Focus on the answer, not the problem!

Today’s post contains a simple idea, but a massively valuable one too!  It can help you solve problems or challenges more effectively and reduce your stress levels at the same time.

It’s all about focusing 99% of your time on the solution and very little time worrying about the actual problem itself.

Don’t focus on the problem

To solve a problem, you need to be in a resourceful state.  This gives you your best chance to find not only an answer, but a great answer.

The thing is, when a problem comes along, especially a BIG problem, people tend to focus most of their time thinking about the various horrible things that might happen, as a result of the problem.  This immediately places us in an unresourceful state.  We worry.  We panic.  We become fearful. It’s hard to think clearly under that kind of dark cloud.

The bottom line: Once you have identified exactly what the problem is, it’s time to move on to the answer!

Focus on the answers

Focusing on answers always places our mind in a positive state.  Rather then the cycle of doom and gloom that is created when we focus on problems, a cycle of positivity, creativity and clarity is created, when we focus on answers.  Focusing on the answer puts us back in control and allows us to put our energy where it’s needed most – Finding a solution!

One of my readers was presented with a huge “challenge” recently, when her biggest customer pulled their account!  She emailed me to explain how she used an idea from this blog post, to “turn it around”.  The post is about the importance of using great questions, to focus your mind on creating great answers.  Anyway, here’s what she said in her email to me (reused with her permission):

By taking your advice on problem solving, I noticed that the usual cycle of stress and worry didn’t happen.  Previously, I would have literally worried myself sick, imagining all the consequences of losing this account and playing out all the worst case scenarios in my mind over and over again.

So this time I immediately focused on an answer instead.  I grabbed a pen and a pad and started writing ideas down, first to see about rescuing this customer’s account and then, to see about replacing them with another account.  That was 12 days ago and I have won my former customer back and gained another, even bigger account.

I estimate the idea from your blog post has earned me close on $45,000.

Thank you Jim!

Someone once told me that worrying was the lowest possible use of the human imagination, and I think he had a point.  In my experience, most people who regard themselves as poor problem solvers, are simply GREAT problem solvers, who use their imagination and creativity to focus on the wrong things.

Lost for words? Here are 10 ways to find inspiration!

Do you ever find yourself suffering from writer’s block?

If you just answered “yes”, take a look at the following 10 ideas and see if you can find something, which will help you flood your mind with inspirational ideas:

  1. Go for a walk. This one works for me every time.  Just remember to bring something with you, to record your thoughts.
  2. “Write for the waste paper basket.”  I’m paraphrasing Ernest Hemingway there.  The idea is not to allow the need for perfection to stop you getting started.  Get going and THEN refine what you have written.
  3. Listen to some music, preferably something without lyrics.
  4. Read some of your own, previous material.  It’s amazing how many times I read something I’ve written before, which gives me an idea for a brand new piece of material.
  5. Exercise.  Just like number1, be sure to bring an audio recorder with you.
  6. Change your environment.  I write 99% of my material outdoors.  Sometimes, I will write from a quiet location and other times, a busy coffee bar.  If quiet isn’t working for you – Go somewhere noisy, and vice-versa.
  7. Go for a drive.  I know a lot of people who get some of their best ideas, when they are driving.  Just make sure you wait until it’s safe, before you record your ideas.
  8. Take a look at some of the emails, tweets or messages you get from people, seeking your advice.  This can sometimes provide very useful food for thought.
  9. Listen to (or watch) something that’s REALLY funny!  I find that often, just after enjoying a great comedy, (Big Bang Theory is my current fave) my mind feels like a hard drive, which has just been de-fragmented.  I’m told that laughter reduces stress and floods our brains with endorphins , which then changes our mental state.  Whatever the science is, there’s no doubt that it’s extremely effective (and fun!)
  10. Try getting your ideas down using pen and paper, rather than a computer.  As I mentioned recently, I do ALL my problem solving and creative thinking on paper.  I know manyt, many people who find this form of thinking on paper to be extremely effective.

What would you add to this list?

I would really appreciate it if YOU would share your best ideas for overcoming writer’s block, with your fellow readers and myself.  So, what did I miss?

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

Blowing the lid off your potential!

What limitations have you attached to your business?

I often speak with business owners, who have restricted the growth of their business because of limitations they have placed on themselves, often without knowing.  Interestingly, in the majority of cases, these limitations are groundless.  In other words, a lot of business owners are missing out on countless opportunities, needlessly!

For example, I spoke with a business coach last week, who currently limits herself to working with businesses that are based within a hundred miles or so of her physical address; even though she delivers her services remotely, via email, the phone / Skype etc.  In other words, there’s no need for her to place that restriction on herself.  As a result of this pointless, self-imposed limitation, she has placed a very low ceiling on the growth potential of her business.

I’m not suggesting for one second that business owners should just randomly offer every service they can possibly think of to everyone.  I am simply saying that it’s crazy to ignore the benefits to your clients and yourself, of offering a more complete and valuable service, based on what makes good, commercial sense.

This reminds me of a software company I met a few years ago, which produced specialist software for the chemical industry.  They had introduced a training package, aimed at helping users of their software, who wanted to get the absolute maximum from it.  Within 18-months, they had created a new, six figure income stream for their business.  They spotted the need and decided to do something about it, rather than say; “we’re not a training company!”

I think it’s a good idea from time to time, to take a fresh look at our business and check that we are not offering a range of services today, based on the way things were 6-months, 12-months or even a few years ago.  Times change, and as they do, new opportunities and possibilities are unearthed.  However, unless me move our thinking forward, it’s way too easy to miss all that great potential.

By the way, there are 32 questions here, which are designed to stimulate your mind and help you spot new opportunities to develop your business – Check them out!

32 Questions to kick-start your business!

Would you call yourself a creative person?

Creativity plays a big part in the development of any successful business.  In fact, your ability to creatively solve problems and spot opportunities will to a large part, determine just how far you and your business will go.

In my experience, one of the best ways to kick-start our creativity, is to ask ourselves questions, which lead us to creatively search for answers and new ideas.  So, here are 32 questions, designed to help you think creatively about the development of your business.  Remember to share them with anyone in your network, who you think might find them useful, using the links below!

  1. What additional, valuable products or services can I offer to my existing clients or customers (herein called clients)?  This is the fastest way to generate a massively profitable boost to your revenue and profits.
  2. Am I fully utilising technology in my business?  Are there processes that I could streamline, which would give me more time to deal personally with my clients and prospective clients?
  3. How can I improve the way I deliver my services?
  4. Do I take time out, to thank people as often as I should?
  5. What new markets could use my products or services?
  6. How can I improve the quality of my products or services, so that they are of even more value to existing and prospective clients?
  7. Am I associating with the right kind of people, for what I want to achieve?
  8. What three things could I do, which would improve the visibility of my business?
  9. How can I reach 500% more prospective clients with my marketing message?
  10. How can I make my day-to-day work more fun?  This is really important!
  11. What’s the best way for me to encourage more people, to recommend me to their contacts?
  12. Is my marketing focused enough?
  13. How can I improve my time management?
  14. Do I take action on the ideas I generate, so they have a chance to make a real difference?
  15. Should I be thinking about doing some kind of joint venture with another, high quality company?
  16. Am I limiting the development of my business, by not investing in professional help in the areas where I am weakest?  If so, which area do I need to invest in first?
  17. How often do I ask my clients for their feedback, regarding the service they receive from me and what additional services they would like me to offer?
  18. When was the last time I sat down and studied my marketing goals?  If you have not got any written, measurable, specific marketing goals, stop reading this and write some down right now!
  19. Is it possible that my services look too similar to my competitors?  Most service providers look way too alike, so the marketplace uses their fees as a way to judge their value.
  20. If my services do look too similar to my competitors, how can I differentiate myself, so that I have something uniquely valuable to bring to the marketplace?
  21. Do I get enough leads and enquiries via my website or blog? If not, how can I increase this, so my site becomes a lead generating machine for my business?
  22. When was the last time a client sent me a “thank you” note?  If this has not happened for a while, it might suggest that you have not exceeded their expectations lately!
  23. Who would make a good endorsed relationship partner for me?
  24. Do I attract enough word of mouth referrals?  If not, what is this telling me?
  25. How aware am I, of my client’s problems and challenges?  You need to know what’s happening in your client’s world, if you want to be able to really help them.
  26. Do I have a shallow a network, spread over a wide area – Or a deeper, more meaningful one?
  27. How many other websites or blogs link to my website or blog?  This is important, as inlinks account for the massive majority of your search engine optimization (SEO)
  28. Am I working to a marketing strategy or am I simply doing tactical marketing?
  29. Just how good is my customer service?  Remember, you don’t compare yourself to what your competitors offer – But to the finest level of service you can possibly offer.
  30. Do I still have the same passion for my business that I used to have?  If the answer to this is yes, get passionate again!
  31. How many of the people I network with on Twitter, have I actually spoken to or met?
  32. Are my online marketing activities producing bankable results, or just a ton of meaningless, social media numbers?  If you have the friends, followers and fans but not the bankable results, you might want to review your strategy.
  33. Do I exceed people’s expectations?

OK – What would you add to this list?

What would you add to this list, as a question that might help get people thinking creatively about the development of their business?  Please leave your suggestions below!

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

How focused are your marketing messages?

That’s an important question for you to consider.

Why?

Because the more focused your marketing messages are, the more effective they will be and the more business they will generate for you.

Here’s what we know:

  • A focused marketing message speaks directly to the reader (viewer or listener), in a language they understand. It connects with them at a far deeper level than a poorly targeted message.
  • A focused marketing message makes the reader feel as if you knew exactly what they needed. This makes you relevant to them, which is extremely powerful.
  • A focused marketing message captures the reader’s attention. This is of huge value to you today, when people’s attention has never been so scattered.
  • A focused marketing messages has the power to motivate people to take action… to buy from you, call you, email you or visit you.
  • A focused marketing message has the power to inspire and compel the reader in a way that vague messages can’t.

Review your written marketing. Look for opportunities to make it more focused, so that it’s only relevant to your ideal profile of client. Be less inclusive. Talk directly to them.

Business is all about people and people really notice, when you’re speaking directly to them, in their language, about what matters to them!

Two very different voices. Which do YOU listen to?

Who do you listen to?

I ask you this, because everything that you pay attention to has an influence on you, to a lesser or greater degree.  This is why it’s so important to be selective about the people we connect with.  In business, these “voices” can be the difference between massive success and total commercial failure.

This brief post is about the influence that pessimists and optimists have on us.

Pessimistic voices

Business owners, who listen to enough pessimistic voices, find it hard to remain positive.  That’s because the influence of pessimists, makes it all too easy for us during the winters of our business lives, to think that summer will never arrive.  All of us get disheartened from time to time and when this happens, the last thing we need is someone bringing us down further.  And then, when times are great, the pessimist will tell us that it won’t last – than doom and gloom are around the corner.

Pessimists seldom achieve anything positive, because opportunities have a habit of avoiding them.  It’s not that the opportunities don’t exist for them, but the pessimist mindset is blind to the potential for gain. Little wonder that for pessimists, the future is something that should be faced with apprehension.

We simply can not allow the toxic impact of pessimists to influence our lives, if we want to be happy, healthy or wealthy.

Optimistic voices

Business owners, who listen to enough optimistic voices, find themselves expecting the best.  Now, as we tend to get from life what we expect, it makes sense to expect the best right?

Optimism is like a virus.  It’s infectious.  I tell you, spend 20 minutes speaking with an informed optimist and it’s as refreshing as a good night’s sleep!  Spend that same amount of time listening to a pessimist complaining, and you will feel tense and stressed.

Optimism isn’t about going through life or business without a plan, blindly expecting the best; it’s about believing that whatever happens, there’s a way to turn it around, to make things better.

Optimism breeds confidence; both internally and externally.  It encourages people to see our dreams and believe in them.  An optimist with the right plan can achieve pretty-much anything.  Give that same plan to a pessimist and they won’t even read it.  They will just say; “what’s the point?”

The bottom line: By deliberately listening to the right influences, we can make our business (and our lives) a lot easier, less stressful and more rewarding!

Set your own gold standard!

Have you ever wondered how things would change, if every company you dealt with, treated you as if you were the husband or wife, parent or child, of it’s owner?

Most companies genuinely try hard to make the customer experience as good as possible, but many set their gold standard for service, too low.  This is because they allow the typical customer experience within their industry or profession to determine what counts as either good or average.

However, by treating all customers and prospective customers as if they were the bosses nearest and dearest, a company will find itself cranking the customer service up to a new level!

Word of mouth

As I have said many, many times before, if you want to get people talking about you and spreading all that valuable word of mouth publicity about you, you need to be remarkable (or remark-able).  One of the finest ways to get people talking about you, is via industry leading attention to customer service excellence.

I was prompted to write this post, after speaking with the chairman of one of the UK’s biggest retail companies yesterday afternoon.  He told me about the way his wife had been treated, when she and a friend were visiting one of his high street stores.  Apparently, they had to wait an age to get served and when they were served, the service was pretty average.

When they were paying for their purchase, the store manager recognised the chairman’s wife and went over to introduce himself to her.  He asked what she thought of the service, so she explained it had been worse than she expected.  At this point, the store manager said;
“I’m sorry.  The shop assistant clearly had no idea who you were!”

The chairman’s wife (a former marketing director of the company) replied;
“surely the default position should be that EVERYONE who enters the store, is given the best quality of service possible?”

The marketing power of great customer service

I believe there’s an opportunity right now, to blaze a trail in your niche, by working hard to massively exceed the expectations of your marketplace.  I believe that by reviewing every step of your business, which is visible in any way to your clients or prospective clients, and looking for ways to dramatically improve the service you render in that area, that you can massively increase the amount of referred business you attract.

You can also improve your attrition rate (how long someone remains a client or customer), improve morale within your company and gain a bulletproof reputation for excellence.

What do you think?

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

Leo Laporte: 3 lessons from an Internet success story!

This post contains 3 lessons, which have helped Leo Laporte become one of the Internet’s biggest success stories of recent years.

Who is Leo Laporte & what can we learn?

Leo is the massively popular guy behind a network of mainly tech-based programs, which can be watched online or downloaded.  Leo started his online broadcasting network after his mainstream TV show was cancelled.

His network is known as TWiT (This Week in Tech.)  Just 5 years later, Leo’s shows are listened to and watched by millions every month and his advertisers and sponsors include the likes of Visa and Ford.

He now employs a dedicated team of professionals and produces and amazing TWENTY PLUS shows a week.  He’s aiming for a full 24-hours a day “CNN for geeks” service and I know he will do it. More info on Leo can be found here.

Learning from Leo Laporte?

I can see 3 BIG lessons from Leo Laporte’s growing success, which we can all learn from.  Here they are:

1. Quality.  Leo focuses on delivering a very high quality product.  From the beginning, Leo insisted on investing in the best quality equipment possible, and then reinvesting, as the business grew.  He has also worked hard to attract the most entertaining, knowledgeable guests he can.  As the success of his network grew and he was able to start employing people, he brought in the best people he could.  At every step, he has focused on quality, rather than speed or “cheap.”

In my experience, quality does not come cheap, but quality costs far less than when we take the cheap route.  For instance, it can often seem like a wise move to go for the cheapest web host, but what about the cost of all that lost business, if our site is down too often or too slow for people to use?  It might seem like a wise move to hire a cheap accountant or CPA, until you find out that by saving a few hundred a year, you have been overpaying thousands each year in taxes.

It’s about getting the best you can afford and then when you become more financially secure, reinvesting in even better quality.

2. Community. Leo Laporte understands the importance of building a community and engaging with that community.  He takes messages from his listeners and viewers during most of his programs and asks them for suggestions / feedback.  He sets up dedicated chat rooms, where the listeners and viewers can chat with each other and contribute to the show.

There’s a real community feel to Leo’s network, something that helps retain his audience and engage them.  Some of his advertisers have been with him for years, because Leo’s community appreciate that the advertisers are who fund his shows and they are vastly more likely to use and recommend their products.  The advertisers and the listeners are thus, part of the same community. It’s amazing to watch!

As I said yesterday, a community is far, far more commercially valuable than a following or an audience that you broadcast too.

3. Work.  Leo has worked extremely hard to build the TWiT network.  Having come from a mainstream media background, Leo was used to big studios and teams of professionals to get his shows on air.  It must have been hard for him in the beginning, to go from that, to being the guy who made the coffee, wrote the scripts, fixed the equipment and booked the guests.  Until relatively recently, Leo fronted all his shows himself; as well as working with his advertisers, booking guests, writing show plans, working the control desk AND doing a daily tech radio show for an FM station too!

The lesson here is as old as commerce itself.  The best plan in the world will not work for us, if we don’t work for it.

Business leaders are often the first people into the office in the morning and the last ones home; at least during the earlier stages of their business.  All too often, we see people who want to get the result, without putting in the work first.  This is why scammers and con artists have always found an endless stream of people to fool out of their savings, with the promise of easy money.

Quality, community and work.  Three simple words, which bring with them a lot of challenges – But also the promise of something amazing.

Social media rock stars? Get real!

I have already had several books sent to me this year for review, written by social media experts or gurus.  The most recent arrived this weekend.  One thing all of them have in common, is that they contain a version of the following advice, which is, in my opinion totally incorrect:
Build a following and market to that following.

Here’s what I have found to be better advice:
Don’t build a following. Build a community instead!

This is not just a play on words.

FOLLOWERS are like the audience at a rock concert.  They are set apart from the rock star on stage.  They see the rock star as distant.  They are part of the event, but a very small part.  The rock star might get the crowd to sing the occasional verse, but we all know they are REALLY just broadcasting THEIR VOICE to the crowd! I really don’t see a lot of value in positioning yourself as a rock star, if you actually want to get involved with people.  Ironically, the people I see using this approach all the time, are social media experts!

COMMUNITY members are totally different.  They are like the guests at a really enjoyable party.  The host of the party is not a “star.”  The host is not set up high on a stage with the spotlight on him or her, but on the same level as the rest of us.  The host interacts with the guests – speaking AND listening.

The host at that party will not have had tens of thousands of people attending, like the rock star did.  But here’s the thing: How many of us actually NEED tens of thousands of people around us, that we will never know or connect with in any meaningful way?

Here’s one way of seeing it

Let’s be serious for a moment.  The typical small business owner, using social media to develop new clients or customers and gain feedback, will never need tens of thousands of followers or fans.

  • How many of those people can Bob EVER REALLY connect with or know?
  • How many will want to use Bob’s services, simply because Bob added them to his too-big-to-connect-with network of people he will never speak to or meet?

How many? FAR fewer, than if Bob had built a targeted, manageable network of people, which he actually connected with.  I know it sounds a little old fashioned, but it really isn’t about the numbers.

Those numbers represent people. Real people. Real people, with real lives, real needs and real dreams.  Business is all about people too.  If we forget that, and just go for the numbers, we place a very low ceiling on our potential.

What do you think about this email?

I wrote recently about copycat marketing.  That’s where someone copies the marketing of someone else, hoping that it will work.

After writing that post, I received a lot of email and comments, from people who had personal experience of copycat marketing going wrong.

Here’s one email, which I would like to share with you and hear your thoughts on.

“Here’s what happened to me, Jim.  Please share it with your readers to avoid them making the same mistake.

I found a local guy last year; with a well ranked, well read blog.  He blogs and teaches people how to make money and generate business from social media.  So, in view of his huge readership and massive following, I decided to copy what he did and apply it to my web design business.  Sure enough, his ideas were interesting, but after wasting months doing what he said, I had still not generated a single, tangible asset. Nothing. Zip.

So last month he emailed me, to ask a favor.  We’d met at a tweet up and we got on real well hes a great guy.  Anyhow, he emailed to ask me if I could loan him a monitor as his was screwed and HE COULDN’T AFFORD TO REPLACE OR REPAIR IT!  I did have a spare, which I dropped off for him.  Over a coffee, this likeable guy confessed that he was unable to monetize what he did and that he didn’t even have a marketing or business plan in place.

Here’s the thing Jim.  This guy has thousands of RSS subscribers and followers and a kick-ass blog plus a whole bunch of very well known buddies.  I was copy cat marketing someone who looked like he was doing great, but wasn’t making a dime. Its set my marketing back like 6 months. Ive been a jerk for sure but want others to avoid making the same dumbass mistake as me so that my experience wasn’t a total waste of time. Check people out. Followers or reader numbers don’t always equal $$”