8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 6 …

NikeIn my view, branding is one is the most misunderstood and least valued weapons an entrepreneur has on the road to success.

To be blunt, I think one if the biggest differences between really successful entrepreneurs and small business thinkers is their commitment to having a powerful brand. If customers love your brand and your teams deliver on your brand promise, they don’t need to love you… and when customers love your business more than they love you… you’ve really nailed it!

Key number 6. Build a brand that stands for something

Your brand is not just a logo and a bunch of colours – despite what many graphic designers will tell you. It’s not what goes on your business card. It’s everything your company stands for. It’s driven by the difference your business is making in the world and by your company vision.  It influences how you stand out from your competitors, how your staff behave, how you approach your marketing and every other business strategy.

The best companies in the world have strong brands. Great CEOs understand what a brand is all about. As the CEO of your own business I encourage you to study branding… look at successful companies you admire, see if you can work out their strategy by studying their brand.

If you are going to invest in anything right now, I’d say invest in your brand. Talk to a good brand strategist and ask them to assess your brand.  And if they tell you that you need to do some work on it…. be willing to spend the money. Look at it as an investment in your future, not as an expense.

Exercise:  study branding

If you really do want to build a valuable business and be a wealthy entrepreneur rather than an owner operator, then you need to understand the power of your brand. If you do already, great. If not, it’s time to educate yourself. Look at brands you love and see if you can work out their business strategy from their brand. Compare your brand to a brand you believe to be really valuable.  How does it stack up?  Google articles on branding, see if you can really understand why a whole industry exists just to help people with their branding.  Why is it so important? Here are a couple of articles I found on the subject as a starter for 10:

http://www.slideshare.net/liquidbranding/branding-booklet-slideshow

http://www.slideshare.net/coolstuff/the-brand-gap

As always, feel free to email me with questions, ideas, thoughts for discussion at laura@liber8u.com

Happy growing!

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PS. Early bird pricing for 2016 Acceler8or Programme ends soon.  This is a 12 month journey to accelerated growth you’ll never forget, please email me at laura@liber8u.com for more information. If you are serious about growth or creating financial freedom from your business sooner rather than later, you will want to be involved.  Only 5 places left.

8 principles of brand building every business owner must know

brand manOk here comes another rant.  Something else I feel PASSIONATE enough to SHOUT ABOUT IT.  Today’s outpouring is about your brand… and why if you seriously want to grow, you must take this subject very seriously indeed.

I do believe the power of a company’s brand is the single most misunderstood and under appreciated aspect of doing business.

I also believe it’s this simple – businesses with a great brand give their shot at major success a MASSIVE (I’m shouting again) BOOST.

In other words, those that understand brand do better than those who don’t.

Having said this, I’m no brand expert, so I struggle to find ways to articulate the importance of this to my clients – the people I most want to succeed.  So I went in search of some wisdom from someone who can tell you what I really want you to know.

I found this article featuring Scott Bedbury, who grew Starbucks and Nike into global brands (I think you’ll agree that earns him the right to talk about the topic!).  Here he gives us his eight brand building principles – I think every one is a winner, so please read the article fully and think about your own brand as you do so… just click the link below.

Scott Bedbury’s 8 Principles of Brand Building

Please believe me, if you focus on your brand as much as your product, you will grow your business.  It is a worthwhile investment of time and money.

So read Scott’s thoughts and let me know your own thoughts…

Be smart, be brave, be free :)

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Are you brave enough to have a powerful brand? Find out here…

brandingAs anyone who has worked with me will tell you, I’m an avid fan of branding.  I look at a client’s brand and ask myself, does it tell me something exciting, original and impactful about their business?  Does it set the foundation for everything the business stands for?  Does it place them instantly a head and shoulders above the competition?

Often times the answer is no and I recommend that they engage a brand specialist to help them.  One of these specialists, Steve Bailey features in my latest book The Liber8 Disciplines.  Here’s an excerpt from the book about a conversation Steve and I had about branding and bravery:

“Over lunch recently, Steve asked me if I thought the readers of this book would have the courage to create a powerful brand.  I stopped and peered at him over the bowl of hot soup I was enjoying.  “Why do they need to be brave?”  I asked.  To which he replied, “Because if we succeed with creating the right brand for someone, they will get noticed… a great brand doesn’t let you hide away and be safe”.

Steve gave me an example of a small business client he had worked with recently.  They came to him wanting a new brand, something that would build on their existing business but take it to a whole new level of excitement and attraction.  He and his team came up with a new name and brand approach that was so perfect for them, when he told me I laughed out loud. “That’s great!” I cried.  From the name alone I knew exactly what this business did and I could see their growth plan ahead of them in an instant.  I could see a chain of stores nationally or globally; or a franchise model.  The name was so catchy I already knew what the brand would look for and what they stood for.  “But they weren’t willing to change their name,” Steve told me, “which I understand – it can be too big a step for some, especially when they’ve been around for a while. So we did a new brand strategy working with their existing name.  We came up with a positioning platform and graphic device that shifted them into the next league almost as well”.  Steve described this new idea to me and once again I laughed out loud.  “But that’s great too!”  I cried.  “That really works. I can already see all the marketing ideas that go with that idea”.   Steve shook his head, “They were too scared to do this too” he said. “They’ve gone back to their original logo”.  I knew the company he was talking about and I knew that they really needed to change their image in order to become more relevant in the marketplace.  I felt sad for them. They had missed an opportunity to evolve and they didn’t even know it.  Now I understood what Steve meant about being brave.  Being willing to have a powerful brand might mean you have to let go of what you already have to a certain degree.  Or you might even have to change it completely.

I realised from listening to Steve that it is almost as important to understand what a brand isn’t as it is to know what a brand is.  Why would someone go to a brand strategy agency if they were not willing to change their brand?  I wondered if perhaps they just hadn’t really understood what there were really asking for”.

Do you know what it really means to have a great brand?  Do you have any idea how powerful it can really be for you?  Would you like to know more about branding?  I’ve dedicated an entire section of The Liber8 Disciplines to this topic – it’s that important. If you’d like a sneak preview of this chapter, before the book is published – just email me (laura@liber8me.com).

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

 

What causes customers to leave you?

leavingWhy do customers leave?

Guest blog by Mike Brunel.

I am continually asked why my advertisers leave me after a few campaigns. I do not think for one moment that has not happened to you. It has me, several times, and every time it does I learn something.

As a business owner why do your clients leave you? Do you know?

It actually stings quite a bit; you are just getting to know them when they stop returning your calls, completely ignoring you.

Here is a typical scenario that often happens. You work on a client for a few months and finally they toss you a little order or money. If you have done your job well, you might get some more.

No one returns your calls

Over time you get to sell them more products and services. Things seem to be going along swimmingly. Then all of a sudden, they do not return your calls. You try to call them a few times. SILENCE.

What have you done? They liked you; they seemed to be getting results from your product.

So, what have you done wrong? What did you do?

It’s not what you think; Here are some tips you might find useful if this happens to you.

Solve the problem before it starts.

  1. These days customers like to be advised. If you start giving them everything they want, they will not take you seriously.
  2. Don’t be like all the others companies who sell similar products. If you really want to partner with them, do crazy things once in a while. Don’t be boring. Push them a little. Be a marketer.
  3. Find out early in the relationship what their interests are outside of work and do all the research you can about the topic. This gives you something else to talk about, and helps build trust.

Finally, if you get the “vibe” that this might not work, be up front with them and say “Hey, I do not think this is working.”

It just might be the tonic to get them thinking a little about your relationship.

“They will spend one day, I promise.”

That is like saying, “That girl will go out with me one day.” Sometimes it can be painful, but you are better off working with the customers that you know will be of benefit to you, and not go after clients that you have no show of getting.

Mike Brunel is partner in NRS Media, the world’s leading provider of Revenue Growth Solutions and Customer Acquisition programs to media companies.  The company has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto and Sydney and employs more than 175 staff.  Mike teaches people how to sell… he loves it with a passion!

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free

What 10 questions should every great sales person ask?

soldIn sales you should be listening for 80% of the time and talking for 20%.  If you ask the right questions, you will find out your prospect’s real needs and find a way to sell your product/service as the solution.   When selling, follow the steps below with every question:

 

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Re-affirm (show that you’ve heard what they say… sometimes as simple as just repeating back to them what they’ve told you).
  4. Provide solution

The following exercise helps you prepare your check list of 10 questions to take to your sales meeting/call with you.  Promise yourself to ask ALL of the questions.

Questions 1 – 6:  Uncover needs

Ask open questions (note: open questions typically begin with a ‘w’ – what, who, when, why?) to discover how your prospect feels about their current situation.  Find out who your competition is and what they are doing right/wrong.  Find out the frustrations your prospect has.

Write down 6 ‘needs based’ questions relevant to your product or service.  Here are some samples:

Would you mind telling me about your current situation?

Who do you currently use for this service?

What’s working for you?

What’s not working?

What are your main frustrations?

What would you like to change about things?

 Question 7: Invitation question

 This is where you ask your prospect if they’d like to know more about how you could answer their needs.

Here’s the example invitation question:

“From what you’ve told me, it sounds like (your offer) could really make a difference to you.  Would you like me to give you a brief description of how it works?

Have your description ‘sales pitch’ ready.  As soon as you get the go ahead, give a brief, concise and enthusiastic description of your product/service (trying to steer it towards the needs you have just uncovered).

Question 8:  Leading question

 Here you are leading your prospect to an affirmative response to your final offer.  It goes like this:

“Does this sound like something that can solve your problems/make you feel better/address your issues?”

Questions 9 and 10:  The most important questions of all  … asking for the sale

 The last questions you should ask should be the ‘close’ or ‘asking for the order’ questions.  You start with a positive clarification statement then quickly follow with a way the client can buy from you. These are the questions you must make yourself ask.  You are not allowed to leave a sales meeting or call without asking for the order!

Make sure you have a way of taking their order/letting them pay with you.  It’s often a good idea to offer them a choice…

“I feel really good about this, I know this is going to work well for us.  What’s the best way to get things underway?  I could email you an order when I get back to the office… or I could just get it from you now.  What works best for you?”

 Notice there are two questions in one.  The first implies you are going to make the sale now.  And the second gives the client choice on how to do it.

If it isn’t appropriate or possible to ask for a sale there and then, be ready with to make an agreement with them of another sort.  Offer to send them something – to do something helpful for them, and make sure you follow up with it the minute you get back to your desk.

And finally…

 Asking these questions doesn’t mean you have to come across as pushy – no one wants to be that.  So have fun, be friendly, get to know the person and walk away feeling that you’ve had a really good chat.  If you’ve asked all the questions on your list, you will know so much about them and even if you can’t get the sale immediately, you will be able to build a good plan to win them over time.

Happy selling!

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PS. The above is an excerpt from my new book “The Liber8 Disciplines: A hands on guide to mastering the eight most important skills in business” To be released soon.

 From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

Winners have a strong brand. Do you? A lesson on branding from The X Factor USA

x-factorI’ve been trying to explain the importance of branding to people all year and then recently I watched the final of The X Factor USA and I saw the power of brand building in action… in a way I think will help people understand.

The three finalists had each been working hard on their personal brand the entire competition:

Carlito-Olivero-The-X-FactorCarlito Olivero is a Hispanic competitor from the Bronx who has been an underdog all the way, even ending up in the bottom two twice.  Every week he tells America that he’s a fighter.  He tells them he’s come from the gutter, and he’s going to work hard and fight his way to the top.  This is his brand.  This is what he stands for.  And we all love a fighter.

jeff guttJeff Gutt is a single dad who is inspired by his three year old son.  He was depressed and gave up music until his son came along. He needs to win for his son.  We’ve all bought into his story.  He stands for sacrifice, determination and parenthood.  He stands for hope. He’s a father. That’s his brand.  We are routing for him to win for his son.

 

alex and sierraAlex and Sierra are the beautiful young couple who are madly in love.  They are the lovers of the competition. They both have wonderful voices and sing into each other’s eyes week on week.  They stand for love.  That’s their brand.  Love.  And who doesn’t want to believe in love?

 

Do you see what I’m saying here?  In the X Factor the winner is chosen by the vote of several million viewers.  But it’s not just about the singing. The good contestants have not just demonstrated their talent.  They have also shown us what they stand for.  We have fallen for their story and what the values they represent to us.  We have an emotional connection to what they are about not just what they do.

In the real world (because we can’t all be X Factor stars), your brand is what your business stands for, not just your product or service.  You have to sell an emotional connection.

In the X Factor final, love won the day.  What does your brand stand for that will make you a winner in your world?

Best,

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PS  You can read more about the power of branding in my book Liber8 your Business.  Available on Amazon right now.

 From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

 

Why are customer surveys so important? And how do you do them properly?

survey workI’ve recommended to three different clients in the past week that they undertake a client and prospect survey to find out what’s really going on with their business.  Each of these clients has different challenges but each will be able to make better decisions by asking the people they are trying to reach.

I was in the advertising industry for over 20 years and the most effective work we ever did for clients came out of insights we had gained from understanding their customers and potential customers.  When I ran my own agency, we would always start a new campaign by talking to both existing customers and potential customers.  We would base our advertising messages on what they told us…. more so than on what the client told us about their business.

Today I am still a huge believer in the power of talking to your customers on a regular basis.

Why and when should you do a customer survey

  • To learn more about customer purchasing and spending habits, and how they are utilizing competitor products – so you can be sure you are positioning your product and marketing in the most appealing way
  • To build a more detailed customer profile for future marketing campaigns – who are your hot clients, what do they want and where can you find more of them?
  • To further define a clear point of difference – what is that you do that your customers love, and why do they choose you over the competition?
  • To learn what frustrates your customers about your industry and how can you package your offering to provide the best solution to this
  • To assist with brand development – if you are undergoing branding work, you can build better strategies with customer insights
  • For new product development – before you spend money building something, make sure it is needed and wanted by matching it against client/prospect needs
  • To find out why clients are not referring others, even with very good incentives to do so

How do you go about it?

I’ve just published a report called ‘Customer Insights: Developing valuable insights for marketing and product development’, which outlines the steps to take and the types of questions you should ask.

You can download it at www.liber8yourbusiness.com/tools

Research is a really important part of product development and positioning so do check it out, and let me know if you have any questions at laura@liber8me.com

Good luck

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business, the revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

Which is more important… delivery or sales? Should you be in doing or out selling? Learn the 5 steps to the ‘The In-Out Dance” here…

sync swimmingAs a small business owner you’ll be familiar with ‘The In-out Dance’ I’m sure.  It goes like this.  You are busy in the business, delivering your service or product, working hard, working hard.  There’s too much to do and you need help.  So you hire some people and now you have to spend more time training them and managing them as well as doing all the work you already have on your plate.  There’s no time to think about getting out there and selling your wares.   Busy in, bum down, doing it, doing it, doing it.  You’re working hard, putting in the hours, no time to sleep, worrying about dropping balls and hoping your delivery meets client expectations.

Then suddenly the work dries up.

You’ve got the team, but no income on the horizon.  So you have to get OUT there and sell you butt off.  Out, out, out, sell, sell, sell.  The pressure is on, there are mouths to feed and everyone is relying on you to bring home the bacon.  It’s a frightening and stressful time and the buck stops with you.  Now you’ve got time to sleep but you can’t because you’re worried about money. So out you go.  Pick up the phone, network like crazy, press the flesh and try to keep the desperation out of your voice when you talk to people.

Hopefully your efforts pay off.  The orders pour in and back you go to the coalface.  Doing it, doing it, doing it.  Work, work, work.  Late nights, no time to sleep, on and on until…

Suddenly the work dries up.

And out you go again.

You get the picture.  It’s ‘The In-out Dance’ and very exhausting it is too.  It can be really, really stressful – especially when you have to lay people off because you can’t afford to pay them in the quiet periods.

So what do you do to change this pattern?

You need to learn to dance better.  You’ve got the steps all wrong.   Instead of in, in, in then out, out, out, the dance needs to be more like in, out, in, out, in, out.  A gentle rhythm set to an even beat.  You must be out as much as you are in, or at least have a marketing system that allows for constant out focused activity.

 Here are 5 pointers to Strictly Come Dancing In-Out Style:

  1. Understand the in/out balance.  Business is a balance of sales and delivery – you cannot have one without the other.  If you put all your focus on sales but not delivery you will disappoint customers, damage reputation and lose business.  If you put all your focus on delivery and not sales, you will run out of business and the best delivery in the world won’t matter.  So you must ensure you dedicate time to both no matter how busy you are.
  2. NEVER take your eye off sales.  When you are too busy to think about sales, this is the time to think about sales.  Ensure sales and marketing activities are in your weekly work in progress and given equal priority. Try not to bump the sales activity off the to do list because you and your team are too busy.
  3. Keep the pipeline full.  You should always have a number of hot prospects waiting for conversion, a number of proposals in progress, a number of leads to follow up, a database to make irresistible offers to.  This can only happen if you keep the pressure on your sales and marketing at all times.
  4. Have a marketing system.  Create a marketing process that happens every week.  Make sure you have a hot list of potential clients you are targeting and a regular campaign underway.  With a system in place you can get other team members to help with the logistics.
  5. Hire people out of cash flow. Don’t hire new people on the basis of today’s busy period alone.  This can lead to disaster down track if the work dries up.  Try to use contractors to start with if you can until the workflow is more certain.  Ideally you’d be hiring people you know the business can afford, or at least ensure you have money in the bank to cover salaries should there be a quiet period on the horizon.

There is a reason that marketing and sales make up the important pillars to business growth.  You can’t grow without them.  Life for a small business owner is a constant juggling act in the early years.  Your job is to remember to keep both sales and delivery balls firmly in the air.  And learn to be a champion ‘in-out dancer’!

Dance on!

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free

 

How to impress the world in 5 minutes… getting clear on your business ‘platform’

 

soaring eagle“What is your platform?”

This is the question I’ve been asking my small business clients recently. But what do I mean?

Here’s an imaginary scenario to help explain:

Imagine you are on a plane with 20 other business owners in the same industry as you, selling products or services in a similar genre to yours.  Your destination is an airport in a country with a massive potential market for your product.  Greeting you all at the airport is the CEO of the largest global company in your industry.  His brief is to acquire a small company he believes has the most potential for growth.  When you get off the plane you firstly have to make the short list by waving a placard that will make him pick you.  Everyone else will be waving a placard too.  He’s only allowed to pick five.  What will your placard say?  What is the message you have to take to the world?  What are you and your business there to champion on a world stage? 

 If you are selected to the short list you will have five minutes to present your business and convince him to buy you.  He wants to know why your product or service is better than the rest.  He wants to know why he should pick your business.  What are you going to tell him?  Remember, your main competitors are also presenting their case.  Why is yours so different?  Why are you so passionate about this?  What is it you really have to say to him?

Now bring yourself back to today and ask yourself the same questions.  What is it that you are really about?  What is your message to the world (or your Country) and why is your offering so important?  Why? Why? Why?

Forget about what you are selling for a moment and focus on why it is needed.  And what makes it better and different from all the others in your space.

This message to the world is your platform.  This is the why behind your business…. the wind beneath your wings.  (Sorry, but I do feel a Bette Midler moment coming on here because this is about emotion… being a hero, flying higher than an eagle, touching the sky…)  With a business you have an opportunity to do something meaningful and to create change in the world around you.  It doesn’t have to be what you sell that makes the difference, it can be the way you go about it.   Whatever you are selling, you will sell a whole lot more if you are clear on your platform. You will have something meaningful to say and people will want to listen.

And on that note I’ll leave you with another lyric that’s bouncing round my head:

‘You’re the voice try and understand it, make the noise and make it clear…’

Make it happen

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 Your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

What’s the one question every business owner should ask to decrease owner dependency and increase value?

question markWhen I interviewed 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Sam Hazledene, I asked him about his strategy for growth.  This is the guy who built the largest medical recruitment company in Australasia from scratch in a few short years.  He told me that he’d grown organically, starting out with just himself and his wife travelling the country trying to convince hospitals to use their recruitment service.  With a great point of difference and a lot of passion they rallied customers remarkably quickly.

The business expanded and Sam needed to grow his team.  He hired from the bottom up – firstly filling the more logistical roles until he could afford more specialised senior people.  This was exactly the same approach I had to growth with my first business.  When you are funding growth out of cash flow this can an effective way to do it.

At first, Sam told me, he was reluctant to let go of things, not believing anyone could do a job as well as he could (sound familiar?).  But he began to ask himself a question, which enabled him to get his ego out of the way.   It’s a question I now share with my mentoring clients and once asked, you just can’t forget it.

The question is this:

“What can I and only I do?”

Start asking yourself this question on a regular basis. Make a list of everything that you do.  Then go through the list and highlight the things that only you can possibly do.  Check the list and then sleep on it.  In the morning go through the list again and make sure you are being honest.  There will be things still on that list that others could do if you let go, trained them well and trusted them.  So ask yourself again:

“What can I and only I do?”

Be willing to let go of all the things you could hire others to do as well as, if not better than you.  These should include pretty much all administration, book keeping, project management, HR, legal and other operational roles.  And as quickly as you can afford it, replace yourself with people who have the skills and experience for all of the other roles within your organisation too.

Ultimately you want to get yourself to the point where the answer to the question is vision, strategy, business development and culture – in other words being the leader of a great team.

This is what Sam did to grow his business.  It’s what I have done with my businesses.  And it is the key to creating true value in your business.  A potential buyer will find your business far more attractive if you are leading a team rather than doing all the work.  So the next time you find yourself in overwhelm and wondering how on earth you can decrease your business’ dependence on you… remember the question and start letting go!

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of the book Liber8 Your Business – pre-order your copy by emailing laura@liber8yourbusiness.com