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What do you get out of a conference?

conferenceI’ve been to a few different conferences during my working life and they’ve all taught me something different.  The biggest benefit is that I’ve become more discerning about the ones I attend.  The drive to behave like a business owner and only invest where it’s warranted gets stronger every day.  In terms of attitude I think I went from one extreme to the other – either ‘I mustn’t spend any money’ or ‘I’m going to spend everything I have spare – it’s probably worth it.’  I soon realised that ‘probably worth it’ didn’t cut it.  Now I’m somewhere between the two. I have to consider whether it’s worth my time and the money I’m spending on it.  So, here are a few of my conference experiences so you can think about what you get out of a conference – hopefully I’ll save you from making some of the mistakes I did.

The posh one

AKA the expensive one, especially for a brand new business owner. To be honest, the cost was worth it for the chance to stay in one of the most amazing hotels I have ever visited, to be wined and dined and meet great people.  Yet when the chance came to go again, I decided against it.

Why? The speaker panel was almost too targeted for me.  I knew that I would learn something great from some of the speakers, but wasn’t sure about the final two.  One was an expert in something I still have no interest in pursuing.  The other was talking about how to use a platform that I was a long way off exploring.  It was still a great experience – it’s just taught me to trust my gut when I’m not sure how much I’m going to learn.

The massive expo

I dabbled in travel marketing for a little while and went to the world’s largest travel expo at the ExCel in London.  It was massive.  There were exhibitors from all over the world and I talked to loads of them.  I’m an introvert which doesn’t mean I avoid talking to people, I just have to have some time off to recover afterwards.

The lesson from this one was a fairly slow burn.  I knew that I didn’t want to be an ‘influencer’ but thought that I could still work with some of the smaller travel companies.  After the expo, even though I changed my marketing I kept getting enquiries from other kinds of small business.  I thought it would be easy to turn them down, but actually they were great projects.  Crucially, they were also the kind of people that I wanted to work with.  Eventually I realised that I just love travelling for fun, I don’t have to focus on it in my work.

The one where I was a speaker

This one was a real challenge for me.  When my friend said she was organising a conference and asked me to be a speaker I said yes immediately.  I wanted to support her and thought that I could work out how to do it afterwards.  At the time I hardly did any public speaking and I’d never run a workshop before.  The best advice I was given beforehand was to remember that I knew something that the audience didn’t.  They wanted to learn from me.  I was nervous to begin with but as soon as I saw people nodding and taking notes I knew it was going to be fine.

The best thing about that conference was that I didn’t just teach.  I was surrounded by women in business just like me.  I learned from the other speakers and the attendees as well.  It taught me to think about who I’m going to spending my time with.  (Although I must admit that the delicious food, gorgeous hotel and spa time helped to make it wonderful too.)

If all of that sounds good to you, we’re going to be doing it all again at the end of September.  You can sign up to my mailing list using the form below, then you’ll be the first to receive all of the details! You’ll also get to hear all about my workshops and training options.

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How you can use brainstorming to boost your business

BrainstormingI know, I know – brainstorming is such a corporate word you’re probably squirming already.  However, I’m afraid to say that it’s the best I have for this particular subject.  ‘Putting your heads together’ and ‘having a strategy session’ where you ‘think outside the box’ are equally bad as potential entries in buzzword bingo and ‘coming up with new ideas’ is just a bit pedestrian.  I quite like brain dumping but that means something a bit different for me.  So, what am I on about? If you aren’t already using brainstorming in your business it’s probably time to start.  Call it whatever you like, it’s the perfect way to boost your business.

Get a new perspective

It’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a bubble when you work by yourself.  You decide exactly what you spend your time on and how you approach things.  If business is good then there’s a good chance you’re taking the right approach, but you run the risk of becoming complacent and failing to anticipate change or adapt to it.  If things aren’t going so well you could struggle to work out why. You might have had comments from customers but dismissed them as unreasonable. Or perhaps another business owner made a suggestion but you rejected it as unhelpful.

That’s when brainstorming can be really helpful. When you get a group of people together they’ll all have different viewpoints.  Some will do things in a completely different way. Others will have things in common with you but may still have something new to offer.  Sometimes just having a range of opinions can be useful.

Challenge yourself

Offering yourself up for feedback can be scary.  That’s why it’s crucial that you find the right group of people to work with.  Brainstorming only really works when you’re completely open about the challenge you’re having and you can’t do that with people you don’t trust.  Equally, sometimes it’s better if they aren’t close friends.  Your friends are (hopefully) only interested in making you happy.  Someone you don’t know as well might come up with a solution that works but that you won’t necessarily like.  It’s not because they’re being malicious, they just don’t know that you don’t like ringing people up.

If you find yourself resisting what is logically a good idea, it can be an opportunity for personal growth.  Ask yourself why you feel that way. Are you rejecting an idea because you genuinely don’t have the right skills or couldn’t learn them? Or are you making the decision based on fear?

Brainstorming is magic

I’m part of a coaching group where each member gets a spotlight session. You can focus on a particular challenge you’re facing in business and the group works together to help you find ways to solve it.  A typical brainstorming session involves making suggestions for specific solutions.  The spotlight sessions are a bit different in that the other members ask questions to get you thinking about the problem in a different way.

However you do it, brainstorming can completely transform your thinking. I’ve had lightbulb moments from being asked a question that completely turned my problem on its head. I just needed to approach it with an open mind.

If you think you need a bit of brainstorming perspective in your business there are all kinds of ways to start.  If you’re a member of a networking group, ask if any of the other members want to get together.  Search for small group coaching (or just a good coach) in your area.  Even Facebook groups can be a good place to ask questions and get lots of different suggestions.  Just choose carefully!

If you’d like some time with me brainstorming your content marketing strategy, it’s yours!  Click here to find out more about my strategy sessions.

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How to develop your content strategy

content strategyYou know that you need a content strategy which aligns with your goals (and if you don’t read my last two blogs here and here). Actually coming up with one is a whole different kettle of fish.  If you haven’t got the faintest idea where to start, you’ve come to the right place.  Your content needs to take your goals and targets and flip them on their head so that you see them from your customers’ point of view.  Simple right? Here’s how you can develop your content strategy to make it work.

Start with your customer

I know, if you’re a regular reader you’ve heard this one before.  Identifying your target market should always include a bit of work to find their interests and media habits. Essentially, it allows you to put your content where it’s most likely to be seen.

It also allows you to concentrate on the types of content that your target audience will like. If they’re on Facebook you could post anything from text to images to video. You might assume video will always win, but some people find them annoying and prefer written content. Try a few different things and see what works.

Choose your focus

I talked about focusing on one service or product in my last blog and it can help you to get your content strategy organised. Having a focus helps you to decide what you’re going to post on any given day. You can break things down by looking at the different ways that your services benefit your customers.

For example, I write blogs for people for all sorts of different reasons. They might be too busy to do it themselves. Some are just better at talking than they are at writing. Others need a different perspective on their business.  Write a list of reasons why people might need to buy from you and you can write a blog post about each of them.

Diversify your content

The reason that I always recommend blogging is because it gives you a good chunk of content to be going on with.  Sometimes coming up with a content strategy is daunting because you think you need to come up with a huge variety of stuff.  You really don’t. If your content strategy includes a series of blog posts you can repurpose them.

You wouldn’t want to read out a whole blog post on video (I hope). However you could do a short video highlighting the key points or giving a demonstration. For example, if you sell skincare you might write a blog about protecting your skin in winter. Then you can do a video showcasing the moisturiser you talked about so people can see the benefits as well as reading about them. You can use quotes from your blog to share links and images on social media and even put them in your email marketing.

What do you want people to do next?

When you come up with a content strategy you’re basically encouraging people to engage with your business.  Every piece of content should have some kind of call to action.  That could be posting a link to your blog on Facebook because you want people to read it. When they click through, what then? You might include a link to let people contact you, but what if they’re not ready? Asking them to sign up to your mailing list could be a good intermediate step to let them find out more.

Whatever you create, ask yourself what you want your audience to do next.

Have you got your content strategy planned? If you need some help click here to find out more about my strategy planning sessions.

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Does your content marketing strategy match your goals?

content marketing match goalsBelieve it or not, there are those who think that people who talk about strategy are out of touch with their clients’ lives.  They probably think that a strategy is created somewhere off in cloud cuckoo land. I disagree.  You can use whatever word you like for it, but a strategy is basically a plan.  You’ll probably have seen a meme that says something like “a goal is a dream with a deadline”.  If you have a goal, you need a plan to make it happen.  That’s all a strategy is.  So the question is, does your strategy match your goals?  If not, here’s how to make it happen.

What are your goals?

Goal setting can be a tricky beast.  Even when you have an amazing vision of what your life could be with a successful business your own brain can start getting in the way.  It doesn’t help that there are eleventy billion gurus out there chucking around terms like ‘6 or 7 figure businesses’ as if it’s commonplace.  Some people have no problem visualising themselves there.  Others feel that they’re somehow unworthy.

I struggle with the ‘6 figure’ talk because it isn’t specific enough.  To me, achievable goals need to have meaning.  I don’t want a mansion in the middle of nowhere because I’m part of a great community where I am.  Plus, I like being able to walk the kids to school.  I base my goals on what’s going to make life better for my family.  If you need some help with this bit I’d highly recommend talking to a good coach.  I’ve worked with an amazing coach who somehow took my vague waffle and helped me turn it into a plan.

goals quote Napoleon Hill

Get specific

Once you’ve set some goals, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.  If you want to earn £x per month to get the house you want or afford a holiday, what do you need to do?  Do you need to sell a certain number of products or sign up new clients? What’s the easiest way to do that?  If you have a high ticket item or service you might only need to sell one or two. Conversely if high ticket is hard to shift is there something smaller that you can sell more of?

You might decide that you’re going to focus on one product for a month or two then switch.  If you’ve read my last blog you’ll know that focusing on one thing is great because it helps people to get to know you. Once you’ve worked that out you’re ready to plan your marketing strategy so that it aligns with your goals.

Find your focus

If you want to hit your goals you don’t just need to get specific with your business aims.  You need to apply it to your marketing too.  For example, say you’ve decided to focus on selling smaller items in January.  People are feeling a bit skint after Christmas but want to cheer themselves up.  Equally, lots of people are making New Year’s resolutions and are willing to spend money on the right help.

Work out what is going to appeal to them about the service you’re offering.  Is it a fresh start or something inexpensive to make January bearable?  When you’ve worked that out you can start planning your content.  But that’s a subject for another blog.

Does your content strategy match your goals? If you need some help developing a strategy that you can implement yourself, click here to find out more about my content planning and strategy service.

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Why you need a content marketing strategy

Content marketing strategyI’ve found that there are two types of business owner.  The ones who love strategy and planning and actively seek out tools to help and, well, the other kind.  To be fair even they could be split into two camps.  People who know they need a strategy but just can’t quite bring themselves to do it and the ones who would happily wing it forever.  Ultimately, guess which businesses have greater success long term? Yep, the ones with a plan.  So why do you need a content marketing strategy? It’s an important piece of the overall puzzle. Here’s why.

A focused message = better results

When you plan your content marketing strategy in advance you can work out which products or services you want to focus on.  I’ve talked before (a lot) about focusing on your ideal customer and your content strategy planning should be an extension of that. The TL;DR version is – trying to market to everyone just makes your content bland and boring. Equally, you could sell any product or service at any time, but it’s better to focus on one.

If you’re building a relationship with your customers, focusing on one service helps them to get to know you. Your posts and blogs over a couple of weeks or a month can give them in depth knowledge of that service and what it can do for them.  They might not need that particular thing but it helps them to get to know you and keep following.  If you jump about that trust could be lost.  If you’d like some help identifying where your focus should be, I can help.

Less stress for you

Have you ever sat in front of your computer and thought ‘I need to post something today’. Or ‘I should get a blog out there this week’, without the faintest idea about what you want to say?  A content marketing strategy helps you to overcome that.  You’ll have a theme or product to focus on and you can get everything planned in advance.  Rather than panicking and posting something random, you’ll have time to really think about what you want to say.

It also means that you can get blogs written and social media posts planned and scheduled during quiet periods. Then they’re there and ready to go when you get busier.

A consistent content marketing strategy

I’ll be talking more about aligning your content marketing strategy with your goals in a future blog post, but identifying which products or services you want to focus on is a good first step.  By doing this you can get relevant marketing out there when people are most likely to be looking for it.  It’s why you see loads of holiday adverts on Boxing Day and wedding industry promotions around Valentine’s Day.  Timing is key.

Of course, it’s also important to have a consistent message.  When your content marketing strategy is planned in advance you can ensure it all makes sense.  You can have a theme running through each month’s marketing like a golden thread.  It shouldn’t be exactly the same message every time, but it should all tie together.  As you might have guessed, this month I’m mostly talking about strategy and planning. It’s a good way to start the year. I’ll be writing blogs like this one and sharing tools and resources that have helped me to plan so you can use them if you want to.

Do you have a plan for this year? If you don’t and you need some help, click here to find out more about my content planning and strategy sessions.

Further reading

If you’re wondering why you need content marketing anyway, here’s a great piece from marketing legend Neil Patel.