Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

Do You Need a Coach?

CoachingToday, more and more people are hiring life and business coaches. Coaches can help you set goals and create a plan for you to work towards achieving them. Similarly to fitness or athletic coach, life and business coaches help you develop your strengths and work around your weaknesses while getting you to a point where you are at your best.

Almost anyone could benefit from having a coach, but people who operate their own businesses from home may reap more rewards than those who work in offices. This reality is partially due to the fact that working from home will generally make you more isolated. If having someone to bounce ideas off or brainstorm with is something that you’re missing, a coach should be something to consider.

Coaches will also hold you accountable for your actions. If you are in direct sales for example, and your goal is to sell $400 worth of product each week, your coach will help you set mini goals to accomplish what you set out to achieve. When you meet with your coach and they ask you what you have done, you need to be honest. There is no convincing yourself that failing to reach a goal is no big deal when someone else is holding you accountable.

To name just a few, coaches can also help you with time management, leadership, and customer service skills. If you tend to procrastinate or struggle with fears of success or failure, a coach can help you work through it. Some other issues that coaches can guide you through are: creating a better balance between work and life, becoming more organized, and improving your communication skills.

Good coaches will also give you truly honest feedback. They will let you know where you are lacking and give you tips on how to improve. It can be hard to hear criticism, but if it makes you a better business person in the long run, it is worth it. And if dealing with criticism is something in-and-of-itself that you struggle with, a good coach will help you with that too!

Many coaches will offer a complimentary session or trial period to help determine if your personalities mesh well or not. Different coaches have different styles, so you may want to talk to several before you choose the right one for your needs. You may also want to ask them about their accreditation and experience. If you are having specific issues with a certain aspect of your business, ask if they have experience in that area.

A coach may choose to work with their clients via email, one-on-one telephone calls, or group calls. If you feel intimidated to speak up in a group session, let your coach know. Many people however enjoy group sessions as it allows them to see what other people are going through.
Coaching rates can vary quite a bit. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50/hour to several hundred per hour for the more accredited names.

It is important to remember that a coach is not a therapist and cannot fix your problems directly. They can guide you along the way to success, but you will need to be fully committed to making a change if you want to see real results.

Self Sabotage – How to Recognize & Overcome it

Self sabotage – how to recognize and overcome itAre you your own worst enemy? As hard as it may be to realize, maybe the reason you aren't achieving the success that you want is because of self-sabotaging behaviour. The good thing about this however, is that you are the person who can fix it, the only person who can fix it!  It’s important to identify what you’re doing to yourself and then turn it around.

Playing the Waiting Game

If you find yourself saying, “I’ll do that once xyz happens” you should stop it right now. You may have always done this and not even realized it was a bad habit. “Once I lose weight I’ll go hiking.” “When I finish this client’s work I’ll write that book I've always wanted to.” “When I do x then I’ll do y.” It all makes sense but it’s just another one of putting things on the backburner indefinitely. If you don’t take action now, nothing will happen.

You Hang Around the Wrong People

Yes, even as an adult you can choose the wrong group of people to be friends with. If you often find yourself at odds with your friends’ values and life goals, or you find yourself apologizing for other people’s behaviour, then you’re likely just making excuses to avoid the inevitable conclusion. You've outgrown your friends and they are holding you back.

Saying: “I’ll never ….”

Fill in the blank with what you’ll never say, do or feel. Much of life’s success starts with your state of mind. If you don’t believe you’re business will grow or you’ll never lose that extra weight, you likely won’t. You have to envision the success you want to achieve to make it happen. If all you see is negative, that’s all you’ll get.

“I Don’t Want to Do It Alone”

Ultimately, you have to work for yourself. If you wait around for everyone to be on the same page as you, you may miss out on a great opportunity. Whether it’s starting a business, seeing a movie, or trying a new restaurant, don’t be afraid of doing anything by yourself.

Thinking You’re Not “As Smart As….”

In reality, someone out there is always going to be smarter, prettier, or better than you. By saying that you’re not something, you’re just putting yourself in a box that you will have a hard time getting out of. Forget about who you think you are, and do what it is that you want to do. There’s no need to hold yourself back worrying about perfection.

You Hide Your Feelings

When someone asks you a question about your feelings, it is important to not simply say “I’m fine” and leave it at that – especially when you are not fine. If you avoid negative feelings like this you can actually get stuck in a certain mindset. This is true whether it’s about work or something personal. You have to acknowledge things before they will change.

“My Client Needs Me”

Everyone is replaceable. If you find that you’re working with someone just because you think they need you, even when the relationship is not working for you, you’re really wasting your time. A client who is not compatible with you will drop you the moment they find someone they’re compatible with. Don’t do anyone any favours unless it is in your best interest and you really want to.

You Lack a Support System

Support can come in a variety of forms, from human support to electronic support. If you set up a good system to help you stick to your schedule (whether it’s for work or fun) and get help when you need it, you will be a lot more successful and a lot less stressed about time management.

Being self-aware enough to notice self-sabotaging behaviour will go far in helping you reduce it. Give some thought to how you’re running your life so that you can kick self-sabotaging behaviour to the curb.

Conditioning Your Prospects and Customers

Conditioning your prospects and customers

When you’re looking to market to prospects and build relationships with existing customers, it’s important to stay in touch with them as often as possible. Get them on your email lists and segment them according to where they are in the buying cycle so that they can be targeted by your messages accordingly. Consistent communication can go a long way for conditioning customers to trust you and think of your business whenever they are in need of your services.

Tell Them What to Expect

Whenever anyone buys from you or signs up for your email list send them a thank you note with an explanation of what to expect from you in the future. How often will they hear from you? What will you contact them about? Make some promises and assurances to them.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

It’s very important that you do whatever you said you were going to do. For example, if you say you will send them a newsletter every Monday, send them a newsletter every single Monday and never on any other day. If you skip or switch the days they may get confused. A lot of people will actually forget they signed up for a list and when you don’t stay active they will report you for spamming them.

Remind Them of What You Said

Periodically, be sure to remind your prospects and customers about your previous promises and assurances. This will help them remember who you are and will build trust.

Let Them Know When You Follow Through

When you do something you said you would do, tell them. “I told you I would send you an update on my xyz product and as promised, here it is.” Again, this reinforces the point that you stick to your word and can be trusted.

Ask Them for Input and Opinions

Once in a while invite your prospects and customers to submit their ideas and input. If you have a new product idea, tell them about it. Ask them what they think. Ask them what they’d pay for such a product or service. Ask them if they would like to see something from you that you do not currently offer.
Tease Them about New Products – Never pass up an opportunity to give them some hints or small bits of information on a new product, service, or event. As you hint about it, make them really want it by explaining what’s in it for them.

Thank Them for Buying

When someone buys something from you (or answers any call to action), be sure to thank them. A ‘thank you’ is always a nice thing to do, plus it gives you a little bit of extra space to provide them with more information about you and your products and/or services.

Follow Up Regularly

Even after someone has purchased and you’ve thanked them, it’s not over. It costs a lot less to create a repeat buyer than it does to turn a lead into a new buyer. On top of that, repeat buyers are more likely to make larger purchases than first time customers. Cultivate your relationship with buyers even more consistently than you do leads and prospects.

Most people need to hear things multiple times before it sinks in so stay consistent with your messages. The more you stick to your word and the more value you can provide to your audience, the more they’ll look forward to whatever you offer them.

Permission Marketing: How to Market Ethically Through Email

Permission Marketing - How to Market Ethically Through eMailMarketing in general often raises ethical questions and subjective interpretations of what is right and wrong. From online marketing to face-to-face and traditional direct mail marketing; advertisers, businesses, and marketers have always had to walk a relatively clear, well-defined line. On one side: ethical business -- opt-in lists that let people opt out just as easily, buyer-friendly sales tactics, generous return policies, and a desire to build trust. On the other: unethical business -- aggressive marketing, unfriendly tactics, and a short-term business mindset.

While marketers are often branded as the latter, most are very ethical and buyer-focused. Marketing depends on repeat business, and the most effective online businesses know that satisfied customers, clients, and participants are exactly what they need to ensure that customers return to them in the future. Returning customers spend money, are very easy to deal with, and are often the most profitable and valuable customers available. Rather than focusing on the short-term, most smart marketers are intensely focused on the long-term potential of establishing customers who will keep coming back to them.

Email marketing is one of the most popular and trusted forms of online marketing but it, too, draws the same kind of ethical questions. Spam is a major problem online and it hurts responsible email marketers more than anyone else. Just like short-term offers and unfriendly tactics hurt the rest of the marketing and direct sales world, massive spam marketing efforts have affected legitimate email marketers more than they have the spammers.

When Email Marketing Becomes Spam

The word ‘spam’ gets thrown around so often that it’s easy to lose track of what it actually means. Spam is not sending targeted messages to interested buyers, but rather it is sending too many emails to too many people who never asked to be contacted. Unfortunately, many email marketers overestimate the value of their email updates and cross over into the latter category. This short-term focus might lead to rapid sales and quick product uptake, but it leaves little in terms of long-term potential and establishing a reputable brand name.

How to Market Ethically Through Email

Provide value, don’t just offer what your business is selling. Whether you are providing tips and advice through email or merely interesting content, you have an obligation to provide value to your prospective customers before you expect it from them.  Marketing guru Seth Godin is fond of a specific term, one that he coined himself. He calls effective email marketing “permission marketing” and defines it as marketing that has the audience's permission to be received. Permission marketing is always more effective than its alternatives over time, and is a real boost for return customers, repeat clients, and long-term arrangements.

Why Permission Marketing is Best for Customers and Marketers

Marketers are human. Despite the overwhelming (and somewhat alarming) belief that marketing plans are thought out in a harsh corporate office, most marketing plans are pieced together by people that are just as susceptible to marketing as the audiences they target. Marketing is about trust, and consent is the basis of all trust.

When your email marketing becomes spam, every transaction is temporary and short-term. Customers appear, but they never stay. When your email marketing is based on permission – namely deep and value-providing permission – customers appear and keep appearing. As both a long-term marketing platform and a low-maintenance marketing method, permission email marketing provides more results, less work, and greater returns for your business than any unethical approach can provide.

There’s just something unappealing about the spam approach that cannot be rectified by any amount of other positive business practices. If you want to establish your business and your brand, focus on the long-term and use permission marketing; it will be worth it.