Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: July 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Business owners: Are you being unreasonable?

If you just answered ‘no’ to the question in the title of today’s post, I’m going to suggest you start being unreasonable.

Reasonably good

No small business owner wants their services to be considered reasonably good. We want to be exceptionally good, right? In that case my friends, it’s time to start being unreasonable:

  • Place an unreasonably high importance on customer service. Make it so great that they can’t ignore you and have to tell their friends how amazing you are.
  • Be unreasonably passionate about the success and happiness of your clients. Remember, business is all about people.
  • Set the bar unreasonably high, on the quality of work you are prepared to ship. I learned this one from Steve Jobs!
  • Be unreasonably committed to life long learning. As Jim Rohn used to say, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
  • Show unreasonable persistence when it comes to fulfilling your promises.

In short: It’s unreasonable to expect that we can provide a reasonable service and succeed, in today’s economy.

How to solve your biggest problems, starting now

I have some ideas on problem solving, which I’d like to share with you, and hear your thoughts on.

I noticed someone earlier, mentioning that she needed more hours in the day, to get her work done. Of course, the challenge with trying to solve time management, by looking for more time, is that it’s impossible. You, me and everyone else is blessed with the same 24 hours each day.

Another way to solve our challenges?

Telling ourselves we need more hours in the day, is a common example of how we often seek answers, by focusing on things that are outside our control. A more productive approach, is to look at our challenges and focus on the things we can control.

For example:

  • Instead of wishing a certain task was easier, we can focus on developing better skills.
  • Instead of wishing our dream home was less expensive, we can focus on becoming financially stronger.
  • Instead of wishing we had more friends, we can focus on becoming friendlier and more approachable.
  • Instead of wishing people would understand us better, we can focus on becoming better communicators.

Taking responsibility

Of course, by looking at our challenges and putting their resolution in our own hands, we risk being held responsible for our failure if it all goes wrong. There’s a strange sense of self preservation that comes from allowing outside factors to govern our success. If it all goes wrong or we fail to get the results we want, we can always blame our luck or the economy or the weather or the government.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this, but I think we often find ourselves faced with the choice of doing what’s easiest or doing what’s right (and often more difficult). It’s a lot harder to accept and take control of the things that  matter most, but I believe there’s no other route, for those of us committed to being the best we can be.

Bloggers: Yes, you can write a post in 20 minutes

Yes, you can learn how to write a blog post in 20 minutes. It won’t be particularly creative, but if speed is what you’re looking for, 20 minute blog posts are really easy.

However, here are a couple of far better alternatives to ‘fast’ posts:

  • You can also learn how to write a blog post worth reading, but it could take 40 minutes.
  • Better still, if you’re only going to blog once or twice a week, how about learning how to write a great blog post that people will want to comment on and share. That could take you an hour or more, though.

The need for speed?

The blogger whose focus is on how to write fast posts, is missing the point. After her post is written and published, it will fly or flop based on the value it delivers. People don’t care if it took her 2 minutes or 2 hours to write it. Their concern is whether the content is worthy of their valuable attention and worth sharing.

In short: Don’t aim to write 20 minute blog posts. The Internet is already full of them. Instead, aim to write useful posts. There is always a high demand for useful, valuable information. THAT’S what your readers and future readers are looking for!

Photo: Future Shape

Are you making it impossible for yourself to win?

Whether they know it or not, the vast majority of people reading this message are currently making it impossible for themselves to win.

Allow me to explain, by asking you a few questions:

  • When will you have enough Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Linkedin contacts?
  • When will you have enough blog readers?
  • When will you have enough newsletter subscribers?

A race we can’t finish, let alone win!

Most people know they want more followers, fans, readers and subscribers, but that’s it. As such, they have entered into a game, where it’s both impossible to finish and impossible to win.

Here’s the thing: Being part of a game we can’t possibly win, negatively impacts how we feel about ourselves and our work.

Playing this unwinnable game also causes good people to act in a way they are not proud of. It encourages them to spam us with requests to follow them, ‘like’ them or subscribe to them. It causes them to get angry, when we unfollow them or unsubscribe.

As a consequence, they damage their reputation; as clients, prospective clients and contacts start thinking of them as being needy.

An alternative focus

Why not forget about building those numbers and focus on building value, instead? Let’s aim for progress rather than movement. Let’s avoid following the masses, who confuse activity with productivity. Let’s set ourselves up to win every day, by:

  • Being as useful as we can be, every day.
  • Building someone up with our encouragement, every day.
  • Sharing something of value with people, every day.
  • Learning something new, every day.

This approach leaves the marketplace feeling better about who we are and what we do. More importantly, it makes US feel better about it too!

 

Photo: Neosnaps

Why we need bigger problems

Today, we have access to more processing power and more collective intelligence than ever before. The possibilities are endless.

The world truly is our oyster.

So, as business owners, what do we do with it all?

Typically, we use it to solve uninspiring problems.

Here’s the challenge with that approach: It leads to the development of uninspiring answers.

The most enterprising small business owners today, are looking for answers to the biggest problems facing their clients and prospective clients. They have figured out that the bigger the problem they can solve, the bigger they win.

There’s some real magic behind that attitude to problem solving, for those of us who decide to embrace it!

Photo: Victoria Peckham

How to build a massively valuable blog, using a more human approach!

A reader emailed me today with a great question. If you are interested in Content Marketing or blogging and want to know how I built my blog, you will find this really useful. So, here’s what Sally asked:

I work in SEO and notice that you don’t optimize your blog posts the way I’d expect yet you rank on page 1 of Google for some top search terms. I believe I know how you do this, but I’d love you to write a post to explain it.

Thanks Jim. ~ Sally

Business is human

I work from the mindset that business is all about people, so we need to maintain a human-based approach to business, if we want to succeed in any meaningful way.

One of the core reasons that people struggle to achieve the quality and volume of sales leads or subscribers they would like from their sites, is that they focus too little on human engagement. For them, it’s about numbers. They talk about building their ‘list‘ rather than building a community. If you read about their approach to online marketing, it sounds like they are developing a spreadsheet, rather than welcoming and nurturing human relationships.

People belong in a community, not on a spreadsheet!

Here’s the thing that so many people seem to forget, when marketing their business online. Feel free to quote me on this:

Behind every blog comment, tweet, Facebook update and avatar picture is a person. A human being. Someone worthy of recognition. Someone’s son, daughter, mother or father. Real people, worthy of being respected as such, and not treated like inventory items on someone’s marketing list.

Why do I reply to just about every comment on this blog and every tweet I see? Because it matters to me. It REALLY matters. Why? Because without the people behind the clicks, emails, comments, tweets and shares, this blog has no value.

Here’s the short answer to Sally’s question

It’s almost 4 years since I wrote my first post on Jim’s marketing Blog and from day 1, I decided to develop the blog by focusing on community building, rather than focus on heavy SEO, guest posting, link building and ‘list building’. As a result, the readers of this blog have built the blog with me.

I put content out there and if it’s good enough, the community connect with it, value it and share it. I never, ever forget that.

The upside

The upside of this approach, is that I don’t need to spend time SEOing any of my posts. So, I never see a downturn in visitor numbers, when Google change their algorithm. Also, because I have the freedom to write exclusively for humans, rather than figure out how to work certain key phrases into blog posts, it’s easy for me to publish better quality content, more frequently.

I also don’t need to do things, like write those ‘best of the week’ blog post at the weekends, just to quench Google’s thirst for keyword rich, frequently updated content. I can write posts like this, instead.

The downside

It takes a leap of faith at the beginning to go against the grain, but after that, it’s easy because you are blogging from a mindset of total freedom. Other than that, I haven’t found a downside to embracing a human focused approach to blogging and online marketing.

Ironically, I manage to achieve better results than most spreadsheet marketing guys, in the areas where they are fixated. For example, around 40 new people, and climbing, subscribe to this blog every day via email. Without offering a newsletter, I have permission to send email to thousands and thousands of great people daily, who are part of this blog’s community. That’s an enormously valuable, Permission Marketing asset; built on providing value.

Equally, by focusing only on writing content that people will find useful, my posts tend to organically attract the back-links, which Google values so highly. Then, because it’s so much quicker to write posts when you are not deliberately SEOing the content or thinking of things like ‘SEO friendly HTML title-tags’, I am able to publish more content, more often – giving Google lots of that frequently updated content I mentioned earlier.

This approach works for me, because it allows me to focus freely on producing content, which I believe you will find useful. I don’t have to waste a minute, learning about the latest and greatest ways to keep the search engines happy or figuring out how to ‘build my list’.

Google’s position

Interestingly, this is the exact approach to blogging, which Google’s Matt Cutts advocates. Google staffers have told us again and again, that they are all about helping the best content reach the top of search results.

When you think about it for a moment, this makes perfect sense. Google lives or dies based on the quality of the search results it delivers. If Google allows generic, scraped or over-SEO’d content to take over the search rankings, people will stop using their product and advertisers will go elsewhere.

Conclusion

The longer I have studied online marketing, (I started my first email newsletter in 1998), the more I see that long term success comes from producing frequent, useful, original, people-focused content.

I believe that the mindset, which says people are to be targeted and referred to like inventory items on a spreadsheet, rather than valued members of your community, is both disrespectful and totally missing the point. As I said at the beginning of this post, business is all about people. It’s people who hire you, buy from you, connect with you and recommend you.

In short: I believe there’s real value in ‘keeping it human’.

Photo: Jesslee Cuizon

What everyone ought to know about shortcuts!

Shortcuts offer us promises, which they seldom if ever deliver. However, because so many people want super-fast results, the Internet is packed with people offering them.

In just a few minutes on Google, I found books, programs, webinars and people, claiming to offer:

  • The shortcut to business success.
  • The shortcut to massive web traffic.
  • The shortcut to ‘a six figure income’.
  • The shortcut to making a fortune on the stock exchange.
  • The shortcut to social media stardom.

Avoid unnecessary detours

There’s a world of difference between avoiding unnecessary detours, and seeking out so-called shortcuts. An unnecessary detour is just that; unnecessary. You know what? Every person I’ve heard from who has spent time and money on so-called shortcuts to success, has found them to be an unnecessary (and often costly) detour.

When we research the life stories of successful people, we learn that all worthwhile success is preceded by worthwhile work. They plan their work, then they work their plan. They know that success comes from doing the right things, correctly; not from trying to ‘game’ the system, using tricks.

Ironically, the fastest way to get from where we are, to where we want to be, is to avoid wasting our time and money looking for shortcuts.

Photo: Monik Markus

How to gain a powerful competitive advantage and grow a massively successful business

One of the most effective ways to gain a valuable advantage over your competitors, is to do something that generates great results, which they’re not doing.

What I am about to share with you, is a mindset for developing your business, which only a tiny fraction of 1% of small business owners embrace.

How can I build value, today?

As service providers, I’m going to suggest that we need to focus every day, on answering the question: “How do I build value, today?”

Building value into your client relationships can be as simple as sending them a personal, handwritten thank you note, for no reason other than to demonstrate your gratitude for being able to serve them and their business. Business is all about people and the relationships we have with them. The human touch goes a long way, especially today when so much is automated.

It’s also worth mentioning that the value of sending someone a thank you note (or a cupcake) is huge, but the cost to you is peanuts. It’s the recognition people value, not how much you spent on it. In fact, a thoughtful, inexpensive gesture also shows you are adding value to your relationships, rather than trying to ‘bribe’ people with expensive gifts.

Building value within your marketplace can be as easy as starting a newsletter or a blog, like this one, which offers valuable, free information. You will be amazed at how much people will appreciate your help and how willing they will be to share your value with their friends.

It’s not easy, but it is required

Yes, building value also includes more challenging tasks. For example, it takes creative thinking, time and effort to make our products or services increasingly valuable. It’s not easy, but it is required for people like you and me, who want to reach our full potential.

What examples have you experienced, where a provider demonstrated they were building value? Share your thoughts!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

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