Business Growth Masterclass 15 – How to improve your conversion rate

Hello there and welcome to the 15th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at a few tips and tricks to increase your conversion rates from lead to paying customer or client.

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

Did you do your homework?

  • You have implemented two persuasive writing techniques in your marketing materials.
  • You have elaborated on your list of emotional trigger words and phrases that will inspire your target market to take action.

Now that your target prospects are answering your call to action, how can you get them to actually become your customers?

conversions funnel

A big part of your focus to date has been on identifying who your ideal customers are, deciding how to reach them, and how to communicate with them so that they take action and contact you. Converting leads into customers is your next point of focus, and step two of the five-step process. You’ve spent so much time and money enticing the right people to raise their hands and identify themselves that now all you and your staff need to do is convince them to become your customers. Generally, how your potential customers perceive your business and your staff, as well as how much trust you can build and how fast you can build that trust are the two key factors that impact conversion rates. Secondly, the strength of your sales process and scripts as well as the level of risk involved in purchasing your product or service also have a powerful impact on conversion rates. But before we get into ways you can improve your conversion rates, let’s take a look at where conversions stand in your business right now. I’ll also show you how to evaluate whether you have a strong conversion rate or not – it’s not as black and white as you think.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • How your conversion rate impacts the bottom line
  • How to measure your conversion rate
  • How to evaluate your conversion rate
  • How trust and qualified lead generation impacts conversion rates
  • Strategies for improving your conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the second factor in the customer equation.

A conversion rate is simply the number of transactions divided by the number of leads during a specific time period. It’s a ratio between the number of people you attracted with your lead generation strategies, and the number of people who purchased from you and became your customers. So if 150 people come through your store in a day, and 50 of them make a purchase, your conversion rate is 33% for that day.

Converting leads – which is essentially the sales process – is likely the core of your daily business efforts. You’ve spent time and money setting up lead generation systems and strategies, so it stands to reason that you should put equal time and energy into converting those leads into loyal customers. I’m going to show you in a few minutes how you can improve your conversion rate with a few simple strategies, but first I want to show you how increasing your conversion rate alone will have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. Using the five-step formula, here is an example of how a 10% and 30% increase in conversions can impact your total profit.

Starting Point 10% Increase 30% Increase
Leads 4,500 4,500 4,500
Conversion Rate 30% 33% (10% increase) 39% (30% increase)
Customers 1350 1485 1755
Transactions 1.3 1.3 1.3
Average Sales Value £140 £140 £140
Revenue £245,700 £270,270 £319,410
Margins 24% 24% 24%
Profit £58,968 £64,864.80 £76,658.40

What is the average conversion rate for your business?

To figure out your conversion rate, choose a specific time period (day, week, month, campaign) and then divide the total number of sales transactions by the number of people who inquired about your product or service (leads) and multiply by 100. This is a percentage value of your conversion rate. For example, 50 transactions / 150 leads x 100 = 33% conversion rate. Now, if I wanted to look at conversions over a specific time period, the rate would vary:

Leads Sales Conversion Rate
Day 150 50 33%
Week 910 286 31%
Month 4050 1196 29%

If you’ve been tracking your leads over the past few weeks, you’ll be in good shape. All you may have to do is look at your lead tracking sheet, and divide into it your total number of sales over specific time periods. You’ll be able to analyse what your conversion rate looks like over the course of ad or direct mail campaigns, as well as over various weeks in the month. If you haven’t started tracking your leads, you’re going to have to start in order to understand what your true conversion rate is. In my experience, many business owners overestimate what this percentage actually is, so I feel this is an important step in the process.

Keep track of the following items in your conversion rate measurement sheet:

  • Start date and end date of the measurement period (by ad campaign, week, or month)
  • Total number of leads (divided by source – telephone, in store, online, etc.)
  • Total number of sales transactions
  • How trust and qualified lead generation impacts conversion rates

If you’re starting to track leads and sales today, by the end of a week you’ll have a reasonable understanding of where your business stands.

How do you evaluate if your conversion rate is “good” or not?

I have clients ask me this all the time, ‘Once you know what your conversion rate is, how can you tell if it’s “good” or “profitable”?’ Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a black and white one. The truth is that conversion rates vary and depend on the product, service and customer base. Different businesses can have dramatically different rates, yet both rates can mean the respective companies are highly successful. For example, a thriving pound store may have a conversion rate of almost 80%, while a profitable furniture store may have a conversion rate of 30%. Other businesses might have rates of anywhere from 4% to 99%. You can put it into perspective if you think about how differently these businesses operate. Pound stores generally have a high volume of foot traffic and offer a wide variety of products. The price point is low, and most people who walk into a pound store buy something. Furniture stores, on the other hand, offer products of a higher value that usually require more thought prior to purchase. The store generally advertises to attract leads that are looking for specific items and features. Lastly, the product requires a much more substantial investment. So, instead of focusing on how close your conversion rate is to 100%, you need to think of conversions as relative to your break-even point – either for a campaign or for regular business operations. To do this, you need more information than the rate itself. You need to know how many leads you need to convert into customers to see a return on investment. You need to know how much money each lead costs you, on average how much they spend, and how much of their spend is actual profit. For example, if you have £4,000 to spend on advertising and you want to see £20,000 in sales, will a 20% conversion rate be enough to do the job? To answer this, you need more information on other measures in your business. You need to know your average pound sale and average customer acquisition cost. In this example, let’s say your average pound sale is £42 and your average customer acquisition cost is £2.50. (You’ll look at customer acquisition costs in the next Masterclass). If you take your £4,000 advertising budget and divide by your £2.50 customer acquisition cost, you’ll expect to generate about 1,600 leads. So 1,600 leads with a 20% conversion rate would equal 320 sales – not bad. Now, take the 320 projected sales times the average pound sale of £75, and you’ll get £24,000 in revenue. That’s a reasonable ROI for a £4,000 investment! But is the 20% conversion rate a ‘good’ one? To answer this, you’ll have to factor in your profit margin to determine the answer. You wanted to achieve £20,000 from your £4,000 advertising investment. Let’s say your average profit margin is 45.3%. So, on each £75 sale, you made £34 profit. So, let’s look at your actual profit after costs:

320 sales x £34 profit per transaction= £10,880 in take home profit.

So, when the rest of your business measures are factored in, you actually only achieved a 272% return on investment, which is about half of what you were targeting. Therefore, in this case, a 20% target conversion rate isn’t necessarily a strong one for your business.

Now, before you dive into any conversion rate boosting strategies, focus on building trust and generating qualified leads – the cornerstones of a profitable conversion rate.

You probably already know that trust is a huge factor in any exchange with a potential customer. When you first learned about sales and the selling process, you learned about building trust and rapport with the people who are giving you their money. So, trust is therefore a big factor in having a healthy (and profitable) conversion rate. Your prospect needs to trust in the value of your offering, as well as the credibility of the business and the knowledge of the people who work there. The issue here, of course, is the length of time it takes to truly establish trust, or credibility. With all your new leads – practically strangers – walking through the door and picking up the phone, you need to establish instant trust and credibility in order to make the most of the time you spend with each prospect. The other important point I want to make is about the role that qualified leads have in your conversion rate. It’s one thing to have hundreds of leads contact you on a daily basis, but if they’re not qualified leads, they’re less likely to buy, and are therefore potentially wasting your time and squashing your conversion rate.

Here are five ways you can boost your conversion rate with little improvements to your business.

satisfied_customers

1. Build instant trust.

Use testimonials. Ask happy customers to write testimonials about their experience at your business. Use their words (or even their whole letters) in your marketing materials, or post them in your place of business. Testimonials boost confidence in what you’re offering and establish trust in the eyes of prospects.

Showcase your good news. Post awards, accolades, media articles and other ‘proof’ of your credibility around your business and on your website.

2. Create an image of quality.

Consider the appearance of your staff. How do you and your staff members dress? Does your appearance communicate the right message to potential clients about your offering? You don’t need to show up in a suit every day, but make sure everyone’s appearance is professional and appropriate for your business.

Improve the perception of your business. This includes the physical state of your place of business, as well as the quality of your marketing materials and the quality of the service customers’ receive when they purchase from you.

Give merchandise displays a boost. Can you make your products look more attractive through the way they’re displayed or arranged? Put complementary products together, and create feature product displays to create variety and interest.

3. Train and develop your staff.

Give staff conversion targets and incentives. Remember that you’re not the only one who can contribute to an increase in conversions. Involve and support your staff in tracking and boosting conversion rates. Give them individual targets, and incentives for meeting them.

Review and improve sales process. Everyone can improve their sales skills, and refine the process they use to close sales. Take an opportunity to watch and give feedback to your staff members, or hold a brainstorming session to discuss what techniques, phrases, objections are most effective when selling your product or service.

Develop and continuously update scripts. If you’re not using scripts, it’s time to start (you’ll see why in an upcoming Masterclass). If you are using scripts, make sure you’re revising and improving them on a regular basis based on what you and your staff experience during the sales process.

Focus on customer education instead of sales. Face it, no one likes to be ‘sold’ to. Focus your sales process on building a relationship with and educating your customer on the benefits and solutions of your offering. The more they learn, the more they’ll believe what you have to say, trusting the business enough to make a purchase.

4. Improve your offering.

customer-service

Increase quality, exclusivity or range. Can you improve the quality of products or services that you offer? Carry a more exclusive product, or extend your range of products? Take a look at your merchandising mix and service menu and identify areas where you can expand or specialise.

Make great offers. Strong offers can also serve as an incentive for a potential customer to complete the sale. Offer great perceived value, or exclusive and time-sensitive products or services, and you’ll see a spike in your conversion rate.

5. Take away purchase risk.

Provide free trials and demonstrations. Allow your customers to test out your product or service for free, with no obligation to purchase. Or, offer free demonstrations so your customer can see the benefit or solution your product or service provides.

Guarantee product or service performance. Take away the purchase risk from your potential customer, and you’ll have a powerful strategy for closing sales and increasing conversions. This is also an immediate trust and credibility booster – you are so confident in your product or service’s results that you’re guaranteeing them.

Work with your staff on a daily or weekly basis to consistently measure and increase conversion rates.

Post a calendar in the staff room or common area, and track your targeted and actual conversion rates on a daily and weekly basis. This will give you and your staff a visual reminder of the company’s goals, as well as an indication of how the team is performing. You don’t work in your business alone, so involve and motivate your team to support you in growing your business. Give them incentives and help them develop their sales skills, and I promise you’ll see an impact on your conversions. The next step is about customer loyalty – how to keep your clients coming back to make new purchases, instead of continuously trying to buy new clients. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

You can  use the contact form below to discuss and get help with the topics covered in this,or Any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses.

Until next time, good luck!

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Business Growth Masterclass 14: How to Be a (Better) Copywriter

Hello there and a belated Happy New Year to all who follow my blog. Let’s hope for a busy and very prosperous 2014 for us all.

Welcome to the 14th instalment of my Business Growth Masterclass. The step by step guide to building the business you always wished you could have.

Today, we’re going to look at what it takes to write brilliant attention-grabbing copy in all those marketing peices that are so important to the growth and prosperity of your business.

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

Did you do your homework?

  • You have created at least two advertisements to use in an upcoming campaign.
  • You have a plan in place to test and measure the success of each advertisement, and make changes based on your results.

Great! You’re all set to go with this month’s Masterclass. Read on.

When writing sales copy, you’re racing to hold your readers’ time.

Unlike novels or news stories, sales copy doesn’t have the luxury of a reader’s patience. No one is going to leisurely sit down with your brochure and pour over every word, or analyse your ad to really understand what it’s trying to communicate.

Writing for sales means racing to catch and hold your readers’ attention long enough to convince them to take action. Every word and every sentence needs to mean something to the reader and support your message.

There are dozens of helpful tips and suggestions in this Masterclass that will strengthen your ability to write effective copy. Someone once told me that copywriting can never be too long – just too boring. And it’s true. Copy needs to be captivating and easy to read or it simply won’t be read.

As you work through this Masterclass, I encourage you to take a few of your recent marketing pieces – like a brochure, sales letter, an ad or any other copy-heavy document – and identify the mistakes you may be making. There are always opportunities to strengthen your work, so be open to them.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • Copywriting myths
  • Tips for triggering emotions and hitting hot buttons
  • Strategies for improving copywriting
  • Persuasion techniques for marketing materials
  • Examples of effective copy

The first step to better copy is to stop buying into these myths about copywriting and copywriters.

I find that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there when it comes to copywriting and copywriters. This is often closely linked to advertising myths, like you have to have a big budget to be successful, or the prettier the ad, the more effective it is. It’s all just hype.

I urge you to let go of these common misperceptions:

1. Good copy needs to be clever and fancy.
Good copy needs to get the message to the right audience. Fluffy words, long sentences and poor attempts at clever humor get in the way of the message. You’re not competing for a copywriting award; you’re competing for customers. Worry less about the high budget ads in Vanity Fair, and more about your audience’s emotional triggers.

2. Copy is the crux of the marketing campaign.
Of course your copy is important to your marketing efforts, but it can’t make the ship float. You need to have your target market identified and your message clearly defined before you can reach out with success. You need to have a strong product or service offer before you can tempt your audience with it. Strong copy is essential, but only after a strong foundation has been built.

3. Only professional copywriters can write effective copy.
As a small business owner, you have a considerable advantage over professional copywriters and big budget ad agencies. You know your product inside and out, and are actually passionate about it. Once you understand the elements of strong copy, you’ll have no problem creating it yourself.

Here are the key points you need to remember when writing sales copy:

  1. Copywriting is persuasive writing.
  2. Use a strong headline to get your readers’ attention and read the sub headline.
  3. Use a captivating sub headline to get your readers to read the first sentence.
  4. Design your first sentence to persuade the reader to read your second sentence.
  5. Repeat until you convince the reader to take action.

Strong copy grabs and holds your readers’ hot buttons, and keeps them reading.

Just like you did when you practiced writing headlines and creating powerful offers, use your knowledge of your target audience to provoke emotional reactions in your sales copy.

1. Use the word ‘you’ twice as often as ‘us’ ‘we’ or ‘our’.
To avoid writing sales copy that focuses too much on the merits of your business, try writing from the perspective of your reader. Focus on answering the question “what’s in it for me?” over and over again.

People love talking about themselves, so let them. Use the word ‘your’ as often as possible, and twice as often as the words ‘us’ ‘we’ or ‘our.’ Pretend you’re having a conversation with one person in your target market, and talk about them as much as you can in that conversation.

For example, if I simply wrote, “Buy our product and receive…” it would not have the same impact as “When you buy our product, you will receive…” Similarly, “Our members benefit from hundreds of pounds in savings” doesn’t hold the reader like “When you become a member, you will save hundreds of pounds…” does.

2. Use emotional trigger words.
Keep your list of emotional trigger words and power words handy when you’re writing. Word choice is a powerful component of successful copywriting, and not because particular words or phrases are unique. A few dozen words and phrases in marketing have been proven to have a stronger impact on target audiences than others. (For examples of some of these “powerful” words, take a look at the list in Business Growth Masterclass 12)

Use the tools that are available to you to continuously update and add to your lists of powerful words and phrases for copywriting. Research ‘power words’ online, or invest in a software programme that will measure the impact of your copy based on a database of statistically measured words.

3. Describe your audience’s problem in detail.
Don’t assume that your reader knows you understand their problem, or the experience they’re going through. Sympathise with them and show that you understand their problem, just like you would with a good friend. This technique builds their trust and confidence in you, so the more specific you can be in your description, the better.

A meal delivery service might consider copy like this: Are you tired of coming home from work, exhausted after a long day, faced with coming up with yet another dinner idea for your family? The copy can then go on to describe how the audience would benefit from the service.

4. Concentrate on benefits.
People buy benefits and results, not features or attributes. No one buys water filters; they buy clean, fresh-tasting water. They don’t buy lawn mowers and fertilizer; they buy a green, well-manicured lawn.

Hit your target’s hot buttons by painting a picture of how the benefit will solve their problem. Describe how cough syrup will ease symptoms, not cure the ailment. Focus on what is bothering or irritating the reader, that’s what they care about. Show how your product will bring about relief.

Use these simple guidelines and techniques to improve your overall copywriting skills.

Tone

  • Studies have shown that conversational writing is remembered more often than formal writing. Write to your audience in the same way that you would speak to friends or family. If you struggle with this, consider taping yourself having a fake conversation with a potential client, and then transcribe what you said.
  • Read every piece aloud as part of your editing process to ensure that it flows smoothly and is easy to understand.
  • Write in a tone that your readers are comfortable with, and used to hearing. Read the publications that they read to gain an understanding of what that tone sounds like.

Sentence Structure

  • Keep sentences to about 16 words or less.
  • Maintain a rhythm in your writing by varying sentence length.
  • Split long sentences into two, and connect them with words like ‘so’, ‘and’, or ‘because’.
  • Limit paragraphs to two or three sentences, or a single thought.

Vocabulary

  • Use clear, simple language, just like you would in conversation.
  • Avoid complicated, overly descriptive words
  • When you read your copy as part of the editing process, take out any and all unnecessary words. Use the least amount of copy to communicate the most information.
  • Avoid any and all industry-specific jargon and corporate clichés
  • Keep language positive and future focused, using words like ‘can’ and ‘will’

Formatting

  • Use headlines and sub headlines to break up your copy into sections
  • Remember that most people only skim information in the newspaper or on websites, so format your writing to be conducive to that habit.
  • List benefits and other important points in bullets or numbers so the reader can quickly identify which parts are of interest to them.

The Post Script

  • Use the Post Script (P.S.) at the end of your sales letters or direct mail letters to reinforce your message.
  • Studies show that reader look first at the headline, then the signature and P.S. before deciding to read the letter.
  • The P.S. can act as a secondary headline, or last opportunity to sell your message. Use it to restate a guarantee, powerful offer, primary benefit or free trial.

Use the following persuasion techniques for a surefire boost in response rate for your marketing materials.

Now that you’ve grasped a few of the basics of copywriting, use persuasion techniques to drive your message home and convince your audience to take action. Compelling or persuasive writing gradually builds an argument and leads the reader slowly down the path to the call to action.

Sales copy is persuasive because, when done right, it:

  • Grabs the attention of the reader from the beginning
  • Supports a main focus or argument
  • Backs up claims with specific proof like stats and expert opinion
  • Makes the reader believe what the copy is saying
  • Convinces the reader to act because there is something in it for them

Use storytelling to hold your readers’ attention 
We’ve all been conditioned to pay attention and respond to storytelling, so use this technique to hold your audience’s attention. Stories are also easier to remember than facts or lists. For example, tap into their empathy and tell them the story of someone who had a similar problem to the one they do, and describe how your product or service provided the solution. Use the story to gradually build proof behind your message.

Use metaphors to communicate imagery 
You won’t always be able to include images in your marketing pieces, so train yourself to write copy that communicates imagery in words. The easiest way to do this is to compare your points to strong images and objects that your audience will relate to and feel emotional about. You can do this with metaphors like sleep like a baby, and brewing like a perfect storm.

Use repetition to reinforce key messages
It often takes several attempts before someone will truly hear and understand what you have to say, so don’t be afraid of repeating yourself in your copywriting. Repeat your key messages several different times, several different ways. You can summarise your points in bullet form at the end of letters or important paragraphs, or use testimonials to reinforce your message through someone else’s voice.

Back up your claims with ‘reasons why…”
Use the word ‘because’ or the phrase ‘here’s why’ to build trust in your statements and claims. Place short lists of proof beneath bold statements; you are more likely to be believed because you went to the effort of backing up what you had to say.

Answer silent objections
Just like in the sales process, attempt to overcome objections before they can even be raised. Based on your experience selling to live customers, address one or two of the common objections in your copy. This shows that you understand the reader’s perspective and relate to their thought process because you’ve answered questions before they’ve asked them.

All successful copywriting taps into a reader’s emotional triggers, and convinces them to take action.

I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s really important. The more you can cultivate your ability to use words and persuasion to motivate your prospects, the stronger your marketing materials will be. All you have to do is practice, and test out a few of the techniques you learned today.

If you like, I can share with you a few tried and trusted templates for getting your marketing message across. All you have to do to benefit from this is fill in the form below and we can get started straight away. These make the job super easy and will save you heaps of time working it all out for yourself.

You can also use the contact form to discuss and get help with the topics covered in any of the previous Business Growth Masterclasses. (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!)

Since you’re probably seeing a big increase in qualified leads by now, we’re going to shift gears in the next Masterclass and move on to step two: increasing conversion rates. Are you ready?

Until then, good luck!

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

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: