Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Author: Jim Connolly (page 11 of 176)

How to win against cheaper competitors

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?

why

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.

A story, a great lesson and some ideas for your business!

I wrote a blog post once, entitled The sandwich shop that closed for lunch. Of course, it was just a title. In reality, no shop owner would close during their busiest period.

Actually, it turns out they would!

Here’s what happened, along with a useful lesson and a free resource.

The gift shops that closed for Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, I visited a local shopping area. I quickly noticed that lots of the shops didn’t bother to open. Amazingly, this included several gift shops… gift shops that closed for Christmas Eve!

The town was packed with Christmas shoppers and the shops that did open, were doing brisk business, with queues everywhere. I have never seen so many shoppers there.

It makes perfect sense to have a break, relax and close the doors after the festive rush. However, to close them the day before the busiest shopping day of the year, shows a jaw-dropping lack of commercial acumen.

Sale time!

This morning, I noticed one of the gift shops that closed on Christmas Eve, was open. They had a huge sale on. Merchandise, which the business owner could have sold at full retail price just 2 days ago, was being offered at up to 50% off. Ironically, the town was almost empty.

I know the business owner quite well and asked why he had closed on such a busy day. His answer was that he always closed on the 23rd. He then went on to complain that he hadn’t made a sale all morning and how bad trade had been this Christmas!

The lesson here

The worst reason to carry on doing anything, is because we have always done things that way.

Here’s an alternative approach: Why not use today, as an opportunity to look for any areas of our business, where we can make improvements? Usually, the best places to start looking are the areas of our business, which we tend to take for granted.

PS: This should help you. Here are 15 Powerful ideas to help you grow your business!

15 Powerful ideas to help you grow your business!

It’s said you are often just one idea away from the breakthrough you have been looking for.

So… here are 15 powerful ideas for you!

  1. Embrace brevity. People are busy and their attention has never been in more demand. Keep your marketing messages as short and valuable as possible. Kill the fluff.
  2. Do at least one thing each day, which your future self will thank you for!
  3. Remind yourself (often) that the process of giving and receiving starts with giving. Making selfish demands from strangers doesn’t work. It also damages your reputation.
  4. Fail more often in 2014 than you did in 2013. Why? Because if you’re not failing often enough, you’re sticking to things you already know. This means you are no longer growing. By the way: Steve Jobs famously reprimanded members of his team if they were not failing regularly enough.
  5. Stop aiming for perfectionism. It will stop you getting started, kill your creativity and block your progress. The next time you find yourself blaming perfectionism for your lack of progress, call it out for what it is… a stalling tactic. Instead of aiming for perfect, aim for the best you can do.
  6. If you write a blog or newsletter, ask yourself this question: Are you building a tribe or are you writing drive-by content? Almost everyone gets this wrong. Here’s why this is extremely important!
  7. Stop doing work purely because it pays the bills. Start doing work that makes a difference. This post explains why.
  8. Invest less time trying to get organic (unpaid) ‘traffic’ from Facebook. They just changed everything and ‘free’ isn’t part of the new Facebook Business Pages strategy.
  9. 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.
  10. Remind yourself that you pick your clients… they do NOT pick you! This is true of 100% of the most successful business owners and consultants I know. Pick clients who value you and allow you to do your best work. Build your client base deliberately. Here’s what you need to know.
  11. Get serious about the value of your time. No one ever lay on their deathbed, regretting they hadn’t spent more time watching TV. Throughout the day, ask yourself, is this the best use of my time right now? If it isn’t, go and do something more productive.
  12. Make the decision now, to do the tricky stuff. Every business owner claims to give their business 100%. What they REALLY mean, is that they give their business 100% of the stuff that they are comfortable with. Decide to get less comfortable with the limitations of your comfort zone. This will help you.
  13. Learn to embrace your inner freak. This may be the best advice on this list.
  14. Get the most from your creativity. There are hundreds of free, creative thinking ideas here.
  15. Believe that almost anything is possible. No matter how bad things may be right now, with courage, hard work and passion, you can achieve almost anything. This post gives a great example of what I mean.
  16. Give people more than they expect. Don’t under-promise though. Instead, over-deliver.

I really hope you find these ideas and suggestions useful and that they help you achieve your best year ever in 2014!

How to get your teeth into your business!

If you want to avoid another year of disappointing business results, today’s post is written just for you.

It’s based on a talk I gave to young entrepreneurs. It shows how small business owners can massively improve their business results… by looking after their business the same way they look after their teeth!

A small business owner with a tooth problem

If you have a problem with one of your teeth, you go to a dentist. If possible, the dentist will fix your tooth. If the tooth is too damaged, she will remove it for you.

In that scenario:

  • The small business owner sees they have a problem (toothache).
  • They then seek professional advice (dentist).
  • They then either have their problem resolved or removed (treated or extracted).

A typical small business owner with a business problem treats it very differently.

  • The small business owner sees they have a problem. In many cases, they will just hope it magically goes away. They hunker down and hope for the best. Hope is essential, but hope isn’t a business strategy.
  • They then dabble with their problem. They ask unqualified friends. They ask strangers on social networks. They ask people, who lack the expertise they need. Just last week, I saw a business owner on Google+ ask an accountant for marketing advice. The accountant’s answer was not only incorrect, it was toxic. In other words, it will damage their business if they do as the accountant said.
  • Their problem then persists or gets worse. They suffer with the commercial equivalent of severe toothache. With severe toothache, even in a worst case scenario, you can fix things by having the tooth extracted. That pain is nothing, compared to the pain the business owner suffers, when their business goes broke.

Many small business owners I speak with, admit that they work an insane number of hours and that they would earn more if they had a regular job. Their commercial toothache is numbed with painkillers, rather than professionally treated. They tell themselves things will ‘just get better’ if they hunker down, which acts as a narcotic to ease the pain of the reality of their situation.

The answer?

We need to look after our business the same way we look after our teeth!

It starts with accepting that you have a problem, rather than burying your head in the sand. Then, get the expert help you need. If your sales are going nowhere, speak with a marketing expert. If cash flow is a problem, talk with an accountant. If you have a legal issue, talk to a lawyer. Just make sure you only take expert advice, from experts. Then put their advice to work.

Yes, you will need to pay a competent professional for her help. However, that investment is far lower, than the cost of starving your business of the help it needs.

In short: If your business needs help, think DENTIST not DABBLE.

Here’s the most valuable thing I learned last year!

Daft Punk Get Lucky

I have spent a lot of time this week, looking back at 2013. I have been looking for lessons, which I can invest into the year ahead.

In this post, I share my biggest, most valuable lesson with you… PLUS a truly inspirational story!

Almost anything is possible

What did I learn? Well, it was not so much a lesson and more of a powerful reminder.

It was this: Almost anything is possible. No matter how bad things may be right now, with courage, hard work and passion, you can achieve almost anything.

Here’s what happened

Jim with Nile RodgersI had no idea at the start of 2013, how big an impact a music track was going to have on me.

The track was Get Lucky, by Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and my friend, Nile Rodgers. The tune was to become a record-breaking, worldwide smash hit.

The success of Get Lucky (and the whole Random Access Memories album), helped catapult Nile Rodgers back to the top of his industry.

Here’s the thing: Just a few years ago, Nile’s 2013 success with Daft Punk would have seemed impossible!

Why?

Because in late 2010, Nile was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 3 prostate cancer! This was just before I got involved with the promotion of his autobiography, Le Freak.

No luck required

The irony of the title ‘Get Lucky’, is that I have never met a harder working person than Nile Rodgers. The success he achieved had nothing to do with luck. His rise back to the top (he was already one of the most successful record producers in history), was about courage, hard work, passion and belief.

His continued success since his 2010 health bombshell has been incredible. Nile Rodgers has been an inspiration to me for years, but never more so than today.

In short: No matter how bad your situation is, never quit. With courage, hard work, passion and belief, you can turn almost anything around.

Image: Columbia Records

The business owners who will succeed in 2014 are…

The business owners who succeed in 2014 will be a lot like those who succeeded in 2013. They will provide a service or product, which is hard to get elsewhere.

Here’s why: The transaction of acquiring a new client, means YOU need to have something of value to trade. The easier it is to find a service just like yours, the less interest you will attract and the lower your price or fee will need to be.

A question worth pondering

How easy is it for a potential client, to find providers offering a similar service to yours, with the same kind of promises you offer?

If you’re not sure, Google the name of your industry. Check out some of the millions of results. Look at a handful of websites and see if you are truly offering something different.

If not, now would be a great time to get thinking about the changes you will need to make.

PS: This might be just what you need. It’s an article I wrote for Barclays Bank (client), on how to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Facebook Business Pages: Why your results just nosedived

As some of you may know, the new Facebook Business Page strategy was recently leaked. It has prompted an outcry from business owners.

Here’s why

A leaked slide deck shows that organic (unpaid) posts you share via your Facebook Business Page, will reach fewer and fewer people. As Advertising Age put it:

“If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it.” [Full article]

A number of you have asked me to share my thoughts, so here they are!

As long time readers will know, I dislike Facebook’s approach to the privacy of Facebook users and the way it tends to say one thing and do the other. However, from a business perspective it has one undeniable asset. It has well over a billion users. It’s by far the biggest social network, though Facebook recently admitted that the number of daily users is dropping.

How Facebook initially lured business owners

With such a huge network, Facebook found it easy to convince business owners to get a free, Business Page. Facebook offered the opportunity for businesses and brands to connect with their marketplace and provided lots of free tools. It seemed too good to be true.

So, business owners invested heavily in promoting their Facebook Pages in their marketing. Signs sprung up everywhere, with businesses and brands asking people to “find us on Facebook”.

Encouraged by so-called Facebook experts (who have zero advance warning of Facebook policy changes), many made the mistake of using their free Facebook Page, as their primary way to connect with their community.

Facebook then made a BIG change to the rules

In autumn 2012, Facebook was discovered to be doing something that would change things completely for Business Page users:

Facebook was found “[...] quietly altering one of its key algorithms in September, so that companies with pages that have large numbers of followers can now only reach a fraction of the followers they used to with each post.” Business Insider.

Suddenly, people who were asked to “Find us on Facebook”, couldn’t see what Facebook Business Page owners were posting!

Facebook denied any wrongdoing and said the move was intended to enhance the Facebook experience. Few people, including me, believed them. However, the facts remained the same. It meant that business owners, who had already invested heavily in getting ‘fans’ to their Facebook Business Pages, now had to pay in order to reach them all.

Facebook leak: Positioning Business Pages as paid advertising

Then in December 2013, an article on Advertising Age titled: Facebook Admits Organic Reach Is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads, shows Facebook’s intentions moving forward. As well as saying that fewer and fewer people will see what you post from your Business Page, the following excerpt caught my eye:

“The three-page document also contains a section that repositions how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. [...]” Full article here.

The message here is that business owners need to stop thinking of Facebook Business Pages as a free way to connect with their marketplace. It isn’t. At best, it’s a way to connect, for free, with a decreasing fraction of the people who ‘like’ their Business Page.

Moving forward, Facebook Business Pages should be seen as a targeted form of paid advertising. In that context, it could be a useful advertising tool. However, business owners seeing it as a free marketing tool are in for a shock, as fewer and fewer people see what they post for free.

Facebook Business Pages shouldn’t be your online home

For years, I have advised people not to build their house on rented land. In other words, direct people to your blog or website. Use something YOU own as your online hub… your online home.

When you build your main community on Facebook (or any third party network), you lose control. THEY own the access you have, to YOUR community. As Facebook just demonstrated, they can and will change the rules and you get to pay the price.

My advice

My advice remains the same as it has always been:

  • Build your own home on the Internet. A place where you are in control. Where you make the rules. By far, a self-hosted blog is the best way to achieve this.
  • Build and own your community database (what Internet marketers call ‘your list’).
  • Produce either a newsletter or (as I have done) a blog that has an email subscription option. Thousands of people will read this message today, via email, because I decided to make Jim’s Marketing Blog my online hub… not Facebook.
  • Don’t be one of those business owners, who is sharing ideas, insights and observations on social networks every day, when your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. Feed your business blog or website… not Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter, Google+ and other social networks are not immune from the kind of stunt Facebook pulled. They are not. We don’t know what they have planned.

Consider Facebook Business Pages as a way to build a targeted, paid advertising channel. Increasingly, that’s exactly what it is becoming.

Most importantly, build your community on your own website or blog. Motivate your marketplace to subscribe to your newsletter or blog via email. This puts the development of your community (or list) and the ability to connect with them, 100% in YOUR hands.

7 Simple tips to make your marketing more powerful

Marketing tips, marketing advice

Communication is one of the most overlooked and underrated skills in business. It’s often seen as a soft skill… something that’s useful, but not essential.

I disagree.

The business owner who is unable to communicate her vision, is likely to struggle just as much as the business owner who has no vision. That’s why as business owners, we need to continuously improve our communication skills.

Some tips for better marketing communication

When seeking to share an idea, whether spoken or written, you may find the following tips useful:

  1. Research your audience.
  2. Think of the core points you want to make. List them in order.
  3. Stay on track, by following the list.
  4. Use as few words as required. Brevity is priceless. Too many words can dilute the power or impact of your message.
  5. Avoid buzz words. Use plain speaking whenever possible.
  6. Understand that volume is seldom the problem. A bad message amplified, is still a bad message!
  7. When people respond, listen, really listen, to their feedback. Look for common misunderstandings and adjust your message to avoid them recurring.

In short: When we have something worth saying, it pays to know how to say it (or write it), as effectively as possible.

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