What if you’re just not interesting?

Jack Nicholson

Can you just be yourself?

We all want to do business with real people but when I urge people to “be themselves”, I often get the reply, “but I’m not very interesting” or “I don’t come across well”. So I asked Jon Torrens, Communications Coach and ex-stand up comedian, to write about how to make sure you’re always interesting – and have fun at the same time.

Jon says: 

“You know how some actors and comedians seem to be quite dull when they’re interviewed and they’re not in character, but sparkling and fun when they are? Here’s how you can step into a character that’s exactly right for you and guarantees you’ll never feel uninteresting again!

Character Building 

In movies, stories and video games, we all relate to the different characters. Ruthless, unpredictable, charismatic, creative people whose attributes we can briefly fantasize as actually being our own. We all infer a real life person’s character from only a few seconds’ observation – their walk, clothes and demeanour tell us all kinds of things about them.

First impressions count

Whether these things are accurate indicators of that person’s character is of course another matter, and that’s where the fun begins. What character are you? The clever thing to do is to discover a character that works for you – your ‘game face’ – and use it when appropriate to be most effective when communicating.

When you find one that is right, it has the benefit of being both natural and really interesting for other people to interact with. When you step into character it puts you in the frame of mind that helps you display the characteristic that really helps all communication: natural confidence.

Who are you – really?

Ask others how they see you. Watch yourself on video (excruciating, isn’t it?) and draw out those elements that define you, which you can then capitalise on to become engaging, interesting and well, a real person.” 

Who do you imagine you are?

Asking this question in our Facebook Group got some amazing (and sometimes hilarious) replies but also lots of head nodding as we could see the connection between people we know and the characters they assume when they speak in public and shows that lots of people find this sort of exercise really useful.

Jon sees himself as Batman and often refers to me as “M” from the James Bond movies (played by Judi Dench, not Ralph Fiennes). Tell us which character you’d like to step into when you have to speak in public……..

If you’d like Jon’s help in learning how to identify a character that is close to your natural self but with added power, and the techniques that you can use to step into character anytime you need to, just ask him.

Don’t hold back from making a great impression just because you don’t think you’re interesting enough!

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It’s time to drop social media marketing

Costume for Social Media Professional

Social Media Marketing makes no sense

I’ve always hated the term “Social Media Marketing” because it makes no sense. “Social” is not, never has been and never will be a marketing medium.  It’s a construct that says wherever people gather for social pursuits, they are fair game for marketers.

It’s a lazy term used by lazy marketers, or worse, by people with no marketing skills, who’ve found a bandwagon and jumped on it. (Some good marketers started using it because it became a ubiquitous term that clients could identify.

Social: an informal gathering of people for enjoyment purposes
Media: the main means of mass communication
Marketing: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.
Get the contradiction?

Social Networks *are* good for business

Before I go any further and get excommunicated by some very good marketers, I need to stress that social networks can be very useful for businesses – for customer service, building relationships, research, building communities, listening and er… networking.
But promoting and selling?
It just doesn’t work.

Many big brands that gave it a fair trial over the last five or six years have concluded that they get better value from TV adverts  and from direct sales teams. Coca Cola abandoned its Facebook Page with 91 million likes because they got little interaction and no increase in sales despite investing millions.

What’s the ROI* on your cat?

Since pictures of cats get the most shares and comments on social media, posting pictures of cats will get you followers and fans. What this has to do with your business and why you would pay anyone to do it for you is a mystery. When you pay someone to ‘do’ social media for you, your ROI (*return on investment) should result in sales. If it doesn’t, your marketing (social or otherwise) isn’t working. 

O.K. The cat thing was spurious (almost) but there are people who will post and tweet on behalf of your businesses – in some cases, using one client’s account to boost or share the posts of another without either of them knowing, and in most cases using auto-follow software that means that your account’s followers are mostly made up of robots, also using autofollow software. This means that all those lovely numbers you pay for are totally useless because no real people ever see your posts.

Most people who read this blog manage their own small business and are seen as sitting ducks easy prey target markets for companies that use social media really, really badly and yet offer training and managed services to small businesses. (Anyone who takes Klout seriously should be avoided at all costs).

There are a handful of good marketers and trainers who know about digital marketing and how social networks fit into a marketing strategy but there are many more who are quite literally ripping people off.

Brand awareness

You might be told that, instead of marketing, the reason for ‘doing social’ is brand awareness. Most brands that succeed in brand awareness have an already established brand. They use TV and print as well as social networks and their campaigns cost millions. A small local business amongst millions of other small local businesses on Facebook and Twitter will get as much brand awareness as a snowflake in a snowstorm. The huge amount of time and effort that some invest would be more effective if spent elsewhere.

Exceptions to the rule?

Yes, there are a few. Small businesses with little or no budget can make an impact on social media, but they are almost always run by, or employ, good marketers and none of them let a lame social media marketing company anywhere near their accounts. If these exceptions are quoted at you as a reason for you to part with your money, ask for more examples. If social media marketing works, there should be thousands of success stories and there aren’t.

Many small business get new customers and clients by networking and, when social networks are used to extend their networking, they work. This means spending time yourself, being real and talking to real people in real time,  just the way you would at a physical networking meeting.

Know, like and trust reigns supreme in social networks where word of mouth marketing is alive and well with no help from social media marketers. 

Using social networks to create interest in who you are and what you do can bring traffic to your website and help you to build your own mailing list of people who have given you permission to market to them. Combine this with Facebook advertising, pay per click and landing pages and you’ll have a much more effective marketing strategy. Email marketing is seven times more effective than most other forms of marketing and your own list is infinitely more valuable than any number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers.

How to spot poor “social media marketers”

Their social media accounts will be “broadcast” only – no conversations and no evidence of real people.

They use a logo instead of their own face on their social networking accounts.

They schedule posts and tweets so they are never present in real time.

They link their Twitter /Facebook / LinkedIn accounts, annoying two or even three sets of people in one go.

They think its OK to put their logo on their LinkedIn account.

They take Klout seriously (it’s supposedly a social influence measurement and its a joke – someone who offers to get you a perfect Klout score was outed by Private Eye a while back).

They can’t show you how to measure the return you’ll get on your investment.

They think likes, fans, followers, shares, loves, and other clicks are a sign of success.

Their Twitter followers and following numbers are almost identical – a sure sign of using autofollow software that means they’re just gathering numbers instead of real people.

They don’t know how to use Twitter lists.

They still think setting up a Facebook Page is a good idea.

If you follow them on Twitter you get an automated response, or worse, an auto Direct Message asking you to like their Facebook Page.

They use apps like sum.all or commun.it to measure and broadcast how many followers, favourites, re-tweets and other activity they’ve had because they pay no attention to the real people who do all these things, most of whom soon give up and ignore them.

The very worst have no other marketing experience or no experience of running a business so they simply cannot give advice on what will work for your business because they don’t know.

How to find good social media trainers

Ask your trusted peer group of business owners who they recommend based on the RESULTS they get for businesses like yours (if you don’t have a trusted peer group come and join this one on Facebook or this one on LinkedIn).

With big businesses leaving the arena and turning to more integrated digital marketing and paid for advertising,  it’s the signal for small business to make social media marketers accountable for what they do. The good ones will be delighted to do so.

Happy social networking!

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Does your purpose make you more profit?

Purpose or profit?

Are purpose led businesses more successful?

The purpose of every business is to make a profit. Most do this by solving a problem and this is what their customers pay for.

It could be argued that every business makes the world a better place for its customers but some now declare that they also have a “higher” purpose.

There is a long tradition of philanthropy in business and Corporate Social Responsibility is an established way for businesses to “give back” and use their profits for social good.

Social Enterprises take the idea of making a profit in another direction, existing specifically to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances or the environment by selling goods and services in the open market, and then reinvesting their profits back into the business or their chosen community.

The third layer is “purpose-led” business. These have a different face to the more established business models. While some have arisen from a deep desire to do things differently some could be accused of jumping on a marketing bandwagon that aims to buy customer loyalty.

Do purpose led businesses sacrifice profit?

Some businesses, like Patagonia are inseparable from their purpose. Their whole production and marketing process revolves around protecting the environment that their customers love to explore. They could manufacture cheaper and make make more profit but that isn’t their purpose. Tim Meads of Yeo Valley Farm acknowledges that he could make more money if he didn’t believe in and practice organic farming methods. Both businesses, and more like them, have fiercely loyal customers but is their “purpose” simply a way to get a competitive edge? When Innocent Drinks sold out to Coca Cola their profits nose dived by 97% although their products were still made the same way as before, so customer loyalty is obviously powerful and something not to be trifled with.

What’s your “why”?

Simon Sinek ‘s TED talk  expounds the theory that great leadership comes from people who have  a purpose that inspires followers and suggests that people in business who understand and communicate “why” they do what they do, will get better results because customers will buy into this purpose.

Compare this to purely profit led businesses that we love to hate: Monstanto, Ryanair, McDonalds, Starbucks, Microsoft. We don’t like them but we still buy their stuff. Ryanair is said to be cleaning up its act but only because Easy Jet is getting more business in the low cost air travel sector by adopting a more “touchy feely” attitude to customers.

New transport service Uber became incredibly successful by offering customers a cheaper alternative to regulated taxis but then fell out of favour because of the way it sabotaged it’s main rival, Lyft. Customers again made their feelings known.

What does this mean for us as small business owners? 

The clamour for purpose led businesses is getting louder but does it have any significance in the way we run our own small businesses? Is it important to show we are adding value to society; to have a conscience; to make customers love us; or is it enough to do a good job and make a profit without doing harm?

Has profit become such a dirty word that having a “higher purpose” for running a business is used as an apology from people who are uncomfortable with the traditional profit making idea? Do you feel you need to apologise for making a profit?

Is purpose important to you? Is it a good marketing tactic that differentiates you from your competitors or is it a true reflection of who you are?
Join in the debate and let me know what you think in the comments below ….

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SEO tips for your blog

Keyboard showing blog as a key

How to get your blog read

This is a guest post by Jack Knopfler of Cambridge Web Marketing Co

There are many reasons to start a blog for your business, such as increasing brand awareness; establishing oneself as a thought leader within your niche; improving your site’s SEO; or to gain a better understanding of your audience. However, while everyone has heard the popular adage “content is king” repeated ad infinitum, having a successful blog requires more than just good content. In order to appease your audience and the search engines that drive them to your site, optimising your blog for SEO purposes is absolutely crucial, particularly in the wake of Google’s continued algorithm changes.    Screen shot of categories and tags for SEO blog posts

Categories and tags

For excellent navigability, paying due diligence to the categories and tags of your blog is essential. While blogs were initially intended to be read chronologically, categories and tags enable users to jump to other posts based on thematic relevance, increasing the amount of time people spend on your site as a result. Categories and tags are similar in that they both help users to navigate your site, but they are also fundamentally different, and should be treated as such. Categories pertain to the broad grouping of post topics – these help users to determine what kind of content they are likely to find on your blog. On the other hand, tags pertain to the unique details of each post. While categories and tags don’t contribute to Google’s ranking of your site, anything that improves the visibility of your content and makes your site more accessible is a definite positive.

URL structure

The default URL slug created in WordPress when you upload a post is by no means ideal – usually its too long or inappropriately worded. Click on settings and then Permalinks within WordPress, this will allow you to alter the appearance of the post’s title in Google. Choosing a succinct URL slug is often the best policy – aim to remove prepositions and anything else that impacts readability. Remember, a URL doesn’t have to read like perfect english, it only needs to convey the meaning of the article clearly. For more information about WordPress URL structures, please check out this article.


For those without experience in SEO, the typical hyperlinking strategy is to try and gain as many inbound links from every source available. However, it’s easy to forget that internal links are important too. Internal links not only improve the navigability of your site (by helping users to find relevant content), but they are also great for indexing purposes, so try to include several relevant internal links every time you post an article. External links are also beneficial, since they not only provide people with relevant information which is beyond the scope of site, but they can also be a useful tool for generating inbound links which improve your site’s SEO. If you are responsible for driving traffic to external sites, they are likely to respond in kind by linking to you in the future.
Screen shot of how to add a blog post title for SEO

Meta description

When a URL appears in search engine result pages (SERPs), the meta description appears directly beneath. Thus, writing a succinct, captivating meta description is essential if you want to bring new traffic to your blog. In order create meta descriptions for your posts, you will need to download a free WordPress plugin known as Yoast. Once installed, it’s best to take your time while crafting the copy. Don’t concern yourself too much with keywords, instead think about the kind of copy that will encourage clickthroughs. If you can elicit curiosity, use persuasive language and provide a succinct summary of the content within, this is usually a winning formula. You only have 160 characters to make an impact, so make sure you make it count! Screen shot showing how a blog title looks on a search engine results page

Social media

Much speculation has arisen over the role that social media signals play in Google’s ranking algorithm. However, one thing that can be said with certainty is that the easier you make it for people to share your content, the more visible your site will become (providing your content is actually worth sharing, that is). By incorporating buttons for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest. StumbleUpon, Tumblr and LinkedIn into your WordPress layout, you are dramatically improving the chances of your content going viral.

Screen shot of social sharing buttons on a blog post

The image above is just a graphic. If you want to share this post, click the buttons below!

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How to build a great network

Cartoon of Elevator Pitch by Martin Shovel
Cartoon by @MartinShovel

Why you should network for life, not just for business.

Business owners are taught to deliver elevator pitches, work the room and distribute business cards. This is why so many people have come to hate business networking. It’s false, impersonal and often very boring.

That’s a shame because life, not just business, is made easier when you have a great network, when you know who to call, who to ask, and who to rely on.

Having a great network is powerful, useful and fun.

Imagine you need a great chef to come to your home to cook for a special celebration. Imagine that you have a really important presentation to deliver and you want to get some expert coaching. Imagine that your recently graduated child is looking for an internship. You can probably find what you need on-line, but imagine being able to ask your network for personal recommendations and introductions. How satisfying, and potentially much more powerful, would that be?

This is why we all need to network for life, not just for business.

Of course, to do that you need to be a real person, not just a business. A person has likes, dislikes, interests and values and it is these that will attract other people.

Do you know that the most looked at page on any website is the “about us” page?

People want to know WHO they’re doing business with, what you stand for and why they should choose you over your competitors. Nine times out of ten, people make a buying decision based on how much they like the person doing the selling.

Even on-line when they haven’t met you, a buyer’s decisions will be made on the story that you tell, and, most powerfully of all, on recommendations from their friends. They will seek out shared connections and ask about you.

Trying to get everyone to like you is doomed to failure. You’ll come across as so bland no-one will pay you any attention at all, so standing up for the things you believe in, being authentic, genuine and transparent are all pre-requisites for building a great network. You should be proud to repel the people who don’t share your values.

AudiencesThis is how we create trust.

Do you know that only 14% of customers trust brands but 78% of people trust their friends? (Source Oxford Research)

How do you find all these wonderful people you can trust?

It’s estimated that almost everyone can sustain a stable social relationship with about 150 people (Dunbar’s number).

If you are standing in a circle of 150 people, each one of those people is also standing in a circle of 150 people. That means that in just one step you potentially have 22,500  chances to find the exact person you need.

Treat every person as if they were standing in their own acre of diamonds.

It’s one thing to know someone, it’s another to get introduced WARMLY to the people you need.

How do you do that?

How do you make sure people remember you warmly and want to introduce you to their trusted friends?

I’ll tell you how. 

Charm will always score over an elevator pitch.

  • Spend more time being interested in other people than you do trying to get them interested in you.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  • Ask good questions, but not just about their business.
  • Don’t let the first words out of your mouth be “What do you do?”
  • Do a little small talk, establish connections, use your social skills.

Just because you’re at a business event doesn’t mean you should ditch your manners.

Ask people how they found out about the event and that way you’ll find out who they know or which networks they’re connected to and then you’re on the way to establishing shared connections.

Demonstrating that you have something in common with someone else makes them more likely to like you and listen to you. Salespeople deliberately fake little similarities in order to create rapport and connect with their prospects. And it works.

If you don’t know what someone is talking about, ask them to explain and be a great listener.

If you’re the one doing the talking, remember the rules of not being boring. Answer questions succinctly and ask questions of your own. This is a getting to know you exercise, not a chance to tell your life story.

How to short-cut the process:

Combine on-line and off-line networking.

If you’re going to spend two hours at a networking event the maximum number of people you can have a real conversation with will be about a dozen.

Spending ten minutes on-line before the event, checking out and connecting with people who are going to be there, will short-cut and enhance the process, break the ice and give you an immediate point of connection. No need to ask the dreaded “what do you do?” question. You’ll already know and you’ll also know who they’re connected to and what you have in common so all barriers to having a meaningful conversation will be gone.

Similarly, spending ten minutes on-line after the event, not just connecting with, but introducing people you met who could be useful to each other, will establish you as someone worth knowing.

Share your network at every opportunity.

Actively make connections between people who can help each other – not for some bullshit “paying it forward” or “what goes around comes around” reason but just because you can, because you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.

When you network on-line, talk to people as though they were in the same room as you.

Don’t be a jerk.

You’d never dream of bursting into a room and shouting “Hey, I build great websites. Come and buy one”, so don’t do it on-line. You can’t sell to people who neither want nor need what you’re selling so it’s essential to spend time finding out if you can help them with a problem before offering a solution. However, just because they don’t need what you’re selling doesn’t mean that you can’t connect them with someone from your network who might.

The rule about networking on-line is to be useful, interesting or entertaining.

In a similar way to physical networking, its being personal on-line that builds your network. No-one connects with a logo or a business account (unless they already know the person behind it which kind of defeats the object). All the same rules apply to both physical and on-line networking – make a good first impression, have a great smile, good eye contact, and share things that people can identify and connect with.

Your photo is crucial and will be the first and most powerful impression you make; sharing your love of basset hounds, wild camping or blues music gives people the chance to connect. Showing your values in the things that you share is a signal that you know what you stand for and allows people to decide if they want to join your tribe or not. 

Say hello to @MartinShovel who drew that great cartoon of the elevator pitch.

Martin Shovel
Martin Shovel, Speechwriter, blogger on language and communication, cartoonist, animator, enemy of pseudoscience and humbug of all flavours!

Twitter is one of the best on-line networks for having conversations and connecting with people you don’t already know. Try it.

Use on-line networks as a telephone, not a megaphone and you’ll build a great network.

Here are four great reasons to network for life, not just for business:

  1. You’ll build an outstanding brand. By becoming a contact point and sharing your network you represent knowledge, opportunity, selflessness and intimacy. You are not just a smart contact; you are fun, interesting, and valuable.
  2. You’ll get access to people’s attention. A sure fire way to get heard above the clutter and information overload and be heard is when people know it will be to their advantage. Asking for ideas and opinions from your network and spreading those ideas produces advocates.
  3. You’ll harness the power of positive presumption. Your contacts will presume that your arguments hold water, that your recommendations are solid, and that your referrals are valuable. They’ll presume that you have their best interests at heart. This is a powerful advantage. Trust is an essential component in building meaningful relationships.
  4. You’ll receive exceptional feedback. When you offer people knowledge and contacts, they will be eager to give you helpful feedback. They’ll tell you which contacts were helpful and which weren’t. They’ll tell you which ideas worked out well and which didn’t. They’ll keep talking to you. And you’ll keep learning from them.  

“You can have anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”. Zig Ziglar

The only way to build a great network is to share it. Keep giving it away and it will keep coming back to you, more powerful, more useful and more fun that you can imagine.

I’d love to hear your networking experiences – tell me about them in the comments!

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