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“When having a law degree is of no help at all” – Stumped by the self-service check-outs.

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Today was a firm reminder about just how bad I am with technology (except for the iPhone and iPad, which I managed to work out quite easily)

I needed to get some water and biscuits on my way in to the office, and Tesco Express was the easiest place to go as I was in a rush.

I was already struggling carrying my laptop bag, a bag with all the things that I can’t fit in my laptop bag, and my handbag, so I went around the shop balancing all my bags along with the three items I wanted to buy.

I got to the till and there wasn’t a person in sight.

I usually refuse to use the self serve checkouts -they’re way too scary – but as no one appeared at the tills for a few minutes I gave up waiting and thought I’d have a go.

I found the bar code and scanned the first item – 6 bottles of water.

“Yes, I can do this,” I thought ” Simple”

They only had small carrier bags so I just about fitted the water in and thought

“I’ll put the other items in my laptop bag”

So, I scanned the biscuits and put them in my laptop bag.

“This isn’t as scary as I thought”

Then I tried to scan the third item – and scanned -and scanned.

It wouldn’t go through.

A voice behind me said “don’t put it in your bag”

Then I realised that I was supposed to keep the items on the bag shelf, not put them away in my bag on the floor.

I took the biscuits out of my bag and put them back on the bag shelf next to the checkout, looked behind me and saw this huge queue!

There had been no one when I started!

By this time I was feeling really stupid.

I quickly scanned the screen to work out how to pay, whilst putting my items back in my bag at my feet.

It wouldn’t work!

Then I realised that the items needed to stay on the checkout still, so out of my bag they came for the second time, back on the bag packing area.

Now I was feeling really really stupid.

And there were still people queuing behind me. I didn’t dare look at their faces.

I managed to put my money in, get the change, pack the items into my bag for the THIRD time, gather all my other bags from the floor, pack my purse away and scurry red-faced from the shop.

I won’t be trying that again in a hurry.

A very good reason to buy from local independents, with their personal service – I don’t embarrass myself quite so much.

A dream achieved?

I’ve just come back from a bike ride – there is no better feeling than cycling down a quiet country lane with a warm breeze and a blue sky.

It occurred to me that I have achieved what I set out to do.

We are not quite there financially, but we are getting closer to our goal.

But in terms of lifestyle, this was all I wanted.

This freedom.

The freedom to go for a bike ride in the middle of the afternoon.

The freedom to enjoy the warm breeze with hardly a care in the world.

To enjoy the breeze without that knot of tension inside me, that worry about the huge deals, that followed me for years and years.

We still work hard – most days I am so busy that I wouldn’t take time out for a bike ride, but I tend to work best in the evening, and had a very hot day in Norwich, so it was great to cool down and have a few hours break with my son.

Six years ago, in the school summer holidays, I dropped him off with his grandmother on the South Downs in Sussex and wished with all my heart that I didn’t have to go back to the office and face all the staff problems, the big deals, the constant stress as a partner in a West End firm of lawyers.

I wished with all my heart that I could sit on a hill with my son and enjoy the sunshine.

The law had been great for 16 years – I had achieved partnership at a time when women were still struggling to the top, I had travelled to the Far East with my clients, I had dealt with huge multi-million pound deals, but I had got to the point where I wanted a different life.

A life where I wasn’t worrying all the time, with a knot in my stomach.

A life where I could choose to sit on a hill with my son in the middle of the day.

At the time I couldn’t conceive of how I would achieve that – I couldn’t imagine how I could manage without my lawyer’s salary.

But as soon as you know that you want something, you find a way to get it, and with a few calculations, and a week sitting on a Norfolk beach just thinking and thinking, my dream suddenly didn’t seem so unattainable.

And here I am, six years later, out on a bike ride in the middle of the afternoon with my son – a dream come true.

I Have Been a Little Remiss

It’s been a while since my last blog post – there has been so much going on in the last four months.

I’m always kicking myself  for not getting enough done, but  then I stop and think “It’s actually amazing how much we DO get done”.

My husband and I own two businesses – The Best of Norwich (promoting recommended businesses) and Bright Yellow Marketing (social media training) and in the last four months we have:

Run social media training – this has included the creation of two bespoke courses – one for a big local charity and one for PR professionals (managing your metrics), open workshops, one to one training and free talks on social media for local businesses – one of which took place  in the Mad Hatter’s Tea Shop!

Run bestofnorwich networking events, Norfolk Netwalking events and co-run Coffee at Caistor (a ladies networking group)

Partnered in running Norwich’s first Social Media Week – we were invited by Julie Bishop and Bridget Greenwood  to get involved as one of four social media businesses. This involved meetings, photoshoots, Google Hangouts, setting up of social media platforms, writing blogs and delivering workshops – and we had great fun running a Quiz Night.

Social Media Week overlapped with our huge national bestof campaignthe 14 Days of Love, where we ask people to “show some love” for local businesses by writing testimonials for them. I found myself at one point dressed in a huge red heart as we visited clients in Norwich to hand out testimonial cards!

In the weeks leading up to Social Media Week Norwich and thebestof 14 Days of Love campaign we found ourselves on video shoots, doing radio interviews, doing photoshoots, doing more videos,  blogging, posting on social media, visiting clients to make sure they had enough testimonial cards, picking up completed cards and adding their testimonials to our bestofnorwich website, and organising the events.

The 14 Days of Love Campaign hashtag resulted in 60, 810 twitter impressions in Norwich  just 7 days and 1,930,155 nationally. Norwich targeted You Tube ads run by OPL Productions resulted in 18,573 impressions (here’s their video of Juliette Love and Mattressman). Nationally, thebestof had 1,029,748 page views over the 13 days.

Once this was all over we then had a netwalk to organise – business networking with a difference – start at a pub, go for a walk, and then back to the pub for food. This walk was extremely popular and brought in some well-needed extra customers for the Ribs of Beef pub. This was followed the next month by a tour of the Epic Studios.

Then it was preparation for the All About Business Exhibition which took place last week (26th April)

This was the 5th exhibition organised by All About Business – and we only ever intended to run one!

The first one came about in the middle of the recession when events were being cancelled or postponed.

We teamed up with Martin Lake of Copyprint, who is active in the local FSB group, and Richard Kerrison, who now runs PIN.

Having been told by a (now defunct) business support organisation “We don’t have any money, and there’s no way you’ll do it” we funded the first exhibition from our private money – and here we are 3 years later, with 5 exhibitions under our belt.

At the same time as doing all of this, I have set up autoresponders on my crm, which will save me loads of time in following up enquiries, kept up to date with blogs and the ever changing world of social media and have spent time meeting with some of my bestofnorwich clients to spend an hour or so brainstorming with them, and helping them with their marketing.

I have also taken on new clients to run their twitter accounts for them.

One of these clients is an author, and we can track book sales against tweets, so it’s giving me a great example to use of how twitter can work very successfully.

We don’t want to become huge – we want to bring in enough money for a comfortable lifestyle, provide a quality service and to enjoy what we do.

At the moment we outsource certain elements of admin, use a telephone answering company, and then use technology to help with the rest.

For example, after the exhibition I scanned all the new business cards using my iphone Shoeboxed app and within 24 hours I had a spreadsheet containing all the data of my new contacts, which I could then import into my crm.

We use various e-mail platforms to promote our clients and events and to keep in touch with people.

We partner with other businesses to run events such as the ladies networking group, (Coffee at Caistor) the All About Business exhibitions and Social Media Week.

We use dropbox to share documents with our partners, I use Evernote to file away useful blogs and information, Zite to read different articles and then tweet them, buffer to spread out my tweets, partnered with Social Bro to find the best times to tweet, Hootsuite to schedule tweets and manage numerous social media accounts and I dabble with Sprout Social, Crowdbooster and any other shiny new  tools that I can’t resist playing with. I used to use Tweetdeck all the time but hate the new layout and have stopped using it.

My only problem is that in being involved with so many things, people don’t see our core business, thebestofnorwich.

We hand pick people to feature on thebestofnorwich and turn people down if they are too close geographically to an existing client, if we have more than  5 people in their category already, or if we feel that we can’t recommend them.  Many of the things that we have done in the past 4 months have been done to promote our clients.

I am currently looking for 25 more businesses to feature on thebestofnorwich, so if you know any business owner who is passionate about what they do and runs a great local business, please put them in touch.

We do business the nice way and meet people for a coffee and a chat to see whether they are right for the bestof and whether thebestof is right for them.

So, do you fancy a coffee?

Sara Greenfield

The Best of Norwich

Bright Yellow Marketing

01603 605530

norwich@thebestof.co.uk

How an African Chief Uses Twitter to Maintain Order In His Kenyan Village

I love the randomness of  Twitter – how it reaches across the globe and can bring communities together.

This was a great article that I found on Mashable – @Chiefkariuki uses tweets to defeat thieves, locate missing children and farm animals and to organise village logistics.

In one example criminals were raiding a school teacher’s home at 4am. After receiving a phone call, Kariuki sent a tweet to village residents, who gathered outside and scared the robbers away.

Although the Chief only has 400 followers, his messages are able to reach thousands of the area’s 28,000 residents who access his tweets via forwarded text messages on a third party mobile application that works without a smartphone.

This makes complete sense, as Twitter started off based on sms messages – hence the 140 character limit.

The Chief says his Twitter activity has helped decrease the crime rate to virtually nil in recent weeks.

What stories have you found that have taken your fancy?

Sara

Sara Greenfield

Bright Yellow Marketing

sparkle@brightyellowmarketing.com

How Do You Know Who To Trust For Social Media Advice?

Social Media is great fun, but if you are using it for business, there are just a few tips that can make your life so much easier and help you focus on your business objective.

There is plenty of free advice on the internet. Take a look at Mashable, Social Media Examiner, Mari Smith as just a few examples.

There are also plenty of local people who can give one to one training, workshops, or even run your accounts for you. (I hold my hand up here to say that I am one of them)

If you don’t have the time to read up on social media, and need someone to help you, how do you know who to trust?

Here are a few tips:

 
1. Google their name and see what comes up.

 
2. If they have a LinkedIn profile:

a.  Next to  “websites” does it say “company website” (bad) or does it include keywords in their website description, such as “social media training” (good)

b. How many recommendations do they have?

c. How many connections do they have?

d. Do they have a Company LinkedIn page?
3. If they are on Twitter:

a  How many followers do they have? (but bear in mind that fewer quality followers is better than thousands of duff followers)

b. How often do they tweet?

c. Is there much interaction with other people?

d. Are they tweeting unique content or are they just regurgitating other articles or, worse, sending out constant sales tweets.
4. Facebook

a. Do they have a Business Page? 

If they are using their business name in their personal profile then avoid them like the plague – they are at risk of being kicked out of facebook.

(How do you tell? If you see a business name, and it says “add friend” or “friend” then they are wrongly using a personal profile as a business) 
b. How many fans do they have?

c. How often do they post?

d. Is it original content or just recycled articles from other people.

e. Do they have people liking or commenting on their posts.

 
5. Are they on Google Plus?

a. Do they have a Google Plus business page?

b. Have they filled out the “About Me” section

6. Klout

Although klout can be manipulated and there is some discussion about how good an indication it really is, it’s still worth taking a look at their klout score – 25 is average, so you are looking for a score above this. A score of 35 upwards is good.

There are lots of other things to look for, but these are some tips to get you going.

At the end of the day you are looking for someone who is experienced in the field, who has built up a credible following of their own, and who is getting a lot of interaction with other people.

Although social media is always best done by you personally,  there are occasions when people need someone else to run their account for them. Some people find it hard to chat (and social media is all about being social), some just don’t have the time.

If you do use someone to run your accounts for you, then ask to see an account that they are already running.

I have seen people use their clients accounts to promote themselves, I have seen people tweet the same out of date content constantly and I have seen people send out irrelevant tweets.

Also, make sure that you discuss your business objectives with them and work out your target market. There are clever ways to use social media to target potential customers rather than a scatter- gun approach. Don’t spend money unless you know exactly who you want to target and what you want to achieve.

If someone offers to find you followers, specify the type of followers you want – you need people who are in your target audience. It is no use paying someone to get you 100 followers if they are all in Norwich, Virginia and your target market is Norwich UK!

Sara Greenfield

Bright Yellow Marketing – Social Media Training and Management

@sarajgreenfield

LinkedIn

Facebook

Ever tried to comment on your Facebook Business Page as you, and it keeps showing up as the business?

When you comment on your business page it automatically makes the comment in the business name.

Just occasionally you may want to comment in a personal capacity – for example, we co-run a facebook page for Social Media Week Norwich and I wanted to comment as “Sara” rather than as “Social Media Week Norwich”.

Here’s a link to a quick video showing you what to do: http://youtu.be/VHwZhVQdu8E

 

 

 

 

Why am I following the Muppets?

I always hated the Muppets when I was younger. Don’t know why – I just did.

So why am I following them now?

Well, they have been very clever in their use of Google Plus.

“Google Plus? What’s that?” you might ask.

Google Plus is the latest social media platform – and they have just introduced Google Plus Pages for Business.

Before you jump in and create a page, there are a few things to bear in mind – at the moment they only allow one person to control the page – although this is soon to change. We always advise businesses to make sure that more than one person can access all your social media, in case that member of staff leaves.

As with facebook, you cannot run a competition directly on your Google Plus page.

Creating a business page is very easy, although it is not so easy to then work out how to edit the page! I still have to think about it for a few minutes.

Here are my Google Plus pages – you are welcome to circle me – I will circle you back.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/105352944159157409390/posts

https://plus.google.com/u/0/110450864153330834052/posts

So what did the Muppets do that was so clever? They were one of the first to ride the wave of a new social media platform. They have great visuals, and humour – who would have thought that you could have a “hangout” with Miss Piggy?

Take a look at their Google Plus page here.

Just don’t play the theme tune videos when your child is in the room – they will drive you nuts singing it around the house for the rest of the evening! Or is that just me?

Today I got a bill paid

As  owners of thebestofnorwich we luckily don’t have too many problems with late payment, as most of our clients pay by direct debit.

There are, however, occasions when we rely on people to pay by cheque.

One of those payments has been outstanding for a long time.

Now, we pick and choose our clients, and tend to be very fond of them, so until now, there have been gentle reminders and the odd phone call. I know that this particular client is an exceptionally busy family run business and they are usually run off their feet.

I might be naive, but I choose to be a “nice” business person – so, instead of sending a threatening letter when my patience really had worn out, I came up with a more creative solution.

I sent a front sheet saying in red capitals

“ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS….”

Underneath, I attached a letter saying

“Please Please pay my invoices”

I then went on to say in effect that we were both family run businesses and that we have given them a lot of leeway because we like and trust them. We want to continue being able to recommend them so please can they pay the invoices.

Result?

Payment the same day, an apology, and an offer to set up a direct debit to avoid future problems!

So, one happy customer retained, and no more bills for me to chase.

It does sometimes pay to be nice.

More Examples of Social Media in Action

Everyone is being encouraged to use social media  – but without examples of how it works in real life for everyday businesses, it is hard for some businesses to understand whether it is worth putting in the time. 

Last week we had some great examples of how social media fits in with all our business activities.

Chris and I own thebestofnorwich – promoting recommended local businesses. We only take on a few of each type of business, and only people who we like and feel that we can recommend. Although a lot of what we do revolves around the website (with a new website coming shortly) we also do a lot of networking and generally look out for opportunities for our clients.

Social media is perfect for this – and it’s not just about facebook and twitter.

Just this week someone sent me a message on LinkedIn asking me if I could recommend a business – I put them in touch with one of my clients and received this tweet from them:

“Hi Sara thanks for the linked in recommendation recently that has landed me another client :)”

Now, not only did one of my bestofnorwich clients benefit from my LinkedIn connections, everyone could see his tweet thanking us for getting him more business – a win win for us, our client, and the person who asked us for help in the first place.

I had also sent out some LinkedIn invitations for some social media training that we were running – the LinkedIn invites  prompted almost as many bookings as one of our e-mails. I try not to use the LinkedIn invites too often, though, as they could annoy people if over used.

In the same week another client sent us this tweet:

“@bestofnorwich Had someone phone 2day re house history research after seeing one of your tweets So well done you two.”

This came from Gill Blanchard, who owns a historical research business, Past Search.

 I had written a blog on our bestofnorwich website about how businesses can use historical research about their premises to provide a different marketing angle.  Although I wrote the blog a few months ago, I tweeted it from our website the other day just in case people had missed it – and, as you can see – it worked.

I think the main message from this is that social media works for us (and our bestofnorwich clients) because we combine all the social media channels with our website, and because we have worked at building up a targeted following, whether it is LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers or Facebook fans.

Do you have any stories of social media working for you?

Twitter in action at the Farmer’s Market

I had a wonderful day on Saturday – I had gone into Norwich for the launch of my new client – The Orange Grove Clinic – a natural health clinic near the Maddermarket Theatre.

As I can’t help juggling tasks, I’d decided to drop off a cheque to someone, return a cd to another client and drop into another client (Kumon Norwich Study Centre) to hand them their bestofnorwich certificate and take some photos of them.

All this on my way to the launch.

I got the bus in to save finding parking spaces and on the way got engrossed in twitter.

I happened to see a tweet about the Norwich Farmer’s Market taking place at the Forum, so, of course, on my way to my various errands, I took a detour to  the Farmer’s Market – and ended up with a jar of pickled pears, 2 scones, 2 chocolate brownies, and a pork pie  – and spent the whole day trying not to squash them.

I forgot I was on my way to see clients and therefore should have been trying to look a little bit professional. Add to that my disastrous attempts to go “smart casual”  – it was Saturday after all – a combination of squashed brownies in my bag and “scruffy casual” probably didn’t do my credibility as a smart business woman too much good, but I still had a great day.

So where does twitter come into all this, other than my detour to the market?

Well,  as soon as I saw a stand with local vinegar products, I  vaguely recalled reading a tweet about how raspberry vinegar can be good for sore throats.  I don’t remember consciously reading this tweet – I must have skimmed over it when looking at my twitter stream.

This was enough to draw me to their stand – and that’s how I ended up with their business card in my hand and a jar of pickled pears in my bag.

This happened with many of the stalls – I had seen them on twitter and immediately was drawn to their stand, not to mention saying hello to the wonderful Sarah Pettigrew of Brays Cottage (@Brays_Cottage) – one of the first people I heard about and followed when I started using twitter a few years ago.

And the launch of the Orange Grove Clinic? When I eventually got there, (after another detour to explore the source of some music emanating from a church) I got there with plenty of  time for the opening speeches and then ended up trying to take part in an NLP  demonstration with a champagne glass clutched in one hand. Thank goodness they didn’t spot the brownies!

The Clinic, by the way, is a wonderful place, offering all sorts of treatments, yoga and personal development classes – well worth a visit.

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