Kill your Sacred Cows

I have consulted with many clients. Almost 50% of my time is now focused on consulting with clients face-to-face or over video chat. I really enjoy advising and supporting clients as they look to grow and develop their business and their brand.

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3 ways Snapchat is changing the way you reach your customers.

So for those of you who haven’t heard (where have you been?) Snapchat is a social network which is exploding right now. It’s the place to be.

Snapchat essentially is a video and photo-sharing messaging platform which uses funky filters and overlays. It’s much more than that but this is the simplest explanation. The big brands are on there and so are 100 million other daily users. It’s BIG.

Some of you may think ‘well it’s a young person’s thing’ – You are wrong!

Facebook started with college kids and now one of it’s largest user groups are silver surfers (over 50s). Snapchat may be dominated by a younger audience right now but its audience is maturing every single day.

Social Media innovations tend to change things up. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. Either way, if social media changes the way we expect or do things, we have to adapt.

  • Twitter forced us to learn how to write copy in less than 140 characters.
  • Facebook forced us adapt and put ourselves out into a place where people can like or comment, a place of risk.

But I believe Snapchat, just like Facebook and Twitter will force us all to get sharper and more creative in delivering our message.

So how could Snapchat reshape our world?

TIME: You have 10 seconds

Snapchat gives you 10 seconds to deliver your message. You have to be smart and you have to know your stuff.

We have in the business and marketing world said that you have seconds to impress people or catch their attention. You literally have 10 seconds.

Whether you use Snapchat or not doesn’t matter, what matters is that for at least 100 million people right now and who knows how many in the future, their social media use is guiding their attention span and giving them the decision of what they think good media looks like in a 10-second window.

Snapchat will make your first 10 seconds of eyeballs on your brand the most critical. More than it ever has been.

Some people will decide on whether to even keep you on their list based on the first 10 seconds. There are no second chances.

QUALITY: Production value is changing.

My friends in the television industry are going to hate me for this. Production value is not what is was. Snapchat needs more activity than Facebook which means your frequency and speed of output become critical.

Two things are happening right now, one of them isn’t totally down to Snapchat but it is contributing to it.

First, it used to be that if you wanted to do video content there was a certain production quality which was acceptable. Industry specialists would know the difference between professional and amateur work. Amateur work was frowned upon and mocked.

That doesn’t work anymore. Well, it works for TV, advertising and long form video but not for social videos. It cannot work. It becomes too expensive to produce and it shows up that it is professionally produced. Sure you can do some high-quality stuff for promotional purposes but if you do it for everything it will be hugely expensive and very time-consuming.

If you want to have regular content out there for your audience or customers, you need speed. There is no time for lengthy edits it has to go out. We will all become experts in Live Broadcast and one take video. Big brands can afford a team to do long edits and have days devoted to a week of content. The other 99% of content producers don’t have a big team.

Production quality, the camera and edits are not as important as long as the basics are right. If you can see the video clearly, the audio is right and it looks OK that is all you need.

The second one of these is very different. You can get away with lots in the way you make your content but you cannot get away with infomercial stuff. Your content has to be good. Bad content is worse than bad production quality. Content quality is subjective so know the right audience you are trying to reach as it is the audience who decides what is good content, not you.

This is great news for you, don’t stress about the equipment you need to do video content, a good phone can do it. Focus on great content.

REALLY HONEST: Snapchat is encouraging more authenticity.

One of the trends we are going to see develop more over the next 5 years is a thirst for honesty and authenticity. Over the last 50 years, we have seen a lot of gloss and advertising speak.

It worked for 50 years but now people are more understanding of the way the world works and technology is giving us more and more information.

In the last 10 years, we have seen lots of people be exposed for having a persona online or on TV which is not consistent with real life. Instagram stars looking perfect who have been outed that their pictures have been staged. Guru’s promising success talking from their Rolls Royce only to be outed that it was rented for their shoot.

Authenticity will mean authenticity. I have an aversion to the word authentic because so many people who have used it aren’t.

Snapchat is going to fuel this thirst for reality and authenticity because real life will be on display more and more.

Snapchat may in 20 years be non-existent but I believe that its mark will be made on our culture for generations.

Snapchat is not going away. It’s growing so If you are not on Snapchat I encourage you to sign up. Add me and I’ll show you the wonderful world through a series of 10-second conversations.

Snapchat ID: deanseddoncom

An embarrassing business venture which taught me an important lesson

In my younger years I did catalog sales to supplement my income. I’d just become a Dad and cash was really tight so it seemed like a great way to earn more money in a flexible way. I was young and eager and feeling the weight of providing.  At this point in my life I wanted to make some extra money and tried a few things to see what worked.

In the usual fashion any ‘home based business’ is part of an MLM network. If you sign people up to sell products via catalog you can earn more money. We focused primarily on selling products through the catalog and we were not really interested in signing other people up. I think partially because  I was a bit embarrassed to tell friends I was delivering catalogs in my spare time.

I was connected ‘up-line’ to a very excitable couple who were making thousands every month and passionate about getting us to sign up more catalog sellers. I was very cynical of the MLM part. I saw the couples house and car so I know their portrayed lifestyle was legitimate. They didn’t hide the fact that the vast majority of their income was commission from other people selling ‘down-line’.

Inside catalogs there was good products many of which you would see on a shopping channel today. There was a lot of products including Carrot peelers, Tupperware, and extendable garden hoses. Many of products were good but once purchased we would play with a few times and consign to the rarely used kitchen cupboard.

Part of being in the team, we were invited to monthly network meetings. These meetings were designed to keep everyone motivated and limit the drop out rate. Despite the mental picture I am probably presenting the people we met were all lovely and genuine. At nearly every meeting lead couple would always say ‘just get your books out’. When they said this they meant deliver your catalogs and collect them in, turn them around as fast as you can. If you have 200 catalogs put them out 3 times a week, not just once.

Their philosophy was to play a numbers game, the more people saw the catalog the more likely you were to make a sale. Make the most of the catalogs you had. Using the same catalogs three times in a week to triple your potential for orders. In business we’d call it sweating the asset. What was surprising is that they did practice what the preach, they delivered and collected 600 catalogs per week. They did their catalogs with finesses with their BMW 5 series estate and a branded trolley compared to my battered Renault Clio and a messenger bag.

There little saying has stuck with me. It’s become one of my personal mottoes. To me ‘get your books out’ means don’t just dream about it. Do it. Take action. Do as much as you can with what you have got. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect just ‘get your books’ out.

Circumstances will never be perfect. There will always be a reason to delay, postpone or do it next month, but we all have to act if we want achieve and succeed. In the catalog world a rainy day can be incredibly demotivating, but, if you want to get orders, come rain or shine those books have to go out.

I eventually decided to hang up my catalogs but we did make some semi decent money at the time. If you enjoyed walking, delivering and collecting catalogs each day, you could earn a modest income. The most profitable part of delivering catalogs, which has made me hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last ten years, was the day I heard the couple say “get your books out”.

Move with change or get run over by it.

At the weekend I was discussing with our neighbors about the way we consume media and how the growth of on demand has created a whole ‘binge viewing’ culture and the change of viewing habits, such as  catch-up TV. I don’t know about you, but the majority of my TV viewing is now on-demand or through catch-up. There is no doubt the big screen in our living room’s is here to stay but the big question is, who will provide what we watch on it?

I am sure on a professional network such as Linkedin, very few will have succumbed to ‘binge’ viewing.  I’ve found a ‘binge’ viewing session can be quite therapeutic. I am sure I am not alone and there will be many who have had 3 hour marathon watching House of Cards, 24, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

The question all media producers are trying to answer is how will we receive media for consumption in the future. Just look at the recent news of Amazon relaunching the famous BBC series, Top Gear. 10 years ago Amazon delivering media content would have been a bit of a joke given our habits were very different back then. Diversity of viewing now presents a real problem. How do you know which one is future proof?  I don’t believe anybody honestly knows how we will consume media in the future.

Just like all those big media companies, going through the process of change can be quite a painful experience. Being creatures of comfort we like things to stay the same, we like certainty. Change brings uncertainty and forces us to improve ourselves and adapt to a world which is constantly changing. Change brings pain.

What’s happening in TV is happening everyday. Today there will be numerous inventors and entrepreneurs working and thinking of ways to bring innovation to the way we live our lives. Think about it, 30 years ago, mobile phones where available to a select group, the internet was non-existent and in the UK you could watch 4 TV channels. For all those who were the wrong side of innovation, change was lethal.

Change is never easy, for the instigators or the recipients. Instigators have to battle against the status-quo and the recipients of change are forced to adapt which is not always convenient. It can be brutally uncomfortable, but what is certain, is that if you try to resist change, you tend to get run over by it. Those that do well, embrace change and adapt to the new world it creates.

Some of the casualties of change such as MySpace, Nokia, HD-DVD and Woolworth’s all had great USP’s but as times changed their offering didn’t seem to matter anymore. The same thing that killed those famous brands is a massive threat on the horizon for Apple, Google and Amazon.

The warning to us all is that, just like MySpace, if we are not keep up in our fields, we can quickly fall behind the changing environment in which we live and work.

When you feel like giving up do this…

 

We’ve all had those moments when you just want to throw in the towel. Lots of work with very little results or worse, you realise you don’t know why you are doing something anymore. Sometimes you get work overload and feel like you are drowning in all the things that need to be done or worse, the work you have to do doesn’t challenge you.

These are the moments when we feel like giving up…

Feeling this way isn’t wrong, it’s your emotions, mind and body reacting to your situation. The trouble is when you feel one way, it jades the way you view the world. You cannot process your situation objectively.

Has your idea not worked out as expected?

Has your career taken a turn for the worse?

Do you feel overloaded by the workload your dealing with?

Did the world once seem a place of endless opportunities but now seems full of obstacles?

Thomas Edison once said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” That is certainly true for him, as he suffered many setbacks as an inventor. Eventually after countless setbacks and disappointments, he mastered the electric light bulb.

What many will not know though is that Edison invented a lot of things which didn’t work and struggled with the growth of his business. He was at his best in a small lab testing and inventing things. After several successful inventions his business grew to a large organisation. He struggled to adapt from being a quirky, unstructured inventor, to the head of a large company. He stepped outside of his skill set.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a good challenge, but stepping outside of your skill set can be dangerous. You can make unwise decisions, overwhelm yourself and worse not understand the risks you are taking.

Coming back to Edison, he had an understanding of giving up far better than we do. If he had given up on the light bulb, we would probably not even know his name. However, Edison also turned down a lot of options to pursue his light bulb dream.

Here are some of my thoughts on giving up:

Giving up should not be an emotional decision.

Emotions tell lies, twist the truth and serve only themselves. As humans it’s impossible to make decisions without the involvement of emotions. Keep your emotions under control and make decisions when you feel you are a clear head. Make sure you provide evidence for both sides of the argument and make a decision based on what you see.

Giving up should not be a financial decision.

There is a lot of evidence of great achievers  going broke or risking everything to pursue their passion. At the time they faced criticism and looked like idiots. They eventually made it, but had to pursue it through painful situations which to anyone who understands accounting, would not make sense. Richard Branson started a business from a payphone, he got into financial difficulties and nearly didn’t make it. EasyJet for many years was seen as a business that could not work, now it’s one of the larger and more successful airlines.

If you decide to give up or not, you should not just consider the financial implications, there are lots of other things to consider, such as quality of life, your life goals and your health. BUT and it is a big but, you must make the decision to give up or not understanding the financial implications.

Giving up should not be a short term decision.

Setbacks happen to us all, if you have had a bad week and feel like giving up, you need to grow some more willpower. Life is complicated and stuff happens. Make sure you take a longer term view than this week, this month. Start looking for this year, the next year and the next ten years.

Giving up should be a strategic decision.

Does giving up help you progress and follow your goals. Will it help you move forward? Enough said.

Giving up should be a move forward.

If you are giving up because of something, it’s probably the wrong decisions. If you are giving up for something, then it may make sense. That wasn’t just a play on words. Are you running from something or running to something?

Don’t give up by default.

It’s really easy to not make a decision on giving up and give up by default. This is the worst kind of giving up because you surrender control to your environment. You let things happen.

Giving up can be good if there are good reasons, but you have to work out if you have good reasons. You can’t be held hostage to emotions or circumstances. Nobody can give you the answer, you have to research it for yourself. You can make a good decision to give up and a good decision to not give up if you weigh the situation properly.

What about you?

How to overcome the fear of failure

Fear and failure are a toxic combination. Both fear and failure have positive elements to play in our lives. Fear can be a useful self preservation mechanism and failure can help us learn valuable lessons. When the two come together they pose a crippling and destructive cocktail which will ruin your life.

As I write this post, I am embarking on a new journey which will see me leave regular fixed income and taking a financial risk. I am excited, terrified but I am not going to let me fear prevent me from stepping into my future.  Writing this post comes from my own experience and so it is a little bit of therapy for me and hopefully will help you too.

The fear of failure left unchallenged will keep you from reaching your potential. No if’s, no buts, it is one of the most important things you have to take control over.

Where does the fear of failure come from?

I am no psychologist but I certainly have experienced throughout my life the fear of failure. If you struggle with the fear of failure you will run endless scenarios in your head of worst case scenarios. These fears usually come from our own personal hierarchy of needs (of the Maslow variety).

If we have unfulfilled or uncertainty in one of the levels within Maslow’s diagram, it will usually mirror itself in the fear of failure.

New Career  – What if I am not good enough?  – Self-Esteem

New Business – Do you fear not being able to pay the bills? – Safety

New Clothes – Do you worry about what people will think? – Love and belonging.

So how do we overcome the fear of failure?

Extreme’s rarely happen.

In life it is rare that extreme’s happen. Fear usually paints an extreme outcome. Just like the optimist writing a financial plan or a pessimist writing plan for world peace. The best and the worst case never usually happen. Outcomes are often somewhere in the middle of the best and the worst.

Define your fear.

It’s really easy for a concern to become a worry and worry to become fear. The first thing you have to do is regain control. Fear causes panic, you are never at your best when you are in panic. Panic causes all sorts of things to happen in our body, importantly it makes it difficult for us to control our emotions and think objectively.

In times of fear and panic you need to take back control of your emotional and mental state. Stop crying, stop thinking it over and over. It sounds easier than it is, but it starts with you talking yourself down from the panic and fear.

When you feel a bit more in control, write down the specific fears you are feeling. Be specific and write them all down. What exactly are you afraid of?

I won’t be good enough because….

I won’t pay my bills because….

I can’t wear those clothes because…

Now write down the reasons. Your afraid you won’t meet a deadline because your diary is full, you won’t pay your bills because sales are slow. You’ll find that the reasons once on paper are not as big a deal as you think. Fear makes mole hills into mountains.
Create an action plan to address your fear.

Every fear and every reason creates a series actions. Take your fear mountain and break it down in to workable chunks.  Often we think being fearful about something means we should not do it, but fear generally is telling us to act to prevent the fear becoming reality. If you listen to your fear, accept its concerns and then create a plan of action to prevent fear being proven correct.

If you are worried about paying the bills, find ways to bridge the gap, redouble your efforts to earn more money. Every time your fear surfaces, redouble your efforts.

Remember actions driven from panic will not solve the problem. Stay calm and in control. Panic based action just creates more problems.

You are not the only one

We all grapple with fear so you are not alone. Just a quick google search and you will learn quite quickly that many are searching about how to fight fear. Don’t be crippled by it, use it, channel it and make it work for you. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, how together your life it, you’ll always have some degree of fear, the difference that you can choose is how much control it has over your life.

That’s the real answer, we can’t get rid of fear, it will always be there, but if we get control of our fears, use them to help us, the power fear can hold over us diminishes. As fear’s power diminishes in your life, you’ll find it easier to manage.

Business plans for beginners.

I recently started a discussion about business plans on linkedin (see it here). I got mixed results. Some people didn’t read the question, whereas others provided helpful advice. I was asking for recommendations on business plan templates. It can be very difficult if you haven’t set a plan out before to have some software lay it out or make sure you have included everything.

Every business needs a business plan. Creating a business plans take time, research and forces you to focus on your idea so that you can refine it into a plan which you can execute. It is so easy to bypass the business plan and go into action and there are many examples of people who have succeeded doing just that. Jumping straight in is not without risks and you will figure out how to make your business work as you go. It can be an expensive way to learn.

My business plans have always been relatively simple and are on one double sided sheet of paper. Why? because the business plan is for my personal use, so it has to be presented in a way which I can understand and easily refer to. The worst scenario is creating a business plan that you cannot work with on a daily and weekly basis. Some people create amazing business plans which get filed away never to be seen again.

Here are some of the things that may help you when considering  a business plan.

A business plan is there to help you.

With startups being all the rage the internet is flooded with business plans for those seeking investors for their app or new tech. When did physical businesses become so unpopular? If you are starting out your business plan is your roadmap telling you what to do, when to do it and how much to charge for it. When you get started, I have always found that opportunities come in waves, if your keen to earn money all and any customers or opportunities will seem appealing. Some of them will prove to be a distraction. Your business plan will help you cost up and confirm which customers to take on and which ones to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

A business plan should be realistic.

It’s essential you put together a basic financial plan showing the cost to operate your business, the amount of money you will charge and a reasonable estimate of how many customers you will need and the size of the market. If you have 1000 potential customers and you need 1,000 customers to break even your business will be difficult to make work. It is so easy to be optimistic with your numbers. As a rule you should always be conservative with your numbers, it sets your expectations and then you can exceed them if you do well.

Being too optimistic will make it much harder for you to operate the business, if the numbers don’t stack up, do more research, look at funding or alternative ways to make it work.

A business plan should be be concise.

A 100 page business plan may be great for an investor to see the level of detail, however, you can’t work with 100 pages on a daily basis. You need a clear action plan for your business to get you from starting up through to becoming financially stable. I’ll intentionally keep this point short to demonstrate the point.

A business plan should be flexible.

Things never go according to plan. With people involved things morph and change. It’s a normal process. Build flexibility into the plan. A business plan should have contingency. Your website takes longer to develop, you have to pay for some additional expenses, customers don’t pay as promptly as you expect. These are all contingencies which happen every day in existing businesses. You have to be able to adapt.

There are lots of tools online which can help you develop your business plan, but a word of warning, there is a massive difference between business plan templates and a template business plan. One will help you develop your plan and the other is copy a plan someone else has developed. Don’t fall into the temptation to cheat as it will cost you more in the long run.