To note or not to note

Everyone tasked with speaking in public has the same choice to make: to make the speech with or without notes. The opinion of some people is that using notes is unprofessional. But is it?

In 1914 a young Winston Churchill stood to speak in the House of Commons. Churchill had memorised his speech, but part-way through he lost his way. He repeated his previous sentence, hoping that would jog his memory. It didn’t. Churchill had to sit down, humiliated. He would go on to make many impressive speeches, all of them with the aid of notes.
So if using notes was good enough for Winston Churchill, it should be fine for all of us to use them. Right?
According to professional keynote speaker Bob Ferguson, a three-time Toastmasters champion, the answer is yes.
And no.

“It all depends on WHY you are giving the speech in the first place,” says Bob. “At one end of the public speaking spectrum there are Professional Speakers. Speaking is their job. At the other end there are business speakers. Speaking is part of their job.”

Bob identifies two major differences between a Professional Speaker and a Business Speaker:

1. Content

Professional Speakers may have three, perhaps four speeches. Some have just one. The Professional Speaker will customise a speech from their arsenal for each engagement, but essentially they are repeating the same performance again and again.

Business Speakers stand up in front of audiences in a variety of circumstances, perhaps covering project updates or sales presentations or team briefings. They’re dealing with new material almost every time they make a presentation.

2. Preparation Time

When Professional Speakers develop their keynote speech(es) they spend a lot of time crafting both the content and the performance. They allow themselves time for research, rehearsal and trial runs. They’ll organise feedback from friendly audiences and hone their product.

That’s not the world the Business Speaker inhabits. Pretty much each speech focuses on new subject matter and will often be delivered at short notice.

Professional Speakers and Business Speakers may seem to be doing the same thing, but only in the way that Usain Bolt and Mo Farah seem to be doing the same thing.

For a Business Speaker, using notes makes sense. Their audience isn’t there to be dazzled by performance, they’re there for information. And if notes help the Business Speaker deliver that information effectively, what does it matter?

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about how we use notes.

Bob Ferguson says, “When I have to use notes I either use small flesh-pink card (so the audience doesn’t see the flash of white on my hand as it moves) or I use a speech map (rather like a mind map) which I put on a music stand set at under waist height. That way I can see my aide memoir clearly but it doesn’t interfere with my engagement or eye contact with the audience. I also put small props on my music stand so I’m not retreating to the back corners of the stage, where the lecterns normally are, to retrieve my visual aids.”

For those still feeling a little sniffy about the use of notes, consider this: What do these iconic speeches have in common?

• John F Kennedy’s Man to the Moon speech
• Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech
• Winston Churchill’s We will fight them on the beaches speech

They were all made behind a lectern … with notes!

If you would like help in becoming more confident with your speeches then we have courses planned across the UK and we can also come to your business.

How to Leverage your PR Wins

If you’ve decided to take on the job of generating your own PR, hopefully you’ve had some successes. Chantal Cooke, author of “PR Demystified; how to get free publicity by giving journalists what they really need” says, “Getting coverage is always a great achievement. But not everyone maximises the benefits of their hard work. There are five easy ways to leverage your coverage.”

One. If you have a website, add links to the articles you’ve been featured in. This could be on an Updates/News page or section, and/or on your Blog page. Once you have a large number of links, you could create a dedicated Press/Coverage page.

Two. Make sure you include mentions of your coverage on your social media platforms. Be sure to include the Twitter handle of the media outlet you were featured in; this lets them know you’re cross-promoting them, which could help you when you next pitch a press release to them. Remember that Social Media loves images.

Chantal says, “Learning to use image editing software is a great investment of your time. Taking scans of hard copy coverage and screengrabs of online coverage gives you a visual record of your coverage that you can use on your Press/Coverage page, or (suitably cropped) to add images to the likes of Facebook and Instagram.”

Three. Mention the coverage you’ve achieved when you’re at networking events. This will increase your kudos and credibility among your peers. The more they think of you, the more likely they are to recommend you, pass on a good lead, or even use your services themselves.

Four. If you send out regular newsletters, be sure to tell your subscribers about the coverage you’ve received. If you’re worried about sounding too braggy, wrap the information in anticipation or gratitude. For example, if you’ve been booked for a radio interview, say that you’re looking forward to talking about [subject] with [presenter name] on [radio station]. If you’ve already done the interview, say thank you to [presenter name] at [radio station] for asking some great questions during your interview on [subject].

Chantal adds: “If you’re booked for a radio interview, ask if the station posts recordings of its interviews on its website. If they do, be sure to include a link to the audio on your newsletters.”

Five. When you achieve a piece of coverage, include a link in your email signature for a few days. Every time you send an email, you’ll be promoting your PR win. Be sure not to leave a link beneath your signature for too long though; only when the article is most current. Achieving regular coverage means your email signature will be updated regularly, which sends a subtle, positive message to everyone you’re in contact with. If you become a regular contributor to a newspaper, magazine, blog or radio station, add that to your email signature too. Something along the lines of regular contributor to leading B2B magazine [publication name], or [subject] expert for [radio station].

Chantal says, “This is one of my favourite tips. Just think about how many emails you send every week. If you don’t use an email signature, you should set up one immediately.”

Follow these simple tips and you’ll reap even more benefit from your PR efforts; you’ll have people talking about the fact people are talking about you.

Chantal is one of our leading PR and Media Skills Trainers and if you would like to receive some tailored in-company training at your business then register your interest through our course page here.

This time next year Rodney, we’ll be Millionaires!

Most business owners are not Derek Trotter, but many share Del Boy’s ambition when they start out; they see themselves at the helm of a multi-million pound business, perhaps even a multi-billion pound business.

But here’s the harsh reality: statistically, only 4% of business owners ever reach the £1million mark, and only 10% of £1million businesses ever reach the £10million mark (that’s 0.4% of all business owners).

So what’s getting in the way of 2.5 million UK businesses punching through that £1million barrier?

Multi-award-winning business coach Shweta Jhajharia puts it down to something called the Complexity Ceiling.

“The first year of the life of a business is the most critical,” says Shweta. “The start-up year defines whether a business has any survival potential and whether it has the potential to reach the £1million mark.”

Shweta points out that no formal education or qualification is required to starting a business. On one hand, that’s great. Anyone can do it. On the other hand, the ease with which people can start their own business can lead many people to assume that what they already know will see them through. However, it most cases, new business owners discover they have a lot to learn, and much of their first year is spent finding their feet.

And if a business makes this kind of start, it builds the pillars that support the ceiling it will eventually hit. “A business reaches this ceiling when it becomes trapped in what is sometimes called the Hindu Rate of Growth,” explains Shweta. “That’s an average growth rate of around 3% each year, which, most of the time, is just enough to keep pace with inflation. If a £500,000-size business grows at 3% every year, how long will it take to cross the £1million mark? The answer, despite the magic of compounding, is 24 years! Many business owners will have already looked at succession or retirement before those 24 years are up.”

For a business to reach the £1million mark before its owner starts yearning for more time on the golf course, it needs to employ new systems to allow growth to happen. “But because of the way many businesses operated as a start-up, further improvement and growth is too complex for them to handle and pursue,” says Shweta. “What allowed many entrepreneurs to run a successful small business simply cannot support larger, more complex teams and issues.”
So what can someone with a great business idea do to ensure their start-up makes the best possible start?

The advice from Shweta is simple: find out what you don’t know: “For example, a key skill is mastering the language of numbers. Profit, Sales, Cash Flow, Receivables, Assets, Equity, ROI, Average Value Sale, Conversion Rate. These are all numbers that the professional business person must be fluent in. It’s not enough just to understand these numbers, they need to be leveraged for every decision in the business. In marketing, sales, team management and leadership there are key metrics to measure, estimate and average in order to evaluate the probability of effects and justify decisions and calculated risks that will lead to sustainable growth.”

But how does a fledgling entrepreneur find out what they don’t know? They ask. Mike Smith from Ripley Training says “one of the most efficient way is to access training like Finance for Non-Financial Managers, Leadership and Sales and Marketing to help you to develop and enhance your skills and knowledge. Accessing external training and follow up coaching can give you a clearer view on your business and how you plan for the future. If time is on your side, you could also combine this approach with joining a local chamber or networking group and learn from your peers.”

Whichever route you choose, here’s to this time next year …

MARKETING TIPS #5: Make your life easier with free apps and cloud collaboration tools

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats, juggling marketing and finances with sales and operations. Make your life easier with the right apps, either free or low cost.

William Buist from xTen suggests checking out Evernote for business cards and HootSuite for social media management.

Entrepreneur Taimur Khan recommends productivity app Skylightit.com – which can keep all your emails and documents in one place and make billing for your time quicker and easier.

Starting and running a small business has never been cheap or easy, and these apps make the process a bit simpler and more affordable. Accounting (Xero, Freshbooks, Sage) CRM (Capsule, Nimble) Marketing automation (Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, etc), Documents, Presentations etc. (Office365, Google Apps) Mobile video chats (Hangouts, Facetime, Skype) mean that no matter where clients, consultants or suppliers are located you can collaborate and talk in real time, all from your smart phone.

Planning what you use and why, who else needs access and when, are key strategic questions. 2015 is the year these tools really deliver directly to your bottom line.

Back to Marketing Tips #4

More information on our PR and Media Skills Course at your business

MARKETING TIPS #4: Use mobile payment for more secure transactions

With Apple finally introducing its long-awaited Apple Pay to the UK in 2015 it’s likely we’ll see a lot of changes, 2015 may even be the year of the digital wallet.

Customers are increasingly wary about using their credit cards and are seeking safer solutions. Plus, for small businesses, paying a per-use-fee for every credit card transaction can take a real cut out of the bottom line. Apple Pay, and other payment solutions that will follow, will disrupt the payment markets. Why? Because encrypted digital wallets are the solution. Digital wallets authorize payments for a specific amount and are available anywhere, thanks to smartphones. Plus, mobile payments allow in-the-field employees to complete sales on the spot.

2015 means changing and expanding the payment options your customers have, so that you can work their way.

Back to Marketing Tips #4

MARKETING TIPS #3: Improve website calls-to-action

SEO has been one of the hottest, must-do marketing tactics for any small business over the last few years. However, according to William Buist of xTen, great SEO can only take your website so far. Making it to the top of Google’s organic search list, or generating traffic with ads, won’t do your business any good if visitors don’t actually convert into customers. When it comes to improving your call-to-action, most businesses don’t need a dramatic overhaul; it could be as simple as tweaking the size, colour and location of your Call To Action (CTA) button or slightly altering your messaging.

Look at your click-through rates (CTR), bounce rates and page views to determine where in the sales process potential customers are leaving your website. Do you rank highly in Google search results but have a low conversion of visitors to customers?

Can customers find the information they need? Do they start to buy but not complete? Do you have subscribers but no conversations or engagement? Improving your calls to action is the first step to addressing these problems and converting more prospects into customers.

It’s not something you can leave – you need to measure and test, and change seeking always to improve and learn from what happens. Having a clear strategy for what to test and taking the actions to do it matter.

See also Marketing Tips #1 Implement a Strategic Content Marketing Plan and #2 Revamp your Social Media Strategy

See also our Sales and Marketing Skills Courses

Marketing Tips #2: Revamp your social media strategy

Are your tweets and Facebook posts hanging somewhere in social media cyberspace or are you actually connecting with your customers? While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn continue to dominate the social media world, depending on your business, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr and SlideShare are equally important social platforms.

William Buist, founder of xTen, believes that an effective social media strategy starts with a clear understanding of which networks are most relevant for your customers and clients. Jut like with content marketing, social media marketing requires a clear plan-of-action.

So, how do you know if your social media strategy is missing the mark? Look beyond the number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes and focus on engagement and amplification metrics. What makes content “go viral” or generate leads? Social media marketing, like content marketing drives leads to you by building awareness, attracting interest, and cultivating relationships. If your Twitter feed is a constant stream of promotional sales posts, you need to re-think your strategy. Potential customers and clients are more likely to favourite and re-tweet your posts when you share information that’s relevant and meaningful to their daily life, and then prompt them to click on a link in your tweet to learn more.

For example, tweet a surprising new stat from a new industry study and your brief analysis of this stat along with an invitation to learn more (that links back to your company blog). Keep an eye on your amplification metrics (e.g., re-tweets, shares, re-pins, etc.); these metrics are a clear sign your content is resonating with your target audience and that your social media strategy is working.

If you need help with your social media strategy then call us on 01423 861122 or email us at info@ripleytraining.co.uk and we will ask one of our experts to call you.

Once you get your strategy right and need help in developing your selling skills then look at our many sales courses available for in-company delivery and/or accessing one of our scheduled courses.

Link back to Marketing Tips #1

See also Marketing Tips #3 Improve Website Call-to-Action

Marketing Tips #1: Implement a strategic content marketing plan

2014 was the year major brands got serious about content marketing; did yours? William Buist, founder of xTen, advises that instead of relying on disruptive (and unpopular) banner ads, marketers are investing in long-form storytelling both online and offline. They’re getting smarter about targeting customers with original, compelling and informative content.

If buzzwords like “native content” and “branded content” sound like the same thing to you, then it’s time for your small business to get serious about its content marketing strategy. Effective content marketing is more than publishing the occasional post to your company blog. You need a clear strategy. Buist recommends you start with a content calendar.

So, what’s a content calendar? A content calendar maps out the over-arching strategy you will follow for your blog. It keeps you consistently publishing original content, establishes clear deadlines for drafts and posts, organizes your ideas for future content into a coherent plan, and keeps track of holidays/major events (e.g. industry awards), around which you may want to offer customized content.

If you need help in how to plan and implement then call us and we will spend time with you and your team in developing an effective strategy. You can call us on 01423 861122 or email us at info@ripleytraining.co.uk

Alternatively you can join us on our Practical Marketing Skills Course in Leeds or we can run the course at your business – click here for more information.

Link to Marketing Tips #2: Revamp your social media strategy

See also Marketing Tips #3 Improve Website Call-to-Action

How traditional brands can remain relevant in the digital world

Technological change has transformed consumer’s lives and the way we do business. In the past decade alone, there has been the most rapid change since the industrial revolution of the 18th century. And if you work in marketing, you need to ensure that you look into the future and anticipate change in order to keep your brand relevant.

According to leading digital business strategist, Brian Solis, we’re now in the age of “Digital Darwinism”; which he basically describes as the “evolution of technology, business models and society”, which makes the customer experience more intangible. So what does this actually mean?

Digital Transformation

The days when a company could establish its brand, sit back and wait for the customers to come knocking on the door are long gone. Your brand is no longer defined by what it says but also what it does; the World Wide Web has become your online shop window and your business portfolio, accessible to everyone, globally, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

In this rapidly changing technological market, it is important for companies to recognise the importance of adapting their brand to meet the requirements of their customers and stay relevant. The goalposts are constantly shifting; nothing remains the same for too long. This means that brands must capitialise on the full digital toolkit of website design, social media, content marketing, SEO and so on; to portray their businesses in the best way possible and effectively cater to their customers.

More traditional brands such as B2B organisations and those involved in manufacturing or engineering, for example, may question the extent to which their company brand should have a digital presence. There could be some confusion over the benefits of this, or perhaps some reluctance to change. In order to make a seamless transition into the digital era, we recommend you consider the following:

1) Know your customers (and your competitors!)

Take time to routinely research your market. This can happen quarterly or monthly if necessary. Review, update and refresh your market knowledge to stay ahead of your competition and better anticipate customer needs. Never ‘rest on your laurels’ as the old adage goes. Your target audience may have grown and evolved; so don’t make mis-informed decisions – customer needs are ever-changing. Use the web to research customers. Sites like LinkedIn offer a massive opportunity to research target customers by name, location, job title, industry and so on. You can also speak directly to your customers via Twitter for a more personable approach with your brand.

2) Plan ahead

As we’ve emphasised above; it’s important to take precautions to stay one step ahead. Complacency runs the risk of your brand being ignored for something more relevant. Create actionable marketing plans with schedules, timings and key tasks. Schedule social media content and plan content for your blog every month in advance. All of these are great ways to boost your content marketing activity and drive visitors to your website whilst also entertaining/educating your audience at the same time, to highlight your brand’s credibility.

Websites for more ‘traditional’ companies don’t just have to be functional. Stand out from the crowd with a magnificent eye-catching design that’s visually pleasing as well as functional! This could mean the difference between a new customer and a missed opportunity.

3) Be innovative

Companies that have been around a while are sitting on a goldmine of opportunity: the opportunity to rediscover what your brand is all about, its heritage and core values. This doesn’t involve steering away from what made you successful in the first place, but instead regaining the spotlight and becoming front page news by doing something different and being at the cutting edge. By rediscovering your brand story, you have something interesting to tell and it’s a great way to not only engage customers and prospects; but your employees too.

4) Don’t be afraid to take risks

Risk aversion is certainly important in business. But how do you know if a decision was ever the right one if you never make it? The answer is, you won’t! What made you relevant before may no longer resonate with your target audiences, who today, are more tech savvy than ever.

Keep an open mind and consider all options with a fresh perspective. Today’s digital environment is rapidly expanding and exciting. Social media offers a host of possibilities for engagement and increased brand awareness.

Making the digital transition

Change can seem daunting or even unnecessary. But we’re not suggesting change for the sake of it. Use digital technologies that you have at your disposal and make improvements to all areas – they can be small or huge, it’s up to you. But consider your website, social media and the content you produce all as key opportunity to attract and win new business. After all, losing relevance is dangerous in a world where customers constantly alter their views and opinions through a continuous flow of communication.

The brand benefits of transitioning to the digital world are vast; from increasing customer conversions and loyalty; through to creating a more engaged and empowered workforce, and increasing your overall competitive advantage.

Experience, insight and instinct should help to provide you with the courage you require to make the right decision, and if you’re considering a corporate change project and need a step in the right direction, consider Leading Change – a leadership development course from Ripley Training, designed to explore the impact of change and the approaches that can be taken to successfully manage its impact. Our Sales and Marketing courses are also a great way to learn key skills in sales and marketing, to help you develop and learn about new technologies in marketing.

To find out more, why not give us a call on 01423 861 122? Or fill in our short contact form - we’d love to help you!

How to Come Up With BIG Marketing Ideas

Having a ‘big’ idea at the heart of your marketing strategy is the only way to ensure that your target audiences will take any notice of your campaign. But how often do you actually create an engaging big idea that they cannot resist?

What is a big idea?

A big idea is what underpins your marketing campaign strategy. It helps to inform and determine which marketing channels you use to promote your message – such as advertising, PR or social media. Many channels might be efficient at communicating to the audience, but only some may be ideal for the campaign’s particular idea. Indeed, the media used can be the making of a great idea! Continue reading