The turnaround, the startup and the downsize.

The last few weeks I have been recovering from a rather nasty chest infection and its given me a lot to reflect. Over the past year I have embarked upon massive change in my life personally and professionally.

This time last year, I was stepping out of a stable role with a global organisation where I had responsibility for a large team and a seven figure annual budget.

I embarked upon a journey of turning around a company, starting a new one and changing up my personal life. So what happened?

I have been in business with my good friend Jonathan for the last six years. We’ve had our ups and downs but generally we make for a dynamic duo. We’re not afraid of a challenge and we got our heads together this past year to launch a new business and dive into a failing one.

In September 2015, we launched our new marketing agency, iMARVEL! which is officially a year old this month and in January we started to repurpose an ailing print business which had been around for 30 years. At the same time after years of my waistline getting larger and larger, I decided it was time to downsize!

When you start something new you have to learn the trends, peaks and troughs, you have to fight for every lead and client and you have to convince people you can deliver on your promises. At the same time, you have to develop new systems, routines, processes and culture to make you the best you can be. This journey cannot be accelerated. There is no quick fix. It is something which is learned and refined as you go.

Taking over a business is completely different. You have set procedures, processes and culture which you have to learn and understand and in our case find what needs to be adjusted or changed. Getting fit is the same. You have to go against the habits and routine you have developed and create new ones. You have to discover what works and what doesn’t. We inherited a great team, willing and keen to grow the business. Together we had to deal with the problems as they came, understanding years of history, looking at what to keep and what to dispose of. It’s been scary, surprising and a huge learning curve.

So the final thing has been embarking on my own transformation, fighting years of habit, culture and behaviours which made my persona ‘larger than life’. I hated walking, I hated exercise and enjoyed Tyrrells crisps a little too much. I had to do it, but had to find a way to make it happen and not become a hope rather than a goal. I did it, I found a way to attach my weight loss to a project, which since January 2016, has seen me lose almost 4 stone in weight. Still a way to go but I am at my lightest for many years.

So what have I learned…

  • Starting a business and turning a business around challenge you to examine yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. It pushes you to raise your game.
  • It’s not about making money. It’s about our mission to help clients. Every business needs to make money but that is an outcome of successful mission.
  • Everything takes longer than you think. Twelve months is not a long time to make changes and see their fruit.
  • When things are tough, don’t give up. Your strength and belief is a key element of your success.
  • Payment policies; lax policies are no problem if you have millions in the bank. But in the absence of the huge pile of cash, be clear and fair about your payment policies (we all have bills to pay). In our case, we inherited some clients whose average payment was 120 days, sometimes because the systems we had didn’t work. Better systems helped us improve this massively.
  • Starting a business, losing weight and turning a business around all require you to write off money. I spent money on getting overweight, I have to write it off as wasted money. In the businesses, we did things which didn’t work at first or didn’t turn out as planned. Don’t get upset about it, just don’t do it too often.
  • If someone is buttering you up, they are about to take a bite!
  • Your identity and personality cannot be suppressed, it will be felt and should be celebrated as part of the business / life (unless you have issues).
  • To change bad habits you need to be replace them with better habits.
  • Play to people’s skills. Outsource if you need to.
  • Competitors can be easily threatened. It’s really funny hearing stories of competitors who are obsessed with us and stalk us on social media. Don’t obsess over your competition, just get on with your job.
  • Our customers are with us because they value us and what we bring to the table. We have to work hard to keep them. We are only as good as our last work.
  • Always trust your gut and work from relationship. It helps you to love your customers and your customers to love you.
  • Don’t charge your client for every little thing. It might seem counter-intuitive but clients appreciate it when you just ‘help out’. It evidences you really do believe in them and want to help them succeed.
  • Businesses cost more money than you think. Be prepared to trim your personal expenses to make things work.
  • Things will go wrong, how you respond to it, handle it and resolve it is the difference between growth and setback.
  • Trying to lose weight and turnaround a company both require you to force change but in a way which is sustainable over the long term. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • When your eager to win new clients, choose who you take on wisely.
  • There are some customers / people / friendships that will never fit with you. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Sometimes things just don’t fit. Trying to be all things to all people never works. We tried it, it doesn’t work.
  • When competitors bitch about you; rejoice your doing a great job!

So this past year has been tough, terrifying and has challenged me to up my game. Thank you to all the friends, customers, partners and competitors (who made me chuckle).

Have a bit of class…

I find it rather amusing when you meet people in your business life who behave like children.

For some reason I thought we left the playground behind in our teenage years. Bitching, backbiting and passive aggressive behaviour just won’t wash with me. I find it childish and honestly think (and this is coming from a working-class northerner) we need to act with a little bit of class.

I recently heard of a business who was verbally abused by a supplier because they shared their intentions to change suppliers. Come on guys, grow up, we are adults. When people resort to low tactics, it really isn’t an encouraging sign, it means they have nothing left to say or offer.

Starting a business we are all keen to win new business. We all want a new client. New work, new contacts it is the lifeblood of a business. BUT beware the eager new client who spits out venom about your competition. It would be so easy to add fuel to the fire and criticise your competitors. BUT whatever you do, DON’T. It’s not very classy and very unprofessional. We’d all love to believe that our competition is useless but the truth is they are competition for a reason. New clients who are aggressively negative about your competition obviously had a bad experience BUT sometimes the new client can be the problem.

If you have someone within your organisation who is negative about competitors, knock it out of them (not literally). There is a certain finesse about people who don’t dive into the gutter. That finesse or class works well as a marketing tool. Those who do engage in bitching and negativity about competitors in the end show themselves up.

Bitching is for the playground, beware the people who play those games. No class.

After spending half a million on social media I can share four things…

So I have reached a milestone. Half a million dollars spent on social media advertising. Here are four thoughts…

1) Social Media advertising works.

2) It can have terrifying ups and downs and can be an emotional roller coaster.

3) If your using it as a sales mechanism, you have to know your audience.

4) You have to commit to making it work, half-hearted attempts are a waste of money.

If you want to know how social media advertising can work for you, drop me a line….

Your attitude determines your altitude

I love quotes. I love sharing them. I love reading them and I love trying to live them.

A good quote has the power to capture a life lesson in to a few words which have been put together. The words may be easy but the life lesson can be much harder to accept and apply.

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. – Zig Ziglar

I am sure, like me, you have seen or read this quote many times. Last night I read this quote from a completely different perspective. On face value this quote talks about our attitude, our approach, our outlook, our way of thinking determines how high or how far we can go.

My realisation is that this quote and life lesson and apply to our challenges and problems too. How we look at our setbacks and how we respond to them can equally determine our rate of descent. If things are not going well, how we handle it, can either prevent things from getting worse or speed up the development of the problem.

Having been in business since I was 16, I have had to take a number of risks, some of which were calculated and some weren’t (that’s another post). But I have been through the place where my attitude wasn’t right and I helped make my challenges more difficult. Equally, I have seen and experienced many challenges which seemed insurmountable, which with a good outlook and attitude turned out fine.

The last three years have seen significant upheaval for me. Lots of changes, some good and some bad. I had to leave some fond memories and people behind to pursue new projects. Life is a process of transition, everything is constantly changing. During my transition I had lots of challenges, lots of complications and a considerable amount of uncertainty. Moving into 2016, I am certain more than ever, despite whatever comes; the good, the bad and the ugly, how we respond to things determines their outcome.

How we generated 250 leads in 20 days

Everyone wants more customers. We recently took a call from a client who asked us to “send us less leads”. It was a really interesting experience as we had never had that before. We had been running this particular campaign for a client in the legal industry and as a result of a high performing campaign had been deluged with leads and needed to slow down the campaign so they could catch up.

In this project, we had a lead conversion (lead to client) of 75% which is an incredible result. Most would hope for 20%. Suffice to say our client was very pleased.  But how did we generate 250 leads in 20 days?

We defined the outcome

It is really easy to overload a campaign. Too many options, too many distractions. In any campaign there must be a defined and clear outcome. You can have secondary objectives, but they are just that, secondary! Campaigns which are too complicated dilute the results.

Often campaigns start simple and complexity is added by changing design, beefing up copy and over thinking. In our recent campaign the outcome was leads which would convert into a client. Brand awareness and website traffic were secondary. Sure, getting high traffic to the website is a great goal and will pay off in the long term, our remit was ‘leads which convert’ which resulted marketing to a smaller crowd who are ready to commit to becoming a client.

In this campaign we had a really clear objective, find people who are interested in our clients service and create an engaging reason for them to register their interest.

We took time to understand the clients offer

Without knowing our clients business it is impossible to create and manage a campaign which will generate high quality leads. Our team worked hard to understand the clients offer and the type of client they are looking for.

Understanding our clients process and offering in the market allowed us to find the best audience for them. In any campaign there is always a percentage of ‘dud’ enquiries, people who are not really interested or misunderstood the offering. We spent a lot of time working with the client to understand their offer and their ideal customer.

We researched and found the best touch point.

It’s so easy to fall in love with a method of platform or process. In any campaign the touch point should always be centred around the best place for the prospective client. As the Internet has matured it too has become saturated and overcrowded.  In many cases the best campaign is one which connects with people who have a need but is not necessarily on the top of their agenda. This usually means they haven’t shopped around and you are the first person to make contact. Being the first person to reach them has a competitive advantage as in many cases you can offer something which a good percentage of enquirers will go straight to purchase.

Touch points / connection points are really important as without understanding of the people you want to reach you can waste time building metaphorical shop front on a street your prospective customers don’t visit.

We integrated the campaign into their business process.

Every campaign needs a process. In our case, we had to create a touch point which engaged and took the prospective client on a journey which eventually led to a registration of interest. Once the interest was registered our client made contact and converted the lead. A seamless process in any marketing campaign is essential with prompt follow up. Weak follow up will result in leads losing interest and will drive down conversions.

We tested and tweaked through the life of the campaign.

Whenever we start a campaign the first few days we test and monitor thoroughly. In the campaign we just completed we had 7 or 8 different variations on the campaign some of which performed well and others not so well. The important part was testing and adjusting to achieve the best possible return for the client.

The big thing everyone needs to remember is marketing campaigns need lots of attention, trends, behaviours and attitudes change fast. Our client’s campaign was under frequent testing and tweaking through the whole 20 day period to ensure we maximised their performance and budget.

Are you looking to generate more leads for your business? Drop me a line

The benefits of hiring a marketing consultant.

Many people are skeptical about the role of a consultant. Consultants can be expensive and if they are not delivering value they can waste a lot of time and money. There are however great benefits to having a consultant.

Before we get into the benefits, it’s always important to define the purpose for hiring a consultant. It is really easy once you’ve appointed your consultant to throw them more work or projects. Whilst every consultant values more work, ‘mission creep’ as I call it can dilute the effectiveness and muddy objectives and goals. It starts so easy with ‘can you just do this for us too’. I have been in a position where I have had mission creep and it isn’t a great place. Business owners at first feel happier knowing they can pass projects over and leave them with someone else. The problem comes when objectives and lines start to blur. From experience it is always better to have clearly defined projects and timescales.

When mission creep happens, it starts well but six months down the line when goals have slipped, it is easy to forget the additional work that has been added and blame the consultant. Always keep clear goals and objectives, it will get you the best results and avoid confusion.

So here are some of the main benefits for hiring a consultant…

1) Clear thinking.

It is really easy to develop ‘group think’ or ‘industry think’ as company. A consultant can bring a different perspective not hindered by the day-to-day running of your business. The clarity a consultant can bring also is removed from internal politics. Politics happen in every organisation and they are a power and self preservation mechanism. Clarity of thought from a consultant can help you see your options and next steps without the lens of politics or day-to-day management challenges.

2) Experience

The primary reason for bringing a consultant on board is so that you can gain access to expertise which you do not have internally. In marketing trends, methods and processes change. As a consultant, you have to be ahead of the game and be on top of the latest developments in technology so that you can share those developments with clients.

Many consultants focus on specific areas, so engaging their field of expertise is a low cost option compared to hiring a permanent staff member for that work. In some companies they do not have a big marketing team, perhaps just a marketing coordinator. In these circumstances companies can gain high-level experience as and when they need it.

3) Focus

In many organisations it can be easy to get distracted. The amount of times I have heard business owners say “we really need to work on our marketing”. Marketing is a top priority for winning customers, but it is really easy to get consumed in the day-to-day that you never get around to actually ‘doing’ the marketing.

A consultant or marketing company can help take responsibility for delivery. Having a consultant on board can help keep the focus on delivering the work or project. When your business is stretched for resource a consultant can keep things moving forward.

4) Defining Customers

A good marketing consultant can help you define your customer. Understanding your customer, their buying patterns and importantly their persona. This is another vital element of your marketing strategy which can help you win more business and customers. Poorly defined customer profiles can lead to wasting time and money using the wrong tools, to the wrong people at the wrong time. Defining your customer can help you deploy the right tools to the right people at the right time.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know what you think…

It’s all change…studying the funnel.

For the nearly 3 years I have been working full-time for a global TV broadcaster. It was a fantastic role, in a great organisation and had the honour of working with some amazing people. Whilst being excited for the future, I know I will miss the people I worked with.

So it is time for something new! In my new role, I’ll be working with companies who want to grow their business, bringing the latest marketing and media tools to bear to generate leads, enquiries and importantly sales!

For the last ten years I have worked in a variety of projects which have been about generating sales, orders or engagement. This new role is right up my street. With a number of projects and clients lined up, it’s going to be exciting to be working in a variety of different sectors, including education, legal and leisure.

One thing I find common across all sectors is the sales and marketing funnel. Every organisation needs a funnel, starting with brand awareness filtering down to a physical sale. In some sectors ‘sale’ is probably a crude term, but in all honesty everyone needs to make sales. The process of where a client agrees to pay a sum of money for a product or service is what makes the world go around.

What is surprising is that many organisations don’t understand their funnel. Perhaps they have been fortunate to have the right connections or a great salesperson. For the rest of us, if we don’t know the buying process and rely heavily on methods which are familiar, we could be waste a lot of time and money.

Sales and marketing funnels generally look something like this…

All our marketing efforts should be spent building and working a funnel. How do we find people who have interest and take them on a journey to becoming a customer. This is the core element of sales and marketing.

In times past this process has included networking, direct marketing, advertising and prospecting. All of these are still valid tools and if you have a really good marketing and sales strategy you’ll know which ones work and which ones don’t. Every business wants to find more people who have a need and interest in their product or service. Nowadays we can also work more intelligently to ‘target’ our prospective customers which can help lower the acquisition cost of a new customer.

These ‘new’ tools are reliant on a good understanding of the prospect. Mapping out buying behaviours and profiling your prospective customers can help you use resources more efficiently.  In the cut throat world we live, mapping out the funnel is key to knowing how to use your marketing budget to get the maximum return for the lowest cost.

So my job starting this month is to show clients how to get the maximum return for their marketing budget. If you are looking to develop your sales and want some help, drop me a line.

Overcoming self limiting beliefs

What we believe has an incredible influence over our lives. Growing up in a working class family as, I did, it was very easy to accept that my career path would be stacking shelves or working in a blue collar job. Our inner belief system (and I am not talking about faith or spirituality here) shapes our thinking, understanding and actions.


Lots of our internal beliefs we develop over time based on our environment, what people have said to us and the upbringing. If you have grown up with negativity spoken over you all the time, no doubt you will have a negative view of yourself. If you’ve been told you are no good all your life, guess what? Deep inside yourself you will believe that to be true.

Why is this important? You’ve seen the people on TV shows like Idol and x Factor, who have amazing voices, but suffer from low confidence, you have seen the talented doubt themselves and drop out of the competition. This is all a result of self limiting beliefs.

You may have seen this before:

What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.

Self limiting beliefs start out as harsh words, bad experiences, stupid mistakes which wound our personality. The fester and develop until they take root so strongly, whenever we try to do something counter to those beliefs, we internally sabotage ourselves. Our internal voice tells us we will fail, we are not good, we can’t achieve it. We listen to that internal voice and so we avoid taking the risk, we do things half heartedly or we keep it as a good idea but we could never do it.

I struggle self limiting beliefs which are rooted in my working class background. Those beliefs tell me all sort of things which prevent me grasping my future. I have to decide to fight and oppose them. It’s tough and hard, but we all face to face our self limiting beliefs if we want to reach our potential.

Here is what I do:

Challenge the source of the belief.

Where did that thought come from? Don’t just recognise it as a self limiting belief, hunt it down. Why is that there, what is the reason I have this. Write down why you have the self limiting belief. I have believe this because….

Is the belief based on evidence.

What evidence makes it true? How much evidence makes it true? Write down the reasons it isn’t true. Sometimes we will come across substantive evidence of why certain things are true. They are not limiting beliefs, they are facts. I am not great at paperwork, that doesn’t mean I avoid it, it means I have things in place to compensate for it. Write down the factual evidence for holding that belief….

Is there evidence to disprove the belief.

This is important to hunt out. After you have listed some of your limiting beliefs, where they have come from and the evidence base to support them, you have to find reasons to prove they are untrue. Find evidence of people who have been in your position, challenge the narrative in your head. This is difficult because you are challenging something your inner self says is true.

Defy your limiting belief.

If you have a thought that tells you something negative. Do the opposite, literally defy the belief. Brian Tracy has a whole series of talks he does one beliefs, but one of the most important messages I heard from him is the key to defying self limiting beliefs. Firstly, do what it says you cannot do and secondly, have an argument with yourself and repeat the exact opposite to yourself in a mirror. It sounds stupid, but we have learned some stupid things over time by repeating them to ourselves internally. Try repeating the opposite to yourself externally to challenge your internal negativity. Brian advocates daily standing in front of a mirror and saying “I Like myself” over and over again to combat poor self image (which is one of the causes of shyness and low confidence).

Keep going

Changing your internal beliefs takes time. You’ve learned the limiting beliefs over years and so it takes a lot of work and challenging of your internal self to completely change your belief system. It may take weeks, months or years but it won’t be solved in one hit, repeating these steps over and over again will wear down your beliefs and eventually replace them with new beliefs.

Stupid decisions

wpid-2014-11-30-18.18.34.jpg.jpegSo here I am writing a blog post sat in a car which has broken down. What makes it worse is that it is my own  fault I am sat here. I stupidly filled my car up with diesel instead of petrol.

But before I pile on the blame, let me offer you all an excuse. Firstly I drive a lot of different cars, every couple of weeks I swap cars as I drive hire cars all the time. The picture above is the label inside the petrol cap. This is the first time I have ever fuelled this car so I did a good check to make sure. There was nothing on the key ring, just this sticker inside the cap.

I looked at it and saw a P in a circle with a line through it. To me that reads No Petrol. So I thought this must be diesel. Big mistake. I am now waiting for the AA to come and tow me back home where they will drain and refuel the tank.Continue reading

Do you really care about customers or do you just want their money?

ourCustomersI’ve been guilty of looking for a quick buck! Let’s be honest for a moment, we all want more customers and we all want their money but do you really care about customers? In times past, I have made the error of wanting customers to solve my problem. I’ve needed their money or I have a product I want to sell quickly. In studying some of the most successful businesses you see that whilst they massed large amounts of money from their customers, their first priority was to solve their customers problems, not their own.

Our value as individuals in the working world is determined not by our degree or professional qualifications, it is by the problems we solve. Getting a new job and winning a new customer are the same, hiring or buying based just on price will always end in tears.

We all worry about getting money, but if that is our reasoning to gain customers, the whole buying process will be tainted by our need/greed and our service will be affected. If you have an idea which can solve a real problem, you can communicate about it well and  you can deliver that service or product in a great way, money will not be a problem.

So do you really love your customers?