Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: August 2012 (page 1 of 3)

Are you missing out on this free, powerful marketing asset?

What kind of atmosphere do you present to prospective clients?

One of the keys to effective marketing is that people need to feel comfortable about approaching you. They need to feel that you will warmly welcome them if they visit you or email / call you. This means the personality you project through your marketing in general and your social media marketing in particular, needs to be attractive and approachable.

Honey or vinegar?

As you know, some business owners can be confrontational or rude when using social networks or responding to comments on blogs. This is their prerogative. The thing is, prospective clients regularly check out potential service providers before deciding to get in touch. There’s an old saying, which goes like this: ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ In other words, we attract people with honey (kindness) and not vinegar (bitterness).

The small Tea Room pictured in today’s post, is a place we used several times on a recent family holiday to Corbridge, in North East England. The coffee, tea and snacks were delicious, but it was the warmth of the welcome that saw us return there and recommend it. Had the drinks and food been just as good, but with a poor atmosphere, I wouldn’t have returned or recommended it.

The honey approach makes sound business sense – after all, business is all about people, so it pays to be personable.

What do people see when they research you online?

Why not take some time out today and look at what people see, when they research you or your business. Look at your social networking accounts and also the search engine results that come up when people search for you by name or business name. If using Google, sign out of your Google accounts before you do any research. This will help you see less biased results, as will using a proxy service like Hide My Ass. When signed into Google and doing a search, Google presents you with tailored results and you could miss things, which prospective clients or customers can see.

Do you prefer to hire people, if you know in advance that they will be approachable? Does the welcome you receive from a business have much of an impact on your decision to use them, return to them or recommend them?

Photo: Jim Connolly

Have you decided yet?

Where are your day to day decisions taking you and your business?

For example:

  • Are you setting the bar on your customer service based on the industry average or are you setting it against Disney’s customer service?
  • Are you using your voice to share what others think or are you using it to voice your own opinions and ideas?
  • Are you  giving your business 100% or are you doing 100% of the things you’re comfortable with?
  • Are you selling your services for an average fee or are you charging the best fees in your profession?
  • Are you fixing the problems with your business or blaming the economy etc?
  • Are you leading or are you following?

The challenge and the opportunity

The challenge: The key decisions we need to make, require us to move out of our comfort zones. This is why success eludes most people.

The opportunity: We can decide to embrace the challenge, do work that matters and start a process that will improve every area of our business and our life – starting TODAY!

Photo: Jim Connolly

Social Media: How to build a large, valuable network

This post is all about how to build a bigger, more valuable social network.

I recall reading a blog post once, where someone asked, ‘How can I get more followers on social networking sites?’

The blogger replied, ‘Do something worth following!’

This is where your story comes in!

That advice may sound a bit harsh, but it’s absolutely correct. As regular users of social networks already know, the Internet is filled with business owners, talking in an average way about average sounding businesses. As a result, they make very little progress with their social media marketing.

Their challenge is that they tend to focus on looking for strategies or software, which they can use in order to attract more followers – when they should be looking at the story they are expecting people to follow and share.

It’s their story that’s broken!

What’s the story?

Every business and business owner has a story. Your story is built around things like:

  • The product you provide.
  • The quality of your customer service.
  • The attitude of your team.
  • The unique value you bring to your marketplace.
  • My story looks like this.

When we look at the social networking accounts of 99% of businesses in the same niche, we find them saying the same things, to the same people about a service that sounds the same as their competitors. It’s dull. It’s an uninspiring, uninteresting story, which people will not want to embrace or share. People are attracted to (and share) the remarkable, not the bland.

[quote]No matter what social media marketing strategy we use, unless we have a compelling story we will be wasting our time. [/quote]If our social networking updates are just like most other small business owners, we blend into the background. We render ourselves invisible, by simply adding to all the noise on Twitter and Facebook, etc.

So, what’s the answer?

In my experience, the business owners who build the most valuable social networks are those who have something different to say. They have a story or message, which people want to share. They get people talking about them, because they’re worthy of people’s attention. They stand out, because they are not just like the others in their niche. They tell people about what matters to them, knowing it will resonate with the kind of people they want to connect with.

As you know, most business owners on social networks do the opposite. They try to build a large, valuable network by pushing more and more messages out there. They focus on volume not value. They hope that by being busy, their predictable story will spread. Many of them schedule uninspiring messages to go out whilst they are asleep – as if it’s the number of tweets and updates, which is causing the problem.

If you are not seeing the social media marketing results you want, check how compelling your story is. Is it attractive enough to get people talking about you and telling their friends? Are you mirroring what others are doing or are you standing out?

In short: Give your business a story, which people will connect with, embrace and share with their friends.

Blogging at the weekends: Is it worth it?

blogging

I get asked that question a lot, because I tend to write a post most weekends and people want to know if they should publish posts at the weekend too.

So, what is the answer?

Optimum days

Depending on the subject of your blog and the demographic of your readership, you will find that there are some days that are better to publish posts on, than others. For example, this is a business blog and I get a lot more readers on week days than I do on a weekend. To give you an idea of the difference I see here, around 45% fewer people will read a post I publish at the weekends, compared to a week day. Other bloggers I know, write for the general public and find that Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days on their sites.

From a purely marketing perspective, it would be better for me to write posts Monday to Friday, which begs the question; why do I publish posts at the weekend so often?

Why I Publish at the weekend

I write a lot. I mean thousands of words every day. It’s something I love to do, however, it presents me with a rare challenge. Most bloggers find it hard to write once or twice a week, whereas I find it hard not to flood the blog with too much content. I write more than one post a day and spread them across 3 blogs and a website. By adding the weekend to my publishing schedule, I can deliver lots of content, without having to cram it into 5 days.

Of course, if you have something you feel you need to say at the weekend or you would like to tie a blog post to a weekend, breaking news story, do it! Measure the results and form your own conclusions. If you write a blog aimed at business owners, I do not recommend publishing posts at the weekend. Unless you are publishing fresh content 6 or 7 days a week, it makes more commercial sense to publish your posts on the optimum days.

What has your experience been?

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been, regarding the best and least effective days to publish posts in your niche. Please leave your feedback with a comment and remember to tell us what type of blog you write.

Photo: Sean MacEntee

Blogging tip: Go with the flow

Following 4 interesting emails today (Saturday), I wanted to quickly share a great little blogging tip with you. It’s all about discovering and embracing the best time for you to write your posts.

Time after time

Like many people who publish regular blog posts, I seldom write a post and publish it on the same day. Usually I have posts written between 10 and 14 days in advance. If something time sensitive happens (as with today’s post), you will get the post that day. Otherwise, I write posts in batches and schedule them to go out over the coming days / weeks.

Earlier today, I published a post that was written on Tuesday 14th August (11 days ago). It starts off by mentioning someone who emailed me for advice, but when they received the advice, they decided to ignore it because it wasn’t easy enough.

The light bulb went on!

Within 5 hours of that post going out, I received 4 emails from people who wanted to know if I was referring to them in the post. They all assumed that as the post went out today and they had emailed me recently, it HAD to be them. Ironically, the guy in question didn’t get in touch. None of those who got in touch seemed aware that my blog posts are almost always scheduled and that the post was written over a week before I’d heard from them.

There’s a REALLY good reason why I do this – Hence, this blogging tip!

Blogging Tip: Go with the flow

Many bloggers, especially those who are new to blogging, do not schedule their posts. They write a post when they get an idea, then press publish. That’s it. Job done.

Here’s the tip: If you find yourself struggling to publish useful content as often as you would like, I’d like to suggest YOU try scheduling some posts (unless your topic is time sensitive, obviously.)

The reason is simple. Many people find that when their mind is in the right place for creating content, it’s better for them to go with the flow and keep writing. You may find that it’s a lot more productive, for you to produce a few posts when you feel ‘right’ and then schedule them to be published, rather than try and write when you feel less creative.

Is this a cure-all?

No. It works extremely well for some people and less well for others. However, if you find yourself struggling to publish great content as often as you would like to, it’s worth a go!

PS: I also suggest you read this post – “How to write great creative content, every day.

Photo: zoutedrop

How to enjoy the easy life!

I was emailed yesterday by someone, who wanted to know what to do about a boss, who wouldn’t allow him to do work that matters.

I gave him 3 suggestions. He quickly replied, explaining that my answers would be difficult for him to use.

Easy or correct?

In my experience, people tend to fall into one of the following 2 groups, when it comes to making decisions:

  1. Those committed to being the best they can be, look for effective or correct answers. They know that the medicine may not always taste nice, but that it is required if they want to get better. They get the best advice they can and then act on it.
  2. Those who tend to look for the easiest answers. They refuse the medicine because it will taste bad in the short term, and they are all about short-term thinking. This group ranges from those who simply want a quiet life, to those who buy into get rich quick scams.

Zig Ziglar puts it like this:

“If you will be hard on yourself, life will be easy on you. But if you insist upon being easy on yourself, life is going to be very hard on you.”

Easy by default?

I’ve discovered that one of the secrets to a happy, fulfilling life is to learn to embrace the things in life, which most people avoid because they require too much effort. Yes, the easy route is sometimes the correct route. However, to have our compasses set to ‘easy’ by default will place a very low ceiling on our potential.

In short: We make life a lot harder for ourselves in the medium and long term, if we focus on looking for the easy answers rather than the best answers.

How to make your business more visible online and offline

One of the best ways to increase the number of clients, customers or sales leads you get, is to make sure you are as visible as possible to the right people.

That’s what today’s post is all about. It contains tips and ideas on how to be more visible online and offline!

Where are you?

As regular readers will know, I live in a small village in South Yorkshire, England. We get a lot of tourists all year round, who usually come for a boating or walking holiday. I see tourists pretty much every day at home – yet for the past week, I have been a tourist myself. My family and I have been exploring North East England and South Eastern Scotland.

As a tourist, you see a location very differently. You have little if any local knowledge, so you rely on maps and road signs in order to navigate yourself around. You quickly learn that some places are better signposted than others and that many areas would do a lot more business, if they only realised that they were really hard for tourists to locate.

As business owners, we need to ensure that OUR businesses are easy to find.

If your business relies on people visiting your premises

  • Start by making sure that your marketing material contains crystal clear directions on how to locate you.
  • Assure people that they are welcome to call you, if they need directions. Very few businesses make a point of saying this in their marketing material, even though almost all of them would happily do it – so be one of the few who actually says it!
  • Tip: Test your directions! A great way to see how effective your directions are is to ask someone, who has never previously visited your location, if they can find you using just the directions you send them. Always try and use someone, who matches your client or customer profile.

If your business relies on people being able to find your website

  • Start by making sure all your online accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc) point to your site. Don’t make any of those social networking sites the focal point of your online presence. Those accounts can be suspended, deleted or rendered useless with a change to their terms and conditions. Build your primary Internet presence on a site you own and control.
  • Make sure your emails all contain a link to your website in your email signature.
  • SEO. Use site building software like the one I use on all my sites, (affiliate) so that your website or blog can have all the core on-site Search Engine Optimisation in place, easily. A well optimised website or blog will help people find your site, when looking for your specific type of product or service.
  • Make your site easy to share. Once someone finds your website, make it easy for them to share it with their friends. Add social sharing buttons like those below this blog post. They allow people to link to your site from their favourite social networks, with just the click of a mouse. If enough people link to your site, you will get the additional benefit of improved SEO.

Don’t take visibility for granted

It’s easy for us to forget how difficult it can be for people to find us. Take the tourists view of finding your business and ensure it’s as visible as possible.

Find better answers, faster, with these 3 ideas!

If you want better answers, they say you need to ask better questions. That’s absolutely correct, but I believe we can get even better answers, by updating that advice.

Once we have decided to ask better questions, I think we need to add the following 3 additional components:

1. Ask the right people

Before you ask a question, make sure the person you ask is well positioned to answer your question correctly. For example, seeking medical advice from a well-intentioned, poorly informed work mate, is less useful than asking a qualified medical professional that same question.

In short, a well crafted question is of little value if you ask someone who has no experience or knowledge in that area.

2. Ask more questions

If you go to the well with a thimble, you are not going to be able to carry much back with you. Bringing a bucket means you come back with something of substance.

Most big challenges require more than one answer. So, when you manage to earn the attention of someone with the answers you need, craft a few great questions – not just one.

3. Question the answers

It’s one thing to be given an answer, but what if the answer is wrong and we blindly accept it and put the answer into play? It’s usually a great idea to question an answer, before incorporating it into a plan of action. After all, even the best people can have a bad day or make a mistake.

Photo: Roger Price

Older posts