Archive: Sep 2019
Our top tips for better strategic planning
Posted: September 26, 2019 9:20 amThe process of strategic planning is essential for any organisation, which makes this a key skill to hone. More effective strategic planning can enable better decision making and more appropriate and efficient allocation of resources, as well as more clearly defined vision and goals. If you want to improve your strategic planning approach then these are our top tips:
- Make time for it. If you’re only ever trying to fit strategic planning into the gap between every day chaos and taking time off it’s unlikely to be productive. Dedicate time and headspace to this essential process.
- Focus on the team. When you have a good team then strategic planning instantly becomes simpler. Up to 10 is the ideal number for this type of session, each person representing the key areas of the business between them. Make sure everyone is engaged with the process and ready to contribute in terms of the future of the business from their perspective.
- Avoid the hierarchy. Strategic planning sessions are always the most effective when everyone involved is able to say exactly what they think regardless of their position in the business. It may be constructive to involve an outside facilitator in the process to ensure people feel able to speak up.
- Plan your strategic planning sessions. It’s always useful to have some kind of structure to sessions that can be quite creative. The time you dedicate to strategic planning will be wasted if you don’t also come up with a plan for execution. So, when you’re scheduling the sessions make sure that you’ve defined the objectives and outcomes that they are designed to achieve before anything gets under way.
- Any plan that you design must be practical. Lofty ideals and dreamy eyed visions for the business won’t help to move it forward. What’s key when it comes to strategic planning is to create something that can actually be implemented. That will necessarily include the following:
- Creating specific goals and objectives
- Identifying next steps
- Allocating responsibility to certain people
- Setting deadlines
- Making individuals accountable
- Close one session by looking forward to the next one. When you finish a strategic planning meeting with your team make sure that you set out all the next steps right up to the point of the next planned session. When the meeting breaks up everyone should understand what happens afterwards, especially when it comes to their own responsibilities.
- Allow for adjustment. If you create a rigid plan then it will soon crumble and any momentum will be lost. Instead, opt for planning that is more resilient and fluid, and which can adapt to changes in the business, whether those come from internal or external influences.
- Be consistent. It’s most effective to have a strategic planning review every quarter at least. What results have you seen over the past three months, what (and who) has succeeded and failed and what are the consequences and rewards? Regular reassessment will allow you to keep the business on track.
How to: handling conflict at work
Posted: September 19, 2019 3:31 pmConflict situations in the workplace can be incredibly disruptive. They not only leave those involved in the dispute feeling unsettled but also everyone else too. Eventually, conflict that isn’t well handled may lead to a situation where one or other of the people involved is forced to leave, whether that’s moving to another department or quitting the business altogether. However, there are ways to handle conflict at work so that it doesn’t escalate to become uncomfortable. Start by talking Conflicts are often escalated when communication breaks down. Rumours, misinterpretation of silence or getting the wrong idea can all contribute to making a situation worse. So, the first step in handling conflict at work is to find a convenient time when you can sit down with the other person and have a conversation. Make sure you listen It can be difficult not to react to someone else, especially if what they are saying feels unfair or wrong. However, it’s very important to listen to what is being said, to let the other person finish without interrupting and to make sure you understand what their issue really is. Ask questions if you’re not clear and try to stay calm even if you feel under attack. And when it’s your turn… It’s often much more helpful to focus on specific instances rather than talking generally about behaviour. Try to steer clear of being too personal – for example, framing an issue as “when this happens” as opposed to “when you do this” can be less inflammatory. Find some common ground When you have both had the opportunity to air your issues it can be useful for someone to summarise what those are. What are the main problems when it comes to disagreement and are there any areas where you both agree? If nothing else it’s important to be able to get consensus on what the main conflict points are between you. From there you can prioritise which are the most important and particularly crucial to try and resolve. Make a plan Identify the key conflict that is causing the biggest problems and then create a plan to tackle that issue. You might want to agree steps that both can take to help to try and resolve the problem and also to schedule a date in the future to meet again to discuss progress. It’s important to try and focus on the future and how change can be facilitated, rather than on the past. Follow through on what you’ve achieved so far Once you have a plan in place it’s important to show resolve and stick to it, and for both parties to be proactive and committed to the process. When you start to see positive change, compliment and congratulate each other and look for those moments when it feels good to highlight the progress that has been made. Dealing with conflict in a professional environment can feel intimidating at first. However, all that’s really required is a practical approach as well as a willingness to evolve. Our Managing Conflict course will benefit individuals, teams and the organisation by providing delegates with the understanding and ability to manage conflict in the workplace, alternatively our Managing Difficult Staffing Situations helps delegates understand the importance of managing poor performance and helps give delegates the confidence to manage day-to-day poor performance and behavioural problems within their team.
Our top 10 skills needed for today’s marketers
Posted: September 12, 2019 2:09 pmMarketing is an exciting industry and one that is growing exponentially today. For those looking to enter, and thrive, in this burgeoning sector there are 10 essential skills to focus on.
- Communication skills. The heart of marketing is communicating a well defined message to a specific audience in the right tone. Skills that can be essential here include speaking, presentation and writing, as well as being able to work with technology and visual tools to communicate better.
- No fear of spreadsheets. Working with spreadsheets is a regular part of marketing work today so some basic skills are required. They can be used for anything, from SEO keyword planning to reviewing campaign metrics.
- Inbound marketing capability. While outbound marketing can be disruptive and is often rejected by today’s consumers, inbound marketing focuses on being informative and relevant, meeting customer need and being helpful in order to convert and nurture qualified sales leads.
- A sound understanding of data and metrics. It’s essential for marketers today to be able to integrate data into decision making. That means having a good grasp of the basics of analytics, as well as tools such as Google Analytics and Marketo. Being able to identify and understand metrics and how they relate to business KPIs and marketing campaign goals will be key.
- Understanding digital advertising. In particular, being comfortable with Google Adwords and remarketing can be a huge advantage.
- A good grasp of audience and sales. The customer for a B2B marketer will be very different to that for a B2C marketer. Plus, every organisation will have a unique audience with a distinctive set of characteristics and individual need when it comes to sales process. It’s essential to be able to recognise and focus on these individual features, rather than attempting to apply a generic approach.
- Wordsmith skills. Content marketing is a key weapon in the modern marketer’s arsenal, including understanding web publishing. However, what can really distinguish an individual marketer is the ability to also create fantastic content that drives traffic, converts leads and tells an effective story.
- Being comfortable in the digital world. For example, today’s marketers need to have a good grasp of social channels, platforms, apps and how to leverage different devices to reach consumers.
- The “why” and the “how.” For anyone looking to get further than a basic role in marketing it’s necessary to be able to apply critical thinking and problem solving to a situation. For example, understanding why a specific tool, method or platform is working and – if it isn’t – how to evolve the situation to get the necessary results.
- Ongoing learning. The digital marketing world moves on quickly and the only way to stay on top of change is with continuous learning. This could encompass anything, from lead generation and content strategy to advertising and analytics.
Our top 10 customer services tips for the year ahead
Posted: September 6, 2019 2:09 pmAs the year begins to turn towards the last quarter there’s a renewed sense of energy in terms of driving results and growth before the start of 2020. From supporting team morale to improving the bottom line, customer service is one of those functions that has serious power to shape change. So, how can you make a difference in the year ahead?
- Automation works. In any business a customer services team is often dealing with many of the same complaints on rotation. Implementing automation for the most repetitive tasks can save each individual agent up to 200 hours a year.
- Don’t just rely on your gut. Establish support metrics that matter to your business so you can measure progress and make sure you’re also able to identify the ROI the team is generating.
- See your customers as human beings not numbers. The best customer service is fuelled by an understanding of individual core needs, empathy and even knowing what negative emotions customers can experience.
- Personalisation wins. 40% of those asked in a recent survey what mattered most to them in terms of the companies they do business with identified the human element as key. Personalisation can take many forms, from using first names to ensuring that your customer service team has access to each individual customer’s history with the business.
- Listen to what your customers say. The feedback consumers provide to your customer services team can be invaluable, especially if you’re getting many of the same suggestions or requests.
- Make sure your business’ support culture is as distinctive as its USP. Your business is not the same as even the closest competitor and so you need a truly unique customer services approach. This means looking at factors such as voice and tone, the support culture in the company and the systems you have in place within the business to efficiently provide support.
- Customer services can distinguish your brand. In a market where all your competitors are offering the right products at the right price, customer service can be a key differentiating factor. Key to this is taking a proactive – not reactive – approach. This includes anticipating issues before they arise, providing customers with solutions before they complain, and recognising issues before customers even notice them.
- You’ll never completely eliminate mistakes. However, seeing issues as opportunities can turn any situation around. The key is to approach it proactively, to hear and empathise with the customer, acknowledge and apologise, find a solution and then identify how to avoid the same situation happening again.
- The customer is not always right. Most customers are reasonable and also want a positive outcome but there are a few who complain constantly, abuse your agents and repeatedly make unreasonable demands. Sometimes letting those customers go is actually better for the business.
- Find your best channels. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing – spend time identifying the channels that work for you (and those your customers are using) and direct your resources there, whether that’s providing customer services via Facebook or via email.