Sitting on a hard, plastic chair in the overly warm/chilled conference room, your eyes slowly drying up as you try to focus on the presentation in front of you, your brain drifting into wistful thoughts of the upcoming weekend…we’ve all been there. Hell hath no fury like the tedium of a pointless meeting.

Meetings have a bad reputation as being necessary evils of the business world. The people moaning about their last meeting far outnumber those celebrating a successful one – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Chances are, if you feel like your meetings are a waste of time, they probably are because you’re doing them wrong.
Follow these simple tips to make your meetings more productive, efficient and enjoyable.

Stand Up

For most of us, a typical work day – including meetings – involves a lot of sitting. But this may not be the best way to foster creativity. Andrew Knight and Markus Baer of Washington University conducted research into the effect of sitting versus standing during a meeting, and they came to the conclusion that standing ‘had greater physiological arousal and less idea territoriality.’ Basically, standing up led to an increase in productivity and idea sharing.

Pull a Google

It will come as no surprise that Google are pros at holding meetings. Marissa Mayer, vice-president of search products, holds on average 70 meetings a week – with that amount, there’s no time to waste. She requests an agenda in advance on what participants want to discuss during the meeting. Although many might see this as a time waster in itself, sitting down and actually thinking through what you want to cover and how best to achieve your goals will help everyone stay on track.

Ditch the laptops

Where possible, take notes by hand. In a study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer that studied the note-taking habits of Princeton and UCLA students, they found that those who wrote their notes down by hand did significantly better on understanding concepts than those who typed their notes on a laptop.

Have a leader

No matter what kind of meeting you’re having – quick catch-up, brainstorm, progress evaluation – make sure there is a clear leader. Google’s former CEO and current chair Eric Schmidt and former SVP of products Jonathan Rosenberg write in their book ‘How Google Works’: ‘A meeting between two groups of equals often doesn’t result in a good outcome, because you end up compromising rather than making the best tough decisions.’ So make sure you have someone assigned to have the final say, and you’ll stay on track.

Make them fun

A happy team is a productive one. Boost morale by beginning the meeting on a positive note: have everyone share a funny joke they heard, or talk about something they achieved last week. In the interest of time, allot ten extra minutes or so for socialising – that way, it won’t cut into the actual meeting itself.

 

Author’s Bio:

Gemma Falconer is a member of the Demand Generation team at Citrix and GoToMeeting, a cloud computing company that enables mobile workstyles. She has been using collaboration tools/video conferencing/online meetings for the past 6 years and splits her working time between the office and home. Having experienced the flexibility and various advantages of using such technology, Gemma would love for employers to seriously consider offering collaboration tools and flexible working for their employees so they too can truly benefit. Gemma is a mother, keen volleyball player and writer. Find her on Twitter on LinkedIn.’

Who is your target market?

Hitting target market

Photo credit: Hans Splinter via Flickr

Underpinning any marketing strategy is your target market i.e. who your customers or clients are.  But tackling this question is surprisingly difficult for most business owners.  Answers are usually vague and when asked for specifics, many reply with demographics such as gender, age group, income – answers that are not quite enough for strategy formulation.

When I try to tease the answer a little further by asking ‘who needs your particular service?”, the answer is inevitably ‘everybody’ or something of that nature. While ‘everybody’ could potential use your service, having such a broad definition of your target market is not helpful when developing your marketing plan.  If you don’t define your target market and segment that target market even further, you risk having a scatter gun approach and missing the mark – a waste of time and resources.

Today’s post deals with this issue and attempts to provide some guidance.  Throughout the article, I will use the term ‘client’ and ‘service’ but the principles are the same even if you have a ‘product’ and a ‘customer’.

 

Step 1 – Does your potential target need your service?

Whatever group you come up with, you will eventually have to refine it into segments, but in the first instance, ask whether they need your service?

Target market - step 1

 

Without being biased, if you answer both yes and no, that is an immediate sign that the group needs to be segmented into a ‘yes’ group and a ‘no’ group.  As the flow chart suggests, if you answer is ‘no’, you have to start with a strategy to create a ‘need’ or ‘want’.

In all likelihood, you would have chosen a target market that you already know needs your service.  You know but do THEY know?

 

Step 2 – Does your target market know whether they need your service?

 

Target market - step 2

 

Do not assume that your target market is aware of their need!  You may need a strategy to bring this need to the forefront of their awareness.

Note that the strategy in (A) and (B) are subtly different.  (A) is about creating a market while in (B), a market already exists but there is low awareness.

 

Step 3 – Why should your potential client choose you?

Taking the analysis further if you have already defined a target market that needs what you offer, and is aware of that need, your next question should be why should they choose you?

Target market - step 3

In most cases, you will be operating in a competitive market.  (C1) is therefore your unique selling proposition.  Why would a potential client choose you over your competitor? Think pricing, unique features, specialisation (this is where a very targeted niche comes in very handy!), technology, speed, convenience etc.

In addition, you also need a strategy to help your target market find you.  You may have the best service and a potential target market that is ready to buy, but if you open a shop in the middle of a desert, how are your clients going to find you?  Think of the channels that you will use – traditional media, social media, referrals, alliances etc.  How will you expose your service to your target market?

 

Step 4 – Refine and segment your target market

If you struggle at any point in the above process, it means your target market isn’t sufficiently refined.  Segment your groups further, and each segment should be put through Steps 1-3.  You may find that each segment needs different strategies and if it all becomes too much, you need to decide who and where you really want to focus your energies and resources.

TIP – Identifying Uniqueness

As you think about what is unique about your product or service, think also about what is unique about your target market.  If there is match, this will be your sweet spot.

TIP – Ask why?

At every stage of the process, ask ‘why’?  The answers should give you valuable insight into your client attributes and help you go beyond describing your target market merely in demographical terms such as age and gender.

Ideal client

What’s the difference between the strategy in (A), (B) and (C)?

The strategy in (A) is like selling ice to an Eskimo.  Difficult but not impossible.  The Eskimo does not need ice but a clever marketer could ‘create’ a need or want.

In (B), take the same Eskimo and a business that sells vitamin supplements.  The Eskimo’s diet could benefit from a variety of supplements, therefore there is a need.  The Eskimo passes Step 1 of the process but the Eskimo isn’t aware of this need.  The marketer now has to bring this need into awareness before the product can even be sold to the Eskimo.  One of the most common mistakes in marketing is skipping Step 2 and going straight to developing strategies in Step 3.  If you find your client resistant to your marketing, your sales spiel, this is a signal that you need to revisit a strategy for (B)

Your ideal client sits in Strategy (C) – where the need and ‘awareness’ of the need is established.  These are clients that are ready and willing.  Generally, if you have a wider reach than your competitors and get to your target first, all other things equal, you will have a good chance converting the target into a client.

Target market segmentation

However, as indicated in the diagram above, sometimes there just isn’t enough ‘fish’ in (C) and the target market is too small.  This is when you revisit the other segments that you may have discarded through the process and expand your target market, but keeping mind, that you will need a strategy to convert (B) to (C)!

—–

This has been a long post but hopefully one that has given you practical steps in understanding your ‘target market’, ‘niche market’, ‘ideal client’, all of which are ‘marketing speak’ that won’t do you much good unless you do the analysis thoroughly.

This topic is an excerpt of a workshop that I was running and as with the nature of all excerpts, it is incomplete.  What has been assumed is that you have clarity about the nature of your product or service and the needs that it meets.  In addition, what is missing is how you put together your strategies after you have identified your (A), (B) and (C) groups.  So consider these issues also as you digest this post.

I would love to hear your comments and feedback!

Download the – Target Market Flowchart

 

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Habits, comfort zones, procrastination whatever you want to all it, all keeps us stuck.  Stuck doing the same thing over and over again.

I found this quote incredibly compelling:

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Footsteps

Photo credit: Hamed Saber via Flickr

I want to put it out there that every step counts, even the tiniest of changes, because every step takes you closer to your destination.

 

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Event planning is often a stressful and time-consuming process.  When time and opportunity cost are factored in, many decide to outsource to specialist providers.  However, if you have budget constraints and are prepared to give this a go by yourself, here are some tips from Mary Tan from Plan Ahead Events Camberwell.

How to create a successful event?

EventSuccess has a different meaning for each individual.  When someone says that their event was successful – what does this mean exactly?
Hopefully, it means that the event has met their objective!

For instance, if the event is meant to attract clients and some of the attendees sign up for a workshop or purchase their product then the event is deemed as a success. So, if no-one signs up or buys, is it a failure? But what is someone has made an appointment to discuss further then the event could be regarded as a success.

So, bearing this in mind … let’s begin …

My top eight tips for a successful event are:

  1. Have an objective/goal for the event
    Just like in the above example, is the event to attract clients, to market your brand, an information session (seminar)?  Don’t just have an event for the sake of having an event
  2. Choose an appropriate venue for your event
    Think of your target audience – for example, if holding a conference, select a hotel or conference venue, if networking, a pub may suffice. I recommend you visit the venue to ensure that the ambience, layout, location etc is the right fit for your event.
  3. Don’t blow the budget
    If you overspend before the event is being held, you will feel that you have failed even before the actual event! But remember to take into account of proceeds from ticket sales (if the event is ticketed) when balancing the books.
  4. Plan ahead for promotion/marketing
    Give yourself plenty of time to promote the event to attract the attendees. Consider what methods you will use to promote and who will you promote to?
  5. Checklists and Timelines
    This is to ensure that you don’t miss any vital steps for planning the event and to keep you track.
  6. Prepare a running sheet for the event
    Schedule everything in for the event so you know what happens at what time. This will also help to keep the event on time and not overrun.
  7. Ensure food is of a satisfactory quality
    This is applicable if you have catering at your event. Use a reputable caterer/venue so that the food is good and try a tasting menu wherever possible.  Don’t let attendees remember the event because of the terrible food!
  8. Prepare contingency plans
    Think what could go wrong? For example, what happens if the keynote speaker falls sick?  Or if there is no cable to connect the data projector to the laptop (this has actually happened to me!)

Keeping these tips in mind, you will be well on your way to achieving that successful event.

 

About the Author:

Mary Tan brings a wealth of business and project management skills as owner of Plan Ahead Events Camberwell. Mary has always had a passion for seeing events through to a successful completion. With a background in IT, Mary applies a methodical approach, with a fine attention to detail, which always translates into smooth running events.

 

 

Hands up, who’s guilty of this?

As I juggle my competing priorities this year – work, home, studies, I’m constantly fighting the urge to justify my procrastination.  Every task I have to do is necessary in my overall scheme, but when I am truly honest, I know I’m often picking one task over the other because I am procrastinating.

Some food for thought….

Justifiable Procrastination

 

 

 

www.coachmi.com.au

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The price of a relationship

I found myself in an unenviable position recently, caught between loyalty to a service provider and an irresistible offer.

I had an established relationship with my current provider and had no complaints or issues.  The service and relationship were good enough that I would happily provide a recommendation.  But the offer was irresistible.  My mental calculations had worked it out to be several hundreds dollars of savings. It was a clever offer that was intended to cultivate a long term relationship.  The sales person was personable, professional and very convincing.

From a marketing context, I admired it.  It required a financial commitment from me and there was urgency as there were only two places left.  If I didn’t take it then, I would miss out.  Then he sweetened the offer by reducing it even further and extending the redemption period, effectively wiping out all my rational objections.  I stress the word rational because everything else was emotional.

Price vs Loyalty -1

The irresistible offer, the urgency, all common discussion points with my clients.  I laugh to think how I personally reacted to it!  Clearly, it works, because in spite of the gnawing discomfort, I accepted it.  But there is more to this story.

The gnawing discomfort of my decision stayed with me the rest of the day until the following morning.  I turned it over and over in my mind, justifying it from a rational point of view but could not fault it.  The problem was that I liked and respected my service provider and my loyalty was being brought into question.

Price vs Loyalty

That loyalty had been built over years of good service.  It was based on being surprised many times and one of the key points that I want to discuss, which is that the price point was perfect.  It was well within my “reasonable” zone.

Price vs Loyalty

I could not help but compare this to another occasion with apparently similar circumstances.  I was a happy satisfied customer and had also recommended this provider’s services to others.  The difference was the price point.  In the second story, the price had over a number years started to creep into “pricing stress”.  It tested my loyalty and when he raised his prices again, it tipped over into the unreasonable zone” so I started shopping around and once another service provider was recommended, I left.

 

How do you price your services appropriately?

Some people would argue that there is no price for loyalty but there is.  It depends on whether your pricing is well within what I call the “reasonable zone” or whether it’s in the “pricing stress” zone.  It’s not about being cheap.  It’s about being reasonable for the level and quality of service you provide.  The higher the level of service and quality, the more flexible your “reasonable zone”.

This is information you need to work out.  It’s not an exact science.  You can measure your business against competitors, work out when you stand in terms of both your service and your price.

 

Did I leave?

Did I leave the first service provider?  No, I did not.  Tortured by my guilt, I asked for a refund the following day.  I could not emotionally justify leaving.  It was not just the years of service, the quality of service, although most people in this situation would argue the first two.  I believe it is the first two AND the value I get, which comes back to price.  The price I pay is well within my tolerance.

The lesson here is that under-cutting your competitor does not work if your competitor is already offering “value for money”.  You would have to prove “value” which takes time and a risk on the part of the buyer.  In a service-based business, extremely difficult to achieve.

Naturally, from a business planning and strategy point of view, there are many other issues to cover that are beyond the scope of this post.  However, hopefully, this has been some food for thought as you go about your business and developing your pricing strategies.

 

 

www.coachmi.com.au

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A rather personal post today, after an unintentionally long  absence.  Read on and you’ll understand why.

“You can’t do that.  You’re insane”

I have deliberately messed up my work-life balance this year, adding study to my already hectic life. And of all things, I’m attempting a law degree. Yes, it’s one more ball in the air, and a really big one. Friends and acquaintances who have heard of my endeavour have fallen into two camps – the first who think I’m crazy and the second who’ve congratulated me on my lofty scheme.  Both camps having valid concerns and I admit to wondering myself whether I had lost my marbles, but now that I’m about three quarters of the way through the semester and still chugging along, I think I might not be so crazy after all.  So why did I do it?

Stepping stones

Image Credit: Phil Parsons via Flickr

Living without regret

It was not easy, making this decision.  I reviewed the variables, tried in my perfectly rational way to assess the cost-benefit, worked through the logistics.  But there was no clear cut answer.  The turning point came when I thought about the issue in a completely different way, asking myself whether I would regret doing this?  Then it became perfectly clear.  Even if the decision to proceed was not the right one, I wouldn’t regret having tried.  At worst, I’d decide it wasn’t right for me and I’d have incurred some fees, but it would be a another stepping stone in life’s journey.  On the hand, I would almost certainly regret NOT doing it.

Testing the boundaries of “impossible”

In attempting the slightly insane, I wanted to test the boundaries of “impossible” and wanted to prove to myself that they are that little bit further that I think.  This was unknown territory.  The last time I did formal study was doing a post-graduate diploma fifteen years ago, and I coasted along one subject at a time.  I say “coasted’ because I didn’t have half the commitments I do now. Today, I’m older, I’m a parent of young children, I run a business and most of the time, I’m tired.

I had doubts and I was afraid.  Still, I decided to go ahead and I started the semester with a full load of four subjects.  The rationale being, that I don’t know what I’m capable of until I actually give it a go.  Four weeks into the course, I hit a wall and realised that I had taken on more than I could chew.  Four subjects was too much and I was paying too steep a price for it.

 

The greatest danger for most of us is not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim low and reaching our mark ~ Michelangelo

 

Knowing your limits

I decided to drop a subject and carry on and while it is still a challenge, it is a manageable challenge.  It made me wonder about all the helpful comments I got at the beginning, about taking it easy, about easing myself into it one or two subjects at the time.  I have a contrary view.  I believe that once we get stuck in a comfort zone, it is incredibly difficult to get out.

I had one chance to use ignorance to my advantage.  If I start on one or two subjects, that’s where I would stay.  Conscious also that time is not on my side, I realised that plodding along at one or two subjects per semester would mean a degree that would take up to ten years to complete – a thought I couldn’t bear!

So my strategy was to jump in with both feet and eyes closed!  The result is that I know what my genuine limit is, and it’s not an imaginary one constructed by my mind – a little less than I aimed for but more that I and everyone else thought was reasonable in my circumstances.  And, I’m happy with that outcome.

 

On reflection, I wonder how often our comfort zones define what we think are our limits.  What do you think?

 

 

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Setting up a business in partnership?  Before you carried away with the euphoria and excitement, there are some things you need to consider.  Many partnerships start wonderfully and later turn sour due to misunderstandings, differing expectations or change of personal circumstances.  Dealing with these possibilities up front will save you a lot of potential grief.

“Many hands make light work” ~ John Heywood

You have probably thought about the benefits of going into partnership – your partner may have complementary skills or be sharing the cost of setting up the business, or quite simply that it will be easier if another person shares the load with you.  All valid reasons for a partnership, but here are some other considerations:

#1 – Choose the right Business Structure

Most people use the term “partnership” loosely when it comes to business but understanding the actual structure of your business is important.  Will you set your business up as a company or as a partnership?  In a partnership, each partner is “jointly and severally” liable for any debts incurred by the partnership which means you are liable not just for your share, but all the business debts.  Using a company structure instead would limit your liability but the trade off is that companies are more expensive to set up and more onerous to maintain administratively.  Make sure you understand the pros and cons of each structure to determine which suits you best.  Seek professional advice if necessary.

Shaking hands

Image credit: acerin via stock.xchng

#2 – Consider the value of your respective contribution

A partnership is often formed because partners bring different skills into a business.  How these skills are valued can be tricky but should be considered.  Resentments can arise later when one party feels the other isn’t pulling his or her weight.  From a practical point of view, the nature of certain skills may mean that one person contributes more physical hours to a business.  Is this reasonable?  Is this understood by and acceptable to all parties?  How will any imbalance be dealt with?  Discuss what each partner’s expectations of the other are.  

#3 – Have guidelines for management disagreements

Everything may work smoothly at the beginning.  There is agreement, values and visions that align, but it would be prudent to assume that this will not last indefinitely.  Eventually something will crop up.  This could be anything from day to day issues to the future direction of the business.  Consider these possibilities at the start.  It’s a lot easier to manage disagreements if you have some guidelines in place.  How often will you discuss strategic issues?  How should difficult issues be raised?  What happens when you disagree?

This is a classic “too hard basket” item that gets swept under the carpet, but it is also one that has potential to derail everything so ignore at your own risk.

#4 – Clarify your exit strategy

What happens if one partner wants to leave or retire?  Set out terms that govern this scenario and look at it from both sides i.e. assuming you are the one that wants to leave, or you are the one that is staying.  Would you be comfortable with the terms in either scenario?

 ~~~

Part of your business planning process should include dealing with the issues raised here as well as considering others that may be unique to your partnership.  If for example, your partner is also your spouse, or a family member, there may be even more to discuss and consider.  Ensure everything is documented.  There is nothing worse than fuzzy memory when something goes wrong.

If you have been in a business partnership and have encountered issues not covered in this post, please do share them in the comments!

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The choice of an appropriate business name is one of most important decisions a new business owner will have to make.  Choosing what we think is the perfect name only to find out that someone got there first can be heartbreaking.  I know, having been through this process with a number of clients.  Then the iterations happen.  How can we get around it?  Can we have a variant?  Can we use different words that mean the same thing?  All valid strategies, but always ending up, feeling like a compromise.  Sometimes, it is better to just start again from scratch.

Issues with similar business names

If your preferred name has been taken by a competitor, choosing an alternative that is similar is fraught with dangers.  Using an extreme analogy, it would be like setting up a fast food chain and calling your business “McDermotts”.  Some might favour this as a strategy to “piggyback” the goodwill already generated by the competition.  I think it is a poor excuse for lack of creativity, not to mention a possible infringement of trademarks.

Then, there is brand confusion.  A web designer I once knew made this compromise, choosing a name so similar to a competitor, with only one letter separating their business names.  When I looked for her business on the web, I found her competition instead.  Whilst there are ways and means to overcome this issue, it is an unnecessary risk.  Surely there is an equally good name to be found?

Business_name

Be unique and memorable

While SEO is important, do not let that be the sole determining factor in your choice of business name.  Competitive keywords are difficult to rank for and business names that are based on keywords are generally bland and uninteresting.  Using content to rank for SEO is better strategy than compromising on a business name for the sake of SEO.

Be unique.  Use taglines that help people remember and recognise you.  Good business names last the distance.  Choose one that is meaningful and memorable.

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Yes, I am deliberately being provocative, but it is true, ineffective meetings destroy the true value of collaboration.

Ever heard of the phrase death by committee?  It’s a long-standing joke that committees can’t get anything done.  If you’ve ever been involved in a community based committee, you probably get it.  If not, think about all the meetings that you’ve attended where there is a lot of talk but nothing gets done.

The aim of collaboration is to generate better ideas and results than one individual could on his or her own.  Collaboration is not an opportunity to pander to egos and to provide everyone equal say and equal input.

Being “inclusive” is theoretically a good idea until it turns into a “right” to have your two cents worth.  I see this in larger organisations who have “collaboration” as one of their organisational aims, which sometimes goes awry on implementation as meeting after meeting is scheduled.  Projects becomes sluggish and instead of sparks of brilliance, the safe and known path is usually the result.

Collaboration_tweet

 

Just to be controversial, I am tempted to say – don’t have meetings.  It would be trailblazing but probably not realistic.  So the next best thing would be some tips on how to have more effective meetings.

Top 3 tips on how to have better meetings

  1. Reduce the number of meetings and shorten them
    Don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting.  Consider whether a meeting is actually required before setting one up.  If the purpose is to update, this can be easily done via electronic means.  Make meetings about action, not updates.  Shorten meetings, or at least make it length appropriate.  The more unnecessary time you allow for a meeting, the likelihood of distraction is higher.  Shorter meetings create urgency and improves focus.
  2. Reduce the number of attendees
    You don’t need everyone at the meeting.  Choose your attendees carefully, and everyone else can be on the cc: list when an update is issued.  Input can be sought via email prior to the meeting.
  3. Communicate purpose of meeting
    Get everyone clear on the purpose and outcome that is required of a meeting.  Communicate this clearly prior and at commencement of the meeting.  Note that this is not the same as having an agenda.  An agenda a piece of paper that does not substitute for communication!

I would be keen to hear your feedback.  Love or hate meetings?  Do you think they help or hinder collaboration?

 

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