Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson celebrates his 66th birthday on July 18th. One of the UKs most high profile citizens, he has had an extremely interesting life to date, both professionally and personally. Having left school at 16 years of age, his initial success came from a magazine he founded called Student Magazine. From there he eventually expanded into Virgin Records where he attracted global musical talent.

While all was not smooth sailing for the entrepreneur after Virgin Records had to be sold in the early 90s due to losses, he staged a comeback and added many more brands to the Virgin Group. Today he is worth £3.8 billion pounds according to Forbes latest estimates. In his personal life he has set numerous records. These include his record-breaking Atlantic crossing in the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II boat in 1986 and the first crossing by hot-air balloon of the Atlantic in 1987 and the Pacific in 1991.

To read more about the mogul’s professional and personal life, view this infographic created by Frame Your TV.


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Neil Cary from Surveygoo explains how market research can help your business to grow.

Market research is key to the success of any business. So what is it? Market research gives us a close insight into the exact needs and wants of our customers – it allows entrepreneurs to study and survey which products and services are worth having on or bringing to the market and which are not. The data and information collected from market research helps you and your business with future innovations while also helping to stay ahead of your competition.

Market research strategies are industry dependent: your needs will vary greatly depending on your business type. Market research does not have to be done on a large scale. There are now DIY methods available at a fraction of the cost. Although most business managers and owners understand the importance of market research, each year thousands of businesses close due to a lack of or no market research. Whether you’re starting a new business or simply expanding your current business, it’s imperative to keep market research within your ongoing marketing strategies.

Luckily for us, Surveygoo created the infographic below that reveals why market research is so significant as well as outlining how it can help your SME grow. Let’s take a look!

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Systemisation is a key part of preparing your business for growth and making it more efficient, reliable and profitable. There are several areas in your business that you will need to systemise, including purchasing, financial and HR. But there’s one process that I recommend you do first: marketing.

Part of your business Scale Up plan must be to increase leads/sales enquiries and then convert more of them into customers or clients. To do this you need to capture the attention of your target audience and serve them relevant, targeted communications that educate, inform and demonstrate how you can help them.

This is where automated marketing becomes very important. To do this manually would consume hours of valuable time. Manual processes are highly vulnerable to human frailties – such as forgetfulness!

The other alternative – sending out sending out bulk impersonal emails to “Dear Subscriber” are a non-starter these days. Consumers increasingly respond better to more relevant and individually tailored communications.

Automated marketing is designed to increase lead generation by enabling you to set up drip marketing campaigns that automate all of your online activity, from emails to social media. Activities such as contact management, lead scoring and nurturing, list segmentation, A/B testing of website pages and offers, email marketing, and performance measurement and reporting can all be done more efficiently through an automated marketing system.


Is an automated system necessary for my business?

The companies that are the most successful are the ones that are able to deliver consistent and reliable sales month after month. You can go a long way to achieving this through the use of auto responders and CRM systems. This is because they easily capture the details of your prospects and keep them up to date with your company whilst you go about your business.

Some of the leading marketing automation players include Act-On, Eloqua, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Marketo, Pardot and many more. They each have different strengths and which one you choose will depend on yours needs, your budget and so on.

Here’s what the various systems can do for your business, all while you are out winning business and servicing customers.


Lead Capture

You can easily collect prospect information using sign-up forms and landing pages. You can quickly capture important customer information through lead forms and sync the fields with your CRM system, automatically populating and updating contact records.


Follow Up Campaigns

Once your contacts have been arranged into lists, you can start your automated email marketing. Developing and sending tailored emails promoting your content to your existing contact databases is an ideal way to drive action. While your primary goal may be to generate new leads, you can use the same contact resources to capture additional information about your leads and customers that will help you tailor your content.

Some marketing automation platforms include email-marketing capabilities, while others will require third-party integration. Make sure to include additional resources in your emails that relate to the content your contacts have expressed an interest in. For example, if they download an eBook, configure your marketing automation system to follow up by sending them links to blog posts, webinars, and case studies on the same topic.


Social Media

Promote that content through emails and social media sharing. Some marketing automation systems have social sharing built in, while others may require a third-party solution. This is where the automation of your social media campaign can be a god send. Software such as Hootsuite or SproutSocial gives you the ability to schedule posts to go out to your audience at a time when they are most active on any particular network. You can plan your campaign in advance for a whole week, a month, or even longer.

Marketing automation tools can also help you set up automated workflows for your internal teams, so you can provide them with resources and recommendations that integrate content into their sales process.


Making Your Business Scalable

For your business to grow – and for you to have confidence that expansion will not negatively impact quality or customer service – you must automate anything that doesn’t require a human touch. Marketing automation has the ability to increase the value and impact of your content, capture lead intelligence, improve lead-to-sale conversion rates, drive repeat purchasing, and improve the overall customer experience.

Click here to download my book “The Seven Keys Formula” and get access to FREE online training!

 


Finding the right types of customers is key to the success of your business, both in terms of profitability and your own satisfaction.

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Once, a marketing consultant offered to do some pro-bono work for a non-profit organisation. She believed that donating her time and expertise would be much more beneficial than money.

She created a high-profile ad campaign that ran on the London Underground – all for free. The campaign was, in fact, so good, that it went on to win several awards.

You would assume that the organisation must have been falling over themselves to thank her, right?

Not exactly. They were one of the most demanding clients she had ever worked for. They were constantly asking for amends to the artwork to the point it became embarrassing to ask the graphic designer, who was giving up his time for free. When she managed to negotiate some free ad space for them on the London Underground, they complained the stations they had been offered didn’t have a high enough footfall.

The consultant learned an important lesson: it’s not enough simply for your customer to have a need for your product or service. To find your ideal customer, there are other factors to consider.


Finding Your Niche

Choosing a suitable niche market (or more than one) for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. That’s why I devote an entire lesson to it in my online course, with a model to make it easier (RAID – Research, Analyse, Identify and Define).

Now, there’s a common mistake that many entrepreneurs make: trying to market to everyone.

This is a natural instinct – we do it because we don’t want to limit potential sales by focussing on just one group of people. Instead we cast our net wide in the hopes of attracting the attention of more potential customers.

In fact, the opposite often happens. You can’t please everyone and a mass-marketing strategy is wrong for nearly all small businesses, for at least three reasons.


You can’t market to everyone

There so many other companies and organisations out there vying for your potential customers’ attention, that they have learnt to shut out most of the commercial “noise”. Therefore if you try to market your products/services to everyone, using a marketing message with broad appeal, you’ll probably connect with no one.

Let’s use a fishing analogy: a fisherman has many different types of fishing equipment at his or her disposal and even though there are hundreds of different kinds of fish in the ocean, the fisherman can be reasonably certain of attracting the type of fish that they want by choosing a specific combination of rods, lines and bait. And most of the other fish will ignore the bait, but that’s fine, because if you are looking to supply your local fish and chip shop with tonnes of delicious north Atlantic cod, the last thing you want is a boat full of eels.


You can’t satisfy everyone

The second reason that you shouldn’t use a mass-marketing strategy is that you cannot sell your products/services to everyone. Why? Because even people with the same problem have different needs, different preferences and will have a vastly different view on products that do essentially the same thing. Hence it is impossible for your product or service to satisfy the needs of everyone in the market, even though they all have the same underlying problem!

Cars are a good example of this. Even though they all have four wheels and an engine, there are a multitude of different brands and models serving the market. The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car in the UK in 2015. It’s not that different to the Vauxhall Corsa (#3) or the VW Golf (#4), but each has it’s own niche in the market.


You don’t want to work with everyone!

The third reason why you must focus your marketing efforts on specific niches is that not everyone who wants your type of product or service is someone that you want to do business with.

Let me ask:

  • Do you have a lot of customers who complain about how expensive your product is?
  • Do they seem completely disengaged?
  • Do they make unreasonable demands then threaten to stop working with you if you don’t comply?
  • Are they consistently late paying your bills?

If you are experiencing any of these issues, it’s time to re-think who you want to do business with.


Hitting the Sweet Spot

After you have found a group of people who have a need for your product or service, follow these 3 rules to find your ideal customer.

1. They can afford to pay what you charge

If a client needs and wants your service or product but simply cannot afford it, then you should direct them elsewhere. Unless you can see some other benefit to working with the client, don’t cut your prices just to try and win a client – it will devalue what you do.

2. They value what you deliver

Try to gauge what your prospective client or customer really thinks about your product or service before you agree to work for them. If you suspect they don’t value what you do, I promise they will be more trouble than they are worth.

Why would someone hire you, or buy your products, if they don’t value you? It seems entirely counterintuitive, yet it is surprisingly common. Estate agents, car salespeople, lawyers and financial advisors, all regularly feature in the list of most hated professions in the UK. People claim to hate them, yet employ them anyway, why? The answer is simple – they need them, rather than value them.


3. You want to work with them.

This is the most important piece of advice. Never work with someone simply for the money. You have to actually want to work with them. The most important word in the previous sentence is “with” rather than “for”. Whether you are selling a product or service, this should be a partnership rather than a master/servant relationship.

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It may seem like madness to turn people away. However, if you market to and accept customers who are not right for your business, you will find yourself in a similar position to our marketing consultant above.

Banging your head against the wall!

Click here to download my book “The Seven Keys Formula” and get access to FREE online training!


 

Pound, money, coins.

Would you rather have many customers spending a little, or fewer customers spending a lot?

(Answer: many customers spending a lot!)

Of all of the Seven Keys, increasing the average transaction value across your business is the most powerful. It’s an effective way to maximise your revenue and also the best way to boost bottom line net profits.

This is because you’ve already invested in the lead generation to get the sale, in the infrastructure to sell and deliver the product or service, you’ve paid all your fixed costs such as administrative staff and professional fees and so on. So every pound or dollar of gross profit from the extra sales that you make goes straight into your bank account!

And the best part? Sometimes the direct costs involved to increase the average transaction value are small, as I'll explain later.

You can see this concept at work in the supermarkets, which seem to be constantly expanding into new product areas completely unrelated to food. They did so because they recognised that the original benefit of a supermarket - that they stocked a wide range of food - could be applied to nearly anything that their customers need, from clothes to electronics, garden supplies, even banking.

In other words, the supermarkets realised that they are not in the food business; they’re in the business of providing a wide range of goods (and services) under one roof.

Here are a few ways to increase the average transaction value in your business.

Up Selling

Costa Coffee is a coffeehouse based in Britain with stores around the world. Its story is similar to that of Starbucks, in that they were both founded in 1971 and both started out selling roasted coffee beans, rather than the finished product.

There was a time when Costa baristas were in the habit of asking if I wanted an extra shot of coffee for £1. A whole pound! I thought it was a rip-off, but even if only 25% of customers agreed to the extra caffeine, this would have increased the average transaction value by 25p!

Now, a cappuccino is only around £2.50 in price, so this one strategy alone might have increased sales revenue, at least from cappuccinos, by 10%.

And what does that cost Costa? A few seconds of the Barrista’s time, some hot water and coffee grounds.

These days Costa sells freshly brewed coffee and a variety of other refreshments. Both they and Starbucks have recognised that their customers have that go further than the simple Espresso and they’ve moved far beyond their mail order roots to now sell hot and cold beverages, food and snacks.

I once saw a small espresso machine on the shelf in a Starbucks, and why not? They know that their customers have an interest in coffee that is higher than the average population, so why not sell them the equipment they need to make it at home?

But, strictly speaking, that is an example of back-ending.

Back-ending

This means having a second, third, maybe even a fourth product ready to sell after right after you make the first sale. This is the way real money is made in sales, and sometimes, it is the only way a true profit is made. Once you’ve won the customer, make sure that you offer them everything they need.

Successful back-ending means careful planning. It means having additional products ready to go and available at the time of the first sale. Back-ending works best when you try to make that second or third sale right away, and not two weeks later when the customer has already cooled off, or even maybe forgotten about you.

If you sell shoes, also be ready to sell shoe polish, and maybe a pair of socks. If you sell a shirt, sell a tie, or several ties. If you sell bicycles, sell as many accessories as you can - water bottles, pumps, biking gear, such as shoes, gloves, caps and more. If you sell computers, sell software and an extended warranty.

This is beneficial to your customer or client as well: remember in chapter xx on Conversion I told you that customers take on risk when they do business with a new company that they don’t know much about. Once you have gotten over that hurdle and developed a customer relationship built on trust and excellent service, they will be happy to buy more products and services from you, possibly at a higher price.

Which leads me onto pricing...

Pricing

Price your products or services too high and you won’t get the business; price them too low and you’ll wish you hadn’t got the business! There are only two factors to consider when setting your price – value and profit.

People mainly buy on value and NOT on price!

As a rule, people automatically value your product or service more if you charge higher. You can never determine your prices/fees - you must let your prospects and clients or customers make that decision for you.

The way to set the optimum price for your product or service is to determine the minimum price you can charge and still have a successful business, and then raise that price until you can see an impact on overall revenue.

Discounting is the lazy man’s competitive strategy and is applicable in only one situation and that is where you have a definite cost advantage (either fixed or variable) over your competitors, and your product or service is one where customers are very price sensitive.

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From supermarkets to coffee houses, businesses are constantly reassessing how they deliver value to their customers (at least, the successful ones are).

What business are you in? Answering this question correctly could be the key to unlocking massive potential in your business!

Click here to download my book "The Seven Keys Formula" and get access to FREE online training!

How to encourage your customers to shop with you again and again

plumber at work

I remember growing up watching old Western movies with cowboys on horses, chasing bad guys with some epic gunfights. One of the most enduring memories is of the hero riding off into the sunset, the grateful villagers watching on tearfully in the vain hope that he will one day return.

You see, many businesses do the same thing, though without the tears. Seemingly satisfied with just one sale to each customer, they do little or nothing to encourage them to return.

What a waste! Getting your customers to do business with your again and again is one of the most effective ways of growing sales and long term business value. It's also Key number four in the Seven Keys Formula.

Every business owners knows that it’s much easier to sell more to an existing customer than it is to find a new one, because they’ve already said yes! You’ve done the hard work to convert them from a lead to a customer – building trust, overcoming the barriers to sale, proving that your product or service can do what you say it will and all the other things we discussed in the previous module. And, assuming that they were happy with what they’ve bought, they’re very likely to buy again.

That’s why smart businesses work so hard to get you to come back.

Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder...

My friend and colleague Mike Wallis puts it another way. He asks his clients this question: are you a plumber, or a hairdresser? (He always gets some interesting looks from this question!)

A plumber is a distressed purchase, someone that you will use only once in a while, hopefully. This means that, even if you use the same plumber every time, she can only count on your custom once very few years. So the plumber needs to be constantly marketing in order to win new customers.

She also has to try very hard to be one of the first plumbers you come across when disaster strikes, and your bathtub starts leaking into your kitchen. This is very hard work, and also quite expensive.

The hairdresser, on the other hand, sees his clients every month. He develops a close relationship with them and it’s in his interest to do so. So, apart from the first few years when he’s setting up the salon, his focus is not on lead generation. Instead he invests time, effort and money on making sure that his clients are happy and that they keep coming back.

This can also be quite hard work, but it’s much cheaper than the constant marketing that the plumber must do.

Transform your business model...

Which category does your business fall into? Does the situation that the plumber finds herself in sound familiar to you, in that you’re constantly looking for new customers and second or third sales are rare or quite far apart in terms of time?

If so, is it because of the inherent nature of your product or service which, like the plumber, is something people don’t need every month or even every year? Or is it just that you’re not trying hard enough to entice customers to come back?

You see, although I understand and accept the point that Mike is making, I believe that there is a lot that the plumber can do make her business more like the hairdresser’s. It requires her to think, “OK, they only need me to fix a leak, or clear a blocked pipe, or install a new bathtub once every few years. But what services do they need more regularly that I can provide?”

How about encouraging her clients to be proactive in their maintenance, so that the crises are less likely? For example, servicing their boiler once a year will reduce the likelihood that it packs up on a cold night in winter (on a weekend – it’s always on a weekend). Checking the radiators to make sure there aren’t any bubbles means that they work as effectively as possible.

She could also offer emergency cover for a small monthly fee and guarantee to come out whenever disaster does strike. This will ensure that she always gets the work. Now her business is starting to look more stable, with regular cash flow and closer relationships with her clients.

De-risk to thrive...

Repeat business is not just a sign of a quality product and excellent service; it also enables you to improve cash flow, reduce the amount you have to spend on lead generation and de-risk your business.

And that's definitely worth the call-out fee!

Click here to download my book, The Seven Keys Formula and join our business building club.

Limonata

There's an old saying that "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". When life gave the Pizza Express bosses lemons, they didn't quite make lemonade but they did find a way to save time and, ultimately, money.

Every morning when the staff arrived for their shift at Pizza Express, one waiter would slice the lemons ready to garnish the drinks throughout the day. The job involved them cleaning an area to prepare the lemons, chopping them and then cleaning up afterwards.

Until one pizza chef, or pizzaiolos as they are known in Italy, suggested it might be easier for his team to do it instead. Considering they were already spending most of their morning chopping and preparing the ingredients for the pizza and pasta dishes, it made a lot of sense. The chefs already had all the tools to hand and did not need to clear a space, or clean up, until after their shift had finished, therefore saving valuable time.

That one simple change led to a global edict issued to all 500 Pizza Express outlets across the world that, from now on, chefs would chop the lemons. Pizza Express chief executive, Richard Hodgson, said: "Just by changing who chops the lemons, we were able to make a significant saving in hours which translates into a significant financial saving."

Efficiency is integral to your #Scaleup strategy

As you seek to scale up your small business, finding more efficient processes and working practices should be integral to your growth strategy. This is why Systemisation is such an important part of the Seven Keys Formula. In the startup phase of your business, you were unlikely to have been worrying about the most efficient way of working, focusing instead on sales, cash flow and profits (in that order!).

Yet as your operations grow in size, so do the potential gains from becoming more efficient. This is not just about profits either: if parts of your business aren’t working as well as they could, it can impact the service quality, staff morale and require more management time. (I’m sure the Pizza Express serving staff are pleased to no longer be chopping – a job that is messy, time-consuming and potentially hazardous to their hands!)

Systemising your startup or growth business involves critically analysing all business processes to determine how they can performed better, as well as what can be automated or outsourced.

Examples of innovation are around

One of the most famous examples of an innovative cost cutting technique is when a factory worker, at the Swan Vesta match company, made a simple recommendation. By putting the sandpaper used to strike the matches on only one side of each matchbox instead of both, he saved the company millions of pounds. (There have been doubts raised about the credence of this tale and Swan Vesta still refuse to confirm whether the story is a myth or the truth.)

As you look for efficiencies, you may even stumble on new revenue streams. The lead story was not the first time the Pizza Express chefs have come up with a winning idea either. In 1969, a hungry pizzaiolo invented a quick snack using leftover pieces of dough, which came to be known as the dough ball. They are now the top dish at Pizza Express, selling 4 million portions every year.

The no frills airline, Ryanair, is notorious for its innovative cost-cutting measures. Although these may be fairly extreme examples, there are things to learn from Ryanair. Nowadays, it is fairly standard for most airline passengers to check in online and to take carry on baggage rather than checking it into the hold.

This was something Ryanair pioneered, completely changing the behavior of their customers, who were used to checking in at the airport, and checking through all of their luggage. Ryanair made it deliberately expensive to check in at the airport, as well as to send baggage to the hold, so that their customers would avoid doing either. This means they can employ fewer ground staff to check people in, which save them money and reduces the cost of fares for their customers too.

You might say that Ryanair has a reputation for treating its passengers badly, but the airline recently reported record passenger volumes and increased profits, is one of the most reliable airlines around and scores highly for customer satisfaction.

Make lemonade…

When a client of mine was looking for ways to improve time management, they noted that one of the most frequent tasks was making tea. Whilst this was a necessary task – appreciated by staff and customers alike - a large amount of time was spent waiting got the kettle to boil.

One potential solution was to install a drinks machine, but this idea was vetoed in the grounds that machine tea is normally of far inferior quality. Then someone suggested a boiling water tap, which dispenses water at the required temperature without the need for a kettle. This massively reduces the time it takes to make a cup of tea.

A typically British problem, I hear you chuckling, but also an approach to efficiency that you should copy across your business.

So the moral of this blog is, when life gives you lemons, find a way to make the most efficient and cost-effective lemonade possible!

Guest post discusses the benefits of creating additional workspace by adding a mezzanine floor.

Mezzanine

Image Source

One of the best things about a mezzanine floor being fitted to a business premises is that they can significantly increase the available workspace without the need to relocate to a larger building. In some cases, where the existing structure allows for it, business owners are even able to double the available room. This allows for an increase in staff workstations, more tooling to be installed or even more warehouse room. Remember that expansion usually has a significant cost for UK-based businesses where the price of land is high. A mezzanine floor could allow your company to stay at the same premises, avoiding the expense and disruption of relocation, while considerably expanding the operational base of the business which can, in turn, promote further growth.

Mezzanine Floors for Warehouses

Businesses that have a warehouse operation or a storage depot can find that the entire operation slows down as the storage facility reaches its capacity. This is because warehouses that are running near to their operational limit are harder to conduct proper inventories in. Mezzanine floors by Warehouse Storage Solutions Limited allow business warehouses to increase their storage capacity which means more space is freed up and thus, they run more efficiently. In addition, inventory costs are lowered as the stock can be inspected - and picked - with greater ease.

Increased Space in Offices

Office space is at a premium in most business and cramped conditions for office workers often leads to disgruntled and uncomfortable employees. A simple mezzanine floor can produce more space in a short space of time, which allows for office operations to continue seamlessly, often increasing the available workstations twofold.

Additional Floor Space for Manufacturers

In manufacturing industries, the increase in floor space that a mezzanine floor provides can allow for an upturn in the number of production lines which can run simultaneously. This means that customer demand can be met where otherwise it might not and new products can be developed for the market, helping your firm to stay one step ahead.

Easy Classification of Storage Units

Many companies use pallets to store their stock, components and finished products that are awaiting their delivery schedule. Where large racking might work in some cases, sometimes they are not sturdy enough for the weight. The introduction of a mezzanine floor, on the other hand, means weight distribution can be spread more evenly and items stored separately from one another in Packing 365’s palletised containers according to their classification, rather than how much they weigh, improving the efficiency of operations no end.

This post was written by Emma Henry from Warehouse Storage Solutions Limited. Emma writes articles about how businesses can overcome factors that are hindering their growth.

(Editor’s Note: the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Excelsior Business Development Limited or its agents and should not be taken as a recommendation or endorsement of WSSL.)

So you brought them to your homepage....what's next?!

Duck HunterMany of you know that I’ve written a book, The Seven Keys Formula, which was released last October. Toward the end of writing SKF I started looking for a company to print it.

I came across a number of printers when searching online, but one in particular held my attention. This was not because they had a flashy website or compelling message. No, they had the one thing I needed at the time.

An instant quote generator!

This online tool enabled me to design a package from a range of different options, including trim size, paper weight and number of copies and, best of all, the results were instant; no need to wait for a response from a customer rep.

Furthermore, they had built in a smart quid pro quo: before I could get the quote, I had to supply my email address. The quote details are then emailed to me and a week later when, inevitably, I had not placed an order, an automatic email was sent asking if I needed assistance. The system also creates an account with details of all my previous quotes.

1. Getting their Attention is only the beginning

Most of us know by now that it’s not enough to have a good website that captures the attention of your target market: you must also tell people what to do next and, crucially, how. This is known as a call to action and good websites (and many other forms of marketing materials) will list multiple ways of making contact with the business: phone number, email address, mailing address, etc.

Yet simply displaying your contact details is unlikely to result in lots of enquiries: to increase the conversion on your website, you need to make it easier for people to take action. Contact forms allow visitors to make an enquiry simply by entering a few details and a short description of their request. Even better are contact forms that have a short questionnaire, negating the need for writing (because we’re all lazy when it comes to the web).

2. It’s not just a “Contact Form”

However, many websites hide the contact form on a dedicated Contact Us page. This is a mistake: put the form in a prominent position on the homepage, as well as on every landing page (if that is the action you want people to take).

You also need to give people a reason to take action. Just finding out more about your product or service is not a good enough reason: this may only attract those prospects that have a strong need for what you offer and are already considering doing business with you and that might be a small percentage of the visitors to your site!

So don’t call it a Contact Form; find a name that communicates the benefit they will receive if they take this action. I came across a digital agency that put their contact form underneath the headline “Free Design Consultation”. This encourages their visitors to make contact by implicitly offering something of value if they do.

3. Provide instant answers

To increase engagement on your site, give something of value to visitors. Online quote generators give people the answers they are seeking immediately, and many people will use them as much out of curiosity as for the end result.

Even better are online tools that solve simple problems or point to solutions (especially when the solution is likely to include using your services). For example, The LinkedIn Man has a quiz on his website that will tell you if your LinkedIn profile is rubbish. This has the dual effect of positioning him as an expert and telling visitors why they need James' services!

Another way to increase engagement is through the use of a virtual customer service assistant. This will appeal to people who don’t wish to speak to an actual person, but the real advantage is that this service can be offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Step up and compete

It’s getting harder and harder to compete for the attention of your target market online, and innovation is constant. I don’t claim that these ideas are new or cutting edge, yet many, many businesses still aren’t using them.

Avoid falling back on the excuse that these strategies won’t work for your business – think of how you interact with customers in the real world and find ways to mimic at least some of this through your website.

Oh, in case you were wondering, that printing website I mentioned at the beginning of this article is Book Printing UK.

Why You Need To Get Serious About How Your Business Works

Systemisation“Would you like to turn your job into a business?”

I posed this question at a recent business event and was met with looks of bemusement and disdain. I think I know what the audience were thinking.

“What is he talking about? I don’t have a job…I fired the boss years ago!”

Yes, you did. Unfortunately you also fired the sales team, the receptionist, the accounts department, the mailroom staff…and you now do it all yourself.

Even if you employ some staff in your small business, does it seem as though you do most of the work? Or, most of the non-client facing work?

The hard truth is this: if your business doesn’t work without your being there, then you have a job. (And, often in these circumstances, not a very well paid job either.)

So, back to my initial question: how do you turn your job into a business?

The answer is Systemisation

The definition of systemisation is “to arrange in a system”. In the business context, it’s about working smarter, not harder. For a small business this means automating what can be automated, outsourcing what can be outsourced and ensuring that the remaining tasks are performed as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Systemisation is important not just for reducing your workload (and probably your sanity!), but also because if the business depends on you in order to function, it will be unable to grow beyond a certain point.

This is simply because you only have 24 hours in each day (and you have to sleep for at least some of them).

So what are three steps required to systemise a business?

The first step is to review and analyse your business as it is now. You’ll be looking at what works and what doesn’t work, as well as documenting existing systems and processes in order to identify areas for improvement.

Step two is to improve your existing systems and processes, making the business more efficient and profitable. This can be quite rewarding, because the investment so far will have been small, but you will start to see returns already.

Step three involves a combination of installing new systems, implementing new processes and better ways of working, and outsourcing what you don’t need to do internally.

Of course, these three steps can become four or six or ten, depending on the complexity of your business.

You want me to do what?!

But perhaps the most important part of systemisation is for you as a business owner to relinquish some control. This will also be most difficult thing to do, as the business is your baby, which you built up from nothing. It may also be your main source of income.

How can you trust people who are only interested in working from 9 to 5 and collecting a salary every month?!

In this case, it may help to remember these important points:

  • It is likely that the person you are delegating or outsourcing to is an expert and probably better at the role than you are.
  • Yes, they will make a mistake eventually, but haven’t you also made mistakes in the past, and will do in the future? Good oversight and management can reduce most of these risks.
  • They will bring a different perspective to the role that may be beneficial.

Most importantly, your business will not grow unless you give up some control.

Time for a change

Would you like to work less and earn more? Or, perhaps you want to work the same amount, but enjoy it more?

If you spend most of your time fighting fires, or directing operational matters at the expense of strategic planning; if you spend all your time working in the business, rather on it, you need to systemise.

In another post, I will look at the types of systems you should implement as your business grows.

So change your business. Change your life!