Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: February 2012 (page 1 of 3)

What if it works?

If you want to quickly improve your results, this short post may well have the answer you need!

Many people have great ideas, but the fear of “what if it fails?”, stops them putting the idea into action. It becomes another opportunity, which never saw the light of day.

I suggest a different approach, an approach used by every successful businessperson I have ever worked with or studied!

So, what if it works?

Here’s a question for you to consider, the next time you have a great business idea:

What if it works – I mean REALLY works?

  • How would that improve the future of your business?
  • How would that increase your income and profits?
  • How would that improve the quality of life for you and your family?

It’s natural and important to weigh up the risks involved in any new opportunity. However, we mustn’t allow the fear of failure, to stop us from taking the decisions, which lead to meaningful progress. Very few (if any) legitimate opportunities in business, come with a guarantee. So, if you believe an idea has the potential to work, work on the idea. Do the research. Have the conversations. Get the advice and then, if it still looks viable, put it to work.

  • If it fails, you get the lesson from that failure, to invest in the next idea.
  • If it flies, you get the lesson from that success, to invest in the next idea.

Repeat this process often enough and the quality and quantity of your successes will set you on a path, which nothing can stop.

Photo: Roger Price

Seth Godin, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the next big thing

We can waste a lot of time, waiting for the next big thing to come along and change our future.

What we know about our future

We each have 24 hours to invest every day. By learning the lessons from our past and investing in intelligent activity daily, we can create an increasingly bright future.

The problem with waiting for the next big thing to come along, is that we don’t know how long we will be left waiting or even if we will recognise it when it happens. As we all know, very few people can spot the next big thing, even when it’s right under their nose.

Seth Godin & Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC founder, Colonel Sanders, offered his special recipe and business proposition to over 1,000 savvy businesspeople, before one actually spotted it for what it was. In this video from Seth Godin, the world’s most successful marketing author shares how he was rejected 900 times, with 30 different book proposals, before one publisher was able to spot Seth’s potential as the next big thing in business publishing.

It’s wise to have an eye on the future, in fact, I believe it’s essential. However, we need to learn the difference between waiting for something to happen and making something happen.

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Avoid these 4 common blogging errors and watch your results quickly improve

When business bloggers come to me for advice on how to make their blog more valuable, there are 4 tips I seem to give more than any others. Here they are, for those of you who want their blog to deliver better results. I hope you find them useful.

Get readable

No matter how valuable your content is, it will fail to achieve anything like it’s full potential, if it’s too hard for people to read. The 2 most common readability issues I see, are font size and column width.

Many sites use very small font sizes, which are just too small to be easily read. This is a fast way to lose readers, needlessly. There’s nothing to gain from using tiny fonts, which are almost impossible to read on anything smaller than a 22 inch monitor. The reason every popular website uses a readable font size, is they know the importance of having the main content comfortable to read on smaller screens.

For reference, this blog uses a Arial as my font, set at 16px.

Similarly, studies have shown that people find it a lot easier to read narrower columns of content, than wide columns. Many popular child themes fail to take this into account, which is why there are so many W–I–D–E column layouts out there.

In my own testing, I discovered that once I go beyond 95 characters across (including spaces) in a blog post, fewer people read through the whole page. Many people say you should stick below 75 characters, but using a large clear font, as I do, you should be perfectly fine up to around the 95 character mark.

If your current child theme doesn’t make it easy for you to reduce the content column width, either learn how to code it, pay someone to code it or use the theme I use here, which gives you 100% control over fonts and columns with the click of a mouse. It’s called Headway and that is NOT an affiliate link – It’s just an amazing piece of software that gives you the control you need, over your blog.

Have a call to action at the bottom of your content

If someone has just read all the way down to the bottom of a page or post, it’s because they were interested in the content. It engaged them. It earned their attention and their time. You now have an interested person, whose eyes are right at the bottom of your post.

THAT is the point where you should ask them to take action!

I use that approach here and it works extremely well, generating leads and inquiries all day, every day. Just remember to keep the call to action short and link directly to the conversion page. This may be a page that sells your products or services. It could be a newsletter sign-up page or maybe a link to subscribe to your blog via RSS. You decide what you want your readers to do, then put that call to action right where interested eyes will see it.

Don’t write anything just to publish something

This one goes against the traditional idea that you MUST publish something every day, even on days where you have nothing worth sharing. Despite what many people think, I don’t publish posts here every day. I usually publish 4 or 5 times a week on this blog, only very occasionally 7 times a week.

I use no blogging schedule other than this: If I have something useful to share here, I publish it. Useful is the key word.

I do recommend you publish at least once a week on a business blog(twice is better), if you want your blog to remain on your reader’s radar. However, there are no prizes for publishing anything, just so you can publish something. If you have something useful to say, share it. If you can’t find anything useful to say at least once a week, spend more time listening to the needs and opportunities of your marketplace and write about that. Keep informed of the latest news and trends affecting your marketplace, and write about that.

NOTE: This article has some great tips on how to write useful content.

Make your work easy to share

The content on Jim’s Marketing Blog is easy for people to share. There is a small Twitter and Google+ button at the top and bottom of each post. These are easily the most powerful drivers of share traffic here, so they get prominence. At the bottom of each post, I use the oddly named Twitter, Facebook social share plugin – which actually gives access to Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ too. I also recommend sharethis, which gives easy access to over 30 different sharing platforms and allows you to make your preferred ones more prominent (see below).

I have tested a ‘floating share button’, which attaches itself to the side of the screen and follows the page, so your share icons are always in the reader’s view. This was very effective, for those who could see it. The challenge was that many people told me that they couldn’t see it. It wasn’t visible on many tablet devices or any phone I tested it on. It was also invisible on some smaller resolution netbooks. There may be a way around this visibility issue, which you might like to share with a comment.

If you do use this type of sharing system on your site, I suggest also adding a traditional sharethis or addthis set of icons to the foot of your posts, though this can look a little like overkill.

You can’t be outstanding, without standing out!

What areas of your business really stand out, when compared to your competitors?

Your prospective clients are just like you, in that they are being bombarded with information all day every day. For your product or service to stand out against all that noise, it needs to be outstanding. This takes time and effort, but unless you want to place a very low ceiling on your potential, you have to come forward and command people’s attention.

Does ‘stahow to be outstandingnding out’ really matter?

When I speak with business owners, here’s what I find almost every time:

  • Small business owners want to attract word of mouth referrals, yet most fail to do anything that makes them truly stand out, so there’s nothing compelling for people to say about them.
  • Service providers want to work with the best clients for the highest fees, yet most fail to offer the kind of exceptional or unique service that stands out and attracts the best clients and fees.
  • Business bloggers and newsletter providers want a large, high quality readership, yet most fail to invest the time or expertise required to stand out against the millions of other sites, fighting for the valuable attention of those same readers.

It takes creativity to be outstanding

It takes creativity to stand out, but that’s OK. I have built a site full of free information on how to develop your creativity. I also have a page, which lists every creative thinking article, on one easy to bookmark page, you can visit it here.

One of the most valuable things any business owner can do, is separate themselves from their competitors by creating an element of their business, which stands out against the competition.

  • When you give your clients and marketplace a reason to talk about you, they will.
  • When you offer high quality prospective clients a compelling reason to work with you, they will.
  • When you offer your blog readers a motivating reason to subscribe to your blog (or newsletter) and share it, they will.

However, it all starts with the decision to stand out.

Photo: Sonny Malone

What are you planning today?

So, what marketing ideas are you working on right now?

I’m talking here, about the plans you are fleshing out and putting into place, for the development of your business over the next 30-120 days and beyond.

Here’s why these plans are worthy of your time today: As surely as your past planning cultivated your current results, the plans you put into place today will determine your future results.

A better tomorrow, starts today

If you are currently making meaningful progress in reasonable time, I suggest you don’t change much. Look for areas where you can refine and improve, based on past feedback, but keep working with what’s working. If you are not seeing the kind of progress you need, then I suggest you stop your current marketing and work on developing a better plan. Now, depending on your resources and your attitude to investing in your business, you have 2 obvious choices:

  1. You can hire expert help. If you can afford it, this is the least expensive solution and takes all the guess work out of the equation. An experienced marketing professional will be able to look at where your business is today, find out where you want it to be and then show you how to get from A to B. I can help you with this and work with you on the development of your business, if you want advice you know you can trust.
  2. You can develop your own marketing plan. This should be seen as a last resort and not a money saver, but if you are literally unable to hire the help you need, you still need to do something. I recommend you begin, by ceasing your current under performing marketing and then look at the options open to you.

And then?

This free marketing guide will give you some ideas and tips on effective marketing strategies for you and your business. Look at the options in that free guide and select the ones you feel are most suited to you. As well as the free advice in that guide, there are thousands of other small business marketing ideas available to you here on the blog, for free. I recommend you use the topics section of the blog for a list of marketing topics on a specific theme.

I also suggest you use the search box on the right hand column of the blog and search for specific answers to your marketing problems.

In summary

The marketing and business development plans you are working on today, are what will feed your business over the coming months or more. For a better future, you need to be making the right decisions today. Finally, rest assured I am here for you, to provide you with as much free help and support via this blog, as I can.

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An amazing opportunity for you to prosper, in this uncertain economy!

Today, I want to tell you about an amazing opportunity, for you and your business.

Whilst the economy is the worst it has been in living memory, I’m working with small businesses and seeing other small businesses, which are growing faster than at any time in their history. In this post, I am going to share what I believe to be a key factor behind their success!

No tricks

One of the great lessons in business, is that there are no tricks when it comes to creating meaningful, lasting commercial success.

Since starting my marketing business 17 years ago, I have found that there are 2 camps, when it comes to small business owners:

  1. The first camp want to know how to do the right things, correctly. They don’t want to waste time getting from where they are to where they want to be. So, they find out what works and then work at it.
  2. The second camp are looking for tricks. They ask me questions like; what’s the trick to getting my business noticed, Jim? Their hope is that I will offer them a sentence or two of trickery, which they can use and immediately turn their under performing marketing around. I get people asking me things like this on Twitter, fully expecting the “trick” to fit into 140 characters or less.

The market for trickery is huge

Look at the marketing aimed at small business owners and you will often see outrageous claims,aimed at those in the second camp. Everything from how to get 100,000 Twitter followers in 36 hours to promises like how to earn a 6 figure income working 5 hours a week. These scammy products attract paying customers, because people are looking for that kind of impossible result. The people looking for tricks make up a huge proportion of society, which is why wonder diets sell like crazy, if they promise rapid weight loss with little willpower required.

Usually, when people ask me what’s the trick to (whatever), what they really mean is one or all of the following:

  • What’s the quick way?
  • What’s the risk free way?
  • What’s the easy way?
  • What’s the cheap way?

Here’s the trick

When people ask me those questions, the answer I give is always the same. I tell people that the fastest, least risky, easiest and most inexpensive way to improve their marketing and business development, is to do the right things, correctly. It’s how 100% of the most successful business owners achieve their results.

One of my clients has grown his coaching business revenues by over 500% and his profits by closer to 700%, but it took us 2 years. He now hand picks his clients, but it took us 2 years. His life has changed, but it took us 2 years. He now lives where he wants to live, but it took us 2 years. In that same 2 year period, millions of other coaches and trainers have just carried on making the same errors, often copying what they see others doing, unaware the person they are copying is often in just as bad a spot as they are. So, these coaches and trainers are still fighting to get noticed, still selling based on fees, still trying to find the trick that will work for them. It’s totally unnecessary.

Your amazing opportunity

You have an incredible opportunity right now. The economy is in bad shape, really bad shape – the worst in living memory. So, your prospective clients are thinking harder and harder, before they spend their money.

Here’s why this represents an amazing opportunity for you:

When your marketplace are thinking hard before making a purchasing decision, the providers (that’s you) who market their services the most effectively, win a disproportionately massive share of their business.

That’s because you can provide them with exactly what they need to see and hear, whilst your amateurishly marketed competitors camouflage themselves with the same uninspiring marketing.

For those seriously interested in growing a successful business, the trick is to stop looking for tricks and get serious. This is a bad time to dabble, but it’s an amazing time to finally blow the lid off your business potential and build that business you have always wanted.

Photo: Steven DePolo

Highly Recommended: The Marketing Over Coffee Podcast

Very rarely, I ‘highly recommend’ a blog or podcast, which I believe you will find extremely useful. I’m happy to say that today is one of those days!

The Marketing Over Coffee Podcast

marketing over coffee podcastI strongly recommend you check out  the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, by Christopher Penn and John J Wall. The podcast looks at marketing related stories and provides common sense ideas and tips, covering all areas of marketing.

The hosts are experienced, respected professionals, with Christopher Penn an adjunct professor of Internet Marketing at the University of San Francisco as well as being co-founder of the PodCamp movement. John’s services have been employed by some of the world’s most respected companies and his work has featured on many US and international news outlets.

Insightful and entertaining

As the name suggests, the podcast is recorded over coffee at a Massachusetts coffee shop. The conversational style of the show and the obvious rapport the guys have, often makes Marketing Over Coffee as entertaining, as it is informative. It’s a balance that’s hard to pull off but these guys manage it beautifully.

Shows typically run for a little over 20 minutes and past guests have included Seth Godin and Simon Sinek. You can subscribe now via iTunes or any of the options on the Marketing Over Coffee blog. I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough and strongly suggest you subscribe now, to find out why.

Photo Credit: Marketing Over Coffee

Blogging: It’s all about doing the work

When it comes to commercial blogging, sometimes you just need to do the work.

Once your blog has been correctly configured, write the best content you can, as often as you can and make it as easy for people to share as you can. Put your work where the right people will see it, social networking sites are great for this.

Then, keep on doing the work.

The software alone is not enough

I often see people who seem to spend more time changing the design of their blog and the plugins they use, than they spend blogging and improving their writing.

The thing is, it’s the quality of our content and the regularity with which we show up with great content, which makes the difference. This is why you can have blogs like ZenHabits or Seth Godin’s blog, which are extremely plain looking and get hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, and blogs that use the latest glossy WordPress theme, which very few people read. Leo and Seth write great content, regularly.

For those who want a bigger, targeted readership for their blogs, there are 2 areas I recommend you focus on.

1. Show up regularly

If people respond well when you write, (i.e they share your posts, link to them and talk about them), but you don’t write very often, increase the frequency of your blogging. Here’s how to write great content every day. The big secret to being able to produce useful content on a regular basis, is to do it. The more you write, the easier it becomes.

2. Show us what you know and what you think

If you write regularly, but people tend not to respond when you write, I suggest you take a look at what you write. People love to read and share blog posts, which offer them some kind of value, either because it makes them think, makes them act or makes them laugh out loud. The best thing you can do is be yourself, rather than try and copy what others are doing. One of the reasons you have not seen me writing about Pinterest or SOPA, is that thousands, maybe millions are already doing that. I can’t add value there. It would be a me too post.

Turn up regularly and do the work. Show us what you know and what you think. Give us a reason to keep coming back for more, to share your work with our friends, and that’s exactly what we will do.

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