People trust content from people they trust

consumers trust people they trustRecent research shows that consumers tend to trust content from people they trust.

People they already know well. People they already trust.

As a small business you will probably be making the most of all the low cost marketing methods.  You probably have a newsletter even if it is just a roundup once a quarter or once a month.  Add to that all the other forms of marketing available today from short update comments on social media, to blogging, your website, running a webinar, having a podcast, and of course your own “TV channel” via You Tube or another video site.

It all adds up to a lot of content.  Ideas, views, opinions, advice and most frequently – answers to problems, or solutions to problems that are being experienced by your ideal clients.

Need for more proof.

This research is heartening in one way.  We are becoming more cynical.  We don’t believe people who put on a white coat and tell us they are a doctor, we are likely to want to proof that strangers who appear to have the answer really know what they are talking about.  We need to see proof of what they can do, and furthermore we need to know they can help someone like us.  We disbelieve a comment from Mr and Mrs DC London, or J.S. Tonbridge Wells – we want to know that these are real people who have been helped.

Do our friends, family members and work colleagues know best?

more people trust people they know and trsutLooking at the research another way it is information, and advice from friends, family members, peers and work colleagues that is most trusted.  The only problem with that is that in this fast-moving world our traditional network may not have the answers we are looking for, simply because they have not faced the problem we have.  We may need someone who has been through this problem and come out the other side.  Would you a

Take the problem of divorce.  You may get support from family and friends but you are likely to need up to date advice from a specialist lawyer on your particular situation.  What this research indicates is that advice from family and friends is more likely to be trusted than advice from a lawyer.

So if you are the lawyer – or the specialist of any kind – how can you extend your network so that you become known, liked and trusted?

Make your content friendly and be approachable.

I suggest you take heart from this research and make sure that your content is framed in a way that is friendly and approachable.  Being knowledgeable is only part of the reason people choose to work with a specialist.

Grow your network.

Remember people ideally want to hear from someone they already know.  The more people you know, the greater the chance that your next client will be referred to you by someone they do know.  Perfect.  The more you can focus on your ideal client who knows other ideal clients the more effective your marketing will be.

Ask for referrals

Ask your successful clients to mention you in future. A little prompt can make all the difference. If they do refer you of course, thank them or show your appreciation in a personal way. A simple thankyou may be enough, or a hand-written card, or you can reward them financially.  If they have had a transformational experience with you they may prefer something more personal than money.

Go forth and multiply

Getting your message out to new people is a question of making sure you can be seen in all the right places.  After a while they will feel as if they know you, and the barrier of you being unknown starts to break down.  Start a newsletter, or write a new one, decide to commit to a form of marketing that appeals whether it is a blog, a vlog (video blog), an audio where you talk rather than write and have fun with it.  Just remember your ideal client would rather hear what you have to say from somebody they already know, so make it easy for them to think that they do already know you!

Helen Mirren at 70 is most influential woman

Helen Mirren is voted the most influential woman

Helen Mirren the actress is 70 and has recently been voted the most influential women in a survey.

Helen Mirren is 70!  How inspirational that a woman who is in the public eye and definitely past the first flush of youth has topped the poll!   It is a wonderful rejection of the worship of thin, beautiful and dumb and means women aspire to feel more confident being themselves and expressing their views.

In an industry where youth in women is much admired and courted, she has not resorted to botox or any artificial way to look young. Do you remember there was a photo of her in a bikini at 63 and – while I am not a big fan of beefburgers – she was spotted eating one while still in her dress after winning an Oscar back in 2006.

Helen Mirren has played feisty characters (DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, for example) and has views of her own.  She recently said that she wished she had spoken out more when she was a younger woman.

She has a down to earth personality which showed to the full in Calendar Girls (the film about the WI) which was full of fun but treated the serious issue of breast cancer.  i also remember her comments after filming “The Queen” that she had not started out as a royalist at all, but came to admire everything that the queen did, and how hard she worked. She has opinions and can be generous.  What an excellent role model to inspire women of any age.

Which influential woman would you vote for?   Here is the list of who was in the Top Twenty of most influential women.

Plus my perception of why they could be in the list.

2. J K Rowling, (author of Harry Potter, single mum who wrote the first book in a coffee shop. Also writes thrillers under the pen name Robert Galbraith because she wanted the anonymity to write without being well known.  Popular novelist, and extremely well paid for the film rights of Harry Potter.

3. Michelle Obama (grows vegetables at the White House) as well as being the first black First Lady and wife of the first black President of the US.

4. Adele (Two fantastic albums then disappeared to have a baby. Now back with a third called 25 .  Her previous albums were 21 and 19.  Yes, her age when the albums were released.  Never used a surname.

5. Jessica Ennis-Hill (Brilliant Olympic athlete who came back to athletics shortly after having a baby)

6. Angelina Jolie ( Chose to have a mastectomy, adopted lots of children, refused to work for a mines charity who paid consultants – I think – £800 a day,

7. Jennifer Lawrence (star of Hunger Games about a feisty girl who becomes a leader. She refused to slim down to please the film studio.)

8 Kate Winslet (looked after Richard Branson’s mother during a fire in Necker Island and helped get her out to safety, married to Ned RocknRoll. Apparently she has very big feet which rather endeared her to me!)

9. Oprah Winfrey (honest about her own highs and lows – about weight and everything else, supportive to others, good businesswomen.  Works with Deepak Chopra on meditation CDs which are free for 30 days,)

10. Emma Thompson (Intelligent actress … went to Cambridge University ..plays a huge variety of interesting characters.)

11. Miranda Hart (wrote the TV series Miranda which essentially was a mass of jokes against herself.)

12. Kelly Holmes (Olympian, fun, enthusiastic sports commentator)

13 Hillary Clinton In my mind she brought the concept that “It takes a village to raise a child” to prominence. Stood by Bill.

14 Emma Watson (Acted in Harry Potter and seems to have a very mature attitude to her own life.)

15 Fearne Cotton (not yet on my radar .. no disrespect.)

16 Nigella Lawson (was married to John Diamond a brilliant journalist who died of cancer, ex wife of a Saatchi, her mother died of cancer, her sister died of cancer and in her cookery shows she always wants to recreate the sense of a happy family.)

17 Kelly Clarkson (Country singer .. seen her most recently in the TV series “Nashville” and therefore good news!)

18 Beyonce (hires her own helicopters, married to JZ).  I once saw a film of her as a small child wearing wellington boots winning a running race with her sister. She was very sweet.

19 Taylor Swift (good songs and wants to be a good role model for teenage girls.)

20 Mary Portas (believes in customer service, passionate about keeping the high street shops and advised UK goverment, honest about her lesbian relationship while remaining dignified. Mother died when young.  Dramatic dresser.

No supermodels.  All people who have done things – and sometimes have had problems and come through them with dignity. Most a little battle scarred and nearer 50 than 20.

Good role models indeed. 55% of the 2,000 women surveyed for Lil-Lets said that empowered celebrities helped them feel more confident about their appearance and the things they do and say.

Mary Young the UK and International Director of Marketing for Lil-lets said ” Women in the public eye can make a real difference to how others lead their lives.”  I am delighted that the company does research like this and that these women have flaws which make them seem more real and authentic.

A woman who has overcome a problem can often be more influential than one who has had it easy.



Good marketing – images and specific numbers from Ryanair

spark into marketing good practice from ryanirRyanair sent out an email which demonstrated good marketing which a small business could use themselves.  Ryanair is not usually regarded with warmth and affection.  I have often travelled with the company and because the flight has been full, and the queues long I tend to forget about the huge advantage of the low price.

Small companies often look at the marketing of large companies and think that they should have similar campaigns.  Often this is completely the wrong approach.  Not in this particular case, however.  Ryanair demonstrates two excellent marketing principles that every small business could adopt.

Eye-catching graphics

Ryanair’s graphic helps you to see at a glance the point that they are making.  They have more flights than their competitors. It uses their logo colours so reinforces the brand, and is high impact. The yellow colour is used to focus on the command “To fly with us” and is supported by the yellow graphic which is warmer and more inviting than the white.  Our eyes tend to read from left to right and start at the top left hand corner which is the path indicated here.

Specific numbers to indicate credibility

The number they chose was 191 which is extremely specific and therefore seems more credible.  It was used as a teaser in the heading of the email which aroused my curiosity.  Curiosity is a very powerful motivator and in this case encouraged me to open the email.  I wanted to know why they were talking about 191.

In fact it refers to the number of destinations Ryanair claim to fly to.  Because it is a very specific the number seems more credible.  If they had rounded the number up to 200 it would have been less believable.

Press the recorder for a 4 minute radio clip and a bit more chat.

Jean Wolfe is talking on the Biz Buzz radio show on Marlow FM.  Jean is a regular presenter of the show on Friday afternoons from 2:00 – 3:30.  Reproduced with kind permission from Marlow FM.

Young entrepreneurs impress the Dragons

Crikey Bikey on Dragons Den

Crikey Bikey on Dragons Den

Did you watch Dragon’s Den this week?

I get so tired of the applicants being made to look rather foolish by the dragons.  They are not allowed to refer to bits of paper so

often forget their numbers, or – more commonly – are torn apart by the dragons for coming up with numbers they hope will impress.

A great joy last night to see two children speaking up for themselves clearly and confidently.  Kia and Sky are 14 and 12  and had to have directors present but represented their idea with great passion and courtesy.

Luckily the dragons responded favourably to them otherwise it would have been a very negative programme.  They applauded their pitch, complimented them on their ingenuity and acknowledged their dream.    The girls didn’t get investment for “Crikey Bikey” their harness that helps an adult stay upright while helping a child ride a bike without stabilisers .  BUT  they got a chance to have their product reviewed for BikeSoup a biking website owned by Touker Suleyman one of the dragons.

The story has a happy ending the reviewer says:

I think this product is the best thing to hit the children’s market since stabilisers, and I can’t believe it was invented by a girl aged 11!

As a big family man, Bikesoup’s lead investor and Dragon’s Den star may not have invested this time, but Touker “Touker Time” Suleyman, gave this a massive thumbs up, and we do too!

So good news all round – for Sky and her sister, for Dragons’ Den for showing the kinder side of the dragons, for would-be entrepreneurs, and for learner bike riders and their parents.

To find out more about the product and the story behind it go to


Have you had an “off” day recently?

Have you had some off days recently?

Wimbledon, Ascot, Lords …. Or just a picnic with friends and family?

Summer is the time to get away from your work and have a day off.  Take time out.  A planned day off for a special event is usually something you want to do and feel entitled to do.

“Off ” days

But what if you have an “off” day which is different from a planned Day Off.  And you can’t work out the reason for it?

Two days ago I had an “off” afternoon.  I didn’t plan it. It took me a long time to realise I was doing it. It wasn’t until I was half way through a scone with cream and raspberry jam that I woke up and realised what was going on!

  • I suddenly thought I don’t want to do any work.
  • I don’t want to think.
  • I feel like a spot of shopping  – or window shopping and seeing the world going on around me.

If I had been with a friend, my partner or someone in my family I would have counted it as a Day Off.

My “off” days happen when I am on my own.  They usually come at me from nowhere and I suddenly feel as though I must go and do something and get out of the house.  I tell myself that I will “do some work” to justify it.  This usually means take my notebook and write. But I never do.

I feel a vague kind of discontent.  I don’t want to see a film or read a book – I am too jumpy for that. I don’t even want to gaze at a beautiful view.  Nor do I want to do what I normally love .. have a good conversation. I have a need to soak up a variety of quick experiences as an outsider. Being in a shops or a busy shopping centre with lots of people around seems to be the answer.

What is the point of having an “off” day?

No point at all at the time!

I have been tempted to justify it by saying it is the essential darkness before the dawn.  The drought period before a surge of creativity but in my experience that is not always the case.  I have felt more comfortable looking back afterwards and telling myself I just needed the space.

But probably a more honest approach is to simply enjoy it.  Go with the flow.  When I do that and trust that my whole life will not be spent in this phase I think it helps to get through it.

The next day after your subconscious has absorbed the experience and you have slept, it is helpful to check in and see if you feel more engaged.   Usually I find I do… but not always.

It feels like a downtime between worlds.  It is neither fully engaged relaxation, nor is it fully engaged concentration.  Both of which are life-affirming.

It is a bit like the space between the stones in a drystone wall.  No cement needed. Simply space that allows everything else to have shape.Enjoy it.  Feel no shame.

Maybe there is no point to it.  It just is.  And that is the point! After all in the old days we would have had a lot more quiet time … walking to places, working in the fields, kneading bread, churning butter, doing repetitive household tasks that did not use our whole brain.  Perhaps we still need those times in our sped-up world.

Or maybe the point is to acknowledge your own instincts and this is a perfect opportunity to practise not fighting them …

What do you think?  Do you have “off” days, too?

Biz Buzz on Marlow FM – away from the office / studio

Marlow FM 97.5 broadcast for a week from a coffee shop in the high street in Marlow.  So Biz Buzz the programme about business moved out of the studio.   It was all part of the “Love Marlow” initiative about bringing communities together.

Getting away from the studio encouraged discussion of getting away from your business.  As I had to get used to different technology and a different environment it allowed for a different way of being and thinking.

Jean Wolfe presenting the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM

Jean Wolfe presenting the Biz Buzz show on Marlow FM with guests Jan Campbell and Alice Nugent.

The studio was located in the front of Starbucks and as the weather was warm all the windows were pulled right back.  So effectively it felt as though we were on the street.  I first noticed that people were smiling at me, and then I started smiling at everyone too.  It was a wonderful sensation and I imagine because they could see I was part of a radio station they felt more relaxed than if we had crossed paths in the street.  Usually I am in the studio with a guest and the outside world is not so evident.

When I was joined by Jan Campbell and Alice Nugent they too enjoyed the fun of it.  So even while we had a good conversation we were aware of all the people going past.

Getting away in the old days meant getting away from the office.  Then it meant getting away from your laptop.  Now it means turning off the mobile phone in your pocket and forgetting about it.  Once you can get away from the insistent demands from the world, you have more chance of tuning in to you and actually improving the quality of your thinking.

So as we were “out of the office” I asked Jan and Alice about where they wanted their business to go, and how they wanted their life to be in,

say, 5 years time.  This is exactly the sort of question that can be hard to answer if you are jumping up and down and responding to clients all the time.

Alice started Hippopot is a medical herbalist and after 10 years of individual consultations has added another income stream to her business.  She is making teas for specific ailments that produce the desired result.  So her teas can help promote sleep, reduce anxiety and so on.   Unlike chinese herbs that are bitter to taste, Alice has made her teas pleasant to drink so they can be a natural part of life rather than be viewed as a medicine.  Her plan for the next 5 years is to increase the sales of her teas and so reach more people than is possible just with one to one meetings.  Basically she wants to scale her business up. See her business at Hippopot.

Jan helps business define their strategy and therefore make it more successful – depending on what success means to them.  She loves working face to face with companies but is keen to factor in her personal life as well.  Having spent many years helping corporates and not having enough time for her own life she now wants to make sure she supports her lifestyle rather than fitting her life round it.  Jan’s answer fits very much into the zeitgeist.  See Jan’s website

Do you want to work for somebody else all the hours of day and night?  That is what many corporate jobs offer.  Lots of money but no life.

Do people want to simply look after children, or at the end of the age spectrum just retire?

No most people I speak to want a business doing something they love but having time for social life and personal life… time for a lifestyle.

A “lifestyle” business has traditionally not been seen as a serious business but I feel it is the way forward for the future.

Sign in or Sign up?

sign in sign up for sites

Sign in sign up

Sign in and Sign Up can look as though they are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Sign In

In fact Sign In is the instruction found on many websites and indicates you already have an account and have registered with them.  So this is where you go back to add in your email address and password.

You could also see the expression Log In which effectively means the same thing.

I was with a client yesterday who was slightly apprehensive online and confused the two words which were very close together on the screen and hard to distinguish.  She went for Sign In and in fact meant to go forSsign up.

Sign Up

Sign up is where you arrive on a site and decide to register.  No money has to change hands but they may want to have your email address and a password you generate in order to use their service.  You could also see the word “Register” which means the same thing.

If you have to create your own password it is important to remember it.  Do you know what the most popular password was found to be? Yes, the word ” Password!”

A good password is eight letters long, and includes letters and numbers and to make it even safer an additional symbol.  This could be something like !, @ .&, $, ( + #.

If you are a paper person and trust a notebook more than the web just write it down… and keep the notebook safe.  Unless your password is very memorable the chances are you might forget it.  Some sites you may decide are less important and so you create a more generic and easy to remember password.

Any site that represents you to the world might get hacked and effectively you could have your identity threatened so on these sites you want to make sure you have a good one.  You also might want to change the passwords occasionally to prevent the danger of getting hacked which would be big problem for you and your business. You can also keep your passwords in a spreadsheet online but buried deep and probably with a different name than Passwords. Some browsers remember your passwords if you give them permission (Google Chrome for instance) but it is better to keep a record as well in case your settings are altered and the memory is lost.


Less cash more online payments and cheques

Apparently for the first time we are spending less physical cash and using “virtual” payments more.

I am surprised it has taken this long, to be honest.

Why would you want to use cash?

It helps you to budget.  When you are out of money and the wallet is empty you can’t spend any more.  Simple.  It also helps to feel “real” about your money.  If you are a kinaesthetic type of person this is probably the way you feel happiest.  I remember having a French client and we discussed the fact that money in went into his right hand jacket pocket, and if there wasn’t enough there, he wouldn’t buy.

Why should you accept online payments as a business?

Because people will buy the course or service they want because they intend it to be an investment.  It is a business purchase, very different from paying for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

Last month for the first time two of my clients made payments to me via their mobile phones.  They had set up payments before and it was easy to simply pay the same amount again.  We are all getting more confident with online payments, and smart phones and tablets have made it easier when out and about.

I was at a craft fair at the weekend and wanted to buy a lovely vase.  Luckily the potter was able to take cards so payment was easy as I had a card but not enough cash and no chequebook.

Then we moved to a stall of wooden turned product and my friend wanted to buy a bowl.  The wood turner did not have the facility to take cards, so it had to be cash or a cheque.    As it happened it was not very expensive, and the cash was found.  If it had been a lot of money, however, the purchase would not have happened.

So we talked about taking payment (well, I did!)  and discovered that the stall holder was thinking of taking up the new option from paypal. We had a big discussion with the neighbouring stall holders, too, who were also in the same situation.  Paypal makes quite a low initial charge then a percentage on top but it may well be a cheaper option than taking cards with a card reader.   However it does require customers to have a smartphone, internet access and a paypal account but all those things look increasingly likely these days.

So if you do not have the option to take easy payments from your clients, now is the time to take the step.

Money is on the way out, and of course helps your clients to budget and resist those impulses to impulse purchase!

What business owner wants that?


What can business learn from the General Election?

What can business learn from the General Election?

Despite all predictions that this would be a close run election and difficult to predict, in fact one party has done much better than the others.  So what can we learn as business owners?

People don’t do what they say they will do!

All the opinion polls got it wrong.   The only polls that were predicting a conservative win were the polls tracking the record of what people had done, rather than asking what they were planning to do.

We often hear that the foolproof way to predict what your customers will do is to ask them.  The big problem here is that you are asking questions in a vacuum.  When it comes to actually paying very often the story is very different from what people say they will do.  It can work both ways, however.  Sometimes even though you may have received negative feedback about your product or service, in fact you can find that people will buy!

My own experience was in offering product and packaging to potential customers.  I was told that nobody would ever buy it, and the colours we chose were completely unacceptable.  In fact in both cases the product was incredibly popular, and the colours chosen were adopted by the customers for their own branding!  Seriously you can’t preplan for both success or defeat.

Social media is important and may become more so.

There was a comment allegedly by Nick Clegg put on twitter by a Liberal Democrat which actually made the mainstream news.   Social media is increasingly important and is unlikely to go away in the near future.

UKIP are saying that a lot of their voters are younger and that social media was an important part of their campaign.  When you think that traditionally it was all about door to door canvassing politics is moving more towards using social media.  Even if you don’t get the “Win” the support is very important.  Staying in touch with your “supporters” with social media, email etc means that maybe the win can come later.

 Strategy is key. 

Patching things up and moving forward with a quick alternative is not the answer.

Labour’s losses both in Scotland and in England and Wales are being attributed to the loss of direction.  Traditional Labour voters were not sure what Labour stood for, and Labour was not appealing to new voters.  It is important to get the strategic vision right.


You are only as strong as the people who believe in you.

Your voters, your customers are what you are all about.  David Cameron has used the word Serve in relation to becoming Prime Minister again.


It is tough when things don’t go right.

The people who have failed to get re-elected : Nigel Farage, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Balls, for example have by and large been dignified in defeat.  It is extra tough in politics when your failure is so public and quite so brutal.  In business you can spring back after failure – even bankruptcy.  But it is always tough.