A Little Coaching Exercise for the New Year

Hi everybody,

 

Each year as we approach the close of one year and the beginning of another I go through an exercise with my coach which I find extremely beneficial and rewarding. I have asked if I can share it with my clients past and present, and other close contacts.

 

This is way beyond creating New Year resolutions and is much more about moving on to the future with renewed optimism and focus. I hope you have the chance to do it rather than just read it. It is important that you write down the answers rather than just think them through especially as it is a really enjoyable exercise to complete.

 

Step One

 

Look over the past year and:

A)   Make a list of all the wins, successes and breakthroughs in the past year. Look at all areas of your life. What do you want to celebrate and acknowledge?

B)   Make a list of all the losses, disappointments and breakdowns in the past year. What do you want to forgive yourself for and release?

C)   Bring this list to our session. We will discuss what it means to be “complete” with each item. Incompleteness holds us back from taking on the next exciting opportunity.

Step Two

 

Looking over the past year, what are the 5-7 lessons you have learned?

Choose the lessons that you want to carry over into the New Year.

What learning is there to deepen?

Some examples of learning:

q  I learned to windsurf, play bridge or speak Spanish

q  I learned that my mistakes do not mean I am a failure

q  I learned that more is possible for me than I ever imagined

 

As you review your goals and commitments for 2014, which areas do you want to maintain, bring into the New Year, revise, be complete with?

 

Step Three

 

Consider these questions as you prepare your vision for 1 year from now:

  • As you stand on one of the peaks looking forward, what future is calling?
  • What is the essence of what is next for you?
  • What do you want to achieve or accomplish?
  • What risks and challenges will you take on?
  • What more of you wants to be expressed — for example, self-love, self-compassion, self-value?
  • What self-lies (e.g., “I am not powerful.”) are you ready and willing to end?
  • What new level of abundance and success are you willing to embrace?

 

Imagine one year ahead, and write a list of all the wins, successes and breakthroughs for the coming year. What would you like to learn or accomplish by the end of the next year? Write this list as though it has already happened. Make it as long as you choose, and be sure to look at each area of your life.

Prioritise the list. Look at how each item fits with your values, make plans and set accountability for the next year.

 

Step Four

 

Much like the Chinese tradition that gives names to each year, choose a name for this coming year. Use images, symbols or ideas to name the coming year. What image allows you to step more fully into what you want to be, and are already becoming? Find a name that stretches your imagination and moves you into greater possibility.

Examples: Year of Balance, Year of the Soaring Eagle, Year of the Wild Woman Set Free, Year of the Creative Genius, etc.

Step Five

 

Finally, consider where we are in our relationship:

  • What do you want more of, less of, the same of?
  • In what ways might this relationship and our work better serve you?

 

Please try PRINTING IT OFF and DOING IT… it may not be as artistic or colourful as a Greetings card but I guarantee the positive attitude, actions and focus will last for a whole year.

Have some great time off and a prosperous new year.

Cheers for now,

 

David T Preston

Business and Executive Coach

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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 Sesssion 7: How to Identify Your Target Market

Hello there friends, and welcome to the seventh installment in my series “The Business Growth Masterclass”.

I’ve called this session:

How to Identify Your Target Market

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

After the last session, “Managing Your Time To Make More Profit”:

  • You know what your time is worth on an hourly basis.
  • You know what time(s) of day you are most productive.
  • You have five strategies for improved personal time management.

 Yes? Brilliant! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Determining your target market is your first job as a business owner

This Masterclass officially marks the beginning of using Step One of the five-step process, (see November’s Masterclass) which shows you to how to bring a high number of qualified leads into your business.

Qualified leads are the group of people who are most likely to buy from you – they have a current need, problem or desire that your offering will solve or serve. These people are your target market, or ideal customers. Qualified leads are generally easier to convert into customers, so a high number of qualified leads mean a high conversion rate and, of course, more sales.

A great example of this going wrong… you own a hot dog and burger business and are standing outside a large conference venue, waiting for the lunch-break so you can take advantage of a huge rush of people in a short period of time (a great way to do business) to give away small hotdogs to generate customers for your business down the road. You have prepared all your toppings, flyers with simple directions, arranged for staff to handle the rush and stocked up to the gunnels to ensure you do not miss a single prospect. The group comes out and you manage 25 free hot dogs given away when you were expecting 500.

What went wrong? You did not realise the conference attendees were members of a health and wellness group comprising of 95% vegetarians!

This wouldn’t happen to me I hear you say, but the same kind of mistake COULD be made by any business owner – in fact, a lot of the businesses I work with have made just this mistake, but in the context of their own marketplace. The morale of the story; if you are talking to the wrong audience it doesn’t matter how good your offer is – you are wasting your time. Talking to your target market is absolutely CRITICAL to successful marketing.

So, your first job as a business owner is to work out who your target market is, and how the people in it think and behave.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • How your target market influences your marketing choices
  • A step-by-step process for identifying your target market
  • Types of target markets
  • Examples of target markets
  • Market research strategies

Generating qualified leads will make it easy to boost your conversion rate, because your prospects will already want or need your service.

A target market is simply a group of people with something in common – things like age, gender, opinion, interest, or location, – who will purchase a particular product or service. Your market can be broad or specific in scope, and it is unique to each business or industry.

Knowledge and understanding of your target market is crucial to the viability of your business. You have to know if there is enough demand for your product, or enough interest and need for your service. You have to know how to communicate with your customers, and understand their thoughts and behaviours.

Without a comprehensive understanding of your target market, you can’t make smart choices about your introductory offers, marketing strategy, pricing structure, and product or service mix. It’s kind of like driving a car with a blindfold on – you’d be headed for disaster.

In addition to being essential to confirm assumptions and understand purchase motivations, market research is something you will need to get into the habit of doing on a regular basis to monitor trends and stay ahead of the competition. Identifying your target market is not always easy, but I promise it will pay off in spades, so stay committed to your efforts as you work through this Masterclass.

Let’s start with an easy, step-by-step process to identify your target market.

You probably already have an idea of who your target market is – or who you want it to be. Start by describing who you think your target market is in two or three sentences on a sheet of paper.

As you work through this process, you may find that you were correct in your assumptions, or not. Either way, this Masterclass will uncover invaluable information about your audience.

When you set out to identify your target market, you need to find the group of people that has these four characteristics:

  • They have a particular need, want or desire.
  • They have the financial ability to purchase your solution to their need, want or desire.
  • They have the power to decide to purchase your product or service.
  • They have access to your business, through a physical location, Internet or catalogue

First, take a look at what your product or service offering is to your potential customers.

To find the group of people with the characteristics listed above, you first need to answer the following questions about your product or service:

1. What is the need, want or desire that my product or services fulfils?

 Does your offering primarily fulfil a desire, or serve a need or cater to a want? What is that desire/need/want?
2. What does my product or service cost?
 Do you offer a high-end product, or low-cost alternative? Do you sell large items, like a kitchen appliance, or small items, like household cleaning products?
3. Who makes the decision to purchase my product or service (who has the power or authority)?
 For example, if you provide a product or service for children, their parents are the people who make the decision to make a purchase.
4. How are my products or services accessed?
 Does your ideal customer need to live in the same town or region as your business? Or can they access your products online, or through a catalogue?

Demographics 

Now let’s look at the demographic characteristics of the people that need, can afford, locate and decide to purchase your offering. Some of the information in this table may be less important than others (like ethnicity or religion) depending on your product or service and the market you are trying to attract.

Age In general terms, what is the age range that my product or service caters to? Kids? Teens? Adults? Seniors?
Income How much do they have to make to afford my product? Is this single or double household income? Low? Medium? High?
Gender Does my product or service appeal to men, women, or both?
Generation What is the generation of my customers? Based on the age range I identified, are they baby boomers? GenX? GenY? Where do they stand in the overall family life cycle?
Nationality Is nationality relevant to my product or service?
Ethnicity Is ethnicity relevant to my product or service?
Marital Status Are my customers married? Single? Divorced?
Family Size Does my product or service cater to large or small families? Is family size relevant?
Occupation or Industry Does my product or service appeal to people in a certain occupation, or industry?
Religion Is religion relevant to my product or service?
Language Is language relevant to my product or service?
Education What level of education do my primary customers have? High school? University?

Psychographics

Now lets look at your target market’s psychographics. Psychographics are the qualitative characteristics of your target audience, like personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyle. These characteristics can give you a lot of insight into how to best interact and communicate with your target market.

Lifestyle What kind of lifestyle group does your audience fall into? Are they conservative or trendy, travelers or soccer moms? Are they thrifty or extravagant?
Values + Beliefs What are their values and beliefs? Would you consider them environmentalists or safety conscious?
Attitude What kind of attitude do they have? Are they positive or negative? Open or critical? Easily led or opinionated?
Motivation Are your customers opinion leaders or followers? Do they tell others what products they need, or do they need others to tell them what is trendy and what works?
Activities + Interests What do they do in their spare time? What are their hobbies and interests?
Social Class What social class does your audience belong to? Lower, middle or upper? How much extra money do they have to spend on luxury items?

So, now that you’ve gathered all this information, what does it tell you about your ideal customers?

You’ve done enough research now to create a picture of who you think your ideal customer is. Being as specific as you can, write a 1-2 sentence statement about your target market.

For example:

  • My target customer is a successful young professional; a middle-class man aged 20 to 35, who is single, makes more than £10,000 per year, and is physically fit. He is university educated, and has an active interest in economics and politics.
  • My target market is affluent new mothers; married women with children under five years old, between the ages of 25 and 45, and have a household income of at least £50,000 annually. She is the trend and opinion follower, and her purchase motivations are driven by her peer group.

Now that you’ve made some educated assumptions about who your target market is, you’ll have to use some market research strategies to confirm them.

Market research is the study of a particular group of consumers – or markets. It is one of the most valuable activities you will work on as a business owner, since it keeps you connected and informed about your customers thoughts, motivations and behaviours. Market research also minimises risk and assumption-based decision making, which will improve the success rate of everything you do for your business.

When you begin your market research, you need to start out with a clear question that you want answered. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get off track and fail to end up with the information you really need. Think about questions like:

  • Am I right about my target audience assumptions?
  • Is my target audience interested in my new product or service?
  • I need more information about my target audience’s purchase motivations
  • What new trends are my target audience following?
  • What recent economic developments have impacted my target market?
  • How can I improve my customer service?
  • Has my target market changed in the past year?

Market research needs to be conducted regularly – regardless of how long you have been in business, or how well you know your target market. Trends shift, and environments are impacted by economic and political factors beyond your control.

There are two main types of market research – primary and secondary – and three main areas of market research – consumer, competitor, and environment.

Here’s a really helpful chart to use to organise information when you’re conducting your market research. This will help you conduct research that is comprehensive and cost effective.

PRIMARY
(First-hand information gathered from your customers or about your customers. i.e., customer surveys, observations about the competition, etc.)
SECONDARY
(Second-hand data or research that has been completed by or for someone else, but can be applied to your objectives.)
CUSTOMER
(Demographic, behavioural, psychographic and geographic characteristics.)
> info right from the source
> can be time consuming and costly – but most valuable
> most current
> most specific
> statistics
> trade journals
> public surveys by larger companies
> government publications and surveys
COMPETITION
(Marketing, product and consumer observations you can make or gather from your competition.)
> what works, what doesn’t
> adding value to existing offering (to give yourself an edge
> types of products that consumers are interested in
> types of lead generation strategies your competition uses, and the types of potential customers that you currently see
ENVIRONMENT
(Social, economic and political trends that may impact your business or your customers thoughts and behaviours.)
> newspapers
> trade journals
> consumer reports

Strategies for cost-effective secondary market research

Demographic Research (Customer)
Basic demographic research is something you won’t have to conduct yourself. Every town or region will have demographic information available online, or in town halls, libraries and business centres. National and regional statistical information is also available online or through government agencies.

Online and Consumer Research (Customer and Environment)
Primary market research can be expensive, so secondary research on general consumer behaviour and purchase data can be extremely useful for small businesses. Some information will be available online, while other information (usually free) will be available at your local chamber of commerce and business centres.

Primary market research strategies you shouldn’t miss.

Ground Research (Customer or Competition)
Spend some time in your local area at different times of the day observing and talking to the people who live, work, or spend time there. What do you notice about the area? How well is it taken care of? Why do people spend time here? Is anything missing? Get a sense of their age, gender, clothing and any other features.

Competing Businesses (Competition)
If you have direct competitors in the same local area, spend some time being “their” customer and making observations about their business. How do they advertise? What market are they targeting? Is there a niche market that is being missed?

Surveys (Customer or Competition)
Surveys are the most popular way to gather first hand information from your existing and potential customers. Take your time to administer them carefully and thoughtfully – surveys can get complex and variables can be high.

  • Keep your questionnaire short and focused on getting at the information you need to answer your market research question. This will encourage a higher response rate.
  • Remember that your information will only be as good as the people you ask for it. Try to get as broad a cross section as possible. Depending on your market research question, you may not want to limit it to your existing customers.
  • Choose a survey method – telephone, web or paper-based – and understand the pros and cons of each. Research some survey templates, and spend more time than you think you need to on crafting your survey.
  • Include basic demographic questions on your survey so you can cross reference responses with factors like age, income, sex, and profession.

Website Analysis (Customer)
Use a website tracking system like Google Analytics to monitor how visitors to your website behave and use the information available. These programs will allow you to see how many people visit your site, where they are from, what pages they are looking at and how long they spend on your site.

Customer Loyalty and Purchase Data (Customer)
Your point of sale system (if you have one) – depending on the level of features it offers – may also be able to run reports on customer purchase patterns and trends. If you have a customer loyalty program, you can keep track of purchase information in each customer’s file or account. The type of information you’ll need to keep track of here is behavioural: brand loyalty, product or service usage, purchase frequency, and readiness to buy.

Focus Groups (Customer)
Assemble groups of six to 12 people and ask them general and specific questions about their thoughts, opinions and habits as related to your marketing question. Be sure to assemble a cross section of people that is representative of your target market.

When you’ve completed your market research, analyse what you’ve learnt. Go back to your original question, and critique the outcome.

How has your market research supported the question(s) you set out to answer? Were your original assumptions confirmed or refuted?

  • Does my target market exist in my geographic area?
  • Does my target market actually want what I’m selling?
  • How does my target market want to purchase from me?
  • Is my target market interested in my new product or service?
  • How does my target market want me to communicate with them?
  • Is my target market large enough in my local area to support my business?
  • Are there areas of my research I could dig into for more information?

You may discover some hard facts to face about your business. Perhaps there is not a large enough market base in your area to support your business. Maybe you’ve spent a few hundred or thousands of pounds going after the wrong type of customers. This is all okay – don’t get despondent – it’s all valuable information that you can work with to make better decisions about your marketing strategies and product or service offerings in the future.

If you have flexibility in your product or service, you may be able to find ways to enhance your offerings and extend your target market to include more people, or a larger share of the marketplace.

Your market research is ongoing – each time you talk to a customer, supplier or sales rep, you’re gathering information about your clientele, and thus conducting market research. Consider keeping a log at the point of sale for staff to use to record customer comments and complaints. Review the log for customer returns, and reasons for returns, to get valuable feedback on your offering.

Remember, audiences, trends, products and services change, so stay ahead of the curve and keep on top of your market.

Plan to make market research a regular part of your business, and schedule time and money for primary research at least once a year. This is the only way to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to trends and environmental changes beyond your control.

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 few Masterclasses are about applying the information you have learned about your target market to refine your marketing strategies. You’ve clearly identified who your target market is, and how those people think and behave, so your next task is to determine what to say and how to reach them.

In the next Masterclass, we’re going to look at your marketing message and see how clearly you’re communicating with your audience. The strength of your marketing message is the backbone of your marketing materials, and a huge factor in the success of your lead generation strategies.

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: