Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Should small businesses pretend to be bigger than they really are?

Many small business owners go to great lengths, to pretend that their business is actually a lot bigger than it really is. When I ask people why they do this, they usually tell me it’s because they think prospective clients won’t use them, if they know how small they are.

In my experience, it’s never a great idea to start any relationship, including a commercial one, on a foundation of lies.  If Bob’s marketing contains addresses for offices that exist only in his mind and fake telephone numbers that are all diverted to his one real line, he’s clearly being less than honest.  When his clients find out he’s lying about the size of his business, he will have lost their trust.  This is perhaps one of the worst possible business scenarios.

Ironically, the whole idea of lying about the size or capacity of a business is completely erroneous, from a marketing perspective!

There’s zero point in pretending you are big enough to handle a project or client, that is clearly way beyond your means.  Even if you do manage to fool them into thinking you have the resources to handle their needs, they will quickly realise you don’t, once they start working with you.

Successful marketing (and business development), is about working with clients that suit your business model, not fooling those who are unsuitable into joining, and then leaving you.

Some of the smallest brands are the most respected

The small business mindset, which says; “if they know how small my business is, I will win fewer clients”, is based on an incorrect assumption.  It assumes that quality is linked to how large a business is, when the opposite is more often true.  In reality, some of the most respected brands are smaller scale and some of the least respected brands are high street chains.

For example, until last year, Twitter employed fewer than 30 full-time people, yet it was massively successful.  Twitter attracted tens of millions of dollars and has been valued at a BILLION dollars. You can join me on Twitter here.

The most famous shop in the UK and maybe one of the most famous in the world, has just one UK outlet.  I’m talking about Harrods.

Conversely, some of the lowest class and most unhealthy food in your local town, is almost certainly dished up by a national or international burger chain – but the best food is almost certainly from a great little independent restaurant you know.

Small businesses should play to their strengths

The most successful small businesses play to their strengths; rather than lie about being something they are not.  They focus on quality, not quantity.  They develop great, long-term relationships with their clients and customers, because in most cases they know their clients and customers extremely well.

Small businesses also benefit from being able to make a decision and take action immediately, whereas large companies typically move much slower. So long as they play to their strengths, small businesses can achieve amazing results and be extremely profitable too.

I would be interested to know what your thoughts are on small businesses, who create a bogus front end to make their business look bigger.

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

Photo: Nevolution

In business, it’s impossible to avoid making decisions!

It’s impossible to avoid making decisions!

I regularly speak with small business owners, who have left important areas of their business suffering, rather than make a decision and take action. Their concern, is that they will make the wrong decision.  So, they do nothing at all, which often has serious implications for their business and their future.

What people who avoid making deliberate decisions fail to understand, is that by electing to do nothing, they have actually made a decision.  They have decided to sit on their hands again and hope things turn out OK.  That’s not much of a strategy.  Thing’s don’t just get better by themselves.

In my work, I hear from people all the time, who make the decision to call or email me, rather than continue to struggle with sales.  Conversely, I see people complaining about how slow business is, but electing to keep repeating the same marketing errors, rather than make the decision to do something about it.

One of the common traits behind every successful businessperson I know, is that they make good decisions in a timely manner.  They understand that if they avoid making decisions, they surrender control of their business and their future, to others. After all, the actions we take are what determine our success and these actions are governed by our decisions.

What works for you?

Do you have any tips or ideas, to help people make better decisions?  If you do, please share them!

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

I’m off on a thinking trip – A “thinking trip”?

What do you do, when you need to come up with some fresh, inspired ideas?

One of the things I do, is to take a break and have a dedicated 2 day thinking trip.  Today, I’m heading off for this year’s thinking trip – to the stunningly beautiful North Yorkshire Moors.

How my thinking trips work

Between now and Sunday, I will be spending time away from the people I love, to focus exclusively on new ideas.  I never pressure myself to come up with anything, but the change in environment works amazingly well, and the ideas always flow.  I tend to spend the days writing in the countryside and the evenings writing at the beach.  I make sure that I always have quick access to something that I can use to record my thoughts, as my best ideas usually come when I am mobile.  As I mention in this post, I always carry an audio recorder with me; but on these trips, an audio recorder is invaluable to me.

Once I have enough ideas recorded, I write the best ones down.  Initially, I get these ideas fleshed out using a fountain pen and a pad.  I discovered years ago that this helps my thinking, maybe because it slows the process down and allows me to think a little deeper, than when I speedily type ideas using a computer.  Then, on the last day, I type up all the best ideas and they are ready to get working on, when I get back home.

I’m wondering if anyone else uses a change of environment, to stimulate their thinking process?  What works best for you?

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

Out of date?

What do you think, when you visit a commercial website and find the information there is out of date?

I have just booked accommodation online for a last minute trip, and found that details on each of the 5 hotel websites I found, were out of date.  One had a “latest news” section, which had not been updated since 2007.  Really, nothing of interest has happened there in THREE YEARS?  Another site listed their special Valentine’s Day package on their home page, for Valentine’s Day 2010; almost 5 months out of date.  Other sites had similar issues, listing tarrifs that were out of date etc.

First impressions count

A company’s website is often the first chance they get, to create a great first impression with a prospective customer.  Some of the sites I saw earlier were very polished and professional looking, yet the initial impression they gave me, was of companies that skimp on detail.  For example, I’m not sure how much faith I would have had, if I’d booked my accommodation via one of their websites, knowing how little attention they pay to their site.

If your website or blog contains sections, which have time-sensitive information, regularly check that everything is up to date and relevant.  If you have a news section, either make sure the news is updated, or remove it.  In my experience, it’s best not to have a news section on your site, unless you know there will be regular events to add.

So, how often do you update your website? What are your thoughts, regarding the impression YOU get, when you see a site carrying outdated information?  Let us know!

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

Just because Bob can, does not mean he should!

One of the great things about being in business today, is that we can get an idea, write it down, click a mouse button and get it in front of thousands of people in seconds.  Better still, we can reach all these people for little more than the cost of our time.  However, instant communications also present us with a challenge.

The marketing challenge of free, instant communications

Not that long ago, it would cost a small business owner a lot of money, to send a traditional mail shot via the postal service to a few thousand people.  It would take ages to print out all those letters and even the ink was expensive.  Then you had to fold them, stuff them into envelopes and either stick a stamp on each envelope or frank each one.  Because the cost in both time and money was so significant, people thought long and hard about what they wrote and who they sent those letters to.  Every letter needed to count, when you were paying hundreds or maybe thousands for each mail shot!

Today, Bob can write an email during his coffee break and send it to his list, with the click of a mouse button.  It will cost him nothing and take seconds.

As a result of this shift, you and I now find our email inboxes and social media streams, regularly littered with a lot of low value crap, from people like Bob.

Of course, the smartest business owners and marketers out there, are even more focused on the quality of their messages today than they were a decade ago.  They know that in order to stand out in a world full of “Bobs”, their messages have to be professionally crafted.  They also ensure that they only send their messages to people who are interested and who have given them permission to get in touch.

While people like Bob are filling the marketplace with low quality, badly targeted messages and getting added to an ever increasing number of blacklists, the savvy business owners and entrepreneurs are taking a different, less common route.  They are focusing on value first, volume second.  For them, quality comes before quantity.  They send the right message, to the right people. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s becoming increasingly rare.

Just because there’s little financial cost attached to sending emails or using social media sites, doesn’t mean we won’t end up paying a hefty price for using them ineffectively.  If we get it wrong, we risk simultaneously damaging our reputation and missing out on an avalanche of new business and opportunities.

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

Examine all your options

I’ve received quite a few emails recently, from people who want to market a new business venture, even though they have no budget.  Whilst it’s common for new projects to have limited budgets, having zero budget is still thankfully relatively rare.  Several of these emails closed with the statement that they had just 2 options; to do nothing or to launch their new project right now, with no budget.

Of course, in reality they had stacks of options.  They may, for instance, decide to get the funding in place, then go for the launch.  They may decide to find some partners, who will invest expertise and money in the project, then go for the launch.  They may decide to make the product or service better, whilst saving to get the funds in place, then go for the launch.  There are always options – providing you are prepared to look.

Examine all your options

I often hear people make similar polarised statements, where they say something is either this or it’s that.  They then make their decisions based on those 2 choices alone; without considering all the other viable options.  When you give yourself the option to either do nothing at all or do something wrong, you are asking yourself to answer the wrong question!

Good preparation and planning are cornerstones of a successful project.  Conversely, most of the failed projects I see, had failed long before they even started, through lack of preparation.  It’s great to see people putting their energy and effort into something positive, but without proper planning, all that energy and effort will only get them so far.

After all, if you are rowing your boat with all your strength in the WRONG direction, you will never get where you want to be!  In fact, the harder you row, the further in the wrong direction you will go.

It is possible these days, to successfully launch a small business or a new project with a shoestring budget.  You know what?  There are millions of people right now, trying to do just that!  They are seeking to grab the same people’s attention (and money) that you are too.

Yes, you can beat them, but it will require forward planning, solid preparation and the ability to consider all your options.

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

Photo: Psd

Dell customer service – Not what I was expecting!

I’m about to write a blog post, which I really didn’t expect to be writing.  It’s about my experience ordering a Dell PC and the level of customer service I received.

Dell customer service experience

On Saturday 26th June, I ordered a new PC from Dell.  The ordering process was simple and within 10 minutes, I had picked all the components I wanted, so Dell could go and get the thing built.  After the order, I used their instant message facility to ask a Dell advisor a simple question, regarding my invoice.  The advisor asked for my phone number and by the time I had typed in my question, he had already called me to personally answer it!

Just 6 days later, my new PC arrived in perfect condition – 5 days ahead of their typical delivery schedule.

Throughout the process, I was kept up to date on the progress of my order, via a series of emails and access to a regularly updated tracking section on the Dell website.  Just a couple of days after my order was placed, I received another phone call from Dell, telling me that my machine would be ready for an earlier than expected delivery; unless I wanted to pick a later delivery date.  When the machine arrived, Dell had already updated all the drivers, meaning the set-up process took minutes.  I unpacked it, plugged it in and was ready to start working immediately.

I am left with a PC, which cost me significantly less than a similar ‘spec machine from a big box store.  Moreover, I am also left mulling over an outstanding level of customer service, from a company that I had previously heard mixed reviews about.

In the days before social media, it was said that when a customer had a good experience, they would typically tell 3 people, but when they had a bad experience, they would tell 10 people.  Today, people have a far bigger voice and hopefully, this will lead to better customer service for us all.  After all, no provider wants to see their name or brand slapped all over Facebook or Twitter, for bad customer service.

However, I believe  that it’s right, when we have had a very positive experience, to be just as proactive as when we have a bad one.  Surely, when a company clearly over-delivers on their promises and exceeds our expectations, they should be worthy of praise, just as they are worthy of lambasting, when they let us down?

What do you think?

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

Keep clear!

One of the primary reasons that so many small business owners miss out on sales, is that their marketing messages lack clarity.  When it comes to sales, clarity is king.  In fact, one of the oldest sayings in the business is:

“A confused mind always says NO!”

In other words, if you ask a prospective client to make a purchasing decision, before they clearly understand your proposal, they will typically say “no”.  That’s why the best salespeople and negotiators always make sure they clearly explain their proposition, in as few words as possible.  They prompt prospective clients to ask them questions, and answer them fully, before asking them to make a decision. The clearer a prospective client is about what you are offering, especially regarding how it will benefit them, the better.

Copy writing and clarity

With written marketing, we also need to ensure that prospective clients can clearly and quickly learn what we do and how it will benefit them.  However, when we look at most small business marketing, we see pretty-much the exact opposite!  It is generally written in a long winded, bloated, pedestrian style, which the reader has usually given up on way before the actual core benefits have even been mentioned.  It usually focuses way too much on how great they are, and way too little on the problems facing the person reading their message.

Guess how interested the average reader is in YOU or YOUR business?

Not very!

They came to you because they have a problem.  Every successful product or service is designed to solve some kind of problem.  If your marketing is targeted correctly, the people reading it will be suffering with the problems, which your offering solves.  By clearly explaining how YOU will directly make THEIR situation better, you stand the best possible chance of attracting their custom.  The focus should be on them and how you can help them.

Quick marketing tip

Take a moment to review your written marketing and see how long it takes the reader, to find out exactly how you can help them.  Check your website’s statistics software and note the pages that visitors to your site arrive on the most.  Ensure that your marketing message on those pages is clear and that it gets to the point quickly and without fuss.

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

Photo: Hyku

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