Jim's Marketing Blog

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

Category: Business Development (page 1 of 88)

Stop working for toxic clients. Seriously. Stop it!

It’s hard to overstate the damage caused by toxic clients.

Late paying clients destroy your cash flow and are responsible for the death of more businesses than lack of sales. Over-demanding clients can turn the joy of work into something you don’t even like any more.

Toxic clients cause stress, unhappiness and will slowly destroy your business.

Solution: Fire them!

If you think you can’t afford to fire your toxic clients, wait until you pay the full price for NOT firing them.

Then replace them with GREAT clients

Replace your toxic clients, one by one, with clients who give you the freedom to do your best work. This, ironically, will help you attract more and more great clients. A virtuous cycle is created.

The opposite is also true: If you allow yourself to work for toxic clients, the quality of your work drops, which makes it harder and harder to attract great clients.

Make the decision

If you want to work with better clients, who allow you to do your best work and will pay you accordingly, make the decision to do something about it today!

Here’s an approach to marketing that works every time

This approach to marketing works every time. It isn’t easy, which is why so few people do it. However, it comes with a 100% success rate.

Here it is: Be so good that they can’t ignore you.

If your product or service is THAT good, people will hire you, buy from you AND tell everyone about you. So, if you show just 10 people what you do, each one will tell another 10 people, who will each get you another 10… repeat.

The opposite is also true

Average products or services are everywhere. They fail to stand out. We forget them within minutes. Very few people talk about them. They need to be pushed constantly. Networking groups were created for this type of average business.

I was prompted to write about this for you, after remembering a wonderful example of how to get it right.

An example from the rear end of a computer!

When Steve Jobs announced the first iMac computer, he showed people the rear of the machine and said the following:

“The back of our computer looks better than the front of the other guy’s”.

That was an amazingly powerful statement, which attracted people’s attention, got everybody talking and generated record breaking sales.

Why?

Because it made the iMac impossible to ignore. Computers at the time were dull, beige boxes. Here was an amazing, multicoloured range of machines, which looked better from the back than anything on the market did from the front.

One detail, which other computer manufacturers at the time totally neglected, gave the marketplace an amazing Apple story to share. It made Apple and the iMac too good to ignore.

Push or Attract?

Ultimately, business owners have a decision to make. They can:

  • Push a good, but predictable business on the marketplace.
  • Attract attention, by being too good to ignore.

Pushing a predictable product or service is expensive and places a very low ceiling on your potential. If you want 100 people to know about what you do, you have to pester 100 people with some kind of marketing AND pay to reach all of them.

Attracting attention is inexpensive and offers limitless potential. It scales to infinity. If you want a million people to know about what you do, just tell 10 people… and keep delivering on being too good to ignore.

Easy? No.

Worth it? Absolutely.

Here’s some free advice to get you on the right track.

Growing a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint!

When it comes to launching a new business or project, it’s really important to remember the following:

Big launches are extremely overrated.

Success is not about having an amazing opening day or opening week. It’s what you do over time, which counts.

Anyone can launch something

The time for razzmatazz and parties is after you’ve remained committed and focused for long enough, to achieve what you wanted.

That’s why marathon runners get their medals after they cross the finish line… and not on the start line.

So, you want more from your business? Try this!

To grow your business successfully, you need all 3 of the following:

  1. A substantial number of prospective clients, who you can locate and connect with.
  2. These prospective clients need to have a problem, which your service provides the answer to.
  3. Finally, they need to be willing and able to pay you for solving their problem.

That’s what you need for a successful business. And for most people, that’s all they want.

However, if you want even more from your business, something exceptional, you need to know the following.

Truly exceptional businesses are a little different

Exceptional businesses do 1 thing differently. To be exceptional, you need to change number 2 on that list, to this:

These prospective clients need to have a problem, which ONLY your service provides the answer to.

Yes, it takes more effort to develop a uniquely valuable product or service, but the rewards are disproportionately high. For example, you no longer have to compete for business based on fees. Also, by deliberately choosing the type of problem to solve, you can predetermine the quality of clients you work with.

Here’s a suggestion

Think about gaps in the market — problems that are currently not being solved by existing providers. Dig deep. Stick with it until you get some answers. Keep working on it. Give it the time and energy it needs.

Why? Because you only need to get this right once, for your whole world to change!

Tip: This will help you get started.

How to get people marketing your business for free

That headline isn’t a play on words. I’m going to show you how to motivate people to market your business for free.

Allow me to explain.

When we exceed expectations, something amazing happens. Our product or service starts to market itself.

Spreading the word

I recently bought a new MacBook Air. Apple promised “up to 12 hours” battery life. I actually got over 13 hours. In fact, everything about the machine was better than I expected. Apple made the machine sound great, but that was nothing compared to what they delivered.

I was so impressed that I recommended the MacBook Air to my friends and clients. I also tweeted about it, shared my delight on Google+ and now I’m telling you.

That’s what we do when a product or service exceeds our expectations. We talk about it. We share it. We create a wave of independent, 3rd party recommendations — which is extremely powerful.

A subtle improvement that creates huge gains

Interestingly, the gap between meeting expectations and exceeding them is relatively small. It’s tiny, in relation to the huge positive impact it creates. It just takes a little extra effort and some creativity.

NB: Here’s a whole website full of creative thinking ideas.

Here’s a great place to start: Identify what your prospective clients or customers expect from providers in your industry. Then look for ways to exceed these expectations.

Here’s a useful tip: Consider the products or service that exceeded your expectations. What can you learn from them, which you can adapt into your business?

Get this right and you will soon have an army of passionate advocates, marketing your business for you… for free!

How to describe your business so it stands out from the crowd

Here’s a summary of the advice I recently gave a group of creative professionals, which I believe you will find useful.

It’s all about the labels we use and how they shape the way the marketplace sees us.

The labels people use

When I help creative agencies to improve their output, I start by asking them why they insist on labelling themselves as a creative agency.

Think about it: If a creative agency is truly creative, surely it wouldn’t copy a dull, generic term to describe what it does. It wouldn’t limit itself like that.

That kind of labelling works fine for some other businesses, because those businesses are generic.

For example, restaurants provide an identical core service: You eat and drink and then pay the bill. This is true, whether you go to a fast food restaurant or the most expensive restaurant in town. All that changes between restaurants is the food, the experience and the cost.

Conversely, creative agencies are supposed to think without limitations. The nature of what they do, is to think differently. Unlike restaurants, very few creative agencies, if any, should offer an identical service.

Benjamin Zephaniah is more than a poet

The best creative professionals, like all artists, are exceptions to the labelling rule. Is Benjamin Zephaniah a poet? Yes, but he’s so much more, so he’s never labelled simply as a poet. I’ve followed Benjamin’s work for decades and he’s usually introduced with any or all of the following statements:

  • He’s a social commentator.
  • He’s a recording artist.
  • He’s an activist.
  • He’s a master story teller.
  • He’s a trouble maker.
  • He’s an educator.
  • He’s a progressive thinker.
  • He’s a catalyst for change.
  • And he’s a poet… a really good poet.

Benjamin Zephaniah defies a simple label. The same was true of Andy Warhol. Warhol wasn’t a studio artist, he invented his own artistic niche with Pop Art.

My point here, is that creative professionals who embrace the creative agency label are, at best, causing people to think of them within a narrow, limiting box. At worst, it will restrict what the agency team do, as they start to conform to what they think ‘the typical agency’ does.

Neither of those are great outcomes. In fact, they’re common to every struggling agency I have ever helped.

A creative alternative?

Lose the label. Create your own niche. Do your own unique brand of work. Set yourself apart. Be meaningfully different.

When you lose that uncreative label, you get to define what you do.

This isn’t the 1990′s and you don’t need to be listed in business directories, under an idiot-proof label or category. Today, you can put your creativity out there and attract the attention of those interested in your unique, creative approach.

Show us what you’ve got. If it’s remarkable enough, we’ll hire you and share your story with our friends.

How to make extremely valuable business contacts

This post is all about how to build an extremely valuable network, of influential people.

Think about it: We all know people who struggle to find new clients, even though they are members of networking groups and are connected to hundreds of people on Linkedin.

That should be impossible!

Surely, with all those contacts, these struggling business owners should be able to reach out with a message and generate more clients than they could possibly need.

But they can’t.

Why?

Because the typical small business owner builds networks that are of little real value. That’s why the most successful business owners use a very different approach.

Allow me to explain.

How successful business owners get connected

The most successful people in business are extremely well connected. They make it a habit to identify useful contacts and then nurture relationships with them. As a result, they have people they can go to for advice or assistance in any area of their business.

When they are faced with a problem, it’s often a case of: One call — problem solved!

How the average business owner connects

Typically, small business owners take the opposite approach. They focus on numbers, not value. Most commonly, they attend networking groups and connect with other business owners… who are only in that group because they too are struggling.

As a result, they end up with lots of low value business contacts and lack the influential connections required, to grow a successful business. So, when they need new clients or have a significant business problem, their equally struggling contacts are unable to help.

As someone once told me: Stick around struggling business owners for long enough and one day, everything they have will be yours!

Stop thinking about the numbers and focus on the value

As people, we are all of equal value. However, in business, our commercial value differs vastly. Successful business networking is about connecting with the right people.

In short: Be selective. Focus less on numbers and more on value. Go deep and narrow, rather than shallow and wide.

PS - Here are 21 powerful habits behind the most successful business owners.

What everybody ought to know about being boring!

I received a spam email earlier. A PR company decided to send me a press release, to announce that a camera maker was going to sponsor an event. They wanted me to write about it.

No one cares

The thing is, it’s a mind-numbingly dull message.

  • It’s a non story.
  • It’s completely unremarkable.
  • It’s boring. Really boring.
  • It’s also too unimportant to be news.

Other than the camera company’s marketing department, the PR company and whoever organised the event – no one cares.

Pushing a dull message is simple. It requires no creativity. No art. No thought. However, it’s also extremely ineffective.

Alternatively

An alternative approach is to take a little more time and attract people’s attention, doing something worth talking about. People share remarkable stories all day long. No pushing required.

Make it remarkable. Then, people will remark on it. It’s that simple… and that difficult.

This will help: Increase word of mouth referrals with this simple idea.

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