Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: General Marketing (page 1 of 96)

Marketing your business: What you need to know!

Helen from Long Island, New York emailed me with an important marketing question. Maybe the most important marketing question there is! I’m going to share it with you, with her permission, along with my answer, as I believe you will find it interesting.

It’s all about a common attitude small business owners have, when it comes to marketing.

Here’s an excerpt from Helen’s email:

“My husband quit his job 2 years ago and now runs a training business. [...] Nothing he tries works when it comes to marketing and so I’m begging him to get some professional marketing help. Without my salary propping up his business he’d have no business. He says that getting expert marketing advice is a waste of money. How can I convince him he’s totally wrong Jim?”

Being amazing isn’t enough

There’s a difference between a best-selling author and a best-writing author. The difference? Marketing. An average author with great marketing behind them will always sell more than a wonderful author, whose work goes unnoticed.

The same is true of your business

If your good work is going unnoticed, your less capable, yet better marketed competitors, will win the best clients and harvest the best results.

Sure, some of your delighted clients will recommend you, but usually that happens too infrequently. This is because they expect a great service from you. So, whilst you’re likely to retain their custom, you can’t rely on them to market your business for you.

Since starting my business in 1995, I have never once met with the owner of a failed business, whose marketing was effective. In fact, I’ve found that marketing is easily the most neglected element of the average small business.

Winners have a very different attitude to marketing

Interestingly, marketing is a top priority in every successful business I have ever known. This is not a coincidence. It’s exactly what you’d expect. Why? Because marketing is what provides the lifeblood of your business. I’m talking about cash flow, sales, clients and customers. Without those, you have no business.

Make no mistake, there is a proven, direct link between what your business achieves and the way you choose to market it. Dabbling with marketing is costly. It’s ineffective. It’s frustrating. It causes you to waste months or years, time which you could be using to market your business correctly.

Dabble with DIY marketing or invest in effective, professional marketing? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Business owners: How to enjoy your best year ever!

Your past does not equal your future. With a few improvements, it’s possible to elevate your business to a whole new level — which is what today’s post is all about.

Let’s go!

Question time

As business owners, there are some important marketing questions, which you should regularly ask yourself.

These include:

  • Are you regularly receiving word of mouth referrals?
  • When you tell people about your business plans, are they so excited by what you tell them that they want to get involved?
  • Are you attracting the right kind of clients or customers?
  • If you stopped publishing your newsletter or blog, would people miss it?
  • Are you certain that you are doing the right things, correctly, when it comes to marketing your business?

Questions like those are often tough ones to answer. However, they are extremely powerful when it comes to determining whether you are on course or not. They cause you to think about your results, rather than the activities you do. This is important. It’s important because it’s all to easy to be busy, working hard, with little to show for all the effort.

Try this

Take some time today to consider where your business is right now. Then look at the progress you have made over the past 12 months. Ask yourself if you’re happy with the direction you’re going.

If you don’t want more of the same, you need to stop doing more of the same. Yes, hope is essential, however, hope is not a business strategy.

You need to start doing the right things, correctly. This takes courage, because even though your current situation is not what you want, it’s familiar. It’s comfortable.

Embrace the improvements required. Get the help you need. Leave the fake comfort of your comfort zone. Then commit to making the next 12 months, the most successful, exciting and fulfilling of your life!

Show them what you know and who you are!

blogging for business

Someone just emailed me, to ask what were the commercial benefits of writing a blog. He wanted to know why I spend so many working hours giving useful information away, for free.

I want to quickly share part of my answer with you, because it’s extremely valuable. It’s based on a blog post I wrote a few years ago. I recalled a reader asking a blogger if he was in as high demand before he started blogging, as he is today.

Here’s the gold dust!

In one sentence, the answer sums up one of the most valuable reasons for business blogging. It went something like this:

“No one gave a rats ass about me, until they could see what was inside my head.”

Share what’s in your head

Your business blog gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what you know, what you stand for and who you are. It’s a way for people to check you out and determine for themselves, if you “get it” or not.

If you really know your subject and have the desire to share what you know with prospective clients or customers, there is no better way to showcase your talent than blogging.

PS: If you’re still not convinced, here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

How to create a new product or service, which people will love

The world’s most successful businesspeople have something in common with the world’s greatest inventors. It’s simply this:

Instead of answering the questions people are already asking, they look for new, better questions to answer.

The thing about business is that it’s already overflowing with vendors, offering the marketplace whatever the marketplace is asking for.

The challenges here are twofold:

  1. By offering what your marketplace wants, you leave very little room for innovation — the very thing that you need in order to stand out and be noticed.
  2. The marketplace doesn’t usually know what it wants, until someone creates it. As Henry Ford famously said; “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. There was also zero demand for tablet devices, until Apple created the iPad. Today, the iPad is a mass-market consumer item.

So, how do you spot what your marketplace wants, before they ask for it?

Look for unspoken challenges

Over the years, I have helped clients worldwide to develop new products and services, which are hugely popular and profitable. In every instance, I started by asking the client a series of questions. One of these questions, which you can work on today without my one-to-one help, is this:

What unspoken challenge is your marketplace faced with, which you could provide an answer to?

For example, the iPad was Apple’s answer to the netbook problem. Remember netbooks? They were small, cheap, underpowered laptops, which people used primarily to surf the net [hence the name netbook]. They had low quality displays and were awkward to use. However, they sold by the million, because they were easier to carry than a laptop and had better battery life.

The huge popularity of netbooks showed that there was a demand for what we now call consumption devices —  devices which people used to consume information and chat on social networks. Although you could get things done with even the first iPad, it immediately plugged the consumption gap.

It was an elegant, great looking answer to a problem, which the marketplace didn’t even know it had. It has been so successful, that tablet sales have eaten into a huge chunk of the laptop market. It’s one of the best selling electronic products in history — even though NO ONE was asking for a tablet!

Here’s a suggestion

Take some time out to think about the challenges facing your marketplace. Look for solutions, which people will value. No, this isn’t easy, which is why people work with me in order to get the answers they need, but if you get it right, it can improve your business beyond recognition.

How to build a successful business

how to build a successful business, grow business

It’s a very broad question, but a lot of people ask me for help with how to build a successful business.

So, here’s some of the best business development advice I know, along with lots of examples. I hope you find it useful!

Build a successful business… by doing all the work

Maybe the biggest difference between the most successful business owners and everyone else, is this:

  • The most successful business owners do 100% of what’s required to succeed.
  • The average business owner does 100% of the things required… so long as they feel comfortable doing it.

The difference in results between those 2 mindsets is enormous. The successful business owner sees her business needs something, and does it. The typical business owner sees the same thing, then weighs it up based on how comfortable they are about it. If it feels too uncomfortable, even though their business needs it, they don’t do it.

For example: I recall speaking with a business owner once, who sold his business to a guy, who tripled its turnover in 6 months. The former owner told me how frustrated he was, as all the things the new owner did were things he had already thought of doing, but failed to do because they were ‘too risky’. Over the 10 years the former owner had the coffee shop, he believes his aversion to stepping out of his comfort zone lost him at least $15,000,000.

If your business needs something, do it. Puff out your chest, leave your comfort zone and make the right decision rather than the easy decision.

So, to build a successful business do all the work required.

Build a successful business… by connecting with the right people, in advance

To build a successful business, you will need the help and support of others. As I have said here many times over the past 5 years, business is all about people.

One of the key differences between successful business owners and those who struggle, is the way they connect with people.

Successful business owners think of the people, whose help they will need, in advance. They deliberately, regularly make connections with key people. Then, months or years later, if they need their advice or help, it’s there. I know of no exceptions to this rule.

Struggling business owners wait until they need help, then they pester strangers with selfish requests.

For example: I get emails every day, from total strangers who want me to do things for them. Some ask me for detailed marketing advice. Others have just written a book or launched something, and ask me to write about it, because they know I have a great readership.

Never, ever start a business relationship, by asking a total stranger for a selfish favour. Make the connections first. Get to know people. Show some respect. Be human.

The most successful business owners, go beyond this… they actively look for ways to be of value to others, in advance. They know that ‘giving and receiving’, begins with the ‘giving’ part.

So, to build a successful business, make the right connections in advance.

Build a successful business… by having a wide spread of clients or customers

The most successful business owners know the danger of having too few, high paying clients. They make sure they have a wide spread of business, rather than a few clients, who are responsible for a large percentage of their income.

For example: My wife is a very good Amazon customer and spends several thousand there every year. We have deliveries from Amazon every week, often 2 or 3 times. Do you have any idea how big a problem it would be for Amazon, if my wife stopped shopping with them? None. Zilch. Zero. That’s because Amazon has a massive number of customers. They can afford, literally, to lose 50,000 people who spend just as much as my wife, without breaking a sweat.

The typical small business owner does the opposite. Especially service providers. They usually have a small number of clients, who represent the majority of their income. If they lost even one, it would have a serious impact on their business. In some cases, it can put them out of business.

To grow a successful business, your business needs to be resilient. It needs to be robust. It needs to have a wide spread of clients or customers, none of whom have too big a share of your turnover or revenues.

If you currently find yourself too reliant on a small number of clients, make remedying the situation your number one priority. It’s a lot easier to improve your spread of business now, than when you have just lost a major client or customer.

So, to build a successful business, don’t have too many eggs in one basket.

Build a successful business… by using proven strategies, not tactics

One of the biggest mistakes people make, when trying to build a successful business, is to copy the tactics of other successful businesses, rather than learn from their strategies.

For example: Hundreds of ‘new’ social networking sites fail every month, because they try and copy what Facebook or Twitter does, (tactics) and end up creating a very similar network, that has no users. This approach can’t possibly work. Why would anyone use a new version of Facebook, which none of their friends are on?

If instead, they focused on the strategies that worked for Facebook or Twitter, such as developing something sufficiently unique, viral and valuable, they would have stood a better shot.

When you copy someone’s tactics, you simply become a copy of the original. Copies are of little value. The original Mona Lisa is priceless… you can buy a copy though, for the price of a coffee!

The challenge with discovering a successful strategy, is that it’s often hidden. We can see the tactics successful business owners use, because they are visible. However, discovering the strategies behind those tactics takes a lot more detective work. Fortunately, many of the world’s most successful business owners have written books on how they did it. Others are often interviewed, allowing us insights into the strategies they use or have used.

I have never seen a successful business that’s made up of a series of tactics. They are all strategic.

So, to build a successful business, think strategic.

Build a successful business… by getting the help you need

Very, very few successful business owners are equally great at every business discipline. It’s natural for all of us to be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Commercially, our areas of weakness can have a huge, negative impact on our overall business success, if we allow them to.

This leaves us with 2 options:

  1. Learn to become strong in the areas where we are weak.
  2. Hire expertise in the areas where we are weak.

Ongoing learning is essential to your business success, however, none of us can learn to be an expert in every area. So, we need to choose wisely.

For example: If you need a new website, which looks professional and isn’t simply based on a template used by a million other sites, it pays you to hire a talented designer. Otherwise, it may take you years to learn how to write code and study design, to the point where you can do work as polished as a talented professional web designer. You ‘save’ nothing by either creating a crappy looking DIY website quickly, or by robbing your business of hundreds of hours of your precious time, to learn how to design a great site.

Every successful business I have ever studied, has hired the help it needed. Conversely, every failed business I ever looked into, tried to do it all themselves. DIY is best kept to the home. Do It Yourself accountancy, IT, marketing and legal work, etc, makes zero sense… especially in today’s super competitive economy.

So, to build a successful business, get the help you need.

Finally

I hope you found these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with them.

Stop dumbing down your marketing. Really. Stop it!

dumbing down

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!

A powerful marketing lesson from the new iPhone

I want to share a marketing tip with you today, which Apple used recently with enormous success. It starts with a question.

How big is the iPhone 6?

Ask an iPhone user and they will tell you it’s large. That’s because until now, iPhone users have been using 4 inch screens. Compared to a 4 inch screen, a 4.7 inch screen is large.

Ask an Android user how big the iPhone 6 is and they will say it’s average size, because they’ve had screens that size for years.

So, when Apple used the phrase, “Bigger than bigger”, to market the new iPhone models, they were talking directly to existing Apple customers. Of course, they also attracted the attention of Android users, who were holding out until Apple produced a bigger device.

What does this have to do with you and your business?

Your marketing promises

Think about some of the promises you make with your marketing. For example:

  • We offer outstanding value.
  • We provide a great service.

In each case, your prospective customer will be comparing your promise against their expectations.

So, who are you marketing to and what do they expect?

  • If you’re marketing to people who are used to below average service and value, you can offer an average service and still meet their expectations.
  • However, if you market to people who receive an average service, the service and value you promise will need to be significantly better than average. Otherwise, your marketing promises won’t match their expectations.

How to get it right

Before you claim to offer an outstanding service or amazing value, you need to know who your target customer is comparing you to. If you make grand statements with your marketing, yet prospective customers or clients think it sounds average when they review what you actually offer, you lose.

Most small business owners overestimate how good their services are and underestimate their competitors. They forget how passionate their competitors are and how hard they work. They know their own level of commitment and assume the others can’t possibly be trying as hard.

Here’s what to do next

Spend some time researching what your competitors offer. Google makes this relatively simple. Look at the range of services your competitors provide, the guarantees they offer and when possible, their fees or prices.

That will help you get a more accurate picture of what prospective clients see as average.

Then, look for ways to pump more value into what you provide. How much value? So much, that when a prospective customer matches your marketing promises with what you actually deliver, it  exceeds their expectations. This is what motivates them to hire you or buy from you.

Tip: Read this – 3 Ideas to help you the next time they say you’re too expensive.

Money without happiness… you’re still broke!

How’s business?

Many business owners will answer that question based on how profitable things are… how their order books look, how cash flow is flowing.

Yes, that’s one measurement

However, even if profits and cash flow look great, it only shows a small part of the picture. Many business owners are making money, but they are losing something else. Something more important. Something bigger than their business.

Business owners often find their work life balance is pretty unbalanced. They are often stressed, working too many hours and working on uninspiring projects for clients who don’t appreciate them. Somewhere along the way, the need to make money was replaced by the need to make money… even at the expense of their happiness, health, family life. Maybe all three.

Decide what matters then go for it

If any important area of your life is suffering because of your business — stop! Even if you are making tons of money, you’re always going to be broke.

Why?

Because history is littered with stories of business owners, who were SO BROKE… all they had left was their money.

OK Connolly, what next?

Try this.

Decide how many hours you want to work, in order to have that essential family and friends time. Determine how much you want to earn, the kind of clients you want to work with and the type of projects you want to work on.

Then, reimagine your business, products and services. Rebuild them from the ground up if needed. Develop them, so they’re of direct interest to high quality clients (or customers). These are the people who will pay you what you’re worth — so you don’t have to work crazy hours to supplement low fees.

Next, direct your marketing exclusively to this targeted group. Speak to them specifically with your marketing messages.

You’ll quickly discover one of the best kept secrets in business: The clients who value your time and pay you well, are the easiest and most rewarding to work with on every level.

Get it right and you’ll also discover how to run a business that rewards you where it matters most… and financially too.

PS - Here are 3 articles, which show you how to attract the best clients and the highest fees:

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 1.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 2.

How to attract the best clients and the highest fees – Part 3.

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