Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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It’s only useful, if you use it!

It’s a fact: The best marketing ideas in the world will not work, unless you use them.

Over the years, I have discovered that small business owners can be divided into 2 groups, when it comes to marketing.

Group 1: Those who find marketing interesting, but just dabble and seldom work with the ideas they find.

These people love reading about marketing and they enjoy the social elements of marketing such as networking, social media etc, but they seldom actually take time to develop a marketing plan and work the plan.  In many cases, they have businesses that are struggling financially and they knowledge to turn it around – If only they put some of their marketing ideas to work.

Ideas are GREAT, but they need to act on them if you want to achieve anything.

Group 2: Those who understand that marketing is an essential part of their business, so they put the best marketing ideas they find into action.

These business owners see things very differently from the previous, much larger group.  They have discovered that if they find a marketing idea interesting, then use it, amazing things can happen.  They are not afraid to fail, because they know that marketing is all about testing and measuring.  If they try something and it doesn’t work the way they want, they will review the feedback and try again with a new refinement.  They will then measure the feedback and make further adjustments, until they get the results they want.

Ultimately, our commercial success will be determined by our level of intelligent activity; not by how much useful knowledge we have acquired.  Why not take the best marketing idea you have right now, and use it!

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

Photo: Ian Munroe

Marketing: Your past does not equal your future.

I spoke with someone earlier, who told me that she was “no good at marketing.”  She went on to say that she would never be any good when it came to marketing.  This lady is bright and she has lots to say, that’s worth listening to.  However, she has failed to learn one of the most basic lessons in life:

“Our past results do not equal our future results.”

Just because we used an approach last week, last month or last year that didn’t work, does not mean we have to repeat that same error.  We can learn from that lesson and move forward.  As soon as we use a better strategy, we get better results.

How do you improve?

You have 2 main options if you want better marketing results:

  1. You can spend time studying marketing and start to develop increasingly effective marketing strategies.  This can be very time consuming, but if you are starting to see some progress with your marketing efforts, it may be worth investing some more of your time.  This is likely to be most appropriate for those who already have a good marketing foundation, and those who are not looking for fast results.  There are lots of free marketing resources on this blog that will help you if you want to go it alone.  Take a look at this post as a way to get started – It’s my top 10 marketing tips. Then, I strongly recommend you read my FREE 5 step Marketing Make-Over! You can also use the search box on the right, to find marketing posts on many different subjects – There are hundreds of posts there covering thousands of marketing answers and ideas – just waiting for you and all are 100% free!
  2. You can hire someone who already knows exactly what you need to do.

The bottom line is that you need to improve your marketing strategy and actions, if you want to improve your sales results.  There’s absolutely no need to settle for under-performing marketing, so long as you are willing to take ownership of the challenge ahead of you and do something productive about it.

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

Good luck!

Surviving information overload!

Following on from yesterday’s post, about the need to be a student and not a sheep, today I would like to focus briefly on the importance of improving our comprehension in the era of information overload.  It’s one thing for us to read something of value, but if we fail to comprehend what we have just consumed, we will learn nothing.

information overloadI deliberately tend to write shorter posts than many bloggers, because like every professional writer worth their salt, I know the importance of brevity.  A well written, short piece of information rich copy should be easy for the reader to absorb.  So, that’s what I aim for.  However, when you look at the comments on longer blog posts, it shows that many people comment, with very little understanding of what they just read.  I get it here occasionally myself.  I have had people arguing with me, via comments here, simply because they never took the time to read everything, before commenting.  They were arguing with me, even though they were in 100% agreement with what I wrote.

Information overload

The challenge for all of us today, is that there is just so much content out there.  I did a search on Google a moment ago, for the phrase marketing blogs and found mine (on page 1!) with over 90 MILLION other results.

Just 15 years ago, if we wanted to keep abreast of what was happening in business, we had the business section of our preferred daily newspaper and maybe a few industry magazines, which were published monthly.  That was it!

Today, there is an almost limitless supply of business information; some good, some not so good, but all vying for our attention.  Our senses are assaulted with a seemingly endless supply of must click links via social media too.  It’s little wonder people are skimming over content rather than reading and comprehending it.   So, what we see right now are people who tend to skim over 50 or 100 articles or blog posts in a day, rather than actually read and think about 5 or 10 of them.

In our desire not to miss anything important, we risk missing everything!

It’s a little like those networkers, who flit from person to person after 30 seconds, because they want to meet everyone at an event.  They meet 150 people and yet they connect with  no one.  Another person at the same event, studies the attendee list and decides to selectively speak with a dozen people.  He or she connects with all 12 people and potentially makes some really useful contacts.

For me, one of the best ways to improve comprehension, is to read more selectively.  Look for the best sources of information in your niche, read their work and then take time to think about what you have just read and how you can use it.  Birds of a feather flock together, so you should find that by sticking with your most valued writers, they will introduce you to new, great writers too.  Give yourself a hard limit, by setting your bar high and only read from writers, who regularly deliver the goods.  Replace those who are under delivering, so your list stays fluid, but always focused on what YOU find most valuable.  Here’s where you come in!

What works for you?

How do you get the most from your online reading time?  Do you have any tips you would like to share?

If so, please share them!

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

 

Photo: Photo Monkey

Seth Godin Vs Bob the Blogger!

As a marketing coach, I am always studying the power of influence and influential people.  For example, we all know the power a celebrity can have, when they give their personal endorsement to a politician or their paid endorsement to a product.  This is because a large chunk of the general populous, uses what a well known or well-respected person says, as a short-cut to their decision making process.

A while ago, one of my favourite writers, Seth Godin, made a couple of statements that were widely accepted as fact – Despite them simply being his opinions.  Fans of Seth heard what he said and then looked for things that would support it.  It’s actually a very good piece and as always, delivered with passion and power.

Here’s what Seth said:

“Blogging is free, it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it.  What matters is the humility that comes from writing it.  What matters is the meta cognition of thinking about what you are going to say.  How do you explain yourself to the few employees you have or your cat or whoever is going to look at it?  How do you force yourself to describe in 3 paragraphs, why you did something?  How do you respond out loud?  If you are good at it, some people will read it.  If you stick at it, you will get good at it. But this has become much bigger than are you boingboing, are you the huffington post.  This has become such a micro publishing platform, that basically you are doing it for yourself, to force yourself to become part of the conversation, even if it’s (Seth gestures with his index finger and thumb, to denote a tiny amount) just that big and that posture change, changes a huge amount.”

Here’s the clip of Seth saying this on YouTube – It’s powerful stuff.

If Bob the blogger (I just made that name up) told you that it didn’t matter if anyone reads your business blog, most of you would disagree.

You might remind Bob that a blog with 5000 unique visitors a day will out perform an identical blog, with just you and your cat reading it.  This is why every blog development program and every leading blog development site, focus so much on developing a targeted readership and increasing your blog’s visibility.

If Bob the blogger told you that as a busy small business owner, you should be writing a blog for humility, you just may question that too.  Here’s why:

  • Bob is not Seth, so we question what Bob says.  With Bob, we are a student.  We study what Bob says and ecology check it, to see if it actually makes sense.  Then, and only then, we accept it.
  • Seth is not Bob, so the temptation is to accept what Seth says, without question.  At this point, we cease being a student and miss much of the learning that people like Seth offer.

The challenge here, is that when we fail to study, we fail to learn.

Blindly accepting something, turns the student into a sheep.  Even when the person is as intelligent and honest as Seth Godin, we owe it to ourselves to study what they say.

This is NOT a post about whether or not Seth is right or wrong with what he said in this one instance.

It’s about whether more people would have questioned what Seth said, if he was “just” a normal guy, like my fictitious friend, Bob the blogger.

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

Why your client’s social networks matter to YOUR business!

It’s a fact: Your customers and prospective customers have a bigger voice then ever before!  Thanks to services like Facebook and Twitter, their ability to reach people is so huge, that it can generate an avalanche of word of mouth marketing for you, (so long as you continue to exceed their expectations.)

Of course, if you piss them off, their ability to share their frustration is just as huge and can cause a great amount of damage!

Social networks: When things go bad

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the importance of disclosure; of being transparent and honest with your marketing.  I gave a number of reasons why it makes sound marketing sense, to be ethical, open and upfront.  So, what happens when a company decides to do the opposite – To hide something from the marketplace in order to make a fast buck?

There’s a post over on Seth Godin’s blog, where his opening sentence was just 2 words: Avoid stamps.com.  This was in a post called “A bias for scamminess,” which gave his account of what allegedly happened to him, when he tried to use the stamps.com service, and found that just by entering his credit card details to buy some stamps, he had agreed to pay them $15.95 a month!  Whether Seth made a mistake or was victim of a technical error, rather than a deliberate stealth sales tactic, Seth’s experience has probably been shared with hundreds of thousands of people by now.

Of course, best-selling authors like Seth have always had their own platforms.  If you angered a celebrity 20 years ago, they had the power back then to get their message out, via mainstream media.

What’s different today, is that hundreds of millions of people now have their own social networks and therefore a voice.

Social networks on a smaller, local level

I live in a very small village, in the North of England.  My wife recently discovered a great place for parents to take their kids, and she shared it on Facebook, with her friends.  She suggested that they all meet there on a certain day, so the kids could play and the parents could take a look.  On the day in question, 27 of her Facebook friends met up with their kids, for a great day out – all because of her Facebook message. Here’s the thing:  Had that same Facebook message been a negative review, rather than a positive recommendation, just as many people would have seen it.  Just as they were motivated to attend, they could have been motivated to avoid the place, and tell their friends to do the same, had the message been negative.

The fact that the marketplace now has a greater voice than ever before, has (at least) 3 interesting consequences:

  1. For providers, who exceed expectations and are remarkable for all the right reasons – It’s pure gold dust!  The providers that used to enjoy a lot of word of mouth recommendations, will see an increasing supply of great referrals.
  2. For providers, who offer a similar-ish type of service to their competitors – At best, they will stay about the same.  The providers that have never really attracted many word of mouth recommendations, still won’t.
  3. For providers, who offer a poor service – The clock is ticking.  If they disappoint enough people with lame products or poor service, they can expect the newly enabled marketplace to spread the word.

I believe that the motivation has never been greater, for small business owners to focus on delivering service excellence.  The rewards have always been good, but right now, they are excellent.  Exceed the expectations of your marketplace and offer a uniquely valuable service, then help them share how great you are on their social networks.

BTW: You can share this post with your friends, using the buttons below!

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

Disclosure: Does it matter?

If someone you follow on a social network recommends something to you, via an affiliate link, should they disclose it to you or keep it quiet?

As I am sure you know, a lot of people post affiliate links via social networking sites, which they do not disclose.  Over the past few months, I have asked people why they are doing this.  Some explained that they disclose their affiliate relationships on their blog or website, but not when they tweet affiliate links or post them via Facebook etc.  Others told me that they are not legally bound to disclose their relationships to those who followed them, so they don’t.  One explained that he sent a tweet out a year or more ago, which said he was an affiliate of a certain course; which he now tweets hidden affiliate links to daily, without disclosure.

disclosure, marketing disclosure, affiliate marketingThere is also an increasingly popular trend right now, where ebooks are packed with affiliate links, and no mention of this anywhere.  So, the ebook author strongly recommends products to his or her readers; which the reader doesn’t know the author is being paid to sell.  They see the author recommending something and assume it is an unbiased recommendation, rather than something they get paid to sell.

Disclosure and trust

In my experience, trust plays a massive role in commercial success.

We buy from, and recommend, people we trust.  Trust is also a key component in the longevity of a business.  When someone discloses their relevant commercial relationships, they make it far easier for us to trust them.  After all, if they are being honest and open regarding this, it’s natural for us to assume (rightly or wrongly) that they are also honest in other areas of their business.

Equally, if someone is an affiliate of something and they let me know it’s because they researched the product and LOVE it, I am actually even more likely to buy it, than if they just linked without any disclosure.

Disclosure and marketing relationships

People have previously told me, right here on this blog, that they always try to buy products or services via affiliate links, from bloggers / writers they like and trust, as a way of “tipping” them. I have done this many, many times myself.  For example, when I bought the Headway blog theme that I use here, I bought it from Danny Brown; because Danny introduced me to Headway (affiliate link) and he uses full disclosure.  It felt right to buy via Danny.

The business model for avoiding disclosure is a little unclear (to me.)  My assumption is that the decision not to disclose, is based less on a business model, and more on the assumption that if people know you’re being paid to promote something, they will be less inclined to trust you – rather than more inclined.  Whatever the reason for failing to disclose, in my experience, people hate having facts deliberately withheld from them.

Disclosure and you

What do think of those who offer full disclosure and those who fail to disclose?  What kind of things do you believe need to be disclosed?  Get involved and share your thoughts.

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

Photo: Sasha W

Don’t push your marketing on people!

One of the reasons that you get targeted with so much unprofessional marketing, is that small business owners never view what THEY do as spammy or unprofessional.  They know that their intentions are good, so as far as they are concerned:

  • It’s OK for them to add you to their mailing list without your consent, because THEY KNOW it’s not spam and that their company is legitimate.
  • It’s OK for them to ask you to recommend them on Linkedin, even though you don’t know them, because THEY KNOW they are decent, honest people.
  • It’s OK for them to send you sales pitches on Facebook, because THEY KNOW that their products really are extra special.
  • It’s OK for them to use Twitter as a broadcast medium, because THEY KNOW that their stuff REALLY IS worth broadcasting.

The key to marketing success, is to understand that your marketing results are based on your actions, rather than your intentions.  People will respond positively, negatively or not at all, based on what you do.  Consequently, when you irritate people by pushing marketing at them, they will typically respond negatively.

The most successfully marketed small businesses, abide by the following 8 words:  Have something worth saying and say it well.

They offer a product or service that provides unique value (so they have something worth saying.)  Then, they use professional marketing, to get their message out correctly and motivate people to buy from them (so they say it well.)

The least successful businesses do the exact opposite.

They offer a similar-ish product or service to their competitors, (so they don’t really have something worth saying.)  Then, they use push marketing techniques like; cold calling, social media broadcasting, unsolicited email marketing etc, which just irritates people (so they don’t say it well.)

Before you send out any piece of marketing, always ask yourself the following question:  “If  someone sent this to me, how would it make me feel about that company and their services?”

We should always hold ourselves up to at least the same level of scrutiny, as we use when evaluating other providers.  Preferably, far, far higher!

How do you feel about pushy marketing or those that broadcast to you, rather than engage you?

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

Blogging is dead (again!)

I’ve seen a few comments and blog posts recently, from people claiming (yet again) that blogging is dead. This subject seems to come around every few months; usually after a blogger realises that his or her blog is failing to work for them, the way they intended.  So, rather than adopt a different, more effective strategy, they decide the problem rests with blogging as a platform and that it’s not their fault.

Blogging is very much alive and in excellent health!  Visitor numbers to Jims Marketing Blog blog are up by around 85% over the past 6 months and enquiries for my services as a marketing coach via this blog, are up by closer to 300%.  All of my clients are seeing growth with their blogs, both in terms of visitors and business / business enquiries.  In fact, as a business development or marketing tool, I would say that blogging has never been as powerful as it is today, with the future looking even brighter!

Blogging and marketing

Here’s the thing though: Successful blogging requires a lot more than simply setting up a blog and writing posts!  Like every form of marketing, you will need to plan ahead and work to an effective strategy, if you want to enjoy commercial blogging success.  For example, I spent 6 weeks researching and planing, before I started this blog.  By the time it launched, almost 2 years ago, I already knew what my plans for the first year were.

Within a few months, Jim’s Marketing Blog was generating daily enquiries for my business and was ranked on page one of Google, for the search term “marketing blog“, where it still is today.  None of this happened by accident, or simply because I wrote interesting posts.  As we all know, some of the most gifted writers remain undiscovered.  Others manage to attract readers, but struggle to transfer their readers, into paying clients or customers.

Their experience doesn’t mean that blogging is dead; simply that they need a more effective marketing strategy for their blog.

The next time you hear that blogging is dead, see if you can get a pulse from; MashableTechcrunch, Seth Godin, Robert Scoble or myself!


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

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