Perfection doesn’t work in business

A few concepts are starting to dawn on me since I’ve stopped my business.

One of them is perfection – it isn’t always possible and it certainly isn’t necessary. Believe it or not, if you constantly strive for perfection you will never get anywhere, and you will waste so much time trying to attain it.

And even if you did manage to get there, who would notice? The majority of your clients or followers wouldn’t know perfection even if it hit them in the face! The only thing that does get noticed is when something is rubbish, of poor quality and not worth its value. Then the public start to complain, and all attention is drawn towards the mediocrity of the service or product.

Perfection is something that only comes to the fore when promoted with somebody with the right callibre to do so. Even so, it is still dependent on personal choice: what some people think is perfect may not be what others think, and if perfection relies on the masses to make an impression, then sometimes you have to give in and go with the flow.

Another side of perfection comes with practice, and when analysed you find that the majority of your perfection is attained in the first 80% of completing the task. The final 20% only achieves what you think is improvement, when probably it makes very little difference at all. By learning to let go, you will create material that certainly gains the right level suitable for your public without impairing your performance.

Nevertheless, this isn’t an excuse to not strive for perfection. After all, you will always want to do the best for your clients, and offer the best solution to their problems. But remember there isn’t enough hours in the day to create total perfection in your business, so offering something that is really close is the next best thing.

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Don’t work without project security

There is nothing worse than doing a load of work and not getting paid for it.

Over a year ago I was approached by a man who wanted me to market some books he had published. This project sounded too good to be true (and in fact this was the case, as you will read later).

So I redesigned his website (with the minimum of information), set up a shopping cart and autoresponder, plus a blog and other social networking accounts. I tried so hard to promote his terrible books (learning that you need to have a good product that people actually want to be able to succeed), tried to get them redesigned so that they actually looked nice both inside and out, fielding his awful adverts in expensive magazines that were so bad they were a complete waste of money (not designed by me of course), and coping with a torrent of emails and telephone calls from this persistent and annoying person.

Of course he never paid the invoices I sent him, always coming up with excuse after excuse. I stupidly carried on working for another month, amassing more money owed, until I’d had enough. I downed tools and refused to work any more until I was paid. More excuses, and no payment. Then silence…

The next thing I had was an email from his cousin saying my client had died and since his business was illegal and he had no money, it was highly unlikely I would get my invoices paid. I actually rang up the crematorium the day of his funeral to see if he really had died and had not done a runner. I also heard that all the bailiffs for his other debts had totally stripped his flat, so there was certainly nothing left for me.

The moral? There are several. Draw up a contract at the beginning carefully laying out exactly what you are supposed to do. Calculate a price for the amount of work decided upon, and get at least 50% deposit in advance. No deposit, no work: it shows good will and commitment. Form a strategy for work to be done, including when contact is to be made (don’t tolerate constant interruptions) and confirmation of drafts before the final product is published or produced. And above all, make sure the project you undertake has a possibility of success – go with your gut feeling about quality, consistency and – above all – get a credit check done first to learn the liability of this new project.

And don’t put up with this trash for 3 months, only to land up with nothing at the end. No wonder my business has gone to the dogs…

Are you bending over backwards for your customers?

How easy are you making it for your customers to use your services? Do you go out of your way to help them?

I like the way Clark’s the shoe shops now offer a personal service to their customers: I saw a pair of purple (well, that is my colour) shoes that I liked, and asked for a size 5 and a half. The shop assistant arrived back from the stock cupboard to say they hadn’t any in that particular size.

Then she asked whether I would like to order them in. I could then try them on and decide whether I liked them. There was no obligation to buy them, and if they didn’t suit they would go back into the stock cupboard for the next customer.

Then she asked me for my mobile number so the shop could text me to say my shoes were ready to try on. I know this is a very simple procedure and extremely common-place, but I consider this to be extremely convenient, more so than finding a message on my answerphone.

It dawned on me as I walked out of the shop that I wasn’t leaving unfulfilled. Clark’s really wanted to sell me those shoes, and they were doing the utmost to relieve the inconvenience of not having any available at that time. I now look forward to my mobile phone beeping with the good news.

Anyway, back to the marketing issue: what are you doing within your business to provide similar excellent service for your customers?

How not to choose the wrong client

Don’t get seduced by a potential customer with a fat, bulging wallet. Remember the old saying: “all that glitters is not gold”.

My husband is working on a tender for a job in the Far East. Of course the businessmen concerned are rich, and want large, expensive work to be done, which adds to the attraction of the job, but they are proving to be nightmare clients.

Why so? Well, these particular kind of businesses are used to asking for things to be done immediately, which is generally accomplished for them because of their financial power. As long as the job is completed within the requested time, then they’re happy. Trouble is, to get the work done within such a time frame, it usually is rushed and of poor quality. Then another commission is made for a repair job to rectify the first one, and again it needs to be done now! So the same thing happens again.

Now if proper attention was made from the beginning to properly analyse the job needed, with appropriate materials and an adequate time span, then everything would be completed in less time and with fewer expenses. Ideas should be fully discussed, and understood, even starting as jottings on the back of an envelope right up to fully developed proposals put out to tender. If all the details are not fully explained, don’t then wonder why your workers haven’t completed your commission to your expected standards.

To have an idea and then click your fingers towards a likely candidate isn’t the answer: careful consideration and well thought out procedures put into place will save money as well as time later. Don’t wear out your task-force by expecting them to drop everything and produce at short notice. Respect your workers and how they operate, be mindful of their needs and understand why certain things are ‘not possible at the moment’.

I know this is hard, but if you find you are out of your depth, sometimes it’s better to say ‘No’ to a such a client if you want to keep your sanity (and in some cases your business) rather than to run yourself ragged trying to fulfill a job that isn’t possible. This is especially prevalent during a recession when there isn’t a lot of money around, and it is usually desperation that causes bad decisions to be made.

And especially be aware of the client hasn’t coughed up yet, in spite of all their supposed wealth! – remember to get a deposit first to prove their good intentions. If they don’t show good will through a down payment, then leave them well alone. You’ll be saving yourself from a huge amount of hassle later on.

How can my letter get read first?

This all depends on what caught your eye out of the usual selection of brown or white envelopes.

OK, to get your publication noticed above all the others, it needs to stand out. It needs to be different, crying out “I’m what you’ve been looking for!” and entice you to pull it first out of the pile.

To do this you will need: colour, quality and individuality.

What’s wrong with a different coloured envelope? A bright green or ferocious orange will certain draw attention to itself. Having a peculiar or out of the ordinary size won’t cut the chase, and it usually ends up requiring higher postage, but if you had an image or a bright flash of colour, of course reflecting your corporate branding, then this inevitably catches the reader’s eye.

But if you want to be conventional, use a high-quality envelope, beautifully written in calligraphy script using a real ink pen. This shows you care, have taken pains regarding presentation, and the reader isn’t just another one on a list.

And you don’t want your beautifully produced brochure to be overlooked just because it was sent in a rubbish package.

And sometimes you don’t even need to have an envelope! Postcards are ideal because your message is more likely to be read immediately because there is nothing to open up first.  Just think – your carefully composed and compelling headline hits the reader between the eyes even before he has thought about opening the post. The well thought-through image will capture the interest it deserves by stimulating the reader’s desire to find out more or understand its meaning.

And of course the remainder of the postcard will spread its magic powers through appropriate bullet points and a poignant and relevant call to action. After all, the main reason for the postcard would be to drive traffic to a squeeze page on your website leading to capturing potential customers’ details for more communication at a later date, all in exchange for a free special report. Or perhaps you have some other intention in mind…?

Internet spiders and how they help websites

An internet spider is a robot that crawls around the world wide web. They are also sometimes called crawlers. They use an algorithmic programme that follows links throughout the net searching for new content. This then fetches the new webpages and adds them to the search engine indexes. Google is a crawler-based search engine, as it relies on spiders to automatically create its listings.

Some spiders have even been given names, such as Mozilla for Netscape, Scooter for Alta Vista and Slurp for Hotbot. They leave evidence of their visits just like human surfers in analytics, code and stats.

Spiders enter and leave websites through links, which act as portals throughout the net. That’s why it’s important to have lots of incoming links to your website to encourage spider activity. If you provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on, they will remember to visit your site more frequently.

Spiders only see text on the webpages, therefore pictures and Flash programmes are invisible to them. You can add alt tags to your pictures which are written descriptions behind them, enabling spiders to understand your images.

Spiders are programmed to look for new content with links, tags and keywords. They particularly relish appropriately selected keywords combined with extremely relevant links and their destinations.  They don’t like hidden or invisible keywords, as they think they’re being fooled. If your site’s navigation is complete, spiders will visit every page, indexing anything that’s new. If you treat spiders well, they are more likely to return.

Spider top tips

• provide lots of new content for spiders to feed on
• remember to put alt tags behind your pictures
• gather as many relevant inbound links as you can for spiders to enter
• remember to add your tags within your blog posts
• create contextual links (linked key-phrases) for maximum effect
• make sure your links go to relevant destinations
• blogs are visited hourly by spiders, unlike websites who may not be visited for several weeks

What is Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising?

Pay per click is a form of paid for online advertising by Google. These adverts are found in the shaded area of a search engine page above the ‘organic’ or natural links (usually the first three links), and the remainder are placed in the area reserved for Sponsored Links in the right sidebar.

PPC, also known as Google Adwords, comprises a headline link (which is extremely important, as it contains keywords that are relevant to the search details), two lines for the description (carefully composed to contain highlighted relevant words plus being meaningful) followed by a URL which shows which website you are going to. The headline is the live link and should be directed to a highly relevant webpage for maximum effect.

Every time a visitor clicks on an Adwords ad, the company pays a fee ranging from 1p to £25. How much is paid depends on the value of the keywords in the headline. The more popular keywords command a higher price, and that depends on the subject and how many people are searching for that particular word.

But the more you pay doesn’t guarantee a higher position in the sidebar, this is dependent on the performance of the ad. So if you’re clever, you could have your ad with a lower paying keyword performing better above a more expensive advert. The more relevant your keyword is to the destination of the link, the better its chances in placement.

You don’t need to spend a fortune in PPC if you employ a wise Adwords adviser. As well as selecting inexpensive and highly performing keywords, you can juggle the price during a campaign, and set a ceiling per day so you don’t go over budget (once you’ve reached the maximum amount of clicks, your ad is automatically withdrawn). The more relevant you are in your adverts, particularly when directed to squeeze pages or highly suitable webpages, the more you’ll succeed in your conversions.

Top tips on PPC

  • Take time to properly research your keywords
  • Use wordtracker.com or digitalpoint.com or tools.seobook.com to find keywords
  • Services: acknowledge the problem rather then offer the solution; products: be specific with particular items rather than the general shop
  • Reverse thinking: don’t go for the most popular general keyword because it will be extremely expensive and you won’t position very high
  • Look for highly relevant selected keywords for more poignant searches that get you further to the top of the page for less money
  • It’s vital your ad is relevant to its destination, your headline keyword should totally match the webpage it is directed to
  • If necessary, create specific webpages for each advert to maximise conversions