What’s on your ‘Get To Do’ List?

To Do ListI attended a networking event the other day which had an open Q&A session. Somebody asked whether there was any free software out there to help them organise their ‘To Do’ list. After a couple of people speaking up with suggestions of helpful apps for helping with time management, another person then suggested the idea of dividing your list into things you want to do and things you need to do.

This may well be a useful way of helping you prioritise your tasks, but I would like to make a simple yet bold suggestion for completely changing your attitude towards your To Do list altogether…

Got to do ‘or ‘Get to do’?

If you’re anything like me, you wake up in the morning and the moment you open your eyes your brain starts whirring with the mountain of jobs you need to get done in the day ahead. All the things you absolutely have to get done, or else…

This is of course very normal, but with this regular way of thinking it’s very easy for a normal person (let alone a busy business owner!) to end up getting stuck in a perpetual state of fear and joylessness. Our To Do list, for all its value in helping us be productive and prioritise well, can actually start to have a detrimental effect on our well-being and, ironically, our productivity. If we’re not careful, life simply becomes a daily slog of ticking things off, and our To Do list has enslaved us and become a heaven burden to bear. Sure we may be driven, but are we only driven by fear and anxiety?

So how do we stop this from happening? How do we avoid the daily grind and fear factor as we work through our daily, weekly, monthly business tasks?

It’s all about attitude!

I strongly believe that battles such as these are won or lost in the mind. Instead of considering all of the things you’ve got to do today, instead consider all the things you get to do today. Have you ever considered the tasks you’ve got to work on as being privileges? It is a privilege to work and earn a living and serve others with your products and skills, and it is certainly a privilege to run your own business. Yes, it is even a privilege to do you’re annual accounts.

choosejoy2This attitude can be difficult to adopt, and in all honesty at first I found it quite ludicrous! But this just shows far we have slipped into a negative pattern of thinking. If this is how you feel, then I recommend the ‘fake it ‘til you become it’ approach. Whenever you catch yourself woefully looking down your To Do list and risking being overcome by a low-level sense of fear or despair, re-frame your thinking. Remind yourself that these are all things you get to do.

These are all things you have the privilege of doing.

This change of attitude doesn’t promise to make your To Do list shrink or become any shorter, but it does promise to drastically affect the way you tackle your tasks. Firstly, you will feel the joy return that may have long been missing. You will approach jobs with a much more positive and freeing attitude. You will feel the fear and anxiety lift, and in a short time you will notice that your to-do list will have become your slave rather than your master. And interestingly, with an increased level of positivity you are much more likely to be more efficient, productive, persistent and alert as well.

So, what do you get to do this week?

Over to you
Feel free to share any thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x



Why I’m Excited About Running Getting Seen 2…

After the great success of the first Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass that I ran back in February in cahoots with fellow local business folk Jane Binnion, Tom Cumpsty and DT Guest, the exciting news is that we have decided to run a second one!

Getting Seen 2 is happening on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 9.30am-4pm at the Wyrebank Banqueting Suite in Garstang (click here for map/directions).

Getting Seen 2 - Marketing Masterclass

This is a standalone one-day masterclass so you don’t have to have attended the first masterclass to come to this one. However, we have tweaked some elements of the day to make Getting Seen 2 even more packed full of practical and useful marketing tools and tips, even more beneficial to delegates and of course, even better value for money!

The day will consist of a range of sessions to choose from, including how to form your marketing plan, blogging and content strategy, making sense of web analytics, how Twitter and LinkedIn can help your business grow, plus sessions on Getting Seen in 60 seconds and how to create an e-book.

So why am I personally so excited about running Getting Seen 2?

Getting Seen was the first workshop I ran in collaboration with some other marketing professionals.  I personally loved the opportunity to work with others who were as keen to help local business people have the skills and confidence to get themselves out there as I was.

Getting Seen workshop discussion
One of the group discussions in my session at the previous Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass.

It was also a real pleasure running a session for a variety of business people with different needs, yet who were enthusiastic about discussing together how each of them could take the concepts being learned about and apply them to their unique business situations.

There are plenty of marketing workshops out there that business owners could attend. But I believe what makes the Getting Seen Team special is our combined knowledge of various marketing aspects and platforms, as well as our practical, clear and down-to-earth nature in delivering informative as well as fun and interactive sessions. The overall aim of Getting Seen is to empower delegates to use marketing methods in a smart and efficient way. The goal is not only that their business gets seen, but gets seen by the right people (and without wasting valuable time and money doing it). What also makes the workshop special is the offer of one-to-one follow up support with the workshop leaders, which previous delegates found invaluable, all included in the price of course.

For all that you get from Getting Seen, I think that’s £120 well spent, don’t you?

To find out more about the Getting Seen 2 Marketing Masterclass and to book tickets click here.
Please note that places are limited and an early bird ticket price of £120 is available until 23rd September 2013 (after which the ticket price is £150).   

Thanks muchly for reading, and I hope you’ll come along to the workshop if you can make it.

sarah x


Writing a tagline for your business: 4 quick tips for getting started

Nike - Just .....errr?

If you’ve ever had to try coming up with a tagline or slogan for a product, service or business as a whole, you’ll probably agree with me in saying it’s not an easy thing to do. Many of my clients have commented that writing an effective tagline has been one of the biggest challenges for them in their marketing communications development.

A tagline needs to be concise, to the point and memorable, while also telling your potential customers or clients something about your business (preferably the most important thing – we’ll come back to this in a minute).

So, here are 4 quick tips to help with coming up with an effective tagline…

1. Have you done the strategy groundwork on your business? Do you know what the most important thing is that your target audience most care about from your product or service? Is it quality? Expertise? Customer care? Or maybe something more emotive like the feel-good factor. It’s also worth considering what it is that sets you apart from your competitors, and what you want to be well-known for in your field or industry. It’s useful to try and pin this down to just one (at a push two) things. I know this is hard, but doing this will make constructing a tagline that typifies your business’ most important feature lots easier. You also need to think about the extent the tagline is also required to communicate what it is you actually do. The name of your business or product might already do this so your tagline doesn’t need to (e.g. If the name of your business is ‘Photo Restoration Services’), but if your name doesn’t explain what you do, you may also need to think about how to work this into the tagline as well.

2. Find inspiration! Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and pen might not be the greatest way to get creative coming up with a tagline. You could begin by reading testimonials or feedback comments from past customers if you have them, looking at the sorts of words and descriptions they have used when speaking about your business. Ask friends and colleagues who know you and your business well for ideas; people process concepts in different ways and they might be able to capture things in a way you wouldn’t have come up with on your own. You can also test out your ideas on people who are less familiar with what you do and ask what they think you are trying to communicate about the business, product or service. Alternatively, a good tip is to go for a walk, both physically and mentally. There is no ‘correct’ process to arriving at a tagline – use whatever you think will help you to arrive at a clear and compelling message.

3. Play around with words and phrases. I have seen good taglines in the form of commands, descriptions and even questions, so play around with the structure a little. Look up synonyms and related words to those you think help say what you want to say. And don’t forget to test out different ideas by saying them out loud, not just seeing how they look on paper.

4. Allow scope for growth. Your tagline is part of the business identity. You don’t want one you’ll have to change every time you add a new product or service to your portfolio. This is especially important if your business is still quite new as you may wish to change things about your business in the first few years. So is your tagline specific enough to clearly convey what you’re about, while being generic enough to allow for some future change and growth?

Above all, don’t panic if a suitable tagline doesn’t come to you straight away. Be prepared to be patient and give the ideas chance to develop in your mind.

Over to you
How have you gone about formulating a tagline or slogan? What has led you to finding just the right words to sum up your business or product? Leave a comment below, let us know what’s worked for you.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please do get in touch if you would like to chat more about your marketing communications for your business.

Thanks for reading,

sarah x


The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Explained

7 deadly sins of marketing cartoon

I recently came across the above cartoon on the web outlining the ‘7 deadly sins of marketing’. I found it amusing, but also felt it made a serious point about some of the traps businesses can fall into when making decisions about their marketing. Below is a short explanation of each of the ‘deadly sins’ and a few tips on how to avoid them.

“Do whatever we did last year”
Don’t automatically assume that just because a particular marketing method has worked well in the past that it will always be effective. People change, technology develops and competition shifts. So make sure you bear this in mind and review your marketing strategy on a regular basis; I’d suggest at least twice a year.

“Do whatever our competitor is doing”
It’s ever so tempting to look over the fence at what everyone else is doing and assume you should be doing the same or very similar. But remember that you may have a completely different strategy and goal to them.  A difference in objectives, target audience and USP may mean that the marketing methods a competitor uses makes perfect sense for them (but then it may not, remember they may not have the foggiest clue) but for you to do the same might in fact be bonkers!

“Do whatever accumulates the most Likes…”
…or Follows, depending on whether you’re a Twitter Tony or a Facebook Freddie. Please bear in mind that just because you get somebody to like your Facebook page, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are compelled to buy from you. Social Media can be great in terms of getting your name out, keeping in touch with past and present customers and is a beautifully compliment to word-of-mouth marketing strategies, but rarely should it be relied on as a standalone method to bring masses of sales.

“Do whatever includes a fancy ad shoot”
Of course it’s always nice to have sleek, shiny and professional-looking marketing material, and it certainly can be worth investing in this as image counts for a lot and it’s important to look the part regardless of the industry you are in. But don’t forget to think through your marketing expenditure and potential return-on-investment on certain options before making any decisions, otherwise you may be left with major cash flow issues and end up plummeting back down to earth with a bump!

“Do whatever will make affiliates partner with us”
Everybody wants themselves and their business to be liked, and in most cases it is crucial to build up a strong network of other businesses who you can collaborate with and partner with on particular projects. But don’t try and do this at the expense of jeopardising the core values and objectives of your own business. Be careful about those you decude to have any influence over you and your business. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to say no to an opportunity if you feel uneasy or aren’t convinced it makes sense; chances are that you’re right.

“Do whatever spams the most people”
Whether it’s by email, phonecall or social media, spamming people with your product or service is unlikely to make you many friends. The ‘spray and pray’ approach to marketing has been used for far too long. Instead, try being strategic about those you target and then invest your time into building relationships with those likely to buy from you. You’ll vastly reduce the amount of your marketing budget wasted, and those you choose to specifically target will appreciate the special treatment you give to them, so upping the chances of them doing business with you.

“Do whatever wins an advertising award”
With any decisions you make about your marketing strategy, do it against the backdrop of the objectives you have set for your marketing. Is the aim of your marketing to make you feel good about yourself by winning awards? If so then by all means go for it. But if, as with most of us, the aim of your marketing is to increase sales and grow your business, then make sure you keep this as the main goal, and resist letting your pride and desire for global recognition distract you. If you are doing a good job and going the extra mile in your business then there is no doubt you will gain recognition for that in lots of ways. A simple thank you card from a happy client on the mantlepiece is of far greater worth than an awards trophy.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you find some of what I’ve said helpful.  If you feel you could do with some assistance formulating your own marketing strategy or putting it into practice, Back Room SAM offers an affordable 2-3 hour marketing strategy session structured specifically for small business owners. Please do get in touch for more information. I would love to hear from you and see what I can do to help. 

sarah x


Remember, just because you can it doesn’t mean you should!

If you have been running a business for any length of time, you will no doubt have realised the endless possibilities out there for marketing yourself. It is likely you will already have received several phone calls or emails from people trying to sell you advertising space in one of their upcoming magazine editions, in the local newspaper or even on the back of a bus. With the rapid growth of technology, the Internet and social media, this opens up even more doors in terms of marketing and developing an online presence. Some companies will literally pay thousands to an SEO company to ensure that they stay at the top of Google’s rankings despite the ever-changing algorithms being implemented by the online ‘powers that be’.

There are clearly lots of choices in terms of how we market ourselves. But I want to say something that may, on initial hearing, sound quite radical.

What I want to say is this: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. I believe this rule applies to marketing just as much as to pimping up cars.

Resist the unwritten rule
There seems have emerged an unwritten rule in business that we should be exploring every single possible avenue for getting ourselves out there, regardless of its cost of effectiveness level. And for some businesses and some marketing strategies, this could arguably be valid. But for the majority of us small businesses, where marketing budgets are slim and time is precious, I want to suggest that we be radical and resist the pressure to conform to this rule. We need to make sure we get the best possible return-on-investment for every pound and every hour we spend on our marketing.

If you have taken the time to put together a coherent marketing strategy, it will hopefully have become clear to you that not all marketing methods will be effective or appropriate to you. I am the first to admit that marketing can be an excellent way to waste good amounts of time and money! It is not enough to think that just because you are doing something with your marketing that you are doing it correctly or successfully.

Be fussy!
So don’t be afraid to be picky about the marketing methods you decide to use; it might be that you only explore 2 or 3 channels to begin with. Choose wisely, and make smart decisions based on the thinking you have done regarding your business environment, marketing objectives, target audience, positioning and business identity. Ask yourself “Does it make sense for me to pay for an ad on the back of this bus?”

Of course all this comes with the caveat that marketing is not an exact science; we are dealing with people and people are inevitably unpredictable! There is never a 100% guarantee of a good return on your marketing efforts. But if you have done that foundational thinking behind your marketing strategy and asked yourself the right questions, then against this backdrop you should be able to confidently make wise and sensible decisions about the best marketing methods to use and stand a much better chance of your marketing delivering the results you are after.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it’s been food for thought. Questions and comments below are always welcome.

sarah x


One of the services Back Room SAM offers is a 2-3 hour marketing strategy session structured specifically for small business owners. If you think this is something you think your business might find useful, then please do get in touch.

Getting Seen in 2013 (Hey, that rhymes!)

Hello! And Happy New Year to you if I haven’t said so already.

So it’s a new year, and I have made it one of my business new years’ resolutions to do more to help my clients use their marketing in as smart a way as possible.

One of the issues I tend to come across is when a new client comes to me asking, for example, for a flyer design, and when I ask them questions about the target audience for the material, or their competition, or their desired position in their market, they have a problem answering me. And it becomes clear that they haven’t really done this kind of initial foundational thinking that would help their marketing work so much smarter for them. As a result, I find that sadly many small businesses end up overlooking simple but smart opportunities for promoting their business.

For a few months now I have dabbled with the idea of starting to run group workshops to help people be smarter about their marketing, where I can offer marketing assistance to local business people in a group setting.

And the good news is that 2013 is going to see me running my very first workshop!

Getting Seen Masterclass Image

To break me in gently, I am teaming up with 3 other lovely local marketing professionals who are all experts in their area – Jane Binnion of Jane’s Social Media, Tom Cumpsty of Sensible Internet and David Guest of Workshop Media.  Together, we are running a 1 day Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass.

Attendees will be able to attend two 2-hour workshops (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). While Jane, Tom and David are going to each be heavily focusing on very specific areas of marketing, my workshop in contrast will be taking more of a ‘birds-eye’ view of the marketing arena by focusing on their all-important marketing strategy to make all of their marketing work smarter.

What do I mean by marketing strategy, I hear you ask? I mean making sure we have all done the vital ‘building-blocks’ exercise of thinking about the various things that should underpin and inform every single marketing decision we make. We’ll be asking simple but essential questions, such as…

‘Who is our target audience?’
‘What are the solid objectives of our marketing?’
‘What sustainable competitive advantage do we have over others?’

…and so on. This is the sort of thinking we all no doubt know we should have done to help us be smarter about our marketing, but many of us haven’t…either because we haven’t taken the time or we are not sure where to start with putting together a smart strategy like this. Which is fair enough. But my aim in this workshop is to solve both of these problems in one. By taking the time to work through a simple but effective framework helping us do the groundwork behind our marketing, this will allow us to then make smart decisions about the best means to promoting ourselves.

Then of course it’s over to my colleagues Jane, Tom and David to give expert guidance on the best way of using 3 of these means – social media, websites and video.

By the end of my workshop, all attendees will have the beginnings of a marketing plan that works for them and their business to take away and get them ahead of the game in 2013!

Interested in coming along? Or know someone who might be?

The Getting Seen Marketing Masterclass is for anyone responsible for marketing their business or not-for-profit organisation.

Date: Wednesday 13th February 2013, 9am – 4pm
Venue: The Storey Institute in Lancaster City Centre (click here for map/directions)
Price: £150 or special offer £120 early bird rate if you book before 25th January 2013. Includes lunch, refreshments and a free corporate headshot by local photographer Eleanor Postlethwaite of Photobaby.

For more information and to book your place online, visit gettingseenmasterclass.eventbrite.co.uk 

 You can also download a copy of the flyer here


Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at the workshop!

sarah x


Happy Christmas from Back Room SAM

Happy Christmas from SAM

Happy Christmas from SAMAs I am finishing for the Christmas holiday at the end of this week, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my clients, colleagues, followers and friends a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

I would also like to take a moment to thank you all for your continued custom, help, support and encouragement throughout this year; as always it has been invaluable. I wait in anticipation to see the great things the next year has in store for all of us and our businesses, and I very much look forward to continuing to work with and alongside many of you in 2013.

Best wishes and have a wonderful Christmas break.

sarah x


How to Handle Negative Publicity: Guest Blog by Judith Coyle

How to handle negative publicity

Most of my work involves writing in a positive way – mostly through tightly-written press releases informing media and their audiences of a new service, product, exhibition, cause, and so on. But very occasionally I am asked to advise on negative publicity that a client may have received.

This is what I am doing this week.

A client – and a friend of 30 years plus – has written a book, which I proofread.  This book has been praised by readers and critics alike. Some critics have flagged up areas where the book or my client’s actions, might have been stronger or more informed, but this criticism has been given positively and constructively.

Until Mr X came along. Mr X fancies himself as a book reviewer on a specialist forum and, somewhat tellingly, describes himself as an “almost author”. On this well-read, active forum Mr X has made a savage attack, bordering on defamation, on my client. He attacks my client’s ‘life choices’, as they say, character and behaviour.  He states that he could not finish the book (reaching page 76) yet goes onto make many inaccurate claims – factually and ethically – about the book’s contents and my client. The review has been read by hundreds of people.

My client is distraught. Writing and selling is my client’s livelihood, not a hobby.

But isn’t all publicity good publicity?

Hard to say. The posting has created a lot of comment on the forum, much of it in support of my client, but there are others who may well be influenced by the criticisms. Remember Gerald Ratner? His career took a nose dive after he claimed his company’s jewellery was “crap”.

So how do you handle negative publicity?

  1. Don’t react straightaway. Sleep on it.
  2. Identity what it is about the ‘attack’ that upsets you. Is the person attacking your product, your company or your character?
  3. Can you pinpoint what your opponent’s underlying agenda is? You are dealing with another human being. You don’t know what is going on in their life, the frustrations they are suffering, or their ‘issues’. Maybe they are taking out their frustrations on you. You can’t know so handle then with care.
  4. Has the critic touched a nerve? Is there some kernel of truth that makes you uncomfortable?  Be honest with yourself.
  5. Think about the best channel to use for your response. This could be a forum, a personal letter or email, a phone call or through using a mediator/management or PR representative.
  6. Collect testimonials from people who support your product, service or project.
  7. Encourage other people to review your product. Get these up on the web so that these positive reviews drown out the negative ones.
  8. Don’t go in all guns blazing but remind the critic that defamation/slander/libel is a legal matter. People forget that even online arenas such as Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs are public spaces. People have been taken to court over things they have typed in anger or carelessly let slip.
  9. Draft your response in writing.
  10. Get a professional (like me!) to look over your words. An impartial eye will help you to present your case more powerfully and less emotionally.  A trained writer will also edit for grammar and spelling as mistakes here can undermine your professional demeanour.

Many thanks to Judith Coyle for writing this guest blog.

judith coyleJudith Coyle is a writer, editor and PR person who works with small businesses, sole traders and projects. She is a member of Lancaster Ethical Small Traders’ Association (ESTA). Find her at www.judithcoyle.co.uk



I hope you enjoyed reading and see you again soon!

sarah x


Get a REAL break this summer with SAM’s holiday cover

Northumberland holiday photoI took a week’s holiday a fortnight or so ago. We didn’t go anywhere too exotic this year, we just booked a cottage near Bamburgh in Northumberland. Now don’t get me wrong – I had a lovely time; we got some good lie-ins, saw the sights and had some lovely meals out. We even managed to avoid the flooding that occurred in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne that same week. But in all honesty, I can’t say hand-on-heart that it felt like a complete break from work. My mind kept drifting back onto Back Room SAM matters, and as a result I didn’t come back as refreshed and raring to go as I could have been, and here is why.

If only I had had someone to keep an eye on things while I was away.

My experience this summer of taking an apparent ‘break’ from work was somewhat different from the holidays I have taken in previous years. When I was employed and working for various businesses, I found it very easy to step away, knowing that work would happily continue without me. I could go off and enjoy my break safe in the knowledge that others would be checking my email inbox, dealing with anything urgent that landed on my desk while I was away and I could generally have peace of mind that my week off wouldn’t have had any kind of devastating impact on the performance of the business.

My holiday in Northumberland taught me that now I am self-employed and running my own business, holidays need to be handled differently. There is only me in my business at the moment, which means that if I am not there, then nobody else taking care of things for me. Being a B2B business means that time off over Christmas isn’t so bad, as Christmas tends to be the one and only time in the year when most other businesses shut down for a week or so, (or even if they are at work, they at least don’t expect any other business services to be at their desks). But when taking a holiday at any other time of the year, I have found it very hard to mentally switch off from work.  I am sure I am not the only one who has this problem. I catch myself wondering if any clients have got in touch with me with problems while I’ve been away. What if new prospective clients have emailed me wanting a quote for a job and they go with someone else as a result of me not getting back to them? What if someone has hacked my Twitter account and is abusing all my contacts? Despite me being away from home and having a physical break from work, these kinds of questions prevented me from having as good a mental break as I would have wished.

Now looking back, I can see how helpful it would have been to have had someone back in Lancaster keeping an eye on things for me. How good it would have been to have been able to hire a safe pair of hands, even if only for a couple of hours or so in the week, to sift through my inbox, take care of my weekly admin and keep things ticking over for me, who would get in touch only in the case of any ‘extreme business emergencies’. This would have given me the real break I had earned and would have benefited so much more from.

The good news is that this is exactly the kind of holiday cover service Back Room SAM can offer you this summer. I am here all summer long to help give my lovely fellow business owners that kind of real, mental as well as physical break they deserve.

So, if you have plans to go away and really want to avoid that dread of coming home to your business not knowing what you’ll find, why not chat with me and let me know how I can keep your back room in good order while you’re off enjoying a wonderful and refreshing break. You will be sure to reap the benefits of SAM’s holiday cover service, while you’re away and also on your return, having had a real break.

Happy holidays, and I hope you have a wonderful summer whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re going.

sarah x


*If you fancy seeing more of our Northumberland holiday snaps, you can click here.