How to turn strangers into customers

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

Here’s an opportunity for you to gain a significant advantage over many, perhaps most, of your competitors. It’s about something I call attraction marketing.

I was prompted to write this after a business owner contacted me on Twitter. Within 5 minutes, he’d sent me several Direct Messages and then an email… each one asking me if I wanted to know about a business proposition.

The guy is a total stranger to me. All I know about him, is that he’s the kind of person who sends business proposals to strangers.

  • He could be a decent and honest man.
  • His business proposal could be genuinely valuable.
  • He may be scratching his head right now, wondering why no one is interested in his amazing idea.

The thing is, pestering people is extremely ineffective. It’s far more likely to damage his reputation, than it is to make anyone check out his business proposal.

More common than you may think

Whilst you may consider that guy’s approach to be a little extreme, many small business owners make the same kind of mistake with their marketing.

Here are a few common examples:

  • They pester us on social networks.
  • They fake interest in us at networking events, then hit us with a sales pitch.
  • They buy lists and send us spam marketing messages.
  • They add us to their newsletter list, without our consent.
  • They cold call us at work, when we’re busy.
  • They cold call us at home in the evenings, when we’re relaxing with family or friends.

Here’s the thing: Our prospective clients are programmed to ignore selfish requests, from people they don’t know. They actively avoid pests. Because of this, pests tend to get extremely poor results, which causes them to pester even more people, even harder.

If we, as legitimate business owners, adopt any of the pestering tactics used by those guys, we too will encounter the same resistance.

Thankfully, there’s zero need for you or me to pester anyone with our marketing.

Thankfully, we have a way to send people information they have asked us for, which is also commercially beneficial to us.

Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to do!

Smart entrepreneurs get it

The smartest entrepreneurs take a non pestering approach. It looks like this:

  • They focus on building relationships with people.
  • They strive to be useful.
  • They are all about bringing value.
  • They look for opportunities to earn [and re-earn] trust.

Once there’s a relationship in place and trust has been established, their messages will be welcomed. Their proposals will be taken seriously.

The marketing power of business blogging and newsletters

Business blogging is the most powerful tool I have ever known for small business owners. Newsletters come a very close second. Both are extremely powerful marketing tools. Each provide us with almost unlimited potential to reach targeted prospective clients or customers. They also allow us to earn the trust of our marketplace, as a recognised expert in our field. No pestering required!

Though you will need a strategy to make this work, the 130 feet view looks a little like this:

  • Produce useful information that’s targeted to the wants and needs of your ideal profile of client or customer.
  • Make sure there’s a short marketing message, like the one at the foot of this post, so interested people can get in touch with you when they need help.
  • Make your post or newsletter interesting and easy to read.
  • Do this regularly.
  • Soon, your first 5 readers will subscribe.
  • They will each get you 5 more.
  • This repeats over time.

Do it correctly and hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people, will eagerly want to hear what you have to say.

By showing up regularly you have demonstrated your knowledge and eagerness to help. You have also demonstrated your reliability. These combine to help you earn the trust of your readers.

Here’s why this is so valuable to you and your business: Your readers are just like you. They hire [and buy from] people they know, value and trust.

Note: Read this. It will help: 25 Reasons to Write a Business Blog

Attraction marketing

Regardless of the marketing tools a small business owner chooses to use, one thing remains the same. Pestering people for what you want is extremely ineffective. When people push their message at us, we push back. We block or mute their social networking accounts. We delete their emails unread, as soon as we see the sender’s name. We hang up the phone, as soon as we hear them start their pitch. We avoid them at networking events.

So, focus on attracting clients or customers, rather than pestering or pursuing them. Build a reputation, a big reputation, for your expertise and the contribution you make to your marketplace.

Oh, and make it easy for prospective clients or customers to contact you… because after you create an attraction marketing strategy, that’s exactly what they will do.

Are you making any of these 5 serious marketing mistakes?

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

If you want to attract far more sales leads or client enquiries, here are 5 important areas to pay attention to. They are based on some extremely common marketing errors, which cost small business owners a fortune.

Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Don’t promise a professional service, yet operate behind amateur looking branding. This creates a damaging mixed message, with the amateurism always drowning out the marketing message.
  2. Don’t claim to be passionate about your work, yet scream how excited you are that it’s Friday, all over your social networks. The massive majority of our prospective clients check us out, before calling or emailing us. If we’re that relieved to quit work, think of the message that sends out.
  3. Don’t claim to be reliable, yet seldom show up with new blog posts. [or have a news section on your website that hasn’t been updated in 6 months]. People judge us by what we do. So, if we claim to be reliable, yet leave a visible project neglected, it’s suggesting that we lack the professionalism to see things through.
  4. Don’t say your business is forward thinking, yet operate behind an outdated website. By allowing our business to be represented by an outdated website, we send 1 of the following 2 toxic messages to prospective clients. We either can’t afford a new website or we’re not professional enough to know how much it matters.
  5. Don’t promise a premium service, yet charge bargain basement fees. This is another example of a damaging mixed message. It immediately makes people think that something just isn’t right. We’ve been warned from childhood that if something seems too good to be true, it is. If our service is excellent, we need to show the value and then have the confidence to charge accordingly.

In business, everything counts

Even the things we think shouldn’t influence a prospective client or customer, will have either a positive or negative influence on them.

Maybe people shouldn’t form an immediate, negative impression of a business because their website looks shabby. Perhaps people should ignore the amateurish way a business is branded and still trust their promises of being dedicated professionals. However, the reality is that people are extremely influenced by what they see.

It pays us all to take an outside look at our business, from time to time. Does our overall image reflect well on the work we do, or create doubt in the mind of prospective clients / customers?

That’s not always an easy question for us to face. It is an important one, though.

How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging topics r

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.

Are you commanding attention or demanding attention?

command attention, demand attention, mean, difference

There’s a big difference between commanding people’s attention and demanding people’s attention.

Allow me to explain.

Demanding attention

Most small business marketing is based on demanding attention. Think about it:

  • They send us emails we never asked for.
  • They pester us on social networking sites.
  • They call us in the office when we are busy. They call us at home when we are relaxing with our family and friends.
  • They interrupt our TV and radio shows with their sales messages.
  • They pester us at business events.
  • In short, they do everything possible to demand that we listen to what they have to say.

Demanding attention is all about interrupting people, by pushing messages at them. The problem with that approach is that our natural reaction is to push back. Just because they demand our attention does not mean we are going to be receptive to them.

For example, if a marketer walks up to you in the street and pokes you in the chest, he will get your attention, but it’s not the kind of attention he wants!

Commanding attention

A smarter approach is to command our attention. This is all about earning attention. People command our attention when they do something that attracts us and then either informs or entertains us; sometimes both. Sure, commanding people’s attention takes more creativity than demanding it, but the upside is huge.

That’s because we treat information that has commanded our attention very differently, from information that is trying to demand our attention.

Think of 2 things you will read today. For example, a spam email and this blog post.

  • The spam email is something you will delete the second it arrives. That spam message may be in front of you, but there’s no desire on your part to engage with the content.
  • However, you are already over 300 words into reading this blog post. There’s clearly a lot more engagement and trust here.

As a business owner you have the option to either demand attention or command it. You can either pester or attract. Interrupt or engage.

Yes, there’s a place for advertising and with very few exceptions, ads are forms of demanding attention. However, it pays to command attention, to attract the interest of your marketplace, whenever possible. And it’s almost always possible.

Here’s some useful, free advice to help you develop marketing that works for your business.

3 Ways to attract more sales leads or client enquiries

Word of mouth

If you want to attract more sales leads or client enquiries, today’s post is for you. It shows the 3 main reasons why sales leads dry up AND more importantly, gives you some ideas on how to put things right.

Let’s go!

How to open the floodgates

When sales, client enquiries and business leads slow down, there’s always a reason. This is good news. Once you identify the cause and put things right, the sales and enquiries come flooding in.

Since starting my marketing business in 1995, I have seen the same 3 causes of this problem repeated over and over again. Here they are, along with some ideas on how to open the floodgates!

1. The marketing message you’re using isn’t good enough

In which case, you need to create a more motivating message. You need to start by making sure your service is as valuable as possible, then communicate that value to your marketplace with crystal clarity.

I want to help you avoid a common mistake here. Spend some time reviewing the guarantees, promises and range of services offered by your competitors.

Why? Because without knowing what you are competing against, you don’t know how compelling your guarantees, promises and range of services are to a prospective client.

It’s possible that competitors have copied your U.S.P. or that something that was rare or unique when you first offered it, is now commonplace. You need to know, so you can adjust and stand out from the crowd again.

It’s also possible that competitors have “upped their game” and you need to improve your service accordingly, to regain a competitive advantage.

In addition, check that your website, blog and social networks have not become tired or outdated. The way your message is presented has a huge impact on the way people feel about what you say.

Plus, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, that alone will almost certainly be losing you enquiries. Here’s why this matters to your business.

2. The message is fine, but you’re not reaching enough new prospective clients with it

In which case, you need to find a more effective way to reach out to them. The best advice I can give you when it comes to reaching your prospective clients is this: Be where their attention is.

What do they read? Where do they go? Who do they listen to? What do they watch? Whose tribe are they members of? Find out and then look for opportunities to reach out and connect with them.

For instance, I built the initial readership of Jim’s Marketing Blog from a newsletter I’d started back in 1998. However, after switching to blogging, I got my NEW readers from outreach on Twitter. I discovered that Twitter had a massive community of small business owners… the exact market for my services.

I connected with small business owners on Twitter, then placed useful information on my blog, which I regularly shared on Twitter. It worked. By being where their attention was [Twitter], I was able to build a large blog readership, which has generated regular client enquiries ever since.

IMPORTANT: You also need to make sure you’re getting your message out there frequently enough.

For example, if you publish blog posts or newsletters, make sure you’re publishing them regularly. If you want to get more leads from your blog, start publishing useful posts at least a couple of times a week. If you use newsletters to reach prospective clients, publish something useful every 10 to 14 days.

Don’t expect an infrequently updated blog or occasional newsletter to be a daily driver of fresh sales, leads or client enquiries.

Tip: Here’s how Andy Warhol used this approach.

3. Your clients, former clients and contacts are not sending you enough referrals

In which case, you need to find out why. The answer is almost always connected to the customer experience you provide. Allow me to explain.

A remarkable customer experience gives people a story worth sharing. It gets them talking about you. It has never been easier for people to recommend you and their reach has never been bigger. There are currently well over a billion people on Facebook, with hundreds of millions more on Twitter and Linkedin etc. These people are actively looking for remarkable stories to share with their networks.

Our job as business owners, is to make sure that we’re doing something worth sharing. They already have the sharing tools — what they need from us is the story!

Here’s the thing

Any small business owner who works on improving in those 3 key areas, is making an excellent investment in their business. So please, don’t just find these ideas interesting… use them.

Bloggers: How to be an overnight success

blogging, grow blog, overnight success, readers

My wife’s blog has become an overnight success. Here’s how she did it.

Sharon started her blog around 12 weeks ago. Her first post was read by over 2000 people. Thousands of people now read her work every week. Not bad, especially as it’s her first ever attempt at blogging. It’s worth mentioning that Sharon hasn’t paid for advertising, hasn’t done any kind of SEO or asked anyone [including me] to share her posts or link to them.

So, what’s the secret of her success?

Before my wife published her first post, she had already built an audience for her blog. She is the admin of a history group on Facebook. Sharon spent time connecting with like-minded people, answering their questions and sharing ideas.

By the time she published her first blog post, there was a community of people who were interested. They already knew who she was and that she’s an expert in her field.

Compare that to what most business owners do, when they start blogging.

  • They write a post.
  • They share their post on their main social networks.
  • However, because they haven’t built a community of people around their work, very few people take notice.
  • They decide to publish some more posts and hope things will improve.
  • Fast forward 3 months… they still have very few readers.
  • So, they try some tricks they find on blogging websites. [They don’t understand that this is the perfect way to ensure your blog remains invisible.]
  • Eventually, they assume that blogging is a waste of time.

Here’s the thing: If you want to build a successful blog, you need to build a community.

You need to find a way, like Sharon did, to connect with your target audience. It takes time. It takes effort. But that’s why she already has thousands of readers. It’s why her 12 week old blog has a bigger daily readership than the massive majority of established, small business blogs. BTW: It’s the same approach I used to build Jim’s Marketing Blog, though I used Twitter rather than Facebook.

Great blog posts alone are not enough

Writing great blog posts is just part of building a successful blog. Without investing the time required to build a reader community, a blog will remain largely invisible.

Important: You build a community by connecting with people in your target group. Join in the conversations. Answer questions. Communicate. Notice something there? None of those are achievable through automation software. Broadcasting quotes and spraying links via your social networks is easy, but very ineffective when it comes to building human connections.

How long does it take to do it correctly?

Some of my clients have achieved measurable success within 3 months. Others have taken a whole year. Is it worth it? Well, over 80,000 people will get notified when I publish this post today.

What would it be worth to you and your business, if you were able to reach a growing targeted audience of thousands of potential customers every week… without paying for advertising? Think about that for a moment.

If you decide its worth the investment, find out how to do it correctly and get moving!

Social Business: Before you publish, press pause!

pause

I want you to think about the following for a moment:

  • The last tweet you sent.
  • The last blog post you published.
  • The last marketing email you sent.
  • The last Facebook status update you posted.

First impressions count

Each of those actions could easily be someone’s first exposure to you or your business. If so, it will help form their first impression of you. First impressions count… even if they are inaccurate. First impressions count, even if you are having a bad day.

First impressions count, because if you screw it up, you don’t usually get a second chance!

Hit pause… and think

It pays to pause for a few moments before you publish anything. Think about the impression you are creating. Never underestimate the impact of an angry tweet, a needy Linkedin request or a spammy Facebook update, etc. Once it’s published, it’s out there. It’s in play. It’s carrying your name. It’s carrying your reputation.

Today, prospective clients habitually research us via search engines and our social networking accounts, before contacting us. Thankfully, we have total freedom over what we choose to say and the way we choose to act online.

Which is just as well… as our online actions leave a trail that is discoverable in minutes, by everyone who checks us out.

What everybody needs to know about marketing advice

Pro development topics r

If you’re currently following marketing advice, yet your business isn’t achieving the results you need, this post is just for you.

The problem with general marketing advice

I’m fortunate to work every day with clients worldwide. Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with clients in over 40 countries. This has given me a wonderful insight into the differences, when it comes to successfully marketing in various parts of the world.

What I have found, is that some very popular marketing publications and marketing blogs are either unaware of the differences or they choose to ignore them. Instead, they tend to offer general advice, which is provided as THE WAY to do something, when it’s often totally unsuitable for many of their readers.

One very often repeated piece of bad advice is, “the best time to publish your newsletter, blog post or social media updates”. There is no general, one-size-fits all answer to this.

Here’s the thing: Different countries have different working cultures. For example, my American clients usually start work earlier than my European clients, however, my European clients often work later. So, if your business is in Europe and you’re reading a marketing blog for American businesses [or vice versa], any information on the best time to publish something is incorrect.

Equally, even within the same countries, different industries work different hours. For example, designers, developers and those in the hospitality industry, often work later than other industries. So, using generic advice on the “best time to publish”, even if it’s from a locally-based marketing expert, is a waste of your time and is likely to make no meaningful difference.

There’s more

I see equally inaccurate information shared on content marketing blogs. No distinction is made between the kind of copy required to sell expensive, professional services — and the kind of copy needed to build an affiliate website or sell low priced items. A very different approach is required for each of these. As a result, I get emails from professionals with terrible blogs, newsletters and websites, who want to know why their readership isn’t growing and why they get few if any enquiries.

[Note: To find out what happened to one of my readers when she took that kind of advice, read this.]

Those examples of non-specific, general advice are sadly typical of what I see many hard-working small business owners waste time and money on. So, before you use general marketing advice, make sure it’s applicable to your business. If it isn’t, that free advice could lose you a fortune.

Bloggers: Are you 1 question away from 10000 daily readers?

blogging topics r

In this post, I’m going to share what is easily the single best piece of blogging advice I know.

Here it is: Drum roll please…

If you would like more great people to read your blog, start off by asking yourself the following question:

“If I already had 10,000 prospective clients reading my blog each day, how much time and money would I be prepared to invest in developing it and delivering useful content?”

When I ask people that question, they often say things like:

  • Wow… with 10,000 readers each day, I’d invest as much time as I possibly could.
  • The  blog would be worth a fortune, so I’d invest in a professional design. With all those readers, I wouldn’t want to look cheap.
  • I’d publish posts most days and really work hard to make the content as useful as possible.

Cause and effect

After listening to their answers, I sometimes take a look at their blogs and usually find that they have not invested much time, money or energy into them. They want a highly valuable blog, but they won’t make the commitment required, until after their blog is a success.

That approach is a little like a restaurant owner saying she refuses to serve great food, until after her restaurant if full every night!

My mentor used to say that it would be crazy to walk up to an empty fireplace and expect heat. We know we need to do the work of building the fire and lighting it, before we can enjoy the warmth.

We don’t need to be geniuses to build a successful blog, but we do need to be wise enough to understand that our results will be guided by our actions.

A leap of faith

The people that already have thousands of daily readers, did the work and made the investments before our blogs became popular. We paid the price for success in advance.

That takes a huge leap of faith, but unless you show faith in your blog, you can’t expect others to.

P.S. Still not convinced? Here are 25 Reasons to write a business blog.

4 Inspiring reasons to write regularly

Pro development topics r

There are many compelling business reasons to write regularly. For example, blogging can be massively valuable as a marketing tool. The same is true of newsletter writing.

Here are 4 less obvious benefits to writing regularly, which seldom get mentioned. In many ways, these are just as valuable.

  1. Writing makes you a better observer. As a result, you notice more of the world around you. You experience more from life.
  2. Writing helps you think with greater clarity. The process of getting ideas out of your head and onto the page, is a wonderful antidote for foggy thinking.
  3. Writing is a powerful development tool. To write effectively on any subject, you need to know about that subject. Even better, to write about a subject regularly, you need to constantly learn more.
  4. Writing is an act of contribution. When you share your ideas or stories with others, you invest in them. You also connect with them. How might that help your business? Think about that for a moment.

PS: Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.