Creative Confidence

Confidence is something that is always changing. Some things we feel confident about and others not so much. Whether you’re super confident or not so confident, everyone could use more confidence. We all start out with a clean slate and then things happen in our lives. We have teachers, mentors, coaches, parents, mostly well-meaning people that say things that can have an impact. My mother was told by a teacher that she was no good at art, she believed it her entire life and at the age of 70, she decided that she was going to start painting and of course she was fantastic at it.

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Miss Phillips, You Were Wrong

Here is a great story from Jack Canfield. A grade school class that was given the assignment of writing about their dream. There was one particular kid who had the dream of owning racehorses and farms and raising horses and breeding horses and doing all these fabulous things. He got a “D” on the assignment. The teacher said his dream was unrealistic. She told him that he would never be able to achieve that (imagine). Fortunately, this kid didn’t believe it for a second. He had such incredible belief in himself that he went ahead and did all these things he dreamed of just to prove this teacher wrong. Later in life, he wrote a book called “Miss Phillips, You Were Wrong”

I was too Slow

When You start to think about the things that may have happened early in our lives, it’s interesting to see who had an impact on us. Think about it for a minute. Early in my career as a brand strategist, I had a mentor who told me that I was too slow. He processed information really quickly and I didn’t. I like to take things in, think about it, ponder it, sleep on it, get other ideas, build on it. This person told me that I was too slow and I believed it. Now that I think about it, who made him like the king of speed? Who decides how fast things need to get done? I know I’m good at what I do and does it really matter? It was just his point of view and all these things are just somebody’s point of view. It’s not really true.

Who Stopped You?

There is no real truth only what’s true for you. Think about the people in your life that stopped you. Was is it a parent, a teacher? Was it somebody else? You can look at it now and say “that’s just an interesting point of view”. It’s not the truth. I’m not that. Even if it has been with you for 20 or 30 years, it’s not the truth and you can just choose to change it.

Creatives are bad at math

As creatives we get labeled that a lot. All creatives are bad at math (might be a bit of truth to that one). But again, who cares? There are enough people in the world who are good at math. You just need to partner with someone who’s good at it. The school system tells us as kids that we need to be good at everything. We really don’t.

Focus on the amazing

Sometimes something amazing happens and that stays with you. Those are the things that we need to focus on more. When I was in fourth grade I made a picture at school of a winter scene using oil pastels with paint sponged over top (below). My mom loved it and she framed it and hung it up in the house. And a few years later her interior designer asked where she got the picture. He loved it so much that he offered to buy it and my mom said it wasn’t for sale. Then he asked me If he could commission me to make another one that was similar. He paid me $300, which in fourth grade is like $1 million. Talk about confidence. I was over the moon. Those are the kinds of things that we have to focus on rather than the stories that we tell ourselves.

 

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Client love

Think of a time when you worked on a project that was a big success or created something that you were really proud of. One of my earliest clients doubled her business in 6 months after I renamed and rebranded her . Now put yourself back there and feel how it felt. A few years ago I was having a casual conversation with a client that took my business development course and coached with me. I asked her if by chance she had measurable results and she told me that she grew her business by 500% in one year as a result of working with me. That’s something that I want to focus on!

When you get client feedback, print it out and put it in a folder to remind yourself. One of my clients calls it her “client love folder”. She’s been doing it for 10 years and has quite a big stack of papers there now.

The biggest judges are not putting themselves out there

The judgment is part of reality. There’s a lot of it. Brene Brown has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She has thousands of followers and gets a good deal of nasty feedback but she doesn’t let it stop her from doing the good works she’s doing and the many people that she’s helping. Brene talks about how putting yourself out there in any way increases your vulnerability and that’s ok. Most of the judges are not the ones who are putting themselves out there!

When I started putting myself out there, teaching and coaching, I was pretty scared. Once in a while, someone will email me the rudest comment. I used to get really upset when I first started. I would take it personally. Now I say “interesting” and throw it in the trash. Next!

Building your creative confidence takes work and practice. It’s the same a starting a fitness routine. A little at a time. It’s not something that comes naturally to many. It’s very freeing to just let anybody judge and let it go. Get out of the stories your makeup. You know they are not true! Keep going back to focusing on what’s working and the places where you created your confidence. It’s a way more fun place to be. Oh, and when you slip back into the old patterns just be kind to yourself and refocus!

I’d love to know who stopped you and how you’re going to change that. Write to me in the comments below.

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

How to Get Buy-In on Creative Work

It’s one thing to be doing the creative work and it’s a whole other thing to be presenting it and getting buy-in. You put all the time into the creative and the presentation is an afterthought. How about building it into the project as a phase: the presentation and setting aside time to prep (not the day of the meeting).

Find out who will be there

The first thing is, is to find out who’s going to be at the meeting whether it’s in person on virtual. You want to know who’s going to be in the room and you want to know more than just their names. You may know them and if you don’t, look at their LinkedIn profile and just find out a little bit about them for example who they are in the company and what their role is. You can ask your client for a briefing and run through everyone that’s going to be there. Tell us what you know, what sort of attitude, what role they play. There’s often somebody in the room that’s going to be contentious and you can be prepared for it.

Start with a story

Stories work well to engage people. They help make a connection and when told well, give you immediate credibility and attention. Make sure your stories are relevant and engaging. Try them out on others before the meeting. Humor always has such a great effect as well.

Frame the presentation

You’re there to solve a problem. Begin by reiterating your understanding of the problem. We’re here because…Divide your talk into a beginning, middle, and end and tell your audience what that will be.  It’s a well known public speaking tool where you to say what you’re going to talk about, talk about it, and then you say what you talked about. Remember that people process information in different ways. Some are visual processors and some people are verbal. It’s obvious that you will have the visuals but don’t forget about the verbal. It’s just as important.

Be confident with what you’re presenting

Make sure that what that you’re confident in everything you’re presenting, not just, confident about options one and two but not so thrilled with number three. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t show it. You bring a certain energy to the table when you’re presenting and you want to be the energy of we know our stuff, we like where we’re going with this, we’re excited about it.

Talk through your ideas by focusing on what the problem is that you’re solving and how each solution solves the problem. Always going back to the business problem and how you’re going to solve it. Again, keep building in stories that can relate back to your presentation. When we used a similar approach for another client, they doubled their sales in six months.

Look at a presentation as a collaboration, rather than ta-da here it is. Here’s what we’re thinking and we’re looking forward to your input. It’s not you against them. Be a partner and not a vendor.

Tools for languaging

There are a number of tools that you can use with languaging for example the word “imagine”. Imagine what it could be like when the millennial audience grabs on to this. Get them really excited and engaged. Paint a picture. This is how it could work or What if we were to do it this way.  Have them Imagine what the results could be like. It’s often hard for clients to see where it could go.

Put on a show

I always think of the TV show Shark Tank. I know a lot of the presentations are silly, but once in a while a group does something very clever and there’s a level of showmanship to it. How memorable are those compared to the people that just go and talk? Think of something clever or unique. These are the things that stick in people’s minds.

Be different

Use these techniques and you’ll be different. Collaborative presentations will create partnerships and move you away from the client-vendor relationship. Decision making becomes about the best way to solve the business problem at hand and moves away from I’ll choose number one because my wife likes green. Let me know what Ideas you have!

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Is your Business Development Person Wasting Your Time?

How I got from graphic designer to business development person

As a kid, I couldn’t get my hands on enough arts and crafts. This led me to study graphic design at Parsons in NY and an internship with April Greiman in LA. After working for a few years in the design business, I decided I knew enough to start my own graphic design business. I had some business connections through my father and I became the person who got new business and my partner, Anne did most of the design work. Our small design firm business lasted about 4 years until I had my first son and Anne was offered to work as part of a team on a large and very important identity project. I was kind of left holding the bag with a studio and expenses and a baby and I wasn’t a happy camper. My friend Heather suggested I contact some of the larger firms around town. She said after running my own firm, it would probably interest them to have me. I sent out 10 letters, was contacted by 8 firms and met with each one. The one that stood out was an interesting French Canadian, Michel who owned a firm called OVE design.

I had no idea what Business Development was

Michel invited me if to do creative direction and business development for him and I said sure. He offered me a $25,000 base salary and that seemed very attractive after the feast or famine cycle of my own business. I actually had no idea what he meant by business development but I thought I’d figure it out. Long story short he gave me his mailing list of 800 names and I called each one and 2 years later I brought in several hundred thousand dollars in new business to the firm. At one point he had to tell me to stop because there was too much new business!

When I started doing Business Development, I decided that the objective was to get a meeting. I was able to get a lot of meetings but many were a waste of time. There was one time that Michel still reminds me of 25 years later when I run into him. I don’t remember what the company was but their office was far away. In the suburbs in a unit at the back of a strip mall. It was an hour drive each way and a 30-minute meeting. We showed our portfolio and they asked for a quote for a logo and said their budget was $2,500. On the drive back Michel said: “Don’t ever bring me to another meeting like that again”. I don’t do units, I do downtown meetings. We still laugh about it today.

That was in the ’90s and things were a lot different. I was really just making it up as I went. It’s now many years later I’ve figured out a few things.

I get it now!

In addition to my business development work, I’ve for 15 years as a brand strategist on large global brands as well as a few stints on the client side as a marketing director and I was the person hiring the design firm and I get it now. I know when and when not to go to a meeting. I know the meetings that will be a waste of time. I know what to say to a potential client to get them interested in working with me, I know their hot buttons I know how to price a project, close the deal and get paid. I also know how to create leverage, ongoing revenue and get more work from the clients you already have.

I know what clients are looking for and it may not be aligned with the things your Business Development person is saying to them. So is your business development person wasting your time dragging you all over the place to meetings that don’t translate to clients?

If the answer is yes, here are a few rules to pass along:

Your role in Business Development is not to get meetings. More meetings will not make you successful.

Have an in-depth phone conversation and be sure to qualify every prospect before you even think about a meeting. There is no point spending 2 hours in traffic to find out the budget is $2,500 and they aren’t even sure that they will go ahead with the project.  

Only arrange to meet if there’s a project on the table. Nobody has time for the meet and greet anymore or to see your portfolio.

Clients don’t really care about your portfolio, they care about results that you got for others.

Know the results that your firm got for others (not really talked about in the design business).

In summary, times have changed a great deal since my early days in Business Development. Back then people answered the phone (ok I’m dating myself). Even cold calling worked and that no longer works. New strategies are needed to connect with prospects and stay on their radar. Consistent marketing is a necessity (and I don’t mean holiday card once a year)! The Business Development process has completely changed and if your Business Development Person is wasting your time, take a closer look at what they’re up to!

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

How to get found using “Google My Business”

Why is this important?

By now, you should be aware of how important it is to be found on Google, and what ranking high on Google can do for your business.

However, there are a lot of new ways to get found on Google  – not just the normal search results.

And there are ways you can get your business in front of more people. Today we’re going to look at one of those ways; the “Google My Business” listing.

Your “Google My Business” listing

The “Google My Business” listing is a relatively new feature on Google. It seems to have developed from Google+ and is linked to the local business listings.

A lot of small businesses haven’t taken advantage of the “Google My Business” listing, as a way to get more business, and also to enhance their credibility to prospects.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

LMD design SERP-highlighted

 

We’re going to go through the basics of setting up your business listing and getting started with optimizing to increase your ranking.

Want to know if you’re making a lasting impression on potential clients? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Step 1 – Setting up, completing & confirming your listing

First things first – if you don’t have a Gmail account, go ahead and sign up for one. They’re free and Google have lots of great free tools for your business.

If you already have a personal Google account, you should set up one just for your business.

Getting your address confirmed

Once you have your google account set up, go to this link: [Google My Business – Get Your Free Business Listing Stand Out on Google](https://www.google.com/business/) and click ‘Start Now’ to set up your MyBusiness page.

Follow the instructions to enter your business name and contact details, business type (choose carefully!) website, and business phone number.

Google will send you a verification code by mail or text, so be sure to give your correct address. Google MyBusiness listings are also considered local, so give some thought as to where your target audience is.

If you work from home and you’re worried about putting your address online, there are options to hide it. You can also try getting a PO box or using a virtual office.

But you will need to have somewhere for them to post the verification to. It doesn’t usually take too long to arrive. Only then you can manage your listing fully.

Not getting the clients you want? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Setting up your MyBusiness Listing

During setup, make sure that your business address and contact details are /identical/ to what’s listed on your website, and other places online – this is key to helping you rank higher. This is super important.

Give as many details as possible on your listing. Google rewards your listing for supplying more information. Even if you’re not a traditional retail outlet, supply your opening hours and anything else you can.

Think carefully about the categories and attributes you select. It’s important to remember that your audience may not think as technically as you do, and probably won’t be searching that way either.

Use simple words and phrases about what people want, not just what you are. Keyword research, which we’ll get on in the next section, can be very useful for this.

Keyword research & optimizing your listing

Once you’ve set up your listing and verified it, you can go about optimizing it and helping it to rank. To do that, you’re going to first have to figure out what words and phrases you actually want to rank for. For that, you need to do some keyword research.

website designer suggestions example

Keyword research

Keyword research is not as complicated as it might sound. Basically, we just want to establish what words and phrases people are most likely to use when searching for you, or for services you provide.

If we optimize for these, then your business will appear and hopefully, people will contact you for help.

The obvious ones are anything related to your business name and brand – you’re going to want to appear high for these.

Then, we have search phrases related to your services – and I’m not talking about technical ones.

Think ‘best logo design’, or ‘best web design’ rather than ‘web design services’. There are literally billions of articles on keyword research, which I won’t go into here.

At this stage though, just try to put yourself in your client’s shoes, do some pretend searches for different services, and then see what comes up, and what Google suggests in the /’Searches related to’/ section at the bottom of the search page:

logo design search suggestions

In particular, you should make sure you add some of your keywords into the title of your listing, ‘design agency’, for example.

Adding photos & videos

Google has loved photos for years, and now, of course, it loves videos too. Whether it’s your project photos, examples from your portfolio, or just videos of you around the office, adding these to your MyBusiness listing is going to help it rank higher and more often.

One of the best ways to do this is to do a update post including photos. This is like a Facebook status update but through your Google listing. Make sure you add some photos to your profile page to start off with, but I would suggest making time to post photos and updates on your work regularly. Even if it’s just once a week, the more you post, the more it will help.

This is also a great way to get on the image search, and a great opportunity to showcase your work, which will help to generate leads etc. Whenever you finish a project – just add it in.

Want everyone talking about your business? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Using hashtags in your post.

Hashtags aren’t just a trendy thing to do, they help your posts and business listing get found.

Google ranks you higher if you post on Google MyBusiness, even for shares and tweets. Make sure you use hashtags that are related to your tweets.

For hashtag ideas you can try going to Twitter, typing in design, seeing which ones are suggested. You can also use a service like ritetag.com, and I’m sure there are other similar websites and services.

ritetag.com home page search xample

The key really is posting regularly, using consistent hashtags and keywords, adding media to your posts and linking a lot back to your website. Get creative with your posts too – have some fun with it and show off what you can do.

If you want engagement – don’t sell yourself, inspire people with your posts. People are so inundated with messages, you need to make yours stand out. Don’t fake it though, people are super tuned to that kind of thing now.

Improving your ranking

The first thing to say is that improving your ranking will take time. You may start to appear immediately for some keywords, but it could take years to appear for others, depending on your location and the competition in your niche.

Here are a few things you can do to help yourself rank faster:

Posting regularly

This is key. Once a week is ok. More is better. Keep it simple and don’t over promote yourself. Have some fun, get creative, and see what your audience responds to.

Not sure why branding matters? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Sharing your posts on other social media sites

You can just copy and paste for most other social media sites like Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. These platforms will be a much better way of gauging what your audience thinks of your content too!

Getting reviews.

Getting reviews on your Google page is probably more important than getting testimonials for your website. I’m not saying hound your customers, but definitely, make a point of asking them to leave you reviews – the more the better.

design agency reviews highlihght

Don’t be worried about negative reviews. Just respond nicely to them all, as this will help to increase your ranking a lot.

Keep repeating because it’s going to take time

You don’t need thousands of leads – you just need to show up and show up well as a business. You want to look active and interesting.

The key to seeing results is to keep it up regularly!

 

 

 


Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

How to Create Remarkable Client Relationships

Unremarkable Experiences Are Everywhere

When you think of the companies you deal with, are they remarkable – in a good way?

It’s probably easier for you to remember which companies are unremarkable. There are many successful businesses that have frankly awful relationships with their customers.

Cable companies are a great example of this, as I recently discovered when I stayed at my parent’s new house in Florida. I couldn’t sleep because of all the electronics in their spare room, so I unplugged it and got my solid 8 hours.

I woke the next morning to a household in absolute pandemonium. It turns out that I hadn’t just unplugged the Wi-Fi, I’d unplugged the whole house. The electronics was their SmartHome Hub. Everything was down: the air conditioner, phone, internet, TV, security alarm, washing machine – the lot.

unhappy customer -painted faceThe whole process of dealing with the cable company was painful; ridiculously long account numbers, getting passed between departments, long periods on hold. I’m sure many of you can empathize. Finally, I’m informed that they’ll send an engineer out to restart the system…in 6 days.

6 DAYS!

After a lot of back-and-forth, they finally agreed to send an engineer the next day. It was an uphill battle just to get a basic service from a company we were already paying. I was left stressed out from a simple phone call.

When it comes to business relationships, this was definitely at the low end of the scale! But really, you don’t see a lot of really remarkable relationships out there – at all.

Think about it. You’ve definitely had an experience that makes you remember it, in a positive light.

woman-remembers-great-experience-on-phone-smiling

Those are the companies that you recommend, the times you think of when someone asks you about your experience. Have you ever said to a friend, ”Oh, use these people, I had the best experience with them…?” I’m sure you have…

Use my free worksheet to start creating remarkable relationships with your clients – download it here!

What’s a Remarkable Client Relationship Anyway?

When someone goes out of their way to create an exceptional experience, you’ll remember it. Here’s a story I heard recently about exactly that:

My friend, Bob, gets in a taxi to catch his flight home from Houston airport. As soon as he gets in the cab, he notices a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the seat. The driver turns around to Bob, greets him formally, points out that the newspaper is his to take on the plane if he wishes, and invites him to help himself to a cool drink from the cooler.

new-york-taxi-cab-meter

This quickly turns into the best taxi Bob’s ever had. When they arrive at the airport, the driver helps him out, directs him to his check-in desk, and hands over his card, saying,

“I’d love to be your driver, whenever you’re in Houston. Whenever you’re here, give me a call and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”

Thinking about the experience later at home, Bob Googles the average cab driver’s salary in Houston. It’s around $20k. So, he emails the guy to thank him and commend him on his service and asks him how much he makes. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that this taxi driver makes $150k a year! All of that from regular clients, who call him when they’re in town.

So, this clever taxi driver is making 7x the average salary, simply by providing a great service and building remarkable relationships with his clients.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Even A Little Goes a Very Long Way

Creating a remarkable client relationship doesn’t mean you have to perform some back-breaking client service. Far from it. Less can often be more

Take one of our BA members, who was dropping off his car at an airport carpark. All the stresses of finding a spot to park, along with the general travelling woes we can all get, was making the experience pretty awful.

But then, when the shuttle arrived to take them to the airport, all these were completely mitigated by the attitude of their driver. She went so far out of her way to improve the experience of her passengers that it changed their entire trip. She even hugged everyone as they got off the bus, wishing them a safe flight and a ‘see-you-soon’.

cool-sparklers-memorable-experience (1)

Now, that’s a remarkable experience. And if you think about it, it really didn’t cost very much at all, apart from a bit of energy and love. Those little extras really can go a very long way. How often do you find yourself talking about an airport car park in a positive light?

Southwest are excellent at doing this exact kind of thing. They take it as a matter of pride to hire people who are exemplar at customer service.

And when this naturally creates remarkable moments with their customers, they’re great at talking about it too. Even something as little as one of their pilots waving back at a little boy becomes a life-long memory (and a great viral marketing video!):

 

How to Create Remarkable Relationships With Your Clients

What does an exceptional/remarkable experience look like for your clients?

With my own business, I try to create systems that make it easy for my clients.  It used to be that everyone would be looking for the Zoom link before a group call. Then I started sending reminder notes with the link the day before. Problem solved. That’s just one point of contact but there are many.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Commit to Creating an Amazing Experience

Try to write down what kind of experience you want your clients to have with your company. Write this down and fill in the blank: ”I want my clients to have an amazing experience that…” You decide.

freelancer-business-meeting -handshake

From this vision, you can start creating a system that you and your team can follow, to help ensure your customers have the best experience.

Whether that’s a birthday card, a ‘welcome kit’, a ‘feedback survey’, or simply reminders to touch base regularly with clients, it all helps. If you’re unsure of where to start, examine each stage of your customer’s journey and ask yourself, ‘how can I make things easy and even fun for my clients here’.

Once you’ve committed to a vision of a great experience, and put systems into place behind it, you’ll be well on your way to creating remarkable client relationships.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Create a Memorable Client Onboarding Experience

One of the most important processes for creating great client relationships is you on-boarding; how your clients are initiated as customers.

woman-client-onboarding-creaative-agency-meeting

You want to start thinking about how you can make it easier for yourself and your team make every client interaction memorable, creating a great relationship from step 1 onwards.

Start with a ‘touchpoint’ analysis for your business. What are the touch points for your business? Can your prospects and clients find you when they want to? Can they call you? Are you creating an easy and comfortable customer journey?

Sometimes bad clients aren’t bad, they’ve just never worked with a creative before and need you to help you guide them. To remedy this, you could create a project schedule, so they understand where the project is and where it’s going at all times.

Often you may find things you think they know all about, they actually know NOTHING about. Take the time to explain the work and the process and they will really appreciate your honesty and transparency. Maybe even let them glimpse your working process, and they may appreciate the skill what you do even little more.

open scheduling planner book agenda (1)

Create Real Connections With Your Real (Human) Clients

Sometimes, just reaching out to people on a human level, genuinely being interested in their lives and listening to what they are actually saying is remarkable.

Even if you’re not going to end up taking on a project, it can’t hurt to take 5 or 10 minutes to help someone out. Giving your advice and taking the time to engage with people and figure out what they need is memorable. You’ll probably find that approaching your prospect meetings like this gets you referrals, even if it’s not from them!

man and his client having a casual conversation

The most important thing here is connecting with your clients on a human level. I always phone or Skype when interacting with my clients about anything remotely important. Not only can they reduce the confusion and time taken on a task, they also help to make the relationship real, as opposed to just a business one.

Once your clients are ‘through the door’, think of ways you can do something unexpected for your clients, things that make them enjoy working with you – things that make them say, ‘wow’.

Even something seemingly small and un-businesslike can help build these relationships. When you take the time and thought to send someone something, even a card, sharing an article, asking after their family, you’re creating that remarkable client relationship.

Get As Much Feedback As Possible

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and implement it! Embrace all your negative feedback because it will help you to improve. Pay attention if things get a negative reaction. What can you do to make it a better experience? Often those that give negative feedback which is resolved turn into your most satisfied (and vocal) customers.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

 


Photos by Andre Hunter, Kinga Cichewicz, John Cobb, rawpixel.com, Tim GouwCollin Armstrong, Eric Rothermel and Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Six things your creative businesses can learn from corporate branding

If you think your creative business is too small to worry about branding…

Then think again!

Although many small business owners are half-right to think this, they’re also half-wrong. Branding does matter, no matter how big or small your business.

But the term ‘branding’ is heavily overused. I tossed it around for 25 or so years, as a tool to help companies like Kraft and Coca-Cola define themselves and their product.

But today, I try to avoid even using the term ‘branding’ when speaking to small business owners.

Unfortunately, whether your revenue is 100k or 100 million, how any business defines itself AND it’s customers is critical. It’s this aspect of branding where multinational corporations exceed and so where we should be taking a cue from.

Most international corporations will spend millions on research and market-testing before they ever make a public move. But don’t worry – you don’t need to max out your marketing budget just yet. Here are six ways you can achieve the clarity of vision you need to create a meaningful and impactful for your creative business.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

1. Know why you’re in the business, and where you’re going.

Every business is in business to make money. Beyond that, why are YOU in business? What keeps you going when things get tough? Where do you want to be in 3 years? What’s the vision?

Usually, when I ask this question, I get passionate responses – people really unleash their dreams trying to tell you why. This is definitely the advantage all small businesses have; the passion behind your vision. It’s this passion and vision that you want to speak to your customers, through your branding.

Big companies lack that passion – a symptom of their size. Instead, they need data-driven models, market research, test groups and extensive analytics just to get them to take a step forward, backwards, or even sideways!

But, you have to be realistic when constructing a vision for your brand too. Ask yourself, what are the obstacles in the way of achieving that vision? Is it you? Is it your team? Are your vision and goals aligned with your current capabilities as a business?

Many small business owners think they have to do everything themselves. The truth is, you don’t need to do everything yourself and the most successful entrepreneurs don’t. Running a business can be a whirlwind of decision making, so give yourself time to sit down and work out which of your goals require delegating or outsourcing.

This seems like a mammoth task, but really it can be as simple as keeping a record (of any kind!) of your thoughts and ideas around your business. Later, when you sit down, you’ll find it much easier to condense these into a single, realistic vision for your brand.

2. Know where your money is coming from

Although it may seem like a silly question, many businesses don’t fully know where their revenue is really coming from.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

Do you know who your least profitable customers are?
What’s your financial goal in 2018? Do you know the steps you need to take to reach that goal?

These kinds of questions help you form a better idea of your brand’s pricing structure; what type of customer uses your business the most, and what type the least. Tap into what your biggest fans think about your business and use that to guide your financial structure and goals.

One of my clients once catered for 18 weddings in a single summer, without making a cent in profit. By the end of it, she was nearly broke and burnt out. Why? Because she lacked confidence in her own expertise (although her customers would sing her praises) and didn’t price accordingly.

Global corporations don’t flinch when it comes to pricing. You’re an expert, so pay attention to your customers and price yourself and your brand accordingly.

3. Are you making enough noise?

When it comes to branding, you can’t assume that your customers will just remember you of their own free will. You’re going to remind even your best customers of your value proposition – at every opportunity.

Multinationals ensure their communications to clients and customers are consistent in tone, message and appearance. Often it helps to have someone dedicated to ensuring your communications are consistent, even if it’s not a full-time role.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

4. Be consistent with your content

You’ve probably experienced this for yourself; a company’s website is so different or dated compared to their magazine ads, or offices, that you have to double check to make sure it’s the same company. This sends an inconsistent message.

Even small differences in colours, fonts and layouts can cause a potential customer to mentally ‘trip up’, causing doubt and often meaning they just leave your website without converting – not good.

Even if you’re uncomfortable creating content yourself, outsource it. This doesn’t mean you have to hire an expensive agency, there are plenty of good writers and artists out there who will be happy to help and are surprisingly affordable.

5. Design your own stuff as you would for your client

You already know that you need good design to make your message stand out. You do it for your clients everyday. The only thing is that you spend forever on your own and you can’t get it perfect enought – am I right? Time to let it go. Design your own stuff. Make sure the message stands out and just get it done.

What do you think of when I say Ikea? Blue and yellow? What about Google? Or Comcast? These companies are more than just a logo – they’ve integrated their colours, their logos, across the design of all their assets, and subsidiaries in the case of Comcast. You know this but as a quick reminder for your own business, branding that runs all the way through like this helps to make your messaging sing, and your company memorable.

6. Get clear on your messaging

This is often people’s biggest mistake when it comes to branding. They go from idea to shipping, skipping the steps in between and staking the odds against success.

Ideas are great, but until you determine what it is your company is about, where it aims to be, what your message is and how it’s delivered, what your visual identity is, and finally which channels are appropriate, you’re making it unnecessarily hard for yourself.

Think about it – how can you make sure you deliver the right value proposition to the right potential customer, at the right time, without these? That’s what good branding is ultimately about. Aligning your company to attract the kind of prospects and clients you want to work with.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

 

Larger businesses may not be as nimble as smaller enterprises, but they will perform these steps tirelessly before launching any new product or brand. The size of their markets and scope of endeavours mean that risk of failure is too great – potentially millions.

This doesn’t mean multinationals are always right (I can think of quite a few failed products from major brands – anyone got Google Glasses? New Coke?). But there is a great deal you can learn from the way they align their brands or products with their customer base.

 

 

 

How to stop wasting time on prospects that never buy

Being a freelance creative is hard enough. You’re strapped for time. Income isn’t exactly stable. The last thing you need to do is waste your time.

Watch the Webinar: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect Before You Even Think About Meeting. 

One of the most frustrating things you experience as a freelancer is all the time you waste writing unanswered emails, sending ignored proposals and taking pointless driving trips to see clients that you never hear back from.

Most freelancers I work with tell me they experience similar frustrations.

The first thing I have to do is tell you that ultimately, some of your potential clients will fall through. It’s just life.

Things get in the way. Life takes unexpected U-turns. You just have to accept it.

But when people first join the Business Accelerator, they tell me they are spending way too much time trying just trying to keep their business afloat.

And so many of them are making the same mistakes, so I thought I’d share with you what I tell them:

Watch the Webinar: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect Before You Even Think About Meeting. 

Why your prospects don’t convert

Ok – as I said there are a million reasons why your prospect might not become a client.

But most of the time you’re wasting your time on someone who was never going to convert in the first place.

“What?” I hear you cry, “But they approached me!”

aI’m afraid it’s true. Often people are just shopping for a price, or they changed their mind, or life got on the way, or the project got put on hold.

The fact is that you can’t work with everyone. In fact, you SHOULDN’T work with everyone. You shouldn’t want to.

It’s like dating, some clients are just not going to be your ‘type’.

Finding your ‘type’: Why a target audience will help you grow

I’m going to keep with the dating analogy because it works well here.

Most people will have a ‘type’ of person they like to date. It may be physical appearance or mental traits; whatever it is – they’re looking for it in a partner. Even if they don’t think it.

You need to have a type of business, a type of client that you know you can work with, and that are likely to want (and be able) to work with you.

Particularly now, when there is so much choice and information available online, it’s SO important not to waste your time trying to please everyone. It just doesn’t work. Even the largest, most successful companies on the planet can’t do it. On top of that, Quite often when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one.

Have you ever walked into a Pizza restaurant that also serves burgers, chicken, curries, and spring rolls? The menu takes 15 minutes to read. And you just know that it’s not going to be as authentic or as good quality as it would be in a family restaurant who have been serving the same dishes for generations.

What makes you think you can appeal to everyone? Why would you want to? Even though most freelancers I work with can tell me the types of client they hate working with, they rarely act upon their experiences.

If you can’t tell me what your ideal client looks like in under 10 words, you don’t know who they are. But that’s OK because this post will help you to figure out what they look like.

Watch the Webinar: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect Before You Even Think About Meeting. 

How to create your ideal client personas

There’s a group of people that you already know like you and want to do business with you. They’re going to be your key ally here in working out who your ideal client looks like. Who are they? Your existing clients.

1.  Survey/Interview existing clients

Without this survey, the whole thing will fail. Your buyer personas won’t be as useful if you try to do them all by yourself.

First of all, you need to reach out to your existing clients, past and present, to find out who your clients are and what they want from you, in a deep way.

Send them a quick email asking to fill out a micro-survey.

All the ‘survey’ needs to be is: ‘What is your single greatest business challenge’, and ‘Why did you choose to do business with me?’.

You can use Google Forms or Survey Monkey for the survey but an email works too.

The other part of this ‘survey’ you’re going to do yourself.

Use our Target Audience Worksheet to help you think through your clients and their similarities.

This will help you to group your clients into ‘types’ based on more than just their survey answers.

2. Use their answers to build your profiles

Ideally, the answers to their questions (and your own target audience worksheet) are going to give you a lot of really rich data about who your customer is, and what they like about your business.

You’re probably going to get quite a bit of ‘fluff’ as well but that’s ok.

Put your clients’ answers into a spreadsheet and you’ll start to see some similarities in the language people use when talking about their business and their challenges. This is exactly what you’re looking for.

You’ll likely notice is a ‘pattern of problems’ that people have relating to your service and there may be a few of these. This is great.

You want to try and put your customers into ‘groups’ or ‘buckets’, so try to find the similarities between them. To help you do this you may find it useful to add surrounding data you have on your clients from the Target Audience Worksheet.

Create maybe three or four of these groups of issues, the kinds of customers that experienced them and their corresponding solutions (or anything the client said about them in their response).

Watch the Webinar: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect Before You Even Think About Meeting. 

3. Filter your prospects with a survey

Once you’ve put together your customer surveys and merged it with the answers on your Target Audience Worksheet, you should have three or four groups of similar people and their issues. These are your ‘target clients’ or ‘ideal client personas’.

But simply having a client persona isn’t going to help you stop wasting time with non-ideal clients. You need to act on them.

There are various ways of using your personas, all of which will help grow your business, but the one we’re focusing on today is the filter survey.

This is simply getting all your new prospects to answer a few key questions, which will enable you to sort them into groups.

Each of your groups should have one main ‘headline’ problem – this would be an ideal question to instantly filter your prospects.

This could be a simple drop-down or checkbox with options chosen from the actual words people have said back to you.

For example, you might ask:

What is your biggest challenge as a business:
1) Finding new customers
2) Delivering assets on time/to budget
3) Developing new products/services
4) Other: (leave space for them to write).

The answers you get should help you to sort your clients into groups, so you know what language to use and what solutions they are likely to want.

Usually, you’ll need more than one question to accurately sort your prospects but you can continue to ask ‘filtering’ questions as you get to know them.
Don’t be afraid to say no

One of the hardest parts about using a target audience or buyer persona is saying ‘no’ when the prospect is not a good fit. But you must stick to your guns. I talked about this on my September Webinar (click here to watch it).

You don’t have to be mean about it and you’ll find people often appreciate your honesty.

When you get a prospect that doesn’t fit in your persona, be as polite and helpful as possible but make sure they understand that you are not the right person to help them out. Instead, point them in the direction of someone who might be able to help them out. Then move on.

Not only will you find yourself wasting less time chasing clients that never buy, but if you’ve done your personas properly, you’ll also find those clients coming back to work with you again and again.

Watch the Webinar: 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Prospect Before You Even Think About Meeting. 

Let me know in the comments below if you have any techniques or questions you use to find your perfect clients – I’d love to hear them

 

 

 

Not Getting the New Business You Want? Take a Closer Look at Your Target Audience.

Grab the target audience worksheet 

As a creative professional, you know the impact of branding, market differentiation, and design, on your clients’ business. But what about your own business? Have you established your own brand positioning? Do you really recognize and understand your own target audience?

When you try to work on your own branding, marketing, messaging, or differentiation, do you get confused and overwhelmed? Do you find it so challenging to achieve consensus with the key players in your firm that your business stagnates? Establishing brand positioning is incredibly difficult when you are your own client and almost impossible when you don’t clearly understand your audience. Grab the target audience worksheet here.

Step away from your comfort zone

It’s tempting to position yourself as a ‘Jack of all trades’ ready to take on any challenge and help every client succeed, but being all things to all people is tough in today’s very crowded marketplace. It’s a bold – and sometimes frightening – step to pinpoint a target audience and go after it, but it may be just what your firm needs to succeed. Most business I work with are reluctant to choose a specific audience, fearing they will lose out on business opportunities from other sectors. But once they begin to understand their audience more deeply, they soon begin to reap the rewards of specialization.

Understand your best clients

You may find a target audience that is a very clear fit with your firm, right under your nose. I have one client who did 80% of their work with boutique hotels, yet continued to take on whatever work was going, spending time and money trying to be all things to all people. Once they decided to focus their attention and new business efforts exclusively on the boutique hotel sector, their new message drew new clients to them, and the time they spent with one client was directly transferable to others.

If a specific market sector does not seem to be a good fit with your firm, think about the client types you work with successfully. For example, you may find that you connect well with CEOs or marketing directors and are more successful when you tailor your message specifically to these roles.

Start making a list

Want a clue about who you might want to target? Write a description of your top 5 clients. What do they have in common? How much of your annual revenue did they generate? Are they easy to work with? Are they all in the same kind of business? Does the work you do for them build your reputation or increase your expertise in a specific industry? Do they have the same position within a company or the same way of working with you? As you focus your attention on these top 5 clients, you may find that they have more in common than you thought – and that their similarities help you differentiate your business and develop a successful target market

Talk – and listen.

Once you know who you’re speaking to, stakeholder interviews can help you learn more about the messages that will resonate with them. Using the boutique hotel firm as an example, stakeholder interviews with marketing directors at several boutique hotels showed that “keeping rooms filled” was a top concern for all of them. Knowing this, we were able to design and implement marketing campaigns focused specifically on filling rooms. Within 4 months of inbound marketing, my client started getting calls from prospects who said: “You understand our business and we want to talk to you about a project”. Does it get any better than that?

Want new business? Start now

New business doesn’t usually ‘just happen’, it takes time, planning, and thoughtful analysis to stand out from the crowd, understand who you and your best clients are, and attract the new clients you’re after. The first step? Start now and take a good hard look at your business, your clients, and the kind of people you want to work with.  For more clarity, grab the target audience worksheet here.