Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Category: Blogging (page 7 of 38)

A hope, a promise and a wish

clock face

A new day. A new year. A clean canvas.

My hope for you

I hope that you use the first day of January, as an opportunity to take stock, make some plans and launch your best year ever. You can make real, measurable progress in the days, weeks and months ahead.

My promise to you

I promise to be here for you. I promise to show up regularly and share marketing and business development ideas. If you really want to see amazing results, I’m here for you to hire, either for a one-off session or a whole year.

My wish for you

My wish is that you have a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013.

Here’s to your success!

Photo: zoutedrop

A human approach to the success of your business

A great piece of advice for the year ahead, is to stop looking for success in the mechanics of what you do.

It isn’t there!

Robot

Allow me to explain

For example, a dummies guide to blogging will tell you the mechanics of writing, publishing and distributing blog posts.

However, successful blogging comes from outside the mechanics.

  • Success comes from breaking many of the golden rules of blogging, so you don’t look just like everyone else.
  • Success comes from digging deep, to come up with posts that your readers will value.
  • Success comes from showing up very regularly, no matter how busy you are, no matter what’s going on in your life and no matter how you feel.
  • Success comes from having the courage to tell it your way, knowing you risk being challenged or attacked.

You can learn the mechanics anywhere. The bookshelves are packed with step by step guides to doing just about anything.

The human element is where our success is determined. It’s our passion, commitment, work ethic, motivation, creativity, values and courage, which set the ceiling on our potential.

 Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: David DeHetre

6 Powerful business tips from William Arthur Ward (Not Ernest Hemingway as misquoted)

Most of the problems business owners find themselves in can be avoided, if they follow these 6 tips from Ernest Hemingway William Arthur Ward.

“Before you act, listen.
Before you react, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.”

~ William Arthur Ward

Before you act, listen

It’s tempting for entrepreneurs to get an idea and then take action, without first listening or getting feedback. That initial burst of excitement and the motivation it brings, means it’s all too easy to set off full speed – then get caught in a speed trap! Starting any project of value without doing the research required results in wasted time, wasted money and total frustration.

Remember: Ready, Aim, Fire – not Ready, Fire, Aim.

Before you react, think

One of the best ways to guarantee you make bad decisions, is to react before you have taken time to think the situation through.

I spoke once with a small business owner, who lost her biggest client because she reacted to an email from her client before pausing to think. The email seemed to be attacking the quality of her work and as an artist, she was extremely hurt. She replied quickly with an angry email, which attacked her client’s taste. The client then replied the following day, to say they had closed their account. It turned out that the client’s email was intended to be humorous. The small business owner only realised she had made a huge mistake, after showing it to her partner who immediately spotted the joke. She lost 60% of her turnover by reacting without due thought.

Before you spend, earn

Earning before you spend takes a lot of discipline. We live in a society that promotes the idea of instant gratification. Just put your credit card details into the box and Amazon (or whoever) will deliver that (whatever) to your door the next day. If you can avoid credit, do. Make your money work for you, not the credit card or loan companies. No, it isn’t easy. However, it is possible.

Before you criticize, wait

Criticism can be painful, so it pays to wait before you criticise. Life is too short to spend it upsetting people. Think for a moment about what you hope to achieve by criticising that person.

Offering a critique when asked by someone who respects your opinion, is very different from picking holes in someone who didn’t ask for your opinion. If you have to be critical about someone or their work, at least provide some helpful answers. Then ask why you needed to be critical of them and what you truly hoped to achieve. Try and ask yourself that question before criticising them.

Before you pray, forgive

It’s hard to move on with your life, unless you are prepared to forgive. I was recently left with a bill for thousands of dollars, because someone failed to deliver on a commitment they made to me and then walked away, leaving me to literally pay the price. However, I made sure to forgive the person immediately. In fact, I wish them nothing but happiness. I have not forgotten what they did to me, because if I did I wouldn’t have been able to learn from it. However, it’s pointless to hold bitterness toward people. As Buddy Hackett said: ‘While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing’.

Look for the learning. Use it as a lesson. Don’t let it happen again. Move on.

Before you quit, try

In my experience, people tend to quit too soon. For example, there are millions of blogs out there, which were abandoned after the blogger wrote a couple of dozen posts. Before these blogs had the chance to become massively valuable assets, the blogger decided it wasn’t working and quit. Instead of starting with a commitment to write regularly for at least a year before quitting, they became disheartened and gave up. They set it up so that it was impossible for them to succeed, by quitting unreasonably early.

If you are going to try something, really try. Make a commitment based on realistic data – then stick to it. This will cause your success rate and your self belief to soar like a rocket!

 Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

The quote this post was based on, was originally attributed to Hemingway. The correct attribution has now been applied and I’d like to thank Peter, a reader who kindly pointed out the error.

My increased commitment to you in 2013

Like most people, I’m thinking about the year ahead right now. Here are some of my thoughts for the direction of Jim’s Marketing Blog in 2013.

Before looking ahead, I’d like to share a couple of things from 2012

Earlier this year, Jim’s Marketing Blog was rated the most influential marketing blog in the UK and the second most influential business blog over all, in Eloqua’s UK Blog Tree. The blog also grew faster in 2012 than any year since 2008, in both visitor numbers and subscribers. I want to send a HUGE thank you to every reader, who has shared this blog with their friends and helped me reach more people, with free marketing ideas.

My email experiment is here to stay

I made the decision in October 2012, to add my email details to every page of the blog. I decided to test it for a month, to see how people would use it. A lot of people warned me not to do it, saying I would get flooded by spam emails. Thankfully, I can report that this never happened. Instead, it opened an intimate channel of communication with every reader, allowing them to connect with me directly. Many people have told me that they find it a lot more useful than leaving a comment on the blog.

Solutions to my huge blog comment spam challenges

Blog commenting has changed massively since 2008, with the vast majority (often 90% or more) of my comments now coming via social networks and email. People know I reply to every message I receive on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, so if they see me there, that’s where they comment. It’s faster and easier for them, than leaving their social network to login here and comment.

I wrote earlier in the year about a huge problem I have had with comment spam – automatically generated messages, sent to blogs in order to build links or attract ‘traffic’ from the victim’s blog. I was receiving over 2,000 spam comments a day. A small percentage made it past the filters, generating hundreds of fake notifications a week, telling me there was ‘a comment awaiting moderation’ on the blog. This made it hard to keep up with legitimate comments.

I thought I had found a solution, with a plugin that almost eliminated spam comments from ever reaching the blog. Sadly, the plugin also stops too many genuine comments from getting through. This has simply swapped one set of time consuming comment problems for another, as readers now email me to ask if I can find and publish their comment.

As all my readers have at least one social media account, I’m considering using social networks exclusively, for commenting next year. Dealing with comment spam has been just too time consuming and distracting. I dislike using 3rd party commenting systems, finding them often slow and unreliable when I see them on other sites.

The democratising of comments through social networks seems a logical, fair way to remove the issue and allow me more time to actually write for you. It also creates accountability, as comments can not be made anonymously.

More free tips and ideas for you in 2013

This year more than ever, has proven to me that people value the free information I provide here. I get over 100 emails every day from small business owners, many of which are telling me how the ideas I share have become an essential resource for their business.

As you can imagine, I invest a lot of my time developing the content you find here. I have written every post on this blog and shared thousands of ideas, since I started in 2008. As well as writing content for you, I also spend lots of time every day dealing with emails and messages from readers. Although the wonderful people at WebFusion sponsor my hosting, I pick up the bill for everything else. For example, I work with fewer paying clients each year in order to have enough time to offer as much free information to my readers as possible. This costs me thousands every year in lost income and I have happily covered the cost since 2008.

In 2013, I plan to spend even more of my time helping my readers with free marketing and business development advice. To do this, I need to cover the cost of more of my time. I am currently looking at either introducing more sponsor opportunities or becoming an affiliate for some of the products and services I already use and recommend to people. Currently, just one of the products I use has an affiliate program, so sponsorship looks favourite rite now.

A year of opportunity

I believe that 2013 will be a year of opportunity. As the economies of most countries continue to struggle, people will think a lot harder before hiring a service provider or buying a product. When times are great and people feel financially secure, they think less about the impact of a bad purchasing decision. Today, they think long and hard! This means the small business owners who develop their marketing most effectively, will gain a disproportionately large share of their market.

Rest assured that I will be here for you throughout 2013, to help you become one of the small businesses that thrives. Moreover, I plan to be of greater service to you in 2013 than ever before.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

9 Amazing free resources to help you grow your business and feed your mind

Right now, you have access to an Aladdin’s Cave of freely available marketing, business development and professional development tools. In today’s post, I am going to share just 9 of them with you.

Free marketing and educational resources

Here are my 9 free resources. Remember to add yours at the end:

  1. Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, will give you a blog for free and host it for free, too. Many of the world’s top blogs started off on this free platform and some have stayed with the free version of the service. I started this blog off using the free version of WordPress and today, around 60,000 people get updated when I publish each new post.
  2. The people at TED have made thousands of educational and inspirational videos available to you, for free.
  3. Microsoft offer you Skype for free, so you can easily collaborate with colleagues or clients via speech or video conferencing. So long as they have downloaded Skype, you can now work with people, with no geographic limitations and it won’t cost you a penny.
  4. Twitter, Google+ and Facebook welcome you to use their services for free and Linkedin offers a useful, free version of their service too. Years ago, you paid an organisation to attend physical networking events, and lost a huge chunk of your day travelling to the events, attending the events and getting back from the events. You were lucky if 100 people attended and even luckier if you made regular, meaningful contacts. Now you can network with thousands of people anywhere in the world, for nothing more than the time you’re prepared to invest.
  5. Seth Godin digs deep to come up with something useful to say, via his daily blog posts. These are essential reading.
  6. Christopher Penn and John Wall turn up on an almost weekly basis, to share ideas and opinions on the world of marketing, in their Marketing Over Coffee podcast. I reviewed it here.
  7. You can now give your online and offline marketing photos and images more impact, with free image editing software. I use picmonkey.
  8. It has never been easier to capture ideas than it is today. If you use a smartphone, Evernote provides an extremely useful free version of their service, which allows you to collect ideas, sounds, images, webpages and more – and then work with them.
  9. If you have a website or blog, you need to measure what’s happening on the site and by far the most popular tool for this, is Google Analytics. Google Analytics lets you track everything, from how many visitors your site receives and what your most popular pages are, to what words people use when looking for you on a search engine and what type of devices they use to access your site. This free package offers far too many features to mention here and is extremely useful, especially if you do not already have any analytics software.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

How to show people your achievements and create a powerful impact!

No one likes people who are boastful. Little wonder then, that so many small business owners feel uncomfortable when showcasing their achievements. However, unless we learn how to show the marketplace what we have accomplished and when we are capable of, we will place a very low ceiling on our success.

In my experience, the best way to overcome a tendency to sell ourselves short, is to focus on honesty, context and proof.

Honesty and context

By being honest about what you have done and explaining your achievements or accolades in context, you shift your focus from being boastful to being truthful.

Context is really important too. If you simply list a ton of achievements every time you connect with someone, you will look like an ass. However, if you list them in the right places, such as the about page of your website, people will actually be looking for them. You will simply be offering people the information they need. If they are reading your about page, they are checking you out – they want to know about you.

Where’s the proof?

Anyone can claim to have achieved anything. As a result, many people lie like crazy about their achievements. So, it’s understandable that our prospective clients or customers want some proof, to back up our claims.

For example:

  • If you tell people you have been a content marketer for 5 years, link to something that backs that up; such as some old blog posts. You can also do as Seth Godin does and have your archive on the sidebar of your blog. Seth’s shows he was blogging in 2002.
  • If you claim in your marketing material that you have a famous client, get permission from the person to use their name and if possible, get a photo of you together, too. Otherwise, don’t expect people to automatically believe you.
  • If you tell people your work was featured in a well known newspaper, provide a link to the article. If you mention it in your offline marketing, use a scan of the coverage.
  • If you tell people you won a prestigious award, provide a link back to the announcement on the award website.

In other words, if you want your achievements to be seen as truthful you should show some proof. Yes, I know you’re honest, you know you’re honest, but a prospective client who doesn’t know you yet, who’s reading your marketing material for the first time, would like some proof.

For instance:

  • On the about page of Jim’s Marketing Blog, I mention that I write for The Microsoft Small Business Blog. I then link to one of my articles, which is on the Microsoft blog and checkable.
  • I do the same with a link to The Guardian newspaper, when they wrote about my listing on The UK Blog Tree as the UK’s most influential marketing blogger and the 2nd most influential business blogger.

Getting the balance right

Those and other achievements are only on my about page, so they are in context. If I listed them everywhere, they would be out of context. Just mentioning them here as an example, will sound boastful to some. That’s how important context is and how careful we have to be, to get the balance right.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Social media smoke blowers: How to stop them hurting your business

I recently wrote a post asking you what your main marketing challenges were, so I could cover them in future posts.

One of the most common questions, was to do with the ocean of information being offered online, by people claiming to be social media experts. Today’s post is all about how to tell those with genuinely useful information, from the fakes.

Social media smoke blowers

It’s extremely easy for someone with little social media skill, to pretend they are a social media expert. All they need is a blog, a photo of them in front of a screen (looking ‘dynamic’ and preferably wearing a headset) and a few social networking tricks.

Here is a selection of what I have personally experienced from some smoke blowers:

  • I was emailed by the author of a book on how to make money on Facebook, who didn’t know what to do as he’d sold fewer than 100 copies. This social media marketing expert had no idea how to market his book, via social media or anything else.
  • I was called by a social media trainer, who is well known on the speaking circuit. He wanted to know if I had any work I could give him. This guy specialises in telling people how to attract high quality sales leads.
  • I was emailed by a blogger, author and speaker, who wanted to know if I could get her a free version of my blog theme. I explained that it only cost $60 and she told me that times were tough. This same person is selling online courses and ebooks on how to grow a successful business. She offered to repay me, with retweets!

So, how do you tell the genuinely informed experts from the rest, when you are new to social media and seeking to use it effectively for your business?

Protecting yourself from smoke blowers

I believe the best way to protect yourself from taking bad advice is to do a little research first, then apply some common sense.

For example:

  • If the only testimonials they offer are from others, with similar Pinocchio business models, be very cautious. (A Pinocchio business is one, with no visible means of support.)
  • Always remember that the rules of business apply online, just as they do offline.
  • Don’t let their numbers fool you. 100,000 Twitter followers means nothing. You can buy followers. You can buy software to build massive follower numbers. You can just randomly follow thousands of people, get a subset to follow you back, unfollow them all – then repeat until you have a huge following. If someone seems to lack credibility or you think they are promising impossible results, don’t let their social numbers fool you into ignoring your instinct!
  • Someone claiming to be a social media author or radio host/personality, still needs to be checked out:
    • Thanks to self publishing, my 7 year old son can claim to be an author.
    • Oh, and thanks to free services like blogtalk radio, he can claim to be a radio ‘personality’ too.
    • In both cases he would be telling the truth, but it would have nothing to do with his ability to help you improve your social media results!
  • If it seems too good to be true, it almost always is (yes, even on the Internet).

Consider the source

Always check the source of information before you act on it. Never let easy to fake social media numbers or lofty titles fool you into taking damaging advice or get you to part with your money. Not every social media expert or social networking ‘superstar’ is a fake. Some offer useful information, which makes commercial sense and offers a logical return on your investment.

Just be extremely careful of those promising amazing results, with no logical business path.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Pete Page

Your answer to this question, will tell you in advance how 2013 will look for your business!

The opportunities in front of you today are amazing.

You have the tools to:

  • Get a targeted message in front of your ideal profile of client, in seconds, with their full permission.
  • Create a blog, which will allow you to build a massively valuable community around your business, with limitless potential.
  • Build and nurture a targeted network of wonderful people, who you can connect with daily through social networks.
  • Develop a newsletter and grow an extraordinarily valuable reader community, which grows in value every single day.
  • Increase the conversion rates of all your marketing and sales activities.
  • Attract more word of mouth referrals in a week, than used to be possible in a year.

What are you going to do with it?

The big question right now, is; what are you going to do with all that potential?

The final weeks of 2012 offer you an amazing opportunity, to lay the foundations of what could be your best year ever in 2013.

Take some time today to look at the elements of your marketing that are under performing. Write them down. Include everything that is not generating the results you need. Each item on that list needs to either be improved or replaced with something that works.

Cause and effect

What you can’t afford to do, is go into 2013 with the same strategy and tactics as 2012, and expect to see different results. The law of cause and effect tells us that to get the right effects (results) we need to put the right causes (actions) into play. The same old approach will result in the same old outcome.

Thankfully, you can set the right strategy in place whenever you make the decision to. The challenge, is making that decision. It takes courage. It means being one of the few, who is prepared to do what’s required, rather than what’s easy. Once you have the courage to take control, all the help and information you need is there, waiting.

If you are ready to take control, I’ve got you covered.

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