Dealing with critics!

How well do you handle criticism?

If you use blogging, newsletters and/or social media sites as a way to market your services, you will receive varying levels of criticism.  Paradoxically, the more successful you become, the more criticism you will receive, because your work will reach more people.

I wrote a post in January, about the criticism bloggers receive, which readers never get to see – emails etc.  Today’s post covers other forms of criticism, and offers some ideas on why it happens and how to deal with it effectively.

I would also like to encourage YOU to add your tips at the end of the post!

Genuine, informed criticism

This is when someone, who knows the subject in question, believes they have found something in what you are doing or saying, which is incorrect.  Their motives are well intentioned and their feedback is often of great value, even though many people greet it with hostility or sarcasm.  In my experience, genuine, informed critics almost always tell you their opinion via email, the phone or face-to-face – Rather than via a social network or blog comment etc.  That’s because their intention is to help and nothing else.

Genuine, yet ill-informed criticism

Some people are going to tell you that you are doing something wrong or that you “don’t get it” and their intentions are good; yet their feedback is from an ill-informed perspective.  Like the people in the above example, these guys mean well, but unlike that example, their help is more likely to hinder you than it is to help you.

If we act on criticism that is factually wrong, we make bad decisions.  This is why it’s really important to check the source of the feedback we receive, before we decide to take action.  If someone with no expertise or experience in something is criticising you in that area, get some more feedback from an informed source.

Non-criticism, criticism

Just because someone disagrees with our point of view, does not mean they are being critical of us.  It’s easy to regard those who see things differently, as being negatively critical, when they are simply offering a different perspective.  This is especially the case with blog comments, where readers will often take a counter-point from the blogger or a fellow commenter.  The whole point of asking for comments and feedback, is to get different opinions and ideas.

Finally, consider the motivation behind negative criticism

People do what they do for a reason.  If we take a moment to consider why someone might make a critical comment about us or our work, it’s easy to see the point they are making in the correct context.

Some do it to attract “traffic”.  For example, the best-known bloggers often find less established bloggers writing extremely critical posts about them, in the hope that the popular blogger mentions them and in so doing, delivers a ton of traffic to the critic’s blog.  Some do it to get noticed.  Others do it because they just LOVE to look for the negative (I get lots of these, whenever I make a spelling error.)  Some do it just to have a little fun, at our expense.

The bottom line: There many reasons that people feel compelled to negatively criticise and many different types of criticism.  If you use (or plan to use) blogging, social networking sites and newsletters etc, as part of your marketing mix, negative criticism is all part of the feedback you will receive, as your audience grows.

Your tips on dealing with negative criticism

If you have any ideas, tips or experience of dealing with negative criticism (especially online), please share them with your fellow readers and myself, by leaving a comment below.

Photo: Johnny Jet

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How balanced is your marketing?

With most things in life, there’s a balance we need to adhere to if we want to get a desired result.  Marketing is no exception!

I was speaking with a motor mechanic yesterday, who explained to me the importance of balance in high performance cars.  He said that many people will add a faster, more powerful engine to a car, but fail to upgrade the breaks and steering for all that additional speed and power.  The end result is often a serious crash.

Business owners and entrepreneurs also need to be aware of the importance of balance, when it comes to their marketing.  Otherwise, they too can see their efforts crash!

Marketing balance

For example, many people invest in great SEO and generate lots of targeted visitors to their website, but when these new people arrive, they are greeted with home-grown, pedestrian copy writing.  In other words, all that SEO money is wasted because the messages that greet these new readers are not powerful enough to get them to take action.  Equally, many well written commercial websites have very poor SEO and get very little traffic, so their message is seen by too few people to generate the volume of enquiries and sales they need.  It’s all about balance.

Another common marketing imbalance, is the way people allocate their time.  It’s not uncommon for some people to spend more time adding content to sites like Facebook and Linkedin etc, than they do developing THEIR OWN site or blog!  I wrote last year about a guy who I saw adding content to Twitter every day, yet his blog had not been updated in 3 months.

Here’s a suggestion: Take a moment to review where you currently invest your marketing time and money and see if you can spot something, which is setting your results off balance.  Here’s a very popular selection of marketing ideas, which you should take a look at, if you want a more balanced approach to your marketing.

Over to you!

What examples do you have of getting the balance right (or wrong) and what lessons you learned.  Please share your experiences, with a comment.
Photo: Ky Olsen

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Twitter can be amazing: Check this out!

I just fell back in love with Twitter!

As some of you might remember, I was once one of the world’s top 40 most followed people on Twitter.  Then, in January 2009, after being swamped daily with hundreds of DM’s and junk emails via Twitter, I left.  I later rejoined after totally wiping my account; zero following and zero followers.  Over the past year I have built a small Twitter network, which as you are about to see, is massively more valuable!

Here’s what happened and why I fell back in love with Twitter yesterday…

Twitter contacts

I was in a small village pub last night, when David Spinks from Scribnia.com contacted me via Twitter.  David and I have never met in person, though we have spoken on the phone a few times.  Anyhow, David wanted to know if I could help him, to help a Twitter contact of ours, who is having some real challenges right now.  By the way, you will be hearing all about this very shortly.

I called David and within an hour, I had spoken with a number of my Twitter friends, to see about getting our mutual friend the help he needs.  Everyone I spoke with was eager to get involved.  Each of these relationships were initially formed, via contact made on Twitter and I’ve never met any of these people in person.

Twitter at its best

In my experience, Twitter is at it’s best (from an interpersonal point of view) as a way of connecting with people; rather than as a way of building relationships.  Once a connection is made, it’s super-easy to take that connection away from Twitter, so you can get to know the person better; either face-to-face, via the phone or email etc. 

For example, each of the people I called after speaking with David Spinks, were people I met initially via Twitter, but had built a relationship with away from Twitter; including Scott Gould from Like Minds and The CEO of Headway Themes, Grant Griffiths.

The community of people I know via Twitter, are of massive value to me and last night, the way many of them wanted to get involved and help a guy they have never met, was breathtaking.  REAL people, who right now are about to make a REAL difference to the life of a fellow Twitter community member.  I have never been more impressed with the value of Twitter or more delighted that I rejoined it.

I’m no social media guru, but surely “people” are what it’s all about?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Who owns YOUR name online?

How many Internet users have the same name as you?

For most of us, the answer will be in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or more.  Right now, this represents a challenge for a growing number of consultants, entrepreneurs, trainers and authors etc, who trade or work in their own names.  That’s because right now, it’s almost impossible for them to register their name on social networks or to buy theirname.com.

Whilst there is something nice about owning yourname.com, there are also a number of good reasons why it’s useful for some people to own a version of their name online.  For example, if you are an advisor and trade in your name, it’s easier for people to remember your URL / web address, if it’s yourname.com.

Also, as Gina Trapani, the founding Editor of lifehacker.com recently pointed out, there are some great SEO benefits from owning at least one version of your own name online, IF people are likely to be searching for you, by name.  I experienced this myself, when I used JimConnolly.com as my primary website and was the number one result on Google for anyone searching for me.

Social media name grab

Until quite recently, it was pretty easy to get yourname.com.  I was able to buy JimConnolly.com with zero effort at the first attempt.  However, in more recent years the Internet “got social.”  Today, hundreds of millions of people are building social networks and blogging.  For example, I was the first Jim Connolly to register their name on Twitter, so when my friend, who’s ALSO called Jim Connolly (From Thomas, Connolly & Phelps in Bloomington Illinois) joined Twitter, “his” name was taken.

To resolve this name issue, there are stories of people creating unique names for their unborn children, so that they can get them their own .com address and social media accounts!

Some possible answers

Here are a few suggestions for businesspeople, who do not already own their own name based URL, but would like to:

  • The most obvious suggestion, is for you to check now if your name is actually taken.  This is especially the case, if your name is uncommon or uses an uncommon spelling.  Even if your name was not available the last time you looked, it could be now.  I use 123Reg.co.uk to check URL availability.  By the way, that is NOT an affiliate link.  It’s just a service I use.
  • You can also try and get an alternative to the .com top level domain or TLD.  For example; yourname.me, yourname.biz, yourname.org etc.  However, some TLD’s come with restrictions on how you can use them, so check before you buy.
  • Another suggestion is to get creative and add something to your name, such as JaneSmithMarketing.com or MrBobSmith.com or Mary JonesOnline.com etc.  This is still pretty effective and provides an easy to remember option, when giving out your web address to people you meet or in radio interviews etc.

So, what if even the most creative versions of your name are taken?

Don’t panic!

As you can see, even though I own JimConnnolly.com, I still choose not to use it here on my primary marketing website.

Why?

By including the words marketing blog in the URL of this site, almost every link that points here also includes those 2 words.  This means there are thousands of links, which point here and tell Google that this is a marketing blog.  As a result, anyone searching for marketing blog or marketing blogs etc on Google, will find this blog on page one; even though there are over 100 MILLION results listed.  It’s also pretty easy to find me here using Google, just searching for Jim Connolly.  BTW: Keep an eye on JimConnolly.com!!

With the annual price of a URL around the same as a quick trip to Starbucks, there’s no reason for business owners not to try and get at least one version of their name.  Even if it’s not something you plan to use immediately, it could prove useful for a future project.

Do you own a version of YOUR name online?

I would like to hear about your experiences, of either owning your own name based web address or trying to get one.  Equally, I would appreciate any suggestions you have, for people trying to get a name based web address.

Photo: Natalie Maynor

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Feedback Please: Is frequently changing your avatar a wise move?

I would like to know what you think about this…

When someone you follow via Twitter, Facebook or blogging etc, suddenly changes their avatar (the picture in their profile), do you find it causes you any confusion?

I see some people and brands regularly changing their avatar.  With so much of marketing being based around building awareness of a brand and reinforcing the brand’s image, on a professional level, I find it interesting that some people regularly replace the image we associate with them.

Your feedback please

I would like to know what your thoughts or experiences are; either with other people who have changed their avatar or your own personal experience of giving your avatar a makeover.

What do you think?

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

How to make great decisions when things go wrong!

It’s a fact: The way we respond to challenges is a key factor in our commercial success.

This is why I want to share a simple piece of advice with you, which may help you make better decisions AND avoid making mistakes when you are next faced with a challenge (particularly, a BIG challenge!)

I have coached, mentored, trained and worked with thousands of businesspeople and have found that often, it’s their response to a problem that seals their fate and NOT the original challenge or problem itself.

This is because they go into a mindset, which I call scrambling mode.

Scrambling mode is the term I use to describe the wild and often illogical actions, which many entrepreneurs and business owners take, when they are suddenly faced with a big challenge.  Scrambling mode sees the person so desperate to do “something,” that they become more focused on movement than they do on progress.  Rather than develop a properly thought out plan of action, they panic.  This leads to poor decision making, which in turn creates more and more problems.  So, they start off with one, often easy to resolve issue and end up with a stack of far more serious challenges.

A common example I have heard of many, many times, is what business owners do, when they unexpectedly see a worrying drop in sales.  Faced with this situation, the logical thing to do is figure out what caused the drop in sales and either fix it or replace it with a more effective way to attract new business.  However, I have personally witnessed business owners decide instantly, to take seriously damaging action!

In one case I know of, the business owner immediately dropped her prices by 15%, without realising that her existing customers would expect a similar deal.  She eventually offered the 15% discount to everyone, unaware that she NOW needed to increase sales by over 40%, just to cover the cost of the 15% discount – never mind recovering the lost revenue!  She was broke within 4 months.

In short: Scrambling mode sees intelligent people looking for answers in all the wrong places and creating unnecessary additional problems.

How to avoid getting into scrambling mode

To learn how to avoid the damage caused by entering into scrambling mode, we need only observe how people that respond effectively to sudden, unexpected problems act.

In my experience, there are 2 steps, which these people take:

  1. They take time to identify exactly what the challenge actually is.  As soon as they know what’s wrong, they focus all their attention on getting the challenge solved.  I wrote about this last week in this post, focus on answers, not problems.  When we focus on answers, one of the by products is that we start to feel more in control, which lowers our stress and makes us more resourceful.
  2. They immediately seek qualified advice, so they make good decisions.  Typically, they will have already identified knowledgeable people in each key area of their business.  This means they know exactly who to speak with, when something goes wrong and don’t have to blindly go into the marketplace and find someone.  This means a good time to build YOUR team of advisors is now; not when you are working against the clock!

Your feedback

I would be interested to know what your experiences are, when it comes to making decisions under pressure.  Also, do you have any tips you would like to share?  If you do, please leave a comment!

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Jim Linwood

 

A short comment on short comments

Have you ever left a comment on a blog and wondered why it was not published?

There are many reasons why this can happen, including:

  • Your comment included links, words or phrases that triggered the blog’s software to block it.  Like most wordpress blogs, this blog uses a trackback  / comment spam plugin.  The one I use is called Akismet.
  • The blogger deleted your comment for some reason.
  • Your ip address, website or email address is somehow listed in the popular comment spam databases.
  • Your comment was too short. This is the one I want to focus on here.

Comments too short?

Yep! Legitimate comments like yours, can get trapped in blog spam filters, simply because they are too short.  Blog comments like; “I totally agree” or “This is a great blog”, are regularly used by some SEO’s, as a way to build backlinks for their clients sites.  They simply paste the same generic phrase into thousands of well ranked blogs, hoping they will find some, which do not have comment-spam  / trackback spam plugins installed.  Whilst these brief comments are pretty harmless (in my opinion), some bloggers really don’t like them and as a result, filters now try and stop them appearing.

Here’s an example of how a genuine comment can get lost.  I just found a legitimate comment in my filter, which contains only 5 words; “what’s your bookmark plugin Jim?”  This was instantly filtered it as spam and it would have been missed, had I not spent 20 minutes reading through the last 12 hours worth of comment spam, for this post.

By the way: 99% of the spam I get is NOT from SEO’s! The SEO comments I see are largely benign and tend to point to regular sites.  No, the vast majority of the comment spam I see (and don’t want published) is sent via zombie computers and links to everything from porn sites to drug sites and malware.

So, if you want the best chance of seeing your comment published on a blog, use more than 3 or 4 words if you want to avoid the blogger’s filter.  This also helps you add to the conversation and adds value to your input.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Floppy disks in 2010? Give me a break!

Last week, something occurred to me, which I would like to share with you.

I suddenly realised that right now, in 2010, many software companies STILL use that little image of a floppy disk, as the icon for the “save” feature on a software program!

It’s years since computers came with floppy disk drives as standard and many more years, since they were the primary way to save information.  As a result, there is a whole generation of young adults in the workplace, to whom that floppy icon will be pretty irrelevant.

Marketing and relevance

In marketing, we know that our message needs to be relevant to our marketplace, if we want it to resonate with them and motivate them to; buy from us, call us, visit us, click our links or email us etc.  This means that we need to avoid making assumptions and base our marketing around the challenges and opportunities, which are currently facing our prospective clients.

However, it’s NOT just about your marketing message…

You see, no matter how good your marketing is, its effectiveness (and your sales results) will always be capped or limited by the value of your services or products.  This means your marketing AND your products and services need to me relevant to today’s marketplace.

The bottom line: Great marketing by itself is NOT the secret to sales success.  For any company to enjoy sustainable sales success, it needs to be marketing something that is just what the marketplace needs.

If you offer a range of services or products and they have remained fairly similar for a while, it might be time to review them and see if they are still 100% relevant to your clients and prospective clients.  Speak with people in your target market and find out what their challenges and opportunities are today and moving forward.  Your commercial success will always be linked to how well you adapt to, and service, their requirements.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

No matter how good your marketing is, its effectiveness (and your sales results) will always be limited by the value of your services or products.

Over 180 marketing and business development ideas!

Are you building a business?

Ultimately, what do you plan to do with your business?

One of the best pieces of business advice I ever received came from my mentor, Mr Jim Rohn.  Jim used to say; “start with the end in mind!”

In other words, know where you are going, before you get going.

Here’s the thing: Most small business owners I speak with (and I speak with them every day), have only a fuzzy picture of what they ultimately want to do with their business. Many have no real idea at all!  With that lack of clarity, it’s impossible to make the right decisions, as all planning is done in the short or medium-term at best.  Moreover, without knowing your destination, how can you even know if you are on course or not?

I have spoken with many consultants and advisers, who have faced ill-health or approached retirement, only to realise that when they stop working, their income will stop too.  They exchange their time for money and as such, even if they earn well, once they stop exchanging their time, they stop receiving the money.

Such people have NOT built a business – They simply bought themselves a job!

No matter what stage in the life journey you are at right now, here’s a great question to ask yourself:  Am I building something that has value in itself or am I simply employing myself?

You will be amazed how things will change for you, when you have a clear picture of your end game.  Decisions that were once hard, will become easy.  Questions you have never asked yourself will suddenly come to you and with these questions, you will find answers that will drive you forward, with a purpose.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Emio Me