Thursday, 29 May 2008

Get out of the 'Stress Habit'

I came across this list while preparing for teleclass on the subject of Overwhelm. I don't know the origins but thought they were good to share with all you busy business owners!

1. Cut down on caffeinated drinks - have more water.

2. Build in contingency time to projects - they're bound to need it.

3. Leave at least 10 minutes early to get to meetings - allow for traffic or parking problems.

4. Switch off your phones at the end of the day - or arrange for someone else to deal with the calls.

5. Take a 5 minute break from your desk or computer once every hour - at least.

6. Try arranging meetings only in the morning - that will give you a chance to catch up when you get back to the office.

If you have any tips that you find useful to kick your own 'Stress Habit', your comments would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Writing for the Web

This week, I've had my head down preparing for a couple of speaking engagements next week and writing sales letters and web pages. And, with the holiday on Monday, I lost track of time and forgot to post on this blog!

It occurred to me while writing that some very different rules apply when you're writing for the web. In the long distant past I worked for a company who's main customer was the government. The language used in written communication was hard to understand and very formal and correct. My English teacher at school would have been proud of us!

Writing copy for this blog and for my website is almost like speaking a foreign language by comparison! Here are 5 ways that I've learned to make writing for the internet more effective:

There are 2 Kinds of Reader.
Some people just like to skim down the page and pick up the
important points without (or before) getting into the detail. To keep them reading, use sub-headings and bold font. Other people like the detail so give them plenty of interesting content to keep them reading.

The Heading is more important than the Content.
I know I just said to make the content
interesting! The heading has the crucial job of making you read further. Unless the heading pulls you in, even the best content in the world won't get read. There’s a great tool that will analyse your headlines at Advanced Marketing Institute.

Write as You Speak.
When you've been used to writing formal letters and reports, this can be a hard concept to get your head around. The best advice I was given when I started my first
newsletters about 5 years ago, was to write as if I was just having a conversation.

Write for Your Target Audience.
There's a lot of pressure, when writing copy for the
internet, to remember to include lots of keywords to rank well in the search engines. I agree, but not at the expense of turning off the people you hope will become clients! Google isn't going to buy from you.

Give Value in Your Content.
I'm often told that I give too much free stuff away! But the
truth is that there's so much excellent stuff out there - in the form of blogs, teleclasses, e-books, etc. and it's very often free. To keep people interested and coming back for more until they're in the right space to buy, you must give value in your content.

© Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2008

What tips do you have when writing for the web? Please do let me know by leaving a comment.

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's great to put another tick in the box!

Like most small business owners, I struggle sometimes to get focused and make headway with projects. Even though I know all the tricks and techniques, sometimes they don’t work for me!

I’m ashamed to admit that I used to give in and do something easier or more pleasurable – like phone a friend for a chat, or even take the rest of the day off! What has really changed for me is working with a coach who doesn’t stand any nonsense! My clients will rejoice in hearing that I’m getting a taste of my own medicine!

The benefits of having a coach are many. There’s a desire to work harder, to achieve more in the knowledge that someone else is going to celebrate your successes. There can also be an element of discomfort if you have to report that things didn’t get done.

What I’m finding interesting is that I’m setting bigger targets for myself than before, and I’m really striving to reach or even exceed them! My motivation levels have never been higher and I am getting through an amazing amount of work.

Even though I already knew that coaching produces great results, it’s nice to have my recent experiences continue to confirm it!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Do you remember?

A couple of days ago, I spent ages trying to get the links to work between Twitter and Facebook, and Twitter and this Blog. Yesterday I spent more time trying to do the same. Today I tried again but gave up sooner.

Do you remember being told that modern technology (computers and the internet etc.) would save us time? I'm sure I do. But it doesn't always. At the risk of showing my age, I remember a time before computers, when typing involved an electric or even a manual typewriter.

My earliest memory of computers was the word processing package. This really did make life easier with wonders like spell checking and formatting. Correcting a typo no longer involved messy correction fluid!

When PCs first put in an appearance in my workplace, directors and managers suddenly wanted to type their own correspondence (something to do with new toys perhaps?) which transformed the working lives of their secretaries and PAs.

Today, I look back and remember those days with fondness. Technology in the workplace has moved on at such a fast pace that it's getting harder and harder to find the time to keep up. The internet is so powerful and has transformed the way a lot of us work. Whole businesses can be set up and run just using the internet and a computer. Even the products for sale don't have to be physical products any more.

Yes computers, the internet, and new technology in general, have made it possible to reach wider audiences quickly an more easily. Learning about how the new packages and applications work is becoming increasingly time-consuming and stressful - in my opinion!

What do you think? Please feel free to post a comment.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Do you stand out from the flock?

Have you ever noticed that small business owners behave a bit like sheep? They flock together, going to the same networks with the same people. They have a look to see how other business owners are promoting themselves, and then do something very similar.

It’s not so surprising. There’s a certain amount of comfort to be taken from knowing that they’re not being left behind.

The crazy – sheep-like - part is that the flocking is done without first finding out if what they’re about to copy actually works!

When I first became a business coach I spent ages looking at the websites of other business coaches and planning my own site to be very similar. Now, I’m more discerning! I only look at the sites of very successful coaches and business owners. They’re the people I want to model.

With more and more small businesses starting up, the need to stand out from the crowd is becoming increasingly critical to success.

Instead of trying to be part of the flock, business owners need to work out how they can be different to catch the client’s attention. It can be an uncomfortable process but the rewards will make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Please - Just Tell Me!

I haven't had a rant for a while, so thought I'd treat myself! It's related to my previous post ("Marketing Messages - Too Time Consuming?")

I have 4 audio and video messages/teleseminars in my email inbox waiting for me to listen to or watch them. There are occasions where I have some time between appointments or tasks when I quite like to have a coffee and relax a bit - and I like to make best use of that time by learning something. I know, I'll listen to that audio message.

The problem I find is that so often there is no indication of how long the recording is - that's my pet peeve for today! I've already mentioned that, in my opinion, a lot of the messages are overlong so when I have no idea if the recording will be 15, 30, 45 minutes or over an hour, I'm more likely to hit the delete key.

It's not that I won't listen to longer messages if I think they'll be interesting, it's just that I'd appreciate some shorter messages that could be fitted in during the time it takes me to drink my coffee. Or at least to know how long the recording will last so I can decide the best time to listen to or view it.

OK, rant over. What do you think?

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Marketing Messages - Too Time Consuming?

I've just been trying to watch a series of training videos, the content of which is supposed to help me make a lot of money in my business. I got annoyed when they kept stopping and starting and then playing out of order (could that have been due to my frantic clicking?). Anyway, at that point I gave up and starting writing this post!

Only a few months ago, free audio and video downloads on the internet were far less commonplace than they are now. Advances in technology mean that just about anyone with a webcam and internet connection can make and upload videos (audios are even easier). These are an incredibly powerful marketing tool for small businesses – if they’re done right.

The internet marketing 'gurus' teach that you have to give away something that has high value when you want to promote your product or service. I certainly agree with that. Unfortunately there are many people who have a different idea of what constitutes high value.

It’s true that these preview audios and videos are getting longer (at least an hour). But what I’ve noticed is that the value of the content is shrinking and the amount of verbose ‘filler’ is expanding to fill the gap! At this point I should say that there are still some excellent and very generous providers of free information – but unfortunately they are becoming outnumbered by the poor content providers.

The problem is, for those of us looking to get an idea which provider’s program or product to invest in via these previews, we simply don’t have the time to watch or listen to all of them! Even if we wanted to!

Just as we have become increasingly selective in the newsletters we subscribe to, I believe we need to do the same with these latest marketing messages. The marketers who will succeed in attracting our attention are those who take the time and trouble to form a strong relationship with us - which they will only achieve by delivering consistently high value information.

What's your experience? And your opinion? Feel free to post your comments!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Bits and pieces

Sometimes it's hard to know what to blog about. Writing articles and issuing a newsletter can be challenging too. Here's a really useful guide from Alice Seba, an excellent internet marketer whose blog I follow: 24 Ideas for Endless Email Topics. It's completely free!

Today I've been engaged by a new client for business coaching. I just love the variety of my work! Already my mind is buzzing with ways to increase his business. Also, I am able to take a more objective view because, let's face it, we tend to get almost too close to our own businesses and become blinkered as to how to move forward. I'm really looking forward to working with him.

Next week I've been asked to give a short talk about the Dangers and Remedies of Stress so I'm working on some slides (they seem to love Powerpoint!).

Friday, 2 May 2008

Are you relying on luck?

Do you buy lottery tickets or enjoy the odd flutter on the dogs or horses? Perhaps you play a bit of roulette or blackjack? What about your business? Are you gambling that it will succeed too?

If that’s your strategy, then the odds are stacked against you and you’re likely to end up out of pocket and looking for a job.

And yet this is just what I see so many business owners doing. They don’t know how they’re going to get their clients or make sales. And they’re very busy being busy but they don’t know whether what they do works because they don’t monitor anything.

If you don’t have a proper business plan AND a marketing plan, you are relying too much on luck to carry you through.
Here are some of the other results of not planning:
  • You don’t know if your cashflow is enough to keep you going through a lean patch
  • Budgeting doesn’t exist – you just spend as you need to
  • You don’t like opening letters from the bank or credit card companies
“Successful people plan on paper” – I can’t remember who said that, but it’s so true!

Do you think people like Bill Gates or Richard Branson achieved their success without planning on paper? Sure, maybe in the very early days they winged it. But as soon as their businesses started getting serious, you can bet they started writing down their plans (or they got someone to help them).

Perhaps you believe you’re too busy to take time out and write your plan. So you wait until you’re less busy…. with less clients on your books, and less money coming in….. Or maybe you don’t like making plans or targets because then you might just have to do the work it takes to reach those targets.

Running your own business should be a combination of fun and work. To get that balance you need to rely less on luck and more on planning. You need to add a healthy dose of self-discipline as well.

One of the problems I’ve found through working with entrepreneurs is that they often aren’t sure what they need to plan (and they don’t like to ask for help because they think they should know). The guidelines given by banks and some other agencies can be so wordy and vague that they just add to the confusion. They also seem to call for very long (and boring) plans. In my experience, the more pages in the plan, the less likely it is to be looked at regularly.

It is possible to have simpler plans – as long as they include the essentials. What are you selling? To whom? How many? and How much? Then think about HOW you’re going to achieve this, what marketing tactics will you use? Pick just a few to start with and measure their effectiveness.

Make your plans, write them down and review them at least once a month, ideally look at them every day – this will keep you on track and working harder to reach and exceed those targets.
Don’t let your business go to the dogs – get planning and increase your odds for success!

© Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2008

Louise Barnes-Johnston is “The Business Accelerator”. She provides business coaching and mentoring for entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses. Get a copy of her FREE report “10 Ways to Boost Your Business” at