Running up that hill

Thanks to Kate Bush, August 5, 1985 for the inspiration…

Sometimes the most obvious analogies are the best ones. Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded of where you’re heading. I had a great reminder last night, which I wanted to share.

I run two or three times a week – and one of the routes I take goes over a motorway bridge. It was actually hot last night – summer has finally reached the UK and as it was towards the end of the run, I’ve got to be honest and say I struggled up it.

The noise at the top was deafening as always – as cars raced out of and into London.

It got me thinking.

  • I’ve been in this online game now for nearly two years now in various guises and it’s hard getting up that hill.
  • I’ve got to be honest and say it would have been very easy to start walking up it instead of continuing to run. It’s a mistake many people make in the online game… giving up or slowing down isn’t an option if you want to succeed.
  • I’ve seen from experience plenty of people who have reached the top of this bridge (I haven’t yet), and I can tell you that running down it is pretty easy. The key is to get to the top and that’s where the hard work is.
  • The people who’ve been in the game for years are saying that it’s never been easier to research your market and know where the traffic is heading. Tools like this are the key to that.
  • Capturing this traffic however seems to be harder than ever.
  • Persuading people your ‘stuff’ is valuable and worth pulling by to watch, listen to or read is really hard.
  • If you can set out your stall well, optimise properly and get some traction those cars do start to pull off that motorway and others will follow.
  • Getting noticed in business is therefore more critical than ever, otherwise you are going to constantly be missing the stream of potential traffic which flows past your company every day.

What are you doing to get yourself noticed? Some great case studies coming on this site over the coming weeks to help…

Fans are better than customers

Don’t get me wrong, customers pay the bills and without them you’re dead in the water as a business, however moving a customer along a loyalty curve towards becoming a fan is the ultimate achievement.

If you’re not aiming to do this in your business, I think you’re doing something wrong…

Why?

  • Fans don’t abandon you when the slightest thing goes wrong.
  • Fans are advocates for your business, spread your word and protect you in times of need.
  • Fans will buy from you time and time again.

Elevating customers to fans isn’t an exact science, however there’s some pointers below I’ve picked up from working with and noticing people and companies with true fan bases…

  • Set out to make a real difference with your product or service – the more life-changing and inspirational, the faster that customer accelerates up the fan curve.
  • Be generous with your time, but be smart the way you manage your priorities.
  • Be selfless, without being ridiculous about it.
  • Give a lot away for free but don’t be afraid of asking for the sale or you don’t have a business.
  • Add huge amounts of value regularly via different media.
  • Tell stories.
  • Accept mistakes, but fix them fast and make things better than they were before.
  • Study how Apple, First Direct and the Virgin Group market AND service their customers – they are companies with real fan bases. (Link to First Direct for those who don’t know them.)
  • Exude confidence.
  • Surround yourself with only exceptional people.

Getting your business to this phase in its evolution clearly doesn’t happen over night.

To achieve this status, you have to know where you’re heading, follow a process and be disciplined. Without that, you will always struggle.

What are you doing to turn your customers into fans?

How to get noticed in business – a case study

I wanted to share a simple idea with you around how to get your ‘stuff’ noticed.
Stage 1: Create a site, a blog, an article, an ebook, a video… something of real value which is related to your ‘stuff’. Something which doesn’t sell, doesn’t capture emails, doesn’t advertise, just something which is going to have genuine community interest. If you’re struggling on how to create content like this, you could do worse than checking this out. (Yes I have a vested interest).

Case study: www.watchusgettingreal.com

Stage 2:Develop it fully, promote it yourself as best you can, get it established. Road test it with friends and colleagues. Really make sure it’s fit for purpose and will stand up to scrutiny. Let it sit.

Case study: The site was built for around a month, we’d had a couple of hundred visitors and had written 6 posts and were well on the way to telling our story.

Stage 3: Find the sneezers in your community – people who can help you to spread your word. (This is why stage 1 is so important) and write to them. Use Email, paper, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. But make it short, sharp, personal and relevant.

Case study: http://twitter.com/mark_copeman/status/15838905789

Stage 4: Assuming they’re happy to spread your word, thank them, keep them in the loop, keep them involved in what you’re doing.

Case study: http://twitter.com/mark_copeman/status/15853098651

Stage 5: Find other sneezers, rinse and repeat. BUT keep adding to Stage 1. Keep adding value to the asset you’ve created and develop your community.

Case study result: Dozens of thank you emails, 4,000+ visitors in 5 days, dozens of RSS subscriptions, feedback on the project, multiple retweets…

Not rocket science I know – but a fascinating exercise. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a week and it’s only possible thanks to people who have become Market Leaders in their niche. They hold the power today and it’s what we should all be aiming to be.

Thank you once again to @jasonfried

Is your business on the left or the right?

Two cafes, next door to each other. Sun’s out, plenty of passing trade, yet one thrives, one dies.

Bet you’ve seen this before?

What’s the explanation?

I’m partially responsible for this photo. I sat down, with my son for lunch when there were only two other tables occupied in the cafe on the right.

So why did I choose this cafe over the one on the left?

Because there were two other tables already occupied mainly. It helped they had a menu on display etc, but even like for like, I would have chosen the one on the right, because it was a safer bet.

Seth Godin spotted this phenomenen last year. He called it the 3rd guy. The video is self-explanatory.

What could you be doing on your business today (and no, I didn’t mean in) to get that third customer?

Momentum will carry you forward if you do.

Five questions to ask yourself about your business

We’ve just returned from a week in Kos. Here in fact (definite recommendation). Stepping away from your desk is a great opportunity to see things differently. You can learn so much from watching and observing people and businesses at work. I learnt (at least) five things through being away, which I wanted to share

1) How well do I really know my customers?

The customer service in this hotel was world class. How many businesses in this sector get to know their customers personally? Despite there being 100’s of guests in this most magnificent of resorts, the waiters and maitre’d got to know our children’s first names. They even went as far as know my son supports Arsenal ;-). The warm greetings of ‘Kalimera’ and ‘Kalispera’ from the hotel staff as you walked around the resort made you feel so welcome. Do the people in your business treat your customers like this? Or, are they more like this?

2) Does my passion for my subject shine through?

I sat and watched the entertainment team at work and one thing shone through in everything they did. I was truly inspired by one particular individual who led dozens of sports and entertainments. He delivered everything with true PASSION, irrespective of the number of people watching or participating in his activities. He put his heart and soul into everything he did and put a smile on the face of all around him.

Sure he was expert in his craft of fitness, however the way he engaged with people was really quite something to see and all stemmed from the enthusiasm he put into his day.

3) Could I communicate better

The single biggest cause of most problems in business has to be POOR COMMUNICATION. It still amazes me that one of the simplest things to get right is still often done so badly. I could only fault this hotel with one thing – there was no communication prior to me arriving at dinner on the first night to tell me I needed long trousers in the restaurant. I had travelled in jeans fortunately – however this could have become a real problem.

What do you take for granted in your business that you think your customers or potential customers should know? If in doubt, communicate and communicate some more.

4) Do I work hard enough at promoting my business?

I loved the fact that whilst this hotel had a captive audience for the evening’s show, they ensured it was promoted in exactly the right way throughout the day. They had staff dress up as characters from the show and say hi to people around the resort as well as giving out flyers. In addition, at the restaurant entrance in the evening, they set up a lit stage, with characters posing for photo opportunities with children (and adults) before you went into dinner. As a result, you were left in no doubt as to what was on later in the evening as they’d engaged you throughout the day.

How do you promote your business?

5) Do I step away from my desk often enough?

When was the last time you took a week’s holiday? A day’s holiday? An afternoon away from your desk? Do it… feed your mind with different experiences. Put yourself into a different environment once in a while – you will learn a lot.

What have you learnt from taking a break? Leave your thoughts below.

Watch us Getting Real

The Being Smarter team is pretty excited at the moment. With our various ventures all swimming along nicely, we’ve decided now is the right time to dip our toe in the water of the web applications world. We’ve been asked whether we’d like to build an online service which we believe will be a real winner.

There are many ways of building a new online web business. One of them is to get funding, staff up, spend months developing, launch, figure out how to monetize, always be in beta and close the service after a year because you couldn’t make money.

OR you can do it the smart way. We’ve decided to do it the smart way and are going to use the amazing Getting Real as our guide to doing it. If you’ve not heard of the book – check out the 37 Signals web business. It’s the results of their first few years in business and we think it’s going to be invaluable to us.

As we like to do things differently, we thought it would be helpful to others as well as ourselves (when we write the book in a few years time) to document our experiences as we go from first meeting to launch and beyond.

Play Big Brother and watch our new business develop in our online diary www.watchusgettingreal.com

Please do forward this on!