Distraction demons and how to beat them

Challenge time!

Turn off your radio, switch off your phone, and shut the window, now see if you can read through this post without any distractions!

It’s fair to say that every day we all do a lot of hard work, but exactly how much time do you spend being distracted?

Some distractions may seem important, they may seem that they require an urgent response. However, just think back to the last time you had a distraction, did it really need to be dealt with immediately or could  it  have actually waited until a more convenient time? Identifying time-sapping distractions early can save you and your company a great deal of time and money.

Consider this, on average a person works 36.6 hours a week, that allows for set breaks. According to a survey by Salary.com, 15% of your time is time wasted due to distractions (This is also known as “Downtime”.) So, in reality you are only working 31.2 hours a week.

5.4 hours may not sound like a lot but, that’s around 7 and a half weeks lost in a year due to distractions!

Let’s look at the top three office distractions.

Pop-up email notifications!

You may have noticed whilst reading this Blog that a few emails have arrived. You may have even read them. Did they really need your immediate attention?

Did you know that your email provider may allow you to choose which emails you receive notifications about? Take a look in the settings area of your email system. Think about how much better it will be to only receive notification of emails that really need your immediate action.  Alternatively you could have your email monitored by a Virtual Assistant.

Visitors

How many times do you find a colleague coming into your office on their break just to have a quick chat? Most of the time they will stay in your office for the majority of their break, you may as well be on your break!

So, what’s the best way of handling this delicate situation? Tell your colleague how busy you are and that you would rather meet for lunch once a week so you can then have a proper catch up.

Keep the noise to a minimum!

The printer, phones, and the radio are all major noise makers and time wasters!

That printer! Everyone on the office network uses it. It’s constantly in use and when it runs out of toner you have the distraction of everyone gathering around trying to replace it. Try and house the printer away from workspace and have two to three staff members trained in toner replacement.

Mobile phone on vibrate at the moment? You may as well have let it ring, after all whenever it buzzes you still check it. The easy solution is to turn it off, anyone that needs you can email you or phone reception, you can then get back to them when YOU are ready. If you don’t have the luxury of a reception you can always outsource to call answering service.

It’s nice to have the radio on. Maybe you feel you work better with music in the background. However, you have to consider the impact it has on your speed of work. Your brain is always processing information. If you are trying to write that document and the radio is blaring out an advert for ABC Foods your brain is listening to that advert and trying to work at the same time. Try turning it off and just see if your work rate increases.

So, fewer distractions mean less downtime and more productivity. What are your top tips for beating the distraction demons? Leave us your comments, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

The Secret to Snail Mail Marketing Success

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Have you opened your post yet?  How many mailers did you open?  How many did you keep?  The answer is probably, none.   Most mailer campaigns use a scatter gun approach to marketing.  Here’s how to ensure your next mailer campaign stays out of the bin and on your prospects desk.

I am assuming you have an up-to-date database.  You will need to look at your data and select the most appropriate prospects to receive the information about the product/service you are marketing.  Not all of your services will match all of your clients.  If you are unsure whether a prospect would be interested it is best to add them to the mailer list.

Postcards are definitely the best snail mail medium.  An oversized card, bright and colourful, which can easily be pinned to a noticeboard, will be the most effective.  You can have these made specifically or you can buy a batch of ready printed ones.

I once saw a postcard from a restaurant showing an unhappy man wearing a party hat and holding a balloon.  The strapline read ‘we had to celebrate your birthday without you’ there was an offer on the back of the postcard entitling the recipient to money off their next meal.  The mailer needed to be redeemed within the month.  It really stuck in my mind as a great piece of marketing.

That’s what you are looking for.  You want your marketing to be ‘sticky’.  Ensure your mailer is focused, not too wordy, with a strong call to action and clear graphics.

As with any form of promotion you need to be consistent.  Once you’ve started your mailer campaign, keep it up!  Think outside the box.  There are so many different reasons to contact a potential client e.g. your company’s anniversary offer, their birthday, congratulate them on a success, invite them to an event, the list is endless and so are the design opportunities for each postcard.

There are many places on the internet to design and order your postcards for as little as £65 for 1,000 cards.  Take a look at http://www.overnightprints.co.uk  http://www.123print.co.uk   http://www.corners-digital-printing.co.uk  to give yourself a few pointers and ideas.  Most companies use recycled materials but if you’re unsure give them a call to check.

Finally, put a voice to your campaign.  Call your potential client, did they receive your offer?  What are their thoughts?  Feedback is essential if you want to finely tune your marketing to attract your target audience.

Do you run successful snail mail campaigns?  What is the secret of your success?

What other forms of marketing do you find to be effective?

Think Your Way To Success

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Think back to the last time you were planning a project that was proving to be challenging.   As you were thinking and planning your inner-voice was providing a commentary.  Stop for a moment and think, how positive/negative was your inner voice?

Does your inner-voice cheer you on?  Does it provide positive statements and point out ways to overcome problems?  Then, brilliant, you are in control.  If your inner-voice is constantly stating, ‘I can’t do this, I’ll never finish it in time, I can’t possible learn all these new skills’ then you need to take control NOW!

We all have moments when we have self-doubt which is good, in moderation.  This helps us to identify our weaknesses and helps us work through them to become stronger people.  However, if your inner-dialogue is constantly negative and you don’t take action against it, you’ll never achieve your goals.

Noticing and controlling your thought patterns is very difficult.  It’s a bit like breathing, we’ve been doing them both since we were born.  They are unconscious actions.

Next time your inner-voice becomes your biggest critic, take action.  Write down the criticism, then write next to it three reasons why your inner-voice is wrong.  Once you have done this ignore your inner-voice each time it delivers that criticism.  Just shrug your shoulders and carry on.  This should go along way to quieting the inner critique and will lead to a more positive thought pattern.

Meditation is an excellent way of learning to quieten the mind and have more control.  Try looking up a meditation class in your area, take a look on YouTube or even download an app to your phone.  I, personally, always turn to Andrew Johnson for my apps.  He provides a wide variety and I’m sure you’ll find one to suit you.  Here’s a link to his webpage: http://www.withandrewjohnson.com/

Taking time to deal with your inner critique will make you more confident and focused.  It will also help you highlight any areas of weakness that you can be improved upon.

You’ll actually enjoy each time you prove your inner critique to be wrong.

I’ve just won against my inner-voice!  Allegedly, I wasn’t going to get a blog post written this week.

How To Plan for Sales Call Success

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Do you sit in front of your database, making a few random calls and not getting very far?  Here are a few tips to make your sales time more productive and provide you with a real boost to your business.

Plan time in your diary each week specifically for sales.
This time is immovable.  It is one of the most important times in your week.  Switch off email, don’t answer the telephone and put do not disturb on your door.  Try and allocate around 1 to 2 hours per day to concentrate on selling your product to your prospects.  Consistency really is the key to successful sales.

Before picking up the telephone you need to ensure you know the answers to the following questions:

What does this company do?
Look the company up on the internet.  Look at their website and do a Google search.  It should give you a real feel for what they do, what’s happening to them now and where they are heading.

Who will I be speaking to?
If you don’t have a contact name then this is one of your main reasons for calling them.  If you do know the name of the contact look them up on Google, see if they are on FacebookLinkedIn & Twitter.  The more you know about your contact, their interests etc. the easier it will be for you to build a rapport with them.

What is happening in the local/national and international news that will be having an effect on this company?
This information is worth its weight in gold.  It should highlight to you the issues that the company is currently facing.  Can you resolve any of these issues for them?

What do you want to achieve when you make the call?
There is a brilliant system you can utilise to ensure you come away from every sales call having achieved something.  It’s called LIMS which breaks down into Love, Important, Must and Should:

Love to achieve – e.g. start working with them immediately
Important to achieve – e.g. arrange a meeting to discuss potential work.
Must achieve – e.g. Get them to agree a further telephone conversation.
Should achieve – e.g. get the personal email address of your contact so you can send information.

It does seem like a lot of work before even picking up the telephone.  However, if you’ve planned well the call will run smoothly, you’ll feel more in control and you will achieve something with every call you make.

You may find it easier to plan you calls at the end of each day for the next day.  It should take around ½ an hour.  Don’t forget consistency is the key.

What are your top tips for sales call success?

Who Is Your Ideal Client?

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Taking the time to produce a client profile has enormous value to your company.  It will help you plan your marketing and sales strategy, keep you focused and give you a real insight into your business from the perspective of your customer.  It’s a tool that just can’t be ignored.

There are no restrictions when creating your ideal client.  Only you can decide on the best fit for you and your business.  Here are a few questions to help you:

  • Where do the companies in this sector market themselves?
  • What is the annual turnover of my ideal client?
  • Who is my contact within the client?
  • What makes my contact tick?
  • How does my contact work with me?
  • What does my contact ideally want me to be like?

Don’t spare the detail when creating your contact, give them a name, if you can, find a photograph of what you think your ideal client may look like.  You really need to make them real to you.  What are their goals? What are their business ethics? Do they pay on time?  Keep adding detail and answer as many questions as you can think of.

Now take a look at your existing client base.  Do they fit your ideal client profile?  It’s OK if they don’t, there’s no need to sack them.  Your client profile is a guide to help you focus on who you really need to be speaking to, the ways in which you can get your message across to them as well as highlighting which clients have the potential to help your business grow.

Revisit your ideal client profile after 12 months.  Take another look at your existing client base and note the changes.  You’ll still have your clients from 12 months ago but you’ll also have new clients.  Are these new clients a closer match to your profile?  Take a look at your business processes and how they have changed since you have been using the ideal client template.  You now need to ask yourself the same question.  Who is my ideal client?  Your profile shouldn’t require any drastic changes it should just need tweaking.

Knowing your client, putting yourself in their shoes, is the key to success.

What do you think are the most important questions to answer when creating your ideal client profile?

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Is Your Office an Inspiration or a Productivity Zapper?

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My office is a cross between a well-oiled machine and a shrine to future goals and previous achievements.  Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workspace.

  • How many of the items on your desk actually get used more than once in a day? All you really need on your desk is a pen, writing pad, telephone and computer. All other items need to earn their place on your desk.  Keep everything else in your draw.
  • Are you left or right-handed?  Have your telephone on the opposite side of the desk to your dominant hand.  Your writing hand will always be free to pick up a pen and take notes.  Keep your pen pot and your notepad on the same side of the desk as your dominant hand, for the same reason.
  • Access to fresh air gives you a great energy boost in the afternoon.  Try and have the window open for as much of the day as possible.
  • Painting your office a light blue or bluey/green colour can help you stay focused and productive throughout the day.  Bold colours can become overwhelming and distract you from your daily tasks without you even realising it.
  • Have an inspiration shelf.  This will be the place you look to when you’re digging in deep.  This shelf acts as a reminder as to why you have chosen to be an entrepreneur.  It acknowledges your achievements and spurs you towards your ultimate goal.  These are the items on my inspiration shelf:  a painted skull which is made of out clay, the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab (not the real ones of course), a photograph of my ex-work colleagues, a death mask, a black cat and a picture of some ballet dancers.  Each item represents one of my goals or reminds me of my inspirations and motivations. To anybody else, it’s a shelf with a load of stuff on it.

Try just one of these tips to see what a difference it can make to your productivity.

I’d be interested to hear what makes your office efficient, productive and inspirational too.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot.  Would you like to take a guess as to what the items on my inspirational shelf represent?  I’m looking forward to seeing your responses.

5 Top Tips To Greater Productivity

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Are you really productive or are you just busy?  Take a few moments to read my five top tips and then consider your current working practices.

1.   Have a To-Do List

OK, I can see you nodding your head and rolling your eyes.  We all know this one, but, be honest, do you really update your list every evening for the next day.  Do you spend 10 minutes on a Friday afternoon producing a plan of attack for the following week? Turn it into a daily habit to really reap the rewards. Take a look at the following link for more information:  http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_05.htm

2.   What Should Be The First Task On Your To-Do List Each Day?

The task you are dreading the most.  Don’t put it off until later in the day, week or month.  Get it done straight away.  Once it is completed you’ll find yourself more energised.  You’ll also concentrate more clearly on your remaining duties for that day.

3.   What Is Your Most Productive Time of The Day?

Most people find they are more energised in the morning and that energy levels drop quite rapidly after lunch.  Spend a couple of days looking at the peaks and troughs or your energy levels.  Plan your most complex tasks for when you have the most energy. The BBC have a ‘daily rhythm test’ which you might like to take a look at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/crt/

4.   Outsource

How much time do you spend each day/week on mundane tasks, administration, emails, telephone answering?  Outsourcing these tasks will release more time for productivity and success.  This can also be applied to your home life.  Do you really enjoy doing the gardening?  Would it be useful to have a cleaner a couple of days a week?   How about delegating the iron pile?

5.   Be Kind To Yourself

You owe it to yourself to be as healthy and energised as possible.  This will help you reach your goals, dreams and targets sooner.  Exercise regularly, at least ½ an hour 5 times a week, drink plenty of water, eat healthily, get at least 7 hours sleep each night and spend quality time with friends and family each day.

Try my top tips for a week and then come back and tell me about it.

What are your top tips for greater productivity?

I’m Posting Every Week In 2011

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I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog at least once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Signed,

Alice Jackson

Planning My Way to Networking Success

Deciding on how best to market your company or what marketing tools will provide the best return on investment can, at times, seem like chopping through a jungle with a dinner knife. When I started my VA business I decided to try all the different marketing methods available to me.  Networking was the first topic to be picked from my marketing hat.

Being a networking virgin, I did what I always do when I haven’t a clue about a subject.  I turned to the Internet.  I soon realised that there was a whole industry out there making money out of the very thing I wanted to make money out of.

If I was ever to find the right networking event for my VA business I needed a plan. After much thought and research I had decided on the three criteria which needed to be met.  The first being that the networking group had to be good value for money.  I found that some groups would cost me thousands of pounds over a one year period.  I was happy to spend a couple of hundred.  The second was that the group wouldn’t be too needy, some groups were insisting on you appearing at every meeting, or sending someone in your place, plus the cost of a meal.  I just wanted to be able to attend events at my convenience and not be force-fed.  My final criteria was very important.  The group had to provide a supply of new people to meet each month, not just the same people who may, or may not, pass you leads from their business network.

The answer came to me in the shape of a networking group called Business Consort, they are also a training company, but ticked all my boxes.  I happily paid my yearly fee (I know, I should have gone for free the first time) and excitedly awaited the next event.

I stood outside the room nervously awaiting my turn to sign in.  My suit was slightly too tight, making me feel very uncomfortable and self-aware.  I just wanted to run away, but I couldn’t, as my stabbing high heels were chewing my feet like hungry crocodiles.  It hadn’t escaped my notice that everyone was stood up and it was highly unlikely I would be sitting down for the next couple of hours.  Oh joy, I thought.  Two hours later I was walking out of the same room with a fist full of business cards and some really good connections.  I was elated.  I now had the networking bug.

Skip forward two weeks.  I’m attending an event  hosted by Business Scene, only this time I have a suit that fits and some lower heeled shoes.  I don’t know if it was the better fitting clothes or just being in the right place at the right time, but a week or so later, I was doing business with 4 contacts I had met that evening.  I was also in the process of working with someone I had met at the first networking event.

So networking has a special place in my marketing tool kit, as it provides me with an excellent return on investment.

Please let me know your thoughts on networking.  Are you addicted to it like me or has it been a complete disaster.  What are your best tips for getting the most out of a networking event? What should I avoid at all costs?

I’m looking forward to seeing your comments.

If you would like more details on Business Consort or Business Scene here are their web addresses: http://www.businessconsort.com   http://www.business-scene.com