Your phone and the Pavlovian Response

These days phones are almost everywhere. You probably have one in your pocket or handbag, one on your desk at work, and you no doubt have a landline at home too (though these days, it’s often hard to see why). You might even make the distinction between a personal and work mobile, to add more crazy in to the mix.

Phones are there to make communication easier; however, they make getting things done so much harder.

It rings, you answer it; it’s a Pavlovian response and a habit the vast majority of us can’t resist.

However, if you want to get more done it is essential you remember your phone, whatever guise it comes under, is meant to be a tool to help you, not constantly interrupt your day.

Here are my top tips for putting your phone in its place and ensuring you remember who owns who in this relationship!

#1 – Busy? Don’t answer it

You have a phone so you can be reached, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be available constantly. I have a client who will answer her phone no matter where she is – even when in the bathroom!

If you’re busy, you’re busy. Let it go to voicemail, trust me, if it’s important they will leave a message or call back!

#2 – Turn it off

Did you know you can actually turn your phone off? I know, it seems to be news to a lot of other people too. When you really need some quiet, uninterrupted time I strongly suggest turning your phone off. It doesn’t have to be all day, maybe just an hour, but knowing you can’t have any rings, bings or notifications for a whole glorious 60 minutes is an amazing feeling.

Personally I just put my phone on flight mode, but it’s amazing how productive I can be during that short space of time. If nothing else, it stops you being tempted to keep checking if you have missed something. It’s off, just leave it be for a while!

#3 – Respond with a text

If I have my phone on, but I’m not in a position where I can, or want to answer it I tend to cancel the call and immediately reply with a pre-set message such as “Sorry, currently in a meeting, will call you back shortly” or something to that effect.

It can be a great way of acknowledging the call (which is the main reason most people want to answer it in the first place) without being bogged down in having to deal with it there and then. It also buys you some time so the individual won’t phone you back in five minutes simply thinking there was a problem with the connection.

Of course, while everyone can no doubt accept the benefit of having periods of peace and quiet, there is always The Fear. The Fear that the call you miss is going to be the next big lead, client or job. What if they don’t leave a message, and you can’t call them back?

The One With The Chair

It’s been one of those weeks where you hit the office Monday morning, look up from your screen and BOOM, it’s Friday. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone, but it’s been a bit of a blur.

Content seems to be a priority for people this week, and I have had requests coming in for a wide variety of things.

On Wednesday I had a chat with an independent travel agent who needed their newsletters revamping. The look is great; however, they are predominantly sending out deals, without any further explanation, and as such not getting more interaction. We’re trialling adding some articles in to the mix to help readers engage, and we’ll see how this works out. I have to admit the green eyed monster did raise its ugly head a little as I was researching holidays in far flung and exotic locations.

One day. One day.

Thursday saw a long standing client panicking over a deadline she completely forgot about for Monday. As a result I am now putting the finishing touches to a variety of bios, news features and service descriptions. It’s been a bit of a challenge as each service needs an introduction to the company, none of which can be a complete copy of previous ones. Writing the same thing, but in different ways, ten times is certainly a skill!

Other requests include LinkedIn articles, website blogs, an elevator pitch, a press release and content for a leaflet.

My biggest challenge

The challenge this week has been more of a personal one than strictly work related.

As many of you know, I am a member of Bury Business Group, and this week we had an election for our new Chair. At first I thought I would put my name in, then I chickened out. As two other people had already expressed an interest I thought it would be too difficult to enter myself.

Looking back, I’m not too sure why.

The problem was, if I am being brutally honest, I entered last year, and obviously didn’t win the vote.  To be fair, the person who was elected was great, and it probably wasn’t much of a contest – so there was no issue, other than an obvious tinge of disappointment.

But it knocked my confidence, and I really didn’t want to put myself forward to fail again.

OK, so on paper that sounds really pathetic, and maybe it is; but it’s the truth. And I think we can all feel like that a bit at times when things don’t go our way.

The challenge therefore this week was kicking myself up the butt and forcing myself to be counted. Not only that, but having the faith in myself that I deserved to win, because I know I can do a great job.

It took a while, but I did finally put my name in, about 5 minutes before the start of the meeting! People keep saying “I didn’t know you were running”, and I’m not sure they believe me when I say “nor did I”.

My highlight

Not to keep you in suspense (because, come on, you know you want to know) but I am delighted to say I will be the new Chair, as of March.

It would be easy to dismiss my happiness as simply “winning”, or even having a title (though references to Madam Chair just make me giggle) – but it’s neither of these things. A little over two years ago I had never done any networking at all. I was an enthusiastic, albeit naïve, little puppy who would bound around and knock things over (metaphorically and actually, at times).

To be in a position now where the people who introduced me to networking, who have listened to my voice wobble as I delivered a 60 second pitch week after week, respect me enough to take on this role is such an honour. I have developed so much in that time, and while I can still be a little loud for some (I’m from Essex, frankly guys this is just not going to change – buy some ear plugs) I think everyone can see the journey I’ve been on.

When you’re self employed, or run your own business, you don’t get promoted. There is no career progression in the strictest sense of the word. It’s all about the size of your clients, or your balance sheet. For me, this is a promotion, and the only one I am likely to get – so yes, it means a lot.


I shall keep you posted on how it goes!

You gave us 3 headlines – we gave them sparkle

Last week we asked people to get in touch with content ideas they wanted attention grabbing headlines for.

We might have underestimated how many people would get in touch, and have actually been somewhere inundated with suggestions – some of which we have to confess we’d love to read the actual blogs for!!!

However, we’ve chosen three to work with and are going to use our tried and tested formula to give them a headline makeover.


Ben R – Health benefits of chocolate

Frankly we thought this headline might be enticing enough – it’s chocolate, and apparently healthy, so of course we want to read on.

However, it’s not very “sexy”.  It would be easy to spruce this up by combining any of the tips we mentioned last week:

  • 5 amazing health benefits of chocolate
  • Lose weight by eating chocolate now
  • Why eating chocolate is better for you than broccoli
  • How you can use chocolate to kick start your diet

These suggested headlines are more likely to illicit a reaction in a potential reader, and encourage them to read on.

Cathy S – Sell your home quickly

If you’re in the process of selling your home, who wouldn’t want to sell it quickly?  This would be an amazing article to read, but the current headline is so boring I’m probably just going to skip by it.

However, adding in some figures or adjectives might grab my attention and imagination a little more. We suggested trying:

  • People sold their homes five times quicker by doing this
  • 7 unbelievable tricks that will sell your home quickly
  • Sell your home in 24 hours with our top tips
  • How to sell your house in a day

Following our suggestion, Cathy chose one of our headlines as well as her original one.

The difference was striking. The original headline “sell your home quickly” had a 5% open rate; whilst our headline had an 80% open rate. It really does make a huge difference.

Stephen P – The difference between successful and unsuccessful writers

We’ve collaborated with Ste in the past, and know he is more than capable of coming up with a better headline than that.  We feel a test coming on – challenge accepted, Sir!

This current headline gives us no reason to read on.  Is there one difference, many differences, will you explain them, will it help us in any way?  There is no way of knowing unless we click and read, and to be honest, we’re too busy to take the chance that the content is as bad as the headline.

Instead, the following suggestions are bound to get people thinking, and might speak to something inside them:

  • What successful writers do that the rest of us don’t
  • Do this and your content will be a hit
  • 3 things successful writers do that you’re not
  • How do you make sure your writing is hitting the spot?

These headlines pose questions that you’re going to want to find answers to, or they promise to tell you things you’re dying to know.  People who want the answers to these issues are precisely the right audience for Ste, and as such he is speaking directly to them with these revised headline.


Give it a try

Why not experiment with some of your previous headlines, and republish content you’ve written in the past.  We bet you’ll have a better click-through rate if you spend a bit more time on the sundae, rather than assuming your headline is just the cherry.


An open letter to the Door to Door Sellers of LinkedIn


I hope you’re having a great day.

My day was going great until I got an invitation to connect from you. I admit I didn’t recognise your name so I went to your profile to see if I could find out anything helpful. It turns out we have various mutual connections, and for me, that provides you with a degree of legitimacy.

So, I accepted.

I’d barely clicked “accept” before I received another notification – you’d sent me an InMail.

Now, I’m a fairly realistic individual. I know I’m awesome to be around and am generally a good person, but even I know nobody is waiting with baited breath to get in direct contact with me. The speed with which that message comes through would give most people whiplash, which tells me one thing; you’re a salesperson.

Yes, I know we’re all “salespeople”, in the strictest sense of the word – why else be on LinkedIn in the first place? However, you’re one of those salespeople.

With trepidation I open the message and yes, there it is, the generic sales pitch.


Within 60 seconds of accepting your request I have already removed you as a contact. OK, so it’s a minor waste of my time, and a constant source of irritation but in all honesty, I just feel sorry for you.

Despite the fact you think you’re a hot shot with your 500+ connections, I assure you, you’re doing LinkedIn all wrong.

If you have to send a generic pitch to every single new contact without actually reaching out first, then there is something wrong.

This approach is exactly the same as the person who attends a physical networking event and spends the entire time collecting business cards and talking at other people. These people don’t get invited back for a second time, and people avoid their calls. The rest of us, who have mastered the art of conversation and relationship building talk about you when you’re not there, and warn other people to stay clear.

The simple truth is we should all treat our connections like gold. The people you spend time with, whether that be in real life or the virtual world, should be your tribe. They have your back, they cheer you on, they support you and you can learn from them. They are not simply people to sell to and then spit out once you’ve got your pound of flesh.

Spamming people on LinkedIn (and yes my friend, that is exactly what you are doing) is the modern day equivalent of traditional cold calling. I’m not naïve enough to think it doesn’t work, occasionally. For every 20 people that ignore you, one might bite and with your relentless enthusiasm you may well close a deal one day. However, I assure you there is so much more to gain by playing the long game and actually remembering to be social when using social media.

LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to build relationships, whether that be from scratch or to enhance existing ones. The only way to do that is to take your time, be useful to others and always be considerate and respectful.

If you can’t manage that, be quiet. And stay the Hell out of my inbox!

Receipts, expenses and mileage: three words a VA loves to hear

Every three months or so a pile similar to the one in the cover photo ends up on my desk. In fact, that photo was taken this morning, and the contents are still staring at me, whispering “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”.

It’s at this point I realise I’ve not left the office for days and I might have a few “issues”.

However, I digress.

This pile of papers is evil, and gives one of my clients a serious case of the heebie jeebies. Which is why it has navigated its way to me instead.

The contents include bank statements that need to be reconciled with numerous receipts, cash receipts for expenses claims, cheque stubbs that need to be tied to paid invoices, invoices that might still be outstanding … and in all honesty, a host of other nasties.

However, it’s come at a great time for me to provide another example of something you can outsource to a PA (whether virtual or otherwise). If you run your own business chances are you don’t have time to deal with this sort of admin. Yes, it’s important, and if you did do it on a regular basis the pile wouldn’t get so high but let’s not kid ourselves, in a toss up between filing a receipt or quoting for a job, we all know what’s going to win.

There is no contest.

Being able to drop a pile of paperwork like this off with a VA is a hugely liberating experience (so I am told, anyway). One client recently said

Giving you a carrier bag full of receipts is like a two hour therapy session. I immediately feel like a weight has been lifted because I know whatever is in that bag of c*@p is no longer my problem. You will deal with it and send me a lovely little spreadsheet a week later.

So there you have it – a VA is like therapy, but significantly cheaper.

If you have receipts piled up, mileage that needs to be recorded or expenses that need to be claimed give me a shout. Time Saving Heroes are on hand to deal with all the time consuming tasks, we can even upload to cloud based accounting packages or scan documents for later reference. Whatever you need, we can get it done because we are your secret weapon in the fight against time.

Call 0161 883 2024, comment below or email if you want to book in for some time therapy!

The one with the content

This week has been quite an eclectic mix now I look back on it.

The middle of the month normally sees me tidying up plans for people’s content and social media for the coming month, and that’s what’s been dominating my time since Monday.

My biggest challenge

In honesty, it’s preparing for next month that has been my biggest challenge this week. I’ve proofed 25 articles that I’d already written, and then wrote a further 19.  I’ve also scheduled a grand total of 46 Tweets and 173 Facebook posts for various clients.

I admit I’m a little out of love with social media right now!

Trying to find original content each month can be a huge challenge, especially with those clients that really want to take a hands-off approach to their social media marketing.  However, because I work to an editorial calendar (as far as possible) with all of them, I do usually have something to go off – even if it is very basic.


My highlight

On top of my writing and scheduling I’ve completed 15 hours of LinkedIn training with different clients, both face to face and via Skype/Go To Meeting.

I know I’ve said it before, but I really enjoy teaching people how to do things they’ve been struggling with, and seeing them “get it”.  Unfortunately I don’t have the patience to actually be a teacher, but a few hours a week suits me down to the ground.



Your headline is the sundae, not the cherry on top

With any luck you’ve been reading our previous posts about content marketing, and have decided you want to give blogging a go.  Perhaps you’ve earmarked some time to pull together an editorial plan, you might even have written some great copy, but what’s the point if your headline is rubbish?

The simple truth is people don’t know what your content is like until they click on a link to open it.  All they do see, initially, is the headline.  And if it’s boring, they’re not even going to bother to do that.

If you think of blogging as an ice-cream desert, your headline is the sundae, not just the cherry on top! The reality is, it’s the most important thing you’re going to write.

Use numbers, not just words

Some of the best attention grabbing headlines are those that feature numbers.

  • 50% of people who do this have lost weight
  • 7 of the worst things you can do when blogging
  • 90% of business owners are getting this wrong

Use wow words

You can tell we’ve got kids – “wow” words (aka adjectives) are great and simple ways to garner interest.

Think about words such effortless, fun, FREE, essential or absolute to hit your message home

Use what, why, how or when

If you are trying to persuade someone to do something, then why and how can be fantastic ways to get them hooked.

  • Why you should hire a content writer
  • How to improve the quality of your blog

However, it’s always good to mix things up a bit with alternatives:

  • What the most popular blogs have in common
  • When should you review your marketing plan?

Make a promise

One reason people don’t bother to read passed a headline is because they can’t immediately see what they’re going to get out of it.  Why not make it clear by making a promise to your reader from the outset?

The key here is to offer something that will genuinely entice them, based on the things you know your audience is interested in or wants – but for goodness sake, make sure you deliver!

For example; Instantly improve your blog for FREE


Get in touch

We’d love you to get in touch and let us know if you’re struggling with coming up with an attention grabbing headline, and we’ll be happy to help.  Make sure you email by Wednesday, 22nd February and we’ll include it in our next blog!