Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Month: December 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Blog marketing tip

If you want to achieve great results with your online marketing, I believe you need to become a really good observer.  This means developing the ability to see what other people miss; to observe what someone is doing in order to get a result.

For example, I received an email recently from someone who made the links on his blog ‘do-follow’.  He said he did this, after seeing me offer these ‘special links’ here and the huge response it got.  He wanted to know why it hadn’t generated any extra traffic or comments to his blog when he added it there.

The bigger picture

marketing vision bigger pictureA good observer would have seen the bigger picture.  For example, he would have checked jimsmarketingblog.com out on alexa.com or compete.com and seen that it already had a large readership. The readership of my blog did not just grow magically overnight, after that single post.

Secondly, a good observer would have seen that I have a great online network of people around me; via my newsletter subscribers, readers of my website and the 14,000 people I network with on twitter.  This means there was an existing marketplace for these special do-follow links before I decided to add them to jimsmarketingblog.com.

The point?

You can learn a lot more about how to market your blog or website, by observing what marketing professionals do; as well as reading what we write.  If you just read the posts, you are missing half the picture!

Your marketing map!

In this post, I am going to show you a very simple way to make your marketing massively more powerful.

Most small business owners / entrepreneurs have only a vague idea of what they want from their business.  They tend to be highly-motivated and launch themselves like a rocket into their work.  However, with a little more forward planning, it’s possible to totally transform your sales results!

marketing planImagine setting off on a journey; from where you live to an unknown destination 300 miles away.  How would you prepare for that trip? You would probably check the route on a map, so you knew where you were going and how to get there.

You might also check the weather and traffic conditions and ensure you had enough fuel.  With all this in place, you stand a 99.9% chance of getting where you want to be!

If that journey had been ‘planned’ ahead the way most small businesses plan ahead, it would have been very different!

There wouldn’t be a clear destination, so it would have been impossible for them to plan a route.  In other words, they wouldn’t even know if they are heading in the right direction or not! With no idea of where they’re going and no route to follow, they could end up anywhere.

Marketing and planning

If you study any successful business, you will see that they deliberately plan what they want in advance.  As a result, they can spot immediately if they are on target or heading in the wrong direction.  They are also able to anticipate potential hazards and even identify the people; whose help they will need in order to succeed.  Because they know where they are going, every step takes them closer and they can plan ahead with far, far more confidence than the average business.

How to smash your sales targets with a little planning!

Here’s a quick way to find exactly what you need to do, in order to reach your annual sales target. It also gives a quick insight into the power of using firm figures.

List your desired turnover & profit figures

You need to know what you are aiming for in real terms. This means writing down what you want to ‘get’ from your business financially.

List the number of sales needed in order to hit those figures

Once you know how much money you want to earn, you need to identify how many sales you must make in order to reach that figure.  This then becomes your annual sales target.

List the number of enquiries needed to generate 1 sale

How many meetings, calls, emails, letters from prospective clients / customers do you need on average, to generate a sale? If you need 100 sales to hit your sales target and each sale requires 3 enquiries, your initial focus should be on generating those 300 enquiries as inexpensively and quickly as possible!

Divide the number of enquiries needed by 12

In the above example, you would need to generate 25 enquiries a month in order to hit your annual sales targets.  This means you would now have a very clear picture of the kind of marketing activity you need to invest your time / money in, if you want to succeed.

What next?

Now that you have a good idea of ‘the numbers’ required for you to hit your sales targets, you need to start generating those sales / enquiries! To help you, here’s a list of 10 of the most effective forms of marketing for small and medium-sized businesses that I know.

Over to you!

What forms of marketing have you found to be most and least effective for your business? Please share your experiences with us and leave a comment below!

Twitter photo shock from PhotoShop

We have all heard those stories, where someone has used PhotoShop to make themselves look younger, more handsome or thinner – right?

Well, what I am about to share with you here is what I call photo-shock!

It’s the shock someone experiences when they meet someone for the first time, who they have previously only seen very heavily PhotoShopped pictures of.

A twitter connection

I spoke with a friend last week, who told me about her shock at meeting a man for the first time; whom she had only previously communicated with via twitter.

They agreed to meet in person; as this guy is a designer and my friend had some design work, which he wanted the chance to quote for.  So, they decided it was best to meet in a public place and chose Starbucks. My friend arrived a little early, grabbed a coffee and waited.

Noticing her twitter friend was about 20 minutes late, she decided to give him a quick call, just to make sure he was OK. The weather was extremely bad and she was concerned he may have had an accident.

Imagine her surprise, when he answered the phone and told her he was already there; sitting upstairs enjoying a coffee!  Now, my friend had sat downstairs, close to the door and she watched each person come in. She told me:

“At this point Jim, I just assumed he must have arrived before I did; because I watched the door like a hawk, so that I could welcome him and ‘break the ice’.”

Even after being told where he was sitting, she STILL couldn’t spot him – until he called over to her!  Suddenly she figured out what had happened!

The picture used by her twitter friend had been so heavily PhotoShopped that it was basically a different person! As a professional designer and an expert with PhotoShop, he was able to create an amazing set of pictures of himself for his website and twitter profile; which look great – but are nothing whatsoever like he really looks.  She was genuinely shocked!

Most noticeably, the man she met seemed to be around her age (she’s 52), yet the pictures he uses online look to be closer to someone in their late twenties. He had doctored the images to change his age by around 25 years.  As she told me;

it’s one thing to pick pictures of yourself that show you in your best light or to remove the odd zit / spot; but this guy looked like the father of the guy I was expecting to meet. It instantly destroyed any trust I previously had in him.

Although this might sound like a funny story, there’s an important issue here.

What about trust?

Before someone will do business with us, they have to trust us.  They need to believe we will deliver on the service we promise or that the product we supply really will do whatever we claim it will.  If someone starts off a business relationship, behind a heavily doctored picture of them self, is it REALLY going to impress a prospective client when they learn it’s a fake?

Over to you!

If you met someone for the first time and saw that they had been using heavily doctored images of themselves online – would it create a ‘trust issue’ for you?

Do you believe, as my friend does, that this is a form of dishonesty or is it OK to use software to make yourself look as good as possible? Is there a limit, beyond which it’s unacceptable, if so, where’s that limit in your opinion?

Let us know what you think!

Unsexy blog posts can be valuable too!

A blogger recently told me how his analytics software was unavailable for several days.

He went on to say how much more he enjoyed blogging and social networking his business during that period; without the pressure of checking ‘the numbers’ after everything he did.

Freedom to blog and connect

He kept saying how he enjoyed the freedom to really connect with his readers and those in his network; without the worry of whether his last blog post, tweet or facebook entry was driving visitors to his blog or not.

Although (like me) this blogger sells a service via his blog and not a product or advertising, he says he is obsessive about checking his statistics. It guides everything he does.

Like many service providers, I monetize jimsmarketingblog.com by attracting enquiries from people who read my work and then contact me, when they want someone to help them market their small business or boost their profits.

As a result, I only write posts if I believe people will find them useful, but I base the decision on what to write exclusively on whether I feel the post has value – NOT it’s potential to go viral or attract hits!

Because of this, you will see posts here like this one, which I know in advance will only get a small number of comments, next to the previous post, which currently has over 70 comments. You will see other posts here with over 250 comments, next to posts with 20 or so.  The reason this happens, is that if I believe a post like this one, is offering a valuable message, I will write it – even though it’s not a sexy marketing topic.

Give everything you believe your readers need

I believe that it’s important for everyone, but for service providers especially, to write posts based on what we believe to be valuable to our readers; even if it’s not always going to be a viral post or get hundreds of comments.  The irony, is that this approach has helped this blog grow from it’s launch a few months ago, to a couple of thousand unique visitors a day (often far more.)

The numbers are important for every commercial blog, but they should not be the only driver of what we decide to say!  After all, some of your least populist output, can be the most interesting to a section of your blog’s community.

Link love, Google and spammers

The results are in and I can now let you know what’s happened since I started this exciting marketing experiment!

As many of you already know, jimsmarketingblog.com offers everyone who comments here a special reward; something called a do-follow link.  This is great for my readers, as it means when you comment here, your link actually tells Google to visit your website or blog; which can help boost your Search Engine Optimization.

link love google spam internet marketingSadly, over 99% of blogs and almost every well-read blog, offers the exact opposite – they offer ‘no-follow links’; which tell Google NOT to follow the link to your website or blog.

The 2 main reasons people give for not offering do-follow links are as follows:

1. Google ‘penalise’ sites like mine, which offer them, by lowering our page rank.
2. Blogs offering do-follow links are more likely to be targeted by spammers, because links from do-follow blogs are so much more valuable to them.

So, what REALLY happens when you offer do-follow links?

I have seen no drop in traffic from Google. This blog’s only a few months old and it gets around 50 – 60 unique visitors each day via Google. When I started the experiment, I was getting around 40 a day. There are lots of reasons why this number has gone up – but for a very new blog that only posts a few times a week, that’s an ‘ok’ response from Google. I can’t see that I am being punished for offering the links; not yet anyway!

Spam? Well, 99.9% of the spam here is the kind of automated spam that every blog gets and it goes straight into the blog’s spam filter.  There has been no increase in this kind of spam at all.

Spam from people using my comments section to pimp their website/blog has increased very slightly – but mainly because spammers know how well read this blog is. They see posts with over 200 comments and that’s like a magnet for comment spammers.

Thus, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the blog has suffered no ill effects from Google or from spammers, because of my use of do-follow links!

So, I am going to keep offering them to you – every time you comment here!

Benefits of offering do-follow links?

There are a lot of very compelling reasons to offer do-follow links. If you look at the kind of comments I got here when I announced what I was doing, you will see how warmly it was welcomed by the online community.

This blog is all about developing a community, based around our mutual interest in marketing and social media. So, what better way to show my commitment to our community, than to reach out and help promote everyone who comments here?

I have also seen a massive surge in visitor numbers, RSS subscribers and in the number of people who contact me via jimsmarketingblog.com. I believe a big reason for this, is that people really embrace the concept of a blog that actually gives them something tangible every time they comment.

We live in an age where marketing and social media guru’s keep on talking about how important it is to connect and share – yet they do so behind blogs that deliberately tell Google NOT to visit YOUR website or blog!

I really like the phrase that’s used to describe do-follow links.  They call it Link Love. As we approach what is sure to be a very challenging year for small businesses in 2009, I hope more people reach-out to THEIR readers with links that are actually worth having.

Over to you!

So, what do you think about ‘Link Love?’  Do you find yourself more likely to comment on blogs that show they value your comments?  Do you offer link love to your readers already – if so, what has your experience been? Whatever your thoughts are, share them here (and get some Link Love too!!)

Stand out from the crowd and boost sales

Would you like to gain a massive marketing advantage and boost your sales? Then find a way to market your services, which is NOT already being used by your competitors!

marketing stand out from crowdTake a look at the businesses in your local area and you will notice something interesting.

You will see that businesses in the same industry, advertise in the same places, to the same potential clients, using the same kind of marketing messages and the same kind of promises!

As a result, their marketing pretty-much cancels each other’s out. This is a shocking waste of money and extremely low leverage.

Creative marketing

To gain a competitive marketing advantage, you should think of ways to creatively market your services, which are not already being done-to-death by your competitors.

A great way to find new marketing ideas, is to look at the marketing methods common in other industries, which are not being used in your own. Then, think how you can adapt those forms of marketing for your business!

For example, a number of stores are now paying bloggers to write posts about their stores and their ‘special offers.’  Regardless of your industry, if your competitors are not already doing this, it could be well worth considering for your business!

Just imagine a well-known blogger, who has the respect of your future clients, telling them how brilliant you are – that’s powerful!  Before you ask, I don’t offer this service myself.

If you provide a service that has a national or international client base, like; web design, copy writing, SEO, coaching, consulting – or you sell products via a website, you might want to consider sponsoring a podcast aimed at your core prospect group.  This can be extremely powerful and yet, it’s a form of marketing that’s totally overlooked by most small businesses – including your competitors!

The bottom line

If you want your business to ‘stand out from the crowd,’ stop marketing it where all the competition is!

Comment spam doesn’t work!

People hate spam! But not as much as we hate spammers! I mean, they are the kind of people we all avoid at any cost. We would never do business with a spammer or risk having our good name associated with a spammer, right?

So why do businesspeople leave comment spam on blogs?

Comment spam is the name given to those comments you see on blogs, which are just thinly disguised sales pitches.  They add nothing to the other comments or the blog itself and are regarded as totally unprofessional, just like email spam.  Sadly, you see comment spam on every well read blog, including jimsmarketingblog.com.

In this post, I explain the dangers of posting comment spam, PLUS share a few tips on how to use the comments section of a blog professionally, to help you and your business!

Comment spam doesn’t work

The primary reason not to use comment spam is that it just doesn’t work! In fact, it will simply damage your reputation and hurt your business.  By the way, the kind of comment spam I am talking about here are comments posted by people – not those that get caught in your spam filter and are sent by spambots.

Comment spam: Counting the cost

Just 30 minutes ago, I spoke with a business owner, who highlighted the danger of posting comment spam.  In fact, our conversation is what’s prompted me to write this post.  He told me that he had spoken with a business consultant last week and was really impressed, so impressed that he was going to hire him.

However, before deciding to hire the consultant, he decided to check the consultant out. Part of this was a simple Google search on the consultant’s name and business name.  After 5 minutes, he quickly changed his mind and decided not to hire him!

Why?

Because he found a number of comments this person had made on blogs, which were clearly just spam; comments that were cheesy sales pitches for this consultants services.  As he put it to me;

“Jim, why would I hire a spammer, I hate spam!  This man clearly has no idea about business or the importance of acting like a professional.”

Comment spam = Self-generated bad publicity!

The reason people post comment spam is simple.  They believe that by getting their spam in front of the readers of a blog or forum, they will increase the number of people who are aware of them, and that this is universally a good thing for their business.  It isn’t!  Comment spammers are simply telling everyone who reads their spam that they are spammers – something to avoid! It’s nothing more than self-generated bad publicity.

Comment etiquette

If you want to use commenting on blogs as a way to build your reputation and increase your reach and influence, use the opposite approach to the comment spammers.

Here are a few tips, based on comment etiquette:

-  Only comment if you have something to say that’s worth sharing.

-  Remember that the comments you leave on a blog will be searchable by potential clients / customers, so only leave comments that you are happy for them to read!

-  Don’t include your website or blog’s URL in the comment. It’s already included in the link where your name is. Adding a SECOND link is generally regarded as looking cheesy (at best) or just plain desperate! It’s not easy to negotiate your fees with a potential client / customer if you give the impression of being broke.

-  Most blogs (like this one) have anti-spam software that automatically removes any comment with more than one link.  If you do link to something in the comment you leave, make it relevant to the other comments or the original blog post.

-  Avoid OTT self promotion. It’s fine for you to show your brilliance with the value of your comment, but people are turned off by blatant self promotion.

I believe that if a comment spammer could see themselves the way you and I see them, they would stop instantly.  I read somewhere that when a businessperson spams a blog, they think it’s okay – that when ‘they‘ do it it’s different; because ‘they‘ don’t see themselves as spammers.

There are many ways to professionally position a person and / or a business as a valuable must have for one’s target market. Comment spam is not one of them.

What are YOUR thoughts on comment spam?

Share your thoughts or experiences regarding comment spam – Plus, do you have any tips you would like to share on how to get the most from commenting on blogs?  Let us know!

13 years this week since…

It’s 13 years this week, since I got my first ever email address!  At the time, even though I only knew a few people who used email, it was clear to me that email had massive potential for me and what was then, my new business.

email marketing newsletter salesNow that pretty-much everyone uses email, it’s interesting to me that so few businesses and entrepreneurs use email marketing effectively!

For example: Buying email lists & sending ads

When you buy an email database, it’s often just a list of people who are getting SLAMMED with junk mail and spam. Why?  Because the same people, who are on the email list that YOU just bought, are on all the other lists too!  As a result, they will have either changed their email address or they will only accept email from their ‘white list’ of approved contacts.  In either case, your latest offer is NOT going to reach them!

By contacting a stranger with an advertisement, you miss the point totally!  That’s because the ‘average’ person these days is not as stupid as some marketers seem to think – far from it.

In fact, the marketplace has never been better informed or more hacked-off at the amount of advertising they receive, than they are today! If you want to gain the trust of a prospective client or customer these days, you need to engage them first; rather than just throw more adverts at them.

If you want to REALLY succeed using email marketing, it’s my experience that the best route is to build your own list of subscribers, and contact them using an informative, valuable newsletter.  In fact, I have a few tips for you here; based on my own newsletter, which is read by thousands of people from more than 100 countries.  This newsletter generated over a hundred thousand pounds for my business in its very first year – starting with an initial readership of just 29 people!

By the way, the free newsletter guide I mentioned earlier is part of a series I am planning. If you have any questions regarding newsletter marketing, either contact me here or leave a comment.

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