Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Month: November 2013 (page 1 of 3)

How to break the cycle of working for clients who undervalue you

If part of your plan for next year is to work with better clients and higher fees, this information could be just what you need!

Money goes to money

Have you ever heard the saying, money goes to money? The idea behind that saying, is that people with lots of money find it easier to make even more money.

Interestingly, a significant chunk of the equation is not the actual money that wealthy people have behind them. I’m talking about how the mindset of wealthy business owners helps them acquire more and more wealth.

We see this mindset in play, when we look at how business owners think, regarding the clients they choose to work with and the fees they are prepared to work for.

Here’s what we see:

  • Those who feel poor, will take on almost any new client who comes their way.
  • Those who feel financially strong, will usually cherry pick who they work with. If they think someone is a bad fit or unprepared to pay what they are worth, they won’t work with them.

Under performing small businesses often struggle from year to year, because the business is run from a mindset of fear. As a result, they work for low fees and eagerly grab anything that comes their way. This then ensures they stay in that fear cycle, as they never earn enough to become more selective about who they work with or what they charge.

I have met with business owners, who have been stuck in that cycle for a decade or more. They work hard. They often offer just as good a service as those charging twice as much as them. Yet, their focus on fear causes them to undervalue their work and lower the bar on the clients they will accept.

How to escape the cycle

We have to start by understanding something fundamental. A wealthy business owner, would soon find themselves in trouble if they were to apply that fear based thinking to their business development. No business can thrive, working for peanuts and for clients who undervalue them and their time.

Here’s what your escape plan looks like, if you want to break free from this cycle:

  • Gather the courage to start being selective regarding who you are prepared to work with. This may feel risky, but the riskiest thing you can do is carry on working for clients who don’t value you or your time.
  • Offer the highest quality service you can. Look for ways to pump as much value into your work as possible. Craft an amazing client experience, so that hiring you becomes a pleasure for your clients… an experience they will cherish and want to tell their friends about.
  • Then, adjust your fees up to reflect all that great value you now deliver.

You need to do this before you become wealthy or you will find yourself stuck in the cycle.

Ironically, playing it safe, by working for low value clients for low fees is one of the riskiest things you can do. That’s worth remembering, the next time you accept a new client or quote a fee!

PS: Here’s some information about risk taking in business.

The secret to marketing that spreads AND sells!

arketing spreads, marketing sells

I have a very effective marketing idea to share with you today. You’re going to love this!

I’m going to show you how to create marketing, which people will value and that’s powerful enough to inspire them to hire you or buy from you. It’s based on the work I do with my clients and includes a brief case study, which you can learn from.

So, let’s get started.

Receiving or paying attention?

It starts with understanding that there’s a huge difference between someone receiving your message and someone paying attention to it.

For example, TV viewers are sent targeted marketing messages (commercials) during TV shows. What do most of us do? We fast forward through them or if watching the show in real-time, we go and make a coffee. Just because they send their messages, doesn’t mean we are paying attention.

For your marketing to work, you need to get a great message in front of the right people. In order to get this correct, here’s the key question we need to ask ourselves:

If I stopped my email marketing campaign or I stopped publishing my blog posts, newsletter etc, would people really MISS them?

As a quick look at the marketing you receive every day confirms, for most people the honest answer to that question is NO! We get bombarded with dull, uninspiring sales messages all day and see them as an intrusion, rather than something of value.

Of course, for that tiny minority of small businesses who DO produce marketing, which people genuinely value and would miss if it were to stop, the sky is the limit.

I’m going to share the process required to make this work for your business later in this post.

First, we need to understand why there’s so much dull and ineffective marketing out there.

Dull is cheap. Dull is fast. Dull is simple!

It’s cheap, fast and simple to create dull marketing and get it in front of a lot of people. As a result, there’s no barrier to entry today.

Things were very different a decade ago. Back then, if a small business owner wanted to send a mail shot to 50,000 people, she’d have to spend some serious money.

  • She’d have to cover the cost of the mailing list.
  • Then she would need to pay for all that paper and the printing.
  • Next she would need to pay a company to get the letters folded and inserted into the 50,000 envelopes.
  • Then there’s the huge postage costs for those 50,000 pieces of mail.

All in all, it would cost many thousands. She would need to think long and hard about the value of what she put into those envelopes. Get it wrong and she would pay a hefty price!

Today, everything has changed

That same business owner in 2013 can hit 50,000 people using cheap email software and her laptop. It costs pennies. If it fails, maybe tomorrows will work. It’s never been cheaper or easier to push dull, uninspired, poorly thought out, uncreative marketing out the door. So, that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing. This is why there’s so much junk in your email inbox and on your social networking accounts.

Here’s what you need to do to get it right!

There is an alternative approach I want to share with you, so people welcome your marketing, share it and hire you or buy from you. It requires that you take the exact opposite approach, to 99% of the marketing you see out there. 

It’s about shifting the focus of your marketing, so that it’s primarily of benefit to the people who receive it and secondarily of benefit to you. It’s about producing content (audio, video, blog posts, newsletters, mail shots, flyers, social networking updates etc), which provide independent value to those who receive it. This means they get genuinely valuable or useful information from it, independent of them needing to spend a penny with you.

An example of how this works, based on one of my clients

Imagine you are a dog owner and after a trip to the vet, you subscribe to their dog owner’s newsletter. It gives you tips and ideas, to help you keep your dog healthy, fit and happy. At the bottom of each email are their contact details, so you can call them when you need a vet. You find this free information so useful, that you send it to 10 of your dog-owning friends.

They subscribe and then do the same… then these new subscribers share it too, and on and on it goes. The amazingly valuable, highly-targeted readership grows and grows.

Soon, that vet (a former client of mine) was talking to thousands of local dog owners and positioned themselves in their marketplace, as THE place to take your dog for all its veterinary needs. Their newsletter was eagerly anticipated by it’s readers… yes, people wanted to hear from them and valued what they had to share.

Compare that vet’s approach to the typical marketing messages we see.

  • That vet doesn’t need to run expensive radio ads.
  • They have no need to buy mailing lists.
  • They don’t need to waste valuable hours at networking events.
  • They certainly don’t need to pester people on social networks or ask strangers for recommendations on Linkedin.
  • They don’t need to invest in anything, other than the creativity required to produce a genuinely valuable newsletter, with useful content.

That example shows how a business can grow a massively valuable marketing asset, by sharing real value — rather than pushing unwanted messages. If you can see the potential of generating this kind of value driven marketing, it can improve your business beyond recognition.

I strongly suggest you make this a priority for your business. If you’d like expert assistance on exactly what to do, I’m happy to help.

Do everything you can, with everything you have!

I was just thinking about a sign I used to have on the wall above my desk. I’d like to share the message with you.

It simply said: “If you get an idea that you believe has potential, do what’s required to make it work. You can’t afford untapped potential!

Getting an idea Vs Working an idea

Another way to think of a good idea, is to see it as an opportunity. In order to benefit from the opportunity, we need to work the idea. This means committing to do what is required in order for it to work.

Some of the best ideas never get the chance to fly, as they remain just an idea. They are either not acted on or they are acted on half-heartedly. They add to our banks of untapped potential.

You are an ideas person

You are a natural born problem solver. You generate ideas all the time. If you want to benefit from all that potential, all those opportunities, commit to working your best ideas… until they fly or flop.

Either way, you win:

  • If the idea flies, that’s great.
  • If the idea flops, take the learning from it and invest it in your next idea.

Just don’t allow your potential to be wasted. None of us can afford to leave untapped potential on the table!

How to get your passion and motivation back

I have a great question for you today: If your business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

For example:

  • If you could hand pick your client list, who would you be working with?
  • If you could work from anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • If you were earning enough from your business, to provide a lifestyle that would really excite you, how much would that be?
  • If you could partner in a business venture with anyone, who would it be?
  • If your typical working week was perfect, what would it look like?

The power of clarity

One of the key reasons people fail to achieve the business results they want, is that they have only a foggy idea of what (specifically) they want to achieve. They know they want to do better, but fail to really focus on exactly what that means for them, in real terms. By identifying and picturing in your mind, exactly what your ideal business and lifestyle would look like and how it would provide you with a vastly better quality of life, EVERYTHING changes!

Here’s why.

The word motivation comes from the fusion of two smaller words: Motive and action. The ability to take action increases massively, when the motive (reason) is clear and exciting enough to drive you forward.

Now, compare that kind of clarity to the vague way that many small business owners think about their business. They want a better month than last month. They want a better year than last year.  That kind of vague, foggy thinking is nothing like as motivating, inspirational or compelling as having an exciting, clearly visible picture of exactly what you want to achieve.

What next?

Take a look at those questions from earlier in this post. Jot them down and then write the answers to each one, in as much detail as you can. Make that “perfect future” the inspiration that drives you forward to the results your hard work deserves!

PS: By the way, if you need a little help getting started, check this out!

Photo: La Prima Donna

5 Simple ways to make your day amazing!

have a great day

Here’s an idea: Why not make today a day to remember?

Consider doing one (or more) of the following and just watch the kind of impact you create:

  1. Send a handwritten note of thanks, to a person who has helped you or inspired you in some way. The power of something as personal as a handwritten message is enormous.
  2. Send someone flowers… just because. This doesn’t have to be expensive. You can pick some wild flowers, wrap them yourself, add a card and deliver them in person.
  3. Write a blog post or article, which shares something that has been massively useful to you. If it was a website, include a link. That way, your readers will benefit AND whoever or whatever you’re recommending will get some great recognition. I did this with PicMonkey.
  4. Go to your primary social network and recommend a person or business, which you really appreciate.
  5. Contribute either some time or money to a charity that does great work. Short of time and money? Then do as I have just mentioned and share their great work with your social network or on your blog… or both!

One of the wonderful things about contributing in the ways just mentioned, is that it’s cyclical. It makes the people you are showing your appreciation to feel great — and it makes you feel great too. This makes you want to do it again… thus the cycle repeats.

Try it!

A heartbreaking email that every small business owner should read

I want to share something important with you today. It’s a heartbreaking email I received last year, from a reader.

He was a small business owner, who had to cease trading after 5 years in business, because of 2 critical errors he had made. As well as showing you the errors, I’m going to show you how to make sure this never happens to you.

The following excerpts are quoted, with the author’s consent, though they have asked me not to use their name. Here’s a section of the email, quoted unedited:

“Me and my wife quit our regular jobs in 2007 to start a business. We were excited and worked like crazy to make it a success. By mid 2011 we knew we were in trouble as our life savings were almost gone and the business was still making too little money to cover our overheads. We’d been dipping into our savings from the get go to make up the short fall from the business. By February this year we knew we had to quit the business and get jobs. Last week the business was closed for the last time”

He went on…

“Looking back I see we made two major errors that I’d like to share with your readers to stop them doing the same. First up, I was trying so hard to keep our costs down that I didn’t invest in the help we needed. I wanted our savings to last as long as they could so we hardly spent anything and ended up starving the business of the professional help that would have saved us. Second up, we were waiting for some big sudden sign to show we were screwing up but it didn’t happen like that at all. We didn’t go broke over night. It was a slow process which looking back had been happening for years. That’s what stopped us taking urgent action years ago.”

Failure doesn’t happen overnight

One of the reasons so many intelligent, hard working business owners fail, is that failure doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely subtle. It creeps up on you. It’s seldom the result of one cataclysmic decision, but usually the result of small errors, repeated often.

Here are just a few examples:

  • When you push your marketing at people, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you think you’re saving money by doing it yourself, rather than hiring an accountant, a marketing professional, a web designer etc, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you copy the social networking approach of your peers, making yourself almost invisible, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you can name the judges on the top reality TV shows, but you don’t know who the key people in your marketplace are, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you allow an amateur looking website / blog to make you look bad, it hurts your business a little.

Success doesn’t happen overnight

Like failure, success doesn’t happen overnight either. People want overnight success, which is why there are so many bullshit books, webinars and seminars that promise it. In reality, we know that business success takes time. It’s subtle. It’s seldom the result of one smart decision, but usually lots of smart decisions repeated often, over time.

Here are just a few examples:

  • When you learn how to attract the attention of your marketplace, so you never have to push your marketing at people, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you decide to get the expert help you need, rather than try and succeed in the worst economy in living memory without it, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you stop using social networking sites like a sheep and start building a highly visible presence, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you take time to learn about the people who make up your marketplace, so you can help them overcome problems and embrace opportunities, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you invest in a professional looking website or blog, which reinforces the promises you make in your marketing, your business gets a little stronger.

The link between failure and short term thinking

If you want a business to succeed in the medium and long term, you need to avoid making decisions based on the short term.

Short term thinking means you see money going out of the business as a bad thing, so you avoid it. People thinking short term are fearful of making an investment, even an essential investment as mentioned in the email earlier, because they see little difference between a business cost and a business investment. In reality, the 2 couldn’t be more different.

Keeping costs down is a great idea, but starving a business of essential investment, is like starving a plant of sunshine!

Short term thinking also leads us to look for short term answers. That’s why every scammy, bullshit filled webinar, ebook, software product and seminar – promises fast results or secret formulas to get rich quick. We have to be smarter than that.

In short: Business success requires a long term perspective. If you are not seeing the results you need, now is the time to take action.

The number 1 thing you must know, for your business to succeed

This article is one of the most important I have ever written. It’s also a lot longer than my usual work, so you may want to bookmark it and return to it. There’s a lot to take in and think about.

It starts with a pretty simple question: Are potential clients looking for you… or looking for someone who does what you do?

That’s an extremely important question. A question, which is a more accurate indicator of your commercial future, than just about any other.

Yes, it’s THAT big a question.

Here’s why that question is so important to you

I get 100% of the Jim Connolly marketing inquiries. If someone wants to hire Jim Connolly, they already know how to find me. The key point here, is that they don’t go looking for a marketing provider when they want to hire me. They don’t go to Google or Bing… they email me or call me.

The difference is huge. No, bigger than that!

You see, although I get all the Jim Connolly marketing inquiries, I get a tiny fraction of inquiries from people using search engines, looking for a commodity marketing provider. If they just want a (any) good marketing provider, they have hundreds of thousands to choose from. Those providers then compete against one another.

I don’t need to do that. Ever.

Far more importantly, neither do you!

The 2 ways to position your business or your services

Right now you are in one of these 2 groups. You are either:

  1. Just like all the others… but a little cheaper, faster or with a little better customer service etc. That’s what over 99% of small businesses do. It turns them into a commodity and is a key reason most small businesses continuously struggle… or go broke.
  2. Uniquely you. Doing great work, your way, aiming to delight your customers or clients. This is what fewer than 1% of small businesses do.

Those in that first group are commodity providers. They offer what’s known as a commoditized service.

The danger of offering a commoditized service

Here’s a good dictionary definition of a commoditized business:

“To render (a good or service) widely available and interchangeable with one provided by another company.:

Here’s the thing: People buy commodities based on the lowest price.

  • It’s why we drive to the lowest priced provider when we need fuel (a commodity) for our car.
  • It’s why 2 equally qualified accountants, whose services sound fairly predictable, will have to compete on fees. They have commoditized their business. They have become interchangeable with their commoditized competitors. By the way, this applies to every service provider and not just accountants.

Every day that you choose (yes, it’s a choice) to offer a commoditized service, your business suffers. You suffer too. You deliberately (remember it’s a choice) rob your business of the individuality it needs and thrust yourself into an overcrowded pool of commodity providers.

Until one day… something clicks

… something lifts the fog from your thinking. Something inspires you to leave the overcrowded end of your market, where it’s impossible to succeed in any meaningful way. Something compels you to quit competing and start attracting. Something motivates you to stop being a commodity provider.

Hopefully, this message will be that catalyst for someone. Hopefully, one of the thousands of small business owners reading this, who is struggling in that dead-end 99%, will decide NO MORE.

  • No more looking to the future with apprehension.
  • No more lowering your lifestyle goals, to meet the limitations of your under performing business.
  • No more dealing with fee-sensitive clients.
  • No more working with people you don’t like, because you need the income.

I have helped hundreds of business owners with this. To stop your business from being a commodity provider, you need to be prepared for a couple of things.

Firstly, you have to stop fooling yourself

You have to stop pretending you’re in that 1% when you’re not. Here are just a few common examples of what a commodity provider looks like:

  • You get too few word of mouth referrals. Clearly, when your service is seen as a commodity, there’s nothing much to motivate people to tell their friends about you.
  • You find yourself competing on fees. When your service looks too similar to your competitors, potential clients will use your fee to determine your value to them.
  • You struggle to attract enough inquiries. A commodity provider is constantly competing against all the other, similar providers in that 99%.
  • Your business struggles for visibility. So, you need to buy ads, attend networking events etc.
  • You need to ask people to recommend you, because they are not doing this automatically.

Secondly, you need to put the cookie cutter down

The only way to stop being seen as a commodity provider, is to stop providing a commodity service. This means leaving the fake comfort that comes from being a predictable commodity and embracing the change required, to stand out.

It means looking at your services and adapting them, so they are what the client wants and needs — rather than your version of what your competitors provide.

It takes courage.

Therein lies the problem

Although the riskiest thing a small business owner can possibly do, is to be seen as a commodity provider, it feels safe. It feels safe, ironically, for the same reason it kills small businesses.

It feels safe, because almost everyone is doing it!

By playing it safe you will, with 100% certainty, at best, struggle to make a living. However, it FEELS safe… and that’s enough to stop 99% of small business owners from doing what they know they need to do.

I have no idea where you or your business is right now.

  • You could be in the 1%.
  • You may be a commodity provider, who’s comfortable working hard and going nowhere in that super-dangerous 99%.
  • But perhaps you’re a commodity provider, on a mission to leave that 99%!

If you are in that final group, this post is for you. In fact, everything on this blog is written for you and those already in the 1%.

Why? Because no marketing on the planet can save a commodity business.

No one can help a business, owned by someone who lacks the courage to be better than average. Commodity providers who are happy being average, come here looking for tricks. They want a ‘killer way’ to attract people to their average service, which no one is talking about because it’s so… well… average. They will search for tricks, until they run out of money or time.

For those with the courage to want more

If you’re interested in being more than a commodity provider, I can help. There are thousands of ideas on Jim’s Marketing Blog, yours to use for free. Just use the search box, midway down the right hand side.

If you want to find creative ideas, for free, to help you make your business more than a commodity, I’ve built a website just for you. It’s packed with free ideas, resources and insights and you can find it here.

I hope you’ve found this useful… more importantly, I hope I have inspired you to do something!

Stop surviving and start thriving

The weather and the economy have a few things in common:

  • People blame both of them for ruining things.
  • They are beyond our direct control.
  • We can adapt in order to either lessen their impact or, if we are willing to apply some creative thought, we can benefit from them.

Agile or static?

The agile business owner sees the rain and decides she is going to sell umbrellas. The static business owner looks on and complains when people are not buying his sun cream!

The economy is what it is. Even the experts can’t agree on when things will improve in any meaningful way. Those hunkering down and hoping everything will go back to pre 2007 conditions could be in for a long and expensive wait.

Thriving in 2014 is a choice… YOUR choice

I’m about to start a marketing session with one of my clients, who has seen her turnover increase by 240% this year, with an even greater increase in her profits. Others in her industry are struggling and going broke, because they are not adapting correctly to the market. They are lowering their fees in a race to the bottom, whilst she has increased her fees. They are working hard trying to survive, whilst my client thrives because she is doing the right things, correctly.

You can’t improve the economy… but thankfully, you don’t need to.

Why?

Because just like the client I’m about to work with, you can improve your strategy!

Older posts