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Networking – some people are naturals at it, others need to work hard.  Whatever your views you should remember that it is one of the most cost effective ways for small businesses to grow new business and get repeat work.

It is estimated that networking and word of mouth advertising are jointly likely to bring in seven times as much business as any other form of advertising.  And generally it is free.   

Here are my 5 top tips:

•    Choose wisely.  There is little point in wasting energy going to every event you can find.  Pick the ones that suit you best and make sure you attend them regularly.  

•    Plan your time.  Expect to get to events early and be prepared stay late.  You need to circulate and talk to people and you can’t do that while a meeting is taking place.

Never heard of content marketing?  You may not have heard the phrase but you’ve certainly seen it in action.

Every time you visit a website, be it for entertainment or news, you are engaging with content marketing.  It is the information you are accessing, what you are actually seeing and reading.

I think it is true to say that everyone visiting your website for the first time has something in common – they are curious.

They want something from you, information, a product or a service, so they visit your website.  That website’s job is to turn that enquiry into a client.  To do that, you need to make them curious enough to contact you.

If you are a small business I know that you will be doing everything to save money wherever you can.  Here are five easy ways to do just that:

1.    Contract instead of hiring.  Employees need office space and equipment.  They need training.  They need their insurance, sickness and holiday pay.  Hire a contractor or freelancer instead and see how much money you save immediately.  

Tuesday 9th May saw some business colleagues and I hard at work on a course – a golf course, that is!

We were pleased to support the latest James Hopkins Trust Charity Golf Day and, although our team didn’t win, we had a marvellous day out mixing with other Gloucester business people.   

Our team was representing Severn Signs and you can see in the picture Rob Wallace, Managing Director of that company, Tony Lawrence, owner of Gloucester’s Kodak Vision Centre and me, Clive Hannis.

In our hectic modern world it is essential that you prioritise your daily tasks.  Here are four tried and tested methods employed by successful businesses.

•    ABC Method.  Divide your tasks into three levels of importance, A, B and C.  Then prioritise within each category 1, 2 and 3.  Start with job A1, then complete A2 and work through to C3
•    Eisenhower method.  President Eisenhower summarised his theory as “what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”  The Eisenhower Method divides tasks into four categories; important & urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important and not urgent and not important.  Do the important & urgent and important but not urgent tasks first.  

How many times do we hear about the ‘average business’?

Let me tell you something; some businesses are always in demand.  They supply things that their customers and clients value.  And one thing they are not is ‘average’.

Never mind spring cleaning at home, you need to think about decluttering your office.  A tidy workplace gives you peace of mind and can lead to more productivity.
Start with these five easy steps:

I’m sure you all remember Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army shouting “Don’t panic” and then running round in circles doing an excellent impersonation of a headless chicken.

Sometimes you can find yourself in a situation where you are unexpectedly put on the spot and have to think on your feet to come up with some answers.  It could be an awkward question in a Q&A after a presentation, something that a client asks that you haven’t considered before or even a press interview.  

Don’t panic.  Here are some quick and easy ways of coping with such a situation:

•    Relax.  Take a couple of slow, deep breaths.  Keep your voice calm and controlled.  Think clearly.  Confident body language and a relaxed expression will reinforce the belief that you are in control of the situation.

Now don’t worry – I’m not going to go all New Age on you, but I am always open to suggestions about improving productivity and reducing stress.
It has to be said that there are some very useful techniques that can be borrowed from the current Mindfulness movement to make your working life easier and more productive.

•    Go for a walk every day.  I find I have some of my best ideas when out for a stroll and yes, you can find time.  Don’t forget a notebook.
•    You don’t need to aim for perfection in everything you do.  Just try and do better than you did yesterday.

Deadlines – some people love them and use them to get their work done efficiently.  Others hate them.

One of my favourite quotes is from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  “I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

In marketing, however, a deadline is an extremely useful tool.  Put something on offer for a limited length of time and you will get a good response.

I know that everyone wants to increase sales so here are 5 treid-and-tested ways to get your customers buying more.

1.    Cross-Selling.  This one is an old trick.  Would you like a case for your new mobile phone?  Do you want some batteries to go with that torch?  What about insurance?  You can also link items – “customers who bought this item also purchased this”, for example.

So it’s another new year – how are those resolutions going?

Did you promise yourself that this would be the year that you took control of your business planning and moved up to the next level?  That you would sort the website out once and for all to make it a really professional looking marketing tool?  Or did you decide that all your marketing needed an overhaul and you were going to really get stuck in to it?

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