Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: February 2009

Twitter and me

As you might already know, I stopped using my @jimconnolly Twitter account on 31st of January; one of the top 50 most followed Twitter accounts in the world.  The reason for this, was that following tens of thousands of people took up way too much time – largely because of the hundreds of Direct Messages I received each day, (usually over 500 a day and occasionally over 1,000).

By trying to’ do the right thing’, I got it all wrong!

I got it wrong.  As a community builder, I wanted to follow everyone who followed me.  This worked initially; until the numbers grew so huge, so fast, with SO MANY people feeling the need to Direct Message me! The reason the numbers grew so fast, is because I wrote a LOT here about Twitter and this is a very well-read blog.  Each post is read by thousands of people and I have posts here with 200, 300 and in one case, a post about Twitter which has over 600 comments.

In just a few months, I attracted over 23000 followers.  At the time, even Chris Brogan (a Social Media genius), had taken 2 years to attract just 15,000 more followers.  My Twitter account grew too big, too fast.

Following back

Following so many people back is what caused my problem.

I would still have seen ALL the @jimconnolly messages sent to me, without following everyone back – and these were almost always the most valuable. PLUS, I would have had MORE TIME to respond and connect with more people, because I would not have been ploughing through several thousand Direct Messages each week. But it was too late – So, I decided to leave that Twitter account.

Tweeting again “small time”

I had a ‘chat’ last Thursday with Laura Fitton @pistachio, and explained what had happened with my account and why I was no longer using it.  Laura is a REAL expert when it comes to Twitter and has always been super helpful to me. Laura explained that I could actually clear the account, so I could keep the same Twitter user name (which is my actual name,) and use it to follow friends, clients and contacts.

In 5 minutes, I had lost well over 23,000 followers.

I had an account with 0 following and 0 followers.

As a result, my @jimconnolly account is active again – BUT this time, I am only following friends, clients and those who actually want to chat with me, (which will be quite a large number in itself.) If I am not following you on Twitter and you want to get in touch without sending a tweet to me (for whatever reason) – you can contact me WITHOUT being limited to 140 characters.  After all, I have always been extremely easy to get in touch with.

I’m VERY contactable without Direct Messages!

  • You can call me on 01427 891274 if you need to speak with me.
  • You can email me via the blog, if you want to write to me.
  • You can get in touch with me via a comment on the blog, if you want to share your feedback with thousands of other people.
  • You can send a message to @jimconnolly via Twitter if you want to share your message in 140 characters.
  • You can even write to me via snail-mailMy FULL postal address is here.

I think you would agree, I make it very easy for people to get in touch.

The ‘right’ way to use Twitter!

It’s weird – we live in a society where it’s ‘cool’ to say “I’m learning all the time,” yet it’s ‘uncool’ to say; “I made a mistake and I’m putting it right!” So, I’m about to be very uncool!

I believe that each person should feel free to use their account however they want; so long as it’s not breaking any of Twitter’s rules.  For me, it’s all about the value of the connections I make and NOT how many people I have following me.  The value is in the quality, NOT the volume!

Robert Scoble @scobleizer follows 65,000 people.  Darren Rowse @problogger follows around 9,000 people and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams @ev follows around 900 people. Each uses Twitter the right way FOR THEM.

All I know for certain, is that following over 20,000 people was wrong FOR ME.

I hope you can appreciate my decision and maybe even learn something from my experience.

Seth Godin, Robert Scoble & Chris Brogan

In this post, I am going to share one of the success factors behind; Seth Godin, Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan with you.  It’s all about one word; contribution.

A few weeks ago, I had a problem with this blog.  So, I got in touch with two experts, who I knew would be able to help; Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan.  In no time, both were kind enough to get back to me with some excellent advice and the problem was solved.

For those of you who don’t already know; Robert is the former ‘technology evangelist’ for Microsoft and is now one of the best known figures in technology.  Chris is, in my opinion, one of the world’s leading authorities on ‘social media.’  Between them, they have a dedicated following of hundreds of thousands of people.  These are two very busy people!

Of course, these guys gave their help without a second thought.  They also did so privately, OUT of the public gaze; so no one knew how helpful they had been to me, except me. That’s because they gave without expecting something in return. Neither of them know I have written this post or that it will be read by thousands of people today.

Seth Godin and contribution

As marketing expert and best selling author Seth Godin once told me;

“If you have an ulterior motive, your generosity is suspect.”

Wise words – especially as Seth shared them with me freely and in private! That’s right, these were not comments Seth made on a blog or in a Twitter message observed by thousands, to show how smart he is.  No, it was just Seth taking time-out from a very busy schedule, to share an idea with me. (Thanks Seth!!)

I genuinely believe that it is not a coincidence, that each of the three people I have mentioned in this post, are at the very top of their chosen professions.  For example, I was first made aware of Seth’s work, not by an advertisement or by his marketing blog – but after a good friend recommended him to me.  I was first made aware of Robert’s work, after Leo Laporte recommended him to me.  Again with Chris, he was recommended to me by a client of mine, who’s a fan of his work.

I would LOVE to think that after reading this post, some of you check out Seth Godin, Robert Scoble or Chris Brogan for the first time.

Seth, Robert, Chris – Thanks!

Quick marketing tip – Copy what works!

One of the fastest ways to massively improve your marketing results and sales figures, is to learn how other companies are already getting the kind of results that YOU want.  That’s what today’s quick marketing tip is all about!

Copy what works

The next time you read a piece of marketing, which inspires you to take some kind of positive action; to call a business, email a business, visit their store, click a link etc – keep a copy of it.  Ask your friends to do the same with any marketing material they read, which motivated them to take positive action too.

Collect these powerful marketing pieces and study them.  Look to see what it was that inspired you or your friends to take action.  This is a very fast way for you to identify the key elements required to make YOUR marketing messages more compelling!

Don’t forget to study everything.  Pay particular attention to the following:

  • Was the headline (sometimes called a strapline) eye catching?
  • What kind of words and phrases did they use in order to motivate you?
  • Did they offer any guarantees?
  • Was there a special offer included?
  • Was there a ‘time sensitive’ element?
  • Was the marketing message long or short and to the point?
  • How easy did they make it for you to get in touch?
  • Did the message come via a trusted source?
  • Was there limited availability?
  • Did it arrive at just the right time?
  • Were there any testimonials or quotes from satisfied customers?

By studying what already works, you can develop massively more effective marketing for your own business.

If you found this quick marketing tip useful, remember to share it using the ‘share this’ button below!

Thriving or surviving in a recession?

You can’t open a newspaper or watch a news report these days, without hearing how bad the economy is.  The media’s focus is pretty-much exclusively on huge, national and multinational companies, reporting drops in profits and job cuts.

However, whilst many huge corporations really struggle right now, there are countless small businesses out there, doing really well!  Of course, their success is almost invisible, because it’s not carried in the newspapers or reported about on the news.

Marketing success in a recession

I spoke with a man yesterday morning, whose main problem at the moment, is recruiting enough good quality people to cope with the 300% increase in business he has seen since last June.

I spoke today with the owner of a recruitment business (one of the industries hit hardest by the recession), whose business is growing faster right now than ever before.  I also spoke with an accountant earlier, who has seen an amazing 50% increase in the size of his client base in the past 6 months!

All three of these businesses are clients of mine, so their marketing is brilliant! However, their success is only possible, because they are focusing on growing their businesses rather than survival. Their competitors are ‘hunkering down’ and hoping to just stay afloat, so my clients have been able to gain market share and will continue to do so!

Recession thinking

Because of the wall-to-wall negative news coverage, most small business owners right now are focusing on what they might lose.  Their thinking and strategies are all designed around avoiding loss – Rather than developing their business.

Even in a good economy, ignoring the development of a business and focusing on loss, will guarantee that a business fails!

That’s because what we focus on determines the actions we take.  Let’s look at a very simple example, which shows how a business owner’s focus will dramatically influence what he does; based on whether he focuses on survival or growth.

If Bob asks himself; “How can I avoid going broke during the recession?” He might come up with answers like:

  • I could cut back on everything.
  • I could work harder / longer hours.

However, if Bob asks himself; “How can I double my profits, even during a recession?”  He might come up with answers like:

  • I could find a great new service to offer all my existing clients, which is also highly profitable.  Existing clients already trust me, so a high percentage will go for it.
  • I could get my website professionally copy written, so we get more sales leads from all those hits we get.
  • I could build an Introducer network, people who recommend me to their contacts in return for a commission. This way, unlike advertising, I only have to pay when a new client joins me AND I get an army of salespeople out there telling the world how great my business is.

I am certainly not suggesting that the current economy is a bunch of roses. It definitely isn’t!

What I am suggesting, is that we tend to get what we focus on; so why not focus on what you want – rather than what you fear?

Focus on results – NOT hits!

One of my favourite sayings is; “start with the end in mind.” In other words, make sure you know what your outcome is, before you decide to take action.

I was thinking about this earlier, when I received an email from a reader, who had just realised that the time and money she had been investing in marketing her website and blog over the past 18 months, had been pretty much a total waste of time!

Yes, she had seen ‘traffic’ into them increase from zero to around two thousand unique visitors a day – but it hadn’t generated anything tangible for her or her business.  In fact, it had actually hurt her business; because her time spent blogging, online networking and doing SEO had limited the amount of chargeable work she could do for her clients.

Marketing goals

This lady’s original marketing goal for her website and blog, was to showcase her skills as a business finance expert to a new audience and then convert some of these readers into paying clients.  However, she became so focused on producing regularly updated content and getting her Search Engine Optimisation ‘just right’ that she was using these numbers to track her success – rather than the actual number of new clients and enquiries she was getting.

This is a common scenario, when someone gets so involved in the mechanics of a marketing activity, that the activity itself becomes their goal – rather than a tool to help them reach their goal.

Taking stock

marketing results outcomesIf you have a commercial website or blog, how focused are you on the tangible or bankable results you get from it?

I am not talking about hits, metrics, comments or subscriber numbers – I’m talking about actual, business results, what your accountant would call your ROI (return on investment).

Here are some examples of questions we all need to ask ourselves, if we invest our time and/or money on a website or blog:

  • If your site/blog is there to generate enquiries for your business – how many is it generating each day and what quality are they?
  • If your site/blog is supposed to be generating advertising revenue, how much money is it making for you each week?
  • If your site/blog is supposed to be positioning you as an authority in your area of expertise, how many more calls are you getting from newspapers, trade publications and the media – wanting your opinions?

It does us all good from time to time, to take stock of where we are and to ensure that everything we are investing our time, money and energy in is actually taking us toward our business goals.  Otherwise, we run the risk of rowing our boat REALLY hard in the wrong direction and suddenly wondering why we are in the wrong place after all that hard work.

Boost sales with your advertising!

In this post, I am going to show you how to get massively better results from your advertising – starting right now!

Making advertising work!

If you tried advertising in the past and found that the only winner was the person who sold it to you, you’re not alone.  Over the years, I have helped market the services of thousands of businesses, spanning just about every industry and profession.  During my initial conversations with the people behind these businesses, I would often hear a version of the following statement:

“We tried advertising – it doesn’t work!”

Advertising actually DOES work (really well), but only if you use it correctly.  I have personally sold many millions of pounds (and dollars) worth of products and services for my clients and myself, with the help of advertising.  In this post, I am going to share one of the secrets of my advertising success with you.

If you have a small or medium sized business and are advertising with the intention of making sales, boosting your profits and transforming your income; I suggest the only form of advertising worth investing in is action advertising.

Why is ACTION advertising so effective for smaller businesses?

ACTION advertising is designed to make the reader take action.  Big companies are usually seeking to get someone to switch from one brand of cola, razor blade or sports shoes etc to another.  These adverts can be effective by simply associating good feelings or famous / beautiful people with their ‘brand.’

Small businesses typically advertise in order to generate sales.  Their advertising needs to; get their phone ringing, fill their store with eager buyers or fill their inbox with sales requests and enquiries.  This means their adverts need to inspire some form of direct response or action from the reader / listener.  A good quality action advertisement includes the following:

-  It tells the reader who the advertiser is.
-  It tells the reader what the benefits of their product or service is.
-  It gives them a motivating reason to ACT NOW – to call, visit or e-mail the advertiser.
-  It tells them to contact the advertiser – usually with a time sensitive or limited availability element!

Here’s an example of a simple action advertisement I read (with the company’s details changed):

“ACME Widgets can save you a recession-busting 45% on your annual widget costs, that’s why we are inviting you to attend our wine and widget evening on 26th February at 7pm.  You can reserve your place now by calling Rachael on 012345 123123.  As places are limited, please call now to avoid disappointment!  Acme Widgets, 22 East Street, London.”

In contrast, most small business advertising creates little motivation for the reader to take action.  These ads are often based around the following:
-  They tell the reader the name of the service or business.
-  They show the reader the advertiser’s logo.
-  They tell the reader a little about what the advertiser does or their benefits.
-  They sometimes list a ‘special offer’.
-  They usually give the reader some contact details.

These ineffective adverts provide information about who the advertiser is and what they do, BUT give no reason for the reader to take action and contact them.  Guess what – generally, no one does!  Here’s a real life example, (with the company name/details changed):

“Acme Widgets have over 20 years of experience and our customer service is second to none.  Last year our widgets were voted ‘Best Value Widget’ by What Widget Magazine.  Our best selling Orange Widget is just £250.  Acme Widgets, 22 East Street, London”.

The majority of small business advertising I see in the press or in trade journals, is far less effective than it could or should be.  There is nothing compelling about what they say – nothing to inspire the reader to do anything.  When I started out in marketing, back in the 1980’s, we used to call these ineffective advertisements ‘flick-through ads’ – because people would literally see them and just carry on flicking through whichever publication they were in, without doing anything.

Remember, all motivation comes from motive

If you want your advertisement to generate masses of new business, you can!  But you need to advertise where your ideal future clients/customers are and give them a BIG enough reason to inspire them to take the action you require.  People are not stupid and will only contact you if there’s a compelling / motivating enough reason for them to do so.  Just having your message “out there” is simply not enough!

The Seth Godin blog strategy

I wrote a post a while ago, where I asked why Seth Godin was not using Twitter, to ‘tweet’ with his many fans and why he banned comments on his blog.  Seth was generous enough to come over to my blog and (ironically) leave a comment.  Whatever you happen to think about Seth’s position in not allowing comments, one thing is certain – his strategy works well…. for him!

But, could the same strategy work for a non-celebrity too?

Seth Godin’s blog comment strategy

Seth’s decision not to allow people to comment on his blog posts, means his readers have only one alternative, if they want to discuss or debate what they have just read.  They have to take that debate to; digg, FriendFeed, stumbleupon, facebook or twitter etc. Seth provides easy links below each post to encourage this and make it super-easy to spread his superb content.

The end result is that new people, who have never heard of Seth Godin or his excellent blog, (but who use one of those social bookmarking / social media services), will find him!

Although Seth has an alternative reason for banning comments on his blog, his strategy is perfect for a well known celebrity.  It helps drive a massive amount of NEW people to his work and requires a fraction of his time; as he has no comments to filter or respond to.

Why Seth Godin’s comment strategy wouldn’t work for us

Because he’s famous, Seth avoids the one pitfall, which you or I would have if we banned comments on our blogs – Being slammed for failing to connect with our readers! Famous people who blog, don’t actually have readers - they have fans!  Readers and fans are completely different.

Seth’s fans, for example, are used to paying in order to read his books, which is a one-way experience – just like his blog.  He produces material – they read it – end of story. Equally, fans are far MORE likely to want to connect with Seth, by being seen to be forwarding his work on their social networks.

Could you or I use a version of Seth’s strategy on your blog?

I think that most bloggers can use a version of Seth’s approach; by occasionally closing comments on selected posts.  This might be particularly effective if the post is either controversial or makes a significant announcement (or both!) The effectiveness of this strategy will depend on a few things, including; the number of readers your blog has, how many of them are actively using social bookmarking services and how easy you make it for people to share your posts.

However, for you or I to close the comments section for every post, as Seth has done, is NOT something I would recommend.

Quick blog marketing tip

Here’s a quick blog marketing tip, to help you reach more targeted readers with your blog.

Focus on people – not ‘traffic’

Take a look at the search terms that people most frequently use, when they arrive on your blog from the search engines.  Then, write a blog post about that subject and you will often attract even more people.  More than this, you will not simply be ‘attracting traffic’ – you will be attracting targeted readers with an interest in your blog’s subject.

So long as the search terms that people are finding you with are 100% relevant to the subject of your blog, even if you see just a small increase in targeted readers, it’s worth it.

I have successfully used this tactic on my tech news blog and seen some amazing results!

I would like to hear from YOU if you have already used this idea and what YOUR experience was!