Author Archives: Elaine Nester

Do you let people get to you?

Accessibility – a slightly sore point for us at Alpha this week as telephone number transfers didn’t go to plan. That aside, it was brought home to me this week that being accessible, or being available when needed, is one of the most important aspects of business success.

This is not about technology, although recent advances have given us the opportunity to ditch switchboards and give people direct access to mobiles, but more about having an attitude of accessibility. This, for me, separates truly great people in both business and personal life from the average.

An example arose last Sunday. I had sent a client a request via Linkedin to reuse a testimonial he had written about our services. This was a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised and very pleased to hear from him on Sunday granting my request and explaining that he would have come back to me sooner had he not been away on business. This man runs a large, highly successful company. He is nevertheless accessible to me, a supplier. He makes people feel valued.

This is the spirit that has come about through social media. It has been a great leveller. If people choose to engage they can access, or at least make contact with, almost anyone. How you respond, or not, to contact is your decision but my view is that, if we place ourselves into the public arena, we will gain by engaging in a positive way with those who pay us the compliment of noticing us. Social media is a huge virtual meeting place. It’s not a good policy, or good manners, to ignore people, any more than it would be to turn away when spoken to at a social gathering.

If you would like help with formulating a social media strategy for your business, give me a call on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk. Funding is available for this and many other aspects of business growth – let me know if you are interested.

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Bricks and Mortar still key

As the private equity backed Graze brand launches in Sainsbury’s we see that the importance of an off-line  presence. It will be interesting to see how this goes. Many brands that began with Internet sales have added high street retail to their mix in order to engage with consumers and increase market share. An expensive option? Maybe – but if it’s managed wisely it can pay off.

Fubding is now available to help brands to become retail-ready. Contact us for eligibility details. elainenester@adm-group.co.uk or 07801251767

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Death of a Salesman?

elainenester:

It’s getting on for 3 years since I wrote this – I think it’s still valid. Which sales and marketing channels do you find most cost-effective for your business?

Originally posted on alpha design and marketing:

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the death or terminal illness of outbound marketing. By definition that also implies the death of sales as we know it in terms of proactive people who represent their companies and transact business face to face. Now I come to think about it, it’s a very long time since we’ve had a visit or even a phone call from a potential supplier, that’s if you leave recruitment companies out of the scenario.

Cuts have been made in the following: Printed literature, Telemarketing/Telesales, Attendance at Exhibitions, Visits to clients and potential clients, Advertising (both on and off-line) and PR. Companies have reduced marketing budgets unilaterally and jumped with relief on the inbound marketing bandwagon. Why? Because it costs less and they believe that the same results can be achieved despite the evidence to the contrary on balance sheets.

As a marketing company that was founded in…

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What would you say to your younger self?

I was pleased to be called this week, as I often am, by a young person asking career advice. I thought back to my school days and the advice I was given. This was mainly about studying for exams, going to university and finding secure employment. Whilst there are still merits in that path, employment is no longer as secure as it was, and people need to become more flexible and resourceful as a result.

If I could meet my young self here in 2015 (and she was willing to listen) I would advise her as follows:

1. Don’t be too focused on results. Your qualifications will matter much less than your attitude. Experience is more valuable than results on paper.

2. Trust your first instincts about people. They are usually right. Surround yourself with positive people.

3. Spend time with people you respect, both at work and in your free time. You can learn so much from other people, and they from you. Share information freely.

4. Think before you act. It’s great to be passionate about a big idea but think it through to anticipate all likely outcomes. Then go for it.

5. Treat bad experiences as development opportunities and don’t moan about them. A negative attitude reflects only on you.

6. Guard your professional reputation and use social media with care – always.

7. Don’t stay in an environment that doesn’t suit you. It’s a waste of life. 

Starting work life in 2015 is different in some ways than it was when I was young back in the 70s but there are just as many exciting opportunities. Career paths are rarely signposted or predictable and sometimes, when you feel you are treading water, another opportunity presents itself.  

At Alpha we offer coaching and training for business owners and managers. Funding is often available. Contact us for eligibility criteria. 07801251767
 

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Role reversal

The review of the fox hunting ban has given rise to repeated use of the word “toffs” on social media in recent days. Curiousity led me to discover the origins of this word. A 100 years ago or so the well-heeled often used snuff which caused their noses to run with a toffee like substance. They held their heads high, and no doubt sniffed a lot, owing to this which earned them the description of “toffee-nosed” or “toffs”.

Has the gap between social classes widened or narrowed since Victorian times? Debatable. What is beyond doubt is that prejudice exists in both directions along the social scale and, like most prejudice, it is often unfounded. Stereotypes are just that.

I just read an account of a man who spent a day as a Big Issue seller on a street in Scotland. The treatment he received from most of the public was shameful. He was ignored and sworn at, even by people who worked with him in his normal role and failed to even recognise him as a person deserving respect, let alone as one of their colleagues.

Maybe it would help us all if we could step into the shoes of someone with a different life from time to time? In the meantime, let’s hope the new Government achieves its aim of improving standards for everyone.

No sales pitch today – bye for now.

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Irritating words and phrases – have you used any today?

The Telegraph published a list of the ten most irritating words and phrases a while ago:

1 – At the end of the day

2 – Fairly unique

3 – I personally

4 – At this moment in time

5 – With all due respect

6 – Absolutely

7 – It’s a nightmare

8 – Shouldn’t of

9 – 24/7

10 – It’s not rocket science

You can probably add your own pet squirmy phrases to this – one of mine is “out of the box” particularly when used by people in the creative sector. It’s just so…. in the box. Words and phrases come in and out of fashion and it’s odd how you notice the same ones popping up, sometimes in the course of just one day. My word of the day is “curated” and my phrase is “reaching out”. Curated was mentioned today in connection with a museum collection in an article I read and then, only an hour or so later I was reading about “curated commerce” in relation to driving selected content to consumers online.

The phrase “reaching out” was used in an email from a client today as in “I will be reaching out to you soon about…”. I then heard the same phrase on the morning news referring to the utilities companies who expect their customers to “reach out to them” when they cannot pay their bills. So much more emotive than saying “I will be in touch” or “I will contact you”, reaching out begs a sympathetic response – at least until we get fed up with hearing it.

I thought about these two concepts and how they apply to today’s business world. Business is in many ways less personal than it used to be. The sales funnel has been turned on its head as buyers are no longer limited to the choices that are set before them. As vendors, we really do need to curate our offers to make them relevant and we certainly need to reach out to our target customers in ways that will make them take notice.

This has always been the raison d’etre of marketing of course (sorry if you hate that phrase). Ever since the Henry Ford approach was abandoned and people demanded colours other than black, marketeers have been preaching about tailoring content and accurate targeting. But when you really start to think about the intelligence that is available to us now, you realise that we are only just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved.

Reach out to me on 07801251767 or elainenester@adm-group.co.uk. We offer a whole long list of services as you’ll see on our website but we’ll be delighted to curate them to suit your particular needs.

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Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Not a strapline for a butter ad but a lesson we’ve had confirmed from our own strategy this year so far. When you’ve been in business for a quarter century as we have (I still find that hard to believe!), you gather a mass of data – contacts you have worked for, prospective clients, suppliers, etc, etc. We had an early Spring clean at the beginning of 2015 and decided to focus on 81 key clients and a handful of valued suppliers.

As firm advocates of Client Relationship Management thanks to our long lasting and ongoing relationship with CRM system developers Software Sculptors, we know that it is 8 times easier (and more cost effective) to gain business from clients who are already aware of you than by breaking new ground. And, as a small consultancy with clients spread throughout the UK, Europe and beyond, 81 clients with intermittent needs is a large enough number for us to look after, at least if we aim to do a thorough job.

Our strategy is therefore to take care of those who want to work with us and  to accept that we cannot, nor should we want to, win them all. This is already proving to be very effective as we take a more holistic approach to key relationships and turn away transactional business that is never very satisfying. Most businesses that continually search for new suppliers are focused mainly on price and, although customer loyalty is often said to be diminished these days, we still enjoy strong and honest relationships with a wide and varied client base.

Why not review your strategy for business acquisition? You may find that your new customers are in fact the ones you already have.

Funding is available for businesses needing strategic and operational input. Call me for details and eligibility criteria. 07801 251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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“I’ll know what I like when I see it.”

I love it when clients cannot tell us what they want. No really – why should they be able to? If they could, we wouldn’t be needed. On occasion our designers get so far with a project then the client says  that he is just not sure about the work we have done. This can happen with new clients, and particularly those who are new to buying marketing or design services, although a brief has been agreed at the outset.  It’s at that point that we stand back, discuss  the original brief in detail and then, if necessary, take a different approach.

The usual problem is that company owners and directors are so close to their businesses, and to the industries they operate in, that they cannot stand in the shoes of their buying public. It’s our role to do just that – to challenge the client and help him to understand exactly what he needs to convey in his marketing.

More often than not, the project comes full circle and the client becomes comfortable, and confident with the proposed work. If not, we view this as an investment in the relationship and provide alternatives. 

If you would like some input on your marketing material, feel free to call. 07801251767 or mail elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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Half full or half empty?

I have just read with interest a blog about the optimism bias by David Gault, a contact of mine who specialises in psychology in the workplace. This is the tendency to be over optimistic about the upside opportunities and  to under estimate risk or danger.

We see this so often in marketing. The biggest secret that the industry wants to keep is that, statistically, most marketing fails – that is if you class success in terms of a tangible return. The optimistic marketing manager will use e-shots, newsletters, ad campaigns and numerous other ways of reaching the target market without giving much thought to return on investment. They tend to think that if the business is making enough noise, there will be a response.

When recruiting for a marketing role the business owner needs to decide whether or not the person they employ will not only cover the cost of employing them but also bring in a multiple of that figure as a contribution to the business. This is obvious of course but we have seen the optimism bias time and again in this situation where the feel-good factor of having someone sitting at a desk allows the business owner to turn a blind eye to less than glowing results. It can be tempting to let people get on with their jobs without any real accountability.

One answer to this is outsourcing. A few years ago we ran a campaign called the £15k package. For the cost of employing a junior member of staff, companies could have our whole team on call. The package included a strategy, a 12 month plan and all the activity with benchmarks. We provided a pre-defined service level and any external costs such as printing or media space were provided at our discounted trade rates. The transparency and affordability of this package made it very attractive and it was the start of many of the longstanding relationships we still have today.

The £15k plan was also ideal for starter businesses – controlled costs and an experienced team to guide and support them.

So – next time you feel that optimism bias coming on, think laterally. By using an outsourced service you could reduce fixed costs and achieve better results.

The £15k package is still available. We also offer higher tiers for larger companies that need greater input or more extensive activity. Call me to discuss on 07801 251767.

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What can we learn from dissatisfaction?

The subject of banks and their service, or lack of, came up on Linkedin this week. It seems that, although satisfaction levels are low, people either stay with their banks or move from one to another without finding what they want. One person who joined the conversation said he had to “demand” and “manipulate” to get satisfaction from his bank at a most basic level.

This made me realise that banking is a grudge purchase on the whole, as is insurance. Most people need a bank and there are not that many to choose from. We therefore put up with service that is inadequate and frustrating. It’s the same with healthcare although we do have the option to buy private services if we have the means. High net worth people can bank outside the high street and presumably have staff at their beck and call.

It’s a matter of size isn’t it? Large national organisations become sluggish, unwieldy and out of touch with their clients. The financial crisis drove banks, the health service and councils to pull in their belts and we are now feeling the consequences. They carry less fat yet they are unaccustomed to being flexible, efficient, customer-focused and having all the other attributes that smaller organisations need.

But I do have empathy. Years ago I worked in the civil service. Our work was subject to a code of practice and, although we were dealing with benefits claimants who were in distress, initiative was frowned upon. Layers of bureaucracy weighed us down and it was an environment that stifled rather than encouraged ambition. Not a breeding ground for entrepreneurs although many ex government staff are now being cajoled into self-employment to suit election objectives (or am I being cynical?)

What if our own businesses were as few in number as banks? Would we then allow our clients to feel unwanted or undervalued. Would our marketing claims become trite and unbelievable? Would we even notice if clients grumbled or disappeared? 

If the main or sole purpose of a business is to make money, other values cannot survive. Quality and customer relationships are cast aside in the struggle to get the numbers right whether they are balance sheets, waiting lists or cost savings.

Conclusion? Maybe we should feel sorry for those rule-bound bank staff and be glad that we are free to run our businesses as we wish, succeeding or otherwise according to our own efforts.

If you would like a meeting to talk about how to build and promote a strong brand you know where I am.

07801251767 elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

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