How to learn from the best, without copying them

learn from best

One of the best ways to develop your business, is to learn from what already works.

It’s not about copying. It’s about using what works for others, as a source of creative inspiration for your own marketing. Allow me to explain.

Here are 3 examples of what I mean

1. Think of the last product or service you paid for. Now ask yourself, what were the main motivators, which persuaded you to make that purchase? Look for a way to uniquely incorporate those persuasive factors into the marketing of your own products or services.

2. Think of the last time you recommended a product or service to your friends. What were the key factors that motivated you to give it your endorsement? Look for ways to uniquely incorporate them into your business, so you attract more word of mouth referrals.

3. Think of the last newsletter you read, which inspired you to make a purchase, click a link, email the sender, etc. What was it about that newsletter [or the person who wrote it], which motivated you to take action? Look for ways to uniquely build that into your own newsletter, so more people take action when they read it.

As you may have already noticed, this approach can be applied to any area of your business that you want to improve.

Learning is more valuable than copying

A well known example of this approach came from Steve Jobs. When designing the first iMac computers, Jobs studied the design of sports cars for inspiration. Apparently, people would see him in the Apple parking lot, looking at the lines and curves of sports cars. His machines didn’t look like cars, but the ‘design lines’ of some Apple products were influenced by them.

The key thing to remember is that the value comes from learning, not copying. Look at what works and search for the lessons behind it. If you fully embrace this idea, it will be a powerful development tool for both you and your business.

The most incredible article about headlines you’ll ever read!

incredible headlines

Here are some ideas, which you can use to massively improve the results of all your written marketing.

It’s all about the marketing power of headlines.

Your headline has to capture the reader’s attention

It doesn’t matter how great your message is, people need to read it in order for the message to have the desired impact. That’s where your headline comes in. The headline’s primary job is to attract attention and motivate the reader to carry on reading.

Think about it… the headline is what inspires prospective clients to open your email. It’s also what motivates them to read your blog post or article, when someone shares it on a social network. It’s what grabs their attention and interest when they see one of your advertisements.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy was in no doubt regarding the importance of headlines. He famously said: “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Treat your headlines with the importance they deserve. Give yourself plenty of time to craft the best headline possible. The following tips and examples will help you get the balance right.

Your headline should accurately reflect the theme of the content

Because headlines play such a huge role in getting your content noticed, it’s tempting to over exaggerate them. [Yes, the headline of this post is a tongue in cheek example of what I mean].

Sometimes called link bait or click bait, these attention grabbing headlines are proven to generate trafficThe reason I strongly recommend most people reading this not to adopt that headline strategy, is this:

Your headlines make a promise, which your content needs to deliver on.

Make your headlines as inspirational as you can. Use words that will compel people to read what you have to say. But make darn sure that your content backs up the promise of the headline.

Your headline needs to be written for your target market

Your marketing message is intended to connect with a very specific group of people: Your prospective clients or customers. The headlines you use should do the same. This means speaking their language and addressing their concerns and opportunities.

Here’s why this matters:

  • By focusing your headlines around the interests of your target market, you help your marketing message to attract the attention of the right people.
  • Conversely, by using headlines that attract the attention of a wider group of people, you cease to be directly relevant to your target market.

In other words, use headlines that are directly relevant to your prospective clients.

Your headlines should match your medium

If you’re writing a headline that’s intended for a print magazine, newspaper or flyer, you have certain freedoms, which you don’t have when writing for the internet. For example, if you want your internet article’s headline to be fully displayed in search results, you need to use around 55 characters or fewer. Going beyond that limit will see your headline cut short.

If your headline is intended for email marketing, you need to take other things into consideration. For example, if you include exclamation marks!! in your subject line, along with a number and maybe a word that’s in ALL CAPS, it’s highly likely to end up in a lot of spam filters. Email software looks for certain common factors used by spammers and if it sees them in the email headlines you use, it could wrongly treat your marketing as spam.

In short, when it comes to headlines, you need to adapt depending on the medium you’re using.

The only 2 types of headline that matter

There is a lot of debate among marketing professionals, regarding the correct way to use headlines. They take entrenched stances, each insisting that their approach is the only strategy that’s professional or effective. In almost every case I have seen, they totally miss the point.

When it comes to the headlines you use in your marketing, there are just 2 broad categories worthy of your attention.

  1. Headlines that work for you and your business goals.
  2. Headlines that are failing you and your business goals.

You need to find the correct balance for what you want to achieve. And it will differ depending on your brand, your industry and your business model.

For example, Upworthy and BuzzFeed have grown into massively successful media businesses, using a controversial, yet very powerful headline formula. Many have labelled their approach as being link bait or click bait. Here’s a nice piece from The Guardian that looks at Upworthy’s headlines. Now, it’s not a strategy that would work for my business. However, it’s proven itself to be an extremely successful strategy for the Upworthy and BuzzFeed business models. It’s fortunate they ignored the one-size-fits-all mantra. My point here, is that you should leave your options open.

I hope you’ve found this useful. More importantly, I hope it inspires you to improve the effectiveness of your own headlines and titles.

Worth reading: 5 Steps to improve the success of all your written marketing.

This is a marketing message. Really. It is!

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make your marketing so attractive, that people would miss it if it wasn’t there.

Think about it: Most of the marketing messages we receive are unwelcome. At best, they are the price we pay for being able to watch a YouTube clip or listen to a radio station. At worst, marketing messages are an unwanted, annoying intrusion.

The good news is, marketing doesn’t need to be this way.

How some brands get it right

Some of the marketing we receive is welcomed. For example, when Evernote send me their newsletter, I read it. Always. Why? Because it’s packed with tips on how to get the most value from the Evernote app, so users can organise their ideas and improve their work flow. As a daily Evernote user, these tips and ideas are of huge value to me.

Yes, I have made additional purchases because of the Evernote newsletter. However, they have never sold me anything.

Think about that for a moment. It’s extremely powerful!

Leigh inspired me to write today’s post

Earlier today I received a message from a reader. Leigh said that she reads my blog via email. The reason she got in touch is that she hadn’t had an email from me for 5 days. She wanted to make sure everything was OK. It turned out to be a problem with her new email provider. But that’s not the point.

The message behind Leigh’s email may not sound that important at first glance… but it is. It’s a powerful example of the effectiveness of content marketing.

I’ll explain why in a moment.

The best content marketing delivers value

Just like the Evernote newsletter I mentioned, the best content marketing is packed with independent value. [Note: By independent value, I mean that the content itself delivers value, independent of the reader needing to purchase anything].

When people connect with effective content marketing, they feel like they have gained something. Because of this, they welcome it in a way that’s impossible to achieve with a sales pitch.

A great way for you to get this right, is to ask yourself the following question: “If I stopped publishing my newsletter, blog posts, email marketing or social networking updates, etc., would people miss them?”

This is a marketing message. Seriously!

If you think my blog posts aren’t marketing messages, think again. Yes, I give you useful information for free, without pitching you anything, but consider this:

  • Hundreds of people email me every week, because of something they read on my blog or in the email version of the blog.
  • A subset of these great people will become clients of mine or customers of my audio program.
  • Other readers become advocates and recommend my services to their friends.
  • Some share my blog posts, helping me reach more people.

Now consider this:

Think for a moment how useful it would be for your business, if you were receiving emails and phone calls all day every day, from interested people who already knew all about you and what you do.

What next?

Provide your marketplace with useful information, not sales pitches. Make your content marketing about the reader, not about you. Help them solve their challenges with your expertise. And let people know what you can do for them [like that short message below], so they know where to come when they need expert help they can trust.

Remember… the process of giving and receiving starts with the giving part.

Read this. It will help you: How to make your Content Marketing more compelling!

Bloggers: Why too few people read your blog and how to fix it!

blogging, blog tips, content marketing

This is a very important post. If you want to get more business, feedback and recognition from your blog, this could be exactly what you need to know.

The post was inspired by an email I received from Shannon. She kindly gave me permission to share part of it with you. Here’s the core challenge she wanted help with, along with my answer and lots of tips and examples to help you build a successful business blog.

Here’s what Shannon wanted to know:

“I’ve been blogging for close to three years now. It’s been frustrating to say the least! […]  I have no idea what I’m doing wrong and I’ve followed the advice from [she mentioned a very well known blogging site] totally.  I’m just about ready to quit.  Can you take a look at my blog and tell me what I’m missing?”

I did take a quick look at her blog and it’s exactly the same as countless other business blogs, following the same, general blogging advice.

Here’s what the challenge is and how to resolve it!

Blogging is exceptionally effective

I’ve worked in marketing since 1987 and nothing I have used, studied or witnessed, comes close to the marketing power of an effective blog. Period.

So, why has Shannon and the vast majority of business owners, seen such poor results?

Without doubt, the main reason is that blogging is often touted, incorrectly, as the written equivalent of painting by numbers. In other words, you follow a set of rules and success will follow. This myth persists because it’s repeated by well known bloggers, selling generic guides and programs on how to grow a successful business blog.

The polar opposite is actually true: The closer you follow the same general format, rules and techniques as everyone else, the less likely you are to achieve anything worthwhile from your blog.

Here’s how I created one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs, using a more individual approach.

I didn’t SEO my posts

I decided to write for my readers, not Google. This gave me the freedom to express my thoughts, rather than SEO my thoughts.

Shannon’s blog posts are written using SEO software. This means they are often too long, just so she can reach her minimum SEO word count and keyword density. Posts that should be information rich and 250 words long, are filled with fluff to make them more SEO friendly. It has totally robbed her of her voice and individuality.

Google likes it. However, it reads like crap. As a result, Shannon attracts drive-by traffic, rather than client enquiries.

Tip: Read this – Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!

I didn’t guest blog

I focused on building my readership, by producing the most useful content I could and then made it extremely easy for people to share it.

This approach works even better today than when I started in 2008, thanks to the popularity of social networking sites.

Many bloggers waste their best material on other people’s blogs, because their blog guru convinced them it’s a great idea. It’s one way to build your readership, but certainly not the best. Or the second best. Shannon told me that she has guest blogged a lot, with nothing to show for it. She’s not alone.

Build your own platform. Put the primary value on your own turf. Don’t be someone else’s unpaid content provider.

I removed comments

It was summer 2013, when I removed the commenting feature from my blog. Blog commenting is a vestige from the days before social networks. It was also a huge time suck for me, as I often got 2500 spam comments a day.

It was still a tough decision though. The only other person I knew who’d done it was Seth Godin, and he had a very different reason. But it was the right thing to do. So I did it.

Back then, I was attacked. Social media gurus said you HAD TO have comments on your blog or it wasn’t a blog.

Today, the mood is changing.

Since I removed comments, other popular blogs including; copyblogger, Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt, have done the same. And they’re absolutely right.

My point is that you need to question perceived wisdom. Then if you believe something needs to change, do it your way. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you — be prepared to lead. We need more leaders.

Shannon has comments enabled and she gets very little feedback. Many comments are from people trying to get backlinks or score free advice from her. This lack of so-called social proof, does nothing to enhance Shannon’s reputation. It also makes her blog look like a ghost town, when prospective clients check her out.

I didn’t fill the blog with affiliate links

When I recommend something to a reader, it’s a genuine recommendation and I don’t get a penny for it. The trust of my reader community is worth far more to me than affiliate money.

Shannon’s blog home page has affiliate banners for 3 products. None are related to her profession. It makes her site look cheap, which is toxic for a service provider.

I didn’t pump my posts with buzzwords

Disrupt, ruckus, growth hacking, big data, intersection… buzzwords like those fail twice.

  • Firstly, they make informed people cringe.
  • Secondly, they confuse the uninformed. That’s a bad idea if you want people to understand your message!

Shannon’s blog uses lots of content marketing buzz words. This, combined with the keyword loading she does for her SEO, means readers have no personality to connect with.

I made 1 rule and stuck with it

I made a rule, which I have stuck to since summer 2008. It’s simply this

I will only publish a post when I have something useful to share and I’ll make sure I find something useful, often.

This means I often write when it’s easier not to. I update older posts daily, to keep the information relevant. Blogging is a primary business activity for me, rather than something I fit in. As a result, I write when I’m extremely busy, when I am tired and even when I’m not feeling great.

Your rules

The Internet is packed with sites that offer largely the same, general advice on how to build a successful blog.

Their advice seems to make sense, until you consider that by following it, you become invisible – lost in an ocean of millions of other bloggers using the same, general advice.

If you’re following what they say, you will be able to identify with Shannon’s situation.

In short: Your blog needs to be as individual as you are. Otherwise, you’re invisible.

Tip: This post asks an important question: Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10,000 daily readers?

How to grow your business with Agile Thinking

agile thinking, advanced thinking

Business is changing. Moreover, business is changing fast!

This is great news for agile business owners, who embrace the opportunities. However, it’s not such great news for business owners who are working in today’s rapidly changing environment, with a 1995 approach to business.

In today’s post, I share some ideas on how you can benefit from the new opportunities around you. First, I’d like to demonstrate how things have changed and why we need to apply a new mindset, to the new landscape.

A new mindset for a new landscape

Many of the world’s most influential businesses were unknown 20 years ago. Some, such as Facebook and Twitter, weren’t founded until the mid 2000’s. That kind of global growth was previously unthinkable. What’s more, billion dollar companies that lead their industries have been started by relative unknowns, in very untraditional ways.

Here’s a great example. Writing in Techcrunch, Tom Goodwin summed up the new age of agile business:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”

Tom is right. Something interesting is happening. None of those achievements or business models were possible until very recently. The game has changed. And it has changed for ever.

The age of agile business

When I look at small businesses, they tend to fall into one of the following 2 broad categories: They are either dinosaurs or agile progressives. That’s to say their approach to the agile business landscape means they are facing extinction or facing unparalleled success.

Armed with a laptop and an idea, there’s very little an agile business cannot achieve.

  • The new business landscape allows an agile small business owner to have an idea in the morning, and put that idea into play before the end of business that same day.
  • Using social networks, we can listen to what our marketplace wants and provide that want. No more guess work. You can get it right every time. And in a fraction of the time.
  • Instant access to data, means research that took weeks or months can now be done in days and at a fraction of the price.
  • With a great marketing email and some email software, a struggling business can generate a fortune in sales…  and fast!
  • With a blog and the correct strategy, anyone can develop their own reader community. I reach thousands of people every day, many of whom are prospective clients, without spending a penny on advertising or promotion.
  • If you have a great business idea, you no longer need a bank loan. Thanks to Indiegogo, Kickstarter and others, you can use crowdfunding and get exactly what you need.

In spite of all that potential, many small business owners operate their businesses with a 1995 mindset. They lack agility. This places them at a huge disadvantage.

  • They try and find customers for their products, instead of finding products for their customers.
  • They still take just as long to make a decision, even though they can get the feedback they need in a fraction of the time. As a result, their agile competitors have already eaten their lunch.
  • They use social networks to follow the crowd, rather than lead their marketplace.
  • They have a website that’s almost an online brochure, when they should have a site that’s a lead-generating machine.
  • They waste money advertising, when they should be building their own platform.
  • They waste time, money and energy attending networking groups, like it’s still 1980, rather than build their own audience or community.

In short: No matter what industry you are in. No matter where you are. Your potential right now is as limitless or limited as you choose.

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.

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.

Successful marketing leaves clues

success leaves clues

When it comes to marketing, success leaves clues. By following these clues and learning from them, it’s possible to significantly improve your marketing.

For example, spend a few minutes thinking about the following:

  • The last marketing email, which you were motivated to open because it had a powerful subject line.
  • The last marketing email you read, which persuaded you to take action. [To ask for information, pick up the phone, make a purchase, etc.]
  • The last blog post you read, which you were motivated to bookmark, save or share.
  • The last advertisement you saw or heard, which led to you making a purchase.
  • The last service you experienced, which impressed you so much that you wanted to tell your friends about it. Read this. It will help.
  • The last newsletter you received, which you forwarded to your friends.

Turning clues into results

Each of those examples contains a clue. To uncover the clue, you need to answer this question:

What can I learn from this example of marketing success, which I can adapt and apply to my own marketing?

By studying marketing success, it’s possible to make better marketing decisions. The good news here is that there are examples of successful marketing all around you.

Bonus: You can also learn a great deal by studying terrible marketing and uncovering why it was so ineffective. Knowing what to avoid is enormously valuable, too.

How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging topics r

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.

5 Extremely powerful questions to help your business thrive!

Business development

Today, I have 5 questions to help you and your business thrive. Each question comes with a suggestion, to point you in the right direction.

1. Are you earning trust by setting self imposed deadlines?

A great way to build trust is to deliver on a promise.

Think about it: Telling a client that their project will be ready “by the end of the week” is way less powerful, than telling her it will be ready “by 9am Thursday”.

Set deadlines and then deliver. When a client trusts you to deliver on your promises, they are extremely unlikely to seek out another provider. They are also massively more likely to recommend you to their friends. I wrote about this here.

2. Are you running your business?

If not, your business is running you. Unless you are working to a plan, you are simply reacting to whatever circumstances arise.

Tip: Never take business planning advice from someone, who has not achieved what you want to achieve. For example, be extremely cautious of marketing consultants who have to attend networking groups, because their own marketing doesn’t generate enough leads. There’s a powerful signal there.

3. Are you attracting daily sales or client enquiries from your website?

If not, you’re needlessly missing out on a wonderful opportunity. My blog generates over 100 emails a day — often twice that. Your site can be a sales generating machine too. However, it needs to be optimized correctly and you need to have the right strategy behind it. Invest in getting this right or you’re leaving money on the table every day.

Tip: Don’t copy what you see other sites doing. Almost every small and medium sized business blog or website I see, is poorly optimized.

4. Are you associating with the right people?

We tend to grow in the same direction as those we associate with. Mix with the wrong people and one day, everything they have will be yours. Think about that for a moment.

5. Are you learning from past business mistakes or repeating them?

If you are facing the same old frustrations, it’s because you’re repeating the same old errors. For better results, you need a better strategy. Old ways won’t open new doors.

I hope you find these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope something here inspires you to take positive action.