Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Financial Planners - Social Media One Good Investment To Make Now

"The newest paradigm shift in financial planning 
is being driven by the emerging trans-generational wealth transfer
 - the largest in history."  

Some interesting numbers fell across my view this week, which should be of interest to any financial advisor.

These numbers from the US would probably be a close match for the experience in Australia too, though many US businesses are in front when it comes to client servicing standards by comparison.

  1. 2% of children inheriting stay with the parents' financial advisor
  2. With the death of their husbands, only 45% of women stay with the current financial advisor.

What does this mean for financial advisors? It's vital to learn to build strong relationships or risk losing out in the coming avalanche of inter-generational transfer of wealth that is about to unfold.

What we want from our financial advisors

Here's what one recent survey in the US found about clients' views on what's important to them. This is the response according to an article on Forbes

“The CFA Institute & Edelman Investor Trust Survey.”
The survey asked respondents which of the following factors was the most important to them in selecting an investment manager (while the question in the survey related to investment managers specifically, but I would argue that the results are relevant to advisors and other industry participants as well):
  • Trusted to act in my best interest – 35%
  • Ability to achieve high returns – 17%
  • Commitment to ethical conduct – 17%
  • Recommended by someone I trust – 15%
  • Compliance with industry best practices – 8%
  • Amount/structure of fees – 7%
By more than 2 to 1, more respondents felt that the most important thing to them in picking an investment partner is that they feel that they can be trusted to act in their best interest. Returns were less important, and fees were at the bottom of the list."
We can see from this that trust is a big factor for clients. That should come as no great surprise and yet if we look at the focus of activity in the financial services industry, there is little that is remarkable in service standards that would lead us to have any great trust in one firm over another.

Building relationships just doesn't seem to be a priority for financial planners and financial advisors, whose focus is often on rate of returns, fees and commissions.  To gain trust, matching priorities needs to be demonstrated.

Doing The Right Thing

From this we can see that ethics is important to clients. They want to feel that  they have placed their trust in someone whose behaviours they can reasonably expect will follow the client's best interests and that the advisor will be sufficiently in tune with their wishes and investment style to recommend products and strategies that take into account the wishes, capacity for financial resilience, temperament, aspirations, wider goals and the risk management needs of the client.

 What does ethical and professional financial expertise look like?

Financial advisors don't just need to  be professional and have high standards of ethical behaviour. They need a way to show that. How do customers know how this plays out in your business? How do their friends see that this is an important issue to you and how you run your financial planning business? It is in our actions that our values play out. It is the topics that interest us the standards we hold for ourselves, the public platform we develop to showcase these aspects of our professional and personal identity as well as the services standards that we set in place within the business.

Establishing Trust

We love to be really heard. Talking less and listening more is a good start. But it is not enough to just listen, we need to also carry that through to understanding how that fits into a broader context. So listening is not very useful if what we are told is not translated into the plan that is to be implemented.  This is an element of what we could call 'ecology' and should be consistent not just with the words spoken, but the beliefs and values behind the words. Listening is one step in the process. Clarifying and assuring you know what that means to the customer, is the next step to the really important end stage - understanding.

We Do Things Differently Now

While conservative establishments like financial planning companies have established ways that things get done, all of which are likely to be convenient for the financial houses,  not necessarily so for the customer.

Customers are not standing still. Technology is putting information as close as their fingertips and they don't want to hang around for yearly statements and feedback when they can now access other things they need in real time. The old business models will have to change and become more convenient and accessible for clients.  That's also key to streamlining processes and opening new means using technology to find additional touch points to stay in contact with clients, be of value to clients and establish your relationship with them as being a useful addition to their life.

Leveraging Time and Information To Create And Post Quality Content

Technology, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, blogs, instant message and SMS text services can all help to make life more simple and functional and save time for advisors and clients alike. Maintaining contact in the ways that are most beneficial and wanted by the client is also how you show that you have listened and heard what they want when it comes to how they want to work with you.

While some aspects of service can be automated and direct, when it comes to public methods for informing and educating around financial matters, this can be in your hands as the trusted advisor, for both clients and others in their network who could become clients in the future. But this can only happen if you have the means and have developed the resources necessary to be a visible as the credible expert and trusted industry authority.  When that happens you are placed well for them to turn to you as their first and most reliable source when it comes to matters of a financial and life planning nature.

Where To Start 

Begin with forgetting your assumptions about what you think you know about your clients. The chances are that what you think about your client base is not right. Those clients you think are your best clients may not be any more. And those "C" grade clients you have not seen for years - could be someone else's "A" grade client ... or will be in the future.
  • Begin with a good analysis and review of your client base. This cannot be just on fees, but needs to be assessed using a range of metrics that are objective and subjective and take into account the lifetime value of a customer to your business. 
  • Audit your current method of servicing customers
  •  Map the current servicing strategy in diagram form 
  • Check metrics on rate of business lost  
  • Identify bottlenecks in the service delivery area  
  • Quantify system for and metrics for new business acquisition   
  • Quantify lost business and system reporting method  
  • Diagram customer feedback system  
  • Review marketing plan

That's a good start. Each of these areas will take some digging to get the information you need to fully understand the present situation.

The next step from there on is to develop your plan what you want to achieve in the future term and how to go about proceeding to What Happens Next.

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Beware The Doghouse. A Christmas Message

This post comes as something of a Public Service message I think.

This video says in a few minutes what we could not say in a lifetime to our loved ones. For those with a partner who lacks the gift of comprehending social nuance, this is for you. For the sisters and mothers of people who lack this same skills set, please pass it on. To your young men, please pass it on. Fathers with sons... pass it on (but watch it first!).

A Happy Festive Season To All

And To All... A Good Night.

(Not In The Doghouse!)


Update: The Doghouse Sequel.

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Design Business Engineering

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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Working For Promises

It's an interesting world in which we live.Changes happening every day to the way we work, the way we get remunerated and the way we use media and technology.

While industries employ weasel language to talk about "flexibility in the workforce" what they mean is casual jobs and no benefits.  Contracts replace employment and many jobs lack the security of employment that can allow the person to plan ahead, borrow money and invest in a home. This group which is growing by the day has been called The Precariat - for the precarious financial situation in which they find themselves.

"Millions of people across the world, including many Australians, are living and working in economic and social insecurity, many in casual or short-term, low-paid jobs, with contracts they worry about. Their incomes fluctuate unpredictably, they lack benefits that most people used to take for granted.

No paid holidays, no sick leave, no subsidised training, no worthwhile pension to look forward to, and no assurance that if they lose their job they will be able to rely on state benefits or other assistance." - Guy Standing is the author of The Precariat - The New Dangerous Class (Bloomsbury) see more on that here in this article on The Drum

Naturally in such a world, retirement funding is up to the individual and we know from experience in Australia  prior to compulsory superannuation and in the US (where retirement benefits were changed in the 80's to allow employers to only match contributions from employees) that many people will not put enough money aside (nor be able to afford to) nor be able to retire since they will have few resources to depend on, aside perhaps from a windfall legacy when their parents die.

Similarly, the technical world is full of sage advice on the new paradigm and how people will be moving from job to job expressing their skills and running their career as "my personal business".  This is an attitude that we will have to cultivate but we're not there yet. 

Part of that techno wonder is the miracle of the start-up where people can be promised big bonuses when (If) 'the ship comes in' and the company gets bought out by a mega player. Meanwhile they can graft away on a subsistence pay - or work for basically nothing.  Since most start-ups are likely to fail, many will put in the time and at the end have a very expensive lesson to show for it. Some interesting perspective on this fact is outlined in this piece "Advice for US Entrepreneurs Who Move to Europe" on the difference between the US and Europe when it comes to start-ups. In Australia you can figure the conditions are most like Europe than the US. Bold highlight is mine.

"Another legal obligation that is very common in Europe and unheard of in the USA is state-mandated severance pay packages. This is a direct impediment to start ups, the reason being that most start ups fail and in the USA there is an understanding of this. In the USA employees demand stock options as upside should the start up succeed knowing that there will be no severance package should the start up fail." 

Then there is the virtual sweatshop model that is growing apace, where you contribute your writing, your creative pieces and don't get paid. Oh, yes you will benefit, you're told, by "all the exposure" you'll get.  Meanwhile if the business takes off and the owner sells it for a bundle, that's going in their pocket, but never yours. That exposure? Probably worth very little in real terms. 

Illustrators who have been working professionally for decades are struggling to find work. Where then will the work come from for all those following who are studying visual arts and joining the list of people looking for that creative work? Well there are sites that promote "Freelance" jobs - where you can pimp yourself out in competition with those in third world countries where $10 a day is possible to live on. 

Harlan Ellison is a very good and famous author who had something fabulous to say on this matter. He's 'paid his dues' and still yet the hucksters will try it on to get work free. Here's what he thought about that. 


So what is the way forward? 

It seems that the system in which we work will need to change to accommodate the new less-that-full-time workplace. Perhaps decoupling benefits from employment so that they accrue the same way that superannuation and retirement savings do, and are portable from job to job. A change in the way that banks approach lending for people in this new workforce and perhaps an additional payment made to those who are not regular employees.

It's definitely a topic that needs to be on the agenda for discussion because it is likely to affect every family, and living well in this new environment is going to depend on having a well considered and implemented plan to deal with the issues that pertain.

Working for promises? That's a mug's game. 
Don't be a mug. 


With the growth in social media platforms many have a huge following personally - but that doesn't translate into job offers or financial reward.

Like this article outlines...

"The restaurant was hosting Buzzfeed’s Golden Globes party. For the past two years, Ashley has been one of the most visible actresses on the company’s four YouTube channels, which altogether have about 17 million subscribers. ...
The awkward part was that Ashley wasn’t there to celebrate with Buzzfeed. She was there to serve them. Not realizing that her handful of weekly waitressing shifts at Eveleigh paid most of her bills, a coworker from the video production site asked Ashley if her serving tray was “a bit.” It was not.""
The disconnect between internet fame and financial security is hard to comprehend for both creators and fans. But it’s the crux of many mid-level web personalities’ lives. Take moderately successful YouTubers, for example. Connor Manning, an LGBT vlogger with 70,000 subscribers, was recognized six times selling memberships at the Baltimore Aquarium. Rosianna Halse Rojas, who has her own books and lifestyle channel and is also YouTube king John Green’s producing partner, has had people freak out at her TopMan register. Rachel Whitehurst, whose beauty and sexuality vlog has 160,000 subscribers, was forced to quit her job at Starbucks because fans memorized her schedule.
In other words: Many famous social media stars are too visible to have “real” jobs, but too broke not to."  Read the full story here: Famous and broke

Related Posts

How To Set Goals - And Reach Them

The Dirty Secrets Business Needs To Know About Social Media

Why You Need To Build Your Mailing List And How To Do It

How To Get Your Local Business Found Online

Are you lousy at self promotion too? 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Blogging: Try An Ideas Jar

Here's an idea to help you with saving ideas for writing posts for your blog or other online content.

I have a dozen ideas a day about a topic for a blog that comes as I am interacting with a client or reading an article or just listening to the radio.  Something will be said, and that will lead me into thinking about other things that are like that and suddenly, there's a topic to expand into a long form piece of writing to publish that could be useful for me to remember or revisit, and may be helpful or other people too.

So I'd scribble that down on a piece of paper.

But pieces of paper get lost, they get used for other notes, lost at the bottom of pile of paperwork and never make it to the publishing - which is where you could really use it.

Ideas Notes 

So I thought about a new system to try.  Here's how it goes.

I have printed some points to apply to each post to remind me what the thought was I want to write about.

In this case:

  • Idea (summary of what the blog post would be about)
  • Target audience (who it might interest)
  • Main Point (The primary take-away idea from the post that distills the whole message)
  • Category eg #productivity  #business #personaldevelopment  #marketing

So a template made with the questions, fits 3 per page, can then be printed off a few pages at a time and then cut into single idea notes to fill out on the run when the idea strikes.

I'll then fill out the details, fold them up and put them into a jar and there you have it. Part of the thinking is already done on the idea note. The topic and the context are clear and defining the main point makes it easier to then work out an image that will fit with the post.

Moving ideas out into their own space

I'm expecting that having the idea notes contained in the jar will help in two ways.

  1. The thoughts will be captured along with notes to remind me of the context so I understand the context for the idea when I then write the piece
  2. They are stored together safely in one space where they are easily accessible but can't get mixed up with unrelated notes, and 
  3. They will build up into a bank of quality topics that I intend to write about and kickstart the process when I am about to write a blog but don't have a particular topic burning right there and then that I want to write about. 

Other Ways To Use An Idea Jar

I think this idea can work well for creating a bank of ideas for writing blog posts as it allows the sed to germinate before writing and the ideas to percolate and mature before the writing stage. I'll update this post after I've tested it out a while. I like the idea of having a savings bank of ready-to-go starters to use for blogging. It's a little like cooking dinner - often the hardest part is working out what to have. 

This would also be a good system to use for planning and before you get to the formal stage of writing a plan for business, or a travel itinerary or even just setting goals for the future. Try some ideas in the jar and see if you still like them later when you revisit. The nice things about goals is that we can try them on and change them if we don't really care for them. Winnowing the ideas down to the goals that really matter to us before setting them fully and mapping them to our life plan means that when we do that we have tested them well and know they are a good fit and fully meet the criterion we have for being ecologically sound.   If using this jar idea for goals, maybe check out the cupboards or thrift store and buy a really special jar to use. One you can get your hand into and one that shows off your goal idea within. 

Great For The Not-So-Tidy Deskers

The jar idea is also perfect for those of us who don't have a desk that is completely clean and bare at all times. If your clutter tends to accumulate on the desk, this could be perfect for you to try too.


Cheat sheet to use for setting your goals

Coaching for executives who want more

Like to discuss your business?
Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855 or use the contact form on this page.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Managing Performance In Your Business

Recently there has been widespread reporting that large organisations are now promoting the idea that yearly or half-yearly performance reviews are best abandoned as not being useful.

It seems that the type of performance appraisal out of favour is one where employees are graded yearly by a manager who doesn't work with them directly and uses the exercise as an excuse to find find fault with the employee.  If anyone is still operating this way then stopping such a ritual is probably a good idea. It does seem a strange thing to ever have been doing. 

Unfortunately, outside of large corporate environments, many businesses have no procedure for managing performance effectively.

Instead of creating a stressful situation, you can make performance management an integral part of the way the business operates, keep productivity high and stop any activity that is not benefiting the business, right where it starts.  This is a chance to get the very best from the employees at work in the business.

That means building performance discussions and feedback into the everyday way the company operates. 

 Making the most of the potential within the workplace

Done well, it can be an ongoing part of your relationship with employees to track their progress, recognize their accomplishments, notice where they are struggling and provide some remedial assistance as it is needed, to encourage the best performance from those who report to you. This is a fabulous opportunity to develop a winning and supportive culture that generates excellent results. 

Good procedures – written – make life much easier for employees to do the right thing and know what that is.

For the business owner a documented procedure for managing performance makes life far easier and less stressful around managing employees.

Why manage performance

Improving operations allows the business to stay competitive and to ensure employees and managers are performing to the highest standards, opens the way to increased productivity, engaged employees who will go 'the extra mile', and ensure that employees want to stay with the company.

Employee turnover is disruptive and expensive. Ineffective employees are also expensive and can erode the profitability of the business.

Start with an appraisal of the business performance

Before you look at the performance of employees, it is perhaps worth considering the performance of the business as it exists right now. 

Current Position

Review the current position in your business. 

Are good systems in place already? 

Do they need updating? 
Do employees have the tools they need to do their work efficiently?
Are tasks and responsibilities for all roles documented? 
Is there a clear and specific reporting protocol that everyone understands exactly who they are supervising and to whom they report? 
Are employees undergoing regular training to develop their skills and allow the business to benefit from this improvement? 
Overall, are the operations being carried out more skillfully and with less disruption than the year before? 

Being able to track the progress of the business over time and identify issues that are causing problems, work needing to be redone, or work not being won, means optimizing the potential the business is capable of achieving. And that relates directly to the bottom line profit. 

Employees need clear instructions and boundaries of where their responsibility begins and ends.  They cannot be expected to read the mind of the owner of the business, or the manager. 

Needs of employees and business need to be met

Employees also need the right tools to carry out their role and meet their commitments to the job efficiently

Waiting around for a computer that has poor memory and a dismal signal on the internet is not helping them be productive. Neither is being forced to use old programs that cannot do what can be easily done now with modern applications in a fraction of the time. 

Your business needs to be efficient, to be consistent in delivery of your product or service to customers or clients. 

It needs whatever it needs to operate at peak efficiency and effectiveness including well trained employees - and managers and director whose own professional development is keeping pace with this very dynamic marketplace. 

Recognition of good employee performance 

While many companies are ready to pounce on poor performance, it is often the employees doing the right thing and excelling at their work who never get noticed at all. 

Adopting a management style set to catch people doing good - and acknowledging it - is a good start to improve morale and gain useful insight into what's happening in the business. 

Business owners often think that the only reward people want is money but that is shown over and over in studies, to not be the case. A financial bonus or pay rise may be indicated in some cases for continued good performance, but that's over and above the regular recognition and acknowledgment that people appreciate. We hate it when we are dismissed and overlooked. Just as we love it when someone notices that we go the extra mile, or have a willing attitude. Thank you goes a long way and this impresses not just the person involved but also the other employees who see they are working in a business that notices and respects them and their good work. 

How can you implement a system in your business to give recognition to good employees?

How well the business performing for the employees

It's all well and good when employees are doing great work and the business is booming. It's not so good when the benefits are all going out of the business and not improving their lot. 

In some business, owners splash about a lot of cash on personal items that the staff hear about while they are starved of the resources and tools they need in the business, and penny pinching is going on that keeps them from improving their own financial situation. 

That's not a good look and can build resentment and lead to bad attitudes and even misconduct. 

Steps to managing performance 

You want your business to operate like the best.  Those are the businesses that are constantly improving their operations to stay competitive in their industry. Employees and managers need to be performing to a high standard for that to happen.

High performance in business means benefits such as:

  • increased productivity
  • engaged and committed employees
  • good employees are retained
  • less wasted cost from staff turnover
Employees performing poorly can result affect the business in many ways, including leading to unhappy customers or clients, decreased productivity, high turnover and even demotivating other employees. 

Serious misconduct is even worse and can be seen when an employee causes serious risk to the health and safety of another person or to the reputation or profits of their employer's business or deliberately behaves in a way that's inconsistent with continuing their employment.
Examples of serious misconduct include:
  • theft
  • fraud
  • assault
  • being drunk at work
  • refusing to carry out work duties.

  1. Create a written procedure for how you will be managing employee performance 
  2. Work out the business goals for the year ahead 
  3. Think about individual performance goals for each employee that will help your business reach its goals.
  4. Prepare a template to use for performance meetings so that you can record the points you want to speak about. 
  5. Engage with each employee to let them know about the new process and to learn more about their personal goals for their job and ensure they are relevant to their job and realistic.
  6. Record these once  you have both agreed upon them and worked through any support you need to provide to help them reach these goals. Training, would be one example. 
  7. Set some realistic time frames for these goals to be achieved. 

Final thoughts 

When you see your role as facilitating good performance, the stress goes out of the process. Suddenly you are all on 'the same side' and when you are all aligned towards a common purpose, magic can happen. 

It helps to have a clear vision articulated that employees can buy into. 

Like to discuss your business? Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855 or use the contact form on this page. Lindy Asimus Business Coaching Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sending Mass Emails BCC In Linkedin

There are many mistakes to be made with Linkedin but one of my pet hates would be strangers asking for recommendations from people they don't know, have made no effort to connect with in a human way and with whom they've never worked!

Linkedin Is For Professional Recommendations For People Whose Work You Know

If you get a request like that - that's a good reason to cut them off your contact list.

Strangers do not have experience of working with someone. Therefor they have nothing to recommend.

Writing recommendations that are not valid diminishes you and your reputation. It renders every real recommendation you make suspect.

And it erodes the value of Linkedin as a source of reliable information.

Bad Habits On Linkedin - Mistaking Connections For Spam Targets

Likewise, if you are being sent spam from anyone on your contact list. It is particularly irksome when it is from someone trying to sell you a service which YOU ALSO OFFER!

What that tells me when I get this kind of spam from marketing and social media people is

  1. They don't target their messages to be relevant and respectful to the receiver
  2. They fail to understand the most basic aspect of what social media and online marketing is  
  3. They do not conduct themselves in a professional manner and 
  4. They don't care! 

They are also likely to be the people who will connect on Linkedin and think that means it is okay to put you on their mailing list without permission!!

How To Send Messages To A Lot Of People At Once On Linkedin - The Right Way

The next issue may be partly Linkedin's fault.  Once upon a time you could send messages to several people as a BCC (blind copy).  That option is not available now in the Inbox section. You need to send emails to multiple people now via the Connections window.  What's good about that is you can target your message to go to groups of people for whom the message is relevant (say a local event which they may have an interest in. NOT just an event that you have an interest in them attending!).

Before you send any mass mailing on Linkedin ask yourself -  is this message of value to the recipient and can it undermine my connection with this person if I send this? 

Sending Messages From The Inbox - Keep It To Just One Person Or Intros
Sending to multiple people from a message you create from your inbox means that all on the list have their contact details exposed. That looks bad and is not something that people want or expect to happen. It's not professional conduct and has no redeeming value. Don't do it.

The time you might do it is if you are introducing two contacts, one to the other. In that case, it makes sense. It will never make sense to send a mass mailing that way!

So how do you send a clean message to a group of people on Linkedin? This video shows you how.

Remember UNCHECK the box that allows everyone to see the contact details! 

Linkedin, like most social media platforms changes the way that functions operate from time to time. If what you've been able to do in the past (like send bcc from your inbox) suddenly changes, there is a good chance that the function will still be available but a different way or from a different angle.

Consider this the internet's way of keeping our mind agile and learning new things!

The quality of Linkedin as a professional network is a reflection of the actions of the users. Do be a good Linkedin connection for your people. Not a pest.

Related post:

Why you should join Linkedin and what to do next

Like to discuss your business? Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855 or use the contact form on this page. Lindy Asimus Business Coaching Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Unique Selling Proposition For Your Business USP

Unique selling proposition (USP), also known as unique selling point,  unique service proposition, is a key point of difference, a strategic advantage and an identification of what it is that differentiates your business from all of the others, for your core product or service.  

Originally the term USP was coined by Rosser Reeves to use in his advertising work and to sell his book. 

Defining Your USP

Like a competitive advantage it is an element that the business can deliver - that customers value and want. It gives customers a reason to choose your business, in favour of another one, and is like a promise that your business must produce for it to be credible. And your USP should be strong to drive action. These days, the idea is often wrapped up in a sales package as "Positioning" or sometimes tied in with "Branding". 

Used in your advertising, your marketing, your sales process and your branding this USP drives the whole focus of the business and lets customers know without any doubt that you can and DO what is both stated and implied. Oh - and it has to be HONEST. 

Steps to creating a USP for your business

  1. Identify your customer 
  2. Important question here to answer is this:  Do you serve their
    1. success 
    2. desires 
    3. both 
  3. If you were a customer of your business what would you wish from your organisation?
  4.  In the eyes of your ideal customer what are your competitors doing right?  (Assumes you know who your competitors are – and if you don’t your customers DO)
  5.  Rate the needs of your customers on the issues important to them (make a list) for LOGICAL NEEDS – and  EMOTIONAL NEEDS (give examples of each)

Let's look at some examples: 

Logical needs - make a list of all that apply for your customers. Examples of these might be - Convenience, fast, on-time delivery, your products help me save time or save money, your people are reliable etc, etc 

Emotional needs - Make a list of these too, just the same as with the logical needs list: 
You care about me, you understand when I'm in a hurry, you make me feel good about myself, people meet their commitments to me, you make it easy to do business with you.

This is by no means a complete list but write down as many as you can think of and then work out a priority order from the customer's point of view.

Your products may save the customer time (a value to them), but if the price is outside of their budget (a real constraint the customer has)  that isn't going to be a value you can use. Keep eliminating until you come up with the top 3 logical and emotional responses and then refine until you have distilled the top values for your customer. 

Sorting through the data 

From here you can begin to get a clear focus on what your business can do to lead in your industry for your market by identifying what your business can do that is UNIQUE – not offered by all the others – and what you need to FOCUS ON CHANGING NOW – for that to be true and actionable. 

Now you're on your way to defining what your true USP is that you can use in your business. This also helps you stay focused. As you are considering offers and marketing, keep the USP in mind at all times and test your offers against your USP. Does it meet the standard that you have set for yourself? 

Creating a USP based on what you think your customers value won't work if you have not connected with their real priorities. These will change too - and if they valued one thing in 2010, they may have other priorities in 2015. Keep up with them! 

Once you think you  have whittled down your list of customer priorities and married them with the service you can deliver, test it out. 

Be prepared to spend some time on this to get your USP right. This may take some days to refine to be just the message you can condense into a short sharp phrase. 

Summing Up

As an exercise this is a great way to review how much you know about your customers, and that's a great start to keeping your business fresh and your customers coming in - and coming back! 


Related post 

Making the most of data in your business and understanding customer personas
 Like to discuss your business?
 Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855
 or use the contact form on this page.
  Lindy Asimus Business Coaching
  Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How Data Can Increase Your Sales

Knowing Your Customer 

The more we know about our past customers the more we can tailor our marketing to their specific needs and interests. There is nothing that says "I don't know or care about you" than sending marketing messages to people for products and services that they could never use.

The more quality information you have on customers the more you can tailor our offers and program your future contact with them at appropriate times.

Collecting all that information means that a highly flexible database for marketing is necessary.  This is not your customer list that you may use for your tax purposes, this must have more functionality than that. It should be kept updated with new information added to the file when the client is interacting with the business or buying.   While this can seem like a lot of work, it is the key to building a business asset will have the capacity to bring you more sales, more profit and less wasted effort.

It will also enhance your business appeal when the time comes to sell the business.

Adding social media to the mix really boosts the range of ways this database can be used effectively.

Know Your Prospective Customers Too! 

Long before they become customers you may have touched on people who will become customers in the future. Creating a database for these people too is a sensible way to collate the historical contacts you have had and each contact puts us closer to a sale.

Profiling  Your Customers

Taking the time to profile existing and past customers is a good way to deal with the true substance of your customer base.  To do this you need  to have access to the information that will let you identify key aspects of your customers actual buying history, value of the client to your business over time - Lifetime Value, (dollars they have spent with your business over time)so that your analysis can yield to you quality data that is both objective and subjective. For example Lifetime value is objective (it is a factual data point) and the customer's ability and willingness of referring new customers to you may be more subjective.

Customer Personas

Once you have a review of your customer profiles you can identify different types of customers by their characteristics that they share. This also allows you to analyze how that compares with what you would regard as an IDEAL customer. You may have very few of those and lots of customers who are not yet ideal, but unless and until you work through the process you are just guessing.

Guessing is notoriously unreliable. Many times the customers who seem to be the most valuable to the business - are not the ones who are supporting us best.

Now you have your groups of  customers separated you can go deeper and create a picture that you build from adding in more common details.  Demographic information and income bands and aspiration positions.

You can name each group so they are easy to bring their defining characteristics to mind when you are creating promotional offers for them that are a good fit for their buying patterns and product preferences.

More information on setting up buyer personas here 

The Database

Capturing the data helps marketers to:

  • Recognize who the customers are
  • What products they have with the company
  • What products they don't have with the company
  • When buying needs might arise
  • How many times the customer has returned to buy
Smart managers make sure that the company can maximize the potential of the database by treating every customer as an individual. 

Target Information To Customers

While big corporations are investing millions of dollars in fine grain data mining of their customer buying traits, all businesses can at least begin to market smart by collating useful data to drive new business and retain existing customers. 

Every contact with a customer is an opportunity to enhance the customer database and to use the information in a timely manner to target messages correctly and to encourage interaction with the customer in a two-way communication. 

This is the beginning of Relationship marketing and where businesses can build on their knowledge of customers to provide them with standards of service that meet their needs and bring them coming back again and again. 

What This Means For Your Business

That's a great jump-off point for generating more referrals and becoming a part of the customers' networks of friends and family who have potential to also become customers. 

Related posts:

Inbound marketing - the new old fashioned service 
Many hands make lighter work of social media for local businesses
Here's how to save time and get good content for your business online
Inbound marketing the new old fashioned way to do business
Financial planners: Social Marketing the key to keeping business on the books
Business writing not just on the social media wall
What every business should know about social media

Like to discuss your business?
Call Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855 or use the contact form on this page.

  Lindy Asimus Business Coaching

Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

7 Steps To Make Your Business Strong

"A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time."  – Henry Ford

Running a business can be so rewarding... but it can be tough too. Problems are faced in small business and if we are not careful they can be handled emotionally not with a rational approach that the business needs to maintain.

Some of these issues - many of them - are around money. Pays, expenses, things that take money out of the business, but at the end of the day are just elements of The Cost Of Doing Business. 

When managed well, the issues below can be a productive and rewarding aspect of the business, not just a problem to be avoiding.  When managed well, or not managed at all, they threaten the viability and future of the business.

1.    Pay employees correctly. 

Every week there are more cases being resolved with small businesses being found to have underpaid employees resulting in this money having to be repaid PLUS the fines and damage to reputation that follows.

About fifty claims against business are made by the Fair Work commission each year.

Aside from being fined and having to eventually pay the money anyway, this approach to avoid paying employees fairly has side effects that work against the business and cost the business money and status.

When you underpay or try to cheat your employees, the business is

  • Not making the most of staff productivity 
  • Generating ill will 
  • Encouraging theft. 
  • Making a goose of yourself in the public eye. 

If wages are an issue then the real issue is the business model. Time to revisit that and work out the viability of the business and a strategy that will allow the business to trade effectively AND pay the expenses that the business is responsible to pay.

Current financial position of the business - knowledge is power

For some businesses the root of the problem will be a lack of understanding and control of the current financial position. This is why a good bookkeeper and accountant that can help you monitor your costs, income streams, help to set a proper pricing model in place. Tidying up the financial management, together with a marketing plan to generate more sales and repeat business is vital.

2.   Respond smartly to reviews or complaints online or offline. 

There was a time not all that long ago when a business would pay for an advertisement in the Yellow Pages and the phone would ring, and any complaints that customers had would be shared with a dozen of the people they know. 

Not today. Today nobody uses the Yellow Pages, and the first place people seek information and resources to access, happens on Facebook or their other social networks.  Maybe they use Google too and cross reference what they find with their friends' recommendations. 

Complaining To The Many

When they complain, customers don't now complain to a dozen people. They complain online and that goes out to hundreds of people, possibly thousands and very likely ends up on a website that Google indexes and stays there for ever and brings up when someone searches for your business. 

Sometimes the business owner responds by attacking the customer. 

Sadly, it is becoming all too common to see businesses in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. They are in the media because of their bad attitude to customers. Here is the most recent example to hit the headlines, but it is a regular story on social media.

It can be tempting to defend a complaint against a business, if there is something bad posted online or a bad review posted on Facebook, or Tripadvisor or any of the other review sites. Responding defensively is the worst possible way to respond!  The business needs the response to be measured and according to a well rehearsed protocol that defuses the situation and doesn't turn it into a major embarrassment, due to a poorly considered and emotional response taken in the heat of the moment.

3.    A Plan For Recruiting And Bringing On New People. 

It's been estimated that recruiting a new employee can cost in real terms, more than a year's salary.   So making a good choice and bedding them into the company well so they can flourish is a responsibility the business owner needs to take seriously and in doing so reap the benefits of a productive employee. 

Common problems that new hires face - and that bite the business as a consequence are things like:

  • No standard policies 
  • No documented roles and responsibilities 
  • No clear job description
  • No process to hire with well chosen criteria and according to the needs of the role
  • No induction
  • No clarity on who reports to whom
  • No company standard procedures 
  • No buddy for the new hire to find out things they need to know without bothering the manager. 
  • No effective system for managing performance 
  • No training system or budget
Just as having none of these things is detrimental to a business, putting these in place will make hiring new people much more simple, more effective and allow the new person to fit right in without having to guess what is expected of them to please you and fulfill that role to the best of their ability.

4.   Market Consistently Week In - Week Out

Waiting till the new work dries up and then thinking about marketing is a disaster! When you develop a marketing plan you don't have to guess any more what needs to be done. Once the initial details of the plan, the responsibilities, assigning of staff to carry out the activities and budget allocated, you will have a schedule of activities to follow much like a blueprint of a house to be built, that can be put into place at the times decided on, and the results reported so that you can follow your progress and make adjustments as required.

You'll want to document activities: 

  • In traditional advertising channels
  • Clarity of your message 
  • Segmentation of customer personas
  • campaigns for marketing programs throughout the year
  • customer nurturing 
  • new client acquisition
  • developing an online presence and 
  • developing content marketing 
  • updating content marketing to build your network in the social environment
  • inbound marketing 
  • marketing calendar
  • social media scheduling 
  • training needed 
  • reporting and monitoring 
  • budget and sales attributed to marketing campaigns 
With this in place it is like your business' marketing machine that chugs along 24 hours a day. 7 days a week leading people to your business. 

5.   Expect Good Things To Happen In Marketing Because You Allocated A Budget To Make It So

Not allocating a budget for the marketing activities and other essential activities the business needs starves it of the very thing it needs to produce consistent new business and repeat sales.

What the business needs, requires making available the resources to be dedicated and made available for such purposes.

6.   A sales strategy and sales training program

Sales don’t just happen. Too many businesses have no formal sales strategy or training system in place and no ongoing education to ensure sales staff are developing and improving their sales expertise.  When that happens the owner of the business is not doing the business, nor the customers and not even the employees, any justice at all.

7. Your fully functioning marketing database drives profit

Not building up a customer and prospect database to use for marketing is like paying rent on the premises then keeping the front door locked.

These are the people who  can bring you more sales and without collecting their data you have wasted that opportunity for more sales and more profit and more satisfaction of customers.

Summing Up

Each of these 7 steps are achievable and are the hallmark of a business with plans for a long and prosperous future.  Equipping the business with the insulation it needs to weather the stormy economy is number one responsibility for any business owner. If these are not areas that you are confident to improve alone do get some help.

The strength of any business will be a reflection of the strength of the owner to be willing to make the steps necessary to get the help they need.

Related posts:

Inbound marketing - the new old fashioned service 
Many hands make lighter work of social media for local businesses
Here's how to save time and get good content for your business online
Inbound marketing the new old fashioned way to do business
Financial planners: Social Marketing the key to keeping business on the books
Business writing not just on the social media wall
What every business should know about social media

Like to discuss your business?
 Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855
 or use the contact form on this page.
 Lindy Asimus Business Coaching
 Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pinterest: For Service Businesses

Your Pinterest Boards Can Be On ANY Topic! 

I'm a big fan of Pinterest and in a post on it to a group over on Linkedin I was asked:

"Do you have some examples of using Pinterest to market a service?"

I made a quick search and came back with these examples. 

Service Businesses Using Pinterest

This is a building company that provides new building renovations, new homes and home maintenance. 

This is a new one I set up for my coaching (my personal Pinterest board is more expansive with a wider range of topics covered on boards)

Here is a legal firm 

This is a new one by an accountant firm 

This is a female plumber 

This is an architect 

This is one I set up with a home theme and example that would work for anyone in the building and decorating or styling industry - Dream Home

This is a tour guide company

This is a dentist 

This is a hair salon 

This is a mortgage broker 

As I went looking for examples a few came readily to mind since I know the businesses personally. What was striking was how few businesses are making good use of this fantastic resource to stand out from the crowd and show some of their personality and importantly - understanding of the topics that are important to their customers and network.

Pinterest has a lot of uses that can help business with curating their online content and effectively bookmarking and sharing information that is useful in one's own business - and for customers and other members of the community in which one resides.

Business has to be more than one dimensional. We don't work with "customers" our customers are people and they all have interests and needs, and aspirations that Pinterest can help us learn more about and understand. The more we know about our customers interests the better we can serve them. Pinterest is fantastic for uncovering topics of interest we didn't even know we had!

Sharing them can be very powerful.

Just opening a Pinterest account is not enough

Like any social media platform just having an account is not enough. It needs to be active and have something interesting to say. People follow people and that means following those people on Pinterest who have good habits of pinning stuff that is a match with your interests that you want to share.

When you understand the personas of your client segments then this becomes much easier to fathom how to make your selections of which boards to follow. Sometimes you might want to only follow particular boards - for example, someone might have a lot of craft boards that are not what you like but they also have a good board of quotations, so you might follow that. Keep in mind a lot of people pin quotations that are just bad thinking so pick well.

The other aspect that many who are using Pinterest have still not yet mastered, is to make their account work for them to drive traffic to their website. You can repin other pins but it is important to also use your own blog posts and articles that showcase your expertise, and optimise these for SEO and link them back to your own website.

Think Niche

Pinterest is a great place to find out how to do things. How to learn things, how to save money, how to discover new things you didn't know about. Great for planning trips, or creating boards for a vision or setting goals, or getting some inspiration on what things you might like to set for goals later.

It is the ultimate window shopping platform that you can "buy" things on without spending money and research against other things in the market. You can save your finds and refer back to them later - and Pinterest will even notify you if something you have pinned with a price, comes on sale.

And remember, the more niche the interest - the more popular it will be with people who love that topic and find it hard to get good information and resources on it.

Work Out A Strategy For Using Pinterest

Again, just like other social media platforms, a business needs a strategy for making the most of Pinterest.

Spend some time and get help you need to get started the right way. This should be just a part of your overall marketing plan that incorporates your online activity.

While a lot of what is typically pinned to Pinterest is cooking recipes and handy crafts ( all good skills that can save you money and be useful), it doesn't  have to be just about nail polish and fitness articles.  Pinterest boards can be just as easily set up for historical notes for academics, stock market monitoring, investment education, sales training, business development, the list is endless and the only real restriction to how useful it can be is our imagination.

Related post:

Pinterest for builders, architects, landscape, designers and tradies 

Like to discuss your business? Contact Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855 or use the contact form on this page. Lindy Asimus Business Coaching

Subscribe to Actionbites Blog