The day everything improves for you

Today is my 46th birthday and I will start the day with the same commitment I make every year at this time.  I will promise to become a year better over the coming 12 months, rather than just a year older.

I have often listened to business owners boldly proclaiming that they have 20 year’s worth of experience in their field, when in reality, they have just a few years worth of experience, which they keep repeating.  They mistake movement for progress and end up with similar frustrations in year 20, to those they had in year 2.

Older and wiser?

Older does not always equal wiser because longevity and competence are not the same thing.  There are people reading this right now, who have been struggling to grow their business for years, yet have never hired the specialist help they know they need.

We all know people who make the same basic errors year after year, then blame their luck, the economy, their star-sign or their past, for their lack of progress.  In reality we know that nothing improves until we do.  If we keep doing what we have always done, we will keep getting what we have always got.

The day everything improves for you

You don’t need to wait until your birthday or the New Year, before you make the commitment to massively improve your future.

  • Today can be the day you decide to stop dabbling with your business development and get the help you know you need.
  • Today can be the day you start writing that book.
  • Today can be the day you start working on one of those great ideas you had.
  • Today can be the day you fire that client who is sucking the life out of your business.
  • Today can be the day you stop following the flock and be yourself.
  • Today can be the day you decide to start building a wall of financial security around the people you love, which nothing can penetrate.

Have a GREAT day!

Give a blogger a hug!

blogging, blogs, content marketing

In the tiny village where I live, we have just one small shop.  When severe weather kicks in and we can’t get into the nearest town, that place is our only option.

Every day, I buy something from them; even if it’s just a pint of milk or some bread.  It costs about 10% more than buying the same thing in town, but I know that if everyone does what I do, that little shop will be able to stay in business, serving the local community.  Then, the next time our village gets snowed in, it will be there for us.

The harsh reality is this:  If you find something genuinely useful or valuable, you need to either support it or risk losing it.

Free, valuable information

As a blogger and blog reader, I often see people commenting on blogs regarding how useful they find all the free information, which the blogger shares with his or her readers.  I see business owners thanking the blogger for saving them time, money or both.

It’s important to understand that the free information on these blogs is only free for the readers.  The blogger picks up the bill.  It can be a pretty hefty bill too.  A blog like this one, which gets many thousands of daily readers, requires thousands of pounds/dollars every year in managed hosting costs alone.  Then there are the billable hours, which the blogger invests writing all that free content for their readers.

Give a blogger a hug

If there is a blog you find useful (any blog other than this one, see below), I ask you to do one small thing for me.  Go there today and either buy something they are selling or, if you can’t afford to buy something, recommend the blogger’s work to your network.

Otherwise, you may go there for some valuable, free information one day and find their shutters are down!

BTW: WebFusion pick up the hefty bill for my hosting, on my reader’s behalf.  I’d like to publicly thank them for their support and for keeping this site super-reliable for over a year.  They ensure my work is here for you and accessible, whenever you need it.

What self proclaimed gurus are REALLY telling us

Do you ever find yourself cringing when you see the titles some business people give to themselves?

Social networks are packed with self-proclaimed gurus, thought leaders and mavens.  The challenge here is NOT with the title, but the fact that it’s self-proclaimed.  In reality, we don’t self proclaim a title, we earn it.  If people in your marketplace refer to you as a thought leader, you have no control over that.  They decided, based on their experience of you, that you lead them with your thinking.

What you DO have control over, is how you choose to refer to yourself.  This is why the titles people proclaim for themselves, tell us so much about them; usually the polar opposite of what they intended!

The smartest person in the room?

Whenever people self-proclaim a lofty title, it immediately puts us on guard.  For example, if you are at a networking event and someone tells you they are the smartest person in the room, you know that they are not.  Their decision to proclaim that to you, is something that even a moderately bright person wouldn’t do.  It’s plainly ridiculous, shows a lack of self-confidence and makes them look like a fool.

The reason we see so many self proclaimed gurus, is that they fail to see the disconnect, between the message they THINK they are giving us, and the message we actually receive.  They genuinely think it looks impressive to call themselves gurus, oblivious of the fact that it makes most people instantly suspicious and others (like me) cringe.

The bottom line:  Think extremely carefully before you hire a self-proclaimed guru, maven or thought leader.  Their need to self-proclaim that title, tells you massively more about them than the title itself.

Google: How to get your photo to show up in Google search results

A number of readers have noticed that whenever a post from this blog shows up in Google’s search results, Google displays a photo of me next to it (see above).  People are emailing me more and more, asking how I did it, so here goes.

I need to start by saying that I didn’t do it. Google did! This is really important. Even if you follow the steps in the guide I am about to share, there’s no guarantee it will work for you. According to Google:

This feature is being rolled out gradually, and ranking will be implemented algorithmically, so author information will not always display in search results.

So, this may or may not work for you. Currently, I know just a few bloggers other than myself who has had the feature activated by Google. Every other example I see comes from huge sites like mashable and a-list bloggers like Robert Scoble.

Why are Google attaching “author information” to Google search results?

There is a huge issue right now, with people stealing other people’s content and claiming it as their own. Thanks to this new author information service from Google, it will be easier for people to identify the initial or original source of a blog post or article. In essence, when you see that photo show up in your search results, it means Google are verifying that the blog post was written by that person.

If you look closely at the image above, you will see that next to my photo are the words “by Jim Connolly.” If you then click on my name in the search results, it takes you to my Google+ Profile. By the way, you can join me on Google+ here!

For bloggers like myself, whose content is used without attribution on lots of other sites, this author information allows people to find the original source. Within minutes of my posts being published here, they start appearing on other blogs; something known as content scraping.  This is an effort by Google, to help match the correct blogger (or author as they call us) to the correct post. Most of my posts are scraped around a dozen times, meaning there are lots of versions of my work out there, often attributed to people who simply scraped them.

How does Google Authoring work?

The idea is actually extremely simple. You link from your blog (or your website), to your Google Profile and then, you link from your Google Profile back to your blog. This reciprocal linking verifies that the owner of that Google Profile is also the (or an) author on that blog. If you own a multi authored blog it works too. You just need your bloggers to link from their Google Profile, to their author page on your blog. Once that process is completed, a circle is created, allowing Google to confidently identity you as the rightful author of your own work, in their search results.

Whilst the idea is extremely simple, the process is currently a little tricky. Rather than try and explain it here, I’d like you to read the instructions from Google, which I followed. I also recommend you watch the short video on that page.

Then what?

Once you have followed the instructions, check that you have done it correctly using Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool. This tool is extremely useful and will show you if the code is working and what your blog’s listing will look like in Google’s SERPS (search engine results page), AFTER they have activated it. To use the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, simply paste the URL (address) of one of your blog posts into it and press the preview button. It’s that simple.

Then, if everything looks OK and you see your photo in the preview, it’s a matter of waiting!

Sadly, I don’t know people at Google who can fast-track your site and I am not the guy to help you if you try this and find it doesn’t work; so please, no technical questions in the comments. I just followed the instructions and it worked for me.

Is it worth it?

Yes. It’s useful for people to know that they are reading something, where there is a verified connection between the author and the content. I have also seen a significant increase in Google search traffic since the author information was activated. This makes sense as anyone searching Google, who knows who I am, will see my photo next to a search result and be more likely to click it. Photo’s act a lot faster than text and give an immediate signal.

I applaud Google’s work in helping bloggers to be credited with authorship of their own work. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces staring at me when I’m next searching!

For more useful tips and ideas, simply click here and get future updates delivered to your inbox!

Here is some specialist advice for you

The marketplace will pay a premium for specialists.  A specialist lawyer, who is an expert in medical negligence, may be the wrong person to deal with the sale of your home, but she’s exactly who you need, to get that medical negligence issue successfully resolved.

The value of specialists

Successful business owners and consultants in every niche, have figured out that if they become specialist in a key area, they can work with great clients and earn attractive fees.  Specialists have this additional value, because unlike generalists in their niche, they focus on being truly outstanding in one or two areas.  So, if we need expert help with a specific issue, we hire a specialist rather than a generalist.

Struggling business owners and consultants also know it’s important to specialise.  However, they get it all wrong.  Rather than focus on the areas where they have expert knowledge, they claim to be specialists in everything (see photo.)  In an effort to appeal to everyone, they use a message that fails to be directly relevant to anyone.  This is a big mistake.

I took the photo for today’s post on a visit to my local town.  The sign belongs to a small, generalist law firm.  However, their sign claims that they are specialists.  Not only that, they claim to specialise in everything!  This is, of course, factually incorrect.  Law is a massive, complex subject with specialisations within specialisations within specialisations.  To claim that they are specialists in all areas of law is ridiculous.  It also hurts their marketing.

Specialist marketing

From a marketing perspective, signs like that are pointless.  They make it impossible for people to know what the law firm really is good at.  If they listed their two or three main areas of expertise, anyone seeing that sign, with that problem, would stop and take note.  By listing nothing and claiming everything, they are invisible.

Claiming to specialise in everything, simply tells people you specialise in nothing.

Claiming to specialise in one (or a few) complimentary areas, is vastly more effective.

What everyone needs to know about their clients!

You can tell a massive amount about a business by looking at it’s client list.

  • When I look at successful small businesses, I find they are very selective regarding who they choose as clients.
  • When I look at the typical small business, I find their clients choose them!

The difference?

When you are selective regarding who you accept as a client, you get to work with people who value you and what you do.  You get to work on projects, which truly inspire you.  You tend to do your best work under these conditions, resulting in happier clients and more referrals.  Moreover, because birds of a feather flock together, the referrals from these high value clients are likely to be high value too.  Win-win.

When you are less selective, you often end up working with unrewarding people, on bland projects.  This is a frustrating scenario that does not inspire people to produce their best work.  Lose-lose.

Whilst it may be tempting to work with anyone who can pay your invoice, it’s not where the longevity is.  You can’t apply your craft under those conditions and if you did, they probably wouldn’t notice.

The answer?  Target your marketing messages, so they are 100% focused on the needs of your ideal profile of client.  Then, get that message in front of the right people at the correct time.

That’s easier said than done, Jim!

Yes, of course it is, because we are now looking at professional marketing and not the typical small business, hit-and-miss approach.  This requires a strategy designed around your unique situation; your unique resources, your industry, your ideal client profile, your targets, etc, etc.  You won’t find this in a book, webinar or blog post.

However, I hope I have helped explain the value of using a more focused approach to client development.

Thousands of followers or engulfed in a massive flock?

If you have lots of followers on social networks and wonder why you get too few high quality business leads from them, this post is just for you!

When I was a child, I was constantly getting in trouble in class for staring out of the window and daydreaming.  Then, 10 years after leaving school, I discovered that most of Einstein’s breakthroughs came the same way; staring out of the window and daydreaming.

A habit the school worked hard to break, was in fact, an asset to me.  It’s how I stitch my thoughts together in order to create ideas.

You and your magic

We know that people think, create and work in different ways.  This uniqueness is something we need to embrace, if we want to achieve more of our potential.  You see, if we get 10 great people and hand them a manual on how to use social media, for example, and they all use it the same way, we end up with 10 clones.  We end up with 10 people doing it by the book.  The very uniqueness that would have allowed them to shine, would have been extinguished.

Yes, learn the basics, but then, go and make some magic happen.  Your magic.

Engulfed within a massive flock

Look around and you will see groups of business owners online, following the same approach as each other.  You can often tell in advance whose posts they will share, who they will name-check and which people they will recommend you follow.  Without knowing it, in an effort to build a bigger following, they simply end up part of a growing flock, doing the same predictable things as one another.

Paradoxically, as their follower numbers and site traffic increases from fellow members of the flock, their individual visibility decreases in direct proportion.  They become less and less relevant, as more people join their flock.  It’s hard to stand out and attract your prospective clients attention, when camouflaged like that.

You can’t influence or lead anyone, without a voice of your own and the courage to share what YOU think.

I get emails regularly, from people with social networks in the thousands and tens of thousands, who get very few business leads.  They see their follower numbers growing and assume they must be influencing people.  They have not yet learned that there is a chasm, between attracting social media followers and building a targeted audience for your unique message.  Anyone with the right software can get 100,000 social media followers.  It takes work that matters, to build a valuable, targeted community around you and your ideas.

Look out of your windows

An alternative approach to being in the middle of a flock, is to look out of the window a lot more and have the confidence to express yourself.

  • Tell us what you think.
  • Show us what you genuinely feel inspired by.
  • Let us know the people who truly inspire you.
  • Be yourself and give us the opportunity to get to know you.

Don’t ruin your chances of connecting with great people and future clients, by hiding the beautiful uniqueness, which makes you, you.

Let’s do it!

I have a message of hope for you today!

This message is for those of you who are sick of watching good people losing their businesses, because of the way they reacted to the global economic crisis.  It’s a message for those of you who are worried about your own business and how things will turn out for you and your families.

Yes, we live in extremely uncertain economic times right now.  Forecasts change almost daily regarding how many years it will take, before things improve in a meaningful way.  Many economists say we are already close to what will be regarded as normal in years to come.

Every day, I hear small business owners talking about hunkering down until it all blows over.  This is probably the single worst thing you can do right now.  It takes control of your future away from you.

There is a better way.  A much better way!

Let’s do it!

You can’t change the economy, but you can decide how you navigate your business right now.  You can benefit from the fact that most of your competitors are acting like a rabbit, caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.  You can work to a strategy for business development, which will allow you to not only survive, but thrive.

I spoke with three clients yesterday, who are in fee-sensitive industries and enjoying their best ever year in business.  They have adjusted the set of their sail, so that their businesses are primed for growth.  They are fighting back.  They are doing the right things correctly.  They are enjoying the rewards.

My message to you today is that there is hope, however, you need to get serious.  The choice is yours and whilst you can’t turn your business around in an instant, you CAN change the set of your sail today.

I’m here to help all of you, whether you want me to show you exactly what to do in person or you simply want general help via the blog.

Regardless, you are NOT in this alone.

Let’s do it!

What Yoda, cigarettes and milk can teach you about business and life

There are 2 products, which tell us a great deal about the way people think.  I’m referring to low tar cigarettes and milk that’s had most of the fat skimmed off it.

These are enormously successful products within their markets, because they are so easy to sell.  They speak to people, with a message they want to hear:

  • Smokers who want to feel like they are doing something positive, without the commitment to quit.
  • Milk drinkers who want to lower their fat intake, but lack the commitment to go fat free.

People who market those products have it easy.  They know that the masses tend to avoid making solid commitments, if there is an easier alternative.  I call this Low Tar Thinking.

The value of commitment

The opposite of Low Tar Thinking is commitment.  Commitment is beautiful.  It turns dreams into reality.  It makes things happen.  It builds relationships, feeds the poor and makes us happier, healthier and wealthier.  However, most people not only fail to embrace commitment, they actively seek to avoid it.

The best advice on commitment I know, is simply this:  If you believe you need to do something, make the commitment and do it.

As Yoda famously said; “Do or do not…there is no try!”

Facebook: Changing for the better?

jim connolly facebook

What do you think about the recent changes at Facebook?

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has made some significant changes.  These range from the hook-up with Skype, to the addition of a subscribe feature, allowing you to “follow” people in a similar way to Twitter or Google Plus.  Today, Facebook has changed the way the news feed looks and works, to include both top news as well as the most recent items.

Many people have questioned whether these sudden changes have been made to improve the user experience, or as a reaction to Google+ and the attention it has gained recently.

The challenge with change

In my experience, people generally embrace progress but they dislike change.  They love to see things improve but they value the comfort of familiarity.  So, if a change is made to a product or service, it needs to offer a significant improvement to reward the discomfort of the change.

  • If Facebook has changed significantly with no real benefit, let alone a drop in user experience, it will lose market share.  As we saw with MySpace, no one is too big to fail if they get it wrong.  Additionally, Google Plus now offers an interesting alternative for disgruntled Facebook users.  Interestingly, Google+ today became open to all, with no invite required.
  • If Facebook has changed and improved significantly, it will retain most of it’s current users and attract new users too.  It will also increase user engagement; essential for their monetization model.

Personally, I have found Facebook’s changes to be useful.  Very useful.  Although I am an avid user of Google+ (since day 3 of it’s beta testing), I am connecting and sharing more on Facebook right now, than ever before.  You are very welcome to connect with me on my Facebook Page.

What can we learn from this?

All innovation should be driven by a desire to improve the customer experience or product.  When the marketplace believes that your intention is to make their experience better, they are massively more likely to be receptive.

However, if they think you are in a feature war, where the changes being made are driven by the need to be newsworthy, rather than the desire to improve, they may feel very different.