One of the things my coaching clients constantly want is consistent leads to their business. Let’s face it, who can blame them – we all want consistent income and seeing our bank balance grow. But there are three simple errors they make that are easily fixed and will see them have those consistent leads.
Consistent Marketing = Consistent Leads
Ok, so I just heard a big whack of my audience groan and roll their eyes (yes I hear eye rolls, I have 2 teenagers). Yes this old chestnut and here’s why.
People will check out your social media before they buy from you
Consistent marketing keeps you top of mind
You never know where people are in their buyer journey
If your social media looks neglected people wonder if your business is too.
Here’s the thing.
You don’t have to post often, you just have to post consistently
You do need to be consistent in telling us what you want us to do
You do need to make your marketing about us and not you, your business, product/services.
Ok, so it’s not the nicest term but bear with me. Low hanging fruit on the tree are easiest to pick. So who are the low hanging fruit in your business?
TIP: The easiest person to sell to is someone who has already bought from you
Many of my clients have returned to using email newsletters to their existing customers to get more consistent leads. The reason being that the people on their list have already used their services. They already know, like, & trust them as a provider. It also reinforces to the customer that their original decision to use them was the right one and every repeat custom reinforces their decision, it also strengthens the buyer relationship.
Email is a great way to reengage a former client, it’s not as intrusive as SMS (though this can work if your audience is open to it). When paired with consistent marketing on social media having you top of mind it can sway the client into action.
TIP: Following up is a great way to bag low hanging fruit and a simple lead conversion tactic
Asking for the sale
You might think that asking for the sale is unnecessary or counter-intuitive especially when “everyone” seems to be selling online these days.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty time poor. Combine that with social media and an inbox chock full of marketing material, I just want people to tell me what to do. I’m serious. If I’m interested and I can’t work out what you want me to do, I’ll do nothing.
Your audience is no different. We all have this love/hate relationship with social media and emails but we keep our favourites in our stream. When they are clear with how their solution will help us and are clear in how we can take steps to make it happen, we’ll take action.
We just don’t have time for ambiguity and uncertainty, plus it breeds inaction and uncertainty.
What happens if you’re afraid to ask for the sale?
I get it, some of us don’t want to feel pushy or salesy. Some of us are afraid of repercussions of putting our business, and ourselves, out there. Sound familiar?
If you are one of these people, and to be honest I am one, then here are some tips for you:
Automate the process as much as possible
Outsource the process as much as possible
Realise that by you not asking for the sale, you’re saying no for us when we could say yes
Get help with why your fear is holding your business back
A coaching client came to me in tears, their business was failing and what was letting it down was them and their lack of self-confidence and they had a goal of restoring their self-assurance, personally and as a small business owner.
What is self-assurance?
First of all, a definition.
Self-assurance: someone who has self–assurance shows confidence in the things that they say and do because they are sure of their abilities.
Sadly, this was not my client.
The bad self-assurance story
Growing up life was a constant competition. They felt like they needed to compete with their siblings for the attention and approval of their parents. This lead to a vicious habit of people-pleasing, putting the needs of others before their own. Of course, because of the competition they felt, nothing was ever good enough.
They were embarrassed by their family circumstances and knew that they were destined for more. And while they knew they were destined for more, they felt like their family was always pulling them down. No achievement was ever good enough and any move to better themselves was called out as being snobby and trying to ‘one-up’ the family.
How the self-assurance story played out in the small business
Growing up feeling that:
Nothing they did was ever good enough
People-pleasing was necessary
Competition was normal and expected
It was noble to struggle, and
Their needs didn’t matter
Had to be the martyr
It’s no wonder that the business had:
growing unpaid invoices
debtors who would ignore requests to be paid
poor communication with clients about expectations and next steps
staff who would ignore direction
no respect of office hours by clients
not enough money to pay themselves a living wage
What happened when the small business owner gained self-assurance?
We met fortnightly and in one month the small business owner:
had 1/3 of the outstanding invoices paid
clear instruction and understanding with staff
firm boundaries with office hours
a clear communication strategy and regular communication with clients
a more consistent and positive social media presence
a marketing strategy
was paying themselves more
was excited for the future of their business
knew where they were headed
understood where things had gone wrong & their role in it
had stopped people-pleasing, and
felt more confident than they had in decades.
What is happening a year on?
I caught up with this small business owner a few months ago to see how they were going. In spite of the downturn due to COVID, they were:
still clear with their boundaries
identifying untapped market opportunities
still enjoying their relationship with the staff
celebrating the decision of non-paying clients to change supplier
were not people-pleasing or the need to be a martyr
were paying themselves, and best of all
were still more confident and self-assured than they could remember ever being.
What I didn’t tell you
Here’s the thing, normally I conduct six sessions in the package this client signed up for; we only got to do three. To be honest, most people see a difference after the first session and by the time we’ve gotten through the second, they’re telling me they’re feeling better than they ever have.
So where to next?
My client is coming out of their COVID lockdown and bringing their business back to full swing. They are looking forward to extending their marketing and their business and their determination and focus is laser-sharp.
Tom asked his staff member if they had understood the instructions, “yes” came the answer. Then some 30 minutes later Tom’s phone rang. It was his staff member, asking questions that Tom had answered and the staffer comfirmed hearing.
Lily walked into the shop and the shop assistant greeted her. Lily was very certain on what she needed, colour, size, and she told the shop assistant her needs. The shop assistant nodded knowingly and excused herself to get the product. Imagine Lily’s surprise when what was brought back was nothing like she described.
Most of us have been where Tom and Lily have been, some even in the place of the staff member or the shop assistant. So why don’t some people seem to listen and why do we need to feel heard?
Listening versus feeling heard facts
Listening is what the other person does and feeling heard is what we want and how we feel when we believe they’ve listened. Both rely on the perspective of the person doing the listening or wanting to be heard.
Most people listen for the information they believe is important. There are two critical points in this:
What the person believes is important
What is important to the person being listened to
TIP: What is important to one person may not be important to someone else.
We like to feel heard because it validates us and what we’ve said, plus it validates the drivers behind what we said. Feeling heard depends upon:
How the other person reacted as a listener
The stories we tell ourselves about being heard in the past
Our own drivers around what we said and feeling heard.
As an active listener, when you’re also responding, it’s key to know the core of the issue or the end goal and work towards it.
As a reflective listener, when you repeat the key points the speaker has made, it’s key to perspective take, show empathy when relevant, summarise from their drivers and ask for clarification and confirmation.
As a discriminative listener, when you also pay attention to the emotions and other non-verbal cues, it’s important to not interpret or respond based on your drivers or the story you tell yourself when faced with similar circumstances.
As an evaluative listener, someone who needs to listen, answer & make a judgement on what is said, it’s important to respond factually and not from a place of your drivers or story.
TIP: A good listener knows that the most important person is the speaker.
How to make sure you’re heard
It might seem silly but you really need to tell the listener that you need them to respond (or not) and if what you’re saying, and their response, is important to you. Yes, to be heard, it can mean being vulnerable and detailing what your drivers are and it can even take time to be clear on them yourself.
To be heard you need to let the listener know that feeling heard is important.
If you want a suggested solution, let them know.
If you just want to be listened to and heard, let them know.
If you feel misunderstood it’s ok to ask the listener to summarise what you said.
Let the listener know if you feel afraid or anxious about the topic discussed.
Remember that the listener is going to respond from their drivers, stories, and experiences and they may not be the same as yours (and that’s ok).
What to do when you’re not heard
So what about Tom and Lily? What do you do when you’re in their shoes and you haven’t been heard (or even listened to)?
Most bosses are likely to yell, especially if it’s a common occurrence, and most shoppers would smile sweetly and either try what was suggested or walk out.
TIP: It’s rarely personal
In these situations you need to be clear on the following:
What boundaries do you need to maintain? Can you safely do it?
Would escalating the issue resolve the situation? (or would it just make you feel better)
What was your core driver? Were you wanting a fear understood, a need met, a belief or value validate, or a goal achieved?
Can you understand why you were misunderstood or feel unheard?
It can be hard being objective, especially when you feel unheard, unappreciated, misunderstood or not valued. When we understand that everyone comes to every situation with their own stories and drivers, we can use that knowledge to increase our chances of being heard and feeling valued. It also makes us a better listener. If you need help with this, I’m all ears.
Have you ever used your understanding of human drivers to help you in a situation where you needed to feel heard or you needed to make someone feel heard? I’d love it if you left me a comment below and told me the story.
Many small business owners know that it’s important to build trust in their business partnerships. Some businesses even use it in their marketing or as a point of difference. But why is trust important in the various business partnerships we have, clients, staff, online, actual partners, and how do we actually achieve it?
What is trust in a business relationship?
The definition of Trust is: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. What we can forget in business is that it is while we may want it:
It’s given by the other person
we have no control over when it’s given but
we can influence when it’s taken away.
The secret to building trust with customers
The true secret is understanding that you have no control over making your customers trust you, but you do control what you do to use it. The keys to building a trusting relationship with your clients is:
be vulnerable & show your human side (it’s endearing)
I keep saying that building a trusting partnership with a client is like building a friendship. You start with your commonalities, and that’s not your business/service/product, and then grow from there. Show empathy for their drivers & tell your customer how you solve or meet them.
TIP: You have no control if a customer trusts you, but control over if they stop trusting you.
The steps to build trusting business partnerships in the workplace
Whenever I’ve needed to build trusted relationships at work the one key has been listening. The key is then to act but in a particular way.
Set clear boundaries & expectations for all (including yourself)
When I have done these things, I have turned businesses around in 3 months; I have had happier staff; I have had happier clients; I have had increased demand from clients. It is possible and I want you to achieve this too.
How do you build trust in an online business?
Some people might think that it’s harder to build trust in an online brand. I tend to disagree, especially if you remember that the people online are people and you use the tips I shared earlier about building trust with customers. There are some bonus tips which only apply online & make building an online business relationship easier:
TIP: Video shortens the time it takes to build trust online.
Why is building trust important to small business?
Real trust, not just some marketing ploy, is key to building lasting relationships. Trust builds brand loyalty. Brand loyal people are advocates & ambassadors and the best form of free marketing you could ask for as a business. Why? Because people buy from people that they know, like, & trust.
I have a question for you though; do you trust yourself?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below & don’t forget that I can help you understand what drives you, your staff, & your clients to trust your small business.
The fear of criticism, probably one of the most common reasons small business owners tell me when discussing why they have trouble promoting their business.
Why do we fear criticism?
It’s true that our mind plays tricks on us and it’s there to protect us. When it comes to fearing criticism there are two key tricks it uses:
– Fundamental Attribution Error
– The ‘Jerk’ Factor.
Fundamental Attribution Error & fear of criticism
In a nutshell, this trick is where our brain will downplay our own abilities. Essentially, we think less of ourselves than we do of others. When it comes to putting ourselves or small business out there, the fear of criticism is triggered by the Fundamental Attribution Error as we think we’re not good enough compared to others and we just don’t want people to point that out.
The ‘Jerk’ Factor & fear of criticism
No, I don’t mean that all the people out there are jerks, or that they are for criticizing us, more that we tend to go with the person who is the jerk than the likeable one. Now consider that our brain is already telling us that we’re no good, that puts us in the ‘jerk’ role. All the more reason not to fear criticism of you and/or your small business.
How do we overcome the fear of criticism?
Everyone is different and we all have our own stories and own drivers that determine why we fear criticism, what I want you to have is a tool kit for you as a small business owner, so that you can promote your business.
1. Who do you fear criticism from & do they deserve it?
I’m writing this one first because it’s my biggest problem. I give far too much credit, thanks Jerk factor, to people who really don’t deserve it.
TIP: Too often we, me included, give our energy to people who don’t deserve it, not because they are ungrateful or treat us poorly, but because they’re not on the same playing field.
Brene Brown, first in her 99U speech, spoke about the people in your arena and not paying attention to the people who aren’t doing the work, aren’t down in the dirt, aren’t getting their arses kicked.
If the people your fear will criticise you are not in the arena, then they haven’t earnt the right to criticise.
2. When the fear appears only in certain places or times
This was also me. I used to fear criticism most online. I had a bad run with a troll in the first year of my business. They had me questioning everything I did and my abilities. I was a wreck.
Then my business coach made a suggestion. Write down the names of 3-5 people who are in the Arena, see point 1 above, on a little piece of paper and keeping it under my keyboard. Whenever I was feeling fearful, I pulled out the list and looked to see if the name of the person I was fearing was on the list – if not, their opinion did not matter.
It may not be that you fear criticism online, wherever you feel the fear, have your list. You could have it in your purse, wallet, or pocket. Eventually, your list will be memorized and you will be able to mentally refer to it.
And eventually, you won’t need the list very much, if at all.
3. When social media triggers your fear
I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with social media and sometimes it goes to I love to hate it. Either way, it’s a necessary part of promoting my business (and there’s a good chance you’re the same).
There are a few ways you can help yourself & your business if it triggers your fear of criticism:
– schedule your posts (and I’ve got something to help with that too)
– use your list of people from point 2 (that’s what I did)
– take apps off the phone, particularly easy if you schedule
– limit your time online
4. Consider why they are criticising you or your business
It comes down to if the person is trying to help, or are they just being a jerk? (Yes, I mean in the real meaning and what I mentioned at the start)
The well-meaning critic
Having managed staff, locally and remotely, I can honestly say that providing feedback (and criticism) remotely is hard. We can’t hear tone, see body language, or get a chance to interject. Then there’s the issue that not everyone is great at giving feedback. (And the feedback sandwich is now the equivalent of a “yes, but”)
TIP: This is when you need to dig really deep, flip your perspective to their’s, and perhaps even ask someone on your list to give their perspective.
The heckler critic
When it comes to people who just don’t have a nice or constructive thing to say, just look to see if they made your list or are in your Arena – there’s a good chance they’re not. If they’re not, don’t waste time or energy on their criticism.
5. Being ok with being vulnerable & having boundaries
Ok, so they may seem contradictory but please stick with me.
Vulnerability and fear of criticism
It does take a certain willingness to accept that criticism will come with business. Here are some truths I’ve learnt, especially when it comes to vulnerability:
– people are generally good
– your customers and fans will have your back, especially when you’re vulnerable
– anyone who doesn’t have your back was never going to be a customer and doesn’t matter
– your presence online will repel people, that’s the intention of marketing and you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people.
Boundaries and fear of criticism
You do need boundaries in your small business. They help you in so many ways, when it comes to criticism though, boundaries:
– protect you from jerk critics and hecklers
– show self-respect
– teach people how to treat you
– teach you what you’re prepared to accept
– are necessary for growth.
6. Strong Values to keep you on track
I am a big believer in playing the long game and the end game. These beliefs mean that minor distractions, like criticism or the fear of it, are speed bumps and not derailments. But the one thing that helps playing the long game is being firmly grounded in my values.
Understanding, speaking & behaving from my values, and in particular my core value, keeps me focused and grounded. I am fortunate, and equally struggle, with the fact that my core value is courage. That means that when I am authentic to myself, my business, and most importantly my customers I MUST act from a place of courage.
TIP: Your fear of criticism is based on the stories you tell yourself, drawn from what people have told you, what you’ve experienced, and/or what you have told yourself.
They may not be true.
Your brain hates gaps and silence and it will draw on your stories to fill them.
Thing is, they’re stories and not always facts.
Stories other people told you about yourself are their perspectives on you based on how they view you at one point in time through their lens of experience & the stories they heard.
The stories you tell yourself can be a mixture of and interpretation of what you heard from others or what you believed was the right thing to do (I used to be afraid of public speaking because I believed everyone is/should be).
Your lived experiences, and especially your memories of them, are tainted by time, what other things you hear about the experience, how you felt at the time, and the stories you tell yourself.
I hope you can see how unlikely they are to be based in fact or to be objective. That means that your fear can be a lie, like mine of public speaking, through to a fairy tale/fable of someone else’s perspective trying to sway your actions. Either way, they’re not real and shouldn’t be given much credit.
I hope this list helps you to overcome any fear of criticism you have in your business. I know I haven’t spoken about its roll with staff. If this or any of the other items I’ve shared here has left you wanting more, then please comment below and I will reply, email me, or book a time for us to have a virtual coffee. Any which way, I want to help.
When I surveyed my coaching clients about what they needed as small business owners, they answered ‘self-respect’. When I googled it, self-confidence came up in the results & I thought, “Close Mr Google but they’re different”.
So how is self-respect different to self-confidence as a small business owner & why does it matter?
Let’s start off with the boring part of some definitions, remembering that I’ve gone back to my psychology text and so they can be a little dry.
Self-respect is liking who you are as a person, physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically, spiritually. It’s also showing grace and kindness to yourself in your thoughts, actions, beliefs, & values. Self-respect does not rely on how well you do something.
Self-esteem is the belief in your abilities and actions as a person. Your belief in your ability relies on you comparing it to either your expectations or someone else.
TIP: Self-respect impacts on our self-esteem. If our belief about ourselves as a person is low, we are starting at a lower point to compare our abilities as a person.
Look, I could mic drop right here and call it a day but let me get back to some of the ways psychology has shown self-respect impacts on us.
Why does self-respect matter in small business?
So let’s check out how a lack of self-respect can show up when you’re a small business owner.
The bad side of self-respect
It’s not quite like having a photo taken from a bad angle, but a lack of self-respect can not just be unflattering, it can actually be quite dangerous.
I already mentioned how low self-respect can impact your self-esteem. When business owners have low self-esteem they can be filled with doubt and will often not promote themselves or their business because they don’t believe in their abilities.
You keep bad habits, health, hygiene, boundaries.
These are probably the most commonly known ways we deny ourselves self-respect, though some of you might be surprised that boundaries is on the list.
If you do not look after yourself physically, something I am learning to do, then you are likely to struggle with performing at your best. You might feel tired. You might not pitch or follow up on people because of your physical appearance.
TIP: It’s accepted that ‘first impressions count’ and some customers will question how well you will care for their custom if you aren’t so great at caring for yourself.
I want to go into boundaries a little more as we go through some of the ways a lack of self-respect impacts small business.
You look to others for validation.
Don’t mistake this for imposter syndrome, that’s a whole other thing. This is a lack of trust in you and you turn to others to provide it. This is stereotypically, “Do I look good in this”, “Am I over reacting”, “Do you think I’m crazy”.
If you are asking staff to validate you then you are not behaving as a leader. It is hard for a person to trust, rely upon, or respect you if you show them that you can’t do it yourself.
Similarly, if you do similar with a business partner, they too will question you as a person. They might even start second guessing if the partnership is the right thing, especially if it starts creeping in to your dealings with clients.
You make excuses for others, constantly.
When people let you down, do you make excuses for them? (not to be confused with excusing them) This is a clear sign that you do not respect your own boundaries and you are putting the needs of others above your own.
A common one I see with small business owners is making excuses to clients for staff. No! Please don’t.
TIP: Clients don’t care why something didn’t happen as expected they just want what they were told to expect.
If you are constantly making excuses for staff, then you need to talk with them about setting realistic expectations with clients. If they are setting realistic expectations and not delivering, then this is when you need to look into performance managing your staff.
You tolerate disrespect or abuse from others, emotional, psychological, verbal, physical.
Ouch! Yes, this includes clients. Did you know you can sack clients? And you should if they are disrespectful or abusive to you, your premises, or your staff.
TIP: You teach people how to treat you.
So if you do not respect yourself, you then teach others it’s ok to disrespect you. This could be staff, clients, or partners. You deserve to be treated with respect, just as they expect it from you.
Being constantly disrespected and abused impacts the stories we tell ourselves about ourself. It is these stories our brain uses to fill gaps when
You agree with others to avoid conflict.
Are you a people-pleaser? Hate disappointing people? These are all variations on the theme.
Agreeing with people to avoid conflict is a clear lack of boundaries and respect for them and yourself.
Agreeing to avoid conflict, again teaches people how to treat you. It is problematic when it comes to managing staff or disgruntled customers.
The good side of self-respect
When you accept and respect yourself, deeply, for you who are and not just what you do, some incredible things happen.
You will be clear on what is and isn’t acceptable, of yourself and how others treat you.
You become very clear on your boundaries.
You become very clear on what you’re doing and where you’re going.
You become clear on who truly have your back and are important to you.
You are less susceptible to blame, guilt, regret, lies, secrets, or stress.
When you accept and respect yourself, warts and all, it changes how others perceive you.
Even if you weren’t a small business owner, wouldn’t you want this for yourself? Let me know in a comment below.
I admit, the first analogy I came up with was “How personal development is like an ogre” and then I had the scene from Shrek playing in my brain. You know the one where they are comparing Ogres to parfaits and onions? Yeah, that one. The more I thought about it, the more I could see that personal development through working on our mindset is like an onion. Let me explain.
Yes, I had to start here. Remember, I’m working from a Shrek analogy here.
Just when you think you have one layer sorted, you peel it back and reveal another layer. That’s the same with mindset work in small business.
When I was first addressing my personal fear of success, which was holding my business back, I thought I had all the stories set. Little did I know that the further I dug and poked around in there, the more stories I found. Our brain loves stories & it uses it to fill in gaps. We have our favourite stories that we play over again but sometimes there are those repressed ones, deep in that dark corner, that our brain can dig up for us.
So that’s why when I was working through my fear of success, it took almost a year. I had to sort out and address each of the stories I was telling myself.
My clients are no different. It’s often around disappointing other where there are layers of complexity and story.
It makes you cry.
OMG, the tears have flowed. It’s a good thing I keep a pack of tissues in my handbag because this work has a habit of making my clients cry.
They cry as they discover the crappy story they’ve been living by. They cry as we address it. They cry in relief when they are free.
When I’ve done the work on myself, I will cry and cry. It will hit me out of the blue when a piece of the puzzle falls into place and I come to the realization and am able to free myself from part of my old story.
I’ve cried for months when I was working on relationships and expectations around people.
Some people are allergic
Ok, so people aren’t allergic to doing personal development/growth/mindset work. They just avoid it, some like the plague.
Some people avoid it because they think they will react badly to it.
Some people will avoid it because they’ve had bad experiences in the past.
Some people try little doses to get used to it.
Doing the work really is an individual experience. But, the only way to do the work is in the doing.
I’ve outgrown allergies and taken on new ones (true story) and doing the self-work is the same. Somethings I’ve outgrown and never had to address. Some things I can tolerate in small doses and over time I’ve been able to get through more. Some things make me sick to my core and while I can avoid them, I know it’s there and if not addressed it will be there forever and I need to be ok with that.
An acquired taste
I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like onions, but I’m sure they’re out there. (Are you one of them?) Doing work on your personal development is much the same. And like overcoming an allergy little by little, over time, and with exposure we can become accustomed to the things we need to address and grow from.
TIP: This is where I find comparison can creep in.
Did anyone have a parent who made you eat something because a sibling loved it and were shocked to find out that you didn’t? (Just me then) They were comparing you. Be mindful of comparing your personal growth against someone else. You don’t know the stories they play in their head & you don’t know how willing they are to bite on their onion.
It can repeat on you
Ever eaten red onion only to regret it later because it’s repeating on you? Yup, working on your mindset can not only make you uncomfortable, like indigestion, but it can come back – time and again.
This is sort of like the onion analogy as a whole with layers of complexity and new issues coming forward. It’s also like Spanish onion in so far that it’s there to remind and almost haunt/taunt you until you deal with it.
TIP: The good thing about working on your mindset is that, unlike antacid, it doesn’t suppress things and keep them shoved down.
It’s like going toe to toe with that red onion and taking its acid warts and all. Living with the discomfort. Acknowledging it’s there. Knowing that with time, patience, and going through the discomfort and symptoms you will come out the other end. The good thing is that unlike a Spanish onion, once completely dealt with, that issue won’t cause you indigestion again.
There are different types
We each battle our own demons, our own mindset challenges and there are different onions. The beauty is that one is no more or less important, challenging, better or worse than another. They are unique and uniquely ours.
Cook an onion a certain way and it goes from being this acrid bulb which makes you cry to the sweetest and most tender thing you can’t get enough of. (If you’ve ever had or made and incredible onion soup or tart, you’ll know what I mean)
Growing and challenging our mindset through stages of personal development can take the unpalatable and tear-jerking parts and through patience, dedication, and work they can become the most tender parts of ourselves.
Better still, when we are done we can become the most delicious versions of our past selves, some might say even better versions. (I prefer different)
What coaches don’t tell small business owners about doing mindset work
Through my years of challenging myself and my mindset: – I have been lost, I have not known where to turn or what I was becoming. It was a time where I had to be patient and not try to hurry things along. – I have endured great pain as I came to accept people as they are and not what I expect them to be and I had to realise that I would lose them and that had to be. And then I had to mourn. – I had to deconstruct myself so that I could reconstruct and become more. – I learnt to be ok with nothingness and stillness. – I outgrew people. – I began to learn who I was, now, and again, and I am learning to like that me.
These are the hard realities of doing the work when you run a small business. You do it and you still have to keep the business running.
It takes months to grow an onion. I want to hear from you how you feel about personal development and mindset growth. Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
One of the most common things my small business coaching clients want is clarity in their business. Most of them want a clear goal and a clear path to get there. Don’t we all! Well, I’ve sat down and looked at my notes and brought together some key tips for those of you who wonder: “Who am I? Where am I going? How am I going to get there?”
There are three common aspects to business clarity:
1. Strategic clarity 2. Clarity of communications 3. Clarity of self
Let’s start with the most common one, strategic.
What is strategic clarity in business?
Strategic clarity is where are we going and how are we going to get there? It’s probably the most common business clarity questions asked as it is determining the aims and objectives of the business.
Why is strategic clarity important?
Knowing where your business is headed and how you’re going to get there helps:
1. Achieving the goal and strategy as it is known and articulated
2. Avoids distraction or shiny object syndrome
3. Helps to clarify progress, against previous performance and competitors
4. Focuses resources, time, money, and energy
5. Gives opportunities to celebrate success, removing resentment of a constant unappreciated slog
6. Makes your process repeatable or reviewable if you need to set up again
What business often forgets when developing their strategic clarity
When setting their strategic direction businesses are clear on where they are headed and how they are getting there, but often forget the why. The why in strategic clarity, is the most important as it’s what keeps the business on track when times are tough and businesses start questioning themselves.
Strategic clarity is more than goal setting and a procedure map, it needs to include the overarching impetus for the business. Simon Sinek, renowned though leader, tells us to Start with Why. Every business started with an idea that perhaps they could do something better, make a difference to an industry, or somehow impact others. This is the core to the most important piece of clarity for any business.
A while ago I wrote an article on the importance of why to having a profitable business. It goes deeper into Simon Sinek’s quote, People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. This is the strategic clarity missed by small business. It’s more than a mission or vision statement. It’s your story. It’s something bigger than you and your business. The beauty is that when you understand this, you are able to progress to the next part of finding clarity in your business: clarity of communication.
Clarity of communication
What is clarity of communication?
Being clear in what you say may seem obvious and easy enough, but there are common mistakes businesses make.
Using industry terms or jargon your customers don’t know or understand (or don’t need to know)
Using complex language to explain or express yourself (passive voice, overly formal, or being verbose)
Making the content all about you when you should be talking to and about your audience so they take action
Not telling people what action they need to take
Why is clarity of communication important for business?
Clarity of communication avoids confusion. Clarity of communication creates and builds relationships. Clarity of communication tells people where they stand and sets expectations. Clarity of communication drives action. All of these aspects are necessary to having a profitable business.
What businesses often forget when aiming for clarity of communication
Most businesses forget that their communication is there to educate, entertain, or inspire. That means that it all needs to be done with the audience in mind and what their audience finds educational, entertaining, or inspires them to take action. It also needs to be relevant as to why your audience comes to you and consumes your communication. Without these things, your communication falls flat. I wrote this article on creating engaging content and developed this checklist/training on creating your own engaging content.
However, the biggest mistake I see is that businesses forget that their customers are watching their every move and what is left unsaid can have a larger impact, what is said unplanned can damage, and what they do speaks louder than any words ever could.
The biggest gap that businesses should remember is that people will hold you to what you say and if you let them down, you lose their trust and you lose your integrity. In addition, what people say about you and your business when you’re not around and when you have no control holds a lot of weight. What we say to our friends and family, what we say online but away from your sight are all ways a brand and business is communicated, you need to ensure it’s clear and positive even when things go wrong (and there are right ways to handle bad feedback).
Why is clarity of self important as a business owner?
Like your business, being clear with yourself helps keep you on the right path, but it also all helps you to identify areas for growth. Being clear on who you are and what you stand for gives you the ability to the take anything that upsets or angers you and allows you to then see why you feel that way and if this is something you need to work on in yourself. It’s a way to grow as a person and become a better version of yourself.
What business owners forget about their own clarity
Too often business owners forget to define their clarity of self. They are so caught up in progressing their business that they lose track of themselves. Other times, they define themselves by the roles they have, parent, child, business owner and not what makes them be a particular version of that role (not all parents/children/business owners are created equal, why is that?).
While so much of your small business is tied to who you are, you are more than your small business. When you sit back and look at that you will lose the need to compare, you will be more confident, and you will find peace in who you are. I wish this for you and I am here for you when you would like help to find it.
My favourite benefit of clarity in business
I have spent much time defining and refining what my business is, the change it wants to make, and more recently who I am. The beauty of having clarity is not what I am or do, it’s what I’m not and won’t. There is incredible strength in being clear on what you won’t stand for or be or bring into this world. There’s also peace in knowing that’s part of who you or your business are. When I’ve found it and let it go, I’ve found happiness as I can be more authentic, purposeful, and it’s a sort of homecoming after all the other roles I’ve had (wife, mother, and wondering who I actually am).
It can be hard deciding that something no longer serves you or your business, but once you let it go (and I’ve had clients let businesses go) there is a lot of relief. Stopping something gives you space do something which serves you and your clients better. And I’m all for leading a happier, calmer, and better life.
Propaganda on social media hit the news in 2018 when an essential security flaw was leaked between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The public and governments were in uproar. People deleted Facebook, most came back.
It was also in early 2018 when I had my first speaking engagement on the psychology of Facebook at Big Digital Adelaide. I was teaching digital marketers the new area of the psychology of Facebook users. It wasn’t until late in 2019 that I was in tears when researching the extent of propaganda on social media, its use as psychological warfare on the public, and the impact it has.
What is propaganda?
Propaganda dates back to Ancient Rome & Greece and is commonly understood as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.
What is the role of propaganda on social media as psychological warfare?
The role of propaganda on social media is to persuade an individual or group of people to a particular way of thinking so they change their behaviour.
This can range from targeting swinging voters with misinformation through to the use of repeated imagery in image filters to change their voter preference. It can go all the way through to the production of videos to target at people likely to become radicalised and fight for enemy states.
What are some examples of propaganda on social media?
There are five main methods of posting propaganda on social media:
Targeting of Individuals
You can imagine that with the different methods that it is easy to weave propaganda through what most people see every day.
Research out of NATO STRATCOM COE goes further into what that might look like.
Commenting: positive, negative, neutral, including using the term “fake news” Targeting of individuals: via reputation or deliberate attacks on their accounts Government-sponsored accounts: (Ecuador Somos + identifies individuals going against their government so that others can target them) Fake accounts: bots & astrosurfing. Flood SM with fake news or bolster reactions to information. In Serbia, Vietnam, Mexico, and North Korea humans are used, called ‘cyborgs’, to undertake this role. Content Creation: In the UK the government has created content, including youtube, with persuasive information to deradicalize under fake accounts. Russia is the most commonly known one as is Cambridge Analytica.
What is the aim of propaganda on social media as psychological warfare?
Other than to change a person’s opinion and behaviour, it can also:
Push up the ranking of content in the social media algorithm, so more people see it
Discredit people and sources
Target profiles so that they are discredited to the point of closure
What can people do to combat the effects of propaganda on social media?
There is only one tool we have to stop being swayed by the propaganda and psychological warfare and that’s critical thinking. To use critical thinking we need to look at the intent, the source, do our own research from reputable sources.
The best thing we can do when we recognize propaganda is to report it to the social media platform and not share it. Platforms are improving their ability to identify psychological warfare online but users are improving their ability to profile and so the platforms are playing catch up and need our help.
How effective is online psychological warfare?
It sways voters and wins elections to change the shape of nations. It saves people from radicalization. These are some of the extreme effects it has.
How business can use propaganda on social media?
There are four key areas that businesses need to appeal to and all must be from the user perspective:
Content which appeals to and creates one of these four responses as they are key outcomes for all propaganda online.
You might notice that fear is not a focus of propaganda online.
Fear gives compliance not a change in beliefs and behaviour. Our aim as business owners is to convert buyers and these four points are key to converting their thinking and behaviour: for the long term.
The other week I shared an article on the psychology of what drives people to do what we do. I wanted to remind you of that because you are a person as a business owner and your psychology & mindset impact your business growth; as much as your staff and your clients’ psychology do.
Over the years as a business coach, many clients come to me with technical issues about growing their business or growing social media, and we address those, but I soon see that the biggest thing holding the business back from success is the business owner, their psychology, their mindset, their fears.
So I want to address some of these with you. It will be an overview, but I hope it helps you to see where perhaps you may be holding your business up and perhaps some ideas to help you overcome them.
How do you know that it’s your mindset or psychology as the business owner holding you back your business growth?
There are four main ways that I see business owners holding themselves back: procrastination, second-guessing, asking advice from others, low self-confidence/feeling flat. So what are some of the tricks to overcome them? Firstly you need to catch yourself doing it, then you can try one of these 5 tips to get you moving again: https://www.karalambert.com/business/build-self-confidence-business/
Fear of success
Let me start with what was holding me back, a fear of success. Ever dream so big, set the goals, put the plan into place only to realise as it’s about to realise that you’re scared witless (or rhymes with) about it actually succeeding. Yeah that’s me.
The paradoxical thing about success, unlike failure, is that it can never truly be achieved. Once you’ve achieved a certain level of success, a new one appears. And I think that’s it. My fear of success is actually that I can never attain it, but don’t confuse it with felling like I will fail, it’s not that. It’s fleeting and surpassed by a new goal. I’m afraid of something I believe doesn’t exist because while I achieve a goal, success has moved. It’s a mirage that jumps along the road of progress to a new point.
Then it goes further into the stories I was told growing up and my beliefs around what success would be like. I ended up taking these on as truths, when in all honesty they were only what someone else’s fears were when it came to success or what someone else has accepted as their success. None of them were my reality. I go into this more in the section on Imposter Syndrome.
Overwhelm as a business owner impacting your psychology, mindset & business growth
I’ve helped a number of business owners through this. They come to me with a particular tool they are struggling with, generally Facebook, and they feel utterly overwhelmed. Like with most of life, what we think is the problem rarely ever is. But the thing with overwhelm is that it is all-encompassing and that so often we are unable to realise that there is more to the problem that meets the eye and if we only looked a little further the answer would be so clear and so simple.
So often I see this overwhelm and it’s characterised by any or all of the following things.
Sounds simple right? Too simple to answer the issue of this overwhelm! It’s not and here’s why.
Humans are hard-wired for connection. Connection to our family, our friends, our community, our tribe. When we lose these connections we feel lost. As lost souls we grapple and grasp for things to give us direction and meaning. Much like connections do.
In business, we have three connections. Connection to self (our passions). Connection to business. Connection to clients (audience). When one or more of these are out we feel out of whack and the more disconnection we have, the more overwhelmed we become.
So what is the one thing we’ve lost other than the connection which is contributing to overwhelm in business?
We’ve lost that all of this connection is about people. We have lost that the ‘whats’ and ‘shoulds’ are actually about connecting to people. This is where I see the overwhelm sitting and this is where the relief comes when I show it to my coaching clients.
Now for some this might seem simplistic, but I have to say that there is a tonne of science behind people, connection, and how they interplay with social media, communication, and business. And this fascinates me.
But what happens when you’re the one overwhelming yourself?
You’ve got the laundry list of things you want/need/should do and achieve and it feels like you’re drowning with no possible way out. Now I could sit here and tell you to go easy on yourself and not to compare yourself to others and not to set unrealistic expectations – and there would be a good chance you’d ignore me and tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that how else were you going to be a success.
In the end, overwhelm comes from being disconnected and that includes with ourselves.
Fear of rejection
When business owners come to me for help with social media, this is one of the most common psychology or mindset issues holding back their business growth. I’m/it’s not good enough… Fear of rejection is understandable. We all want to be wanted or needed. When we put our business, our services, or our product out there and forward for all to see – we put ourselves out there. Wide open for criticism and/or rejection. And when that happens, it’s a reflection on ourselves.
Growing up were you a people pleaser? Did you want people to like you? How do you go now?
I was this child and even this adult. Over the past year I have been working a lot on coming back in to alignment with my motivators. Truly understanding them. Getting rid of thoughts and stories (I’m not calling them beliefs) which no longer serve. But the need to keep people happy stuck around.
Now don’t confuse this with a fear that no one likes me. I know people don’t like me and I’m totally ok with that. I’m not afraid of people not liking me, I don’t want everyone to like me because I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
Keeping people happy is about not disappointing, it’s about meeting their expectations, it’s about putting their needs above mine.
What about business owner mindset, not psychology, and business growth?
After the psychology, the mindset we have as a business owner is the most common thing holding back our business growth. Personally, two little words changed my world. These two words bring about thoughts of anger in every parent, competition in every sibling, and fear in every business owner. Yet as business owners, we need to be asking it more often than we do. To achieve more we need to be willing (and able) to step back and reassess. When dealing with difficult clients, these two words can change the way you approach the situation.
I’m not asking a question, these are the words. While I understand it might seem abrupt and abrasive; it’s this that gives them their charm but also their jolting power. You see, it’s not until we are jolted from our comfort zone that we see and achieve greatness. Read on: https://www.karalambert.com/business/two-words-change-business/
“Kara, I just need more self-confidence”, “I need to get out of my own way”, “I need to stop holding myself back”. It’s generally what our conversations come down to, no matter what we start with. Generally, it starts with wanting to learn how to promote their small business on social media, then after a little while, the truth comes up. It’s really a lack of self-confidence that is stopping them progressing. https://www.karalambert.com/business/build-self-confidence-business/
One of the first and most needed mindset shifts I made was around time.
When I started, it went something like this… But I just don’t have the time! I’m time-poor! I need more hours in the day! Sound familiar? I wish I had a magic wand and could give you more hours, I don’t, but I can make it feel like you do. It’s all about time management and perception.
If you constantly think and feel that you don’t have enough of something; you won’t! It is a ‘glass half empty’ approach to time management. Consider this, you have a friend who is always negative, they can’t see the good in anything; always moping, bad things constantly going wrong. If they can only see the negative, that’s all they will find.
So, now think about time. Yes, I know we all have the same number of hours in the day, but how do you value and see those hours? Do you believe that they will slip through your fingers, do you think they will whizz by; or do you think you have all the time you need, and that time is on your side? Which would you prefer?
When I changed my belief about the time I had and I realised that I can do all that I need AND I don’t have to feel rushed or stressed in completing them, it was how it was. I realised that time is an asset and when assets are seen for their true value they grow. I liken it to when you feel stressed and take a deep breath, things seem to slow and calm down. When I first started, there were a lot of deep breaths, but that’s ok, it’s working.
So change how you think about the time you have available, then plan how you use your time.
Now if you’re a bit of a procrastinator and just thought “brilliant! Now I have more time to do nothing in”, well you’re technically right but let’s tackle that procrastination.
The first issue is why you procrastinate and generally that comes from fears. Things like fear of failure, imposter syndrome, perfectionism. Addressing those is a whole other chat. But let’s tackle that never ending to-do list! How did I get around that?
The fear of being left behind is real in business. Business owners are afraid of missing out on the next best thing. Fear that their competitors are going to get the jump on them. Fear of not having a competitive advantage. It’s a competitor FOMO mind storm. All of this plays on a business owner’s psychology, mindset & ultimately their business growth.
So, what do you do when you’re afraid of being left behind in business? Or that your competitors will have the jump on you? Or that you don’t have a competitive advantage? Well, I answer how to overcome all of these in the following article: https://www.karalambert.com/business/fomo-and-business/
Some of the things business owners say when it comes to competition are:
“It’s end of financial year, no one has any money.”
“It’s holiday season here in Europe/US no one is around.”
These were tales of lack and woe. I’m not saying I’m immune. I lose clients each year in the lead up to the end of financial year. It used to bother me, now I realise that there are always better opportunities about to come by.
Looking for more information about what makes your business different in the eyes of your customer? Do you know why they choose you over your competitor? Want to be able to win a larger piece of the market? Then you’re going to want to read this article about your selling point: https://www.karalambert.com/business/point-difference-selling-point/
What if you don’t have any competitors?
What if you’re unique in your field? I can tell you that up until late last year, this was me. I had to get ok with not being like anyone else. I had to be ok with not having anyone to benchmark off. I had to be ok with being different and educating the audience as to why it was just ‘ok’ but it was necessary. If this is you, then you’re going to want to read what I wrote about going it alone in a blue ocean: https://www.karalambert.com/business/swimming-in-a-blue-ocean/
When looking over your shoulder at the competition wears you down
We are human and there are times when everything and everyone gets the better of you. Then there can be points where it’s one thing on top of another. It can also be the smallest jibe by ‘the’ wrong person and your set off down a spiral of self-doubt to self-loathing. This is what I call the confidence gremlins and I want to introduce you to them and their cures in this article: https://www.karalambert.com/business/killing-off-confidence-gremlins/
Imposter Syndrome & its impact on your business owner psychology, mindset & business growth
So what is Imposter Syndrome? Why does it matter? How does it fit in with the psychology and mindset of a business owner and how it could hold back their business growth?
For the people I speak to, it’s this constant niggling (or roaring) self-doubt combined with a constant fear that you’re going to be caught out, called out, or targeted as a fake or phony. The vast majority of people who have Imposter Syndrome are female and are high-achieving. That means that not only do they place exceedingly high expectations on themselves, they work their butts off to achieve them. These people are often referred to as Type A personalities.
They work hard to meet what they believe the expectations are of the person that they’re performing the work for. The problem is, is that they can never live up to those standards because they’re actually not meeting the standards of the person that they’re providing the work for. They’re trying to meet what they believe the standards are.
It’s the story we play to ourselves.
It’s years of hearing little comments.
It’s being passed over.
It’s the impact of tall poppy syndrome.
This constant self-doubt and feeling like you need to watch your back; the feeling like you will never live up to expectations; it’s all draining. It erodes away at your confidence and for some people, they just stop trying or putting themselves out there.