Thank You …

Thank you. Two little words.

Two very powerful words.

When you contract a service, it’s usually in exchange for a fee. This kind of makes a thank you unnecessary and it is not usually expected. Of course, it is good manners to say a verbal thank you and that’s pretty standard.

But some take it a step further. They make it more personal.

They send a card, (or sometimes a gift). It’s always a double delight and a surprise to receive personal thank you notes.

Think about this…..it’s a rarity these days to receive snail or hand delivered mail. Even on our birthdays we tend to get good wishes via Facebook – not that I’m knocking it. It’s nice to be remembered by friends far and wide, but it’s just not the same as receiving a card in the mail.

I recently received two beautiful notes. Both very different to each other, but each precious and special.

There’s a lovely little frisson of anticipation in slitting open the envelope. Bubbles of anticipation are floating to the surface as the card/note slides out,  rounded off with a little heart skip and a smile while reading the notes.

Thank you notes

Both these clients (who remain unnamed for the sake of confidentiality) are winners, but have been struggling with their businesses recently.

It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them.  Working in business for yourself can be lonely. It can become quite overwhelming trying to gain crystal clear clarity on how and where your business needs to be adjusted for success. Providing support, teaching the skills needed and then seeing things start to turn around is something that both Yvonne and I love doing.

We’re paid, and we’re also getting a thank you card – how fabulous is that?

It makes the world of difference. It inspires us to take things a step further and always strive to be improving our services; this includes the bonuses and adding to our Resources4Results so we can share more to pay it forward which is my Dragon Discipline #5.

SO here’s my hot tip – saying thank you, either with a personal note or in some other unique way helps your business to stand out from the crowd. Try it.

Michelle

PS Love you to share how you choose to say thank you, feel free to post a comment below. Always great to share ideas.

 




Free yourself up with a Freelancer

Working for yourself is great.

It’s wonderful not to have a boss and just have yourself to answer to. It also means that you need to be really organised, as you alone are responsible for your income. The buck stops with you.

It can be really tough and there are a myriad of tasks to take care of – this can be quite a shock when first starting out in the world of self employment. As someone who is self-employed, time is money.

Effective use of your time is imperative to your success.

Meeting The Challenge

I know first hand the challenges involved and what a juggling act it can be.

I also know that the best way thrive in challenging circumstances is to surround yourself with experts.

In fact, it’s the only way to thrive and grow your business.

Use people who are good at doing the tasks you can’t handle, that you don’t like or that are simply too time consuming to be taking up your precious time which is better spent on other areas of your business

By this I mean things like creating graphics, doing your bookkeeping, monitoring social media, blog posts, editing, proofreading, marketing and a raft  of other tasks right through to having a virtual assistant – it really does depend what your profession is as to what those tasks might be.

Sure, you need to know what is going on and you can’t just hand stuff over willy nilly.

You need to be confident you’ve got someone decent working for you. There are plenty of sub-standard contractors out there! A glossy website and a slick sales pitch should never be what you base your decision on.

In the case of my business, I make sure everything that goes out to a client under the Dragon Sisters banner has my sign off.

But I don’t physically do all the tasks myself – I simply don’t have the time.

However,  I know how to do most things, or at least have a very good idea of what is possible, but making it all happen is outsourced to those more skilled in that area. They’re faster than I can ever be, and my time is better spent creating content, consulting and providing guidance or training in the field where  I am an expert.

Benefits of Outsourcing

As a business strategist, I frequently see clients who are so bogged down in the day to day running of their business that they have failed to take a helicopter perspective.

They are drowning in a deluge of the mundane. It’s like being bogged in mud, and  literally dragging themselves through the mire of tasks that are choking the life out of them.

They are so overwhelmed with keeping their business operations going from day to day, that they fail to lift their heads, making it almost impossible for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unless you are able to come up for air and take a helicopter perspective of your business, you’ll never be able to really grow your business.

You’ll just be on a treadmill going nowhere fast.

An obvious solution is to get some help: outsource!

How to successfully outsource?

Word of mouth is a great way to go. There is nothing like a personal recommendation from someone you trust.

A word of caution here, there are several business network groups where individuals recommend other members within their own group. I’ve been caught taking a recommendation without realising what was going on. It was not a brilliant experience.

So my advice now is – make sure you clarify whether they are linked via a network group, and if they are, specifically ask “has this person done work for you?”

 If it’s a task that can be done remotely, platforms for freelancer services are becoming more widespread. They seem to be popping up everywhere!

Most of them do pretty much the same thing.

There are lots of benefits to freelancing and hiring a freelancer. In my book, the two biggest benefits are:

  •  It’s cost effective
  • You gain access to a really deep pool of talented freelancers

These two benefits make good business sense, especially for solopreneurs and small-to-medium size businesses who do not often have big budgets and cash flow available.

The ever increasing number of individuals choosing to freelance means you get an excellent job done at a fraction of the cost of hiring an on-site staff member.

Being a freelancer has so many benefits including the ability to work remotely.

The challenge is how do you choose the right platform and the right freelancer?

There are lots of horror stories out there. But on the flip side, some great relationships are happening too. I’ve been in the global freelance world for 2 years now, both as a freelancer and as someone hiring services.

For the most part my experiences are positive – of course there have been a couple of demanding clients that I would rather not have had – but, hey, it keeps life interesting and there’s nothing like a challenge to keep me on top of my game.

 My 5 top tips for ensuring you’re picking a great freelancer:

Make sure you’re using a respected and trusted platform – I’ll be including a section on the freelance platforms I’ve used further on in this blog.

  • Check out the freelancer’s profile and pay close attention to the feedback from previous clients. It’s always best to start with a small trial project and see how well they perform. Or if you’re the freelancer, start with a small job to test if this is the right client for you.
  • Be clear about your job specifications, e.g, give clear and concise instructions, be sure to explain what you expect as a finished product and your deadline. Similarly, as a freelancer, be upfront about how you work, timelines and expectations.
  • If you’re using a freelancer in a third world economy, you’ll usually do better using at the higher end of the market. So if the average is $4.00 an hour, when you pay $8 – $10 an hour you’ll usually get a top class freelancer. Similarly, if you’re working with freelancers in countries with strong economies, those who charge $50 and upward are generally better performers than those at the bottom end of the scale.
  • Consider conducting Skype/phone interviews, ask the right questions and you’ll get a quality freelancer for your job. The same goes for when contacting a client, speaking to them gives a much better insight about how you can expect them to treat you.

Of course, there are always exceptions to all the above.

For instance, a new freelancer to a platform will often start at a low rate simply to build a reputation. Sometimes, it’s worth having a conversation to determine if they might indeed be the golden nugget you’re seeking. Trust your instinct!

Freelance Platforms

These seem to be popping up everywhere, but here’s a quick run down the platforms that I have personally used. Each has a slightly different approach, pricing plans, payment options, posting, applying to jobs, and talent sourcing.

Fiverr

As the name suggests, this is a marketplace for goods & services starting at $5. Fiverr is a tremendous resource for small jobs. You’ll be surprised at the variety & depth of $5-services. It’s a myriad of services ranging from blogs to graphics and everything in between!

The website has loads of loyal users, from buyers to sellers, so it’s a very healthy community.

Registration at Fiverr is free. However, you can’t do anything unless you register. Once registered, you’ll have access to an amazing micro-job market.

UpWork

This is my favourite site. UpWork is very user-friendly, and posting a job is easy and free. The sheer number of freelancers offering various services, ranging from customer service reps, graphic designers, project managers and software developers right through to ghost writers and virtual assistants, can be quite daunting.

However, the rating system and feedback from other clients is extremely helpful. When hiring you’ll be presented with the highest ranking contractors for the job you’re posting.

UpWork also has its own testing system so you can check out the scores of various freelancers and offers the choice of fixed price or hourly jobs that come complete with the option of using a time tracker that takes screenshots every 10 minutes.

UpWork has an excellent system that manages all billing hours. You can check your contractor’s work via screenshots, time tracking, and real time chat – another of the reasons I love this platform!

Freelancer

Freelancer is based in Australia and has been around since 2004. It’s a good place to find web developers, software engineers, writers, and marketing professionals for project based work.

Freelancer’s platform is easy to use for both employers and contractors, and both are required to sign up to be able to use the services.

Fixed-price jobs are paid when the task is completed. Hourly jobs are tracked in a similar manner to Upwork.

Guru

I have not used this site myself, but I hear that it’s very good if you need a freelancer based particularly in the US.

According to Guru, they have over 1.5 million registered freelance professionals (or gurus, as they call them). You can hire technical, writing, marketing, and many more professionals.

There are no hourly tasks at Guru, only fixed-rate jobs paid in escrow, then released to the contractor upon completion of the task, eliminating a buyout option if ever the employer is not happy with the output. It is crucial then, on the part of the employer to very picky during the hiring process.

Do you outsource tasks?

I’d love to hear your feedback and your favourite platforms.

Michelle

PS – if you liked this and want more tips from me, sign up for my mailing list here


Networking – The Pain of No Gain

Recently I was invited to meet a new networking group.   The first person I met told me, ‘I don’t speak to customers,’ with a please-go-away glint in his eye.   His female associate said, ‘that’s right, he’s great at website design, but he doesn’t like talking to customers.’

It made me wonder why she hadn’t left him safely chained up in his virtual world, far, far away from the real-life people; with real-life egos to offend.   I wanted to tell him to relax; there was no danger of me becoming one of his customers.

What was his associate thinking?  Bringing him to a networking event was like inviting the Terminator to a peace rally – at best pointless; at worst, potentially deadly – the lifeless bodies of dead opportunities strewn around him.

By an almost spooky coincidence, I came across another website designer (on social media), who took our introduction as an opportunity – to immediately shoot holes in one of my websites.   Well, at least he recognised the opportunity.  Not that he had it for long.

Even spookier:   I am actually in the market for a new website!

Now I’m not bashing web guys or girls.   I have the greatest respect for web wizards.   Especially since when I started out in business, digital space was what you had between your fingers, and the web was what Spiderman had between his.

Things have changed a lot in that time.   Moreover, some things haven’t.   Like the need to attract customers to your business and the ability to recognise them!

Clearly, these two gentlemen were interested in this. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been putting themselves in the physical, or online, networking space.  It’s a pity then that having taken that step, it didn’t work out for them because they had no idea how to maximise the opportunity presented.

It’s easy to look on and cringe, or chortle, at those two scenarios.   You and I can smugly reassure ourselves that, of course, we would never so obviously muck up the chance of interesting a hot prospect in our business.

The truth is, all of us, at some point, have missed an opportunity and are very likely oblivious to the fact.   The pain of no gain can show up much later, after the fact.   The more times we prod that pain point with the pointy stick of lost opportunity, the more it hurts – our business.

Image courtesty of 1shots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of 1shots at FReeDigitalPhotos.net

Being on the point (sorry, pun phobics) with identifying an opportunity, in any environment, is a habit honing exercise, enhanced by practice and experience.  And it takes skill to translate an opportunity to an outcome.  A win-win outcome.

Not being on point, can be a business breaker.   Crack out the Panadol!

Michelle and I have worked together for over a decade now.   Sure, we’re sisters.

However, the reason I work with her is that Michelle is one of the best business strategists I know, and I have been privileged to know some amazing ones.

One discipline Michelle insists on (she can be a bit bossy), is that we dedicate a proportion of our time each week, to talking about creating and maximising opportunities – for our business, our clients, and our Dragon Sisters collaborators.

Michelle has a little list of what I call her Dragon Disciplines relating to opportunities.

DD #3 resonates here:   “Your expert may not be the right person to develop all opportunities”.     

If you’d like a copy of her list of Dragon Disciplines, drop me a note, and I’ll send you a copy.

Yvonne



Yvonne ToeringYvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

 

The Secret Ingredient to Getting More Business

You need to be getting more business.

That’s why you’re reading this – am I right?

You’re not alone. Do not despair.

There are plenty of people out there bemoaning their lack of customers.

The fact that you have tough competition, that maybe you can’t get your message out there in a way that translates to more business is frustrating.  I hear you!

Or maybe your message works – you get leads and enquiries – but still no significant increase in sales. Frustrating to say the least.

Does this sound like you? If so, keep reading.

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort building your profile, your brand or your service, thinking up ways to get new customers in the door.

It’s probably cost you a quite a bit too, in advertising, promotions, website development and more.

Perhaps you’ve now got a nice little group of clients, some new prospects and supporters, but you need more.

You need more sales!

So what’s the secret?

Okay – here we go…

If you’re savvy you’ll be translating all your efforts, not just your marketing, into real sales opportunities.

After all, it’s taken a lot to get yourself this far.

Often people think that it’s enough to be busy marketing, even if the results are pretty much hit-and-miss. At least they are maintaining awareness of their brand or service and isn’t that what marketing is all about?

These same lovely people, in the next breath, ask me:

But what can I do to get more business (from my sales and marketing efforts)?

My answer is always:

You can do a lot!

And it need cost you no more, or even less, than what you’re doing now. In fact, if you have a tiny budget, you can still do a lot.

Because all that is missing is one key element to your sales and marketing equation … Smarketing….the secret ingredient!

So what’s Smarketing?

Smarketing encompasses sales, strategy and marketing rolled into a system that becomes a part of how you work, and everything that you do.

It’s learning how to refocus your business mindset for results.

When you’re a Smarketer you have your own unique voice and are able to consistently use every opportunity that presents itself to be getting more business which in turn helps you achieve your goals and dreams.

A Smarketing Mindset sets you up for success.

If you want to transform your business-winning capabilities, BUT need a little help, you might like our FREE weekly tips focussed on smarketing and taking your business to the next level.

No matter what stage your business it at and even if you’re on a roll, it’s vital to be smarketing. Always.

Fly like a dragon Fly like a dragon

Michelle

Every Wednesday – direct to your Inbox – FREE Smarketing tips to help you connect, convert and sell!




 

 

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.




6 Steps to Managing Your Social Media

You can love it or hate it, but the bottom line is, on a business level, we need to engage in some way or other with social media.

If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated social media manager, you won’t need to worry, but for smaller businesses and solopreneurs it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed.

A common dilemma

What to post?

How often?

These are questions so many people ask themselves.

You can end up wasting heaps of time on a daily basis flicking through social media looking for inspiration.

Precious time that you could be dedicating to building your business and serving clients.

Social Media Connections(1)Our latest tip sheet 6 Steps to Strategic Social Media Posting will save you heaps of time. It’s totally FREE as are most of our resources.

Process = progress. Nail down the process (as outlined on the tip sheet) and you’ll find yourself making much more progress, plus saving heaps of time!

Michelle

PS – as always, love your feedback

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

 

 

The number one barrier to your business growth

I’m an ‘80s YUPI throwback – and it shows.

Like when I was asked what Michelle and I do, and gave the flippant reply, ‘We’re business barrier busters’.   My equally long-in-the-tooth friend said, ‘What – like Ghost Busters?’, and he began to laugh and sing the movie theme song, ‘Who ya gonna call? Ghost Busters!’

Anyhow, it stuck.   I liked it, more than the dry corporate speak, ‘We’re business strategy consultants who blablabla …’   We even named one of our programs Barrier Busters.   Because it exactly describes what we do.   We help mostly small business and charities identify the barriers which are holding them back.   Then we help them bust down those barriers.

Notice the word ‘help’?   That’s because we show them how to do it for themselves. Like ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ by Eurythmics – another 80s icon (now I can’t get that tune out of my head) – is a song all about empowerment.   We’re a bit empowerment mad (better than being power mad, right?).   That’s how we get testimonials like this:

“Prior to working with Dragon Sisters, I went to a lot of expense and effort to strategize the marketing for my business development – with no real results. I had folders full of information, but not the detail of how to translate this for my own business.

Now, I am able to get the strategic positioning, content creation, marketing and business development support, for the specific outcomes and results I want and need for my business. Within 7 weeks I could see measurable, significant improvement. Finally, someone understands me and my business!   Michelle has been the angel on my shoulder.”  Dee Waterson, Ignite Yourself

Did you notice that Michelle has achieved angel status?!Image courtesy of Prawny at FreeDIgitalPhoto.com

Funnily enough no one ever calls me an angel …

The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ pops into my head (now that’s even older than me).

If you’re having the devil of a time working out the number 1 business barrier – not getting enough customers – here’s a FREE little ebook to help you out.   It’s called The number one barrier to your business growth.

I’m off to listen to Annie Lennox singing ‘There Must Be An Angel’, while I watch Michelle polish her halo …

Yvonne

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant who has worked with leading organisations and brands including Securicor Group, Vodafone Group, ASDA as well as most of the UK’s major high street retail chains including Marks and Spencer Plc, the National Health Service, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mars UK, and the Grand Metropolitan Group, owners of Burger King, Smirnoff, Samuel Webster Brewers, Haagen Daas, Cinzano and other iconic brands.

4 Reasons Why You Should Always RSVP – apart from being good manners!

Don’t you just love the feeling of slicing open an envelope and carefully sliding out a personalised invitation with your name on it? Even better if it’s vellum, gilt-edged or embossed with a crest!20160225_141748-1

Even after all these years, and countless invitations, I still love that moment as the sharp opener slices clean the envelope to reveal its contents.

Those little moments of using my letter opener are becoming rarer and rarer.

Have you noticed an increased propensity for invitations to arrive by email?

Even wedding invitations turn up via email!

You can call me old-fashioned. I know electronic is better for the planet and more cost-efficient, but in my book, you can’t beat paper.

The days of snail mail envelopes are almost gone. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, they will be entirely obsolete.

Anyway, I digress.

No matter how an invitation arrives, it nearly always has RSVP on it (répondez s’il vous plait) and date to reply by. Of course, electronic invitations can get trapped in your spam filter or the junk mailbox, so you’re often none the wiser till it’s too late!

Responding is just plain good manners.

Yep! I can remember my grandmother always used to insist on Basildon Bond stationery to write RSVP’s and thank you notes. But, aside from not wanting to appear rude, there are other less obvious reasons why you should always RSVP.

#1 – Someone has thought enough about you to place you on their guest list. They want you at their event.

Give them the courtesy of knowing you appreciate being thought of. That’s the RSVP.

#2 – When we look at the business scenario – invitations are a way of saying “Hey, we value you. We’d like your company”. You’re being invited, you’ll be giving or gaining something from your presence at the event. Hopefully, you’ll do both!

Your RSVP, whether you’re accepting or declining, means you respect the business relationship.

#3 – If you repeatedly fail to respond, you could well find yourself scrubbed off the database permanently. When that happens, if you’re in business, it means the networking opportunities become more limited.

#4 – When you RSVP promptly (by the due date at the latest), you’re showing that you respect deadlines and value the organisers time.

Your appropriately timed RSVP is affirming that you’re a responsible and reliable person to deal with.

When sending an RSVP, if you need to decline, there is no need to go into any detail about why you are declining. A simple ‘regretfully unable to attend’ is usually sufficient.

If you are in the public eye or a position of seniority, you may well find yourself flooded with invitations.

Just because you’re invited does not mean you have to accept. It’s perfectly okay to decide what you will and won’t attend. Just make sure you RSVP to every single invitation that arrives with RSVP on it!

The easiest way not to forget is to do it immediately, or at the very least make a diary date and flag so you don’t miss it. It’s all too easy to forget when you get busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday living.

Michelle

P.S. Emily Post has this to say on RSVP’s

Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.

 

 

The 4 Top Reasons Referrals Are Essential To Your Business

Referrals are a great source of business and despite the deluge of social media advertising some traditional methods still very much have a place in today’s business world.

4 Reasons referrals are essential

  1. Customer acquisition costs are a bare minimum.

Your happy customers are doing the marketing for you. Of course, this only happens if you give good service and are attentive to your customers’ needs. This means going above and beyond what is expected.

Satisfied customers are more than likely to bring in more customers to your business.

  1. Customer retention rate is higher.

If people are happy with your services, they are most likely to keep doing business with you. It is important to maintain contact and listen to customer feedback.

  1. The market place is generally crowded. This makes getting your message to stand out from the crowd difficult.
  1. Conversion rates are higher. A prospect introduced to your business by someone they trust is far more likely to convert into a new client/customer.

Knowing when and how to spot a potential referral opportunity is a good way to kick-start your referral system into gear. When a happy, satisfied customer comes along and gives good feedback, grab the opportunity to ask the customer to spread the good about your business.

Conducting after-sale interactions lets your customers know they are valued and not everything ends immediately after the sale/job is done.

How Referrals Work

When was the last time you went to a restaurant because a friend kept on raving how great the food or the service was?

I bet it was pretty recently. In fact, just today, I went to brunch at a new place because a couple of friends recommended it.

Have you ever asked a family member/friend to recommend a reliable plumber/electrician to take care of your dripping taps or broken fans?

I do this on a regular basis because good tradies are hard to find! Similarly, doctors, dentists, web designers, accountants and a myriad of other professionals.

If you’re like me, then you probably like to give your business to, and place your trust in, someone that comes recommended by somebody you know and trust.

If you haven’t got a system in place, it’s not too late to start! When you keep your eyes open it’s surprising at how easy it really is.

I’d love you to share your feedback on how you handle referrals and what systems you are using.

Michelle

PS Enjoyed this article? Sign up for my newsletter every Wednesday – direct to your Inbox – to help you connect, convert and sell!




Michelle Hanton is a multi-award winning bespoke business strategist, working internationally as a consultant, coach, speaker and writer. She has a keen interest in the not-for-profit sector and is the former CEO of Lifeline Top End, and founder of Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity dedicated to the promotion of breast cancer awareness.