Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Networking (page 1 of 16)

How to Bake Marketing into your business

how to two

The most successful businesses bake marketing into their services. In this post, I will explain what that means and why you should do the same.

If you have not heard the term before, baking marketing into a service (or product) means creating something, which is of so much value and interest that people want to buy it and also tell their friends about it.

Most small business owners do the opposite

Look around you at your competitors and you will see that with few exceptions, they all seem remarkably similar. So, they try and undercut one another on prices or fees, out network one another or outspend one another on marketing.

They are focusing their time and money in completely the wrong direction. They are trying to get people interested in something, which isn’t interesting. This is a costly, avoidable mistake.

That’s why I want something far better for you and your business!

Bake marketing into what you do

Today, I am going to ask you to consider doing something bold. I’m asking you to consider adding value to what you market — your core services.

Why? Because you can waste years of your time trying to sell a service, which is simply not interesting enough to the marketplace. Great marketing is no substitute for an uninspiring service (or product).

Conversely, a service that is of exceptional value will often sell itself, as people are so impressed with it that they spread the word. I regularly speak with business owners who don’t need to spend a penny on advertising, because their customers and their marketplace are always recommending them.

Most small business owners use the opposite approach. Instead of inspiring people with the story behind their business, they try to motivate uninspired people to talk about them.

  • Some offer commissions.
  • Others try to pester people into recommending them.
  • Many join networking clubs, hoping that social pressure, reciprocity or rules of membership, will get people to talk about them.
  • Some spam us with unsolicited emails.

All of those work to a degree, but you can do massively better by shifting your focus 180 degrees!

Here’s what we know: People do not need to be pestered or pressured into recommending a GREAT service. They automatically spread the word when they encounter something exceptional. However, we must first give people something worth talking about… a story worth sharing.

When we do, they can’t help themselves. They shout from the rooftops.

A better approach

The alternative is to bake marketing into what you do. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Observe your marketplace and develop a product or service, which is based on what they want, rather than offering your version of what your competitors already provide.
  • Give people a story about you or your business that’s worth sharing. This means having the courage to be different. Easier said than done, but essential if you want to attract the interest of your marketplace.
  • Deliver a customer experience that stands out for all the right reasons. Pull out all the stops. Leave your clients and prospective clients feeling moved and roused by the experience of working with you, visiting you or connecting with you.
  • Demonstrate your passion for what you do and your desire to help others. Passion stands out. Passion is infectious.
  • Have outsiders. You can’t have insiders without outsiders. Insiders are the people who buy from you. Insiders are the people your services are aimed at. Don’t try and be all things to all people. If you do, your story will be vague and cease to motivate people.
  • Learn from the products and services that you recommend. Think about what drives you to spread the word about certain businesses. What lessons can be adapted from what they do and used in your business, to help you deliver something remarkable?

Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to get people inspired about an uninspiring service or product. It’s expensive, low leverage, frustrating and the least rewarding way to develop your business.

How to make extremely valuable business contacts

How to

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

Think about it: We all know business owners 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 very little commercial 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 in advance 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 have 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 same networking group because they too are struggling.

As a result, they end up with lots of low value business contacts. They lack the type of influential connections, which are required in order 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.

Make the power of association work for you

There’s another important reason not to network with struggling business owners.

I’ve found that time and again, those who associate with business owners who are going nowhere, tend to find their own business heading in the same downward spiral. It’s the same power of association we saw at school, when a good kid started hanging with the wrong crowd and soon saw their grades drop.

Fortunately, the power of association works both ways.

Just as associating with struggling business owners can hurt your business, associating with successful business owners can inspire you to raise your game. It’s hard to overstate the value of associating with great people and learning from their experiences.

Think about that for a moment.

Stop focusing on the numbers. It’s all about 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.

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

You should be more pushy. Here’s why!

PUSH

When it comes to being a pushy business owner, there are two ways to do it. One of them works extremely well.

Allow me to explain.

1. You can push other people

  • Pester them with cold calls.
  • Interrupt them with selfish requests.
  • Spam them.
  • Try and close the sale the first time you speak to them.
  • Hassle them for referrals at networking events.
  • Hound them on social networks.

2. You can push yourself

When you push yourself, you move forward.

When you push others, they just push you back again.

Choose wisely.

How to be successful without even trying

It’s an interesting fact that very few of the world’s most successful businesspeople, set out with money or success as their primary target.

  • They aimed to be valuable.
  • They aimed to make the world or the marketplace a better place.
  • They aimed to make a difference.

However, money or success was not their primary focus.

Here’s how they did it!

Steve Jobs famously said:

“I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money”.

If Jobs was focused primarily on the money or success, he’d have been able to cash in when he was in his 20’s — super rich and exceptionally successful.

When Einstein said,

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”, he showed where his focus was. Again, it was about the value. Einstein carried on working until his death, even though he could have quit decades earlier with his reputation set in history forever.

To understand how the most successful and wealthy business owners achieved their success, we need to look at why most business owners struggle.

It’s easy to spot someone who is in it just for the money

You can usually tell pretty quick, when you encounter someone who is primarily in it for the money. This makes it very hard for them to succeed.

Here are some examples we see all the time, which you will recognise instantly:

  • They are the salespeople, whose eyes light up like a wolf when they spot a potential sales victim.
  • They are the affiliate marketers, who leave spammy links and comments on blogs.
  • They are the pests, who send us unwanted spam email.
  • They are the pushy business owners, who corner us at networking events. The ones who pretend they want to know about our business, when we know it’s that old, cringe-worthy networking tactic.
  • They are the ill-informed marketing gurus who STILL say the money is in the list, because they haven’t figured out the value is in the community.
  • They are the struggling restaurant owners, who use slightly lower quality ingredients and hire slightly lower quality chefs, and end up with a low quality restaurant that no one recommends.
  • They are the kind of business owners you thought of, as you were reading those examples.

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with being wealthy or successful. My point, is that it’s very hard to be either of those things, if they are our primary focus.

Here’s how to succeed without focusing primarily on the money

Consider for a moment the businesses out there, who struggle. They set financial targets and then push average products and average services to average clients who pay them average prices. These business owners then think people just won’t pay higher fees. This is factually 100% incorrect! People won’t pay above average fees for an average, commodity service. They happily pay above average fees and prices for premium, high value products and services.

Now consider the businesses who earn a fortune and succeed. They offer products or services, which are meaningfully different. Their products and services attract the attention of people looking for that special value.

They end up selling valuable products and valuable services to valuable clients, who pay them extremely well.

The way forward for smart business owners

Focus on value. Create products or services that are meaningfully different from the competition. Solve better problems. Create work you are proud of.

Persistently create value and make it visible. People are extremely attracted to value and they pay a premium for it too. Just ask the owner of any high priced Apple product, the owner of a luxury car or the client of any leading service provider.

Get this right and the money and success take care of themselves.

PS: You will find this useful. It explains how to make more sales or attract more clients, without ever having to lower your fees — Marketing 101: The Race To The Bottom.

How to create marketing that people will believe

trust

One of the most important questions in business, is this:

“Why should a prospective client [or customer] trust me?”

Here’s why that question is so important.

Trust and belief

Unless people believe what you say, none of your marketing is worth a dime. Trust is what builds belief. Trust is essential before someone will hire you. Trust is also what makes people feel comfortable recommending you. Trust is the foundation of your marketing. Period.

Take a look at your marketing and consider the following:

  • Are you building trust with supporting information [like this] … or just making a series of marketing promises?
  • Are you telling people how good you are… or showing them proof from past projects, media mentions, awards and case studies?

The bottom line here is clear. Without trust there is no belief and without belief, your marketing promises mean nothing.

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?

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