Marketing your services or servicing your market?

Which are you better at: Marketing your services or servicing your market?

Superb service – Average marketing

I have lost count of how many outstanding businesses I have seen go broke, simply because they failed to market their services correctly.  They enjoy superb customer retention, because their services are so good that people just don’t want to leave.

However, because they win too few new customers, their revenues and profits stagnate and if they do lose a big account or have a large, unscheduled financial commitment pop up, they can suddenly be running at a loss.  If that loss goes on too long, they are in deep trouble.  If only they adopted better marketing, they could achieve great things.

Superb marketing – Average service

Then there’s the other side of the coin.  There are companies that offer a pretty average service, yet their marketing is very powerful.  They find it easy to win new customers.  They have a great marketing message and they reach stacks of targeted people with that message really effectively.

Of course, because their service is pretty average, they tend to lose quite a few customers too.  Their customer-base is like a bucket with a leak; it never fills because they are leaking too many customers.  If only they offered a great service, they could achieve great things.

The magic mix

Without doubt, the most successful businesses are those with an outstanding product or service and great marketing too.  These are the companies that enjoy long-term commercial success, because they not only win stacks of new customers, their quality of service is so amazing that they seldom lose customers.  They can plan ahead with confidence, knowing that they have truly developed the winning formula.

Is there a lesson here?

I think so.  If you know you offer a great service and you are not achieving the business growth you feel you deserve, take a look at your current marketing strategies.  If you enjoy high levels of customer retention and yet are still failing to gain the revenue and profits you want, you need to attract more bankable results; through a more powerful marketing strategy.

If you have little trouble attracting new customers, but find it a challenge to retain their business, it’s usually a sign that you need to focus on the service side of the business.  Marketing is important, but ultimately, it is not a magic bullet.  For a business to succeed in the longer term, there has to be an excellent service behind the marketing.

In my experience, small businesses tend to focus too much on either their marketing or their service.  If you notice too great an emphasis in one of these areas, bring the weaker element up to the high standards you have set in that stronger area.  Match your marketing to your amazing service or match your service, to that super-effective marketing you use.

Time wasters: How to spot them and avoid them!

If you run a business, you will already know how precious your time is.  This is why it’s so important to ensure that you avoid time wasters, and that’s what this post is all about.

Time wasters

One of the biggest time sucks in business, are those seeking free advice from you, with no intention of repaying you in any way.  Often, these time wasters will disguise themselves as prospective clients or customers, in an effort to get the benefit of as much free information from you as possible. These are the time wasters I am going to focus on in this post!

Unless you have nothing better to do (and I know you have), you need to identify and remove these people from your business as soon as possible.  You see, that “free” advice is only free for them! That so-called free advice costs you, in lost productivity and the inevitable slump you feel, after realising you have been suckered!

How to spot the time wasters

If there is someone right now, who you suspect is just trying to get as much free advice from you as they can, with no intention of repaying you for all that great information, I have a simple tip for you.

Try this: Ask them for some measurable time scales!

For example, ask them when they will have the funding in place.  Ask them when they plan to get started with you.  If they give you vague answers like “soon” or some other general answer, ask them for clarification.  If they are serious, they will value and respect your need for clarity.  It shows them that you are keen, interested and professional.  However, if they were not genuinely interested in working with you, they will immediately realise that their game has been tumbled.  They will then go and find another victim to drill for free information and you will have lost nothing.

Of course ultimately, the way you decide to allocate your time is down to you.  If you want to spend more of your time speaking with people, who have a genuine interest in your services, you may find that simple idea useful.  It has worked for my marketing business for more than a decade and saved me more time than any time management strategy I know.

Want to massively improve your marketing? Then get specific!

There’s a big difference between learning something and learning something of value.  When I speak with people about my services, I often say;

“Some coaches teach so others can learn – That’s not me!
Some coaches teach so others can accomplish – That IS me!”

This is because not all information is the same.  I meet with businesspeople all the time, who tell me how much they enjoyed a certain book or how interesting they found a seminar or workshop they attended – BUT that they still have the same problems or challenges.  They were educated, but with the wrong information for their unique situation.

What are your specific marketing challenges?

I’m guessing that every person reading that question, will have similar answers.  They may want to:

  • Make more sales.
  • Make the same number of sales, but make those sales higher quality.
  • Boost their profits.
  • Find new markets for their products / services.
  • All the above

Here’s where the challenge begins for most small businesses.  You see, although they generally want to achieve one or more of the above outcomes, their situations are unique.  For example, they have differing skills, time resources, finances and unique likes and dislikes.  So, if they apply a ‘general’ marketing idea that they pick up from a; book, seminar, website or newsletter, it’s usually pretty ineffective.

Another month / year’s worth of business progress is lost. (Ouch!)

When I put a marketing strategy together for one of my clients, I always match what they want to achieve, with their unique resources.  For those of you intent on going it alone with your marketing, I strongly suggest you try and do the same.

Here’s just a handful of things you need to ask yourself, before you use marketing ideas you find in a book, seminar, website etc:

  • Does it fit in with your time resources?  Do you have the time available to start it off and to see it through to the end?
  • Does it fit in with your finances?  Can you afford to implement it correctly in the short, medium and long-term?
  • Will it provide the results you need quickly enough?  When do you need to see a bankable return (MONEY) from it?  Do you believe it will get you where you need to be in time?
  • Is it consistent with your personality and your reputation?  If you put (whatever) marketing in place, will it be consistent with your commercial image?
  • Can you clearly see the direct benefit it will bring?  Is it going to generate; readers, follows, retweets, Facebook friends OR is it going to generate the bankable results you need?
  • How might it impact your relationship with your existing clients and customers?  For instance, if you are thinking of offering a super deal for new clients, how might this make your existing clients feel – knowing they are getting a worse deal?
  • Is the end result likely to generate the profile of client or customer you want?  Are you sure that doing (whatever) marketing, is going to deliver the type of new business you want?

The point of this post is to highlight that your unique situation will only improve, when you start using strategies that compliment it correctly.

Whatever do you, don’t waste another year doing the wrong things really well!

Make it happen!

Most people spend their lives wishing, instead of doing. The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t work!

Dreaming is great, but if we seriously want to see our wishes become a reality, we need to get off our rear ends and take action.

  • Don’t wish it was easier – Make yourself stronger.
  • Don’t wish it was less expensive – Make yourself wealthy.
  • Don’t wish there was less competition – Make your service beyond compare.

The next time you find yourself wishing for something, write it down, in detail, and then start putting a plan together to make it REAL.

How to set your marketing goals so they motivate you!

Marketing goals within small businesses are typically just a list of numbers.  If you want to set yourself some motivating, inspiring marketing goals, ask yourself this question:

If my business were perfect in every way, what would it look like right now?

Marketing goals

Your answer to that powerful, yet simple question, should be the foundation of your marketing.

It will tell you the type of clients or customers you should be marketing to.  It will tell you how many additional, high quality sales you need to make.  It will tell you what your business needs to generate in revenue and profits, to give you the quality of life you really want.

Through effective sales and marketing, you can develop your business deliberately and by design.  However, before you start using powerful sales and marketing tools, make sure you are using them to develop the profile of business that motivates and inspires you.

Marketing and business success

In my experience, I find that the core difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful business is this:

  • Successful businesspeople are on top of their businesses.
  • Unsuccessful businesspeople find that their business is on top of THEM.

If you are working with clients that don’t appreciate you or pay you enough, the only person that can change that is you. If you find yourself working too many hours and being away from your family too much, again, the only person who can change that is you.  If your current marketing is attracting the wrong kind of clients or customers, stop it immediately and replace your marketing with something, designed to create the kind of business your hard work and dedication deserves.

You will be amazed how useful that simple question at the beginning of this post is, for helping you get on top of your business and stay there.  Give it a go and relight your fire!

Easy access to the marketing answers you need!

I had one of those moments earlier, where something suddenly clicks into place.  I figured out that Jims Marketing Blog is not actually a blog.

Yes, it’s built using blog software, but it’s not a true blog.  A blog (short for web log) was originally supposed to be an online journal.  That’s why everything’s presented in date order; with the latest ‘news’ at the top.  This format works brilliantly for news blogs or those offering time-sensitive information.

However, this blog (like most other business blogs) doesn’t typically offer time sensitive information.  For example, yesterday’s post about managing your reputation, could have been written next month or 2 years ago.  If you need to know how to write a great marketing letter, who cares if it was posted in February or April?

The typical posts I offer here, are far more like marketing articles or short marketing guides, than chronological, blog updates.  And herein lies the challenge for content providers using blogs to publish their content.

Like most blogs, if someone shows up here today for the first time, they will see this post and below it, excerpts of another dozen or so posts in date order.  The thing is, there are hundreds of marketing articles here, covering thousands of ideas.

Yes, people can use the “search” box on the right to look for specific marketing information, but most people don’t!  They start reading the current post and then follow links within the post or maybe one of the related posts at the bottom of the post.  This really isn’t an ideal format and it means a lot of people miss the key marketing answers they need.

I’ve seen other bloggers try workarounds, like having a “the best of” section – but the READER decides what’s the best post – Based on what THEY are looking for help on, not the blogger!  These “best of” sections simply make popular posts more popular.  Great for increasing the blogger’s page views, but lousy for the reader!

A possible solution?

I’m working on a way around this, which will be based on developing a small number of dedicated sections, each themed on a core area of marketing.  This will be similar to the way categories work on a blog, but hopefully easier for people to find and navigate around.  Those who like the current format will notice no real difference, but those who want to be able to find targeted information more quickly will.

What do your contacts say about you?

I have a question for you:
Which people or companies do you publicly associate with?

The reason I am asking you this, is that potential customers and clients often look at the people or businesses we associate with, as a short-cut to determining the kind of people WE are.

Trust and credibility can either be destroyed or boosted in seconds, depending on the individuals and companies we are aligned with or associate with.

Bad company

I recall being at a local business exhibition, when a young man joined a small group of people I was speaking informally with, before we entered the main exhibition area.  He introduced himself and joined our conversation.  One of the guys asked him what line of business he was in and he said he owned a local printing company. After about 5 minutes, the group dispersed.

Interestingly, just before the printer joined us, one of the guys said he was looking to get some promotional flyers printed and needed to find a local print company.  I was curious why he never asked for the print guys business card, so when I saw him later, I asked him.

“I noticed he arrived with (persons name.)  That guy’s little better than a conman.  If he hangs around with people like that, I don’t want him near me or my business.”

It’s possible that the print company owner never knew about the reputation of the man he arrived with and later sat with.  He was almost certainly unaware that he had just damaged his reputation with a large number of people in his local business community – his potential clients.

The bottom line: We need to be extremely careful before we associate our name, brand or reputation with another individual or company.

It’s just the same online

I am not an active user of Linkedin, but have an account there purely as a way to study it, for my work as a marketing coach.  It’s a good service, which is why I study it, but one that I have zero need for right now.

However, I get emails every day from people via Linkedin, whom I have never heard of, asking if I will join their ‘network’.

The thing is, at least 90% of these invites claim that I’m someone they have worked with, even though they know it’s a total lie and I don’t even know them!

Why do they do this?

Because IT WORKS!

If they send that spammy message to enough people, some will accept, in an ill-judged attempt to build their own network.

Guess what kind of people send those requests? Right – the kind you do NOT want to be linked with!

Here’s a great question to ask ourselves

If a stranger wanted to build a picture of the kind of person I am, JUST by looking at who I associate with, what kind of a picture would that be?

If you are not happy with the answer – disconnect from your toxic contacts and replace them with honest, credible people like you!

2 Simple ways to improve your thinking

When you are looking for new ideas or you need to solve a problem, do you think on paper?  This post will show you 2 very simple, easy to use tools, which can help you become massively more creative and a superstar problem solver.

I was working at my desk the other day, when a friend pointed out that he thought it was odd, that I was writing notes out using pen and paper, with all that hi-tech equipment around me.  I explained to him that I find it far more effective to create, using pen and paper, than using a computer.  It’s as if the ideas flow more easily for me, using a more natural interface.

Here are the 2 main tools I use for thinking on paper.

1. Spider diagrams

The first tool I use for thinking on paper, is a simple spider diagram, like the one below, from The University of Sheffield.  I use this as a way to generate ideas.  I start off with a key word in the middle of the page.  This key word or short phrase is something that’s linked to a project I am working on.  Once the key word is written down, I spider off it, with new ideas.

As you can see below, some of these ideas lead to others, which I keep in order using a line to link them.  This shows me instantly, how my thought process is working.  Because these ideas are all on paper in front of me, I don’t need to remember them and can use my mind 100% to create.  I have tried using software programs that offer the same functionality, but find it far less effective than this simple approach.

2. Hand written lists

Another way I think on paper, is to use hand written lists, as a way to solve problems.

I start off by writing the problem down at the top of the page, as if it were a question.  So, instead of writing down:

“Bob needs to quit smoking and I would like to help him.”

I would write this down:

“How can I help Bob quit smoking in a way that he will find enjoyable?”

By the way, the better the question you start off with, the better your answers will be – so spend as much time as necessary getting the question right!

Next, I simply write down as many possible answers as I can.  I just let my mind flow and feel free to write down anything – without restriction.  I always shoot for at least 15 answers, because I find that pushes me to keep producing answers and ideas.  It’s amazing how many answers I have been able to find using this method; especially when faced with really tricky issues and challenges.

I know that there are many structured tools, to help us become more creative and better problem solvers.  However, the purpose of this brief post, was simply to share 2 extremely productive, simple techniques that anyone can master in 5 minutes.  I would really like to know what tools you use to help you come up with ideas and answers.  Please share them with your fellow readers and myself.

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

Email marketing and blog marketing – A quick tip!

If you use email or blogging to market your services, I believe you will find the following information really useful.

It’s all about the importance of avoiding certain words or phrases in your emails and blog posts, which could get them blocked from reaching your readers.

Whilst there are many different things that can lead to an email getting trapped in someone’s junk mail or spam filters, I’m going to focus on just one of them; the words you use in your blog titles and your email subject lines.

What does blog marketing have to do with email filters?

Many people subscribe to blogs via email.  For instance, around 40% of this blog’s RSS subscribers read it via email.  So, if the title of one of my posts contains words or phrases that email filters are looking out for, there’s a good chance the post will get trapped in either the readers junk mail folder or it may never reach them at all.

I wrote a post last Friday, which had a title that was essentially a “toxic” phrase.  The title was “REVEALED: The fast rack to wealth.”  You can see the post here.  It also had the opening word written in caps, which is another, lesser, junk mail trigger.

I was curious to see how many people opened it, compared to an average post.  There was a drop of around 25%, pretty much what I had expected.

So, whilst it’s a great idea to use blog titles that will capture people’s attention – you need to also ensure that your titles are email friendly (if you offer the option for people to subscribe via email, which I believe you should.)

Email marketing and filters

Titles are also a key element in getting your marketing emails and newsletters past filters and in front of your readers.  On my marketing newsletter, I opt for a very simple title: The Jim Connolly Newsletter.  Keeping this very basic title format does 2 clever things.

  1. Because it’s familiar, it immediately alerts my readers that the newsletter has arrived.  If I used different titles every time, it would be harder for my newsletter to get noticed for what it is.
  2. It contains nothing that’s likely to get trapped in a junk mail filter.

As I said earlier, there are a number of things, which can lead to your marketing email’s getting trapped in filters.  Here’s a simple email marketing tip, from one of my first blog posts.

Your feedback please!

I have had an idea, which I would like your feedback on.

I get quite a bit of email from people, asking me the same marketing and business development questions. Some of these questions are brilliant.

So, rather than reply to each one by email, as I do now, and share that answer with just one person, I am thinking of posting the answers to the blog; for everyone to read. (Minus the details of the people that emailed me, of course.)

This would only apply to the general marketing questions I get, and thus likely to be of interest to the majority of my readers.

Would you find that useful? Please let me know; either with a comment here, via Twitter or email.

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

Image: JayfreshUK