The landscape of how we interact and buy from companies has changed dramatically over the last decade. The pace at which it is changing is showing no signs of slowing down.
It used to be that if we needed service, we would pick up a directory, find a service provider of the service we needed and start to work our way through the list until we found someone who could help. Business to business sales used to rely heavily on travelling sales reps or reputation within the local business community.
The birth of the internet changed this and rather than flicking through 500 pages of plumbers we were able to type what we were looking for into Google. Fast forward ten years and our lives seem to have sped up to an uncontrollable level, and we demand information in an instant.
Not only has this information age changed how we find and engage with brands, but it has also changed the reasons why we choose which brand we are going to work with.
We have a choice, and therefore we choose the brand that is the best fit for us. A wide selection of companies all wanting to do business with us, which means we can afford to be fussy.
In the past, we would ring around in the hope that we could find a plumber to repair our broken boiler. Our only motivation or driving factor was to find a solution that will give us hot water.
Now, within a few clicks, we can find an array of plumbers. Some will claim to be the cheapest, others will pride themselves on reliability and customer service, and others may even ethically dispose of any waste and recycle parts where possible. We can choose a service provider whose values are in line with ours.
The driving factors behind our decision making have changed dramatically. We can demand that this brand not only does the job we want it to do but does it in a WAY that we want it to.
Whatever your primary, or even secondary motivation, there will be a brand out there that can deliver the service or product you require.
What this means is that we now make decisions based on much more than “can this company do the job I need them to do?”
We are far more likely to do business with a company whose values are in line with our own, so as brands we MUST make sure that our values are in line those of our customer. And we do this through our messaging.
Even in a B2B environment, companies still make decisions based on whether a product or service providers values are aligned with theirs. Never has it been so important to make sure your messaging represents what you stand for as a brand!
Marketing Consultant & Conversion Specialist
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Unless you’ve been asleep for the last twenty years, you won’t have failed to notice that the internet has changed our lives.
The evolution of the internet has changed how we gather information; it has changed how we communicate with our friends; it has changed how we watch TV, and it has changed how we do business.
The changes we are seeing are showing no sign of slowing down. If anything the way in which we buy is changing even quicker than ever before. All of this means that brands need to adapt to keep pace with the way that customers buy, especially in a business to business environment. Failure to keep up with the ever-changing user journey will leave businesses chasing their competitor’s tails.
What has changed?
The way we buy and the way we interact with brands before we buy has changed dramatically over the last few years.
We need more touch points to convert a customer. A few years ago the consensus was, that in the B2B world, you needed around five touch points with a customer before they would purchase. Today that figure has risen to 8-10, although I would hang my hat on the line and say it was even higher! It also means that the average lead to sale time has dramatically increased.
Research and social proof mean that within minutes we can find out what people think about brands. If a brand has a reputation for crappy customer service, it is impossible for them to hide.
The competition got stronger. Everyone is fighting for the same customers. It is, therefore, more important than ever for brands to get across their message and value proposition. I would even extend this to include brand values – this is something I will be talking about A LOT in the coming months.
We spammed the internet. The saturation of competition has moved us to a state of distrust. Brands now need to gain the trust of customers before they make any commitment.
What this means for businesses
Brands can no longer follow the traditional sales process. Instead, they need to find ways to attract, engage, and nurture potential customers until the customer is ready to buy. If they’re not, there’s a good chance that brands are trying to attract customers with a sales model and user journey that isn’t geared around the modern, digital customer. I find this quite a lot with clients, particularly in the B2B community where digital acquisition was not part of their traditional sales cycle.
The big question is can brands pivot as quickly as their customer’s buying habits are changing?
How can brands adapt and keep up with the ever-changing user journey?
A holistic approach to marketing. Online and offline marketing activity should be viewed as one. The last 30% of marketing is how everything ties together. Multichannel attribution demonstrates the need to make sure that all of your marketing activity is interlinked.
Revise the customer journey. Brands should be reviewing and mapping out the journey their customers take. They need to think about the journey from a customer point of view. What factors are important to the customer during that buying cycle? Are they nurturing them? What part does the website play in all of this? What and where are the touch points? Are the touchpoints online, offline, or both?
Gear the website accordingly. Understanding the customer journey will mean that businesses can craft their website in a way that will help move customers naturally along the buying cycle. Micro conversions offer a ‘marginal gains’ approach to nurturing customers.
Make it easy for customers. It’s important not to sell to the customer in a way you want to sell. Remove barriers and let the customer buy in the way they want to buy; when they are ready.
In summary, If brands embrace the changing face of the internet as it unfolds; understand their customer and the journey the customer takes, they stand a good chance of staying ahead of the game. Having a deep understanding of how customers engage with their brand will mean they’re in a position to attract, engage, and nurture prospects and turn them onto customers. Easy hey!
We talk a lot in marketing about the importance of understanding your customer’s needs. There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “know your customer”, but today I want to talk about the importance of understanding ourselves. In this post, we will explore why it is so important to have a deep and profound understanding of ourselves. I will also talk about why this has to be one of the first things you when putting together a marketing strategy. Finally, I am going to go back to basics and touch three key areas that will help us understand ourselves as a business.
Not having a clear understanding of ourselves is not something that is exclusive to new businesses or people putting together a marketing strategy either. Experience has shown me, that all too often companies can lose touch with who they are and what they stand for. Sometimes they even forget their ‘why’ – If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why, it’s a great read.
Why the self-obsession?
As a brand, it is so important to create your own identity, something that makes you stand out from the crowd. Regardless of what you do the rules are the same. Be yourself, shout about what you believe in, and your tribe will follow.
If we lose our identity, we run the risk of trying to be something we’re not, and for businesses, this can have many adverse effects. Customers can become confused with conflicting brand messages. Staff can also become confused, with the net result ending in the company veering way off course and moving away from, rather than towards their goals.
Why us first and not our customers? Surely they’re more important?
In my framework for developing a marketing strategy, this is one of the very first things I look at, and the reason is simple, If we start by looking at our customers, we end up crafting our brand identity around what we think our customers want us to look like. We then try to be something we are not, and we all know how that ends. It’s false, and people can see right through it.
By taking a look at ourselves first, we can be ourselves, advocate the things that are true to ourselves and be genuine. Also, it put’s us in a place where we know where are starting from; something that is integral to all aspects of marketing.
OK, that’s probably enough of the ‘why’, let’s find out what you’re about!
Before we go on, I want to clarify, this is not a soul is not a ‘soul searching’ exercise, we’re just trying to get some clear definition. For me, there are two fundamental areas that we need to explore, our core values and our identity. Let’s take a look at these individually.
We all have values, and we try to live our lives by those values. Our business should be no different.
We all have our favourite brands. If we take a moment to think about those brands and what they stand for, we will start to see the reasons why we are attracted to those brands. At this point, we really need to drill down and identify the things that are true to your business.
If we are clear about our values and relay those values through our identity, we will naturally attract customers whose values are in line with ours. Moreover, these customers will be so in tune with your values; they will become your brand champions. How many Apple brand advocates do you know? Telling you how great their new iPhone is – You may be one yourself. Yes, the technology is great, but the key driver behind this is because Apple have nailed their values and this shines through with their brand identity. Start with why, the book I mentioned above, goes into this in much more depth and uses Apple as an example. There’s a reason why they are the richest company in the world.
Try just sitting down and for a few minutes and listing the things that are important to you as an organisation. They may include things like integrity, sustainability or a fair deal for suppliers! Whatever comes to mind is probably something that is true to you, so jot it down and see how many you can come up with.
Right, let’s try and narrow that list down a bit and pick out the ones that stick out and resonate with you. Although there is no right or wrong number, I’d aim for around 3-5; otherwise, your values will turn into a mission statement!
Once we have our brand values, we need to take a hard look in the proverbial mirror and ask ourselves “Does my branding and brand messages truly represent my values?”. It may be good to ask a colleague, friend, family member, or best of all, a customer, for some feedback here. Ask them to look at your website and marketing material objectively and ask does your company voice hold true to your values? It is sometimes hard to get messages across in branding, so your ‘about us’ page is the place to talk about what is important to you.
If you have a brand guideline document, then now is a great time take a look at this. Your values should shine through here as this is your bible for anyone representing your brand. Your brand guidelines ‘are’ your identity!
Now you’ve identified your values and know exactly what you stand for as a brand; you can now start to take a look at your customers. You can enter this next phase safe in the knowledge that regardless of what you learn about your customers, your business is based around solid fundamentals that are important to you. You may even discover that your current customer base is not actually in line with your values or your identity, in which case you then have a whole host of questions to be asking yourself, but don’t worry we will come to that 🙂
The one big take away from this post always remembers the importance of being yourself and not somebody else. Only then can you create your identity and live your [business] life by your values.
In this article, I will show you exactly how to write a 90-day and empower you to get put together a short-term strategy for getting things done. As an owner of two businesses and somebody who is obsessed with efficiency, I have always had a passion for productivity. I used to ask myself the same questions I imagine you have asked yourself a hundred times. How can I manage my time effectively? How can I focus on the important things and not get caught up in unimportant distractions?
There are many different tools out there for planning your time or projects and some of them are really good. The one I have always found the most effective is the 90-day plan. I’m not going to go into the in’s and out’s of what is a 90-day plan, you can read more about that here. This article is more about how to write a 90-day plan.
When sitting down to write a 90-day plan I would always with a much broader outlook of what I wanted to achieve. Think about the things you want to achieve in the next twelve months. If you were to hit your long-term goals, where would you need to be in the next three months to be on track? What can I do that will make the most impact in driving me towards my goals? This is will be your focus for the next 90 days.
Now write down a list of all the tasks you would need to perform to hit your 3-month goals. The next thing to do is to try and break those tasks down into achievable timeframes. Where do I need to be in 1 month, 2 months and 3 months?
TIP: try to spread your tasks out evenly over the next 3 months. When you come to write a 90-day plan, you are going to be in a good proactive frame of mind, eager to get things done, just be careful not to over-commit yourself.
There will need to be some logic to this planning, as some tasks will be dependent on other tasks getting done. Now you have your tasks spread evenly over the next three months, let’s take a look at the first month, in particular, the first two weeks.
Have a think about what your diary looks like for the next month and if it is fairly consistent and you are working for the next four weeks, then take half of the tasks you have in your 1-month list and pop them into a new 2-week list. Try focus on the most important tasks, or the tasks that will make the most difference. Now take the 2-week list and split it in half again, creating two lists. These will be your 1-week and 2-week lists.
Again get the jobs that will make the most impact in nice and early. This will make you feel really good about your progress and keep you motivated.
A quick Google image search will bring up loads of downloadable templates that you can use. It’s in my content plan to create a resources page for you to use the format I use, but in the meantime, you should find something suitable here. I use Trello and create a board, it’s so easy to move stuff around and for me is an essential tool, to write a 90-day plan.
Well, hopefully, you now have everything you need to write a 90-day plan, and as always please feel free to get in touch and share your experiences.
Mindfulness is something that you’ve undoubtedly heard more and more about over the last few years. There seem’s to be an endless line of celebrities and high profile business leaders getting behind Mindfulness and going so far as to say It changed their lives. Fueled by the momentum shift towards the current wellness trend that seems to be sweeping the globe, Mindfulness claims to help us find peace within ourselves.
I confess I was one of those who jumped on the Mindfulness bandwagon and honestly, I’ve never looked back. Mindfulness changed my life in so many more ways than I hoped. I originally tried it to help manage a chronic illness, but soon realised the profound effects it can have both in your personal and professional life.
A couple of years back I was told that I would probably need a third major operation on my stomach. It was going to put me out of action for at least three months and would definitely not be a pleasant experience. I’m not sharing this with you to gain sympathy and I’m certainly not a ‘victim of circumstance’ type ‘sick boy’, but it does lay down a backdrop to the story and hopefully add some context.
In a last attempt to keep me from going under the knife, my consultant suggested trying to see if symptoms could be managed with an extensive lifestyle change. His solution was to seek help from a number of different health professionals to collectively see if we could make everyday life comfortable. I liked to call it my crack team, although the medical industry calls them a multidisciplinary team.
Under the guidance 2 dieticians, a consultant, a gastroenterologist, a therapist (CBT), and my GP we set about our task of managing my condition with lifestyle and medication. I also had to start exercising! There seemed to be a common message coming from my crack team “Rob you should try Mindfulness”, “Mindfulness can help chronic conditions, you should give it a try”. I had heard a lot in the press about mindfulness, and as somebody who follows successful business leaders, I was aware of a growing number of them who had found it really useful in business. In Tim Ferriss’s recent book Tools for Titans, he claims that 3/4 of people he interviews, practice some form of meditation. Being quite open-minded about things, I figured I had nothing to lose, so thought I’d give it a try.
I started out with an app called Calm, before moving on to a Buddhify and subsequently HeadSpace after a free trial. Quite quickly I realised that not only was I benefitting from improvements in my health, but mindfulness was offering so much more and changing me in so many different ways.
How Mindfulness changed me personally & professionally
With just one goal of helping manage my symptoms, I never expected the amazing transformation it brought with it. I genuinely believe it has changed me and that I am a better person as a result. Here are the 14 ways that Mindfulness changed my world.
- Chronic illness – Nobody can say exactly why, but there is a clear and proven connection between meditation and improvements in symptoms of chronic illness. In some cases, people have experienced a complete reversal. In my own experience, I have now almost eliminated the need for all medication. I’ve gone from having 3 different types of medication daily, to just taking 1 type, as and when I need it – probably once a week. Mindfulness invites you to explore your relationship with your symptoms. In a weird sadistic way, this is kinda cool.
- Stress – Stress is evil and ruthless. It will hunt down where you are weakest, both physically and mentally, and use that weakness to attack you. We all experience stress, it’s just how life is. What changes amongst us is how we deal with that stress. Mindfulness helps you to accept this and choose how we deal with stressful situations. I’m sure there’s been a time in your life when you’ve felt stressed and wished you didn’t feel the way you did. Imagine, how much better you’d feel if you could accept that and be comfortable with the situation.
- Acceptance – Hopefully you can see a pattern emerging here of how everything ties in together. The easiest way to manage stress is to choose how we respond and we do that by accepting things the way they are. Sometimes things are out of our control, so we can either accept that or not accept it, and work ourselves up into a frenzy. Once we learn to accept things as they are without trying to change them, we’re able to change our relationship with them, and thus choose how we respond.
- Anxiety – I didn’t ever think I suffered from anxiety, but it turns out I did. When you learn acceptance, mediation allows you take a step back from feelings and emotions like anxiety and see them for what they are. Subsequently, this allows you to realise that we are not our thoughts and feelings and thus create a separation between you and the anxiety. Mindfulness encourages you to explore these feelings which help us build a more profound understanding. Again, it won’t cure anxiety, instead, it will change the relationship you have with it and allow you to manage your anxiety at a level you are comfortable with.
- Listening – Now, I think it’s fair to say, I was never a good listener. I wasn’t being rude and it certainly wasn’t intentional, but my mind just wasn’t in the room. I was absorbed in my own busy world and constantly thinking about the next thing I had to do. Even socially I was permanently distracted. Mindfulness taught me how to be present in whatever I was doing including in conversations. By giving someone your undivided attention you naturally become a better listener. You will find that you are remembering more things too. More detail. This is because when you’re present you are actually taking in what is being said. I have also realised that I look people in the eyes and smile more now I am present during conversations. Note – All this goes out the window if you try and talk to me before I’ve had a coffee in the morning!!!
- Concentration & Focus – Mindfulness is an amazing way to learn how to focus the mind on one task at a time – preferably the task at hand. One of the techniques used on mindfulness encourages you to focus on the breath. One breath at a time. Nothing else, just the breath going in and the breath going out. Everytime you get distracted by thoughts, which you will do, you gently guide the focus of your concentration back to the breath. Focussing on the breath is a great technique to use as it is an anchor to the mind. Because it is always with us, it doesn’t matter where we are, or what we are doing, we always have the breath.
- Patience – Naturally, if you are able to accept things the way they are and you are comfortable with that, you are going to be a more patient person in general. Patience isn’t something I specifically wanted to focus on when I started meditating, but I did find myself becoming less angry about things and found myself remaining very calm in troubling times.
- Empathy – You often find that people who are not empathetic towards others are also often people who are quite critical of themselves. I was very guilty of this and empathy towards others was something that I actively wanted to change. What I wasn’t expecting though, was to discover a deep level of empathy towards myself. I learned that to show empathy towards others I first needed to love and accept myself. This has had a profound change in my happiness in general. I am no longer my own harshest critic and as a result, I am now able to have much more empathy and compassion towards others.
- Awareness – You will be really surprised at the number of wonderful things you miss in everyday life. You will start to spot things that have been in front of your eyes every day but have never sunk in. Colours, smell, noises, these are all things that we need to be present to, in order for us to enjoy. Mindfulness teaches you that awareness.
- Sleep – Have you ever lay in bed not able to sleep with thoughts rushing around in your mind? Sometimes our minds can be so busy you can lie there for hours worrying about sometimes trivial things. Meditating the last thing before sleep will help gather the mind and help it settle down, making it much more likely that you will fall asleep. My sleep used to be shocking and I was definitely guilty of having a million and one thoughts. When you learn to calm your mind and combine it with the reduced stress and worry that you will also benefit from, it makes for a much better night’s sleep.
- Productivity – It’s my view that we don’t need to work all the hours under the sun to be productive, we just need to be smart about how we work. A clear, uncluttered, unstressed mind, is far more productive than a tired, distracted one. It won’t as any surprise when I say that my productivity has gone through the roof since I started meditating. It has taught me to use short, laser focussed bursts to yield highly productive days and because I’ve already learnt how to focus, I’m not getting distracted.
- Work-Life Balance – Mindfulness has helped me accept that my work is not the most important aspect of my life. Although I knew this should be the case, I could never accept it. In my mind, I saw that I had an opportunity, a window, in which leave my legacy. The reality is that is not the case at all. My family are the most important thing to me, followed by my health and since I realised this the results have been profound. I have a much better relationship with my family. I exercise a lot and more importantly, I enjoy it. My health is better and my work is better than ever. The work-life balance is probably the hardest thing to master as a business owner and is something I want to talk about a lot in the future. for now though, know this… The key to me getting the work-life balance right was discovering mindfulness!
- Appreciation – When we learn to accept things how they are we learn to appreciate them much more. There’s not much more to say about this one, it’s beauty is its simplicity. needless to say, I appreciate people much more than I did prior to meditation.
- Self Confidence – Do you think if you became healthier, reduced your stress levels, became a better person, and kicked on your career at the same time as mastering the work-life balance, you could learn to love yourself? Of course, you could, and with it, you’d bring a level of self-belief and confidence you didn’t think you were capable of.
Did it work?
How to start with Mindfulness
Do you see what I mean about it all tying together? Now I am not saying that you will see all of the above benefits straight away, but with time and patience, these are all achievable. To help you get started I’ve put together started. Here are a few of the resources I use.
The Little Book of Mindfulness: Patrizia Collard – My mum lent me this book and I love it so much, I bought it myself. It’s one of those books you just keep revisiting and dropping into all the time.
Mindfulness: Mark Williams & Danny Penman – There are loads of accompanying material to go with this book.You get a CD with it with some great guided meditations on. Don’t bother with the app. It’s not very good at all and the content is just the meditations on the CD. Much better to spend the money on the book. I really like the structure and how it builds you up week by week. I think this book is great for people who want Mindfulness to be part of their life, but don’t think that committing 30 minutes a day is possible. This book will change that perception and break you into it gently.
Calm App – Calm was the first Mindfulness app I tried and I would definitely recommend it as a starting point to dip your toe in the water. Although I didn’t go for the paid version, some of the free content you get on there is really good. After the initial trial period, I realised that meditation was for me and decided to move on to some of the other apps.
Buddhify – Bhuddify is my go-to app for everyday meditations. The app has about 12 subjects for all occasions, like getting to sleep, travelling, or a work break. each subject has 5-7 guided meditations lasting anything from 5 minutes up to about half an hour. I use this app throughout the day depending on what I am doing or how I am feeling. I also like to use it for my bedtime meditations. All three of the apps I have suggested have their place, but if I was going to recommend just one it would be Bhuddify.
Headspace – I’m now well into my second one-year subscription of HeadSpace. It is by far the market leader in Mindfulness apps and is awesome for working on particular areas of your life like anxiety, self-esteem, relationships etc. It has an extensive menu of what it calls packs, which are mini-courses of guided meditations, designed to help in certain aspects. I have found these really useful for fine-tuning the areas in my life that I felt needed the most work. Headspace can be pretty pricey but it’s definitely worth it. I’ve found if you let your subscription lapse and don’t renew, they will email you with some pretty decent offers and you can save quite a bit of money.
OK, so that was a pretty long post and hopefully, you’re still awake. If you are then well done and now it’s over to you.I do hope you decide to give Mindfulness a try. The results I have seen over the last couple of years have really changed my life for the better. I genuinely think that taking up mindfulness is the best thing I have done. I’m not just a better person, but in my life as a business owner and a marketing consultant has also seen amazing results. As always, I would love to hear about your own experiences.