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New Year Business Reflection

Not sure about you, but 1st January didn't strike me as being that much different from 31st December. My own new year seemed to kick in around 5th January.

Since then I've been forced into a position of slowing down and reflecting owing to a flare up of my illness again.

I reflected on the client work I’ve done over the past 3.5 years with Zebra.  It’s so good to stop and think and to look back and see how far you've come.


Over 800 articles written and uploaded for *one* client

Over 20 Twitter accounts managed

Some Twitter accounts I managed required at least 10 original tweets scheduling per day with follower audiences of over 200k

Over that time it’s safe to say I have produced A LOT of content and learnt a lot too.  There is much to make of what I know know and where I want to focus my energies on the months to come.

Reviewing past clients

Going over the finances from the previous year also had a profound effect of forcing me into remembering past clients I'd worked with - what went well and the types of clients that were not a good match for me.

It was amazing to realise how many clients I'd worked with, the volume of effort we put in as a team when I was working with others, and to make sense of how those work relationships either came to an end, or continued.

In all cases when I was happy to part company with clients, all those relationships involved some element of clashing values, mainly around imbalances of power and control.  It's sad to see how many entrepreneurs see their role as "getting one over" on another person.

Occasionally what we've been ingrained to view as "entrepreneurial spirit" can become toxic when it involves deep levels of competition and plays out more like a game than an effective work relationship.

I am simply not at a point in my life when any nonsense like that will be tolerated or accepted.  I won't play those games and I will call out behaviours that involve power plays.  Luckily there are many people making great businesses from a place of true authenticity, especially those in helping professions and service.

What's next?

There's a real sense of closing off a chapter for me and I'd highly recommend a period of reflection for business owners (at a point that feels right and makes sense for your business).

So my question to you is that if you run a business, did you pause to reflect and to congratulate yourself on victories won?  Did you observe how far you'd come?

When you're running a business, there can be a sense of needing to be always on the go, always pedalling fast, of wearing many hates and of keeping up.  But, there is so much to be gained from stopping to reflect (perhaps to do a SWOT analysis).  In unpicking your strengths and weaknesses, you may stumble upon a new way of best serving clients moving forward. 

New messages may emerge that can bring renewed energy to your social media, new products or services may emerge based on what you now know (or you may decide on a new pricing structure!)  You may decide it's time to re-assess your typical buyer / client personas to better reflect your current standpoint.   Whatever comes out of your reflections, one thing I recommend is writing it all out - WHY?  Well journalling is a great way to assist the reflection and learning process and to create content while you're at it! 

If you dig deep and really force yourself to be honest about your feelings around your work, you will find your core truths.  From there, consider whether your values have realigned based on lessons learned - it can be a very revealing and rewarding process and best of all, snippets of it can be shared throughout all your marketing efforts on social media.

Stuck with what to write / share?

If you'd like any help with "what to write" for your social media posts (a very common plea for help!) then do get in touch.  I'd love to help you uncover the messages that will help you attract all you desire into your business.

The checking in post


Just checking in as I post very infrequently on this account.  Lack of posting sometimes can make people wonder where you’ve gone (!) whether you’re still around, is the business still there, etc? 

So, a little update is this: I’ve narrowed my business life down to working with one client at the moment so that I can work this around a lecturing timetable at the university. I teach Business Management and I’m so lucky to have a really great class this year who inspire me every day. I’ve always said I learn just as much from my students as they do from me.

In all the in-between times that go between lecturing, parenting, eating, sleeping and social-media-ing, I’m on with writing a book, which is my passion but also somewhat a chore as it’s about understanding abuse. Simplifying the complex. I have 2 books already planned out and am still working on book 1 right now.  Life is busy but really good.

I think it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had plans that extend over the next 5 years. The clarity is something I’ve not had previously. To salvage that out of some of the experiences I’ve had has been quite a reversal from where I was a few years ago, emotionally and spiritually. I am absolutely of the belief that the lines between our work and personal lives are blurring as we work towards becoming more authentic in every area of our lives.

I hope that wherever you are in your own journey, you are able to best represent that both in your own life and online – and if the right path for you is not promoting or publishing that online, then that’s okay too. We all draw our boundaries somewhere.

LinkedIn private messages – apparently the new way to get business


Not another spammy message!

Recently when I read through my LinkedIn messages, it feels like everyone has been on a course, one that tells you how to send “warm and personal” messages via LinkedIn.  I’ll concede they’re a step up from outright spam, but a small one.

I guess other people must be getting these type of warm and friendly messages from outright strangers too.

No doubt the senders have been told that sending messages via LinkedIn is a successful way to gain clients.  And I’m sure if the recipients were the right target market then it would be a great strategy.  But when they’re not targeted to the right people, then the reading and writing of said messages becomes a colossal waste of time for everyone involved.

Unsolicited uninvited messages to the wrong target market just doesn’t make good business sense.  Then I wondered, what’s the excuse for getting your target market wrong?  With LinkedIn, you actually have tonnes of upfront information to go at.  If your recipient has filled in their LinkedIn profile fully and correctly then you pretty much have access to their full online CV, meaning there should be very little reason to ever target the wrong people with offers they’re unlikely to want to take up.

It’s interesting to watch trends in how people behave on various social platforms and people have upped their game on LinkedIn for sure.  I do feel that the aim has surely got to be true connection, authenticity, clearly defined purpose and a clearly defined target market.  Working on tailored messages would therefore make sense.  Yes it takes longer to craft them, but nurturing real relationships takes time in every area of life – and the rewards reaped are far greater where care has been taken in the first place.

Open ended questions do work well in terms of engagement, but not so open ended that there is zero point in responding.  I frequently get messages from people I don’t’ know whatsoever saying things like “hope business is good, how’s your week?”

Huh?

I have like at least 100 people who I’d like to connect with and tell them how my week is going if only there was the time.  Responding personally via direct message to someone I don’t know is not only a long way down the list, it’s simply not going to happen.

So, advice from someone who has definitely not been on a LinkedIn course but hangs out on LinkedIn for my 2 jobs:

1.       Define your target market very clearly
2.       Only contact people who are in your target market
3.       Spend time thinking about next steps – what do you want to happen next – craft your message appropriately with this in mind
4.       Test out on small handful of people before going wild
5.       Always remember, quality over quantity


Welcome to Zebra Consulting Group!


If you’re looking for advice and practical help with your social media marketing or other aspects of digital marketing, you’re in the right place.

We get it, you don’t have time to do your own social media.  Not every day anyway.  You need to know which platforms will work for your business, what to say to come across as genuine and non spammy to drive up your sales.  You basically want an easier life and in an online world, that’s sometimes really hard.

Mentoring

Strategic advice and support. Getting you where you need to be faster. Recommendations and actionable advice for implementing digital plans. Helping you stand out from your competitors. Wherever you are right now with your level of online efforts, we’ll help springboard you to the next level up.

Online Writing

There's a lot of writing to be done these days: website copy, social media copy, blog writing.  I’m a techie with a knack for writing, so I’ll make sure your copy is working hard for you to push you up the search engine lists organically.  Most of all it’s about connecting you properly with your rightful audience and making you and your business sound as close to reality as possible.  I also have skills in tender writing and bid writing so if you're looking for that as opposed to digital marketing copy-writing, do get in touch!

Social media management

Some businesses genuinely don’t have the time for all the implementation – you’re busy running the business and are sick of staying up till midnight managing social media notifications.  We’ll take the hassle away so you have peace of mind knowing that your social media is planned out properly, implemented and managed with integrity, accuracy and common sense, and you can have as much input as you need and want.  We’ll grow your followers, promote your business, your products, your services and handle all aspects of your online brand and reputation management.

How your values feed into your social media captions and hashtags



These are blog notes from my video in which I explain why values work is so important in attracting the right clients who will be the best fit for you - and you for them. 

This advice works for all business owners.  In the video I used the example of an Independent Financial Advisor to illustrate the points I'm making.

Video link is here for those who’d rather watch than read.

It’s true that doing work around your values feeds into your social media captions and hashtags – just to explain my point, I will use the example of an independent financial advisor (IFA).

This is for any business owner or anyone who wants to attract an audience on social media.
Let’s say you’re an IFA and you want to know the best way to use social media to attract clients.
It’s most important to be YOU.  You offer the best service and attract the right clients when you are in your own zone of genius, when you use the images and words that truly describe YOU – the images you have taken on your phone, and the words that flow out of your own mouth. That’s when you’re performing where you should be.

Then you’re portraying you as you are, not as you think other people want you to be or expect you to be.

For every IFA there will be the right set of clients.  What we ideally want is to match you up with the clients who feel comfortable with you, and you with them.  often people will seek financial advice at a really important junction in their lives.

Whatever is your own preference, state that – you cannot fail to attract the right people when you use your own words and your own mindset.

You may have a grounded approach that attracts sensible family oriented achievable goals.  Revolve around maintaining current lifestyle and planning for kids going to university, paying off mortgage early, estate planning. Traditional things we assume people want advice for and then tell stories around those common experiences. People recognise that as their own situation, and say yes, this person understands me, I will go to them for my advice.

If you want to hit a generic audience, there are sensible middle of the road genuine grounded hashtags to try that do not discriminate between the sexes:

#financialadvice #moneymanagement #financialplanning #financialadvisor #moneytips #wealthmanagement #personalfinance #investinyourfuture #financialeducation #financialgoals
You might offer something specific – hashtag the service - #retirementplanning #incomeprotection #criticalillnessinsurance

However to go beyond that and attract the clients with the right mindset, you’ll need to move into values which touches on emotions. Don’t forget people are often emotional when they make financial decisions.

Some IFA’s will have the mindset that attracts people who want a flashy red sports car, a yacht, and 5 star holidays where you can relax in the hot tub with a cigar and an expensive whiskey.  So that is what you post and you hashtag it with #luxurylifestyle #richkidsofinstagram #luxurystyle #millionaire #luxuryliving #bosslife #richlife #richmindset 

Upwards of 2 million posts on each of these hashtags tell me a lot of people aspire to this.  If you’re the person to help them get it, go for it.  But only if you feel this is your zone of comfort and it matches with your services.

If you’re not a fan of posts that are dripping with ego, you may align more with talk of an abundant mindset, law of attraction and manifestation.  It’s not ONLY for women but if you look up the following hashtags you’ll probably find it to be 90% women. The kinds of hashtags you’ll want to research and try out on your own posts are #abundance #abundantmindset #lawofattraction #manifestationbabe #femaleboss #livewithintention #richbabe #empowerment #moneygoals #thesecret

#grateful #gratitude #selfworth may sound like they have nothing to do with wealth but being in a high vibration around those things definitely do have a bearing on wealth

All of this is about values.  Taking the time to understand your own values is really important in attracting the right clients to work with you.  Every area of our lives works better when we match up with the people who share our values.  That’s why I’m really strong on business owners being able to communicate their true values on social media as the key thing that brings in quality clients.


Announcement - after three years together



After three years together, including some ups and downs, Zebra and I would like to announce that this week Zebra Consulting Group became a limited company.

Nothing is really changing about our relationship except for a few things financially and legally.  Effectively it’s just a piece of paper that offers me some protection financially.

We’re both changing our names – I’m changing from Owner to Managing Director and Zebra is simply adding Ltd to the end of his / her name.

The practicalities of the ceremony only took about 10 minutes online with gov.uk (it was done privately, with no flashy ceremony, just as I wished).  I like to think that Zebra and I have had a long and relatively happy engagement.

Being with Zebra has let me do other things which working full time for others couldn’t give me, such as flexibility in hours, time to work on other projects, the ability to prioritise my children and to have greater say over my working hours and pay: Zebra understands I want to see friends and have hobbies.  Zebra has allowed me to change and grow and yet still be there.  We’ve grown together.

I’d like to thank all our friends and family who have been very supportive of me and the black and white one.  We look forward to a long and happy future together.

The brick wall of content creation


Ever felt like this when it comes to content creation?



I've heard people responsible for marketing and content creation admit to the following feelings:

“It’s 4pm and I think sh** I haven’t posted on social media today and I have no idea what to write!”

“My manager thinks I can just produce stuff to post on social media out of thin air but some days I’m just not feeling it. I have 20 emails to work through, someone knocking at my door and a to do list as long as my arm. Social media is the last thing on my mind.”

“The last time I took a photo to post on social media no one smiled. I can’t post this, it will make us look ridiculous."

"Everyone expects you to post happy positive upbeat stuff on social media, but it's not reality to be like that every part of every day. I can't get the words out to sound right."



STOP!

Relax. Let's think and plan.

We all have off days and too many days when we’re too busy to plan out what on earth to post on social media. In the meantime we're comparing ourselves to other businesses and brands who are nailing it online and posting live videos about how their crushing their business goals, which makes us feel even more like we're failing.

That’s when you need a stock of go-to-happy-sounding posts that will go out and do the work for you whilst you carry on with the humdrum of every day.

There's also huge value in planning your content in advance so that you know you have a stock of decent photos, key messages and your regular calls to action going out even when you're not in the mood to post something original.

If you've hit a brick wall when it comes to your content creation, strategy and scheduling for social media, I can help.  It might be advice or someone to listen and chew over the problem with you to get a strategy sorted, or you may need more practical help with creating a good block of content that can go out while you concentrate on other things that don't involve brick walls.