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.

How to make your content marketing more compelling

content marketing r

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.

If only they knew how amazing your business is

marketing topics r

Small business owners lose out on sales or new clients all the time, because of a common and costly marketing mistake. In today’s post, I want to show you how to stop this error from hurting your business.

A common and costly problem

Think about it:

  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would have more great clients.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would be able to charge what you are worth.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would escape the feast and famine cycle.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you could look to the future with confidence.

The challenge here is that in the vast majority of cases, small business owners are lousy at getting that message across. You need to avoid making the same mistake.

Here’s a great place to start.

It’s time to get specific

Explain what makes your business stand out. Highlight the benefits of working with you, rather than an ‘average quality’ alternative provider. Showcase your unique strengths.

General marketing claims like, “we try harder”, “we go the extra mile” and “our service is second to none”, don’t work. Everyone makes those generic promises. By repeating similar claims, your message gets lost in an ocean of predictable marketing.

If you want your marketplace to know how truly superb your business is, you need to transition from generic — to specific. A powerful way to do this is to provide supporting information for your claims. Show them, specifically, what makes your business a better proposition for them.

For example, almost every business claims to offer great customer service. You can rise above the noise and get noticed, by showing prospective clients how you invest in customer service training. You can show them the additional opening hours you provide. If you have customer service awards, showcase them in your marketing.

When people finally see just how amazing your business is, you will find you attract the best clients, the best fees and the most rewarding projects.

The best kept secret

You don’t want to be the best kept secret in your industry. It’s frustrating to know you are better than other providers, who are more commercially successful then you. This is why you need your marketplace to know who you are AND that hiring you or buying from you makes perfect sense.

This is a function of marketing… effective marketing, to be exact. It’s about knowing who your ideal client or customer is and then crafting a powerful message, which you motivate them to read or listen to.

If you make that message [or story] remarkable enough, they will tell their friends about you too.

Tip: You may find this useful: Be the first. Be the best. Be remarkable.

How to stop stalling and do your best work

wait waiting

No, it doesn’t really matter what brand of computer you choose to work with. The same is true of the software you use. Leonardo da Vinci changed the world, writing with a quill.

No, it doesn’t really matter how you plan what you write. Best-selling author John Boyne, like many, doesn’t plan at all. He doesn’t even know where the story is going, until after he starts writing it.

No, it doesn’t really matter how inspired you feel. You don’t wait for inspiration to appear… you command it to appear.

What matters

What matters is that you get started. So learn to identify your stalling tactics. Then, call them out for what they are.

Now you’re free to focus on doing your best work.

Email marketing: How to massively improve your results

email

Email marketing is extremely effective. So why do almost all small businesses get such uninspiring results from it?

That’s what this post is all about!

Email marketing: Free and easy?

The cost of marketing has changed massively over the years.

For small business owners, the cost of sending a marketing letter [direct mail] to just 1000 prospective customers was considerable. There was the price of the stamp, the printing, the ink and the paper. Then, you paid someone to fold all the letters and stuff them into the envelopes.

Today, sending a marketing email to 1000 prospects [or 100,000 prospects] takes seconds. There’s no paper, no ink, no envelopes, no envelope stuffing and no stamps.

The cost of email marketing is close to zero. Except… it isn’t. You now risk paying a different, far higher price!

Allow me to explain.

Different prices and different thinking

In 1995, my London-based marketing business was paying around £1000 to reach 1000 prospective customers via traditional mail. I used high quality stationery and printing, but that was still quite an investment.

Before spending that kind of money, small business owners used to think long and hard.

  • They made sure they were contacting people with a potential need for their offering.
  • They checked that the contact name and address were correct.
  • They used to work hard to optimize their copy or content. It needed to be just right.
  • They removed prospective customers from their list, if they failed to get a response after a set number of interactions. [Unlike now, where the person receiving spam email has to ask to be removed!]

Now think for a moment about the poorly targeted emails that flood your inbox.

It’s clear that way less thought goes into them. The vast majority are junk and totally irrelevant to you or your needs. You regard those who send these unwanted emails as pests.

And this is where the cost comes in for email marketers in 2015!

Reputation points: The price you pay for average email marketing

Every time you send a poorly conceived email marketing message to someone, you pay a price.

However, unlike before, the cost to you isn’t directly monetary. You pay with something even more valuable. You pay with your reputation. You pay using the currency of reputation points.

For example, when you decide to add someone’s name to your list without their consent, you lose reputation points. When you email people too often, you lose reputation points. When your message is pushy or needy, you lose reputation points. When your offer is irrelevant to the recipient, you lose reputation points.

Business owners who service a regional marketplace can soon find their name and reputation seriously damaged. They can only alienate their marketplace so many times, before people get sick of them.

The solution

It starts by accepting that email marketing isn’t free or easy. There is a hefty price to pay for a casual approach — both in reputation damage and lost opportunities.

So, get permission to email prospective customers. Then send them targeted, expertly written, relevant information. Do this only as frequently as they need it to be.

It works. Here’s how I helped Irene make over $32,000 in 9 days, with email marketing.

3 Ways to attract more sales leads or client enquiries

three 3 3

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.

4 Powerful words that attract clients like a magnet

4 four

I have an idea to share with you today, which is one of the most powerful I have covered on Jim’s Marketing Blog. If you want to attract more clients, I’m sure you’ll find it extremely useful.

Allow me to explain.

When I speak with a new client or prospective client, I have a 4 word phrase that always captures their attention.

It’s simply this: “Bring me your problems”.

Bring me your problems

The moment a small business owner hears those words, I can almost feel the stress leave their body. Many have wrestled with their business development problems for years. Now, they have help from a renowned business development expert.

They’re no longer guessing. They’re no longer alone. I’m there to solve their marketing and business development problems.

Your business can do the same

If you’re a service provider, you are a professional problem solver. This is true regardless of the kind of services you offer. With that in mind, I have a question for you.

Do you clearly ask your clients [and prospective clients] to bring you their problems?

It’s hard to overstate how powerful those 4 words are and how attractive they are. Why? Because it’s what everyone wants to hear. No one wants to struggle with a problem, so asking them to bring you their problem is providing exactly what they want AND what they need.

Think about that for a moment. Next, figure out how to incorporate that message into your marketing.

Bloggers: How to be an overnight success

blogging, grow blog, tips, readers

My wife’s blog has become an overnight success. Here’s how she did it.

Sharon started her blog around 12 weeks ago. Her first post was read by over 2000 people. Thousands of people now read her work every week. Not bad, especially as it’s her first ever attempt at blogging. It’s worth mentioning that Sharon hasn’t paid for advertising, hasn’t done any kind of SEO or asked anyone [including me] to share her posts or link to them.

So, what’s the secret of her success?

Before my wife published her first post, she had already built an audience for her blog. She is the admin of a history group on Facebook. Sharon spent time connecting with like-minded people, answering their questions and sharing ideas.

By the time she published her first blog post, there was a community of people who were interested. They already knew who she was and that she’s an expert in her field.

Compare that to what most business owners do, when they start blogging.

  • They write a post.
  • They share their post on their main social networks.
  • However, because they haven’t built a community of people around their work, very few people take notice.
  • They decide to publish some more posts and hope things will improve.
  • Fast forward 3 months… they still have very few readers.
  • So, they try some tricks they find on blogging websites. [They don’t understand that this is the perfect way to ensure your blog remains invisible.]
  • Eventually, they assume that blogging is a waste of time.

Here’s the thing: If you want to build a successful blog, you need to build a community.

You need to find a way, like Sharon did, to connect with your target audience. It takes time. It takes effort. But that’s why she already has thousands of readers. It’s why her 12 week old blog has a bigger daily readership than the massive majority of established, small business blogs. BTW: It’s the same approach I used to build Jim’s Marketing Blog, though I used Twitter rather than Facebook.

Great blog posts alone are not enough

Writing great blog posts is just part of building a successful blog. Without investing the time required to build a reader community, a blog will remain largely invisible.

Important: You build a community by connecting with people in your target group. Join in the conversations. Answer questions. Communicate. Notice something there? None of those are achievable through automation software. Broadcasting quotes and spraying links via your social networks is easy, but very ineffective when it comes to building human connections.

How long does it take to do it correctly?

Some of my clients have achieved measurable success within 3 months. Others have taken a whole year. Is it worth it? Well, over 80,000 people will get notified when I publish this post today.

What would it be worth to you and your business, if you were able to reach a growing targeted audience of thousands of potential customers every week… without paying for advertising? Think about that for a moment.

If you decide its worth the investment, find out how to do it correctly and get moving!

Social Business: Before you publish, press pause!

online reputation

I want you to think about the following for a moment:

  • The last tweet you sent.
  • The last blog post you published.
  • The last marketing email you sent.
  • The last Facebook status update you posted.

First impressions count

Each of those actions could easily be someone’s first exposure to you or your business. If so, it will help form their first impression of you. First impressions count… even if they are inaccurate. First impressions count, even if you are having a bad day.

First impressions count, because if you screw it up, you don’t usually get a second chance!

Hit pause… and think

It pays to pause for a few moments before you publish anything. Think about the impression you are creating. Never underestimate the impact of an angry tweet, a needy Linkedin request or a spammy Facebook update, etc. Once it’s published, it’s out there. It’s in play. It’s carrying your name. It’s carrying your reputation.

Today, prospective clients habitually research us via search engines and our social networking accounts, before contacting us. Thankfully, we have total freedom over what we choose to say and the way we choose to act online.

Which is just as well… as our online actions leave a trail that is discoverable in minutes, by everyone who checks us out.

How to avoid an expensive copywriting mistake

content marketing r

After reading Tuesday’s post, Amanda emailed me with a great question.

Here’s an excerpt:

[…] “I often see you recommending the use of professional copy writers.  This can cost a few hundred dollars and maybe more. I guess my question is when is it worth investing in a pro rather than write your own stuff?”

3 Situations where you should hire a copywriting expert

The best answer to that question I know, came from something I heard at a marketing meeting a few years ago. It makes the point extremely well. Here are 3 situations where it pays to get expert copywriting.

  1. If you are going to invest $20,000 on an advertisement, it’s worth investing a few hundred on expert copywriting.
  2. If you’re going to invest $2,000 on a new website, it’s worth investing a few hundred on expert copywriting.
  3. If you’re investing $50 on an adwords campaign, it’s also worth investing a few hundred on expert copywriting. If the ad copy works, it will repay you… every time you run the ad.

In a nutshell, the time to invest in expert copywriting, is whenever you want your written marketing to work.