Tag Archives for " business planning "

Planning for a successful year ahead

Good riddance to 2020, I am looking forward to a happier and more balanced 2021. Let’s not take for granted all the freedoms that we had pre-2020, once we start getting them back this year – fingers crossed!

In today’s episode, I talk about having a plan for the year, as well as putting a robust business development strategy in place so you can get a consistent pipeline of leads, prospects and new clients – and you don’t need to rely on word-of-mouth and referrals.

Time Stamp


01:34 Two key areas to have in place in order to take back control and get a better work-life balance

02:00 How to get a plan in place for the year ahead

04:40 The 7 areas that your plan should incorporate

07:00 How to break down your plan into quarters

08:03 Breaking your quarterly strategies into a monthly plan

08:49 The importance of your plans being dynamic

10:00 Why you need a consistent pipeline of leads, prospects and new customers for your plan to work

11:05 The foundations of creating your pipeline


Useful links:

Sign up for my FREE live Masterclass

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

Join my Facebook group ‘The Agency Accelerator’

Download the 'Creating A Sustainable & Profitable Agency' book

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.

Rob

Interview with Lee Jackson discussing trends in 2021

We made it to Episode 50!

In this episode of ‘The Agency Accelerator’ podcast, I am joined by the extremely talented and savvy Lee Jackson.

Lee is our first-ever repeat guest, and today he will be sharing with us his insights to what he sees coming down the road in 2021.

The last time we spoke, Lee joined us in Episode 10 of the podcast, where we were talking about growth and transformation.

If you haven’t listened to that episode, Lee helps web agencies fall back in love with their businesses, he runs ‘Agency Transformation Live’, is the co-founder of Events Engine, and if that wasn’t enough he is also the host of the ‘Agency Trailblazer’ podcast.

Time Stamp

02:00 What are the typical trends you’ve seen happening this year with agencies?

02:07 Most agencies have been surprised that they have been able to continue throughout 2020!

02:45 For most agencies, their clients reached out for help

03:07 Agencies helped clients move from the physical to the digital space

03:56 Some agencies thought they could hibernate and tread water, and some agencies were afraid to sell their services because they thought it was in bad taste!

04:38 Small businesses struggling to sell things online

05:32 A digital renaissance - businesses are realising that being online is imperative

06:05 Two aspects: technology and marketing

07:58 Using social media to build a new audience of consumers

08:34 People working out how to pivot

10:00 Lee’s clients are events organisers - they have embraced online and created incredible digital experiences

14:32 If you can really understand what your clients what to achieve, you should be getting out there and helping them

15:25 Lee tells us more about the 2021 ‘Digital Renaissance’

16:26 Businesses will start focussing on what’s important

16:40 One of Lee’s agencies is going full virtual now

17:10 Lee is still concerned about the high street and thinks they might still struggle in 2021, but he thinks the high street will also change and more service-based businesses will appear

18:30 Many entrepreneurs get seduced by starting projects and not finishing them. How will agencies figure out what is important?

19:13 To start a business you need to work out your identity, then your values, the message and output. If you look at 2020, think about what your strengths, missions and passions are. Who are you helping and what are you solving?

21:37 The importance of niching

25:00 Not everyone can start an agency, there’s a lot of fake competition tarnishing the industry

25:55 Marked increase in the low cost of entry in the industry

27:18 Lee, if you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? 

 

Useful links:

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

Join my Facebook group ‘The Agency Accelerator’

Download the 'Creating A Sustainable & Profitable Agency' book

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.

Rob

Rob’s Learning From 2020

In today’s episode, I share with you the lessons that I learned and the key changes I made to my business in 2020. Hopefully, you can take some things away and apply them to your agency as well.

In Episode 39 I spoke with Jim James about virtualising your agency. Before that interview, I held the strong opinion that you cannot build your agency using freelancers or virtual staff because it’s like building an agency on quicksand.

To an extent, I do still believe that; however, both Jim James and John Ashton (who will be making an appearance in an upcoming episode) both talk about how you can build an agency using staff who are spread all over the world - some virtual, and some freelance.

After talking to them I have definitely become more open to the idea, and have realised that it is not necessarily so black and white. Using virtual or freelance staff allows you to be more nimble and adapt to changes as your agency grows.

I truly hope that this podcast has helped to change your thinking in some way too. Whether from something I or one of my guests has said. If that’s the case, then I am definitely achieving my goals for recording these podcasts.

So without further ado...

Time Stamp

4:10 The 5 Key Lessons I Learned From 2020:

5:53 The pandemic differentiated three types of agency:

  • Those who panicked and cut costs
  • Those who did nothing as they thought it would just be a short-term challenge
  • Those who were nimble and thought about how they needed to change  and adapt

6:16 Pivoting doesn’t mean drastically changing what you do; but rather, tilting your axis to adapt to your climate. 

7:26 In order to pivot you need to really listen to your audience. Don’t just make assumptions. 

8:16 DON’T cut your prices!

9:09 2020 taught us that you need a plan, and that plan needs to be dynamic.


10:58 The 5 Good Habits I Put In Place In 2020: 

11:06 I learned to delegate more.

11:34 I learned to automate more.

12:39 Got more focussed - doing more of what works, and less of what doesn’t work.

13:13 I did more of what I enjoy, and less of what I don’t enjoy.

14:00 Paid more attention to my mailing list.


14:45 My 5 Bad Habits of 2020: 

15:00 I didn’t have good boundaries during the pandemic. 

15:25 I worked WAY too much. 

15:40 I headed towards burnout at the end of the year.

16:26 I said ‘yes’ to everything - need to learn how to say ‘no’.

17:10 Seduced by shiny new products that are irrelevant to my goals and audience. 


18:51 Finally, I’d like to talk about my goals and hopes for this year. Not necessarily ‘new year’s resolutions’, but at least some targets to strive towards in 2021. 

19:05 Delegate more. 

19:28 Use data to help me make better decisions. 

20:08 Focus on building my Facebook community - you can join here!

20:38 Focus on doing less, but doing it better.

21:50 Improve my work-life balance.


22:52 I think it’s a great idea to have a record of all of this. At least I can always go back to this podcast and see where I am at in regards to my goals, and how this year is different from the last. 

22:16 I hope that me sharing my experiences of 2020 will help you to approach this new year in a positive light, and encourage you to take control of your own destiny in 2021. Touch wood this year will be focussed, rewarding and provide us with a great work-life balance.

 

Useful links:

Download The Self-Running Implementation Book

Join my Facebook group ‘The Agency Accelerator’

Download the 'Creating A Sustainable & Profitable Agency' book

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.

Rob

Planning for a successful 2021

Planning for a successful 2021

As this challenging year draws to a close we are all starting to put our plans in place for 2021 and no doubt those plans are going to be more positive and ambitious than this year.

It finally feels like we have some control again!

Of course, your 2021 plan needs to be much more than a finance and staffing plan. You need to be looking at all areas of your agency including:

  • Culture
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • New business/sales
  • People
  • Clients
  • Market
  • Product
  • Systems & processes

The list goes on!

Here are my 5 tips for creating a living plan that gets delivered:

  1. Get your senior team (if you have one) to support you in the development and delivery of this plan (if you don’t have a team, my advice is to get some help so you are not creating and delivering this plan alone)
  2. Break down the plan from 1-year objectives to quarterly goals to a monthly detailed plan
  3. Each part of the plan (year, quarter, month) should have no more than 7 goals or projects (7 or less is the magic number)
  4. Set yourself the challenge of never carrying a task from one period to the next. So always be asking yourself “where will I be by the end of this period with this particular task?” and that becomes your objective (and of course make them SMART)
  5. Review your plan at least once a month and amend it based on what you know today that you didn’t know yesterday. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that our plans must be dynamic and never cast in stone

Links mentioned in the episode

Join my FREE business development Masterclass. Register here.

If you want more ideas and details on growing your scaleable agency then download my FREE ebook "Creating A Scalable & Sustainable Agency"

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/follow on Apple, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much.


Rob

Save yourself time, money and heartache by validating your ideas before fully developing them

how do you validate your idea?

Background

Picture this:  

You’re walking the dog or standing in the shower and you have a brainwave of an idea for a new product, course or a new business idea. You get very excited by this and sit down and start fleshing it out and then put it into action.

After many weeks and late nights of work you’re finally ready to launch.  You’re very excited to get your product or business out there so you launch with a big fanfare but sadly to little response.

When we think we know what our audience wants, when we are absolutely certain our idea is a sure-fire winner, when we believe we know best for our clients WE HAVE TO FIRST VALIDATE OUR IDEA.

Now I am guilty as the next person for enacting this scenario.  About six years ago when I decided to create my first online course, I did absolutely no validation because I was so sure that people wanted to know how to start their own business. I even came up with a snappy salesy title of How to start your own business & gain financial freedom within 6-months. And guess what – it flopped.  Undeterred and without learning any lessons, I moved onto my next sure fire million pound making idea (!) which was all about selling. I was absolutely sure that everybody wants to know my secret sauce for selling so I created my next course “Step by step guide for generating new sales for your business” and guess what, another flop! 

How many times was I going to repeat this before I learnt my lesson - which is, we may think we know what our audience wants but unless we go and validate and test our ideas first, we are doomed to a cycle of repeated failure.  And this applies to an online course, a business idea, new product or service, and particularly at the moment, any ideas for pivoting your business.

So let’s backtrack somewhat and rewind to that ‘in the shower’ ah-ha moment. What should you do next?

Coming up with ideas

First of all, we need to take a more scientific, methodical approach to coming up with ideas rather than relying on those ‘in the shower’ moments.  Now of course those ah ha moments can be the inspiration for an idea, but you then need to go and research if the data supports the idea or not.

An obvious first approach would be to Google your idea – does it already exist? (if yes, then good because that tells you there is probably demand for it).  If yes, then is your idea a different variant or is there room for you too?  If no, then what is similar or are you creating something that no one wants and hence, no one has tried to create it before?

You can also use your own data to work out what ideas might fly.  Look at the Analytics data of your website – what content has really resonated with your audience?  How about your email marketing?  What emails got the most ‘opens’ and ‘likes’?

This are all clues or breadcrumbs that will lead you in the right direction.

how do you validate your product

Validation process

Now we have established that our idea has some merit, before we dive head long in turning it into a course or product , we need to do some validation and this validation process will tell us two things: Firstly, it will help us validate if our idea is a goer or not and help us refine the idea and secondly, as part of the validation, we want to presale to at least some of our audience before we even start writing one word or line of code of the product/course.

Now the validation process is designed to give you reasonable certainty that your idea will have a sustainable, growing, paying audience rather than wasting months building a final product or course that nobody will pay for!  The end result of the validation process is confirmation that your idea is viable.  This is confirmed by achieving a desired number of pre-orders or waiting list of customers.

Validation isn’t a guarantee of success and it most certainly isn’t easy. It’s not as simple as putting up a waiting list and hoping people miraculously discover your offering & fork over their hard-earned money for something that doesn’t exist yet (trust me I tried that too!).

Validation is designed to give you your first paying customers and foundation for future growth.

Think of it this way : if you follow the validation process and it turns out that no one is interested in your business idea, product or course, then consider how much time, money and heartache you’re going to save yourself by establishing this at the early stages before you’ve invested too much energy into your idea.

So now hopefully you agree with me that you should slow down to speed up and validate your ideas first let me outline a little bit about the process.

The process

You need a mailing list of at least 200 active contacts before you can start doing this validation so if you don’t have a list of that size I suggest before you embark on any kind of product development you focus on building that list of followers (download my free guide on building your mailing list).  Alternatively, if you decide to validate via one-to-one calls you’ll need at least 60 people to talk to.

From your research you need to write a short (1-3 pages max) description of your business, product or course idea.  Next you need to create a short survey (I use Google Forms for this) to send out to your audience (or to ask over the phone).  In this short survey, one question you will ask is ‘do you want to buy this product/service/course?’

The next task is to create the emails you will send out to your audience – the first asking your reader to read the short description and complete the survey, and the others to follow-up and chase those who didn’t respond to the first emails.

Using your email list (or phone contacts), divide your list into 3 x groups of 50 (or 20 for phone calls). Send out your email to group 1 and a few days later chase any update haven’t responded. Use the feedback from this group to refine your messaging and then rinse and repeat to group 2. Refine your messaging once again and send to group 3. 

Of those who responded, if 10% indicated their interest to buy then you have validated your idea and you can move into fully fleshing out and developing the idea, and focusing on your sales and marketing strategy, knowing that it is something that your audience is interested in.

I know this can feel a little tedious and a laborious process, and one that impedes your excitement to getting your idea launched but trust me if you follow this process you will come out the other side confident that your audience likes and wants your idea rather than assuming you know that they need it.  

Right now this is particularly important because we need to be selling painkillers not vitamins to our audience and this validation process will ensure that you have identified the pain points that your product, service or course can solve for your ideal target customers.

27-page Step-By-Step Guide - How to Identify & Validate Your Idea

If you are interested in a step-step guide on exactly how to do what I outlined in this blog, including the exact emails and survey templates, then grab a copy of my 27-page step-by-step guide on selecting and validating your idea BEFORE you go to market.

Navigating your agency through these uncharted waters

agency growth

We are in fight or flight mode right now. You either sit back and wait and see what happens and let the world happen to you or you get into action mode: regroup and replan. I am hoping you are choosing the latter.

It's a stressful time. We are all in a period of collective mourning: of the people we are losing, of our loss of freedom and all the things we take for granted and in many cases, loss of our clients or worse still, our businesses.

In these uncharted times, we need to focus on what we can control and not on what we can't (which is why I am limiting my exposure to the news and social media to only once a day). We need a plan and it's probably a different plan to the one we were working on 2 months ago. We also need to be listening to our market and ensuring we are truly serving them - and pivoting our businesses, if appropriate.

The businesses who do this and are nimble, are the ones who will survive this uncertain time and come out the other side thriving.

Each year I run a group online coaching programme, in the past it's been a big success. For the last 6-months I have been planning to open the doors to this year's programme today.

But as you know A LOT can happen in a few days in this crazy time we are currently living in and today is definitely very different to how I imagined it would be.

In the spirit of listening, I asked my community what their views were on whether I should still go ahead, and whilst some said I should delay many others felt that with the isolation and uncertainty ahead, getting some external help as well as being able to work with other agency owners, is exactly what they need.

So I have decided to go ahead and that means that the Agency Accelerator Programme for Agency Owners is officially open for registration. BUT I am going to do a few things differently because of Coronavirus:

  • Extend the enrolment period from 8 days to 13 days
  • Offer a 15% discount off the programme (just use '15DISCOUNT' at check out)
  • Offer more flexible payment terms (you can now pay for the programme in 1, 3 or 6 monthly payments)

Read more about the programme here.

Let me explain why I think I can help.....

I started my marketing agency back in the early 1990s during a challenging time (the gulf war) and rapidly grew (before selling up). I started my agency coaching practice in 2007 and then the world hit the financial crisis in 2008 .... and my business thrived.

Now I appreciate we are in completely unchartered waters with current challenges including:

  • Clients cancelling and retainers reducing
  • Moving the office to home working and ensuring staff welfare
  • Clients wanting more for less
  • Challenging cash flow
  • Immediate needs v long term planning - where do you focus your time?

I realised that now more than ever, getting some external support from me and from other agencies is really going to help you navigate these next few months, and that is why I decided to go ahead with the launch.

I am also running a series of free webinars (the first one is tomorrow), so please come and join me online to learn how to navigate these uncharted waters.

All quiet on the business front

business planning

How has your summer been?  Good I hope and a chance to enjoy the sun (when it’s been out!).  My August has been fairly quiet to be honest.  A good chance for me to take stock and focus some time on building my online courses (I have just launched my AtoZ of sales and marketing and am now working on “Customer service excellence” so watch this space).

I am not a believer in the ‘summer being quiet so let’s take our foot of the gas’. I appreciate some industries are seasonal but many aren’t and they only appear so since we believe things will go quiet so we stop marketing, selling, meeting etc and thus it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I have no evidence that my industry is traditionally quiet in the summer.  Yes of course, people go on holidays and become harder to contact but with enough forward planning we can still have a profitable business during July and August.

The problem with a quiet period is that it causes us to go through big swings of being super busy and then super quiet, and these peaks and troughs are not good for our business, our cashflow or our motivation.

We need to plan for more challenging times by foreseeing them and working harder to avoid these peaks and troughs.  I have written before the importance of balancing how you split your time and in this instance you need to plan effectively.  Of course we can’t always predict what will happen (Brexit for example) but we can work hard to smooth out the peaks and troughs and ensure a consistent level of work.  What does this mean in reality?  Here are 5 tips:

  • If you want to ensure July and August are busy then work hard at your sales and marketing in March/April and May
  • Work out when you are working and when you are not (this is particularly important for the sole traders and start-ups) – don’t just sit at your desk trying to fill your time.  Work hard when you are working and don’t work the other times
  • Schedule your work, your client meetings etc in the weeks you are working and in advance.  Make sure your workload and staffing levels match
  • Plan ahead – know when your prospects are back from holiday and get ready to get busy in September
  • Use down time to get projects done – those things you put off or those new initiatives (for me the online training) that you haven’t had time for

So considering I started this blog post by saying I have had a fairly quiet August, what do I need to take away from this?  Several things really:

  1. We reap what we sow – put a lot of effort into your sales and marketing now and 3-6 months later it will bear fruit
  2. Having a slower client month has given me the breathing space to develop my online presence, something I have been planning to do for a long while
  3. Enjoy the downtime and breathing space before it gets busy in the Autumn!

If you have any other tips I would love to hear them and please get in touch if you want some help planning your business over the next 6 months.

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