Most of my business mail is, frankly, quite boring. Same old brochures. Same old advertising. But now and again someone comes up with something really different, creative and intriguing. Something I want to read, and due to it’s novelty value, I am highly likely to remember. Today I received some mail like that from the progressive team at Zeald.
When I opened their envelope, the card inside, made from light brown paper, featured the words ‘Plant the Seed. Harvest the Result.’ It wasn’t the accompanying picture of the plant that was so clever it was what was inside – a small pot shaped paper embedded with basil seeds. The instructions told me to plant under a thin layer of soil, water and soon the seedlings will emerge. The card was a thank you to all the clients of Zeald for the referrals they’ve received during the year, with instructions on how to make future referrals and receive a 5% commission on any resulting sales.
I have to congratulate the team at Zeald. It’s a novel idea and definitely goes in my “I wish I’d thought of that” file. Not only have I read all the messages but there’s a high chance I will remember them too. So there’s a high chance I will talk about it (and here I am doing just that) and actually make referrals.
It’s now less than a month to Christmas and I have decided that I have so much fantastic content in e-books, presentations and articles that help professionals and business people with strategic thinking, strategy and leadership – that I’ll give some of it away. You get all 12 gifts.
The gifts you’ll receive include:
- How to have an awesome strategy
- What to do if you think your organization’s strategy is wrong
- Special book of quotes to inspire work and life
- The 3 strategic thinking attitudes
- How to lead by example
- The problems with being strategic
- Plus much more!
Reply by 8th December to ensure you receive all 12 gifts! Go now to http://www.strategies-direct.com/12ChristmasGifts.html
(And if you like that I am giving away this content, please like my blog, or my facebook page, or my linkedin company page!)
Labour Day – we still celebrate it, that fight our great grandparents won for the eight hour working day. I thought it odd yesterday though, that it seems to have mostly eroded, and many of us apparently now work almost constantly on one or more of our shiny new mobile gadgets. Defeated by technology, Great Granddad! You wouldn’t have seen it coming, of course. Imagine if you dropped back in today for a visit - what would you think?
I expect you would think we have a pretty cushy life. That most of us don’t actually ‘work’ at all. Not like you and Great Grandma did. There’s not many physical jobs left – either at work or at home. Machines do most of it. So to keep fit, we pay to join the gym or something similar. Then we have to fit that in outside of work of course! I think you would also think we don’t spend much ‘family’ time. Most of us sit around looking at screens, rather than talking to each other. We’re rushing here, there and everywhere. Some spend more time with friends on Facebook than in their actual company. In your day, the family would gather around the piano, someone would pick out a tune and you’d all sing. Or you would read aloud, taking turns and sharing the enjoyment of the story. Then there were the family sessions, gathered around the radio, either being entertained or catching up on the news.
You’d also probably think that we don’t have much sense of community. In your day everyone would actually rest on Sunday, not keep working, and meet at the local church. There’d be shared lunches after the service, more piano playing and singing. People really helped each other and genuinely knew their neighbours. On days off paid work, you worked hard around your own home, or helping the neighbours with theirs.
So I wonder how many people actually took a break on Labour day this year? And how many still cleared email, or caught up on work. Here’s some suggestions for how we could celebrate Labour Day in future:
- Make it a technology free day and spend it with people
- Have an extended family or neighbourhood gathering and find someone who can play the piano so you can have a sing-a-long
- Get a group of friends or family together and donate your day to charity or to a neighbour who needs help
Celebrating Labour Day in one of these ways might better honour our ancestors who fought hard for the forty hour working week. Switching off the technology regularly and giving our time and attention to our friends and family wouldn’t hurt either.
A new survey is finding out about the experiences of professional services firms in getting new clients, and the results will show processes that are working, those that are more cost-effective and those that might be a waste of your resources. Despite the much touted fact that selling further services to existing clients is more cost-effective than obtaining new ones, the reality is that every business needs a steady stream of new clients. If you could find out the most cost-effective methods to acquire new clients, you could save precious marketing budget ‘experimenting’. Competitors are unlikely to directly share what’s working for them, but wouldn’t it be great to know? Those who complete the survey can opt to receive the results.
For a whole variety of reasons, every business loses clients over time. Some of the reasons could be -
- You have succeeded or completed the work, and the client no longer requires your service
- Client has moved to a competitor due to their specialization, marketing, service, price or some other reason
- Client personally knows someone who has just set up in competition and transfers
- Client has decided to do it themselves – perhaps employing in-house
- Client’s business has grown or changed and they require services you don’t offer or specialize in
- Client is unhappy with your service and leaves
No matter the reasons and how you respond to these, it’s essential to regularly replace these clients to maintain your business. This is a critical function of your strategic thinking and planning. The block many professional services firms face, is understanding really what’s working in the sector. It’s very easy to waste resources spending time and money developing and implementing strategies that, had you understood the experiences of others in the industry, you would have steered clear of. It’s logical to share what’s working within a sector, and what’s not working, but most firms are reluctant to share this directly with competitors. Most are especially reluctant to openly admit what hasn’t worked. Also, what’s worked in other professional services sectors who are attracting similar clients, could also work for you.
The survey has been developed to find out, anonymously, what’s working and what hasn’t been cost-effective or good use of resources for professional services firms. It’s short and can be completed in just a few minutes. On the final page there is a web address that you can go to and opt to receive the results. The survey closes at the end of October and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/professionalfirmsnewclients
Many business owners are reluctant to select a niche to focus on, fearing that it will reduce their potential client base, and result in less sales. Last week, while on holiday, I witnessed first-hand a company using a very specific niche to their advantage, and really making it work. So how did they do it?
We decided to take the children to Auckland for a night to use a credit that was about to expire on our travel club membership. We were looking for a good deal for a family and the best one we could find was at Jet Park Airport Hotel in Mangere. The main reason we chose it was that it offered free parking, which made it more cost-effective for us than some others, plus we could get a free shuttle to and from the airport – a novelty for the children.
Jet Park Hotel have chosen the domestic air traveler as their niche market. Everything in the hotel and their packages is set up for this. Everyone staying there is entitled to a shuttle both to and from the airport and if you stay one night or more, you can park on their property for up to 14 days! The hotel is not situated as close to the airport as many others, but is in a mixed area of industrial and residential properties. It is not a particularly salubrious area, but Jet Park have developed a competitive advantage that allows their strategy to work – they have used the lower cost of land at their location to allow the free parking benefit for all their customers. The hotel is set back off the road down a long driveway, and alongside it runs empty fields they have turned into carparking.
Given the cost of parking your vehicle anywhere else close to the airport, the free parking is a massive advantage to domestic travelers with vehicles and also for those attending conferences and training in the rooms they have available for businesses. Niching in this way allows the hotel to target everything they do. They market directly to national air travelers. The reception staff clarify at check-in when you need a wake-up call for your flight, and when you need to book the shuttle. There’s some other nice touches too, like a small indoor and outdoor play area for younger children, a pool to cool off in over summer, a small library if you want to borrow a book, and complimentary fruit and mints throughout the hotel.
The interesting thing is that we chose the hotel even though we were not air travelers. The free parking made it a good deal for us, and we used the shuttle as a bonus activity with our children. We went to the airport viewing lounge and watched some international flights arrive and depart, and had a snack at the food halls. I’m sure we are not the only ones outside their targeted niche that choose that hotel because the benefits are valued by others, as well as the niche.
Of course the Jet Park won’t suit everyone. Some travelers will prefer to be on the airport campus, and others will prefer to stay in the central city or other parts of the city. But no hotel will suit everyone. By selecting a niche and serving that niche very well, the Jet Park Hotel has made its marketing activities easier to select and target, as well as how it trains its staff, sets up the hotel, manages add-ons etc. While we were there the hotel appeared to be very busy, and the award-winning restaurant seemed well patronized. The shuttle was non-stop collecting and dropping passengers to and from the airport.
So how can you apply this idea of serving a niche to your own business? Can you break down your customers or target market and serve one or two niches really well? Do you do that already? Are you ‘dominating’ that niche? How does this streamline your business activities like marketing, customer service, product and service development and staff training? How do the services and add-ons you offer for your niche benefit others and grow your business?
It seems to me that these days everyone is a coach – or being advised to have a coach. It’s one of those business ‘fads’ – or is it? It isn’t a fad in sports – people have been coached for decades and I suspect will continue to be for decades to come. The same in the arts – they tend to call them tutors or teachers, but it’s basically the same thing. Academia as well, they tend to call them professors. And that leads me to where, I suspect, the business world has gone wrong – or at least is being lead astray by the great mass of people wanting to make a living as coaches. You see, I think a coach should be a tutor, teacher, adviser of the best and most inspiring kind. The type who is an expert themselves, and is able to help their coachee develop expertise. Not by telling them what to do, but not by asking a few questions and leaving them to figure it out themselves either. The coach should know about up-to-date practices and research in all aspects of business, and be making sure the coachee has considered everything they should have considered, and has accessed the information they need to access. A great coach is a teacher, inspirer and supporter.
Would a sports player be happy with a coach that got to practice and said “Now what did we agree you would do last practice? How did that go? What did you learn? What would you like to do in the next month between our sessions?” I think they might be slightly miffed at how much they were paying to get that. And yet I have seen business coaching programs that are exactly that. Sports coaches are expected to be experts in their sport and managing practices, overseeing and consulting about player nutrition and fitness, and attending all the ‘matches’. What about college students? Would they be happy with a Professor who asked of their thesis “How do you think that went? Oh good, well all the best with that.” and then they fail because they haven’t followed correct research practices, and they haven’t found the right references for their topic etc etc. No, the fact of the matter is, sports people, artists and students expect far more from their ‘coaches’ than some business people have been lead to believe they should expect.
Now I know this view won’t make me all that popular with some coaches out there, but frankly that doesn’t bother me. I’m much more concerned about business people paying for coaching that won’t work, and will end them up not accessing the coaching they actually need. Because there are many fantastic coaches out there who can deliver what you need. So if you are thinking about getting a coach, or you already have one whom you would like to assess for value, what should you be looking for? Here’s a checklist to make sure you are getting a great coach -
- Offers coaching in a specific industry or field in which they have considerable experience and expertise (beware generalist coaches who can supposedly coach anyone or whose only qualification is that of being a coach)
- Has broad and in-depth experience in that industry or field rather than being a specialist in only one area (beware a coach aiming to secure your exec or CEOs as clients who has only ever worked in one type of role eg accounting)
- Has significant business and life experience ie been around the block a few times and learnt from mistakes (beware the young, attractive and trendy coach straight from coaching school)
- Offers a complimentary first session so you can assess whether this is a good fit for you (beware the coach sold by their superior or agent and whom you only meet at your first paid session)
- Offers on-going contact between formal sessions so that you are never without support (beware the coaching programs that are simply a monthly session)
- Is comfortable pushing you into taking action, and challenging your views (beware the ‘too nice’ coach who won’t really make you think, learn or grow)
- Ensures you take responsibility for your decisions and actions (beware the coach who instructs you what to do)
- Does not have ‘shelf’ products, systems or processes to sell (beware the coach who wants to provide you with other products and services related to issues that come up in coaching)
One of our coaching clients (a CEO) recently told me that she was renewing her coaching contract because “I can raise any topic, and you are able to understand, relate and ensure I get a good perspective on it.” That’s the type of feedback we expect from *Apex clients, but wouldn’t get if the coach had no significant relevant experience.
If you use the checklist you are much less likely to find a ‘lemon’ coach, and much more likely to find one of the many skilled, fantastic coaches out there who can really make a difference to your career and business.
Jenni is an Apex Coach providing coaching within the Professional and Services industries. *Apex is one of many excellent coaching programs available and is provided by Strategies Direct. You can find out more at http://www.strategies-direct.com/apexcoaching.html
We attended the BizExpo at the Kingsgate at Te Rapa today. It could have been an excellent opportunity to network with local businesses, but sadly the word did not get out, or perhaps the weekend was the wrong time to hold a B2B event. It was extremely quiet, maybe half a dozen people attending. Some of the exhibitors told me they had got to know some of the other exhibitors and that they were likely to use each other’s services, so some felt it had paid its way. Others thought it had been a complete waste of time.
Networking with the other exhibitors is definitely a benefit of an expo or trade fair. However you also want to get in front of the visitors attending. When we went through, only one person encouraged us to hand over our business cards, or give over our email address. As there was almost no-one else there, I stopped to chat to most of the exhibitors, and still only one asked for my card. That’s leaving the best opportunity of an expo or trade fair untapped. If you are paying good money for a stand, the least you want to leave with are the contacts of all the people who took an interest in your products or services, so you can follow up afterwards. The opportunities are not necessarily on the day of expo itself, but in the follow up. If you are going to exhibit, its important to understand how to do that, and to have clear goals about the outcomes you want from your outlay. You also need a plan to resource the follow up activities.
Hopefully any expo you choose to exhibit at has a much larger number of visitors than this one. If so, you also need to staff it adequately with both enough people and the right sort of people. Expos can contribute to a growth strategy, through new client acquisition, but must be well targeted and well managed. It also pays to check out the track record of the company running the expo.
Jenni is the Director at Strategies Direct, where she helps clients in professional and services industries to develop unique strategy and implement it effectively to achieve their goals. She invites you to download your complimentary report ‘How to Think Strategically’ at http://www.strategies-direct.com