5 Steps to Reach Your Writing Goals in a Pinch

writers-blockMet your article writing goals for the year? Congratulations! How did you do it?  Probably, by getting into a routine that you could handle easily no matter the circumstances you were in on any given day. But what if you haven’t reached those goals? Here’s a quick ‘cheat sheet’ on how to get into that frame of mind.

First, these steps are meant for those in a time crunch or for those who have a fast approaching deadline. It’s always recommended that you develop a structured plan that helps you achieve your goals so you aren’t scrambling at the end to meet your goal.

Next, use these steps to prioritize your tasks to make time for writing, budget your time effectively, and you will reach your target before you know it!

1. Identify Your Priorities – What tasks hold the greatest value (biggest ROI)? Make a list of everything you do in a given day and rank it starting with 1 as your highest priority. Delegate anything that is low priority. If delegation isn’t possible, let it go (deep breath) to make room for tasks that hold the greatest value to you.

2. Break it Down – Break down your tasks into actionable steps. For example, instead of “send tweet,” you might be break it down to “brainstorm tweet ideas,” “write tweets,” and “schedule/post tweet.” A more specific writing example would include “brainstorm article topics,” “outline article,” “draft article,” “edit article,” and “submit article.”

3. Increase Efficiency – Eliminate the following: Time sinks or activities that take up huge chunks of your time with little to no value.

Self-induced or outside distractions that make you lose your focus

Multi-tasking or not giving one task your full attention at any given time

4. Create a Plan – In the amount of time you have before your deadline, calculate how long it will take to perform a given task and schedule it at least a day in advance. To ‘amp up’ your writing efforts, take a day to write (or two or three – whatever you can). Clear your schedule and dedicate every resource you have to reaching your writing goal on that day.

5. Execute – Spring into action with every fiber of your being! Give every article an extra 10% of quality and originality to increase your ROI and exercise those article writing muscles.

Start now! Make your plan and get everyone (friends, family, and peers) on board. Don’t end with a whimper simply because you didn’t make your goal. Be a success!

Who is your “VP”? It’s not who you think.

fun officeConsumers have lots of choice for their buying needs, and you have lots of competition. So, how do you ensue that they look at your shopping experience, when compared to theirs? That’s a basic question, with a really simple answer.
Find a way to differentiate your business, one that matters to somebody, so that you do not have to compete on price. What is the single-minded point of difference that some narrowly defined ideal client cannot live without? The secret to marketing success is as simple as that. But by finding it, and exploiting it, your business would be in the elite, because your competition isn’t doing it. Why?Because to be unique, you have to actually be different and that scares the heck out of most business owners. Be very clear about this, though, your customers and prospects want you to be different, they require you to be different. To succeed in business you have only one job, and that is to find a way to show that you are completely different in a way that your market wants and values, exploit that difference in every word that you compose and watch your profits soar. It’s painful and a lot of extra work to do, sometimes, but you will be many steps ahead of the competition if you can do it.

Identify your ideal Client

You know you have an ideal client in mind when you can ponder how great life would be if you have a dozen or so more just like them. What makes them perfect for you? Have you done business with one, lately?

Create a list of six to eight of your current ideal clients and commit to sitting down with face to face or over the phone for about fifteen minutes, or you are going to devise a questionnaire and have them complete it and return it to you. As either of these methods are a conversation of sorts, the same questions should be included:

Why did you hire us/buy from us in the first place? Just because you think you know, you may not. You can collect surprising insights, here.

What’s one thing we do that you love the most? You need specifics, here. Drill down from their first answers.

What’s one thing we do that others don’t? Don’t be embarrassed to ask this – no-one else is, so it’s a refreshing change for the answerer. Even if the answer’s as plain as ‘you are close’, you collect extra knowledge.

If you were to refer us what would you say? Look for three adjectives, here. It will help you tally up the most important points when spread over several answers.

Can you tell me about three other companies that you love? Even if these other companies are in your field, you will get another view of your business from the outside. You also learn more about your competition.

If you were conducting an online search for this service, how would you search for it?: You are looking for their search terms in order to further define how a successful search would find you.

Remember that you’re not looking for scientific data, you’re looking more for themes and stories that offer clues to what really does make your firm unique. In most cases you will need to use follow-up statements such as – “Okay, we provide great service, that’s awesome, but tell me a story about a time we did.”

Work with themes that matter

From your interviews you should have some rich themes to work with. Don’t underestimate the power of simple things. Quite often your clients value the little things you do that are special. Resist the temptation to dismiss them as unimportant enough to use as your core point of difference.

List all of the answers, find out who said the most often repeated themes, and drive home a marketing campaign aimed at these clients.

This is your VP – Your Value Proposal to an entire business segment.

How your business can escape from ‘The Everyday Box’

Box 2It’s a worthwhile exercise to ask yourself if your life has turned out the way you expected it to – especially in your entrepreneurial life. If you ask yourself “How is my Business really doing?”, then how do you measure it? Turnover, Service, Employee number, growth, competition, money, your life-style? Nowadays we are expected to look at all of these as parts of the same equation. So, let’s start with an easier way to ask the question. Here are three choices, which one does your business most closely resemble?

 

Has your Business failed spectacularly?

Is your business a runaway success?

Is your business an ‘everyday’ business?

 You probably answered the third choice, and you have a business in The Everyday Box. However, because you recognize that fact, there are very simple ways for you to change it.

The Everyday Box is what your business gets caught in when you are ploughing forward, simply paying the bills. If you answered either of the first two, you may be in a better position. To have flamed out as a business owner, you have striven to get too far, too fast. You have made some choices that weren’t right at that time, or with those customers and prospects, or your staff couldn’t follow through for you.

If your business has – eventually – taken off, you have probably done the same things as the failure mentioned above, and they have worked. Chances are you have been through failure before, and it has resulted in a success this time. Of course, the answers aren’t simply to do with timing, but it could be something equally as glaring, or a combination of other simpler components that, when put together, made the choice. However, the education that you had been through before, made you do something a little different, or at a different time, or with a different purchaser profile, and, when put together, worked.

If you are ‘in between’ these two states, you are in the Everyday Box – and you may not know it. You are making excuses based on outside influences: The economy, the weather, the entrenched competition. You qualify your decisions as doing what you need to do to pay the bills, keep the staff happy, and keep everything ‘ticking over’ until this current negative situation clears up, miraculously. Of course the chances are that it will be replaced by another negative situation. As your business lurches toward the failure you are scared is going to happen, you become immobile, and continue on as if this is ‘business as usual’. If it is, you are really in trouble. So, how do you get out of it?

The first step, as with any difficult decision is to recognize that you are in the Everyday Box, and what you need to do to get out of it. That is remarkably easy: Go back to the reason why you started this thing in the first place, and what you were going to do to make it a success. Take a critical look at your entire chain, from prospecting to returning customers, and figure out how they differed from what you thought they were going to be. How do you change either them, their habits, your goods and services, or your marketing. Look at your staff. Are they in it for the long haul? They have to be entrepreneurial, too. Are they? Tell them what you are going to do, what changes are going to come up, how long it’s going to take. Will they follow you? Chances are, they will. Trim the dead wood, move forward, set yourself a goal and hit it. In other words, change.

One of two things will happen…and you know what they are. On the way to that place though, your business will change. Everyone will be more energized: Employees, contractors, suppliers and prospects will see how energized everyone has become. Everyone will be focused on the new goal, and you will be enjoying life once again.

You will pick up renewed interest from old contacts, and some new ones, too. Your drive to make this thing a runaway success is not only infectious – it is required. The way to get out of the Everyday Box is exactly the way to move your business toward success: Your enthusiasm. If you fail, you will have learned more about how to make it work next time. Your gutsy moves will mean more investment money next time, because nothing breeds enthusiasm in others like your own enthusiasm.

No business should be ‘just good enough’, it should be an unqualified success…or it should die trying. In either case, you will have gotten out of the Everyday Box.

Good Morning. What’s your First Task of the Day?

coffee

Yes, I know – put the coffee on. Or something like that. Now…concentrate.

The first thing I do is post my ‘morning thought’. This is the one that I have picked up from the latest trends across my social media platforms: In the business world in general this means LinkedIn for headlines, I glance through Twitter and, for fun (Fun is important in the Business World), check on Google+. I have started using Hootsuite, now, so I can post my thought across all of these platforms with one post. There, now I have just ‘touched’ over 200,000 people. I hope that it was a good post!!

Posting this way shows that I’m a real person that thinks of other things outside of my business model. This means that when I do post about my company it is at least tolerated by everyone, and may well mean some interest in my business page. In turn this means more clicks and higher ranking for my website, putting it closer to the number one position in ‘Search’, where people actively looking for my services will find me easier.

My second job is to write a blog, and post it on a couple of sites that are in my business niche. Of course, I include a link to my site within that post so that more people can find me if they are interested. Now, I like to be left alone when I’m writing like this, but you may find it better to break and look after other tasks while you are doing this. It all depends on the type of person that you are. By tying myself to these daily rituals, I find that after 60 – 90 minutes, I have done more advertising for my brand than most businesses have done in a week.

I even get to the office early to ensure that I’m left alone and can concentrate on this. Strangely, I have received more cold calls concerning my services at work since I have started working this way, and interest is growing. I have even come up with a questionnaire that I can e-mail to prospects that – when returned – gives me  a clearer picture of what these prospects are looking for. All from some creative writing first thing in the morning! By 10.00a.m.  I am ready to get on with the rest of my day.

OK, this isn’t for everyone, I know. So if you feel that this is a stretch for your writing skills (By the way, I had no idea where this post was going when I opened up my Blog file. This is simply, I find, a case of paying attention to what is going on around you.), do 4 things to your Facebook profile. It takes you a couple of minutes, gets you into the habit of writing something, and may whet your appetite for more.

Post
What happened yesterday to your business, or in your industry, or in the neighbourhood? If you can’t think of something, Post pictures, links, articles relating to your business, or any interesting events or activity your business is involved in. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you know something that someone else doesn’t, it will find an audience. Just Post It!

Engage
I answer every question I am asked online, thank people for stopping in, or at a minimum, click like on others’ comments.  I want them to engage in further conversation.  None of us likes to be ignored, so respond to those that took the time, and keep the conversation going…

Analyze

Check out Facebook insights, and Twitter Analytics. These features allows you to track the results of your page, as well as the results of every post you make.  Use Insights to learn what type of posts people enjoy, comment on, and engage in, and how their reception changes over time.
Advertise
Use Facebook Ads. You can budget a tiny amount per day, and bid on the amount of money you spend on each ad.  You can run ads for several of my pages, and Facebook will allow you to track the results of each ad.  Tracking the results allows me to improve on my ads.  The better the content of the ad, the more exposure they bring my page.

You have spent thirty minutes on Social Media, and have engaged with people that know you, as well as people that may become prospects. You have also had some fun. OK, time for coffee!

Let’s Get OFF Facebook!

facebook logoAOL-logoHere’s a bold Marketing idea: Let’s get off Facebook ! Now, why would we even think of stopping marketing on the site that has over a Billion active users? Because of a system they have put in place that may render them as inconsequential as AOL. Remember America Online? In the Nineties, they were the dominant business on the web, because of a bold marketing strategy, that eventually turned on them:

In the early part of the decade, they spent over $300 million in mailing CDs to everyone’s mailbox. At one point, 50% of the CD’s produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it, and they were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds. Within ten years AOL rose to over 25 million users – an unbelievable number at the time – and they were the hottest company in the world. They began opening up new opportunities for brands to reach consumers. Companies raced to build up their AOL brand pages, and you would see “AOL” all over the commercials.

But eventually it fell out of favor (as every social network does), and lost users in droves. Those huge marketing investment dollars that companies made into AOL were wasted — because it was a “closed system”. All the data and user information belonged to AOL, not the companies who worked so hard to build it in the first place, and marketers realised that they were never going to either get control of those prospects, or would grow their sales. Today, Facebook have started doing exactly the same thing.

Companies love talking about their Facebook “Likes” and promoting their pages wherever they can. But here’s the problem, Facebook is starting to charge you to reach your own fans.

Facebook acknowledged it recently: Messages now reach, on average, 15 percent of an account’s fans. However, In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: You pay them for better access. If you want to speak to the other 80 to 85 percent of people who signed up to hear from you, “sponsoring posts is important.” according to the monolith. They have, in effect, stolen the friends that you have, and are holding them hostage until you pay to get them back – this on top of you spending time, money, and energy acquiring them in the first place. If not enough people pay this outrageous ransom fee (and who would?), those friends will remain as Facebook’s property, hereby creating a closed system that you don’t own or control.

If you’re looking for awareness, then track visits, not “Likes.” If you’re looking for sales from repeat visitors, then use email marketing, not Facebook. You never know how long it will be around. If that sounds heretical, ask anyone who was online in the nineties about AOL.

What is my first step?

businessman-A reply to a recent post online stated a major business problem that we sometimes overlook: “All of these detailed plans are very good, but how do I start out? What is my first step in marketing a small business?”

While we specialize in opening the online world to small businesses, how to actually start one week before opening your doors is an overlooked Marketing exercise that we sometimes overlook.

Firstly, do you know your audience? I am amazed by the amount of store-front businesses opening in my small town every time that I walk along its streets. How come I didn’t know about this opening, or this store? Your opening is a massive event, because you are introducing shoppers to a whole new experience, a completely different array of stuff that they may need. A sign in the front window saying: “We are new!” isn’t enough. How do people find out that you are about to open? The answer here is a choice: You will spend money on marketing, or you will spend a lot of time outside of your businesses’ opening making sure that your future audience knows that you are opening. Don’t rely on them to find you as part of a regular shopping trip…make sure they are there to see you, to spend time, to make a decision to buy. You have to get to them to let them know that you are holding an event for them.

Do you know who your audience is? Is it primarily female, or Boomers? Is it for people of a certain salary group, or for people that belong to a community other than your geographical one? Do you have a business plan in mind that states what lines you have now, how you are going to expand, and what you are going to use to continually create interest in your business within your chosen communities? Are you seasonal, and know how you are going to entice people into your business in 3 months, 6 months, a year? OK, now put those facts together in a list: I am selling this to these people. Now go and find them. Are they online or off? Are they local, or will they have to travel somehow to get to you. Where can you find them? Of course, a website is the perfect way to share what you are trying to say, to tell the story, show prospects where you are, who you are and how to get to you. You can think of possible objections to them visiting you, and deal with those ahead of time. But this is only good if your Ideal Customer is actually online to see them. How about these ideas, while you are adding to, or designing, your website:

Flyers are a good way to get business for a local service and we have all seen others who have had success with this. Leaving them up with your phone number on the bottom and then cut into slices so people can grab one and then placing them around at local coffee shops etc.

Physical networking definitely helps you to get seen by local government, merchant associations, and regular everyday customers. Local print advertising could be expensive, but if your local paper has a reader profile that matches your ideal customer, you can get a deal to advertise over a 6 or 8 month period that satisfies your ongoing advertising needs, and the costs would be more gentle. Of course having your web details on your advertising, allows prospects to see you ‘at a glance’, then investigate you more at their own pace.

Once you have a plan, a customer profile, and an ongoing investment (in money or time.) outline, you will be better placed to succeed than others, whose ego is the only thing they rely on for success.

How ‘clean’ is your data?

Scrub diskHopefully, if your ongoing marketing is having an positive effect on your customers and prospects, you are collecting a lot of data. There comes a time when you should take a closer look at the data you have, and are still collecting. While you have put a lot of time into defining your message for each channel, and ensuring that each of these channels are getting enough attention, there comes a time when you have to find out what this collection of information actually means to your business. How has your businesses’ database evolved, and how can you ensure that the signals you are getting from it are correct, and can further your sales?

Data may be the four-letter word that does irreparable harm to your marketing if it isn’t looked after, so ensure that you make the most of it, before your competitors do. Think about this: Up to 25% of customer data becomes inaccurate within one year. If you are making marketing and sales decisions on this, you stand a 1 in 4 chance of going down the wrong path, and wasting time by treading water in your marketplace. Here are four easy steps to ensure that you maximize your data, and they are easy to put into your monthly working practices.

1.        Maintain Field Completeness.

Either you, or your sales and marketing department need to identify who is doing what in your customer and prospect database. What fields are important to you: Name, address, or business, past purchases, size, or frequency? Of course, you can define all kinds of knowledge, but if your fields are being ignored by others in the company, then everyone may be looking at the same data, but receiving different signals. Ensure that everyone gets the same results by agreeing (or clarifying) the headers that enable you to keep your records straight.

2.        Take Action on Bouncebacks.

Don’t just delete those e-mail bouncebacks – use them. The average time of workers at companies is between two to five years. Even if someone stays at a company longer than this, their job title may change. Think of the amount of mergers and acquisitions that take place everyday, if you are working in a B2B market. These three factors may well be responsible for the returned mail you are getting.

Not only frustrating, this can lose you leads if you simply ignore them. If someone has left a position, find out who took their place, and track down where your contact went to. This doubles the amount of leads that you have! You know that a particular business was interested, along with a person: perhaps that contact’s new business would also be looking at your service? Does the new guy in the chair know of their bosses’ interest in your service? You need to at least save these returned e-mails as a possible new source for sales and marketing to.

3.        Make Sense of Unsubscribes.

While giving a prospect the opportunity to unsubscribe from your marketing gives them a certain amount of power, shouldn’t you get something from this, too? Come up with a system that addresses this, by finding out why. See how these lists grow, try to drill down to get more information, and alter your marketing system, before getting in touch with them again from a different perspective a few months later. Lists like this can feed the life-blood of a business, by teaching you what isn’t working from your prospect point of view.

4. Track Increased Engagement

It’s not all bad news: There is a reason why you are receiving positive feedback. Once again, you can find buried treasure to find out which channels are working and why. Are there certain messages working better than others? Find out why, and mould this message into a shape that will receive a more positive reaction from more prospect sources. You can even change the least popular of your positive marketing to try to bump up those figures.

There is something called Paralysis by Analysis that infects many companies: When you spend way too long studying results of marketing, and this impacts the speed at which your business reacts to changes in your marketplaces. Get accustomed to overhauling your data on an ongoing basis, and this will make your Analysis faster and more successful. These simple four steps will be a good starting point.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 314 other followers