Marketing Foundations: 3 Tips to massively increase your sales

Did you know there’s a common marketing mistake, which loses small businesses a fortune? Well, there is and it could be hurting your business… without you even knowing it!

Here it is, along with the solution.

Marketing Foundations

It’s all about getting your marketing foundations in place. The problems happen, when you ask a prospective client or customer to make a purchasing decision too soon… before you have the foundations in place. That’s because these foundations are essential to successful marketing.

In brief, there are 3 things you need to do, before you are in a position to make high volume sales or attract great, new clients:

  1. Demonstrate your professionalism.
  2. Clearly explain your proposition, (what your product or service is and what the benefits are).
  3. Earn their trust.

Let me expand on these 3 points for you, with some ideas on what you need to do, to massively improve your sales results.

Here they are — 3 tips to help you increase your sales. Massively.

Marketing Foundation tip 1: Demonstrate your professionalism

I see this mistake, every hour of every day. This, by itself, can destroy a business. If you’re skim reading this post, read the following paragraph!

You can’t expect people to buy from you or hire you, until they have checked your credentials and are satisfied you are a professional. However, that’s exactly what small business owners, coaches and consultants do all the time. They contact potential clients with links to their cheap looking websites. They use homemade logos and DIY business cards. They use freebie, Gmail / Yahoo email instead of branded email addresses, etc.

People are extremely visual. We think in pictures. It’s impossible to look professional, when you operate behind amateur looking marketing. We can’t expect people to believe we are professional, when it seems we can’t afford the peanuts required to get a professionally designed logo and website.

Similarly, we give an equally bad impression if prospective clients think that looking professional, isn’t important to us. That details are not important. That we’re fine about being associated with cheap looking work.

So, before you even think about marketing your products or service, make sure the impression you create is professional.

Marketing Foundation tip 2: Clearly explain your proposition

One of the oldest and most valuable sayings in professional marketing is this:

“A confused mind always says NO.”

By default, if someone asks us to make a decision, especially one involving money, before we have all the information we need, we say NO. We either say no to whatever they ask or we say no to making the decision itself. This makes perfect sense. We’ve been told since childhood to look before we leap.

Very, very few people will take a leap into the unknown and buy from you or hire you, when they are still unclear about what exactly your proposition is. So, before you ask a prospective client or customer to make a decision, make sure you have given them the information they need. This marketing foundation is built by ensuring you have clearly explained your proposition and asked for questions, to get and give, total clarity.

Marketing Foundation tip 3: Earn their trust

People will not buy from us, hire us or recommend us, unless they trust us. In fact, trust is perhaps the most important element of our marketing foundations.

There are a couple of important things regarding trust, which we all need to be mindful of:

  1. Trust needs to be earned.
  2. Trust takes time to earn.

We live in a time where we can send a marketing email to 10000 people with a button press and have them arrive minutes later. We can send people a link to a special offer via a social network, which is almost instantly in front of our contacts. (Unless you use Facebook.) We can write a blog post, press the publish button and have it available to the world, immediately.

However, we can’t click a button and earn people’s trust. Here’s the thing: Unless we have already earned the trust of the people who receive those messages, they are extremely ineffective.

Earning trust takes time. We need to build it. Asking someone to hire us or buy from us, before we’ve earned their trust, simply doesn’t work. This is especially the case for those who sell services or higher priced products.

So, take every opportunity to earn the trust of your marketplace. There are many ways to do this. For instance, I work hard to earn the trust of my marketplace, by showing up regularly with useful blog posts. Anyone can check me out, simply by clicking the link on the sidebar of Jim’s Marketing Blog, where I link to every post I have written since 2008. This body of work shows I can be relied upon to turn up. It shows my ability to stick with a project. It also demonstrates my expertise. All of these help me to earn your trust… over time.

You can do the same with a simple (free) WordPress blog, newsletter, podcast, public speaking… whichever suits you best. Here are some other ideas for earning trust.

Build your marketing on solid foundations

In a nutshell, great marketing, which sells and gets noticed is built on solid Marketing Foundations. Asking for the sale or trying to encourage a prospective client to hire you, without these marketing foundations in place, will dramatically lower your conversion rates. If you think you’re saving money or time by ignoring them, you are making a potentially fatal marketing mistake.

How did a boring blog post get shared over 3000 times?

I was emailed today by a reader, who pointed me to a blog post she’d just seen. She noticed something VERY suspicious… an exploit was being used to trick the blog’s readers.

As a lot of people get taken in by this exploit, I thought I would answer her question here.

How a poorly written post got over 3000 shares on social networks

I am not going to call out the blogger my reader noticed, who was using this trick. It’s not my style. Also, it’s a common trick and I don’t want to single out one person for using it.

So, what did my reader see?

  • The post in question was published just 4 days ago.
  • It has over 3000 shares across the various social networks.
  • However, only 4 people commented on it.
  • It’s just a generic post, poorly written and littered with errors. Other posts on that blog are of the same quality and they also get thousands of re-shares.
  • The blog carries ads for get rich products and was not professionally designed. It’s extremely hard to read.
  • Yet… it got over 3000 shares.

To put that 3000 number into context, it was more shares than Copyblogger and Seth Godin’s blog managed, combined, with their posts on the same day! They are 2 of the most read marketing blogs in the world, with massive audiences.

Here’s how the trick works

The blogger in question is one of many, who has found a way to game the system by joining automated, social re-share networks. These are groups of Internet marketers, who use software / apps to automatically re-share everything that everyone in their network publishes. By joining a handful of such networks, with a few hundred in each, you get hundreds or thousands of reshares for anything you publish.

Why do they do this? Because it fools most people into thinking the blogger and their work are popular and valued. It’s all about the power of Social Proof.

Re-share networks and fake social proof

The number of shares a blog post gets on social networks is used by readers, as a way to assess the value of the content and the ability of the writer. They look at those huge numbers and assume the information in the blog post must be great (otherwise why would so many people share it?). The answer, of course, is that it wasn’t people who re-shared it… it was software!

Other’s then legitimately re-share the post, even if they think it’s crap, simply because they see it’s (apparently) so popular and assume they must be wrong.

As you probably know, you can buy Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Well, you can also pay for a series of automated Twitter and Facebook accounts to retweet and ‘like’ your posts. These are slightly different from re-share networks and even harder to spot. A simple search on Google shows just how common these services are.

With re-share numbers so valuable, it was only a matter of time before internet marketers figured out a way to game the system. Anyone can do it now. Some, like the blogger in question, have taken this to ridiculous lengths. Most join only a few, small re-share networks, to make it less obvious.

Trust your instincts or pay the price

The reader who contacted me, trusted her instincts. She knew that a dull blog post, on a cheap looking blog, with just 4 people commenting, does not get 3000 legitimate social network shares.

You too must use your instinct. Don’t automatically assume that you can trust information you read online, because it has a massive number of retweets, likes, pluses and pins etc. If something seems like bullshit, go with your gut.

In short: Before you trust a blogger or what they write, look beyond their social network numbers. Anyone can get hundreds of re-shares and the practice is spreading. Trust your instincts.

PS: Here are some tips on how to spot the fakes.

Are you making a noise or making a difference?

It’s easy to add to all the noise out there.

  • Pester people with special offers via social networks.
  • Invite people to your desperate sales video webinar.
  • Retweet that guru who has already been retweeted thousands of times.
  • Write predictable, “me too” blog posts.
  • Agree with whatever the popular opinion of the day is.

The thing is, no one is demanding more noise.

Training people to ignore you

You can’t benefit from the noise deficit, because there isn’t one. So, all the noise makers do is train people to ignore them. Sure, they may have followers, but no one is listening to them. They may have our email address, but their emails don’t get opened or acted on. If they stopped making their noise, we wouldn’t miss them at all.

The difference deficit

Where there is a deficit, is with people who are making a difference. These are the rare people we eagerly subscribe to. These are the people we look forward to hearing from. They add something of value to us and our business. They make a difference. A positive, meaningful difference.

Most importantly, these are the people we miss when they are not there.

And that’s also the best way to determine if your marketing is making a noise or making a difference. It’s a tough question to ask and answer, but would people miss your marketing if it stopped?

Tip: If you need to push your marketing because people are not spreading it, they probably wouldn’t miss it. If people spread the word for you, (send your newsletter to their friends, reshare your work, etc) … you’re making a difference.

Facebook Business Pages: Why your results just nosedived

As some of you may know, the new Facebook Business Page strategy was recently leaked. It has prompted an outcry from business owners.

Here’s why

A leaked slide deck shows that organic (unpaid) posts you share via your Facebook Business Page, will reach fewer and fewer people. As Advertising Age put it:

“If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it.” [Full article]

A number of you have asked me to share my thoughts, so here they are!

As long time readers will know, I dislike Facebook’s approach to the privacy of Facebook users and the way it tends to say one thing and do the other. However, from a business perspective it has one undeniable asset. It has well over a billion users. It’s by far the biggest social network, though Facebook recently admitted that the number of daily users is dropping.

How Facebook initially lured business owners

With such a huge network, Facebook found it easy to convince business owners to get a free, Business Page. Facebook offered the opportunity for businesses and brands to connect with their marketplace and provided lots of free tools. It seemed too good to be true.

So, business owners invested heavily in promoting their Facebook Pages in their marketing. Signs sprung up everywhere, with businesses and brands asking people to “find us on Facebook”.

Encouraged by so-called Facebook experts (who have zero advance warning of Facebook policy changes), many made the mistake of using their free Facebook Page, as their primary way to connect with their community.

Facebook then made a BIG change to the rules

In autumn 2012, Facebook was discovered to be doing something that would change things completely for Business Page users:

Facebook was found “[…] quietly altering one of its key algorithms in September, so that companies with pages that have large numbers of followers can now only reach a fraction of the followers they used to with each post.” Business Insider.

Suddenly, people who were asked to “Find us on Facebook”, couldn’t see what Facebook Business Page owners were posting!

Facebook denied any wrongdoing and said the move was intended to enhance the Facebook experience. Few people, including me, believed them. However, the facts remained the same. It meant that business owners, who had already invested heavily in getting ‘fans’ to their Facebook Business Pages, now had to pay in order to reach them all.

Facebook leak: Positioning Business Pages as paid advertising

Then in December 2013, an article on Advertising Age titled: Facebook Admits Organic Reach Is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads, shows Facebook’s intentions moving forward. As well as saying that fewer and fewer people will see what you post from your Business Page, the following excerpt caught my eye:

“The three-page document also contains a section that repositions how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. […]” Full article here.

The message here is that business owners need to stop thinking of Facebook Business Pages as a free way to connect with their marketplace. It isn’t. At best, it’s a way to connect, for free, with a decreasing fraction of the people who ‘like’ their Business Page.

Moving forward, Facebook Business Pages should be seen as a targeted form of paid advertising. In that context, it could be a useful advertising tool. However, business owners seeing it as a free marketing tool are in for a shock, as fewer and fewer people see what they post for free.

Facebook Business Pages shouldn’t be your online home

For years, I have advised people not to build their house on rented land. In other words, direct people to your blog or website. Use something YOU own as your online hub… your online home.

When you build your main community on Facebook (or any third party network), you lose control. THEY own the access you have, to YOUR community. As Facebook just demonstrated, they can and will change the rules and you get to pay the price.

My advice

My advice remains the same as it has always been:

  • Build your own home on the Internet. A place where you are in control. Where you make the rules. By far, a self-hosted blog is the best way to achieve this.
  • Build and own your community database (what Internet marketers call ‘your list’).
  • Produce either a newsletter or (as I have done) a blog that has an email subscription option. Thousands of people will read this message today, via email, because I decided to make Jim’s Marketing Blog my online hub… not Facebook.
  • Don’t be one of those business owners, who is sharing ideas, insights and observations on social networks every day, when your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. Feed your business blog or website… not Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter, Google+ and other social networks are not immune from the kind of stunt Facebook pulled. They are not. We don’t know what they have planned.

Consider Facebook Business Pages as a way to build a targeted, paid advertising channel. Increasingly, that’s exactly what it is becoming.

Most importantly, build your community on your own website or blog. Motivate your marketplace to subscribe to your newsletter or blog via email. This puts the development of your community (or list) and the ability to connect with them, 100% in YOUR hands.

15 Reasons to start blogging!

So, why bother blogging?

Here are just 15 reasons, why I recommend you add a business blog to your marketing mix:

  1. Blogging is the most powerful marketing tool I have ever seen, used or studied. Period.
  2. Considering all the benefits of blogging, the financial cost is tiny. A self-hosted WordPress site can cost less per week, than a latte at your local coffee shop.
  3. If you turn up and blog regularly, you will also show prospective clients that you are reliable. If you show up regularly for years, it shows you’re durable too. Think about that… before these people even speak with you, they will already know you’re reliable and durable. That’s a huge commercial advantage.
  4. Blogging makes you a better communicator. It causes you to think, really think, about your message. Through repeat practice, you learn how to get your message across with greater clarity too.
  5. New prospective clients will be able to discover you and your work, as your blog posts are all findable, via social networks and search engines. Think about it… hundreds, maybe thousands of prospective clients can find your work each day, at the exact point where they are looking for answers.
  6. If you like the idea of helping others, blogging is ideal. It allows you to reach and help people worldwide.
  7. Blogging gives you a wonderful creative outlet.
  8. There is no ceiling on what you can achieve from your blog. Blogs have changed hands for millions of dollars.
  9. … and many bloggers have gained a high profile within their profession, thanks to the success of their blogs.
  10. As a direct result of blogging you can meet amazing people and make a lot of great friends.
  11. To blog regularly with fresh ideas, you need to feed your mind with rich, mental protein. An active blogger is an active learner too.
  12. If you work hard enough, for long enough, you can become one of the most influential voices in your profession.
  13. If you are passionate about what you do, and you should be, your blog gives you a platform to share your passion.
  14. With thousands of people sharing content, for every one person creating content, useful blog posts can spread like crazy via social networks. There are millions of people on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, etc., eagerly looking for useful, interesting content to share with their friends.
  15. Blogging is also a lot of fun!

Something I’d like to share with you

I’ve never shared this with you before, so I hope you find it interesting.

When I started Jim’s Marketing Blog, my goal was to help a million small business owners. After I achieved a million unique visitors, I needed a new goal. I decided to help as many small business owners as I could.

The challenge with that goal, is that it was too ambiguous. You can’t measure how close you are to a number that doesn’t exist.

So, last month I decided to set another numeric goal. An inspiring goal. A motivating goal.

The 25 million

I decided that I want to help 25 million small business owners and freelancers. I want to provide them with free marketing and business development ideas and advice.

I especially want to provide free help to those who are unable to afford the expert marketing assistance they need.

25 million is a big number. It’s an exciting number too. It’s also a number I will need a little help with.

As I don’t bother much with SEO (it bores me and I refuse to write like a robot), I have always relied on readers who find my work useful, sharing it with their friends. You have been massively more effective than any search engine, at helping me to help more people.

I just wanted to give you the inside story on what inspires me… as I figure out how on earth I’m going to help 25 millions small business owners,

If you want to help, carry on sharing anything you find interesting here.

I’d also like to thank you if you’re already linking to the blog or sharing it with your friends. Between us, I believe 25 million is absolutely achievable.

So, now you know why I write an ad free blog, with no affiliate links, which costs me thousands each month to produce.

How to make your business more human and far more successful too

Whether you sell B2B or B2C you’re ALWAYS selling P2P (person to person).

It’s extremely important to remember that.


Because people will only listen to you, if you have something valuable to share with them, which matters to them. And no… a vague, poorly targeted marketing message is not going to work.

Here’s what we know

The more focused your marketing messages are, the more effective they will be and the more business they will generate for you.

  • A focused marketing message speaks directly to the reader (viewer or listener), in a language they understand. It connects with them at a far deeper level than a poorly targeted message.
  • A focused marketing message makes the reader feel as if you knew exactly what they needed. This makes you relevant to them, which is extremely powerful.
  • A focused marketing message captures the reader’s attention. This is of huge value to you today, when people’s attention has never been so scattered.
  • A focused marketing message has the power to motivate people to take action… to buy from you, call you, email you or visit you.

In short, a focused marketing message has the power to inspire and compel people in a way that vague messages can’t.

Review your written marketing

Look for opportunities to make it more focused, so that it’s only relevant to your ideal profile of client. Be less inclusive. Talk directly to them.

Business is all about people and people really notice, when you’re speaking directly to them, in their language, about what matters to them!

PS: Here’s some advice on how to build a successful business, using a more human approach.

Content Marketing: Is your design killing your content?

The primary design task of any newsletter, website or blog, is to ensure the content is as readable as possible. The design should work like a picture frame and enhance, not hide, your work.

content marketing design

I was on a site earlier, where the design was so loud and busy, that it was hard to find the actual content. When trying to read the content, the rest of the site was so distracting that I left after just 30 seconds or so.

Most newsletters are just as bad. Instead of focusing on the message, they’re packed with distractions. Lots of different font sizes, colours, options, boxes and buttons — all getting in the way and breaking the reading experience. As a result, their actual content gets very little attention… and the newsletter providers wonder why their readership isn’t growing.

The poor readability epidemic

Unreadable design is such a huge problem now, that there are apps that try to combat it. Readability is maybe the best known.

Take a look at the design you use for your newsletter, website and / or blog. If the content is playing second fiddle to the design, change the design. After all, it’s your content that people come to you for and your content, which builds your relationship with your readers.

A quick tip: Clear, big fonts and lots of white space work better than almost anything, when it comes to making your content stand out.

Uncovering your unique voice

get noticed, stand out, attraction

I get a lot of email, from business owners who want to uncover their unique voice. In most cases, they are seeking to improve the quality of their newsletters, blog posts or articles.

They note that most material in every niche seems to be extremely similar — with just a few people writing anything fresh or original.

I have a theory about why this happens and how to avoid it.

My theory

I believe it’s linked to the mass consumption of the same kind of inputs. It looks like this:

We have known for years that if you watch TV, just like the masses, you’re likely to start thinking, just like the masses.

My theory is that the same is true of writers within a niche, who read the same popular books, magazines and blogs. By consuming the same inputs, they work from the same information base. This results in them adopting and sharing very similar ideas. It can also result in very similar writing styles.

Thinking differently

As I said earlier, this is only a theory. However, it’s based on years of study and observation. I am yet to find a unique voice in any field, who feeds her mind with the same mass market material as her peers.

In short: To think differently, we need to feed our mind differently.

PS: You may find this useful. My name is Jim Connolly and I am a freak!

Is that ladder you’re climbing leaning against the wrong wall?

After 3 years of hard work, she achieved it.

Yet, she wasn’t happy.

I was emailed last week, by someone whose primary goal for her blog was to get a minimum of 1000 visitors a day, for 30 consecutive days. She achieved this goal after years of hard work, writing content and marketing her blog.

Why so unhappy?

She reached her traffic milestone and realised that she wasn’t in the traffic business. She owns a translations business. What she needs is for her site to generate regular, high quality leads and inquiries for her business, which it is failing to do. Instead, she is attracting zero value, drive-by traffic from Google and social networks.

It’s easy to get seduced by the wrong numbers — especially online. Before you invest years of your time working hard to achieve a marketing goal, make sure it’s a goal that is in line with your overall business objectives.

Otherwise you risk wasting years climbing a very long ladder, which is leaning against the wrong wall.