What’s the one thing you can do to make your marketing successful?

What is the one thing you can do to guarantee success from your B2B marketing efforts?

I work with a number of small businesses who are either starting their marketing efforts for the first time, or say things like ‘oh we’ve done marketing before, and it didn’t work’.

And I spend a lot of time explaining the one, critical success factor for marketing activity to them. Without this, they will only get limited, and certainly not long term, success.

So what is this critical factor – what tactic are millions of small B2B businesses missing out on?

It’s relatively simple – relentless focus. Keeping a consistent and coherent approach over a sustained period of time is the only way to guarantee that marketing will generate leads for your business.

And this is where businesses fail. Because for smaller businesses, it’s hard to focus consistently on that one thing when there are so many other demands on their time. How does a founder of a start-up think constantly about ‘fluffy’ marketing when there are bills to be paid, staff to be recruited, invoices to chase and projects to be delivered?

I get that, I really do – I’m a small business owner myself. But the thing is, it is only with that relentless and consistent focus on your marketing efforts over a sustained period of time that will deliver the results your business needs.

A big part of my job when I go into companies is explaining, particular in the world of B2B software and technology where I spend much of my time, that to get a steady stream of new business leads coming through the door takes time. That timeframe varies according to tactics, but you are not going to get a sustained pipeline overnight.

You need to focus over a period of months, on building your online presence, tweaking your website for search and customer relevance, understand buying behaviours and building awareness over time through a wide variety of tactics. And consistently publishing good quality content across a multitude of channels.

I often use the much over-quoted statement ‘I know 50% of my advertising is wasted, the trouble is, I don’t know which 50%’– as it relates just as equally to marketing. Whilst I would say that it’s unlikely that 50% of your marketing budget is actually wasted, the sentiment remains true. It’s often difficult to pinpoint which activities are the ones truly delivering the most value – but’s important that you cover as many marketing channels as you can – because consistency will deliver results.

B2B marketing is not something you can dip in and out off – at least not if you want the best ROI. It’s not a tap that can be turned on or off – it needs constant attention. And that’s where small businesses fall down. Because there is so much else to think about. So do consider getting a dedicated resource to help you – whether that’s a consultant like me who can bring experience at a reasonable cost to the business, or a permanent member of staff. Without that relentless focus on marketing, you are not going to get results – it’s an investment worth making.

 

 

 

Freelancer Life #2 – Working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be.

So, the holy grail, working from home. Fantastic, right?! Still sat in your pyjamas at lunchtime, no long commutes, no need to put on your makeup. Hmmmm, yes, all valid plus points. But it’s also quite isolating, and not great for your self-esteem to be still sat in your sleepwear when your partner walks back in from work at 6pm. It’s also very easy to spend THE WHOLE DAY sat in one chair, with only regular forays to the fridge to provide exercise – which isn’t great for your waistline either. So I’ve developed my own personal set of rules to make sure I don’t turn into an introverted slob the size of my sofa.

1. I have to be up, breakfasted and sat in front of the computer by 9 am. Even if I don’t have much work on, I need the discipline of starting my ‘working day’ properly.

2. I must be dressed by 12pm at the latest, or earlier if I have a call or Skype meeting. I am not taking calls or meetings in my pyjamas. Discovering the perfect ‘work from home’ uniform is quite tough – It’s taken me a while to work out how to be comfortable, but smart enough that I feel like I’m in ‘work mode’. I’ve got some smartish joggers and fine knit jumpers that work equally well with nice trainers or flat shoes, and that tends to be my ‘uniform’ for at home days.

3. I need to leave the house every day. It’s so easy to stay sat working from your sofa, and realise that you’ve not seen or spoken to anyone face to face all day. And actually, this makes me really miserable. By the time my other half gets home from work, knackered from a day teaching, I’m jumping up and down ready to go out – and that’s just when he wants some quiet time. So getting out and about prevents that, and also helps with number 4.

4. Get some exercise, every day. You may work from a dedicated work space, or from your sofa, but it’s really easy to not actually move your bum at all during the day. I slipped a disc in my back last year (not fun – I wouldn’t recommend it) and during my intensive physiotherapy I learnt that sitting is one of the most dangerous things that we can do for our health. I bought a standing desk, but have found I can’t work that effectively from it, so make sure that I move around the house, from sofa, to table, to study, during the day, as well as using my Apple Watch to remind me to stand up every hour. I also take the opportunity to do some lunges or squats to get everything moving. Also, as part of the getting out of the house thing…..go for a walk!

5. Change your scenery. So to help with the above, if I’ve not got any meetings or similar, I walk up to a local coffee shop to spend an hour or so working from somewhere different. It really helps me focus, and gives me a set period of time to get work done, often freeing the creative block or malaise that can set in from staring at the same four walls every day.

6. Schedule meetings. I make sure that I do at least a day of face to face meetings every week, if at all possible. This usually means being in London, which is great, because by the time I get on the train on the way home I’m looking forward to working from home again the next day!

7. Give yourself permission to do some fun things. For the first few months, despite only having project work booked for around 3 days a week, I felt really guilty if I had an early game of squash, or took a long lunch with a friend. But this is what being your own boss is about – you need to take advantage of the quiet times, because soon enough you’ll be running around like a lunatic trying to cram 6 days of work into 5. Make the most of the lean times – take a long weekend to do some travel, or go to the gym – it’s ok!

There are lots of other things that can seem really difficult when you first start out on your own – but I’ll blog about them at another time. The important thing is to find your own way – give yourself some structure and some rules, and it will make the transition to freelance life much easier!

Freelancer Life #1 – Tips and Tools for productivity

Since I turned freelance last year, I’ve been researching tools, apps and tips to try and help me combine all my passions as effectively and efficiently as possible. I work remotely, and have several different clients, all of whom use different tools, email accounts and processes. So I’ve come across some new ways of working to try and keep things as straightforward as possible.

I’ve also started to get my head around some apps for my own personal productivity and improvement – maintaining focus on continuously developing your skills is really important when you don’t work for ‘an employer’. And one of the key motivations behind going freelance and working from home was to free up time to increase my learning.

Work

1.    Microsoft 365. I know, I know. It’s not exactly a cutting edge, ‘out there’ tool. But my subscription to 365 is definitely worth the money. I use the Office suite of products every day, and have OneDrive set up for home, so I can store my files in the cloud.

2.    Dropbox. What, as well as OneDrive?! Well yes. I work with design agencies and have to share large files with clients on a regular basis. Dropbox for me is the best way of doing this – it’s intuitive (even my parents have a Dropbox drive to share pictures of their grandson!), it’s got a great free allowance and it’s commonly used, by designers (who don’t necessarily use Microsoft) and clients alike.

3.    Trello. I’ve been dabbling with Trello in a personal capacity for a number of years, but never quite got it to work for me. However, one of my clients uses it for workflow management, and at that level, it’s great! (Just got to improve my use of it as a personal to-do list and get my head around its complete functionality.)

4.    Slack.  Now this is fantastic. I’ve used Hipchat in the past but always found it a bit clunky and ‘difficult’. Slack on the other hand is great – really intuitive, nice interface and a great tool when working with clients remotely.

Personal

1.    Evernote. I LOVE Evernote. I’ve been using it for years, on and off (depending how reliant I am on my devices), but recent upgrades have made it even better. Being an Apple geek, I have my Evernote account synced across my MacBook Air, iPad Mini and IPhone, and it means I have my to-do list, reminders and inspiration tips to hand, wherever I go.

2.    Duolingo. One of the big drivers behind going freelance was the desire to work in a much more flexible way – and not just to be stuck in the same place. So the plan this year is to spread my wings a little and head off to the French Alps for the winter. So I really need to brush up my language skills! Duolingo offers little ‘snippet’ lessons every day, that reinforce vocabulary and grammar, and make learning easy. I try to do at least one ‘lesson’ a day, and, again, have the app on multiple devices so if I am ever waiting for a train, or a meeting, I can quickly zip through a short refresher.

3.    Blinkist. This is a recently discovered tool – and you need a subscription to fully access the service – but I have to say it’s definitely worth it! As someone who has piles of books sat on my kindle app ready to go, but never find the time to read, Blinkist is great. Their team of writers sift through all the best business, inspiration and self-improvement books out there, and dilute them into short, 10 minute take-aways. I can read one or two easily on my 20 minute train ride, and the way they are presented really helps to get the key messages across (and I copy and paste inspirational quotes and useful bullets into my Evernote app for later reference). I’ll save the long reads for my holidays.

I’m always keen to learn more about other tools and apps that people use – anything amazing (of course there will be!) that I’ve missed?