Do you wonder where the day goes? Are you being efficient or are you easily distracted? Productivity tools could be the answer and that’s the topic that guest writer Elaine Rogers tackles in this post.
Being more productive in your business requires skill, practice, and knowledge. The knowledge part is gold. Without it, you have no place to begin. To be more productive involves learning tools, tricks and hacks, and then implementing them in your business in a productive way.
Are productivity tools really more productive?
Signing up to a technical tool doesn’t immediately ensure you are saving time or being more productive.
Firstly, there is a learning curve – that takes time. Time you wouldn’t have normally spent (time is money after all!)
Once the learning is done, things should improve at a faster pace.
Some “cool tools” are what they are – cool to have. They don’t guarantee improvement. For example, if I download and use an app to allow me to take a snap of my receipts for my work expenses, I still need to assign it to a category, possibly manually add the date and amount, and allocate it to the relevant expense column. What did I save there?
Tools and Apps to make your day more productive
Yes, they exist, and we love them! All of the tools I mention below are either free, or have a starter free level that is perfectly adequate to try out the tool before you commit to their premium level.
#1 To Do Lists & Planning
Still LOVE lists? Cannot be without them? There are many very basic mobile apps that help you while shopping and running errands, but there are also more complex apps that go beyond striking something off your list.
Todoist is a “to-do” list maker, but ventures into task management to allow you to set progress, assign tasks, manage bigger projects, and collaborate. It’s a great starter app. It’s also free! And so are the more sophisticated apps like Trello and Asana. They allow you to project manage your workflows and provide the classic list view, but also more visual displays like boards (Kanban effect), tables, and streams. Zenkit is a new kid on the block that includes mind map type display of projects and tasks – it’s mind-blowing stuff!
#2 Scheduling Calls & Meetings
When I discovered Calendly, I cried with joy. When you set it up (remember the learning curve I mentioned earlier?) simply add your availability and send your link that allows someone to choose a meeting time that also suits them. It even takes care of the correct time zone for each attendee. No more confusion about UTC, GMT, DST and outer space!
Calendly integrates with Google Calendar and checks for conflicts. I have my iCal and Google Calendar synced, so my Calendly meetings also appear on my desktop calendar. Alternatives to Calendly are Acuityscheduling and Assistant.
Ah, so there are more than just two of you? You need to arrange a meeting with 5 people? No problem, check out Doodle. Doodle simplifies scheduling so much that it’s a doddle!
#3 Productive Procrastination
Firstly, there are the actual workflow apps to help us collate and curate content into manageable blocks. One cannot talk productivity and not mention Evernote. It’s good for practically everything! It might even launch your next online product if you’re not careful. Then there are the zillion browser extensions that allow us to quickly save time on tasks.
But if you struggle to step away from the keyboard, add a little bookmark called donothingfor2minutes – it encourages you to sit and do nothing with your keyboard or mouse for a full 2 minutes. It’s quite addictive!
Rescuetime will track your every move on every webpage, app, platform that you visit on your computer. Even the free version is enough to review after a week or two, and see exactly where you are spending your time. You do need a little set up in advance to instruct Rescuetime that certain sites are actually productive time for you and not wasted time. For example, if you use FB mostly for work, working on campaigns etc. then this would be productive time for you, right?
Once Rescuetime highlights the areas where you are spending too much time, you can make changes to improve your productivity on your PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.
Also, if you were ever curious to know exactly how long it takes you to do a certain task (like scheduling your week of SM posts), you can install Toggl or another tracking app to literally time yourself. It can be quite revealing! I use Toggl to time tasks so I can accurately project up (and price) groups of tasks.
If you need a timer that you can set as a stop watch, you can book mark a great little app called timer-tab – it provides a countdown, alarm clock, and stop-watch all in one.
#5 Use Zen to help you be more creative
Writeroom provides a calm and clean writing environment to write in – great for throwing blog drafts together, or fleshing out some good creative copy. It’s very retro so it’s fun to use as well as productive!
Written Kitten (I cannot NOT mention this as I know Amanda loves it) rewards you with a kitten (or puppy or bunny) image every 100 words. Would it encourage you to write more? Too cute!
Zenwriter is great if you struggle to avoid your SN tabs when trying to write. Zenwriter basically takes over your screen and discourages distraction, and encourages creative writing. How Zen! (it also allows limited formatting, so it’s not completely distraction-free!)
forestapp.cc is a winner for its cuteness score. It promises you will stay focused and be present. It will “save you from Internet addiction.” You and I need this!
#6 Use Zen to make you more productive
Maybe it’s not the workspace, perhaps you need your wrist slapped to prevent you from sneaking onto FB while you pretend you are looking up Thesaurus. You can add a browser extension called Strict Workflow. It works on the Pomodoro technique and blocks out SN and other sites as you work for 25 mins, and then allows you to check FB etc. for 5 mins. It still requires you to click the tomato though.
When your 5 mins distraction time comes, you could stand up or move away from the pc (or both) and do something completely different. Alternatively, you could bookmark donothingfor2minutes and just sit back, relax, and listen to the waves.
#7 Sleep on it
If sleeping at night is your problem, or feeling more tired when you wake than when you went to bed, then check out sleepyti.me. It demonstrates when you should either be going to bed, or waking up. It focuses on sleep cycles, not how many hours of sleep you should be having.
#8 Store your passwords
This is a little tricky, as recently, Lastpass has just had an attack on their systems. However, it doesn’t prevent me from using their amazing service. You can store passwords, form entries, and other sensitive information (software licence info, etc.) in one place that you can access via one master password. No more stickies on your monitor!
Lastpass will also generate strong passwords for you, which means you are technically safer. And your info is stored in the cloud instead of on your hard-drive, which is theoretically safer.
For many it’s a personal choice. There are alternatives like 1Password.
#9 CRM and processes
A great way to improve your productivity in your business in general is to automate certain processes. Client on-boarding is currently a popular area to address and there are new tools and platforms coming out daily.
For example, it begins at your website:
When a contact enquiry comes through – you could automatically add them to a CRM platform and an Email marketing platform (many of these integrate seamlessly – you just need to find the right ones!)
You can then send an automated email with a link to set up a scheduled meeting – this gets added to your calendar.
Within the confirmation of the appointment, you can add a link to your intake questionnaire (if you use one.)
Then the human takes over – you have your meeting/call
Resume the automation with contract, invoice, and welcome pack.
Then you do some work!
When choosing any of these tools, it’s important to think about your overall strategy, and not just look at the features of the individual tool.
Many platforms can be integrated seamlessly, while others will require a “bridge” with tools like IFTTT or Zapier.
Never discount LinkedIn as a power tool to increase your productivity. Once you have a strong profile, LinkedIn can work as an amazing inbound marketing tool. The platform has become more social (to the annoyance of some) and allows for more interaction. If you use LinkedIn as a marketing tool rather than a storage space for your CV or portfolio, you will reap the benefits.
It begins with a strong profile, relevant keywords, and building on the KNOW-LIKE-TRUST factor by providing good articles in Pulse, interacting on others’ posts, adding value to groups where your clients hang out, and being helpful.
#11 Bonus Automation Hack
If you write a timeless blog post (that will be relevant for at least 12 months) you can set up a campaign over a year to share that blog post on your social networks.
Missinglettr is a cool little app that monitors your blog and creates an automatic campaign after you publish a blog post, complete with hashtags, images, and quotes, all taken from the blog post itself! The campaign arrives in your inbox for review, and you have a campaign promoting your blog post for a year.
Hidden uses for productive tools
Get out of your box for this one. Just because an app claims it does one specific thing doesn’t mean it’s exclusive.
I use Google Calendar and Zapier to create auto-scheduled tweets of my blog posts for twitter.
I use Asana Boards to create my social networking #hashtag strategy for FB Groups – it’s amazing!
I use Zenkit for my rebranding and website redesign.
One of my clients uses Evernote to write her blog posts.
It can be the little changes that make a big difference. I hope this post has provoked some thinking around how you can improve on the processes and systems you have in place. There are literally 1000s of apps available to do so many things. How I discover my treasures is to simply ask in my communities! Then research, and double check for integration possibilities.
Are you tired now? There’s a nap for that too!
Share your favourite productivity app with us so we can try it out. Tell us how it improved your business workflows, and helped you become more productive…
Elaine is a pain reliever (so her clients tell her!) She provides virtual support and online business management services to entrepreneurs around the world. She loves tech and making things connect online. You’ll find her hanging out at TheSmartVA.
What social networks should you be using to promote your business? How do you choose the ones that will be most effective for you?
Do you ever get that feeling that you are doing too much? You’ve updated Instagram, now Facebook, now Twitter, what about Snapchat? Have you looked at LinkedIn recently? What about that new site everyone is talking about?
Your mind is all over the place. You need to run your business but how will people know you are here unless you keep on top of your social networks? If you stop posting your blog posts to Reddit will people stop reading?
I’ve been there. My head spinning, my anxiety rising… and all over a few posts online.
Marketing our blog and business on social media takes time, if we spread ourselves too thin we end up rushing and doing everything badly. That’s why, when we start building a strategy we need to be selective about where we spend our time.
But how do you choose which networks to use and what should you use each for?
How to choose what social networks to use to promote your business
Before we delve deeper I want you to do something. I want you to write a list of all the social networks you are using at the moment. Then I want you to give each one a score out of 5 for how effectively you are using them.
Consider how often you post good quality content, how much you communicate with customers and influential people there and how many sales you have directly made.
Here’s my list:
That’s 6 social networks, it’s no wonder that I’m performing badly on some.
Before you choose which of the networks you should be concentrating on you’ll need to do a bit more work.
Analyse your networks. Which ones will bring you the most customers? It’s easy to get carried away with networks that deliver lots of traffic to your blog but unless those are the right people and they are hanging around on your site for a while, signing up to your newsletter, enquiring or buying you could well be spending your time somewhere else.
You might have thousands of Instagram followers but unless they’re clicking the link in your bio or clicking the contact button it might not be worth your time spending time engaging with your audience there.
If you’re using social networks already you can take a good look at your Google Analytics to see which ones are working for your business.
Does this change the scores you recorded above?
Knowing your customers
You’re probably getting tired of me saying this, but it is really important that you know and understand your customers. The more you know about them the more accurately you can market to them.
Does the type of business you have affect your choice?
When I analysed my social networks I felt that my presence was strongest on are Facebook and Twitter. I’m a B2B (a business that targets other businesses) brand so why Facebook?
It can be hard for a B2B business to excel on Facebook and I definitely lag behind some of my customers who are B2C (target consumers) but I do have an audience there.
I work with small businesses. Small business owners use Facebook for business every day so having a strong presence there makes sense. Are my customers likely to share my posts with their friends? Not very often but it’s a good place to meet them and engage with them. My Facebook page and group have been valuable for this and it’s also great for getting readers, listeners and viewers who I can convert into customers. If you also target small businesses it’s well worth looking at Facebook for marketing.
If you are B2B and your target is larger businesses you should still consider Facebook. Are there professional groups you can join? Are the CEOs and decision makers of the companies you work with actively using it?
Of course, LinkedIn is a better fit fo B2B so perhaps that’s where you should spend your time. And don’t forget about Twitter.
For a B2C business, Facebook is a must, beyond that look at Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat if you have the time for it.
You shouldn’t discount LinkedIn either, it could be a good place to connect with the people who influence your customers.
That’s not helping me narrow my options
So far I’ve just given you a pile of options, I may have even broadened the choice of networks for you.
Now that I’ve done that you’ll need to narrow them down again. Go back to the list you made earlier.
So far you’ve scored the networks you use for how effectively you are using them. You might want to add a few new networks to your list.
The next step is to score them for how closely they fit your audience. Once again give them a score out of 5. 5 being a perfect match 1 being a loose match.
Here’s my list:
Add the two scores together giving you a score out of 10.
Choose the 3 top scorers.
Or, if you are feeling brave
Choose the 2 top scorers and throw in a wild card like Chocolate Johnny did. Do you want to give Snapchat a try? Or Instagram?
These are the networks you should focus on first.
Try them out for a three month period and then review them to see if they are performing as expected.
What should you use each network for?
If you are going to build a strong strategy for the networks you have chosen you need to define what you are going to use each one for.
This is perhaps the hardest part of building your strategy. Consider the type of customer or the customer persona you are targeting with each, the type of content you will post and the specific goal.
For example, here’s a rough outline of my chosen networks:
Page – Share useful information for my target market to consume, promote my blog content Group – Build a community around small business blogging. Research the problems people have and build relationships with other small business bloggers. Personal – Share behind the scenes of my day to day life (to a point). Connect with influencers and real life friends and family.
Share useful content with my target market, build relationships with my customers and the people who influence them.
Share more in-depth content that will appeal to marketers.
Build my reputation amongst peers in the industry and make connections with customers and the people who influence them.
Find podcast guests and contributors for my blog.
Build my email list, get people to visit my site so I can retarget them
Use my email lists ad re-marketing ads to sell my products and services
And that’s just the beginning. Get more granular about the type of people you are targeting with each social network. When you’ve done that turn the same process onto your blog and the different types of content you create there.
By focussing on less you will have a better idea of what’s working and what’s not. It’s easier to build a content strategy around the networks you choose and you’ll be spending your time wisely.
I’ve found that concentrating on one network at a time and spending time with it can be an enjoyable experience. I find myself doing better stuff and that horrible feeling of anxiety and overwhelm visits less.
If you need help putting your blogging and social media strategy together I can help so get in touch.
Use the method above to score your social networks
Choose three you will focus on for the next three months
What is your morning routine? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you start the day with a cuppa or get stuck into your work straight away? Can the way you start your day have a knock on effect on your success?
There’s been a lot written about the morning routines of successful people. The tasks they do first, the time they take out. I read them and I wonder if real people actually do any of that stuff.
So I decided to ask. I talked to 17 successful women about their mornings. This is what they said.
Abby Green – Author
Abby Green spent her teens reading Mills & Boon romances. She then spent many years working in the Film and TV industry as an Assistant Director. One day while standing outside an actor’s trailer in the rain, she thought: there has to be more than this. So, she sent off a partial to Harlequin Mills & Boon. After many rewrites, they accepted her first book and an author was born. Find out more at: www.abby-green.com .
When I’m operating at my *best self levels (unfortunately not as frequently as I’d like) this is my routine: Wake around 7/7.30am. (After working in the film industry for the guts of 20 years when pre-dawn calls were the norm, any time after 7 is sheer decadence).
Exercise for an hour.
Sit down at desk to work which usually means faffing about with emails and social media for an hour to help brain wake up.
Start working in earnest around 9.30 and hopefully keep going till lunchtime with approx 1,000 words to show for it.
(*The more regular self version of the above is the same without the exercise and moved on by a couple of hours with less words to show by lunchtime!)
Jill Holtz – MyKidsTime
Jill Holtz is co-founder of Mykidstime.com, the award-winning information website for parents, that has grown from a local Galway directory to a global website and one of the most trusted online brands for parents. Jill has a passion for all things digital and social, having personally overseen the growth of the Mykidstime social media community (currently 620k+ fans) as well as the recent launch of a new online training website, www.Digital4Sales.com, for businesses who want to market to parents.
usually get up about 6.45 and do 20 minutes of HIIT, I like getting this out the way first thing as it means I have done some exercise no matter what the rest of the day holds. Then we’re into family breakfast time. I like to vary my breakfasts so I don’t get bored, e.g. porridge one day, toast another day. A coffee is a must to get me going, and I use my coffee drinking time to do a quick catch up on the Mykidstime and Digital4Sales social media channels.
Then it’s focusing on getting everybody out the door on time. I usually drive my eldest daughter to high school or if my husband is doing that I walk the youngest to the school bus and take our dog for a 20 minute walk. I am usually back at my desk at 8.45.
Each day I make a list of hourly blocks and assign key things I want to achieve that day against the time blocks. It’s a new method I started using last year to try to manage my time better and not spend too long on things either.
I check emails first thing and then I try hard not to look at them during the time I am focusing on a task because multi-tasking is less efficient. I stop about 10.30 to have a 2nd coffee and a quick break then back to my desk until lunchtime when I do a second check in on social media.
Because I work from home and have kids coming back from school in the afternoon I try to really focus to get the main things on my list done within the time I have so I can be there for them. Once a week I do my best to block off a 2 hour time slot for deep content creation or strategy work too – if I don’t diary this it doesn’t get time!
Joan Mulvihill – IC4
Joan is Centre Manager at IC4 (Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce). She previously worked as an independent consultant and prior to that was CEO of the Irish Internet Association.
For the past four months I’ve been working for myself and from home. Interestingly my morning routine hasn’t changed much. I’m clearly a creature of habit. The alarm goes off at 7.30 and the 8 minute snooze button gives me time to gauge the weather and what I’m going to wear. Then I give myself a 30 minute turnaround time to get showered, dressed and ready to go. Even if I’m just going as far as my kitchen table for the day, I still dress for work, for me. I could no more work in my PJs than I could go for a run in a dress.
Then I have my first coffee, no laptop, no phone, just me on the chair by the window with 10 minutes to contemplate the day ahead. Then I’m ready. Laptop on by 8.30am; emails check, diary check, to-do list check. I appreciate that this morning routine is quite luxurious. I’ve no commute and I don’t have to worry about getting anyone else ready, school runs or packed lunches.
As I write this I’m about to start back working in Dublin 5-days a week with a 9am start. I will need to leave the house by 7.45am so the alarm clock will be set for 7am. I’ve been commuting for years and it doesn’t bother me at all. When I lived in Dublin I regularly spent an hour in the stop-start of shuffling traffic to cross the city. Now that I live in Mullingar most of that drive time is now on the freer flow of the M4. I listen to LyricFM on the way to work. Its cheesy but it’s easy and there’s enough ‘real world’ in my day that a bit of escapism is important. That said Kathy Scott of The Trailblazery has recently converted me to podcasts; “Design Matters” and “On Being” in particular.
Lorna Sixsmith – Author
Lorna Sixsmith is a farmer and author now with three books under her belt. She won the CAP Indie Book Award for nonfiction with her second book How to be a Perfect Farm Wife in 2016.
As a dairy farmer, author and occasional social media trainer, my routine varies according to the time of year. I’m not a morning person and regard those who manage to wake at 5am and write 1000 words before breakfast with more than amazement. In fact, if I didn’t have to get up early, I’d much prefer to work till 2 or 3am and then sleep in.
At this time of year when we’re busy with spring calving, I get up at 7am, prepare school lunches, unload the dishwasher and have breakfast with the children before leaving them to the school bus for 7:50. I usually start the calf feeding at 8:30 so I’ve half an hour to do things like respond to emails, have a second cuppa, read a couple of blog posts and check Twitter.
Depending on the number of calvings and what else is going on, I could finish my yard work anytime between 10 and 12. It’s then time for a second breakfast before I settle at the laptop to do two hours of writing / research. If I’m seeing a client, it’s a quick shower and off in the car.
My routine is different in summer and autumn as if I’m working on the farm, it’s usually in the middle of the day. Once the children are gone to school, I give myself half an hour with a second cup of tea to ease myself into writing mode by checking emails, reading a couple of blog posts and checking the social media platforms. I’ll then write from 8:30-10:30. Brian comes in for a “second breakfast” around 10:30 so I’ll stop then for 30 or 40 minutes. While half an hour might seem a long coffee break, it’s also a mini meeting as we discuss what has to be done or deal with some paperwork.
One of the best time management tips I ever got was from Owen Fitzpatrick: rather than looking at a long to-do list, create a “closed list” of the things that I will do today. I often put estimated times beside each task and yes, I still underestimate how long things will take.
Joanne Sweeney-Burke – Digital Training Institute
Joanne Sweeney-Burke is the CEO of Digital Training Institute, an Irish-based digital marketing consulting and training agency. Joanne inspires boardrooms and decision-makers to adopt new digital approaches by writing strategy and training teams to bring their skills into the Digital Age. She is also a published author and is currently writing her second social media book on Digital Transformation in the Public Sector.
When I’m not travelling my morning routine involves getting my children up and out for school and university. Sophie is 21 and Bobby is 7 and most morning’s I’ll find them in the same bed. I wake up to my radio alarm clock at 7am with RTÉ’s Morning Ireland giving me the news of the day.
I wake up my digestive system with hot water and lemon and boil two eggs. When I’m travelling I’ll probably get up an hour earlier to do some work or prepare for a pitch, presentation or speech that I’m delivering that day. My weekend mornings are different. They start with me pulling on my runners and running for six or seven miles. It helps me unwind from my busy week.
Carol Tallon is the author of the Irish Property Buyers’ Handbook series. She has contributed to Irish and international media on current affairs, industry, property, innovation & technology (PropTech).
She works as a strategic/communications consultant – at operational and project levels – to State agencies, industry representative bodies, private developers, construction companies, auctioneering firms and media outlets. Find out more at www.caroltallon.com.
My alarm is set for either 6am or 7am on weekdays but I usually wake before the alarm. I love being woken by natural light so winter in Ireland is never my most productive time!
My morning routine has changed dramatically over the past decade. I have gone from being a habitual night owl to the proverbial lark but I cannot tell whether that is due to the changing demands of my business, the changing needs of my family or perhaps it is simply an age thing.
When I started my first business I was in my mid-twenties, with a young child, I was regularly working 15-18 hours a day. It was not unusual for me to start into a new project at 11pm, work until 3/4am and start again in the morning.
Start-ups are like children (and puppies), they require boundless energy, patience and the resilience to keep going through challenging phases without losing enthusiasm. But like children and puppies, businesses must mature. ‘Start-up’ is only ever a temporary stage, at the end of which a business either lives or dies. Staying on the start-up treadmill indefinitely is the ultimate entrepreneurial delusion (guess how I learned this?).
Ten years on, I definitely sleep more and I sleep better. When I wake up, I know the key tasks and appointments that I have to deliver that day. I have stopped checking email and social media when I wake up. Instead, I check three or four times a day, maximum (except on Tuesdays, when I abandon all technology). I have a fifteen-minute morning mediation routine where I visualise my day and that genuinely kick-starts my motivation. I have recently started doing yoga in the mornings but follow that with the strongest coffee I can find, which I suspect defeats the purpose of the yoga…
The most powerful predictor of whether or not I have a productive day comes down to discipline. I resist the temptation to be a busy fool and one of the ways that I have done this is by separating my role as leader of the business from my tasks as employee of that business.
At the weekends, I allow myself time and space to strategise and plan. At this stage, I am the leader. But once Monday morning arrives, I become a mere foot-soldier for my business. My week is all about achieving prescribed tasks; daily actions all designed to move the business in the right direction. I take away my discretion to avoid unfavourable tasks and this effectively eliminates procrastination.
Entrepreneurs are great at feeling busy and can make excuses for not ‘sticking to the plan’ (because it’s written in pencil, right?). But often, this comes down to a lack of self-discipline that translates into inconsistencies in work. In every failure I have experienced (and there have been many), inconsistency has played a big part. In reality, my morning and daily routines, as set out by my ‘boss’ – or weekend me – are vital to achieving the goals of the business.
Pauline Sargent – DigiWomen
Pauline is a qualified Digital Marketer. She lectures in digital media and marketing studies with Dublin Business School.
She set up DigiWomen in 2013 It supports and encourages women to use technology and understand what it can do to support and grow their business. We provide networking events to help women make connections in the technology industry. We also run workshops and seminars throughout the year for members. It’s also a support group that advocates for women in technology.
It is generally an early start for me. I like getting up early. I go to bed most nights at 11pm and get up sometime after 6am. Getting up before my kids wake gives me time to get a good chunk of work done for 45 minutes. I find it easy to concentrate and ideas come quicker. Come 7am I spend time getting the kids ready for the day, lunches sorted and some general housework.
By 8.30am one of us will walk the younger fella to school and get the dog walked as well. I am usually ready to start my working day and sitting at the desk by 9.30am if I am not lecturing. An ideal morning would include 15 minutes of meditation or some sort of yoga/stretching practice. Some day I will make that a consistent habit.
Sian is an accountant for four local companies and content editor/proofreader for three companies in USA – Egg Marketing & PR, LegalMorning.com and Tweak Your Biz. She also picks up ad hoc work from a local accountant and other proofreading jobs for fictional books, business books and website content.
She’s also the VA for Spiderworking so you might find yourself talking to her on the phone soon.
I live in the country down south in Ireland, right on the borders of Cork and Waterford, in a cul-de-sac of fields. My three dogs, and myself, need walking every day and we are spoilt for choice in this area. Our main daily walk on a weekday is what we call the “Claddagh Ring” which is 6km of lanes which circle and bring me back to my front door. This is the first thing I do every morning as soon as I’m out of bed. The dogs won’t let me hang around and also, if I do, then I’ll find other things to distract me and spoil the start we get. This walk normally starts around 9am and lasts an hour. Then I get home, shower and have my breakfast so I’m ready to start my working day around 11am. This may sound late to some but seeing as I probably won’t stop working until 10pm I think I’m allowed.
Whilst I’m walking the dogs I start off just enjoying the countryside and the antics they get up to. Once I’m about half way around and heading towards home I’m thinking of the work to get done that day and the best way to approach things. Most of my working week is done from home so I have to structure myself, especially as I could be switching between clients or even changing from accounting to editing and proofreading. Thankfully my mind is used to this switch over now and sometimes I even crave it so as to break up the routine. I’ll have made out my “to-do” list the night before – it’s always the last thing I do when I switch off the laptop. Although I have some set days for a couple of my accounting clients the rest of the time I just slot in whatever is coming up that week. Once the laptop goes on I check all the emails that have come in overnight – weeding out the spam and prioritising anything I need to look at that day using the flags and tasks on Outlook. As I have 8 separate emails for the different clients and work that I do there can often be a lot to get through. My editing and proofreading clients are all in America so their emails mainly come in while I’m sleeping. So that’s my normal morning routine – throw in a few strong, black coffees and I’m sorted.
Elaine Rogers – The Smart VA
Elaine is a Virtual Assistant and Online Business Manager. She helps businesses create, build, and grow their online revenue streams. She is a pain reliever who helps business owners get stuff done over at www.thesmartva.eu.
I left a routine life in 2013 to discover another way of living. For two years me and my husband had no routine whatsoever. Our only goal was to discover and make delicious meals in our new French home. Since then, my work has become a bigger part of my work-life integration.
We are still in our winter routine in SW France, and this will change as the sunrise changes. The three things that MUST happen every morning are – the hen villa must be opened, the cats must be fed, and Elaine must have coffee.
The cats wake me up about 7:30 to open the hens. They come with me, and we return to the house to have breakfast and said coffee mentioned above. I will then go to the office and review my ToDo list for the day and let emails download. My mornings have a common theme – don’t eat the Elephant first. I am a slow starter and pick up pace as the day goes on. My Monday mornings are the best (slowest). Happily doing fun stuff for the first hour or so, and then it’s mindfully showering and getting dressed. I don’t even shower every day so I can enjoy guilt-free long slow showers. It’s a game changer for me. I love my mornings now!
Sinead Hyland – Irish National Stud
Sinead is Marketing Coordinator for the Irish National Stud & Gardens a unique attraction of outstanding natural beauty that is home to some of the most magnificent horses and sumptuous gardens to be found anywhere in the world.
Depending on the time of year my mornings can differ however at present during the foaling season ( mid-January to end of May) is always an exciting time! I get a text first thing (7am) to update me on the foals that have been born during the night. Approximately 270 will arrive in these 5 months with sometimes 4, 5 even 6 in a night. I arrive at my office, grab my cannon and head to the foaling unit to get some snaps of the new-borns for social media. I then follow the loop to the Restaurant, get a takeaway coffee and head to my office to upload and post. Not a bad way to start the day!
This is followed up by alternative brainstorming, liaising, planning, preparing for upcoming events, publications, deadlines etc.
As well as being a busy stud farm working in the public eye, tourism is also a big part of our business where we welcome over 120,000 visitors per annum to the Japanese Gardens, St Fiachra’s Garden and of course the stud itself. Each day is different which is great as it keeps you on your toes and is definitely never mundane! I’m very lucky to work in an industry I am so passionate about and a job where I am encouraged to push the boundaries and try new things.
Joanne is a 30 something coffee lover living in rural Dorset with her long suffering partner and three children. Joanne is a blogger, owner, designer and creator at Charlie Moo’s specialising in handmade fabric party bags. Sage Business Expert and author of Crafting a Successful Small Business.
In her spare time she likes to eat and watch crime dramas sometimes at the same time!
I’d love to sit here and say my morning routine is conductive to a full day of tranquil working but sadly it just ain’t so!
I’m a sleeper. Mornings aren’t my strong point. I wake grumpy to the sound of arguing. Always to the sound of arguing. Our 5 year old hasn’t quite realised who is in charge and any excuse for a row she’s there. She looked at me funny. I don’t like the way he smells. He sat on my chair.
I haul my grumpy ass to the kitchen, feed the cherubs and make their packed lunches whilst inserting an intravenous coffee drip. Once the caffeine takes effect and I’m washed a dressed I start to feel a bit more human. Until of course I ask a small human (yes the 5 year old one) to get dressed. Somewhere between asking Olive to get dressed and climbing the stairs this information is altered into spend the next 10 minutes playing ponies. WHAT!!! Which of course ensues is STRESSFUL! It’s a never-ending cycle of nagging, come on, we need to leave NOW!! By the time the girls are delivered (late of course) to school, I’m not even sure if I even said goodbye to Charlie when he left with Daddy.
Once I return home I NEED more coffee. I also spend sometime (not a lot though I’m on a tight schedule school closes at 3!) tidying up the morning clutter, putting the dinner on (gotta love a slow cooker) and calming myself down.
I usually start my working day with (more coffee) emails. I hate having a full inbox and I take the time each morning to sort through what needs doing today, or diarising for the next few weeks and deleting.
There is nothing more satisfying than a clean inbox. I check my social media as I schedule a lot of content and like to spend a bit of time replying. I usually find by this time I’m in the right mind set to start my to do list. (well after more coffee of course!)
Eleanor Goold-Hiscox – Kreativ Copywriting
Eleanor Goold is owner and founder of Kreativ Copywriting a forward thinking and friendly writing, copywriting and content creation service. She also has her own branded website EleanorGoold.com where she provides business owners with smart ideas, copy tips, the art of storytelling and access to free social media strategies to boost their business success.
I start each day pretty much the same way. I like to get up early and before I do anything else I sit down with my diaries and journals and get writing. I religiously jot down my thoughts, ideas and all the things that have been happening in my life. I put everything down in either my moleskine writer’s diary or my ‘morning pages’ journal (a handwritten stream of consciousness). Either way, I have to write to clear the way and my mind for the day ahead. This is usually performed with a steaming hot mug of tea in hand and a Parson Russell Terrier curled up at my feet. I have tried the whole hot water and lemon thing…but it just wasn’t me…so English breakfast tea it is.
Following this, my usual routine is to take my dog for a long walk in the local woods, weather permitting. This is a key part of my day, serves as my meditation and is where the majority of my ideas percolate. I love to commune with nature in some form or the other every day. If the weather is really bad and I cannot go to the woods, I will go into the garden, regardless of the conditions, bring in firewood in the winter, or vegetables or fruit in the summer. I then make freshly brewed coffee (for two), and usually a breakfast of eggs of some description…scrambled, boiled, poached and then I am good to go. If I miss any of these things, journal, nature, dog walk, coffee and eggs…then my day never feels complete.
It took me a long time to realise that to be successful in your career that you really need to put yourself first in the mornings. I have two young boys, a couple of dogs and a husband to look after as well, so my life is hectic.
Last year I made a few key changes:
I follow Tony Robbins and practice his priming exercise
I workout 5 days a week no excuses and always in the morning. Sometimes REALLY early and some days mid-morning, but it gets done and transformed my productivity
I schedule my diary in advance and include time for myself every week, whether that is nails, hair, coffee with a pal or just a simple bath. That keeps me motivated and gives me something to look forward to. I used to journal and stopped, but maybe that will come back.
Ellie Silson – Sage
Ellie is social media community manager at Sage UK. She loves chatting to people on and offline. If she’s not building communities or networks you will find her watching a great game of rugby league.
My morning route is pretty normal I’d say. With only two of us in the household we dash around in our own little worlds to meet and exit by 7.
Just before we exit I wiz together an energy boosting smoothie consisting of mango, banana, protein powder and almond milk. We jump in the car and I drop James off in town.
I then have a 30 min ride where I’m able to plan and prepare my day in my head. This 30 minutes truly helps me focus and priortise my time. Once at work first stop is a strong cup of tea and chat with my colleagues before work begins.
Het background includes law, civil service, tourism, and more recently, studies in IT Management. She lives near Carlow town with her four children and grandson.
Saturdays are slightly different from my Monday to Friday routine. It is still an 8am start, but instead of heading to school in Bagenalstown with my daughter Madeleine, we drive to Duckett’s Grove. My daughter Mary Kate has recently re-opened the tea rooms there every Saturday.
Mary Kate looks after the visitors, Madeleine makes the crepes and waffles, and I bake the brown bread, scones and cakes. I love to bake. I enjoy the peace and quiet there and very easily get lost in the therapeutic little world of measuring and sifting, mixing and kneading. It is a mindful activity concentrating my mind on the present, the concerns of the past week melt away.
The scones are always first out of the oven, our need to test the quality ensures that I take fifteen minutes to enjoy a warm scone with a deeply flavoursome Americano, Saturday morning breakfast! The brown bread and cakes are usually ready to come out of the oven then.
The girls have breakfast while I clean up the kitchen and put out the menus. I bring the café board down to the car park, then go for a walk around the grounds before we open. I love the pastel hues of the morning light, the stark, desolate beauty of the castle ruins silhouetted against the skyline, and the promise that a new day holds.
Mandy Mortimer – Jelly Bean Media
Mandy recently stepped out of 16 years of full time video editing work to start her company, Jelly Bean Media, so that she can spend more time doing what she absolutely loves. That is food photography and video production. She styles, shoots and edits all her own work, so she’s a one-stop-shop for delicious looking food-centred content.
My business involves working in two different modes. Some days I’m on set either taking photos or filming. Other days I’m based at home editing everything that I’ve shot.
The at-home mornings are pretty relaxed. I set an alarm so that I don’t sleep all morning, after all, just because I’m at home doesn’t mean I can waste the day away in bed (if only!). Thankfully the alarm isn’t set for as early as most people have to endure, a perk of the job. I hop into the shower to help wake up and start the day afresh, then shuffle into the kitchen, probably in slippers or fluffy socks, to get something to eat. And as clichéd as it is, I have to have my cup of coffee. It’s not about the caffeine (I’m a latté kinda girl), I just love the smell and I can’t imagine a morning without a cup.
Depending on what I’m working on – it could be writing up recipes, editing various videos or photos, researching etc. I like to jot down a list of things I’d like to get done in the day. I find it very satisfying to cross things off a list and it helps me keep track of what I need to do so that nothing slips through the cracks. It also helps me prioritise which jobs need to get done first. I also check my e-mail and have a browse through my Facebook feed (yeah, I can’t help myself). Breakfast eaten, an idea of what needs to be done, I get stuck in. A pretty simple morning!
On the other side of things, and in stark contrast to my easier mornings at home, are the days I’m headed out for a shoot.
The night before I would have packed and grouped all the equipment I need so that it’s ready to grab in the morning. These days tend to start a lot earlier for me, definitely not my favourite as I’m a night owl, so having things in place the night before is really important. I lug all my equipment to the car and get it packed (lights, props, cameras, foods I’ve pre-prepped for the shoot, etc.). I check things off my mental list (sometimes a physical list, depending on the complexity of the shoot) to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. Then I get showered and dressed, put a face on (you won’t catch me in public without mascara, at the very least!) and get all my own food for the day packed. I make an effort to pack my own breakfast, lunch and snacks otherwise I end up eating crap! (Can I say crap? Sorry, just did…).
One last scan around the apartment then I head out. I get some music pumping for the drive which keeps me awake (what is this 6, 7 or 8am, anyway?!) and it also gets me revved up for the day. The rest of my morning routine happens on set where I unpack, start setting up my equipment and then have my breakfast and oh-so-important cup of delicious smelling coffee. Then the day can start!
And that’s just a glimpse of my morning routines. I much prefer the more relaxed days at home (who wouldn’t!), but the other mornings do keep things interesting!
Eveleen Coyle – Fab Food Trails
Fab Food Trails has been on the go for ten years, the first company to do Food Tasting Trails in Dublin or in Ireland.
Born in Dublin, Eveleen started her working life first with a magazine group and then in book publishing.
The idea for Food walks came when she attended the opening dinner at the Adelaide Books Festival in Australia. Seated between the doyens of Australian food, she found herself telling them about not just the quality of our food, but all that was happening on the food scene in Ireland when a fellow guest remarked, ‘so why don’t you do food walks in Ireland?’. That was 14 years ago.
My day starts early, around 6:30.
Armed with a large pot of tea, I check and reply to emails, do orders for upcoming walks and events, and then schedule texts, tweets etc for later in the day.
Then I do the list – pencil and paper – of things to be done later in the day. All this can take anything from one to two hours with no interruption. There is that slightly smug feeling when you sit down at a clear desk at 9:30!
After that it is a walk, just twenty minutes or so to clear the head.
Meetings are generally scheduled for the start of the week and my preference is for earlier in the
day so that any follow up required can be done that afternoon.
Some days I might wander an area with my colleague Catherine, just to see what is happening around the place. We are always on the lookout for new stops and tastes not just for our Food Trails walks but for our Dublin Food & Fashion walk which has become very popular recently.
At present we are setting up a number tasting trails of neighbourhood haunts, starting with one a
month each in a different parts but within a stones throw of the city. Very exciting suff!
What’s Your Routine?
Is there a perfect routine? Most of our women seem to lean heavily on coffee but apart from that they are all different. There may not be a morning routine that guarantees success but I think having a routine is a crucial part of working for yourself.
Why should we build communities for our businesses? What is a community and what value do they have?
I’m part of a long standing online community. Although I’ve been a part of it for 10 years or more I still feel like a newbie. The community was built around a common interest in a British comedian.
It started as a mailing list in tandem with an online forum. The forum died, the mailing list still exists althugh is less active now as we have brought our friendships onto Facebook.
Members of this community meet in real life and have built friendships and relationships. I’ve been on holiday with members of the group, some have stayed in my home, I’ve stayed in their homes. Whenever I travel in the UK I look up any fellow community members and meet them for a coffee, a pint, a chat.
We rarely talk about the comedian who brought us together but you will find us at every gig or event he runs. We bring our friends with us and talk about the gigs online.
Being in a community makes you feel like you are part of something bigger. It makes you feel like you have a special connection to the people and the common interest that the community is built around.
Imagine having a community like this centred on your business.
Are We Getting It All Wrong With Community Building? – Watch Below
What Do We Mean When We Talk About Community?
The word ‘community’ has been misrepresented.
Many regard their community as their social media followers but it needs to be more than this. I see followers as communites in waiting it’s our job to activate them.
I’ve looked up the definition of the word ‘community’ on several online dictionaries. Some describe it as:
A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
A particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.
In some ways I can see how this term has been extended to refer to a group of followers, but is it really accurate? What commonality do your followers have other than being connected to you?
The community I described is based around a central character, a celebrity but it’s active because members communicate with each other, not the central character.
To have a community people have to feel like they are members. That they are valued. They will want to get to know other community members to feel reassured that they are part of a group of like-minded people.
Communities In Waiting
Page Likers on Facebook have a simple relationship with you. You broadcast messages to them, they respond, you respond to their responses. It is rare that conversation breaks out from that format, it’s rare for your page likers to strike up conversations with each other.
The same is true on Twitter, the odd multi-player conversation may erupt but in most cases your relationship with your followers is one to one.
If you can activate your communities in waiting you can push the activity around your business beyond the walls of your social media.
Your followers will begin to feel like they belong to something, a club, a community. They will become more comfortable sharing with others in the group. Some will even break out and start forming friendships and sub-communities outside of your social channels. When this happens two things occur:
1. You begin to lose control of the message
You have little control beyond your own base. Your community members get to write the script when they talk to people outside of your community. You just have to ensure you have given them the right facts and the right content to share.
2. They become advocates for your business
The good news is that although the message gets diluted your community members will start to talk about you outside your social media channels. They will talk about you to their friends online and in and the offline world. They will become your best sales people, your own army of word of mouth marketers.
How To Activate Your Community
Use a space that fosters conversation
It’s difficult to build community on a Facebook page or in the comments section of your blog post. You need to find a space that nurtures conversation.
One of the reasons the community I talked about works so well is that it’s all been conversation based. We conversed in the email threads, on the forum and in real life. If you want your community to be active you nee to look beyond your Facebook page and Twitter handle.
Facebook groups are the ideal space for this. I love Amanda Brown’s Celebration Project group. Even though I’m a passive member most of the time, I feel like I am celebrating her successes along with the group.
She asks for input for new projects meaning I’m more likely to buy them when they are launched.
Twitter chats are still a clunky way of having mass conversations but those that persist will feel the community spirit. Although chats are usually hosted by a specific Twitter account threaded conversations go on way after the scheduled conversations have ended.
I’m not a regular contributor to chats but I have been known to join #BufferChat #BizChats from Mashable amonst others. I always meet new people when I join in.
Once you’ve found a home, or homes for your communities your job is to encourage conversation. Assist your members as they get to know each other.
Being a Facebook group or Twitter chat admin is a bit like being the host at a dinner party. Plan conversations that will ignite conversations. Think of topics that will get responses. Run polls, ask questions and encourage others to do the same.
Your community is a great forum for feedback. Ask them for advice, for suggestions for input. When you implement their suggestions they’ll feel valued and they’ll happily share your content and updated products, blog posts or content with their audiences.
If you have an active community online look at ways to take this offline. Can you host a meetup? When people meet in real life it helps cement their online relationships.
A real community takes time and work but the value is huge. Having a group of active community members who feel part of your business can help build business that will last for years.
Are you part of any online communities? What value do you get from them? Who does community well? I’d love to hear about your Facebook groups, Twitter chats and offline communities, tell me about them below.
According to popular myth English people are eccentric. I’m English myself and may be prone to eccentricity from time to time.
But this eccentricity can add to a warm and entertaining social media presence.
I’m just back from a trip to London so I thought I’d share some of the eccentric Twitter accounts I found there and look at how they relate to small business marketing.
Watch below to hear about eccentric London on Twitter
The Oval Underground Station
My airbnb was near the Oval tube station. The Oval is known for its cricket ground, the heart of a very English sport.
But it wasn’t the cricket that caught my eye. As I stepped off the train and into the station I found a bookshelf full of random second-hand books. This wasn’t a bookshop but a place where I could pick up a book for reading or leave one for others to enjoy.
But that wasn’t it, next to the bookshelf was a notice board. Instead of displaying service announcements or rules there was a thought of the day.
If a tube station could have a personality this one did. I imagined the thought that went into this by the staff and wondered if they took pride in the quirkiness of their station.
There’s a Twitter account too. @Oval_station shares the daily thoughts and is hugely popular. They also share community news and information.
They have around 12k followers but it’s not the followers that are remarkable it’s the interaction. Posts get up to 200 retweets and lots of comments.
What’s interesting is the station doesn’t get into conversations directly with people but people get into conversations with each other in the Twitter stream. It’s got real community spirit. This happens because the Oval retweet comments from others sparking the conversation
As small businesses we should be sharing content that will make our audience want to respond. We need to be entertaining and we need to embrace the local community.
We should, like the Oval, look for opportunities to spark conversations amongst our followers.
Big Ben Clock
I’m cheating a bit here. @Big_Ben_Clock is not a new discovery for me. I’ve been following them for years. This is definitely eccentric. On the hour every hour Big Ben Clock tweets the bongs. Yes, that’s right at 1pm it tweets ‘BONG’ at 2pm ‘BONG BONG’ and so on.
That’s all it does, all day, every day. That’s all it’s ever done. But people seem to like it. Each tweet gets between 20 & 40 retweets and some people even respond.
Why do I follow? It amuses me that someone, somewhere came up with this idea. It’s also a handy reminder that I’ve been looking at Twitter for too long.
I always say Twitter is about interaction and conversation but it doesn’t have to be. Humour goes a long way and people will remember you for it and be delighted to tell people about you.
I joked that Clapham Common tube station knew I, a cat lover, was coming. For two weeks the stations advertising had been taken over by posters of cats. I went there specifically to photograph the event. I wasn’t the only one at the station that day. I was delighted and so were others, you can view photos from visitors by following the #catsnotads tag on Twitter and Instagram.
The easiest way to get people to create content for or about your business is give them something worth sharing. You don’t need to go to the expense of buying ad space. Do you have a photogenic spot in your business? A quirky prop or something that will delight your visitors? Encourage people to share a photo and give them a hashtag to use when they do.
Over to you
Do you follow any eccentric or quirky Twitter accounts? Which ones make you smile? Let me know in the comments below.
When you communicate with your customers are you making a big mistake? It’s a mistake I’ve made time and time again and I’m sure you have too.
Luckily someone enlightened me and I’ve put a stop to the habit.
Watch below to find out what that bad customer communication habit was:
The mistake I’ve made is to start my emails, my social media posts with:
“We are delighted to announce”
If you haven’t actually sent an email like this I’m sure you’ve received one.
What’s so wrong with this phrase?
Let’s look at it, what does it tell us?
It tells us that the person sending the email is excited. Do we care? Perhaps if it’s someone we have a real personal connection to but in most cases no we don’t.
The ideal way to open your communications, even when you are delighted or excited is to let them know what is in it for them.
Forget about your own emotion and think about what the benefit of your announcement is for your customer. Are you launching something that is going to help them solve a problem? Will you make their lives better in some way? Will they learn from the information you have to share?
So rip up that first draft of your email and start again. Stand in the shoes of your customer and look at your new innovation, service from their point of view. How can you make them excited about it? How can you make them think that it was worthwhile opening the email?
Now you know the secret you will see ‘We are delighted to announce’ everywhere. In emails you receive, in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts. And now you can smile, comfortable in the knowledge that this is a habit you’ve kicked.
As small business owners it’s hard to find the time to keep learning, but it should be an essential part of what we do. Do you make room for learning and developing personal skills in your year?
This time of year is conference season for me. As regular business slows down a bit for the summer holidays I use this time to pack in the knowledge.
In my business, you can’t afford to stand still, everything changes at a breakneck pace. Your industry might not change as fast as mine but I’m sure every business needs to keep up with changes.
Watch below to find out how I keep up to date:
How 5 ways I ensure that I keep learning:
I spend at least an hour a day reading posts and news relating to social media and small business. It’s an integral part of my day and although it tends to put stress on my to-do list I’m aware I just have to do it to stay up to date. I rely heavily on Feedly to subscribe to the blogs and newspapers I enjoy and Google Alerts to see what’s hot.
2. Offline Networking
Events and conferences aren’t always full of good knowledge but you’ll always pick up a few gems, you’ll also make valuable connections that are often more relevant than those you make at broader networking events. And you’ll learn loads from those connections too.
A big part of my job is training. I sometimes think I learn almost as much from the people I train and the challenges I experience as they learn from me!
This is probably the most important one but the one that we tend to ignore. What were you doing a year ago? What were the results of your last project? Evaluating old and historic projects will help you become better. You need to do more than just know a project was successful or not successful you need to know why. So measure, assess and look at how you can make it even more successful next time.
Many professions require that you top up your knowledge every year with CPD (Continuous professional development) and I think this is a good model for small business owners. I think it’s a good idea to set aside a certain number of days a year to dedicate to your own CPD, is there an online course you can do or a conference you can attend?
How do you keep learning? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Do you really know what your customer wants? Have you asked them? Did you ask them the right questions? This month’s book club pick helps you find out.
I got a series of emails from a company recently. They had a product that they wanted to sell me and they were offering me a demo. This product wasn’t relevant to my business so I ignored the first email. They had me in some sort of automation system so I kept getting emails, each one becoming a little more insistent.
After ignoring all the emails I eventually got one asking if I was the right person in the company to talk to. I responded to this one telling them that they were barking up the wrong tree and, at last, the emails stopped.
Perhaps setting up this system was time and cost effective for them but it’s annoying for me. How many people got these emails and marked them as spam? How many went through the demo process just to make them go away?
As small businesses, it is crucial that we are targeting the right people both with our sales and our inbound marketing.
In fact with inbound marketing, we are wasting even more time and resources if we aren’t creating the right content for our audience. Each blog post we write, each video we shoot, each image we create takes valuable time. Making sure that it is properly targeted ensures that this isn’t time wasted.
This is why I’m a big fan of the ‘Customer Persona’. A fantasy customer that we build content for. A customer whose needs and problems we understand. Someone who we know needs what we offer.
I decided that to get to know my customers and readers better I’d need to survey them.Enter Ryan Levesque and his book ‘Ask’*. I can’t remember which podcast I was listening to that recommended this book but it coincided with my decision to run a survey and I decided I’d read it before creating it. I’m glad I did.
The first half of this book is about Ryan, how he got where he is now, what motivated him and how he developed his system. Although he says you could skip this section it’s an enjoyable read and it’s convincing. He really wanted to create something that would work.
The second section is the system itself. It’s a workbook taking you step by step through the process and how to implement it. There’s nothing too techy here. If you can use simple survey software like SurveyMonkey and know your way around the basics of Excel you can follow the first steps. You may need a bit of help for the next stage, creating landing pages and videos, but there are tools out there that can make this easier too.
The key to finding out what your customers really want is asking ‘What is your biggest challenge’ and this question is at the beginning of and the heart of the Ask system.
I can see exactly how I can implement this book in my business. I know that I will be able to create better personas and this means I’ll be producing better content as a result.
I don’t need the full system. Although I can see how it will work for marketers the bit I really need is the ‘Deep dive survey’. The cost of the book is worth it for that alone.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the introduction. If it hadn’t been recommended I’d have been put off by the ‘Get rich quick’ language. It seems that every business book has to persuade you with the promise of dollars or euros to read on. It’s a shame really because the rest of the book is well grounded.
If you are serious about creating better customer personas this is the book for you. If you are committed to taking your online business further the whole book will be a valuable workbook.
*Affiliate link – I get a small cut of sales if you buy after clicking this link
Are you scared of sharing your expertise online? What happens if people don’t buy from you but go and make their own stuff? What if they take your tutorials, follow them and decide they don’t need to hire you?
As a blogger, I’ve always shared everything I know and everything I learn online. There is no secret sauce for me, it’s all available on my blog and on my social media channels but could this be losing me customers?
I don’t think so. People come to me because they have read my blog and figure I know my stuff. They come to me because they’ve watched my tutorials and decided it’s too hard to do themselves.
Of course, there are others who don’t come to me, who might find a tip on how to do something on my blog and just do it themselves. But these people aren’t my customers, or they aren’t just yet.
When I started Spiderworking I was broke. I was running a small gift company and the recession had just hit Ireland. My biggest customers were no longer buying corporate gifts.
After a brainstorming session with family, I came up with the idea of Spiderworking.
I met friends, sought advice and with €20 launched the business.
That budget bought me a domain name, a month’s hosting with Blacklight and a Skype in number. I was set for a month but I needed to make enough money to fund the next month.
I must have done something right because I’m still here 7 years on and thankfully I have more than €20 in the bank.
Small businesses are often strapped for cash and in the early days I tried to do everything for free or for pennies but now I know that some things are worth paying for. Some of the freemium services (where there is a free version of the software but they encourage you to upgrade) I subscribed to now are the one’s I still use and am happy to pay for.
Every month I see a list of subscriptions come out of my bank account, it’s not just my web hosting anymore, it’s monitoring tools, scheduling tools and a bundle of other services that make my life easier. I’m loyal to the services I subscribe to, it would take me a lot to move to one of their competitors. Most of them have been a part of my business since those early days when I had no money.
If all the services I subscribed to hid behind paid subscriptions I wouldn’t be using them now, in fact, I’d have found it hard to go into business at all. Those tools have helped me succeed and now I’m happy to pay and I’m loyal to them.
So before you are too guarded about your methods, before you hide your expertise away think about how you can use this as content that will attract and nurture future customers and advocates.
I’m just about to take on a virtual assistant. For those of you who haven’t come across the term before, a VA (virtual assistant) is someone who takes on some of the duties of a personal assistant but works remotely. They often have more than one client they look after.
I can’t wait until she starts. In preparation I’ve started putting together some information for her, she’ll be answering calls for me so I need to make sure she knows what to say and how to handle common queries.
Last week I went to vote in the Irish election and the importance of this preparation became clear.
Find out why by watching the video below:
It’s not just staff or virtual assistants you should be preparing this information for. You should also be writing it down for yourself.
You can save a whole heap of time in your working day by preparing form emails that address specific commonly asked questions. You’ll still need to edit these each time you use them but having the basics in place will mean you are communicating effectively even when you are under time pressure.
It’s also a good idea to write templates for other common tasks. For example, I’ve been teaching LinkedIn workshops for the last four weeks and one of the tasks I get delegates to complete is a connection script.
This script acts as an introduction to those we connect with on LinkedIn and when edited effectively is likely to ensure that your connection is accepted.
Do you have systems in place to make sure you and your staff are addressing common queries clearly? Do you have any timesaving tips or processes? I’d love to hear about them so let me know in the comment section below.