Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Category: Networking (page 1 of 15)

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?

How to create attractive, memorable marketing

When you market your business just like your competitors, you fade into the background. You lack impact. You become predictable and easy to forget.

For example:

  • Over the years, I must have had thousands of pushy strangers hand me their business card. How many of them can I remember? None of them.
  • Every day I receive impersonal marketing emails from people. How many can I remember? None of them.

That’s because superficial interactions wash over us. They leave no lasting imprint.

The human touch

What we do remember, are the people who sincerely reach out to us with something meaningful to share. We remember the people who recommend us to their contacts and friends. We remember the handwritten notes. We remember the people who respond, when we need feedback or support.

Business is all about people. If you want people to remember you, do something useful and memorable. Something that touches them. Something that requires thoughtfulness.

Hint: You can’t do this with copycat marketing or by automating your business relationships.

Recommended reading – How to make your business more human and far more successful too.

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.

Attention please

They have subscribed to your newsletter, followed you on a social network or emailed you for information.

You may think you now have their attention, however, you haven’t!

Attention is earned… then re-earned

You have only earned their attention at the point where they subscribed, followed or emailed you. You now have to re-earn their attention, regularly, if you want to remain relevant to them.

If you get too few inquiries from your readers, your subscribers or your networking contacts, focus on re-earning their attention. The challenge of course, is that it takes time, effort and creativity if you want to remain relevant to your marketplace.

No, it’s not easy. But it is required.

Facebook Business Pages: Why your results just nosedived

As some of you may know, the new Facebook Business Page strategy was recently leaked. It has prompted an outcry from business owners.

Here’s why

A leaked slide deck shows that organic (unpaid) posts you share via your Facebook Business Page, will reach fewer and fewer people. As Advertising Age put it:

“If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it.” [Full article]

A number of you have asked me to share my thoughts, so here they are!

As long time readers will know, I dislike Facebook’s approach to the privacy of Facebook users and the way it tends to say one thing and do the other. However, from a business perspective it has one undeniable asset. It has well over a billion users. It’s by far the biggest social network, though Facebook recently admitted that the number of daily users is dropping.

How Facebook initially lured business owners

With such a huge network, Facebook found it easy to convince business owners to get a free, Business Page. Facebook offered the opportunity for businesses and brands to connect with their marketplace and provided lots of free tools. It seemed too good to be true.

So, business owners invested heavily in promoting their Facebook Pages in their marketing. Signs sprung up everywhere, with businesses and brands asking people to “find us on Facebook”.

Encouraged by so-called Facebook experts (who have zero advance warning of Facebook policy changes), many made the mistake of using their free Facebook Page, as their primary way to connect with their community.

Facebook then made a BIG change to the rules

In autumn 2012, Facebook was discovered to be doing something that would change things completely for Business Page users:

Facebook was found “[...] quietly altering one of its key algorithms in September, so that companies with pages that have large numbers of followers can now only reach a fraction of the followers they used to with each post.” Business Insider.

Suddenly, people who were asked to “Find us on Facebook”, couldn’t see what Facebook Business Page owners were posting!

Facebook denied any wrongdoing and said the move was intended to enhance the Facebook experience. Few people, including me, believed them. However, the facts remained the same. It meant that business owners, who had already invested heavily in getting ‘fans’ to their Facebook Business Pages, now had to pay in order to reach them all.

Facebook leak: Positioning Business Pages as paid advertising

Then in December 2013, an article on Advertising Age titled: Facebook Admits Organic Reach Is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads, shows Facebook’s intentions moving forward. As well as saying that fewer and fewer people will see what you post from your Business Page, the following excerpt caught my eye:

“The three-page document also contains a section that repositions how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. [...]” Full article here.

The message here is that business owners need to stop thinking of Facebook Business Pages as a free way to connect with their marketplace. It isn’t. At best, it’s a way to connect, for free, with a decreasing fraction of the people who ‘like’ their Business Page.

Moving forward, Facebook Business Pages should be seen as a targeted form of paid advertising. In that context, it could be a useful advertising tool. However, business owners seeing it as a free marketing tool are in for a shock, as fewer and fewer people see what they post for free.

Facebook Business Pages shouldn’t be your online home

For years, I have advised people not to build their house on rented land. In other words, direct people to your blog or website. Use something YOU own as your online hub… your online home.

When you build your main community on Facebook (or any third party network), you lose control. THEY own the access you have, to YOUR community. As Facebook just demonstrated, they can and will change the rules and you get to pay the price.

My advice

My advice remains the same as it has always been:

  • Build your own home on the Internet. A place where you are in control. Where you make the rules. By far, a self-hosted blog is the best way to achieve this.
  • Build and own your community database (what Internet marketers call ‘your list’).
  • Produce either a newsletter or (as I have done) a blog that has an email subscription option. Thousands of people will read this message today, via email, because I decided to make Jim’s Marketing Blog my online hub… not Facebook.
  • Don’t be one of those business owners, who is sharing ideas, insights and observations on social networks every day, when your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. Feed your business blog or website… not Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter, Google+ and other social networks are not immune from the kind of stunt Facebook pulled. They are not. We don’t know what they have planned.

Consider Facebook Business Pages as a way to build a targeted, paid advertising channel. Increasingly, that’s exactly what it is becoming.

Most importantly, build your community on your own website or blog. Motivate your marketplace to subscribe to your newsletter or blog via email. This puts the development of your community (or list) and the ability to connect with them, 100% in YOUR hands.

Get Twitter Direct Messages from people you don’t follow!

Twitter has just made a huge change to the way DM’s or Direct Messages work. You can now choose to allow everyone who follows you on Twitter, to send you a Direct Message.

As you can see from my tweet below, this has generated a lot of interest. (If you can’t see the tweet, click here).

Twitter Direct Messages from anyone who follows you

What’s new? You can now receive Direct Messages from anyone who follows you – without you following them back. It’s that last part that is the big difference. Until now, you had to follow someone, before they could send you a Direct Message. This stopped mass spamming and for most users was a great idea.

Here’s what the setting looks like. You can find it under the ‘Account’ tab.

Twitter direct messages from followers

NOTE: By default, this option is turned off. If you don’t want to be Direct Messaged from people who follow you, you don’t need to change anything. It’s 100% opt-in.

Why I’ve turned the Twitter direct messages feature on

I have (for now) chosen to turn it on. So, if you follow me on Twitter @JimConnolly you can direct message me in private.

Here’s why. Firstly, I am a very public person. I publish my email address on every page of my blog. So long as people are not spamming me or making selfish requests, I love to hear from them.

Secondly, I think this feature could be extremely useful for businesses.

Business benefits of allowing Twitter DM’s from all your followers

Consider customer service. Until now, if someone had a customer service issue with your business, you would need to follow them and ask them to follow you, in order for you to look after them in private. This allowed them to share potentially sensitive information with you, away from the gaze of all their followers. Now, so long as they follow your Twitter account, 100% of your conversation can be handled in private.

Then there are journalists. Pretty much every journalist uses Twitter. Now, if you have a story for them — especially one of a sensitive nature, you can share it privately.

Contacting your political representatives… ditto.

What about Twitter DM spam?

The typical knee-jerk reaction so far has been that this will create a huge DM spam problem. Mainly, it seems people failed to understand they have to turn the feature on. If you don’t like the feature, don’t use it. Simple.

It’s also worth remembering that someone can only send you a Direct Message, if they follow you on Twitter. If someone is spamming or abusing you, you can block them. This stops them being able to follow you or Direct Message you. Unless you actually want to follow spammers, this works fine.

It will be interesting to see how this is received by business users, once they start to realise the commercial benefits.

PS: If you follow me on Twitter, @JimConnolly – feel free to Direct Message me and let me know what you think (or just say ‘hi!’).

UPDATE: 21st December 2013

Twitter eventually answered my question, regarding when everyone will start seeing this feature. I was told that it is “just an experiment”… then refused to comment on the experiment stating company policy.

Around 5 weeks after I wrote this post, I noticed that the “experiment” was missing from my settings. People were also unable to DM me, unless I followed them.

Then… although the setting is still missing from my Twitter account, for some reason it started working again and at time of writing this, 21st December 2013, anyone who follows me can send me a direct message.

How to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace

If you would like to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace, this post is just for you.

attraction marketingI was prompted to write this, after I shared something on my Twitter and Facebook accounts yesterday, which resulted in 2 very different reactions from people.

Here’s what I shared: “Giving and receiving starts with giving. If you’re not receiving enough, you’re probably not giving enough”.

Most people seem to have understood the point of this message. Some did not.

One message… two reactions

Those who understood the message realised it was about the power of contribution. That the best way to get value was to give value. That the best way to make a new friend, was to be a friend to someone.

Those who totally misunderstood the message, thought it was a selfish trick they could use. They saw it as a way to give something, with strings attached. They saw it as being a selfish way to gain an advantage over someone.

Them focused

The most successful businesses are contribution focused.

They deliver value and quality, which enriches the life or experience of their customers. They look for opportunities to help their marketplace. They understand that if they give enough value, they will receive enough value. So, they keep on giving and they do it happily.

Me focused

Selfish business owners really struggle with this. So, they choose to pester and pursue the marketplace with selfish demands instead.

  • They cold call us because they have our phone number.
  • They spam us because they have our email address.
  • They send us unwanted letters because they bought our address.
  • They pester us on social networks and corner us at networking events.

As business owners, we can work from a contribution mindset or a selfish mindset. We can attract people or pester people.

Whilst the answer may seem obvious, check out how many people today choose to pester you for your attention.

This is great news for you and your business

Of course, this makes it easy for you to attract the attention and interest of your marketplace, with your contribution focused approach.

In short: If you want to get more from your marketplace, give more to your marketplace.

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