Thursday, 31 December 2009

Look Beyond The Coffee Tweets!

Of course I’m not the first to suggest that Twitter has been THE game-changing website/ platform in 2009; it’s disrupted how we all communicate. There’s a lot of talk and speculation about how it might develop and how it will get monetised in the New Year. And (of course) I *still* get comments from friends and naysayers who don’t get it and assume Twitter is all about mundane tweets on how great the morning coffee is. But look beyond that, and you’ll see the real value of the platform.

Here’s just a snapshot on my Return Of Investment from Twitter in the last twelve months:

- I got asked to co-present a session at South By South West 2009.

- I had a random meeting over coffee with Phill Jupitus.

- In a great example of crowdsourcing, I co-wrote a song with Dave Stewart on Twitter.

- I connected with an awesome bunch of people from Japan, South Africa, Asia, the US & Europe and turned some of those relationships face to face meeting people from Tennessee to Edinburgh.

- I met a great bunch of people in London who I’ve started talking to about working relationships.

- I got an opportunity to meet and interview people like Sarah Beeny.

- I tweeted out who might want to review my book and got a ‘yes please’ from the MP Tom Watson.

- I drove record-breaking traffic to my blog, my site and my videos helped by re-tweets from people like Gary Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan; great endorsements from people who are so big on Twitter.

- I discovered some great content through links to great posts, people and businesses who I otherwise would never have heard of. In turn I got great satisfaction from sharing those with my own contacts.

- I used it as a customer-relations tool to connect with brands like British Airways to bypass telephone call centres (with great success).

- I helped sell a few of my books and spread awareness to new readers, helped massively by followers who waved the Juggle flag for me (thanks guys).

- During the bad weather earlier this month I connected with people locally to check road conditions and whether the trains were running.

- I had random one-to-one exchanges with newsreaders, authors and newspaper columnists.

Tell me how else I’d got all of the above? And for free?

Of course, that return on investment does not come overnight (nor is it really ‘free’); it’s taken a big investment in time. It’s not just a few self-promotion tweets saying ‘look at my great blog’; it’s about putting in the hours in listening, sharing and connecting.

And if you do follow me on Twitter, I can tell you that amongst all the ‘meaningful’ stuff, I will continue to tweet about good coffee in 2010. Because, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last 12 months, it’s the importance of authenticity. Happy New Year!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

10 Things I Know for 2010

So as we approach the end of the year, the web is full of predictions & tips for the New Year. Me? What I’m offering up below is not full of jaw-dropping revelations. Just a simple Top 10 List of Things I’ve learnt in running my own business and working with businesses in the last 12 months. And these themes will continue to inform how I work with clients in 2010. Whether you are a small business owner, a department head, a solo-entrepreneur, whoever - I hope it resonates.

1. GO FOR IT. Forget over-planning, focus instead on actually delivering your projects, websites and products. Over-analysis can paralyse your business so don’t spend months deciding on your new brand name, or days and days plotting financial projections before launching a venture, often it’s more important to just go for it.

2. HARNESS DIGITAL TOOLS. “Digital tools”, “social media”, I don’t care what you call it but you have to be on top of the tools that work for your sector, for your message, for your audience. They’re pretty much free and they can be harnessed for enormous value. Don’t just use them to pimp your products, use them to build relationship with the marketplace, to listen and engage with people. I’ve made such a great bunch of contacts via Twitter this year, it’s a great way of expanding your network.

3. POINT OF DIFFERENCE. I make no apologies for banging on about this for the last 12 months; this is what marketing is all about. How is your product, brand, idea, offering different from the rest? Then tell the world about your difference.

4. KEEPING PACE WITH CHANGE. So you, your team, your business, your product has changed over the last 12 months. Question: has your marketing, your language of communication and your sales messages kept pace? If not, update them.

5. COMPETE ON SERVICE. Okay so hardly a new one, but it *still* counts. Are your beating the competition on service, on intimacy, on attention to detail? Because that’s where you can win. We like dealing with people who are nice guys and treat us well. That simple.

6. WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY SELLING? I still see so many businesses put the emphasis on selling what they make rather than sell the benefits of what they make. Missed opportunity. Sell what your products and services can do for your customer - sell the applications, not the software.

7. COLLABORATE. A personal goal for me for 2010. We have to recognise that however ambitious and talented we are, we often need other people to help achieve our goals. Find partner companies, new teams, like-minded souls to inject fresh passion and talent in to your projects to achieve game-changing results.

8. GROW DIFFERENT. Business growth doesn’t *have* to be about adding more stores, adding more staff, growing bricks and mortar premises, getting a bigger warehouse. There are smarter routes to business growth. Building intellectual property, building brand equity, growing it online. Keeping the operation small, but building your niche, offering more add-ons, charging clients more (and this route can be lower risk too).

9. FACE TO FACE. Communicate externally with clients and internally with your staff/ teams. Don’t let human relationships deteriorate. For the business that’s got “too busy” to talk to its staff, sit down and have that weekly 08.30 meeting; for the company that let clients lapse, come up with some initiatives to keep in touch. And don’t keep relationships virtual; invest the time and train/rail miles to sit down with clients and teams face to face (Twitter just ‘aint the same).

10. BE REACTIONARY. If you suddenly spot an opportunity, be flexible enough to react to it. If your business model is broken, fix it. If your marketing sucks, change it. If your offering is tired, reinvent it. Be open minded about opportunities, don’t get entrenched in rigid plans. Don’t run away from change, embrace it like crazy.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Link Roundup

I’ve contributed a few guest posts to other blogs recently.

Here’s my article for Careershifters ‘If Big Change Is Not For You, Try Juggling’. Careershifters is a website and community for anyone making a major career change, run by people who have done it.

Here’s my short video post for Ian Aspin’s ‘Really Good Thinking blog’ on the importance of making tough choices when you’re managing time.

And here’s my contribution to Cath Duncan’s ‘Mine Your Resources’ blog with my take on goal setting: “I have goals but I have no plan for the journey I will take to reach them…"

Friday, 11 December 2009

“Word Of Mouth Is On Steroids”

What’s the most important marketing tool out there?

TV advertising? Nope.

Newspaper ads? No.

Twitter? No.

Word Of Mouth.

Whatever the benefits of digital tools and social media, all they’re trying to replicate is good old fashioned Word Of Mouth. It’s what we all aspire to, to grow our businesses, sell our books, our products, our brand. In 10 years of running my own business it’s what I’ve relied on for business development, every single project and client has come via w.o.m.

Gary Vaynerchuk reminded me this week in London about the importance of w.o.m. and how Twitter et al have super-fast-tracked the spread of buzz; for good, and for bad. In his words, “word of mouth is on steroids”.

Here’s my two minute video of Gary talking about word of mouth and the film ‘Bruno’.

If the video above is not displaying properly, you can watch it on YouTube here

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Getting Your Business Ideas To Market Rapidly

I’ve always been more stimulated by the ‘making things happen’ bit of business than all that inevitable long-term planning: I like to take ideas to reality, get them out in the marketplace. I have seen too many good business ideas stay in the womb for too long, and get launched too late, or worse, not at all.

Sure, you need to plan a business before you launch it but don’t get lost in five year plans and long term forecasting. In a fast moving market isn’t it often more important to actually get it out there? To DO, not plan? You can still test, prototype and tweak your proposition once it’s out there, getting valuable user feedback you could never get from focus groups and spreadsheets. And with digital tools, it’s easier than ever to rapidly and effectively launch an idea.

At SXSW Interactive in 2010 I’ll be hosting a session on this area - ‘Unplan Your Business Idea’ - along with David Sloly.

So with this in mind I was really excited to hear about Last month a team from Nonsense London gave themselves 24 hours to conceive, design and promote a new web business. the result is a brand called ‘Dr Hue’ which is now being sold on Ebay.

Okay, so it was a stunt (a good one at that), but proof that you *can* take an idea from blank sheet of paper to the market rapidly. There’s a 3 minute video below which summarises the stages in the 24 hour development. - hour-by-hour from NonsenseLondon on Vimeo.

Friday, 4 December 2009

What’s Your Point Of Difference?

The announcement this week that Borders bookstore was closing the UK generated some industry comment; despite the naysayers, there’s still optimism about survival in the book market. And whatever market you’re in, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer, it’s all about making your offering different.

Here’s my 60 second video take:

If the video is not displaying properly, watch it on YouTube here

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Navigate through the social media landscape

It’s fascinating how knowledge passes by word of mouth. When I joined Twitter in 2008, I was really lucky to have a hand-hold from my new friend Rachel Beer. Because there is no instruction manual, it was great to get an insight from someone who’d been using it for months already. Now one year on, increasingly people are asking me how to use Twitter: I’ve become the accidental expert. Whilst you still can’t be taught Twitter and social media, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book ‘Trust Agents' is certainly a great navigation guide.

Okay, so I didn’t learn anything truly ‘wow’ from Trust Agents: there was no stage in reading it when my jaw dropped in astonishment. But of course a good book doesn’t need such dramatic impact to have value.

Trust Agents consolidates and articulates everything I’ve learnt in the last twelve months about this new space we inhabit and the new tools we have.

What’s the key takeaway? it’s about building relationships:‘never before has balance of business interaction and communication been so in favour of smaller, more personal interactions’

It’s consolidated everything I’ve learnt about relationship management, about networking online. About the importance of building ‘social capital’: that investment in relationships and collaboration is key, but that a ROI is not always instant or visible until way down the line. And how we use these digital tools to build personal brand equity and profile. But rather than selling to an audience, be their gatekeeper instead: ‘tell don’t sell’. All that resonates with what I’ve learnt at the social media coal face.

Of course, there are no rules. And in an experience where we make things up as we go along, we don’t always get things right. Like the time I rushed to get ‘great to meet you’ emails out after SXSW ’09 that one recipient said ‘thanks for the spam’. And I had to stop and think. (I learnt a lesson on that one).

So there’s no right and wrong but if you’re struggling and feeling your way around this new media space, not sure how best to optimise these tools for yourself and your business read Trust Agents.

And what you’ll learn is that whatever the tools and the opportunities of the digital age – of course – it’s all about real relationships. So make sure you get out in the real world enough!