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?

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.

Another reason why I love blogging

I switched my computer on this morning and was amazed with what I saw!

Last night, while I was sleeping, there were interesting conversations going on here; across 4 different posts and with dozens of comments.  That kind of feedback or interaction, is one of the things I value most about blogging and yet another reason why I believe blogs have a bright future, as a marketing tool.

Marketing and blogs

There are many reasons why blogs are extremely powerful as marketing tools.  One of these reasons, is that it is easier to build a targeted community around a blog.  For example, each of those 4 active conversations last night were directly relevant to the theme of this blog; which is marketing and business development for small businesses.

Now, some of the people involved in these debates, shared the debate on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, which saw a massive increase in new readers and blog subscribers.  In simple terms, if I had written those posts as traditional articles on a website, with no comments section and no way for readers to contribute, there would have been far less interest and far fewer people would have seen it or shared it.

My posts acted as a catalyst, but it was the interest caused by the reader comments, which created the real surge in interest.  In addition, the people who commented on those posts increased the value of those posts enormously, with their insights and ideas.  I will be writing a lot more about the marketing benefits of blogging in the future.  For now, I simply ask business owners that are not already blogging, to consider the opportunities.

More marketing pests: Your feedback please!

Several times a week, I get email from people, who claim to enjoy reading this blog and want to know if they can be one of my guest bloggers.  Clearly, they have never read the blog, as there is no guest blogging here. (The clue is in the blog’s name!)

Several times a day, I get email from people, telling me they enjoy reading my blog and would like me to link to them.  Clearly, they have never visited the blog, or they would know there are no link-exchanges here.  I link to a few sites, all of which are owned by people I know and trust.  NONE of them asked for the link.  BTW: I just added Danny Brown’s blog to my links (Get well soon Danny!)

In yesterday’s blog post, I wrote about the mindset that says it’s ok to piss-off 99.9% of people you contact, to reach that 0.1%,  who may listen to or read your message. That post was about cold calls from unprofessional tele-marketers, but the same applies to other forms of impersonal, mass produced junk marketing too.

…and the best part?

The massive majority of email I receive, asking for links and postings, comes from marketing companies or SEO / SEM (search engine marketing) companies; on behalf of their clients and in their client’s name! It’s their client’s reputations that are being rendered toxic – and I’m willing to bet that in many cases, their clients don’t even know the damage being caused to their name or brand.

How to lose sales and anger your marketplace

No one likes being pestered. This is especially the case, when they are extremely busy.

I was thinking of this, whilst sitting in a friends restaurant. He received a telemarketing call from one of the many salespeople, who target his industry with cold calls. The call was made during lunchtime, on a Friday afternoon. This is a very busy time for city-based restaurants, as they deal with not only a large volume of diners, but diners, who need to get back to work quickly.

You would think that people selling to the industry would have the common sense to avoid making cold calls, during these super-busy times.

Not only are they seldom going to speak with the decision maker (he or she’s too busy) but the caller actually positions themselves to the person receiving their unwanted interruption, as a nuisance or pest.  That’s not a great way to start of a relationship or a sales negotiation.

So, why do these kind of poorly timed telemarketing calls get made?

In my experience, many telemarketing companies believe that although they will probably be seen as a pest to 99% of the people they call during that peek time, maybe 1% might speak with them.  That’s a limited and short-sighted mindset!  It’s a mindset that says it’s fine to be seen as a pest by 99% of your prospective marketplace.  This is a VERY short-term strategy and quickly sees those use operate from it, running out of people to call; as their reputation sinks lower and lower and their phone numbers get barred.

The thing with marketing is this: Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you SHOULD do something

Whether it’s cold calling people, when they clearly don’t want to be called or adding people to your newsletter list, when they never asked to subscribe (do you get that too?), it’s a bad idea to do anything that will almost certainly anger or alienate 99% of your prospective clients.  None of us need that kind of reputation.

I would be interested to know, which types of marketing “interruptions” you see as most annoying.  Share your experiences, below.

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

Photo: Victor Castillo

Marketing: Make everything count!

If you are serious about getting the maximum return from your sales and marketing efforts, this message is for you:

In marketing, nothing is neutral.  Every marketing activity is either working for you or it’s working against you!

For example, look at Internet marketing.  When I look at 99.9% of business websites or blogs, I can see immediately that they are not generating many sales, leads or enquiries.  The owners of those sites wrongly assume that this is “just how it is.”  They know that they need a site to help market their business, and wrongly assume that the results will come magically somewhere down the road.  It doesn’t work like that.

Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting what you are getting!

If your site is NOT a lead / sales generating machine for your business, then it’s not a neutral marketing function.  It’s working against you, by blocking all that business you should and could be winning.  The same is true of every activity the typical small business invests time, money, energy or all three in; without the correct results.

Successful, growing businesses typically invest in between 10 and 12 marketing activities, which are deliberately designed to produce results.  Their marketing is working for them.

However, we know that those businesses that just get by, invest in a few marketing activities, which they HOPE will start working one day.  They get the occasional result, but typically find that they waste hours of their time and sometimes quite a lot of money too, on activities that under perform.

These are not neutral marketing activities. These activities are actively wasting the time and money of these businesses.  Worse still, it’s totally avoidable!

Be sure to review your marketing activities and pay particular attention to anything, which you consider to be neutral; neither helping or hurting your business. If it’s neutral, that means it genuinely is NOT helping you and needs to be stopped and then either fixed, or replaced.

Remember: Keep doing what you are doing and you will keep getting what you are getting!

Get your marketing emails opened!

This post is all about email marketing; specifically, how to get your email marketing opened!

The reason I am focusing on getting your marketing emails opened, is that no matter how great your marketing message or offer is, unless people actually open it and read it, it’s not going to generate the results you want.

How to get your emails opened

So, how do you quickly determine the best way to get your marketing emails opened?  Simple: You keep copies of the marketing emails, which you have opened and you ask your contacts to do the same.

Then, you look at them and see what lessons you can apply to your own marketing!

Is this the best way to ensure your email’s get read? No!  The best way is to hire a proven expert.  Is this an effective way for a keen, small business owner to improve his or her email marketing results? Yep!

Email marketing clues

Once you have looked at the marketing emails that either you or your buddies have opened, you need to start looking for clues.  By the way, it would be particularly useful, if you could get existing customers to let you know the kind of marketing emails THEY have opened, as they are the same profile of people that you want to target.

Here are just a few of the clues, which you may find when you examine those successful emails:

  • The email was sent to you, from someone you know and trust.
  • The email came from a person or company, which you remember subscribing to.
  • The subject line contained the correct spelling of your name.
  • The subject line contained the name of a person or business that you know personally or professionally.
  • The subject line contained a question that got you curious.
  • The subject line contained a bold statement, which grabbed your attention.

Many great marketing opportunities are missed by small businesses, simply because their emails never get opened or read.  The sender often thinks the message or the offer was unattractive, when the reality is that too few people actually saw it.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Email marketing is one of the most effective and cost effective marketing tools on the planet – So long as you use it correctly.

If you have any email marketing tips you would like to share, please do so by leaving a comment below.

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

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!