Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Author: Jim Connolly (page 2 of 191)

A powerful marketing lesson from the new iPhone

I want to share a marketing tip with you today, which Apple used recently with enormous success. It starts with a question.

How big is the iPhone 6?

Ask an iPhone user and they will tell you it’s large. That’s because until now, iPhone users have been using 4 inch screens. Compared to a 4 inch screen, a 4.7 inch screen is large.

Ask an Android user how big the iPhone 6 is and they will say it’s average size, because they’ve had screens that size for years.

So, when Apple used the phrase, “Bigger than bigger”, to market the new iPhone models, they were talking directly to existing Apple customers. Of course, they also attracted the attention of Android users, who were holding out until Apple produced a bigger device.

What does this have to do with you and your business?

Your marketing promises

Think about some of the promises you make with your marketing. For example:

  • We offer outstanding value.
  • We provide a great service.

In each case, your prospective customer will be comparing your promise against their expectations.

So, who are you marketing to and what do they expect?

  • If you’re marketing to people who are used to below average service and value, you can offer an average service and still meet their expectations.
  • However, if you market to people who receive an average service, the service and value you promise will need to be significantly better than average. Otherwise, your marketing promises won’t match their expectations.

How to get it right

Before you claim to offer an outstanding service or amazing value, you need to know who your target customer is comparing you to. If you make grand statements with your marketing, yet prospective customers or clients think it sounds average when they review what you actually offer, you lose.

Most small business owners overestimate how good their services are and underestimate their competitors. They forget how passionate their competitors are and how hard they work. They know their own level of commitment and assume the others can’t possibly be trying as hard.

Here’s what to do next

Spend some time researching what your competitors offer. Google makes this relatively simple. Look at the range of services your competitors provide, the guarantees they offer and when possible, their fees or prices.

That will help you get a more accurate picture of what prospective clients see as average.

Then, look for ways to pump more value into what you provide. How much value? So much, that when a prospective customer matches your marketing promises with what you actually deliver, it  exceeds their expectations. This is what motivates them to hire you or buy from you.

Tip: Read this – 3 Ideas to help you the next time they say you’re too expensive.

Money without happiness… you’re still broke!

How’s business?

Many business owners will answer that question based on how profitable things are… how their order books look, how cash flow is flowing.

Yes, that’s one measurement

However, even if profits and cash flow look great, it only shows a small part of the picture. Many business owners are making money, but they are losing something else. Something more important. Something bigger than their business.

Business owners often find their work life balance is pretty unbalanced. They are often stressed, working too many hours and working on uninspiring projects for clients who don’t appreciate them. Somewhere along the way, the need to make money was replaced by the need to make money… even at the expense of their happiness, health, family life. Maybe all three.

Decide what matters then go for it

If any important area of your life is suffering because of your business — stop! Even if you are making tons of money, you’re always going to be broke.

Why?

Because history is littered with stories of business owners, who were SO BROKE… all they had left was their money.

OK Connolly, what next?

Try this.

Decide how many hours you want to work, in order to have that essential family and friends time. Determine how much you want to earn, the kind of clients you want to work with and the type of projects you want to work on.

Then, reimagine your business, products and services. Rebuild them from the ground up if needed. Develop them, so they’re of direct interest to high quality clients (or customers). These are the people who will pay you what you’re worth — so you don’t have to work crazy hours to supplement low fees.

Next, direct your marketing exclusively to this targeted group. Speak to them specifically with your marketing messages.

You’ll quickly discover one of the best kept secrets in business: The clients who value your time and pay you well, are the easiest and most rewarding to work with on every level.

Get it right and you’ll also discover how to run a business that rewards you where it matters most… and financially too.

PS - Here are 3 articles, which show you how to attract the best clients and the highest fees:

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 1.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 2.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 3.

How your business can make a dent in the universe

Last week marked the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Steve Jobs. Something Jobs once said, had a huge positive impact on the way I work. Today, I’m going to share it with you, along with how you can use it to build a better business.

It was simply this:

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

A lifetime of work, but no dent

When you think about it, most business owners don’t make a dent in the universe, in any meaningful way. They work hard. They have highs and they have lows. Then they retire. Hopefully, they make enough money to live in comfort for their remaining years.

But commercially, that’s it. No dent in the universe. Nothing that lives on when they retire. Nothing that’s bigger then them.

3 Keys to making a dent

I believe there are 3 keys to making your dent in the universe.

  1. Doing something remarkable.
  2. Persistence.
  3. Having a major goal or vision.

I’ve already written a great deal on the importance of being remarkable. So, I’m not going to repeat myself here. If you want to know about being remarkable, read this.

Persistence

Persistence is the second key to putting your dent in the universe. Most people work hard on a thousand and one different things. However, they seldom focus like a laser on one important thing. They make lots of random prods or pokes, but these are spread too thinly. Instead of focusing on the dent in the world, which they want to make, they dilute their efforts.

A well known example of this is the so-called serial entrepreneur. This title is most often associated with people, who lack the persistence or perseverance to build something out to its full potential. They like the start-up phase, then lose faith and interest as the tricky work kicks in. So, they jump onto the next shiny thing.

Lots of singular pokes, but no dents.

Having a major goal or vision

Making your dent in the universe starts with deciding what your major commercial goal is. Then, committing to work in a way that is consistent with achieving that goal. This is what focuses your efforts in a unified direction, allowing you to create your very own dent.

Here’s an example from my own personal experience: When I started Jim’s Marketing Blog I had a major goal, which I have stuck with for over 6 years. That goal has influenced all my business decisions ever since. It has allowed me to focus my efforts in a unified direction. My goal is to help as many small business owners as I can, to be as successful as they can be.

As a result, each piece of work I do becomes part of a greater mass of work. All connected. All consistent with my major goal. All compounding to help me make my dent in the universe. Every day, with every new person I am able to help, my dent becomes a little bigger.

Jobs’ goal was to create beautiful things. As we all know, he took it to exceptional levels! That singular goal or vision influenced all his decisions. It allowed him to move forward with clarity. With confidence. It allowed him to identify the right people to connect with. The first Apple computer, the Mac, the iPod, iPhone and iPad were different products, decades apart – but all part of a singular vision, which allowed Jobs to make a massive dent in the universe.

In short: Decide what you want to create – what kind of dent you want to make in the universe. Then make that the focus of your efforts and the cornerstone of your decisions. Then persist. Doggedly. Because random pokes won’t work.

Here’s why I refuse to SEO my blog posts

Following last week’s post about how to make your blog stand out and build a great readership, a number of you asked the same question. You wanted to know why I chose not to bother about Google. Why I decided not to SEO my work.

Here’s the answer.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways to build a blog:

  1. Do what’s expected. To obey all the so-called rules of blogging — such as focusing on SEO.
  2. Refuse to do what’s expected.

I very deliberately chose the second option.

Here’s why

As a marketing professional, I knew it would be extremely hard to stand out if I used the same approach as other marketing bloggers. So, I decided to ignore SEO when I write.

How does this improve my work?

Think of it like this: Just imagine how terrible your favourite book would have been, if every page had been SEO’d. Think how dreadful your favourite love song would have been, had the singer SEO’d their feelings, instead of expressing them. That’s what happens when you write for SEO robots, rather than people.

By ignoring SEO, I get to write in a 100% natural way, which readers find easier to connect with.

This is why there are no pop-up boxes on my blog. When your readers connect with your message, you don’t need pop-ups…. you already have the reader’s attention!

Interestingly, Seth Godin’s blog, the world’s number 1 marketing blog, ignores SEO too. There are no pop-up boxes there, either. The same is true for Mitch Joel’s blog. That’s not a coincidence.

[Note: As I explain here, this approach is not right for everyone. However, if you're looking to grow a valuable community of readers, it can be exceptionally effective.]

A business lesson too

In business, just as in blogging, there are 2 broad approaches. The first way is to do what’s expected. The second way is to refuse to do what’s expected.

Guess which group finds it easiest to get noticed?

Old ways won’t open new doors

There are 2 questions you should ask yourself, because they have a huge impact on what you will achieve, both in business and life in general.

Here they are:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What am I prepared to do, to get what I want?

What do I want?

Many people waste years spinning their wheels, because they don’t really know what they want from their business or their life. Instead of living life by design, they go from day to day reacting. They often find themselves a part of other people’s plans — working hard for clients and customers, yet making little real progress in their own business.

Trying to reach your potential without a plan is like trying to reach a destination, when you have no address and no map!

Take some time to think about what you want. Success for you should be based on what matters most to you and what gives you your greatest sense of well-being. As the ideas start to flow make sure you capture them. Write everything down. Add as much detail as possible. Don’t worry about it being perfect. It’s your first draft — something you will need to adjust over time. The key thing is to get started.

This process will immediately help you gain more clarity on your destination, allowing you to draw the map.

What am I prepared to do, to get what I want?

The title of this post, old ways won’t open new doors, is an age-old saying. It advises us in just 6 words, that if we want something new we must be prepared to do something new. This is challenging. However, it’s also essential, because nothing improves until we improve.

As Einstein said; Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, what are you prepared to do? What improvements are you prepared to make to your strategy, your philosophy and your mindset?

I can’t answer those questions for you, but I can give you some sound advice. When the vision you have is compelling enough, it pulls you. You don’t need to push yourself. You will do what’s required.

If you’d like to achieve at a totally new level, dedicate some time today to answering those questions. You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to plan ahead with confidence, when you know exactly where you’re going.

You’ll also be amazed at how much more energy and motivation you have.

How to make your blog stand out and build a valuable readership

Last week, the folks over at Cision ranked Jim’s Marketing Blog as the country’s number 1 digital marketing blog. Soon after, I started getting requests from people, asking what I thought made my site stand out. There are a number of things, but I think the following is as good an answer as any:

I don’t chase Google for search traffic. Instead, I write exclusively for people. This gives me the freedom to write the way I want to. It also gives me a huge advantage over the vast majority of marketing bloggers, who SEO their ideas, rather than write directly for the reader.

Allow me to explain.

Google rewards over-long content

The problem with that, is that your readers value brevity! They are busy. They want to get the key information they need, quickly. They want you to get to the point. However, Google’s algorithm needs lots of words in order to work.

The guys at Buffer recently suggested 1600 words was the sweet spot and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were right. Others say 1000 words. So, bloggers are taking an idea which could be epxlained perfectly in 300 words, and stretching it out so that it’s 4 or 5 times longer than it should be. That’s why there’s so much over-long content out there. So many waffle words. So much fluff.

Google rewards the over use of so-called keywords

To make it possible for Google’s algorithm to have a clue what you’re writing about, it needs you to repeat certain words over and over again. More often than you would normally. You need to put them in the title, in the subheadings, in the image alt tags, in the body copy, in bold, in italics.

Of course, that’s not part of natural writing! It’s jarring to the reader. It weakens your message as readers wonder why you keep repeating certain words too often. Google may like it. People don’t. As it’s people who buy from you or hire you, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
[Note: That's why I wrote this. Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it.]

Sure, Google’s algorithm is super-easy to game. People, however, are harder to convince. They look for value… insight… generosity of spirit. These are all human elements.

In short: If you’re struggling to build a connected community of readers, write for people, not an algorithm. If you sell ads and need page impressions, write for Google. If you think you’re writing for Google AND for people, you’re not doing either as effectively as you could be.

Is this common mistake scaring customers or clients away?

switch

How easy is it, for a new client or customer to switch to you?

Many business owners make a very good case, for switching to them from your current provider. They get prospective clients and customers fired up. Motivated. Money in hand… however, they make switching to them too painful, so they lose the business.

Here’s an example of what I mean, based on my own situation right now.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and my pain

I’ve been considering switching my main production computer, from a Mac to a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 machine. I’m a Microsoft guy and have been since Windows 3.0. However, last year I bought a MacBook Pro and fell in love with it. I went on to buy the MacBook Air I’m writing on right now, plus a desktop Mac. I love the Apple hardware, but miss having a touch screen computer. I also miss all the software, which is available only on Windows.

The problem I have, is there’s a lot of pain involved in switching to Surface Pro 3.

For example:

  • I’ve invested thousands in Mac hardware and software over the past year. This will be largely unused if I switch. As a result, there’s a lot of pain associated to relegating the equipment. If I sell it I’ll lose a fortune. If I keep it, it will just sit there depreciating in value. Ouch!
  • I have all my files in Apple’s format. The pain of converting file formats is considerable.
  • All my peripherals are Mac. So, I’d need to buy everything again; a Surface Pro keyboard, compatible external hard drive, stylus, shoulder bag, etc . There’s hundreds in additional costs there, adding to the financial pain.
  • Then, I’d need to invest a day of my time, setting the new device up and connecting it to all my accounts etc. My time doesn’t come cheap.
  • … and there’s nothing meaningful that Microsoft do, which comes close to helping me (or anyone else) with all that pain.

So, instead of switching to the new device being a simple decision, I’m probably not going to do it. I’m too locked into the Apple universe now. I don’t dislike Macs. Far from it. I just really like the flexibility of the Surface Pro 3. Yet, it seems Microsoft are unlikely to get my money. Switching is just too painful.

In addition, Microsoft miss out on a massive amount of ongoing, free publicity, as I won’t be blogging about my experiences with the Surface Pro 3, on one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. With a significant audience of business owners, I’d have been worth a fortune to Microsoft, and at a time where they really need to get business owners interested in them. More importantly, it’s entirely likely there are customers you have missed, who could have helped your business similarly, but they were not prepared to pay the price for switching. Think about that for a moment.

Where’s the pain in switching to you?

This raises 2 important questions for you and your business:

  • What are the pain points a new client or customer will encounter when switching to you from their current provider?
  • How can you reduce or eliminate their pain?

By focusing on making the transition to you as painless as possible, [then communicating that clearly], you massively increase your chances of winning new customers.

Consider the whole picture

Even if there’s an upfront cost associated to you making the process painless or less painful, weigh the cost against the lifetime value of a new customer. Sometimes, a short term cost can turn into a hugely profitable investment.

If you already have processes in place to make it easy for new customers to switch to you, make sure you are getting that message across. Explain that switching to you is a breeze — that your team will handle the process, etc.

In short — Find the pain involved in switching to you and work hard to reduce or eliminate it. Then, make sure prospective customers know!

10 Reasons your business isn’t growing and how to fix it!

If you’re frustrated with how slowly your business is growing, today’s post is just for you. I’m going to share the 10 most common things that crush the growth of a business, along with how to stop them from happening to you.

Let’s get started with number 1.

You stopped growing

Your business is a reflection of the decisions you make and your decisions are based on what you know. So, for your business to grow, you need to grow. After all, you can’t give your business the benefit of knowledge, which you don’t have.

Read the books. Attend the seminars. Seek expert advice. Grow. Then watch your business grow too.

You’re selling based on low prices or low fees

This only works if you’re the lowest priced alternative, and you’re not. Your prospective clients can go to Google and find a lower priced alternative in seconds. Only one provider can be the lowest priced and it changes daily, sometimes hourly, as desperate business owners price-drop in an effort to attract sales.

It takes a huge amount of planning and a watertight strategy, to sell based on being lowest priced and still make a worthwhile profit. Some big brands manage to succeed on wafer thin margins, but it’s a very precarious approach.

Usually, small businesses only market based on being low priced, because it’s easy to lower prices or fees. It takes very little effort and zero creativity, to simply undercut your competitors by 10%. We call this the race to the bottom. It’s a race you don’t want to win, as you end up working for peanuts and attracting the lowest value clients.

Clients you attract through low fees are the easiest to attract and the easiest to lose, when a competitor decides to undercut you.

Instead of selling based on being the lowest priced, look for opportunities to add more value to what you do. Not only will this make your business more profitable, it will allow you to compete for better clients — those who value you and what you do.

Tip: This 3 part series will help you: How to attract the best clients and the highest fees.

You’re starving your business of the marketing it needs

No matter how great your business is, unless you market it correctly, no one will know. Sadly, it’s a fact that an average business that’s marketed correctly, will outperform a wonderful business that has ineffective marketing. This is why some lousy businesses make a fortune, whilst some great little businesses really struggle.

By starving your business of professional marketing, by default, you’re relying on amateur marketing. This makes no sense. If you’re going to try DIY on your business, this is not the place to do it.

In a nutshell: If you want great marketing results, invest in great marketing.

Your image sucks

Yes, if they knew how great you were, they’d hire you. But when they connect with you for the first time, all they have to form their decision on, is what they see. That’s why your image matters so much.

Here’s a question for you to ponder: How do you look, when a prospective client connects with your image?

Most small business owners operate behind naff logos, poorly designed websites and amateur looking social networking accounts. If you want prospective clients to consider you a professional, you need to look the part. No matter what promises you make, what testimonials you offer or what guarantees you provide, no one will take any notice, if your image looks bad.

So, invest in a professional logo for your business and some professional photography for your social networking accounts. An amateur (or dated) logo and photograph will lose you a fortune. The same is true of an unprofessional looking or dated website. Make sure you look as professional on the outside, as you are on the inside.

You’ve camouflaged yourself

Very, very few small businesses stand out — maybe 1 in 10,000. Instead, they opt for the fake safety of being just like their competitors. Playing it safe.

This is why we find that when we look at the providers in any industry, they seem so similar. You could swap them around and no one would notice.

They offer a similar range of services. They make similar promises. They charge similar fees. In effect, they become invisible — almost impossible to tell apart. They have camouflaged themselves within the masses.

If you want to stand out, do something outstanding. Something remarkable. Something uniquely valuable. Find a new service, which your competitors don’t provide. Develop a new pricing model.

Just don’t be like all the others, if you want to get noticed.

You’re associating with the wrong people

There’s a direct link between how we feel and the people we habitually associate with. If we associate with people who inspire us, we feel inspired. If we associate with people who encourage us and motivate us to stretch, we grow.

That’s why it pays to be selective regarding the people we associate with. For example, when we associate with people who are doing better than we are, the natural inclination is for us to rise to their level. Of course, the opposite is also true. When we associate with people who are doing as well as us, or less well, we find ourselves spinning our wheels.

As Jim Rohn used to say: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

So, choose wisely. Associate with people who will inspire you to be better. People who will encourage you and motivate you to be the best you can be.

You’re networking with the wrong people

In business, it’s extremely important to build great connections with influential people. This is the exact opposite of what the typical small business owner does. They go for numbers instead and look in the worst possible places.

Think about it: We’ve all met business owners who struggle to find new clients, even though they’re members of a networking group and have hundreds, maybe thousands of Linkedin contacts.

That should be impossible — right?  Surely, with so many contacts, these struggling business owners would be able to reach out with a message and quickly attract more client inquiries than they need. However, this never happens. Why? Because they are connected to business owners who lack the influence and contacts, to be able to make a difference!

The most successful business owners use the exact opposite approach. I recommend you do the same. It looks like this: They deliberately target the most influential people in their marketplace and put a strategy together, to connect with them. They do this months before they ask anything from them.

And no, you will not find the most influential people in networking clubs, asking struggling business owners for introductions. You’ll have to do a little research. But that’s fine. You’re aiming for quality, not numbers.

You’ve become comfortable

Small business owners usually start off with great plans, but somewhere along the way they settle. Instead of focusing on building their business, so it provides them with the rewards they want, they switch. They switch to lowering their lifestyle expectations, so that it meets the limitations of their under performing business.

It’s up to you to switch things back the way they should be! This means leaving your comfort zone, setting bigger goals and then making the commitment to take the action required.

You’re getting too few referrals

Business owners who get too few referrals have to quickly figure out why their clients and associates are not referring them. This is a tough thing to face. It means accepting there’s a serious problem and then being willing to fix things.

Yes, it’s serious, extremely serious, if you get too few referrals. Not only are you missing out on a regular supply of valuable leads, your clients and associates, for whatever reason, do not want to recommend you.

A customer survey may help you find out why. However, honest conversations with those whose opinions you trust are often extremely useful too.

Just as importantly, when you get the feedback you need, make sure you do something with it. It’s hard sometimes to accept you have areas of your business, which you need to improve. I’ve seen business owners ignore really valuable feedback, believing they’re already offering an amazing service.

Don’t make that mistake. Listen to what the feedback is telling you. Then take appropriate action.

You’re not failing often enough

Many small business owners let their fear of failure stop them from putting their ideas into action. The challenge with that mindset, is that without trying fresh ideas, you stagnate by default.

When a business is new it’s easy to risk everything. After all, unless you start out with a ton of money behind you, [like Sir Richard Branson and Seth Godin], you have nothing to lose.

However, once your business is established the penalty for failing seems bigger.

Here’s why:

  • Business owners tend to over estimate the price of failure. They imagine all kinds of unrealistic worst case scenarios.
  • To make things worse, they also tend to under estimate the potential rewards. They seem unaware that one good idea can improve their business beyond recognition.

The fear of failure is the biggest hurdle to your success. It robs you of opportunity. It causes you to play it safe, which is the riskiest thing a business owner can do. Interestingly, the most successful business owners see failure very differently.

It looks like this:

  • If they try something and it doesn’t work, they learn from it. They then invest the lesson in their next idea. This makes them massively more likely to succeed the next time. So, they win.
  • If they try something and it works, they learn from it and earn from it. So, they win.

That mindset regarding failure is what I suggest you focus on.

Now what?

If your business hasn’t grown the way you want it to, it’s likely that several or more of those points apply to you.

The question is, what do you plan to do about it? In my experience, people who identify their business needs help fall into one of two broad groups.

  1. People who find the information interesting, but start looking for excuses to do nothing about it. They will say they lack the time, the money etc., etc. Sadly, this group is the largest by far.
  2. People who also find the information useful, but look for reasons to improve things, rather than excuses not to. They will then work on making the improvements required and their businesses will grow accordingly. Cause and effect.

I hope you found this information useful. However, my real hope is that you do something with it.

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