Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: How to (page 1 of 22)

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.

How your business can make a dent in the universe

Last week marked the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Steve Jobs. Something Jobs once said, had a huge positive impact on the way I work. Today, I’m going to share it with you, along with how you can use it to build a better business.

It was simply this:

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

A lifetime of work, but no dent

When you think about it, most business owners don’t make a dent in the universe, in any meaningful way. They work hard. They have highs and they have lows. Then they retire. Hopefully, they make enough money to live in comfort for their remaining years.

But commercially, that’s it. No dent in the universe. Nothing that lives on when they retire. Nothing that’s bigger then them.

3 Keys to making a dent

I believe there are 3 keys to making your dent in the universe.

  1. Doing something remarkable.
  2. Persistence.
  3. Having a major goal or vision.

I’ve already written a great deal on the importance of being remarkable. So, I’m not going to repeat myself here. If you want to know about being remarkable, read this.

Persistence

Persistence is the second key to putting your dent in the universe. Most people work hard on a thousand and one different things. However, they seldom focus like a laser on one important thing. They make lots of random prods or pokes, but these are spread too thinly. Instead of focusing on the dent in the world, which they want to make, they dilute their efforts.

A well known example of this is the so-called serial entrepreneur. This title is most often associated with people, who lack the persistence or perseverance to build something out to its full potential. They like the start-up phase, then lose faith and interest as the tricky work kicks in. So, they jump onto the next shiny thing.

Lots of singular pokes, but no dents.

Having a major goal or vision

Making your dent in the universe starts with deciding what your major commercial goal is. Then, committing to work in a way that is consistent with achieving that goal. This is what focuses your efforts in a unified direction, allowing you to create your very own dent.

Here’s an example from my own personal experience: When I started Jim’s Marketing Blog I had a major goal, which I have stuck with for over 6 years. That goal has influenced all my business decisions ever since. It has allowed me to focus my efforts in a unified direction. My goal is to help as many small business owners as I can, to be as successful as they can be.

As a result, each piece of work I do becomes part of a greater mass of work. All connected. All consistent with my major goal. All compounding to help me make my dent in the universe. Every day, with every new person I am able to help, my dent becomes a little bigger.

Jobs’ goal was to create beautiful things. As we all know, he took it to exceptional levels! That singular goal or vision influenced all his decisions. It allowed him to move forward with clarity. With confidence. It allowed him to identify the right people to connect with. The first Apple computer, the Mac, the iPod, iPhone and iPad were different products, decades apart – but all part of a singular vision, which allowed Jobs to make a massive dent in the universe.

In short: Decide what you want to create – what kind of dent you want to make in the universe. Then make that the focus of your efforts and the cornerstone of your decisions. Then persist. Doggedly. Because random pokes won’t work.

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

Last week, the folks over at Cision ranked Jim’s Marketing Blog as the country’s number 1 digital marketing blog. Soon after, I started getting requests from people, asking what I thought made my site stand out. There are a number of things, but I think the following is as good an answer as any:

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

Allow me to explain.

Google rewards over-long content

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

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

Google rewards the over use of so-called keywords

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

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

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

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

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!

How to make the right business decisions

I’d like to share some ideas with you today, about your role in your business.

You often hear small business owners talking about how many hats they wear. They’re referring to the number of different roles they play within their business. Whilst every business owner wears a number of different hats, it’s important to know the difference between what we should do and what needs an expert.

Specialist and non specialist areas of business

It’s fine for us to run the business, deal with clients and customers and control the areas of our business, where we are an expert. It’s fine for us to make the major decisions and deal with suppliers etc. However, when it comes to specialist areas of the business, we need expert help if we want to achieve the right results.

Common examples of how to lose a fortune, by wearing the wrong hat.

  • Yes, you probably could do your own accounts, but a qualified accountant will be able to lower your tax and spot problems, before they happen.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own HR, but if you end up in a dispute with an employee, you could end up losing thousands or being sued out of business.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own marketing, but you will soon reach a plateau, find it hard to grow, then hard to survive. A marketing professional will show you exactly what you need to do, to take your business to the next level and beyond.
  • Yes, you probably could design your own website, but a professional web designer will make it look polished and professional… rather than the work of a keen amateur.

It’s hard for a business owner to fail, when they work hard, doing the right things correctly, based on expert advice.

Conversely, it’s almost impossible to succeed, no matter how hard we work, no matter how passionate we are, if we’re wearing too many hats.

In short: You need to give your business the resources it needs, if you want it to succeed. To expect it to succeed on a mixture of general advice and DIY tactics, is a very costly and usually fatal mistake.

Why people criticise you and how to deal with it in just 3 steps

negative criticism, critics

Here is a simple, powerful 3 step process, to help you totally overcome the impact or fear of negative criticism.

Broadly, all of your critics can be divided into 1 of the following 2 groups:

  1. Those who want to help you and encourage you.
  2. Those who want to hinder you and see you fail.

It’s the second type of critic, which I want to talk to you about today. It’s that type of negative criticism, which stops many of us from being willing to stand out. It stops us putting our work or art out there. It encourages us to keep our head down. To follow the crowd.

The power of a critic

If you want your business to stand out, to attract lots of word of mouth referrals, it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from influencing you.

Why?

Because just about everything you need to do in order to market your business successfully, especially online, is visible and wide open to criticism. Anything you do, which is different enough for the marketplace to value it, is also visible enough for critics to criticise it.

So, you either learn to deal with it or do what most small business owners do, and run a business in the shadows, which is not a wise marketing move!

3 Steps to deal with negative criticism

Fortunately, dealing with negative criticism is relatively easy, so long as you learn to accept it for what it is. Once you understand why criticism happens, it eliminates its negative impact and allows you to focus all your effort on putting your best work out there.

Because I publish lots of material to a large audience, I get negative criticism regularly. In fact, the better my work, the more likely it is that at least one person will criticise it or criticise me for writing it.

Here are the 3 steps I used, to totally eliminate the negative impact of criticism.

1. Consider their motivation

When someone feels the need to negatively criticise your work, they are satisfying a need they have. It’s always about them, not you or your work.

Even if someone is negatively criticising you because they hope it will help you improve, it’s to satisfy their desire to help.

So, whatever the intention, criticism is always about the critic!

Understanding this is a key part of disempowering the critic’s influence over you and how you feel. When you accept that it’s NOT about you or your work, you see criticism for what it is – a selfish act perpetrated to feed a need the critic has – positive or negative.

Of course, even if the motivation is negative, if they are an expert in the field, you can still learn from what the critic says. Scientists often negatively criticise the work of their peers, people who really know their subject. That kind of criticism may be negative, but it can bring value with it.

This brings us nicely to the second step.

2. Consider the source

Is the person who is negatively criticising you, qualified to criticise you? Most criticism is unqualified. That’s to say, the person criticising your work doesn’t know enough about the subject or what you’re trying to achieve, to offer anything other than an uninformed opinion.

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

3. Use negative criticism as weights in your mental gym

With each piece of criticism that you run through the previous 2 steps, you build your resistance to the negative impact of critics. Just as lifting weights builds your muscles, processing negative criticism builds your emotional defences. Each time you are criticised and see it for what it really is, it becomes easier. Less daunting. Less fearsome.

Pretty soon, you learn to be fascinated by criticism and what it tells you about the other person. You quickly learn that if no one is criticising you, you are either invisible, doing work that fails to stand out… or both.

Finally, don’t try and avoid negative criticism. It will rob you of your voice. No criticism means no impact!

How to write great content every day!

If you find it hard to write articles, blog posts or newsletters, I have a quick tip for you. It will help you write more frequently and in a way that people will understand.

Drum-roll please…

Write the way you speak

Think about it: When you talk, people understand you. They listen to you. You engage them.

You don’t get talkers-block either!

So, don’t treat your written words differently from your spoken words. Just type them, rather than speaking them. This is the approach I used when I started as a writer and it has never failed me. And yes, the more you do it the better your writing will become.

The challenge with this approach is that it robs you of any excuse not to write more frequently. Sorry :)

Tip – Read this: Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10,000 daily readers?

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