Are you up for the business challenge? Ask most business owners and they’ll tell you that running a business may be worthwhile but is not easy. And as your business grows, so do the complexities of running it. If you think that you can be the boss and it will all run smoothly without you, think again. If you aren’t willing to put in the work in the beginning to set up the culture, the systems, the processes and the automations that need to happen so that it can run profitably without you, you are setting your business up for failure down the road.
I’ve been running a business for 20 years and have met enough business owners along the way to understand:
what needs to be done,
what the common pitfalls are and
the right chess moves to make.
So here are 10 homes truths you need to bring on board if you want to run a business and have it still going 5 years from now.
1. It’s all your fault – be OK with that
If there’s anything not working in your business, that’s your fault. Period. It’s not your staff’s fault. It’s not ANYONE else’s fault. It’s yours.
Either they are following systems that don’t work (and that’s your fault).
Or you haven’t put any systems in place in the first place (so of course it’s all going to go to hell in a hand basket).
Or they are not following systems that do work (and the fact that they aren’t following them is, you’ve guessed it, your fault).
It’s a valid business challenge, but whichever way, it’s down to you to
put the systems in place,
fix them when they need to change, and
hire and train the right staff to do the work the right way.
If things aren’t working, YOU didn’t put in the right checks and balances in the first place, and YOU didn’t act soon enough to stop the downward spiral when it started. Man up. It’s ALL your fault. You need to be OK with that to be a business owner.
Once you get this, everything else will fall into place because you’ll do everything to ensure the ship is not going down on your watch.
2. Eliminate a major business challenge – hire the RIGHT staff
It seems like a no-brainer, but this is where most of the foundational work needs to be laid. Too many business owners try to fit square pegs into round holes. It happens because:
They make a hiring mistake and want to give the employee a chance.
Or they hire cheap and don’t get the skills essential for the role they are hiring for.
Then when things don’t work out, they don’t feel good letting people go because they know that, ultimately, they made the hiring mistake.
It’s not the employee’s fault they can’t do the job. YOU put them in the wrong role. That’s a business challenge that will snowball if left to run its course unchecked.
But it’s not your responsibility to make them do the job right. It’s not your responsibility to train them to do the job. They should walk through the door on the first day already highly competent, not only to do the job, but to add value in improving it. You aren’t doing your staff member any favours if you keep them in a role they aren’t suited for and you will run yourself into the ground trying to pick up the pieces in the process.
Hire qualified people for every role so the only training that needs to happen is to have them understand how their role fits into your processes and systems. Their ability to do the job right shouldn’t even be a question because you should have established that in the hiring process. Remember, hire slow, fire fast.
3. Hire better than you
Hire experts for the roles you can’t do. You aren’t good at accounts. Don’t do it. Hire someone who can. You aren’t good at Facebook ads. Don’t struggle trying to make sense of it. Hire someone who has already gotten results. Hire people that will bring ADDITIONAL VALUE to your business with the knowledge they bring with them.
When you get people who know what they are doing in each role, you can focus on working ON your business not IN it.
4. Systemise everything or it will always be a business challenge
Think you are running a small business so you don’t need to document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Wrong!
Firstly, that tells me your mindset isn’t on growth. When you get in more staff, they are going to need instructions to follow, otherwise it’s a free for all. Secondly, you don’t want to be repeating yourself over and over. Document down how EVERYTHING is done to the last detail. If it happens in your business, no matter how insignificant, get it documented – down to how to change the liquid soap in the bathroom! If it doesn’t get documented, it doesn’t get done or done right.
5. Trust that your staff want to do well
Keeping staff happy and motivated is a serious business challenge. Ignore it at your peril. Everyone wants to feel good about their job. They want to be recognised and respected. They want to feel they contributed. When they make a mistake, it’s just that. They aren’t trying to spite you or bring down your business. (If they are, you have a serious issue and need to resolve that.) Respect your staff, involve them, and you’ll see the returns.
6. Blame the system not the staff
Be ready to deal with the next business challenge as it comes up, for it will. Don’t play the blame game. Don’t be a victim in your business. The beauty about having systems in place is that when something goes wrong, you can look to the system to see why it didn’t catch that. Where is the leak you need to plug?
Actually, having things go wrong is an OPPORTUNITY.
It’s an opportunity to improve the business.
It’s an opportunity to grow your staff.
It’s an opportunity for good internal communication.
It’s an opportunity to fine-tune your company culture.
It’s an opportunity for teamwork.
When the system fails, get the staff on the ground working the system to come up with the solutions. Don’t blame them for the system failure. Often these issues happen because your business has grown and processes have changed and something in your system got overlooked. Here’s your opportunity to fix it so that issue doesn’t happen again. By involving your staff in the solution, instead of getting reprimanded, your staff feel rewarded for being able to contribute and add value.
And if the system works and it was a staff failing, look for the reason why. Is it a one off, are they having personal problems, is it a repeated issue? If it is a repeated issue and despite corrective training it still persists, you need to have an honest conversation with the staff about moving on.
Everyone makes mistakes. It will happen. No system is going to catch them all. Accept that. If it’s a first instance, have an open discussion and put training in place on the assumption that they didn’t know or they forgot. Don’t assume that they don’t care.
7. Adopt technologies that help you automate what you can
The less you leave to human error, the fewer staffing issues you will have and the fewer mistakes will impact the business and your customer relationships. Look at every repetitive task in your business. If you have to repeat something, it can be automated. I’ve listed what I use and that’s why I recommend them. Full disclosure – I am an affiliate for some, but only because I use them myself and recommend what works for me.
Use payroll software that automates the calculations and automatically generates the required staff salary and tax slips. I use hreasily.com
Use accounting software that keeps you in the picture of your current and projected finances and that will automate invoice billing for recurring items. I outsource to an accountant and keep track using xero.com
Save time with software that will turn quotations into invoices at the touch of a button, removing time-consuming duplicate data entry
Get software that automates your workflows and sends reminders, so nothing gets forgotten. I use dubsado.com for these last two points.
Put your social media content distribution on autopilot with software that releases it for you. I use eclincher.com to preschedule all my posts.
Find a system that allows you to set tasks and separate your teams. I use trello.com to manage projects, especially my marketing and funnels.
Get a marketing solutions that gives you site hosting, unlimited landing pages, membership sites, funnel building, affiliate tracking, video hosting, course creation, payment gateways and email marketing ALL IN ONE. I use simplero.com
8. Learn to accept there are better ways to do things
Just because you are used to doing something one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better, quicker or easier way. Instead of having a closed mind and not entertaining suggestions from your staff for improvement, have an open mind and ask yourself, what if this works? Yes, technology is only as good as the data input, so instead of seeing it as yet another business challenge by assuming the data input will be wrong, come at it with the mindset that you can systemise and train so that the data input will be right. The insights you will get from automation will be eye opening, and your business will be the better for it.
9. Create a culture of open communication
Be open with your staff about your vision and bring them along with you. Paint the picture of growth and that they all play an important role in that. Because you’ve set up systems that don’t lay blame on your innocent staff, you can create a culture of inclusion and collaboration:
where it’s OK to make mistakes and grow from them, and
where ideas for new ways are valued and tried.
Not all leaders are created equal and that’s OK. Compare Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – two very successful business innovators with two very different styles of leadership. There’s no one style better than the other. Your personality and natural strengths will dictate the kind of leader you will be. Just realise that if you tend to be the Steve Jobs type, have a layer of leadership under you that deals with the day-to-day staff communications. If you are a big picture person, know that your right-hand person needs to be detail oriented.
10. Above all, be the leader you set out to be
Remember that this is your company and that your employees look to you for direction and guidance. By putting all the above in place, you are setting yourself up to lead by example and run a business prepared for growth. You will have freed your time to focus on leading not fighting fires, working on developing your business rather than the day-to-day running of it. Replace yourself as manager as soon as you can afford to do so.
When should the customer come first? When you are running a business, it is good business sense to have processes in place that everyone needs to abide by. It improves customer service ultimately. That is when they are well thought through.
Empower your staff on the ground. They have the intel!
Test your SOPs, get feedback from your staff on the ground and, once the processes are implemented, train your staff to use them and enforce them. However, and most importantly, empower them to recognise that there are times that the rules don’t make sense and processes should be tweaked. Obviously the larger the organisation, the harder this is to monitor, but that shouldn’t stop you empowering your staff to flag when things don’t work. It’s your staff that get the flak from the customers at the end of the day, not top management. An example of this in action is one hotel I know that gives their frontline staff a daily budget to delight guests and carte blanche to bend the rules in favour of delivering excellent customer service.
What am I talking about here? Banishing rules for rules’ sake that are enforced “to the letter” despite the customer trying to reason the lack of logic. In other words, not caring about the question – when should the customer come first?
That’s how my mum’s always done it
It reminds me of the story of the leg of lamb. I always use this example in my training. You’ve probably heard it, or a version of it, before but, just in case, let me tell it here.
There was a newly married couple. On their first Sunday married, the wife prepared Sunday roast, a leg of lamb. Her new husband watched her prepare it and, as she chopped off the end of the joint and discarded it, he asked her why since there was plenty of room in the roasting tray for the full joint. Her reply was that it was what her mother always did, so she followed.
The next time he visited his in-laws, the husband made it a point to ask his mother-in-law why she always chopped off the end of the joint. The mother-in-law replied that she wished she could cook the full joint but her roasting tin was too small to fit the whole leg.
The daughter had followed her mother’s processes without questioning why.
If it doesn’t make sense, question why!
If it creates friction in customer service, question why!
When should the customer come first?
What inspired this post today? As with a lot of my posts related to customer service, or lack of it, this piece is inspired by a visit to the bank today.
I had to make a visit to submit a form. Yes, even in this digital age and despite Covid, the bank isn’t up to digital transformation. Sigh. Anyhow. Needs must. So I submitted the form and was told to wait outside the branch (Covid safety). The staff came back after a long wait to say my postcode was wrong. This is something I’d been through with them at length mid last year. The postcode I use is correct. I should know. It’s my office. I work there. I signed the lease – the one with the postcode on it. The bank seems to feel it should be another number belonging to a building across the square, NOT my office.
It was my bad. I should have used the number the bank had and was happy to change it to whatever they had in their records. “Just tell me which postcode you want me to put and I’ll countersign the change,” I said in resignation, just hoping to complete the visit quickly. This was done and off he went to get approval once again, only to return with the observation that the phone number I had put as my business line was wrong.
I’m sorry? Wrong? Now I don’t know my own phone number as well? He explained that it wasn’t in their records. Aah. OK, so it wasn’t wrong then. Just not known. I said it had changed last year and that it was correct. I asked if he could change it in their records. My signature was now on this form twice after all. Surely that was authorisation enough?
That would be too easy. I would need to fill out another form for that. Could I step back into the bank, he asked, to complete the form.
I didn’t have the time to go through that. Last experience in the same branch to fill out the change of address form took over an hour and then another three months to get them to accept an address they thought was valid. I didn’t have any reason to believe changing the phone number would go any more smoothly. Again I asked: what phone number would you like me to put? Would my mobile be OK? You have that on file.
He agreed and I countersigned the change. Three signatures on one form now.
At least I had the form submitted and could get on with my day. But it still left me wondering – when should the customer come first?
How it could (should) have gone …
Can I check your postcode and phone number as they don’t match our records? (.i.e. get all info at one time and check it in one conversation rather than going back and forth.)
After my explanation on both points …
OK. I understand. Could I trouble you to change the postcode to the one we have agreed to have on file while I update your new phone number in our records since the signature here matches our records.
I know that’s asking a bit much. They have rules in place and there’s data protection to consider and all that. But do they serve? When should the customer come first? Could staff be empowered to update contact records on the spot with a signed authority that can be scanned and filed as proof? I may have left as a happy customer.
I’d like to think my customers aren’t put to unnecessary trouble just to follow rules for rules’ sake. I hope yours aren’t too.
How to create great content without the overwhelm? As business owners, we all want to be visible, to get exposure for our business. One way of doing that is to create great content. So I want to look in this blog at what is content, why do you need to create it, what kind of content should you be putting out there for your type of business and your personality, and how you can do it without being overwhelmed and by working smart.
What is content?
Rather than assume everyone knows, as they don’t, this term needs to be explained before I move on. Content is educational, promotional and personal material you put out on social media, on your blogs and on your website, or in printed materials that helps people to get to know you or your products and services, or gets to understand through educational material why they benefit form your offer, why to trust you as a brand and eventually make a buying decision.
Why do you need to create great content?
It can be tempting to think it’s a waste of time creating so much content especially when you feel it isn’t directly driving sales. Most of the time you are correct, it isn’t going to directly drive sales because mostly it’s not promotional content that you are putting out. So is it worth the time? Well, I’d say make the most of your time and work smart. More on how to do that later in this article.
Content really helps your business in several ways. It can help to promote your brand so clients become familiar with you and eventually begin to trust you. When they trust you, they are more likely to buy from you. It also helps to establish you as an authority in your niche. As your content starts to be shared and spreads, you will also gain more followers. Again that helps to build trust. So with content, you are growing a pile of a different sort of currency – trust.
What kind of content can you create?
There are different mediums of content you can create and the ones you choose will be the ones that suit your current skills and your personality type. The basic choices are:
You don’t have to do every type of content there is, just what you feel comfortable doing. Or you can outsource the creation of most of it (except the videos you appear in) to a Virtual Assistant.
If you are not comfortable on camera, you may be better doing written or audio content. If you hate writing but have a flare for the dramatic, video would be your obvious medium. I would recommend you try to become more comfortable on video as this tends to reach further on Facebook than static content and by putting content on YouTube, you take advantage of one of the world’s best search engines.
Written content is great for getting found on Google. The more good quality original content you can put out in writing on your website, the more chance you stand of showing up in searches for relevant content.
Having a blog on your site is a great way to organically grow your website page by page with good written content. It is not a feature reserved for foodies and travel writers. It’s a proven strategy you can use to get seen on line in any business.
A case in point, one year, we were asked to provide a transcription service for an existing client. It wasn’t a service we provide and we don’t list it as such on our website, but it was something we could easily provide for our client, so we did. In that week of doing it, we wrote a “behind the scenes” blog about the experience and posted it on our blog. Shortly after that, we started to get enquiries for transcription services and at first we were confused. Why are people suddenly phoning about this? we asked. Then we realised it was the blog article that was coming up in people’s searches! So be careful what you blog about!
You can also write long-form copy on your Facebook and other social media posts. These do well and yes, people do read them. How much they read depends on how engaging you make the article, but don’t avoid doing this type of content based on a misconception that people don’t read. One of my clients put out a long post on Facebook and because the article was engaging, emotional and relatable, it went viral.
Using illustrations, images, photos and infographics are great ways to add engaging content to the mix. If you are strategic about this, you can create 3 months’ worth in one go and schedule out the posts to drip daily.
I put out a lot of inspirational quotes using my Fairy Godmother illustrations and this helps to perpetuate the brand. You can also take photos of yourself in different scenarios and poses and put quotes next to these.
Infographics are a great way to make a complex idea easily understandable, especially processes.
If you aren’t comfortable on video just yet but know you need a show, some way to reach a wider audience while giving of yourself not just in static form, then a podcast may be the answer for you. Creating a podcast show is not as difficult as you think. In fact it’s really easy once you know the equipment and software you need. There are free and paid podcast hosting platforms you can choose from. You simply choose your format, i.e. just you, or interviews with others, then decide on the average length of each episode and how often you will release an episode.
I built my podcast myself, including designing the visual tile used to promote the show online. I designed this with Canva and the intro and outro recordings were edited using video editing software.
The hosting software will place your podcast to all the main places where people listen to their chosen podcasts like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.
Having a podcast with interviews is a great way to grow your listening audience as you will have your audience and your interviewee’s audience tuning in at the same time.
You also get to interview people from all around the world that you would never have met otherwise.
As mentioned above, videos get the most research and you get to draw on the massive search engine that is YouTube as well.
If you can do Facebook lives, so much the better. Nowadays you can use StreamYard a streaming service to stream your live video presentation to multiple platforms at the same time. I regularly stream simultaneously to my Facebook Page, my Facebook Group and my YouTube channel.
Some people are shy to go live as they may not get many live viewers, that’s OK. Firstly, you can announce on Facebook the time you intend to go live so those interested may turn up. Secondly, it doesn’t really matter if no one’s listening as people will watch the replay anyway. Remember the money is always in the follow up.
So what can you put out videos about?
These are common to do. Quickly plan out your topic structure with 3-4 main teaching points and you have a handy video presentation in the making.
Video is a great way to demonstrate products, how they work and their benefits. You can also use case studies in the same way. Show on video how you have helped a customer, their issue before you met, what you did for them, how you did it, and the proven result you delivered.
Testimonials on video are the most compelling you will be able to show.
You know, you’ve seen these online. How to lose X kg in 10 days, the ice water bucket challenge, etc. These can be highly engaging as you get people to do the challenge with you and post their daily results.
How to save time by repurposing one piece of content multiple times
This is how I do it:
I record a how to video of me speaking on camera and use that for social media and YouTube.
I take the audio recording and make this a Podcast episode.
I cut up snippets of the video content to show one by one on social media as short videos of around 30 seconds to a minute each. I could get between 10-20 pieces from one video.
I play the original video with Google Docs open and the Voice Typing tool turned on and Google Docs transcribes the whole video for me. That gets edited and becomes a blog article or two.
I send the transcript to my VA and ask her to pull out interesting quotes from the text and they become my static image posts and quotes. Again I can get 10-30 quotes out of one transcription.
And all I did was record a 30-min video and now have around 50 pieces of content!
When the first attempt at anything doesn’t work, do you give up or stick with it and try again?
Of course, you try again. Why would marketing your business be any different? Like anything else it requires consistent marketing.
I want to talk today about this misconception some business owners have when they’re trying to market the business themselves. This is something that I cover in my new book 11 Reasons Why Your Business Is Not Growing, which covers 11 typical mistakes that businesses make when trying to market and brand their business.
So I’m covering now one of the ways businesses make a mistake in only trying something once and, when it doesn’t work, they give up.
One reason is that they expect immediate results, so when they don’t get sales conversions they decide the approach they used doesn’t work. But what they fail to realise is that sales and marketing are different and work differently.
Sales will give immediate results while marketing is more like planting a seed and you’re going to watch it grow over time as you build a relationship with the client. It won’t be an immediate sale. You’ve got to build that trust. People don’t buy from you until they trust you and know you.
The way to build that trust is through consistent marketing
I see this with a lot of customers requesting my copywriting service for a single email. They want to book one email, as if that is going to do miracles for them. I have to explain that the content needs to be dripped consistently over a period of time. When the first email doesn’t bring in great results, it isn’t that it didn’t work. It’s just the first phase in warming up your audience.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You’ve been there. Think of all the times you’ve received unsolicited emails offering you something the sender is sure you’ll need. The email arrives when you are busy at work and you didn’t really see it at all. You certainly didn’t open it.
Then the next email arrives from the same sender and this time the sender got lucky. You saw it and it roused your interest. You make a mental note to look at it later when you have time. Of course that time never comes and it gets buried with the rest.
The next time you get the email, you actually move it into your to-do folder to look at later. But it isn’t until the next email arrives that you think, you know I really need this, let’s have a look now.
Imagine if that sender had only sent you the first email and decided this email marketing lark doesn’t work!
Now, statistics prove that your first email will land in a few people’s inbox on exactly the day that they needed to see it and they have an exact need for it and they respond straight away. But more often than not, you need to work at building that trust first.
So think of ways to get emails to your clients on a regular basis and when you have an offer, make it a campaign not a single email!
Keep marketing this way often and even if they don’t need your services now, you’ll be top of mind when they do! Adopt a strategy of consistent marketing.
When building your brand, don’t try to be what you are not. That’s hard to live up to. Build an authentic brand that isn’t trying to be something it’s not.
You want to show up as yourself, but the highest version of yourself. But it needs to be YOU!
Really own who you are as a brand. Own what it is that you stand for and don’t try to be something you’re not.
A good example I can give you of this would be the hotel industry. In the hospitality industry, hotels, as you know, are graded with stars. You can find three star hotels, four- or five-star hotel, you get the idea. The expectations and the experiences at hotels of different stars is different. The star rating serves to tell guests the standard they should expect.
They bring different values to their customers and obviously different price points and different experiences within those price points. So if you go to a three-star hotel, you’re going to expect a certain level of service, a certain standard which is going to be for the most part quite acceptable. What I’m saying is, if you are setting your brand to be a three-star brand, you don’t want to market it as a five-star. You don’t want to try to be that five-star brand if you are actually only a three star. There’s nothing wrong with being a three-star brand. Own it if that’s what you are and market to the segment that will respond to that brand. Put out messages and the values of that brand at the three-star level. When a three-star is being a three-star that’s an authentic brand. The same applies the other way around. If you’re a five-star brand, you don’t want to be slipping down to a three-star level and confusing your customers.
Deliver to the expectations that you set. If you’re a three-star trying to be a five-star, you’ll have serious trouble later on.
Just do you. Be proud of you and totally own your brand. If you aren’t clear on what your brand is meant to be, your customers won’t be clear either.
If you’ve listened to me or know me, you know you have to not only create value for your customers but communicate value.
But how do you communicate value?
Well, first of all you need to be able to communicate in a very simple way to your perspective target audience or your customers. You need to be able to communicate what your value is to them. Do this in a very simple sentence.
That sounds easy but it’s actually hard work to get that sentence crafted in a way that’s going to resonate with your clients. But if you can create this sentence, you will have created a short, powerful communication that is what we call your value proposition.
Your clients are going to understand so much more easily why they should do business with you when you can explain clearly how you create value.
Let me give you one example of quite a clever value proposition that explains exactly what the company does, and exactly what the value is to the user in a very short clear sentence. Then use this to model to write your own about your company and what you do and the value you deliver. Think first what is it that you really do, and it’s usually not what you usually say you’re doing. For example, I can say I’m in the copyrighting business, but what does that mean to you? What value am I creating for you with that statement? Nothing.
So you’ve really got to think about what is it that you actually really do for the customer. What is that value that they keep coming back for?
My example is from Evernote, an app that allows you to collate all your information into one platform and be able to file it and organise and sort everything. You may have used it it. If not, check it out. It may be a really useful tool for you.
“Feel organised without the effort.”
Wow! There’s value right there! I’m going to get organised and it’s not going to take me a lot of hard work to get it done. So they’re selling me the value of it being really easy and I don’t have to do anything much but I’m going to get organised. I’m already in.
After that sentence, they say:
“Evernote helps you capture and prioritise ideas projects and to-do lists so nothing falls through the cracks.”
Mind blown again! So now it’s promising me that I won’t forget things like I usually do. I understand exactly how they can create value for me. You can prioritise, you can capture and you can just organise everything so that you forget nothing. That is so valuable and it is said in such a simple way.
Communicate value by being clear on how you create value
The value is crystal clear.
So think about what is it that you really do. Remember, Evernote didn’t start with – “We have an app …” They take a completely different approach. You want to think about what it is that your business really does. How do you really benefit the customer and write your value proposition in a crystal clear way that says in one or two sentences exactly why your customers should buy from you.
It’s the perennial problem for every marketer – how to stand out and get noticed by your prospective customers
Do you have a prospective customer you’ve been chasing for so long and who has been ignoring you? You need to try something maybe a little different than just social media or email marketing. You need to stand out and be noticed!
Now one of the ways to solve the problem of how to stand out and be noticed is to do something different.
It might be doing something old school like putting pen to paper and actually writing to them, you know, sending them a little postcard note of thanks rather than blasting an email.
OK that seems counterintuitive. Nobody writes anymore.
But hey, that’s EXACTLY why you’re going to get noticed.
Because nobody writes anymore, if you’re the person who sits down and writes a nice personal thank-you note to your client or to a potential customer, you’re going to get noticed by them and they will appreciate the extra effort and feel valued.
It’s all about making your clients feel valued. When they feel valued, they’re more likely to stay with you. They’re more likely to buy from you. So try to think of different ways that you can stand out and attract customers by doing things a little differently than everybody else.
How do you get your offer in front of people that will buy from you?
Today I want to cover another misconception that I’ve come across in my 20 years serving business owners. This is an error that a lot of business owners make when they’re trying to market their business. They try to get in front of as many people as possible because they think that the more people that see their ad or offer, the more they will sell.
Well that’s just not necessarily true. You can put your offer out to 100,000 people, but if only 100 of those people actually need or could use your service, you’re just wasting your advertising budget because 900 would never have bought from you anyway. You need to target the people that will buy from you.
So what I want you to think about is not how many people you can get in front of, but how do you get in front of the RIGHT people.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
A restaurant puts their ad into the local newspaper because they think a lot of people are going to see it because a lot of people buy the newspaper. So they think that people will see the ad and come to the restaurant. They offer a discount voucher to sweeten the deal. The response is low because not everyone reading the newspaper wants to eat at their restaurant.
We suggested instead a Facebook ad targeted at a specific but smaller audience to fill the restaurant at lunchtime – the lowest hanging fruit. The obvious target was business and office workers within a mile radius of the restaurant. Business lunches would be a good offer, with no discount. Just give the audience what they want.
The restaurant ended up being packed each lunchtime. They got a lot more people to respond to the ad even though they targeted fewer people. Their advertising dollars went only on people who would buy from them instead of the whole city, and they didn’t have to drop their prices.
They were successful because now they were actually talking to the right audience and they were filling the need that these people had to have a place to go to entertain their business associates for lunch.
So to get your offer in front of the people who will buy from you, know who will buy from you and target only them. Offer what they want. If you offer what they want, there should be no reason for you to discount your prices.
Stop spraying and praying and instead aim for the bullseye.
I want to touch in this blog on branding for your business and getting you to look at how to create a brand experience your customers will love, whether you have an in-store service business or you are completely online. Either way, you will be offering touch points where your customers get to experience your brand and they all add up to that customer brand experience and ultimately how your customer feels about your brand.
So think about how your are going to create a brand experience that your customers will love.
So why is that so important?
You want to create a brand experience that build that people want to come back. Let me give you an example of that. We all know Starbucks. So, when you go into Starbucks, you know what you’re going to expect:
a comfortable seat to sit in
an easy chair if it’s not too crowded
a table where you can plug in your laptop and work all day
friendly staff that will engage you in chat when you place your order
coffee that’s the same whichever branch I go to
Starbucks has done a great job of creating a reliable brand experience for its customers. It sets the expectations.
But there was just this one time when I went into Starbucks and I didn’t get that experience. It actually made me do a double take and look around to check that the branch hadn’t been taken over by a different brand since my last visit. I can’t be in Starbucks! I thought to myself. But sure enough, it was Starbucks.
What happened was the gentleman behind the counter completely ignored me, didn’t speak to me, didn’t ask for my order (I was at the counter and was the only one there). I soon realised that he was in training and his trainer has walked off and left him alone, and he didn’t know what to do. However, when the trainer and served me, it still wasn’t the usual friendly Starbucks service. And it really made a difference to the experience.
How to create a brand experience at every touch point
So you want to think about your brand and you want to think about the experience that you want to deliver for your clients. How are you going to make that consistent every time so that your customers don’t have a bad experience?
Sure, it’s OK when you are a one man show. You are solely responsible for the experience you create. But when you start to grow and you have a team, how are you going to communicate the brand experience you need them to deliver for you. You’ll need to create a system that helps them to deliver that same brand experience each time. So you want to train your staff on how to speak or communicate to your customers at the different points of contact. It’s not always going to be when they are around you to supervise them. It might be you have staff that go out and go to your client’s offices and visit them there. How should they act on brand? It could be people answering the phone or how they reply to emails. Emails by nature are short communications and the intended message can get lost in their brevity. How do you keep it on brand? How can you create a brand experience that sticks?
Start planning now
So start thinking now about how you will train future staff to make sure that they’re delivering that great brand experience at all touch points.
The bets place to start is to think about what your brand stands for, the values that your brand has and how you are going to communicate that through everything you do in your business so that you don’t end up with a customer wondering if they are in the right place.
Your personal brand needs to be visible in your business. Here’s why.
One of the mistakes I see some business owners make, and I made this huge mistake when I started my copywriting business, is hiding behind their business.
I made the mistake of hiding behind the business and not developing my own personal brand. I think now of how much money I must have left on the table.
When I set up my first company website, I didn’t even say that I was the founder of the company, that I was involved in the company in any way. There was no picture of me on the website, there was no information about me, my name wasn’t there and as a result, my company blended in with every other agency that was out there.
I was the greatest asset in my company at the time and people were buying my services because of me not the company. I was successful in spite of myself! But you may not be so lucky.
So I would really urge you, if you’re starting out your business, to set up your own personal brand as well as the brand for your company. The reason for doing that obviously is it can help you sell for the business because when you’re starting off, you will be the business. So you will be the brand of the business as well.
Having a personal brand separate from your company brand helps to open up opportunities to you in the future and you can enter deals not related to your company brand but that gel with your personal brand. Your company may or may not always be around, but your personal brand is here to stay. Develop it.
Today I want to give you a little copywriting tip around how to write copy that resonates with your target audience.
First of all you need to identify who your target audience is.
Next, you need a way that you can communicate with them on a mass level where you can send them a survey. Send your target audience a survey, asking them to answer questions on their needs around what it is that you’re selling, whether it’s a product or a service.
Find out what their pain points are. Find out what’s missing for them. Find out what it is that they desire, what they think will solve the problem.
The results you get back will tell you how they perceive their problems and their desired solutions in THEIR language, in the way that they would normally talk about these issues.
This is absolutely gold for you as a marketer.
It’s so important that you speak to your customers in your copy using the language that they would use themselves. Once you start doing that, people will resonate with your message and this should show up as higher conversion rates in your sales.
I hope this is a good little tip that you can use to really understand your customers and write copy in their language.
Are your putting out content your audience understands?
I just want to clear up one definition and this is as a result of my sister, who’s not in the business of marketing nor does she run her own company. So she is not concerned with anything to do with marketing that pops up on her Facebook feed from. The posts that I put up sometimes mention the word “content”.
One day my sister sent me a message asking what content meant. “It’s in your feed and I kept hearing about it and didn’t understand.”
So that made me think really about the word and how it could be jargon in my industry and that the consumer might not necessarily understand. I was committing the cardinal sin – not putting out content your audience understands!
So while you are using such words all the time when talking to clients, you need to be aware of the vocabulary that is common for you, but that they may not understand.
So what is content?
Content is anything that you put in front of your customer. These days it’s usually online but it can be anywhere, in print as well. It can take any form so as long as it’s information that’s been given to the customer. It can be images or text and it can be trying to sell or educate. It’s done to build relationships and it’s done to foster a sense of authority so that your customers will trust you and buy from you.
As a marketer of your business, you should find content a very useful tool and it’s a very important tool that you need to be able to create on a regular basis. This can be overwhelming, and I’ll cover in other blog articles about how to reduce the overwhelm.
There is no escaping the fact that you need to put out content so that people can continue to see you, and that they understand what you’re doing, what your values are, and they understand that you know what you’re talking about i.e. you’re an authority in your field and someone that they could use. Put out content your audience understands.
Let’s look at lead generation and in particular lead conversion. What does that mean?
Lead generation is the activity of bringing people to your website or your sales page. If you have good lead generation that means you’ve got traffic coming over to your website. That’s a great position to be in – until you discover that they are not buying!
So let’s look at why your leads aren’t converting
Just because people turn up at your site does not necessarily mean they will buy.
I had a couple of my customers a few years ago come to me with the same problem. they were in different industries but they both had loads of traffic to their site and zero or very little sales conversion. No one was buying.
I knew before I even looked at their sites what the problem was. There was a disconnect between the offer on the ad and what the visitor saw when they landed on the page.
The expectations were not matter for one of several reasons and they left the site quickly or “bounced”.
Reasons people bounce can be:
the landing page doesn’t offer what was promised
the offer is hidden in the landing page
the visitor doesn’t understand the landing page
the branding of the page doesn’t instil trust
For one of my clients, the reasons were the site was too gaudy and didn’t instil the trust a customer would expect of a financial services provider. They also spoke above the customer’s head using jargon the customer couldn’t hope to understand. Nothing about the site said trust me with your money.
The other client was a tuition centre. Customers found the site too confusing, with too much information and, given it was an educational establishment, the trust was lost due to the ineffectual communication.
So think about these points as you’re building your website.
Build your site for your customer, not for yourself
Build it to communicate the value that you can deliver to the customer. Don’t make it confusing. Make sure your visual brand also communicates the right message to the customer so that they trust you and they want to do business with you.
Remember, it’s not enough to get the right traffic. You’ve got to retain that traffic on your site and entice them in with easily understandable offers that they trust and will buy. Look at why your leads aren’t converting and make the changes needed.
Be the business that they want to do business with.
When COVID-19 first hit and lockdown forced the population into their homes, I thought my business was “virus” proof. I was wrong.
You see, over the years, I’ve been adopting Cloud technologies and onboarding apps that would improve productivity, allow my teams to collaborate virtually and business was effectively run on the Cloud.
We no longer needed a physical office as we could communicate virtually without borders. Meetings could be conducted on Zoom and webinar.
Accounting went digital, so all invoices were sent through an app with options to be paid directly through credit card through Stripe or by Paypal. Even QR codes sent to my client would allow them to pay direct to my account from their corporate account by phone.
But it seems a lot of businesses out there just haven’t got the message.
So when lockdown happened, it didn’t change my daily life. Yes, I was worried for my family, hoping no one caught the coronavirus. But business wise, I was feeling pretty confident. Nothing would change for me. I could work from home as normal. I could convert enquiries online into paying projects as normal, I could instruct my virtual team as normal. Life would be per normal.
Only it wasn’t. Although I had digitised my business to be COVID-19-proof, many, many businesses have not. When the lockdown hit, they struggled to operate with staff working from home. Their processes didn’t work online. They ground to a halt.
So even though my business could run OK in the new “normal”, enquiries slowed. And worse, those who needed to settle their bills with me advised that until their offices reopened, they weren’t able to process my digital invoices. So not only are incoming projects reduced, I can’t get paid for the projects already completed. Not too much of an issue for a short 2 weeks. But as the lockdown continues and July is looking more a possibility for the economy to regroup, it’s become a problem.
We operate in an eco-system. So when the majority of players, mostly the big boys, can’t keep up, prove not to be agile, those that had the foresight to adapt are pulled down.
So, I ask, why did I bother digitising my business?
At least looking on the bright side, when we are freed from our home prisons, my business is in a position to bounce back faster than most. And in the interim period, I’m building for even greater digitisation and I’ll be first off the starting block.
We are all battling the Covid-19 virus in this first half of 2020. It’s not a turn of events many of us envisaged and fleeting hopes that it would resolve in a few weeks have proved unfruitful.
Different countries have taken their own approached to controlling the spread based on their demographics and size, but all have eventually come to the conclusion that a long period of isolation is the way to stop the spread.
The UK govt call of Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. has largely been obeyed over the last 3 weeks. And it seems to now be working.
Where I live in Singapore, cases were easily contained at the beginning so no lockdown was applied but rather social distancing imposed. But with the return of infected citizens to the country, tracing proved more problematic and isolation measures have now been imposed.
Today is my fourth day in lockdown and I’ve been using the time to slow down and take stock of my priorities, what really matters in life, and am also starting to prepare my business for its next wave of growth.
Here are my observations:
I am luckier that a good number of business owners facing the probability of losing their business unless government support measures stretch far enough to make a difference. Unlike some, which have been asked to close their brick and mortar stores indefinitely, my business is completely online and has been for over two years. I embraced the cloud, my team work from home and all communications are made through highly effective project management software. I can talk to clients via online meetings. So it’s business as normal for me as I don’t need to change anything I do. Or it should be …
HOWEVER, because so many other businesses have NOT prepared for the lockdown, have NOT digitised their operations or embraced allowing staff to work from home, or brought retail online, or digitised and automated their systems, their business has ground to a halt, and the knock-on effect is that mine has too as enquiries have slowed to a trickle, and most of those are actually others promoting their wares through my forms made for enquiries only! Grrr!
I’ve noticed a tendency to make do with what we’ve got. I’m cooking recipes I’d never have done before just to work with what’s in the pantry. I’m much more appreciative of the simple things and grateful that we can still get food, and basic necessities.
I’ve also evaluated how much I spend normally compared to what I’m spending in lockdown (not much obviously!) and come to the conclusion that I spend far too much on stuff that really doesn’t matter. My transport costs have gone to zero too as I walk if I go out, or I stay in. Meetings in person with clients has stopped and virtual meetings have become a norm. And I intend to try to reinforce this when things turn to normal too.
But most importantly, I’m using this time to get my online training and coaching business off the ground. Ideas have been coming to me left, right and centre and it’s a little overwhelming what to start on first. The possibilities and the opportunities are endless! There is so much I can teach and I’m so excited to get this all launched!
See what’s coming and get updated once my programmes launch!
Always thought of being an author one day but can’t write a book?
I’ve been talking recently about how to set up your personal brand and how to establish your personal brand and get your name out there.
One of the ways you can establish a personal brand is being an author and writing a book. That may seem really scary and some people think there is no way they can a page let alone a book.
Why write a book?
Think about it. When you see anybody that has written a book, you tend to see them as more as an authority, more trustworthy. (Author is the root of the word Authority.) They become elevated in your perception of them. So that’s really why you want to write a book – to establish your personal brand and get that perception of you elevated.
I’m just about to publish one of my books, 11 Reasons Why Your Business Isn’t Growing and we’re just in the final stages of getting this prepared ready for print.
I’m really excited to get this going, so hopefully you will be in my place very soon where you’ll have a book in your hands.
Where to start?
First break down your book into main chapters then brainstorm the content you could write about on each chapter. Then break each of those individual pieces to brainstorm the details of each section.
What I did in my book was identify 11 mistakes I’ve seen business owners I’ve met over 20 years in business and these became my main chapters. Then I identified the details of each point and came up with solutions – how I could teach prospective readers what to do to rectify or avoid these mistakes.
Once you’ve done the planning and devised an intro and a conclusion, you have the elements of your book. You are on your way to being an author!
It’s just 11 essays really
If writing a book overwhelms you, think of each chapter as an essay like the ones you used to write at school. You just need to write 11 essays, or however many chapters are in your book. Now if you don’t want to write the chapters yourself, you can outsource the writing to a professional. Or you could create a book that comprises different stories from others and in exchange for featuring them in your book, ask each person featured to write their chapter. Then you just need to get someone to edit it. Another way to make it easy is for you to dictate the book into a transcribing app. These are highly accurate today and you’ll have your book out of your head and onto paper in the time it tales to dictate it!
It doesn’t have to be long
Another myth is that a book has to be really long. Well, it doesn’t really. Being an author isn’t dependent on the length of the book. It can be as long as you need it to be. So if the reason for writing a book is really just for publicity and to elevate your perception of people’s perception of you, you could just do a short little ebook and put that out and that’s enough.
Another approach to consider is to buy a license to put your name on someone else’s book. This is called public license rights. To find books you can buy a license for, do an online search around your topic and add “PLR” to the end of your search. You’ll find some websites selling content that you can use without changing and that you can just put your name to. Or you can edit as you see fit and use the book as a base. Just be careful to read and understand the license rights you are purchasing so you know what you can and can’t do with the content.
By implementing any of these ideas, you can have a book out to elevate your brand quite quickly without having to deal with the overwhelm.
Well, the new year is well upon us now. Writing 2020 takes some getting used to but it’s exciting to be entering into this new decade. It’s time to take stock of how you manage your time and how better time management can make ALL the difference. In fact if you change just ONE thing this year, it should be that.
The new year always gets us thinking, doesn’t it?
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done in the past and how I can turn these experiences into lessons I can pass on. And I realise that one of the biggest challenges I overcame in the last decade was time management.
You know, that dream of being able to get so much more done in your business and as a result potentially 10 ex your income or more and blast through those deadlines. That’s especially so if you have to write content as part of your role for your business or someone else’s.
It’s time to gain control with better time management
I can vouch that being able to manage your time in whatever you are doing, not just writing (for me it’s writing as I’m a copywriter and I need to make deadlines) will completely change the way you work.
You’ll enjoy your work more, you’ll feel less stressed and more relaxed, You’ll demand others respect your time, you’ll have the capacity to do so much more AND you’ll have that work life balance you’ve been chasing for so long.
I know this is possible because that’s exactly what happened to me
If I may, I’d like to share my story. You may relate. I remember back in the day, when I first started my business I was so disorganised, was running around like a Kan Chong Spider as they say in Singapore, where I live. A kan chong spider is someone who is tense, easily flustered and does everything super fast and doesn’t relax or enjoy the moment.
I think I used to be that way because I was constantly panicking about the work that would come in next. If I didn’t finish what I had on now, I wouldn’t be able to take on the next job opportunity and I’d be turning down opportunities to earn more money. So I was always on the go. I had no plan, and I was living in constant panic. Thinking back to it now, I don’t know how I made it through and kept the business!
The trouble was, I didn’t know how to manage my time and I didn’t know how to have others respect my time. I was practically working every hour I was awake. I worked from home in the beginning and I just couldn’t find that dividing line between home and work.
On top of that I had two young toddlers at the time and I was running myself into the ground. The pressure was real because as the main breadwinner, I had to make this business work.
I was too busy to see the signs
I was constantly busy, surviving on an average of 4 hours sleep a night and while I was making a reasonable income, it certainly didn’t reflect the amount of time and energy I was spending on my work. I was sacrificing time with my family – the reason I wanted to work from home in the first place – and my health, and for what?
My body turned against me. (Well I wouldn’t listen to all the warning signs). I finally ended up in hospital and it was only then that I realised what I was doing to myself. It was an incredibly humbling experience. I remember discussing the operation I had to have with my doctor saying that nothing could happen to me as my kids were still young and needed their mum. On top of that, financially how would the family manage without me?
I had to stick around
I had to stick around, so I had to change the way I was living. I had to learn how to manage my time and learn to respect my limits and say no when I needed to.
From now I was going to do things on MY terms. Anybody that didn’t like that didn’t belong in my world.
So I put time management practices in place that dramatically changed my copywriting business:
gave me time freedom
allowed me to leverage on other people’s time
allowed me to take advantage of business and pleasure opportunities as they arise without having to think “can I afford it”
enabled me to track all projects and ensure deadlines are met and projects wrapped up in a timely manner so the cash flows
It’s a different life today 🙂
Today, I work a few hours a day, mostly delegating work and socialising with my clients. I cherry pick the projects I want to work on myself and which to delegate. (Thank the heavens for delegation!) I have the time and money to travel when I need, take cruises, celebrate my children’s victories with them, and visit my family across the world any time I choose. I’m living a completely different life.
I’’m no longer that kan chong spider running around at full speed. Today I live in the moment, I’m in complete control of how I spend each day and with whom. I’m known as the Copy Warrior, but today I pick my battles carefully.
I have a great life as a copywriter. If I can do it so can you.
If the above sounds like you and you’d like to break free like I did, ask me about my time management course. I’ll show you exactly what I did to make the transition from being at the mercy of other people’s time to completely controlling my own.
I’ve had the chance to take another look back at the last decade thanks to an exercise put out by Marie Forleo.
What have you done you are most proud of in the last decade?
Apart from bringing my children from tweens into adulthood and proudly watching them come into their own, my personal breakthrough has been coming into my own and owning my personal brand. I’ve transitioned from someone who used to hide from the camera and refused to have my photo taken let alone make a video. I’ve become comfortable with who I am and am owning my authentic self. (Anyone who can’t accept my complete obsession with Alice Cooper just isn’t for me.)
Another achievement I’ve made over the last decade is being able to embrace the Cloud and change my business model to fully utilise the benefits of being Cloud based. As a result of this technology, I am able to work from any location worldwide with an Internet connection and draw on the talents of a global team on a project basis. It’s meant higher quality production for my clients and has completely relieved me of stress. It’s a totally different lifestyle and I’m loving it!
What obstacles have you overcome?
I’ve gone from being a complete technophobe to really embracing everything technology has to offer. It’s revolutionised the way I run my business and has allowed me to build on to my business by offering training solutions to small business owners to take them through the journey I have been on but in a fraction of the time and investment.
What results have you created in your life since 2010?
The experiences have been so varied. I’ve gone from a solopreneur to running an agency of 10 staff to moving with technology to change my business model to a much leaner animal. As a result, I have a business I can operate from anywhere.
I have a personal brand that establishes trust with my target audience and I’m able to impact the lives of other business owners who are today where I used to be – tech unsavvy and frustrated at not being able to market my business. I can take them from that state of paralysis to having full empowerment over their branding and marketing. That’s such a freeing feeling!
What have you learned over the last 10 years?
I think the biggest thing I have learned is that perfectionism is a dream killer. Good enough is good enough and it’s never going to be perfect. Waiting for that state means nothing gets done. 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
I also learned how to run a business and more importantly, how not to run one. Having built my business with no “schooled” knowledge of how to do so meant I made loads of mistakes, but I learned from them. I learned how to eventually create good recruitment ads to attract the right people. I learned how to let the business brand values drive the interview process and I learned that attitude can’t be trained. I am immensely grateful for the staff I have had over the years and am secure in the knowledge that you need to hire right to save yourself a world of stress and damage to your business and your brand.
Giving instructions in the right way is crucial so you minimise the need to repeat yourself and have others waste their time. Having a structured way to do this makes it easy and permanent. In fact, being able to systemise and automate everything that can be is crucial to running a lean business and freeing your time.
I also came to terms with my health and the need to be responsible for how I treat my body. It’s come late, but now I’m really enjoying being in the gym, getting a daily workout in and watching and feeling how my body is getting stronger. I’ve set myself up not to fail. My “office” today is a high-end gym which allows members to work at work stations and to be able to change into gym-supplied gym attire to go and do a workout any time of the day. When I want to relax, I can go lie by the outdoor pool on the 38th level overlooking downtown Singapore. Yes, I’m starting to put me first!
I also hired a personal trainer who has the expertise to train me right and holds me accountable to working out until now it’s a habit.
I’ve also learned to look after myself better by not putting so much pressure on myself. I realised that I was the only one doing it to me. I was creating my own hell. I realise now the importance of taking breaks, having time to myself, taking holidays and just living in the moment. I’ve seen the difference that has on my ability to be creative. It’s so under-estimated. The below images are from a cruise I took to LA and Mexico last month.
What do you want to remember as you move into the next decade?
I think it is important to stay lean in business and physically! That will be my main focus in the next decade. And as I move forward, I will embrace new changes in technology to make business even easier and I will continue onwards with my fitness goals. It’s also important to keep learning and to have a mentor to learn from, to give you a perspective when you have blind spots and who believes in you and your potential. Mine is Joel Bauer.
And have a community of like-minded people around you.
What limiting beliefs have you kicked to the dust?
Anything that doesn’t serve me and serve my purpose has to go. Limiting beliefs like I’m not good enough, I’m too old, I’m not experienced enough, I’m too fat, no one will take me seriously – I had to work through all of those insecurities.
These limiting beliefs stopped me moving forward with my goals of starting my online coaching business and as a result there are people out there that I should have been serving but haven’t done. I realised that I have an OBLIGATION to get my message out there and pass on my life’s work and let others benefit from what I know.
As we are about to usher in not just a new year but a new decade, I’m taking this period of contemplation to look back at the last 10 years – a decade in review both as my time as a copywriter, working with my clients, building and changing my business and bringing the kids on board!
There have been many changes over the last 10 years in my mindset, my business, the way I run things and the types of projects I’ve taken on. Let’s take a look at the major milestones:
Back in 2010, I was still running the copywriting company I set up in 2003. The business had grown from just me at that point to around five staff – copywriters, editors and admin staff. But I was outsourcing to local design companies design jobs my clients requested, as I had no design capabilities inhouse. This was before the Cloud and the ability to outsource online (more on that later). The majority of our projects were print newsletters at this point and this was our bread and butter.
This year was a major change in the business as I brought design staff inhouse at this point. This led to a rebranding of the company as we positioned ourselves as a full marketing agency. We started to bring in larger jobs, especially from government agencies, and things looked exciting. At this point, we were in a small but bright office in Maxwell House, but as we brought on the design staff and eventually a sales executive, we eventually ran out of room to put in new desks. So it was time to move.
2012 – 2014
We didn’t move far, just down the road to a large office in a commercial building. It wasn’t grand, but for the size, the rent was cheap and we were in the main business district. We brought on another design staff in this office and another sales executive. This was our home for three years, until my sales executive one morning asked: “Has anyone been eating my snack bar?” We all looked at him puzzled, as you would. And so began the hunt for whatever had chewed its way into the bar he’d left on his desk overnight!
We found clues. The carpet under the front door had been knawed away to leave a slight gap between the floor and the bottom of the door. Then someone voiced what we’d been dreading: “It must be a rat!” Urgh. A further hunt revealed a rat had in fact set up home behind our sofa. Luckily this all happened just as our three-year lease was up so, in less than three days, we were out of there and moved into what I’d consider to be the best office we ever had.
During the prior three years, we’d taken on some interesting projects and one memorable one was a transcription job we took on for an existing client. We’d never done this before, it wasn’t a core service, but when this existing client asked if we would, we said yes. I hadn’t realised the amount of time it would take or the extent of the work and the variety of different accents to be listened to on the recordings. So we all pitched in – all eight of us at this point. Everyone had a recording each and set to work. I had mine to transcribe too, but I was also the quality control for the transcripts that would go to the client, so I had to listen to all recording against what my staff had transcribed. And I have to say I fell about laughing at some of the interpretations of what was being said! Still, it got done. This project also made me realise at this time the power of a blog . We only wrote one short blog on this project experience and suddenly I started getting enquiries for transcription services. At first, I couldn’t understand it as we didn’t list such as service on our site. Then I realised it was the blog! So we set about doing more! Well, you would, wouldn’t you!
2014 – 2016
We moved into a shophouse, the type of beautiful old terrace-style house in Singapore that a lot of design agencies favoured as their offices. In this shophouse, we grew the business to the biggest it would become staff-wise. We stayed three years and in the last year there, we added a web developer to the team. At this point, we were an agency of 10 staff and it was an extremely stressful time for me. My overheads were extremely high, mostly staff costs, and it was a struggle to be honest to keep cashflow flowing to be able to pay staff. Many months I would go unpaid, and on some occasions, I was late paying my staff. I knew there had to be a better way. This was the darkest time running the business for me and I started to question if it was worth it.
We had some great projects though, while we were there, including the production of two coffee-table books to celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary. The first book was particularly memorable as we ended up staying in the office until the wee hours of the morning proofreading the final galley proofs before the book went to print the next morning. That is not my favourite memory, but it did serve to highlight the need for more robust systems to be put in place to ensure such rushes didn’t happen again. And that triggered our journey to becoming an ISO 9001 company for a short while.
By 2016, I’d started to explore the idea of building an online business. I’d seen various mentors online running their own coaching and training businesses online and I liked the idea of doing the same. I just didn’t know at this point enough about the technologies involved, so I started to explore.
I also came across one mentor who had successfully built her business online and only had one fulltime staff and the rest were outsourced as needed from around the world. When I learned about her business model, I realised quickly that this was the business of the future and the answer to reducing my excessive overheads. Again, the lease on our office was coming up for renewal and I started to look for alternatives that would be cheaper and smaller and facilitate a work-from-home model.
In this period, I got to add on more hospitality work to my copywriting portfolio and there would be more to come!
2017 – 2018
We moved into a serviced office space with a rented office of five desks, cutting non-staff expenses by over 50% and my staff were told they could hot desk at the office or work from home. Through the next year, through natural attrition, I made the office completely virtual. As staff left, I didn’t replace them with fulltime staff but instead found most talent online that could work on projects on demand, as needed. At this time, I rebranded the company again and we shifted the focus back to copywriting and content writing. While design is still an option for my clients, it is not something we advertise.
We took on a large client in this period on a blog writing retainer, which kept us busy but stable.
From the beginning of 2019 onwards, 90% of the enquiries we were getting were businesses wanting to publish regular blogs. This was a major shift from a few years earlier when I could not persuade a business to publish blogs despite trying to educate them on the power of a blog in increasing web pages on their site and setting the business up as a trusted thought leader for their industry. But finally they had to bend to the wishes of Google and we profited from that. So the last year in the decade saw my fortunes reverse. I was getting the projects I wanted to work on (more hospitality work), my costs were manageable and I had a great online team that worked effectively and produced great work. I was loving the Cloud!
2019 was a great year for another monumental reason – my son joined me on staff as a copywriter – and guess what! He’s good! He’s in university now studying Communications but he has a part-time role with me running a couple of my accounts. Proud mum!
My daughter has also supported me with design and been a lifesaver on occasion. Oh, and I got to meet my VA of two years for the first time in 2019, which was awesome!
My daughter may be joining the business to add on her branding, design and multimedia skills. She’s doing an internship now with another company spending most of her time copywriting, so that fares well for me! If she’s interested when her studies are up, I’d be proud to have her join me fulltime too. She’s been highly critical of the company she’s interning for and seems to have a god entrepreneurial head on her shoulders. She’s seen firsthand the dangers of hiring the wrong staff so that in itself has been an invaluable lesson for her.
My copywriting business will still run as it is now, online supplying Done For You services for our clients. To be fair, with the systems in place and the great talent support I have, it runs itself. So in the new decade, I will be focussing on building my learning portal business, teaching copywriting and marketing to small business owners and giving them a choice of DIY or Done For You services.
I’m so looking forward to what the next decade has to offer!
Master copywriter and content marketer Ange Dove, AKA Your Business Transformation Fairy Godmother, founded Proof Perfect in 2003 to improve business communication and marketing, one business at a time.
Ange and her Proof Perfect team focus on providing compelling copy backed by powerful visuals to make clients’ content stand out both online and offline.
She is adept at planning strategies for her clients and using the best of today’s technologies to automate their marketing so they can Get Ready, Get Seen, Get Business.
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