Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Business Development (page 1 of 98)

10 Reasons your business isn’t growing and how to fix it!

If you’re frustrated with how slowly your business is growing, today’s post is just for you. I’m going to share the 10 most common things that crush the growth of a business, along with how to stop them from happening to you.

Let’s get started with number 1.

You stopped growing

Your business is a reflection of the decisions you make and your decisions are based on what you know. So, for your business to grow, you need to grow. After all, you can’t give your business the benefit of knowledge, which you don’t have.

Read the books. Attend the seminars. Seek expert advice. Grow. Then watch your business grow too.

You’re selling based on low prices or low fees

This only works if you’re the lowest priced alternative, and you’re not. Your prospective clients can go to Google and find a lower priced alternative in seconds. Only one provider can be the lowest priced and it changes daily, sometimes hourly, as desperate business owners price-drop in an effort to attract sales.

It takes a huge amount of planning and a watertight strategy, to sell based on being lowest priced and still make a worthwhile profit. Some big brands manage to succeed on wafer thin margins, but it’s a very precarious approach.

Usually, small businesses only market based on being low priced, because it’s easy to lower prices or fees. It takes very little effort and zero creativity, to simply undercut your competitors by 10%. We call this the race to the bottom. It’s a race you don’t want to win, as you end up working for peanuts and attracting the lowest value clients.

Clients you attract through low fees are the easiest to attract and the easiest to lose, when a competitor decides to undercut you.

Instead of selling based on being the lowest priced, look for opportunities to add more value to what you do. Not only will this make your business more profitable, it will allow you to compete for better clients — those who value you and what you do.

Tip: This 3 part series will help you: How to attract the best clients and the highest fees.

You’re starving your business of the marketing it needs

No matter how great your business is, unless you market it correctly, no one will know. Sadly, it’s a fact that an average business that’s marketed correctly, will outperform a wonderful business that has ineffective marketing. This is why some lousy businesses make a fortune, whilst some great little businesses really struggle.

By starving your business of professional marketing, by default, you’re relying on amateur marketing. This makes no sense. If you’re going to try DIY on your business, this is not the place to do it.

In a nutshell: If you want great marketing results, invest in great marketing.

Your image sucks

Yes, if they knew how great you were, they’d hire you. But when they connect with you for the first time, all they have to form their decision on, is what they see. That’s why your image matters so much.

Here’s a question for you to ponder: How do you look, when a prospective client connects with your image?

Most small business owners operate behind naff logos, poorly designed websites and amateur looking social networking accounts. If you want prospective clients to consider you a professional, you need to look the part. No matter what promises you make, what testimonials you offer or what guarantees you provide, no one will take any notice, if your image looks bad.

So, invest in a professional logo for your business and some professional photography for your social networking accounts. An amateur (or dated) logo and photograph will lose you a fortune. The same is true of an unprofessional looking or dated website. Make sure you look as professional on the outside, as you are on the inside.

You’ve camouflaged yourself

Very, very few small businesses stand out — maybe 1 in 10,000. Instead, they opt for the fake safety of being just like their competitors. Playing it safe.

This is why we find that when we look at the providers in any industry, they seem so similar. You could swap them around and no one would notice.

They offer a similar range of services. They make similar promises. They charge similar fees. In effect, they become invisible — almost impossible to tell apart. They have camouflaged themselves within the masses.

If you want to stand out, do something outstanding. Something remarkable. Something uniquely valuable. Find a new service, which your competitors don’t provide. Develop a new pricing model.

Just don’t be like all the others, if you want to get noticed.

You’re associating with the wrong people

There’s a direct link between how we feel and the people we habitually associate with. If we associate with people who inspire us, we feel inspired. If we associate with people who encourage us and motivate us to stretch, we grow.

That’s why it pays to be selective regarding the people we associate with. For example, when we associate with people who are doing better than we are, the natural inclination is for us to rise to their level. Of course, the opposite is also true. When we associate with people who are doing as well as us, or less well, we find ourselves spinning our wheels.

As Jim Rohn used to say: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”.

So, choose wisely. Associate with people who will inspire you to be better. People who will encourage you and motivate you to be the best you can be.

You’re networking with the wrong people

In business, it’s extremely important to build great connections with influential people. This is the exact opposite of what the typical small business owner does. They go for numbers instead and look in the worst possible places.

Think about it: We’ve all met business owners who struggle to find new clients, even though they’re members of a networking group and have hundreds, maybe thousands of Linkedin contacts.

That should be impossible — right?  Surely, with so many contacts, these struggling business owners would be able to reach out with a message and quickly attract more client inquiries than they need. However, this never happens. Why? Because they are connected to business owners who lack the influence and contacts, to be able to make a difference!

The most successful business owners use the exact opposite approach. I recommend you do the same. It looks like this: They deliberately target the most influential people in their marketplace and put a strategy together, to connect with them. They do this months before they ask anything from them.

And no, you will not find the most influential people in networking clubs, asking struggling business owners for introductions. You’ll have to do a little research. But that’s fine. You’re aiming for quality, not numbers.

You’ve become comfortable

Small business owners usually start off with great plans, but somewhere along the way they settle. Instead of focusing on building their business, so it provides them with the rewards they want, they switch. They switch to lowering their lifestyle expectations, so that it meets the limitations of their under performing business.

It’s up to you to switch things back the way they should be! This means leaving your comfort zone, setting bigger goals and then making the commitment to take the action required.

You’re getting too few referrals

Business owners who get too few referrals have to quickly figure out why their clients and associates are not referring them. This is a tough thing to face. It means accepting there’s a serious problem and then being willing to fix things.

Yes, it’s serious, extremely serious, if you get too few referrals. Not only are you missing out on a regular supply of valuable leads, your clients and associates, for whatever reason, do not want to recommend you.

A customer survey may help you find out why. However, honest conversations with those whose opinions you trust are often extremely useful too.

Just as importantly, when you get the feedback you need, make sure you do something with it. It’s hard sometimes to accept you have areas of your business, which you need to improve. I’ve seen business owners ignore really valuable feedback, believing they’re already offering an amazing service.

Don’t make that mistake. Listen to what the feedback is telling you. Then take appropriate action.

You’re not failing often enough

Many small business owners let their fear of failure stop them from putting their ideas into action. The challenge with that mindset, is that without trying fresh ideas, you stagnate by default.

When a business is new it’s easy to risk everything. After all, unless you start out with a ton of money behind you, [like Sir Richard Branson and Seth Godin], you have nothing to lose.

However, once your business is established the penalty for failing seems bigger.

Here’s why:

  • Business owners tend to over estimate the price of failure. They imagine all kinds of unrealistic worst case scenarios.
  • To make things worse, they also tend to under estimate the potential rewards. They seem unaware that one good idea can improve their business beyond recognition.

The fear of failure is the biggest hurdle to your success. It robs you of opportunity. It causes you to play it safe, which is the riskiest thing a business owner can do. Interestingly, the most successful business owners see failure very differently.

It looks like this:

  • If they try something and it doesn’t work, they learn from it. They then invest the lesson in their next idea. This makes them massively more likely to succeed the next time. So, they win.
  • If they try something and it works, they learn from it and earn from it. So, they win.

That mindset regarding failure is what I suggest you focus on.

Now what?

If your business hasn’t grown the way you want it to, it’s likely that several or more of those points apply to you.

The question is, what do you plan to do about it? In my experience, people who identify their business needs help fall into one of two broad groups.

  1. People who find the information interesting, but start looking for excuses to do nothing about it. They will say they lack the time, the money etc., etc. Sadly, this group is the largest by far.
  2. People who also find the information useful, but look for reasons to improve things, rather than excuses not to. They will then work on making the improvements required and their businesses will grow accordingly. Cause and effect.

I hope you found this information useful. However, my real hope is that you do something with it.

How to reclaim the energy you had, when you started your business!

When we start out in business, we have dreams, goals and ambitions. We are motivated by the prospect of not having a boss and being able to do things our way. We make plans. We set goals. We’re filled with energy.

Then something happens

Somewhere along the way, the vast majority of small business owners settle. They settle for far less than they originally wanted. In many cases, they end up working longer hours than when they had a job. And although they no longer have a boss, they have clients or customers, who are even harder to work for.

Others have settled for something a little better. They love their work and are well paid for what they do. However, they’ve settled for a fraction of what they could achieve. They know it too. They know deep down inside that they are capable of so much more. This is a huge source of frustration, as they live with the reality of being an underachiever.

Stop settling

Here are 2 powerful questions, which we should regularly ask ourselves:

  1. What have I settled for?
  2. Is it worthy of me?

Answering those questions causes us to think about the path we are on. They cause us to question how much potential we’re leaving on the table. Whenever I focus on answering those questions, something wonderful happens. I find I am able to reconnect with the energy and passion I had, when I started my business. I find myself making plans. Setting goals. Making progress.

Give it a try.

25 Reasons to write a business blog

business blog, blogging for business

Without doubt, business blogging is the most powerful and cost effective marketing tool I have ever encountered.

Here are 25 reasons, why I recommend business blogging to you.

  1. Business blogging encourages you to keep learning, so you have something useful to share.
  2. Business blogging can generate regular (daily), targeted business leads. The caveat here, is that you need to learn how to write well and how to market your blog. If you’re prepared to do that, it can improve your business beyond recognition.
  3. Business blogging is the best way to build a huge, targeted, professional network. You don’t need Linkedin or any other network, when thousands of people already know who you are, exactly what you do and how to contact you. Think about that for a moment.
  4. Business blogging allows you to reach people… lots of people, with your message. That’s because blogging scales to infinity. In other words, a post can reach one person or a million people, yet it still takes you the same amount of time to write it.
  5. Business blogging is more fun than watching prime-time TV.
  6. Business blogging is also far more rewarding than watching TV.
  7. Business blogging publicly demonstrates your ability to show up regularly. Reliability is highly valued in business. Just imagine how useful it would be for you, if your marketplace knew you could be relied upon, before they even spoke to you.
  8. Business blogging provides a showcase for your knowledge. This is enormously valuable. People who hire me, know all about my work long before they ever speak with me.
  9. Business blogging increases your professional profile, as new people discover you and your work every day.
  10. Business blogging gives you the best tool on the planet, for building a community or tribe.
  11. Business blogging gives you a voice. If you have something important to say, people will hear you. This is especially the case if you stick with blogging, for long enough to build a large readership. How long does that take? About a week longer than the typical blogger is prepared to invest, before she gives up.
  12. Business blogging inspires people to email you, to say how your work helped them. This is far more rewarding than most people imagine.
  13. Business blogging makes you a more informed reader, as you understand the work and creativity that people put into their written work.
  14. Business blogging causes you to have to regularly dig down deep, really deep, to find something worth sharing. That sounds like hard work, but just as lifting weights builds your physical muscles, digging down deep builds your mental muscles.
  15. Business blogging makes you a better communicator. I’m convinced that regular blogging has improved my communication skills across the board, not just in writing.
  16. Business blogging is a great way to connect with your marketplace. By making it easy for readers to contact you, you open a valuable channel of communication. This provides you with an insight into what your marketplace is thinking… what matters most to them and what they need. This kind of insight is worth a fortune to your business.
  17. Business blogging makes you a lot better at asking questions.
  18. Business blogging also encourages you to question your own opinions, to ensure they stand up to scrutiny and are worthy of your readers.
  19. Business blogging encourages you to regularly do research, increasing your own knowledge base.
  20. Business blogging can get you recognised in the mainstream press, for being named the most influential blog in your class, by the world’s biggest PR company.
  21. Business blogging allows you to build fantastic contacts. My initial contact with my friend Nile Rodgers, started because of something I wrote here on this blog a few years ago.
  22. Business blogging teaches you to look at things from more than one perspective. By writing for others, you need to know what the world looks like, through their eyes.
  23. Business blogging provides you with a creative outlet, which helps you grow as a person. In fact, blogging has been the most powerful professional development tool I have ever used or researched.
  24. Business blogging ensures you remain constantly curious… this is priceless.
  25. Business blogging allows you to build a business asset, which grows in value with every passing week.

How to earn massively more from your business

If you would like to earn more, much more, I have some great news for you.

No one undervalues your time or your work, without your full consent.

Think about it:

  1. You set your fees.
  2. You choose your clients.
  3. You pick which end of the marketplace you serve: the fee sensitive middle or the quality driven top.

The reason this is such great news, is that it means you alone control what you earn. Therefore, earning more (or much, much more) is a choice… a choice you can embrace or ignore.

How to earn more

If you’re unhappy about how much you earn, start by deciding how much you want to earn. It isn’t enough for you to say you want to earn more. That’s too vague. So, write down exactly how much you want to earn.

Then, look at those 3 points above and decide which changes you will need to make.

Of course, the tricky part isn’t deciding what you want to earn. That part is easy. You simply look at the lifestyle you want for your family, then work out what you’d need to earn in order to make that happen.

The tricky part

The tricky part is summoning the courage to make the changes required.

It’s far easier to complain, but stay the same. To hope things will just improve. So, that’s what most small business owners do. However, for those with the courage to leave their comfort zone, the possibilities are endless.

The question is, are you happy with more of the same or do you want something immeasurably better? If you want something better, take one step right now, toward making it a reality!

Here’s a proven way for you to attract great clients

I’m going to share a highly profitable idea with you today. It’s a proven way to attract the best clients, the highest fees and more word of mouth referrals than ever before.

Going premium

Have you considered the huge benefits of offering a new, premium product or premium level of service? Think about it. The bottom and middle of your market is already overcrowded with competitors. However, there is always room, and demand, at the top.

Those providing premium services attract the best clients. I’m talking about the clients who value quality… rather than the fee-sensitive clients who plague the middle and bottom of every marketplace. Premium service providers also charge the highest fees, making their work extremely profitable.

Just think about that for a moment — you get to work with great clients who are happy to pay you for the value you bring.

A remarkable, premium benefit

By charging a premium fee for a premium service, you need fewer clients. However, you still have just as many hours available each working day. This means you have extra time for each client. Extra time you can use, to deliver an exceptional level of service.

That’s the kind of remarkable service your clients love and tell their friends about.

If you want to work with better clients, earn higher fees and attract more word of mouth referrals, explore the premium model.

The secret to marketing that spreads AND sells!

junk mail

I have a very effective marketing idea to share with you today. You’re going to love this!

I’m going to show you how to create marketing, which people will value and that’s powerful enough to inspire them to hire you or buy from you. It’s based on the work I do with my clients and includes a brief case study, which you can learn from.

So, let’s get started.

Receiving or paying attention?

It starts with understanding that there’s a huge difference between someone receiving your message and someone paying attention to it.

For example, TV viewers are sent targeted marketing messages (commercials) during TV shows. What do most of us do? We fast forward through them or if watching the show in real-time, we go and make a coffee. Just because they send their messages, doesn’t mean we are paying attention.

For your marketing to work, you need to get a great message in front of the right people. In order to get this correct, here’s the key question we need to ask ourselves:

If I stopped my email marketing campaign or I stopped publishing my blog posts, newsletter etc, would people really MISS them?

As a quick look at the marketing you receive every day confirms, for most people the honest answer to that question is NO! We get bombarded with dull, uninspiring sales messages all day and see them as an intrusion, rather than something of value.

Of course, for that tiny minority of small businesses who DO produce marketing, which people genuinely value and would miss if it were to stop, the sky is the limit.

I’m going to share the process required to make this work for your business later in this post.

First, we need to understand why there’s so much dull and ineffective marketing out there.

Dull is cheap. Dull is fast. Dull is simple!

It’s cheap, fast and simple to create dull marketing and get it in front of a lot of people. As a result, there’s no barrier to entry today.

Things were very different a decade ago. Back then, if a small business owner wanted to send a mail shot to 50,000 people, she’d have to spend some serious money.

  • She’d have to cover the cost of the mailing list.
  • Then she would need to pay for all that paper and the printing.
  • Next she would need to pay a company to get the letters folded and inserted into the 50,000 envelopes.
  • Then there’s the huge postage costs for those 50,000 pieces of mail.

All in all, it would cost many thousands. She would need to think long and hard about the value of what she put into those envelopes. Get it wrong and she would pay a hefty price!

Today, everything has changed

That same business owner today can hit 50,000 people using cheap email software and her laptop. It costs just a little of her time. If it fails, maybe tomorrow’s one will work. It’s never been cheaper or easier to push dull, uninspired, poorly thought out, uncreative marketing out the door.

So, that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing. This is why there’s so much junk in your email inbox and on your social networking accounts.

Here’s what you need to do to get it right!

There is an alternative approach I want to share with you, so people welcome your marketing, share it and hire you or buy from you. It requires that you take the exact opposite approach, to 99% of the marketing you see out there. 

It’s about shifting the focus of your marketing, so that it’s primarily of benefit to the people who receive it and secondarily of benefit to you. It’s about producing content (audio, video, blog posts, newsletters, mail shots, flyers, social networking updates etc), which provide independent value to those who receive it. This means they get genuinely valuable or useful information from it, independent of them needing to spend a penny with you.

An example of how this works, based on one of my clients

Imagine you are a dog owner and after a trip to the vet, you subscribe to their dog owner’s newsletter. It gives you tips and ideas, to help you keep your dog healthy, fit and happy. At the bottom of each email are their contact details, so you can call them when you need a vet. You find this free information so useful, that you send it to 10 of your dog-owning friends.

They subscribe and then do the same… then these new subscribers share it too, and on and on it goes. The amazingly valuable, highly-targeted readership grows and grows.

Soon, that vet (a former client of mine) was talking to thousands of local dog owners and positioned themselves in their marketplace, as THE place to take your dog for all its veterinary needs. Their newsletter was eagerly anticipated by it’s readers… yes, people wanted to hear from them and valued what they had to share.

Compare that vet’s approach to the typical marketing messages we see.

  • That vet doesn’t need to run expensive radio ads.
  • They have no need to buy mailing lists.
  • They don’t need to waste valuable hours at networking events.
  • They certainly don’t need to pester people on social networks or ask strangers for recommendations on Linkedin.
  • They don’t need to invest in anything, other than the creativity required to produce a genuinely valuable newsletter, with useful content.

That example shows how a business can grow a massively valuable marketing asset, by sharing real value — rather than pushing unwanted messages. If you invest in creating this kind of value driven marketing, it will improve your business beyond recognition.

In short: Stop pushing predictable marketing at people. Focus on attracting clients instead! This means sharing value, something your marketplace will embrace and share. Soon, you too can have a valuable, growing community of people, who position you in their mind as the obvious choice, when they need the type of service your business provides.

Here’s a Window of Opportunity for you and your business

I’d like to talk with you today about something important, which I haven’t covered previously. It’s about the price you pay, when you’re waiting on other people to make a decision.

All the while you’re waiting on a prospective client or customer to give you their decision, they occupy a significant chunk of your mind. Their indecision can also be a significant cause of stress, as the will-they-or-won’t-they dance is carried out in your mind.

How I solved this problem and how you can too

It’s hard to think with clarity about future plans, when the indecision of others is weighing heavily on your mind. So, it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure you protect yourself and your business. The strategy I use is based on what I call Windows of Opportunity.

Allow me to explain.

How my Windows of Opportunity work

Whenever a prospective client makes an inquiry about working with me, I open a Window of Opportunity in my diary.

It looks something like this:

  • The Window of Opportunity has a start date and an end date. The end date is based on how much time I am prepared to invest, to take them from a prospective client… to a client.
  • During their Window of Opportunity, I’m committed to providing them with everything they need in order to make the right decision for their business.
  • However, once their Window of Opportunity is closed, if they are still unable to make a decision, I invest my time and focus elsewhere.
  • I also consider their inquiry closed, meaning I no longer factor their decision into my plans moving forward. This helps me retain total clarity regarding my business. It’s hard to make future plans or determine future capacity, when you’re factoring in “potential” income from “potential” clients — many of whom are time wasters.
  • If they reply after this date asking to work with me, and I am still willing to work with them, I have a single, additional conversation with them. They could have had a perfectly good reason for delaying. In such cases I am always happy to provide an additional conversation.

If indecisive prospective clients or time-wasters are taking their toll on you and your business, consider taking control of the situation by working within your own Windows of Opportunity. This will give you the freedom to plan ahead with clarity, rather than the mind-fog that hampers so many hard working small business owners.

Not only will you enjoy clearer thinking and less stress, you will save a huge amount of time too.

Stop looking for certainty. Seriously. Stop it!

One of the most valuable skills in business, is the ability to make decisions. The reason this skill is  so valuable is that it’s extremely rare.

I receive hundreds of emails every week from small business owners with problems. In most cases, the primary reason their businesses struggle is their inability to make a decision. They want certainty before they commit — this, in a world without certainty!

Here’s what the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs do:

  • They do the research.
  • They get the facts.
  • They seek expert advice, if required.
  • They make a decision.
  • They take action.

At no point do they seek out certainty. If they did, they’d never do anything!

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