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11 ways to make your next presentation a sure-fire success

January 25, 2016 by Andy Bounds

Sales presentations{{}}People ask me loads of questions about presentations. So here are 11 FAQs and answers that can help you transform your presentations.

Q1: How do I engage audiences immediately?

By doing something engaging at the start. For example:

  • Use intriguing words/phrases - "I want to share a secret with you - something that nobody outside this room knows".
  • Use an emotive adjective - "We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
  • Use an emotive verb - "I'm really excited to be speaking to you today. Because…"
  • Teach them something - "Did you know…?"
  • Ask a question.
  • Tell a story.

Q2: How do I keep them engaged?

Keep doing engaging things. Think of all the things audiences like - stories, humour, impressive visuals and so on. And ensure you do at least one of them every one to two minutes.

Q3: What's the most important thing about presentations?

There are two - the beginning and the end. The start must engage - use one of the starts suggested in Q1 above, deliver it with lots of energy, have a good title and ensure Slide One looks impressive.

And the end must contain a Call To Action. If it doesn't, your audience won't act. For example, if your last slide says "thank you", they'll merely say "you're welcome" and then leave. If it says "Next steps", there'll be some.

Q4: What's the best way to structure a presentation?

The answer to Q3 showed how to start and end. But what about everything in between? Well, there are two structures that work well.

Firstly, to build a logical argument, use the 4Ps:

  • Position - the world currently looks like X.
  • Problem - and the problem with Position X is…
  • Possibilities - three solutions to this Problem are…
  • Propose - I suggest we do option Y because…

Or use this structure to build buy-in to change:

  • Why it's needed - explain the problems with the current situation.
  • Future vision - the ideal future we want to get to.
  • How we'll get there - everyone's actions, to move from the current situation to the desired future.
  • How we'll overcome our barriers - the things that might get in the way, and how we'll remove them.

Q5: How do I stop people looking at my slides?

One excellent way: don't use them. Or, minimise the words on them, so there's nothing to read. And/or press "B" or "W" to black/white the screen, so they can't see them.

Q6: How do I improve my slides?

The key rule: avoid bullet points. Trust me on this: nobody loves them. There's always a better way to present information. For example, click on the PowerPoint tool SmartArt (in the Insert tab) and you'll see loads of formats - barcharts, flowcharts etc - you can drop your points into. Also, high-quality images work well. Go to Google images, type in your keywords and you'll find hundreds of them.

Q7: How can I make my presentations more interactive?

Ask questions. Obvious, I know. But people rarely think their questions are part of the presentation. Instead, they prepare their slides, and practise their run-through - but they don't script/practise questions. Which means they tend not to ask any. So it isn't interactive.

Also, when thinking of questions, ensure they're thought-provoking - "Which of these five benefits will your customers find most valuable?"; not bland - "Any questions? Anybody? Please? Nobody? OK then..."

Q8: What if I overrun?

Never, ever finish late. Even if the audience seems to love what you're saying, you finishing late makes them late for the next thing in their diary. Trust me on this: they won't ever be grateful to you for this.

Here's a very handy hint: when you need to jump ahead in your slides, simply press the slide number you want to go to and the Return key - you'll jump straight there. The audience won't know you've jumped. Of course, you need to know what the slide numbers are; so, print them out in advance.

Q9: What if the IT doesn't work?

Don't rely on it. Take a paper copy with you, so you have notes to present from.

Q10: How do I remember everything?

Use notes. But put these notes on a hand-held card/piece of paper on your desk, not on the big shiny screen that your audience is looking at. Your notes help only you; the screen helps only them.

Q11: How do I handle my nerves?

Lots of ways, including:

  • Think in advance of the AFTERs - in other words, why your audience - and you - will be better off AFTER the presentation. Will you have helped them save time, be more productive, make better decisions, have less risk? And how will them getting these AFTERs benefit you?
  • Practise. A lot...
  • ...especially the start. Know exactly what your first two or three sentences will be. When they come out OK, the rest tends to follow.
  • Front-load your presentation with your best bits. Saving your best stuff for later isn't as good - they might have switched off if you don't grab them early.
  • Make it shorter and more interactive. It's very daunting to open your mouth thinking "right, I'm the only one in this room who's speaking for the next 60 minutes". It's much easier when you think "right, we're having an interactive chat for the next 20 minutes".

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds. Andy 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.

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Seven ways to find new prospects - and win them over

January 18, 2016 by Dee Blick

Find new prospects{{}}One of the hardest things about running your own business is ensuring that the right people know about you and can be persuaded to part with their cash. Here are seven ways to find and grow your customer base when you are targeting your services at a business audience:

  1. Make a list of the customer groups that your business will appeal to. This could include prospects such as printers, accountants, designers or hoteliers, for example. Four to six segments is usually enough to work with.
  2. Consider geographical restrictions. Are you only looking for folk in a certain postcode area?
  3. Do you want to target businesses of a certain size? As your business grows and changes, the profile of your target audience may change too. Business prospects that initially seemed daunting could become more realistic as your experience and expertise grows.
  4. For each group, compose a list of the compelling reasons why you are relevant to them. What are their deep underlying needs? To what extent can you satisfy these needs? If, on reflection, you realise that you would actually struggle to satisfy the requirements of one particular group, move on and focus on the groups you can target with ease.
  5. What are their present arrangements likely to be? If you pitch your business as a main provider when they're perfectly happy or even tied up in an agreement with a competitor, you'll get short shrift. If you position yourself as a backup source for when their provider can't deliver, it could open the door. I have generated significant sales for clients with this approach.
  6. Can you also market through potential partners or introducers? For example, a marketer aiming at small businesses could also benefit from targeting designers and web developers.
  7. Research done, use the internet to find the details of 15 to 20 businesses in each group you'd like to target. Pick up the phone and do a little research. Find out who buys. How do they arrive at the decision to buy? What are their existing arrangements? How likely is it you'll be able to move them away from their current providers? Building a detailed picture enables you to create timely campaigns packed with enticing messages.

If the thought of the phone terrifies you, use social media and business networking to reach out.

And don't forget your existing customers. Create some simple categories such as VIPs, those that have the potential to buy more and lapsed customers. VIP customers warrant your extra care and attention; a customer that buys irregularly warrants some extra marketing nudges to encourage them to buy more; and a lapsed customer is not necessarily a lost customer.

In short, targeting saves time and it generates cost effective sales, so don't short-change your business with a scattergun approach.

Copyright © 2015 Dee BlickFellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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Why every small business should be using email marketing

January 14, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why every small business should be using email marketing{{}}Running a small business is hard work. But just because you have a small team, and you won't be buying a TV spot during this year's Champions League Final, doesn't mean that you shouldn't be investing in email marketing.

A common misperception is that email marketing is only appropriate for online businesses. This couldn't be further from the truth. Online-only businesses are a natural fit for email marketing, of course, but the expectation these days is for just about every business - from the restaurant around the corner to your local community organisation - to have an online presence.

Email marketing is affordable

No matter if your business exists primarily online or in the "real world", email marketing is exactly what you should be thinking about, for the simple reason that it's proven to be one of the most cost-effective digital marketing tools across all sectors.

Email marketing deepens your connection to customers

Customers who've already purchased - either through your website or at your store - are the most important target group for your email marketing efforts. The goal should be to turn a one-time purchaser into a repeat customer. Email marketing empowers you to do this in a number of ways.

The most obvious step is to make targeted product recommendations based on purchase history. In addition to product recommendations, email marketing allows you to deliver offers on specific products that, based on your customer's purchase history, are most likely to lead to another sale. And finally, you can send personalised birthday and holiday greetings. With email marketing software, all of these messages can be automated, saving you time and doing the marketing work for you.

Newsletters engage prospects

By visiting your website and registering for your newsletter, people have already let you know that they're interested in what you have to offer. Take advantage of this opportunity by sending an automatic Welcome newsletter that gives a bit of information about yourself, and lets people know where to find your best products and/or content.

Powerful analytics at your fingertips

Email marketing software offers powerful analytical tools that enable you to learn about your customers while you're communicating with them. Open rates tell you how interested people are in your content, and by learning what types of devices they're opening your emails with - desktop vs mobile, web email vs Outlook - you can tell whether they're opening your emails at work or on the go.

Click maps tell you exactly how many people clicked on the content within your email, letting you see which content was most interesting. And conversion tracking lets you objectively measure the success of your campaign.

Email marketing offers solutions for every business: big or small, online store or neighbourhood shop. Drive sales, increase foot traffic and learn more about your customers.

Sponsored post: copyright © 2015 Ian Roderick, communications manager, Newsletter2Go.

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Is your customer service up to scratch on social media?

January 11, 2016 by Christina Richardson

Customer service{{}}The stakes have never been higher when it comes to customer service; 46% of shoppers in the UK under 25 use social media to comment on their customer experience.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos describes a brand as "what other people say about you when you're not in the room". But today's customers are less discreet - in fact they are quite happy to shout about you on social media if you get it wrong. So how can you use social media to improve the customer service you provide?

The social approach to service

According to a study by American Express, companies that respond to and resolve complaints via social media see 21% more sales than companies that handle complaints on the telephone or in written form.

Social media savvy consumers have higher expectations, but they'll spend more when they get good service and quickly ditch a company when they don't. So when you respond well, in real time, customers are impressed and become more loyal.

As a result, those taking a social approach to customer service are raising the stakes significantly in their favour. You'll now even see big brands signing off tweets with the first name of the person that wrote the tweet to add a personal face to the communications.

Use size to your advantage

Digital is a great leveller. With so much choice for consumers, there's no room for average, mediocre or just okay. That means a smaller business offering the personal touch can really stand out.

Businesses built on products that truly deliver - with customer care that is personal and responsive - are creating genuine competitive advantage despite their limited budgets.

This is how King of Shaves - as a start-up with little budget - became a strong challenger brand in a market dominated by billion-dollar rival, Gillette. Up against their £40m UK advertising budget they used an incredibly personal service on social media to create genuinely happy customers who then went on to do their marketing for them.

Listen carefully

Social is more than just a way to get your message out there; it's also fantastic for listening to your audience, responding to their needs and tracking your competition.

And it is great for getting feedback from your current customers and new prospects. Feedback can be given on your profile or it can be what people are saying about you in the feeds. So listen up; both positive and negative feedback will help make your business better and will make you more interactive on social.

Be authentic and transparent

At the heart of social customer service is transparency and honesty, but this isn't always easy when things go wrong. It is at this point that many brands try to stop anything negative going online but this can quickly backfire. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to be great - recognising that by responding to a criticism in a positive way you will often impress that customer, as well as all the others listening in on the conversation.

We all have those heart-in-the-mouth moments. Launching our social sharing tool Openr we've certainly had a few - including our entire domain not being available and users having to take to Twitter to tell us about the issues.

The trick is to treat customers as you would want to be treated yourself. Always respond to comments and when things do go wrong, make sorry the first word. Think about it from their perspective - they don't care if the issue wasn't actually your fault. It isn't their fault either, so sorry is the first step to making it up to them.

It seems strange that social media - a technology - is making businesses more human, honest and transparent, but it is undoubtedly raising the bar for customer service. Those that embrace it are standing out for all the right reasons.

Copyright © 2015 Christina, CMO and co-founder of social sharing tool Openr and founder of the The Nurture Network.

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Nothing up my sleeves - why effective SEO doesn't involve trickery

January 05, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why effective SEO doesn't involve trickery{{}}There's a new strategy in town. It's turning the SEO tables, causing established giants to fall by the wayside as smaller competitors make their mark in search rankings.

It's powerful; it promises to deliver sought-after SEO treasures, top spots on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), without any technical wizardry or dark magic required at all. How can this be done? How can such small rivals take on these seemingly impassable contenders - and win?

The truth is that the strategy behind these impressive feats does not involve anything mysterious or untoward. There are no short cuts; nothing clinging to a grey area, trying to escape the all-seeing eye of Google. The winning strategy is completely above board.

The truth about SEO

The great secret behind this success is actually disappointingly straight forward; it's about doing what you say you will and doing it well. The problem with so much SEO advice is that it simply over-complicates a field that is already littered with jargon.

Too many brands enter into some kind of bizarre battle with Google, believing there is no other way to compete than to use underhand tactics, trying to navigate the SERPs while skirting the threat of penalties.

This is not the way to win. The way to beat larger, more powerful rivals is to take them by surprise; by doing it honestly and transparently. It's about going back to basics.

What is a website for? Is to inform, entertain or persuade your customers into making a sale? If you can create a website that offers interesting, relevant, regularly updated content, it will become worth seeking out and the powers that be - aka search engines - will recognise it as such.

The race to the top of the results page

There is no need for dirty tactics. Sites are currently being compromised in this incessant race to get to the top, brands are receiving hefty penalties, all the while losing business.

This is all entirely unnecessary. The way to make your mark on SERPs is simply to maintain a website which does what it says on the tin and develop good quality, clean links from sources which you trust and build good relationships with.

If brands stopped cutting corners and using SEO "tricks" they would be in for a pleasant surprise. SEO is like anything else; if you do it well, you will be rewarded.

Copyright © 2016 Gary Taylor, digital director of specialist digital and media agency TMWI and co-founder of the rugby website Ruck.

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The power of promotional marketing for start-ups

January 04, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

The power of promotional marketing for start-ups{{}}So you've decided to start a business and join over 4.9 million other small businesses in the UK. You've got an amazing company name and you've bought the website domain. You've a great idea for a product or service and you know your potential customer base. Now just how do you let them know you exist?

Some start-ups are lucky enough to have a client list from day one. Often they have spun out of an existing business or they already know someone looking to buy what they can provide. Other new companies have to work harder to attract their first customers. Once are up and running, the next issue is how to continue their turnover growth and reach a wider audience, with limited marketing funds.

In today's business environment, clients and prospects expect certain marketing elements to be in place. Without them, a start-up can't be seen to compete with established businesses.

The marketing communications mix can seem daunting to many non-marketers. Direct mail, advertising, publicity, PR, packaging and sales promotion can seem daunting. They are not. Marketing is simple if you keep in mind your target audience, the message to be conveyed and the action(s) you want clients to take. Thanks to the internet, most entrepreneurs can kick off their own marketing plans on a small budget and with limited promotional experience.

Starting out

The first step in any new marketing campaign is to get the logo right. You'll also need a strapline; a phrase that encapsulates what you do and that will underpin your marketing strategy for the long term. Freelance websites provide a low-cost way to get bids for logo design work. Website domain sellers offer technologies for website design and hosting, sometimes for free or charged for on a monthly basis, often with search engine optimisation as well.

The next step is social media. Most people already use social media and so marketing their new business comes easily to them. You can follow online guides to set up your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn pages. Link them where possible and post relevant content to build a following. It's also worth using Google Adwords but be careful to test and start with a small budget.

Promotional merchandise

Many new businesses also find that promotional merchandise helps them to establish their name within a local area or sector. Here, success lies in working with a promotional gifts distributor and selecting the right products to brand with your logo and contact details. Then it's all about getting them out to your target audience - through exhibitions, sales visits, meetings and via mailshots, introductory letters and flyers.

Imagine the impact of handing out 1,000 items branded with your company details to potential clients and seeing a high prospect to new client conversion rate. That's the power of promotional merchandise.

Copyright © 2016 Robin Koffler of Redbows. Robin is a Marketing Donut expert contributor.

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