Following on from my earlier post about what to review if things have been going wrong in sales and marketing, here are 5 actions you can take to give your business a boost going into 2016 if your start-up efforts have been a little slow in 2015.
Focus on 3 or 4 key projects ONLY
What are the 3 or 4 projects that, if you worked on these consistently for the next 4 months, would make the biggest difference to the number of new connections, new clients, growth, profitability and success of your business?
For example, one of my clients is taking time to examine moving into a new market in which her current services would be equally applicable. I’m helping her to research and understand the needs of that market, their thinking, their purchasing processes, what existing competition there might be, and what sort of money they have to spend. We’re also taking time to consider what kind of work she really enjoys doing, and then we are cross matching the market research to the kind of work she wants to do to make sure she has a real market opportunity on which to focus. Then we’ll co-create the brand and communications strategy to launch that project.
Another of my clients is setting up a completely new social enterprise in 2016. She has spent almost 18 months doing all the pre-launch work while still in corporate employment. She’s spent time connecting to the key people who will make her organisation a success; worked out the legal structure she needs, researched where the funding will come from, made sure she knows exactly what and how the supporting IT infrastructure will work, and during that time we’ve shaped the brand with 2-3 different iterations and tested it to make sure it resonates and works.
What projects are you going to choose to complete this year? Please share your ideas with me in the comments box below.
2. Get out and TALK to people – Network and Speak
If you do ONE thing in 2016, cease to hide behind emails, texts, Facebook messages and posts. Pick up the phone and talk to people, and force yourself to go to networking meetings. Networking is a brilliant way to find new clients, new suppliers, new strategic alliances and speaking opportunities. All of my business in 2015 came from face-to-face meetings, phone calls and ‘coffee’ meetings with old contacts. None of it came from social media – that’s just social proof for people when they want to check me out after they’ve met me. Unless your business is wholly online such as educational courses, meeting people is a much faster way to make a human connection. It takes on average 7 hours of interaction for someone to decide to buy something from you – that’s a LOT of content!
Sometimes we miss the business that is under our noses. Get in touch with ex and existing clients. Send an email or better still pick up the phone to ex-clients and ask how they are getting on. Don’t try to sell in this initial phone call, just check in and follow up with an email reminding them of your services. Or you can share an article you’ve seen that you think may be of interest to them – anything that may be helpful and pertinent to their business.
Get out and network. However much of a competitive sales bunfight they are, your local Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the British Library Business and IP Centre and BNI are all useful at times. But also try less traditional routes like TableCrowd, Eventbrite, Meetup.
Look at media organisations and established brands for conferences where you’ll find your target audience. Magazines regularly run events for entrepreneurs. Organisations like BT, Google, BBC all have special interest groups where speakers are invited. You’ll meet a lot of people there.
I’ve made it a strategic imperative this year to speak at a minimum of 1 key event per month and hired a specialist VA to find those opportunities for me. I’m going to a minimum of 1 networking event each week.
Oh, and when networking – don’t ask unhelpful questions that don’t get you the information you need like ‘what do you do?’ A great approach is to focus on what the other person is looking to achieve in the future. Once you know this, you’re better able to see how you can help (either yourself, or by introducing them to others). Try “so what are you responsible for?
3. Set Your First Milestones
I’ve set 2 milestones so far for 2016. By the end of February I want to have run my first ever online summit which will help establish my reputation in purpose-led business. Within that project are milestones: getting all the speakers confirmed, getting the brand graphics done, and appointing the team to help me execute.
Building my online community The ChangeMaker Collective is an on-going project. I’ve set a target of growing my online community by 10% each month and I will review the success/failure at the end of each month and adjust my outreach tactics accordingly.
Review your 3-4 key projects and tie them down to a timeframe. Goals are only useful if they are specific, measurable and time bound.
4. Review and Update Your Communications Strategy
Communications includes all your visibility activity; marketing, website, content, PR, speaking, writing a book. Your communications strategy has to be clear and done for a reason. It’s too easy to get seduced by creating ever more content. There’s so much of it out there, it has to be really good to cut through, and well targeted to have an impact. Make sure you answer these key questions when you review it
- Why am I choosing this particular tactic; what data/proof do I have that this is the right method for my business?
- What is the overall cost of my communications strategy for 2016 and for each quarter
- How am I going to measure the effectiveness of the actions I take?
For example, my online summit is likely to be one of the most costly projects in Q1. I need to work out exactly what it is going to cost me: brand identity and graphics, social media support, creating lead and landing pages, producing marketing materials for participants, advertising the event, setting up email marketing.
The metrics I am going to use to judge the success of the summit include both quantitative (increasing list) and qualitative (tracking what my audience knows about me and what I do post the event). I’m going to be working with an expert in online summit creation so that I have some kind of expert input benchmark for my metrics.
5. Be Your Own Accountability Partner
Giving up ‘to-do’ lists might not seem relevant to accountability, but it is. Each month work out your M.I.T.s – Most Important Things to achieve at a macro level, then have micro MITS. There are only 3 to get done each day. Check in with yourself at the end of the day, and check in again at the end of the month.
When business is slow, it’s easy to get depressed and demotivated. But the start of a new year is a great time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and give yourself a metaphorical kick up the backside.
I’m a strategic communications specialist, so if I can help you with No 4 at all, don’t hesitate to give me a call. In the space of a day, I can review your entire comms strategy and give you some productive bullet points if you can provide me with the information I need to assess quickly and easily. If you can give me longer, I guarantee to help you make better connections with customers, staff and stakeholders alike!