How to be more productive

A graph showing 90 minute productivity cycles with 20 minute rest periods in between.

 

When are you at your most productive?

For maximum productivity, work in 90 minute cycles with a 20 minute rest period in between.

We have a basic rest/ activity cycle which is to work for 90 minutes (peak at 45) then rest for 20 minutes before starting again.

Does this work for you?

Professor Nathaniel Kleitman, Professor Emeritus in Physiology at the University of Chicago discovered this while researching sleep patterns.

 Plug this into your time management strategy.

Unplug yourself from everything and work on important (not urgent) tasks for 90 minutes.  After a 20 minute break check your messages, emails etc and deal with those for 90 minutes.

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The more you concentrate on dealing with important tasks before they become urgent, the more in control and satisfied you’ll be with your work!

Try it!

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How to describe what you sell

"So, What do you do?" "Erm..."

Are you passing up the chance to captivate customers?

Ever landed on a web page and wondered what the business does?

Or met someone at a networking event who takes ten minutes of your life and leaves you none the wiser?

With so many people vying for our attention, messages that aren’t clear, interesting and succinct just get lost in the noise.

If you can’t say what you do in nine words, forget it.

Why nine words? I don’t know, could be eight or six or eleven – definitely not more than 12 though. The idea is to get it down to a succinct compelling sentence that is easy to understand and remember.

Don’t take more than 20 seconds – that’s how long most people will listen before they start to switch off. 

These are the places where your words really must work hard for you.

1.) The meta-description on your website’s home page – this is the phrase that the search engines display whenever your site comes up in someone’s search results. This phrase helps people to decide whether to visit your site. Open your website and hover over the tab in your browser – do you see a compelling description of your business? If not, have a word with your website developer. See more on this in this post about SEO.

2.) When you ’re answering that question about what you do, knowing who you’re talking to is a big advantage. Try asking some questions of your own first so that you can tell them something that might interest them rather than just spouting a standard spiel. Your words must help people to decide if you have something that they want.

“I help people to save money ….”
“What are you, a piggy bank?”

3.) If I visit your website, is it easy for me to work out what you do, who you do it for and why anyone would buy anything from you? Some designers are so keen on the minimalist look they forget to state the obvious.

4.) When you stand up to give that one-minute elevator speech at a networking meeting everyone’s attention is on you. You can bore them or captivate them. Lots of business people hate this situation and resort to a much rehearsed pitch that usually starts with “I help people to ….”. That is often a cue for your audience to switch off because they’ll know they’ve heard it all before. If you don’t think you’re interesting enough this post might help.

What can you do to make your words count?

Tune in to your ideal customers interests and concerns.
When you plan the words you say and write about your business, your statements must:
Be relevant to your audience
This means you must have a clear idea of the people who are in your target market, what problem you solve for them or what delight you offer. People need to feel you’re speaking directly to them.
Be interesting and entertaining
In a world of vanilla carbon copies a little individuality pays off. Something that brings a smile to the face of the listener or reader will score you lots of points. People who think well of you will progress more quickly to doing business with you. Work hard on the entertainment issue.
Be memorable
If you can be both relevant and entertaining you’re more likely to be memorable. Being memorable is about speaking to the interests and concerns of your audience.

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Be concise
Everybody is busy so recognising this and saying what you’ve got to say as succinctly as possible is vital. Keeping someone’s attention for any length of time is hard  unless you give them a good reason for staying.

If you can meet that challenge, then you’ll be well on the way to becoming a nine word wonder.

Got nine words that say what you do? Share them in the comments!

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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?
No.
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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