How to get more done in less time AND improve your thinking!

Pro development topics r

Many people ask me how I manage to run a busy marketing business and still produce so much creative content every day.

So, here’s my secret!

My secret

I figured out a long time ago that there is never enough time to do everything.

However, I also discovered that you can always find time to do the important stuff, so long as you decide to stop reacting to the unimportant stuff.

Please allow me to explain.

Reacting or acting?

  • You can start the day by checking your email inbox and reacting to what you find. Alternatively, you can start your day by listing what’s most important and getting started on that – then opening your email.
  • You can react every time your phone alerts you to a text message. Alternatively, you can finish what needs finishing and then read any messages you’ve received.
  • You can react every time you see a social networking notification. Alternatively, you can wait until you’ve stopped for a coffee etc, then use that time to check your notifications.

Never miss the important and urgent

Tell your family, friends and clients that if they need to contact you for something that is both important and urgent, to call you. Then, if your phone goes and you can see it’s one of them calling, you know it needs answering. Otherwise, unless you are a fire-fighter, plumber, midwife etc, people will not expect you to respond instantly.

This gives you the freedom to regain control over your time, your focus and your output… without worrying that you have missed something that’s both important and urgent.

Regaining your time and your focus

One of the reasons small business owners find it such a challenge to get important things done, is that the distractions they react to, cause them to lose focus. This is especially the case, when they need to do something creative.

Here’s the thing: It’s extremely hard to focus on something that requires your creativity, when you allow yourself to be distracted and your focus to be scattered.

For example, if you want to write a newsletter article first thing tomorrow morning, but you decide to read your emails first, instead of focusing on your article, you will find your focus scattered between the article and all the questions and demands from your inbox.

By writing the article and then dealing with your emails, you can focus 100% on the article. You end up with a better article and then get to invest all your focus, on dealing with your emails.

Getting through the day or from the day?

Most small business owners are happy to just get through the day. However, the most successful business owners take a different approach. They get from the day. They start their day with a list of important objectives and then determine to master their time and their focus, so the important things are always taken care of, with their full attention, in reasonable time.

We all have 24 hours available to us each day. It’s what we do with our time, which makes all the difference.

The secret behind Jim’s Marketing Blog

Jims marketing blog

It’s been a great year for Jim’s Marketing Blog. It achieved it’s largest ever annual readership growth and was quoted in even more newspapers and respected websites. It also saw Search Engine Journal, rank it as their top UK marketing blog:

“There may be another blog in the UK that could top Jim Connolly’s impressive resume – but we weren’t able to find one!”

Search Engine Journal

Now I’d like to share what I believe to be a key factor, which has given me a massive advantage over other blogs.

My secret sauce!

The single most common feedback I get about Jim’s Marketing Blog, is from readers who appreciate the brevity of my work. They value me using as few words as possible when I share ideas. It means they can read every word, rather than skim read.

However, although readers love short, information-rich posts and articles, they are very rare. I believe this has given me a huge advantage over the years.

Here are the 3 main reasons why so many blog posts are way too long.

1. Lots of bloggers write for SEO first

Google’s extremely limited algorithm isn’t smart enough to work with short blog posts. So, if you’re all about getting traffic rather than engaging readers, you need between 500 and 2000 words in your posts. This number depends on which SEO expert you listen to. It also depends on what Google is rewarding currently. A key challenge of writing for Google is that they change things all the time. What works today could hurt you tomorrow.

I’ve already written about the danger of writing primarily for search engines. I recommend you read this: Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!

SEO is a valuable part of building a blog or website, especially in the early days when few people are sharing your work. But get the balance right. Write for people first. Otherwise, search engine traffic will arrive on your site, find a wordy, keyword-stuffed piece of crap and leave again!

2. It takes more skill to write with brevity

It takes longer to condense an idea into fewer words. It’s a skill you need to develop. I learned it back in the mid 1980’s, studying the legendary David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy famously said: “Don’t say it in 10 words if you can say it in 5.”

In broad terms, it’s twice as easy to write a 1000 word post on a topic, as it is to write a 500 word post. When you have fewer words to work with, there’s no room for waffle. No space for fluff. This means you end up with information rich content, which is far more valuable to the reader.

It’s important to remember that your readers are busy people. They’ve never had so many things calling for their attention. They want the key information and quickly. If you can provide them with what they need, without the waffle words, they will come back for more… and more.

3. It takes courage

It takes more courage to write short articles and posts than it does to write long ones.

Why?

Because with shorter content, you can’t possibly cover every angle. You can’t make every point. You can’t answer every question that every reader may have. As a result, you leave yourself open to criticism like “what you totally failed to mention is…”.

Having written thousands of blog posts and articles, I’ve found that no matter how many words you use, some people just won’t get it. If you try and write for those people, you will end up writing child-like junk. Don’t even try! Write instead for your target readership.

I hope you found this useful. More importantly, I hope you borrow some of the ideas for your own blog or website.

Stop using buzzwords in your marketing. Really. Stop it.

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

There is no shortage of buzzwords or people who feel the need to use them.

Intersection.

Ruckus.

Disrupt.

Paradigm.

… these buzzwords and many others, are used by people in an effort to appear informed, fashionable or relevant. Interestingly, buzzwords do neither of these. In fact, they have the exact opposite effect when people read them or hear them.

Here’s how buzzwords work against you:

  • They make informed people cringe. Not a great idea, if you want your peers to take you seriously.
  • They confuse the uninformed. A bad choice, if you want people to understand your message.

In either case, buzzwords work against you. When it comes to marketing, write your copy in a way that your ideal client will find easy to understand.

Always aim for clarity.

Why?

Because clarity sells!

PS: Here’s how to develop effective, clear, compelling marketing.

Be irresistible to prospective clients in just 3 steps

Get noticed

If you want clients and prospective clients to think of you as the go-to person, for whatever service you provide, I believe you’ll find this post really useful.

It’s based around 3 steps you can take, which will change the way people think and feel about you, so you become their irresistible choice.

What is a go-to person?

Firstly, I’d like to confirm what I am referring to when I use the term, go-to person. I’m talking specifically about those valued people in business, who we immediately think of when we have a need, related to their area of expertise.

When someone thinks of you as their go-to person for a particular need, they go direct to you.

  • They don’t ask a friend for a recommendation.
  • They don’t poll their friends on Facebook.
  • They don’t take their need to a search engine.
  • YOU get the call!

Clearly, the commercial value of being the go-to person for your marketplace is huge. Not only will you retain your existing clients for longer, you will also attract more inquiries from prospective clients.

To earn this valuable position, we need to focus on 3 core areas.

1. Demonstrate that you know your subject

A newsletter or blog is a great way to achieve this. By sharing useful ideas and information, people come to think of you as a valuable resource.

This is why it’s so important to avoid the common mistake, of only offering diluted information to your readers. If you hold back the good stuff, the really useful ideas, you will cause your readers to assume that shallow information is all you know!

Give away as much value, freely, as possible. Now, at this point some of you will be concerned, that if you give lots of valuable information away for free, people won’t bother hiring you. That is actually the exact opposite of how it works.

Here’s what really happens, when you offer extremely useful information for free in your newsletter or blog posts:

  • Some people will use your free ideas, with no intention of hiring you. As they were never going to hire you anyway, you lose nothing.
  • Some people will use your free ideas and get part of the way, then realise they need your expert help. These people will call you. Had you not given so much free information away, you’d never have positioned yourself as their go-to person.
  • Some people will see the value of what you do, then figure out very fast that it’s far better to hire you to do it for them.

It works. People in that 2nd and 3rd group make up almost all of my non-referred clients!

2. Demonstrate that you are approachable

If we want people to get in touch with us, we need to be as approachable as possible to them. This means taking every opportunity to demonstrate that we are friendly and professional.

Unbelievably, many business owners are cranky or confrontational, even when they are sharing their thoughts online, for the world to see. This is, of course, their prerogative. However, there is a price to pay for being cranky or confrontational. It makes us far less approachable. If we want people to feel comfortable approaching us, we need to be approachable. We need to show humility. We need to remove any barriers.

3. Demonstrate your reliability

Again, publishing a newsletter or blog posts is a great way to demonstrate your reliability. Of course, this is only the case if you have reliably published content over a reasonable period of time. If you write a newsletter or blog and the last thing you published was several months ago, it works directly against you. Instead of demonstrating your reliability and stick-ability, you do the opposite.

If you have been in business for a long time, let people know. When a prospective client reads my about page, they can see that I set this marketing business up in 1995 and that I have worked in marketing all my adult life. That, along with almost 6 years worth of publishing ideas via Jim’s Marketing Blog, offers those thinking of hiring me a huge confidence boost. You should do the same for your prospective clients and customers too.

IMPORTANT: Drawing a line

It’s important at this point, to make a very clear distinction between positioning yourself as the go-to person and positioning yourself as the freebie person.

Yes, it’s a privilege to be regarded by our family and friends as a person they know they can rely on for whatever they need. However, in business, we need to draw a line between what we are prepared to do for free and what we will offer as a paid service. Otherwise, we are likely to become a magnet for freebie hunters. Freebie hunters are people who abuse the nature of others, with selfish demands for free goods and services.

For example, I occasionally get emails from people, asking me to do unpaid work for them. These range from things that would take me a few hours, to tasks that would take me a week.

It’s worth mentioning that many of my clients started off as readers, yet none, not one, of my clients came to me after asking for freebies.

How to get the balance right: The one-to-many approach

There best way to offer free information, which is scalable and sustainable, is to adopt the same approach I use here. I call it the one-to-many approach.

Here’s how I do it: All the free work I do for people is offered via Jim’s Marketing Blog and the email version of the blog. I call it the one-to-many approach, because I create one piece of work and it benefits many people.

Offering one-to-one work for free, simply does not scale. It makes no sense for me to give an hour of my time to 1 selfish person, when I can use that same hour to write something, which will benefit thousands of people.

Finally

For some business owners and consultants, there is a huge mindset change required, to adopt the idea of freely sharing, valuable content. However, for those who embrace the idea, the rewards are huge. It’s the primary marketing model I have used for years and is the most powerful form of marketing I have ever seen. I can’t recommend it highly enough to you.

The huge marketing problem that no one talks about

marketing topics r

I was in a coffee shop earlier, when a guy with a very obvious hairpiece came in. He had natural, thick brown hair around his ears, with a jet black wig on top. Of course, no one mentioned it to him. People just pointed and smirked when he wasn’t looking. Whether this chap needed the hairpiece for vanity or medical reasons, it’s entirely possible he has no idea that his wig is so poorly matched to his natural hair.

The same happens regularly in business. Allow me to explain.

Think about it

  • We go to a website to check out a potential service provider, find the site looks amateurish and decide not to consider them. We don’t then call them to let them know their site created such a bad impression.
  • We start reading a poorly written ad or marketing message and quickly discard it, because it’s crap. We don’t write to the company and tell them their content is terrible.

So, how do we determine if what we’re doing is working for us? Simple. We ignore the silence and instead, look at the results generated.

For example:

  • Your website or blog should be a 24 hour business generating machine. If it isn’t, it needs to be improved.
  • Your marketing messages should generate targeted sales or leads from your ideal profile of customer. If this isn’t happening, it needs to be improved.

Start counting

Don’t wait for someone to tell you your marketing is crap. Start counting!  Count the number of daily sales or sales leads your marketing generates. Measure your progress over the past 12 months. Look at your bank balance.

If you’re not satisfied, fix what’s broken. Don’t just accept bad results. Get some expert help and turn it around. Those who ignore the lesson here, leave money on the table every day. Worst of all, it’s 100% avoidable if you decide to do something about it.

Tip – If you found this interesting, you really should read: 4 Ways to attract more customers from your website.

Stop dumbing down your marketing. Really. Stop it!

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

It’s tempting to dumb down your marketing message. Surely, if you dumb it down enough, everyone will understand it. Everyone will have their questions answered. Everyone will be happy.

The challenge is, you don’t sell to everyone. So, you’re marketing to the wrong people!

A smarter approach

The most effective and powerful marketing messages are those, which your clients or customers understand. Messages that are highly relevant to them. Messages that speak to them directly. Messages that inspire them to take action and motivate them to hire you or buy from you. You can’t achieve that by dumbing down for the masses.

If you’re not making enough sales or attracting enough clients, I have a suggestion for you. Instead of dumbing down your marketing message, look for ways to smarten it up. True, not everyone will understand your message. However, your prospective clients or customers may think you’re exactly what they’re looking for.

Oh, and here’s some important advice that will help you!

Here’s why I refuse to SEO my blog posts

blogging, blog tips, content marketing

Following last week’s post about how to make your blog stand out and build a great readership, a number of you asked the same question. You wanted to know why I chose not to bother about Google. Why I decided not to SEO my work.

Here’s the answer.

Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways to build a blog:

  1. Do what’s expected. To obey all the so-called rules of blogging — such as focusing on SEO.
  2. Refuse to do what’s expected.

I very deliberately chose the second option.

Here’s why

As a marketing professional, I knew it would be extremely hard to stand out if I used the same approach as other marketing bloggers. So, I decided to ignore SEO when I write.

How does this improve my work?

Think of it like this: Just imagine how terrible your favourite book would have been, if every page had been SEO’d. Think how dreadful your favourite love song would have been, had the singer SEO’d their feelings, instead of expressing them. That’s what happens when you write for SEO robots, rather than people.

By ignoring SEO, I get to write in a 100% natural way, which readers find easier to connect with.

This is why there are no pop-up boxes on my blog. When your readers connect with your message, you don’t need pop-ups…. you already have the reader’s attention!

Interestingly, Seth Godin’s blog, the world’s number 1 marketing blog, ignores SEO too. There are no pop-up boxes there, either. The same is true for Mitch Joel’s blog. That’s not a coincidence.

[Note: As I explain here, this approach is not right for everyone. However, if you’re looking to grow a valuable community of readers, it can be exceptionally effective.]

A business lesson too

In business, just as in blogging, there are 2 broad approaches. The first way is to do what’s expected. The second way is to refuse to do what’s expected.

Guess which group finds it easiest to get noticed?

How to make your blog stand out and build a valuable readership

blogging topics r

I recently updated the “about” page on this blog, to include a number of achievements and accolades. Soon after, I started getting requests from people, asking what I thought made my site stand out. There are a number of things, but I think the following is as good an answer as any:

I don’t chase Google for search traffic. Instead, I write exclusively for people. This gives me the freedom to write the way I want to. It also gives me a huge advantage over the vast majority of marketing bloggers, who SEO their ideas, rather than write directly for the reader.

Allow me to explain.

Google rewards over-long content

The problem with that, is that your readers value brevity! They are busy. They want to get the key information they need, quickly. They want you to get to the point. However, Google’s algorithm needs lots of words in order to work.

The guys at Buffer recently suggested 1600 words was the sweet spot and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were right. Others say 1000 words. So, bloggers are taking an idea which could be epxlained perfectly in 300 words, and stretching it out so that it’s 4 or 5 times longer than it should be. That’s why there’s so much over-long content out there. So many waffle words. So much fluff.

Google rewards the over use of so-called keywords

To make it possible for Google’s algorithm to have a clue what you’re writing about, it needs you to repeat certain words over and over again. More often than you would normally. You need to put them in the title, in the subheadings, in the image alt tags, in the body copy, in bold, in italics.

Of course, that’s not part of natural writing! It’s jarring to the reader. It weakens your message as readers wonder why you keep repeating certain words too often. Google may like it. People don’t. As it’s people who buy from you or hire you, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
[Note: That’s why I wrote this. Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it.]

Sure, Google’s algorithm is super-easy to game. People, however, are harder to convince. They look for value… insight… generosity of spirit. These are all human elements.

In short: If you’re struggling to build a connected community of readers, write for people, not an algorithm. If you sell ads and need page impressions, write for Google. If you think you’re writing for Google AND for people, you’re not doing either as effectively as you could be.

Is this common mistake scaring customers or clients away?

How easy is it, for a new client or customer to switch to you?

Many business owners make a very good case, for switching to them from your current provider. They get prospective clients and customers fired up. Motivated. Money in hand… however, they make switching to them too painful, so they lose the business.

Here’s an example of what I mean, based on my own situation.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and my pain

I’ve been considering switching my main production computer, from a Mac to a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 machine. I was a happy Microsoft customer for decades. However, in 2013 I bought a MacBook Pro and fell in love with it. I went on to buy the MacBook Air I’m writing on right now, plus a desktop Mac. I love the Apple hardware, but miss having a touch screen computer. I also miss all the software, which is available only on Windows.

The problem I have, is there’s a lot of pain involved in switching to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3.

For example:

  • I’ve invested thousands in Mac hardware and software over the past 2 years. This will be largely unused if I switch. As a result, there’s a lot of pain associated to relegating the equipment. If I sell it I’ll lose a fortune. If I keep it, it will just sit there depreciating in value. Ouch!
  • I have lots of data that’s incompatible with Windows. The pain of converting file formats is considerable.
  • All my peripherals are Mac. So, I’d need to buy everything again; a Surface Pro keyboard, compatible external hard drive, stylus, shoulder bag, etc. There’s hundreds in additional costs there, adding to the financial pain.
  • Then, I’d need to invest a day of my time, setting the new device up and connecting it to all my accounts etc. More pain.
  • … and there’s nothing meaningful that Microsoft do, which comes close to helping me (or anyone else) with all that pain.

So, instead of switching to the Surface Pro 3 being a simple decision, I’m not going to do it. I’m too locked into the Apple universe now. Switching back to Microsoft would be too painful.

Where’s the pain in switching to you?

This raises 2 important questions for you and your business:

  • What are the pain points a new client or customer will encounter when switching to you from their current provider?
  • How can you reduce or eliminate their pain?

By focusing on making the transition to you as painless as possible, [then communicating that clearly], you massively increase your chances of winning new customers.

Consider the whole picture

Even if there’s an upfront cost associated to making the switching process painless or less painful, weigh the cost against the lifetime value of a new customer. Sometimes, a short term cost can turn into a hugely profitable investment.

For example, if Microsoft offered an attractive trade-in program for Apple users, to help offset the cost of people switching to them from Apple, they’d attract far more customers. Within 24 months, these new customers would be buying a new Surface Pro at full retail price. They would also have spent 2 years buying additional Microsoft services.

If you already have processes in place to make it easy for new customers to switch to you, make sure you are getting that message across. Explain that switching to you is a breeze — that your team will handle the process, etc.

A great place to start is to learn the lifetime value of your typical client. This makes it easier to figure out how much you can invest, in motivating them to switch to you.

What everybody ought to know about The Small Print

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

Have you noticed something about the small print we find in marketing and on packaging?

The small print is small for a reason

They don’t really want us to read it! It almost always tells us that the advertising message isn’t as good as it sounds or that the product we’re buying doesn’t look as good as it does on the packaging, etc.

Here’s a thought…

How would you feel, if you read the small print in the marketing or on the packaging of a product, and found that it actually confirmed that the product was as good as they said, in the LARGE print?

How would your prospective clients or customers feel, if YOUR small print did the same — if it showed that you were telling the truth, with nothing to hide in the small print.

Think about that for a moment! There’s some real magic there.

Something to ponder

Could using the small print in a positive way, help you massively improve the impact of your marketing? [Hint — Yes. Yes it could.]