Who are you selling to? The answer may surprise you!

content marketing, blogging, newsletters, articles

Are you selling to yourself?

That may seem like a silly question, yet it’s one of the most important questions in marketing. Why? Because business owners tend to market their products as if they were selling to themselves, when they should be marketing to their prospective clients or customers.

Now, if you are a lawyer and your prospective clients are lawyers, that works fine. However, if you sell to people whose needs and wants are different to your own, you need a different approach.

For example:

  • Read the marketing of most accountants and you will find lots of statistics and graphs. This is what accountants love, but not their prospective clients. The prospective client wants to know what the accountant can do for them and their business. They want to know why they should hire this accountant and not an equally qualified competitor. They want the story behind the stats. They want to know how the accountant will help them build a better business.
  • Read the marketing of most web designers and it’s filled with jargon and buzzwords. They talk about things like; HTML5, Java, CSS, standards compliance and responsive design. These are things designers know are important and love to talk about. However, those terms mean nothing to their prospective clients. Their prospective clients want a professional looking site. They want a site that is an asset to their business. They want to know how a new website will help them commercially. They want to know they can trust the designer to do a great job.

Anyone using that approach is leaving money on the table. Don’t let it happen to you.

Match your message to their wants and their needs

Take a look at your marketing from your prospective client’s vantage point. If possible, ask a prospective client to read your marketing and tell you what it says to them. Determine if you’re marketing based on what they need to hear, or what you assume matters.

Also, check to see if you are using their language or yours. Sometimes we get so used to industry terms and buzzwords, that we forget they are meaningless and confusing to everyone else.

In a nutshell: The better you communicate how valuable your services are, the easier you will find it to attract great clients or customers.

P.S. Here’s why you should never use buzzwords in your marketing.

Think big. No. BIGGER than that!

think big

You want a business that fills you with energy. A business that motivates you. A business that is so inspiring that when you tell people about it, they feel excited.

If so, I’m going to give you a very simple, yet extremely effective piece of advice.

Think big. Really BIG!

It works like this:

  • By thinking big, you find yourself making bigger plans than before.
  • The magic of making bigger plans, is that they inspire you to make bigger decisions.
  • The magic of making bigger decisions, is that they motivate you to take action.

No one gets excited or motivated by average plans or puny ideas.

If you’re not feeling motivated right now, it’s entirely possible your plans are not big enough, exciting enough or compelling enough for you.

So, try this…

An alternative approach

Start thinking big. Instead of thinking about how to grow your business by 20% over the next 12 months, add a zero. Shoot for 200% growth. You may miss your target by 50%.

But your business will still have doubled.

Think big. Make big plans. Then, as Steve Jobs said, let the vision pull you.

A powerful marketing lesson from a 19th century artist

marketing tips, marketing advice, advise,

Back in the 1800’s, Edgar Degas said: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.

The same is true of great marketing

Successful marketing paints pictures in the mind of a prospective client. It doesn’t list a series of facts or features. Instead, it talks directly to the needs and wants of your clients. It shows them how you can help them. It also shows them that you’re passionate about helping them. Everything is rooted in what’s best for the client. Everything.

Ineffective marketing paints a picture of the provider. It’s all about their business and the products or services they offer. It reads like a 1990’s sales brochure. It’s dry. It’s dull. It’s forgettable. It’s also extremely ineffective.

The message, my friend, is simple: If you want to attract better clients… paint better pictures.

How to grow your business in a uniquely valuable way

marketing tips, visibility, attraction

You are the biggest asset your business has. Those are not just kind words. They are based on fact.

Allow me to explain.

The Internet has presented business owners with a series of benefits and challenges. One challenge, is that it is now extremely easy for competitors to discover and copy one another’s best ideas. It’s little wonder then, that providers in just about every industry now offer an almost identical range of services.

Today, I’m going to show you how to overcome this challenge and build a massively valuable marketing asset for your business.

How to stand out in a meaningful way

Some things are easy to copy. For example, if a local restaurant starts opening an hour earlier and then attracts an extra hour’s worth of profitable trade, it’s simple for competing restaurants to do the same.

However, some things in business are extremely difficult to copy because they’re based on unique, human experiences. A wonderful example of this is the use of a newsletter or blog, to showcase your expertise and knowledge.

Here’s why it works

You are unique. You have a unique collection of life experiences, which your unique mind processes in a unique way. When you write (and speak) your communication style is unique too.

This uniqueness allows you to stand out from the pack and connect with your future clients!

Here’s an example of what I mean. Both Seth Godin and I write about marketing, yet we write very differently:

  • Seth grew up in a very wealthy family and was educated at Stanford — along with the CEO’s of many of the world’s leading companies.
  • I grew up in extreme poverty, the son of penniless immigrants.

It would be extremely difficult for either one of us to write like the other. For instance, when Seth thinks about being broke, he (thank God), won’t recall his mother begging for food to feed her children, the way I do.

So, when Seth and I write about business owners experiencing hard times, we will see the hard part extremely differently. This is reflected in what we write and how we write.

Your unique voice

Your life experiences will cause you to write very differently from your competitors. The only caveat here, is that you need to allow your personality to shine through your writing. If you try and sound like someone else, you lose your unique voice — the very originality that will allow you to stand out.

Now, compare that to the generic approach most business owners take with their newsletters and blog posts. Instead of delivering useful, valuable information from their own unique perspective, they churn out a series of thinly-disguised sales pitches. They then wonder why it isn’t working.

Allow your unique voice to communicate value. These brief tips may help:

  • Learn about the challenges facing your marketplace. A great way to do this is to connect with them on social networks and listen. [Compare this approach, to the typical service provider who uses social networks to broadcast.]
  • Provide answers to the most pressing challenges facing your marketplace. This positions you in the mind of your prospective clients, as a source of expert help and advice.
  • Share case-studies of how you have helped people, who had similar challenges to your prospective clients.
  • Turn up regularly! Treat your newsletter or blog as a high priority business activity. If you think it’s hard to write regularly, remember that writing is a lot like speaking — and you speak every day.

The unique connection these prospective clients form with you, is a massively valuable marketing asset.

Think of it like this: Who are they going to hire?

  • Some stranger they find on Google.
  • … or you, someone they feel a connection with and whose expertise and knowledge they already know about.

Yes. You win!

PS: This will help you — How to get more clients from your newsletter or blog.

5 Simple ideas that can massively improve your business

business development, biz dev, marketing

I jotted a few ideas down earlier, for an article I’m writing. I thought you may find them interesting. So, I’m sharing them with you.

  1. If you hear yourself wishing for better luck, remind yourself that what you actually need, is a better strategy.
  2. Your choices are what define how high you will fly. Not your abilities. The world is full of educated derelicts.
  3. A business succeeds when there’s congruence between what the business owner wants… and what the business owner does.
  4. Never complain about the economy or any other outside factors. Adapt. Put your success in your own hands.
  5. To achieve any kind of meaningful success, your business needs to be meaningfully different.

That’s it. Short and sweet. Have a great day!

Is your service answering a question, which your ideal clients are asking?

Business development, marketing tips, biz dev

Here’s a simple, powerful tip, to help you create an extremely profitable new product, service or business.

The next big thing

I get emails daily, from people who want me to invest in their new project. Almost all of them are trying to be the next Amazon.com, Craigslist or Twitter, etc.

With little or no funding, no gap in the market and no one looking for a clone business, their projects have no legs. In other words, no one is talking about them or asking to get involved. Why? Because these look-a-like projects are answering a question, which no one is asking.

A better way to succeed

Start by answering a compelling question, which potential customers are asking and willing to pay for the answer to.

A scalable, affordable way to do this is to listen to your marketplace, via social networks. Look for common problems they face — things that frustrate them, cost them too much time, etc. Do the research and see if you’ve identified a gap in the market. Look at the numbers and if it all stacks up, give it the focus and energy it needs.

Building an answer to THAT question, will massively improve your chances of success.

Marketing tip: Never sell to a stranger again

marketing tips, arketing ideas, marketing advice

Smart people speak, because they have something to say.

Dull people speak, because they have to say something.

And the difference between those approaches is huge!

The same is true in business

When smart business owners connect with their marketplace, they have something interesting to share. When the average business owner connects with their marketplace, it’s usually a selfish sales message or special offer.

Most small business owners connect with their marketplace when they need something. They need more clients, customers or sales… so they interrupt strangers with a sales pitch. They have nothing of interest to say.

Yes, the business owner is interested in gaining clients, customers or sales, but that’s only of interest to the business owner. The marketplace just sees another needy sales message from a stranger… and ignores it.

A far better approach to marketing

The most successful small business owners do things very differently. They remain in contact with their marketplace, on an ongoing basis. They use blog posts, newsletters and social networks to share valuable ideas and information. This keeps the smart business owner front of mind. But it does more than that. It causes their marketplace to think of them as a useful asset to their business.

So, when the smart business owner DOES have a marketing message to share, it’s received with enthusiasm. It’s received by people who, before they even read it, already know and value the source of the message.

And it massively improves their results.

More importantly, it can do the same for you and your business.

Read this, it will help: How to make your content marketing more compelling.

Highly recommended: The Microsoft Surface Pro 3

surface article

Today’s post is very different from usual. It’s about an interesting device, which I’ve been using over the past 7 days.

Around 10 days ago, Microsoft reached out to me and offered me a Surface Pro 3. I was surprised to say the least! They wanted me to tell them what I thought of it, the positive and the negative. Although they never asked me to blog about my experiences, [they just wanted me to feed my observations direct to them], I’ve decided to share my Surface Pro 3 experiences with you – both positive and negative.

Here’s what happened.

Microsoft, Apple and me

Until around 2 years ago, I used Windows based devices for my desktop and laptops. As a satisfied user of Microsoft products, I’d recommend them to family, friends, business associates and readers.

Then something changed. Windows 8 came along! I never liked it. So, I switched from Microsoft to Apple. Within 6 months I had a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac. These have been my main machines ever since. I also use Google and Linux based laptops.

The Surface Pro 3 has always interested me, but my bad experience with Windows 8 means I would probably not have bought one. And I’d have missed out on a very interesting device.

My work flow

There are hundreds of reviews covering all the technical aspects of the Surface Pro 3. After all, it’s been out for well over a year. Here, I want to focus on what the device offers me, and maybe you too, as a busy business owner.

I have used it for all my business requirements, for the past 7 days. In order for my experience of the Surface Pro 3 to make sense, it will help you to know a little about my work flow. This will give you an idea of what I have been using it for.

  • My business is extremely mobile, with me working from an office and also a studio, plus the occasional visit to a coffee shop. I’m always on the move.
  • My client base is worldwide. As a result, I use Skype for international calls every day.
  • Email is a big part of my work flow. I receive well over 100 emails a day. Often more than twice that.
  • I am always taking notes, either jotting down ideas or taking notes during client meetings. I usually use a fountain pen and notepad. I’ve done pretty much all my note taking on the Surface Pro 3 over the past week.
  • I publish thousands of words every week. This includes my blog posts as well as marketing material I produce for my clients.
  • I also create images for use on my blog and my social channels. I use Canva most of the time.

Now you have an idea of my work flow, here’s my experience of the Surface Pro 3.

A fluid creativity / production device

In a small, light device, the Surface Pro 3 provides frictionless access to a raft of tools. This is what has impressed me most. By having every creative tool I need at my fingertips, I have been able to work in a more fluid way.

For example, with a click of the Surface’s stylus, the OneNote app immediately launches and you are able to start writing or drawing. That happens even if the device is in sleep mode. No more looking for a pen and a pad — if you need to take a note, just click. Notes are automatically saved as you write them and stored in the cloud.

I’m a fountain pen user and write with high quality pens every day. So, I know a well designed pen when I use one. The stylus included with the Surface Pro 3 is superbly weighted and extremely comfortable to use. The tip works beautifully against the screen, with no noticeable lag. Unlike my iPad 2, the Surface Pro 3 offers 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. In other words, when you press the pen against the screen, it draws thicker lines or thinner lines, depending on how hard you press — just like a traditional pen on paper.

This combines to make note taking feel natural. That’s important. It means that my writing is as clear on the Surface 3 Pro as it is on paper. On other tablets my handwriting is almost unreadable.

The device also provides a very good laptop experience, if you connect it to a keyboard. I’ve used it with USB and BlueTooth keyboards as well as Microsoft’s own Type Cover keyboard. With the Type Cover keyboard, you transform the Surface Pro 3 into a light and thin ultrabook. But an ultrabook that can instantly become a work surface. I’m guessing that’s where Microsoft came up with the name for the Surface brand.

Okay. Now lets look at some pros and cons, to give you an idea if a Surface Pro device is right for you.

Here’s what I liked about the Surface Pro 3

The display is excellent: It has a 2160 x 1440 resolution, with superb, vibrant colour reproduction. Everything is clean, clear and crisp. Even with the brightness down to 75%, text is easy on my eyes and comfortable to work with.

It’s fast: The device boots up in seconds and everything opens quickly. Although my Surface Pro 3 comes with an Intel core i5 processor, I was expecting it to be a little sluggish, because it has just 4GB of RAM. That’s not much RAM for a modern device. However, it’s all I needed. I’ve had no issues related to a lack of RAM. In testing earlier, I had Firefox running with 18 tabs open, plus I was running Word, Outlook, OneNote and Twitter – whilst streaming video in hi-definition. And everything worked just fine.

Had I bought a Surface Pro 3, I’d have bought an i7 model with 8GB of RAM. I now know that would have been way more than I needed.

The stylus is ideal for note taking and art: Previously, I have found styluses to be very limited on my iPad Air 2 and Google Nexus tablets. This stylus, combined with the Surface Pro’s 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, is stunning. Because using the pen feels so natural, I’ve found I use it all the time. It’s one of those things you need to experience for yourself.

The sound is also superb: The speakers are better than anything I have heard from a tablet — rivalling many laptops. They are front facing and nicely balanced. The mic has also performed without any issues when dictating. The audio quality in and out is great for conference calls.

The connectivity is very good for a device the size of a tablet: The Surface Pro 3 comes with a USB 3 port, a mini display port, a microSDXC card reader (up to 128GB) as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, plus front and rear facing 5MP webcams. For desktop use, power users can buy a docking station, which provides an additional 5 USB ports, ethernet and another display port.

Build quality: The build quality of the Surface Pro 3 is excellent. From the adjustable stand to the buttons, ports and screen, everything is solid and robust. It feels and handles like a premium product.

Here’s what I wasn’t as impressed with

Battery life: Battery life has been less than I expected. In testing, I found that with the device set to 75% screen brightness, the wi-fi on, using Twitter, with Word and Outlook running — I had enough power for 5.5 hours of constant use. With the Surface’s brightness set to 50%, I can get around 7 hours. That’s less than I hoped for.

Price: Many small business owners use budget laptops and they may find the pricing a little high. My configuration is currently £769 ($799 USD), with the top of the range coming in at £1,349 ($1,799 USD). On top of those prices you will need to add the cost of a keyboard, if you want it to replace your laptop. The price for Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard is £109 ($129 USD).

Storage: My model comes with a 128GB hard drive, of which around 90GB is available as usable storage. Using cloud storage and adding a 128 GB microSDXC card, I have been able to manage fine.

However, if you’re coming from a laptop with a non SSD hard drive, that’s likely to be less storage than you’re used to. If you need to have lots of files locally available, you will need a higher spec version of the Surface Pro 3. The next model up from mine comes with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. However, this increases the price to £979 ($1,150 USD).

Final thoughts

The Surface Pro 3 is a superb creativity and productivity device. Maybe the best I’ve ever used.

Here’s why: The introduction of smart phones and tablets has seen us become used to touch interfaces. Every day, we’re using our fingers to scroll, swipe, pinch and tap. Pens and pencils have hard-wired us to want to jot things down, draw and express ourselves, using a writing instrument. Keyboards have allowed us to write quickly into laptops and desktop computers for decades.

The Surface Pro 3 allows us to do all those things, but within one small, light device.

What I have found over the past 7 days, is that having access to everything in one place changes how I create. There’s no disconnect between getting an idea and being able to work on the idea.

For example: A friend asked me earlier what I thought was causing a website design to under-perform. In seconds, I was looking at the website on my Surface Pro 3 and was able to write and draw directly onto the web browser using the stylus, [highlighting issues and suggesting improvements]. I then emailed her an image of the site from the browser, containing my hand written recommendations. It was fast and fluid.

Previously, at best, I’d have had to do a screen shot of the website. Then send the image to a tablet. Then find an app that allowed me to mark up the image, then email it to her. It would have taken a lot longer and because I’d have used a traditional tablet stylus, my notes would have been far less clear.

The marketing for the Surface Pro 3 says it’s the tablet that can replace your laptop. Whilst this is true, I see the device as different from a laptop or tablet. Even if I use a tablet, a laptop and a pen and pad at the same time, I get nothing like the experience of using a Surface Pro 3. By switching between 3 separate tools, you lose the frictionless creativity of working on 1, well-designed device.

After 7 days of using the Surface Pro 3 as my primary computer, it has handled everything I have thrown at it. Whilst I found the battery life a little disappointing, I’ve enjoyed using the device and it has added something extra to the way I work and capture ideas.

If you need a laptop with 10 hours of battery life or you want a cheap laptop replacement, this isn’t for you. However, I have no hesitation recommending the Surface Pro 3 to anyone with a similar usage pattern to me.

I hope you found my experience and observations useful.

Want to improve your marketing? Get emotional. Here’s why!


Someone recently asked me why her business needed a story. She thought it was “a load of trendy nonsense”.

When I answered her question, she emailed me back to say it had changed her perception completely. She said it would improve her approach to marketing forever.

I decided to share my answer with you, and I hope you find it just as useful.

Why your brand needs a story

My answer begins with a quote from advertising legend, David Ogilvy.

“There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same”. “[…] The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit”.

That message isn’t new. It was written decades ago, as you can tell from the examples he uses. Yet it’s even more valid today.

Think about it: Apple’s iPhone is the best selling mobile phone in the world, despite being one of the most expensive. It doesn’t have the best display, the best camera, the best signal reception or the best battery life. But it does have the best story.

Emotions drive decisions

Your prospective clients or customers are motivated by emotions, more than logic. The way they feel about your brand, is what will drive their decision to hire you, buy from you and recommend you. And it’s your story, which determines how they feel about you.

Tip: Read this, it will show you how your story can help you attract more word of mouth referrals.

Stop offering freebies. Really. Stop it!

marketing tips, marketing advice, advise,

Time. It’s our most valuable commodity. So why is it that business owners tend to massively undervalue it, by offering freebies?

Freebies send a toxic message to your marketplace

Offering free consultations is an extremely risky marketing strategy. That’s because the freebie message carries a damaging subtext.

It tells people that you are under-employed. That you have too few clients and too much dead time. This causes prospective clients to wonder why… why you’re not attracting enough new clients or enough paid work from delighted, ongoing clients.

Free consultations, free assessments, free advice, free 30 minute evaluations — they all have one thing in common. FREE.

When you use free as bait, guess what you attract?

Yep, you attract freebie hunters. These never-to-be-clients are attracted to freebies, like moths are attracted to flames. Freebie hunters generally fit into one of the following:

  • People who have no intention of paying anyone for advice. Also known as cheapskates.
  • People who have no way to pay because they’re broke.

Here’s the thing: Neither of those groups provide a fertile marketing environment.

Yes, it’s entirely possible you will attract a paying client by offering freebies. However, you’re unlikely to attract the kind of client you want, deserve or need.

Offering your time for free is one way to market your services. It’s not the best way though. Not even close.

Tip: Read this, it will show you how to market your services correctly, by giving value away.