Wednesday, 30 October 2019

SME Tools: seven steps to the perfect business email

Natwest Contentlive recently asked me, as a business experts and SME owner, to share my tips on writing a well-considered email and why it's important the team are aware of this, too.

Read my response below:

Why is it important to get the tone of a business email right? What can go wrong if you don’t?
You can usually sum up an email with the email subject. Without this, some people may not even open it.

I am a communications and business expert and understand the importance of tone of voice. Because we write in short on text message now (I don’t) employees or businesses think it’s OK to do this in email.  It’s not I’ll tell you why. Perception is everything.  The use of good language and being polite is everything.  It helps you in life.


Top and tail your emails like you used to your letters.  I always do unless I can’t really, really get away with it.

I bet you this email will be forwarded to someone I don’t know.  Emails are sent on all the time to delegate and FYI.

Don’t use slang. It looks really poor and gives the perception of a lack of professionalism and a lack of the language you are using.

Never ever have a go at someone on email. Not emotionally. Once it’s down in writing, it’s down. 

Never have a go about someone else. By accident you will send it to the person you are having a go about – why would one do this anyway.

I rarely use exclamation marks. So, many people do. It can be totally misinterpreted and can give the impression of intolerance or anger.

Don’t use 15 words when only 8 are needed. Business professionals don’t have time to read lengthy emails.

Can you give any personal examples of what to do and what NOT to do – e.g. things you do or have seen others do?

I always reread and reread emails and constantly amend. If it’s a lengthy email that I want on the record and saved, then I will make sure that every word counts.

I never use too many words and almost write in report format. Bullets are very good to reduce misinterpretation and emotion.

I only cc in relevant people or even just reply to the one person I need to – ccing in everyone can look political but also rub others up the wrong way.

What do you do in your company and in your own practice to make sure emails are written well and strike the right tone?

redheadPR has a style guide and tone. It was set by me. I have worked corporately at the highest level so do everything in this manner. That means we write emails to the highest standard.

Always top and tail.  Dear Blah and Kindest regards Sara. Always use headings for ease, bullets, and be nice.

Are there any things people now need consider due to emails often being read on smartphones – e.g. getting the main point across right away?

We use a project management board rather than emails for our business. This keeps email traffic down. This means our clients can see information in a dashboard. Writing long emails now is a thing of the past. People don’t have time. They get the information from the board and it fits in the phone screen.

My benchmark is – work from your phone.

What factors should be considered when writing the subject line?

Put the call to action in the subject.

Don’t make it too long.

Make them want to open it.

What tips would you give for opening a business email and getting the tone right?

Make sure you have a really nice signature and your email URL is your brand. 

I hate Gmail and emails without signatures as it’s a waste of space that could be used effectively.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Understanding how leading and managing a business needs different skills and approaches

There are many differences between leading and managing a business. I’ve summarised this below and shared some of my insight into this subject matter:

How do you define the difference between leading a business and managing it?
Leading is realising the vision and taking all stakeholders with you.

It’s about knowing how to take calculated risks and then getting everyone on board to move with you.

Knowing where to invest resources for growth, whatever that growth is.

Leadership is about ensuring the company is a good business – that it’s ethical, the right people and plan are in place to take the business where it needs to go.

Managing is making sure that the resources deliver a good return on investment and realistic goals are achieved i.e. time, machinery, people etc. A lot of these resources will soon be outsourced in businesses of the future.  Best supplier management understanding will be needed to fulfil this.

Is leadership and management mutually exclusive? Should small business owner/managers attempt to combine the two or excel at just one? 
Sometimes, by the nature and size of business, the leader is the manager.  As organisations become smaller and flatter, then the leader/leadership team will have to manage.

There are, of course, pros & cons to that in itself.

But management should become easier as jobs/roles/functions are outsourced.  The outsourced function is managed in its own right.  It will be quality control/assurance that grows.

Should good leaders always surround themselves with excellent managers? 
Why would a leader surround themselves with managers who don’t perform or deliver?
Managers of the future will need to become very solution driven to ensure continued performance.

Has the culture of business today meant more leaders or managers are needed to ensure commercial success in the marketplace? 
Yes and No.

One leader can make the most commercially successful business in the market place.  But there will be smaller businesses doing many more outsourced activities so in affect more business leaders.
I’m a big advocate of technology and strongly believe that technology today enables you to do more with less people.  So yes more leaders and no.

What do you think the future of business leadership and management looks like?
I believe that businesses are going to become smaller and that they’ll be based on the theory of a shamrock organisation, which was predicted over 30 years ago.

The term was invented by Irish academic and management author/philosopher Charles Handy.

I studied management for six years, and as part of that, I read ‘The Age of Unreason’ by Charles Handy in 1990, and I’ve lived by his views the whole of my career. The book is more relevant today than it ever was. It’s hugely progressive, as was my management thinking at the time, I was only 21 when I read it.

We will not survive unless we adapt to the way the world is changing. This book is an inspiring vision of an era of new discoveries, new enlightenment and new freedoms.

Leadership will be about the disruption of where to take these smaller companies; taking the best ideas and then how to deliver it.

Managing will be different because more of resources will be outsourced, and probably across different continents

Are there any tools that leaders and managers can use to improve their skills?
Yes. Many.

I regularly help businesses declutter and process map, become objective and goal driven.

Stop wasting time on superfluous activity.

Invest in:

Self-development through
Other peers

Any other comments you would like to make?
You can learn a lot from great leaders.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

How prepared are you for Black Friday?

It falls on November 29 this year, the day after Thanksgiving in America, and has long been heralded in the US as the start of the festive shopping season – although the term ‘Black Friday’ has only been really widely used since the turn of the Millennium. 

In recent years, Black Friday has taken off this side of the pond, as a chance for retailers to make a big promotional push a month before Christmas. In 2017, online sales in the UK reached £1.4bn on Black Friday. 

And while many shops dip their prices for 24 hours to get people splashing their cash in the run-up to the festive season, numerous retailers now spread their deals over a fortnight. 

Additionally, others focus on Cyber Monday, always the first weekday after Black Friday – so this year it’s on December 2 – as a great opportunity for massive online promotion. 

How ready are you? 

With such a great chance for serious sales, you need to be properly prepared in advance to maximise this opportunity. 

That means ensuring your promotions reach your target audience, and that you’re really thinking about what you’re offering, and to whom. It’s quite important that you aim at a specific customer, rather than being too generic or trying to please everyone.

Shoppers will be writing a list before the big day to be able to search and purchase as quickly as possible. This means that you can be more specific than you would be with general seasonal sales.

If you’re running a social media campaign, you can really hone in on your target demographic. For example, choose a geographical location, age profile, specify particular interests etc.

Don’t leave planning until the last minute. Given that Black Friday really does now go on for at least a week, be ready. For example, if you’re planning on running a different deal on each day for a week, think those through thoroughly and well in advance.

Consider how you will get your message out – will it be by blog, newsletter, social media or press release? And how far in advance are you prepping the consumer?

Remember, the more places that you Black Friday deal is featured online, the better this is for your search engine optimisation (SEO). This means that your visibility on online presence is increased.

You also need to know what you expect to gain from your Black Friday push. Set targets and measure the results. It’s best to set KPI’s before as a driver to achieve your objectives. 

Particularly with social media campaigns, not least those you’re paying for, you need to be sure you’re getting results. 

Finally, with an expected upturn in sales, be sure you can handle this increased volume. Make sure your team can respond adequately to social media comments, phone calls, sales handling and website traffic.

If you’re not ready – get in touch!

Friday, 11 October 2019

Deal or no deal - I'm not worried!

Yesterday, I was asked by Swindon Advertiser for my view on potentially leaving the EU without a deal.

It may surprise you that I'm not really worried either way - no deal/deal.

Of course, it's better to be organised when making a change, but now I just want it done. People are not going to agree on the terms, ever. There are too many stakeholders.

Nothing will ever be as hard as the crash in 2008 - that was the biggest change redheadPR went through.

The best businesses survived that.

My suggestion to all is - don't stop promoting what you do, increase the amount you do and increase your potential customer base. Work smartly and provide the best service you ever had to your customers. Use technology wherever you can to streamline processes.

Apart from that - Happy Halloween!

Telling your brand story

Telling your brand story is the future of communication especially a social and person to person one.
I worked for the late dame Anita Roddick 20 years ago and she ran her business and her own brand through a story. This enabled everyone around her that listened to that story to recount it again and again. Taking story telling advice from communities all over the world that share information through story telling.
Telling your brand story is no different and to be honest whatever product and service YOU are selling as it’s your business it will reflect you.
Reflect your values and beliefs.
How would you do that visually and through word and the the way you act?
Here are my top 5 tips:
List out your values and beliefs – they could be – no compromise, a great return on investment
Then think about how you are perceived and what this looks like visually, Dynamic (sportsman) Soft and welcoming (pastel colours) these should come naturally with brand you, film/video is it a animation or someone doing something.
Then the story of what you have developed and why, why it’s different which means a certain type of customer will want it.
Think about it all then add it together and see what story you can develop.
Then it’s about you and what you do, how you act, what you wear and what you say.
Lastly be consistent, relentlessly and continually. No cutting corners and no deviation.
For the events industry specially. This will all come across when you present at an event in terms of you on the stage, the slides, what you do and how you act it out. If it’s an exhibition it’s the same. The work you do to start with to develop brand you will pay off in the end.
I always think of the Queen when I think of Brand You.