How to get more done in less time AND improve your thinking!

Pro development topics r

Many people ask me how I manage to run a busy marketing business and still produce so much creative content every day.

So, here’s my secret!

My secret

I figured out a long time ago that there is never enough time to do everything.

However, I also discovered that you can always find time to do the important stuff, so long as you decide to stop reacting to the unimportant stuff.

Please allow me to explain.

Reacting or acting?

  • You can start the day by checking your email inbox and reacting to what you find. Alternatively, you can start your day by listing what’s most important and getting started on that – then opening your email.
  • You can react every time your phone alerts you to a text message. Alternatively, you can finish what needs finishing and then read any messages you’ve received.
  • You can react every time you see a social networking notification. Alternatively, you can wait until you’ve stopped for a coffee etc, then use that time to check your notifications.

Never miss the important and urgent

Tell your family, friends and clients that if they need to contact you for something that is both important and urgent, to call you. Then, if your phone goes and you can see it’s one of them calling, you know it needs answering. Otherwise, unless you are a fire-fighter, plumber, midwife etc, people will not expect you to respond instantly.

This gives you the freedom to regain control over your time, your focus and your output… without worrying that you have missed something that’s both important and urgent.

Regaining your time and your focus

One of the reasons small business owners find it such a challenge to get important things done, is that the distractions they react to, cause them to lose focus. This is especially the case, when they need to do something creative.

Here’s the thing: It’s extremely hard to focus on something that requires your creativity, when you allow yourself to be distracted and your focus to be scattered.

For example, if you want to write a newsletter article first thing tomorrow morning, but you decide to read your emails first, instead of focusing on your article, you will find your focus scattered between the article and all the questions and demands from your inbox.

By writing the article and then dealing with your emails, you can focus 100% on the article. You end up with a better article and then get to invest all your focus, on dealing with your emails.

Getting through the day or from the day?

Most small business owners are happy to just get through the day. However, the most successful business owners take a different approach. They get from the day. They start their day with a list of important objectives and then determine to master their time and their focus, so the important things are always taken care of, with their full attention, in reasonable time.

We all have 24 hours available to us each day. It’s what we do with our time, which makes all the difference.

7 Valuable lessons from 20 years in business

seven 7

I started my business 20 years ago today. Here are 7 valuable lessons I learned along the way, which I wish I’d known at the start.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Don’t focus on closing sales. Instead, focus on opening relationships. You do better work when you see the acquisition of a new client as the opening of a relationship, rather than the close or end of a process.
  2. Consider firing your worst clients or customers. It will lower your stress. It will also give you more time to delight your best clients. Delighted clients stay with you for longer and are a wonderful source of referrals. They also tend to refer other great clients, [birds of a feather and all that].
  3. Customize the service you provide, so that it’s a reflection of your unique approach to business. This makes your business one-of-a-kind. I did this and no longer have competitors. More marketing professionals hire me than any other profession.
  4. Open your mind to new information. Things change. People change. If your opinions and views remain static, you will make bad decisions.
  5. Get the best accountant you can afford. I tried to save money with a cheap accountant in the early years and lost thousands as a result.
  6. Keep your body active. Do some kind of activity for at least 30 minutes every day. As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.”
  7. It makes sense to outsmart your competitors. It makes even more sense to outCARE your competitors too.

I hope you find these useful. More importantly, I hope there’s something here you can learn from my experience, rather than learn the hard way.

How to master your New Year’s resolutions!

Today marks the start of a New Year. Along with the New Year will be millions of people with New Year’s resolutions… things they want to achieve.

So, here’s a simple idea, to help you make your 2015 New Year’s resolutions work.

Here’s what we know:

  • Gymnasiums will be a lot busier than usual, filled with lots of new people. Until the middle of March, when most of the new members will have quit.
  • Inactive bloggers will start posting regularly again. Until they run out of obvious things to write about and decide to quit.
  • Sales of healthy food will see a surge for the next few weeks. Until people slip back into eating convenient or fast food and quit their healthy eating regime.

Quit quitting

The best New Year’s resolution we can set for ourselves, is to quit quitting.

Make the decision to do something you know is good for you, then resolve to stick with it… for 24 hours. When tomorrow comes, resolve to do the same.

Does it work? I quit smoking [23 years ago] and drinking alcohol [29 years ago] using this method.

Tip: You can get yourself a copy of my Motivation Master Class audio program here. It runs for 111 minutes and contains lots of ideas you can use, to motivate yourself and motivate others.

Here’s why the possibilities for your business in 2015 are endless

Pro development topics r

Someone just emailed me to ask what my predictions were for small business owners in 2015. Here’s the best answer I can come up with right now:

I believe that 2015 is going to be a lot like 2014, 2013… and 1973.

What do I mean?

The tools have changed, but the basics of growing a successful business remain the same. As a result, here’s what we will see in 2015.

  • Business owners with the correct mindset will thrive, just as they always have. Others will flounder, just as they always have.
  • Business owners who seek out progress and opportunity will find it, just as they always have. Others will seek out security and make little if any progress, just as they always have.

The opportunity has never been better

One HUGE advantage we all have over business owners of previous decades, is that there has never been a more level playing field.

For instance, when I set my business up in 1995, you needed a hefty marketing budget if you wanted to reach thousands of prospective clients every month with your marketing message. Today, you can create a WordPress blog for free and reach thousands of people every day. Back then, if you wanted to connect with an influential person you needed to navigate endless so-called gatekeepers. Today you can reach out to influential people direct, using tools like Twitter. [You can join me on Twitter here.]

2 challenges we face in 2015

The opportunities ahead of us in 2015 are unparalleled. However, they present us with 2 pressing challenges.

  1. We need to be prepared to stand out, in order to attract and retain the valuable attention of our marketplace. This takes creativity and courage.
  2. There’s nowhere to hide in 2015. We have no more excuses. If we fail to make the progress we want, we can only blame ourselves… our inaction and our mindset.

It’s up to us what we decide to do, which is why we need to choose wisely.

Thank you!

Rest assured that in 2015, I will continue to provide you with tips and ideas to help you with your marketing, business development and professional development. I’m committed to helping you grow a great business… a business that rewards you for all your hard work and dedication.

I hope you and your family enjoy a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

Can you guess what’s inside this box?

guess what

Today’s post is a little different.

I want you to imagine you have a very special box, which you place on a table in front of a prospective client or customer.

  • You explain to the prospective client that the contents of this sealed box, will be of so much value to them that once they have it, they will wonder how they ever managed without it.
  • You tell them that other people are using what’s in that box, and they love it so much that they write to you and thank you.
  • You then tell the prospective client that the price for what’s in the box, is a fraction of what it’s worth.

You then ask them, “Would you like to see what’s in the box?”

Their eyes widen as they lean forward and say, “Yes please!”

So, what’s inside the box?

As a business owner, your job is to develop a product or service that fits inside that wonderful box. [Tip: This will help you]. In order for it to fit inside, your product needs to be able to deliver on those promises you just made, so when a prospective client sees it, they want it. Really want it!

Even great marketing is no match for an average or slightly above average product. That’s why the most successful businesses bake marketing into their products, so they are as desirable as possible.

When you adopt this approach, marketing becomes a lot easier and massively more effective.

Which of these 3 types of small business owner are you?

which are you

For millions of small business owners worldwide, it’s decision time. Pretty much every business owner will want to do better in 2015, however, their decisions regarding how to improve things will differ massively.

They will fit into one of the following 3 broad groups. Do any of these seem familiar to you?

1. Fear focused business owners

Those in the first [and by far the largest] group are motivated by fear. They are the reason we see those statistics, showing how the vast majority of small businesses go broke. They run a business with an employee mindset, scared of doing what’s required to grow or even save their business.

Ironically, these business owners often work just as many hours as those in the next 2 groups, but for very little reward. They think that if they work hard enough, things will be OK. They’re unaware that no matter how hard you row a boat in the wrong direction, you won’t magically end up where you need to be. If hard work alone were the key to success, our grandparents would have been millionaires.

Small business owners in this first group will stay in their comfort zone.

They will waste another year, because their fear of doing what’s required, is greater than their fear of failing slowly doing what they are comfortable with.

2. Business owners who dabble

Those in the second group have a better business mindset than the previous group. Some are almost entrepreneurs. However, unlike an entrepreneur, these folks are dabblers.

These are the small business owners who always think that they are just one blog post, webinar or infographic away from the breakthrough they want. Of course, they are not!

The small business owners in this group haven’t lost enough money yet or wasted enough time, to know that in a super-competative economy, you can’t grow a successful business with a DIY approach. They haven’t figured out yet that their clients and future clients are being approached by professionally marketed competitors.

Dabbling is easily the riskiest, slowest and most expensive way to try and develop a business.

Some will figure it out in time and switch into the 3rd group.

3. Courageous business owners

The business owners in this third group are remarkable.

They have often been in that previous group, but somehow they summoned the courage to step outside their comfort zone. These are my kind of people. I have huge respect for them. It’s also no coincidence that it’s only the people in this group, who contact me to see how I can help them grow a great business. They’ve worked out that they can vastly improve their chances of success in 2015, if Jim Connolly is guiding them to do the right things, correctly.

P.S.

The following 14 days are the busiest 2 weeks of the year for me. I will get around 600% more inquiries from small business owners than usual. If you’re one of them, I look forward to hearing from you. However, it may take me a little longer to reply to emails than usual.

[Important: Please read this before you get in touch.]

9 Useful ideas to make this your best year ever

business development topics r

It has often been said that you are never more than 1 good idea away from the breakthrough you need. With that in mind, here are 9 ideas to help you and your business in 2015, along with some links to extra resources.

  1. Do at least one thing each day, which your future self will thank you for. This is the basis of all meaningful progress.
  2. Fail more often in 2015 than you did in 2014. Why? Because if you’re not failing often enough, you’re sticking to things you already know and no longer growing. Unless you give yourself permission to make mistakes, you will seldom try anything new.
  3. Stop aiming for perfectionism. It will stop you getting started and block your progress. Instead of trying to be perfect, aim to be better than you were yesterday.
  4. Get expert help in any area of your business, where you are under performing. Things don’t just change for the better because you hope they will. Hope is essential, but it’s not a business strategy. This will help you get it right.
  5. Walk daily for 30 minutes. Studies have shown that walking helps to reduce stress and gives you a general feeling of well-being. Walking also helps you manage your weight and can lower your blood pressure. When you feel better you work better. Start with short walks, then do a little more. Talk to your doctor first, if you have any underlying medical conditions.
  6. Get serious about developing your creativity in 2015. It will help you solve problems and grow a uniquely valuable business. There are hundreds of free ideas for you, here on my creative thinking website.
  7. Stop doing work purely because it pays the bills. Start doing work that makes a difference. This post explains why.
  8. Give people more than they expect. Don’t under-promise though. Instead, over-deliver. This is one of the most powerful ways to retain your clients and get them recommending you to their friends and contacts.
  9. Learn to embrace your inner freak. This idea changed my life.

I really hope you find these ideas and suggestions useful and that they help you achieve your best year ever in 2015!

12 Powerful tips to blow the lid off your business!

12 tips

Let’s get started.

  1. Think big. No. BIGGER than that.
  2. Stop aiming for perfection. Instead, aim to be better than you were yesterday.
  3. Be a source of encouragement. Highlight people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.
  4. Back up your plans with action. An ounce of action is worth more than a ton of intention.
  5. Do what you believe is right, rather than what is easy.
  6. Commit to lifelong learning. Feed your mind with information that educates, motivates or inspires you.
  7. Deliver on your promises. This is a great way to build a world class reputation.
  8. Look for the learning in every situation.
  9. Stop following and lead. Your marketplace is always short of people willing to lead.
  10. Start your projects with the end in mind. Get crystal clear on your outcome, before you start the work.
  11. Watch as little TV as possible. It’s called programming for a reason.
  12. Be fast to forgive others. While you’re holding a grudge, they are out dancing.

Bonus: Here are over 180 marketing tips and ideas for your business!

How to win against cheaper competitors

marketing topics r

Right now, Google is showing your prospective customers the details of all your competitors – including those competitors who charge less than you.

So, your prospective customers now know you’re not the lowest priced provider. The question is: How do you plan to convince them that you’re worth the extra money?

Generic marketing promises do not work

We are in one of the worst economic cycles in living memory and your prospective customers are thinking a LOT harder, before they spend their money.

They demand value.

It’s not enough for you to claim that you offer great customer service or that you go the extra mile or that you care more. Why? Because the bargain basement providers make those same generic promises. Those promises are so common now, that we are almost blind to them.

If you want someone to even consider spending money with you, when there are cheaper alternatives, you need to avoid generic promises and get specific.

The answer

You may already have an attractive proposition, which your cheaper competitors can’t match. If you do, you need to communicate it effectively and make it extremely visible in your marketing.

If you don’t already have a compelling, non-generic reason for prospective customers to buy from you, you need to create one. This is not about developing some snazzy marketing slogan! It’s about building something into your existing product or service, which has genuine value and is not already being offered by your competitors.

For example

You can be yet another accountant or the only accountant in your area, who offers a monthly networking event for their clients – so they become part of a community and not ‘just a client’.

You can be yet another web designer or the only web designer in your price range, who redesigns their client’s Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts – so they match your client’s beautiful new website.

You can be yet another window cleaner or the only window cleaner in your area, who also cleans the windows on your customers cars.

You get the idea.

Step outside of the ordinary

Take time to think of a genuinely valuable, attractive proposition to offer your prospective customers. A USP is not enough any more. There has to be something, which prospective customers can see as offering them genuine value. A Purple Cow may grab people’s attention, but there has to be value behind it if you want to attract paying customers and not just glances.

Put on your thinking cap and look at your products or services through the eyes of a prospective customer. What needs do they have, which you could serve by adjusting your offering?

Give this exercise the time it deserves. It’s what your prospective customers will be focused on for the foreseeable future.

The secret behind Jim’s Marketing Blog

Jims marketing blog

It’s been a great year for Jim’s Marketing Blog. The site is now ranked the number 1 marketing blog in the UK by Cision. In the USA, Search Engine Journal, picked their top UK marketing blogs and said:

“There may be another blog in the UK that could top Jim Connolly’s impressive resume – but we weren’t able to find one!”

Search Engine Journal

Now I’d like to share what I believe to be a key factor, which has given me a massive advantage over other blogs.

My secret sauce!

The single most common feedback I get about Jim’s Marketing Blog, is from readers who appreciate the brevity of my work. They value me using as few words as possible when I share ideas. It means they can read every word, rather than skim read.

However, although readers love short, information-rich posts and articles, they are very rare. I believe this has given me a huge advantage over the years.

Here are the 3 main reasons why so many blog posts are way too long.

1. Lots of bloggers write for SEO first

Google’s extremely limited algorithm isn’t smart enough to work with short blog posts. So, if you’re all about getting traffic rather than engaging readers, you need between 500 and 2000 words in your posts. This number depends on which SEO expert you listen to. It also depends on what Google is rewarding currently. A key challenge of writing for Google is that they change things all the time. What works today could hurt you tomorrow.

I’ve already written about the danger of writing primarily for search engines. I recommend you read this: Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!

SEO is a valuable part of building a blog or website, especially in the early days when few people are sharing your work. But get the balance right. Write for people first. Otherwise, search engine traffic will arrive on your site, find a wordy, keyword-stuffed piece of crap and leave again!

2. It takes more skill to write with brevity

It takes longer to condense an idea into fewer words. It’s a skill you need to develop. I learned it back in the mid 1980’s, studying the legendary David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy famously said: “Don’t say it in 10 words if you can say it in 5.”

In broad terms, it’s twice as easy to write a 1000 word post on a topic, as it is to write a 500 word post. When you have fewer words to work with, there’s no room for waffle. No space for fluff. This means you end up with information rich content, which is far more valuable to the reader.

It’s important to remember that your readers are busy people. They’ve never had so many things calling for their attention. They want the key information and quickly. If you can provide them with what they need, without the waffle words, they will come back for more… and more.

3. It takes courage

It takes more courage to write short articles and posts than it does to write long ones.

Why?

Because with shorter content, you can’t possibly cover every angle. You can’t make every point. You can’t answer every question that every reader may have. As a result, you leave yourself open to criticism like “what you totally failed to mention is…”.

Having written thousands of blog posts and articles, I’ve found that no matter how many words you use, some people just won’t get it. If you try and write for those people, you will end up writing child-like junk. Don’t even try! Write instead for your target readership.

I hope you found this useful. More importantly, I hope you borrow some of the ideas for your own blog or website.