Commercial Awareness – what is it and how do I get it?

“Commercial awareness” is a buzzword that employers like to toss around a lot nowadays, but what is it and how do you get it?

Thankfully, gaining “commercial awareness” is a lot less scary than you think – all it really means is to have an awareness of what’s going on in the world and in particular, the business world. So, if you know who the US president is and what he’s done recently, you may have more “commercial awareness” than you think (because let’s be honest, who hasn’t heard about Trump’s policies?)!

For those of you who are still puzzled or (slightly worryingly) don’t know who the US president is, here are six easy ways to get “commercially aware” fast!

1. Finimize

When I first discovered Finimize, it was like a godsend – finally, financial and business news in a language I could understand!

For those of you not in the know, Finimize is a free daily email service that summarizes and explains the top financial headlines in a form that is quick and easy to digest – it even states how long it will take to read it (which is never longer than about 3.5 mins).

The email usually contains the two top business headlines of the day, either from around the globe or from your country depending on your preference, and it will recommend things to read if you want to expand your knowledge further. There’s also an inspirational quote thrown in there to get you motivated for the day (the email is usually sent around midnight so it will motivate you for a full 24 hours).

To sign up, all you need is your email and then voila – you’re already halfway there to being commercially aware!

2. The News

This should be a given but watching or reading the news is the easiest way to get an awareness of what’s happening in the world. It doesn’t matter what form you get it in, video, website, print, as long as you get the information. It doesn’t need to be The Financial Times or The Economist either – the Business section on BBC News or any other equivalent news site is equally as sufficient.

If you want to know more about a particular issue or want to see if your potential employer has been involved in anything of note recently, just type the keywords or the name of the company into Google and press the “News” tab – the most recent news will come up first.

If you want to stay ahead of the game and be informed of the news as it happens, you can set up a Google Alert on your mobile devices and your PC so that you’ll always be the first to know of any developments.

3. Social Media

If you didn’t know already, social media can be used for more than sending your friends funny pictures or mildly stalking your crush nowadays.

Major news outlets have their own “stories” on Snapchat for you to flick through, Facebook have trending issues on their sidebar and trending hashtags on Twitter usually means something big has gone down.

Furthermore, you can follow news accounts on Facebook and Twitter and be notified whenever developments occur – simply adjust your settings so that news stories appear first on your Newsfeed or get notifications when there has been breaking news. It has never been easier to be commercially aware, so take advantage of it!

4. Books

If you feel the need to hit the books, there are some very informative and easy to understand books out there that are designed specifically to make the commercially unaware exactly the opposite.

Know the City” by Chris Stoakes has been recommended to me several times by professionals and peers alike, and for good reason – it gives a high level overview of key financial concepts and products in a readable form.

Another book that’s been recommended to me is “The Money Machine” by Phillip Coggan; though I haven’t read it personally, the reviews on Amazon similarly say it was easy to read and it explains the essentials.

If you find these books too tough to crack, maybe it’s time to go back to basics – there’s no shame in revising those A Level Economics textbooks if it means you can actually understand what’s going on when it gets more complicated.

5. YouTube Videos

YouTube has a fantastic selection of videos that explain the basics of the business world, mostly created by people who were in your situation not too long ago.

There are videos that use cartoons to explain how a transaction works, video courses in finance featuring “Fault in Our Stars” author John Green (his series of Crash Courses is both amusing and informative) and there are vloggers dedicated to easing you into the scary world of commerce.

Some films are also good at explaining the complicated stuff– The Big Short explains the Financial Crisis of 2008 really well and in a quirky, breaking the fourth wall kind of way that keeps it interesting (and who doesn’t want to see Margot Robbie in a bathtub explaining mortgage backed securities?)

6. University

By university, I don’t mean you have to do another degree to be commercially aware but rather that you utilise the resources your university has.

For instance, you can join a finance or business related society – not only will it look great on your CV and demonstrate your passion for commerce, but the society will probably host talks and workshops that can help develop your commercial knowledge. Most speakers don’t assume all students have an understanding of business and financial concepts, so they will go over the basics before moving on to the more difficult topics.

Subscriptions to publications like The Economist will also be cheaper for students; if you think you will actually read them, ask around for your university rep and they will be able to offer you a much better deal than if you subscribed normally.

And that’s it!

Six (6) easy steps to become commercially aware even if you know absolutely nothing, and frankly, even by doing just one you’re already in a much better position than most!

Turns out “commercial awareness” is simply another thing employers have made to sound intimidating that in reality means very little. Plus, it’s unlikely they’ll ask you more than one or two questions about it at an interview anyway. So don’t stress – knowing a little will go a long way.

Vivien Zhu is a student studying History at the University of Oxford and is considering a career in Management Consultancy. She currently resides in Hertfordshire, England and is a regular contributor to student publications such as Spoon University and the Cherwell.

Image: Flickr

It’s time to spring clean your social media customer care strategy

Most young entrepreneurs have a pretty good handle on social media. The same business people most likely have a healthy understanding of customer care. However, put the two together, and the results are not always intuitive. Dealing with complaints and enquiries via social media is a game with its own rules – neither as informal as your personal Facebook presence, nor as mannered as an IRL customer service department. In fact, social media customer care may be more closely affiliated with your marketing strategy than any other part of your business.

So how much thought and research have you put into this fundamental element of your 21st century business? If you’re up and running already, it’s worth returning to the basics so as not to make any daft mistakes. If you’re new to dealing with angry Tweets and snarky Facebook comments, it’s time to take a deep breath. Make sure you approach them calmly and with one eye on the crowd.

In the first place, the most important principle is to not ignore such complaints. When somebody makes a rude or hot-headed comment, it can seem sensible to think you shouldn’t rise to it. Well, indeed you should not be provoked – but if this is a customer rather than an out-and-out troll, you need to take control of the situation. Even if you don’t have time to address the issue fully right away, it is important that you acknowledge the complaint and give some indication of when you will be able to deal with it. Otherwise, the customer is likely to become further frustrated, Tweeting and commenting more bad publicity in your direction.

When you do respond, keep it friendly but informal. Use first names (both yours and theirs) if possible, but don’t forget that this isn’t your Facebook friend – it’s a paying customer, and others are watching. Use humor with caution.

Try to take the discussion out of the public eye as soon as possible, but don’t be too pushy. Suggest you switch to private messaging, or see if they have a number you can call. A human voice can be more sympathetic than the glowing black text of the tweet. If you’ve ever read the comments on a YouTube video, you’ll know that people soon forget that they’re talking to another human while online.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Social media actually gives you lots of opportunities to turn bad feelings into good publicity. Resolve a complaint politely and with humility, and others will see yours is a well-meaning business and you are able to own your mistakes. Be sure to share positive outcomes to tricky situations with your followers.

Another advantage of social media is that you can stay ahead of the issue. These days, when customers gossip among themselves, you can tune in by searching your business name and finding where people are tweeting about you. If you stumble on a problem, address it. If you find praise for your service, consider sharing it.

This new infographic provides a complete rundown on how to spring-clean your customer service approach online. Keep it handy, and make tending to your social media presence a part of the daily routine of your business, for a better shot at keeping your customers happy.

John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

How Consultants Can Use Social Media to Brand Themselves

How Consultants Can Use Social Media to Brand Themselves

This is a guest post from Archie Ward, a business consultant and social media strategist. Archie splits his time each year between Asia and Australia. While he is hard at work helping other people make their businesses successful, he hopes to launch his own by year end.

Consultants rely on image as much as they do with any other form of credibility, and one of the avenues technology has provided for consultants to easily differentiate themselves from others in their field is through the use of social media.

There are several different platforms that consultants can use to develop their image and stand out from the competition, and utilising social media is a great first step. Self promotion is something that the most successful consultants all do.

Blogging

Improving personal branding through social media is an obvious first step for anyone looking to be a consultant. A consultant’s brand name is perhaps their most valuable asset, and building a blog with lots of great free content is a smart and scalable way to start building that brand.

Blogs are nothing new, but are one of the best ways for social media and personal branding to coexist.

If a consultant has a great online platform through a blog, then their work can be show cased to the world and potential customers will be able to view their knowledge of the industry as well as see the consultant’s work over time. Whenever a potential customer Googles the consultant’s name, it helps to have a well maintained website show up with all of the consultant’s past work.

Once you are ranking for your own name within Google, then you know that you can attract repeat visits from people you have met briefly at conferences or other functions. People tend to lose business cards, but if you make a real impression on someone, they will Google you, and you do want them to be able to find you with one click.

LinkedIn

Another great social media resource that consultants must use to brand themselves is LinkedIn.

Known as the largest network for professionals available today, LinkedIn has a lot of features that allow a person to show case their work in electronic form.

There are areas on a LinkedIn profile where a consultant can upload work from past projects. In addition, if a client is satisfied with the work completed by a consultant then there is an area where they can leave a recommendation. Having the ability to display real reviews from satisfied customers is a great way to improve the credibility and brand recognition of a consultant. In addition, there are also options to display different skills through the LinkedIn profile and have connections and former clients endorse for those skills. This is important because if a consultant is in the health care field, for example, and a potential client sees recommendations and endorsed skills in that area, then that will go a long way towards landing that client.

It all comes back to having a blog. Once you make that new post go live, you want to post it to LinkedIn, and make sure it’s posted to the types of groups that are able to find it useful. If you can have it read by just one influential person, and they feel compelled to share it, your social reach could explode over night.

Investing Time and Money

One thing that many consultants may notice at the beginning of their journey of using social media to brand themselves is that a significant amount of time and money are needed in order to get started. A social media strategy should be a well thought out plan that allows for the time and money investment required.

There are many different ways in which a consultant could wisely spend money and time on developing their social media strategy and building their platform. This might include taking classes on how to build a web site, on SEO techniques, understanding your Klout score, determining if it’s a worthwhile investment to get into Facebook advertising or re-marketing. Building an email list can become essential at one point, once you have a core group of followers.