The Art of Storytelling in Business-How to Persuade with Story

business-storytelling

Once upon a time.

Does that phrase ring a bell with you?

What do you expect now?

A story?

You loved that phrase when you were a child, didn’t you? Your mother or father was going to tell you a story.

We all love stories, and share them in our lives every day.

Some might just be gossip, some might be a juicy tale from work, some may be dramatised and acted out on our tv screens-Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Fair City-, some may be shown online or on big screens in the cinema, some may be consumed on Netflix.

But the human brain seems hardwired, from time immemorial, for story.

Neuroscience tells us that the human brain is not hardwired to retain facts or data, but is easily able to retain stories.

Religions have been built on stories and parables. Early man communicated with story through cave drawings.

What are the elements of a good story?

What role, if any, has story in your business?

Robert McKee is one of the foremost experts in story in the world. He is a Fulbright scholar and one of the most sought after screenwriting lecturers on the world.

He was interviewed on RTE radio’s “The Business Programme” on a Saturday morning recently.

What struck me about what he had to say about the role of story from a business’s perspective was as follows: it is virtually impossible nowadays for one business to differentiate itself from another.

One solicitor/accountant/management consultant/dentist/manufacturer of widgets can be pretty much like another, because of the ease nowadays with which one business can copy another and provide the same goods and services as the competitor. For example, if your business is in manufacturing there is nothing that cannot be outsourced to China or other low cost manufacturing countries.

These products and services are easily duplicable.

So, how do you differentiate yourself?

With story.

No two people or businesses have the same story. Each person’s and business’s story is unique.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, has banned the use of Powerpoint presentations for meetings by Amazon executives instead insisting that executives come to meetings with a 6 page story, in order to make meaning out of life and their business.

McKee’s use of story in business is based on replacing the use of rhetoric-the use of data and Powerpoints alone and inductive logic-with story in order to persuade and move people to action. The use of rhetoric is like the use of science to build an argument with one important exception: science will include all data whereas rhetoric will leave out the evidence which is negative in terms of supporting the argument.

Story is a different type of logic-the logic of cause and effect- because it allows, unlike the use of data alone, the use of all the forces of life-social, physical, inter-personal relationships, family, friends- to explain why things are the way they are, and to make sense out of life. It does this by allowing the reader to step back and look at the inter-related forces which shape events in life and influence the future.

Story doesn’t exclude data though; it includes data within the story to explain how and why what is, is.

And it is the telling of story with the consumer or client as star/hero-at the centre of the story- which allows you use story to market your business and have the consumer choose you because you are different.

And because you/your business/your brand, as mentor, allow your client/customer become the hero of the story.

Story as a tool of persuasion

McKee tells us that there are 3 ways of persuading:

  1. Rhetoric-use data, PowerPoint, facts leading to a deductive conclusion: “therefore”. But you will have left out everything negative, and the audience know you are distorting the truth and being selective with your data
  2. Coercion-use seduction, abuse, bullying. But coercion is short term and won’t work in the long term because once you turn your back the old behaviour will resurface
  3. Story-take all the facts from rhetoric and all the emotions from coercion and tell a story which stars you/your business as an underdog, admitting to the negative, to setbacks, and ultimately succeeding-the hero’s journey.

There has to be negative, though, in any credible story. And the mistake many businesses make is in telling only the positive, and ignoring setbacks, hurdles, and failures which had to be overcome.

4 elements of a good story

McKee says there are 4 critical parts to a good story:

  1. Trouble and strife

The starting point of all stories is a moment of disruption. A negative event throws the protagonist’s life out of balance, hooking the audience’s curiosity: How will this turn out?

How will he restore the equilibrium? Will he be able to restore things? Will he be changed as a result?

  1. Where’s the underdog?

For a story to engage the feeling side of its audience, it must draw them into empathy or identification with a protagonist who, like the audience, is up against very powerful forces of antagonism.

  1. Don’t star yourself

The line between autobiography and bragging is thin. Therefore, at those times in business when you must talk about your life, try to tell your story from someone else’s point of view.

If you were to talk about your university years, for example, tell the story of how an inspirational professor opened your eyes to a profound truth. Make the professor a star and you a lucky bystander.

  1. What do you want the reader/listener to do?

Start with the action you want your listener to take.

Then ask yourself: “What kind of story would trigger that action in that particular person?”

From there you follow your imagination and the arc of the story back to the beginning: “What event would throw my protagonist’s life out of balance and launch a series of actions aimed at that trigger action?”

With those two posts in the ground, you build a bridge of story to suspend between them.

Here’s a link to Robert McKee’s article on story on LinkedIn, which is strongly recommended.

In summary, a story will have the following 5 stages:

  1. An inciting incident for the protagonist-can be by accident or design-which must hook audience /readership; the Quest then is for the protagonist/hero to restore balance involving objects of desire
  2. Progressive complications
  3. crisis
  4. climax
  5. resolution

Another way of looking at the stages of a good story is provided by Conor Neill, an Irish guy teaching about persuasion and communication at IESE business school in Barcelona (http://www.conorneill.com) This blog is well worth checking out.

  1. Begin stating the moment in time
  2. Introduce the situation and key characters
  3. Something out of the ordinary occurs
  4. Allow the tension to build – pause, add detail to the complication
  5. Resolve the complication

4 elements which must be clear

  1. What’s the goal of the story?
  2. Grab attention with a hook
  3. Engage-what makes the story compelling? Is there a protagonist with conflict?
  4. How is story enabling action?

Greg Power, a Canadian expert in communications for 30 years gave a TEDx talk about the power of story. (Check it out here).

3 attributes of great stories:

  1. Irresistible-make it dramatic and remember, drama is about conflict
  2. Believable-cultural relevance-how do they see the world? What are their beliefs/motivations?
  3. Unforgettable-feelings drive decisions; unconscious mind driven by emotions; emotions are oragnised as story narratives

Emotional narratives rule and are easily recalled, unlike facts and data.

What’s your story?

Have you a compelling story that people will relate to?

Have you failed? That’s a good start for a compelling story that people can easily relate to.

So, what’s keeping you?


6 Common Reasons Why Many Small Business Blogs and Websites Fail to Deliver Results

business-blog-mistakes

Is your business blog or website failing to deliver any concrete results?

Do you struggle to attract visitors and traffic?

Are your conversion rates poor?

There are a multitude of reasons why many websites and blogs of small businesses fail to deliver any effective results.

Here are 6 common ones that I encounter regularly:

1.     Poor or inadequate content

There are two aspects to this cause of poor blog performance-one is insufficient content or information on the site. You simply cannot rank well for search phrases or topics that do not appear in your website’s content.

And if you don’t rank well you won’t attract visitors because searchers generally only visit the results on the 1st page of Google; they are very unlikely to go deeper into the results and are more likely to carry out another search rather than visit page 2 or 3.

So you need to rank well for a wide variety of search phrases that your ideal reader is using to find information and a solution for her problem.

The second element is a failure to optimise what content is there for the search engines to ensure the best chance of ranking well.

This is called “on page search engine optimisation” and is a fancy way of describing some basic rules for presenting your content well for the search engines to help your blogs rank well in search engine results.

 2. Poor or nonexistent call to action

Lots of sites make it hard for visitors to make contact or make an enquiry-the contact details are only available on one page and you have to search around to find them.

Make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contract you, and give them a range of options such as phone, email, contact form, Skype, Google Hangouts, or walk into your office.

Some people are happier emailing for more information, some like to pick up the telephone, some may even want to text you to make initial contact; regardless, you need to make it incredibly easy for your visitors to contact you in whatever form they like and respond promptly to their query.

3. Failure to promote your site effectively

Unfortunately the notion of “build it and they will come” will not work-you do need to promote your content and your site.

And promoting it does not amount to asking people to “check out my latest blog”-you need a little more imagination than that. You also need a systematic approach to using social media to get your message and content out there.

Which platforms are best for your business will depend very much on your ideal reader and client-for example, professional service providers such as accountants, consultants, and solicitors may find an interested audience on LinkedIn while a hair and beauty therapist may find a more receptive audience on Facebook or Twitter.

You need to give people a reason to read what you have written and answer the question of “what’s in it for me”, which the reader is asking.

There are far too many competing distractions on the internet for a boring, bland request to “check out my latest blog” to have any real effectiveness.

4. Cluttered and busy site design

Many sites are simply too crowded and cluttered to ensure effective outcomes from visitors-you should have one or two preferred actions that you want your website traffic to take.

And you then need to make it incredibly simple and glaringly obvious to the visitor as to what they need to do next.

Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

5. Content-failing to cater for what people are actually searching for

Yes, back to content again-because website content is the single biggest problem for most small business blogs and websites.

This aspect of the problem is the failure to target the specific words and phrases that people in your market are actually searching for, and failing to understand what motivates your ideal reader, what worries her at night, what common problems he faces on a daily/weekly basis.

This failure is a serious one because if you do not know what worries your ideal reader and what motivates her, you are unlikely to provide content that interests and inspires her; and your visitors are unlikely to view you as the person who can help them.

If you are not addressing your readers’ worries and concerns, if you cannot demonstrate that you are a person they can trust and who knows their stuff, and if you cannot persuade them you are a person or business they can feel comfortable working with,  you can be sure that your competitors are working hard on this.

Catering for your ideal reader is something that I have written about before: How to Generate an Endless Supply of Business Blogs that Will Grow Your Client List and Your Readers Will Love and addresses the critical importance of writing to help your reader.

6. Font size too small

Many websites use a font size that is too small and virtually unreadable for older readers. They forget that when you use a 12 point font in a letter the recipient can hold it up as close to their eyes as they wish; they can’t do this with a computer screen.

Here’s an example of an excellent piece of content with a pathetically small font. Compare the size of the font on that page with this page or this one or this one.

Most people, when faced with such a tiny font size, will simply click away back to the search results. (I myself actually copy and paste it into a Word document and set the font size to 16 or higher, but most people won’t do this).

The good news?

The good news is that all of these mistakes are easily avoidable and can be prevented with

  1. Simple, uncluttered design
  2. Content that speaks to your ideal reader
  3. Smart, cost effective promotion of your blog content on the social media channels that are right for your business.

How to Generate an Endless Supply of Business Blogs that Will Grow Your Client List and Your Readers Will Love

blogging-for-business

It happens the best of us, you know.

You’ve no idea what to write about on your blog.

You’ve completely run out of ideas for your blog posts.

Has your well of inspiration run completely dry?

This has happened the very best of writers too, from time to time.

It’s happened me too but what worked for me will almost certainly work for you too; the good news is that by the end of this post you will never run out of ideas again.

Business blogging

The starting point for your blogging with the purpose of generating new business and growing your client base should be your ideal reader. She, after all, should be your sole concern when you are blogging because ultimately you blog to help her and be seen as a genuine, trusted authority.

The best way to do this is by becoming a mentor for her.

Your business blog is not a journal or diary. Your reader doesn’t really care about you or your business-she has enough worries of her own.

Therefore, new members or staff or company news or takeovers you are planning are not what you should blog about.

Start with your ideal reader, who will, hopefully, become your ideal client.

What keeps him awake at night?

What are her worries and concerns?

What mistakes is he making that you can help him with?

What questions has she?

What internal pressures has he?

What external pressures and circumstances can you help him alleviate or eradicate entirely?

What really bothers him?

What you need to do is to educate, teach, and inspire your reader.

Once you become a trusted mentor selling is easy, and natural.

Types of blog posts

There are two types of blog posts that will provide you with an endless stream of content; it’s arguable that you could rely completely on these two types for your entire blogging career.

And in doing so, provided your content was good, you would not be short changing your reader in the least.

1.      “How to” type posts

How to posts are simply helpful posts which tell your ideal reader how to solve a particular problem. These types of posts never go out of fashion-they are evergreen.

Let’s face it: if you have a problem that really bothers you and is, perhaps, costing you money or preventing you from reaching your goal, and some blogger shows you clearly and concisely how to solve that problem, you are going to be delighted.

You are going to look more closely at what that blogger is offering and you will be more than willing to sign up for his free offering to get on his email subscriber list.

2.      “List” type posts

List type posts are immensely popular the world over. People like lists as they seem to promise a discrete, efficient way of communicating important information about a particular topic.

Here are 3 examples from this blog:

Analogies, similes, and metaphors

Analogies, similes, and metaphors allow you to approach a subject matter which you may have covered extensively in the past in a new, fresh way. It can be fun for you and your reader.

A simile is a figure of speech which compares two things using words such as like and as e.g. blogging can generate new business for you as fast as lightning or a good business blog is like a good salesperson for your business.

Metaphors are similar but don’t use the words which compare two things; a metaphor actually states that one thing is another, unrelated thing e.g. All the world’s a stage (As You Like It, W. Shakespeare).

An analogy is a comparison made to show a similarity e.g. Life’s like a box of chocolates. (Note that this analogy is also a simile, which is a common occurrence).

Examples, case studies, and images

Case studies, images, and examples of other people, similar to your ideal reader, finding solutions to their problems implementing the types of solutions you offer also give concrete evidence to support what you blog about and teach.

What now?

Start with your ideal reader, study closely what problems they face, offer them solutions and examples of your solution in action, and demonstrate why you are a natural choice as mentor and trusted advisor.

Don’t talk down to them, share your story-warts, failures and all-be authentic, and watch your readership and client list grow.


How a Little Employment Law Blog Attracts Over 2,000 Visitors Per Day (and What You Can Learn For Your Business)

 

jan-nov-2015
Jan-Nov, 2015 traffic stats

If you were providing a service, and your blog or website was generating 2,000 visitors per day, could you generate many new clients for your business, do you think?

18 visitors.

On the 1st of April, 2013 I started a little website focusing on a particular area of law in Ireland-employment.

It attracted 18 visitors on the first day.

Within approximately 10 months it was generating 800 visitors per day.

In September, 2014, it comfortably exceeded 1,000 visitors per day.

In May, 2015, it was attracting over 1,500 visitors per day during the week.

And in November, 2015 it was generating 2,000 visitors per day most week days (weekends always see a drop in numbers).

You will see from the screen shot that the number of unique visitors has grown in 2015 from 15,580 in January, to 32,629 in November.

All of this traffic is ‘organic’-that is, people searching for solutions to problems/information ‘on the internet’ and being sent to this website as a result of its search engine position in the Google results pages.

I started the site at the beginning of February, 2013. Just a simple no bells and whistles site on the free WordPress publishing platform which is provided with any hosting account.

Up to November, 2015 not one visitor had been sent to the site by any form of advertising. Around October/November, 2015 I began to dabble a little bit with Facebook advertising because an English marketing consultant-Ian Brodie– who I rate very highly, wrote about the great results he had seen with Facebook advertising.

So, I did a little bit of that for a few weeks in November and December with the object being to get people to sign up for my free report, 16 Common Employment Law Mistakes Most Irish Employers Make.

How Can You Use This for Your Business?

How has this been possible?

The key is very simple: good, useful, informative content published regularly on the site has led to the growth.

The proof of this is another vital statistic that you should always pay most, if not all, of your attention to: the ‘search keyphrases’ figures.(See screenshots). These are the actual phrases that people typed into the search box of their browser to find some information about their problem. It may have been unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, disciplinary procedures, how to reduce wages, holiday pay etc.

Let me explain.

Keyphrases Used on Search Engines by Visitors

The source of all of this traffic is the search engines, particularly Google.

Most people focus on the ‘top 10’ search keyphrases that has brought visitors to their site. These are the phrases typed in by surfers when they are looking for information or to learn more about their problem.

The ‘Awstats’ program, which is very common and is most likely installed on your hosting account, lists the top 10 phrases used by people to find the site.

But in addition to this it also shows and lists all of the different keyphrases used by visitors who landed on the site.

Two things can be gleaned from this:

  1. It is the wide range of keyphrases/words that accounts for the traffic and not the limited strategy of trying to rank your website for only a handful of target phrases;
  2. The regular publishing of comprehensive, authoritative, useful content will be rewarded by the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing in delivering traffic to your site.

The reason that this site ranks so well in the search engines and consequently is attracting growing numbers of visitors is, simply, the site’s content.

It is informative and authoritative, not shallow. Most or all of the blogs/posts/pages on the site are fairly comprehensive treatments of the subject matter.

This ensures that each piece of content is replete with synonyms, related phrases, industry jargon, bits of legislation, and so forth.

And Google recognises all of this stuff as a good signal that the posts/blogs are not ‘thin’ or shallow with a view to just gaming the search results.

Instead, they are genuine attempts to provide quality, authoritative, accurate information in this area of law which affects so many people, employers and employees alike.

In addition to the search engines finding this content and ranking it and delivering traffic, this type of content is shared around by people with friends, colleagues, etc.

And it gets linked to and referred to from discussion forums and some social media sites where people might be discussing one of the topics covered on the site.

This shows the value of having a lot of information/content/blogs on your website.

The Simple Strategy Anyone Can Implement

What is involved here is simple:

  • Find out what people in a particular market are looking for (Google will tell you with their free keywords tool)
  • Give it to them (provide the information that they are looking for and answer their queries and concerns)

For your business, think about the topics that your website or blog should cover as a priority. What are the huge concerns or worries of your target market?

Then think about a comprehensive “list” post you could publish on your site, eg “21 Surprising Facts About Your Lawn”, and commit to publishing interesting, authoritative content on a regular basis.

You will soon become a trusted authority in your industry and see similar organic growth in your web traffic numbers as I have.

If you want to take a look at the site: http://EmploymentRightsIreland.com

And remember: even though there are 92 posts on this blog/website now, it started in April, 2013 with 1.

Because the longest journey begins with a single step.

Click on the images to enlarge.

traffic-jan-april-2013

september-2014

jan-nov-2015

Update 2018

The daily traffic to this site is now 4,500 per day in April, 2018.

7 Tasty Tips for Easy, Effective LinkedIn Marketing (and ‘A Man Walks Into a Bar’)

linkedin marketing

Hogwash.

The internet is full of junk-especially about social media marketing.

Theory being peddled as fact.

What’s the story with LinkedIn?

Should you spend time on it?

Or is it just Facebook for professionals (or fake,  wanna be professionals), with an expensive Premium version and eye wateringly expensive advertising rates?

By the end of this piece, I guarantee you will be clear on whether you should be using LinkedIn, and if so, how to use it most effectively.

And I promise not to give you rehashed guff that you can read elsewhere on the internet, but what I know actually works-because it works, and has worked, for me.

Is LinkedIn for you?

Firstly, is LinkedIn for you?

This really depends on your business-you need to think where your best prospects for your business are likely to hang out, and whether using LinkedIn is going to help you meet them in economically justifiable numbers.

If, for example, you have a coffee shop, convenience store, hairdressers, barber shop, hardware store, retail business, or other business that requires the customer to be physically present, its unlikely LinkedIn will be of any benefit to generate new business for you. That’s not to say that it may not be of huge benefit in creating new contacts in your industry, or new suppliers for example.

But it’s unlikely to be of any benefit if your business is highly reliant on  selling cheap petrol/diesel, or the best sandwich or doughnut in your neighbourhood.

You need to think carefully about this and the reality is that nobody knows your business better than you. Ten minutes clear, distraction free thinking about it will quickly help you decide whether there is anything to be gained there or not..

Even if it’s unlikely to be of any benefit to you to generate new clients or customers, there are two other aspects that may be of interest:

  1. Creating new contacts in your industry
  2. Making contact with potential new hires who may well add to your bottom line.

By contrast, if you are a professional services provider, you are likely to find LinkedIn to be fertile ground worth ploughing-especially if your professional service is aimed towards small and medium type businesses.

So, if you are an accountant, tax advisor, or lawyer you should find LinkedIn very useful, provided you use it properly. But only if you know and understand how to exploit it to it’s full potential.

Let’s take a look how to do that.

How to use LinkedIn for business

There are some basic, but essential, steps you will need to take care of first.

1)   Fill out your profile-fully

This is critical and will be your shop window in marketing yourself and/or your business or service. You need to strike a balance between you and your profile, and what you can do for the reader of that profile. Who do you help? How do you help them? Why should people use you, as opposed to other accountants, for example? What are your specialities? Have you an interesting back story?

Stories sell, you know, and the only thing separating you from many of your competitors will be your story-assuming that you don’t want to separate yourself on the basis of price, which is not the most successful route you can choose to grow your market share.

2)   Your profile headline

Your profile headline is vitally important and will also have a huge impact in how you are found on LinkedIn when somebody uses the “people” search box.

Your profile headline should include keywords or phrases that you would like to be found for such as ‘seo expert’, ‘intellectual property lawyer’, ‘taxation specialist’ or whatever.

And your headline-just like your entire profile- also needs to immediately convey the benefit that you can provide to the visitor, if they choose to do business with you.

3)   Profile summary

Your profile summary is a great opportunity to describe more fully what you do, who you can help, what your expertise is, and any other vital information you want to convey.

Make sure also that your profile summary includes your target keyphrases sprinkled through it as you will have a good chance of coming up in the internal LinkedIn search engine or other search engines for your target keywords or phrases.

(Google loves LinkedIn and on many occasions if you do a Google search for a person it is their LinkedIn profile that will appear at the top of the search engine results-so make sure it is a good, complete profile that does you and your business justice).

4)   Your website/blog links

Your profile also gives you the opportunity to link back to your web properties.

However, simply putting in your website url address in the “my website” box is a wasted opportunity-be sure to edit the “my website” option to include your company name and/or a keyphrase relevant to your business.

This is easily done by a simple edit but so many people have non descriptive and poorly search engine optimized titles beside their website address such as “my website” or “company website”.

You can also use one of these link opportunities to insert a call to action. For example, if you are doing a special offer on your website or giving something away for free, edit one of the website boxes to create a call to action such as “get your free report”, or whatever it is you are offering, to build your email list.

You are building an email list, aren’t you?

To maximize LinkedIn to its fullest, it is essential that you create a great profile and let people know about your expertise, how you help people and who you help.

Assuming you have fully completed your profile you then need to get connected.

5)      Get connected

Building connections is critical-it is social networking, after all.

To do this, use LinkedIn’s built in feature which allows you to import your contacts.

You can easily import all your email contacts from your Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other accounts (by importing a spreadsheet of your contacts). Then you need to systematically go through your list of contacts and see who you would want to connect with on LinkedIn by sending them a personalized message.

Do take the time to go through your list because you will have many contacts in your email accounts who you may not wish or need to contact with on LinkedIn-strictly social contacts or family, for example.

6)      Seek recommendations

Social proof in the form of recommendations from clients, work colleagues, employers, companies or individuals who you have done business with in the past is a powerful method of demonstrating your expertise.

The best way to get recommendations is to actually give them first but don’t abuse this-don’t give a recommendation for someone to simply receive one if you cannot truly recommend the other person. A profile with a good number of recommendations from real people is a vitally important tool of persuasion and influence.

7)      Join groups

This step is critical. Join groups in your industry or area of interest or both. Contribute to discussions and offer genuinely good, thoughtful responses and you will be amazed at how many requests you receive to connect with people.

When you contribute something useful, beneficial, wise, or witty, many members of the group will indulge their basic human nature-and check out your profile. Sometimes this is called ‘rubbernecking’. Regardless, you can use it to your advantage.

This is why the steps above about creating a comprehensive profile with an eye on your visitor will pay off in spades.

What groups should you join?

If you want to focus solely on using LinkedIn to grow your business, then apply one question to every group you think of joining: are the members of this group likely to be interested in what my business offers?

If the answer is ‘yes’, join it.

Joining relevant groups will increase your area of influence exponentially.

Another real benefit of being in groups is the ability to contact people in your group without needing their email address as you can contact fellow group members through LinkedIn internal messaging.

This is a very valuable aspect of LinkedIn but a word of warning-don’t abuse it or spam group members simply because you can.

There is a common piece of advice you will read elsewhere when the question of LinkedIn groups is considered, and that is: start your own group. Starting your own group and being the leader of a group gives you additional benefits such as being able to send messages to group members once a week and raising your profile as an expert and leader in your area of expertise.

However, a word of warning: unless you have the capability of growing a big group quickly, the return on your time and effort is very unlikely to be worth it. Because you will have to look after a group in a kind of twilight zone: not enough members to make it worthwhile, but still needing time and effort to grow and maintain it.

So, think carefully about starting your own group. My view is that you will get a far better return by joining other groups in an astute and strategic fashion.

Let’s call a spade a spade here: we are piggybacking off the work of others to a certain extent, assuming they have built a decent sized group of real people.

In summary then, there are three critical aspects to exploiting LinkedIn to its full extent:

  1. Ensuring your profile is full and comprehensive
  2. Contributing and sharing well in discussions
  3. Joining the most appropriate groups for you, and your business.

One word of warning: like all social media sites you will need to be careful that your social media marketing does not become counterproductive by becoming a big time suck. This should not be a problem provided you decide at the outset which are the best social media platforms for you, being disciplined about your time management, and ignoring a lot of the ‘received wisdom’ that’s passed around by people who rely on theory rather than practical knowledge and experience.

‘A man walks into a bar’

I’ve kept this tip until the end because it’s the most important one.

All of your social media activity and engagement should have one prime purpose: getting people to visit your website or blog.

Now, I accept that some-perhaps many-people will disagree with me about this. But I promised at the beginning of this piece to tell you what I have found works, and not just rehash baloney you will read elsewhere.

So, that’s what I am going to do.

There’s a phrase you may have heard, ‘facts tell, stories sell’.

People are hardwired for story, and have been since time immemorial. One thing you need to tell your story, though, is a hook to drag the casual surfer in. You do this with your headline.

So, when you share links, articles, resources to your LinkedIn groups, don’t use a boring, ho-hum headline like: ‘Read my latest blog post’, or ‘New blog (my boss just wrote this and he thinks it rocks)

Use one that will effortlessly pull the casual reader in. How do you do this?

There are many ways. But the simplest, and probably most effective is to use curiosity and a benefit (C+B=I, curiosity + benefit=interest).

Here’s a few examples of headlines which are more likely to have people clicking the link (back to your website/blog) to read the intriguing, benefit filled article, and to see ‘what the hell is he on about’:

“13 Things Your Accountant/Solicitor/Business Advisor Won’t Tell You”

“The Shocking Truth About Facebook Ads”

“Can We Really Trust Gmail?”

27 Reasons Why It Would Have Paid You to Respond to Our Ad a Few Months Ago

How I Made a Fortune With a ‘Fool Idea’, And You Can Too

How I Got 47 New Clients on Twitter in the Last 135 Days

So, that’s LinkedIn marketing. This is what I know works.

How about you?

Are you using LinkedIn effectively?

What have you found works effectively?

Twitter for Business-a Total Waste of Time?

twitter for business

Do you wonder about the value of Twitter to promote your business?

Should you spend more time building a Twitter following?

Or should you spend your valuable and scarce time on other tasks-tasks that will provide you with a better return on your time-and perhaps new business?

What ‘the Atlantic’ discovered

‘The Atlantic’ is a famous American magazine, founded in 1857 as ‘The Atlantic Monthly’. A senior editor, Derek Thompson, published an interesting article recently raising some interesting questions about the value of Twitter.

Now, bear in mind: Derek Thompson has, as I write this, 28,000 Twitter followers. So, this fact needs to be borne in mind in relation to when you compare his experience to yours, particularly in relation to whatever level of success (or failure) he experiences.

Thompson studied the data in a new Twitter feature, View Tweet Activity. The ‘dashboard’ allowed Thompson to see how many times his Tweets appeared on others’ screens, how many times they clicked on it, and how many times they in turn shared it with their Twitter followers.

The figures are, quite frankly, astonishing-and worrying if you spend a lot of time on Twitter hoping to attract people back to your website or blog with a view to growing your business.

What are the findings, then?

He had published an article in The Atlantic about the history of American innovation as seen through a study of patent text literature. He showed how the study demonstrated that chemistry concepts dominated science in the early 20th century, but from the 1980s onwards medicine and computers dominated the patents literature.

He wrote his Twitter message with a link and a nice picture of the Top 20 Most Popular New Idea Inputs by Decade.

The result?

His tweet had 155,260 impressions-that is, it showed up this many times on peoples screens.

2.9% of those people clicked the image and 1.1% retweeted it or favourited it.

And 1% of the people who saw this tweet clicked on the link to read the story.

Yes, 1%.

1%-1,537 people from 155,260 impressions-started to read the article on the Atlantic website.

This prompted Thompson to take a look at his 100 most popular tweets of 2014, and he discovered a click through rate of 1.7%.

Evidently, the traffic that Twitter is sending to the Atlantic website is paltry and insignificant, and an appallingly poor use of time.

Now, that conclusion is mine, and it’s clearly a rational one.

Thompson’s view is that this is an unsophisticated conclusion, and the more accurate one is that it would be fair to say that Twitter is worthless for driving traffic to your website.

Well, driving traffic to your website is critical to grow your business, and the principal reason why you would be spending time on Twitter.

Thompson correctly concludes that 99% of his work on Twitter benefits Twitter, and not the Atlantic website.

That’s fair enough-and great for Twitter. But if you are a small business owner with limited resources and time, it’s really not worth a curse.

Where Twitter excels

Let me be clear: I like Twitter.

It allows me to get real time GAA results of matches that won’t feature on the national media radar-for example, local parish teams; and it allows me to ‘follow’ celebrities and see what they have to say-no matter how anodyne-about various topics; and sometimes I check out a very current story-for example, the conflict in Ukraine-and I get to see comments and pictures from real people on the ground, which may never appear in the newspapers.

Twitter for business

But Twitter for business? It’s pretty useless, and a poor use of your time.

In saying that, I do make a qualitative differentiation between social media ‘gurus’ and professionals who make a living from social media coaching and consulting, and the small business involved in professional service provision, or retailing, or construction, or manufacturing, or any of the other myriad businesses that make up an economy.

The social media professional can generate plenty of business from teaching others how to use ‘twitter for business’.

People like Laura Fitton.

Fitton co-wrote the book ‘Twitter for Dummies’, started an app business for Twitter,oneforty, sold out, and now works for HubSpot as an ‘inbound’ and Twitter guru.

I was fascinated to listen to a podcast recently with Laura Fitton as a guest on SocialMediaExaminer.com. The topic of the episode was ‘Twitter for Business’.

As examples of how useful Twitter is for business, Fitton cited 2 examples from her own personal experience.

She recounted how a Verizon telephone cable was down in her neigbourhood, and how she used Twitter to get in touch with Verizon who sorted out the problem. She also spoke about ordering a coat from some company and her order being cancelled due to the coat being out of stock. She contacted the company through Twitter who sourced a coat somewhere, brought it back to the warehouse, and sent it out to her.

These 2 examples of how useful Twitter is supposed to be for business focus on how businesses can use it to accept and deal with customer complaints-a kind of service line, if you like. Fair enough.

But they offer no evidence whatsoever of how either company can use Twitter to generate new business.

And it could be argued that if their service department was adequately manned with phone lines and service people, these problems could have easily been solved, and not just for people with Twitter accounts, a large following, and the implied threat of a lot of bad publicity on a popular social media platform.

Bear in mind that Fitton has over 130,000 followers.

It would also be interesting to see how these companies would have dealt with Fitton if she had 5 followers (including her mother and spouse) rather than the 130,000 that she has. Incidentally, if you take a look at Fitton’s profile on Twitter, you will see that she follows over 100,000 people.

This figure clearly shows the 2 lies that lie at the heart of the ‘Twitter for business’ cheerleaders:

  1. there is no way anyone can ‘follow’ 100,000 people. Fitton ignores them, because she simply has to but she needs to ‘follow’ this many people to flaunt a huge number of followers for herself. Let’s be honest-you can’t position yourself as a Twitter guru, speak at social media conferences, publish books about Twitter, and sport a couple of hundred followers.
  2. you will nearly always see this correlation in numbers between the number of followers you have, and the number you follow. Put simply, if you follow someone, the likelihood is that they will follow you back. That doesn’t mean they will read your Tweets, or click on your links, just as Derek Thompson discovered.

How to increase Twitter followers

So, to increase the number of followers you have, simply follow more people.

However these people probably won’t read your Tweets because their stream will be too full; and you won’t read theirs, because you’re too busy building Twitter followers and simply cannot go near your Twitter stream due to the overwhelming flow of Tweets.

Meanwhile, you grow your ‘followers’, and wonder why this doesn’t really mean anything.

Recently, I did a fair bit of research myself on Twitter, particularly on how to grow a following, and I grew my following by over 100%. I then shared a lot of links and Tweets which dealt with various aspects of the law in Ireland. Now, these Tweets and links would only have been of benefit to Irish residents, as they deal with the law in Ireland.

But I had people from the United States, and other parts of the world, retweeting and favouring my Tweets-because most of the Tweets had the hashtag ‘small biz’ and ‘small business’.

However, these Tweets, and links, were of no benefit to people outside Ireland, and if I was naive or vain I may have been happy with the retweets. But I know they they were of no benefit whatsoever to non Irish residents, and, therefore, will not generate any new clients or leads for my business.

The best I can hope for is that 1% of people who see the Tweets visit my website. However, this really isn’t a good use of my time.

What now for Twitter and your business?

So, what about you and your business?

Make up your own mind. Don’t just take accept my view, or the views of so called ‘gurus’ as received wisdom.

Try it for yourself, but be ruthless in assessing the results.

And be ruthless in how you spend your time and resources in order to generate new business.

6 Steps to Publishing Your 1st Book-What You Can Learn From “50 Shades of Grey”

kindle-publishing

Have you ever thought or dreamt about publishing a book?

Have you a story to tell? They say there’s at least one story inside everyone.

Have you a particular expertise or experience to share, and which would be helpful to others?

Nowadays, it’s easy to publish your own book.

Did you know that “50 Shades of Gray” was originally self published by E.L. James as an e-book, and a print on demand book? Publishing rights were only purchased by Vintage Books in March, 2012.

This route-an e-book and print on demand-is the route I took in 2015 with my first 3 books.

The KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Platform, provided by the internet giant Amazon, ensures it is a pretty simple process to publish your work and have it available to a huge audience.

I’m not saying it is an easy process, because it requires commitment, hard work, and discipline.

But it does get easier-that’s for sure-and once you put a system in place, it is a matter of sticking to your formula of carrying out a series of steps.

Let’s take a look at them, and, by the end of this piece, you will know all you need to know to publish your first book.

Step 1-How to write your book

There is no magic fairy dust involved here; you need to put your butt in a chair with monotonous regularity and write-one word at a time. As a matter of fact, Stephen King was once asked in a  radio interview how he wrote and his reply “one word at a time” nonplussed the interviewer.

But this is not a trite or simplistic answer; the truth is you do have to discipline yourself to write very regularly-for example, every day.

An important factor in the success of your book will be a) its title, and b) the cover of the book. You need a professional looking cover, and a title which will attract attention in a crowded marketplace.

The same sort of copywriting principles which you can read about elsewhere on this site apply to your title; you need to arrest a browser’s attention and promise them a benefit or reason for choosing your book.

Step 2-Format your book for Kindle, Ipad, and other devices

You can write your book in Microsoft Word, but be aware that the formatting of your book needs to be checked carefully before you publish. Kindle formatting is a little different from you might be used to and your book will be available across multiple devices such as IPAd, Android Phones, iPhones, Kindle Fire, and other tablet devices.

Step 3-Upload your book to KDP

Once you upload your book to KDP, you can preview how your book will look across multiple devices, and your really need to check this carefully. Bullet points, for example, in a Work document may show up as something else entirely across other mobile devices so your commitment to a quality product for your readers can be tested in ensuring your formatting is correct.

But it needs to be done.

You will also use the KDP dashboard to choose 2 categories on Amazon for your book to appear, and decide whether you want to enrol the book in the KDP select programme.

This programme, in return for only having your book on Amazon for 90 days, offers you the opportunity to market your book aggressively be giving it away for free for approximately one week or doing a countdown deal promotion.

You might wonder why you would want to give your book away for free. Well, the reason is that if you get a lot of people downloading it, you may well shoot up the bestseller charts in your particular categories which means that once your promotion is over, you should still continue to make sales from browser who check out the most popular books in each category.

Amazon will also get behind your book and promote if it sees that your book is popular.

It’s a bit like having a loss leader in a shop or supermarket for a limited time.

Step 4-Design or order your book cover

You can design your own book cover at the KDP dashboard with their online cover creator. You start off with a choice of template covers and you can choose different images (or none), fonts, colours, etc.

Step 5-Choose your publishing territories, set your royalty rate and price

You then choose what publishing territories you want to sell your book in-for example, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. But you can choose every territory on the planet in which Amazon has a platform.

Your royalty rate can be set at 35% or 70%, but to get the 70% you must set your retail price between $2.99 and $9.99. If you price your book outside this range, you will only be eligible for the 35% royalty rate.

You can also enrol you book in the Kindle Book Lending and MatchBook programmes. The MatchBook programme allows customers of your paperback book to buy the Kindle version for $2.99 or less.

The Kindle Book Lending programme allows users of your book to lend the book to family and friends for up to 14 days. You receive a payment for each time your book is loaned.

Step 6-Set up a print version of your book

You can create a print version of your book, and the great news is you don’t have to carry any stock. It’s a print on demand system provided by another Amazon company, CreateSpace.com.

Once you set up your print version on CreateSpace, your paperback version of your book will be available for sale on Amazon. Once someone orders your book, the book is printed somewhere in the United States and posted directly to your purchaser. There is no waste, no need to buy books and keep them in stock (although you might want to give them out to good prospects/leads for whatever business you are engaged in), and the cost per book is very competitive with no worries for you about delivery.

Why publish a book?

Why would you want to publish a book?

Well, firstly…credibility.

If you are competing with other professional service providers, for example, you will clearly set yourself apart by being able to refer to your published book-or by handing a copy to a potential new client/customer. You will gain enormous authority and credibility.

Secondly, it can be virtually impossible to differentiate your business from competitors; finding a USP-a unique selling proposition-can be challenging.

But one way to do this is to tell your story, because we all have a unique story. And what’s the best way to tell a story?

Write a book.

Your next step

If you want to write your story, your book, take Stephen King’s advice: write it one word at a time.

Start with your first small target-perhaps 500 words? 1,000 words?

Set aside time every day.

Commit to putting your butt in your chair every day, and before too long, you’ll be publishing your first book.

Maybe something in your industry as successful as (and better written than)  “50 Shades of Grey”?

5 Email Marketing Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

email-marketing-2

Let me guess…

You haven’t started email marketing yet.

You’re pressed for time, and social media marketing seems to soak up what little marketing time you have like a sponge.

You’ve probably read that marketing with email is stunningly effective, but there are just so many demands on your time.

And you’re not quite sure how to start.

You’re afraid of making stupid mistakes.

Let’s take a look at the most damaging, but easy to avoid, mistakes you can make.

10 minutes is all it’s going to take to learn exactly what you need to avoid.

And put the power of email marketing in your business toolbox.

Let’s take a look at what you need to avoid like the bubonic plague:

1. Sign up for our newsletter

This is a common, and fatal, mistake.

Asking people to sgin up for your newspaper means that your list will never grow-you simply won’t get people to sign up.

People don’t want newsletters, because they have no interest in hearing that your company has a new premises, or secretary, or Twitter handle, or Facebook page.

Sorry.

They want to know what’s in it for them, if they sign up, and how quickly they will get it.

Download your free report immediately and discover how to save 7,000 euros in your business in the next 6 weeks”;

or “Discover the 7 costly mistakes that 84% of Irish business owners make”;

or “Learn how to double your Twitter followers in 3 weeks”;

or “Discover how to grow your business making cheap videos with your mobile phone-download your free report now”.

All of these offerings offer a reason for the would be subscriber to sign up.

Quite frankly, “sign up for our newsletter” is simply not good enough.

People are too busy, too distracted, and too concerned with their privacy to give you their email address for a newsletter telling them that you have secured a new car parking space for your business.

2. Failing to prepare your email messages

To get your relationship with your new subscribers off to a good start, you should have at least 5 valuable emails loaded up in your autoresponder.

These will be delivered automatically at intervals of your choosing-perhaps 3 or 5 days-once each new subscriber signs up.

I cannot emphasise too much that these emails better be really useful to your subscribers. Put your best foot forward, and give them genuinely helpful tips which are not just statements of the obvious.

Over time, you can decide to send broadcast messages as and when you desire, but I recommend a solid base of automatic messages in the early weeks to build your relationship, and get the relationship off to a great start.

Your messages could contain useful tips or answers to frequently asked questions in your industry; but they cannot be overly promotional or “salesy”.

If they are, you will have a high rate of unsubscribes, and fail to build a relationship of trust and authority with your subscribers: the reason for email marketing in the first place.

3. Your emails are overly promotional

People don’t sign up to receive a series of sales messages. Your goal is to demonstrate that you know your stuff, regardless of your industry, that you can be trusted, and that they can be comfortable doing business with you.

Or even recommending you to their family, friends, colleagues.

You don’t achieve this by hammering your subscribers’ inboxes in a frenzy of pitches.

You must earn the right to pitch, to make an offer.

That’s what email marketing is about.

As a guide, consider 1 promotional email for every 5-7 emails sent.

And deliver value, real value, in all your emails.

4. Failing to provide a valuable incentive to drive sign ups

Tip number 1 above tells you that offering a “newsletter” simply doesn’t cut the mustard.

So, you need to spend some effort and time creating a valuable, useful incentive to persuade him to sign up and part with his email address to join your list.

This could be a free report, a short series of videos or mp4s, a free CD or DVD-the options are limitless. But, the bottom line is it must be sufficiently valuable to encourage people to subscribe to your list.

And, never forget: your email list is the most valuable asset you can build online.

5. Failing to recognise the potential of email marketing

If you spend a little time studying, and learning, and experimenting, you will discover one thing: anyone who knows his stuff about online marketing will tell you that the single biggest asset you can build online is a big, engaged, email list.

I have to say I have seen few, or any, Irish businesses using email marketing well. So, the potential is enormous, because anyone doing it professionally, and smartly, will have a huge opportunity and early adopter advantage.

 

The art of email marketing

Firstly, to get started with email marketing for your business, take a look at how to get started with email marketing.

Then, give some thought to your “ethical bribe”, your incentive, to get people to sign up. This might be a report, a white paper, a short series of videos, etc.

Make sure that it’s a good one, one which will be hard to resist. And promote it aggressively.

Don’t think that, because you are giving something away for free, you don’t need to promote it. You most certainly do. So, make sure your “opt in” form is prominently placed on your website or blog.

And then, deliver value. Build a relationship with your subscribers. Position yourself as the “go to” source in your industry. Create an immensely valuable asset for your business.

Look around at your competitors, and your industry. You will probably find that you are the only one using email marketing to build a relationship with your potential customers.

And, if you avoid the mistakes above, you will almost certainly be the only one doing it well.

Why You Should Get Rid of the Fear of Selling Once and For All

sales-marketing-ireland

Do you ever worry about being seen as a sleazy salesman?

As a cheesy slimeball?

Do you feel uncomfortable trying to make sales?

Well, you shouldn’t.

Because “nothing happens until someone sells something”.

This quote has been attributed to Thomas J. Watson, the former CEO and Chairman of IBM and to Peter Drucker, the legendary management consultant.

Regardless of which man said it, it is worth hardwiring into your brain for the rest of your (business) life.

“Selling” is not a dirty word.

In Ireland and the UK, we have a different view of selling.

We don’t like the “hard sell” and we’re uncomfortable with what many people view as a grubby, slightly seedy necessity.

Unlike the attitude in other parts of the world, most notably in the United States.

Ironically many of us are “fan boys and girls” of one of the greatest salesmen of the 20th century-the late Steve Jobs, the founder and main man of Apple.

Cast your mind back to the occasions you saw Steve Jobs in the news. He was nearly always selling something.

You should have a positive view of sales, especially when you are bringing real value to your customer or client.

If you are really providing value, you’re doing them a favour, after all.

Let me explain.

Hopefully I can change your view as to how you should view selling and sales.

Selling is Not a Zero Sum Game

Selling is not a zero sum game. There doesn’t have to be a winner and loser.

In fact, there shouldn’t be a winner and loser. I only really grasped this when I read a book by a fascinating millionaire American investor and libertarian who ran for the presidency of the United States-Harry Browne.

Harry Browne wrote a little book which you can read in one or two sittings called “The Secret of Selling Anything”. (You can pick it up on Amazon).

I strongly recommend it, and not just if you sell for a living.

Remember: we all sell stuff.

Every day of our lives.

We sell ourselves, our ideas, our philosophy, our opinion, our world view, our products/services.

You have no apology to make in this regard.

The solicitor or barrister seeks to persuade the Judge or jury that his client’s version of events is more credible than the alternatives.

As children we sought to persuade our parents that going to a disco or club was a good idea. (Our children do it to us now).

As adults we try to persuade our kids that they shouldn’t go out in “that dress”.

Fundraisers solicit donations on behalf of their charities and seek to persuade us that making a donation is a better use of our money than the many alternatives.

As an employee you seek to persuade their employer that you are worthy of a pay rise or promotion.

As an employer you try to persuade that your organisation is worth joining and contributing to.

Organised religions sell their interpretation of the bible, Qoran or the idea that their tradition and philosophy is worthy of support and more credible than not believing.

Politicians sell us their persona and policies (until they are discarded post election).

Selling is not dirty or grubby.

It should be mutually beneficial and enriching for both you and your customer. If it’s not, change what you are selling-tweak it, replace it, or drop it altogether.

But once you are proud and certain that what you are selling will genuinely help the other party, take pride in the activity.

Because nothing happens until someone sells something.

Why the “Ryanair Business Class” Ad Makes a Common, Avoidable Mistake

copywriter-ireland

Did you hear the  Ryanair business class radio ad which came out a few months ago?

The one for “business class” seats.

I heard it again on the radio at the weekend when I was out walking. The end of the ad is clever. Funny. Humorous. Amusing.

But there is a problem with that.

Let me explain.

The titans of copywriting have always been adamant that you don’t write to be cute or clever.

No. You write in plain, clear language.

Because the purpose of your ad is to sell.

Not to entertain, or be cute, or show how clever you are.

And the more people it appeals to, the more it is likely to sell.

And simple, clear language is how you ensure your ad is read and understood by the greatest number of people.

Humour should be avoided because you are not looking to entertain. You need to sell. This is the only purpose of advertising.

Back to the Ryanair ad..the end of the ad has the punch line “no business curtain?”

It’s “clever”. Makes me smile.

But I’m not paying for the ad.

Earlier in the ad though I am almost certain I heard 3 or 4 benefits or features of the Ryanair business class service. The problem is I can’t remember them. I can remember the “gag” though.

As David Oglivy, an advertising legend and founder of Oglivy and Mather, said: selling and writing to sell is a serious business. It is not a time to get “cute” or “funny”.

Ad agencies like to be seen as cute and funny and creative.

If you’re a small business owner, you can’t afford that luxury. I know I can’t.

As Oglivy says, “we sell…or else”.

Ensure that your message is unambiguous.

And understandable to the greatest number of people, regardless of their education.

Ernest Hemingway said

“people think I’m an ignorant bastard, that I don’t know any $10 words. I know plenty. But I use $2 words because I can tell a story perfectly well with the $2 words”.

Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.

And don’t try to be cute or entertaining like the Ryanair ad.

Not unless you have Ryanair’s advertising budget.