Business Growth Masterclass 12 – How to Write Headlines That Stop Them in Their Tracks

Hello there, and welcome to the 12th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass blog. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at how to write headlines for your marketing material which will stop your target customers and clients in their tracks.

As ever though, before we get our teeth into today’s material, lets just check on actions from the last Business Growth Masterclass:

  • You have created at least two offers that you can use as lead generation tools .
  • You have begun to test and measure the strength of your two strong offers to evaluate which is more effective.

Everybody done that? OK. Let’s get on with finding out how to write attention grabbing headlines.

This may sound obvious and may also sound simple, but all your headline needs to do is convince your reader to keep reading. But simple is not always that easy…..

Just like your lead generating offer, your headline has one job. It doesn’t need to close sales, or win copywriting awards, it just needs to grab and hold your reader’s attention long enough to keep them reading.

Studies have shown that around 80% of people read headlines when they’re looking through the newspaper, but only about 20% actually read the ad or article.

Your headline is the only tool you have to get the rest of your copy read, so you’ll need to focus the majority of your copywriting efforts on catching and holding your readers’ attention. The rest of your copy only matters if you can get them to read it!

In this Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • The role of strong headlines in all of your marketing materials
  • Headlines as emotional motivators
  • How to create strong headlines for your audience
  • Examples of strong headlines
  • Headline templates
  • Testing and measuring headlines

Headlines shouldn’t be limited to advertising alone – they’re essential elements of sales letters, direct mail cards, websites, newsletters and brochures.

Headlines are used to grab and hold reader’s attention in ALL marketing materials – not just advertisements in newspapers. Most readers take only a few seconds to decide if they want to spend any time reading what you have to say, in an email, website, sales letter or direct mail postcard. Just like you, your audience is bombarded by information every minute of the day, so if you haven’t convinced them to care in a few seconds or less, they’ve already moved on.

Your subheadline is almost as important, because it’s your second chance to tell the reader why they should care and keep their attention. It also creates a transition between your headline and the body of your letter or advertisement, and acts as a teaser.

Every headline should:

  • Grab the reader’s attention
  • Be something the reader cares about
  • Offer your reader something
  • Trigger emotional reactions
  • Incite curiosity

Headlines need to trigger an emotional response and motivate your reader to keep reading.

When you’re writing, you have to put yourself in the mindset of your audience. People are pressed for time, so your headline has to offer something to them that is going to solve their problem, make their life easier, or give them information that they know they need. Otherwise, they’ve already turned the page.

For example, if I were to write a headline like this – Give me three hours of your time and I’ll show you how to double your annual income by creating a passive income stream – I’m probably targeting overworked, overwhelmed, underpaid professionals who are struggling to provide for their families. I’ve tapped into their emotional motivators and caught their attention.

There are a few categories of basic human needs that most purchase motivations come from. When you are aware of these, you will be able to incorporate them into your writing and appeal to your target market’s emotions.

By identifying your target market’s needs, wants, and desires, you’ll be able to identify the words and phrases that will effectively trigger emotional reactions, which will motivate them to take action.

Using the list of basic human needs below, identify which apply to your target market and create a list of words that will trigger the emotions related to these needs, wants and desires.

  • Personal, financial and emotional security for self and family
  • Convenience and time management
  • Freedom from worry, including peace of mind, comfort
  • Self-improvement, including spiritual, intellectual, physical
  • Acceptance and recognition from others, including self esteem, achievement, attention, respect, companionship
  • Basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing, love, personal maintenance

When you begin writing your headlines, you will discover that certain word combinations are also very powerful. You can combine your list of emotional trigger words with these power words in all of your copywriting.

According to a Yale University study, the top two rows of words are the most powerful words in the English language.

Love Money Health Discovery Proven Save
Safety You Easy Results New Guaranteed
Breakthrough Profits Discover Incredible Shocking Shocked
Ultimate Free Master Uncovered Hidden Secret
Revealed Scientific Your Powerful Suddenly Miracle
Now Magic Announcing Offer Introducing Quick
Improvement Amazing Wanted Sensational Challenge Remarkable
Compare Startling Bargain Hurry

Here’s how you can write effective headlines for your business in a few easy steps.

1. Identify who you are trying to target.

You need a clear understanding of who you’re writing for and what their motivators are before you can attempt to reach them. This is the target market you identified for yourself in Business Growth Masterclass Instalment 7, published in  April 2013.

If you are trying to target a more specific group within your target market, you can chose to segment your market into sub-markets by demographic or behavioural characteristics. For example, you might choose to focus on only men, or only women with children under five years of age.

The more specific you can be with your market, the easier time you will have identifying and reaching their emotional ‘hot buttons.’

2. Identify what you are trying to communicate.

Once you know who you’re speaking to, clearly define what message you want to communicate to them. Be specific, and even write it down in plain language before you start drafting your headlines.

To clearly articulate your message, ask yourself questions like:

  • Do you have a solution to their problem?
  • Do you offer a new product or service that they need?
  • Can you provide the information they’re looking for?
  • Do you have a better option for them?

3. Identify the motivators or “hot buttons” that will elicit an emotional response from your audience.

Take the list you drafted above, and highlight or write down the words that will pique your target market’s interest, or trigger their ‘hot buttons’.

If you’re selling vacuum cleaners to young mothers, you’re going to want to identify words that would appeal to her desire to keep her home germ free for toddlers, and make her cleaning efforts easier and less time consuming.

When you’re writing for sales and marketing, always try to paint a picture for your audience. Carefully select descriptive words they will relate to and resonate with, and strong power words like the ones listed above. For example, phrases like “challenging outdoor experiences” would appeal to physically fit readers, but not those who don’t like to exercise.

4. Choose a type of headline that will work best based on the emotional motivators you have identified.

Direct Headlines clearly and simply state the offer or message, without any attempt at humor or cleverness. Pure Silk Scarves – 40% This Weekend Only | Brand New Security System Just £99 Per Month

Indirect Headlines are subtle, and often use curiosity to pique a reader’s interest before providing an explanation in the body copy. Clever puns, figures of speech and double meanings are often used. The key to weight loss success lies in your backyard.

News Headlines mimic a headline you would read in the newspaper and are a great option for a new product announcement or industry scoop. These work best when you actually have news, and can stay focused on benefits, not features. Newco launches the ultimate timesaver for new moms

Question Headlines ask the reader something they can closely relate to or would need to continue reading to discover the answer. Questions are easy to read, and can immediately tap into your reader’s emotions.Are you tired of worrying about your children’s education fund? | Do you know what’s in your fruits and vegetables?

‘How to’ Headlines indicate that the rest of the copy or the offer itself will describe a step-by-step process of interest or use to the reader. These two words create headlines that work wonders. How to find a job in a recession | How to start a profitable internet business from scratch.

Command Headlines are similar to direct headlines, but always start with a strong verb or command for action. It usually focuses on the most important benefit you offer your reader. Triple your energy in just three days | Stop wasting money when you travel.

‘Reasons Why’ or ‘Ways to’ Headlines precede lists of tips, suggestions, product benefits or even mistakes of interest to your target audience. Keep the list to a reasonable length or you’ll run the risk of losing your reader. Eight ways to save money around the house | 25 mistakes you could be making at the grocery store.

Testimonial Headlines use other people’s opinions and expertise to persuade a reader to keep reading and begin to build trust. Quotation marks are used to indicate that the words are a testimonial, not the words of your business, and they can increase readership by almost 30%. “ToneYou Bootcamp completely changed the way I look at my body” – Miley Cirrus | “I never thought I’d get out of debt before I discovered Money Saver Inc!” – Grace LePage

5. Draft at least ten different headlines using the templates below, and pick your best three to test and measure.

I often get asked how long a headline should be. This is something that is debated in the marketing community quite a bit, but I always tell my clients not to worry too much about it. Use the number of words you need to get your point across, without writing a paragraph. Remember that your headline needs to do one thing: get the reader to keep reading.

Don’t be afraid to draft pages of headlines or sift through the pages of a thesaurus before you get yours just right. Sometimes you’re only a word or two away from transforming a boring headline into a really effective one. If you’re having trouble, you can rely on the headline templates I’ve included in this Business Growth Masterclass.

Headline Templates

  • How to become the smartest _____ in _____
  • How to end ______
  • How I improved my _____
  • How to develop _____
  • Seven ways to add to your _____ without cleaning out your bank account
  • How to begin _____
  • 12 innovations in _____ design
  • How to enjoy _____
  • Introducing the four key rules for _____
  • How I _____
  • Six things to check when buying a new _____
  • How to conquer _____
  • Complete these three simple steps for a _____
  • How to start_____
  • Five hints to make your _____ rise above the rest
  • How to have______
  • How to become _____
  • Announcing eight powerful answers to your “what _____ to buy” dilemma
  • Which _____ do the experts use?
  • Powerful ways to update your _____ for free
  • How to keep _____
  • The four components that make up a successful _____
  • How to improve your _____
  • Six essential questions to ask before you buy a _____
  • How to get ______
  • Three clever ways to impress _____ without breaking the bank
  • The six warning signs you don’t want to miss in _____
  • How to get the most out of ______
  • Nine tips from the _____ experts
  • How to avoid _____
  • How to stay ahead of business _____ trends in _____
  • How to get rid of _____
  • Five proven advantages that _____ enjoys over the competition
  • How you can _____
  • Finally! The latest _____ secrets revealed!
  • Learn how xxx has improved since you bought your last _____

6. Always test and measure the effectiveness of your headlines. Try two at a time and compare which generates the best results.

As always, you will need to test and measure the strength of your headlines. Try to test at least two “hot buttons” in different media to determine where your target audience’s reaction is the strongest.

You can leverage off of the information gathered from testing and measuring your powerful offer as well. For example, if the offer geared to safety and security concerns was a roaring success, headlines that tap into those motivators will also be successful.

You can apply these headline writing techniques to all your marketing materials, as well as your copywriting.

In our fast-paced society, nearly everyone has become a skimmer instead of a reader. Strong, well-written headlines are the only way you can lure a browser into reading your message – so use them on every piece of marketing material you have.

In future Business Growth Masterclasses, you’ll work on creating brochures, newsletters, direct mail pieces, sales letters and sales scripts – all of which need strong headlines to get noticed.

In the next Business Growth Masterclass we’re going to work on a really popular lead generation tool that also relies on effective headlines for success – ads. You’ll focus on how to use print advertising to bring in qualified leads, as well as how you might benefit from trying some inexpensive forms like classifieds ads and Yellow Pages.

See you in the next one!

Dave

Oh, by the way, if you would like some help with the ideas discussed in this, or any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses, or to get expert help with any other aspect of growing your business, use the following form to get in touch: (Listen, I know some of you don’t like filling in forms like this, but I promise you it will be worth your while. Go ahead!)

Business Growth Masterclass 9 – How to Generate More Leads with Less Effort

Hello again everyone, and welcome to the 9th instalment in my series “Business Growth Masterclass”

As ever, before we begin, lets recap on the main points fromthe last Masterclass.

  • You have created three marketing messages using the step-by-step process
  • You have tested your marketing messages internally – with your staff, management and colleagues
  • You have started or are about to start testing your message externally – using advertising, direct mail or another lead generation strategy.

Has everybody done all that? Good. Ok, lets get started with this month’s masterclass.

What is the current picture of lead generation and management in your business?

Here’s the deal: in order to start generating more leads with less time and financial investment, you first have to spend time setting up systems and making some changes. Your goal after this Masterclass is to establish a solid lead tracking and lead management system, and make small tweaks to your existing lead generation strategies based on the work you completed in the target market and marketing message Masterclass. We’re going to look at many different lead generation strategies in upcoming MAsterclasses, but I want you to see the impact that the work you have already done will have on your existing strategies. I want you to start seeing results more or less straight away.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • The current status of lead generation in your company
  • The purpose of lead tracking and management systems
  • Types of lead tracking and lead management systems
  • How to set up a lead tracking and or management system
  • Qualified lead generation
  • How to get more results from your existing strategies

Do you know where your current leads are coming from, or how many you get on a daily, weekly, or by-campaign basis?

If I asked you to tell me right now what your top lead generation strategies are, what would you say? A big part of step-one is gaining a solid understanding of where your business stands right now in terms of lead generation. Otherwise, how are you going to know when your lead generation strategies are working? Or which strategies are working? In a few minutes, I’m going to show you how to set up a lead tracking and lead management system that works with your business. But first, I’d like you to write down what you think your top three lead generation strategies are right now.

Every business needs a lead tracking and management system. Do you have one in place?

A lead tracking and management system is absolutely essential to your business for a number of reasons. One, it is the only way to know which marketing strategies are working, and which ones aren’t. The information your system gathers will allow you to make educated decisions about marketing campaigns and investments. Two, it organises your sales and marketing efforts and manages contact information in a user-friendly way. It’s clear who you called, when, what you said, and when you said you’d follow up. Three, it enables you to manage your sales staff by tracking their progress on several leads at once. You’ll have access to an at-a-glance picture of their sales figures and productivity.

Your lead tracking system needs to:

  • record the leads that arrive by phone, in-store visit, and website visit
  • track the source of each lead over specific time periods
  • record pertinent customer information
  • be simple enough to be used by all staff members

Your lead management system needs to:

  • track your leads through the sales plan or process
  • increase customer communications or contact
  • keep track of correspondences and follow-up requirements
  • make it easier for you and your staff to close more sales

Here is a list of information you will want to gather from your leads.

Depending on the needs of your business and the lead tracking and management system you choose (i.e., do you need a mailing address, or just email address?) some of these items may be optional fields.

  • Company Name
  • Name of Contact
  • Alternate Contact Person
  • Mailing Address
  • Phone Number
  • Fax Number
  • Cell Phone
  • Email Address
  • Website Address
  • Product of Interest
  • Source of Lead (i.e., How did you hear from us?)
  • Reason for Enquiry

If it is appropriate for your business, you also may wish to gather demographic information from your leads – but keep this voluntary. This information would be ideally used in your market research analysis.

Keep in mind that your lead tracking and management systems need to be simple enough for everyone in your company to use.

Unless you are the only person in your company who manages incoming phone calls, greets customers and chases down leads, the systems you implement will need to be used consistently by everyone in your organization. Once you have decided on a system, schedule enough time to train your staff thoroughly and be open to feedback. Since you’re not the sole user, you’ll need to consider their thoughts on the usability of the systems.

Pick a lead tracking and management system that suits your budget, and offers the features your business needs.

Each business will have different requirements when it comes to lead tracking and management. A retail store will have different needs than an estate agents office, for example. The retail store may only need to record leads based on lead generation strategies, and keep lead information for their direct mail or newsletter databases. On the other hand, the estate agent will need to make contact with their leads on several occasions, and need a system that will record and remind them of those correspondences. Software for lead management ranges from simple to highly sophisticated, and can be a great investment depending on the needs of your business. Some CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools are available online as a web-based system you can subscribe to and have access to on the road. I’ve listed the features and advantages to a number of different systems below – ranging from low-tech to high-tech, paper-based to web-savvy.

Index Cards Variety of sizes: 3×5, 4X6 or 5X8. Basic contact information on one side, notes on the other Easy to organise and sort This is a basic system used to manage leads by those who may be less comfortable with computers. This system will be effective at tracking low volumes of leads.
Rolodex More contacts than index card system Easily organised and compact Basic contact information on one side, notes on the other side Another basic system that will effectively manage leads without the use of a computer. While this system can store a higher number of cards, it is also only effective for tracking low volumes of leads.
Excel Spreadsheets Electronic system that is highly customizable by date, name, source or other variables Easily organised and analyzed Several worksheets in a single file allow leads to be tracked and contact managed Accessible for those with basic computer skills This is a slightly more sophisticated system that will allow you to track higher volumes of leads, and effectively organise the information that you collect into charts that can be analyzed. In Excel, you are able to work with a number of tracking sheets in a single file, and create hard copy tracking sheets for staff to use at point of sale and reception. Excel also has the capability of importing data from Outlook and Maximiser.
Database Management Programs High level of organization Unlimited space for notes and record-keeping Data-entry required Examples include: MS Outlook, MS Excel, Maximiser A more sophisticated system that will interface with Excel and manage high volumes of leads and customer details. Manages distribution lists for newsletters and direct mail campaigns. Primarily manages contact information, and provides space for notes, follow-ups and reminders. Tracking high volumes of leads without recording and inputting customer information is best done in Excel.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Web-based, and accessible from anywhere with internet access Organises leads and customers by name, company, date, or status Ability to attach documents (like proposals and contracts) to leads Ability to write notes and log correspondence by date View contact history and status Interfaces with e-mail marketing programs Example is SalesForce A highly sophisticated system with advanced features. Tracks a high volume of relationship-based leads, and provides a detailed, feature-heavy system for lead management. Not ideal for retail businesses, or businesses that need to track a high volume of leads with minimal customer information attached.
Website Analytics Monitors and analyzes website traffic and online advertising Tracks number of people who visit your site, where they came from (search engines, online advertisement, website link etc.), how long they stayed, the pages they visited, and which page they left the site from. Google Analytics is an easy-to-use example An ideal way to track and analyze website traffic to complement your overall lead tracking system. This is not a complete system on its own. Requires the insertion of a specific code into each of your webpages, or each of your online advertisements. Monitors usage statistics, and generates reports, charts, graphs, etc.

Bringing qualified leads into your business will save you and your sales team time, and result in higher revenues.

Qualified leads are simply the potential customers who are the most likely to buy your your product or service. They’re not just in your store taking at look at the latest features in refrigerators, they’re in the market to purchase a refrigerator. They’re not wandering in to see what a £500 handbag looks like, they are the kind of person who can actually spend £500 on a handbag. Some of the people who will call you or visit your business will never buy from you no matter how good your sales scripts are or how much time you spend overcoming their objectives. There are a variety of reasons for this – and you’ll never eliminate all of these people – but you will need to focus on bringing in more of the people who are ready to buy. The good news is you have spent so much time and energy cultivating a comprehensive knowledge of your target market, that you’re in a great position to increase the number of qualified leads you bring into your business.

How do You Get Qualified Leads?

The crux of qualified lead generation is making decisions based on the market research you completed on your target market. You basically need to know where to reach your market, and how to speak to them. When you are designing, executing and making choices about your lead generation strategies, always consider these questions.

Who is my target market? Write down your target market description to keep you focused on the specifics of this group of people.
DISTRIBUTION IS EVERYTHING: How does my target market like to receive information? Do they read the newspaper? Pick up the family mail? Spend hours on Facebook? Subscribe to Reader’s Digest? Listen to newsradio on long commutes to work?
What motivates my target market to take action, and how can I tap into that motivation? How will you tap into your target market’s emotional response? What issues or needs will mean something to them, and drive them to your business to solve them.
Where can I place my marketing message so my target market will see it? Look at what you found out in your market research about your target market’s hobbies, activities and interests. How can you place your message or your product or service in their path?
What can I offer my target market to entice them to purchase from me? Can you offer your target market something special, rare, or time specific that will appeal only to them?

I’m going to show you how some little changes will generate big results for your company in short order.

Once you’re set up with a testing and measuring system (your lead tracking and management systems) to evaluate the success of your lead generation strategies, you need to start by looking for opportunities to beef up the strategies you’re currently working with.

Use your new marketing message. Make sure that you have put your new marketing message on all of your marketing materials, where new and existing customers can see it. Revise your standard advertisements to feature the strengthened copy.
Strengthen your offer. Create an offer that’s too good to refuse – not for your entire target market, but for your ideal customer. How can you cater to their unique needs and wants? What will be irresistible for them?
Refocus your direct mail campaign. If you’re sending your direct mail to entire postal code areas, stop and refocus. If your distribution area is that broad, chances are the copy on your postcard or letter is too broad as well. Brainstorm ways to narrow your distribution and only hit your target audience. Purchase consumer lists based on demographics, not just location, or limit distribution to specific housing types. Of course, make sure you rework the direct mail piece to feature your marketing message.
Let your target market’s behaviours dictate your distribution plans. As I discussed above, the more you can tailor your strategy to the needs and habits of your target market, the strong your results will be. Look for opportunities in your existing direct mail, advertising, flyer drop and other strategies to get specific. Narrow the demographics of your list, or place an ad in a niche publication. Brainstorm new ways to target your market’s emotional reactions.
Tap into low-cost advertising. Advertising in places like the YellowPages, classifieds sections, e-mail newsletters and Google Adwords can be a great place to test your marketing message for minimal investment. In an upcoming Masterclass you’ll learn how to place ads in the YellowPages and other listings that stand out from the competition.
Look for some referral business. Referral business is desirable because it usually brings qualified leads into your business. Someone has referred them to you based on a current need or desire. > Provide your customers with an incentive to bring business to you. Reward successful referrals with discounts or gifts. > Create a referral chain by giving each new customer three free coupons for products or services that they can give to their friends. When their friends come into your business, do the same. > Create complementary alliances with non-competitor businesses with the same target market. Cross-promotion or cross-referral strategies will benefit both businesses.
Website sign-up Add a feature on your website that encourages visitors to sign-up for newsletters or other communications. You can also set up your website so that potential customers need to fill out a simple form before they have access to “free” information.
How to Create Marketing Materials That Work The next Business Growth Masterlass will walk you through some tips and helpful suggestions for improving your marketing materials. Revise your existing materials based on these suggestions, and watch your leads multiply.

Stop using strategies that don’t work.

Now that you have a comprehensive lead tracking system in place, you’ll be able to track the leads that each strategy is responsible for generating. When you complete your first few campaigns with the lead tracking system and analyse the numbers, compare the results to the initial predictions you made. Were you correct in your assumptions, or were you surprised by how things shook out. The purpose of testing and measuring using a lead tracking system is to figure out which strategies work, and which don’t, as well as which strategies work best, and which generate mediocre results. This not only will save you money but is incredibly useful information to have when developing marketing budgets and, of course, trying to drive sales.

READ THIS: A quick cautionary note on conversions.

While the focus of  recent Masterclasses has been lead generation, remember the first part of the formula: No. of leads x %age conversion rate = No. of customers. You’ll be working on conversion rates in just a few Masterclasses from now, but my point is don’t lose sight of the relationship between leads and conversions in the overall formula. Remember that when more leads start flowing through your door, you’ll need to have the resources and systems in place to give a high level of customer service and to convert them into loyal customers. You’ve put effort into generating these qualified leads, but if you don’t have the resources in place to give them the attention required, you’ll lose them.

Once established, your lead tracking and lead management system should require minimal time investment…if you keep it up to date.

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:

One last reminder before I sign-off – keep your systems up to date. The biggest pain (and drain on time) is having to go back and enter heaps of data into your database or management system because someone has let it pile up. It’s also a huge missed opportunity! If you fall behind on your lead tracking system, because you won’t be able to effectively evaluate your campaign or strategy. Or, you may have missed a lead because you didn’t follow-up soon enough. Be diligent, and set a strong example for your staff members. Good luck!

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

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:

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:

Does your business have that certain something that make you stick out from the crowd?

Do You Have A Unique Selling Proposition; that certain something which makes you stand out from the crowd?

If I were your prospective customer, why should I do business with you above any and all other options? Why would I be an absolute fool to buy what you sell from anyone else but you? That answer should be clearly articulated in the form of your USP.

What you need to know…

A USP is the single, most distinct and important benefit a business owner provides to their clients that’s different from their competition. It’s absolutely critical to not only create an effective and highly compelling USP, but to use it in every piece of marketing you develop, and in every form of communication you use with your clients and prospects.

Why you need to know this…

Your USP, working in tandem with your elevator pitch, creates a huge competitive edge for your business. Developed properly, it will separate your business from your competition, eliminate them in the minds of your prospects and have them saying to themselves that they would be fools to do business with anyone else but you.

For example, most business owners place the name of their business at the top of their business card. That’s the worst thing you can put there. No one cares who you are or what you do. They only care about the benefits your product or service offers to them.

Instead of a jeweler’s business card saying “John’s Jewelers,” what if it said this…

Discounted Diamonds – Unmatched Quality, Untouchable Price, Unbeatable Guarantee

In just a few words, would you feel like an absolute fool if you bought a diamond from anyone else but this jeweler? That’s the power of a well-designed USP.

The cost to you if you fail to act…

Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition?

Do you use it in every piece of marketing you create?

Do you have it prominently displayed on your business card?

If you don’t, you’re losing market share, a massive amount of potential revenue and the opportunity to dominate your market.

To your success,

David T Preston

Business Growth Masterclass

Welcome to the second in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass

I’ve called this installment:

How to live and breathe the 5 part formula for Business Growth

Before we start, I just want to check that you’ve done the homework set in the last installment of the Business Masterclass.

  • You’ve created a strong, clear business vision that is realistic and achievable.
  • You’ve posted your vision in a place where you and your staff will be able to see it on a daily basis.

You’re going to achieve your vision (and your dreams!) by adopting the five-step process into all areas of your business.

It’s one thing to try a new marketing strategy, but it’s another to change your approach altogether. It’s just like dieting. Sure, if you cut 20% of your calories for two weeks you’re going to see some results. But, the minute you go back to your old patterns, the results quickly disappear.

Temporary changes generate temporary results. Sustainable results require changes in behaviour; the removal of old habits and creation of new ones.

All of the advanced marketing strategies that you’ll learn in the Business Growth Masterclass will contribute to one of the five steps. By the end, you’ll have worked through all areas of your business and optimised them for success (remember, a 10% increase in the 5 areas can lead you towards doubling your profits (not revenues!).

In this installment of the Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • How the five-step process will impact all areas of your business
  • How to get used to working with the five-part formula
  • A review of the five steps
  • How to set yourself up for success with the program

The five-step process is a way of doing business. It’s not a temporary strategy, and it won’t generate temporary results.

The five-part formula is so effective because it touches on each and every area of your business. It will improve and increase and generate and sharpen and strengthen everything that you and your employees do.

Once you complete a step, you’ll never go back to your old way of doing things again. This is a programme for positive change and powerful results. The change is long lasting and the results are far reaching.

Choosing to begin the five-step process will have an impact on every area of your business:

Lead Generation Conversion Rates Number of Transactions Pound Sales Profit Margins
Any strategy you use to get people to call or walk through the door. Any strategy you use to get people to BUY from you. Any strategy you use to get existing customers to buy from you more often, or stay loyal to your business. Any strategy you use to get customers to spend more money in a single transaction. Any strategy you use to maximise the percentage of the cost of each product/service that is profit.
Advertising
Promotions
Press Releases
Listings
Website
Online marketing
Sales process
Sales staff
Sales scripts
Point of sale
Image Merchandising
Staff scheduling
Staff happiness
Staff training and development
Customer service
Customer loyalty program
Point of sale
Impulse items
Sales process
Sales scripts
Stock
Stock availabilityExclusivity of products/services
Product or service costs
Expenses
Rent / lease
Business supplies
Pricing strategy

Let’s get used to working with the basic formula that the five-step process is based on. You’ll want to post this formula somewhere visible, where you can see it on a regular basis.

# of Leads
X
% Conversion Rate
=
# of Customers
X
# of Transactions
X
Average Pound Sale
=
Revenue
X
% Margin
=
£ Profit

As you can see, each of the items in bold typeface is a factor that influences the bottom line – your profit. Each of these is a step in the five-step process. You will work on each line sequentially, and the impact on your profit will build over time.

A nominal 10% increase in each of the five factors would look like this:

Starting Point Goals (10% Increase)
Leads 4,500 Leads 4,950
Conversion Rate 30% Conversion Rate 33%
Customers 1350 Customers 1633.5
Transactions 1.3 Transactions 1.43
Average Pound Sale £140 Average Pound Sale £154
Revenue £245,700 Revenue £359,729.37
Margins 24% Margins 26.4%
Profit £58,968 Profit £94,968.55

Here are a few blank charts for you to use to see how a 10%, 20% and 50% increase in each of the factors will impact your profit.

Create the chart below on your pad of paper (use the same pad as last week ideally – the process of writing this down will give you a 400% better retention rate). Use the left side of the chart to fill in your existing numbers. If you don’t know, take a guess. The point here is to understand how little increases will have big impacts on your bottom line profits. We’ll show you how to start tracking your results at the beginning of each step in the program.

Starting Point Goals (10% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit
Starting Point Goals (20% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit
Starting Point Goals (50% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit

Step One / Lead Generation: How can you get more people to walk through your door, pick up the phone, and/or visit your website?

Your leads are your prospects or potential customers. They are people who have taken action in response to your ad or promotion, and have shown interest in your product or service, but have not become a customer because they haven’t purchased yet.

Lead generation is important because you can’t increase the number of customers you have. This is because customers are the by-product of two things:

No. of LEADS X % CONVERSION RATE = No. of Customers

This means that you have to generate more leads and get more of those leads to make purchases in order to increase your customer base. Note; this is a very important step because your ‘cost of client acquisition’ (price you pay to acquire a new client) is the most expensive function of your business. (Yours, mine, and every other business on the planet by the way…)

So lead generation is about finding ways to reach the people who need or want what you have to offer and getting them to act – to pick up the phone, visit your website or walk into your business. This is what the majority of marketing strategies are trying to do.

  • advertising
  • business listings
  • direct mail
  • promotions
  • press releases
  • flyers
  • referral partnerships
  • publicity
  • coupons

Step Two / Conversion Rate: How can you get the people who walk through your door, pick up the phone, and visit your website to BUY something?

Conversions are the second factor in the customer equation. A conversion rate is simply our leads divided by our number of transactions in a specific time period.

No. of  TRANSACTIONS / No. of LEADS = % Conversion Rate

This is a key focus of your business and your staff’s time. After all, why spend time and money attracting tons of qualified leads if you can’t make them buy when they’re in the store? We call this “confusing being busy… with being successful!” Don’t let it happen to you.

Several aspects of your organization impact your conversion rate:

  • Your business image and the first impression customers have of you/your business
  • The strength and effectiveness of your sales team
  • Your sales process and staff training and development programs
  • The strength of your sales scripts (Do you want fries with that?)
  • The level of purchase risk involved in your product or service

Step Three / Transactions: How can you get your customers to buy from you MORE than ONCE?

The process of attracting and converting a customer is one that costs you money. Customers cost you money. They’re an investment that you need to make the most of to stretch your lead generation investment.

You can reduce the cost of your customer by increasing the number of times that they purchase from you. This increases the total number of transactions in your business and the amount of money that flows in.

So instead of continuously chasing down leads and converting them to customers, increasing transactions is about keeping our existing customers loyal and coming back to spend money.

  • exceptional customer service
  • customer loyalty programs
  • incentives
  • newsletters
  • convenience services
  • bonus amenities
  • referrals

Step Four / Average Sale: How can you get your customers to buy MORE from you each time they buy?

Your total revenue is the product of how many customers you have, how many times they purchase from you, and how much they spend.

No. of CUSTOMERS X No. of  TRANSACTIONS X £ AVERAGE SALE = £ Revenue

Increasing the average amount of money customers spend with you is the final way you can increase the amount of money that comes into your business. It’s amazing how small increases in this value can have big impacts on your revenue. If I were to come into your business tomorrow and you IMMEDIATELY needed to increase profits – this is the first place I would look and the easiest area to make a large improvement in your profits.

You’ll have to show your customer that they needed or want more than what they purchased. The amount that you are able to increase will depend on the type of business you are in – it’s easier to sell gel pens than an additional dishwasher – but generally every business can find opportunities to increase this figure.

  • The strength of your sales team
  • Merchandising at your point of sale
  • Add-on items
  • Cross-selling
  • Usage of impulse items
  • The strength of your sales scripts
  • Upselling
  • Opportunities for packaging and widgets
  • Staff training, development and incentives

Step Five / Margins: How can you make more profit off each product and service you sell?

The last opportunity you have to influence your profit is your profit margin. Your total revenue times your margin as a percentage equals your total profit.

£ REVENUE X % PROFIT MARGIN = £ Profit

Essentially, your goal here is to make your profit margin as high as possible. As the final factor in the profit calculation, increasing your margin is a vital step towards maximizing your profits.

If your margins are too low, you’ll never make any money – regardless of how many customers you have, how often they buy from you, or how much they spend. Your revenue will perpetually go back into your business and be spent on costs.

There are three ways to maximise your margins:

  1. Increase prices
  2. Cut operating and product/service costs (operating costs include rent, leases, salaries, commissions, and office supplies)
  3. Increase gross profit margins (gross profit is revenues minus labor, materials and overhead related to the product/service)

Alarmingly, many business owners do not genuinely know their weekly/monthly/annual profit – you need to go into the business of generating a profit (this will be a paradigm shift for many – it is not about greed, it is about looking after those you care about. The more money you make, the more you can provide for your family, charity, your golf club etc…) and work towards increasing that profit each and every day, week, month and year.

Now that you have a good grasp on how the five-step formula works, and an idea of the marketing strategies you’ll learn to work with, take a few moments and set yourself up for success.

1. Schedule time in your week to focus on the 5 step process.

Identify two timeslots in your weekly schedule that you can set aside for this task – it’s important! This will keep you from putting it off for later, and delaying the positive changes to your revenue stream.

2. Post reminders of your vision, goals and targets in visible places.

Keep yourself focused and on track by surrounding yourself with the positive changes you have already made, and will continue to make. Post your business vision, personal and business goals and targets in your office and staff rooms.

3. Include your staff in the process.

Your employees are a powerful resource in your business – they ultimately are the people that you will need to trust and empower to run the business without your own day-to-day involvement. They are the people that your customers come in contact with on a regular basis, and represent your business image, brand and message.

Let them in on what you’re doing, and educate them on the five-part formula. Show them how their actions, input and skills contribute to the operations and profitability of the business.

4. Start paying attention to your current numbers and tracking systems.

Now that you have an idea of what factors and figures you’ll be working to increase, start paying attention to what those numbers look like now. If you have tracking systems in place, run some reports and get an understanding of your current situation. Think about these questions:

  • where do your customers come from?
  • what marketing campaigns work the best?
  • what lead generation strategies work the best?
  • how many of your customers buy from you?
  • how often do they buy from you?
  • how much do they buy from you?
  • what do your existing profit margins look like?
  • what percentage of your items are high margin, and which are low?

Now that you have an idea of where your business is going, let’s start mapping out how you’re going to get there.

In my next Business Growth Masterclass we will look at setting SMART goals and retraining the way you think about yourself and your ability to achieve what you deserve. There’s lots of important work to do!

As your mentor, I’m here to answer questions and provide support when you need it, so feel free to use the feedback form below to get in touch

Congrats for tuning in,

Business Growth Masterclass

Hello there, and welcome to my latest blog offering.

I was with three of my business colleagues at the weekend and we were offering our services to visitors to the exhibition. As they approached our booth, we would ask a couple of fundamental business questions.

Bear in mind that our audience, as is the case in many industries and professions these days did not have a great deal of experience in business management, save that which they had picked up for themselves in their day to day lives. Sure, most people get through, especially when the market is stable, but few of them go on to make LOTS of money, and after a few years of grind, begin to wonder what it was all about, and why they keep pushing themselves for what seems like a very mediocre reward for their efforts.

If market conditions change, and the business starts going south, many of these same business owners lack the expertise to respond, and sadly, many of them do not make it through the lean times.

The two questions we ask are “Where are you now?” and “Where do you want to get to?”

All too often the answer to these two fundamental questions is “I don’t really know”

I am reminded of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. When asked by Alice “Which road should I take?”, he replies “That all depends on where you want to get to”. Since Alice admits that she doesn’t know where she wants to go, the Cat replies “Then it doesn’t matter which road you take.”

There is a substantial amount of evidence which points to the fact that if you set goals for your business (and your life, for that matter, there is a great chance that you will achieve all you want to. A key early step in any of our coaching programmes is to establish a set of goals with our clients before going on and implementing strategies and tactics to help them in achieving their goals.

This article is designed to give you a way of thinking about your business which will mean that you can become one of the winners, instead of being one of the “also rans”.

Welcome to the Business Growth Master Class! Are you ready to dive in?

The first few articles in this programme guide you step-by-step through the process of establishing a strong foundation – or preparation – for the five-step process that follows. You need to prepare yourself, your business and your staff for the changes you are about to create and the success you are about to make yours.

You will notice that every major company in the world has a vision or mission statement – a broad, futuristic idea of what the company will achieve and look like in the future. The five-step process can help you achieve there, but you need to know where “there” is first.

I know you must be eager to jump into marketing strategies and get more people flowing through the door, or more sales ringing through the till. Be patient – this is important work that will build and contribute to your amazing success. Trust me!

In this Session we will cover:

  • What a business vision is and why it is important
  • Why your employees need a vision to follow
  • Examples of powerful vision statements
  • Your unique strengths and weaknesses
  • How to write your vision statement
  • What you need to achieve your vision

So, let’s take a look at what a vision statement is, and why it’s important for you to create one for your business.

A vision statement is a broad, inspiring image of the future state a business aspires to reach. It describes without specifying how aspirations will be achieved, or when. It is ambitious, and forward-thinking. It’s not about where the organization is now, it’s about what the organization will be, or aspires to be.

A vision statement needs to:

  • describe aspirations and intent
  • be inspirational for your staff and customers
  • project a compelling story
  • paint a clear picture
  • use engaging and descriptive language
  • be realistic
  • align with your company’s values

The vision statement will also provide a clear criteria or measuring stick for decision-making. When making tough choices, ask “Does this support the vision statement?” If major initiatives do not support the overall business vision, chances are they aren’t worth the investment of time and money.

If your business doesn’t have a vision statement, it needs one. If it does, then this is a good opportunity to strengthen it or make sure it is aligned with the current dream you have for yourself and your company.

I’m going to work through a step-by-step process that will help you hone in on what your vision is, and then put it into words.

You should note that a corporate vision statement – once created, agreed to and perfected – should remain consistent and unchanged for several years. When a vision statement is changed and revised, it is difficult to create a consistent plan that supports the achievement of the vision.

But first, don’t forget that your employees, joint ventures (companies you align yourself with – the most powerful marketing initiative on the planet is a Joint Venture) and your customers need to believe in the company’s vision too.

Your employees need a strong, clear vision statement just as much as you do. When creating a vision statement, keep this in mind. The vision will need to be something that your employees can embrace and stand behind. A powerful vision statement that your employees can get excited about will motivate, inspire and build morale on the sales floor and in the office.

Think about how you will communicate your vision to your employees once you have created it. How can you inspire them to nurture and support your vision on a daily basis, in everything they do? How can you empower and motivate them to feel ownership of the company’s future and their stake in it?

Take a look at these corporate vision statements so you can get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

Amazon.com
Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

Dell
Dell listens to customers and delivers innovative technology and services they trust and value.

eBay
eBay pioneers communities built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired by opportunity. eBay brings together millions of people every day on a local, national and international basis through an array of websites that focus on commerce, payments and communications.

Facebook
Facebook is a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment.

Google
Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Other Vision Statement Examples:

  • To develop a reliable wireless network that empowers people with the freedom to travel anywhere – across the hall or across the continent – and communicate effortlessly.
  • To be the country’s best quick-service restaurant chain we will provide each guest great tasting, healthful, reasonably priced fish, seafood and chicken in a fast, friendly manner on every visit.
  • To provide high quality products that combine performance with value pricing, while establishing a successful relationship with our customers and our suppliers.
  • To be a profitable provider of high quality software solutions and services that provide strategic value to our customers and create a company that can attract, recruit and retain smart and talented employees.

See what I mean? Let’s start creating your unique vision statement.

1. Start by looking at your strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of everyone who does business with you.

You’ll start with a bit of analysis on where you stand now. Use the chart as a guide, create your own on a pad of paper and fill in your company’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Think about strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of customers, staff, management, vendors or suppliers and owners.

For example, what would your customers say about your customer service standards? Would this area be considered a strength or a weakness? What would your staff say about training and professional development opportunities? What do you think about your income and overall financial growth?

Strengths Weaknesses
Customers
Customer service
Product or service availability and quality
Business location
Business image
Staff
Training
Salary
Professional development
Benefits
Quality of work environment
Management
Training
Benefits
Staff skills
Vendors / Suppliers
Product or service quality
Owner (You)
Income
Business image
Salary

2. Analyze your observations, and remember that your weaknesses represent great opportunities for change and improvement, while your strengths need to be nurtured and developed.

Take a look at what you have written, using the chart above as your guide, and answer the following questions on your pad of paper:

What does the overall picture look like?

How does the overall picture align with the dream you have for your business?

What great achievements and qualities exist in the strengths section? (List 10)

What opportunities exist in the weaknesses section? (List 10)

3. Now that you’ve assessed where your business stands today, where do you want it to be? What opportunities exist?

Here you will take the strengths and opportunities you identified in step one, the analysis you completed in step two, and start describing them in words. Use the chart below as your guide, write three sentences that describe the future state of your business. I’ve included some samples to get you started.

Vision
Customers To be a regional leader in customer service.
Staff To inspire and develop our professionals.
Management To lead a generation of environmental responsibility.
Vendors / Suppliers To offer only the highest quality sprockets.
Owners To be a profitable and highly respected organization.

3. What opportunities and aspirations are the highest priorities for you and your business?

Take the sentences you created above, and list them in order of importance to you. You may have to do this several times before you feel the order is accurate. Then, combine duplicate sentences, or ones that describe similar things.

Once you’ve finished your list, take the top three to five sentences and combine them into a cohesive paragraph.

4. Refine your statements so that they are broad, future-oriented and use words that reflect your values, priorities and dreams.

You need to refine your statement so it is smooth, clear and easy to understand. Here is a checklist to use when reviewing the words you have written:

  • is it inspirational for your staff and customers?
  • does it project a compelling image?
  • does it paint a clear picture?
  • have you used engaging and descriptive language?
  • is it realistic?
  • does it align with your company’s values?

TIP: You can use phrases like:

A leader in…
Support the development of…
Offer opportunities to…
Continually create…
Build on…
Inspire…
Develop…
Facilitate…
Achieve…
Deliver…
Bring together…

5. Include your employees in the vision creation process, and ask them for feedback.

Do they understand the vision? Do they support it? Does it inspire them? Can they find meaning in their work based on it? Incorporate their feedback, where possible and relevant.

6. Put your vision statement somewhere everyone can see it – your staff, management, customers and vendors.

Once you have created your vision statement, share it with the world. Your vision is something you have committed to, and can let everyone know where your company is heading. It allows them to see where you want to go, and gives them the opportunity to help you get there.

Now, do you have everything you need to start working towards your vision?

In the next few articles, we’re going to work through a comprehensive goal-setting process that will act as the road map for achieving your vision. You’ll also review, in depth,  the strategy that you will use to achieve your goals, and in turn, the vision you have created.

As your mentor, I’m here to answer questions and provide support when you need it, so feel free to email me at davepreston[at]ologycoaching.com (replace [at] with @ – this is spam prevention).

Congrats for tuning in,

What can we learn from the Olympics?

Posted on 13 August 2012

What can we learn from the Olympics?

Over the last few weeks we’ve all been watching the world’s best athletes and sports people compete in the London Olympics. What an incredibly talented array of high performers we’ve had the privilege to watch! But what can we, as business folk, learn from what we’ve witnessed in the sports arenas?

One thing is clear – talent alone is not enough – in sport or in business. You also need an abundance of drive, determination and self-discipline.

It has been said that top flight sport is a meaningful metaphor for business, with some striking parallels.  Common features include strong competition, the smallest margins of success, setting and achieving goals and targets, committing to both long-term and short-term strategies and tactics, hard work, perseverance, determination, teamwork, dealing with success and recovering from failure and setbacks.

So what can we learn from sports people as entrepreneurs and business owners?

One difference between sport and business is the way goals are set. In sport, the goals are clear – you know what day and time the Olympic final is, for example. And everything is moving towards that one point where you will have to be at your best.

In business things are more complex and there’s usually a series of goals. So running a business requires a level of flexibility. Nevertheless, having a goal or a fixed deadline is vitally important.  As an example, in organising the Olympics all the buildings in the Park had to be finished on time, it was a given. So in business we need absolute clarity of the desired outcome.

How many times have you thought that there are a lot of busy fools in business?  In sport, busy just doesn’t cut it – unless it is activity directed at the chosen goal, then it has no place. Business is no different.  If people are hugely busy but they’ve got no real clarity of their desired outcomes, the chances of delivering the right results are slim. The number one driver for sports people is performance; businesses need to have that same performance culture if they are to be successful.

What about the role that coaches play?

First of all, there are NO successful athletes or teams who don’t have a coach!  A coach provides independent insight, helps create fresh perspectives and can often see the barriers to progress that the sports person is simply too close to see.  Coaches allow the athletes to get the very best out of themselves and to reach their full potential, whilst at the same time letting them take ownership of what they are doing.

Why should business be any different?

The best sports people are never satisfied – they are always striving for the next improvement.  They are right to do so – their competitors have a powerful motivation to beat them and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be working hard to do just that!

Business is no different – you are only as successful as your last set of results, so don’t get complacent!

Success in sports and business alike relies on the ability to continually move performance to higher levels. This year’s best performance won’t be good enough next year or the year after!

A lot of your success will be down to having a tough mindset.

Like top athletes, the best business people are not born but made.  OK, there has to be some natural aptitude, but the real key to sustained excellence – in sport and in business – is to develop resilient mental toughness.  If you can stay focused on those things that really matter when faced with myriad distractions, if you can bounce back from setbacks with a determination and a renewed appetite for success, and throughout you can believe in yourself when the going gets tough, then you stand a chance of success!

Remember the famous Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think that you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’ll be right!

Next point – all work and no play makes for a rather dull existence, so DO celebrate success!

Copy the sports people – take time to celebrate your victories.  Remind yourself what your hard work and dedication is all about.  I would suggest that things have never been tougher for most businesses – many of us are focused on survival as a key priority – but don’t let that stop you celebrating your successes, however small they are.

We all experience nerves and stress when we are doing important and maybe less familiar things, whether it is in business, sport or in our personal lives.  Maybe our culture tells us that this is a bad thing, that we should not feel this way.  Don’t believe it – it is both normal and often helpful.  The heightened awareness created by a little nervousness (as opposed to a level of complacency) helps us to focus our best efforts into getting the best result that we can.  Anyone watching the Men’s 200m Final would have seen that Usain Bolt was visibly nervous before his successful Olympic title defence – it was in actual fact a key element of his performance on the night.

One of the world’s greatest golfers, Tiger Woods, said you can’t expect to feel the same on the golf course as you do when watching television.  Woods gave himself permission to feel nerves on the first tee – and it doesn’t seem to have hindered his performance!  So harness your emotions, rather than wasting energy and attention in fighting them.

That’s all very well, but to get to the very top requires something else on top of the things already mentioned.

That something else is Mindset – self-belief and the mindset of the winner.  It is the thing that keeps you trying over and over again.  One of the outstanding road cyclists of this year has been Bradley Wiggins – after winning the Tour de France, he went on to Olympic Gold – both by convincing margins.  Wiggins set his stall out to get his fitness to a level that could achieve this – not just strength and stamina, but the mental toughness to endure the hardships of harsh training and even harsher competition.  And he did it.

No easy route here – his success was down to the tens of thousands of hours put in practicing, training and improving.  Maybe that approach is too hard for you in your business – maybe you are looking for that “quick fix” – the silver bullet?  It doesn’t exist.

As has often been said – “good enough never is” – so why settle for second best?  Do you have the level of discipline that successful sports people have in abundance – that of never being happy with your performance?

Accepting second rate performance is a huge risk in business.  In sport, when a person does badly, their performance is reviewed, analysed and they work out how to improve (usually with the help of their coach). Sadly, in business average performance is often tolerated. The choice is yours – you can either carry on accepting mediocrity or do something about it.

It’s not easy, though, is it? In today’s difficult market conditions, it’s easy very easy to think that things can’t be changed.  We end up acting as victims and accepting our lot.  Well, it’s not good enough – you only have to look around and see that even in this difficult recession, there are companies who are forging ahead.  One final sporting analogy – the best tennis players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray deliver the core skills their basics exceptionally well under extreme pressure.

How do they do that?  They filter out those things that are unimportant to achieving success – and under pressure, they focus solely on the task.  That’s what we need to do in our businesses – don’t allow yourself to be distracted from the things truly necessary to succeed.

If you’re interested in applying the Olympic standard to your