Monday, 26 February 2018

What's your BIGGEST writing problem?

Many business owners tell me that when it comes to creating content about their business they have one (or more) of these problems:

1. They don't have the time to write blogs, newsletters and news articles.
2. They don't enjoy creating content - so it always gets bumped to the bottom of the to-do list.
3. They aren't confident about writing and feel they don't have the skills to write engaging copy, news articles, blog posts or newsletter content.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
I think 1. and 2, are really the same problem. It's very easy to say you don't have time to do something that you don't want to do.

Everybody has 24 hours in a day and if you want to do something, or you make it a priority, you can always find time.

We have all had one of those days when you start off with a to-do list that has a job on it we really don't want to tackle. It is so tempting to find other things that we will enjoy doing more, or that we feel are more important to our business, and let them jump the queue.

Perhaps you have come across a self-help book called Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, which urges you to get your 'worst' task done first thing in the morning. It might be making a tricky phone call, sorting out some boring but essential administration work or writing a long overdue blog post. After that you should be able to breathe a contented sigh and sail through the rest of your day feeling smug and self-satisfied.

That tough approach might work well for some people, but maybe there's another way. After all, life is too short to spend time dreading a task and then steeling yourself to get it done and out of the way.

Maybe you can change your mindset and feel happy about doing the task because of the benefits it will bring to you and your business?

If it's a task, such as writing, that you can do from anywhere, perhaps you can take yourself off to your favourite coffee shop, or to a place in the countryside that you love, and tackle your writing there. It's amazing how a change of scenery can get the creative juices flowing and demolish writer's block.

Sometimes it makes sense to delegate jobs that you don't enjoy, and which aren't your area of expertise, to someone who will enjoy them and do a good job. This allows you to get on with the things you love about your business.

For example, I certainly don't enjoy wrestling with IT - and it's not why I set up my own business - but once I left corporate life in 2010, I could no longer pick up the phone to the IT department and ask them to come and sort out my ailing computer.  So, I've found an IT expert who helps me whenever anything goes wrong or needs upgrading. He can sort things in 10 minutes that would take me hours of research and effort.

I love putting myself in the shoes of a business owner and writing case studies, articles, blog posts and features for them and it's rewarding to hear how I am making their lives easier. A customer recently emailed me at the end of a project and said: "Can I just say working with you has been great, so easy, I really didn't need to assist much at all, which meant I could leave you to get on with it, while I got on with my other jobs. Thank you."

If you do want to write your own content, I can also provide one-to-one coaching and support to give you skills and confidence in telling the stories that will make you memorable and prompt customers and prospective customers to pick up the phone, send an email or engage with you on social media. Get in touch to find out more.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Can LinkedIn help me grow my business in 2018?

When you sit down to plan how to grow your business in the new year, should you be looking at investing more time in LinkedIn?

Do you have an account that you've not updated for a while?

Are you proactively posting content that establishes your business values and your expertise?

Do you have a strategic approach and an action plan to connect with the people and businesses that matter to you?

Are you drowning in notifications you aren't interested in and requests to connect with random people that you don't know?

To help you decide if there could be a better way to use LinkedIn in 2018, here are 10 reasons that have convinced businesses I work with that LinkedIn should be a key business development tool for them:

  1. Google LOVES LinkedIn, so it can be a top result in the search engine when people 'Google' your name - and you want to make the best possible first impression, don't you?
  2. That inbuilt search engine-friendliness makes LinkedIn a powerful tool to drive traffic to your website - and there are SO many places on LinkedIn where you can legitimately create links to  pages on your website. Are you using them all? 
  3. Would you welcome the chance to be in a room with the leaders of the businesses and organisations with which you dream of working? LinkedIn can help you reach them online and build collaborative relationships that pave the way for future work and projects.
  4. There are many features in your LinkedIn profile that can help you to be found by the people you want to reach and influence. Are you using them all? Are you using keywords in your headline and summary that demonstrate the difference you can make? Are you uploading rich media to add interest and relevance to your profile? Are you using all the aspects of the 'accomplishments' section, such as 'projects', 'courses', 'honours and awards' and 'organisations'? 
  5. If you use all the options LinkedIn provides in its 'Settings & Privacy' section you can cut down (or cut out completely) lots of noise and notifications. You can also control how people communicate with you and what they can send to you.
  6. LinkedIn gives you access to lots of ways to measure the impact you are having with the content you create and share. It's very easy to set objectives and measure the return you are getting from the time you spend on the platform.
  7. Articles and updates on LinkedIn give you an opportunity to establish 'thought leadership', demonstrate expertise and experience and - importantly - to offer help and advice to others.
  8. LinkedIn is a business relationship builder. The benefits you get from it will be limited if all you use it for is to broadcast your own messages and content. It is the closest digital cousin to face-to-face networking and the same rules apply. You should take part in conversations, show interest and support for others and recommend and refer the businesses and people that you rate highly.
  9. LinkedIn is a useful research tool. It can help you discover breaking business news for your sector. You can follow the business leaders you admire and respect. You can find trusted suppliers who will provide the best value for your business. You can research the brightest and best potential employees and show them why working for you would be the right decision for them.
  10. The days when social media trainers advised people to connect randomly to as many people as possible on LinkedIn have (thankfully) gone. LinkedIn works best when everyone has a valid reason for requesting and accepting connection requests. There are some great ways of finding the people you need to connect with, and managing your connections. You should personalise requests to connect and look at a strategy for 'following' people to learn more about their issues and interests as a way of generating business leads.
During 2017 the businesses I have worked with to develop LinkedIn strategies and coach them on using the full potential of LinkedIn include:
  • Construction companies
  • Legal firms
  • Florists
  • Business and life coaches
  • Copywriters
  • Charities
  • Printing firms
  • Web development companies
  • Creative agencies
  • Fitness coaches
  • Education consultants
  • Arists and creative businesses
  • Therapists
It's hard to think of a type of business where LinkedIn could not help with the achievements of specific measurable goals and objectives.

On Friday, January 19, I will be running the latest of my public workshops on LinkedIn which offer three hours of high value training for just £37.  It's a great way to learn about the 10 points above, and much more. For sole traders it can be all you need to kick-start a more productive way of using LinkedIn.

Larger companies may wish to send someone along to be enthused and learn about creating a LinkedIn strategy. The workshop can then be followed up, if you wish, with one-to-one bespoke coaching for your employees and the development of a bespoke action plan and creation of articles with impact aimed at engaging your ideal customers.

A maximum of 12 places are available on the January 19 workshop, which takes place from 10am to 1pm at Advantage House, Stowe Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire. For more information, and to book a place, contact me.

Here's what a few of the business owners who have attended workshops in 2017 have said about the experience.

Friday, 17 November 2017

We're supporting small independent businesses in Burton-on-Trent

Businesses in Burton-on-Trent have had a tough time recently. Essential roadworks - carried out at short notice – closed one of two main bridges that bring shoppers and commuters into the town centre for 11 weeks.

There was a major impact on the town, so this year it’s more important than ever that we encourage people to return to the town and #shoplocal this Christmas.

That’s why I’m backing an idea by fellow Burton Small Business founder, Tilley Bancroft, for the #BuckieLovesSmallBiz tour that will take place in the town centre on Small Business Saturday.

Tilley explained: “It’s going to be a really celebratory day. Buckie, our two-person-operated puppet, will have an entourage following him taking pictures and videos and putting Burton businesses firmly on the map on Small Business Saturday.”

She added: “Buckie can be a bit cheeky. He loves to poke his nose into whatever’s going on and he loves having selfies taken. We think it will be a lot of fun.”

You can watch Buckie herewhen he joined the Small Business Saturday bus tour, and even got chance to drive the bus!

Small Business Saturday falls on December 2 this year. It’s a day when consumers and businesses are reminded to make a special effort to support the small, independent businesses in their local communities.

When you buy from a small business you're keeping more of your money in your local community. Research by local authorities in the UK has shown that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stays in the local economy. This compares to 40p in every £1 spent with larger businesses.

At Burton Small Business we also believe passionately that small independent, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants add variety to our high street. They often provide innovative and unique services and products that you won’t find in chain stores. That’s not to say that we are anti-big business. We welcome the big name stores to Burton that attract shoppers into the town and provide jobs for local people.

It’s important to note that Small Business Saturday – which celebrates five years in the UK in 2017 – is supported by many big businesses and brands because they recognise the importance of small and medium-sized businesses to our economy.
  • Small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses at the start of 2016 and 99.9% were small or medium-sized (SMEs). 
  • Total employment in SMEs was 15.7 million; 60% of all private sector employment in the UK.
  • The combined annual turnover of SMEs was £1.8 trillion, 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK.
So, for us in Burton, December 2 will be all about having fun ahead of Christmas and celebrating as many local shops and cafes as we can.

Buckie will be touring the town from 9.30am. His provisional itinerary will be:

11.30am: Café B

All small businesses are welcome to join Buckie and his entourage at one or more of these planned stops. You will be able to get selfies taken with Buckie (make sure you bring a printed logo or business card to promote your business on the photos). Bring the children along if you want – small businesses are ALL about family.

You will have the chance to appear in the film Tilley and her Red Door Studios team will be making.

I’ll be helping to hand out flyers to the general public explaining why there’s a giant blue puppet on the streets. Huge thank to our supporter Zero Gravitee– signage and printing specialists from Burton’s Eton Business Park – for providing these and some #BuckieLovesSmallBiz t-shirts for the team.

The hashtag #BuckieLovesSmallBiz, will help anyone who can’t get into town to follow his adventures on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

We hope we’ll be raising the profile of Burton’s great small businesses and encourage record numbers to shop at small independents this Christmas.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Learn how LinkedIn can boost your business

Since Microsoft completed its takeover of LinkedIn, I believe that the world's largest online professional networking platform has become easier to use and even more relevant and helpful to businesses and organisations.

I have two, three-hour interactive workshops coming up in Staffordshire where you can learn what's new and how to use LinkedIn to:
  • Reach out to new connections and build productive relationships
  • Stay front of mind with your past and current clients and secure valuable repeat business
  • Forge new collaborations
  • Raise your personal and business profile as a thought leader in your sector
  • Find opportunities - and allow opportunities to find you
Places are booking up FAST for my next course, taking place on Monday November 13, from 10am to 1pm at Advantage House, Stowe Court, Stowe Street, Lichfield WS13 6DT.

A maximum of 12 people will be on the course and everyone will bring along a laptop to work through a packed three hours of coaching. We will cover how to:

* Build a personal profile that gets you found on Google as well as on LinkedIn for the skills you have and the work you do
* Manage 'privacy and settings' to give you more control over who can contact you and how
* Develop a strategy that's relevant to your business or organisation and how you want it to grow
* Understand the types of content that you can create and share on LinkedIn to support your business objectives
* Create targets for your LinkedIn activity and measure your impact and progress

Here's some comments from people who attended my last LinkedIn workshop in September:

"There is such a lot I didn't know about LinkedIn, and I wasn't even aware about some of the functions available. I now have some actions to get on with to improve mine and our company's profile."
"Really helpful! Great Course! Top tips!"
"This workshop has been really good. Enjoyable, informative and so well-presented that there was no stress involved in following instructions." 
"The workshop was so useful; it was jampacked but managed to cover everything from the essentials to some of the more detailed things."
"Great handouts to form a marketing plan - exactly what I needed. Very productive morning." 
The cost to attend is just £37 per person, including tea, coffee and danish pastries on arrival and handouts to take away.

Email me at to book, and I will send you an invoice by return. Payment in full secures your place.

Due to demand for a January date, I will be running the same course at the same venue on Friday January 19 from 10am to 1pm. You can also book your place on this course now to be sure of kick starting your new year armed with the knowledge and skills to make LinkedIn part of your 2018 success story.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Why you should give - and request - recommendations

Recommendations for products and services should be part of the marketing strategy for any business.

Whether it's feedback on Ebay, reviews on TripAdvisor or positive comments on Facebook and Twitter - recommendations help to raise your business profile, establish your expertise and convince new customers to get in touch.

Sometimes, when we're busy, we can all be guilty of not making enough use of the power of the recommendation. Even the happiest of customers sometimes needs reminding that you would really welcome a testimonial from them. Once they do write one for you - and providing they are happy for you to share their words widely - you can use that testimonial multiple times. As well as adding it to your website you could use a quote from it as part of an image on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

A testimonial can be expanded into a case study that can be published on a website or blog - and the finished article can also promote the business that has given the recommendation with details about what they do and links back to their website.

If you are a member of a business networking group or club you will have heard people giving verbal testimonials around the table for businesses they have worked with, which is fantastic proof for those in the room and the people they talk to about you. If they can put those positive words in writing as well it can reach a much wider audience.

Using LinkedIn recommendations to boost your business

Since the major redesign of LinkedIn at the start of 2017, many businesses I work with have reported a drop in the number of recommendations they receive on their profiles.

This may be because you now navigate a different route through LinkedIn to request, or give, a recommendation and arguably it's less in-your-face. On the plus side, bringing the desktop version and the mobile LinkedIn app closer together in design and functionality means once you know where to go it's easy to recommend - and be recommended - regardless of which device you are using to access LinkedIn.

The easiest way to get started is the three dots in a line that appear at the top of anyone's profile on both desktop or the mobile app. So whether you want to recommend someone, or be recommended by them, start by going to their profile page on LinkedIn.

Click on the three dots to the right of their profile image and it reveals a dropdown menu. As you can see on this screenshot of Mat Nation's profile, the last two options are 'Request a recommendation' and 'Recommend Mat'.

Whether you click the option to ask for a recommendation, or to give a recommendation, you will get a pop-up that asks you to confirm how you know Mat and what your job was at the time you are writing about. This is a reminder that there is a benefit in getting recommendations for roles you held in the past as well as what you are doing now. Clients are reassured to know that you have a track record for delivering great customer service down the years.

When you have chosen the answers to these two questions from the options that LinkedIn gives you, click 'Next' and continue to either personalise the request for a recommendation or to write the testimonial that you want to give.

More information about LinkedIn recommendations

When you give a recommendation, the recipient is sent a message in their LinkedIn inbox and can see what you have written by clicking a link. There is the option to request a change to the wording before you click the option to add it to your profile.

Since the redesign of the desktop version of LinkedIn, everyone's profile follows the same order. It's no longer possible to move sections, including recommendations, up or down. This does make it easier to find the recommendations that people have received or given (if any) when you look at their profiles.

You will see that the recommendations 'Received' shows as the default, but you can click the tab called 'Given' to see recommendations they have given.

Go to your own profile and click the blue pencil next to the 'ask to be recommended' button and you will find there are a range of options for the visibility of recommendations that you have given.

You can choose for it to be public, visible to your 1st degree connections only, or visible only to you (in other words - hidden).

The recommendations that you have received and added to your profile can also be hidden if you feel they are no longer relevant to what you do. There is a button that you slide across if you no longer want it to show on your profile.

We can never predict what LinkedIn will tweak or change next, but this information was correct at the time of writing.

Make sure you are being generous in giving recommendations to people who have done great work for you down the years. It's the right thing to do. Sometimes, when it is appropriate, they will return the favour and recommend you. If they don't, don't be too shy to ask them. More people than you may think are happy to give a recommendation. They just sometimes need a gentle reminder.

Monday, 19 June 2017

LinkedIn workshop, September 8 in Staffordshire

I am running a three-hour LinkedIn workshop at Advantage House, in Lichfield, from 10am to 1pm on Friday September 8.

This course will show you how LinkedIn can help you raise your profile, build and cement productive relationships with buyers and suppliers and generate new business leads.

Only 12 places are available so that everyone gets some individual attention to help them with their LinkedIn profile.

You will bring along your laptop and I'll take you through the recent changes to the desktop version of the world's biggest business-to-business networking platform.

This course is for you if:
  • You have created a LinkedIn account but aren't sure what to do next to get value from it.
  • You have dabbled with LinkedIn but have got frustrated with requests to connect from people you don't know and numerous email notifications and sales messages.
  • Face-to-face networking has helped you make useful connections and get referrals and you want to build on that work online in a structured and strategic way.
  • You'd like to have an online business profile that works hard for you 24/7 to help you achieve the goals you have for your business.
  • You don't have time to explore and understand recent changes to search, messaging, groups, company pages, recommendations and content publication on LinkedIn - I'll cover all these areas.

By the end of the session you will know how to:

  • Build a personal profile that gets you found online for the skills you have and the work you do.
  • Manage 'privacy and settings' to eliminate unwanted notifications and requests.
  • Develop a strategy that's relevant to your business and how you want it to grow.
  • Understand the types of content that you can create and share on LinkedIn to support your business objectives.
  • Create targets for your LinkedIn activity and measure your impact and progress.
The cost will be £37 per person, which will include course materials to take away, tea, coffee and light refreshments. To book a place contact and you will be emailed an invoice. Payment in full will secure your place on the course.

Advantage House is on Stowe Street, Lichfield. It is easy to access from the A38 between Derby and Birmingham. For Sat Navs you need to use the post code WS13 6DT to find Advantage House, but there is no parking available on site. Local long stay car parks offer good value and a map of where to find them is available here on the Lichfield City Council website 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Tweetup and learn about the #SmallBiz100 opportunity

The UK's Small Business Saturday movement is celebrating its fifth birthday in 2017.

If you've not heard about Small Biz Saturday yet (where have you been?) it's a grassroots, non-commercial, non-political campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to support the small, independent  businesses in their communities.  Although the day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, the campaign aims to change mindsets and have a lasting impact on small businesses all year round.

Each year, the campaign chooses 100 small businesses to highlight and promote, one a day, for the 100 days leading up to Small Business Saturday in December. For the last three years, the 100 have not only received exposure on social media channels and in the press, but also joined the Small Business Saturday team at receptions in London.
Elaine Pritchard of Caittom Publishing at The Treasury Drum in 2015 with Small Business Saturday
In 2015 I was delighted to be chosen for that year's #SmallBiz100, and had the opportunity to showcase my business at an event at The Treasury Drum with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Last year I encouraged a number of local businesses to apply, and one of them - Jack Dent, of JD Magic -  also from my home town of Burton-on-Trent was chosen and visited Downing Street.

I would love to see another Burton-based business in the #SmallBiz100 this year - making it three years in a row our town has been represented, So, along with my colleagues from the Burton Small Business group, I am hosting a tweetup at The Coffee Lounge, in Stretton, on the outskirts of Burton-on-Trent, on Thursday June 1 (the day when applications open for the 2017 #SmallBiz100).

I'd encourage any local small businesses to pop in any time between 9.30am and 11.30am. It's a chance to meet local businesses that you may have seen on Twitter. I'll be there all morning and happy to tell businesses more about the Small Business Saturday campaign and the benefits of being in the #SmallBiz100. There's no charge, just pay for the drinks and any food you buy from this independent coffee shop.

Find out more about the Small Business Saturday campaign at its website - You can also sign up on the home page for the campaign newsletter and that way you'll hear all about the launch of the search for this year's #SmallBiz100 wherever you are based in the UK.
Small Business Saturday UK