Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Why your marketing strategy isnt working (and what to do about it)

So, you have a business you love. I mean, you really love it. And you think everyone else should love it too. But it isn't flying. And the orders aren't flowing in. Or the phone isn't ringing off the hook. 

And, actually...no-one really knows about it.

But why? 

Well, there could be lots of reasons. Many people often make the mistake that just because you love the business or your products and know about it that everyone else should too.  

But usually it comes down to one or all of the below.

So, let's break down the 'why' and then focus on how to fix the problems.

WHY is my marketing not working?

You don't have a plan - Not a real plan anyway. You haven't put together a proper strategy and you're essentially just 'winging it'. No marketing will EVER work without a proper plan to execute. 

You don't know your audience - Have you considered who your audience is? Sometimes this can be very obvious but sometimes it might be quite wide and varied. Or maybe you haven't even considered it?

You don't know your product - Do you really know what it is you're selling? Do you know why it's so great? What makes it good? 

You're not looking at your data - Now this is key! SO many people may have a plan, they have a target audience. They've defined their product. But you're not looking at your data to see whether this is actually true.

You're over complicating it - We've all heard about 'KISS' (keep it simple stupid) and it is always relevant. A long time ago, a previous boss (who I respect very much) said something which stuck with me. 'Do more of what works and less of what doesn't' Sometimes we can be guilty of looking at newer marketing trends and thinking we need to be doing that when that's not always the case. 

So what do I do?

To begin with take a look at each of the above statements and see which one/s apply to you.

Do you have a plan? If the answer is YES then great! 

You're way ahead of a lot of people who set up a business with no plan and just believe the customers will come. If you don't then you need one. 

A good marketing plan isn't complicated (despite what many people will have you believe) as marketing should be simple. It should include:
  • What do we do?
  • Who are our competitors and what do they do?
  • What makes us different?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Where do our customers hang out online and in person?
  • How do we get our message in front of them?
  • What channels do we use?
  • What's our message?
  • WHY should people use us?
  • How do we measure what we do?
Take the time to write your plan. To really look at all the above and write a strategy to fit.

If you HAVE got a marketing plan do you really know your customer?

If you know your customer you need to really think about who they are, what they do and where they hang out. Then think about why they might want your product. If you know all of this then it might be worth considering if your customer base is too wide? Sometimes we can have too wide a range of products or services which makes marketing quite hard. Have a think about what type of customer is the most important to you and consider just that group of people and how you focus on them.

Do you really know your product or service?

This is really common to not really know what you're selling. You think it's obvious but you've never really considered in detail exactly what you're selling and why. You need to know everything about what you're selling. In great detail. Only then will you understand who might want to buy it.

Are you looking at your data?

Recently I was working with a client who had just been collating email lists of people they thought would be interested in their product. T
hey had been emailing them information about their product every week. 

On closer inspection of their data I saw that NOBODY was actually opening the emails. 
But they were sending them anyway!
They weren't really looking at their message and what they were sending or who they were sending it to so I guess they ticked quite a few boxes above. You need to know WHAT is working. WHO is paying attention to your message and why. These people are genuinely interested in what you're doing so focus on them. I don't mean hone in on them and spam them with sales emails. I mean look at who they are. And look at why they're interested. And look at the message you are sending them. Once you understand your data it will really help you to fine tune WHO, WHAT and WHY and isn't that really the most important part of your marketing really?

Are you over complicating things?

Do you have a marketing strategy that works but you've read you should be doing X, Y and Z? Marketing is not 'one size fits all'. Just because one channel works for one business doesn't mean it will work for you so if you have something that works don't take your eye off the ball to try something new. 
You absolutely should NOT keep churning out the same thing just for the sake of it but don't try and be on a million channels and all things to all people. Especially if you are a small business. Focus on getting one thing right that you know works. 
Once that's running and doing well you can look at adding something else into the mix but don't try and run a million different promotions on four different channels whilst forgetting your key message.

Marketing works if you ask the right questions.

We could expand on WHY it might not be working but I would suggest the above are some of the main reasons things might not be going as planned.

Take the points that might apply. Grab a piece of paper and see what comes out. 


Just keep it simple, ask the right questions and revise your plan. And then you'll be flying!

HOWEVER! If you have tried a lot of the above and you are still struggling and need some support with your marketing then just drop us a line or give us a call 07887552888.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Have you ever questioned what is that you're doing with your life?

Have you ever questioned what it is that you are doing? Over the past 6 months or so I have felt like perhaps I have lost my mojo. Many of you will probably know how that feels. 

I was still delivering good work and I had lots of business and happy clients but something just wasn't feeling 'right'.

Over the last year I had begun to wonder whether I should continue being 'The Intelligent VA Company'. When my business began in 2012 I offered lots of services to lots of businesses. Probably too many services to be honest. I didn't know my niche. Or even really my audience. I could genuinely offer something to everyone. All this being said I (very rarely anyway) wasn't doing any traditional VA work. It has been some time since I did any admin work or PA support for example. 

I was heading off to networking meetings and standing up to talk about my business and there would often be 2 or 3 other VA businesses in the room. Now, I have no issue at all with that. There is more than enough work to go round but when I began to talk about what I did and what I could offer my services didn't match what I was actually doing. Nor did they match the kind of work I really wanted to do. I was putting myself in competition with other businesses when I didn't even do what they do anymore! 

Lots of, very smart, people talk about having a niche or asking who IS your ideal client? Problem was I didn't really know. 

BUT I had a good business. I was making money and I enjoyed the work and was delivering stuff my clients were happy with. Did I really want to change all that? To start from scratch?

A rebrand? More investment, more time, more research, more networking, more marketing to re-engage my new client base? Sounds like a lot of hard work to me!

Thing is, I had also joined Spaghetti Agency's #SocialSummerCamp to keep my brain ticking over and focused over the summer months. In probably the first week or so they asked me my 'Why'. Why do I do what I do? 

Shit. Now I had to answer the question i'd been avoiding for 6 months!

Five years ago that answer was easy. I set up the business that utilised all my skills i'd learnt in business so I could work for myself and be flexible with my time to fit around my children's needs. Nothing had changed about the latter part. The flexibility to be around for my children whilst theyre young is still the key driver to being in business for myself. But the WHAT I was doing wasn't right anymore. I wanted to hone what I do, to really focus on the stuff I do for clients that I LOVE and that delivers the most value. The stuff where they say at the end of each month 'Wow. I can't believe the difference having you involved has made' And now I have the confidence to build a business again from scratch. 

Now I have focus. 

Now I have my Why and my What.

How about you? Is your WHY and your WHAT working for you? Are you doing what you really want to be doing?

I get it's hard and it's scary and it would be so simple to just stick with the status quo (especially if things are ticking along just fine) but you owe it to yourself to be doing what you love. Life is just too short to be stuck with 'okay for now'.

So find your why. Ask yourself what you love and what you're good. Who you want to work with and why. Then see what that reality looks like. If you've made something work once you can do it again. Go for it!

My new brand and website are currently cooking away in the background and I have all the focus I need to go and smash it. It wont be easy but I wouldn't be me if I didn't go for it.

Can't wait to share it with you all! Watch this space.

Friday, 26 May 2017

An open letter to 4Networking

Dear 4N,

I was sat struggling to think of my latest blog topic when I realised that all my ideas and inspiration were coming to me from people i'd met at 4N or someone i'd seen 4Sight. And that is when it became clear to me what my blog needed to be about...

I've got to be honest. 2016 wasn't the best year for me. The business was doing fine, just ticking along but it was doing fine. I hadn't really been focusing much on what it was doing or what I wanted it to be doing and it was paying the bills so we were all okay.

Thing is I wasn't happy. I was trying to avoid that fact for quite a long time. My son was 2 at the time and still not sleeping at all and I was functioning on around 3 hours sleep a night. And running a family. And a business. Spinning plates. You know the kind of thing.

I could have been forgiven for not looking to drive and focus on the business. I was very tired all the time and I was also suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. I know nobody has it easy and, in comparison to the atrocity which occurred earlier this week, I didn't have much to complain about but my mental health wasn't the best and I was pretty miserable. And lonely. Oh so very lonely.

For over a year some cowboy called Todd (you might know him. He does something with social media I think. Or something) had been telling me I should join this networking group called 4N. He said it was amazing and regularly waxed lyrical about why online. I thought he sounded brain washed and that this 4N thing sounded like a cult.

Thing is I had thought about joining. But then I would have to face up to all the things bothering me in my head. Panic, anxiety, loneliness, no direction for my business. No plan. Why the fuck would I want to do that?! Why would I want to stand up in front of people and talk about my business? Why would I want to stand up and talk at all? I had no plan. I was a sham. I was just tootling along with a website and a name i'd built up. But I wasn't happy.

Fast forward January 2017 and I was nearing the end of my CBT sessions (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for those who may not know) which was helping me deal with my anxiety and depression.

 During a session she said you have to face the thoughts and the fears. Let them into your mind but let them know YOU'RE in charge. Not them. So there and then I Facebook messaged Todd and asked him to book me as a visitor to Leamington Lunch.

I left the doctors and watched the first Claire and Todd on the sofa which talked about Belief and went home to write a blog about Self Belief.

I had a full on panic attack on the drive to my first ever meeting. I fumbled my way through my 40 seconds (why the hell didn't I rehearse?!) and spent half of it hiding in the toilets. Then I had my 1:1s two of which were with a Claire. Claire McTernan and Claire Russell who just made me feel at ease. They explained about 4N and showed me how it could work for me. They treated me like an equal and were really kind.

 I thought I was going to wander into a big clique of people who just networked with each other. Wrong.

I filled my placemat  in and joined there and then.

Since that date 4N has honestly changed my life. I'm not just saying that. I was lost and sad, confused, bewildered, lonely. Did I mention lonely?

I do have friends of course but I worked alone from a home office. A lot. And all the friends I have don't know what it is like to run a business. I love them but we don't have that much in common anymore and nobody understood what my day to day was like. I really wanted some friends!

Fast forward to now and I feel like the people I have met within 4N are real friends. I feel I could call them for advice and they would be there for me. I feel part of a gang over litterally thousands who are all on exactly the same journey as me. Cliquey? Nope. A more helpful network of people you're not likely to find.

I've got myself 7 new clients since January (and I didn't even join for business!) , I've made friends, i've learnt SO much from 4sights and 4N development lives. I've delivered a 4Sight (yep stood up and talked to my peers for 20 minutes with no panic attacks), i've become GL of Leamington Lunch, i've given work to loads of my fellow 4Ners, i've invited visitors and preached about the benefits. I've booked on courses. I've spent time with the amazing Claire McTernan who has helped me to see the wood for the trees and re-focus.

Finally, for the first time in a while, I know where i'm going. And I know why i'm going there. And i'm not lonely now. And i'm off my tablets and standing up in front of people every week. I'm getting out there and I know it's just going to get better.

And i'm happy! Like really happy.

And it's all thanks to 4N and some cowboy hassling me about some shit networking group I just had to go to. Hate to say it but he was right.

So thank you 4N community. Thank You to Brad for not giving up all those years ago. Thanks to Todd and Jo for just being ace. Thanks to Claire for that 1:1 and for Claire for so much support I can't even write it all down and for asking me to be on of your GLs. I'm really honoured to do that.

Thank You x

PS - It doesn't work.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Low budget and free marketing ideas for small businesses

You've set up your new business. You're really excited about the future and the potential. But you need to tell EVERYONE about it. And you have no budget to do this. No marketing spend allocated WHATSOEVER. Do you know what I hear most of the time when I meet with clients? How much is this going to cost me? Marketing is expensive and I don't have the budget.

But do you know what? Marketing DOESN'T have to be expensive. A lot of marketing can even be free. 

I was very lucky in my very first marketing role. I didn't have a budget. Na-da. Zip. Nothing. 

I had a supportive boss, a blank sheet of paper and TONS of ideas. My brief was to increase a sports crowd from a small amount of people to begin filling the building weekly. And that's exactly what I did. 

It is really simple to market something with a budget. You can pay for adverts (online and in print) you can pay for radio promotions, newspaper promos, bus advertising, pay per click ads, leaflet drops...even TV ads if your budget will stretch. 

But you know what having a budget can do sometimes? It can make you lazy. It can make marketing a box ticking exercise. You can throw money at it and get as many eyes on your product as possible. But is that the best marketing for your product? Is it the best route? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting having a marketing budget is bad. I'm just saying NOT having one can be a positive if you let it.

But if I have no money to spend, how do I get the message out there?

Simple - Think outside the box. Ask yourself the right questions. And have a clear strategy. 

Here are just a few low budget and free marketing ideas for you to try.

Build relationships - Starting with this one because it is BY FAR the most important. We all know that people buy from people. Fostering and building relationships is one of THE best forms of marketing around. When you build a relationship with a person you also build trust. When you trust a person you are FAR more likely to work with them than not. You're far more likely to help them out when they need it and you're far more likely to recommend them to a friend or share their products.

Create Great, Evergreen content - Content is king in marketing and it is great for your profile and for having people find you online. Evergreen, essentially, means reusable content. The more content you create to share the more people will find you and the more people will begin to understand your brand and your message. The online world moves so fast though that you do need to create, share and regularly re-share your content.

Get Listed - Another simple (and mainly free) marketing trick is to find all the local online listings relevant to your business and get your information on there. These listings are often found in searches on front pages so ensure your business details are on there AND that they're up to date.

Find your audience - Ask yourself. Who is my audience? Who would buy my product? And then ask yourself How do I get in front of as many of those people as possible? For example; say your audience is families. How do you get your message out to as many people in that group as possible. Where do they hang out online? Who else do they talk to. Then find a way of getting your message in front of them.

Go Live! - Getting your message out there online is so much simpler these days. Online messages are a great way to connect with your audience. I'm not talking about a sales pitch. I'm just talking about telling people what you do but, more importantly, helping people. Creating great, useful content that people need. Giving away tips and ideas. Even just engaging with people. It all goes back to relationships and building your brand and reputation.

Get Linkedup on LinkedIn - Depending on your audience chances are they are on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool, especially for B2B, and can be really effective as part of your marketing mix. People don't like being hounded or spammed remember so make sure you connect and make sure you share lots of great content and get involved with conversation. By all means let those people know what you do just don't hassle them and start by building that relationship and offering support and help.

Think about PR - There is a perception that PR can cost lots of money. Whilst this is true in some instances PR doesn't have to cost the earth. Much of it, again, comes down to relationships. Building relationships with PR contacts and becoming their 'Go To' person. All you need are ideas and angles. What story could you talk about that would interest your audience? Could you become an industry expert and be responsible for their FAQ page in your field? Have you any community activities you can get involved with? TOP TIP: If you provide good photos and ready made, pull off the page, content and send regularly people will use it. With the growth of online press and the need for lots of articles and content staff will always welcome good content that they didn't need to spend hours sourcing.

Networking - Networking is one of THE best ways to get your business and your message out to people and it is often free and always relatively inexpensive. A lot of people make the mistake that 'the people there don't need my services' Always remember this is about growth and fostering relationships. It's about gaining trust in you. If people trust you they trust your business and are likely to work with you or recommend you. And remember...you NEVER know who they might know.

Cross promotion - Who out there is after the same audience as you? Why not pool budgets and ideas. Share the cost of leafleting. Share each others leaflets with offers to each others audiences. Two heads are always better than one and you and quickly save money and double your potential audience by working with similar businesses in your industry.

Get blogging - Blogging is a free but effective way of getting your message out there. Blogging is great for SEO and for showing that you know your onions. If you can establish yourself as an industry expert in your field then people will start looking to you for the answers. And the answers lie within your business.

Give away things for free - whether you want to build your followers on your online channels or your subscribers  you will need to encourage people to interact with you. Everything is 'opt-in' so make sure your content is great and helpful but dangle a carrot to persuade people to join in. Online competitions work really well for stuff like this. Giving away your advice for free in downloadable documents or white papers. Free e-books. Anything to encourage people to be part of your gang and want to know what you're going to say.

Build your mailing list - There are many free campaign mailing tools out there for small businesses and these should be used. Again nobody is interested in your spam or #BuyMyStuff as many people I know say. They 'might' be interested in your product at some point though and building the relationship and general awareness will help them choose you when that decision arises so make sure your email marketing is interesting and informative and you give information away that will actually help people.

Think about referalls - Do you current customers know anyone else who might want to work with you? In many instances a referalls programme works really well and is quite inexpensive. If a referall results in a contract the referer could benefit from money off. Or a voucher. Or similar.

Facebook Ads - Not FREE but not expensive. Putting FB ads into your budget is a smart thing to do. This is a surefire way to promote yourself but to a targeted audience. It is simple, affordable and can be very effective. It always offers a great ROI

Become Award winning - There is not much that says 'we know what we're doing' than a nice shiny award saying that others agree with you. Find and enter as many relevant awards to your business as you can. It's nice to have and attend, it endorses that you do know what you're doing AND it's great for producing PR.

Ask for reviews and testimonials - 92% of people do research online before making a purchase so they are going to look at what people are saying about you so do encourage people to leave you reviews and testimonials on Facebok, LinkedIn, on your website, google reviews and video testimonials. Again great for SEO and great for content. Plus it validates what you're saying - 'we're good at what we do'

Utilise Facebook check-in - Facebook check-in is a great little tool for awareness. If a person checks in at your business or ticks the 'going' button on the facebook events tool all their friends and followers see it on their feed. This just increases more eyes on what you do and more awareness of your business.

Get involved in your community - Regardless of marketing activity you should get involved in your local community. There will be loads of stuff going on that you can support which will be great for you and your business. Community involvement is great for awareness, for branding, for PR PLUS it makes you feel great as you can actually make a difference to the area in which you live. Win win!

And there are LOADS more! Don't be afraid of a limited budget. Embrace it! I promise it's worth it.

All this said we do support all sizes of business with their marketing efforts so if you do need additional support please give us a call. We promise to ultimately save you money on your marketing budget! ;-)

Visit us www.theintelligentvacompany.co.uk

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The power of self belief & Dumbo's magic feather

First day back at work after extended holiday with my lovely family and I was musing what to write in my blog. I was watching a fabulous Facebook Live (really worth a watch) with the talented and inspirational Claire Russell and Todd from Spaghetti Agency where they were talking about goals for 2017 and the importance of such things as motivation and self belief. 

The belief thing struck a chord with me and so I decided it should be the focus of my first blog for 2017.

Belief is a funny old thing. Some people just brim with self confidence and belief. Some people have absolutely NO problem in believing in themselves, or their product or their business. It comes as naturally to them as talking. Of course, for some people, it isn't always that simple. Being confident and having belief in yourself and your own abilities doesn't always come easily BUT you can change that and it is something that can be learned if you know how.

Take Dumbo as an example. You remember that loveable, big eared, Disney cartoon elephant. Ridiculed by his friends for his big ears. Didn't fit in anywhere. Sad and alone (brutal film!) . 

But someone believed in him and offered him a 'magic feather'. With this feather Dumbo truly believed he could fly. And he could. And he did. And he was the star of the show. Till one day, mid-flight, he dropped his feather. The belief in himself went floating away to the ground. Would he crash? His mentor told him it wasn't the feather, it was him. 

The feather wasn't real - it was all him. 

And Dumbo flew! Because he believed in himself. You just need to find your own magic feather.

Visualise your success - Imagine you could picture in your mind what you want your business to look like this. Who you would love to work with. What your office might look like. What you have on your walls. How will it feel when you achieve that goal or goals you have set yourself?
The power of visualisation can be really, really powerful. The real thing behind this is; if you can't see yourself or pictures yourself achieving your goals then, chances are, you probably wont. So start visualising!

Be your own mentor - I do this a lot. Give myself a bit of a talking to when i'm feeling less than confident. Personally I do a lot of 'WWXD' Aka What would X do. There are lots of people who inspire me and it quite often helps to put myself in their shoes and think 'What would X do' 
A great example of this is a lady called Vikie Shanks Vikie's story is incredible. As single mum (after her husband committed suicide) of 7 children six of which are Autistic and one Dyslexic and the two youngest also have Cerebral Palsy. Vikie is now an author and a mentor and has the kind of inner strength it is almost hard to believe. If ever i'm having a bit of a crap day I just think 'What would Vikie do?' Trust me - it really works.

Become a Superhero - Remember confidence is a persona. A bit like Spiderman putting on a mask. Even if you don't feel it at the time if you put on that mask and act confident people believe you. Which makes you feel good. Which makes you feel confident. Which gives you belief. You just need to find your alter-ego!

Find the positives every day - Lots of people I know keep a positivity journal. This can really help you to reference on days when you might not be 'feeling it' If you can take the time to find something positive in your day it can help to change you overall mood from negative to positive in an instance. It's only something small but it can make a big difference. 

Let go of your mistakes - This is a big one for me. Letting mistakes fester and affect your mood really can affect your mood and your day. It can affect your self believe. Start to question yourself. Are you really good enough? If you were good enough you wouldnt have made that mistake. STOP.

You have to remember that EVERYONE screws up sometimes. No-one is perfect. Just accept you're human, Be honest. You made a mistake. The important thing here is to learn from it. Mistakes often are a good thing. They help you tweak your processes to make them even better. They help you ensure a higher level of quality simply because you don't want it to happen again.  So, learnt from itm put it behind you and move on.

All the world's a stage - I remember the very first time I was due to give a lecture at Coventry University. I was absolutely terrified. Then I thought about what I used to tell myself before I did a big presentation or pitch at work. Confidence is all about attitude and belief. Putting on that mask. Becoming that character on the stage. You are a brand. People buy from people and people buy from you and your brand so you have to be believable. And you have been ASKED to make that pitch. You've been asked to do that presentation. You've been asked to deliver that talk or lecture. And you've been asked because somebody believes you know what you're doing. THEY believe in you. And the people you are presenting to or talking to are going to be interested in what you have to say. They WANT to hear from you. Remember that. You know more than them. So put on your face, turn on your smile and believe in yourself. Because THEY do and that is powerful.

Embrace your flaws - Again, nobody is perfect and, generally, your version of yourself is actually not what other people see. It is all in your own head. We are all unique in our own way and our flaws are what sets us apart and we are the only ones who can see them. Focusing on the negative just zaps your time and energy. Accept your flaws in whatever form they come and just live your life. Taking the obsessing over what you could perfect away gives you the energy to use elsewhere.

Every day is a school day - I think this is really key. Getting out there and learning new skills, devloping and honing the skills you have and investing yourself is a great thing to do. It can realy help to build confidence. Often you can go along to a course and realise 'hey. I actually know more than I think I do' and this can do wonders for your self belief. 

Find your tribe - It is important to surround yourself with like minded people. Positive people who build each other up and not knock each other down. People who you can take advice from and who you can offer advice to. Having the right people around you can do great things for your confidence and self belief. If the people around you believe in you then you can really start to believe in yourself

Remember YOU have to believe in yourself and it will make a huge difference to you. Think about it. If you don't believe in yourself why would anyone else want to do business with you or buy from you. You are interesting, you are special and you just need to remember that. 

How you get to that point is down to you. Whether you find your proverbial magic feather, decide on your superhero alter-ego or just give yourself a damn good talking to every now and then you just need to get to the point where you can hold your head up high and say;

'I'm glad to be me. I'm good at what I do and my life is actually pretty damn cool'

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