I’ve been attending some Kick Start workshops over at the Lounge and have finally hit my “wall” – selling and marketing! This post is aimed at helping me, and hopefully others to develop a framework for sorting through feelings and ideas about how to go forward. I don’t currently know how to scale this particular wall, but I know I can and will!
How do I know??? The thing I and anyone reading this blog can draw on is our experiences to date – many of us have had to face huge personal challenges along the way and we’ve done it, so that’s how I’m looking at this, a huge personal challenge to find a way through. I do have a faith and that forms the base for my strategy, in that I believe the right people, opportunities and situations will come along when I need them.
The following problem solving steps are based on those used are used by a variety of coaches, self improvement and business improvement trainers etc.
This first step is key to problem solving, and needs a high degree of honesty in order to truly identifywhat the problem is.”I struggle with sales and marketing” is a symptom of the problem but not the problem itself. Identifying the true problem, means digging much deeper and untangling all the threads until arriving at the heart of the matter. This is hard work but needs to be done if you want firm foundations to build the solution on. After all the wise man built his house on rock and in business, we all hope we’re wise!
Step 2 – Identifying Solutions
Step 2 is about opening your mind to ideas! What can I do to overcome this problem? Its not just about logical “left brain” thoughts and ideas, its about getting past them and using the creative right brain, which us crafty types should hopefully be quite good at tapping into already. Its about not being afraid to dream too – and sometimes when we do dream about the “ideal” business persona it takes us back down to step 1 and helps us refine the original problem some more. So get pens, paper, find a quiet place and let the thoughts flow. I already have some possible solutions from listening to and talking to others at KickStart this month, however their inception relies on other people wanting to get involved too! The idea of this step is not about identifing THE solution but a series of them – so what you end up with is a list of things to try. You can then look at your list, re-order it if you want to and work your way down until you find solution(s) that work for you and your business. Again you might find you’re revisiting step 1 a few times and refining the problem more as you weed out the solutions you don’t like / can’t use etc and that’s fine, problem solving is a cycle, not a list based exercise. When we pedal a cycle, how often do we actually reach out destination on the first turn of the wheel? How often do we fall off when learning? Just make sure the solutions you choose are practical, don’t involve uneccesary risk and fit with your current priorities.
Step 3 – Testing them out
Set yourself measurable and achievable goals – something that you can review weekly or monthly and asess your progress against. Getting more sales isn’t a measurable goal but increasing my sales to 10 per month is! So put a number in there – just make sure its realistic! And remember if you aim low e.g. for the moon and you overshoot and hit a star, then you’ll feel fantastic. But if you aim for the stars and only hit the moon – you’ll start using the dreaded “f” word – fail! So be realistic and kind to yourself! Set yourself up for success, not failure!
If you’re marketing, this is a longer term project so you need to make sure that you choose solutions you can test over a season – its no good making new flyers, bunging them in one spot and then wondering why on earth they’ve made no difference. You need to get them out far and wide and then see whether they improve uptake. You also need to think about where you put them – again to make sure they’re in the right places.
If its a sales strategy, again it might not work at the first fair you go to or when you first upload your lovely new pics to your website – but over time it may prove to be effective, it might be simply that the first plac you tested it out was a fair with low footfall and lots of browsers for example but the second fair was more dynamic and well attended with people on a mission to buy.
Make notes, ask friends you trust to be honest for feedback, ask your customers for feedback – you won’t get your market research right unless you know what people are looking for and that when they come to your stall or online shop, that you’re projecting the right image. Yes its uncomfortable – but as I said early, its manure that makes beautiful blooms!
Step 4 – Ask others for help
You can do this at any or all stages of the cycle but it is important – no man or woman is an island and we live and work in an interactive world. Einstein is credited with saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result and how true that is. In order to grow we change. And we need catalysts to start the change and hammers and chisels to make the shape and sandpaper to give a smooth surface – in other words we need to find people who are comfortable with giving us constructive feedback, who aren’t afraid to tell us how it is and who are also willing to work with us to find ways forward. I know I felt really challenged on Monday and was very tempted to say “You know what – I don’t need this” and decide running my own business is not for me – however I want to do this and I know how much I’ve changed in the last few years through facing some really difficult barriers and getting through them – but I only managed it by letting people in and relying on my faith too. So whilst this might not be the most comfortable part of problemsolving, I think its the key.
Step 5 – Evaluation
This again creeps in to every step above but should also be looked at on its own. Once you have your measurable, achievable goal, then you need to find a way to check if its happening. So you might for example keep a diary of networking meetings and note down what went well for you, or ask your clients who recommened them or where they found out about you. You can also use your blog and facebook pages to ask for feedback from your readers or fans. Link google analytics to your online shop and website to find out what it is that’s attracting people in and what holds their attention. When you do fairs or public events consider taking a “critical friend” along who can give you hints and tips along the way and help you identify what went well and what you might need to work on for the next event. This in turn will help you do more work on steps 1-4 if you need and weed out some of the step 2 solutions that really aren’t right for you and your business. And even throw up new ideas to add to the list
Once you’ve achieved your projected goals, celebrate! In the UK we’re not particularly good at this and we hide our successes from public glare because “its just not cricket old chap” but actually when we’ve been on a difficult journey and scaled one of those huge personal wall, we need to acknowledge it. Linking that achievement to a positive memory, makes the next wall we hit seem lower and easier to climb because we know climbing it or demolishing it feels good! And make sure you thank everyone who’s helped you along the way – we all need positive feedback and for anyone, friend or fellow professional, getting positive feedback is brilliant! And it lets them know that they’re giving the right advice and doing the right things.
Also remember a few key things to keep you on target:
1. Have a business plan to work from
2. Use this to devise a marketing plan
3. Hold a “management” meeting with yourself once a week to plan all the things you need to do in the coming 7 days
4. Avoid procrastination – putting it off just means its going to take longer to get right
5. Avoid shiny new toys – they are a distraction you don’t need whilst you’re sorting this out!