21 Powerful habits behind highly successful business owners

habits

Over the years I have worked with thousands of business owners. Many of these were successful, some were hugely successful.

Acquiring the habits for success

I noticed that the most successful business owners shared certain habits. They did things, which the average business owner didn’t do. I decided to learn from them… to acquire their habits, to see if it would help me.

It did. It really did. In big, meaningful, measurable ways.

So, in brief, here’s what I learned from them:

  1. They are driven by a passion to do something big. Something that motivates them AND those around them.
  2. They personalise their business, so it’s uniquely theirs. One of a kind. Rare and valuable.
  3. They know success is about more than money… that if you’re rich and unhappy, you’re still broke.
  4. They show people, rather than tell people. Anyone can claim anything, so they walk the walk.
  5. They out-care their competition. It shines through everything they do.
  6. They out-smart their competitors too.
  7. They set standards, extremely high, self-imposed standards… and they achieve them.
  8. They ignore the manual and write their own rules.
  9. They focus on what they want, not what they fear.
  10. They are excellent decision makers. They get the information required, study it, request advice if needed, then decide.
  11. They avoid those costly detours, which come disguised as shortcuts to success.
  12. They work hard. You can’t sleepwalk your way to the top… or even the middle.
  13. They also relax. If you work smart during work time, you can relax when it’s family and friends time.
  14. They seldom watch TV. None (zero) of the most successful people I know, bother with TV.
  15. They are extremely selective who they associate with and who they recommend.
  16. They lead. The world already has enough followers and the followers need leaders.
  17. They manage their time extremely well.
  18. They deliberately build a valuable network of people — before they need them.
  19. They are willing to stand out. They know it’s the only way to be outstanding.
  20. They summon the courage to do what’s required, rather than what feels comfortable.
  21. They make promises… then keep them.

Those are just some of the habits I have discovered and road tested, which improved my business and life beyond recognition.

I hope you find them useful, but more importantly, I hope you decide to try and make at least one of them a habit.

How to learn from the best, without copying them

learn from best

One of the best ways to develop your business, is to learn from what already works.

It’s not about copying. It’s about using what works for others, as a source of creative inspiration for your own marketing. Allow me to explain.

Here are 3 examples of what I mean

1. Think of the last product or service you paid for. Now ask yourself, what were the main motivators, which persuaded you to make that purchase? Look for a way to uniquely incorporate those persuasive factors into the marketing of your own products or services.

2. Think of the last time you recommended a product or service to your friends. What were the key factors that motivated you to give it your endorsement? Look for ways to uniquely incorporate them into your business, so you attract more word of mouth referrals.

3. Think of the last newsletter you read, which inspired you to make a purchase, click a link, email the sender, etc. What was it about that newsletter [or the person who wrote it], which motivated you to take action? Look for ways to uniquely build that into your own newsletter, so more people take action when they read it.

As you may have already noticed, this approach can be applied to any area of your business that you want to improve.

Learning is more valuable than copying

A well known example of this approach came from Steve Jobs. When designing the first iMac computers, Jobs studied the design of sports cars for inspiration. Apparently, people would see him in the Apple parking lot, looking at the lines and curves of sports cars. His machines didn’t look like cars, but the ‘design lines’ of some Apple products were influenced by them.

The key thing to remember is that the value comes from learning, not copying. Look at what works and search for the lessons behind it. If you fully embrace this idea, it will be a powerful development tool for both you and your business.

How to attract customers… from your competitors!

How to

So, you’d like more customers or clients. The question is, why should they switch to you, rather than carry on with their current provider?

In today’s post I help you answer this important question!

Why should they leave their comfort zone?

It takes effort for people to switch from one provider to another. This means the reasons you provide for switching to you, need to be compelling. Your offer needs to inspire them to leave their comfort zone… to dump their familiar, safe, current provider and risk the unknown.

We know that being a little less expensive, a little faster or a little better isn’t enough.

Here’s why: Marginal differences have marginal impact. They lack the power required, to inspire people to take action.

In short: Your prospective clients need to see an obvious, clear, meaningful reason to switch providers.

This will help you get it right

Take a look at your business from the vantage point of a prospective client or customer. Look at the reasons you provide, to motivate them to leave their comfort zone and switch to you.

Now answer this question: Considering the perceived risk involved with them switching providers, are the reasons you give truly compelling enough?

If not, what meaningful, measurable benefit could you add, which would make switching to you feel:

  • Less risky. For example, offer them guarantees. Here’s how I make this work, using something called Risk Reversal.
  • Less hassle. For example, offer to help with any of the tasks involved, when switching from their old provider.
  • More beneficial to them than staying with their current provider. For example, develop a service that’s unique to your business. [Need some creative help? I’ve got you covered. Here’s a website full of creative ideas, written by me. Everything there is free!]

You need to remember that every provider claims to offer great customer service and to go the extra mile for their clients. This means you should focus on developing a meaningful, measurable and motivating difference. Get this right and it can be a game-changer for your business. Yes, it’s that important.

PS: Here’s how to stop your competitors taking clients from YOUR business: How to use the lock-in effect to retain your clients.

How to inspire your marketplace and attract the best clients

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

Nothing is more average than the average business!

These are the businesses that work for average clients and earn average fees. These hardworking folk look to the future with apprehension, rather than excitement. Why? Because they know there’s no future in being yet another average business. It’s a constant struggle. It’s stressful.

Today, I’m going to show you how to avoid the average trap and grow a successful, inspirational business.

The inspiration premium

Whilst average businesses struggle, inspirational businesses thrive. Maybe the most famous example came from the last recession, where Apple achieved record sales and record profits. They did this, selling high priced devices, which inspired their fans to spend billions of dollars with them.

Did you notice that? Apple has fans, not customers. That’s because when you inspire your marketplace, people position you or your brand very differently in their mind. And yes, this works for small businesses, too!

Take a look at any area of your business, which you think is underperforming. Now, instead of comparing that area of your business with what your competitors are doing, I want you to set your bar massively higher.

For example:

  • If you want people to tell their friends how great your service is, provide a service that inspires word of mouth referrals. Like Disney.
  • If you want more repeat clients or customers, do something that inspires them to return. Like Apple.
  • If you want more enquiries from your newsletter, write content that inspires people to contact you. Like Evernote.

In short: Walk away from average. Embrace inspirational.

It’s easier said than done, Jim!

Yes, of course it’s easier said than done. However, it’s not that hard.

This is especially the case for small business owners. You can use your agility to make the necessary improvements, starting right now. Whether it’s Disney, Apple, Rolex or another inspirational brand, look at what they’re doing. Look at how they are inspiring their marketplace.

Learn from the best. Let them set the bar on what you expect from yourself and your business. It takes more effort, but it’s far easier than owning a business that works for average clients and average fees.

This will help you to get started: How to grow your business, with Agile Thinking.

This is a marketing message. Really. It is!

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make your marketing so attractive, that people would miss it if it wasn’t there.

Think about it: Most of the marketing messages we receive are unwelcome. At best, they are the price we pay for being able to watch a YouTube clip or listen to a radio station. At worst, marketing messages are an unwanted, annoying intrusion.

The good news is, marketing doesn’t need to be this way.

How some brands get it right

Some of the marketing we receive is welcomed. For example, when Evernote send me their newsletter, I read it. Always. Why? Because it’s packed with tips on how to get the most value from the Evernote app, so users can organise their ideas and improve their work flow. As a daily Evernote user, these tips and ideas are of huge value to me.

Yes, I have made additional purchases because of the Evernote newsletter. However, they have never sold me anything.

Think about that for a moment. It’s extremely powerful!

Leigh inspired me to write today’s post

Earlier today I received a message from a reader. Leigh said that she reads my blog via email. The reason she got in touch is that she hadn’t had an email from me for 5 days. She wanted to make sure everything was OK. It turned out to be a problem with her new email provider. But that’s not the point.

The message behind Leigh’s email may not sound that important at first glance… but it is. It’s a powerful example of the effectiveness of content marketing.

I’ll explain why in a moment.

The best content marketing delivers value

Just like the Evernote newsletter I mentioned, the best content marketing is packed with independent value. [Note: By independent value, I mean that the content itself delivers value, independent of the reader needing to purchase anything].

When people connect with effective content marketing, they feel like they have gained something. Because of this, they welcome it in a way that’s impossible to achieve with a sales pitch.

A great way for you to get this right, is to ask yourself the following question: “If I stopped publishing my newsletter, blog posts, email marketing or social networking updates, etc., would people miss them?”

This is a marketing message. Seriously!

If you think my blog posts aren’t marketing messages, think again. Yes, I give you useful information for free, without pitching you anything, but consider this:

  • Hundreds of people email me every week, because of something they read on my blog or in the email version of the blog.
  • A subset of these great people will become clients of mine or customers of my audio program.
  • Other readers become advocates and recommend my services to their friends.
  • Some share my blog posts, helping me reach more people.

Now consider this:

Think for a moment how useful it would be for your business, if you were receiving emails and phone calls all day every day, from interested people who already knew all about you and what you do.

What next?

Provide your marketplace with useful information, not sales pitches. Make your content marketing about the reader, not about you. Help them solve their challenges with your expertise. And let people know what you can do for them [like that short message below], so they know where to come when they need expert help they can trust.

Remember… the process of giving and receiving starts with the giving part.

Read this. It will help you: How to make your Content Marketing more compelling!

How to attract more clients, using deadlines!

marketing tips

Most small business marketing lacks urgency. And it’s losing those businesses a fortune.

If you want people to take action, you need to motivate them. A proven way for you to do this, is to set a deadline.

The thing about deadlines

Deadlines focus the mind. They take something that’s interesting and make it both interesting and urgent.

It looks like this:

  • Without a deadline, people will think your offer is interesting and decide to check it out later… then forget all about it.
  • With a deadline, people will think your offer is interesting and take action now… to hire you, buy from you, email you or call you.

If you’re not including a deadline as part of your marketing mix, you’re leaving money on the table.

Bloggers: Why too few people read your blog and how to fix it!

blogging, blog tips, content marketing

This is a very important post. If you want to get more business, feedback and recognition from your blog, this could be exactly what you need to know.

The post was inspired by an email I received from Shannon. She kindly gave me permission to share part of it with you. Here’s the core challenge she wanted help with, along with my answer and lots of tips and examples to help you build a successful business blog.

Here’s what Shannon wanted to know:

“I’ve been blogging for close to three years now. It’s been frustrating to say the least! […]  I have no idea what I’m doing wrong and I’ve followed the advice from [she mentioned a very well known blogging site] totally.  I’m just about ready to quit.  Can you take a look at my blog and tell me what I’m missing?”

I did take a quick look at her blog and it’s exactly the same as countless other business blogs, following the same, general blogging advice.

Here’s what the challenge is and how to resolve it!

Blogging is exceptionally effective

I’ve worked in marketing since 1987 and nothing I have used, studied or witnessed, comes close to the marketing power of an effective blog. Period.

So, why has Shannon and the vast majority of business owners, seen such poor results?

Without doubt, the main reason is that blogging is often touted, incorrectly, as the written equivalent of painting by numbers. In other words, you follow a set of rules and success will follow. This myth persists because it’s repeated by well known bloggers, selling generic guides and programs on how to grow a successful business blog.

The polar opposite is actually true: The closer you follow the same general format, rules and techniques as everyone else, the less likely you are to achieve anything worthwhile from your blog.

Here’s how I created one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs, using a more individual approach.

I didn’t SEO my posts

I decided to write for my readers, not Google. This gave me the freedom to express my thoughts, rather than SEO my thoughts.

Shannon’s blog posts are written using SEO software. This means they are often too long, just so she can reach her minimum SEO word count and keyword density. Posts that should be information rich and 250 words long, are filled with fluff to make them more SEO friendly. It has totally robbed her of her voice and individuality.

Google likes it. However, it reads like crap. As a result, Shannon attracts drive-by traffic, rather than client enquiries.

Tip: Read this – Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it!

I didn’t guest blog

I focused on building my readership, by producing the most useful content I could and then made it extremely easy for people to share it.

This approach works even better today than when I started in 2008, thanks to the popularity of social networking sites.

Many bloggers waste their best material on other people’s blogs, because their blog guru convinced them it’s a great idea. It’s one way to build your readership, but certainly not the best. Or the second best. Shannon told me that she has guest blogged a lot, with nothing to show for it. She’s not alone.

Build your own platform. Put the primary value on your own turf. Don’t be someone else’s unpaid content provider.

I removed comments

It was summer 2013, when I removed the commenting feature from my blog. Blog commenting is a vestige from the days before social networks. It was also a huge time suck for me, as I often got 2500 spam comments a day.

It was still a tough decision though. The only other person I knew who’d done it was Seth Godin, and he had a very different reason. But it was the right thing to do. So I did it.

Back then, I was attacked. Social media gurus said you HAD TO have comments on your blog or it wasn’t a blog.

Today, the mood is changing.

Since I removed comments, other popular blogs including; copyblogger, Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt, have done the same. And they’re absolutely right.

My point is that you need to question perceived wisdom. Then if you believe something needs to change, do it your way. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you — be prepared to lead. We need more leaders.

Shannon has comments enabled and she gets very little feedback. Many comments are from people trying to get backlinks or score free advice from her. This lack of so-called social proof, does nothing to enhance Shannon’s reputation. It also makes her blog look like a ghost town, when prospective clients check her out.

I didn’t fill the blog with affiliate links

When I recommend something to a reader, it’s a genuine recommendation and I don’t get a penny for it. The trust of my reader community is worth far more to me than affiliate money.

Shannon’s blog home page has affiliate banners for 3 products. None are related to her profession. It makes her site look cheap, which is toxic for a service provider.

I didn’t pump my posts with buzzwords

Disrupt, ruckus, growth hacking, big data, intersection… buzzwords like those fail twice.

  • Firstly, they make informed people cringe.
  • Secondly, they confuse the uninformed. That’s a bad idea if you want people to understand your message!

Shannon’s blog uses lots of content marketing buzz words. This, combined with the keyword loading she does for her SEO, means readers have no personality to connect with.

I made 1 rule and stuck with it

I made a rule, which I have stuck to since summer 2008. It’s simply this

I will only publish a post when I have something useful to share and I’ll make sure I find something useful, often.

This means I often write when it’s easier not to. I update older posts daily, to keep the information relevant. Blogging is a primary business activity for me, rather than something I fit in. As a result, I write when I’m extremely busy, when I am tired and even when I’m not feeling great.

Your rules

The Internet is packed with sites that offer largely the same, general advice on how to build a successful blog.

Their advice seems to make sense, until you consider that by following it, you become invisible – lost in an ocean of millions of other bloggers using the same, general advice.

If you’re following what they say, you will be able to identify with Shannon’s situation.

In short: Your blog needs to be as individual as you are. Otherwise, you’re invisible.

Tip: This post asks an important question: Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10,000 daily readers?

Exposed: The great workaholic lie!

workaholic

Workaholics are not really workaholics.

It’s never work, which the so-called workaholic is addicted to. Instead, they’re hooked on the feelings that come from doing something they love. That passion and joy is what inspires them all day, every day.

When you do something you love, it’s natural to want to keep doing it.

  • It’s why Nile Rodgers still creates and performs.
  • It’s why Arnold Schwarzenegger is still making movies.
  • It’s why Bill Gates is still making a difference.

ALL of those guys are in their 60’s. NONE of them need the money. What they do need, are the feelings associated with their “work”.

Conversely, someone who finds their work frustrating, boring or stressful, pays to go on vacation… to get away from work. They spend a tiny amount of time each year, doing what they love. They have the equation completely the wrong way around.

No one is addicted to meaningless work

If you get paid for doing what you love, you may be a passion-aholic. You could be a joy-aholic or even a pleasure-aholic. But you’re not a workaholic. No one is addicted to working, just for the sake of work.

  • Work without meaning is a way to pay the bills.
  • Work without meaning is empty.
  • Work without meaning leaves you doing things you don’t want to do, for the majority of your adult life.

If work feels like work for too many days in a row, switch sides. Join us!

Become a passion-aholic. Find what you love and make that your “work”. Transform your business from something you work in, to something that fills you with joy and passion… every day.

Can you do it? Yes, yes you can. I know because I’ve helped business owners worldwide to make it happen and experienced it in my own life since 1995. All you need is the right strategy and the courage to put it into place.

If you do that, I promise you will never work another day in your life.

How to turn strangers into customers

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

Here’s an opportunity for you to gain a significant advantage over many, perhaps most, of your competitors. It’s about something I call attraction marketing.

I was prompted to write this after a business owner contacted me on Twitter. Within 5 minutes, he’d sent me several Direct Messages and then an email… each one asking me if I wanted to know about a business proposition.

The guy is a total stranger to me. All I know about him, is that he’s the kind of person who sends business proposals to strangers.

  • He could be a decent and honest man.
  • His business proposal could be genuinely valuable.
  • He may be scratching his head right now, wondering why no one is interested in his amazing idea.

The thing is, pestering people is extremely ineffective. It’s far more likely to damage his reputation, than it is to make anyone check out his business proposal.

More common than you may think

Whilst you may consider that guy’s approach to be a little extreme, many small business owners make the same kind of mistake with their marketing.

Here are a few common examples:

  • They pester us on social networks.
  • They fake interest in us at networking events, then hit us with a sales pitch.
  • They buy lists and send us spam marketing messages.
  • They add us to their newsletter list, without our consent.
  • They cold call us at work, when we’re busy.
  • They cold call us at home in the evenings, when we’re relaxing with family or friends.

Here’s the thing: Our prospective clients are programmed to ignore selfish requests, from people they don’t know. They actively avoid pests. Because of this, pests tend to get extremely poor results, which causes them to pester even more people, even harder.

If we, as legitimate business owners, adopt any of the pestering tactics used by those guys, we too will encounter the same resistance.

Thankfully, there’s zero need for you or me to pester anyone with our marketing.

Thankfully, we have a way to send people information they have asked us for, which is also commercially beneficial to us.

Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to do!

Smart entrepreneurs get it

The smartest entrepreneurs take a non pestering approach. It looks like this:

  • They focus on building relationships with people.
  • They strive to be useful.
  • They are all about bringing value.
  • They look for opportunities to earn [and re-earn] trust.

Once there’s a relationship in place and trust has been established, their messages will be welcomed. Their proposals will be taken seriously.

The marketing power of business blogging and newsletters

Business blogging is the most powerful tool I have ever known for small business owners. Newsletters come a very close second. Both are extremely powerful marketing tools. Each provide us with almost unlimited potential to reach targeted prospective clients or customers. They also allow us to earn the trust of our marketplace, as a recognised expert in our field. No pestering required!

Though you will need a strategy to make this work, the 130 feet view looks a little like this:

  • Produce useful information that’s targeted to the wants and needs of your ideal profile of client or customer.
  • Make sure there’s a short marketing message, like the one at the foot of this post, so interested people can get in touch with you when they need help.
  • Make your post or newsletter interesting and easy to read.
  • Do this regularly.
  • Soon, your first 5 readers will subscribe.
  • They will each get you 5 more.
  • This repeats over time.

Do it correctly and hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people, will eagerly want to hear what you have to say.

By showing up regularly you have demonstrated your knowledge and eagerness to help. You have also demonstrated your reliability. These combine to help you earn the trust of your readers.

Here’s why this is so valuable to you and your business: Your readers are just like you. They hire [and buy from] people they know, value and trust.

Note: Read this. It will help: 25 Reasons to Write a Business Blog

Attraction marketing

Regardless of the marketing tools a small business owner chooses to use, one thing remains the same. Pestering people for what you want is extremely ineffective. When people push their message at us, we push back. We block or mute their social networking accounts. We delete their emails unread, as soon as we see the sender’s name. We hang up the phone, as soon as we hear them start their pitch. We avoid them at networking events.

So, focus on attracting clients or customers, rather than pestering or pursuing them. Build a reputation, a big reputation, for your expertise and the contribution you make to your marketplace.

Oh, and make it easy for prospective clients or customers to contact you… because after you create an attraction marketing strategy, that’s exactly what they will do.

How to avoid arguments and enjoy great client relationships

How to

I witnessed an argument yesterday, between a business owner and one of his customers. It was noisy, public and has lost the business owner at least one customer. The whole situation could have been avoided, with the tip I’m going to share with you in today’s post. Here’s what happened, along with a valuable business lesson.

First, here’s a quote from the 1936 classic, How to win friends and influence people.

The book’s author, Dale Carnegie, said; “Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, you’re wrong! to them.”

You are right. They are right too. Maybe!

When someone disagrees with us, it’s easy to think that they are wrong. This is especially the case when we truly believe that our opinion is right.

Here’s the thing: It’s entirely possible that their opinion and our opinion are both correct, even when we see things very differently.

For example:

  • I really dislike the taste of almonds. In my opinion and in my experience, almonds taste disgusting.
  • You may love the taste of almonds. In your opinion, they taste absolutely delicious.
  • If we went through a lie detector test, we would both be proven to be telling the truth — even though our answers were 100% different.

That’s the thing about opinions. When an opinion is given as an answer, it’s usually one of dozens, maybe hundreds, of possible correct answers.

How one retailer got it very wrong

I was prompted to write this post, after listening to a business owner arguing with one of his customers. The argument took place yesterday in a cycle shop.

Here’s what happened.

The customer asked if the retailer stocked a particular brand of tyre. The retailer asked why the customer wanted that brand. The customer explained that in his experience, it was the best on the market. The retailer then insisted the customer was wrong. He even went so far as to get his iPad out and show some negative Amazon.com reviews of the tyre.

Incidentally, I would have picked a different brand of tyre than either of those picked by the customer or the shop owner. That’s because depending on our experience with different brands of tyre, we will have formed different opinions.

Anyhow, the customer walked out of the shop, shaking his head in frustration. After the confrontational stance the retailer took, and his raised voice, I doubt the customer will ever return — especially as he now knows he can get the tyre he wants, for less, on Amazon!

The retailer had a smug grin on his face, assuming he’d won the argument. What he’d actually done, was lose a customer by showing zero respect for the customer’s opinion and turning a sales enquiry into a heated argument. I’m not sure any business owner can sustain too many victories like that.

Turning a difference of opinion into a valuable opportunity

We don’t have to agree with everyone. What we should do, however, is learn to respect their right to their opinion.

Indeed, we can use our difference of opinion as a way to create a useful dialogue. We can even use it to deepen our relationship with customers, clients or contacts.

For example, here’s an effective way to handle a business situation, when your opinion is different from the other person.

  • Explain that all you’re interested in, is finding the best solution for them. This places both of you on the same side. The difference this makes to the tone of the conversation is huge.
  • Give the other person the opportunity to say what they want to say, without butting in. By allowing them to get their point across, they will feel less tense and feel more positively toward you, for showing them respect and recognition.
  • If you believe they’re incorrect or about to make a mistake, you should offer them another perspective. Note: You’re not arguing with them. You’re offering them your perspective based on your experience and expertise.
  • Then, offer an example of how your suggested approach has worked in the past, for people with similar challenges. This is massively more effective than looking for holes in their position and bombarding them with reasons why they’re wrong.
  • Ask them what they think and listen again without butting in.
  • Because there’s no confrontation, no argument to be won or lost, the other person is free to consider your opinion. They can now agree with you, without losing face.

Does this approach magically win around everyone, whose opinion is different from yours? No.

However, I’ve used this approach since starting my business in 1995 with huge success. It has gained me many clients and many good friends too. Equally, it has never lost me a client — unlike the kind of confrontational approach, used by the store owner in my example.

Interestingly, I’ve always found this approach to be massively more effective at helping others see things my way, than attacking their opinion.

Respect never gets old

The technologies we use today are very different from those, which were used when Carnegie wrote that amazing book. However, business is still all about people. Showing respect for others and their opinions, is just as important today as it was in 1936.