Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Professional development (page 1 of 80)

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.

How to reclaim the energy you had, when you started your business!

When we start out in business, we have dreams, goals and ambitions. We are motivated by the prospect of not having a boss and being able to do things our way. We make plans. We set goals. We’re filled with energy.

Then something happens

Somewhere along the way, the vast majority of small business owners settle. They settle for far less than they originally wanted. In many cases, they end up working longer hours than when they had a job. And although they no longer have a boss, they have clients or customers, who are even harder to work for.

Others have settled for something a little better. They love their work and are well paid for what they do. However, they’ve settled for a fraction of what they could achieve. They know it too. They know deep down inside that they are capable of so much more. This is a huge source of frustration, as they live with the reality of being an underachiever.

Stop settling

Here are 2 powerful questions, which we should regularly ask ourselves:

  1. What have I settled for?
  2. Is it worthy of me?

Answering those questions causes us to think about the path we are on. They cause us to question how much potential we’re leaving on the table. Whenever I focus on answering those questions, something wonderful happens. I find I am able to reconnect with the energy and passion I had, when I started my business. I find myself making plans. Setting goals. Making progress.

Give it a try.

How to earn massively more from your business

If you would like to earn more, much more, I have some great news for you.

No one undervalues your time or your work, without your full consent.

Think about it:

  1. You set your fees.
  2. You choose your clients.
  3. You pick which end of the marketplace you serve: the fee sensitive middle or the quality driven top.

The reason this is such great news, is that it means you alone control what you earn. Therefore, earning more (or much, much more) is a choice… a choice you can embrace or ignore.

How to earn more

If you’re unhappy about how much you earn, start by deciding how much you want to earn. It isn’t enough for you to say you want to earn more. That’s too vague. So, write down exactly how much you want to earn.

Then, look at those 3 points above and decide which changes you will need to make.

Of course, the tricky part isn’t deciding what you want to earn. That part is easy. You simply look at the lifestyle you want for your family, then work out what you’d need to earn in order to make that happen.

The tricky part

The tricky part is summoning the courage to make the changes required.

It’s far easier to complain, but stay the same. To hope things will just improve. So, that’s what most small business owners do. However, for those with the courage to leave their comfort zone, the possibilities are endless.

The question is, are you happy with more of the same or do you want something immeasurably better? If you want something better, take one step right now, toward making it a reality!

Some important dates for your diary

When Milton Erickson said, “A goal without a date is just a dream!”, he was right. The date is a deadline. It’s what creates the urgency required, to motivate us to take action.

Setting a date

Here’s a suggestion: Set a completion date for each of the goals and tasks you’re struggling with. It will help you to focus your mind, create urgency and power you over the finish line.

Need some extra help? If you want to increase your motivation even more, share your deadline with people. This multiplies the cost of quitting, by adding public accountability.

Here’s a Window of Opportunity for you and your business

I’d like to talk with you today about something important, which I haven’t covered previously. It’s about the price you pay, when you’re waiting on other people to make a decision.

All the while you’re waiting on a prospective client or customer to give you their decision, they occupy a significant chunk of your mind. Their indecision can also be a significant cause of stress, as the will-they-or-won’t-they dance is carried out in your mind.

How I solved this problem and how you can too

It’s hard to think with clarity about future plans, when the indecision of others is weighing heavily on your mind. So, it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure you protect yourself and your business. The strategy I use is based on what I call Windows of Opportunity.

Allow me to explain.

How my Windows of Opportunity work

Whenever a prospective client makes an inquiry about working with me, I open a Window of Opportunity in my diary.

It looks something like this:

  • The Window of Opportunity has a start date and an end date. The end date is based on how much time I am prepared to invest, to take them from a prospective client… to a client.
  • During their Window of Opportunity, I’m committed to providing them with everything they need in order to make the right decision for their business.
  • However, once their Window of Opportunity is closed, if they are still unable to make a decision, I invest my time and focus elsewhere.
  • I also consider their inquiry closed, meaning I no longer factor their decision into my plans moving forward. This helps me retain total clarity regarding my business. It’s hard to make future plans or determine future capacity, when you’re factoring in “potential” income from “potential” clients — many of whom are time wasters.
  • If they reply after this date asking to work with me, and I am still willing to work with them, I have a single, additional conversation with them. They could have had a perfectly good reason for delaying. In such cases I am always happy to provide an additional conversation.

If indecisive prospective clients or time-wasters are taking their toll on you and your business, consider taking control of the situation by working within your own Windows of Opportunity. This will give you the freedom to plan ahead with clarity, rather than the mind-fog that hampers so many hard working small business owners.

Not only will you enjoy clearer thinking and less stress, you will save a huge amount of time too.

Something to remember when times are tough

When times are tough, it’s easy to feel negative. The thing is, so long as you’re still in the game, still working hard and still working smart, your situation can improve at any moment.

Think about it:

  • You could be one idea away from a life-changing breakthrough.
  • You could be one email away from a great client inquiry.
  • You could be one phone call away from converting an inquiry into your most valuable client ever.
  • You could be one decision away from an amazing opportunity.
  • You could be one conversation away from your largest ever order.
  • You could be one message away from the biggest contract of your life.

These opportunities and many, many others can happen at any time. The world if packed with stories of people who achieved their greatest triumphs, following a period of bitter disappointment.

So, keep on keeping on. Work hard. Work smart. If you need help, get help. If you need to adjust your approach, make the improvements required… but never, ever, ever lose hope.

Stop looking for certainty. Seriously. Stop it!

One of the most valuable skills in business, is the ability to make decisions. The reason this skill is  so valuable is that it’s extremely rare.

I receive hundreds of emails every week from small business owners with problems. In most cases, the primary reason their businesses struggle is their inability to make a decision. They want certainty before they commit — this, in a world without certainty!

Here’s what the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs do:

  • They do the research.
  • They get the facts.
  • They seek expert advice, if required.
  • They make a decision.
  • They take action.

At no point do they seek out certainty. If they did, they’d never do anything!

5 Tips to keep your business on track

Here are some quick tips, to inspire you to make better decisions.

  1. If you have an idea, don’t poll your friends. Great ideas are not anointed — they fly or die based on merit and hard work.
  2. When they told you: “Don’t work hard, work smart!”, they lied. It’s not about working smart instead of working hard. Success requires both.
  3. Steve Martin was right. The best way to get noticed, is to be so good that they can’t ignore you.
  4. Avoid offering free consultations. Firstly, they massively undervalue your work. Secondly, they attract time-wasters like light attracts moths.
  5. The money is not in the list.

I hope you found this useful.

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