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.

How to avoid wasting money on advertising

advertising

Here’s how to avoid a common advertising mistake, which loses small business owners a fortune.

I’d like to start by asking you to consider the following question.

Who [not how many] are you reaching?

When it comes to advertising, relevance is more important than numbers.

Most small business owners buy advertising, based on the number of people who will read, watch or listen to the advertisement. It’s understandable, because that’s how ads are usually pitched to them. Those selling the ads know that when they approach a small business owner, who desperately needs to generate sales or enquiries, the BIG numbers sound very attractive.

What you need to know, in order to protect yourself from buying ineffective ads, is this:

It’s not about the number of people who will potentially see or hear your ad. It’s about who those people are.

Here’s an example of why the numbers are only a small part of the advertising equation. It’s from a reader who asked me to share her experience with you.

The ad reached 125,000 people… for just $475!

I was prompted to write today’s post, after Kelly emailed me to say she had recently paid for an advertisement that went into a newsletter, with a readership of 125,000 people. She explained that whilst the readership “wasn’t a great fit”, she thought $475 to reach all those people was a bargain.

Her advertisement generated 9 responses and no sales.

Here’s what she got, in return for $475:

  • 7 responses came from pushy advertising salespeople, trying to sell her more ads. This is common. Advertisers look for business owners who are buying ineffective ads. They know these are the easiest people to sell ads to.
  • 2 responses came from people who were totally unsuitable for the service she was advertising.

Like most small business owners, Kelly was seduced by the number (or reach) of the advertising, rather than who the advertising was reaching. Please don’t let that happen to you.

The sweet spot you’re aiming for is a well written ad, which reaches a targeted, large audience.

Here’s some useful information, with examples, on how to get your advertising right.

How to raise your business to a whole new level

business development, business growth,

If your business is growing slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

To get your business moving forward, there are 2 things you need to focus on. I have set them out as 2 questions. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

So, here are the questions:

  1. What do you want to achieve with your business?
  2. Are you willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners lack sufficient clarity, regarding what they want their business to achieve. When I ask them, they will often tell me things like; I want a profitable company, I want a thriving consultancy, I want to retire in comfort. They hardly ever give me anything specific.

The challenge here, is that without knowing what your ultimate business target or goal is, you have no way to measure if you’re on track or not.

This lack of clarity about what you specifically want to achieve, means it’s extremely easy for you to make poor long term decisions. It’s what causes hard working business owners to spin their wheels.

It’s like the old saying, “When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. As a result, we find many hard working small business owners taking costly detours.

The key is to get specific… to describe, in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

Here’s how to find your answer!

A great way to get really focused on what you want from your business, is to ask yourself this question:

If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down in detail!

Avoid vague terms and use specifics. Include numbers in your answer whenever possible. For example, include things like:

  • What you want to generate in revenues and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • What you want to earn from your business.
  • What you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

You may also want to describe the type of clients you want, what your working day would look like, where you’d locate your business, etc. Make sure to include everything that matters to you.

Once you have a clearer picture of exactly what you want to achieve with your business, it’s time to answer that second question.

So, are you willing to pay the price?

You will seldom find a small business owner, who doesn’t work hard. That is not what this question is about.

The question is about whether we’re prepared to do everything required, to make that clear image of our future business a reality. The question asks us if we are prepared, time after time, to leave our comfort zones.

Success requires us to pay the price in advance. This means committing to do 100% of what’s required, rather than avoiding the necessary tasks, which we’re uncomfortable with. Hard work alone is not enough. If hard work was the key to success, our grandparents would have all been millionaires!

What next, Jim?

Once you have got clear about what you want and you have decided to do what’s required in order to achieve it, it’s time to take action.

The best place to start, is to take a look at your current business activities and investments. Then, eliminate everything that is not taking you toward your business goals [or targets].

Next, replace the activities that were taking your business nowhere, with ones that are consistent with your new, clearer picture of the business you want.

This is the starting point of creating a great strategy. If you need help getting your strategy right, this 2 hour session with me could be just what you need.

How to avoid working for clients who undervalue you

Business development, client fees

They say that money goes to money. And they’re absolutely correct. It does. In today’s post I’m going to explain how this works.

Once you understand how wealthy business owners get wealthier, you can adopt the same strategy and reap the rewards. Plus, you’ll never need to work for a low value client again.

Why money goes to money and what it means to your business

The idea behind that saying, is that people with lots of money find it easier to make even more money. Interestingly, a significant chunk of the equation is not the actual money that wealthy people have behind them. Instead, it’s the mindset behind wealthy business owners that helps them acquire more and more wealth.

We see this mindset in play, when we look at how business owners think, regarding the clients they choose to work with and the fees they are prepared to work for.

Here’s what we see:

  • Those who feel poor, will take on almost any new client who comes their way.
  • Those who feel financially strong, will usually cherry-pick who they work with. If they think someone is a bad fit or unprepared to pay what they are worth, they won’t work with them.

Under performing small businesses often struggle from year to year, because the business is run from a mindset of fear. As a result, they work for low fees and eagerly grab anything that comes their way.

This then ensures they stay in that fear cycle, as they never earn enough to become more selective about who they work with or what they charge.

I have met with business owners, who have been stuck in that cycle for a decade or more. They work hard. They often offer just as good a service as those charging far more than them. Yet, their focus on fear causes them to undervalue their work and lower the bar on the clients and fees they will accept.

How to escape the cycle

We have to start by understanding something fundamental:

A wealthy business owner would soon find themselves in trouble, if they were to apply that fear based thinking to their business development.

No business can thrive, working for peanuts and for clients who undervalue them.

Here’s what your escape plan looks like, if you want to break free from this cycle:

  • Gather the courage to start being selective regarding who you are prepared to work with. This may feel risky, but the riskiest thing you can do is carry on working for low value clients.
  • Offer the highest quality service you can. Look for ways to pump as much value into your work as possible. Create an amazing client experience, so that hiring you becomes a pleasure for your clients… an experience they will cherish and want to tell their friends about.
  • Then, adjust your fees up to reflect all that great value you deliver.

You need to do this before you become wealthy or you will find yourself stuck in the cycle.

Ironically, playing it safe, by working for low value clients for low fees is one of the riskiest things you can do. That’s worth remembering, the next time you accept a new client or quote a fee!

This will help

Here are all 3 parts of a series I wrote, on how to market your services to the best potential clients:

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.

How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging topics r

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.

How to make your content marketing more compelling

Content Marketing, copywriting, writing

Which of these approaches do you find the most compelling?

  1. I wrote this blog post, now I need you to read it.
  2. There’s an idea I believe you will benefit from, so I wrote about it.

And which of these 2 do you prefer?

  1. I made this audio program, and now I need you to buy it.
  2. Small business owners needed help with this challenge, so I made an audio program about it.

Most people are far more attracted to the second approach in those examples. Despite this, almost every marketing message I see from small and medium-sized businesses, is based on the first approach. They come from a self-focused mindset, rather than being focused on the needs [or wants] of the other person.

Smarter marketing

Your marketing needs to be smarter than that if you want people to embrace your message and hire you or buy from you.

Telling someone that you know there are competing products, but they should buy yours, because you made it, won’t work. The prospective client or customer doesn’t care what you want. They care about answers to their problems. They care about their wants.

When you create your marketing based on what the other person wants, what’s important to them… it immediately improves how your marketing is received. It also improves how the prospect feels about you. This is the cornerstone of all effective marketing.

What next?

I recommend you spend some time reviewing your marketing. Shift the emphasis of any self-focused copy, from what you want to what they want.

The worst that can happen is that your marketing will be focused on the wants and needs of your marketplace. Get it right and it’s also likely to significantly improve your client acquisition / sales numbers.

A guaranteed way to increase your chances of success

Business development

So, you’re working on a new idea or trying to improve your business results.

You have a couple of options open to you:

  1. You can go through the long, costly process of trial and error… work hard and hope it works.
  2. Alternatively, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. You can find out what needs to be done, and then proceed with confidence.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers the second option, try this. It’s guaranteed to work. [Yes, literally].

How to stop stalling and do your best work

How to

No, it doesn’t really matter what brand of computer you choose to work with. The same is true of the software you use. Leonardo da Vinci changed the world, writing with a quill.

No, it doesn’t really matter how you plan what you write. Best-selling author John Boyne, like many, doesn’t plan at all. He doesn’t even know where the story is going, until after he starts writing it.

No, it doesn’t really matter how inspired you feel. You don’t wait for inspiration to appear… you command it to appear.

What matters

What matters is that you get started. So learn to identify your stalling tactics. Then, call them out for what they are.

Now you’re free to focus on doing your best work.

How to increase sales and build an excellent reputation

marketing topics r

There’s something amazing about deadlines, which very few business owners tap into. When used correctly, deadlines can help you improve your sales results and build a great reputation too. I’ll show you how this works in a moment.

First, let’s consider just how valuable deadlines are:

  • By giving someone a deadline, you have stated precisely when you expect them to deliver.
  • By accepting a deadline, you have put your reputation on the line. You have committed to deliver by an agreed time.

So, how can you and your business benefit [enormously] from all this?

The marketing power of precise, self-imposed deadlines

The smartest business owners look for opportunities to commit to precise deadlines. They know that their clients and prospective clients value certainty and clarity.

For example, the power of a promise like, “It will be completed and emailed to you at 9am Tuesday”, is far greater than the typical, weak, “It will be with you in the next few days”. Clear, committed marketing statements attract people’s attention and generate word of mouth referrals, because in most industries they are exceptionally rare.

Yes, it takes courage to offer your clients a precise deadline, knowing you have to deliver on that promise. However, it’s a massively valuable marketing move and one of the fastest and finest ways to build a great reputation.