Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Small Businesses: I love you!

I’m a huge fan of small businesses and the amazing people who make them work.  That’s why I love it, when I see a small business using the strengths to successfully compete against national and multi-national companies.

This morning for example, I visited a Costa Coffee shop in North Lincolnshire.  I love the coffee they serve at Costa and their lemon tea too, however, I couldn’t help noticing that there were just 8 other customers (excluding me) in the place, during the 25 minutes I was there.  A little further along, I visited an independent coffee shop and it was a lot busier, with 23 customers.

The independent coffee shop did a few things differently to their nationally respected competitor, and I wonder how much of an impact this had on what I saw.

For example:

The independent coffee shop offered table service

So, people with babies and toddlers did not have to stand in a queue waiting whilst everyone in front of them had their orders taken and then prepared, as they did in Costa.  They were able to walk in, sit down and relax as their order was taken at their table and then delivered to their table.  Table service also meant that people like myself didn’t need to pack away their laptops, every time they wanted to order another drink; or risk leaving it unattended whilst they queued downstairs to get served.

The independent coffee shop offered free, secure wifi

Costa did not.  In fact, the lack of an Internet connection is what prompted me to leave Costa!   The guy that served me there, said this was “patchy” and that some branches of Costa do offer wifi, but this branch didn’t.  When I asked why they didn’t offer wifi, he said he had no idea and that people requested it all the time.  Little surprise that I saw so many laptops being used in the independent coffee shop and none in Costa.

The independent coffee shop’s prices were higher than Costa Coffee

…and I think Costa provided slightly better coffee too (their coffee is extremely good!)  However, in my opinion, when it came to the overall customer experience there was no competition.  The independent coffee shop did many of the most important things extremely well, and as a result, I was happy to pay a small premium for a premium level of service.

It has to be stated that my experience was just a snap-shot, based on 1 visit to each coffee shop, however, I would be very surprised if the little guy in this story wasn’t punching WELL above it’s weight.

The little guy may not be able to compete on price.

The little guy can’t even hope to compete when it comes to marketing budgets.

But when it comes to customer experience, by listening to the marketplace and working hard to deliver what the market wants, they CAN succeed against the odds and build a very profitable business, even against really good quality competition.

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

 

Twitter follower numbers have little to do with influence!

Twitter follower numbers mean a great deal to a lot of people. However, it seems that as Twitter matures as a service, the number of followers someone has, has very little to do with their influence. For those of you like myself, who use Twitter as part of your marketing mix, this is worth knowing; as you can waste a LOT of time chasing follower numbers, when it’s the quality of your Twitter network that really matters.

Twitter follower numbers and influence

I’ve noticed a significant change over the past year, where many of the people with tens of thousands of followers, who ReTweet my posts, generate little if any traffic to the blog.  Yet, many people with relatively small Twitter followings seem to have far more influence, when it comes to getting their followers to take some kind of measurable action.

It seems that I am not alone in this observation.

A recent paper by Meeyoung Cha from the Max Planck Institute, was covered in The Harvard Business Review.  With Twitter’s full permission, Cha’s team monitored 54 million ACTIVE Twitter users and was able to measure a number of metrics, including things like ReTweets and the number of times a user / brand was mentioned by their followers.  They came to the conclusion that Twitter follower numbers do not equal influence. Cha said:

“Our claim is that follower count is not sufficient to capture the influence of a user (i.e., the ability of an user to sway the opinions of her followers). It only shows how popular the user is (i.e., the size of her audience). But, as we showed in our paper, retweets and mentions, which measure the audience responsiveness to a user’s tweets, do not correlate strongly with number of followers.(There’s an excellent, short summery of the paper in this post on ReadWriteWeb)

Tens of thousands of Twitter followers & near zero influence

I am seeing examples of this every day.  Only last week, a guy ReTweeted a link to this blog, to his 40,000 followers.  As he works in marketing and claims to be a highly influential Twitter user, I was curious what the click through rate would be – So, I monitored it!

In the 60 minutes following his ReTweet, just 5 (yes, FIVE) people in total visited that particular post.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and say all 5 clicks came from his 40,000 followers.

An hour later, I asked a friend of mine with under 1000 followers, to share that same link and using her tracking software, monitor how many people clicked the link.  26 people clicked through in the next 60 minutes, using her unique RT link, all of whom showed up on my own analytics software.

What are your thoughts, regarding influence on Twitter?  Please take a moment to share your feedback!

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

So, you want to write more, great blog posts?

I regularly get email from people, asking how I manage to write blog posts most days and still keep the ideas and content flowing.  It’s easy to see why, when you consider that a regularly updated blog with useful content is more commercially valuable, than one with fewer, valuable blog posts.

So, here are a few of my tips.  Enjoy!

Don’t SEO every post you write

Most of the posts I write here, are not written with SEO (search engine optimization) in mind.  Yesterday’s post is a prime example.  It breaks just about every SEO rule. It’s too short, doesn’t target keywords or use a title tag or have any headings etc.  However, it was a fun post that made a good point very quickly.  Interestingly, most of the bloggers I know, who publish on a very regular basis, do not optimise everything they write either, such as; Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Danny Brown and Louis Gray.

SEO is important.  Really important.  I optimise a great deal of the content here and as a direct result, I get hundreds of new, targeted readers every day from Google and Co.  However, I can achieve all my SEO goals without the need to fully optimise everything I write.  So, don’t feel you have to optimise everything. You don’t.

Make time for writing blog posts

One of the reasons people find it hard to publish blog posts on a regular basis, is that they just don’t have the time.  It takes time to come up with an idea for a blog post and then to write it in as interesting a way as possible.  So, if you are a poor time manager, it’s going to be tough finding the time required to write regular, good quality blog posts.

Here’s a quick tip, which has given me several hours each day, or over 130 EXTRA DAYS a year, of extra time.

I don’t watch TV!  Yes, as a fan of boxing and football I will watch the big fights / games, but there are no TV shows I must watch.  My mindset regarding TV changed, when an elderly man once told me; “son, when you reach my age you won’t look back on your life and wish you had wasted more time watching TV shows!”  Interestingly, I recently discovered that Seth Godin feels the same way as me about TV.  He put it like this: “I don’t watch TV. At all. There are so many other things I’d rather do in that moment.”

Play with your kids.  Go to the gym.  Take the class.  Spend time relaxing with your friends.  If you want some more time each day, reducing your TV time is one of the less important things to cut out from your schedule.

Give yourself permission to get it wrong

One of the biggest hurdles facing many bloggers, is that they fear publishing a post that isn’t perfect.  In their search for the perfect blog post, they find that it takes them several hours to write a post; instead of 30 minutes or so.  Give yourself permission to write the best posts you can at the time.  Remember that blog posts can be edited and updated, if you later find you missed something important.

Capture your ideas

We all have ideas flow into our mind, but most people fail to capture them.  As a blogger, if I see an interesting article that gives me an idea for a blog post, I save it.  If I get an idea when I’m out walking, I capture it using an audio recorder.  Make it easy to capture the ideas you have and then put some time aside to get these ideas written down.  Flesh them out a bit.  You will be able to tell very quickly if the idea is good enough to turn into a post for your blog.

Learn to deal with critics

Often, when you make a point on your blog about something that is a matter of opinion, your own opinion will be criticised (and rightly so.)  Fear of criticism stops a lot of people from writing about certain subjects that are relevant to their industry / readers or expressing their opinions.  Both of these will limit the volume and (in my opinion) the value of what you publish.

For example, I wrote a post last month about my positive experience with Dell customer service.  I knew at the time that it would attract comments from people, who either strongly agreed or strongly disagreed with me.  If you check out the comments, you will see a number of really pissed-off Dell customers, telling me how wrong I was!  Those comments add balance to the post and allow people to see a far wider range of experiences.

People disagreeing with you or being critical of your view point, are a key part of blogging; however, many people really struggle with it.  This is why I wrote the following post on how to deal with blog critics and criticism.

Publish your best content on your blog, not on Facebook etc

Many people who have blogs that they seldom update, have Facebook accounts that they regularly update with insights, ideas and useful links.  There are many reasons why this is a really bad strategy for a commercial blogger.  One of which, is that it sees you investing your content development time building content on someone else’s platform, whilst yours is being neglected.

Use Facebook, but not at the expense of your own commercial blog.  Some of the info you post on Facebook could be slightly expanded upon and turned into a great little post, which you can THEN share on Facebook!

So, what would you add to that list?

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

Small can be beautiful! (Cute puppy alert)

small business

Small can be beautiful.  In commerce, for example, some of the finest businesses are small businesses.  It’s easy to see why, when you consider some of the advantages small businesses have over large businesses and corporations:

  • Smaller businesses can adapt to new opportunities far quicker than big companies.
  • Just as importantly, they can act on decisions quickly too.
  • Small businesses can develop deeper, more inter-personal relationships with their clients and customers than corporations can.  You can spend $100,000 a year with Apple and I promise you, Steve Jobs still won’t take you out for lunch!
  • Small businesses have the ability to offer a truly unique customer experience.
  • Small businesses also have the freedom to react to customer complaints with common sense – Rather than a cookie-cutter complaints procedure from head office.

So, whilst you are building your business into the next multi-national conglomerate, take some time to enjoy the many and varied advantages of being small.

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

Photo: W Silver

Keeping you in the picture

flickr, creative commons, image hosting, Over the past few months, I have used flickr for all the post images here on the marketing blog.  There are millions of great pictures available and it’s extremely easy to use.

However, I have recently noticed a growing problem, which is changing how I use images from flickr and other image sites.  I want to share this with you, along with some brief information on the kind of images and photographs you can use on your blog / website.

Out of the picture

Until now, I have gone to flickr, picked the image I want to use and simply linked to it – So although you see a photograph here on the blog, the image itself lives on flickr’s servers.  The benefit to me of this approach, is that I don’t need to upload images or compress them before I use them.  I just enter the URL of the image into WordPress, and I can then place it wherever I want. Equally, when my blog was hosted on a slower server, the pages tended to load quicker when the images were hosted on flickr.

The downside of linking to images, rather than hosting them on your own server, is that the images you link to can be, and are, removed without warning.  As a result, I often see posts I wrote a while ago, with images missing.  So, I have decided to go back to hosting images on my own server and I am now recommending people to do the same; unless they have a good reason not to.

Regarding the use of images on blog posts, there’s something else a lot of people ask me about, which I would like to mention.

Image licenses: A quick reminder

Posts often look better with a nice image, so it’s often a good idea (especially if you write long posts) to break your posts up with appropriate pictures.  However, before you use an image, always check if you have permission, first.  Many people seem to think that they can just copy any image and use it, when this is totally incorrect!  For example, the images you see on news sites are often the property of agencies like, The Associated Press or Getty Images and are not available for free use.  Others images are available under a version of Creative Commons and can be used for free, but only under certain conditions.

The images I use from flickr, for example, are licensed under a version of creative commons, called; Creative Commons Attribution.  This means the images can be used without cost, however, you must give attribution to the photographer.  It’s only right that you give the photographers, whose images you use, full credit for their work.  Giving attribution also allows your readers to discover the photographer’s work.

What tips do you have for using images on blogs or websites.  I’d love to hear them!

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

Image: Zanastardust

Building a great team

One of the common traits among every successful business owner I have ever met, is their ability to build a great team of people around them.  These people may be; consultants, marketing professionals, accountants, lawyers, IT professionals, media contacts or people with influence within their industry.

Building a great team

You should always be on the look out for great people, in all the key areas where your business needs expertise.  Most small business owners take the opposite approach.  They build THEIR team with far less forward planning or discernment.  They will elect to use an accountant simply because they are members of the same networking group or because that accountant quotes the lowest fee.  Those are not good reasons to add someone to a key role within your team!

Equally, many small business owners wonder why they get so few good quality business leads from their contacts, when their contacts lack the kind of influence required to generate good quality leads from key decision makers.

Here’s a suggestion: Take some time out, to review the people around you – Your team!

  • Do you have the best people you can get in each of the key areas for your business?
  • If cost is an issue, are you absolutely sure you have the best people, within your budget?
  • Do you trust all your team members?  This is a key issue, for without trust, their value to you is extremely limited.

And finally…

Are there areas of your business, where you are operating without expert help, instead choosing to look for free advice on forums or via Google?  If there are, I strongly recommend you immediately change your approach.  This is the most competitive marketplace in living memory, and those who try and compete on the cheap, almost always go broke!

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

Image: Ralph Bijker

Are you sure you do it often enough?

I have 2 quick questions for you today, which can help you massively increase your sales:

  • What is the single most powerful form of marketing that you use?
  • Why don’t you use it more often?

2 million in extra sales, with 1 simple idea!

marketing timing, marketing regularity, Jim ConnollyBack in 1997, I spoke with the owner of a building supplies company.  Their biggest source of new business was a highly profitable catalogue, which they sent out every 6 months.  These 2 catalogues were responsible for the vast majority of their sales.  I asked him why he only sent out 2 a year and not 4; 1 per quarter.  He told me that he assumed 2 catalogues a year was the right balance.

I explained that he shouldn’t assume anything, until he had tested and measured the results.  At my suggestion, he gave it a try and saw an immediate, huge increase in business.  He later told me that our 10 minute conversation earned him almost £2 million over the next 18 months, for which he was extremely grateful.

Whilst it’s very important to ensure that you are using the correct forms of marketing (use this marketing check list), and using them in the correct way; it’s just as important to use them regularly enough.

Of course, with marketing there is always a balancing act.  If, for example, the business owner I mentioned a moment ago had sent a new catalogue out every week, the cost of production and distribution would have massively increased.  It’s likely he would get too few additional sales, to justify the massive additional cost.  However, by slowly increasing the regularity of your marketing, you can find the sweet-spot; the point where your marketing is being used with ideal regularity.  Not too frequently and not too infrequently.

Why not take a moment to review the most effective forms of marketing you currently use and see if there’s a possibility, that you are not using it frequently enough?

What types of marketing do you think people tend to over use or under use?

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

Photo: Duncan

Marketing messages: It’s all about THEM!

All too often, small business owners market their services based on what is most appealing to them.  They make offers that they think are great.  They focus on benefits that they think are important.

Here’s the challenge with that approach: It’s very ineffective!

Your prospective clients buy for their reasons, not yours.  If you want them to become clients, you need to be able to see things from their perspective and adapt your marketing messages accordingly.  You need to write in terms that are native to them, not you.  You need to inspire them to call you, email you, visit your store etc, and they will only do that if you give them a good reason to.  This means using their language, to demonstrate the benefits of what you do, based on their most pressing needs.  It’s all about THEM.

I saw someone recently trying to encourage small business owners, to attend a free talk he was giving, about how to use foursquare.  Here’s what his primary marketing message was:

“Learn how to geosocialize with your local commercial spectrum!”

Now, for 99% of the small business population, that phrase will be more likely to turn them off, than convince them to check out the service.  He was talking in HIS language, not his intended audience’s.  He failed to explain in clear business terms, what the benefits of attending his talk would be.  He failed to explain why a busy business owner should take time out from running their business, to go and listen to him.

One of the fastest ways you can improve the effectiveness of your marketing copy writing, is to review your material and ask yourself:

  • Is this written in the language I use, or the language of my prospective clients / customers?
  • Does this message clearly explain, in as few words as possible, compelling reasons why they need my product or service?

If you find your copy is failing on either front, rewrite it.  This time, place all the emphasis on them and their needs.

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

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