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Three ways the bullet journal method can help you grow your business

Search for ‘bullet journal’ on Pinterest or YouTube and you’ll uncover a world of planners, stationery and exquisitely designed journal spreads.

An army of journal planners – armed with stickers, washi tapes and stencils – are taking the world by storm. And, being a stationery queen, I was keen to be one of them.

I have started many a bullet journal, spending hours drawing out my ‘future log’ and monthly spreads. But, usually about three weeks in, I realise I haven’t looked at it for a few days. The fun was in the design, and once that was done I was bored with it. (Or I accidentally used the wrong colour somewhere and deemed that enough to have ruined my whole project…)

The man behind the bullet journal phenomenon, Ryder Carroll, has released ‘The Bullet Journal Method‘ and it popped up in the ‘recommended for you’ section of my Amazon account (possibly because of the volume of gridded notebooks I have ordered, started and abandoned over the years).

The book takes you through the basics of bullet journalling and looks at how organisational theories play into this method. I was hooked, and devoured the book in little more than 24 hours.

I am going to give bullet journaling another go in February, but this book has already taught me a lot – including these three ways the system can help you grow your business.

Create head space with a mental inventory

Does your brain ricochet between a thousand to-dos? Your strategic business plans, your personal goals, the birthday card you need to pick up, that thing you keep forgetting at the supermarket, the book idea you want to develop?

Before you even open your new bullet journal, the first thing to do is a task inventory. Write down every single to-do you are holding in your head or on scattered notes, then take a look at the list. What can you scratch off just by deciding that the reason it has been on your list for so long is because you don’t really want or need to do it? What can you park because you don’t need to take any action yet?

As a business owner you have a million things to think about and this is a great way of capturing everything in one place. Then you can take a critical look at what to work on next based on its urgency or importance rather than what has surfaced to the top of your mental list.

Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day, week and month

The book suggests we massively underestimate what we can achieve in a year, but massively overestimate what we can do in a day.

How many times have you decided you can tick off several big tasks in a day, only to feel like a failure because you didn’t get to the middle of the list let alone the end of it?

The bullet journal method gives you a framework to plan your day, migrate things to another day, or reschedule work that doesn’t need doing yet.

So what does this mean for growing your business? Firstly, be realistic about how much time you have. On your daily planner, block out the time that is accounted for – your commute, appointments, gym or exercise class, the weekly shop, cooking…you get the idea. Now look at how much time you have left and match it to the tasks you have to do. For example, if you have a couple of hours you could do a good chunk of audience research but if you only have an hour, researching a blog post may be more realistic.

Suggested reading: Get to know your audience and grow your business

Set fewer goals

We are conditioned to hustle and drive towards goals across all areas of our lives. We might set a personal goal to get in shape at the same time as professional goals to increase our mailing list, blog three times a week, write a book, pitch for work, and start that podcast we’ve been thinking about. All at the same time!

Ryder Carroll suggests we list the goals we want to achieve in five years, one year, one month and one week and then whittle down each list to one thing. Work towards that, and only that, until it is achieved. Give these goals your all, and add more only when they have been achieved (or until they are deliberately replaced).

Giving your all to a smaller set of goals can be a great way to grow your business sustainably. For example, you might decide to focus on growing your mailing list through consistent blogging – so do that before your throw yourself into podcasting. And when you’re ready to give podcasting your all, do it and know that your book idea will get all your time and attention next.

I am going to start my bullet journal this week, as a new month starts. I’m excited to use it as a way to keep myself focused, knowing that everything I need to do is noted and scheduled. (And this time I’ll worry less about how pretty the pages look.) At the end of February I’ll let you know how I get on with my first month, and share the ideas and tips I develop.

I’d love your bullet journal tips and tricks – how do you use it to help you in your life and your business? Drop me a comment below!

Emma

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Why great communication really (really) matters

Are you secretly a reluctant communicator? Does it feel like more trouble than it’s worth? Is it just an admin task that you don’t like and don’t really understand?

Don’t worry – these are not trick questions, and if you raised your hand to say yes to any or all of them, I promise you are far from being alone. (It also means that you being here, reading this blog, makes perfect sense!)

You know you need to publicise your business, build business relationships, and perhaps motivate staff and partners. You know that content is a thing, and that you need to prioritise an ever-growing raft of platforms. Your business plan talks about advertising, marketing, networking, audience insights, measurement…but they’re overwhelming.

SUGGESTED READING: 5 ways to start getting to know your audience

PUTTING IT OFF UNTIL IT’S TOO BAD TO IGNORE?

Communicating your business, and managing the people and relationships around you, is often one of those things you know you have to do but don’t really want to do. For some, it’s on the same gloomy list as keeping financial records, filling in tax returns, setting up filing systems, and (this would be me) getting to grips with technology.

You know the list I mean – the one you put off doing until the consequences of not doing it become too awful to ignore. Except that nothing too bad can happen if you don’t bother communicating your business, right?

No, no, no. And to be absolutely sure we’re clear – no.

Good communication is vital, and great communication is the best thing you’ll ever do to grow your business.

WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS, NOT JUST IN IT

Let’s face it, you went into business to do something you love and are good at. You have a product to make, a service to provide. And whether you make beautiful teapots or fix sore backs, import goods or coach people, you probably want to spend all your time working IN your business, rather than working ON it. You want to use your talents and serve your customers.

Quite right too. It’s your business. It’s your baby. It needs you to keep it alive. But it also needs you to help it grow. It needs you to protect it from harm. It needs you to create the support that will help it mature. It needs you to build and present a clear and consistent brand. Your business needs you to say the right things, and look and sound like you mean them.

Communication weaves it way through and around every part of your business. Potential customers need to really understand what you’re offering, if they are to even consider buying it. Potential clients need to feel what it will be like to work with you. You need to be able to negotiate well, to get the business results you need.

FROM SOLOPRENEUR TO CHIEF EXECUTIVE

And as you build your business – shifting from solopreneur to chief executive – great communication with your growing team will be the huge factor in creating really productive, high-performance teams.

Think about the various people or audiences who have an impact on your business. Customers, investors, creditors, suppliers, influencers, affiliates, employees…and probably many more.

They all need to know what you’re about: what you do, how you can help them, what you need from them (and feel good about providing it), how to work with you and how to buy from you. They need to feel you are interested in them, that you are listening to them, that you understand them – and that you are focused on solutions that will help them.

They need to be sure that their experience of your brand will be a good one.

KNOW YOU, LIKE YOU, TRUST YOU

They need to know, like and trust you – essential steps that precede any kind of purchase or transaction.

Now, what would it mean for you if all those audiences were big fans of your business? How about:

– Super-productive employees who go above and beyond every time, converting happy customers into delighted customers who tell all their friends about you.

– Massive (and possibly low-cost) publicity, a buzz about you, lots of noise about you in your market and lots of new customers or clients beating a path to your door.

– Increased revenue, better quality, fewer returns, higher profit.

– Fewer problems demanding your attention.

– The best of the talent when you’re hiring – a first-class reputation all round.

In other words, a really strong brand, more money coming in, and more time for you to do the things you want to do. Anyone want all that?

BUT WHAT IF YOU DON’T?

Conversely, what would it be like if those people weren’t your fans? Even just some of them? Picture this:

– Your customers struggle to hear your voice in a noisy market, and you’re more reliant instead on expensive advertising.

– Your employees do enough to get by – but no more.

– Investment and great deals are harder to get, thanks to a poor brand reputation.

– You’re pedalling harder just to stand still.

And when things go wrong – which sometimes they do, however careful we are – if your customers and partners are in love with you and your business, they’ll actually be the first people in line to help you recover.

OK, OK – we’re biased. This is our thing. Communication is our passion. And we would say all of these things, right?

Yes, of course. But in decades of helping huge companies, small businesses and individuals get better outcomes through great communication, we’ve only become more convinced that communication and branding is a rock-solid way to grow businesses.

Why else would major brands keep spending millions of pounds on advertising every year, when they already have huge market share and their brand is instantly recognisable? Why else would big consumer brands keep investing to protect their image, test their customer experience, and develop their people?

Industry research shines a light on the link between great communication and hard, monetary business performance, including:

– increased share value

– bigger profit margins

– higher productivity

– faster production times

– lower levels of employee absence

– improved employee mental health

– safer workplaces.

INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS VALUE BY A THIRD

Put it this way – if I offered you a way to increase your business value by 30 per cent or more, would you want that? Would you find it easy to say ‘YES PLEASE’?

Well, that’s what industry research tells us great communication can do for you and your business. It’s essential for your business success.

Now, here’s the biggie. There’s one ‘stakeholder’ we haven’t mentioned yet – and it’s possibly the one who demands the very best communication of all…

You.

How you communicate with yourself will be the single biggest key to unlocking the obstacles that stop you growing your business and achieving your goals. From better understanding your customers, to being really sharp about how you position yourself and your business, right through to the language you use when you are talking to yourself – the impact of your self-communication is immeasurable.

Still feeling reluctant about becoming an ace communicator? I hope not!

Still feeling overwhelmed? Again, I hope not – though I absolutely get there is a lot to think about and a lot to do. Of course there is, because great communication can make or break your business growth.

The good news is that there are really good tools and strategies, tips and techniques to help you do the right things, and do them really well. Emma and I are here to help.

Clicking follow is the best way to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

Lucy

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Get to know your audience and grow your business

Are you producing content for your website, blog or social media but not connecting with your audience? Spending hours agonising over your copy, finally defeating the terror that is the blank page / blinking cursor, only to find that your comment box is empty?

There is a way to produce content that:
– resonates with your audience
– gets your content to the top of search engine results
– is easier to write

It starts with getting to know your audience. And I mean really getting to know them.

Knowing your audience and connecting with them starts with you wanting to build a relationship, not just complete a transaction.

When you get under their skin and into their lives, you create content that speaks to them, sounds like them, and goes to where they are by appearing on platforms that they are already using.

I have some good and bad news about audience insight. The bad news is that it takes time. It’s not a quick fix that happens overnight. The good news (and bear with me on this) is that there is no one right answer and the process never ends.

Why is that good news?

Because it is ok that your first round of audience insight is guess work, hunches and assumptions, and the fact that it never ends means that all you need to do is start the process. Start the process and then allow what your assumptions to be tested, challenged, added to, and underpinned as you build a relationship with your audience.

It is all about relationships.

You are going to hear this a lot from Lucy and me… effective communication is all about building and maintaining relationships.

“You don’t close a sale; you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise”

Patricia Fripp

If you set out to get to know your audience with the intent of really understanding their problems, their lives, their habits, their dreams and fears, then you can create relationships. You sit in the space where their lives, problems, needs and wants meet your product or service.

You create relationships that last beyond the transaction. You become the person that adds value to their lives and they provide you with insight that helps you to grow your business.

Talk about a win-win. And doesn’t that feel a whole lot better than learning just enough about your customer to can find the key word that might get you to the top of a google search? (I say ‘just’ because, not going to lie, that bit is still important – but it’s not the be all and end all.)

So what can you do right now to start the process? Here are five suggestions…

Show empathy

I want you to shift your perspective. To gain insight into your audience you need to think of them not as customers of your product or services, but as people. Fully rounded people with fully rounded lives (work, home, friends, family, dreams, hopes, fears, aspirations, commitments… etc.) They will be influenced by various aspects of their lives when they make a decision about buying your product or service. The more you think of them as people rather than just customers, the more likely you are to get to their heart of their world… and then produce content that speaks to that world.

Use what you already know

Chances are you already have a lot of information you can use to start this process.

Take a look at:

  • website traffic (how are people coming to your website? Via a search engine or through social media links?)
  • social media (who is following you, who else are they following, what posts do they like and/or comment on, what times of day are they showing up, what are they posting on their own channels)?
  • your assumptions (what is your best guess in terms of the lives they are living, their income, their hobbies, interests and aspirations, where do they shop, what TV/films/books/YouTube content do they consume)?

What kind of picture can you start to build with what you already know?

Learn from other aspects of their life

This is what I like to call healthy competitor analysis. I want to you to take your audience profile so far and consider where else your customer shops (not just for products/services like yours, but for their groceries, clothes, cars, holidays, etc.) Then look at the content that those companies use, their language, tone of voice etc. Is there anything that you can take from what they do that will enrich what you currently do?

Find what they are looking for

Google Adwords are a great way to find out what key words and terms your audience are using in relation to products and services like yours. There is real power in speaking to people using their own language, but the first step is to find out what which words they are using.

You don’t actually have to get the point of buying the GoogleAd to see the keywords, by the way, but you do need to create an account.

Ask them

Generally speaking, we like it when we are asked for our opinion. So ask your followers, audience or customers what they like, what they don’t like, for their opinion on your product, etc. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t highlight the fact that you don’t currently know enough about them, it shows you care (see tip 1).

We’ll be sharing more tips on getting to know your audience here on the blog, so if you’ve any specific questions or areas you would like help with, please comment below.