Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Professional development (page 1 of 79)

What is inspiration? Steve Jobs and Picasso provide some insights

So, what is inspiration and how can you tap into it when you need to become inspired?

what is inspiration, steve jobs

In today’s post, I’m going to share one of the ideas used by Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs, when they were looking for creative inspiration. I’m also going to share a couple of tips of my own, but first, let’s take a brief look at the definition of inspiration.

Inspiration defined

The Oxford Dictionary defines inspiration as: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

Commonly we think of people being randomly struck by a flash of inspiration, so we see inspiration as a feeling that occurs almost by accident. However, as the start of that dictionary definition states, inspiration is a process. We become mentally stimulated (inspired) to do something. The key here, is to learn how to create that inspired state when we need to.

How to feel inspired

There is no single, set way to make every person feel inspired. That’s because we are all different and are inspired by different things. You need to learn what works for you and one of the best ways to do this, is to think about what you were doing the last few times you felt inspired. Consider where you were and what you were doing, etc. Look for any common factors and incorporate these the next time you need some inspirational ideas or answers.

Here are just a tiny number of situations, which trigger creative inspiration:

  • Some people find inspiration in books.
  • Some find inspiration in music.
  • Some people are inspired when surrounded by nature.
  • Some people grab a pad and some colouring pencils and start doodling.
  • Some people become inspired to create, when an internal or external deadline approaches. This one is really interesting, because it shows how creative inspiration can indeed be self driven.
  • Some find inspiration through affirmations or positive self-talk.
  • Some find inspiration comes when they are doing some type of physical activity. For me, it’s walking that works best.
  • Some find inspiration in the design of an everyday item. (More on that in a moment.)
  • And others find all of the above work to a lesser or greater degree.

Inspired on purpose

As well as all being potential sources of inspiration, each of the scenarios above has another thing in common. Can you guess what it is?

They are all under our control!

That is to say, we can decide to take any of the actions above when we want to feel inspired. We don’t need to wait to be struck by inspiration. We can find the things that work best for us, then build a strategy that uses them.

I found that I often got my best ideas when I was walking. So, I incorporated a daily walk into my routine. I always carry an audio recorder with me, then when an idea comes I can record it. I write thousands of words every day, most of which are inspired by ideas captured during my walks. I also find that I get lots of creative ideas when I am in the company of other creative people, (problem solvers.)

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9:00 every morning.” Peter De Vries.

That quote from Peter De Vries makes a great point. We can choose to help ourselves become inspired or we can be a servant to inspiration. We can wait for the fictitious muse to arrive or we can take control and direct our own mind.

Inspired by other works: Great artists steal

Many people believe that in order to create, their inspiration needs to come from a wholly unique idea; something no one has ever thought of before. However, when we look at the creators of the most amazing art, inventions and ideas, we find the opposite.

Pablo Picasso famously said: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ This phrase became popular again in 1996, when the late Steve Jobs repeated it in a PBS documentary called Triumph of the Nerds. In that interview, Jobs went on to say: ‘We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.’

What Jobs was talking about, was not ripping off a piece of work and claiming you created it. Far from it. He went on to explain that he and his team would ‘expose ourselves to the best things that humans have done‘, and then try to incorporate them into something unique, of their own.

A well known example of the kind of inspiration that Steve Jobs was talking about, comes from the creator of the underarm, ball deodorant. He was inspired by the way ink flowed from a ballpoint pen and saw how the process could be applied to any liquid with similar properties. As you know, the underarm deodorant went on to become one of the most popular hygiene products in history.

An even better example is the invention of the tablet computer. The idea behind the tablet devices we see today, was inspired by at least 2 existing ideas: The clay tablets used 3,000 years ago and the modern notebook / laptop.

Little, if anything, is truly new. We should understand and embrace this idea, if we want to remove one of the biggest barriers to creative inspiration. We just need to remember that there’s a big difference between stealing ideas to create something new – and copying or ripping off an existing idea. Remember that Picasso quote from earlier: ‘… great artists steal’. They don’t copy!

Creating your inspiration strategy

It starts by deliberately monitoring the things that inspire you the most. Write them down. Then, incorporate them into your work flow, so that you can get into an inspired state when you need to, rather than just when it randomly occurs.

What works for me? I incorporated a walk into my work flow when I discovered that it was how most of my best ideas came to me. I also learned that if I read my email first thing in the morning, it took my focus away from creating. So, my workday starts with a walk, followed by the commitment to write 500 words or solve a problem, before I start on my email.

Just as Peter De Vries made sure to be inspired at 9am each workday, we too need to stop waiting for everything to be perfect and proactively seek inspiration – doing what works for us.

Build a recipe that works for you, then use it every time you need to do some creative work or find a creative answer. Don’t wait for inspiration. Deliberately encourage it.

Then do the work

As well as inspiring ourselves to create, we also need to motivate ourselves to put what we have created into action. It’s one thing to have a great idea sketched out on paper – it’s something else to actually use that idea.

We need to learn to give our ideas the chance to fly. We need to give our answers the chance to make a difference. This means we need to back them up with intelligent activity.

Photo Copyright: Albert Watson

7 Powerful reasons to get things done

When I hear someone say, “We have always done things this way!”, I cringe. That’s a terrible reason to do anything.

Here are 7 better alternatives:

  1. Do it because it’s right.
  2. Do it because you care.
  3. Do it because it works… beautifully.
  4. Do it because it matters.
  5. Do it because you said you would.
  6. Do it because you may never get another chance.
  7. Do it because that’s how you become a leader.

And do it as well as you possibly can.

Tip: If you’d like to learn how to motivate yourself to take action, I can help. My Motivation Master Class audio program will show you how to get things done, even things you hate, dread or fear. Download your copy here. It runs for over 110 minutes and is narrated by me, Jim Connolly.

What everybody ought to know about business success

There are 2 ways to build a business. One route works and one doesn’t. I’m going to show you both and suggest how to make sure your business succeeds!

This works

The business owners who achieve meaningful success are the ones who keep on keeping on. They feel the fear and do it anyway. They strive to be remarkable, knowing the alternative is to be ignored. They give it their best shot and when life knocks them down, they get back up… every time.

They know that you only grow by stretching and you can’t stretch without leaving your comfort zone.

This doesn’t

The alternative way to run a business is to try hard, but fail to give it your all. To work hard, but work hard doing the things you are comfortable with. To be predictable rather than embrace the edges. To seek certainty like an employee rather then seek opportunity, like an entrepreneur.

Thankfully, we get to decide the route we take. We can embrace the opportunity of what works or choose the fake comfort of what isn’t working; what I call the Failing Familiar.

How do we change route?

Change comes from the daily choices we make and the actions we take. It’s down to us. Our decision. No one else can push us up the ladder. The day we start giving it our best shot, leaving nothing on the table, is the day we shift from the Failing Familiar to the edge of our potential.

Want to know more? If you do, this will help inspire you and guide you: The 21 Habits Behind Highly Successful Business Owners.

Here’s a secret behind the world’s best service providers!

I’d like to share something important with you today. I’m going to explain how the best service providers keep their clients happy, generate valuable referrals and build a great reputation.

It’s all about the difference between delivering what a client wants and delivering what a client needs.

Here’s an example

Think about some of the most powerful commercial logos. Apple, McDonald’s Nike, Mercedes, Facebook and Gap, etc. All of these are super simple. A child could reproduce any of them in a few seconds.

Now, imagine for a moment what happens when a business owner hires a great designer to create their logo. The designer then gets back to the client with a smart and simple design.

Because the business owner is not a design professional, they want MORE for their money.

  • More lines.
  • More colours.
  • More detail.
  • More complexity.

If the designer gives the client what the client wants, the client ends up with a confusing piece of junk.

If the designer gives the client what the client needs, the client ends up with an effective, professionally designed logo.

How the best service providers get this right

The best service providers use education, to help the client understand what the client needs.

When the service provider does this correctly:

  • The client ends up with what they want and what they need.
  • The service provider ends up with a happy client, who has a great piece of work. That’s the kind of client who provides valuable referrals and the kind of work, which helps you build an excellent reputation.

This educational approach, is one of the key differences between the most successful service providers and the average provider.

PS: Here are some more tips, to help you build a valuable client list.

The opportunity you always wanted is already here!

As a business owner, you have more power and potential today than ever before. In fact, there is an opportunity right under your nose, which was impossible to imagine until recently.

Allow me to explain

Just a decade ago, we were very limited in the number of people we could reach with our marketing message. To send a mailshot to just a few thousand people would cost us a small fortune. A nationwide radio campaign was way out of our budget.

There was no scalable, affordable way to reach all our prospective clients.

This gave the big guys a massive advantage over us. However, everything has changed and if you’re willing to embrace the change, there’s no real limit on what you can achieve.

The world is your oyster

Thanks to the advent of the Internet and free, global communications, the only barrier between you and your marketplace are the limitations you place on yourself.

What an amazing opportunity.

Of course, the challenge you now face is that the same zero cost marketing opportunity is open to everyone. This is why we are bombarded every minute of the day with interruptions. Social network updates, emails, text messages… all these and more combine to create a wall of noise.

Noise is your barrier today. Not money!

In other words, the only thing between you and the ability to market your services to thousands or millions of people, is your ability to make it through the noise.

It’s not about money any more. It’s not about knowing the right people. It’s in your hands, rich or poor.

So, what next?

Here’s what we know about those who fail and more importantly, those who succeed:

  • Those who fail are adding to the noise. They are the people who spam you, cold call you, pester you on social networks and junk-text you. They are the average businesses doing average work for average clients and average fees.
  • Those who succeed cut through the noise like a hot knife through butter. They attract attention by doing something meaningful. Next, they earn permission from the people they attract, to share useful information with them — usually by getting them to subscribe to a newsletter or blog. They then keep re-earning that permission, by remaining a source of value.

Make no mistake, it’s all in your hands. If you are willing to do what is required, the world is your oyster!

Here’s the challenge: You can either find this opportunity interesting or you can do something with it. Opportunity is knocking on your door, but only you can decide whether you will let it in or let it slide.

How to find the income, energy and inspiration you need!

Let’s talk about money.

Do you know what’s really, really difficult? Trying to make money by doing something you’re not passionate about.

Yet, that’s exactly what the majority of business owners do. Paradoxically, it’s also why most will go broke or even worse, make just enough to survive in false hope that things will improve… THEN go broke.

Yes, every business needs a viable way to make money. However, money should be the inevitable result of doing what you love, extremely well. Not an end in itself.

Steve Jobs on money

The world’s most successful businesspeople already know this. The late Steve Jobs made the point beautifully:

“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”.

Do you think Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or Sir Richard Branson go to work for 14 hours a day, because they need more money? No. Branson was wealthy from birth and has never needed to work! These people already have more money than they can spend. What drives the most successful business owners is the need to do something, which they are passionate about.

The money follows.

Working with great passion

When your work is driven by passion, it shines through everything you do. It gives you the energy and robustness required to do your best work. Passion is contagious too, which helps you attract the resources you need. It inspires customers, clients and investors to want to be a part of your vision.

  • If work is a grind.
  • If you’re working hard for too little reward.
  • If you find yourself lacking the energy you need.
  • If you don’t spend enough time with your family.
  • If you feel too stressed, too often.
  • If prospective clients or customers are unenthusiastic when you tell them what you do.
  • If business leaves you feeling unfulfilled.

… there’s a very good chance you’re not doing something that inspires you. And that has to stop. Seriously. You can’t keep on like that. It’s pointless and 100% unnecessary.

The answer is as easy and challenging as this

Find something you’re passionate about and build a viable business model around it. Work really hard. Then watch your whole world improve.

If this is something you are struggling with right now, let me know. Here are my contact details.

The number 1 thing you must know, for your business to succeed

This article is one of the most important I have ever written. It’s also a lot longer than my usual work, so you may want to bookmark it and return to it. There’s a lot to take in and think about.

It starts with a pretty simple question: Are potential clients looking for you… or looking for someone who does what you do?

That’s an extremely important question. A question, which is a more accurate indicator of your commercial future, than just about any other.

Yes, it’s THAT big a question.

Here’s why that question is so important to you

I get 100% of the Jim Connolly marketing inquiries. If someone wants to hire Jim Connolly, they already know how to find me. The key point here, is that they don’t go looking for a marketing provider when they want to hire me. They don’t go to Google or Bing… they email me or call me.

The difference is huge. No, bigger than that!

You see, although I get all the Jim Connolly marketing inquiries, I get a tiny fraction of inquiries from people using search engines, looking for a commodity marketing provider. If they just want a (any) good marketing provider, they have hundreds of thousands to choose from. Those providers then compete against one another.

I don’t need to do that. Ever.

Far more importantly, neither do you!

The 2 ways to position your business or your services

Right now you are in one of these 2 groups. You are either:

  1. Just like all the others… but a little cheaper, faster or with a little better customer service etc. That’s what over 99% of small businesses do. It turns them into a commodity and is a key reason most small businesses continuously struggle… or go broke.
  2. Uniquely you. Doing great work, your way, aiming to delight your customers or clients. This is what fewer than 1% of small businesses do.

Those in that first group are commodity providers. They offer what’s known as a commoditized service.

The danger of offering a commoditized service

Here’s a good dictionary definition of a commoditized business:

“To render (a good or service) widely available and interchangeable with one provided by another company.:

Here’s the thing: People buy commodities based on the lowest price.

  • It’s why we drive to the lowest priced provider when we need fuel (a commodity) for our car.
  • It’s why 2 equally qualified accountants, whose services sound fairly predictable, will have to compete on fees. They have commoditized their business. They have become interchangeable with their commoditized competitors. By the way, this applies to every service provider and not just accountants.

Every day that you choose (yes, it’s a choice) to offer a commoditized service, your business suffers. You suffer too. You deliberately (remember it’s a choice) rob your business of the individuality it needs and thrust yourself into an overcrowded pool of commodity providers.

Until one day… something clicks

… something lifts the fog from your thinking. Something inspires you to leave the overcrowded end of your market, where it’s impossible to succeed in any meaningful way. Something compels you to quit competing and start attracting. Something motivates you to stop being a commodity provider.

Hopefully, this message will be that catalyst for someone. Hopefully, one of the thousands of small business owners reading this, who is struggling in that dead-end 99%, will decide NO MORE.

  • No more looking to the future with apprehension.
  • No more lowering your lifestyle goals, to meet the limitations of your under performing business.
  • No more dealing with fee-sensitive clients.
  • No more working with people you don’t like, because you need the income.

I have helped hundreds of business owners with this. To stop your business from being a commodity provider, you need to be prepared for a couple of things.

Firstly, you have to stop fooling yourself

You have to stop pretending you’re in that 1% when you’re not. Here are just a few common examples of what a commodity provider looks like:

  • You get too few word of mouth referrals. Clearly, when your service is seen as a commodity, there’s nothing much to motivate people to tell their friends about you.
  • You find yourself competing on fees. When your service looks too similar to your competitors, potential clients will use your fee to determine your value to them.
  • You struggle to attract enough inquiries. A commodity provider is constantly competing against all the other, similar providers in that 99%.
  • Your business struggles for visibility. So, you need to buy ads, attend networking events etc.
  • You need to ask people to recommend you, because they are not doing this automatically.

Secondly, you need to put the cookie cutter down

The only way to stop being seen as a commodity provider, is to stop providing a commodity service. This means leaving the fake comfort that comes from being a predictable commodity and embracing the change required, to stand out.

It means looking at your services and adapting them, so they are what the client wants and needs — rather than your version of what your competitors provide.

It takes courage.

Therein lies the problem

Although the riskiest thing a small business owner can possibly do, is to be seen as a commodity provider, it feels safe. It feels safe, ironically, for the same reason it kills small businesses.

It feels safe, because almost everyone is doing it!

By playing it safe you will, with 100% certainty, at best, struggle to make a living. However, it FEELS safe… and that’s enough to stop 99% of small business owners from doing what they know they need to do.

I have no idea where you or your business is right now.

  • You could be in the 1%.
  • You may be a commodity provider, who’s comfortable working hard and going nowhere in that super-dangerous 99%.
  • But perhaps you’re a commodity provider, on a mission to leave that 99%!

If you are in that final group, this post is for you. In fact, everything on this blog is written for you and those already in the 1%.

Why? Because no marketing on the planet can save a commodity business.

No one can help a business, owned by someone who lacks the courage to be better than average. Commodity providers who are happy being average, come here looking for tricks. They want a ‘killer way’ to attract people to their average service, which no one is talking about because it’s so… well… average. They will search for tricks, until they run out of money or time.

For those with the courage to want more

If you’re interested in being more than a commodity provider, I can help. There are thousands of ideas on Jim’s Marketing Blog, yours to use for free. Just use the search box, midway down the right hand side.

If you want to find creative ideas, for free, to help you make your business more than a commodity, I’ve built a website just for you. It’s packed with free ideas, resources and insights and you can find it here.

I hope you’ve found this useful… more importantly, I hope I have inspired you to do something!

Marketing 101: Exceed expectations

Here’s maybe one of the best kept secrets in business.

Never underestimate the power of exceeding expectations.

In business, every person we connect with has an expectation of us. When we meet their expectation, we literally do no better than they expect. It’s a great way to be average!

However…

When we exceed expectations

Everything improves.

  • The way people feel about us improves… dramatically.
  • The experience that exceeded their expectations becomes a story. When we give people a story worth sharing, they spread the word.
  • We retain our clients for longer.
  • We also attract the best clients — those who value and are willing to pay for a great experience.

As you go through your work today, ask yourself if what you are doing will meet or exceed expectations. If you feel it’s pretty-much what people expect, make at least one improvement that will push it over the top.

Then do the same tomorrow.

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