Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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6 things I wish I knew before I started blogging!

This blog was 2 years old last month and in that time I have learned many, often expensive lessons.  In order to help you avoid some of the costs and frustrations that I went through, here are 6 things I wish I knew before I started blogging.

1.  Everyone starts from scratch

Most blogs start off with no readers, no subscribers and no comments and things don’t change much for months. Yes, Seth Godin started off by writing his first blog post, sitting next to his Stanford friend, Google founder, Sergey Brin — but that’s not how most of us begin.

It took me 2 years of blogging here, before Google starts delivering targeted, unique visitors each day. I had 400 posts published and almost 20,000 back-links, before I had my first 1000 unique visitors in a day from Google. However, an effective social media strategy can really get things moving whilst the search engines get their act together.

2.  SEO is less and less important

Google is fickle. It changes the rules so often, that SEO has become less relevant. Today, you’re better off investing your time on social networks, than messing around trying to keep Google happy.

3.  Some will use your comments section to sell rather than engage

As soon as you start to develop a large readership, people will try and tout for business in the comments section of your blog. I switched comments off in June 2013, because people were spamming the crap out of the comments. Also, unlike when blogs were invested, today we have social networks as a powerful way to comment on what we read.

4.  The price of a blog theme is usually the least expensive part

Well-known bloggers tend to use blog themes that have been professionally redesigned and had a lot of custom code added to them. Sadly, this includes those bloggers who make a big deal of selling the theme on their sites, but a much smaller deal of explaining that their site is not an accurate example of what a typical user, who doesn’t write CSS or HTML, will get when they try and use that theme on their blog.

So, you see a great looking blog from a blogger you trust, you buy the theme they recommend and learn VERY fast that the look you fell in love with, had almost zero to do with the theme. This is often the start of an expensive, frustrating process; for those of us with no interest in learning how to write code.

Find something you like right out of the box or hire a blog designer. The latter usually works far better, unless you want a blog that looks just like thousands of others. It’s hard enough to stand out, without looking like a clone of other blogs, using the same theme.

5.  Most plugins suck

Most plugins add very little value to your blog. They are also a primary source of tech issues and they s-l-o-w your site down too. I started off with around 20 plugins. Today, I have just 6. You can often massively increase the speed of your blog, simply by removing unnecessary plugins. The first plugin I install on a new WordPress blog, is always the Akismet spam filter.

6.  If your blog is commercial, invest in professional grade hosting ASAP

When you pay $10 a month for hosting, you get $10 worth of service and speed. However, when you spend $50 a month, you still get a very similar service to that $10 a month provider. If you are serious about the commercial value of your blog, get it onto a dedicated server or if money is tight, get on a cloud-based server as soon as you can afford to.

The increased speed, reliability and 24/7 one to one tech support is worth every penny.  When the BBC put a link to my blog on their homepage last year, instead of me gaining a stack of new readers, my site went down under all the traffic.  Today, it would keep working.

Finally, I recommend you either start a business blog or start taking your blog seriously. The rewards are huge… but only if you give your blog everything it needs.

You don’t have to be Dr Who to travel back in time!

If you want to travel back in time like Dr Who, just take a look at the way some businesspeople operate right now!  It’s as if an entire swathe of business owners, are stuck in some kind of commercial time-warp.

These time trapped individuals are either unaware of the commercial possibilities that surround them in 2010 or they insist in applying 20th century thinking, to 21st century opportunities.  For example, they may use social media as part of their marketing mix, but they use it like a mail shot or advertisement, as a one-way, self-indulgent broadcast.

Only today, I read a marketing email from a new media company.  I was eager to discover what this so-called new media was.  It was simply another company selling Internet design services, who thinks this is still new media!  Come on: Internet design as an industry is well over a decade old.

I would love to hear your examples, of outdated marketing or business practices, so get in touch!

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

Do you make these mistakes?

I study small business marketing, all day, every day.  Here are the 5 marketing and business development mistakes, which I see most often.

1.  Swimming in the same direction as your competitors

The single most common marketing mistake most small business owners make, is that they tend to be far too similar to their competitors.  They will offer a similar range of services, make similar promises, charge similar fees and have similar looking websites etc.

The more you look like your competitors, the less visible you become. You simply blend into the background.  When a prospective client finds your website or speaks with you, if you seem just like all the others, your fee or price will be all they have to determine your value.  Think of it like this: Why would they pay you more than your less expensive competitor, if on the face of it, you look so alike?

Think about your prospective clients and the problems they have.  What are they worrying about right now?  Redesign your marketing, so that it makes it extremely clear that you can and will help people solve those problems.  Develop your brand based on the value you bring.  Don’t make the mistake of copying the crowd, hoping they must be doing it right!

2.  Waiting for it to be perfect

One of the key reasons people procrastinate, is that they are waiting for perfection and of course, things are never perfect!  Waiting for perfection before you take action means you will spend a lot of time wondering why you keep missing opportunities.  The late Jim Rohn used to say that people proudly proclaim that they are perfectionists, when in reality, the need for perfection is more of a problem than a plus.

In my experience, this need for perfection is far more likely to hinder your results, than enhance them.

3.  Doing what’s easy, rather than what’s correct

Many small business owners only use marketing ideas that they see as being either fun or easy.  Rather than do what’s required in order to achieve the results they need, they take the easy route.  The obvious problem with that approach to business, is that your sales figures are a reflection of what you do.  If you ignore the areas of marketing required for success, your results will reflect this.

Marketing should be extremely interesting and enjoyable.  If it isn’t, you are almost certainly either doing it wrong or you are using a form of marketing that’s based on chasing or pursuing people.

4.  Mistaking movement for progress

Many small business owners waste years, working extremely hard, doing the wrong things extremely well.  We all know of honest, hard-working people who seem to make little real progress despite all those long hours of sweat and tears.  One of the fastest ways to become extremely stressed, is to see little reward at the end of a great deal of hard work.

If you are going to row your boat with all your strength, make sure you are heading in the right direction first.  Otherwise, the harder you work, the further you will be from where you WANT to be.

5.  Thinking that customer service is not a key part of marketing

Many businesses treat customer service and marketing as 2 unrelated functions.  They are not.  They are 2 parts of the same thing.  A super-satisfied client base or customer base is the most powerful referral engine on the planet.  If you want to attract more word of mouth, you need to give your clients something to talk about.

You need to offer a level of service that has people wanting to shout from the rooftops.  The problem most business owners face here, is that they usually underestimate how good a service their competitors offer and overestimate how good their own service is.  They speak to former clients of their competitors and do not realise that this feedback is NOT usually typical of the service these providers offer.  They are the rants of angry, pissed-off former clients.

In short: To get your clients to remark on you, you need to be remarkable.

If you found this list useful, remember to share it with your friends!

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

4 ideas to boost your creative output!

Lots of people ask me how I manage to find the ideas and the time, to publish so much content online.  For those who don’t know, as well as writing posts here most days, I have also recently written and published 28 updates on my soon to launch site, over at jimconnolly.com.

That’s a total of around 40 posts published in less than 2 weeks; as well as working every day with my clients.

Here’s an insight into the 4 things that I believe make it easy for me to generate the ideas and the time required to maintain a regular blogging schedule:

1.  I study – A lot!

I have studied my subject, marketing, every working day, for the past 25 years.  I have read thousands of books and reports, from leading marketing experts world-wide.  I have studied every process within marketing and tested them until I knew precisely how they worked.  Please do not confuse this, with JUST reading about my subject.  That process is about consuming.

To truly understand marketing, you need to be proactive and create experiments, to test theories.  The results from all these years of study, is then invested in the work I do with my clients.  However, it has ALSO given me an enormous library of material to write about.

2.  I’m not a TV consumer

Other than sports, I’d guess I consume around an hour’s worth of TV in a week.  I’m not anti-TV in any way.  It’s just that I’m not attracted to the idea of spending 2 or 3 hours each evening sitting in front of a TV set.  I’d rather hangout with my family, relax with friends, read a book, go for a walk, write a blog post or listen to some music etc.  TV is one of the most influential mediums in the world.  Because everything we encounter influences how we think and what we think, I tend to think differently to the 99% of people who watch TV each day.

This one thing alone allows me the thinking space to create, rather than consume.  I’m writing this post during TV prime-time, by the way :)

3.  I have more time than most people – I’ve already had an extra 5 years!

According to Nielsen, the average American watches 153 hours of TV a month.  I’m not sure what the UK figures are, but based on Nielsen’s findings I have gained 1,912 full days, which is well over 5 years of (extra) time, since I dropped TV from my routine, when I was 21.  I have no idea how many amazing people, inspiring conversations and creative ideas I benefit from every month, simply by having all that extra time to think, relax and create.

4.  I seek out diversity

I make sure to spend time with a diverse mix of people.  I love to learn what different people think and how different people think.  I also listen to a diverse range of music and eat a diverse spectrum of food etc.  I believe that if we only expose ourselves to people and ideas, which are in tune with our own, we make it harder to discover anything new.  It’s like being stuck in a time bubble.  I also find that it stifles creativity.

The ideas within those 4 points

I fully appreciate that some of the ideas I have shared with you are going to be way, way too much of a change for most people to even consider.  They are based on what I do and are not intended as some kind of blueprint.  However, I believe that within those 4 basic points are ideas worth exploring, such as; making time every week for study, listening to a more diverse spectrum of voices and considering altering your content consumer / content creator, balance.  That’s why I shared them with you.

So, what are YOUR tips for increasing your creative output?

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

Do you eat your own dog food?

If you follow your own advice or use your own products, we call it eating your own dog foodDogfooding is a great way to gain the trust of your marketplace and show them that you believe in what you say.

However, when someone tells the marketplace one thing and does the opposite, they erode trust in themselves and whatever they say.  I see examples of this in every industry and profession.  Here are just a couple of very common examples:

No dog food eaten here!

Most accountants I’ve met don’t eat their own dog food.  They tell their clients to build robust, valuable businesses, yet in the UK, those accountants will end up selling their own businesses for just 1.5 times their annual turnover!  They can be building a business, working long hours for 20 years, and end up retiring on a the equivalent of just a few years salary.

Many web designers don’t eat their own dog food either.  They usually have nice looking websites with good SEO, but decide to save money by writing their copy themselves.  So, they have a site, telling business owners to get a professionally designed website because it will help them look more professional and make more sales, yet their own copy writing is so ineffective that genuine potential clients simply click away.

Of course, there are examples of this in every industry and profession.

Do you eat your own dog food?

How do you put into practice the kind of advice you give to your own clients or customers?

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

Growing pains? No, not at all!

As some of you may have noticed, I didn’t publish a post here yesterday.  That’s because I’ve just had this blog moved from it’s former hosting, to what’s known as a dedicated server.  In other words, this blog now lives on it’s own hardware with only my sites on it.  The new server is extremely high spec and will hopefully allow me to continue to grow the blog, without the need to keep upgrading.  I outgrew my “old” server, in just over 4 months!

2 lessons from my experience

You get what you pay for: This is the first time that this blog has been hosted on a dedicated managed server (rather than a shared server, VPS or cloud).  Not only is the hardware massively better, the service level is too.  Of course, all this comes with an increased price tag, but that cost meant that this was a 100% hassle free exercise for me.  I didn’t need to do a thing and the whole exercise had a dedicated project manager handling it, who kept me updated throughout.   I have full, 24/7 direct telephone access to the server engineers for the lifetime of my contract and these engineers are located in the same building as my hardware.  It’s total peace-of-mind.

The time to upgrade is before you are forced to: The new service agreement and hardware specifications are massively more than I needed even 12-months ago, and to have upgraded to something as comprehensive as this, back then, would have made little commercial sense.  However, I have always believed that when it comes to web hosting, you should upgrade before your site becomes slow or unreliable, too often.

I started out 2 years ago on a wordpress.com hosted blog, which was free.  I then graduated through $10 a month hosting providers, to $50 a month providers, to Virtual Private Servers and cloud providers – Right through to dedicated hosting with my current provider.  Because of the costs involved, and the fact that many small business bloggers operate with a pretty low budget, it makes sense to upgrade carefully.  If your current provider is working well for you and you are happy with the service you have, stay where you are.  Upgrade only when you know you should.

Of course, if you are seeing a significant increase in visitors to your blog, it’s worth thinking ahead and figuring out your next step.  There are some very good offers out there, but also some shockingly unreliable providers too.  Do your research and find who is offering the best deals – NOT the lowest price, but the best match of hardware, service and price.

For example, if your site is a key part of your business, you won’t want to have to raise a support ticket, with a 24-hour response time, if you notice your site has a serious problem!  That’s what many providers at the lower end of the market offer.  In that scenario, you will want a dedicated, tech support phone number, that actually gets answered by someone who can help.  Conversely, if you are building up a new blog and getting a moderate volume of visitors, there’s little point spending hundreds each month on hosting.  It’s all about balance.

If all goes according to plan, you won’t notice much of a difference with my sites; as I moved them before they were under too great a load, too often.  However, the move should now allow me to focus on developing content for you, without too many hosting-related distractions.

Most importantly – THANK YOU for your support over the past 2 years!

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

Photo: Docklands Boy

This post is for bloggers only!

If you have a business blog, which is not generating the results you want, this post is written just for you!

I received an email this morning, from a reader who has a 12 month old business blog, which he’s unhappy with.  I get emails like this every day.  The problem is so common that I wanted to bring it out into the open and share it, in case it resonates with you and what you are experiencing right now.

He explained that he has published 2 blog posts most weeks, yet the site gets few readers, even fewer comments and no sales inquiries.  He told me he has been using blogging and SEO techniques from some of the blogs he reads, but it’s not working for him.  He asked me to take a look, which I did.  Within seconds, I spotted a number of problems on his blog and was able to tell instantly that he has “had a go” at developing and marketing his blog, with no hands-on, professional help.

The reason most business blogs under-perform is NOT because the blogger is a poor writer or boring.  It’s not because they lack the right plugins or lack killer SEO skills.  It’s because they are applying generic answers, to their unique situation.

Here’s the thing:  You place a very low ceiling on your marketing and business potential, by trying to develop a successful blog using generic, free advice you find online.

Ever wonder why so many blogs from within the same industry are so similar? It’s because they are using the same generic ideas and approach to blogging!  Those bloggers grab the same advice, from the same people, and as a direct result they become invisible.  By being so alike, they camouflage themselves – Which is the exact opposite to what they should be doing.

If you are serious about turning your site into a lead / business generating machine, you need to develop your blog and online marketing, based on your unique needs, resources, business targets and personality.

When I work with my clients, I help them stand out and get noticed, by developing an online marketing strategy that’s clear, easy to follow and designed to get them noticed by their prospective clients or customers. That’s the approach I recommend to those of you who are not seeing the results you want right now.  The generic approach may be free, but it can be extremely expensive.

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

Financial security is more than a number!

A business owner asked me recently, what my definition of financial security was.  I started by asking him what HIS definition was.  He said that if he had a million in the bank, that would give him enough to be financially secure for life.  I disagreed.

Financial security isn’t a number

Financial security is more than just an amount of money. This is why we see so many lottery winners going broke, even after winning 10 or 20 million!  Equally, there are many, many shocking stories of good, honest people, who have worked hard all their lives to save some money for their retirement, only to be conned out of it by crooks; promising them riches if they just sign some forms.

In such cases, simply owning a large sum of money did not make the people financially secure.  If financial security had been about having a certain amount of money, those people wouldn’t be broke right now.

Financial security: My definition

For me, financial security is about having the ability to make as much money as you need, plus more on top – AND the ability to use money correctly.  When I was a kid, the local window cleaner once told me that as long as he could get a bucket of water and a cloth, he would never be broke.  What the window cleaner forgot to mention was that when he was ill, his income stopped.  He forgot to say that when he got too old to climb a ladder, his income would stop.

One of my first employers gave me some better advice on earning money.  He told me that success came when you started getting paid for what you created, from the neck up, not the neck down.  He suggested I should feed my mind with valuable information and put it to work,  because that would increase my income. He was 100% correct.

It’s been said many times that if all the money in your country was evenly distributed among the people, that it would eventually all end up back in the same pockets again.  I don’t think this is completely true, but I do believe that those who don’t understand how to make or retain money correctly, would lose theirs to the people who understand the process.

Financial security and the ability to create massive value

I wrote yesterday about residual income and the value of developing an income that didn’t require you exchanging your time for payment.  It’s a useful way to make money, but there are many others.

For example, if Pete Cashmore the twenty-something founder of mashable.com decided to sell his business, he would make many, many millions.  Yes, Pete has worked hard (and smart) to build such a wonderful business, but he could sell-up and go and sit on a beach all day.  That example is not a residual income, but it’s a GREAT example of creating something that’s brilliant, which has enormous market value.  Many residual income gurus suggest anything other than a residual income is a waste of time – I think they are wrong.

Financial security: What is your definition?

That’s just my definition, there are many others.  How would you define it?

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

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