Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Networking (page 1 of 16)

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

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

Let’s get started with number 1.

You stopped growing

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

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

You’re selling based on low prices or low fees

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re starving your business of the marketing it needs

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

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

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

Your image sucks

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

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

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

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

You’ve camouflaged yourself

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

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

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

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

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

You’re associating with the wrong people

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

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

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

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

You’re networking with the wrong people

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve become comfortable

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

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

You’re getting too few referrals

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

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

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

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

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

You’re not failing often enough

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

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

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

Here’s why:

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

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

It looks like this:

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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

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

25 Reasons to write a business blog

business blog, blogging for business

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

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

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

7 Honest truths about marketing

Here are 7 important things to consider, when marketing your business.

In no particular order:

  1. Embrace brevity. Your marketing content is almost certainly 50% to 75% too long. Fix that.
  2. Most marketing advice online is either inaccurate or toxic to your business. Be especially cautious of anyone offering tricks or short-cuts to marketing success. Short-cuts to success are seldom short-cuts and they never lead to success.
  3. In business, everything you do is marketing. Yes, everything… read this.
  4. Great marketing alone is not enough to mask an average product or service. You are not ready to market anything, until you have pumped a massive amount of value into it, first.
  5. Don’t expect professional marketing results from amateur marketing. If you’re serious about growing a successful business, stop treating your marketing like a DIY project.
  6. If you need to attend networking events, to try and get people talking about your business, ask yourself “why”? Why aren’t people automatically talking about your business? Why are you not already getting more leads than you need from your clients? Why isn’t your marketing message spreading via word of mouth? Spend more time fixing the problem and less time pushing what’s broken.
  7. You will never be one webinar away from marketing success. Ever.

Hopefully, you will find at least 1 thing on that list that will stop you wasting your time or money. Most people will find several.

The question now is, what are you going to do about it?

Puppies look cute when they beg, but business owners don’t!

When we see a puppy begging for attention, it looks incredibly cute.

When we see a business owner begging for attention, it makes us cringe!

We all need help at the start

At the very beginning, every business needs to push it’s message. No matter how remarkable, amazing or unique your business is, no one will know about it unless you get it in front of people.

Then, once you have pushed your business under the noses of friends and contacts, and advertised it to your target market, it’s time to listen. If your business is remarkable enough, you will see a snowball effect.

  • People will start talking about you.
  • They will share links to your website and pass your details to their friends.
  • They will call you, email you and ask you for more information.
  • As a result, more and more people will know about you, talk about you or hire you.

Or not.

So, what do you do if people hear about your business, yet it just doesn’t interest them enough to buy from you or talk about you?

When all you hear is crickets

If your business is more then 6 months old and your friends and your best contacts, along with those who saw your advertising, are not spreading the word, buying from you or you’re not attracting very regular inquiries, take heed. It’s time to find out why and fix it — to build a new proposition, which people are interested in.

Here’s what doesn’t work: Begging people to be interested in something that’s uninspiring. That approach is what happens when you refuse to fix the problem. It’s a low leverage, low profit, frustrating and reputation-damaging way, to slowly go broke.

  • Pestering people with unwanted phone calls.
  • Sending them emails they never asked for.
  • Sending needy messages using social networks.
  • Bugging people on forums and community groups.

These all have a negative impact on the way people think and feel about you.

The answer is as simple and as challenging as this

Instead of looking for new, cheaper ways to beg for attention, invest in developing a better proposition… something people will want to spend money on (and share).

Tip: Read this – How to build a successful business. It’s packed with ideas and examples for you to use.

Your business is telling you something. Are you listening?

now what

My good friend Jon emailed me this morning. He’d just used a new designer for a project and was so impressed with her work, that he wanted to show me what she did. He also said she was great to work with and recommended her to me.

Her work is indeed excellent and I passed her details to a contact of mine, who needs some work done.

Meanwhile…

All over the world, business owners will be getting up extra early. It’s the day they attend their weekly networking breakfast.

Here’s the thing:

  • If you have to attend networking events.
  • If you have to invest valuable time on Linkedin trying to generate leads.
  • If you have to pay referral fees or offer incentives for referrals.

… it’s time to listen to what your business is screaming at you! It’s telling you that your story isn’t compelling enough — that people can’t see enough value in what you do, to recommend you to their friends.

If your roof has a hole in it, placing a bucket below to catch the rain is not the solution. You need to repair the roof.

If your business isn’t attracting enough referrals, pushing an uninspiring story to more people is not the solution. You need to figure out why people are not talking about your business.

We have a choice

We can be like the designer I mentioned at the beginning, who is attracting high quality business leads because her service is worth talking about. Alternatively, we can push an uninspiring message, which too few people talk about.

If you’re tired (literally) of getting up ridiculously early, tired of wasting your time networking and tired of chasing people for referrals — stop chasing and start attracting.

Tip: Here’s one of the most important posts I have ever written. It explains how to make your business worth talking about!

How to work a room at a networking event

Someone just asked me for tips on how to work a room at a networking event.

Not the advice he expected

I explained that I wouldn’t spend too much time learning how to get the most from networking events.

No.

I’d focus on why I needed to go to networking events. I’d figure out, very quickly, why my clients, website, newsletter, customers and contacts weren’t providing me with the referrals and leads I need.

Create a story worth sharing, by providing a remarkable service. Then, the word will spread. People will talk about you, because that’s what we do when we encounter something that is remarkable.

Attracting word of mouth referrals is vastly more effective, than offering an average service and having to pester people for leads at networking groups.

Tip: Here’s how to make your business remarkable, so people spread the word!

How to make extremely valuable business contacts

This post is all about how to build an extremely valuable network, of influential people.

Think about it: We all know people who struggle to find new clients, even though they are members of networking groups and are connected to hundreds of people on Linkedin.

That should be impossible!

Surely, with all those contacts, these struggling business owners should be able to reach out with a message and generate more clients than they could possibly need.

But they can’t.

Why?

Because the typical small business owner builds networks that are of little real value. That’s why the most successful business owners use a very different approach.

Allow me to explain.

How successful business owners get connected

The most successful people in business are extremely well connected. They make it a habit to identify useful contacts and then nurture relationships with them. As a result, they have people they can go to for advice or assistance in any area of their business.

When they are faced with a problem, it’s often a case of: One call — problem solved!

How the average business owner connects

Typically, small business owners take the opposite approach. They focus on numbers, not value. Most commonly, they attend networking groups and connect with other business owners… who are only in that group because they too are struggling.

As a result, they end up with lots of low value business contacts and lack the influential connections required, to grow a successful business. So, when they need new clients or have a significant business problem, their equally struggling contacts are unable to help.

As someone once told me: Stick around struggling business owners for long enough and one day, everything they have will be yours!

Stop thinking about the numbers and focus on the value

As people, we are all of equal value. However, in business, our commercial value differs vastly. Successful business networking is about connecting with the right people.

In short: Be selective. Focus less on numbers and more on value. Go deep and narrow, rather than shallow and wide.

PS - Here are 21 powerful habits behind the most successful business owners.

The best way to spread the word about your business

How do you get people to spread the word about your business?

I’m going to answer this question for you in today’s post. It’s based on a chat I had with an accountant yesterday.

The usual kind of thing

So, a local accountant wanted to know what was the best way to spread the word about his business. I asked him, what kind of accountancy services he provided. He replied with: “You know… the usual kind of thing, Jim.”

Here’s the key part of my reply.

  • If you want the story of a predictable business to reach 100 people, you need to tell 100 people. This is because dull stories don’t spread. You have to push them. You go to networking events, constantly advertise or pester people with emails, etc. The story itself doesn’t spread, because predictable stories don’t have legs.
  • If you want a great story, about a business doing meaningful work, to reach 100 people, you tell 1 person… and it spreads. That person tells several more. They do the same. This is because great stories have legs. You nudge them with effective marketing and watch what happens. It’s beautiful. And extremely successful.

Just a little better, faster or cheaper

No one feels compelled to tell their friends about an accountant, (coach, designer, trainer, marketing consultant or whatever), who is just a little better, faster or cheaper than the rest.

If you want the word to spread about your business, improve the story. Make it worth sharing. Be meaningfully different from your competitors.

Then, put your story into the marketplace and watch it travel from person to person. This generates word of mouth referrals, endless sales leads… and frees you up to focus on making your business even more remarkable.

Recommended reading: Is the dream behind your business inspiring enough?

Older posts