The 3 Most Important Questions for Consultants and Coaches to Ask Clients

coaching-questions

Are you a coach or consultant?

Or maybe you are involved in another role which requires you to spend time helping colleagues or clients.

The easy thing to do, and a common mistake, is to jump in and try to help immediately by giving advice.

Or posing questions which are really pieces of advice masquerading as questions eg have you considered x, y, z?

The bottom line, though, is that in order to help them you need to figure out, and let them recognise, what their problem or issue is.

To do this you need to ask questions.

Not just any old questions.

The questions you ask are absolutely critical.

Have you given much thought to the most effective, useful, powerful questions to ask?

In this piece I am going to share what I consider to be the most effective questions-there are only 3.

The rest is window dressing.

These are the questions I use myself in my law practice when I meet clients or prospects.

I didn’t learn them in law school, though.

I use the exact same questions when I am consulting with small business owners and start ups and entrepreneurs.

You could waste a lot of time asking the wrong questions.

And there is a multitude of questions you could ask.

Questions beginning with who, what, why, how, when, which etc.

The three most important questions begin with the same word.

Let me explain.

Ready?

1st Question is on Facebook

There are three questions you need to ask.

The first you will find on Facebook.

This question has been an integral part of Facebook’s growth into a worldwide phenomenon.

Take a look at the box at the top of your Facebook page, the one that invites you to comment or share something or update your status.

There’s a question in that box to encourage you to do that. It’s the question that Facebook has used, save for one short period, from the early days.

It still uses it today.

The question is: What’s on your mind?

This gives your client the opportunity to open up and tell you what the issue(s) is.

But it’s almost certain that what they tell you will not be the real problem, or if it is a real problem it will not be the only one.

Or the most important.

It’s almost certainly something that concerns them, but may not be the real crux of the matter.

2nd Question-3 Short Words

The second question is designed to deal with this.

The question is: and what else?

This is only a short one, but it’s essential and critical.

Because it will almost certainly get you to the real concern, especially if What’s on your mind has not elicited the real meat of the problem.

The third question is a natural follow on from the other two, because now you know exactly what the real issues are.

Let’s recap.

Question 1: What’s on your mind?

Question 2: And what else?

The third question is what do you want me to do?

Conclusion

Resist the temptation to immediately jump in with advice.

Lean back.

Listen actively.

Ask these 3 questions.

Then you both know exactly what the issues are, and what each of you have to do.

 

Do you need a small business consultant who has actually walked the walk?

Who has built businesses in Ireland since 1986 in a variety of industries?

Who understands and leverages digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing to continue to build businesses?

If you do, feel free to contact me.

Assignment and Sub-Letting Your Commercial Premises-What You Should Know

commercial-lease-law-ireland

Do you hold a lease on a commercial premises?

Do you want to sub-let it? Or assign (transfer) it to someone else?

You may run into difficulties with your landlord, though.

Let’s take a look at the issues.

Most leases will have a restriction on alienation-assignment or sub-letting- contained in the lease. This is to allow the landlord to protect his investment by ensuring that the quality of his tenant is high.

Because any tenant can ultimately obtain security of tenure in the premises. And if he is a poor tenant and the landlord is forced to enforce the covenants in the lease it is going to cost time, money, inconvenience, and possible diminish the value of the landlord’s property.

However, the landlord will also need to consider how restrictive the alienation clause is, because if it is unduly restrictive it will have an adverse effect on the rent he can achieve. Quite frankly, less tenants will be prepared to take it on if they think that they cannot assign or sub-let it in the future, if necessary.

The tenant will need to consider his business, how restrictive the covenant is, and the premises itself.

Restrictions on Alienation

All commercial leases will contain a restriction on the assignment or sub-letting of the premises without the landlord’s consent, and an absolute prohibition on letting part of the premises.

Put simply, the landlord is entitled to ensure the property is not handed over to an undesirable who will devalue the landlord’s property.

However, the landlord is not entitled to unreasonably withhold his consent to alienation. The question of what is “reasonable” is a thorny one, though.

There is no statutory definition of a reasonable refusal, therefore it is a question of fact and circumstances in each particular case. If a tenant is not happy with the landlord’s decision, he can go to Court to seek a declaration that the consent is being withheld unreasonably and allowing the assignment/sub-letting to go ahead without the consent.

The case of International Drilling Fluids Ltd v Louisville Investments (Uxbridge) Ltd [1986] provides a good summary of the principles to apply in determining whether the landlord’s consent has been unreasonably withheld or not.

Many leases will also contain a pre-emption clause. This gives the landlord first refusal on any assignment.

He may also have the right to match any 3rd party offer.

Break Clauses

Tenants will look for a break clause in the lease. This will allow for circumstances changing in the future.

Generally, the breaks clause would be exercisable at the time of the 1st rent review, but this is entirely a matter for negotiation between the parties at the outset.

Most break clauses will only be exercisable when the tenant has complied with all provisions in the lease.

Assignment of Lease

The existing tenant must ensure appropriate references-trade and bank-are obtained and submitted to the landlord, along with the request for consent to assign.

The existing tenant will also have to be released from his personal guarantee, if he has given one.

The new tenant’s solicitor must make the usual conveyancing enquires about title, planning permission, mortgage on the property, and the usual pre-lease enquiries.

Service charges, and any other annual charges, will have to be apportioned between new and existing tenant.

The landlord, and his solicitor, will be anxious to ensure that the new assignee is as satisfactory as the existing one.

Sub-Letting

The existing tenant will be the landlord for the sub-tenant and he will be granting a sub-lease to the sub-tenant. He will need to get references from the sub-tenant to give to the head landlord, and apply for the head landlord’s consent to the sub-letting.

The sub-tenant, in addition to ensuring the proposed sub-lease is satisfactory, will need to ensure that the head landlord’s consent is given for the sub-letting.

The head landlord’s position is not affected from a legal perspective as he will still have his original tenant on the hook as that tenant will remain contractually liable to the landlord.

Partial Assignment or Sub-Letting

Most modern commercial leases will prohibit partial assignment or sub-letting.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you will see from the above that entering into a lease can be a complex matter which should not be undertaken without professional advice.

Quite frankly, it is easy to sign on the dotted line of a commercial agreement. Especially when you are starting a new business about which you are understandably excited.

But it is foolish to do so when you run the risk of running into costly difficulties later on, and find that you cannot assign or sub-let or you are staring at an eye watering rent increase through the rent review.

Rent Review Clauses in Commercial Leases-What You Should Know

rent-reviews-commercial-lease

Do you occupy a retail, industrial, or office premises?

If you do you will probably have you a commercial lease?

If you have, it will almost certainly provide for a rent review.

And you could be in for a very nasty shock.

Let me explain.

Over the last few years, since the property crash at the end of the Celtic Tiger years, quite a few commercial property owners were just happy to get their commercial premises let.

Any rent is better than an empty commercial unit or office.

Many of the leases granted then were on initially favourable terms for tenants, simply to get them let.

However, many of these leases are coming up to their first rent review, typically 5 years after commencement. The big problem for small business owners is that these rent reviews provide for “market rental value” which is causing a nasty shock, and in some cases unaffordable rents, for small business owners.

Because in some cases they are seeing their rents double, or more.

What is the legal position?

Is there anything you can do about it?

How does a rent review work?

Let’s take a look.

The purpose of a rent review clause is

  1. to protect the value of the landlord’s property
  2. to reflect the changing value of the property during the term of the lease.

What will normally happen is the landlord will serve a notice on the tenant seeking a significnatloy higher rent. Generally, time is not of the essence in relation to the service of notices by either landlord or tenant.

The tenant should then write back indicating his disagreement and asking what is the basis for the figure sought, and how was it arrived at.

Landlord and tenant will then instruct representatives such as valuers/surveyors/auctioneers to engage with the other side and attempt to agree the new rent.

Reviewing the Rent

The rent review clause will normally provide for the rent to be reviewed by an independent expert if the landlord and tenant cannot agree on the new rent. This independent expert will either act as an arbitrator or expert; in practice, the difference is not hugely significant.

Generally, the appointment of the expert will be the prerogative of the landlord if the landlord and tenant cannot agree on who to appoint.

If the landlord fails to make the nomination the tenant may be able to nominate, or the rent review clause may provide for appointment by the President of a professional body such as the Law Society or the professional bodies for Chartered Surveyors or Auctioneers/Valuers.

If there is a delay in agreeing the rent the tenant will be liable for the back-dated rent, plus interest at a “base rate” provided for in the lease.

The basis for reviewing the rent will almost certainly be to “current market rent” or “market rent”.

Up to the passing of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2009 rent review clauses provided for “upward only” rent changes.

However section 132 outlawed “upward only” rent reviews in leases created after 28th February, 2010.

Therefore, it is possible, albeit unlikely, that the rent can be decreased to reflect market value. This was never the case with leases before the passing of the 2009 Act.

The critical date is 28th February, 2010; leases before this date can have “upward only” rent review clauses. After this date such clauses are of no effect.

Assumptions and Disregards

The basis on which the new rent will be determined will be on the basis of certain assumptions and disregards:

  1. that the premises will be let as a whole
  2. what it would fetch on a free and open market
  3. with vacant possession, that is, as if the premises was being let with full vacant possession as it was at the granting of the lease
  4. for a term of the greater of 15 years or the residue of the lease
  5. on the same terms and conditions as the present lease, including with a rent review clause
  6. that the tenant has fulfilled all his repairing and decorating obligations as provided in the lease, and has fulfilled all covenants in the lease
  7. no work has been carried out on the premises that diminishes its rental value.

Also, the following will be disregarded:

  1. any effect on the rent of the fact that the tenant has been in occupation and disregarding any goodwill he has built up and is attaching to the premises
  2. any effect of improvements or works carried out on the premises by the tenant.

In summary, the lease to be valued at rent review time is a hypothetical lease identical to the existing lease so that the rent will be calculated on the same basis as the existing lease.

Conclusion

Leases can be confusing, technical documents which require careful drafting and interpretation. Mistakes and oversights can be made in drafting them, including in relation to the rent review clause.

If you are facing an eye-watering increase in your rent on foot of a rent review it would probably make sense to have your solicitor take a close look at the lease.

6 Steps to Achieve Extreme Productivity and Overcome the Limitations of Your To Do List

increase productivity

Procrastination.

Inaction.

It happens all of us, at one time or another.

You have so much to do that you don’t know where to start, or what to do next.

Do you use a “to do” list in an effort to organise yourself and ensure some productivity?

A “to do” list is a help, but isn’t enough.

It’s a blunt instrument because it doesn’t take into account two vital factors:

  1. the importance or priority of a specific task on your list, and
  2. the timing or urgency of the task.

I have recently begun to use a method of productivity which reduces stress and procrastination, helps me prioritize the tasks to be executed, and ensures that I am extracting the maximum return from my time.

I will explain exactly how I do it.

Sounds good?

How to Become Seriously Productive

  1. List everything you do

The first thing you need is a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. then, list everything you do in your job or business on a  regular basis. This is a list of all the tasks you need to carry out routinely on a daily or weekly basis.

This list should also all the things you would like to do, if you were not in a regular state of firefighting.

    2. Time frames

Secondly, you need to divide this list into 3 time periods:

  1. career/business aims (5+ years)
  2. objectives (3-24 months)
  3. targets (<1 week); Targets are “action steps”, things you will do routinely on a weekly basis.

Then, check that each of your objectives has one or two associated targets, that is, a step to advance that objective.

If you have an objective that does not have a target you need to think about the next step you can take to advance your objective, and add this to your list of targets.

Next, you need to put aside your career goals and turn your attention on your objectives and targets.

    3.  Rank your objectives

The third step in this process is to rank your objectives in terms of importance. But before you do that you need to think about your objectives being in three categories:

  • what you want to do (supply)
  • what you are good at (supply)
  • what the world needs from you (demand).

Broadly, you should rank your objectives in accordance with the list above, by giving a higher ranking to those things you want to do and are good at-the supply side-but you will need to be mindful of your obligations to your employer or business (the demand side).

You, therefore, need to exercise smart judgment in how high or low you rank your objectives. This is a tough exercise requiring qualitative judgment, but an exercise that is well worth doing if you want to be more productive and stress less about your massive to do list.

Because it will ensure you have great clarity in relation to your objectives and you will be matching your time spent on tasks in proportion to the importance of the objective it advances, rather than reacting to less important things.

Once you have thought about your objectives rank this list in order of importance from 10 to 1, with 10 being the most important one.

These objectives can be reviewed on an annual basis.

      4. Rank your targets

The fourth step is to rank your targets, that is, the action steps you will take on a daily/weekly basis. First, though, you need to recognise that there are two categories of targets:

  1. enabling targets-these advance your objectives
  2. assigned targets-these must be done, for example filing tax returns or putting out the bin.

Then list your enabling targets and rank them in order of importance with 10 being the most important down to 1, the least important.

This ranking will be based on how important the associated objective is and how well the target advances the objective.

Assigned targets are generally low priority, and you should not be expending too much time on them, and delegate where you can.

      5. See how you actually spend your time

The fifth step is to see how you actually spend your time at the moment.

Questions you should be looking at are what are the 3 things you mostly spend your time on and how many hours each week do you spend filling out reports, responding to emails etc.

Now compare the time you spend with your ranked list of targets and objectives.

    6. Allocate your time based on your priorities

The sixth and final step is to allocate your time based on your priorities, and to fix the mismatch identified when you look at the time your are currently spending on tasks.

Essentially you are going to spend your time in proportion to the importance of the task and objective.

The McKinsey consulting firm has found that the vast majority of professionals only spend 50% of their time on the most important priorities. The mismatch between time spent on the most important priority items and other stuff arises because of the failure to allocate time properly after properly identifying objectives and targets.

What they spend a lot of time doing is reacting to crises.

You won’t have that problem, though, if you follow the steps we have discussed above.

To assist with your time allocation you need to make a list of your objectives and tasks in order of priority. This should be a dynamic list, though, which you review every week to allow for new objectives, projects, and tasks.

You may also drop less important tasks or delegate them, if that is possible.

In a nutshell this method of extreme productivity focuses on prioritising your tasks and objectives and allocating the time you spend at work in order of priority of those tasks and objectives.

Remember a task is what you do on a daily or weekly basis, and it should advance an objective. If it does not, then you should consider why you are doing it or get someone else to do it (delegate).

The Art of Marketing Your Services Business Online-Kindle and Paperback

The Art of Marketing Your Services Business Online-ex amazon

Have you a service based business?

Do you want to increase your client base?

Are you confused about what actually works to grow your business on the internet?

Yes, it’s easy to be confused. Because there is lots of conflicting advice.

About blogging, websites, social media marketing, video, audio, YouTube, podcasting, search engine optimisation, guest posting, etc.

Some of this advice is well intentioned, some is plain wrong, and some is simply theory as to what might work.

Throw paid advertising and expensive “consultants” into the mix and it’s easy to just sit tight and do nothing.

I understand your situation, because I was there too, not so long ago.

I am a lawyer and my book “The Art of Marketing Your Services Business Online:How to Get New Clients With a Proven, Inexpensive 5 Part Digital Marketing Strategy” sets out exactly the steps I have taken, and take every day even now, to grow my client base.

And my income and profits.

What’s in this book is the exact strategy I have followed since 2011 to build my law practice by getting new clients through smart, cost-effective online marketing.

So if you want theory or a bird’s eye view of online/digital marketing this book is not for you.

But if your business provides a service, and you want to increase the number of your clients by exploiting the power of the internet, this book will help.

Because it sets out the proven, simple 5 step strategy I use on a daily basis since 2011.

With my strategy you will have a clear action plan to exploit the power of the internet to increase your client numbers.

This clarity will allow you to clear away the fog of confusion surrounding your efforts, and help overcome any procrastination about what you should be doing.

The strategy I set out in this book can work for you too, provided you take action and follow the steps, and adapt it for your particular business.

It’s not a silver bullet. There are none, I’m afraid.

It is a cost effective strategy that will, as sure as day follows night, drive new clients to your business.

It doesn’t require a huge investment of capital.

All it requires is consistent work by you on the 5 pillars of the strategy.

They are easy to follow, provided you are committed to serving your market, and want to grow your business by tapping into the power of the internet.

This strategy has worked for me, and allowed me to build a successful law practice with practically no money investment.

No advertising.

No virtual assistants.

No unethical practices.

Take the steps in this strategy and you will truly serve your market.

And grow your business by steadily acquiring new clients who will see you as trusted authority, a “go to person” in your industry.

Are you ready to grow your business online?

Order on Amazon now.

Also available in paperback-click here.

Paperback

The Simple Truth About Blogging to Grow Your Business Online

blogging-for-business

Let me guess..

You’re completely confused.

Flummoxed.

You’ve read the hype about online marketing, especially social media marketing.

Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube.

The whole world and his mother has heard about “having a conversation with a brand”.

You’re probably frustrated too.

Because it seems you can’t get any traction.

Social media is noisy, and your voice is drowned out and ignored.

Does it ever feel that you have walked into a big rowdy party, stone cold sober, and know nobody?

Imagine having a plan to grow your business online, a systematic plan that you know works. With simple, easy to do steps, which only requires some smart focus and consistent effort.

By the time you get to the end of this piece, that’s exactly what you’ll have.

The problem with relying solely on social media marketing

The big problem with social media marketing is the sheer volume of noise. Just take a look at your Twitter stream and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s practically impossible to get noticed.

And there’s another big problem.

Social media properties are not your properties-you’re a cybersquatter.

Staking a claim on somebody else’s property. If you’re Irish, you will know all about being a tenant.

And you are completely at the mercy of the whims of Facebook, Twitter, and the other powerhouses of social media who, understandably, have to satisfy their shareholders on Wall Street.

What happens is that the rules change, completely out of the blue most times, and there’s not a single thing you can do about it.

Just take a look at Facebook now and you’ll see that since they changed the rules about who sees what you share in January, 2015 about 10% of your fans see your stuff.

If you want the other 90% to see, you have to pay.

Imagine spending all that time building up fans on Facebook, year after year, and now you can only reach between 10-15% of them, unless you break out the credit card.

Twitter is heading the same way, and if you think about it, it makes sense. These platforms are not charities, and they have to make a profit.

Why blogging works

Blogging works because to grow your business online, you need to become an authority in your field. A blog with good content allows you to demonstrate that authority.

To sell online, you also need to build a “know, like, and trust factor” with your potential clients/customers.

And to do that you need to start a conversation with them.

Makes sense, right?

A blog is a great conversation starter and allows you to develop a relationship with your readers.

And this relationship can be further developed through email marketing.

Building your list, a list of subscribers to your blog, is probably the best reason of all for starting and running your own web property.

Your blog, of course, can, and should, be your own property too-you decide on the content you create and you make the rules.

No more worrying about Facebook changing the rules again.

What you can learn from the world’s leading social media gurus about blogging

The leading social media experts in the world-Chris Brogan, Mari Smith, Michael Hyatt, Michael Stelzner, Ann Handley, Peg Fitzpatrick, Jay Baer, Laura Fitton- are all agreed on one thing.

The best asset you can build online is an email list-a list of subscribers.

And the best way to build this list is on your own blog.

So, these social media “gurus” have, as their primary goal, getting you onto their email list.

Ignore the irony here for a minute.

They know this gives them the opportunity to build a real relationship with you, and not have to worry about trying to communicate with you in a noisy environment like a Twitter stream of Facebook feed.

This is the power of email marketing-your subscriber has opted in to receiving your messages into their email inbox. Then you don’t have to compete with all the other distractions in people’s Twitter or Facebook feeds.

How to get started

You can actually start a blog for free. WordPress.com, Typepad.com, and Blogger.com all offer free blogging platforms.

But they are probably not the best option for you, because you may still have the problem of building your web property on someone else’s platform.

The sharecropper syndrome.

The best option is to get your own hosting account and set up your own blog on this account. LetsHost.ie is who I use and can recommend them highly. A hosting plan starts at 7.95 euros per months so there is no excuse for not taking and maintaining control of your own web property-your blog.

What to write about

What questions are your potential clients asking? How can you serve your market? How can you provide value and demonstrate your expertise and authority?

What frequently asked questions arise repeatedly in your market?

What can you or your business do to make life easier for your potential clients?

What have you done in the past for your clients?

Have you case studies you can share?

What new developments have occurred in your market in the last 12 months? What’s expected to occur in the future?

There are 3 types of posts which people love and which are incredibly, consistently popular:

  • short list type posts
  • long list type posts
  • how to type posts.

So, let’s assume you are an accountant or tax advisor. You could write

  • 3 Costly Mistakes All Small Businesses Make in their Tax Returns
  • 21 Critical Considerations When Choosing an Accountant
  • How to Register a New Employee With the Revenue Commissioners

The art of blogging

I’ve written before about how blogging has been a monumental part of my growing my solicitor’s practice.

Quite frankly, it couldn’t have happened without blogging. And, funnily enough, it all started by accident.

I actually only started my first blog to have an easy to reference place to store my Law Society lecture notes, and as a study aid.

But the traffic that naturally began to come to the blog soon startled me awake to the potential if I really dug into it, studied what other leading bloggers were doing, and leveraged it.

You can too.

It’s not too late.

Not by a long shot.

Arguably, as social media channels become busier, more crowded, and noisy as a Moroccan street market, there is an even stronger argument for using blogging at the centre of your online activity.

So, what’s holding you back?

Write your first blog.

And most of all? Have fun.

 

I’d love to hear why you haven’t started, or if you have, what problems you’re having.

The Biggest Obstacle to Selling Anything Online

selling-online-trust

The biggest obstacle to selling your goods or services online is not price, not technology, not lack of traffic, not paucity of Facebook fans or Twitter followers.

There is one fundamental element necessary to persuade your visitors, followers, fans, random surfers to reach for their credit card and buy what you are selling.

And that one element is trust..or lack of it.

Trust can be defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

On the internet especially this vital element is the one big barrier between your business and a sale or new client/customer or even a new subscriber to your website content.

Overcoming a lack of trust

Trust online, just like in the real world, must be earned. In the context of marketing your business online gaining your visitors trust must be one of your principle goals for your website.

Gaining your visitors trust firstly involves demonstrating your expertise or authority in your marketplace.

This is not a short term thing though-it involves a commitment to providing great value content on a consistent basis for your website visitors-publishing really useful information or tips addressing the very real problems that your visitors are seeking to solve or ameliorate.

It involves building a relationship with your visitors through various incredibly effective and ethical means. The two most important and effective methods of building trust and demonstrating authority are:-

1. Publishing great content consistently on your site
2. Email marketing-building and maintaining a relationship with your subscribers by firstly giving them something of value for free for becoming subscribers and just when you think you have done enough..give even more value.

You will know that you have succeeded when someone emails or calls you and asks you this question:

“what would you recommend?”

Aside: a number of years ago in the United States a tv company carried out an experiment outside a small town bank. They, with the consent of the bank, put a sign in the window saying “Bank closed for training- please give your deposits to the security guard”.

Outside the bank the security guard, resplendent in a new security guard’s uniform, accepted deposits for the duration of the experiment. This “security guard” was an employee of the tv company..

Over 90% of bank customers willingly gave their hard earned cash to the security guard. When asked afterwards why they, to a man and woman, pointed to the uniform and the sign.

“He looked official”.

This experiment demonstrates the power of trust and being the authority and is why police, army, judges, barristers and so many other figures of authority wear a uniform of sorts.

Fortunately you don’t/can’t wear a uniform online..

..but you can become the authority and overcome the single biggest impediment to sales online-trust.

The Zen of Blogging for Business

business-blogging

Do you have a blog for your business?

Have you wondered about the most effective way of generating new clients?

Are you confused about the best platform for you and your business?

Nowadays there are many different places you could build a platform online, especially on a social media site. But, almost certainly, the best way-by a country mile- is by blogging.

That’s been my experience. Let me explain…

Digital sharecropping

Building your platform on someone else’s website-be it Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest-carries enormous risks-risks of these big companies changing their rules, their terms and conditions, and wiping out your hard work spent building an audience.

Starting a blog on your own self-hosted web hosting account is your insurance against this. All your hard work benefits you.

A blog allows you to position you and your business as an authority in your area of expertise.

Ultimately it will allow you to build a relationship with your readers, one which will ensure that they come to know, like, and trust you.

The biggest barrier to selling anything online is trust, or the absence of it. And the reality is that almost nobody will buy from you or your business the first time they encounter you online.

No, that will take multiple interactions over a period of time which allows you to demonstrate your authority and build the necessary trust.

That’s why blogging, combined with email marketing, is a lethally effective online marketing strategy.

 Content marketing

Don’t confuse “blogging”, though, with the early days of blogging when bloggers tended to use the “web blog” as a personal journal. Many people continue to do this and this personal blogging is not unlike keeping a diary, except it’s online.

Business blogging is slightly different and could also be described as “content marketing”.

This involves publishing good quality, informative, unique content on your blog which educates, informs, and helps your target market. The goal, and outcome if done correctly, is that you will position yourself as an authority and thought leader in your particular industry.

The cumulative effect over time is that people will come to know, like, and trust you-and most importantly recognise that you are actually an authority in your field of endeavour.

Content marketing is not restricted to writing text on a blog; you could also produce great, helpful, unique content with video, audio, powerpoint, interviewing leaders in your industry, podcasting, etc.

 Conversation starter

So, if you accept that your visitor will not buy from you on their first encounter with you what should be your strategy for your blog?

Your blog is a conversation starter. You provide a unique voice, one which resonates with your potential new clients, and which demonstrates that you know your stuff and are a worthy mentor to help them solve their problem.

Your client then becomes the hero of their own story, with you acting as trusted mentor.

Starting your blog-2 routes

Once you decide to start a blog you are faced with where to locate your blog:

  1. On your own hosting account or
  2. On one of the big blogging platforms such as Typepad.com, Wordprss.com, Blogger.com, Tumblr.com.

Hosting your blog on your own hosting account is almost certainly the best route to go, but these other blogging platforms offer some great benefits too. These include the simplicity of setting up your blog and the security you will enjoy against viruses, bugs, malware, and so on, thanks to the resources of the owners of these blogging platforms.

The blogging platform is not critical

The blogging platform you choose is not critical.

You can use any of the options referred to above.

What is vitally important is that your “blogs” or “posts” are ultra useful for your target market.

That you are genuinely helpful, informative, and sometimes even inspirational. And that you write in a way that is easily understood by the greatest number of people who might become a client of yours.

You don’t need to show how clever you are, or how deep your vocabulary is. You need to show you care and can help, and you have genuine expertise.

Showing passion and commitment can work spectacularly well too.

So, why not start now? Start simply by mapping out the most pressing questions and problems your target market face on a daily basis.

Continue by thinking about the external and internal pressures they face, and picturing in your mind your typical client.

Write for him or her.

You’ve got to get started first, though.

Get blogging, be consistent, and you will find that your blog will become one of the best, if not the best, marketing tools in your business.

2 Powerful Marketing Lessons from a Farm Safety Campaign by the Health and Safety Authority

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“Because McGeadys’ farm became the bank’s farm.”

There are not too many farmers around Ireland who could ignore a radio ad which explains how a family farm became the bank’s farm.

The beginning of this latest ad from the HSA begins:

“The story of how a family’s name got wiped off the map. Because McGeady’s farm became the bank’s farm.”

I’ve written recently about the power of story and how to persuade with story. I’ve also written about what you can learn from William Shakespeare to tell your story, and the formula he used.

We know that the human brain is hard wired for story. Our love of story and gossip and news goes back thousands of years and the neuroscience confirms the scientific basis for the power of story.

We know too that we are far more likely to remember a story-by a factor of 5 or more-than data and facts alone.

And we know that the starting point for any good story is conflict-have you watched Eastenders or Fair City lately?

Well, the conflict at the beginning of this HSA ad is guaranteed to get attention; because it talks about the loss of a family farm-McGeadys’-to the bank.

That’s enough conflict for any farmer to pay attention.

And in telling the story of how this happened it uses another powerful tool-it explains why. Just listen to the use of the word “because”.

It tells how

“the farm became the bank’s farm because the books wouldn’t balance because the cows weren’t fed because the silage wasn’t made because the farmer was paralysed because the handbrake failed.”

This is a simple, easy to understand, easy to remember, stunningly powerful story.

2 critical lessons

Can you tell a story, like this one, which includes

  1. conflict
  2. the reason why.

Can you tell such a story about your business or product?

Can you describe the conflict or obstacles you had to overcome to get where you are today?

Can you explain how you failed miserably? And what you’ve learned? And why you’re better now as a result?

Can what you’ve learned be put at the disposal of your client?

Can you explain why-the “because”- people should use you or your product/service? Passion mightn’t be enough, you know.

Can you tell a story like the HSA did about McGeadys’ farm?

Will your story make people more likely to use you or your service/product?

Once upon a time…

What You Can Learn From William Shakespeare to Grow Your Business

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William Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest playwright in the English language, can help you grow your business.

What the fluff? Have you lost your marbles, I hear you ask?

Let me explain.

Have you ever heard of Freytag’s pyramid?

No? I don’t blame you.

I didn’t either, until I began researching the power of story in persuading people.

Story can go where data and facts alone are unable to travel: the human heart. Freytag’s pyramid sets out the structure of a dramatic work such as a play or film.

Freytag studied Shakespeare’s plays and ancient Greek drama and discovered that there were 5 steps or acts in a powerful drama:

  • Exposition/inciting incident
  • Rising action/complications
  • Climax/turning point
  • Falling action/reversal, with the protagonist/hero defeating the antagonist
  • Resolution/ending/happy ever after.

These, too, are the elements of a great story-one which will move the listener to action.

freytags-pyramid

Superbowl 2014

The most popular ad at Superbowl 2014 was an Anheuser-Busch ad for Budweiser. It lasted 60 seconds and cost in excess of $4,000,000.

It told a story about a pup and a Clydesdale horse that people loved, and has been watched over 58 million times on YouTube.

(Unfortunately, they have made the ad “private” and it is no longer accessible on YouTube)

The success of the ad came as no surprise, though, to researchers at John Hopkins University in the United States who, after a 2 year analysis of 108 Superbowl commercials, predicted the success of the “Puppy Love” commercial.

One of the researchers, Keith Queensbury, knew this ad would be huge because:

“People are attracted to stories, because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.”

Queensbury also found that ads that told a complete story using Freytag’s Pyramid were far more likely to succeed, and be popular.

Neurological science

There are good neurological reasons why stories work to move people. During tense moments in a story, our brains produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which allows us to concentrate.

A happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system to release dopamine, making us feel hopeful and optimistic.

It’s easier to persuade someone who is hopeful and optimistic rather than pessimistic and devoid of hope.

In short, storytelling induces trust in the listener.

Storytelling is old-fashioned because it has been with us since the first man/woman walked the earth.

But it works. It works to move people to action, to persuade.

Aristotle knew this. Shakespeare knew this.

Moving people to action, persuading is what you are trying to do in your business, isn’t it?