Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Author: Jim Connolly (page 2 of 191)

How to create a new product or service, which people will love

The world’s most successful businesspeople have something in common with the world’s greatest inventors. It’s simply this:

Instead of answering the questions people are already asking, they look for new, better questions to answer.

The thing about business is that it’s already overflowing with vendors, offering the marketplace whatever the marketplace is asking for.

The challenges here are twofold:

  1. By offering what your marketplace wants, you leave very little room for innovation — the very thing that you need in order to stand out and be noticed.
  2. The marketplace doesn’t usually know what it wants, until someone creates it. As Henry Ford famously said; “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. There was also zero demand for tablet devices, until Apple created the iPad. Today, the iPad is a mass-market consumer item.

So, how do you spot what your marketplace wants, before they ask for it?

Look for unspoken challenges

Over the years, I have helped clients worldwide to develop new products and services, which are hugely popular and profitable. In every instance, I started by asking the client a series of questions. One of these questions, which you can work on today without my one-to-one help, is this:

What unspoken challenge is your marketplace faced with, which you could provide an answer to?

For example, the iPad was Apple’s answer to the netbook problem. Remember netbooks? They were small, cheap, underpowered laptops, which people used primarily to surf the net [hence the name netbook]. They had low quality displays and were awkward to use. However, they sold by the million, because they were easier to carry than a laptop and had better battery life.

The huge popularity of netbooks showed that there was a demand for what we now call consumption devices —  devices which people used to consume information and chat on social networks. Although you could get things done with even the first iPad, it immediately plugged the consumption gap.

It was an elegant, great looking answer to a problem, which the marketplace didn’t even know it had. It has been so successful, that tablet sales have eaten into a huge chunk of the laptop market. It’s one of the best selling electronic products in history — even though NO ONE was asking for a tablet!

Here’s a suggestion

Take some time out to think about the challenges facing your marketplace. Look for solutions, which people will value. No, this isn’t easy, which is why people work with me in order to get the answers they need, but if you get it right, it can improve your business beyond recognition.

3 Easy ways to boost your productivity

Social networks

Think about it: Technology makes it easier than ever to get things done.

  • Processes that used to eat our time can now be automated.
  • Meetings that used to require travel, can now be conducted using Skype, FaceTime etc.
  • We carry a phone in our pocket, which is a powerful computer, allowing us to get answers we need instantly no matter where we are.

Yet, we still have too little time each day. We have projects that are behind. We have things left undone, which we know we need to do.

Here’s how to turn that around!

The incoming

A major reason we struggle to get things done, is that we pay way too much attention to the incoming; Facebook, Linkedin, email, Twitter, text messages… all these incoming signals and more, shout for our attention. They train us to check for updates and each time we do, we surrender our time and our attention.

Here’s the thing: What we pay attention to changes how we feel and the way we feel is responsible for what we do. So, not only does the incoming suck up our time while we check for updates, it can also lead us into an unproductive state.

Thankfully, we are in control of the incoming. With just a few simple adjustments, we can become far more productive and focused. Here’s how to regain control in 3 easy steps.

1. Limit the number of people you follow on social networks

The fewer people you follow, the less distracting the incoming becomes. Do you REALLY need to follow 500 or 5000 people on Twitter? Do you absolutely have to be in so many Linkedin groups or Facebook groups? Focus on value rather than volume.

2. Change the notification settings on your social networking apps

By default, many social network apps will notify you every time there’s activity on your account. This means you can get distracted from your work, simply because Bob liked one of your Facebook comments or Barbara sent you a smiley face on Twitter. As you may have already discovered, it’s hard to ignore your phone when it’s beeping at you or has a light flashing!

Go into the notifications settings of your social networking apps and set them to only notify you, if something worthy of your immediate attention happens. Alternatively, you can do as I do and turn automatic notifications off. You will then be able to catch up on everything, when it suits you.

3. Make email work for you, not the other way around

If someone needs you urgently, you will get a phone call. Your kids, the school, your partner, friends and clients will call you if there’s a time sensitive emergency. So, rather than have your email app running in the background checking for new messages all day, turn it on only when you have the time to read and reply to messages.

In short — Take deliberate control of the incoming, rather than being notified constantly all day. Get this right and it will make you more productive, improve your focus and allow you to think with greater clarity.

How to build a successful business

how to build a successful business, grow business

It’s a very broad question, but a lot of people ask me for help with how to build a successful business.

So, here’s some of the best business development advice I know, along with lots of examples. I hope you find it useful!

Build a successful business… by doing all the work

Maybe the biggest difference between the most successful business owners and everyone else, is this:

  • The most successful business owners do 100% of what’s required to succeed.
  • The average business owner does 100% of the things required… so long as they feel comfortable doing it.

The difference in results between those 2 mindsets is enormous. The successful business owner sees her business needs something, and does it. The typical business owner sees the same thing, then weighs it up based on how comfortable they are about it. If it feels too uncomfortable, even though their business needs it, they don’t do it.

For example: I recall speaking with a business owner once, who sold his business to a guy, who tripled its turnover in 6 months. The former owner told me how frustrated he was, as all the things the new owner did were things he had already thought of doing, but failed to do because they were ‘too risky’. Over the 10 years the former owner had the coffee shop, he believes his aversion to stepping out of his comfort zone lost him at least $15,000,000.

If your business needs something, do it. Puff out your chest, leave your comfort zone and make the right decision rather than the easy decision.

So, to build a successful business do all the work required.

Build a successful business… by connecting with the right people, in advance

To build a successful business, you will need the help and support of others. As I have said here many times over the past 5 years, business is all about people.

One of the key differences between successful business owners and those who struggle, is the way they connect with people.

Successful business owners think of the people, whose help they will need, in advance. They deliberately, regularly make connections with key people. Then, months or years later, if they need their advice or help, it’s there. I know of no exceptions to this rule.

Struggling business owners wait until they need help, then they pester strangers with selfish requests.

For example: I get emails every day, from total strangers who want me to do things for them. Some ask me for detailed marketing advice. Others have just written a book or launched something, and ask me to write about it, because they know I have a great readership.

Never, ever start a business relationship, by asking a total stranger for a selfish favour. Make the connections first. Get to know people. Show some respect. Be human.

The most successful business owners, go beyond this… they actively look for ways to be of value to others, in advance. They know that ‘giving and receiving’, begins with the ‘giving’ part.

So, to build a successful business, make the right connections in advance.

Build a successful business… by having a wide spread of clients or customers

The most successful business owners know the danger of having too few, high paying clients. They make sure they have a wide spread of business, rather than a few clients, who are responsible for a large percentage of their income.

For example: My wife is a very good Amazon customer and spends several thousand there every year. We have deliveries from Amazon every week, often 2 or 3 times. Do you have any idea how big a problem it would be for Amazon, if my wife stopped shopping with them? None. Zilch. Zero. That’s because Amazon has a massive number of customers. They can afford, literally, to lose 50,000 people who spend just as much as my wife, without breaking a sweat.

The typical small business owner does the opposite. Especially service providers. They usually have a small number of clients, who represent the majority of their income. If they lost even one, it would have a serious impact on their business. In some cases, it can put them out of business.

To grow a successful business, your business needs to be resilient. It needs to be robust. It needs to have a wide spread of clients or customers, none of whom have too big a share of your turnover or revenues.

If you currently find yourself too reliant on a small number of clients, make remedying the situation your number one priority. It’s a lot easier to improve your spread of business now, than when you have just lost a major client or customer.

So, to build a successful business, don’t have too many eggs in one basket.

Build a successful business… by using proven strategies, not tactics

One of the biggest mistakes people make, when trying to build a successful business, is to copy the tactics of other successful businesses, rather than learn from their strategies.

For example: Hundreds of ‘new’ social networking sites fail every month, because they try and copy what Facebook or Twitter does, (tactics) and end up creating a very similar network, that has no users. This approach can’t possibly work. Why would anyone use a new version of Facebook, which none of their friends are on?

If instead, they focused on the strategies that worked for Facebook or Twitter, such as developing something sufficiently unique, viral and valuable, they would have stood a better shot.

When you copy someone’s tactics, you simply become a copy of the original. Copies are of little value. The original Mona Lisa is priceless… you can buy a copy though, for the price of a coffee!

The challenge with discovering a successful strategy, is that it’s often hidden. We can see the tactics successful business owners use, because they are visible. However, discovering the strategies behind those tactics takes a lot more detective work. Fortunately, many of the world’s most successful business owners have written books on how they did it. Others are often interviewed, allowing us insights into the strategies they use or have used.

I have never seen a successful business that’s made up of a series of tactics. They are all strategic.

So, to build a successful business, think strategic.

Build a successful business… by getting the help you need

Very, very few successful business owners are equally great at every business discipline. It’s natural for all of us to be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Commercially, our areas of weakness can have a huge, negative impact on our overall business success, if we allow them to.

This leaves us with 2 options:

  1. Learn to become strong in the areas where we are weak.
  2. Hire expertise in the areas where we are weak.

Ongoing learning is essential to your business success, however, none of us can learn to be an expert in every area. So, we need to choose wisely.

For example: If you need a new website, which looks professional and isn’t simply based on a template used by a million other sites, it pays you to hire a talented designer. Otherwise, it may take you years to learn how to write code and study design, to the point where you can do work as polished as a talented professional web designer. You ‘save’ nothing by either creating a crappy looking DIY website quickly, or by robbing your business of hundreds of hours of your precious time, to learn how to design a great site.

Every successful business I have ever studied, has hired the help it needed. Conversely, every failed business I ever looked into, tried to do it all themselves. DIY is best kept to the home. Do It Yourself accountancy, IT, marketing and legal work, etc, makes zero sense… especially in today’s super competitive economy.

So, to build a successful business, get the help you need.

Finally

I hope you found these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with them.

Stop dumbing down your marketing. Really. Stop it!

dumbing down

It’s tempting to dumb down your marketing message. Surely, if you dumb it down enough, everyone will understand it. Everyone will have their questions answered. Everyone will be happy.

The challenge is, you don’t sell to everyone. So, you’re marketing to the wrong people!

A smarter approach

The most effective and powerful marketing messages are those, which your clients or customers understand. Messages that are highly relevant to them. Messages that speak to them directly. Messages that inspire them to take action and motivate them to hire you or buy from you. You can’t achieve that by dumbing down for the masses.

If you’re not making enough sales or attracting enough clients, I have a suggestion for you. Instead of dumbing down your marketing message, look for ways to smarten it up. True, not everyone will understand your message. However, your prospective clients or customers may think you’re exactly what they’re looking for.

Oh, and here’s some important advice that will help you!

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?

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