Friday, 22 November 2013

The 5 worst pieces of businesses advice that I have had

The 5 Worst Pieces of Advice for Small Business Owners

When you’re starting a business, there’s no shortage of people eager to hand out advice. It seems that everyone, even someone you've just met, has an opinion on how you should be developing your product, running your marketing, handling your finances and much more.
I'll be the first to admit that I've met some very smart people and have had great mentors over the years. Their contributions have been invaluable to my successes. Yet after launching many companies over 35 years in business, I have come across some terrible advice.
Below are the top five bits of advice that I could have done without.

1. "Hire people you know."

I've had many people tell me that it's always better to assemble a team of "known quantities" — friends, colleagues or former employees whom you know and trust. But I've discovered that for me, the best hiring decisions are based on the specific positions I need to fill at that moment in time. In other words, I need to focus on the specific expertise and skill sets the company needs, rather than trying to piece together how Jill, Sally and Joe will fit into the new business.
In addition, if things aren't working out between an employee and your company, you need to part ways (and usually, the sooner the better). You may be more reluctant to let friends go, even if you know they aren't good fits.

2. "There's no room for you in the market."

The key to business success doesn't always hinge on finding a completely empty field; rather, it’s how you define your company and its place in the market. Starbucks wasn't the first company to sell coffee, but they did revolutionize the coffee shop by selling an experience along with a caffeine fix. Still, numerous boutique coffee shops are able to open and thrive today, even though there's a Starbucks around the corner.
Rather than struggling to come up with a brand new idea, take a look at your target industry and see where there's a void to be filled. Figure out the best possible way to fill that need and run with it. You don't always have to blaze a new trail, but you need to know who you are.

3. "You have to be cheaper than the other guys."

I admit that I fell into this pricing trap with a number of my companys. I felt that the only way I could compete with the "big guys" was to undercut them on price. So, I dropped our prices. My business grew, customers were happy, more customers came in, yet we were nearly losing money with every new order.
Many young companies feel the pressure to discount their prices heavily in order to win business. While customer acquisition is important, attracting customers at unsustainable price levels will just result in a race to the bottom. I’ve learned that you’re better off in the long run to focus on how to bring more value to customers, rather than simply slashing your prices. After all, someone will always be able (or willing) to absorb a lower cost than you. You'll need to find a new way to stand out, and then work as hard as you can to be exceptional in those differentiating areas.

4. "Social media is free."

Over the past several years, I've had people tell me that starting a small business today is much easier than a decade ago, because of all the free marketing on FacebookTwitter and Yelp. Sure, you don’t have to spend a dime to join Facebook, create a Twitter account or start a blog. But, I think a more apt comparison is that social media is free like a puppy. It may not cost much to bring a shelter puppy home, but from day one, it's an endless whirlwind of training, toys and treats.
Likewise, social media is far from free once you factor in the blood, sweat and tears it demands. From developing fresh content to keeping up conversations, social media requires nonstop commitment once you start. Unless you consider your time (or the time of your employees) worthless, then there’s a significant cost involved with social media.

5. "You have to spend money to make money."

It's risky to think that throwing money at a problem is your silver bullet. Sometimes, creative thinking and strategy work far better than a checkbook.
Its important to learn the difference between spending money and investing in the business. Certainly, money can scale a business faster, but only when you spend money on those things that will produce more money in return.

Final Thoughts

People will always give you advice — some good, some bad. The key is to never forget that you are running the show. Other people's opinions should always be viewed through the context of your own experiences, convictions and value system.
Final decisions are always up to you, so there’s no blaming someone else for bad advice.
I have many stories - good and bad that have developed and grew businesses, but also learning opportunities that for me we the bad ones - but I can share so you don't make those same mistakes.
Contact me
Tony Park
Head Gardener at Business Gardener - 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

PR is a great way to grow your business

 PR can help you create awareness of your company and your services.
PR is a great way to generate leads for your marketing pipeline and it all starts by defining who you are and why people should buy from you. When you have completed those first steps, your next step is to take your message out into the world!  
Lets look at how to promote your business with a press release.
Press Releases
Developing a press release – and getting it covered in publications from your target market – adds credibility to your message and delivers that credible message to your audience.
pressrelease-1A press release should announce something newsworthy.  Hiring new people, adding additional services, bringing on new clients, and purchasing new equipment are all announcements that are worthy of a press release. These types of announcements show how your business is growing, and there’s not much better news to share with your target market!
When writing the release, you want to answer the questions – who, what, where, when and why. The most important of these questions is the why. Why should someone care about this news?
For example, if you have acquired a new customer, your announcement can say:
Acme Print and Marketing Services is pleased to announce that The Big Bank has chosen Acme to handle all of their print production and direct marketing communications needs. The Big Bank is another example of Acme’s expanding role as a leader in providing print and marketing to organizations in the financial services industry. 
The news is that The Big Bank has become a client; the story is that Acme is now becoming a go-to resource for the financial services industry.
Note that if you are announcing the purchase of new equipment or technology, the vendor you buy from is usually more than happy to write a press release about your purchase. These vendors are sometimes able to get coverage in publications and sites where you might not be able to, so be sure to ask!
Distributing the Press Release
Once you have finalized the press release, (and received approval from any customers or vendors that you mention) send your press release to publications and websites that cover your industry and reach the target audience you are trying to connect with. This may require a bit of research, but you want to be sure you are speaking to an audience who cares about your message.
newsreleaseIn our Acme Service Provider example, it would be beneficial to reach out to publications that focus on marketing and communications for financial services.
In addition to sending the press release to publications and websites, you can also send it out via a distribution or wire service. These services will send your press release out thousands of publications, and can help boost your SEO rankings.
Font is a company that can assist you and Becher can assist you in this.
Repurposing Your Content
Once your release is out, there are several ways to keep the news alive. First, be sure to post links to the press release from all your social media outlets – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  In addition to the link, post a bit of the story as well. Acme could tweet “More Good News from Acme”  and a link to the press release.
In addition, you can take the content of the press release and rework it into a blog post. Note that these are different communications channels, so you want to be sure you edit the content so that it reads more like a blog post and is more conversational.
This is a first step and creates positive Brand Values for your business - something you can grow on for other marketing and advertising.
Tony Park
Business Gardener 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Content Marketing helps to create respect with WEB 2.0

Hi everyone,

How to Spread the Word Through Content Marketingpeople are either getting into using WEB 2.0 tools like facebook, blogs, LinkedIn etc... or they have already have a presence. Some people are looking to use these as a replacement to advertising and see it as similar to say TV or Radio - or even just a press add and think that all these great people will see it and come to buy your product. 

The reality is far from the expectation.

You need to create a brand value a profile of relevant information that makes your web site, your blog your information stand out from the Billions and Trillions of web pages and pieces of information that is available.

Just putting up an add saying how great you are - a price and come and get it is not good enough anymore (was it ever) . 

A major way to get recognition of your brand values and then a possibility of a sale is to have relevant content to inspire, inform and educate to gain an understanding from potential purchasers that you have the relevant product or service for them, based on information and respect gained from that ongoing relationship.

Over the following weeks we will have more information on the gaining of respect and relationship selling, however below is an article from Katherine Duncan on a some aspects to gain some of this respect by making sure you have relevant content on your WEB 2.0 tool.

Tony park
Head Gardener 

How to Spread the Word Through Content Marketing

Image credit: Shutterstock
Content marketing, the creation of original written and visual materials used to generate leads, is becoming increasingly popular online--because it works. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of B2C marketers are employing the technique, and more than half of both groups plan to increase their efforts in 2013.

"Those who produce keyword-rich online content, including YouTube videosblog posts, articles and so on, consistently show up on the first page of search results for their targeted keywords," writes marketing expert Ann Handley. The biggest appeal to this approach is cost. In lieu of shelling out thousands of dollars to buy advertising or keywords, marketers employ creativity as currency.
Here are five tips for doing it right:
1. Understand your audience.
Study your prospective audience to determine their needs and interests so you can appeal to them in an entertaining manner. Do it by monitoring keywords and topics (including names of competitors) on your social media platforms to see which drive the most Facebook Likes, Twitter shares, blog comments, etc. Once you have attracted a small audience, use their feedback to create content that will pull in even more followers.
2. Make a plan. 
Content marketing requires you to sustain whatever momentum you build through regular postings (daily is best). To keep it going, you'll want to develop a communications strategy that supports--not distracts from--your overall business goals by laying out a detailed editorial calendar of topics for the next few months. Then make sure to share the calendar with the rest of your team, doling out assignments where possible and asking the staff to contribute ideas for new content going forward.
3. Set high standards.
Apply the same standards to your online content as you do to the rest of your business. While effective content generates and nurtures leads, poorly executed content can have the reverse effect and actually damage your brand, causing you to lose readers and business. Play to your strengths: For example, if you're a skilled photographer, focus your content on teaching people how to get the best shot.
Bear in mind that the tone you use in a company blog or white paper (more formal) should be different from how you write for social media (casual and conversational). If you don't consider yourself a skilled writer, you can hire freelancers to do the job. But be sure to provide your writers with detailed editorial standards to follow.
4. Celebrate variety.
Don't limit your online content to routine blog postings or case studies. Consider offering product comparisons, a resource gallery or a directory of helpful information about your industry. Rethink common elements of your website. For example, perhaps you can use your FAQ page to address difficult questions related to your industry, not just your company.
5. Share wisely.
You've devoted so much time to creating meaningful content--now it's important that you know how to share it across appropriate social media channels. To build your brand's presence, set aside a chunk of time each day and use it to connect with others on various networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). And avoid being too promotional; instead, share your best content when you believe it can provide obvious benefits to your followers.

Happy blogging - Tony Park
If you want some advice contact me at