10 Things I’ve Learnt From 10 Years In Business

At the age of 24 years old, freshly married, I decided that employment wasn’t my future and I started my first business.  Last week marked 10 years in business for me.

It has definitely been a rollercoaster.  I’m not a big rollercoaster fan (mainly because I have a bad fear of heights), but I’m really glad I got on this one.

 

So, what have I learnt in my ten years of business?

  1. Don’t Do It All Yourself

In terms of the payroll, my business is just me.  But I’ve used many, many services over the years that I could technically have done myself, but either would have done them badly or wasted time that I could have spent on growing the business.  Knowing the worth of my time shifted a lot of things for me, and I stopped doing stuff that could be outsourced.

 

  1. Marketing Matters

When I started my first business, an employee survey business (for which I still do work for clients, though focus the majority of my efforts on the social media training business now), I thought I could get a great website then the phone would start ringing. It didn’t!  I quickly learned I would need to focus the majority of my efforts on marketing.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do if no one knows about you!

 

  1. Your Business Could/Will Change

When I started Personnel Surveys, I thought that was it for me, my business was outlined for ever more. Within a year, I had started Sam Flynn Social Media.  I never would have dreamt that it would become my main business and passion.  And it’s going to change again next year (though still with a social media training focus!).  Nothing is permanent.  And, when I listen to interviews with entrepreneurs, it seems that many started out on a completely different route to the one they’re now on!

 

  1. It Won’t Always Be Easy

After having my second daughter, I really struggled to get back into my business.  There were numerous factors (the main being that she was a terrible sleeper, and I was running on about 2-3 hours a night!) but I seriously thought about calling it a day and seeking employment.  I decided to give it another 6 months to cement my decision. That was about 3.5 years ago.  I’m still here and so glad I stuck around!

 

  1. Learning is Key

I’ve always been quite academic and love learning new things.  And I can’t imagine my business would be where it is today if I hadn’t kept learning new things.  Reading books, listening to podcasts, investing in courses and memberships.  There’s always something new to learn when it comes to running your business, and I love that!

 

  1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

There have been so many ways in which I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone as a business owner.  I’m quite a shy person, so even going networking felt like a huge step for me.  Putting myself out of my comfort zone, going on the stage, creating video content, putting myself out there more, has actually really helped my overcome my shyness. And the saying I always have in my head is ‘success happens outside of comfort zones’.

 

  1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Before I had my first daughter, I worked flat out on my business.  After having her, I cut down to 2-3 days a week.  I now work only 3 days a week, but my business is more successful than it was working 5+ days a week.  I’ve realised the importance of working smart and making the most of the working time I do have.  Time off is so important.  And I started my business to allow me the flexibility to be with my children, which is working out great!

 

  1. It Will Be Stressful Sometimes

I’ve had times of extreme stress.  It’s not as possible to walk out the door at the end of the day and switch off from work when it’s your business.  I often wake in the middle of the night stressing about something to do with the business.  I’m trying to find ways to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it’s not always that easy!

 

  1. You Decide What Success Looks Like

Success is different for every person.  And it can change.  How success looked like for me when I started the business is different to how I view success now.  And it’ll change again in the future, especially when I have all 3 girls in school!  Right now, I do feel successful.  I’m running a business that works well around my family, that allows me two days a week to do school runs and spend with my youngest, that gives me an admirable income and that I enjoy.  I’d say that’s a success for me!

 

  1. Business Relationships Matter

In the early years of being in business, I did a lot of networking.  I dropped back on networking after having my first daughter, and shifted most of that online.  While I work on my own, I have lots of people that I’ve built working relationships with over the years.  And they have been so valuable for me.  I love meeting new people, especially now on social media, and building those relationships.

 

It’s been a good ten years and I’m so excited for the next ten!

What have you learnt in your time as a business owner?

Using Instagram To Market B2B Businesses

While I am of the thinking you can’t be everywhere on social media, unless you have both resource and time, I do think it can be easy to overlook platforms that could have a significant impact in marketing our businesses by claiming our audience doesn’t use it.

This is often the case for companies who target other businesses.  Instagram, in particular, gets pushed down the list of platforms to be present on.  But could you be missing out?

 

If you target small businesses, with the social media managed by the business owner and the business having selling to consumers rather than other businesses, Instagram could have huge potential for you.

It is also a great platform to elevate personal brands within businesses, such as the owner or other key people within the business.

And, don’t forget, when targeting businesses, it is the people within the business you want to bring in to your audience.  With over a billion monthly users worldwide, there is a high chance some of that audience will be on Instagram.

According to TrackMaven’s research, B2B business experience their highest engagement ratio on Instagram than on any other platform.

So, how could you be using Instagram to market your business to other businesses?

 

  1. Go Behind The Scenes

Where your LinkedIn approach may be more ‘professionally-focused’, Instagram could offer the opportunity to take your audience behind the scenes of your business.  What happens day-to-day?  Who are the people within the business?  This helps to showcase what the business does and helps to build relationships with those people in it.  Instagram stories offers a great way to do this, building a story of what goes on in your business.

 

  1. Share Your Knowledge, Thoughts and Opinions

This is particularly important for thought leadership.  It helps show your expertise, and audiences love to learn, so will help you attract new followers too.  While you do need to include a photo or video (up to 1 minute long) with each post, the text of your post matters too.  You can share tips and advice in the text, and open up discussions, allowing others to comment and build conversation with you.  Short video posts are also a great opportunity to share your knowledge.

 

  1. Take Pictures/Videos On Your Phone

Just because Instagram is visually focused, doesn’t mean you need expensive camera equipment.  Your phone is all the kit you need to build your Instagram presence.  Take pictures when you’re out visiting clients.  Take pictures round the office and in the local area.  Take selfies and pictures of your team.  Try different angles to get different perspectives.  Use apps like ‘Clips’ to quickly create square video with subtitles on your phone.  For longer videos (between 1 and 10 minutes) you can use IGTV to share video content.

 

  1. use Hashtags, Location Tags and Mentions

Use hashtags to reach your ideal audience.  For example, if you target small businesses in the UK, you can add #smallbusinessuk, #uksmallbusiness, #smallbizuk, #uksmallbiz, #businessowneruk, #ukbusinessowner, #entrepreneuruk, #ukentrepreneur…and I think you get the gist!  Don’t forget to tag your location and tag any other businesses worth a mention in your post, where relevant.

 

  1. Use Instagram Ads

You can target your Instagram Ads at businesses and owners of businesses.  For example, you could target home workers, small business owners, self-employed, etc.  This is an opportunity to reach out to a cold audience, so warm them up with an interesting video or post and encourage their engagement.  You can then target the warmer leads, who have engaged with your advert, with a lead capture or possibly a sell.

 

If you want to achieve Instagram Success but still feel you need a bit more know-how, join me for my LIVE online course INSTAGRAM SUCCESS on Thursday 5th September.  You can find all the details by clicking HERE!

5 Ways To Use Instagram Stories

I LOVE Instagram Stories.  It’s probably where I spend the majority of my personal time (and some business time too) when it comes to social media use.  It feels so much more real and in the moment than any other social media content.  And really helps you to get to know businesses and people too.

Instagram users are spending more of their time on stories now than looking through feed posts.  So, if you’re an Instagram user, how could you be using Instagram Stories for your business?

Instagram Stories

  1. Research

There is a poll feature on stories, allowing you to give users two options to choose from.  Which means it’s a quick and easy way of getting answers to important questions.  Such as, ‘bourbon or custard cream’ (bourbon), ‘ketchup in the fridge or cupboard (cupboard)’, ‘gin or wine’ (both!).  Obviously you can ask some serious questions too relating to your business, industry and products/services.

You are also able to see individual’s responses, so you can then strike up a conversation with them via DM relating to their response and build the relationship further.

 

2. Behind-The-Scenes

Where your grid posts might be more thought through and creative, your Instagram stories can take people straight behind-the-scenes of what goes on in your business day-to-day and give them a greater understanding of what it is you do.

 

3. Share Tips

Use your stories to impart wisdom.  You can do this with video, or by sharing an image with text over.  Think about current hot topics in your industry and create a small number of stories about that topic.  You can then create highlights on your profile to add this to so that people can come back at a later date and still so those tips.

 

4. Increase Your Post Reach

By clicking on the paper aeroplane symbol under your post, you can share it to your story.  Add a related hashtag and this will increase the reach of your story, leading more people to click through to your post.

 

5. Have Fun

Stories are fun!  You can add face filters, GIFs, do boomerangs, rewind videos, and so much more!  Have fun with it.  Show the personality of you and your brand.  This will undoubtedly help your customers and potential customers build a stronger relationship with you!  Don’t be afraid to be yourself!!

Are you using Instagram Stories?  How do you use them?

Momentum Rather Than Firefighting

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 9 years I’ve been working for myself it’s that firefighting doesn’t lead to success.

I’m sure we’ve all been there as a business owner at some point.  We’ve had a good bit of work in, then suddenly it dries up.  And we go a bit crazy trying to fill the gap.  We release mad offers.  We start discounting quotes we haven’t had a positive response from.  We stop sleeping and start wondering how we’re going to pay next month’s bills.

We firefight.

And it is stressful!!!!

Over the last few years, I haven’t done any firefighting.  I’ve realised the big difference comes instead from momentum.

But momentum takes planning.  It takes thought.  It takes looking to the future (as in months in the future, rather than next week).  It takes doing stuff now that will lead to work later, and carrying on doing that stuff even when we’re doing that work.

Social media is a prime example.

We jump in all guns blazing when we have no customers to serve.  But when we get busy, we stop.  Stop posting, stop being present.  Complete the work, and back to firefighting by posting constant content.

Instead, if you continue your online activity, the momentum carries you on.

This means thought through content, pre-planning and a schedule to help you achieve this.  Or potentially outsourcing some areas of it.

I’m busy working on something now that I won’t be releasing until February.  It’s taking me a lot of willpower to not bring forward that release date.  But I know, for this to be a success, I need time.  And then I can ride that wave of momentum, because I will have a plan and programme in place after release.

There’ll be no firefighting.  Only momentum.

How do you ride the momentum wave rather than putting out weekly fires?

5 Things To Do When Launching A New Product/Service

Last week, I launched my new online course The Social Media Super Success Plan and exceeded my sign up targets!

So, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that help lead to a successful launch!

  1. Build Your Email List

I’ve known that I would be releasing this course since around October last year, and that the majority of the launch would take place via email.  My focus from that point was to grow my list.  I’ve always had a side bar capture (see the 50 Things To Say On Social Media box either in the side bar on desktop or when you scroll down on mobile).  And this has generated a good number of email addresses for my list.  But I wanted to step it up.  I started doing more free webinars, with signups having to provide their email address.  I also repurposed one of these webinars, creating a recording that you could receive by filling in a webform (see top bar).  I also added a popup to my site, which has really increased sign ups too!  I grew my list by as many new signups in two months as I had done in the previous 12 months!

 

2. Run A Competition

A ran a competition the week before the course was due to launch to win one of three free places on the course.  This achieved two things.  Firstly, you had to enter using your email address, so I grew my list again, but this time with people I knew were interested in the course.  Secondly, it allowed me to start talking about the course before it launched, and teasing people that it was soon to launch.  I ran a Facebook Ad for the competition to get it in front of a wider audience.

 

3. Set A Launch and Finish Date

I talked about the date the course would be available and counted down to it, including in emails (see below!).  The other thing I did for this course was set an end date for signups.  This wouldn’t be applicable to every product or service, but it worked really well for this one.  If I’d kept the course open forever, there wouldn’t have been a deadline to signup to and no rush to get involved!  You could do the same by limiting the availability or having a deadlined offer.  The last day that you could sign up was the one that I got the most signups!  So, it definitely works!

 

4. Social Media

Of course, social media played a huge part in the actual launch.  I tweeted about it all day on the three days you could sign up and also did daily posts on LinkedIn and Facebook.  I also created some video content about the course, to increase reach.  And I ran a Facebook ad to people who had visited my website and who had watched the competition video.  Social media also played a big part over the months before the launch.  I have been posting more video content to increase my reach and show my expertise, which has lead more people to my website from social media, and to sign up to my lead captures.

 

5. Emails

In launch week, I sent 6 emails over 5 days.  Some might view this as excessive, but it’s not something I’d do every week and I only had a couple of people unsubscribe from my list.  The first email introduced that I was launching a new product on Wednesday and that I’d let them know more tomorrow (Tuesday).  The second then went through all the details of what the course included and told them what time to expect it to launch the next day.  The following email stated that the course was now live to sign up to.  Thursday’s email answered questions about the course and restated some of the elements of the course.  And, on Friday, the last day for signing up, I sent out two emails.  The first reminded them that it was the last day to sign up and again added in a couple of details about the course.  And the final email was a short one to say there was only two hours left to sign up.  With each email I sent out on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I received at least one sign up.  So long as you’re not bombarding people’s inboxes every week like this, it’s absolutely fine to do it when launching.

So, that’s how I did my launch!  It’s the first time I’ve really planned through a launch rather than just sending out a couple of emails about a course, and it’s definitely something I’ll replicate the next time I release this course or a new one!

I Wrote A Book!

About a year ago, I read Daniel Priestley’s book – Key Person of Influence. It was an important book for me, as one of my business goals is to be seen as an influential figure in helping businesses grow through using social media. One of the suggestions made in the book was to write a book. And I thought “sure, I’ll do that!”. I remember setting myself the goal to have the book written by Christmas. Oh, how naive I was!

The book took me longer to write than a couple of months. And then, once it was written, there came the task of having my book coach read over it, which then lead to improvements needed. I then had it proof read, formatted, a book cover designed, and had to figure out the world of publishing both a Kindle and paperback version on Amazon.

It’s definitely been a learning curve, but one I have very much enjoyed learning. There is far more to it than I originally thought. Initially, I only focused on the aspect of getting it written, rather than the getting it out there bit!

But written it is. And, I’ve written it in a style in which I enjoy reading business books. One in which you can skip the bits you don’t need to read, and go straight to the sections that matter to you. Where you can quickly find a topic and how to implement it. Or alternatively, where you can read it cover-to-cover.

The book is called ‘Social Media Super Success’. And that is what I hope it brings its readers. It covers everything from picking which platforms your business should be using, to an extensive look at the content you could be sharing, to building your following, advertising on social media, and figuring out if it’s working or not.

And, as it’s launch week, you can get the Kindle version for only 99p until Friday 13th October at 7pm. Just click here to grab your copy (where you can also get the paperback version too if you’d prefer).

I’m so thankful I decided to start on this book-writing journey. And, I may be speaking too soon, but I don’t think it’s going to be my last book!

Sam Flynn Book cover

How I Get Most Of My Business Through LinkedIn

Around 70% of my business is generated via LinkedIn.  That’s a pretty hefty proportion!!  But it’s why I dedicate most of my social media time to this platform.  It works so well for me!  I thought I’d share a few of the things that allow me to generate so much business through LinkedIn.

How I Get Most Of My Business Through LinkedIn

  1. Connecting with anyone

Well, not quite anyone!  I always veto them first by having a quick look at their profile.  But I will near enough accept 9/10 of the invitations I receive to connect on LinkedIn.  It opens my network much wider, and I am able to appear in more search results, as my 2nd connection network is so large.

 

2. Posting regular updates

Of course, it’s not all just about connecting.  You need to be visible to your connections too!  I post status updates regularly on LinkedIn, at least 3 times a week.  These keep me in the awareness of my connections, as well as helping them out with useful articles, blog posts and tips.

 

3. Sending messages

I use the message facility a lot on LinkedIn.  I run a search through my 1st connections for those who I think will be interested in my message, and I then send it through to them.  For my workshops, I always have at least one person there who has booked on as they’ve received a LinkedIn message from me.

 

 

4. Searching for my target market

I regularly run searches on LinkedIn for my target market and connect with them.  I expand my network regularly with the right people.

 

5. I don’t waste my time in groups

Groups are becoming less and less popular on LinkedIn.  I no longer participate in any of the groups I am a member of, as I know it’s not the best use of my time.  I would rather focus that time on building my network, posting updates and sending relevant messages.

 

This is obviously a very quick overview and there is much more to it that this.  But I can’t give all my LinkedIn secrets away in one post!  If you want to know more, why not book on my LinkedIn Success LIVE online course!  You can find all the details by clicking here.

7 Ways To Win New Business On Social Media Today

Social media can be a bit of a slow burner when it comes to generating business.  Generally, you’ll be far more successful on social media if you work at building relationships with your audience.  Which does take time.  But it pays off in the long run, when those relationships start to convert.  If you’re getting a little bored with waiting, there are some ways you can speed things up a little!

7 Ways To Win New Business On Social Media TODAY!

1. Run A Flash Sale

Having a really good offer that is only available for a very short time period, such as 24 hours, is a good way of generating sales quickly on social media.  You can talk about the flash sale on all your social media channels, lead up to it before the day, share numerous updates about it on the day, pay to promote those posts, and countdown to the flash sale being over in your updates.  It will have to be tempting enough to make people want to buy.  Think 50% off instead of 10%!

2. Ask For Meetings

One thing we often find difficult to do is ask people to meet up.  Yes, some people will say no.  But imagine if you asked 10 people every day if they wanted to have a meeting, and one came back and said yes.  That’s 9 no’s.  But it’s one yes!!  That’s a meeting every day.  You could do this via LinkedIn message to your connections or via direct message on Twitter.

3. Chase Prospects

Social media can offer a way to keep in the awareness of people and businesses you’ve supplied quotes to.  If you are struggling to get an answer via email, or they’re not available to chat to on the phone, have a go on social media!  You could simply reply to their updates to remind them of your business.  Or you could get straight to the point and ask them via social media if they’d had any further thoughts.

4. Find Your Targets and Speak To Them

Highlight 50 targets that you’d like to become customers.  Then go and find them on social media.  Connect with them on LinkedIn.  Follow them on Twitter.  Wherever you can find them on social media, follow them!  Then start talking to them.  Build the conversation to the point where you suggest meeting up.

5. Run A Competition

Competitions typically generate larger audiences, due to participation increasing reach.  On Facebook, you can ask people to comment on your post to be entered in to a draw.  This will lead to more of their friends seeing your post too.  You can’t ask to share though, in line with the Facebook competition guidelines.  But you can ask people to retweet on Twitter!  Follow your competition up with a fab offer for all those who didn’t win the prize (which will be one of your products or services!).

6. Run A Twitter Search

Twitter is often a go-to for recommendations.  “Can anyone recommend the best hair salon in Nuffield?”, “I could do with getting some business cards printed in the next 24 hours!”, “Any good suggestions for a decent accountant in Manchester?”, and so on!  Are people using Twitter to ask for your products or services?  Think of the keywords people may be using to ask for your product or service, then search for it, filtering to be close to your location if you are location-specific.  Then respond to those needs!

7. Go Viral

Easier said than done, right?!  But if you put enough effort in, you can go viral, or at least dramatically increase the reach of your posts.  More people seeing your post is likely to lead to more business.  So, what usually goes viral?  Humour works really well.  Or thought-provoking posts.  But the main thing is something that is completely different to anything that has been seen before.  So, get your thinking cap on!!!

Yes, these all take a little time commitment.  And some may feel a little forward.  But if you pick even one to do once a month, it may have a big impact on your business.  Good luck!

Habits and Routine

Since the start of the year, I’ve found myself developing new habits and new routines.  In particular, I’ve upped my exercise and changed my nutrition and I feel a lot better for it.  And within two weeks, it’s become my new norm.  It doesn’t take long to develop new habits and shake habits you want to get rid of.  Then it’s just about keeping it up.

So, what habits do you want to change in your working day?  How are you going to develop the right routine that guarantees success?

Habits and Routines

First is to highlight the bad habits.  I have a lot of push back from my clients that they haven’t got time in their working day for social media.  Yet when I ask them how often they check their emails, there is a coy downward glance.  Emails are such a time drain.  We don’t need to respond to emails the minute they come in.  In fact, it’s likely that nothing will change if you check your emails only twice a day (12pm and 4pm are good times I find).  And turn off those pesky notifications that pop up telling you you have a new email.  You might find you can lose up to an hour a day by not being constantly plugged in to your emails.

Another bad habit is doing lots of different tasks at once, and allowing yourself to become quickly distracted while doing them.  I’ve become more organised with my office days.  I don’t get much time in the office.  I only work a couple of days a week, and often those days are out on the road training businesses or speaking at events.  I have a day-to-view organiser, which is split in to different times of the day.  So, on my office days, I schedule my whole day out with the tasks I want to complete.  They are appointments with myself and I won’t break them for anything.  It means I get more stuff done.  I don’t jump from one job to the next to the next.  I complete a task and then move on to the next task.  It works!  You get all the stuff done on your to-do list for that day, and work more efficiently on that job and I find I have pockets of time to stop for a coffee and a social media catch up.

So, once you’ve dropped the bad habits, start to pick up good ones.  Setting aside 10 minutes in your day to schedule some social media updates for example.  Or doing the action you like least at the start of the day, so it’s done with and you can get on with the more enjoyable tasks.  Checking your email less and planning out your day.  Putting your mobile in a drawer on silent so you aren’t tempted to check what your mates are up to on Facebook!  Once you’ve taken the action for a few days, it will become a habit.  And you will feel better for it too, as you’ll be getting more stuff done and spending less time procrastinating!

Give it a go!  I’d love to hear what habits you want to get rid of and the routines you’re going to introduce!

 

 

What I Learnt From Going Live on Facebook During December

In December, I decided to go live on Facebook *nearly* every day!  I soon realised that every day wasn’t going to happen.  But I did manage 12 live broadcasts on my Facebook page during December.  So, what did I learn while doing, what I termed, LIVEMAS?

What I Learnt About Going Live

  1. Going Live Takes As Long As Going Live

What I mean by that is that you are creating video content in as long as it takes to go live with that video.  There is no editing, no uploading.  The video remains on your Facebook page for all to see, you can download it and share it elsewhere.  A 5 minute video literally takes 5 minutes.  One thing that often holds me back from creating video content is time, so this for me is a big bonus.  The days I didn’t go live, it was predominantly due to forgetting rather than a time issue!

2. Your Confidence Increases

Going live can be pretty scary!  What if you mess up?  What if your phone rings?  What if the dog barks?!  All three of these have happened during my live broadcasts.  And you realise, it doesn’t really matter!!!!  The beauty of live is the authenticity that live brings.  It’s real and unedited.  It’s highly unlikely to be perfect.

3. Planning Is Key

It’s worthwhile making a few notes on the points you want to cover in your live session.  I didn’t do this a couple of times, and found myself going off point and ending the live broadcast thinking of things I should have said.  Just jot down a few things that you can stick in eyesight, so that you stay on track and don’t miss anything out

4. People Like Personal

For the majority of my live broadcasts, I shared social media tips.  But for a couple, I made them more personal.  One featured my 3 year old and 1 year old daughters.  Another was taken on a Friday night, when I was straight out of the shower, in my pyjamas, enjoying a glass of prosecco, wishing everyone a happy Friday night!  So, which live broadcasts generated the most views?  Yep, those two videos!  The ones that were far more personal and real.  It’s taught me a lot about being more ‘me’ and not always keeping things business-focused.  Authenticity really does help to build relationships.

5. I’m Going to Go Live More

Doing so many live broadcasts within a month has really spurred me on to go live more.  Both on my Facebook page and on Periscope too.  It’s really easy and quick to do, and the reach is much higher than any other type of content.  It helps me to build relationships with my audience, build my own profile and create simple video content too.

So, no excuses, it’s time for you to embrace LIVE!  You can watch my LIVEMAS videos over on my Facebook page.