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Why a new business meeting is like a blind date

July 03, 2014 by Andy Bounds

Why a new business meeting is like a blind date/Calendar mark with blind date{{}}Picture the scene: you’re having dinner on your own in a restaurant and the person of your dreams walks in. They come over to you. There’s good eye contact. You can feel a connection already.

Breathlessly, they whisper: “It’s great to meet you. Tell me about yourself…”

How would you respond?
Like this?

“Great to meet you too. Luckily, I’ve got this book with me (you ceremoniously whip the book from your pocket). It describes my family history in full — how many of us there are, all our names, the things that are different and interesting about us. It really is a One Stop Shop describing what’s special about us…

Hey, hold on, I haven’t finished yet…

Where are you going…?

Don’t go…

Come back!”

Devastating. Your one chance to make a first impression — totally ruined.

Do you think that’s a weird example? After all, nobody would behave like that when first meeting someone, would they?

So, why is it that some people feel it’s essential to take a brochure with them to first meetings with potential customers?

They’ve never seen you before. They don’t want to be reading stuff about you. They want a chat — one that you both find interesting and stimulating. One you both enjoy. And one that — like a first date — if things go well, leads to something much better for both of you.

Ditch the brochure

So, when you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t take a brochure (you wouldn’t want to read theirs, so why would they want to read yours?)

Instead, prepare (in advance):

  • A list of questions to ask them, to get the conversation going and find out more about them;
  • A couple of interesting, useful things you could say about yourself (a good rule of thumb is “facts tell, stories sell. Tell stories about what you’ve done for others; don’t just list facts about what you do);
  • One or two useful bits of info/advice for them, so they get value from the meeting;
  • Your opening line, so you feel confident going into the meeting;
  • Your closing lines — suitable for two situations. If the conversation’s gone well, how you’re going to ask for Date Two. And if things aren’t going so well, how to end the meeting politely, with integrity, but without a follow-up;
  • Diarise, to follow-up with them immediately after the meeting.

Since you’ve read this far, I guess you’re finding this advice useful? So, while I’ve got you, let me just quickly show you my holiday photos…
No, don’t go…
Please…

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Sales meetings | 0 comments

Is LinkedIn the ultimate careers adviser?

July 02, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Is LinkedIn the ultimate careers adviser?{{}}Back in 2009, we were presenting to students at leading business schools on how to make the most of LinkedIn. We showed them the power of LinkedIn for mapping out their career paths, conducting research, getting noticed by potential employers; and we explained why we thought LinkedIn would be one of the most powerful tools at their disposal throughout their careers.

A great deal has changed since 2009; but our predictions were pretty spot on!  Here’s why…

With 15 million UK users, three million business pages and 1,500 school and university profiles, LinkedIn has become the most powerful tool for professional networking. The so-called “Facebook for Business” can bring huge benefits to both professionals and academics and it bridges the gap between the two.

A recruitment tool

Currently, LinkedIn is one of the best ways for professionals to network and it is awash with success stories of people who have used the site to enhance their career. It allows you to monitor competitors, read up on new career opportunities, network with professionals and is increasingly being used for recruitment.

It’s no wonder that graduates are increasingly turning to LinkedIn as the number one tool in their job search. It allows you to read up on the skills and background of leaders in your field, search vacancies and gain valuable advice from industry experts.

So, we were not surprised when LinkedIn launched its new education service. The idea is to create college and university pages to provide students, alumni, lecturers and employees with a place to connect. The tagline reads: “Powered by the career paths of over 250 million members”.

Mapping your career path

The education pages provide users with job opportunities, they suggest new connections, allow you to see what your peers are now doing and show potential students what career path their course alumni have taken.

This is a fantastic tool for students, allowing them to start conversations with business professionals and gain valuable insight. From a business perspective, the service also allows you to sift through students to find ideal candidates, as well as connecting with any old alumni to develop business opportunities. Your old uni friend could open the door to your next big client.

Last year, LinkedIn also announced its partnership with some of the biggest names in online education so that users could showcase their educational achievements on their LinkedIn profile. Following the completion of specific courses, these certificates can then be posted directly to your profile. Not only can users add their certificates, but LinkedIn also allows users to add their honours and awards, test scores, courses and patents; moving the platform ever closer to becoming a one-stop, online CV.

It surely won’t be long before candidates will simply submit their LinkedIn profile to a potential employer instead of a traditional CV; indeed already many companies are asking for both.

Emma Pauw is social media writer at We Talk Social.

What could a dot London domain do for your business?

June 30, 2014 by Guest Blogger

What could a dot London domain do for your business?{{}}The arrival of the new dot London (.london) top level domain (TLD) name has created a shake-up but it has been slowly been stirring.

Its roots lie in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which received around 2,000 new TLD applications in mid-2012 for domains like .LOL for funny videos or .app as a new home for mobile applications. In basic terms, it means dot com is no longer the all-powerful domain.

So will buying a London domain benefit your business? And more specifically, will a dot London address benefit your digital marketing efforts and online presence? There are a few key points to consider.

Is a new top level domain good for SEO?

Not necessarily. Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, said last year that a new TLD will have little technical effect on your website’s SEO and ranking.

Cutts wrote on his Google+ feed: “Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over dot com, and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

So in terms of SEO, you could probably achieve more by creating targeted landing pages on your website rather than paying for a whole new domain name.

Interestingly, Karren Brady, successful British businesswoman of The Apprentice fame and vice-chairman of West Ham United, is doing both. She recently announced that the football club’s new whufc.london address will be a dedicated microsite specifically built to mark the team’s move into its new home in east London’s Olympic Park.

Focus on quality 

Understandably, Matt Cutts is trying to discourage people from thinking they can just pay for a relevant TLD and have all their SEO woes solved. But it would be a tad illogical if Google algorithms completely ignored the top level domain. As long as it’s relevant, a high-quality, well-written, innovative and indexed dot London domain should receive a good search ranking.

If having a dot London domain name bolsters your branding and builds trust, then clearly that is helping your digital marketing, SEO or no SEO. In a recent YouGov survey, 41% of companies said they felt that a dot London address would help people find them online. My gut tells me SEO didn’t factor into that feeling.

London: an awfully big content marketing strategy

This brings us back to the fact that in this great, grand and gridlocked city, a cavalcade of big business leaders are urging other London companies to buy a London domain and join the family. They have a point — getting everyone to sign up to the same domain name effectively makes the whole city one big content marketing strategy.

So the question is: as a stakeholder in your company’s digital marketing efforts, do you feel that having a dot London address serves a practical purpose or are you doing it purely for vanity’s sake?

Let’s be honest, the London 2012 Olympics could have benefited from a London TLD microsite for local discussions.

But before you sign up to a dot London domain — and join the likes of Deborah Meaden, who says 19 of her companies are getting on the London domain train — please address these very important content marketing questions:

  • Will having a London TLD align well with your business goals and overall marketing needs?
  • Will it speak directly to your potential customers or, like a microsite, open the doors to a new audience?
  • And will it bolster your website content by enhancing your branding?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions then I’d suggest your content marketing budget might be better spent elsewhere.

Jonathan Bright is a writer at content marketing agency, Southerly.

How shoddy service can wreck your small business

June 26, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How shoddy service can wreck your small business{{}}There was a time when businesses could get away with hiding from their customers, particularly when they knew they had done something wrong. Those days are long gone.

Good customer service is more critical than ever and businesses that want to survive and thrive must value their customers and build good relationships with them.

In fact, there are simple ways that small businesses with tight budgets can improve their customer service. Here are some findings from Expert Market UK’s recent customer service study, which found that:

  • 72% of UK customers would ditch their purchase for a competitor if they didn’t get an email reply within one day;
  • British businesses lose 85% of callers if they don’t answer within five minutes or less;
  • 67% of Brits who are hanging on the phone want updates on their place in the queue or time left to wait;
  • Most people still prefer an old-fashioned phone call (50%) or email (44%) to make their complaints, rather than using social media.

The biggest damage occurs when potential customers don’t get the information they need when they first enquire (57%). The other danger point is when a customer has made a complaint but is not satisfied the response (26%).

Phones and email are still the preferred channels in the UK and respondents polled said businesses should focus on increasing their customer service staff (36%), providing contact details (24%) and making sure staff are aware of current policies and promotions (20%).

In fact, complaints can often be turned into wins for small businesses. Always contact customers promptly, using their preferred method. At the same time, make it easy for customers to reach you by displaying contact information clearly.

Victoria Elizabeth is digital asset executive at Expert Market UK.

Why you need some golden nuggets to get press coverage

June 25, 2014 by Amanda Ruiz

Why you need some golden nuggets to get press coverage{{}}You have a fabulous service, brand or product that you, your family and friends and a growing band of customers love — but why can’t you get the press to fall in love with your offering?

You may fall into one of these categories:

  • You don’t know where to start and feel overwhelmed at selling yourself to the press;
  • You have had a lucky break and managed to get one really cool piece of coverage and you don’t know how to get more;
  • You can’t seem to find your USPs — the golden nuggets that can give your news a “hook”.

The feeling of overwhelm can be powerful. But as a business mentor told me at the very beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, you need to do some promotion on your company each and every day. If you aren’t going to do that, then no-one will (unless you pay a PR agent). So go and do what you do best — enthuse about your business to interested parties.

Building on coverage

If you have already had some press coverage by being spotted at an event or via Twitter, you must ensure that you maximise this opportunity as much as possible. Firstly, thank the journalist for their piece — you never know when you may need to speak to them again.

The next step is to politely ask them for the PDF version of the news story. If you can’t get hold of this then buy the publication and include a scan of the piece in a dedicated Press section on your website. You could also add the newspaper or magazine logo to your home page to give you extra credibility. Then share the image or promote a link to the coverage across your social media platforms.

Golden nuggets

When you are in the thick of running your business, you often neglect to articulate your USP. It’s worth asking friends and customers to take part in a focus group to establish what makes your business special. These are the kind of questions you should be discussing:

  • What is your big “why”? What drives you?
  • Why are you so good at what you do?
  • Why are you better than your competition? What makes you stand out?
  • Who is your competition? What do they do that you really admire?
  • What is your mission?
  • What are your major strengths and opportunities?
  • Who is your target audience and why?
  • What do the client testimonials say about you time and time again?
  • What did you do before you launched your company? The press love a good story…

Once you have done this brainstorming, I can guarantee you that some lovely golden nuggets will have appeared. Now use this information to write a simple sentence that describes what your company does. Don’t forget to include your golden nugget. This sentence will then work as your elevator pitch, whether you are selling, networking or pitching to a journalist.

Amanda Ruiz is known as the ultimate door opener. She is the founder of www.amandaruiz.co.uk, a marketing and PR agency.

How to build a brand with words

June 23, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Copywriting{{}}Most of us are pretty clear about the importance of design when brand building, but we are often less sure about which words to choose to bring our brands to life.

But every time you put pen to paper you either engage or disengage your customers. Words matter and brands that tell their stories as well as showing them win hands down. Successful brands like Apple and Volkswagen match the words to the visuals to create a strong voice.

Content marketing and social media

Twitter, instant messaging, texts, online chat — they’re all proof of the power of words. How many times have we heard about people forming long distance relationships online, with only words at their disposal?

And think of how much information we find on the web before purchasing just about anything nowadays. Reviews, descriptions, listings and websites all contribute to our decisions to buy.

So how do you build a brand with words?

  • One way to establish the right tone of voice it to think of your brand as a person — what sort of conversations are they having?
  • Capture your audience’s attention immediately — you have about three seconds for online content and not much longer for offline, so assess your content as if it’s the first time you’ve seen it.
  • Don’t overcomplicate your message — differentiate between things you find interesting and your genuine USPs that will convince customers to buy.
  • Focus on benefits not features. Features have their place but nobody was ever driven to buy a widget because it was only 1cm wide. They were driven to buy it because its slim width is a key advantage.
  • Edit, edit and edit. Revisit and edit again — get the picture? There will be times when your message is muffled by excess wordage. So lose the waffle. Less is more.

Finally, assess your writing capabilities honestly and if writing isn’t your thing, get help. You can keep costs down by doing as much groundwork as possible, putting all the content together in one document. Most copywriters charge by the hour.

Sara Ruber is the director of creative agency Become.

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