How to turn strangers into customers

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

Here’s an opportunity for you to gain a significant advantage over many, perhaps most, of your competitors. It’s about something I call attraction marketing.

I was prompted to write this after a business owner contacted me on Twitter. Within 5 minutes, he’d sent me several Direct Messages and then an email… each one asking me if I wanted to know about a business proposition.

The guy is a total stranger to me. All I know about him, is that he’s the kind of person who sends business proposals to strangers.

  • He could be a decent and honest man.
  • His business proposal could be genuinely valuable.
  • He may be scratching his head right now, wondering why no one is interested in his amazing idea.

The thing is, pestering people is extremely ineffective. It’s far more likely to damage his reputation, than it is to make anyone check out his business proposal.

More common than you may think

Whilst you may consider that guy’s approach to be a little extreme, many small business owners make the same kind of mistake with their marketing.

Here are a few common examples:

  • They pester us on social networks.
  • They fake interest in us at networking events, then hit us with a sales pitch.
  • They buy lists and send us spam marketing messages.
  • They add us to their newsletter list, without our consent.
  • They cold call us at work, when we’re busy.
  • They cold call us at home in the evenings, when we’re relaxing with family or friends.

Here’s the thing: Our prospective clients are programmed to ignore selfish requests, from people they don’t know. They actively avoid pests. Because of this, pests tend to get extremely poor results, which causes them to pester even more people, even harder.

If we, as legitimate business owners, adopt any of the pestering tactics used by those guys, we too will encounter the same resistance.

Thankfully, there’s zero need for you or me to pester anyone with our marketing.

Thankfully, we have a way to send people information they have asked us for, which is also commercially beneficial to us.

Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to do!

Smart entrepreneurs get it

The smartest entrepreneurs take a non pestering approach. It looks like this:

  • They focus on building relationships with people.
  • They strive to be useful.
  • They are all about bringing value.
  • They look for opportunities to earn [and re-earn] trust.

Once there’s a relationship in place and trust has been established, their messages will be welcomed. Their proposals will be taken seriously.

The marketing power of business blogging and newsletters

Business blogging is the most powerful tool I have ever known for small business owners. Newsletters come a very close second. Both are extremely powerful marketing tools. Each provide us with almost unlimited potential to reach targeted prospective clients or customers. They also allow us to earn the trust of our marketplace, as a recognised expert in our field. No pestering required!

Though you will need a strategy to make this work, the 130 feet view looks a little like this:

  • Produce useful information that’s targeted to the wants and needs of your ideal profile of client or customer.
  • Make sure there’s a short marketing message, like the one at the foot of this post, so interested people can get in touch with you when they need help.
  • Make your post or newsletter interesting and easy to read.
  • Do this regularly.
  • Soon, your first 5 readers will subscribe.
  • They will each get you 5 more.
  • This repeats over time.

Do it correctly and hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people, will eagerly want to hear what you have to say.

By showing up regularly you have demonstrated your knowledge and eagerness to help. You have also demonstrated your reliability. These combine to help you earn the trust of your readers.

Here’s why this is so valuable to you and your business: Your readers are just like you. They hire [and buy from] people they know, value and trust.

Note: Read this. It will help: 25 Reasons to Write a Business Blog

Attraction marketing

Regardless of the marketing tools a small business owner chooses to use, one thing remains the same. Pestering people for what you want is extremely ineffective. When people push their message at us, we push back. We block or mute their social networking accounts. We delete their emails unread, as soon as we see the sender’s name. We hang up the phone, as soon as we hear them start their pitch. We avoid them at networking events.

So, focus on attracting clients or customers, rather than pestering or pursuing them. Build a reputation, a big reputation, for your expertise and the contribution you make to your marketplace.

Oh, and make it easy for prospective clients or customers to contact you… because after you create an attraction marketing strategy, that’s exactly what they will do.

Is your marketing motivated by greed, need or deed?

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

You’re a wonderful person with a superb business. However, is that message coming across in your marketing?

Think about it — small business owners tend to market their services motivated by 1 of the following:

  1. Greed motivated: I want your money. Buy my stuff.
  2. Need motivated: I need you to buy from me because I’m in a tough financial situation. Please buy my stuff.
  3. Deed motivated: There’s something that I believe will help you, so I created it for you.

Greedy marketing turns people away. It’s ugly. It’s selfish. It’s an attribute that is universally disliked in people.

Needy marketing turns people away. It makes us panic. People are highly unlikely to risk hiring you or buying from you, if they believe you’re likely to go broke.

Deed driven marketing attracts people. Your message of contribution and service makes people feel good about you. It’s an easy message to connect with, believe and share.

Get your message across

Those of us who are deed driven need to make sure it’s clear for the marketplace to see. It needs to form the backbone of our marketing strategy.

It needs to be reflected in what we say and what we do, so here’s how to get that message across in your marketing.

5 steps to increase the success of all your written marketing

Content Marketing, copywriting

Today’s post will show you a way to massively improve the effectiveness of any important content you write. It will also show you how to avoid one of the most common and damaging copy writing errors.

Stop limiting your options

Most people will write their initial piece of content, call it their draft copy, then tweak it until it’s as good as they think they can make it.

The challenge with that approach is that you are working from the mindset that the initial draft is the best foundation for the content. This is almost never the case! You need to write from the best foundation possible, not simply the first draft you write down.

The most effective content comes from experimenting with ideas and one of the best ways to get new ideas, is to refuse to restrict yourself to working from one perspective.

In other words, instead of writing an initial draft and then building on it, you commit to writing your message in 5 or more different ways. By writing the content in a number of different ways you open up new possibilities, which often lead to breakthrough ideas that make your content massively more compelling.

Yes, it takes longer than writing from one perspective and hoping it will work, but the goal of your content writing is not to write as fast as you can – it’s to write the most commercially valuable content you can.

It works like this

  1. Write down exactly what you want to achieve from your content, so you know what your outcome is.
  2. Next, write down what kind of action you want the reader of your content to take. For example; email you, call you, visit your premises, fill in your survey, etc.
  3. Then, write 5 pieces of content, which address the previous 2 points as clearly as you can.
  4. Remember, you are not looking for 4 revisions of your initial piece of content, but 5 fresh perspectives to help you achieve the outcomes you listed in points 1 and 2.
  5. Finally, look for the most compelling of your 5 pieces of content, then build upon it.

If you do that, you give yourself a greater chance of writing your content from your best foundation – not just the one you thought of first.

Yes, sometimes that initial version will be the best, but every time it isn’t, you will have improved the quality and effectiveness of your writing.

Do you want more great clients to hire you?

marketing, esteem, relationships

If you just answered “yes” then today’s post is just for you. I’m sharing an important part of the sales process with you, which is seldom talked about. It’s something that you can use, in order to develop great relationships with your clients, contacts and the marketplace in general.

Let’s look at esteem

One of the basic human needs is esteem. In business, we know that boosting the esteem of others, by showing them respect, is a powerful way to build great relationships. It improves how people feel about us and because business is all about people, it’s of massive commercial value.

The opposite is also true. If people feel we’re trying to lower their self-esteem, by disrespecting them, it can ruin relationships and damage just about every part of our business. I wrote about that here: How to avoid arguments and build great client relationships.

Here’s a great example of how important esteem and respect are. It was sent to me by a reader and I’m sharing it with is permission.

Here’s what happened

Apparently, George [not his real name] wore his new Apple Watch to a meeting with a prospective client. The meeting was just to iron out a few formalities and get a significantly large contract signed.

“[…] I realized during the meeting that the prospective client was becoming increasingly prickly with me. In previous meetings he’d been friendly and cool. This time he’d started off that way but for no reason his mood got worse. After half an hour, even though he’d invited me there to sign the deal, he’s now saying that he wants another 48 hours to make the decision!!”

George went on.

[…] A few hours later I got an email from him saying he’d reconsidered and wasn’t going to sign the deal with my company. To say I was shocked is an understatement and he gave me no reason. I then emailed him back to ask what the reason was and he said that clearly the contract didn’t matter to me because during the meeting I kept signalling for him to hurry up. He was wrong. I’d never do anything like that and this was a big deal for us in every way. So I called him and asked what he meant. He said that I kept looking at my watch as if to say “come on, get on with it I ain’t got all day”!

I then realized what happened. I’d set my Apple Watch to silent but it was tapping my wrist every time I got a message during our meeting. It was the first time I’d wore the watch out and the taps on my wrist were new to me. I must have been glancing down at it each time I got a tap and to the other guy, it looked like I was constantly checking the time. I explained what happened and thankfully he understood.”

 2 valuable lessons

I think there are 2 valuable lessons here.

  1. When you are speaking with someone, make sure they have your full attention. Maintain eye contact and listen patiently without butting in [or checking your watch / phone]. By giving people your full attention, you are demonstrating that you respect what they have to say. This boosts their esteem and improves how they feel toward you. It also helps you develop rapport with them, which makes business conversations flow far easier.
  2. Make sure that if a prospective client chooses not to hire you [or buy from you], their reason is valid. If somehow they’ve missed a key point or they misunderstood your offering, you could needlessly lose their business, by failing to seek and deliver clarity. In the above example, a significant contract would have been lost, had George not followed up with a phone call.

I hope that you found this post useful. If you did, please share it with your friends.

How to avoid arguments and enjoy great client relationships

How to

I witnessed an argument yesterday, between a business owner and one of his customers. It was noisy, public and has lost the business owner at least one customer. The whole situation could have been avoided, with the tip I’m going to share with you in today’s post. Here’s what happened, along with a valuable business lesson.

First, here’s a quote from the 1936 classic, How to win friends and influence people.

The book’s author, Dale Carnegie, said; “Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, you’re wrong! to them.”

You are right. They are right too. Maybe!

When someone disagrees with us, it’s easy to think that they are wrong. This is especially the case when we truly believe that our opinion is right.

Here’s the thing: It’s entirely possible that their opinion and our opinion are both correct, even when we see things very differently.

For example:

  • I really dislike the taste of almonds. In my opinion and in my experience, almonds taste disgusting.
  • You may love the taste of almonds. In your opinion, they taste absolutely delicious.
  • If we went through a lie detector test, we would both be proven to be telling the truth — even though our answers were 100% different.

That’s the thing about opinions. When an opinion is given as an answer, it’s usually one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of possible correct answers.

How one retailer got it very wrong

I was prompted to write this post, after listening to a business owner arguing with one of his customers. The argument took place yesterday in a cycle shop.

Here’s what happened.

The customer asked if the retailer stocked a particular brand of tyre. The retailer asked why the customer wanted that brand. The customer explained that in his experience, it was the best on the market. The retailer then insisted the customer was wrong. He even went so far as to get his iPad out and show some negative Amazon.com reviews of the tyre.

Incidentally, I would have picked a different brand of tyre than either of those picked by the customer or the shop owner. That’s because depending on our experience with different brands of tyre, we will have formed different opinions.

Anyhow, the customer walked out of the shop, shaking his head in frustration. After the confrontational stance the retailer took, and his raised voice, I doubt the customer will ever return — especially as he now knows he can get the tyre he wants, for less, on Amazon!

The retailer had a smug grin on his face, assuming he’d won the argument. What he’d actually done, was lose a customer by showing zero respect for the customer’s opinion and turning a sales enquiry into a heated argument. I’m not sure any business owner can sustain too many victories like that.

Turning a difference of opinion into a valuable opportunity

We don’t have to agree with everyone. What we should do, however, is learn to respect their right to their opinion.

Indeed, we can use our difference of opinion as a way to create a useful dialogue. We can even use it to deepen our relationship with customers, clients or contacts.

For example, here’s an effective way to handle a business situation, when your opinion is different from the other person.

  • Explain that all you’re interested in, is finding the best solution for them. This places both of you on the same side. The difference this makes to the tone of the conversation is huge.
  • Give the other person the opportunity to say what they want to say, without butting in. By allowing them to get their point across, they will feel less tense and feel more positively toward you, for showing them respect and recognition.
  • If you believe they’re incorrect or about to make a mistake, you should offer them another perspective. Note: You’re not arguing with them. You’re offering them your perspective based on your experience and expertise.
  • Then, offer an example of how your suggested approach has worked in the past, for people with similar challenges. This is massively more effective than looking for holes in their position and bombarding them with reasons why they’re wrong.
  • Ask them what they think and listen again without butting in.
  • Because there’s no confrontation, no argument to be won or lost, the other person is free to consider your opinion. They can now agree with you, without losing face.

Does this approach magically win around everyone, whose opinion is different from yours? No.

However, I’ve used this approach since starting my business in 1995 with huge success. It has gained me many clients and many good friends too. Equally, it has never lost me a client — unlike the kind of confrontational approach, used by the store owner in my example.

Interestingly, I’ve always found this approach to be massively more effective at helping others see things my way, than attacking their opinion.

Respect never gets old

The technologies we use today are very different from those, which were used when Carnegie wrote that amazing book. However, business is still all about people. Showing respect for others and their opinions, is just as important today as it was in 1936.

5 Great ways to make time work for you

timing, time management

In today’s post, I’m sharing 5 ideas with you that are all based on the same important theme… time. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Consistently showing up on time, is a great way to build a reputation for reliability. The marketplace values people who can be relied upon to turn up. It’s also one of the hallmarks of a true professional.
  2. Sending your mailing or newsletter out at the right time, is essential if you want to maximise its effectiveness. Despite what some people claim, there is no set time, which is correct for every business or every industry. You need to test different times and measure the feedback. In a relatively short time, you’ll know exactly when to publish.
  3. Learning how to get the most from your work time, is the key to exceptional productivity. Much has been written on time management. The key thing is to learn how to do first things first. Rather than respond to the day and the whims of others, set your day out, in order, and make that your framework. It also pays to regularly ask yourself; “Is this the best use of my time, right now?” If the answer is No, go and do whatever you should be doing.
  4. Showing respect for other people’s time, is an important professional development skill. Here’s why: People are busy. As a result, they’re instantly turned off those, who waste their time.
  5. Finishing projects on time, is so rare that it sets you head and shoulders above the competition. In this post, I explain how you can also build trust using this simple idea.

I hope you found these useful. If you did, invest some time putting at least one of these points into action.

What you need to know about networking groups

networking groups

People often ask me for tips on how to get better results from their networking groups. In today’s post I am going to share an idea, which is seldom covered regarding networking. Yet, it’s the core reason why networking groups fail for so many business owners.

Let’s start by being very clear about why small business owners join and attend networking groups. The primary reason they give me, is that they want to connect with people, who may be a source of referrals or connections, which lead to new clients or customers.

That’s what I’m going to focus on here. I’m also primarily addressing physical networking groups, though the concept works for online networking too.

Getting the word out

When a business or project is new, it needs a push. The word can’t spread until you, as the business owner, start talking. In the early days, connecting with people who can help you spread the word is essential.

However, once a business is established or a project is no longer new, you shouldn’t need to keep attending networking groups, in order to get leads. There’s no need to keep pestering people to recommend you.

Here’s why:

  • Remarkable services spread.
  • Remarkable stories spread.
  • Remarkable resources spread.

Once you get the word out. Once people have heard about what you do. Once you start delighting your first clients or customers, the word will spread and you will attract regular enquiries from eager, prospective clients.

A remarkable problem

Of course, the typical small business owner chooses not to build a remarkable business. They want to play it safe and be just like their competitors.

For example, think about the service providers in your town, who are in the same industry as one another. They offer a very similar range of services, make very similar promises and charge very similar fees. They’re totally, utterly unremarkable.

So, instead of attracting high quality enquiries from eager clients, they need to push, push, push. This is where networking groups come in.

An unremarkable business has no legs

No matter how well the owner of an unremarkable business “works the room” at networking events. No matter how aggressively they push members of their networking group for leads… there’s a limit on what they can achieve. It’s a pretty low, uninspiring limit too.

They may, just may, manage to make an average living, doing average work, charging average fees to average clients.

Eating soup with a fork

Focusing on the best way to generate great clients or customers via networking groups, is like seeking the fastest way to eat soup, using a fork.

Yes, with practice you may be able to eat soup faster with a fork than the average business owner. But any business owner using a spoon, will make 100 times more progress than you.

You can get results from networking groups, but nothing like what you can achieve, when you learn how to attract clients through the effective marketing of a remarkable service.

Looking for better ways to push an unremarkable service at people is far less effective.

P.S. Here are 4 ways to attract more clients or sales enquiries.

Are you making any of these 5 serious marketing mistakes?

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

If you want to attract far more sales leads or client enquiries, here are 5 important areas to pay attention to. They are based on some extremely common marketing errors, which cost small business owners a fortune.

Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Don’t promise a professional service, yet operate behind amateur looking branding. This creates a damaging mixed message, with the amateurism always drowning out the marketing message.
  2. Don’t claim to be passionate about your work, yet scream how excited you are that it’s Friday, all over your social networks. The massive majority of our prospective clients check us out, before calling or emailing us. If we’re that relieved to quit work, think of the message that sends out.
  3. Don’t claim to be reliable, yet seldom show up with new blog posts. [or have a news section on your website that hasn’t been updated in 6 months]. People judge us by what we do. So, if we claim to be reliable, yet leave a visible project neglected, it’s suggesting that we lack the professionalism to see things through.
  4. Don’t say your business is forward thinking, yet operate behind an outdated website. By allowing our business to be represented by an outdated website, we send 1 of the following 2 toxic messages to prospective clients. We either can’t afford a new website or we’re not professional enough to know how much it matters.
  5. Don’t promise a premium service, yet charge bargain basement fees. This is another example of a damaging mixed message. It immediately makes people think that something just isn’t right. We’ve been warned from childhood that if something seems too good to be true, it is. If our service is excellent, we need to show the value and then have the confidence to charge accordingly.

In business, everything counts

Even the things we think shouldn’t influence a prospective client or customer, will have either a positive or negative influence on them.

Maybe people shouldn’t form an immediate, negative impression of a business because their website looks shabby. Perhaps people should ignore the amateurish way a business is branded and still trust their promises of being dedicated professionals. However, the reality is that people are extremely influenced by what they see.

It pays us all to take an outside look at our business, from time to time. Does our overall image reflect well on the work we do, or create doubt in the mind of prospective clients / customers?

That’s not always an easy question for us to face. It is an important one, though.

How to avoid wasting money on advertising

advertising

Here’s how to avoid a common advertising mistake, which loses small business owners a fortune.

I’d like to start by asking you to consider the following question.

Who [not how many] are you reaching?

When it comes to advertising, relevance is more important than numbers.

Most small business owners buy advertising, based on the number of people who will read, watch or listen to the advertisement. It’s understandable, because that’s how ads are usually pitched to them. Those selling the ads know that when they approach a small business owner, who desperately needs to generate sales or enquiries, the BIG numbers sound very attractive.

What you need to know, in order to protect yourself from buying ineffective ads, is this:

It’s not about the number of people who will potentially see or hear your ad. It’s about who those people are.

Here’s an example of why the numbers are only a small part of the advertising equation. It’s from a reader who asked me to share her experience with you.

The ad reached 125,000 people… for just $475!

I was prompted to write today’s post, after Kelly emailed me to say she had recently paid for an advertisement that went into a newsletter, with a readership of 125,000 people. She explained that whilst the readership “wasn’t a great fit”, she thought $475 to reach all those people was a bargain.

Her advertisement generated 9 responses and no sales.

Here’s what she got, in return for $475:

  • 7 responses came from pushy advertising salespeople, trying to sell her more ads. This is common. Advertisers look for business owners who are buying ineffective ads. They know these are the easiest people to sell ads to.
  • 2 responses came from people who were totally unsuitable for the service she was advertising.

Like most small business owners, Kelly was seduced by the number (or reach) of the advertising, rather than who the advertising was reaching. Please don’t let that happen to you.

The sweet spot you’re aiming for is a well written ad, which reaches a targeted, large audience.

Here’s some useful information, with examples, on how to get your advertising right.

How to raise your business to a whole new level

business development, business growth,

If your business is growing slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

To get your business moving forward, there are 2 things you need to focus on. I have set them out as 2 questions. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

So, here are the questions:

  1. What do you want to achieve with your business?
  2. Are you willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners lack sufficient clarity, regarding what they want their business to achieve. When I ask them, they will often tell me things like; I want a profitable company, I want a thriving consultancy, I want to retire in comfort. They hardly ever give me anything specific.

The challenge here, is that without knowing what your ultimate business target or goal is, you have no way to measure if you’re on track or not.

This lack of clarity about what you specifically want to achieve, means it’s extremely easy for you to make poor long term decisions. It’s what causes hard working business owners to spin their wheels.

It’s like the old saying, “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. As a result, we find many hard working small business owners taking costly detours.

The key is to get specific… to describe, in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

Here’s how to find your answer!

A great way to get really focused on what you want from your business, is to ask yourself this question:

If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down in detail!

Avoid vague terms and use specifics. Include numbers in your answer whenever possible. For example, include things like:

  • What you want to generate in revenues and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • What you want to earn from your business.
  • What you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

You may also want to describe the type of clients you want, what your working day would look like, where you’d locate your business, etc. Make sure to include everything that matters to you.

Once you have a clearer picture of exactly what you want to achieve with your business, it’s time to answer that second question.

So, are you willing to pay the price?

You will seldom find a small business owner, who doesn’t work hard. That is not what this question is about.

The question is about whether we’re prepared to do everything required, to make that clear image of our future business a reality. The question asks us if we are prepared, time after time, to leave our comfort zones.

Success requires us to pay the price in advance. This means committing to do 100% of what’s required, rather than avoiding the necessary tasks, which we’re uncomfortable with. Hard work alone is not enough. If hard work was the key to success, our grandparents would have all been millionaires!

What next, Jim?

Once you have got clear about what you want and you have decided to do what’s required in order to achieve it, it’s time to take action.

The best place to start, is to take a look at your current business activities and investments. Then, eliminate everything that is not taking you toward your business goals [or targets].

Next, replace the activities that were taking your business nowhere, with ones that are consistent with your new, clearer picture of the business you want.

This is the starting point of creating a great strategy. If you need help getting your strategy right, this 2 hour session with me could be just what you need.