Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Author: Jim Connolly (page 138 of 184)

Older and wiser? Not always!

Yesterday evening, I heard 2 men having an interesting debate in my local pub.  One, who was in his twenties, was telling the other, who was in his forties, that he was wrong regarding his thoughts on business tax.  The older guy then said; “I’ve been in business almost 20 years. I know what I am talking about!”

His suggestion, is that with longevity comes wisdom; which is incorrect!

I meet with teenage entrepreneurs, who understand the business of business better than people twice their age.  Alternatively, I meet business owners, who have been in the same business for decades, and seen almost no growth for years; because they get a year older each year – NOT a year better each year.

Experience can be a massively important asset, if we use our experiences to improve and make better decisions. However, we all know people who are repeating the same lifestyle or business errors at the age of 50 / 60, as they did decades earlier.  For them, 1st January is not the start of a new year; it’s simply another chance to relive the same old year, over and over again!

Longevity is an indicator of age – not competence.

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

Photo: Dave F

Marketing decisions: Stop guessing!

Do you want to improve your marketing, make more sales and lower your marketing costs at the same time? Well, if you are like the vast majority of small business owners I meet, you can help yourself to achieve all three; by basing your future marketing decisions on better quality information.

Better marketing decisions come from better quality information

We know our business well; so it’s all too easy for us to assume we also know what our prospective clients or customers want.  However, if our assumptions are incorrect, then our marketing will be addressing a non-existent need.  This is an extremely common error among small businesses.

I was prompted to write this, after a conversation recently with a business owner, who constantly stated assumptions as “facts.”  He would say things like;
“Lots of our target customers want…”

Then, when I asked him what percentage he was referring to, when he said “lots“, he replied that he didn’t know.

When I asked him how he knew for sure, what his prospective customers wanted, he admitted that he didn’t know.

He was simply assuming.

After speaking with me, he decided to do some very basic research and discovered his assumptions were incorrect.  What he had done, was to assume that his marketplace thought the same way he did.  He was about to develop a new service, which no one was looking for.  He was providing an answer, to a question that no one was asking.

Someone once told me; “In business, unless you know what the numbers are, you are running blind.”  She was right!  It’s impossible to make good decisions, when you are using bad data.

Whenever you find yourself making a marketing decisions based on an assumption, always ask yourself what you are actually basing that assumption on.  Is it based on facts / accurate data?  If it isn’t, then do a little research.

I wrote a post about getting better quality marketing feedback, which you might find useful!

Even a simple survey, which asks the right questions, can help you target your marketing far more effectively.

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

Let’s talk about money!

One of the first things I had to learn, when I went into sales as a profession, was to be comfortable when discussing money.

Money is a key element in the sales process, yet many people feel extremely awkward discussing it with a prospective client or customer.  They will often explain the benefits of their product or service, and answer any questions the prospective client has, then nervously give their fee.  It sometimes sounds like they are embarrassed, and in face-to-face situations, their body language commonly becomes very defensive too.

Talking money

In many cases, it’s necessary to know what a prospective client’s budget is, in order to determine the best option for them.  Without this information, you risk potentially offering them the wrong options, or wasting your time speaking with them, when your services are 5 times their budget.

If you are someone, who has struggled when discussing money in the past, you might find the following quick tip useful.  It was given to me almost 25 years ago and it really helped me deal with money a lot more professionally.

It is simply to stop thinking about money in terms of cold, hard cash and start thinking of it as simply an element in the sales process.

As I have said many times before, your prices need to match your promises.  In other words, if you are promising a great product or a stunning level of service, and you then quote a bargain-basement fee, people won’t believe you.  Make no mistake, your confidence and clarity when discussing money is key.

Someone once described a sale to me, as; “the transfer of enthusiasm.”  Conversely, it could be said that a great way to ruin a sale, is to transfer doubt to a prospective client.

If you have any tips or suggestions, please share them with a comment!

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

Have you considered the worldwide market for your services?

This is a blog post I have intended to write for a while now.  I’ve noticed that many small business owners and entrepreneurs are missing out on a massive amount of high quality business, because they are applying out-dated thinking to the reach of their services.

It’s all to do with a hyper-local mindset.

small business, marketing national, international marketing, marketing coach

Some businesses, by their very nature, need to operate within set geographical boundaries.  Accountants and lawyers, for example, are only allowed to practice in certain countries or territories.  Other businesspeople are geographically locked, because people need to physically visit their premises, such as restaurants etc.  However, there are many, many other people, who could provide products or services on a national or international level, who still stick within unnecessary, geographical limitations.

How I do it

As many of you will know, I work very successfully as a marketing coach, to small business owners all over the world.  Today alone, I have worked with clients in; Nebraska USA, Norfolk UK, Cassis France and Wicklow Ireland. I use Skype to handle the phone calls and video conferencing, documents are sent via email and we also use desktop sharing; so we can work on things together, in real-time.

This system of working has a number of great benefits.  For example, neither my clients nor myself have to waste time travelling anywhere.  So, if we are working on something for an hour, that’s all the time it takes us; rather than wasting time in transit, getting parked etc.  Equally, it means I can market my services worldwide and embrace opportunities without any of the limitations of yesteryear.  It’s also a lot kinder to the environment!

Here’s a suggestion:  Take a look ate the kind of service you currently provide, and consider if you can adapt it, so that it can be offered either nationally or internationally.  If you can, I strongly advise that you look into it.

It could be one of the most profitable and rewarding commercial decisions you ever make!

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

Photo: Dave Bleasdale

A quick look at Scribnia.com

A few months ago, I decided to check out a new service called scribnia; which allows people to rate, review and discover bloggers and online writers.  The service was recommended to me by my friend David Spinks, who is scribnia’s community manager.  This is not a full review of the service, but rather a brief snapshot of my experience with it.

Scribnia.com

scribnia, scribnia.com, david spinks, writer reviewsI’m always on the look out for great writers with something new to say, but find that the same old names pop up again and again on social bookmarking sites and Google.  This makes it harder than it should be, to discover new writers and sites in your niche that are worth reading.  After all, some of the best new writers have pretty poor SEO and some of the most optimised sites are generic when it comes to content.

This is why I decided to take a look at scribnia.com.  Scribnia allows you to pick a category and then check out reviews for writers in that niche – potentially a very useful short-cut.  You can see who is writing the reviews and decide how biased or otherwise they may be, again, very useful.  Also, once you have reviewed 5 writers, scribnia will start suggesting new writers to you; based on the ratings and reviews you have written.  This is my page on scribnia.

If you enjoy the reward element of services like foursquare.com, you will find the badges that reviewers can earn on scribnia interesting.  Badges can be earned for things like the number of reviews you write, the number of people who give a thumbs-up to your reviews etc.  An interesting feature here, is that you can earn a pro-critic badge, after you have written 100 reviews.  If scribnia gains enough traction, I can see this pro-critic idea as being really useful for people, who write reviews for a living or who give reviews as a part of their work.

Scribnia, chickens and eggs

Obviously, a service like scribnia relies on numbers in order to fly.  After all, people will only write reviews if they believe others will see those reviews.  This creates a chicken and egg situation, which is why I decided to write this brief post about the service when David told me about it.  Currently, there are just over 35,000 writers added to the site and there are almost 6,500 users.  The number of users will need to increase, for the service to achieve it’s potential.  However, having used the service and really enjoyed it, I believe the potential is huge.

If you have used scribnia, or taken some time to check it out, feel free to share your feedback.

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

Should small businesses pretend to be bigger than they really are?

Many small business owners go to great lengths, to pretend that their business is actually a lot bigger than it really is. When I ask people why they do this, they usually tell me it’s because they think prospective clients won’t use them, if they know how small they are.

In my experience, it’s never a great idea to start any relationship, including a commercial one, on a foundation of lies.  If Bob’s marketing contains addresses for offices that exist only in his mind and fake telephone numbers that are all diverted to his one real line, he’s clearly being less than honest.  When his clients find out he’s lying about the size of his business, he will have lost their trust.  This is perhaps one of the worst possible business scenarios.

Ironically, the whole idea of lying about the size or capacity of a business is completely erroneous, from a marketing perspective!

There’s zero point in pretending you are big enough to handle a project or client, that is clearly way beyond your means.  Even if you do manage to fool them into thinking you have the resources to handle their needs, they will quickly realise you don’t, once they start working with you.

Successful marketing (and business development), is about working with clients that suit your business model, not fooling those who are unsuitable into joining, and then leaving you.

Some of the smallest brands are the most respected

The small business mindset, which says; “if they know how small my business is, I will win fewer clients”, is based on an incorrect assumption.  It assumes that quality is linked to how large a business is, when the opposite is more often true.  In reality, some of the most respected brands are smaller scale and some of the least respected brands are high street chains.

For example, until last year, Twitter employed fewer than 30 full-time people, yet it was massively successful.  Twitter attracted tens of millions of dollars and has been valued at a BILLION dollars. You can join me on Twitter here.

The most famous shop in the UK and maybe one of the most famous in the world, has just one UK outlet.  I’m talking about Harrods.

Conversely, some of the lowest class and most unhealthy food in your local town, is almost certainly dished up by a national or international burger chain – but the best food is almost certainly from a great little independent restaurant you know.

Small businesses should play to their strengths

The most successful small businesses play to their strengths; rather than lie about being something they are not.  They focus on quality, not quantity.  They develop great, long-term relationships with their clients and customers, because in most cases they know their clients and customers extremely well.

Small businesses also benefit from being able to make a decision and take action immediately, whereas large companies typically move much slower. So long as they play to their strengths, small businesses can achieve amazing results and be extremely profitable too.

I would be interested to know what your thoughts are on small businesses, who create a bogus front end to make their business look bigger.

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

Photo: Nevolution

In business, it’s impossible to avoid making decisions!

It’s impossible to avoid making decisions!

I regularly speak with small business owners, who have left important areas of their business suffering, rather than make a decision and take action. Their concern, is that they will make the wrong decision.  So, they do nothing at all, which often has serious implications for their business and their future.

What people who avoid making deliberate decisions fail to understand, is that by electing to do nothing, they have actually made a decision.  They have decided to sit on their hands again and hope things turn out OK.  That’s not much of a strategy.  Thing’s don’t just get better by themselves.

In my work, I hear from people all the time, who make the decision to call or email me, rather than continue to struggle with sales.  Conversely, I see people complaining about how slow business is, but electing to keep repeating the same marketing errors, rather than make the decision to do something about it.

One of the common traits behind every successful businessperson I know, is that they make good decisions in a timely manner.  They understand that if they avoid making decisions, they surrender control of their business and their future, to others. After all, the actions we take are what determine our success and these actions are governed by our decisions.

What works for you?

Do you have any tips or ideas, to help people make better decisions?  If you do, please share them!

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

I’m off on a thinking trip – A “thinking trip”?

What do you do, when you need to come up with some fresh, inspired ideas?

One of the things I do, is to take a break and have a dedicated 2 day thinking trip.  Today, I’m heading off for this year’s thinking trip – to the stunningly beautiful North Yorkshire Moors.

How my thinking trips work

Between now and Sunday, I will be spending time away from the people I love, to focus exclusively on new ideas.  I never pressure myself to come up with anything, but the change in environment works amazingly well, and the ideas always flow.  I tend to spend the days writing in the countryside and the evenings writing at the beach.  I make sure that I always have quick access to something that I can use to record my thoughts, as my best ideas usually come when I am mobile.  As I mention in this post, I always carry an audio recorder with me; but on these trips, an audio recorder is invaluable to me.

Once I have enough ideas recorded, I write the best ones down.  Initially, I get these ideas fleshed out using a fountain pen and a pad.  I discovered years ago that this helps my thinking, maybe because it slows the process down and allows me to think a little deeper, than when I speedily type ideas using a computer.  Then, on the last day, I type up all the best ideas and they are ready to get working on, when I get back home.

I’m wondering if anyone else uses a change of environment, to stimulate their thinking process?  What works best for you?

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

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