A lesson from the best decisions you ever made

Professional development, business development

Have you noticed something about the best decisions you ever made?

They were all BIG decisions. The decision to get married, to start a family, to buy a home, to start a business … these life enriching decisions are huge and come with no guarantee of success.

The same is true in business

Our biggest commercial successes also come from making big decisions. As such, there’s a direct link between our willingness to make big decisions and the potential of our business.

It’s also why ongoing business problems can usually be traced back to a tough decision, which is being avoided.

That’s worth remembering, the next time you find yourself plagued with a persistent business challenge.

Tip: Here are 21 powerful habits behind highly successful business owners.

3 Ways to turn testimonials into marketing gold dust

testimonials

Your clients love you and you have some great testimonials. Today, I want to show you how to transform those testimonials into a massively valuable asset for your business.

I was prompted to write this, after I added some testimonials to a page that promotes my individual marketing sessions. In just 72 hours, using the 3 ideas I’m about to share with you, bookings surged by almost 50%.

Here’s what I did and how to make it work for you and your business.

The 3 Key factors

First of all, here’s the page I’m going to be referring to. If you take a look, you will see that I have used the testimonials in a very specific and highly effective way.

Here are the 3 key factors behind the success of those testimonials.

1. The testimonials are in the correct place

Many business owners have a dedicated testimonials page. This is extremely ineffective. Your prospective clients need to see testimonials in context! Testimonials need to be right there, as a part of the message they’re reading.

This makes your marketing message stronger, because an independent 3rd party is confirming how valuable your offering is, at the exact point where the prospective client is forming their opinion.

2. The testimonials stand out, rather than get in the way

Even when a business owner places them on the same page as their marketing message, they usually use the wrong format. Typically, the testimonials will be placed into the text of the marketing message.

The challenge with that approach is that it breaks up the flow of your message. It gets in the way. It weakens what you have to say.

If you take a look at what I did, you’ll see that the testimonials are delivered as images… clean, clear white text on a deep grey rectangle. These text images are placed to the right of the actual content, so they are there to be seen, yet without them breaking the flow of the message. This allows you to get the balance right, between making the testimonial highly visible, yet not putting it in the way of your marketing message.

3. The testimonials are short and relevant

Most testimonials you see business owners using are way, way too long. Using lengthy testimonials wrongly presupposes that your prospective client is going to wade through the fluff, to find the key, relevant reassurance she needs.

Lengthy, diluted testimonials lack the impact of a short, relevant statement. They are also too long to use within your marketing message. So, find the key point or points of the testimonial and discard the fluff.

Remember: You worked hard to earn your testimonials. Now it’s time to make your testimonials work for you.

Successful marketing leaves clues

success leaves clues

When it comes to marketing, success leaves clues. By following these clues and learning from them, it’s possible to significantly improve your marketing.

For example, spend a few minutes thinking about the following:

  • The last marketing email, which you were motivated to open because it had a powerful subject line.
  • The last marketing email you read, which persuaded you to take action. [To ask for information, pick up the phone, make a purchase, etc.]
  • The last blog post you read, which you were motivated to bookmark, save or share.
  • The last advertisement you saw or heard, which led to you making a purchase.
  • The last service you experienced, which impressed you so much that you wanted to tell your friends about it. Read this. It will help.
  • The last newsletter you received, which you forwarded to¬†your friends.

Turning clues into results

Each of those examples contains a clue. To uncover the clue, you need to answer this question:

What can I learn from this example of marketing success, which I can adapt and apply to my own marketing?

By studying marketing success, it’s possible to make better marketing decisions. The good news here is that there are examples of successful marketing all around you.

Bonus: You can also learn a great deal by studying terrible marketing and uncovering why it was so ineffective. Knowing what to avoid is enormously valuable, too.

How easy would it be for your clients to replace you?

easy replace

It’s easy to find another service provider. The marketplace is flooded with them. They’re out there right now, offering a commodity service and fighting for attention.

It’s hard, really hard, to find an excellent service provider. These valued professionals are rare. Their clients love them, stay with them and recommend them.

No service provider sets out to be average

Most average service providers truly believe they are excellent. That’s why there are so many average [or below average] providers in every industry.

What happens, is they underestimate the services offered by their competitors and overestimate their own services. They fail to accept the passion their competitors have… how hard their competitors work and how dedicated their competitors are to serving their clients.

How replaceable am I?

It’s worth asking ourselves the following, difficult question from time to time: How easy would it be for my clients to replace me? By being totally honest with our answer, we get an invaluable insight into whether we’re an average or excellent provider.

This may help you. Think about your competitors and consider your answers to the following questions:

  • How average are your fees?
  • How average are the range of services you offer?
  • How average are your opening hours?
  • How average are the guarantees and promises you provide?
  • How average is your client retention?
  • How average is the number of client referrals you receive?

If your business seems a little too similar to what your competitors are doing, I very strongly recommend you read this. It has lots of useful advice on how to turn things around. It’s maybe the most important post I have ever written.

If your service provision is truly excellent, you need to make sure that this comes across in your marketing. An excellent business with average marketing is a travesty. It means you’re achieving a fraction of what you deserve. Don’t worry, I know a guy who can help you. Guaranteed!

Whatever your answer is, there’s important work to be done. So, what are you waiting for?

Marketing Tip: Seek out the dissatisfied

marketing tips, marketing ideas

Here’s an important fact of business: People who are happy with the service they get from one of your competitors, are not looking for whatever your business is offering.

Satisfied customers and clients are exactly that… satisfied. They ignore marketing messages, because they’re not in the market for a new (whatever).

So, even if you’re providing amazing value. Even if you are less expensive. Even if you are faster or more reliable, your value will be virtually invisible to those who are not interested.

Focus on the dissatisfied

Of course, it’s important to build an awareness of how great your product or service is. This is essential, so people know who you are and where you are, when they become dissatisfied.

However, if you want to have the full attention of the most motivated buyers, [people ready to make a purchasing decision right now], seek out the dissatisfied.

It’s far more rewarding than trying to convince the disinterested. It’s also a a faster and more sustainable way to build a successful business.

Tip: Here’s some free advice on how to build a successful business, which includes lots of ideas and examples.

Reach out, pay it forward and watch your whole world improve!

Biz dev

Here’s a suggestion: When you connect with people today, leave them in a better position than you found them.

The temptation is for us to treat people with respect, but not to invest in them. Sure, we say please and thank you, but seldom look for an opportunity to invest in them.

The thing is, a few words from you can have a genuine, positive impact on someone who needs it.

For example:

  • Your words can boost their confidence, when they were starting to doubt themselves.
  • Your words can help shift their focus from negative or neutral, to positive.
  • Your words can encourage them, when they were beginning to lose faith.
  • And your smile may be the only sunshine they see today. Many people outwardly look happy, yet inside they are hurting. Something as simple as a smile or a sincere “thank you” can make a huge difference.

So, why did I refer to all this giving as an investment?

A non typical Investment

Many businesspeople fail to understand that some things are hard to measure immediately on a spreadsheet. If they can not see an obvious financial reward for doing something, they don’t do it. Investing in others fits into this category.

Business is all about people. Running a business with the kind of mindset I have just shared, improves how people feel about you. I have lost count of the times that someone I encouraged, has later been of just as much help to me… sometimes more.

You know what though? The sceptics are wrong!

Ironically, when we look back and, as Steve Jobs said, “join the dots,” we find that these hard to measure acts often end up having a direct, measurable impact on our own success. Oh, and if you want to start paying it forward immediately, why not share this message with your friends.

How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging topics r

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.

How stories help you to make more sales

story

Last week, I bought 3 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. The thing is, I really don’t like chocolate chip cookies. My wife and son are not fond of them either.

So, what was it that motivated me to buy them? And… what can you learn from this, to improve the effectiveness of all your marketing?

People buy the story

When a kid from our village school comes to my door selling cookies, it feels different than when a shop is selling them. Even if the product is the same, the story behind the product is what we pay for. In this case, I wanted to support the school, so I am now the proud owner of 3 boxes of chocolate chip cookies.

My friend Karl recently spent $4,000 on an Apple Mac Pro for his office. Sure, it’s a nice looking computer. However, he could have got an equally powerful computer for around $1000 less. So, why did this savvy business owner spend all that extra money?

Apple’s story about design and innovation resonates with people like Karl. They enjoy the way they feel about owning Apple products — and the way they feel being seen using Apple products. They would rather pay more for an Apple product, than pay less for a brand whose story means nothing to them.

Your story

Your business already has a story. The story is being told right now, through; your marketing, your prices, your promises and guarantees, your website, your social networking updates, your decision to use professional photos and images [or not], etc.

In order to work, your story needs to resonate powerfully with the world view of the clients or customers you want to attract. This is exactly what happened with the cookie seller and why I now have 3 boxes of cookies.

It’s also how Apple inspired Karl to pay $4000 for a computer. On a larger scale, it’s why Apple were able to achieve record breaking profits, selling high priced goods, throughout the last recession.

If you want to know more about how a story can transform your marketing results, here are some ideas and examples to help you.

5 Extremely powerful questions to help your business thrive!

Business development

Today, I have 5 questions to help you and your business thrive. Each question comes with a suggestion, to point you in the right direction.

1. Are you earning trust by setting self imposed deadlines?

A great way to build trust is to deliver on a promise.

Think about it: Telling a client that their project will be ready “by the end of the week” is way less powerful, than telling her it will be ready “by 9am Thursday”.

Set deadlines and then deliver. When a client trusts you to deliver on your promises, they are extremely unlikely to seek out another provider. They are also massively more likely to recommend you to their friends. I wrote about this here.

2. Are you running your business?

If not, your business is running you. Unless you are working to a plan, you are simply reacting to whatever circumstances arise.

Tip: Never take business planning advice from someone, who has not achieved what you want to achieve. For example, be extremely cautious of marketing consultants who have to attend networking groups, because their own marketing doesn’t generate enough leads. There’s a powerful signal there.

3. Are you attracting daily sales or client enquiries from your website?

If not, you’re needlessly missing out on a wonderful opportunity. My blog generates over 100 emails a day — often twice that. Your site can be a sales generating machine too. However, it needs to be optimized correctly and you need to have the right strategy behind it. Invest in getting this right or you’re leaving money on the table every day.

Tip: Don’t copy what you see other sites doing. Almost every small and medium sized business blog or website I see, is poorly optimized.

4. Are you associating with the right people?

We tend to grow in the same direction as those we associate with. Mix with the wrong people and one day, everything they have will be yours. Think about that for a moment.

5. Are you learning from past business mistakes or repeating them?

If you are facing the same old frustrations, it’s because you’re repeating the same old errors. For better results, you need a better strategy. Old ways won’t open new doors.

I hope you find these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope something here inspires you to take positive action.

Don’t let this decision destroy your business

Pro development topics r

In many cases, business owners are missing out on massively better results because of an avoidable, sometimes fatal, yet tiny error.

How small? Just 5%!

Here’s what you need to know, including how to stop this error from crushing your business.

The marketing power of 5%

If you give a project 5% less than it needs, the cost to you is way more than 5%.

That’s because 5% less than good enough will achieve almost nothing. If it’s not good enough, even by 1%, you lose. It’s not good enough. That’s it.

If your marketing falls 5% short of what it needs to be, your sales or client acquisition numbers will be poor. You’ll be relying on repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

The challenge here, as you may already know, is that word of mouth referrals come when they come. In other words, they tend not to come when you need them, instead arriving when you’re too busy. This is such a common problem that it has its own name: the famine and feast cycle. This leads to cash flow problems, which cause more small businesses to go broke than any other factor!

Most small business owners are more than 5% away from what’s needed for their marketing to work. These hard working business owners wonder why their results are so erratic and why their lower quality [but better marketed] competitors are thriving.

It’s a decision — It’s always a decision

The decision to work hard, work long hours and make too little progress is exactly that. A decision. A deliberate decision, to be precise.

Why is it a deliberate decision?

Because you will never meet a small business owner, who doesn’t know when their marketing is under performing. They know better than anyone. They are totally aware that their efforts are not being rewarded. They are fully aware that their business isn’t developing the way they want it to.

Knowing this, they still decide to repeat the same errors.

Until one day, something changes

Sometimes it’s driven by the realization that things don’t just magically get better. Other times it’s a wake-up call, as they see that a landmark birthday [one with a zero at the end] is approaching. Occasionally the naked truth smashes them in the face — that they deserve more. So they make the decision to start growing their business correctly.

Some make the decision in time. Many will wait until it’s too late. These are the “let’s wait until next year” crowd. They become a casualty of their casual approach to business.

I have no idea where your business is right now. If your business is thriving, kudos to you.

If you want more from your business, the best time to do something about it was years ago. The second best time to do something about it… is today.