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.

How to make your content marketing more compelling

Content Marketing, copywriting, writing

Which of these approaches do you find the most compelling?

  1. I wrote this blog post, now I need you to read it.
  2. There’s an idea I believe you will benefit from, so I wrote about it.

And which of these 2 do you prefer?

  1. I made this audio program, and now I need you to buy it.
  2. Small business owners needed help with this challenge, so I made an audio program about it.

Most people are far more attracted to the second approach in those examples. Despite this, almost every marketing message I see from small and medium-sized businesses, is based on the first approach. They come from a self-focused mindset, rather than being focused on the needs [or wants] of the other person.

Smarter marketing

Your marketing needs to be smarter than that if you want people to embrace your message and hire you or buy from you.

Telling someone that you know there are competing products, but they should buy yours, because you made it, won’t work. The prospective client or customer doesn’t care what you want. They care about answers to their problems. They care about their wants.

When you create your marketing based on what the other person wants, what’s important to them… it immediately improves how your marketing is received. It also improves how the prospect feels about you. This is the cornerstone of all effective marketing.

What next?

I recommend you spend some time reviewing your marketing. Shift the emphasis of any self-focused copy, from what you want to what they want.

The worst that can happen is that your marketing will be focused on the wants and needs of your marketplace. Get it right and it’s also likely to significantly improve your client acquisition / sales numbers.

Here’s why your business needs a great support network

network

To build a successful business, you need a great team of people around you. I’ve personally seen why this is so important over the past 72 hours… [more on that in a moment!]

Think about it:

  • You need to know what to do when faced with a challenge that’s outside your skill set.
  • You need to have someone to call, when only an expert will do.
  • You need people, who you can trust to help you when you need it most.

Here’s my first hand example of how a couple of potentially damaging issues were solved, thanks to having the right team around me.

There’s a very valuable lesson here for you and your business. Allow me to explain.

My blog vanished

On Sunday, the new-look Jim’s Marketing Blog went live. You can see how the new site looks, here. Everything went great, until I decided to make a few tweaks. Suddenly, my blog vanished!

So, it was 5pm Sunday. That’s absolutely not the best time to need expert help. Usually, that would have been a stressful situation. However, I knew everything would soon be fine. I emailed my developer, Gregor from Mass Media Design, and in no time the blog was back.

My server was attacked

Then, just before 11pm Tuesday night, my web server came under a heavy attack. Jim’s Marketing Blog had slowed down to a crawl. I called tech support at my hosts, WebFusion, and they took control. The problem was soon eradicated. I was able to go to sleep happy, knowing Rob and his colleagues were awake and making sure my server was fine.

Disclaimer: WebFusion sponsor my blog, however, I was a very happy customer of theirs for years before they sponsored me. It’s easy to see why I recommend them.

Without those key partners in place?

Had it not been for the team around my business, the past few days would have been extremely stressful. Without a great web developer, my blog would have been offline until at least 9am on Monday morning.

If I’d chosen cheap hosting, I could have been waiting 24 hours for a support ticket to be acted on. Then there’s no saying how long it would have taken them to resolve the problem. I’ve known sites on cheap hosting to be offline for 3 or 4 days.

The team behind your business

Here’s an important question to ask yourself about your business. When you need expert advice regarding; law, tax, technology, marketing, accounts, etc., who’s on your team?

The service providers you rely on for your business will have a huge impact on what you achieve. Get the best you can afford. Put them in place as soon as you can. This frees you up to focus on what you’re best at.

It also lets you plan ahead with confidence, knowing you have the key areas of your business covered and that you’re doing the right things, correctly.

Be stingy with your time, but not your ideas

time management

Laura emailed me with a great question. She wanted to know why I give so many ideas away, for free, on the blog. She rightly pointed out that with no advertisers and no need for “traffic”, I could achieve all my marketing goals, writing far less often.

So, here’s why I strive to be helpful to as many people as I can, as often as I can.

The contribution mindset

I see it like this:

  • If you own 3 pieces of gold and you give 1 of them away, you are left with 2 pieces of gold. Give all 3 pieces of gold away and you’re left with nothing.
  • If you give someone an idea, you still have just as many ideas as you had before. Plus, you have just enriched the other person and maybe made a new friend too.

Scaling generosity

The key is to find a way to share your ideas, which scales.

  • If you give an hour of your time away to 10 individual people every day, you have just lost 10 hours. It doesn’t scale. It’s unsustainable.
  • If you give an hour of your time to your community every day, by writing a blog post that reaches 10 people or 10,000 people, you have still only invested 1 hour.

We need to be stingy with our time. The clock is ticking. We only have a limited supply. But when it comes to helping people, we can choose to be generous.

That’s why I give so many ideas away, for free, here on the blog.

P.S. Interested in blogging? Here’s how you can become an overnight success.

Do something today, which your future self will thank you for

Pro development topics r

Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.

  1. Dream bigger dreams. They are more motivating than puny goals.
  2. Get into the habit of walking daily for 30 minutes. It will improve your life in so many ways.
  3. Too busy for a 30 minute walk? Get serious about solving your time management problem. This will help you.
  4. Focus on what you want. Not what you fear.
  5. Stop aiming for perfection. Instead, strive to be better than you were yesterday.
  6. Look for opportunities to step up and lead. Your marketplace desperately needs leaders.
  7. It isn’t the 1980’s — So, instead of focusing on closing sales, focus on opening relationships.
  8. Start a blog or a newsletter. If you already have a blog or newsletter, start taking it seriously. Here’s how to become an overnight blogging success.
  9. Avoid toxic influences. Everyone and everything you connect with has an impact on you. Choose wisely.
  10. Stop waiting for things to improve. Instead, plan for improvement, then work the plan.

I hope you found those useful.

3 Ways to attract more sales leads or client enquiries

Word of mouth

If you want to attract more sales leads or client enquiries, today’s post is for you. It shows the 3 main reasons why sales leads dry up AND more importantly, gives you some ideas on how to put things right.

Let’s go!

How to open the floodgates

When sales, client enquiries and business leads slow down, there’s always a reason. This is good news. Once you identify the cause and put things right, the sales and enquiries come flooding in.

Since starting my marketing business in 1995, I have seen the same 3 causes of this problem repeated over and over again. Here they are, along with some ideas on how to open the floodgates!

1. The marketing message you’re using isn’t good enough

In which case, you need to create a more motivating message. You need to start by making sure your service is as valuable as possible, then communicate that value to your marketplace with crystal clarity.

I want to help you avoid a common mistake here. Spend some time reviewing the guarantees, promises and range of services offered by your competitors.

Why? Because without knowing what you are competing against, you don’t know how compelling your guarantees, promises and range of services are to a prospective client.

It’s possible that competitors have copied your U.S.P. or that something that was rare or unique when you first offered it, is now commonplace. You need to know, so you can adjust and stand out from the crowd again.

It’s also possible that competitors have “upped their game” and you need to improve your service accordingly, to regain a competitive advantage.

In addition, check that your website, blog and social networks have not become tired or outdated. The way your message is presented has a huge impact on the way people feel about what you say.

Plus, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, that alone will almost certainly be losing you enquiries. Here’s why this matters to your business.

2. The message is fine, but you’re not reaching enough new prospective clients with it

In which case, you need to find a more effective way to reach out to them. The best advice I can give you when it comes to reaching your prospective clients is this: Be where their attention is.

What do they read? Where do they go? Who do they listen to? What do they watch? Whose tribe are they members of? Find out and then look for opportunities to reach out and connect with them.

For instance, I built the initial readership of Jim’s Marketing Blog from a newsletter I’d started back in 1998. However, after switching to blogging, I got my NEW readers from outreach on Twitter. I discovered that Twitter had a massive community of small business owners… the exact market for my services.

I connected with small business owners on Twitter, then placed useful information on my blog, which I regularly shared on Twitter. It worked. By being where their attention was [Twitter], I was able to build a large blog readership, which has generated regular client enquiries ever since.

IMPORTANT: You also need to make sure you’re getting your message out there frequently enough.

For example, if you publish blog posts or newsletters, make sure you’re publishing them regularly. If you want to get more leads from your blog, start publishing useful posts at least a couple of times a week. If you use newsletters to reach prospective clients, publish something useful every 10 to 14 days.

Don’t expect an infrequently updated blog or occasional newsletter to be a daily driver of fresh sales, leads or client enquiries.

Tip: Here’s how Andy Warhol used this approach.

3. Your clients, former clients and contacts are not sending you enough referrals

In which case, you need to find out why. The answer is almost always connected to the customer experience you provide. Allow me to explain.

A remarkable customer experience gives people a story worth sharing. It gets them talking about you. It has never been easier for people to recommend you and their reach has never been bigger. There are currently well over a billion people on Facebook, with hundreds of millions more on Twitter and Linkedin etc. These people are actively looking for remarkable stories to share with their networks.

Our job as business owners, is to make sure that we’re doing something worth sharing. They already have the sharing tools — what they need from us is the story!

Here’s the thing

Any small business owner who works on improving in those 3 key areas, is making an excellent investment in their business. So please, don’t just find these ideas interesting… use them.