Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: July 2009 (page 1 of 2)

The Power of Influence

I have a question for you.  “Why does one person’s recommendation carry a lot of weight, when another person can give the same recommendation, yet few people take any notice?”

The answer, of course, is influence.

The recommendation of an influential person is powerful and in business it has a huge commercial value too.  It’s why a sports star will get paid millions; just to be seen wearing and endorsing a brand like Nike or Adidas. Their influence is so strong that it changes the way people actually feel about the brands they endorse.  As a result, the brand makes more sales.

Twitter & FriendFeed make measuring online influence easier

One of the great things about sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, is that they give you an insight into how influential some people are – online at least! On FriendFeed, I have seen people like Robert Scoble and Louis Gray generate hundreds and hundreds of comments; just by asking a quick question – such is their influence.

On Twitter, I have seen similar results.  On Sunday, for example, Chris Brogan sent out the message below.

chris-tweet

When I checked my blog stats for Sunday, I saw a significant spike in visitors here from Twitter.  The interesting thing was the unusually high percentage of Chris’ ‘followers’, who clicked that link.  It was around 400% higher than I usually see, when someone ReTweets my posts. In other words, Chris’ followers were 4 times more likely to click a link he sent, than I usually see.  His Twitter followers clearly trust him to provide interesting links.  Now, I am the first to admit that this was a snapshot, but I see similar patterns repeated all the time.

Influential recommendations

I have a friend, who has recommended my marketing services to seven of her contacts. All seven contacts called me and within just one call, all seven became clients. Each one told me how much they respected Sarah’s recommendation and endorsement of my services.  In other words, before I even spoke to these people, Sarah’s recommendation had already reassured them that I would get the sales results they needed.

Influence, is a huge subject – way too big to cover in a single blog post. However, there’s a great tip I found years ago, which we can all use, in order to help us understand how to increase our commercial influence.

The tip is simply to study two types of people: Those who are highly influential and also those who lack influence.

You will quickly see that there are certain things, which people within each group have in common.  For example, I find that people with commercial influence are usually far more knowledgeable in their field than their counterparts.  They are also excellent at developing trust.

Okay – Now it’s your turn!  Please share your thoughts regarding influence.

Twitter icon

Since yesterday’s post, I’ve had a number of emails from people; wanting to know where I got the beautifully designed Twitter icon I used in the post and also in my sidebar.

Both the Twitter icon and the FeedBurner one I use on the blog, come from a blog called IconTexto. They are part of a set of 28.

By the way, I am not affiliated in any way with that blog or the designer, I just think this set of icons are superb.

7 ways to get more sales leads and enquiries

Here are 7 simple things you can do, to increase the number and the quality of your sales leads and enquiries. Take a look through this short list and see how many of them you are already doing.

1. Ask

Think of the contacts you have, who already have access to your ideal profile of customer or client.  Are you asking these contacts to introduce you? If not, it’s time to start!  To fully leverage this approach, you will need to motivate your contacts.

Remember, motivation comes from the fusion of two words: Motive and Action.  If you want your contacts to take action (to recommend you) you need to give them a strong enough motive (or reason) to do so.

2. Make it easy for people to contact you

twitterIf you want people to get in touch, you need to make it really easy.  Take this blog, for example.  On the contact page, you will find my phone number, by office address and there’s a contact form too.  I also list my Twitter account.

As a result, I regularly get phone calls, emails and Tweets from people asking about my services.

3. Just ask for their email address

If your website or blog already has a contact form, how much information do you require from people, before they can send their request to you? All you really need, is their email address. Each additional ‘field’ (like their name, company name, phone number etc), which you ask them to fill in, reduces the percentage of people who contact you.

In other words, you can increase the number of sales leads and enquiries you get, simply by removing these unnecessary barriers! Once someone has contacted you via the form, you can always request additional information if you need it.  To contact me, all you need to provide is your email; the rest is optional. It works.

4. Get your full contact details into the ‘signature’ of your emails

Your full contact details should also be visible on your emails.  This way, if someone forwards an email from you, to one of THEIR contacts, that contact will easily be able to get in touch with you, if they wish.  When you consider how many emails you write in a year, this could get your contact details in front of hundreds or thousands of new people.

5. Search Engine Optimisation or SEO

If you have a website or blog and you want more sales enquiries, the best way is to ensure that your site’s attracting lots of targeted prospective clients.  This is where Search Engine Optimisation or SEO comes in.  An SEO expert can help your site attract lots of people, who are online searching for your exact product or service.  There’s some great SEO sites, which provide useful tips, but I very strongly recommend you get expert help, if you are serious about getting sales leads from your site.  If you want to know more about SEO, take a look at the excellent SEOmoz blog.

Of course, SEO is just 50% of the online lead generating equation!  You also need…

6. Professionally written copy

This is a no-brainer, yet almost every small business website makes the mistake of writing their own wording (or copy.)  As a result, they get people visiting their site, but very few, if any, leads or enquiries.  This blog generates enquiries on an hourly basis, because it’s written by a professional.  If the copy on your site is not inspiring enough to compel people to click links, email, call or visit you – then why exactly do you have a site?

You can massively increase the number of enquiries you get, with this one simple improvement!

7. Network online

Networking has changed massively over the past few years.  The bottom line here is that today, via a number of extremely powerful online services, you can develop stacks of sales leads and enquiries and make some great contacts too.  I personally use Twitter, Google+ and Facebook; though LinkedIn can also be effective.

PS: If you’d like to stay connected and get free marketing ideas, remember to subscribe to this blog – Click here!

What did I miss?

Okay, now it’s your turn. What are your suggestions for generating more sales leads and enquiries? What’s worked best for you? Let us know!

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Marketing tip: The value of feedback

One of the most powerful tools in marketing is also one of the least mentioned. Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about the marketing value of feedback.

Marketing feedback

The fastest and most accurate way to guarantee you are giving the marketplace what it wants, is to ask the marketplace what it wants! This feedback is gold dust for your business, if you use it.

Of course, rather than actually get a discussion going with their prospective clients or customers, most small businesses simply copy what their competitors are all doing.  It’s easier and feels safer.

Here’s the problem with that approach: It doesn’t work!  You see, the only way you will ever uncover that great niche product or service, which will triple your profits and get you that big house you’ve always wanted, is if you stop copying what the others are doing and start offering what the marketplace actually wants.

The price of success or the cost of failure?

Whenever I ask a business owner, why he or she refuses to get professional help in the key areas of their business, the answer is always the same.  They tell me that they can’t afford it.

This answer is based on a 100% incorrect assumption.

The incorrect assumption, is that by not investing in professional help, a business will somehow be in a stronger financial position. The reality is very different, because the price a company pays for neglecting to invest, is a price it pays over and over again, every day.

  • The next time you visit a website that looks like crap; so you leave, never to return – That company is paying the price for commercial neglect.
  • The next time you find yourself reading about how bad a company’s customer service is – That company is paying the price for commercial neglect.
  • The next time you throw a poorly written marketing letter in the bin – That company is paying the price for commercial neglect.

If those people think the price of success is high, wait until they see the cost of failure.

Ads, endorsements and full disclosure!

When I launched this blog, I decided to introduce a zero advertising policy – no paid advertising or endorsements. There were a couple of solid reasons for this.

Firstly, I don’t like blogs, which are just glorified advertising vehicles.  They make me wonder if the posts are being written just as a way to sell ads, rather than provide genuine value.

Secondly, I wanted to show you that this blog contained information you could trust, without you having to wonder if I was being paid to recommend a product or service to you.  My aim was to use my ad free approach, as a way to increase the quality of the content here and make it a more valuable resource for you and your business.

I soon had to include unpaid endorsements in this ban, as it was the only way to prove that this was a fully, paid-ad free blog.  I tried offering unpaid recommendations, but as you will see later in this post, it just didn’t work.

However, after reviewing the impact of this approach since the blog’s launch in winter 2008, it’s become increasingly clear to me that my zero ad / recommendation has actually done the total opposite of what I intended.

In reality, banning all forms of paid and unpaid recommendations, has stopped me being able to provide you with a stack of genuinely useful, valuable information.  I have also been unable to share some great resources with you, things that I pro-actively recommend to people on the radio or when I give a talk.  I have even been unable to answer some common reader questions here; things I get asked all the time and have to answer individually via email – because the answer involves me directly recommending a product or service to you.

To show you what I mean, here’s just a few examples of the kind of issues I’ve encountered, by refusing to offer any form of paid or unpaid promotion here:

  • Over the years, I have invested thousands of pounds and dollars on marketing and other business related audio programmes. Some of these programs have been massively useful and have the potential to directly help you and your business.  One program helped me to totally transform my whole life!  However, I have not been able to recommend them here.  This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with something of genuine value.
  • After I reviewed Seth Godin’s blog, I got emails and messages on Twitter, complaining that it was an advertisement! In truth it was an endorsement, albeit an unpaid one, for a site that offers stacks of great, free content.  There’s been (literally) dozens of similar examples.  I mention this, to highlight the difficulty I have found in being able to bring you really useful information – within my self-imposed guidelines.  This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with resources of genuine value.
  • David Henderson sent me a copy of his book; “The Media Savvy Leader” to review.  I loved it.  David’s a former Emmy Award winning CBS News Correspondent and really understands the media. His book is excellent, BUT I wasn’t able to review it for you here.  So, I find myself in the insane position, where I can pro-actively recommend his book to my friends and contacts, but not to you.  This has clearly stopped me being able to provide you with something of genuine value.
  • I get emails on a very regular basis, from people asking the same questions – questions, which I could answer easily in the blog, but can’t because they involve me giving an endorsement.  These include: “What emailing software do you use for your newsletter?”, “Which is best for Twitter management; TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop?”, “Which hosting company do you use for your blog?” and “What wordpress theme do you recommend?” etc, etc.

I know from the volume of email I receive, that answering questions like these here on the blog will help a LOT of people.

So, my friends and contacts all know the things I use and endorse, but my readers here don’t  - And that’s just wrong!

Then there’s the borderline stuff

Things get even crazier, when you look at other borderline advertising issues here.  For example, is that button in the sidebar that says ‘Twitter’ an ad for Twitter or not?  What about the link at the bottom of the screen, that lets you know who configured this blog for me, surely that’s an advertisement?  What about the links in my sidebar or the people who promote their services in the comments section of the blog? Though none of these mentions were paid for, surely they are all forms of advertising?

Clearly, something had to change.  So after a lot of thinking, I have decided to kick the zero ad policy into touch!

Removing the barriers

The time has come for me to remove this barrier, so I can increase the value of this blog to you and your business. As a reader, you are likely to notice two significant improvements:

  • Firstly, I will be able to write posts far more frequently, because posts will be written with total freedom and none of the previous limitations.
  • Secondly, the blog will become a more valuable resource for you.  That’s because the only qualification a post will now need, in order for it to be published here, is that I believe it will help you or your business to succeed.  This leaves me free to share everything with you and is a powerful enough reason by itself, to make the change worthwhile.

Full disclosure

I have not spoken to anyone yet about paid advertising here, as my primary reason for this change is to give myself the freedom to deliver better quality content to you. Everything I recommend on this blog, will be something I use and/or believe in 100%.

Of course, having now made this announcement, it’s likely there will be advertising enquiries.  I have a blog that already successfully offers paid and unpaid endorsements, advertising and reviews; via a full disclosure policy. When the time comes, I will use a full disclosure policy here too. This means everything related to any form of paid advertising that you see here in the future, will be clearly identified. Full disclosure allows total transparency and the development and retention of trust.

For example, if I recommend a book to you that’s on amazon, and I include an affiliate link to it in the post, the link will be clearly marked as an affiliate link. Then, if you want to read reviews of the book on amazon or buy a copy, you can do so with just one click. By the way, bloggers typically make VERY little money from this kind of link.  Chris Brogan refers to it laughingly as ‘beer money’ – and he has a massively popular blog. These links are primarily offered as a useful resource for people that are interested in finding out more about the book.

Conclusion

There’s a real irony about this, as I can be more open and transparent without the former ad ban, using full disclosure, than I could with it. Remember, only a relatively small number of my long-term readers even knew what my policy was! Everyone else must just have wondered why such a popular marketing blog had no ads and seldom reviewed anything!

By having the freedom to write for you, without all the previous restrictions, I hope to significantly increase the value of this blog to you and your business.  I would like to know what you think about these changes, so please leave your feedback in the comments section below or if you prefer, by contacting me here.

Update:
In the 2 days since writing this post, I have received almost 90 messages; through the comments below, emails, Tweets and even a phone call from a long time reader – which was brilliant.  All the feedback thus far is in support of what I am trying to do here.  I have also seen my largest ever increase in my RSS subscribers.  Thanks to everyone!

Take action now

If you don’t like where you live, don’t complain about it or wish you lived somewhere better – move! You’re not a tree.

If you want to live somewhere else, take action now! Develop a plan, work that plan and relocate to where you DO want to be.

If you don’t like your sales figures, don’t complain about them or wish they were better – improve! You are not a software program stuck in a loop. If you want better sales figures, take action now! Develop an effective marketing plan, work that plan and enjoy the sales results you DO want.

If you want something better – do something better.

Don’t just complain and stay the same.  That kind of thinking can drive you nuts!

How to sell against cheaper competitors

If Bob is a consultant and he charges £50 an hour for his time, he might cost you a lot more than Sue, who is also a consultant but charges £75 an hour.

That’s because Sue is well organised and very experienced in her field. Something that takes Bob 5 hours to do, can be done to a higher standard by sue, in half the time.

  • Hiring the ‘cheaper’ consultant in that example would cost you £250.
  • Hiring the expensive consultant would have cost you just £187.50 for a better service!

If you offer a great service and charge a higher than average price for it – make sure you explain this clearly in your marketing and in your negotiations.  Once prospective clients or customers are aware that your higher than average price or fee could save them money and give them a better quality service, it’s a lot more likely they will hire you.

If you just quote a higher than average fee in your marketing, you will lose business needlessly!

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