Insights Blog

Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

Should You Promote Your Best Employees?

We were recently doing a deep dive analysis of the specific reasons that had driven our client to their best year ever in 2017. One of the key reasons was that their top performing sales superstar had been bringing in a consistent flow of new business. As further growth was part of their 2018 plans, they were considering hiring more salespeople. 

More critically, to keep their star salesperson motivated, they thought it makes perfect sense to reward her with more responsibility by promoting her to sales manager to manage the incoming employees.

Here’s why that may be a really bad idea and could actually be doing their superstar a disservice.

Before you consider promoting someone to a new position in your business, be very clear that the person you’re promoting actually has the know-how, the understanding, the skill set, and the desire to actually do the job you are now setting them to do.

Remember, you don’t manage people, you manage the activities of your people. And if you are unclear about what activities they can and cannot do, you could be cutting off your own legs.

There are important decisions you need to make as the leader of your business – and filling the roles in your business are the pivotal ones that can make or break your business. Take your time with it, and be careful with it. It will be more than worth the effort.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I want to talk about today is this whole ‘promoting-within’ culture.

Now I totally understand that for our people to be excited, they should know that they have chances of progressing within the company. And as the owner of the business, yes, that’s the first place where you should look at when there are promotions or vacancies within the business. But at the same time what I’m seeing very often is that many business owners think that that’s the only option.

In fact it’s a lazy option. And many of the business owners take that route, where a person is doing well, business is growing and now they want to actually have someone to supervise, say, multiple sites or multiple team members. They will look at that superstar or they look at their most loyal person and actually promote them.

Now a couple of things could happen. You could actually have the superstar become a super-superstar and actually release time and room within the business for yourself. But generally what happens is that when it’s done in a lazy way, and I’m being very upfront about it, when it’s done in a lazy way and not enough thought has been put into it, then you simply end up promoting your superstar to his or her level of incompetence. Now that’s a very key point that I’m just mentioning here – that you end up holding people to their level of incompetence.

Think about it like this. If there’s a sales superstar and the person is doing well and now they want to grow in the organization. The temptation is to promote them to sales manager, who can manage a set of other salespeople. But then it could be that that’s not the right profile that the sales superstar has. It could be that they’re actually not good at managing activities of people.

So what I’m really trying to explain here is that when you are promoting people within, be very clear that the personalities fit the requirements of that position, and that the person will actually do well. Make sure you’re not converting your feelings towards a member into an overhead for the business just because you think that’s the option you should be going for.

I have had many such instances where the costs have shot up and the performance has gone down with such simple decisions. At the same time I’ve had situations with clients where this was the best decision. So please be very mindful when you promote within because it has to be a strategic decision and not a lazy decision.

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Best Business Quotes From Shweta Jhajharia

A client recently asked me about what they should do when their team members are consistently not meeting deadlines.

My answer probably wasn’t quite what they were expecting.

“Communication is the response that you get.”

You can focus on what your team members are not doing, and what they should be doing. You can try to think about ‘motivation’ strategies and improving productivity, to get them to see the value in their work, to help them understand what their contribution means to the business.

However, everything has to start from you – as the leader, business owner or key team member.

If you are getting a certain response from your team, such as them not meeting deadlines, then the first thing I would like you to do is reflect on your communication.

This may sound harsh to some leaders, but this is where taking ownership and accountability comes in. How effectively are you communicating what you would like your team members to do?

When you start with your ‘being’ – assessing your own behaviour, actions and understanding first – you will have done 80% of the work in ‘motivating’ your team members to do what they are supposed to do. 

Want to be the best leader you can be?

Take a look at what a complimentary business strategy session could offer you. The idea is to find out which growth strategies could work best in your business.

We review your business and highlight any areas where we could help you do even better. You choose to either take the information that and improve your business yourself, or commit to ongoing coaching. Your choice: no obligation, no pressure. 

Most business owners I speak to want to see themselves as winners.

But is winning your only option or is it a ‘nice to have’?.

“Everyone wants to win. Some people refuse to lose.”

This is something I’ve often reminded clients of in my business coaching sessions. Wanting to win is often a great way to move forward in business. However, time and again, the game changes to one of persistence and resilience and this subtle shift of thinking becomes crucial to continue to move forward.

Remember that 50% of businesses cease to exist after just five years. And only one third ever make it to ten.

What makes the difference between those who continue to succeed and those who burn out is a focus on getting the next result, taking the next step on the ladder, reaching the next milestone!

When failure is not acceptable, you set yourself milestones which are stretched but achievable and do ‘whatever it takes’ to build a winning streak.

Just as when we say focus on purpose first, or how Simon Sinek says to Start With Why – when your only option is to win, your own mind and then the universe comes together to focus on getting there.

In keeping space in your mind for losing and for failure, you often allow it in – and ‘by refusing to lose’ – you shift completely away from all the reasons of poor results.

And in the end, you build yourself and your business as a consistent winner.

Want More Business Anecdotes?

I put together some of the best stories, advice, and frameworks that I use in my business coaching sessions into a book called SPARKS: Ideas to Ignite Business Growth.

Using the button below you can grab your copy for free (you just pay for the shipping costs!) [While stock continues to last.]

During a coaching session the other week, one of my clients was happily telling me about all the marketing activities they had executed recently. As they rattled off a whole list of things they were doing, I stopped them for a second and asked, “But do you know which of these activities are working?” “Hmm. I guess I’m not sure,” was their answer.

And they knew immediately that they were making a big mistake…

This is what I said to them, “Whatever you can measure, you can manage and improve.”

This is a critical part of ensuring that your business continues to grow rather than stagnating at a plateau. You should be building some sort of dashboard in your business, where you can carefully measure the most important metrics.

This is not just in your sales and marketing, but you should also be ensuring you have at least a mid-year review of your financials (here’s three key metrics you should look at) and, well, almost every part of your business, really.

In fact, even areas where you cannot have a specific number should still be measured using some form of Key Performance Indicators – such as the 3 KPIs for Managing Directors that I have talked about before.

If you are simply doing things without any kind of measurement, not only will you be uncertain about whether you are growing or not, you will also find it difficult to motivate yourself and your team to stay excited about what you are doing. In the end, the small wins and everyday progress are what motivates people – so there is a double benefit of stimulating growth and encouraging your team to perform better and better.

What are you measuring? And what have you not started measuring that you will start measuring now?

What Are You Measuring?

When you gain a business coach or business mentor, you acquire not only an outside perspective on your business, but also someone who keeps you accountable and helps you identify what you need to focus on in order to grow your business. 

When you book a complimentary strategic review of your business, we’ll help you see just how valuable this can be.

Book a Free Strategic Review

Not too long ago, during a coaching session with Paul Hastings, one of the business owners I work with, we discussed team management. He articulated a learning he had gained from that session about managing the progression of team members that was so compelling, I thought it was worth sharing here:

“Management is not a status, it is an activity. A lot of team members aspire to the status but not the activities of management. During recruitment and promotion exercises, this needs to be explicit.” – Paul Hastings, Director, Reflections.

This is an important reminder for all business owners – when you move your team members up into the higher echelons of your business, what kind of guidance and training are you giving them?

We often talk about when to make new hires, and how to onboard new recruits effectively. However, it’s important that when you are managing your team, and you are upgrading your team, that you are ensuring they are aware of their new responsibilities.

The job description is one of the critical parts of your recruitment process, and if you are hiring for a management position, ensure you make it really clear that this is a job that requires serious work and may be difficult, especially if you were a superstar as an individual performer.

Need help with recruitment?

business consulting servicesRecruitment of good managers, and even executives, can be a nightmarish process that wastes loads of time – and results in hiring someone not right for the job. We, therefore, developed a process that helps to find the best candidates, and only uses 4 hours of your time…

On a coaching call recently, one of my clients seemed a bit puzzled about how to move forward with analysing the numbers in her business.

The source of her confusion was not that she was looking at the wrong figures or had a confusing dashboard or anything like that. It wasn’t even that she was looking at dwindling numbers and wondering how to boost her team’s performance.

In fact, it was that she had started some marketing activities, and all the numbers were in the green. “Everything is going fine, what do I do now?”

It’s a pretty good problem to have isn’t it? The following was something I said to her, which I think is a great reminder for all the business owners who are running successful businesses:

shweta-jhajharia-quotes-overanalyse-failure

“We overanalyse failure, but often forget to analyse our success – the things we want more of.” – Shweta Jhajharia

Many leaders are exceptionally hard on themselves as a way of driving themselves forward. Through the analysis of what went wrong, they seek to ensure past failures do not happen again.

While that is very valid, the best leaders know how to not just assess what went wrong, but also review what went right, and how to replicate their successes over and over again.

It is important to remember this. Give importance to, celebrate, and learn from your successes as much as your failures.

Want to boost your own successes?

Even leaders sometimes need to be reminded to celebrate their wins. Business coaches and business mentors are there to do that and to help analyse those wins in the most useful way.

With a free strategic review, you can find out if your business is one that we can work with to push the boundaries of success.

Book a Free Strategic Session

At the Strategic Growth Intensive in October, one of the areas we discussed in a little more depth was marketing.

And just recently, at one of our complimentary sessions we had to remind a new prospect about one of those really fundamental mindset principles around marketing that helps keep you focused on the right things…

London Coaching Group Best Business Quotes Marketing Is Not About Being Prolific, It's About Being Precise

“Marketing is not about being prolific. It’s about being precise.”

In today’s world of advanced technology and the long, rich history that marketing now has, it gets confusing. You’re assaulted with marketing advice. This technique, that strategy, this system.

It’s tempting to try it all. Everything is important. Anything might get you results.

But when you stretch yourself too thin and attempt to be everywhere at once, the likely result is that you will end up reaching a lot of people, not the right people, and you’ll reach them with a muddled message.

Most likely, you will also end up being unable to measure what you are doing, and then how will you know which technique is actually working?

You should choose a highly targeted niche, focus on finding out everything about your Avatar, and then craft the perfect lead magnets to really speak to the people who are actually going to buy from you.

And then with careful testing and measuring in place, you can refine your marketing approach and choose the channels that actually bring you sales, and not just visitors.

When you focus like this, you can create a marketing strategy that brings you a true flow of inbound leads, which will massively boost your growth without increasing your working hours.

How precise do you get with your marketing? Let us know your own insights in the comments below.

Want to talk to us about marketing?

going-global-live-social-media-masterclassShweta will be giving keynote speeches at the Going Global business show, and we will additionally be hosting a Social Media Masterclass at various times on both days.

Tickets are free, so join us to hear more strategies and talk to us directly.

One of my clients at his first business coaching session was resisting when I tried to convince him that he needed a weekly dashboard.

“It’s such a hassle to try and make sure I do that every week – it seems like a waste of my time.”

This was the answer that I gave him:

Shweta Business Quotes - Choose the pain of discipline over the pain of non-performance

“Choose the pain of discipline over the pain of non-performance.”

Sometimes it can seem like a real struggle to wade through the numbers of your business, or do some of those tasks that you know you should do but you don’t really want to do.

It is at those moments that you should remind yourself that these are the tasks that will take your business to that next level. They may not be the most exciting parts of running your business, but they are essential for systemised growth.

Just like training for a sport, it usually requires discipline to truly perform in the big leagues. So get ‘in the zone’ and get disciplined about your business so you can take it to the next grade.

What practices are you disciplined with in your business? Let us know in the comments below.

Every Sportsperson Has A Coach…

Business owners are like athletes: they need strength, practice and discipline! Athletes achieve that with the help of their coach. Would your business benefit from the same with a business coach?

Book a Free Session

Business owners often get very excited when the prospect of growth is within reach. That grasp at growth before they have the right systems and team in place, however, can often result in more problems than they were expecting.

It’s important to consider your processes, and today instead of sharing a long article, I want to share with you a thought that we shared on our Instagram account recently:

business-coaching-london-recruitment

Managing a superstar team starts from the very first job ad that you put out. Make sure you have an effective recruitment process in place so that when you do hire someone, they’re the right someone. Because your business is only as good as your team.

And your team is only as good as your leadership skills.

Want To Become A Better Team Leader?

Recruitment of the right person for the job is really only the first stage. Motivating and managing a team of fantastic employees requires another set of skills.

Join the webinar and find out if you could be helping your team work better, faster and smarter.


And How About You?

Here is an exercise I have done with clients who have children. You don’t need to have children to do this exercise – you just need to have an idea of what is involved.

I’ve found that comparing two simple numbers can often lead to the significant mind-shift you need to accelerate your progress as a business owner.

The cost of raising a child in the UK has been rising steadily for years. And education is almost always the biggest expense.

But what happens when you leave the schooling and university system? Do both education and the investment in education stop there? If you find that you aren’t spending any time or money on your education as a business owner, then you are doing a disservice to yourself.

It’s easy to see how education is an investment when you put in the context of children. It is critical to have that same mindset about your education as a business owner – investment in yourself is the best investment you can make.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from The London Coaching Group. I want to give you a very simple task today.

I want you to jot down the amount that you intend to spend on your kid’s education or that you are already spending on your kid’s education. Plus also the amount that you intend to spend or are already spending on their extracurricular activities and clubs and all that stuff, right. Just give me a guess estimate for the year. And obviously, it’s relevant if you have kids or you plan to have kids.

So just think of the total. Now, I’ll give you five seconds.

After that I want you to jot down the amount that you are actually spending in a very active form of learning for yourself, okay. I want you to jot that down, saying “this is the amount that I am spending on coaching, on learning, on books, on going to some activities conferences”, jot that down. On an annual basis, what is the amount that you’re spending.

For some of you would be like “What? Really? No, I’m not spending anything, I’ve done all that schooling”. Remember that learning is a constant process. Now when you look at these two figures and by the way, I do that sometimes with my clients, especially when I look at their goals for their kids and for their loved ones, my question is, “And how about you?”

So the point is, your learning cannot stop. If you are not investing in yourself, if you’re not spending on resources which can help you make better then your earning is pretty much a reflection of your learning. And if you want to do more, if you want to become more, if you want to achieve more, then you have to learn more. As simple as that.

So I really hope that gives you some food for thought and this is something that you will consciously push you going forward because it’s an investment in yourself and you’re the best person to be invested in.

Asking the Hard Questions

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionIt is the job of a business coach to sometimes ask business owners the harder questions – about their business, and about their behaviours and attitudes when it comes to their business practice.

Book a complimentary session with us and find out whether having someone ask you the right questions could lead to even greater business success for your business.


A Simple Business Toolbox Part 2: Team, Time & Money

Last week we covered the marketing productivity tools that can fit into your most basic business toolbox – and I was really pleased to receive such positive feedback. It is always great to find out how business owners are gaining tangible benefit from these blogs.

In this part, we will help to demystify some further tools in a few other critical areas of business, which may help you lighten the load, or increase the result from the effort put in.

Let’s jump in with the area where almost every business owner of larger, successful businesses want to improve…

Team Management (or more, Leadership) Tools

If your business is growing to a size where systemisation and leverage are becoming important, you should ensure that your team have clear direction in where they should be headed, and what they are aiming for.

And there are two main areas of leadership where systems and tools can help. The first is task management.

As I’ve said before, you shouldn’t manage your team, you should manage their activities.

A system we use for task management is Asana. This is a reasonably ‘safe bet’ tool, coming from the minds of tech maestros who co-founded Facebook and were integral to the development of essential features of both Facebook and Google. It’s also free for what most businesses need (you would only need to start paying for it if you are an enterprise with significantly large teams of 15 or more).

The platform lets you create tasks for yourself or delegate tasks to one of your team members. You can create a full range of ‘tasks’ from simple reminders, to very detailed plans in complex ‘projects’. You will be notified when a task is complete or when a task is due. You can also comment on tasks – keeping communication all in one place for a project or campaign – and you can even give little heart ‘likes’ to tasks and comments to give small bursts of positive feedback. It has a very friendly interface and does not require spending lengthy amounts of time to get used to it, though as with any tool does require some getting used to at first. There is also a mobile app, allowing you to plan and respond to tasks on the go.

Another productivity app to consider is Trello. This one is more ‘board’ focused (although Asana does have a ‘boards’ feature as well) and is typically more useful to businesses that have a clearly delineated workflow – especially, we’ve noticed, IT services. If your project moves from stage to stage in your business really definitively, you may find Trello perfect for your needs.

The world of task management systems is a pretty extensive one. You could quite literally spend weeks trying out different platforms – and I do not recommend doing that to any business owner. These are two that are tried and tested to work well for many businesses. Of course, do your due diligence before diving in, but remember to keep yourself in check as it’s easy to get caught up in chasing ‘shiny things’.

Before we move on from task management, I should also mention that sometimes you don’t need one of these more complex dedicated task management tools. Sometimes, and this is true in my own team as well as many of our clients’ teams, quarterly planning on a simple Excel Spreadsheet is sufficient – and often preferable for its simplicity – to track weekly activities and get a quick, simple and clear communication of the plans for the quarter. Task management systems can be great for day-to-day task lists, but strategic planning can often be much simpler.

The second area where you can get leverage in leading and managing your team is in communication. And while this isn’t a software solution, I think it’s an important productivity tool, so I’ve included it in this list.

What I’m talking about is the Monday Morning Meeting. Every Monday our team has a meeting with all team members where we cover our business goals and personal goals and a learning from the previous week. The team fills out the goals sheet every morning (you can get the word and PDF versions emailed to you by clicking here) and then we go through each person one and a time. We start by reviewing goals from the previous week and then talking about the goals for this week.

This is not only a great way to ensure that everyone on the team is aligned with each other’s work, but it is also a great way to get your team to focus on themselves. Meaning you aren’t the heavy hand taking control of them nor being a helicopter “got-a-minute” boss, but instead your team are periodically reminding themselves of what they need to do and what they have forgotten to do.

Adding personal goals has also proven to be a great way to ensure that your team understand each other on a personal level – creating a more pleasant and actually more efficient work environment. It also helps you know when to be sensitive with your team when you know what is happening in their personal lives – and allows you to support them in every way, which will encourage your superstars to stay with you.

Time Management

Another key area where I have noticed most business owners typically struggle is managing their time. Of course, this often comes hand-in-hand with team management – when you better structure the way you communicate with your team, the more time you leverage for yourself.

However, if you run a business where you need to book appointments (that could be anything from providing services in time slots to booking in client meetings, training sessions or complimentary ‘taste testers’) then there is some technology that could help.

The first appointment-booking app I want to mention, TimeTrade, I have actually talked about before – in some detail – although that article is perhaps a bit dated now. TimeTrade has since refreshed its brand and its technology. It has a pretty wide breadth of features and customisation – but that also comes with a bit a learning curve for you and your team. If you need a robust system with more advanced functions like queue management and more intensive analytics, then you should consider TimeTrade.

However, a simpler solution for automating your calendar, which we have used recently is Calendly.

Calendly integrates with most calendar platforms – including Google, Outlook, Office 365 and iCal. It is a great way to ensure you’re never double booked, and so that you don’t have to keep aligning calendars – it can be used both internally and externally.

A really great use for this is in sales – instead of having to constantly hand your off-site telesales teams time slots that they can book appointments in for your salespeople, they can all book directly through Calendly, which is synched up to the salesperson’s calendar. That way you can also have all your telesales people working with the same time slots, as it will be updated in real time.

A major flaw our team has noticed, however, is that there’s no calendar view for Calendly. You cannot have a weekly or monthly view of your appointments or appointment slots. You can only see your events in a list. This can be a bit frustrating and difficult to make it clear what’s going on. A workaround is to use it alongside your calendar so you can view the appointments as they’re booked in – not the most convenient thing, but it works.

Calendly is free for the basic plan – so you can test whether it’s a match for you before paying.

TimeTrade has a 30-day free trial and then you can choose one of their custom plans. It is usually my recommendation that if you do need appointment booking software, that you start with Calendly – it’s easy to set up and get started. If you then feel like your needs are more complex than Calendly can handle, then you can look to switch to Time Trade.

Money Management

Finally, one of the most important areas that must be working totally correctly but would benefit from getting leverage is finances.

Invoicing can be such a headache, but we use Xero and it’s made the whole process a lot less painful. Xero can help you keep track of your inventory, payroll and invoicing in a visual way. You can also perform bank reconciliations – so you can connect to your bank for automatic updates and simple bank reconciliation.

The site has an intuitive dashboard where your cash flow is displayed using analytics-style visual aids. You can also use Xero to pay your bills and record, manage, and claim your expenses.

Xero is also available on your mobile if you’re the kind of tech-savvy business owner who likes manage things on-the-go!

It has a 30-day trial to see if it works for you, and then membership plans start from £10/month. It should be noted there are additional costs for things like extra employees on the payroll.

Another accounting software of note for your bookkeeping needs is FreeAgent. In most respects, FreeAgent and Xero are equally matched in facility and function. However, where FreeAgent falls down is in detailed reporting and more advanced functionality. Where it excels, however, is simplicity and essential functions for freelancers/contractors. If you are a growing or bigger business, Xero is probably a better option, but if you require something that’s simple and easier to use FreeAgent is probably a better choice – especially at the generally lower price point.  QuickBooks is another option to consider as well which has different tiers of complexity according to your needs.

As with the marketing tools from the first article, these software options don’t cover everything you need for every area of your business. They also may not be the perfect solution for your individual niche needs. However, these are almost certainly the best place to start and will hopefully help lead you to the tools that will streamline your activities and get you the double-digit growth that you may be leaving on the table.

Want to learn more tools and frameworks?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionWe have over 357 strategies – at our bespoke session we will learn about your business and help you discover strategies that will be suitable to help you get the leverage you need at the stage you’re at.

It’s entirely complimentary, and if ongoing coaching won’t be useful to you, then we will be the first to tell you to walk away.

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A Simple Business Toolbox Part 1: Power Up Marketing

Have you ever realised you need a tool to do some DIY and get to the hardware store only to realise that there were way more ‘kinds’ of that tool than you thought? “I need an uh… wrench?” was said as the DIY newbie stands before a 2-storey high wall of wrenches of all shapes and sizes.

Unfortunately, in business software, it can be a similar situation. The key to almost any business scaling strategy is to cultivate a focus on leverage. And we live in a world where the software and technology to get this leverage is constantly being developed.

However, most business owners are far too busy to experiment with the various productivity tools. Instead of getting leverage, they get bogged down in emerging technologies they don’t fully understand – and this can hamper rather than help their business. So, we just continue doing things the way we have always done it – because we know that works. But that also leads to stagnation.

If you are looking to scale up, then it may be necessary to get comfortable with some new technology. In an effort to help narrow the options, we have put together a collection of tools that we and/or our clients use to get leverage in various areas of business.

This week, we will explore one the main areas most of our clients need technology to help them: digital marketing.

Stay tuned for next week, where we cover productivity tools to help with time management, team leadership and finances.

As with any recommendation we make to our clients, we still do suggest you do some due diligence to find out whether the tool is useful for your business.

You can use this article as a place to start if you are looking to streamline your business activity and then, as with everything, test and measure.

Email Marketing Tools

We use Ontraport as our main emailing software. The interface can get a bit of getting used to, but it allows us to achieve high-level automation for our email marketing funnels, product dispensing, and lead generation.

Note that often this high level of automation is often not required for businesses that are seeking immediate scale – it is usually a more long-term / advanced strategy for growth.

Ontraport allows you to use a series of customisable rules and sequences to categorise your email list into specific categories. You can use this to segment your audience (just be cautious – sometimes people can end up in the wrong list when it gets too convoluted!)

There are a number of other highly customisable options in Ontraport that let you get very specific in tracking, segmenting, and contacting your database.

The cheapest membership plan with Ontraport will cost you USD79 (~£60 GBP) per month, but this only lets you host up to 1000 contacts. Most businesses, however, would probably need the “Pro” level at USD297 (~£215) per month to make real use of Ontraport.

If your company is more starting out with email marketing, and Ontraport seems a bit intimidating, then an option many of our clients make use of is MailChimp. MailChimp is much easier to set up and use – with a much more intuitive interface – compared to Ontraport. This is probably a better place to start than Ontraport – don’t worry, you can always export your database to another emailing software in the future.

While MailChimp doesn’t have the level of sophistication that Ontraport has, it still has automation features that will let you automate a significant amount of your email marketing, lead generation activities and even many of your advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Even better, you can start using MailChimp for free – which makes it perfect for the business owner that’s a little uncertain about how much they will actually understand a system like this. Try it out and then once you are growing, you can start paying to access the advanced tools and greater size of your database, as required.

Other email software that we don’t have direct experience with ourselves, but which we would recommend you consider when making a decision on mailing software would be Infusionsoft and Hubspot.

Infusionsoft is a very similar application to Ontraport, with a slightly higher price point (though it does have a stepped pricing structure, so your expanding database doesn’t instantly cost you a lot more).

HubSpot is a whole different beast, with a suite of “hubs” that serve different purposes. You could, potentially, use HubSpot as your unified system for sales and marketing with some very specific and complex tools that could really be powerful – if you have the resources of people, time and money. While all HubSpot software comes with a “free” version (which is great, as you can then try it out and see if the design is a good fit) if your systems become entrenched in HubSpot, the prices rise steeply if and when you need further features. That said, you get what you pay for, and HubSpot has been hailed as one of the leaders in the marketing automation world.

Social Media Automation

Social media automation has its pros and cons.

On the upside, automating the social media process will streamline your posting, allowing you time for different activities.

The downside of social media automation is you run the risk of sounding robotic and not actually engaging with your audience. If someone’s interested in what you have to offer and writes you a short tweet asking you for more details, that may well be an opportunity missed.

So complete automation of social media may, indeed, be a pipe dream. But the main thing you need to consider is, for your business, how important is it that you (or your employees) commit time to running, maintaining and engaging on social media? How much of your audience is actually on social media? Using numbers to understand this will be the best way to decide what level of automation you need for your business.

For those businesses who need to have a social media presence (really, all businesses should have a social media presence at least!) but don’t want to commit to spending hours trawling social media because the return isn’t high enough, there are ways to simplify, streamline and accelerate your social media using automation techniques.

One of the first tools we recommend is Buffer.

Buffer is a scheduling application that lets you put posts in a ‘queue’. You can then select the date and time that you’d like posts to go out each week – so you can just write posts and put them into the queue without having to actively schedule each and every post.

The limitation in buffer comes with the number of posts you can put in the queue. The free version of buffer only lets you put 10 posts per social media account – and limits you to one account per social media channel. This is great for most small businesses who only need the most basic automation and are willing to put in effort weekly or fortnightly.

However, if you want to reduce your effort in this respect down to monthly, you’ll probably need to start paying for the “Awesome” plan, which lets you schedule up to 200 posts on each account, and lets you add up to 12 accounts from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.

The other automation tool we would recommend is Hootsuite. It gives a minimalistic design, and many of the features you find in Buffer. Additionally, if you require a custom solution in terms of Social Media Automation, Hootsuite is willing to have a chat with you a give you a personalised quote.

What makes Hootsuite a little more exciting is that it allows you to view “streams” of information – which could include people mentioning you, the list of your most recent posts, your feet etc. This lets you engage with your audience – and engagement isn’t something that buffer helps with at all.

However, with engagement ‘automation’ you can very quickly start pouring time into using the software – which defeats the whole purpose of getting leverage. If you are doing this, make sure you are testing and measuring carefully the time expenditure against the return to ensure it makes sense for the progress of your business.

A special mention for social media automation also goes out to Statusbrew and CoSchedule – while we have not fully interrogated the usefulness of these more advanced social media automation platforms, they do look good. If you are looking to do more advanced social media activity, then these are ones to explore for potential streamlining of your activity.

Website Content Management Systems

Ideally, you should have delegated someone to manage your website. Ideally, as well, this is an internal employee, allowing for quick pivots and changes rather than a lengthy process going through an external web manager (unless you are working with a particularly efficient marketing agency – do those exist? – or if you are working with a highly flexible one-man-band freelancer).

But even with management being outsourced to your employees or a third party, it’s important to ensure your website is utilising good software to ensure changes can be made swiftly, and your website operates at peak efficiency.

In today’s web world, you won’t need to build a website from scratch – there are plenty of out of the box solutions and Content Management Systems (CMS) that will let you build a good-looking, easily adjustable website quickly.

We use WordPress.org, one of the most popular (and free) website creation platforms out there (not to be confused with WordPress.com – which hosts your site and is more limited).

WordPress has such endless possibilities, due to its open-source nature, meaning you can download themes that work out of the box (we use Divi which works fantastically for us) or developers can also create their own themes to develop bespoke solutions.

Developers also create plugins – most of which are entirely free – to give you immediate solutions to all sorts of things your site may need. Whether you want a brochure website, blog, forum, shopping cart or social platform – WordPress can usually deliver it.

One of the major downsides of WordPress is the fact that your website speed can be dramatically affected. This is due to themes and plugins adding excess download time. This can significantly affect your user experience (and increase things like “bounce rate” – where people immediately leave your website because it takes too long to load – which will then affect your search engine rankings).

There are ways around this, but generally, a WordPress site (or any website built on a visual platform) will be slightly slower than a hard-coded website.

Another visual builder that you may want to consider is Wix and the lesser known Yell website builder. Both of these platforms are extremely simple with drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing you to create beautiful websites with minimal effort. We have clients who have used these platforms really successfully to create some great websites that they can, personally, edit without too much fuss.

The only thing to be cautious of when it comes to Wix and the Yell builder is that these are not open-source – so they don’t have the possibilities of doing highly customised websites. If you need something very unusual and bespoke, then you will need to opt for a WordPress or custom-created website.

Next Time…

While this blog doesn’t cover every single tool in the digital marketing arsenal, it’s some of the ones we and our clients use most earnestly.

Next week, I will move beyond the marketing sphere and cover some software that helps with managing your team, time, and finances.

Need help choosing technology?

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Find out for yourself, through a no-obligation personal strategy session whether the way we approach things could be helping you get even more from your business.

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