On commitment and habits…

In my first post of 2015 I talked about the tangible differences between resolutions, goals and objectives. Hopefully, you’re sticking with whatever you set out to achieve. Hopefully, you’re committing.

Commitment is the secret sauce in achieving success. Commitment is the way we can turn a hope or a desire into a regular habit.

If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook you’ll know that I have created my own 30 day “run 5k every day” challenge for this month.

This goal has been deliberately conceived to exercise every day, achieve a distance over the course of a month and force myself to get out and achieve it.

And, very publicly committing myself to this very specific goal is having an incredible effect on my efforts to achieve it. I’m getting engagement from people close to me as well as people far removed.

It is forcing me to lace up and run when I really don’t feel like it in the knowledge that I will need to be posting the update later in the day. I’ve also gone from doing little running in the previous two months to completing a minimum of 35k a week.

I’m using the brilliant and free Nike+ app for iPhone which tracks my achievement over time. I’m able to see and share incremental increases. 

The data tracks my commitment and the improvement over time acts as a terrific incentive and what this has shown me is the importance of setting daily targets.

What is clear from this experiment is that only by doing something on a daily basis can it become a habit – and when you extrapolate forward, this can help transform bad habits become good habits.

This is a personal account. But it’s relevant at a time of year when there is lot of the talk about New Year’s resolutions and how we are often setting ourselves up to fail.

One of the biggest barriers to achieving goals in life – whether it is conquering the fear of writing the first book, keeping a blog going, hitting the stage, starting up a business or any other type of the stressful situation – is keeping it to yourself.

By sharing and asking for help, asking for feedback, drawing on your friends and family and support network to help you, you’re much more likely to set out on a path to success.

How can you start making big changes by taking small daily steps?

What does it take to be ‘better’ than last year?

There are a number of seasoned business and marketing experts making money out of positioning themselves to help us have a better year than last year.

Selling products and services to help us upgrade challenging and unrealistic resolutions we’ve already failed at to more quantifiable objectives – and those objectives to action oriented goals.

Working through their processes will provide, they say, more meaning and more focus and allow us to really concentrate on small steps that get us closer to bigger achievements.

I had planned to write my own first post of 2015 on how I go about it. I still might, but the point to observe in most advice about goal setting is that it often fails to address two elements. Specificity and commitment.

Any plan needs to be have a long term win, a detailed approach and an understanding of the commitment required to achieve it.

All this is backed up by current published research I read from Forbes.com and the University of Scranton which suggests 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

So, what does it take to better than last year?

Most new year plans cover areas like work, personal finance and health. So, consider these scenarios:

1. You want to deliver A SET AMOUNT OF new business to your company.

There are lots of ways to start. Create more engaging content and serve it up to people where they want it. Set up more landing pages to secure their contact details and to start a conversation. Run pay per click campaigns with time sensitive offers. Speak at events and again make exclusive offers.

But starting isn’t enough. What do these new customers look like? Where are they? What are they in the business of? What problems do they have? Why should they buy from you? What is it going to take to convince them to give you a shot?

Winning new clients takes diligence and commitment to that fixed end point ensuring every task you undertake along the way gets you closer to where you want to be.

2. You want a new job.

You could register with recruitment agents. Apply for positions you see advertised. Ask your connections for referrals.

But that will only get you so far too. Think about what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what you have demonstrable experience in and look to match. Identify companies you want to work for and approach them.

Remember, your honed and relevant CV sent direct offers a 20% saving in recruitment fees to the potential hirer and could well get you through the door.

3. You want to lose weight this year.

Joining the gym is one way. Going regularly is another. You could go further by disrupting your training by doing different things every day. Stepping away from the biscuit tin or the liquor shelf another.

So when setting goals for the long term, think through the incremental steps, the why, when and how? Break your progress down into achievable steps.

Being better than last year means taking a leap of faith today, and everyday. It starts right here, right now. Are you with me?

Is your marketing like a World Cup penalty shoot out?

The world has been gripped by the spectacle of Fifa’s World Cup 2014 taking place in Brazil over recent weeks. As we enter the knock out stages of the competition, months of meticulous preparation for most of the remaining teams will actually come down to successfully navigating a football past a goalkeeper from twelve yards.

But it’s ok, isn’t it? After all, every guy picked to the squad is there because he is one of the best footballers from his country. Kicking a ball into a 8 x 24ft net should be a piece of cake for all of them.

Some players thrive in high pressure situations like this. Most, however, don’t. [Some teams and their coaches even see the randomness of a penalty shoot out as their best opportunity to progress.]

Planning replaced by randomness

The planning, strategy, tactics and playbook that got the team out of the group, through 120 minutes of football have, at this point gone out of the window. They have been replaced by the lottery of a penalty shoot out and a game of focus and nerve.

If this poorly played out metaphor resonates with you, maybe it is because you see a similar trend in your business marketing. Surrendering to randomness is a dangerous play at the World Cup, and so to in a business environment too. Why would you not do everything in your power to try and keep control of your own destiny?

Avoid an early exit with your potential customers by considering the following five steps:

  • Kick off – did you spend all that time planning, researching, drawing up plans, working out how to implement them to then not understand what success ultimately looks like for you? Have a very clear visual picture of what your success is going to look like. How does it taste, feel, sound, look? Qualify what success looks like with numbers that matter.
  • Putting your best foot forward – play to your strengths rather than worrying about the opposition [read competition]. If you spend all your time monitoring, analysing, obsessing over and reacting to them, you won’t achieve anything. Maybe, you can even give them a few things to think about. (Isn’t the best defence, offence?)


  • Playing for penalties – leaving things to chance by not making the most of your available resources means you won’t do your best work and won’t impact the people you want to influence most. Conversely, diligently executing a goal based plan increases the likelihood of that plan being successful.
  • Dealing with the fear factor – the human body deals with fear and stress with very recognisable physical conditions. Stepping up to take a penalty is a lot like making that difficult call or getting ready to make that important presentation. Take the sting out of it by keeping in mind all the successes you’ve had to this point, remember you’re an expert and how they played out.
  • Remember, you’ll miss some time – realise that you won’t hit the mark every time. Come back stronger. Ascertain why you missed and make sure you don’t miss again, for the same reason. Incidentally, missing over and over is fine as long as you continually learn. You might even get to a position where you never end up in another sudden death penalty shoot out!

In reality, you don’t want to leave your marketing to any kind of lottery, luck or chance. The analogy of the penalty shoot out is that of a randomised last chance saloon. Sure, some players are naturally very good at penalties, but you don’t really want to be relying on a single punt to assure you of success.

Better to plan carefully, construct messages and design products that solve problems and make customers lives better, more productive and less wastefully. Communicate value, offer education and information willingly. Plan to succeed. Avoid the lottery.

Have your say on the blog; A gratuitous topical mixed metaphor. Or a blog post with a message? 

Pleasing everyone risks pleasing no one

I was pleased to learn today that I lost an email subscriber to this blog.

Pleased, because periodically over recent years, he came to the blog and made a nuisance of himself. Watching him interact on Linkedin in a number of groups we share has also increasingly shown him to be a progressively angry old man.

In fairness, he wasn’t who this blog is intended for. I write for the open minded. For marketers and business owners selling products and services to other businesses and empowered to make changes to the business and marketing approaches. A good many professionals sadly don’t fall into this category. Tellingly, I write about the urgent topics and challenges I find myself grappling with.

Writing for everyone is the pathway to a disgruntled audience and one pretty lame blog.

There is a marketing lesson in this I think. Who do you want to write for? What do they need to read? What interests them? And how can your experiences, your expertise, skills, knowledge and advice, help them?

You may well be surprised by the answers.

One word resolutions

Dan Rockwell, the LeadershipFreak on Twitter, posted today on how to set SMART single word new year resolutions.

These help drive the behavioural and attitudinal change we often seek as we enter a new year – and are a good deal more attainable than conventional resolutions we make and fail to stick to.

My word for 2014 is ‘invest’. Not in terms of financial investment – I’m not looking to create a stocks and shares portfolio. Rather, I’m using it as a way to prioritise and justify the input needed to specific projects, relationships and causes.

With a multi-faceted role in a small business as well as the platform building adventure I’ve embarked on in recent years, I think seeing my time and energy as an investment will help me build better relationships, achieve more and above all focus more on the things that matter.

Procrastination can be a big problem when you’re thinly spread.

Q: What’s your word for 2014?

New year marketing resolutions

Now, is apparently the time to start getting your 2014 commitments into shape. Nobody and nothing stands still. What are you going to do different, better, more of in 2014 than you did in 2013. Can you answer the following questions?

What worked for you in 2013? What didn’t?

What did your customers value the most?

What was the best advice you gave?

What was the best piece of work you did?

What did you do to stand out from the pack?

More of that required and more. What are you going to stand for?

Better hurry, most of your competition are already working on it…

 

What to do when blogging becomes a chore

I’ve been away for a while. This is a personal blog. It’s time to get personal.

I took my eye off the ball. What I have been doing has been important, but I’ve not been following my own advice.

I’ve been busy doing a whole load of interesting things. Set goals for the financial year ahead. Delivered some great work for existing clients. Won some new clients. Did some talks. Chaired some conferences. Read alot of stuff. Tweeted alot of stuff. Networked. Alot. All of it would have found a great home here on the blog and would have probably informed, entertained and even amused one or two readers.

But while I often thought about the blog, I couldn’t find the inspiration to get started. Blogging had become a chore.

Lost momentum

Which is strange because I’ve got a rich body of my own content to draw on – weirdly I wrote a book before writing a gazillion blog posts and then seamlessly turning them into a book. I’m opinionated. I follow a bunch of interesting people online and read extensively.

In losing momentum, I’ve probably lost subscribers. At its height, this blog was hitting 1,000 visits a day (before syndication and social really went mainstream in 2011). I know that a lost audience is a very hard one to gain back. If this has arrived in your inbox today and you read it before deleting it, thanks for your time.

‘Moment of clarity’

I’ve had a moment of clarity, one aided by what I’ve seen online in recent months. And I’ve learnt much through not blogging – perhaps more than I did when I was actively pushing out posts 3-4 times a week (or more).

So, if, like me, you want to develop a blog based content asset, rich in relevant SEO and customer material, but have either run out of gas (like I have) or don’t know where to start, this one’s for you.

What to do when blogging becomes a chore

I’m not going to make any sweeping statements or grand pronouncements about what is to come. But here’s the way I’m going about it from now on.

1. Face it head on. Accept it slipped and put a plan in place to get it going again. Tell someone about it. I’m telling you.

2. Be realistic about how to get going. I’m not going to get back on the horse and write 5x a week. I have commitments, plus as you’ll read later, 5x a week may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

3. Focus on a specific topic. I’m not going to try and write about everything under the sun. Being a specialist is better. Pick a subject and stick to it, selecting relevant keywords to build it around. Calendars and mindmaps help organise a blogger’s thoughts. I’ve also used RSS feeds to stay up to date with news and comment in specialist areas, but now need to shop around. Always used Paper.li to condense my Twitter feed once a day and tools like Evernote to help capture ideas when on the go. Just need to make more of them.

4. Write frequently. Not every day like Seth Godin or Michael Hyatt. They’re professionals, yes, but I get their daily emails and don’t always read them! And also not every day or twice or three times a day like big brand US content marketing sages suggest. I’m going to write frequently enough for it to have a positive impact on readers and frequently enough to rebuild the platform.

5. Write evergreen pieces. Ever wonder why, when you run a long tail search, you generally get an article that might be a year or more old? It’s because it is relevant and because people (probably in your Google+ or social circles) liked it. Evergreen pieces avoid the trivial, topical day-to-day and focus on meatier issues that are more likely to stand the test of time. They are also a good deal longer and need time spending on them so they are of greater value to readers. So, I’m going to write less, but write better.

6. Deliver rich content. We know what makes for a richer experience online and we know search engine bots and people like photos, video, audio, animation, infographics, slides and more. Mix it up a bit, remembering you don’t have to be Sam Mendes directing the next Bond movie.

7. Embrace social. I’m not done when I’ve written and posted. This amazing content needs to be seen. I’m going to get back to putting it out through social networks and syndicating it to popular article sites like Yahoo! Contributor Network, trade websites, trade associations and more. I’ll see a surge in traffic from unlikely places – so will need to update my enrolment and subscription call to actions here on the blog!

8. Above all, I’m going to make it personal. I was as guilty as most other bloggers when I set out, opting to fill a hub crammed with the express intention of creating mass. The reality is most of the content on the web, uploaded and shared on a daily basis is sh*t. It serves no relevant purpose to most readers but gives the publisher the critical mass they crave whilst providing the masses content to curate –  helping to build connector profiles. A vicious circle of sh*t content consequently becomes the norm.

Not for me. I want to make this blog matter. Make it my home on the web. Make it a force for better marketing and an outlet for ideas, thoughts, initiatives and more.

Maybe it’s a grand pronouncement afterall. Thanks for waiting for me.

Q: Have you had a ‘chequered’ blogging history that you now want to kickstart? What ideas do you have to overcome blogger’s block? Please share below.

 

Image www.laundrycompany.co.uk

Linkedin demographics and statistics on use, January 2012

The latest update on Linkedin demographic statistics (January 2012) makes for fascinating reading. As the social network of choice for business professionals, numbers are steadily increasing as the functionality continues to improve unabated.

Why your business needs a content marketing strategy?

Content marketing is a phenomenon that isn’t going away. If you’re a business to business marketer, using content marketing is a great way of rethinking and re-tasking some of press and sales support material in a way that stimulates inbound inquiry.

Need five reasons why your business needs a content marketing strategy? Here you go.

1. Quality regular content builds trust. There are undeniable SEO benefits of persistently talking about the same topics. But it’s at the human interaction level, rather than technical level, where the benefits of content marketing are most interesting. Talking frequently and in  detail about particular topics creates credibility which leads to you being trusted. Trust is the first step on the path to transaction.

2. Companies need to use people to tell stories that resonate. People do business with people they trust and like. Shared and personal experiences can underpin relationships and can be effectively used to build engagement. Advertising in the 1960’s looked to profile particular people and sell them solutions to their problems and this has largely remained the same in marketing today.

3. Broadcast PR is dead. All communication needs to be two-way. It’s not enough to tell all the time, you need to listen, react and respond. Social has spread right through all facets of modern business and modern marketing. In CRM, companies like Salesforce.com have bought into social media with outfits like Radian6, whilst the latest version of Google throws back recommendations from your contacts in amongst your search results.

4. The web finds liars out, quickly. Social media has balanced the playing field and created an outlet for disaffected customers. Whilst great viral commentary can make a business, one bad experience can destroy it as let-down customers realise they are not alone. Best to be open and transparent from the start.

5. Content converts. Most business to business products and services are conceived to solve a problem for a particular type of customer. Addressing the problems and offering ways to solve them, minimise their impact and disruption and actually remove them from the equation is a powerful way to drive trust and transaction. In B2B, there isn’t a transaction as such, but white papers, downloadable content and subscriptions emails are great ways to obtain data which can be followed up later.

 

Ten Linkedin business marketing mistakes to avoid

Many millions of people using Linkedin are missing out on the fantastic brand building opportunities new Linkedin presents. I say new because after several years of under-investment, Linkedin has gone functionality crazy of late.

Give your Linkedin profile a spring clean today, avoid these ten all-to-common mistakes and start to take the most of the platform as an unbeatable research and business development tool as well as an incredible brand builder.

1. Poor or non existent profile pictures. Who wants to see a faceless profile or worse a company or brand logo. Not me. As with all social media, add a profile picture.

2. Lack of clarity in titles and descriptions. Use keywords that best represent who you are and what stand for do.  That little box that tells you how many times you’ve been looked at – its down to keywords.

3. Lack of focus on achievements and what you add. Too many people fixate on titles when they should be focusing on your impact on sales, brand launches, new initiatives, or improvements in quality, process, training or operations if you are not in a commercial role.

4. Failure to use all available opportunities to promote via the profile page. There are some great links and embed opportunities. Use them. Add your website, a blog, a Twitter account, a Slideshare account.

5. Not having a thought out contact strategy or approach. Are you connected to all the people you’ve ever worked with rather than the people you want to sell to? Time to rethink who you want to be connected to by researching people using the search function, identifying key companies and seeking opportunities to informally approach them through Groups (see below). And don’t let Linkedin send a default invitation request. Tailor it giving a reason to connect – reference to a group, common contact or other common ground.

6. Not enough or over use of the status updates feature. Linkedin status updates containing tweets is one of the most frustrating parts of logging into new Linkedin. If you’re not careful a handful of people will take over your feed – luckily they can be hidden without dis-connecting. On the other side, don’t be a Linkedin bore. Update once / twice a day with something useful.

7. Not enough or over use of testimonials. These should matter. The best testimonials come from former managers, clients or customers. Asking your peers, team or suppliers to provide references just seems lame. Go for quality over quantity on this one. .

8. Being a lurker not a contributor in Groups. I estimate 1% of a Linkedin group’s membership actively engage in discussions within the group. What a missed opportunity. Getting involved in groups of like minded people is the cornerstone of the Linkedin experience. There is a group for almost everything on Linkedin. Search and sign up for one to try it out. There will be discussions taking place that you can add value to today!

9. Not building reputation through Answers. Like groups, this is a great feature to really build your profile as an expert in your field but as it is hidden away in the ‘More’ tab it is overlooked. Browse the categories and begin to provide feedback and recommendations to questions posed by other Linkedin members, worldwide.

10. Not fully populating your Company Page. This feature has developed in recent months with opportunities to add specific products and services linked to targeted landing pages and your Linkedin member colleagues.

Q: What other mistakes do you see made on Linkedin and how can they be avoided?