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It’s lonely at the top (or bottom)

lonely at the topThere have been a few times recently where I’ve started to feel that no-one else gets it. Logically I know it isn’t true but there’s no accounting for the wobbles a human brain is capable of having. As I write this my mood has improved considerably and I feel much less isolated, but I still think it’s worth talking about the time where I felt really lonely. That’s the only word I can use to describe it.

When you start a business lots of people give you advice, whether you want it or not. When I told people I was going to be self-employed I got lots of responses. Everything from a heartfelt good luck to ‘oh well, you can always go back to the law if it doesn’t work out.’ Of all the responses I got, no-one talked about loneliness.

Working on your own

Most weekdays I sit at a desk, on my own. Don’t speak to another living soul from 9 until 3, or sometimes later. It varies depending on when I’m picking the kids up that day. I’m frequently thankful for the school run. That sounds like madness, doesn’t it? For some people it means running the clique ridden gauntlet of the other parents who won’t speak to you. To me it’s the opportunity to see other humans that I didn’t marry or give birth to. The only downside is that most of them aren’t business owners either. They don’t understand what it’s like to be by yourself all the time.

Lonely at the top

Working on your own has its own challenges, but so does being the boss. I’ve spoken to more than one business owner who feels lonely, even when they’ve got a team of employees. It’s easy to feel isolated even when, or perhaps especially when you’ve got other people relying on you. The decisions all rest with you which means the stress does too.

I’ve no doubt that being in the middle of a crowd can feel even lonelier than being on your own, especially when that crowd are all looking to you for leadership. Even Margaret Thatcher admitted that being Prime Minister was a lonely job as you can’t lead from the crowd.

Social media is a double edged sword

Facebook has tried to improve its’ image recently by emphasising the ways the platform can build communities. I’ve found lots of groups that are useful to me in different ways, including a few business groups. They’re full of people who run businesses so should understand the challenges. Yet somehow, when I was feeling isolated, they didn’t do the trick. Every post I came across was from someone happy and positive, or who was having a major crisis. If I’d had a specific problem I wanted solving I probably could have asked a question to find a solution. Somehow ‘I’m feeling a bit down and I don’t know why’ felt ridiculous.

What really helped?

Two things really helped me to get out of the doldrums. Firstly, constructive time alone. Ironic, really. I realised that I felt lonely because all of the decisions are down to me and I really wanted someone else to tell me what to do. Then I remembered that I hate being told what to do. I spent a morning with my notepad and pen looking at the plan I made last year and what I need to do to implement it. My head felt much clearer after that.

I also went to my networking group. It helped, even though I didn’t talk about how I’d been feeling. Just spending time, in person, with women who understand the life put things into perspective. It also reminded me that I have a network out there when I need them.

If any of this resonates with you, please don’t suffer in silence. Seek support wherever you can, whether that’s from a friend, family member or somewhere else. The Samaritans offer 24/7 support, without judgment, to anyone who’s struggling. They’re on the end of the phone at 116 123 or online.

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Why storytelling works in your marketing

why storytelling worksIt’s easy to think of storytelling as being something you do with your children. You can cuddle up at the end of the day and send them off to sleep with a lovely bedtime story. Mine are still young enough to watch CBeebies so we sometimes get the added bonus of a tale read by Tom Hardy. (I even know people without kids who tune in to watch him anyway!) If that’s how you think of storytelling you might be forgiven for having dismissed it as an effective marketing tool. Actually, it’s one of the most effective approaches you can take.

What are stories for?

Storytelling has been around for as long as there have been human beings. Even the earliest cave dwellers painted the walls with images of themselves and the animals they hunted. There’s a basic human need to share information. Storytelling doesn’t have to be about anything particularly exciting. You tell a story when you talk about your day or what you did at the weekend.

The reason we feel the need to share is because stories bring us together. When you meet someone new the conversation you share tells you something about them. It helps you to decide whether they’re your kind of person or not. In your personal life stories help you to forge new relationships. When you use storytelling in your marketing you can bring your customers into your world.

Know, like and trust

You’ve probably heard of the ‘know, like and trust’ factor before. Just in case you haven’t, it’s the idea that your marketing lets your customer get to know you, work out whether they like you and eventually come to trust you. It’s also known as relationship marketing. Brands of all sizes can market themselves in this way but it’s particularly important for small businesses. People find it easier to trust the big brands. They seem solid and reliable in contrast to small businesses that might be run by scammers or have shockingly poor customer service.

When you use storytelling in your marketing you can introduce the person behind the brand. You can share images to show that you’re a real person. Your content, your blog in particular, can share information that helps your customers to understand your values and how you run your business.

How to think about storytelling in marketing

Now, you might be reading this thinking ‘that’s all very well, but what stories do I tell?’ – I’m glad you asked. They won’t be the same ones you share at the school gate or when an elderly relative tells you about their ingrowing toenail. As always, it’s important to remember the first principles of marketing. Namely, your customer cares about themselves more than they care about you. When you tell a story about yourself it really needs to be a story about them. For example, when I tell you that I have to get this blog post finished because it’s nearly time to pick the kids up, I hope you’re nodding. You sympathise with my need to juggle my business and family because you probably do it too. If you share something that you have in common with your customers you help a bond begin to develop.

There are lots of different ways to do this. You can talk about how your business has developed if your customers are going through something similar. If you want to market to parents talk about your own family or why you do what you do. Your story could be a whole blog post, a picture or a couple of sentences. The opportunities are endless.

Telling your story is one of the ways you can inject some personality into your marketing. That’s one of the topics I talk about in my new eBook ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. Sign up to my mailing list using the form below and you’ll receive your copy straight to your inbox. I won’t share your data with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Do you need blogging training that’s designed for you?

blogging training designedI suppose the question should really be – are you bored of going to workshops that all blend into one? Or are you the person who’s responsible for organising them? It can be tough to find new ways to make learning more interesting. That applies whether you’re a sole trader looking for some good quality training or part of an organisation where there’s a set pattern to your sessions. When it comes to blogging training, it is possible to find workshops that work for you.  I can design a session to include whatever works for you. In the meantime, here are some ideas for things to look out for at your next workshop.

Discussion groups

If you want to get good results from any kind of training, it helps if you have something in common with your fellow attendees. You might all be from the same industry or at a similar level in business. One of the reasons it works is because you can access a variety of potential solutions for any issues you’re having. Of course, I’d love to be the font of all wisdom (who wouldn’t?). But sometimes you get more interesting suggestions by being able to talk about a topic with other people who understand your business. Everyone learns something and it’s great for networking.

The other advantage is when it comes to asking questions. If you’re a brand new business owner it can be intimidating to be surrounded by people with years of experience. If that prevents you from asking a question for fear of looking stupid the only person who loses out is you. Being with people you feel comfortable with means you’re more likely to speak up. Then you’ll get more out of your session.

Walk and talk

Did you know that walking can improve your memory? It’s true. Any type of exercise increases the blood flow to your brain so you remember more. Take someone along for a chat and you can improve your mood and overall mental health. I confess that I haven’t heard of any training sessions that are carried out entirely on the hoof. It might make note taking tricky. However, there are a few walk and talk networking groups out there if you like the sound of that.

I’m currently putting together a group of people to meet up and learn about blogging. It’s going to be a full day with time to write as well as learn. One of the reasons I decided to host it on a farm is not just because it’s one of my favourite venues. It also has the advantage of masses of open space. That means you can go for a walk while you think or brainstorm with someone else.

Blogging training to take away

Have you ever been on a training session, taken loads of notes then never looked at them again? Or even been told that you don’t need to take notes, it’s all on the handouts? The last time I heard that I looked at the notes and couldn’t understand how they related to what I’d just listened to.

I’m a firm believer that you need to go away with a plan, if not a finished piece of work. If you’re looking for good training ask about the notes in advance. Are you going to have work sheets where you can record your own ideas before implementing them? What materials will be available to make sure you won’t forget what you’ve learned?

If you want to get a group of people together for some blogging training, I can help with workshops that are tailored to you. Alternatively, if the idea of getting together with other business owners on a farm sounds good to you, just complete the form below to sign up to my mailing list and hear about my newest workshop group.

Further reading

Discover how walking improves your memory in this article from Psychology Today

My favourite training venue

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Why you don’t have to be a writer to blog

Don't writer blogWhat springs to mind when someone suggests you should write a blog? Do you think of all of those influencers that you see on Instagram getting wined and dined in return for a good review? Or maybe you think it’s something for professional writers or marketing agencies? It’s true that you can pay a professional to write your blog for you (me for instance).  You could even do some blogger outreach to get product reviews or more social media exposure.  But there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from writing your own blog if you want to.  There are lots of misconceptions about blogging. I’m going to tell you about a few of them – are any of these getting in your way?

I have to be a writer

There are lots of different kinds of writers out there. Novelists, poets, journalists, sales page and email specialists… I could go on (and on). You don’t need to have an in depth knowledge of different writing techniques to write your own blog.  All you need to know is what will interest your customers and encourage them to read. I know that a lot of people struggle to make their words flow in writing because that’s often where I come in. The point of a blog is that it feels like a conversation. Your blog doesn’t have to be formal with perfect grammar as long as it makes sense. The more naturally you can write, the better it works.

I have to write loads

Blogs are a great way of helping your website rank well in a Google search. The most important things are having good quality content that is updated regularly. It doesn’t have to be ‘War and Peace’.  Generally, Google looks for content of at least 330 words. I’ll have written that much by the end of this sentence. The thing is, when you get into it you can find yourself writing more when it’s a subject you’re passionate about. If you’re wondering what I mean by ‘regularly’, once a month is fine.  That’s only 3,960 words in a whole year – does that sound doable?

I don’t have anything interesting to say

You might think that you don’t have anything interesting to say, but you probably do. The trouble is that you work in your business every day. You know all of the day to day tasks and the ins and outs of every service or product you offer your customers.  It’s easy to forget that your potential customers don’t know any of it. Tell them about how you work or what they can expect from a consultation. They might have a problem that you can solve, but they haven’t heard of the solution yet.

Sometimes people start a blog then run out of ideas, simply because they’re covering too much ground in each post.  You can create a good post out of a relatively small topic.  Just start with the big subjects then keep breaking them down.

No-one will read my blog

OK, this is a tricky one.  The more visitors your blog gets the easier it will be to find on Google. But how do people find you before you work your way up the rankings? Sometimes writing a blog can feel like a one way conversation if people read but don’t comment.  All you can do is keep sharing.  Put a link to your latest post on social media, refer to it when you do a video, put it in your email newsletter – there are lots of different ways to use your blog once you’ve written it.

Are you ready to start writing? If you need a bit more help I’m putting together a workshop group to offer help and support. Sign up for my mailing list using the form below to find out more.