Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Professional development (page 1 of 80)

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 theirĀ 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 isĀ  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.

How to make the right business decisions

I’d like to share some ideas with you today, about your role in your business.

You often hear small business owners talking about how many hats they wear. They’re referring to the number of different roles they play within their business. Whilst every business owner wears a number of different hats, it’s important to know the difference between what we should do and what needs an expert.

Specialist and non specialist areas of business

It’s fine for us to run the business, deal with clients and customers and control the areas of our business, where we are an expert. It’s fine for us to make the major decisions and deal with suppliers etc. However, when it comes to specialist areas of the business, we need expert help if we want to achieve the right results.

Common examples of how to lose a fortune, by wearing the wrong hat.

  • Yes, you probably could do your own accounts, but a qualified accountant will be able to lower your tax and spot problems, before they happen.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own HR, but if you end up in a dispute with an employee, you could end up losing thousands or being sued out of business.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own marketing, but you will soon reach a plateau, find it hard to grow, then hard to survive. A marketing professional will show you exactly what you need to do, to take your business to the next level and beyond.
  • Yes, you probably could design your own website, but a professional web designer will make it look polished and professional… rather than the work of a keen amateur.

It’s hard for a business owner to fail, when they work hard, doing the right things correctly, based on expert advice.

Conversely, it’s almost impossible to succeed, no matter how hard we work, no matter how passionate we are, if we’re wearing too many hats.

In short: You need to give your business the resources it needs, if you want it to succeed. To expect it to succeed on a mixture of general advice and DIY tactics, is a very costly and usually fatal mistake.

Why people criticise you and how to deal with it in just 3 steps

negative criticism, critics

Here is a simple, powerful 3 step process, to help you totally overcome the impact or fear of negative criticism.

Broadly, all of your critics can be divided into 1 of the following 2 groups:

  1. Those who want to help you and encourage you.
  2. Those who want to hinder you and see you fail.

It’s the second type of critic, which I want to talk to you about today. It’s that type of negative criticism, which stops many of us from being willing to stand out. It stops us putting our work or art out there. It encourages us to keep our head down. To follow the crowd.

The power of a critic

If you want your business to stand out, to attract lots of word of mouth referrals, it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from influencing you.

Why?

Because just about everything you need to do in order to market your business successfully, especially online, is visible and wide open to criticism. Anything you do, which is different enough for the marketplace to value it, is also visible enough for critics to criticise it.

So, you either learn to deal with it or do what most small business owners do, and run a business in the shadows, which is not a wise marketing move!

3 Steps to deal with negative criticism

Fortunately, dealing with negative criticism is relatively easy, so long as you learn to accept it for what it is. Once you understand why criticism happens, it eliminates its negative impact and allows you to focus all your effort on putting your best work out there.

Because I publish lots of material to a large audience, I get negative criticism regularly. In fact, the better my work, the more likely it is that at least one person will criticise it or criticise me for writing it.

Here are the 3 steps I used, to totally eliminate the negative impact of criticism.

1. Consider their motivation

When someone feels the need to negatively criticise your work, they are satisfying a need they have. It’s always about them, not you or your work.

Even if someone is negatively criticising you because they hope it will help you improve, it’s to satisfy their desire to help.

So, whatever the intention, criticism is always about the critic!

Understanding this is a key part of disempowering the critic’s influence over you and how you feel. When you accept that it’s NOT about you or your work, you see criticism for what it is – a selfish act perpetrated to feed a need the critic has – positive or negative.

Of course, even if the motivation is negative, if they are an expert in the field, you can still learn from what the critic says. Scientists often negatively criticise the work of their peers, people who really know their subject. That kind of criticism may be negative, but it can bring value with it.

This brings us nicely to the second step.

2. Consider the source

Is the person who is negatively criticising you, qualified to criticise you? Most criticism is unqualified. That’s to say, the person criticising your work doesn’t know enough about the subject or what you’re trying to achieve, to offer anything other than an uninformed opinion.

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

3. Use negative criticism as weights in your mental gym

With each piece of criticism that you run through the previous 2 steps, you build your resistance to the negative impact of critics. Just as lifting weights builds your muscles, processing negative criticism builds your emotional defences. Each time you are criticised and see it for what it really is, it becomes easier. Less daunting. Less fearsome.

Pretty soon, you learn to be fascinated by criticism and what it tells you about the other person. You quickly learn that if no one is criticising you, you are either invisible, doing work that fails to stand out… or both.

Finally, don’t try and avoid negative criticism. It will rob you of your voice. No criticism means no impact!

How to stop fear from crushing your business!

Nothing of value in business can be achieved without courage. At least, without more courage than the typical business owner.

Think about it… it takes courage to:

  • Turn away the wrong kind of clients.
  • Develop a new type of product or service.
  • Do things your way.
  • Refuse to do average work.
  • Set deadlines and achieve them.
  • Charge 200% more for your time than the industry average.
  • Embrace opportunities, knowing that with every real opportunity there will be risk involved.
  • Lead.

How to get the balance right

When I work with a new client, we start by removing the fears that have held them back. Next, we create their strategy, which they now have the strength, energy and courage to achieve. It works. Extremely well.

I recommend you do the same. Otherwise, you will end up with a good strategy, which you won’t execute or you will develop a risk free strategy, which can’t possibly work.

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

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