Marketing tip: Use a wider marketing mix!

How well do you prepare for unexpected, potential business problems?

Some people are great.  They cover all the bases and sleep well at night.  Others are not so good; like the trainer I heard of, who had 30 people in a conference venue waiting for his seminar, only to find that his laptop was broken.  He failed to take a second copy of his presentation, to use on a replacement laptop.  The event was cancelled.

A USB thumb-drive with a copy of his seminar presentation would have cost him pennies and saved him thousands in refunds.

From a marketing perspective, I’m always amazed that so many business owners rely too heavily on a single, major source of new business, leaving them exposed and unprepared, if that source stops delivering.

I remember speaking with the owner of a printing business, who attracted most of his sales leads from a networking group he attended.  Although it worked for him, others in the group saw little in the way of results, so the group folded.  Overnight, he lost his primary source of new business.  His income dropped like a stone and he ended up having to let some staff go, because he literally couldn’t make payroll.  It took him almost 18 months to get back to where he had been, before the collapse of the group!

Your marketing strategy needs the right mix

As I have said many times, one of the secrets to a successful business, is to have a number of effective marketing processes working for you all the time, to form a marketing strategy.  The most successful businesses I know, use 8 or more different forms of marketing at any one time (often more.)  This broader approach to marketing provides 2 massive benefits:

  1. It means the business is never over dependent on any single source of sales or enquiries.  This makes your business far more robust and better prepared.
  2. A number of effective marketing processes working together, creates something called compound marketing leverage.  Like compound interest, compound leverage gives you a disproportionately large increase in sales; because the sum of the parts is greater than the total of their individual values.

If you are over dependent on a small number of marketing activities, the time to develop a broader, more robust and reliable marketing mix is now!

So, how many different forms of marketing are you using right now?

The right answers to the wrong questions?

One of the problems with people who use a DIY approach to marketing, is that they often waste time and money, looking for answers to the wrong questions.  As a result, the very best they can then hope for, is that they learn how to do the wrong thing, correctly.

I was prompted to write this, after hearing someone talking earlier about the problems they have, because of the URL they are using for their website.  It is hard to spell and apparently, even the site owner’s friends often misspell it.  The URL also has no SEO benefit, as it does not contain anything that a potential customer would associate with the actual products offered by the site.

One of the reasons this blog is on page 1 of Google (and has been for a year) for the term “marketing blog” or “marketing blogs” is that the words marketing blog appear in my URL.  As a result, almost 100% of the 20,000 links that point here, have anchor text that tell Google this site is related to the term marketing blog.

The site I mentioned earlier is pretty new, has just a handful of links pointing to it and apparently, it gets very little traffic.  So, the solution to the guys URL issue is simply to get a more people-friendly and seo friendly URL – and THEN to market the site effectively.  However, the site’s owner was focusing on how to overcome all the problems with the existing URL.  In other words, he was looking for answers to the wrong question.

This is easily the single most common marketing problem I see among business owners and entrepreneurs.  To quantify that, I would guess that well over 95% of the marketing questions people ask me, fit into this category.

Of course, the reason this is such a widespread problem, is that the people who are right now wasting their time and money looking for answers to the wrong questions, are totally unaware.  They will think that I wrote this post for someone else.

I produce a great deal of free marketing material, in an effort to help as many people as possible.  As someone who’s passionate about helping people, this conundrum is perhaps my biggest frustration.

Lucky me?

I live in a small village, in an area known for its natural beauty.  We occasionally have people walk past our home, who are on their holidays.  They see the open fields, the winding canal and the streams that snake their way through the village, and occasionally tell me;
“You’re very lucky to live in such a beautiful place.”


As with most things in life, luck had nothing to do with where I live.  In order to move from London, where many of my friends were and where 100% of my clients were based, required a huge amount of planning, financial investment and hard work.  I had to totally redesign my business model and leave the city, where I grew up and had lived almost all of my life.

Planning and action

As a marketing professional, I see people every day, who are hoping that they will get lucky one day and suddenly attract the income and lifestyle from their business that they have always wanted.  Their marketing is ineffective, their sales are disappointing and yet they decide to carry on by themselves, so nothing changes.  Sure, they work really hard, but hard work is not the secret of success; if it were our grandparents would all have been millionaires!  We have to be smarter than that.

If you know someone, who is working hard but not getting the results they want from their business, tell them not to wait for things to “just get better.”  In my experience, the world doesn’t work like that.  Every successful business and person I have ever studied, achieved their success through careful planning and taking action to make those plans real.

When we do the right things correctly, it’s amazing how our luck changes!

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

Welcome back Danny Brown!

Like many people, I was overjoyed this week to read that my friend Danny Brown is back to business, after his recent health challenge.  You can read about it here on Danny’s blog.

If you have not previously heard of Danny Brown and wonder why so many people have been talking about his return this week, this might help.  It’s a post I wrote last November, recommending his blog and explaining why it’s a must read, for myself and many others.

I appreciate this is not the typical kind of post you expect to see here, but I really wanted to share this great news with you!

If you are interested in; PR, social media, fund raising or marketing, I also recommend you join Danny on Twitter, via @DannyBrown.

Have a great weekend!

So, you want more blog comments?

One of the questions I get asked a lot by new bloggers, is how can they attract more comments from their readers.  So, that’s what this post is all about.

I have posts here with as few as 6 or 7 comments, many with over 80/100 comments and one post with almost 700 comments.  Here are a few of the things I have discovered about comments, which you might find useful:

  1. You don’t attract comments, simply by inserting “what do you think” at the end of each post.
  2. It’s a good idea to give your fellow bloggers a thank you for commenting on your blog.  For example, if a blogger comments here and they include their blog’s URL, they get a link at the end of their comment, which promotes their most recent blog post to all my readers.Check it out, it’s in that box at the end of each comment.  The software I use is called CommentLuv.
  3. The posts I write that ask questions, typically attract more comments than those that give answers.
  4. If someone is kind enough to comment on your blog, take the time to respond to their comment (if it requires a response.)  Many bloggers ask people for feedback, then pretty much ignore most of them.
  5. The more heavily you moderate your blog, the fewer comments you get.  If all comments are held for moderation before they are published, your comments section will lose momentum.  It can take hours for people to see their comments published on moderated blogs and then hours longer, to see replies to their comments.
  6. Some of my most read posts have the fewest comments.  This is interesting, as one of the reasons bloggers like to get comments, is to show how popular their blog is.  This is the most read page / post on this blog, BTW.
  7. The more often I write blog posts, the more comments I get – Though the FEWER I get per post.  When I was getting 100’s of comments per post, I was only blogging 4 or 5 times a month.I get more comments these days, but they are spread over a lot more posts, as I currently write 4 or 5 times or more a week.  So, overall comment numbers are higher, but average comments per post are down.
  8. Only a very small percentage of blog readers, actually comment.  So, even if you have the correct balance in place to encourage comments, you will need a sizeable readership before you get a high volume of comments.

There are many, many different blog comment strategies and the key is to find the right balance for you and whatever you want to achieve.

Members only

For example, a number of bloggers use a members only approach to comments.  You have to join their blog before you can comment, by registering your contact details (and getting them validated.)  This is sometimes called the velvet rope approach and is intended to create a feeling of exclusivity, whilst eliminating comment spam and trolls.

Seth Godin’s blog strategy

Some bloggers have copied Seth Godin’s blog comment strategy, to completely block his readers from commenting on his blog.  From a marketing perspective, this approach is not as crazy as it may first seem.  If you want to discuss something you read on Seth’s blog, you will probably do it on Facebook or Twitter etc; which spreads the word about Set’s blog and generates more new readers.  If you made that same point on Seth’s blog, only you and his existing readers would have seen it.

If you are a blogger: What are your tips for encouraging readers to comment and get involved?

If you are blog reader: What motivates you to want to leave a comment?

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

Twitter as a marketing tool: Your feedback!

Has Twitter helped you attract new clients or customers?

Some business owners and entrepreneurs, who use Twitter as part of their marketing strategy, do extremely well.  Others seem unable to transform their tweeting time, into tangible, commercial results.

I would like to hear from you, if you use Twitter as part of your marketing efforts and have achieved bankable results, which can be traced back to connections you made on Twitter.

What tips or advice do you have for others, who would like to transform their Tweeting time into commercial success?

Please include your Twitter @username in your comments, so your fellow readers can follow you.  My user name is @JimConnolly

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

This just looks horrible!

In marketing, we know that feedback can be extremely valuable.  That’s why marketing professionals like myself test and measure everything.  It’s too easy to wrongly assume that something is working or under-performing, just based on hunches or ill-informed input.

I was talking to a lady yesterday, who had recently redesigned the window display in her soft furnishings shop.  She told me that the day she changed it, several people commented, to say they didn’t like it.  One said “it just looks horrible!”

However, she explained that since changing the display, she was attracting considerably more paying customers than before.  Had she acted on what those first people told her, she would have quickly gone back to the previous, under-performing window display.  Instead, she decided to wait until there was some measurable data and THEN make an informed decision.

Whenever we get verbal or written feedback, it’s important to treat it in the correct context.  Here are a few questions I ask myself, before I decide to act, which I would like to share with you:

Is the person commenting from my target market? If not, it could be that their feedback is well-intentioned, but not reflective of what your marketplace thinks, wants or needs.

What is this person’s motive? Why would someone go to the time and effort, to get in touch with you regarding something they like or dislike about your business?  There’s ALWAYS a reason!  Some are motivated by a desire to help, others by a desire to hinder.  Some are motivated by contribution, others by envy.  Figure out their motive, then listen to what they are saying in context.

Are they an expert in that field? Never act on expert advice, unless it’s given to you by an expert.  There was a guy in our village pub last week, giving the waiter some medical advice. (He’s a retired history teacher with no medical expertise or experience.)


Boost your sales and profits: Getting your prices right!

I see a lot of small businesses right now, opting to lower their prices or fees (herein called prices), in order to boost sales and grow their business.  However, I’m also seeing a smaller number of businesses, increasing their prices for the exact same reason.

Before you decide to cut or increase your prices, here are some things to consider.

Price cuts are easy – Increasing them again, well…

As I have said many times before, lowering a price is easy, but increasing that price again can be a far bigger challenge.  This is why it’s essential that you make sure the numbers add up, before you do anything!

For instance:  Imagine my friend Bob decides to reduce the cost of his widgets by 25%.  Depending on his profit margin, he may need to 2 or 3 times as many widgets, just to have the SAME profit figure he had before his price cut.  Many people slash their prices, only to find that the extra sales they generate, leave them worse off than before AND with more clients or customers to service too.

Price cuts can work, but only when the numbers are working for you.  For example, if you sell three times as many widgets after a price cut, you might be able to get a better discount from your supplier, increasing the profitability of each widget sold.  This is part of something known as the economy of scale.

Price cuts or price increases?

Though people typically associate price cuts with increased trade, it’s also possible to attract more customers and achieve far higher profits, by increasing your prices.  Yes, it depends on what industry you are in, but I have seen amazing results come from people, who have benefited massively from having an above average price tag.

For example: Around a year ago, a new bar opened in a town close to where I live.  The owner decided to use her prices, as a way to position her bar.  So, she opted to charge 20% MORE for drinks than her most expensive competitor.  People said she was insane, as pubs and bars here in the UK have been really struggling in recent years.

This price increase was designed to act as a barrier to entry, to what she referred to as “the town’s drunks.”  However, because these people kept away, her bar became a magnet for those looking for a more peaceful night out.  She knew that people would be happy to pay the additional 20%, for a better quality atmosphere.  12 months later, she boasts the busiest and most expensive bar in the area.

Remember though, the bar owner did not just increase her prices for no reason.  She was charging more BUT she was also giving the marketplace something of greater value than the increased price of her drinks.  The value is what sold it – Not the price increase!

So, what about product sales?  Apple Inc famously made record breaking sales and recorded the best trading period in the company’s history, during the height of the last recession.  They did this, despite selling hardware that was often several hundred percent more expensive than other brands.  They offered a great range of products, marketed them superbly and then charged for them accordingly.

Prices and promises

Before changing a price, always remember that your prices need to match your promises, if we want people to trust what you say.  That’s because of the well established link between quality and price.  For example, it’s unlikely that the best architect, web designer or lawyer in your area, works for the lowest fees.  It’s equally unlikely that the best restaurant in town offers the lowest priced menu or that the least expensive homes are in the best neighbourhoods.

The marketplace gets very sceptical, when they see the promise of a great product or service, for a bargain basement price.  That kind of mixed message causes confusion and as a result, it’s sometimes harder to win new business after lowering a price than it was before (depending on your industry.)

Prices and value

Your prospective customers want you to give them more value than they pay you for.  So, you can either:

  1. Lower your prices and offer the same quality of service / product as you do today.
  2. Keep your prices the same BUT add more value, so they get more value for money.
  3. Increase your prices BUT pump massively more value into your service / product.

Here’s what doesn’t work though:  Lowering your prices so that you are no longer profitable enough or increasing your prices, without pumping massively more value into what you are offering.

Pricing is a key part of your business and I have written about it many times.  If you want to know more about pricing, value and how they can work for your business, here are a few links you will find useful:

Marketing & value

The hidden cost of price cuts

How to set your prices or fees in 3 easy steps

Standing out from the crowd

I would like to know what you think about setting prices or fees and what your experiences have been.  Please share your feedback with your fellow readers and myself, with a comment below.

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

Content marketing: What is it and how does it work?

This is a quick post about content marketing and how to get great results from it.

Content marketing

Millions of small business owners (including me) use content marketing as a way to market their services.  They produce content for; newsletters, blog posts, articles, audio, video, social media sites etc.  The idea is that their content will engage prospective clients or customers and generate enquiries sales and also position them as an expert in their field.  Make no mistake, content marketing is extremely powerful when used correctly.

However, as many small business owners discover, there’s an enormous difference between producing content and producing content that actually helps them grow their business.

In marketing, we know that the messages that resonate with us most powerfully are those that make us think or capture our imagination in some way.  Generic messages do the exact opposite.  They pass us by, undetected.  They wash over us, because they’re predictable.  Yet these generic messages are the stock-in-trade of most of the content marketing pieces we see each day from small businesses.


I believe one of the reasons, is that it feels a lot “safer” to toe the line, follow what the crowd are saying and just blend into the background.  It takes courage for a blogger, for example, to offer their unique perspective on a topic or allow their personality to shine through their work.  After all, what if they are wrong?  What if their point of view generates negative comments?  It would surely be the end of their world as they know it!  So, rather than risk ruffling too many feathers, they opt to rehash generic ideas, which feel safer, because most people seem to agree with them.

Here’s the problem with that approach: It acts like camouflage and stops you getting the visibility you need!

To be visible, we first need to have something to say, which is worth listening to and sharing.  People only pass on content to their friends or network, if they find it useful or interesting and believe that others will too.  In short, people share the good stuff!  The most successful content marketers never seek a full consensus.  They just try hard and deliver content, which will be as valuable as possible to their target market.

Some important content marketing questions

  1. Who am I writing to? You need to know your target audience and focus your content exclusively on what they will find value in.
  2. Why am I writing to them? You need to know your desired outcome or outcomes, so that you can check if you are on course or not.  You can’t manage, what you can’t measure.
  3. Does my content showcase my expertise? Give genuinely useful information to your readers for free (and do it with a smile)!  Don’t send a watered-down version of your expertise into the marketplace.  Why?  Because how on earth are your readers supposed to know that you are any good, if all they see is a half-assed, diluted version of how great you are?I give away tons of free information on this blog, which encourages my readers to share my work with their friends.  As a result, I get business enquiries every day, from people who want to work with me.  This post, for example, gives links to over 140 marketing tips and ideas.

So, what are your content marketing tips or experiences?

Whether you are new to content marketing or a seasoned campaigner, it would be great to hear your feedback.

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

Marketing with confidence?

Would you spend money with a business, if you thought they were going broke and you wouldn’t get what you paid for?

That might seem like an odd question, yet since starting my business in the mid 1990’s, I have seen countless small business owners create nervousness within their marketplace, by the often illogical things they do, when times get tough.  They see sales drop or lose a big customer and BOOM – their thinking goes into scramble mode and they put panic measures into place.  These measures often serve to give the impression that the business in question is acting out of desperation.

Here’s why this is a problem: People do not spend money with, or recommend, businesses that they think are likely to go broke!

Now let’s compare that approach, to what we see when a business is inspiring confidence within the marketplace rather than creating nervousness and doubt.

Marketing with confidence

Ask anyone who has been in business for a while and they will confirm that it’s far easier to attract great new clients or generate more sales, when times are good.  One of the reasons for this is that when times are good, we feel confident and that feeling of confidence comes across, not only in our decision making but in our conversations and everything we do.

I was speaking with the owner of a web design business recently, who told me that he had just landed a massive new contract.  He believes that the primary reason he won that contract, was that he was able to quote for it from a position of strength.  He explained that because business was good, he conducted the meeting with this new client feeling confident and relaxed.  Then, he quoted a fee for the project that truly reflected the high quality of his services – Rather than a bargain basement fee, which he had been doing last year as he scrambled for new business unsuccessfully.

Now, I’m not saying that when times are hard, we should just smile and quote higher fees – Far from it!  What I am saying, is that we can either inspire confidence in our business, which will help our situation – Or we can generate doubt and make people feel nervous about our commercial future, which will only make things worse.

We can focus on answers or we can focus on problems.

We can focus on what we want or we can focus on what we fear.

If you control your focus, seek advice from people who have the answers you need and work REALLY hard, there are very, very few business challenges that you can’t kick the crap out of!

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