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Scottish Women in Business | Events | Special Independence Referendum Debate event

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Scottish Women in Business | Events | Special Independence Referendum Debate event

McCance Building, University of Strathclyde

Special Independence Referendum Debate event

McCance Building, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 16 Richmond Street, Glasgow G1 1XQ

April 7, 6:00pm-9:00pm

The debate will be chaired by well-known TV presenter, Sally Magnusson.

With ballots before and after the debate, this will be a unique opportunity to directly gauge the views of an important voting audience.

The Panel

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Deputy First Minister Scottish National Party

Annabel Goldie MSP, Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party

Johann Lamont MSP, Leader of Scottish Labour Party

Ruth Wishart Journalist, supporter of the Yes Scotland Campaign

 

My Pinkie Promise are absolutely thrilled to be able to support & promote this event. There will be few opportunities for women in business to attend an event to hear a facilitated debate & be able to question Scotland’s leading female politicians in the run up to September 18th, so please register for the event and get involved.

We very often hear that as business owners and professionals, that we’d like more information on the referendum, so take this opportunity to find the answers to your burning questions – don’t wait for others to make your mind up for you!

If you are a member of Women Ahead, the Dundee & Angus businesswomen’s group, they are laying on free transport, so its well worth getting together and going through to Glasgow.

See you there!

Alison

 

Social Media for Business – Workshops

The world of social media marketing for businesses is such a huge one and as I prepare to deliver the first of a two-part session for local businesswomen’s group Women Ahead in Dundee & Angus, I’m realising that although I would admit to being a fairly comfortable user of social media, I sometimes feel that I’m barely scratching the surface!?????????????????????

From #hashtags and keywords, to engaging content, measurement and using the best platform for the right business, it’s a pretty complex landscape.

So, tomorrow we will be covering the basics of the different platforms, who is the audience on the main ones and what are the features that you can use to better market your business to the right audiences for you.

I can’t stress enough the famous line ‘If you fail to PLAN, you plan to FAIL’ (or words to that effect!), so we will be looking at:

  • Understand WHAT you are trying to do
  • Be clear on WHO you are aiming to reach
  • Know (and test!) WHERE you will find them
  • Have a social media plan
  • Make sure you are consistently ENGAGING
  • Be clear on WHEN & HOW you will post
  • Share a mixture of updates (text, photos, articles, interesting news etc)

Make sure your updates are during the times that your audience will see them – no point in tweeting during the night if all of your UK followers are asleep!

Social media concept in word tag cloudKeep an eye on your analytics and above all else:

RESPOND QUICKLY WHEN SOMEONE REPLIES OR CONTACTS YOU – WITHIN THE HOUR IF POSSIBLE, BUT CERTAINLY WITHIN 24 HOURS – IF YOU SNOOZE YOU LOSE!

 

Find us on Facebook, follow my ramblings on Twitter, and keep an eye on my Pinterest boards – loads to interact with…I’d love to hear from you!

AlisonAlison Henderson

Women, breadwinners and ‘modern’ families

Hi…my name is Alison Henderson and I’ve got a confession – its been too long since my last blog post! When I started my blog, I was always very clear that I would post as & when I could and not force myself into a rigid schedule of publishing something just for the sake of it. But I wonder if that was simply giving myself an opt-out clause straight away! No matter…what’s important to me in my ramblings is having the luxury of an hour or so to put words ‘to paper’ on a subject which grabs my attention. So here goes…

 

modern families

Yesterday a report was published which found that Women are the main breadwinner in nearly a third of Scottish homes representing the highest proportion in the UK

I was asked to take part in a BBC Radio discussion in my role with the Association of Scottish Businesswomen – as if that alone isn’t scary enough, I then had to try to sound sensible enough to articulate why that might be!

The other people taking part in the discussion were stay-at home Dads and to be honest, I don’t really think that the opposite side of the coin in this debate is about stay-at home parents – does this mean that one third of families ‘allow’ women to earn the higher salary because the man has opted to stay at home and raise the children – I don’t think so.

I believe that there are several reasons for the ‘change in dynamic’, if you can call it that:

  • women no longer have to leave paid employment when they get married (I was stunned when I learned that this was commonplace in the UK not that long before I started my working life in (whispers) 1986!
  • more women than ever before are successfully going through further education, thereby earning themselves good jobs, and amazing career opportunities
  • women can now see many strong role models in the modern world – successful women who are senior managers, running businesses, holding top roles in education & government
  • women are waiting longer to have families, meaning they have reached a certain level in their careers before having children, meaning they return/remain at that same level
  • and of course its becoming more accepted for Dads to share in the stay-at-home role while the Mum goes back to work
  • there is also the effect of a shift in the economic sectors in the UK,  where perhaps the more traditional male jobs in our manufacturing sectors have been massively eroded.

I’m no economist or expert in this, its just a gut reaction from me which says that this is a slow and steady progression for women in the workplace: beginning to gain ground in career & business opportunities where we’re not vilified for wanting to have a balance of work & family life, where we work hard and show our children that a modern world has room for all sorts of families – Mums who work, Dads who share in bringing up the children – surely that makes for a better world all round?

But, the but in all this (there’s always that blast of cold water isn’t there!) has to be that there are very likely to be many more single parent families in this study – I don’t know why that’s not been explored more – women as the sole earner and parent in a family.

And also from those Dads who were in the discussion yesterday: a very real downside to being the stay-at-home parent…feeling excluded from the support networks that are there for Mums who look after the children. Mums at the school gates, in the parks and the toddler groups who don’t really welcome the Dads into their ranks and the distinct lack of groups for the men – how many Dads and Baby magazines or groups have you ever seen advertised? That made me feel sad – as a modern society how can we have that balance if we don’t provide the right support to let the Mums back to work and make the Dads feel they can actually leave the house with their children and be immensely proud of their role as stay-at-home carer? The societal guilt that a working mother feels is often bad enough, without the added pressure of thinking that her partner is also finding it tough as a consequence of their situation.

Well its a debate that for me swings my emotions between feeling pride that women are doing well, and families are achieving balance, to sadness that as a modern society we can’t applaud both parents for doing what comes naturally!

Dundee kettle-bilers

Dundee kettle-bilers

But I’ve got one thing to leave you with – Dundee is going through an amazing resurgence in popularity at the moment and I’m very proud to be born & bred here. Anyone who’s ever visited Verdant Works, our Jute Museum here, will be able to tell you all about Dundee’s 19th & 20th century ‘kettle-bilers’. Women workers were the backbone of Dundee’s mills, meaning their men stayed at home to look after the children, cook the meals and boil the kettles! So perhaps things haven’t really changed all that much after all!

Have a great day,

Alison :)

What makes a successful event?

I’ve been doing a review of a week-long exhibition that I ran recently where we had 25 businesses involved in promoting their products & services to the public and it has made me think about the whole process of running an event.

I have a very clear strategy in my own head for how I believe a successful event is put together – to be honest it runs exactly on the same principles as any other promotional activity.

When you put together an event, you have to be very careful to consider all of the elements of what you are running – what equipment do you require, what is your programme to be, who is the intended audience, what is a successful outcome. You need to run an event with the same principles in mind as any project – you should break it down into the various key deliverables and then create a time plan, with actions, owners, deadlines etc.

You have various stakeholders to consider – the person who has instructed you to run the event, the attendees, the suppliers & staff at the venue itself, any speakers you may have – all of these people will need to have their needs met in different ways.

And when you are thinking of marketing the event, then think of the AIDA process: Attention – Interest – Desire – Action. You need to create a hook, a real buzz to begin the process of showing people why they have to attend your event. You have to know how & when to communicate with the prospective attendees to attract their attention, the desire to visit. You then need to continue to promote the event and add extras to convince them that they need to take action and come along.

And of course, you have to be clear from the beginning about how you will measure the success of the event. Is it number of attendees, is it profit, is it satisfaction of attendees, is it media coverage? There could be a combination of these factors, but you must be clear what you will measure success on, otherwise you can’t gauge Return On Investment. The investment may not be cash, it may be time, it may be a different resource – as long as you know what you are putting in, you can tell whether you have reached the outcome that you wanted.

Events are an exciting thing to be involved in, I love the buzz that I get from being creative, putting on a great programme and delivering an excellent event which is seamless to the outside world.

I don’t think I’ve ever done an event where something didn’t go wrong – the main thing is not to be fazed by that, but to think on your feet, find a solution to whatever has happened – and keep it away from your stakeholders during the event. Afterwards, it can be good to share what happened, because the chances are they may have realised something was different but not known why – so show them that you had the ability to be aware of what was going on, and took action & ownership to solve the problem before it impacted the event itself – this is a great ability to have – not everyone can do it.

Events are fun, always throw up something unexpected and you have a great sense of achievement when they actually take place. There is a lot of work involved in putting together an event, and when people enjoy it, its a brilliant feeling.

Alison

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Why I’m happy working on a Sunday!

Afternoon everyone, I’m writing this having enjoyed my extra hour this morning reading the Sunday papers and indulging in a few cups of tea!

Because I run my own business, I’m always juggling my work time and prioritising what to do next.

I am Chair of the Dundee & Angus businesswomen’s network group: Women Ahead and today am fitting in some work for the group which I never get a chance to do during the week.

Our latest event led to me being seated beside one of the leading women in UK business: Lady Susan Rice who is Managing Director of Lloyds Banking Group Scotland.  She gave a Masterclass presentation to a joint lunch that we ran with the Chamber of Commerce and was an inspiring speaker. We heard about her career path and the qualities she believed had helped her to her success in business. I was inspired by her speech and a couple of the things which struck very true for me were:

  • in business, HOW we get there is as important as the end goal
  • we need to be ADAPTABLE, THINK FOR OURSELVES & ENGAGE with others
  • we need to be INNOVATIVE & ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
  • we need to SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES & be QUICK where possible

So here I am, at my desk on a Sunday, updating the Women Ahead members’ database, sending some thank you emails to attendees and updating the website with new events. Being Chair of the group has expanded my own network, let me help the group by adding my event management skills to the mix of committee members and I willingly give my own time to forming a great programme of events for the members. We also raise money each year for a chosen charity, and this year we are supporting Breast Cancer Care.  In August, we held a Strawberry Tea where we raised £1500 PLUS Gift Aid, and we are in the middle of planning our Awards Event where we will add to the charity kitty by holding a raffle & auction.

Anyway, enough from me – I only came onto my blog to accept a comment on a previous post! I think that what is important in this tale is that you never know how you will get your next shot of inspiration when you run a small business, especially if you are working on your own. Its vital to attend events and network, you never know who you will meet or what you will pick up that will drive your business forward.

I hope you have a great Halloween,

Alison x

Marketing a small business in 2011 – ten tips

I am going through the process of updating my own marketing plan (its ALWAYS much easier to be objective and create marketing strategies for other people!) and it has made me think about & question some of the things which I do routinely to promote my business.

So I’m going to put these down into a list – its by no means a top 10, must do action for every business, but I hope that reading this will give food for thought and encourage you do make conscious decisions to try something new to add to what you do already.

The important thing is to make sure you are consistent, use a few of these things together to give an integrated marketing approach and plan ahead to target the right audiences.

2011 is coming up on us very fast and November is traditionally a busy month in business – do you have an eye on what will happen to your revenue in the New Year? Now is the time to lay those foundations and get your marketing plan written now so that you can be ahead of your competition and hit the ground running after the festive period.

  1. IDENTIFY your target audiences
  2. UNDERSTAND what messages will work most effectively for them
  3. attend some NETWORKING events to promote your business to the right audiences
  4. create an OFFER which you can promote to your audiences
  5. use ONLINE marketing tools: website, blogs, facebook, twitter, articles
  6. use your EMAIL SIGNATURE to promote the main message you are communicating
  7. arrange some FACE-TO-FACE meetings to explore future orders
  8. think about what news your company has which would be interesting to send as PRESS RELEASES
  9. find out if there are any opportunities to give PRESENTATIONS to groups
  10. be CONSISTENT, communicate REGULARLY and be CLEAR about your story

If you are clear about what you are going to do, then it makes it much easier to follow through on your actions and create the momentum that you need to have a brilliant 2011.

We’ve only got 10 weeks of 2010 left, so make the most of it and PLAN AHEAD :)

Cheers!

Alison x

Why I launched a business called My Pinkie Promise

 Banner design

Morning, its a dreich day in Dundee this morning, but I am looking forward to a business lunch with someone I respect immensely in the local business community. My thoughts as a small business owner are turning to 2011 and what that will mean for my business. I know that I need to drive it forward and be in control – something which I have come to realise is a strong motivator for me now that I run my own company.

I’ve been telling my ‘how I came to be in business’ story a lot over the last 18 months or so and sometimes the conversation comes round to how I chose the name. So that has inspired me to blog about it.

I knew when I launched my business that I wanted a strong brand which would stand out from the crowd. I was also very aware that I should consider having the kind of name that ‘does what it says on the tin’ but lets face it, Alison Henderson Event Management & Marketing Consultants makes a horrific web address, and an even worse email one. I’d need to give out 12-inch rulers as business cards!

So we sat down as a family (me, my husband Jimmy & my son Fraser) and had a bit of a think. We came up with loads of names and one of them really caught my imagination. For all of you out there with children, I’m guessing you are more used to the whole intertwining pinkie finger thing which is a binding promise to your child to take them to the cinema/football/park or whatever kind of activity you promised to do, that you double-promise to follow through on. Well, my husband ALWAYS did this with our son (it was their thing) and I loved the whole concept of it. Of course we could always have called the company ‘Cross Your Heart’ (for all you oldies out there who remember Playtext bras!) but its not got quite the same ring to it.

I knew that for me it symbolised how I would follow through on promises to my clients and it had a very strong and quirky feel to it.

So I began the process of working on the branding with my designer. I gave him a design brief (because its so important to be clear to your designer on what you want) and we began to design the logo, colour palette and business cards. I’ve never been a pink girly type of person so in the beginning I wanted greens & blues (?) but to give him his due he persuaded me to also look at a pink/grey/silver option. We also looked at quite a few font types – you need to carefully choose your business fonts to fit in with the messages you are portraying in your brand communications.

So after a couple of revisions to my branding, we were done.

When the file went away to the printers it was agonising: what if I didn’t like what we had come up with?

It was like the birth of a baby – a bit of fun at the beginning (just as well it started with my husband!), an incubation period with the designer where the brand grew and changed shape, then the birth of a brand with the delivery of my first business cards. I was (and still am) so excited by the whole process.

When I collected my cards, the printer said that they would display the cards on the wall in the shop because they were one of the most striking cards they had ever produced!

My Pinkie Promise Business Cards

What is great about the business brand, is that it makes people interested in what you do, want to know more and it stands out from all of the other business cards in a pack. There is one big drawback: I’ve never won a business card draw….it must be subliminal. But I can live with that.

What’s also very important for me is that I have a strong brand which I can use to create a suite of sub-brands when I am ready to do so.

I also love to work with businesses: bringing their brands to life, helping them create strong strategic marketing foundations and marketing materials which have punch! I am very fortunate to work with a really amazing & talented bunch of people who are very good at understanding what design & print that I need for my clients. They run their own small businesses and understand the challenges that we all face, which makes them adaptable, quick to respond and deliver when they say they will.

Sometimes a client will wonder why I place so much importance on setting out their brand values, creating a mission statement and understanding what makes them tick. But a business which understands what it believes in, where it is going and how to describe itself, creates an immensely strong impression to the outside & inside world. We all need a vision!

www.mypinkiepromise.co.uk

Social Media for Business

Social Media is definitely a very good way for small businesses to take news about their business out to the wider community.

 

There are pitfalls that surround using social media of course – here is the summary from my 14 page ebook that was sent out for free to my PREVISION marketing group members.

 

The thing with social media is that of course it doesn’t cost you much in the way of hard cash to do – but how much time are you spending on it that you could be working at your day job and earning money?

 

You need to have a balance – and of course, make sure that the people who are connected with you via social media are your target audience, not just your pals!

 

Do:

  • Make sense
  • Be consistent
  • Be knowledgeable about your subject
  • Keep going with a platform that you have started
  • Do regular updates on EACH of the platforms you have begun
  • Create tags to help define your content
  • Have a strategy
  • Do cross reference your other social media where possible
  • Understand who your audience is and which platform you will find them on
  • Collect encourage feedback & reviews from your customers to publish on social media pages
  • Have a call to action

Don’t

  • Make spelling mistakes
  • Have links that don’t work
  • Steal content from someone else
  • Spam people with the same messages over and over again
  • Buy lists of followers, or use software to generate lots of followers
  • Send out endless drivel about your personal life
  • Be negative about other businesses
  • Share very personal information that could leave you open to identity fraud, or burglars!

Just remember and include some of yourself in your updates, have fun but remember: you are doing this for business so have a strategy!

 Alison x

Motivation…..you need to keep yourself topped up!

A respected business contact of mine shared a quote with me today and it sparked me to write this post.

First a little bit of background: I was approached this morning by a friend who asked me to help her out with a motivational talk she has been asked to do to some prefects on the cusp of ‘growing up’ and leaving school. When we were discussing some of the things she could cover, it struck me that what she was going to say was just as relevant for me and my current business life as it will be for her audience.

Sometimes you just have to be in the right frame of mind to let in a lightbulb moment like that, and I guess today was the day!

We talked about how she should use the right elements of her own situation and experience to talk about thinking and planning for the future. Recommending that you take part in outside interests so that others (employers in the young people’s case) would look at you and find you interesting. I know of some cases where people like to see that you do competitive sports as it can show that you have drive.

And I couldn’t stress enough that she should talk about the importance of creating a plan, for at least the next 3 years, to give something to focus on and drive them forward. My friend currently has a 5 year plan and wondered what that would say about her! She’s going to share her tips on how she plans and give some practical examples to show that it really helps to keep you going in the right direction.

I also recommended that she tells them to get input from their friends and family – if you tell other people what you are doing, then they can often help you with ideas you hadn’t thought of. And for parents, it can relax them and show that their child is thinking responsibly!

It struck me that this was TOTALLY valid for the situation that most of us are in in our working lives, and creating a plan & sharing it can help to manage stakeholders (like partners, bosses, husbands etc). And how many of us lose focus because we simply haven’t planned properly?

It made me go online and ask my twitter, facebook & linkedin buddies how they keep themselves motivated. And among the answer’s was Gary’s quote which I love!

So if you are looking for motivation, the quote below could be something to print off and stick on your wall so that you see it every day!

And if its focus and motivation you are looking for in your business life, and you think that being involved in a planning workshop every quarter would be a good thing for you then have a look at my PREVISION marketing group page – I’m really getting excited and am sure that all the participants will get a great deal out of it.

Have a good day!

Alison :)

“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.”

Acronym or backronym? Is there any point….

This post began as a bit of a rant after I talked to a colleague at an event about businesses floundering without direction and wondered how I could really get people’s attention and remind them strongly that they needed a map to steer their business!

We live in a world which at times seems to be drowning in acronyms (an abbreviation formed by initial letters of other words): RADAR: RAdio Detection and Ranging; SMS: Short Message Service; IFA: Independent Financial Adviser…etc etc – I’m sure you can think of loads more – there are even acronmyn dictionaries with over 40,000 entries! In fact ‘BLOG’ is one – coming from the term weB LOG.

There are even backronyms which take words and turn them into a phrase or saying! One of my favourites is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Some of this is definitely perpetuated by texting and the instant messaging which so many of us use now to communicate quickly and easily with others – but the problem with this is that unless your recipient understands the language, then the message is lost btw!

One such term which is particularly pertinent in business and marketing is SMART.

Most people will have heard of the phrase ‘SMART objectives’. Of course we all nod vigorously and some of us have every intention of making our objectives work along these principles, but how many of us actually follow through and pay this much more than lip service?

So how should it work in practice? Well let me explain again what SMART means:

S – SPECIFIC

M – MEASURABLE

A – ACHIEVABLE

R – REALISTIC

T – TIMEBOUND

Basically this means that instead of saying “I’m going to sell more to my existing customers” – this could translate into:

“I am going to sell conditioner to every customer who buys a shampoo during the month of March by having a special offer on a combined pack”

It makes much more sense, is clearer – we know exactly what we will do, and when – and of course the all important final step – we can track our progress and measure whether we have been successful.

I attended an event this week in Glasgow and was very fortunate to hear a keynote speech by Liz Jackson MBE, founder of Great Guns Marketing. Some of you will know Liz from the Secret Millionaire, others will have heard of her considerable success in business. Liz’s business is tele-marketing and she has such a passion for business, and a real infectious excitement for her job. Her company makes outbound calls on behalf of other organisations to achieve things like appointment bookings and sales to their target businesses customers.

One thing which Liz said in particular really struck home with me. She talked about SMART objectives and how she really doesn’t believe in them. Her team are encouraged to reach for huge and stretching goals, which sees her company grow rapidly – her company recorded growth of 45% in this last year of the credit crunch.

And that also seems to make lots of sense to me – if we are stifled and set ourselves achievable goals, then we are very likely to achieve them, but how do we challenge ourselves and really grow our businesses? Its a facet of human nature that we really don’t like to fail – so of course we set ourselves goals which we are more likely to achieve than not.

So here is my take on the matter:

As business owners, we need to have goals and ‘dreams’ for ourselves and our companies which inspire us to go that extra mile for something which we really really want, AND

We should translate those goals into business objectives which we can build a marketing plan around to ensure we reach these goals – and exceed them!

I think the message from all of this is that above anything else (going back to my sailing ships going round the world’s oceans in circles) is to have documented business goals and dreams, underpin these with strong determined objectives, and have a marketing and communications plan which gets you to where you want to go – with built in measurement and control of your activities. Remember business should be enjoyable too – and how can you have fun when your head is full of stress about whether you are doing the right things, juggling lots of tasks without knowing why and never feeling like you’ve got anything done!

So I’m off to create my treasure map which will take me and my fairytale 16th century great ship with crows nest and big white sails to the most stunning island surrounded by blue and green seas, where I will lounge on the beach surrounded by parrots and birds in the palm trees, sipping cocktails brought to me by Captain Jack Sparrow!! Well business success has to bring its rewards surely??

Captain Jack

Enjoy the process, be inspired but above all: PLAN – don’t leave your business success (or lack of it) down to chance, luck or someone else’s whim!

Alison

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