or open up the offer to all the items you have in store.

Are there any freebies you can throw in? Any overstock that can be handed out as a free gift, packaged with a complementary product? What about bonus services that you can add on to products for a limited time (with limited costs)? Will a simple guarantee make a big difference?

Remember that when you are describing your offer, be as specific as possible and avoid lengthy description of product details and benefits. Your goal is to sell the offer and motivate readers to take the next step, not to sell your product.

4. Evaluate the financial viability of each of your brainstormed offers.

Even though you’re using these offers as lead generation tools, you need to make sure that each transaction will turn an acceptable profit – or at least allow you to break even. The last thing you want to have happen is a store full of leads redeeming an outrageous offer that will leave you broke.

So, for each of your brainstormed offers, calculate your break-even point. If I were offering 2 for 1 Mother Daughter haircuts, my calculation would look something like this:

A. Costs: Determine the costs involved in your offer (hard costs – product or service, and soft costs – advertising or marketing).

Service costs:
Adult Haircut: £20
Junior Haircut: £10

Marketing costs:
Advertising: £200
Flyer Drop: £100

B. Profit: Assess how much profit you’ll generate per sale (price minus hard costs).

Adult Haircut: £40 (price) – £20 (cost) = £20 profit
Junior Haircut: $0 (offered free) – £10 (cost) = £10 expense

Profit: £20 – £10 = £10 profit per transaction

C. Break Even Point: Calculate how many transactions you’ll need to break even (how much profit will you need to make to cover soft costs).

Advertising (total): £300
Profit: £10
Transactions: £300 / £10 = 30 transactions required to break even.

From here you can assess whether or not you can realistically break even, and if your offer is financially viable. In this example, 30 transactions is a reachable target for my salon over the course of a weekend. I may also consider extending the offer over the course of a week, maintaining an element of urgency, but allowing more time to recover my costs.

Keep in mind that their initial purchase in response to your offer may only allow you to break even, but if you are able to convert them into repeat customers, the profit of their subsequent purchases may make up the difference.

5. Select two of your financially viable offers, then test them to measure which works best.

I like to test two offers at a time when I first start to use this lead generation strategy. This will tell me what emotional motivators really work with my target audience, and then I can continue to build on that knowledge.

Use your lead tracking system to measure which offers generate the highest number of leads. If coupons are a part of your offer, put a tracking code on each of them, or make sure that your staff are asking every inquiry which offer they are responding to.

Remember, testing and measuring is a vital component of your lead generation efforts, and it elicits some really valuable information. Once you know what works with your audience, you can use that information on emotional motivators to influence decisions you make when writing headlines and other copy.

Get creative and put together new and exciting offers for your potential clients on a regular basis.

Remember – you’ll need to keep improving and revising your offers to ensure you continue to draw leads from them. Otherwise, your audience will get used to seeing the same offer, assume it is always available, and it may become stale.

Use opportunities like seasons, events, anniversaries and other celebrations to change and renew offers. When you bring in a new product line, feature a new service, or try to go after a new segment of your target market, check-in to see if you can create an offer around the news and bring in some new leads.

In the next Business Growth Master Class, we’re going to spend some time cultivating your headline writing skills. You’ll see that we use headlines in all types of marketing and sales materials, and they’re a powerful – or even essential – component of your lead generation tools.

See you in the next one!

Dave

Oh, by the way, if you would like some help with the ideas idiscussed in this, or any of the previous Masterclasses, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Advertisements

Hello, again, and welcome to the 8th instalment in my series “Business Growth Masterclass”

As ever, before we begin, lets recap on the main points from last months discussion. You should by now,

  • know who your target market is, what their needs are, what their purchase behaviours are and how to reach them.
  • know how to use market research to find out more information about your market on a regular basis.

This month’s masterclass is about writing targeted messages for your target market.

In the last masterclass, I shared with you how to isolate your target market, and then how to use market research to gather information about that group of people to use in your marketing strategies.

Today we’re going to take your market research and use it to create a powerful marketing message. The strength of your marketing message lies in its ability to speak to the specific wants and desires of your target market, and tap into their emotional reactions, or hot buttons.

When you push those hot buttons, you motivate your audience to take action. The more people you can motivate to take action, the more leads you’ll have in store and on the other end of the phone line.

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • How a strong marketing message will supercharge your lead generation
  • Examples of strong marketing messages
  • A step-by-step process for developing your unique marketing message
  • Strategies that will strengthen your existing marketing message
  • How to test and measure the strength of your message.
  • How to be consistent with your strong marketing message

A strong marketing message will make a huge difference in your lead generation strategies.

A marketing message is simply a statement or phrase that you use to communicate information about your business to others. A strong marketing message will do four things:

  • Speak to the reader’s needs, wants or problems (hot buttons)
  • Offer a solution, advantage or benefit
  • Describe a point of difference
  • Motivate the reader to take action

As I said earlier, the key here is to motivate your target audience to do something after they read or hear the message. It needs to be strong enough to entice the audience to ask for more information, visit the website, pick up the phone or walk in the store.

You will put your marketing message on every piece of marketing material your business uses for lead generation, so it has to be powerful and consistent and speak to the group of people that you have identified as your ideal customers. Strengthening your marketing message has the potential to dramatically increase your lead generation before you even change your existing strategies.

Here are some examples of strong marketing messages that are used by successful businesses today.

Domino’s Pizza You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free!
M&Ms The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car We’ll pick you up.
Nyquil The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine.
FedEx When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
Dentist We guarantee that you will have a comfortable experience and never have to wait more than 15 minutes or you will receive a free exam.
Estate Agent Our 20 Step Marketing System Will Sell Your House In Less Than 45 Days At Full Market Value.

Let’s get started with the process you can use to create a new marketing message for your business, or refine the marketing message you already have.

Work through the following questions to brainstorm and record the aspects of your business that you will communicate in your marketing message. Take your time, and be as detailed as possible.

1. Use all the information you gathered about your target market to figure out what your customer’s hot buttons are.

Write down who your customers are, and what their problems, desires and needs are.

Take some time to revisit the behavioural and psychographic information you gathered when researching your target market. This will give you an idea of what kind of emotional hot buttons you should focus on when creating your marketing message.

Hot buttons are emotional triggers that motivate your potential customers to take action. Some common hot buttons are: price, location, exclusivity, results, safety, timeliness, convenience and atmosphere.

2. Describe the value or benefit that your product or service offers your customers.

This is what your customers get when they spend money at your business – the answer to “what’s in it for me?” How do you solve their problems? How do you meet their needs, or fulfill their desires?

For example, maybe you’re a grocery store in the neighbourhood, and you offer the convenience of being just a short stroll away instead of a car ride.

When you’re thinking about this question, think about your product or service in the context of the benefits, results, or advantages customers receive, instead of the features you offer.

3. Think about the outcome of the value or solution that you provide.

Brainstorm what happens when your customers receive the value or benefit from your product or service, what happens? Are they thrilled? Relieved of worry? Do they have more time to spend with their families, or do they put dinner on the table faster?

This is kind of like the storytelling aspect of creating your marketing message. Paint a picture of how you will improve the lives of your customers, in one way or another.

4. What is your company’s point of difference? What makes you stand out from the competition?

Your point of difference – or uniqueness – is something you will want to strongly feature in your marketing message. It is the reason that the reader should choose your business instead of your competition.

For this step, do some research on your competition and see what kinds of marketing messages they are using. How strong are those messages? What benefits and results do they promise?

If you are having trouble figuring out what sets you apart from your competition, think about including an irresistible offer, or a strong guarantee to give yourself an edge. (We’ll spend some time on powerful offers and risk reversal strategies like guarantees later on in the Masterclass series.)

5. What is the perception you would like others to have about your business?

How you wish your customers to perceive you will impact how you describe your offering in your marketing message, and the kind of language you will use. Revisit the vision you created, and write down some ideas about the image you want your business to project to the outside world.

For example, if your business is completely transforming its operations to become more environmentally sustainable, you will need to use different language and emphasise different features and benefits than you did before.

6. Based on the notes you wrote in response to the above questions, summarise the information into a paragraph of 4 to 5 sentences.

If you’ve got pages of notes, this may be a challenging part of the process, but that’s okay because it means you have a lot to work with. Take your time, and wade through your notes bit by bit.

You may want to start by writing 10 to 15 sentences, and then narrow those down to 4 to 5 sentences when you have a better idea of what specifically you want to focus on. Or, you could try writing three sentences for each question, and then working to consolidate from that point.

Keep in mind that the most effective marketing messages use strong, descriptive language that triggers emotional responses. Think about how you would describe your point of difference, or value-added service to a close friend, and write with that in mind.

7. Using descriptive language, consolidate your paragraph into a single sentence of 15 words or less.

This sentence will become your unique marketing message!

I know how challenging this part of the process can be, so to make it easier, I usually write a few different sentences that emphasise different things to give myself choices. For example, if you don’t know whether to feature your company’s commitment to unbelievable prices, or its guarantee of customer satisfaction, write one sentence each and compare which is stronger.

Aim to have two or three sentences that you’re happy with, and then test them out to see which is the most effective.

The only way to find out the strength of your marketing message is to test it. Don’t be afraid of making some mistakes – you need to get feedback!

Test your three draft marketing messages internally first.

Before you go out to the public with your drafts, test them on your friends, family, staff and colleagues first. Use their feedback constructively, but don’t be afraid to stand up for elements that you believe are effective or important.

Once you have gathered enough feedback, rework your draft messages and incorporate the suggestions you believe are valuable.

Incorporate feedback, and then test a few draft messages externally.

When you have refined your draft messages and incorporated staff and colleague feedback, you can start to test the messages out on your audience.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, or cost a lot of money. Simple tests using small-scale distributions will give you the information you need to choose which message is the most effective.

For example, place two or three ads in the local newspaper or on your social media accounts – one a week with a different message each time – and compare the number of leads each ad generates. Or, send out a small direct mail campaign, with the materials split into three groups – one for each message.

The message that generates the most leads is the strongest, and will be the one you choose to be your business’ unique marketing message.

Now that you’ve got a killer message, use it consistently on all of your marketing materials and in all of your campaigns.

Consistency and repetition are powerful persuasive tools to use to reinforce your message over time. Ensuring your marketing message appears on all documents related to your business will build your brand image and your company’s reputation.

Make a list of all marketing materials, stationery, signage and internal and external documentation that your customers and clients come in contact with. Then, incorporate your marketing message onto each of them.

Here’s a suggested list of materials to include:

  • Website
  • Advertisements
  • Direct Mail
  • Listings
  • Phone Messages
  • Email Signature
  • Business Cards
  • Letterhead

Now that you know what you’re going to say, and who you’re going to say it to, let’s dive into some lead generation strategies.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

The next Business Growth Masterclass focuses on advanced strategies for lead generation that you can start implementing into your business right away. Our focus is to set up lead generation strategies that either immediately or over time will run themselves, so you can generate more leads with less time investment.

Business Skills Masterclass 8 – How to Strengthen Your Marketing Message

Do You Know How Your Client’s Make The Decision To Buy What You Sell?

Have you ever given any thought as to how your clients make that all important decision as to whether or not they will buy your product or service? What is it EXACTLY that triggers their buy / don’t buy button? Is it really price that controls their decision, or are other factors involved?

What you need to know…

Believe it or not, price is actually one of your prospects last considerations. Human nature says that no matter who buys what you sell, they will always want “the best deal.” That doesn’t mean the lowest price, but it does mean they want the most “VALUE” for the price they pay. The perception that your product or service offers extraordinary value controls their final decision.

Why you need to know this…

The key is to create “extraordinary value” as it relates to what you sell. In fact, if you do this, you can even charge a much higher price, providing the perception of value justifies that price. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t have a clue how to create “extraordinary value,” and therefore don’t offer it to their prospects, costing themselves massive market share and a boatload of lost revenue.

To create value, a business must “innovate.” You must understand the things your clients want from your product or service, and then use innovative ideas and solutions to either remove the pain and frustration they normally associate with what you sell, or enhance the benefits they receive from using it.

For example, the working mum who feels frustrated and worried when she drops off her child at daycare because she doesn’t know how the child is being cared for finds tremendous relief and peace of mind (extraordinary value) when the daycare installs Web Watch… a 24 camera surveillance system that allows parents to view their child online, anytime.

The cost to you if you fail to act…

If you fail to create “extraordinary value,” then you look like, feel like and smell like your competition. You will be forever doomed to compete with them on price, and when you’re forced to compete on price, you have just lost the battle. There will always be someone willing to undercut your price… ALWAYS!

By innovating your business, you begin to separate your business from your competition. You begin to eliminate your competition from the minds of your prospects… and you will have your prospects literally saying to themselves that “I would be an absolute fool if I bought this from anyone else.”

Innovation attracts your “ideal” clients to your business. These are the clients that will buy more from you at premium prices. They will spend more money and buy from you over longer periods of time. Your revenue and profits begin to skyrocket as you begin to add unprecedented market share.

Look for ways to “innovate” your business and do so in such a way that you create extraordinary value in the minds of your prospects.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 6. Managing your time to make more profit

 Welcome to the sixth instalment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

Managing Your Time to Make More Profit

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

Checkpoint:

  • Your workspace is organised for productivity and minimises distractions.
  • You have cleaned out and cleared out areas in your office or business where old stock or surplus office supplies are kept.
  • You have begun to organise your paper and electronic filing into systems, with the help of your staff.

All done? Fantastic! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Small business owners too often confuse being busy with being successful. They’re not the same thing!

In this session we will cover:

  • How you should treat time like money
  • How to calculate what your time is worth
  • The five biggest culprits of time theft
  • Where your time goes in your existing schedule
  • Strategies to allow you to take control of your schedule

If time were money, how would you manage yours?

Time is far more precious than money. There are a finite number of days that you will spend on this earth, while money is something you can usually get more of.

If you are 35 years old with a life expectancy of 75… you have already spent 12,775 days on Earth and have 480 months left to fulfill your life destiny. If you plan to retire at the age of 50 you have 180 months to make enough money to retire (have you thought about how much money you will need to sustain your lifestyle in retirement?) and in those months 1,440 days are weekends… so you have 3600 workdays to make it all happen. What are you waiting for… time to stop confusing being busy with being successful!

The fact is that many business owners actually manage their money as though it is more precious than their time. They started the business to choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and be their own boss. But, somewhere along the way the only goals that mattered became the financial ones. Or, the only item worth measuring and managing was money.

Your time will never be managed for you – you have to make a decision to choose to spend your time wisely. To take ownership of your own schedule, and use the power you have to change what isn’t working. I’ll share a few tools to get you started, but first let’s take a look at what your time is worth first, to attach time to money.

Your time has a price tag, and sometimes it’s much lower than you think.

Here’s a really simple exercise to determine what your time is worth based on your annual income and the number of working hours in a year.

Target annual income

A.

Working days in a year

B. 235

Working hours in a day

C. 7.5

Working hours in a year

D. 1,645

A / D = YOUR HOURLY WORTH

E.

It’s unrealistic to assume that each of the 1,645 hours in a year is a productive one. Various studies have put actual productivity at anywhere between 25 minutes and four hours per day. That’s a lot of room for improvement!

Now, this calculation doesn’t factor in overtime hours, taxes, or expenses. If you work as a consultant for an hourly rate, it doesn’t factor in the cost for you to provide your services. The point is, this is your hourly worth in the best-case scenario.

When you start thinking about time management, the goal is to get more done in less time, and thus increase your hourly worth (among other benefits, of course!).

There are five major things that drain your time. But don’t worry, it’s really easy to fix the leaks.

Email
Your email is a consistent distraction. With the mail programme running all the time, emails can distract you as they arrive. Or, you’ll find yourself checking for new messages every 15, 10 or five minutes. Writing, reading and responding to emails can easily monopolise your time, because they seem like an ever urgent and important task.

Mobile Phone and/or Personal Organiser
Your mobile phone has most likely given you increased freedom from your workplace, but mobile devices seem to have also taken away your freedom to choose when you work. You can work outside of the office, but this often means you also work evenings and weekends when spending time with your family and friends.

Open Door Policies
While you want to be open and accessible to your staff, sometimes you can make yourself too accessible. Open door policies have the potential to create a daily mass of employees lined up at your door seeking immediate answers for non-emergency issues.

Meetings
Unstructured, unnecessary, run-on meetings can gobble up hours for no reason at all. Especially as a business owner, your presence may be requested at a variety of meetings, but it’s not always required. Days spent in back to back meetings often mean that your workday starts at five or six instead of nine.

You
Since effective time management is a choice, everyone is guilty of letting themselves sabotage their ability to work productively and efficiently at all times. It’s easy for business owners to avoid separating business hours from leisure time and let the two run together. We all have distractions that we fall into from time to time.

“It takes the human mind 15 minutes to properly focus… if you get interrupted every 7 minutes… you have a huge problem!”
Karl Bryan, CEO, Author, International Speaker

Now you need to take some time to figure out where your time actually goes, so you can see what leaks need to be repaired.

I have some worksheets you can use to assist you as you complete this personal time management research exercise, or you can make one up for yourself.

You’re going to take a good long look at how you spend your time so you can paint a clear picture of your current situation. Once you understand your own personal habits and patterns, you can start making changes that will have the greatest impact on your own schedule. You’ll learn how to be a better time manager.

1. Complete a Time Audit for three working days in a row.

Use a Time Log  to record how you spend your time in detail for three working days (it is a bit of a bind…s  don’t try to get it perfect as that will just stop it from happening… but just do it. And remember ‘the more you defend your excuses… they more they own you!’).

Be honest with yourself, and be as specific as possible. If you notice something about what you’re doing, or which distractions have the greatest negative impact, log these notes as well. The more information you can record, the better.

2. Take a look at your time records, and categorise the different ways you spend your time.

Use different colored markers or highlighters to shade the blocks of time you spent on various activities. You can create your own categories, or use the ones below:

  • Travel
  • Eating, including preparation
  • Personal Errands
  • Exercise
  • Watching TV
  • Sleeping, including naps
  • Personal computer use
  • Being with family / friends
  • Internal meetings
  • Emailing (checking, reading, returning messages)
  • External meetings
  • Telephone, (checking and returning messages)
  • Administrative work
  • Client work
  • Non-client, non-administrative work

3. Based on the categories you created, go through each of your days and decide if you have spent enough, too much, or too little time on each main task.

Based on your observations, answer the following questions:

  1. What patterns do you notice about how you spend your time during the day? When are you at your most productive? Least productive? Most or least interrupted?
  2. Write down the four highest priorities in your life right now. Does your timesheet reflect these priorities? (Show me your schedule and I will show you your priorities!)
  3. If you have more time, what would you do?
  4. If you had less time, what wouldn’t you do?
  5. Could you remove the items in question four and add the items in question three? Why or why not?
  6. Is procrastination a problem for you? How much?

Here are a series of effective strategies for improving your time management skills, and for doing more in less time.

The strategies described below will help you take charge of your schedule and use your time in a more effective manner. Grab your pad of paper and start by choosing five or six strategies to try, take some notes as you read through and decide which you will try first.

Remember this is an individual process – everyone works differently – so if you have to try a few different things to get some meaningful results, that’s okay/normal!

Prioritise your tasks

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most deserving of your time.
> Choose what needs to be completed now, what can be completed later, and what can be delegated to someone else.
> Focus on your top three priorities at any one time, and consistently revise your list so that the highest priority items are always on top, and the lowest priority items are always at the bottom.

Delegate

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what you absolutely need to do, and what others can finish for you.
> You also need to accept that while it may seem “faster” for you to complete a task initially, spending the time to teach someone to complete the task will save you hours later on.
> Delegation is a vital skill that you need to refine, practice and master as a manager.

Focus on your skills

> If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can use this to your advantage.
> An effective way to manage your time is to only do the things that you know you are good at, or required for, and delegate or outsource the areas where you are not so strong.

Say no

> Learn how to say no, and you will reclaim dozens of hours every week.
> It’s so easy to say yes to something in the moment, and later feel overwhelmed when that task is added to your to do list. You may feel pressure to say yes to everything as a business owner, but you do have a choice.

Keep a strict schedule

> Create and keep a strict schedule for yourself that supports your productivity, and minimises distractions.
> Include personal and work time in your schedule
> Schedule time for things like closed-door work, work planning, email and phone responses, internal and external meetings, “me time”, family and exercise.

Make decisions

> As a successful business owner, you will need to learn to make good decisions quickly and efficiently, without wasting time with deliberations.
> You can only make the best decision with the information you have, in the time frame you have to make it. No one expects you to be able to see the future – be decisive, make some mistakes, and learn from them.

Manage interruptions

> Establish which hours of the day you are most productive, and set those hours aside for yourself to finish important tasks, uninterrupted.
> Schedule open door hours, and closed-door hours.
> Schedule windows of time for reading and replying to emails, and for answering and replying to phone calls.

Manage interruptions Avoid duplicating efforts

> Take note of how many tasks are completed more than once, or by more people than necessary.
> Establish clear communication systems and procedures to minimise this, and make sure all your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
> Use tools like checklists, meeting minutes and individual task assignments to minimise mis-communication and duplication in tasks.

Stop procrastinating

> If you are a seasoned procrastinator, the idea of “just stopping” is usually much easier in principle than in practice.
> The best way to overcome procrastination is to use your willpower to stop. Refining this skill will help to prevent you from procrastinating in the future.
> Try working in blocks of focused time, with breaks or rewards at the end, and break down big tasks into small manageable ones.

Effective time management is just a formal way of saying that you make good choices about how you spend your valuable time.

It really just boils down to making choices, and setting up a structure that enables you to succeed. You have to try a few different strategies and structures to see what works best for you.

Remember that time management is a personal investigation that will look different for everyone. Some people can work in the middle of a loud, crowded room, and others need absolute silence to function at a high level. Respect your own needs.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Next time, we’re going to dive into investigating what your qualified leads look like, and how you can go about getting more of them into your business.

Until then, be successful.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 5

 Welcome to the fifth installment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

How to Optimise Your Office for Success

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

  • You have written down at least 18 SMART goals for yourself – nine personal goals, and nine business goals.
  • You’ve posted your goals in a visible location for yourself and your staff.

You’ve done that? Brilliant. Now lets get on with this month’s Masterclass

When you organise your work environment, you optimise your surroundings for productivity and increase your ability to work effectively.

The steps in this Masterclass will help you streamline your office, get rid of clutter and maximise your workspace for productivity. Chances are, the actions you take today to organise your office will also save you considerable amounts of money.

A disorganised office costs more to run. Supplies, tools and equipment go missing because nothing is organised or put away properly. Those things have to be replaced to get the job done, and twice as much money has been spent in the end. Plus, you spend valuable time searching for missing items, files or paperwork.

In fact, some studies have revealed that the average senior business leader spends nearly four weeks each year navigating through messy or cluttered desks, looking for lost information. Does that sound like productive time to you?

In this E-Class we will cover:

  • The psychological impacts of a clean and organised workspace
  • The financial benefits of an organised workspace
  • How to audit your work environment
  • How to implement small changes in your office that will increase productivity
  • Making sure that your office is equipped with productivity tools

If I haven’t convinced you yet, read these benefits of taking the time to create an organised and well-structured office.

> Better communication. An organised office environment encourages better internal communication. With a central area for staff communication, it is easier to share sales news, track targets, and plan and monitor projects.

> A manageable budget. Organised spaces will allow you to quickly see what you have, what you need, and when you might need more. This supports the creation and sustaining of budgets, especially for supplies and equipment.

> Increased work ethic and morale. When you and your staff take care of your surroundings, it makes the workplace a more pleasant place. Taking care shows that you value your work and the people who work for you.

> Better time management. Simply put, you spend less time looking for things and more time actually working. An organised office will complement and support your time management strategies.

So, get started by walking through this step-by-step workplace audit, and making necessary improvements as you go.

Complete the following steps by literally walking around your office with a notepad and making observations. This is intended to be a positive exercise, so try not to get overwhelmed. Small changes are the best changes to start with.

If your office is already pretty organised, complete the audit anyway and identify any opportunities that exist to improve you and your team’s work environment.

Start with your own office.

Since this is where you’re likely to need to be the most productive, it make sense to start making some changes here. Make some observations about your office as it is now, using the following questions.

  • What can be found on your desk?
  • Where are your current files located?
  • Where are your old or inactive files?
  • How many personal items are visible?
  • What is on the walls?
  • Where are your office supplies?
  • How much paper is on your desk?
  • How many files, binders or books are on your desk?
  • Where is your in tray and out tray located, and how much is piled in them?

Based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement. Would your office benefit from a better layout? A better filing system? A smaller desktop monitor? A paper shredder?

Clear your desk of everything but your computer, your filofax (that’s if you still use one!), your current files, your inbox and your telephone. Depending on the size of your desk, you may wish to put your current files or inbox on top of a filing cabinet within arm’s reach to maximise desk space. Anything you don’t need on a regular basis should be stored out of arm’s reach.

Choose one central system for managing your notes, tasks, to-do lists, brainstorming and scheduling. If you have a filofax, use it. If you prefer electronic systems, use those. Having too many binders and notepads and calendars gets confusing.

Make a habit of tidying your desk at the beginning and end of each day. Keep loose papers pinned to your to-do list, or have clear and organised folders. Use drawer organisers to keep your stationery drawer clean and easily accessible.

Organise your loose paper, inbox and action items in a file sorter or stack of paper trays. Use categories like to-do, to review, waiting response, on-hold and to file.

Put your phone on the left if you’re right handed, and on the right if you’re left handed, so you have the appropriate hand free to take notes when you’re on a call. Keep a notepad or post-its by the phone to record messages and conversation notes.

Personal items can be distracting when they’re in your primary line of vision, and encourage daydreaming. Photos and memorabilia have a place in your office, but relocate any items that are in direct sight.

Move on to the common areas of your business.

This is a list of the areas that you may find in your business. If your business has other areas, add them to the list. Most businesses will have the top five areas listed.

  • Office supplies storage*
  • Team communication center*
  • Point of sale or reception area*
  • Printing and photocopying*
  • Staff room or kitchen*
  • Employee and management offices
  • Equipment storage
  • Product stock storage
  • Hallways
  • Shipping and receiving area
  • Financial paperwork and accounting

Move through each of the areas and answer the following questions, as applicable.

  • What is the distance between your office and areas you frequently use, like the printer or photocopier?
  • How much loose paper is found around the business?
  • What is hung up on the walls?
  • Where is the central communication point?
  • How is the team communication center organised? Is it up to date?
  • How much old stock are you storing?
  • How are your office supplies organised?
  • Are boxes and shelves labeled?
  • Do your staff members have organization systems for their own desks?
  • How many files are used on a daily or weekly basis?
  • Where are old or outdated files kept?

Again, based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement.

Put doors on shelving so cluttered spaces are not visible. Label boxes, containers and shelves so everyone knows what goes where.

Create a consistent filing system. Provide enough shelving and filing cabinets to store files in a systemised fashion. Ensure your system keeps files out of the way and out of sight when not in use, but maintains easy accessibility.

Return or sell unused stock and overflow office supplies, like stationery. Locate other unused items that you can potentially sell or donate to create more space. Consider renting out unused portions of your office to independent consultants or small businesses.

Ensure each staff member has access to the organizational materials they need to keep their offices neat. Provide stacking trays or file sorters, and suggest systems that may help them. Remember that you can’t control their work environment, but you can provide the support they need to stay organised.

Minimise the distance between your office and the areas you frequently use (like the printer or photocopier). Locate your office so you have a clear line of sight between you and the most productive area of your business.

Finally, make sure your business has the tools you need to run an effective, cohesive operation.

  • team communication center for all team members to review on a daily basis for important information about sales achievements, targets and company news.
  • whiteboard in the team communication center or the boardroom to use for brainstorming, diagramming, project planning, marketing planning or any other strategic use. This is an excellent tool for both internal and external meetings.
  • sales board in your team communication center (a private location from clients) that is customised to your business. Use thin black tape to create columns and rows to chart sales on a weekly or monthly basis, or to compare based on weekly, quarterly or yearly targets.
  • 12-month marketing planner to keep your eyes focused on the big picture. This is where you schedule campaigns and plan promotions. Use dry-erase marker so you can make changes easily, and use color-coding for easy visibility.

At the end of your audit, you’ll likely end up with a lot of paper you don’t know what to do with, but can’t throw away. Use these effective strategies for managing paper, filing and other information commonly used by everyone in your organization.

System

Steps

Create a filing system and colour code it Group vendor files (accounts payable) and assign a color
Group client files (accounts receivable) and assign a color
Group project or product files and assign a color
Sort each filing category by date or alphabetically by name Sort vendor or supplier files by name
Sort client files by client number or name
Sort project files by project number or name
Keep tax-related documents together File all receipts, donations and other tax related information in the same filing cabinet
Make copies of documents you need to file in more than one place
Create a binder of master lists for regularly accessed information Office passwords
Financial accounts
Goals
Birthdays
Vendor contact information
Use a bound notebook Keep track of phone calls and messages
Put the date on each page
Eliminate loose notepaper
Create a business card management system Throw away old business cards
Organise cards by last name or company name in a binder or rolodex
Enter the information in a data management program, then throw away the cards
Get rid of magazines and other reading material Throw away industry magazines and newspapers
Keep relevant articles of interest
Sort them into files, if necessary

A clean and organised office is easy to sustain once it is in place.Once you make some initial improvements and set up systems to manage your data and organise your supplies, the hard part is over.

Remember to be patient with yourself. Depending on the state of your work environment, this may be a project that takes a little while. Take your time, and follow the steps in this Masterclass, and you’ll get the job done.

Next time we’re going to hone in on time management skills with Business Growth Masterclass 6. Looking forward to it!

For more information on the office organising process described above, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Can Just Changing The Way You Think Really Help Grow Your Business?

Most business owners today aren’t happy with the amount of revenue their business is generating. They’re working longer hours, applying greater effort, spending more for marketing and receiving lower revenue. So what’s going on?

What you need to know…

If you’re not happy with your business’s current results, it’s important to remember that those results are in direct proportion to the actions you’ve been taking? If you want different results, then you MUST take different actions.

So if that’s all that’s required, why don’t business owners just do that? The answer may shock you. They can’t stop repeating their past patterns of behavior. Their past patterns have become ingrained into their subconscious mind and have established themselves as habits.

Have you ever listened to art experts accurately identify a recently discovered painting as belonging to a specific artist such as Rembrandt? How can they tell who painted that picture? Patterns… that’s how. Even though the painting may look completely different than all the others that artist painted, his or her patterns, sometimes referred to as their “style,” continuously comes through with each and every painting.

Why you need to know this…

The exact same thing happens to business owners as well. All of us have been mentally conditioned to perform our daily activities in a certain way. These activities have become habits through constant and daily repetition. The problem is that the majority of these habits… more than 80% of them… are non-productive.

Imagine what would happen to your revenue if you could reduce that 80% down to 60%. Do you realize that you would DOUBLE your income? Do you know how easy it is to reduce that 80% down to 60%… or even down to 40%… which doubles revenue again? Exciting, isn’t it?

If you have past patterns of behaviour which are acting as a barrier to the growth of your business and lifestyle and you are interested in finding out how to develop new behaviours, talk to your coach. They have the skills and experience to help you make the necessary change.

And remember, to quote the famous quality guru W Edwards Deming said – “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 4

Welcome to the fourth installment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

How to Create, Manage and Achieve Your Goals

But first, lets just have a recap of the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.

  • You understand the importance of committing goals to paper.
  • You have identified the areas of your business where you need to set goals.
  • You practice using autosuggestion and visualization regularly – or at least before important meetings, presentations and sales calls.

Well done. Now lets move on and dive into this months installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.

I didn’t plan this when I started publishing the Business Growth Masterclass, but it’s seems very timely that, at the time of year when everyone is making New Years Resolutions and setting out what they would like to achieve/have or be in 2013, that this installment of the Business Masterclass deals with the crucial subject of goal setting. It is a documented fact that people who set goals and write them down, and use them as a basic and fundamental part of the way they do things, tend to achieve much greater things than those people who don’t.

Also, there’s no point in setting goals unless they’re SMART, because SMART goals have the highest probability of being achieved.

In this session you’re going to take some time to set a series of personal and business goals that will act as milestones as you work towards achieving your business vision.

Many people set goals, but not everyone reaches their goals. Too often, goals are too vague, or too broad. “I’m going to be a millionaire,” “I’m going to be the best parent ever,” or “My business is going to make much more money this year.” They’re big, bold abstract statements that are great for dreaming and visioning, but don’t stand a chance of being achieved in a meaningful or tangible way.

Today, you’re going to work through a step-by-step process for setting goals that you WILL achieve. How? You’re going to learn how to set SMART goals, and get some tools to help you stay on track.

In this E-Class we will cover:

  • The SMART goal setting principle
  • Examples of SMART goals
  • When to review and revise goals
  • A step-by-step goal setting process

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound goals.

SPECIFIC goals that describe details and articulate aims are easier to achieve than vague or broad statements.

Ambiguous or incomplete goals will only assist you in achieving ambiguous or incomplete results. Your goals need to be as detailed as possible so that you will achieve the specific results you are looking for.

A specific goal can be easily understood by anyone who reads it; your intention and desired results are clearly detailed and described, and the actions you will take to achieve it have been planned.

Ambiguous

Specific

I should lose weight. I will lose 10 pounds in the next two months (that’s 2.5lbs per week) by eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising three times a week.
I will work harder this year. I will increase my sales figures by 20% in the next six months by scripting and practicing my closing strategies.

MEASURABLE goals are the only kind of goals that you can actually achieve.

Your goals need to be measurable so you can assess your progress, manage your progress, and know when you have achieved your desired outcome. You can use standard measurements like time, numbers, money and distance.

When goals are measurable, they can be broken down and easily managed in smaller pieces. You can create an action plan and plot the steps towards achieving the goal. You can track your progress and revise your action plan if you need to.

Non-Measureable

Measureable

I will make more money this year. I will increase my profits by 15% this year by increasing my prices (and value I offer) by 5% each 6 months and selling my audio interviews on ebay.
I will start running this spring. I will learn to run a half marathon this spring by joining a running training group.

ACHIEVABLE goals have a better chance of being realized because they are grounded in feasibility.

You need to set goals that challenge and stretch you, but you also need to avoid setting goals that are far beyond the reach of your circumstances and skill level. It’s great to think big, and dream big, but too many people set goals that are simply beyond their capabilities and wind up disappointed. Goals that are not achievable will only demotivate and disempower you.

On the flip side, setting goals that are too easy to achieve will not help you grow as a person and as a professional. You need to strike the right balance between challenge and reality.

Unrealistic

Achieveable

I will climb Mount Everest this year. I will begin a one year training programme today, and climb to base camp in 9 months from now.
I will earn a million pounds. A million pounds is £2,739.73 per day, and £9,230.77 per week. I will earn 1 million pounds in the next 365 days starting today.

This is the part where you look at the reasoning behind your goal. It’s great to set goals in all areas of your life, but for the most part your goals will collectively achieve a common vision. The goal’s action plan can be reasonably integrated into your life, with a realistic amount of effort.REALISTIC – or relevant – goals make sense and can be integrated into your life and overall business strategy

Goals that are not realistic or relevant don’t appear to have a logical place in your life or overall business strategy, and can serve to derail you. You want to make sure that all of your efforts are working in a single, focused direction or you may run the risk of going in too many directions, spinning your wheels and never achieving your vision.

Irrelevant

Realistic

I will become a better Monopoly player, and win 25% more games. I will spend more time with my family this year by staying at home one night each weekend.
I will become a NASA astronaut. I will start my own on-line business, to compliment my existing business and add another stream, of income, by my birthday.

“To plan it, is to dream it… to schedule it, is to make it REAL. Attach a written timeline!”TIME-BOUND goals give you a frame of reference and keep you motivated.

Karl Bryan, CEO, Author, International Speaker

Just like any task without a deadline is easy to push off your desk or down your to-do list, a goal without a timeframe will never be achieved. Goals that are not attached to a timeframe are merely dreams or lose intentions.

You need to make sure that the timeframe you set for your goal is realistic and achievable – not too short or too long – and reflects any elements or factors beyond your control that may influence the timing of the outcome. This will keep you motivated and focused, and allow you to check in on and track your progress.

Loose

Time Bound

I will join a gym and start an exercise program. I will join a gym by the end of this month and start a regular weekly exercise program.
I will start a new marketing program. I will invest £750 on an online product by the end of this month, and start selling it online by my birthday this year.

Once you’ve come up with some goals for your personal and professional life, work through our test to see if they are SMART goals.The SMART Goal Test

When you’re creating your goal statements, put them through the following test:

Specific

How detailed is this goal?
Can it be more detailed?
Can I be more specific with what I wish to accomplish?

Measurable

Can I measure my results over time, distance, money or quantity?
How will I measure the results?
How often will I measure the results?

Achievable

Is it possible for me to reach this outcome?
Do I have what I need to reach this outcome?
Will I be able to achieve this goal in the short-term or long-term?

Relevant

Is this goal consistent with my values and overall vision for my life?
Is this goal a priority for me to focus on right now?
Is this a primary or secondary goal?

Time Bound

Have I set a time frame for this goal?
Is it a reasonable time frame?
Is it a manageable time frame?

Here are some examples of SMART goals compared to other goals.

Other Goal

SMART Goal

I want to write a book.

I will write a book on internet marketing that is at least 150 pages long, and have the first draft completed by January 23rd. I’ll commit to writing at least three pages each day (I understand that wealth creation is created before 9am and after 5pm – during the day I earn a living) until I finish.

I want to be really wealthy.

I will double my income to £200,000 within 18 months by starting an internet marketing business.

I want to become a millionaire in four months.

I will become a millionaire within three years by starting my own small business marketing company and positioning myself as an expert public speaker with engagements worldwide. I will supplement that income by creating a source of passive income.

I am going to do my taxes.

I am going to finish my taxes by Friday, and I’ll achieve this by spending two hours on them each night until then

Goals, like everything in business, have the potential to grow, change and evolve based on circumstances beyond our control. Depending on the length of the goal – daily, weekly, monthly or yearly – you’ll want to set up a schedule for reviewing and potentially revising your goals.You need to review and revise your goals on a regular basis so they have room to grown and change with you.

Build this review period into your goal setting process – schedule times to review your goals and take stock of your progress. Here’s a guideline:

Goal Timeframe

Frequency of Review

One Week

Daily

Two Weeks

Weekly

One Month

Weekly

Three Months

Monthly

Six Months

Monthly

One Year

Quarterly

Five Years

Yearly

10 Years

Yearly

Now it’s time to working through the goal setting process and create a few SMART goals of your own.

(Note: If you prefer, I can let you have a series of pre-set spreadsheets to help you with this. Use the form at the end of this post to claim your own personalised spreadsheets).

Have a go at working through the following steps to creating 18 SMART personal and business goals.

TIP: This is a great exercise to have your employees and management work through.

1. Establish Your Personal Values
Since you’ve already worked through a business visioning process, use the same process to work through a personal visioning process. When you’ve completed this, combine your business and personal visions and set your goals in one place.

2. Take a Personal Inventory
Using the information you discovered in the previous Personal Values exercise, carry out a Personal Inventory to think big about your future and your success. What are you dreams for yourself and for your business?

3. Set SMART Goals
Using the SMART principle described in this blog, plus the personal and business visions that you have just created, write down three personal and three business goals for each of the following time frames: 6 months, 12 months, 5 years. Remember that these goals should support your personal or your business vision.

4. Create an Action Plan for Each Goal
Now, for each of the 18 goals, create an action plan. This will include steps to take, potential obstacles to overcome, milestones to note, and other information that will help you as you work to achieve the goal.

5. Display Your Goals
Put your goals in a visible place where you can see and be reminded of them on a regular basis. You may wish to place business goals in your place of work, and personal goals on your desk or at your computer.

You’ve now completed the only envisioning and goal-setting process you will ever need to be successful. Congratulations!

I hope you’re getting really excited about the future potential of your business, and the power you have in you to achieve the vision and goals you have set while you’ve been taking part in the Business Growth Masterclass.

The next couple of installments will lay down further groundwork for your success, and then we will dive into the marketing strategies that are really going to transform your vision into reality.

For more information on the goal setting process described above, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch: