Today I decided to write about one of the most highly requested topics among our BLAM partners, and that is advice on blog writing. Hopefully, this post will be helpful to people who consider starting a blog. Just to clarify that I am by no means an expert in blog writing. I am simply going to share with you a few tips which I find useful for my weekly blog writing and tend to work well for me.
It is worth noting that blogs have changed dramatically since I first started blogging as a hobby during my teens. Back then most blogs acted as personal journals and bloggers would not expect an audience other than a few friends. The Web 2.0 and the social media revolution caused the emergence of content-based websites, user engagement increased tremendously and blogs naturally became an essential traffic generation tool for any business.
So my advice to new bloggers can be summed up in the following points:
1. Consider your objectives. Before you start writing, it is best to consider a few things with regards to your business’s overall objectives. Why do you want to start a blog? What do you want your blog to convey? How is your blog going to help you grow your business? These are essential questions you might want to ask yourself before you start planning your first post as the answers are going to dictate the general topic, approach, tone of voice or any key areas you want to emphasise within your posts.
2. Find a topic that interests you and your audience. It is a no-brainer that your blog should be of interest to your audience. However, equally important is that the topic appeals to you as well. As far as I'm aware, nobody has ever written a great piece about a subject they considered boring. Combining topics and adding your personal touch will definitely make your writing more enjoyable, so feel free to expand on your main subject to tailor the post around your personality.
3. Write about what you know at first. If you are a new blogger, I would recommend that you start writing about familiar subjects at first. Drawing examples from your work, background, and personal experience is much easier and pleasant to talk about and it can definitely increase your word count quite effortlessly.
4. Research to back up your theories. If you are writing a blog on your company’s website, then you probably already have a good knowledge on the topics you are planning to write about. Quite often, however, bloggers deal with entirely unfamiliar subjects. Recently I had to write an industry related piece for a cocktail bar, something completely out of my area of expertise. In that case, knowing how to properly research the topic is vital. I would recommend reading academic journals and interviewing industry experts if possible. Always make sure that your sources are reliable to avoid humiliation.
5. Start by outlining your ideas. Now on to the actual writing. I always start my posts by outlining the core structure first and then moving on to adding the main point in each section. That will help you start visualising the outcome whilst organising the pieces of information in separate sections for easier writing.
6. Expand your initial points. Having the key points in place means your work is halfway done. Now all you need to do is start elaborating on each idea until you have a paragraph or so. Explaining one point at a time is much simpler than trying to come up with a whole piece at once.
7. Check cohesion. Once you are done writing, try reading your article out loud. This will help you edit your paragraphs to make the piece sound more coherent and make sense as a whole. If you like the way it sounds, you are good to publish! Chances are your first post is not going to be perfect, so try to avoid wasting too much time editing, be brave and hit publish – a blog doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s more about what you say than how you are saying it.
8. Be prepared to invest time. I am sure it is not the first time someone tells you that blog writing requires time. Different people have a different perception of time, however. So just to give you a rough idea, a blog article can usually take anywhere between a day up to a whole week to write in most cases. Exceptions apply depending on a number of factors, such as post length, blogging experience, the amount of research you are willing to do, the topic itself, etc. In any case, I would advise against rushing it. Choose a quiet and motivating environment with minimal disruptions, relax and let those creative juices flowing!
Once you get used to the process, it does certainly get a lot easier. My advice is to not be discouraged if your first attempt disappoints you. With time and practice, you might even discover that you actually appreciate writing and find yourself a new interest – I certainly did!
If you’re in a business where you are aiming at generating multiple leads a week, you’ll need a system to manage those leads.
In the most basic form that means you’ve got a spreadsheet where you list your prospects name and contact details and have a notes field for each time you make contact with them. This simple form of contact management does the trick to begin with but is only good for a basic sales process and soon becomes tiresome when your list starts to build.
You now need a Customer Relationship Manager or as we say in the trade, a CRM.
There are plenty of CRM’s out there that will allow you to import this list when you are ready, so you can start managing your data more efficiently. We’ve tried a few of them at BLAM and find that they tend to fall into two categories, those that have marketing tools and those that stick to contact management.
At BLAM Partners we’ve been using our own CRM for a few years now, which is a white label product based on an American platform. We’ve found this system to be extremely useful in our business due to it’s powerful marketing integration tools that not many CRM’s offer at this price point.
Pretty much all CRM’s these days offer great contact management tools, that’s almost always a given. A lot of them also offer a deals tracker tool which is a great way of managing a sales pipeline for forecasting, follow ups and general sales best practice. What we like about the BLAM CRM falls into three categories:
1. Ease of use: All elements of the BLAM CRM come with a video tutorial that simply shows you how to make the most of the system. All too often these days it can take a long time to get used to a new CRM system and can often require expensive training from a qualified specialist. We have found that even the most adamant technophobes can get to grips with our CRM within a few hours.
2. Landing pages: These easy to design pages can be built with a form to capture information that will go directly into the CRM with the appropriate tags attached. This means if you run a Facebook campaign to capture leads from a specific industry for example, each time the lead is filled in it will be tagged with that industry. Further email campaigns directed at that industry can then be managed and sent easily.
3. Autoresponders: All contacts can be added to an autoresponder campaign that is pre-defined by you and can run for months there after. This powerful tool allows you the sophistication of some much more complicated and expensive CRM’s and means contacts can be communicated with automatically without any further action. These campaigns can also overlap, meaning if a prospect on the fifth email in the autoresponder campaign turns into a customer they can be added to a different autoresponder campaign for new customers.
Some of these functions can be gained through using email campaign software such as Mail Chimp (which is great) but the ease of having everything work seamlessly in one place is really convenient.
To find out more about the BLAM CRM or any of our other partnership programmes get in touch here .
If you’re a businessperson, you are a salesperson whether you think you are or not. In fact, I would go as far as to say that everybody in a business, from the bottom to the top is in sales. After all, the sum of every single part of the business contributes to the whole, and that’s what people are buying when they make a purchase.
When I’m dealing with BLAM Partners, they are nearly all engaged in direct selling, but often say “I don’t want to come across as a salesperson” as there are lots of negative connotations to the word and the role. The truth is, because when we’re in business we are all salespeople so lets get over it and learn how we can sell best!
There are many ways to improve our competence at selling but first and most important is changing the mindset and embracing that we are all salespeople on some level. We are currently running a course for BLAM Partners called our Super Sales Training Day and on it we begin by helping people understand that being a salesperson doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Once that has been accepted, the real leaning can begin and from there leads success.
In order to help you embrace the inner salesperson a friend of mine Phil Jones, wrote a book called Toolbox. This useful guide to sales is full of great information that will help any salesperson develop their skills at this ancient art. You can get a free copy on Amazon here if you are quick, the offer ends tonight (Wednesday 31st May 2017, midnight UK time).
One of the great parts at the beginning of the book is a list of people who are awesome salespeople. The list includes Nelson Mandela, Katie Price and Jamie Oliver among others, all experts at getting us to buy from them in their own way. These people are not typically the kinds of people that spring to mind when we think of "salespeople" but without the skills of a true professional salesperson they'd be far less effective.
So the next time you hear the word salesperson, give a thought to the job and what it entails. After all one way or another we are all in sales!
"Sorry Grant, but I've been too busy, so there wasn't enough time to do that task you set me." grrrrrrr!
Anyone that's been mentored by me or attended one of our BLAM courses will know how annoyed I get when I'm told that someone didn't have enough time to complete an important task. "Being too busy" is a bloody epidemic that is infecting a huge amount of people and in most cases it's just an excuse.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of us have very busy lives and it can be challenging getting all of our tasks completed. The order in which we undertake those tasks though, is completely under our control, we decide which tasks we prioritise.
In nearly all cases, when we hear these kind of "too busy" excuses, there definitely was enough time, it's just that we chose to do something else instead.
If you fall into this trap, you may have been prioritising family time, relaxing in front of the tv or having a night out with friends. It's not that you were too busy or didn't have enough time, it's just you chose to do something else instead, which is fine. What's not fine is kidding yourself that you didn't have enough time, because I'll bet you did!
Acknowledging that there was enough time and that in fact you weren't "too" busy but you decided to prioritise something else instead is a huge step change in your thinking that can help you make decisions about how you spend your time most productively.
So next time you catch yourself saying, "I've been too busy" or "I didn't have the time to do that", remember you weren't too busy and there was enough time, it's just you chose to do something else instead.
Have a great week.
Running BLAM Partners gives me the privilege of meeting lots of people starting a business for the first time. This can be a daunting prospect for them and, let's face it, it's not for the faint hearted!
We provide plenty of resources to help these first timers, but with this article I wanted to reveal some of the less conventional tips that I've seen used to great effect for start ups. They may not be for you, but that's what makes life interesting, it takes all sorts!
1. Develop morning routines - This may seem a fairly ordinary tip, but that does very much depend on the routine! Having a sequence of practices that are geared around your businesses performance from the moment you wake up, puts you in the right mindset as the day begins. I know of some entrepreneurs that get up at 4am to get their work done whilst there are no distractions at all, so after their first stint of work they can fit in a gym session at 6.30am then a family fix around 8am, then they finally go into work.
2. Affirmations - Writing down a statement of intent and then repeating it out loud several times a day may sound a bit crazy, but thousands of successful millionaires do this, as described by Napoleon Hill in "Think and Grow Rich". There are numerous variations on this practice and it’s not for those that feel self conscious when caught doing it. I’ve had many a weird stare from other drivers when they catch me talking to myself on my morning commute in the car!
3. Meditation - Meditation can help you focus on your goals, define your purpose and relax your mind when the stress of running a business gets to you. It is becoming a more conventional tool these days and there are plenty of apps that will help you begin your journey to reaching mindfulness nirvana. How much meditation you undertake though is down to you, but it's all too easy to say "I'm too busy to meditate”. I’ve even gone as far as getting a meditation teacher in to the office to educate the my team on how to get the most out of their meditation.
4. Talk to your pet - I recently read an interesting article from a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur who gauged his motivational talks by how long he could keep his pet Great Dane sat paying attention to him. If the dog lay down whilst he was practising he would assume it wasn’t good enough and adjust it until he held his attention for the full speech. So, I am now suggesting that we all practice our pitches on our pets, if we can’t hold their attention, what chance do we have with prospects?
5. Dress to impress - Think about what you wear and the way you look every single day because like it or not you are judged by the way you look. Unless you are a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg (who are on another level entirely) looking as good as you can, appropriate to the business you are in, can give you the edge. If you are the best dressed person in the business meeting you are already making a good impression and for the right reasons.
If you find these tips interesting and want to find out more about how we help our BLAM Partners achieve success check out one of our webinars that we run every week, available to all here .
Have a great week!
One of the hardest parts of growing a small business is managing staff. Dealing with the day to day issues that come up preventing you getting on with growing your business is one of the most frustrating parts of running your own company.
I've listed five tips here that have helped me manage my staff over the years that you may find useful.
1. Build systems: If your internal business systems are designed around the roles of your staff it can save a lot of problems along the way. If each time you have a staff issue you amend your system to accommodate the situation, your systems should evolve and avoid similar problems in the future. An example of this would be a member of staff consistently forgetting to undertake a particular task. By applying a flagging system, a reminder, alert or trigger, you will then either solve the problem or have the evidence to discipline accordingly. My motto is, always be improving the systems, always keep learning from mistakes.
2. Communication: One of my personal weaknesses this one! Quite often I have found that I have neglected to communicate new initiatives in my businesses appropriately to all of the organisation. This sometimes causes me to verge on paranoia and end up repeating myself a lot to my team! By keeping all of the staff informed on the business goals, objectives and general on-going issues, you can build a fantastic team atmosphere. Regular team meetings, social events and a communication system that fits appropriately with your business are key. In my various businesses I have used a variety of different tools for doing this and they change depending on the level of staff I'm communicating with. For example, I often use a What's App group for management teams and then email communication, triggered from our CRM for more general staff matters.
3. Set goals with rewards: I use a staff review system that includes goals and targets set on a quarterly and annual basis. Each quarter the previous goals are reviewed and marked by achievement. My managers also use this system with their staff and it works consistently down the managerial line. When goals are achieved rewards are based on the achievement. There are several rewards systems available to employers now such as Perk Box but I've used a variety, from a good old fashioned bonus through to a holiday.
4. Work with strengths: I few years ago an extremely successful entrepreneur showed me how he managed his staff from the very beginning of their employment by assessing their strengths. I found this to be completely in line with my core values and love the positive approach of focussing on strengths rather than weaknesses. There are various strength finder tests that are available along with books that help you best understand the way to utilise the strengths and manage accordingly. Each member of staff takes the test and then you can see what their strengths are and what job roles will suit them best. I have now taken this to the next level by employing team members based primarily on their core values fitting with the business and then fitting their strengths with the appropriate role there after.
5. Know the law: On more than one occasion I have found myself in need of an employment solicitor when dealing with a tricky staffing situation. Employment law can be a minefield and when faced with a situation you need to know you’re getting the right advice. For many years I have been a member of the Chamber of Commerce who offer a free employment support line. They gave me invaluable advice and support and I highly recommend their membership for that service on its own. There are other organisations that provide similar services and for the business owner with only a small team this is a great first step in resolving issues or making sure you are operating correctly and in accordance with employment law. Of course, for more serious instances, a employment law solicitor may not be avoided!
Despite this article having elements relating to staffing problems, I would like to end it by saying that despite having my fair share of issues over the years, my team have been awesome. When you find the right people, they are the greatest asset your business has and are the foundation of the organisation.
From a young age my parents drummed into me that honesty is the best policy. When I was at junior school I recall accidentally throwing a hardball through a high window, showering the entire assembly hall with glass. To my mates amazement I went and told the teacher immediately and was sent to the head master. He actually praised me for my honesty and then when in the next assembly (after the glass had been cleared) he made me stand up and used me as an example for my honesty, pointing out that it was because of my confession that I wasn’t punished.
What a great head he was, as this had a lasting effect on my attitude, which I've carried through to my business career too.
When it comes to selling in business there is a temptation to tell lies to further enhance your product or service. You may prefer to use the term exaggeration or stretching the truth but the principle is the same, it's lying.
Historically this is one of the main reasons why sales people have got a bad reputation. Whether it's the stereotypical slimy car sales person or the boiler room commission based telesales executive, we often have a perception that their morals are less than saintly and sometimes for good reason.
"But where do we draw the line, and how do we know
when we're stretching the truth too far?"
Lying is a fact of life, we all do it to a certain extent. Whether it's making an excuse for why we're running late or telling our partner that their bum doesn't look big in that outfit, it's a fact of life that we are all aware of. But where do we draw the line, and how do we know when we're stretching the truth too far?
I often find with business owners I coach who are new to selling or are less experienced in their product range (e.g. some of our BLAM Partners), they are tempted to appear more expert or experienced in their subject than they truly are. In this instance my advice is always honesty is the best policy. If you are found out to be less experienced than you have said, your credibility is completely blown and the chances of a sale are less than zero!
"Disarming honesty" is contrary to how traditional sales people are used to acting. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to a question can be a pleasant surprise to your prospect and can build trust and rapport. As long as the question is answered at some point (usually after the appointment) in an efficient and professional manner, it can actually help your pitch rather than damage it.
This has often worked for me and my sales people over the years. In the cases where the prospect has reacted badly to not being given the answer immediately, then they would never have been a good fit for our business anyway, if that’s the way they choose to behave.
So, I say to people who are new to selling, be truthful with your prospects and be disarmingly honest, after all it’s much more difficult to remember a lie than it is to recall the truth!