Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Twitter as a marketing tool: Your feedback!

Has Twitter helped you attract new clients or customers?

Some business owners and entrepreneurs, who use Twitter as part of their marketing strategy, do extremely well.  Others seem unable to transform their tweeting time, into tangible, commercial results.

I would like to hear from you, if you use Twitter as part of your marketing efforts and have achieved bankable results, which can be traced back to connections you made on Twitter.

What tips or advice do you have for others, who would like to transform their Tweeting time into commercial success?

Please include your Twitter @username in your comments, so your fellow readers can follow you.  My user name is @JimConnolly

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

This just looks horrible!


In marketing, we know that feedback can be extremely valuable.  That’s why marketing professionals like myself test and measure everything.  It’s too easy to wrongly assume that something is working or under-performing, just based on hunches or ill-informed input.

I was talking to a lady yesterday, who had recently redesigned the window display in her soft furnishings shop.  She told me that the day she changed it, several people commented, to say they didn’t like it.  One said “it just looks horrible!”

However, she explained that since changing the display, she was attracting considerably more paying customers than before.  Had she acted on what those first people told her, she would have quickly gone back to the previous, under-performing window display.  Instead, she decided to wait until there was some measurable data and THEN make an informed decision.

Whenever we get verbal or written feedback, it’s important to treat it in the correct context.  Here are a few questions I ask myself, before I decide to act, which I would like to share with you:

Is the person commenting from my target market? If not, it could be that their feedback is well-intentioned, but not reflective of what your marketplace thinks, wants or needs.

What is this person’s motive? Why would someone go to the time and effort, to get in touch with you regarding something they like or dislike about your business?  There’s ALWAYS a reason!  Some are motivated by a desire to help, others by a desire to hinder.  Some are motivated by contribution, others by envy.  Figure out their motive, then listen to what they are saying in context.

Are they an expert in that field? Never act on expert advice, unless it’s given to you by an expert.  There was a guy in our village pub last week, giving the waiter some medical advice. (He’s a retired history teacher with no medical expertise or experience.)

So, what advice do you have when it comes to verbal or written feedback?  I would love to hear from you!

Photo: Anderson Mancini

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Boost your sales and profits: Getting your prices right!

I see a lot of small businesses right now, opting to lower their prices or fees (herein called prices), in order to boost sales and grow their business.  However, I’m also seeing a smaller number of businesses, increasing their prices for the exact same reason.

Before you decide to cut or increase your prices, here are some things to consider.

Price cuts are easy – Increasing them again, well…

As I have said many times before, lowering a price is easy, but increasing that price again can be a far bigger challenge.  This is why it’s essential that you make sure the numbers add up, before you do anything!

For instance:  Imagine my friend Bob decides to reduce the cost of his widgets by 25%.  Depending on his profit margin, he may need to 2 or 3 times as many widgets, just to have the SAME profit figure he had before his price cut.  Many people slash their prices, only to find that the extra sales they generate, leave them worse off than before AND with more clients or customers to service too.

Price cuts can work, but only when the numbers are working for you.  For example, if you sell three times as many widgets after a price cut, you might be able to get a better discount from your supplier, increasing the profitability of each widget sold.  This is part of something known as the economy of scale.

Price cuts or price increases?

Though people typically associate price cuts with increased trade, it’s also possible to attract more customers and achieve far higher profits, by increasing your prices.  Yes, it depends on what industry you are in, but I have seen amazing results come from people, who have benefited massively from having an above average price tag.

For example: Around a year ago, a new bar opened in a town close to where I live.  The owner decided to use her prices, as a way to position her bar.  So, she opted to charge 20% MORE for drinks than her most expensive competitor.  People said she was insane, as pubs and bars here in the UK have been really struggling in recent years.

This price increase was designed to act as a barrier to entry, to what she referred to as “the town’s drunks.”  However, because these people kept away, her bar became a magnet for those looking for a more peaceful night out.  She knew that people would be happy to pay the additional 20%, for a better quality atmosphere.  12 months later, she boasts the busiest and most expensive bar in the area.

Remember though, the bar owner did not just increase her prices for no reason.  She was charging more BUT she was also giving the marketplace something of greater value than the increased price of her drinks.  The value is what sold it – Not the price increase!

So, what about product sales?  Apple Inc famously made record breaking sales and recorded the best trading period in the company’s history, during the height of the last recession.  They did this, despite selling hardware that was often several hundred percent more expensive than other brands.  They offered a great range of products, marketed them superbly and then charged for them accordingly.

Prices and promises

Before changing a price, always remember that your prices need to match your promises, if we want people to trust what you say.  That’s because of the well established link between quality and price.  For example, it’s unlikely that the best architect, web designer or lawyer in your area, works for the lowest fees.  It’s equally unlikely that the best restaurant in town offers the lowest priced menu or that the least expensive homes are in the best neighbourhoods.

The marketplace gets very sceptical, when they see the promise of a great product or service, for a bargain basement price.  That kind of mixed message causes confusion and as a result, it’s sometimes harder to win new business after lowering a price than it was before (depending on your industry.)

Prices and value

Your prospective customers want you to give them more value than they pay you for.  So, you can either:

  1. Lower your prices and offer the same quality of service / product as you do today.
  2. Keep your prices the same BUT add more value, so they get more value for money.
  3. Increase your prices BUT pump massively more value into your service / product.

Here’s what doesn’t work though:  Lowering your prices so that you are no longer profitable enough or increasing your prices, without pumping massively more value into what you are offering.

Pricing is a key part of your business and I have written about it many times.  If you want to know more about pricing, value and how they can work for your business, here are a few links you will find useful:

Marketing & value

The hidden cost of price cuts

How to set your prices or fees in 3 easy steps

Standing out from the crowd

I would like to know what you think about setting prices or fees and what your experiences have been.  Please share your feedback with your fellow readers and myself, with a comment below.

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

Content marketing: What is it and how does it work?

This is a quick post about content marketing and how to get great results from it.

Content marketing

Millions of small business owners (including me) use content marketing as a way to market their services.  They produce content for; newsletters, blog posts, articles, audio, video, social media sites etc.  The idea is that their content will engage prospective clients or customers and generate enquiries sales and also position them as an expert in their field.  Make no mistake, content marketing is extremely powerful when used correctly.

However, as many small business owners discover, there’s an enormous difference between producing content and producing content that actually helps them grow their business.

In marketing, we know that the messages that resonate with us most powerfully are those that make us think or capture our imagination in some way.  Generic messages do the exact opposite.  They pass us by, undetected.  They wash over us, because they’re predictable.  Yet these generic messages are the stock-in-trade of most of the content marketing pieces we see each day from small businesses.

Why?

I believe one of the reasons, is that it feels a lot “safer” to toe the line, follow what the crowd are saying and just blend into the background.  It takes courage for a blogger, for example, to offer their unique perspective on a topic or allow their personality to shine through their work.  After all, what if they are wrong?  What if their point of view generates negative comments?  It would surely be the end of their world as they know it!  So, rather than risk ruffling too many feathers, they opt to rehash generic ideas, which feel safer, because most people seem to agree with them.

Here’s the problem with that approach: It acts like camouflage and stops you getting the visibility you need!

To be visible, we first need to have something to say, which is worth listening to and sharing.  People only pass on content to their friends or network, if they find it useful or interesting and believe that others will too.  In short, people share the good stuff!  The most successful content marketers never seek a full consensus.  They just try hard and deliver content, which will be as valuable as possible to their target market.

Some important content marketing questions

  1. Who am I writing to? You need to know your target audience and focus your content exclusively on what they will find value in.
  2. Why am I writing to them? You need to know your desired outcome or outcomes, so that you can check if you are on course or not.  You can’t manage, what you can’t measure.
  3. Does my content showcase my expertise? Give genuinely useful information to your readers for free (and do it with a smile)!  Don’t send a watered-down version of your expertise into the marketplace.  Why?  Because how on earth are your readers supposed to know that you are any good, if all they see is a half-assed, diluted version of how great you are?I give away tons of free information on this blog, which encourages my readers to share my work with their friends.  As a result, I get business enquiries every day, from people who want to work with me.  This post, for example, gives links to over 140 marketing tips and ideas.

So, what are your content marketing tips or experiences?

Whether you are new to content marketing or a seasoned campaigner, it would be great to hear your feedback.

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

Marketing with confidence?

Would you spend money with a business, if you thought they were going broke and you wouldn’t get what you paid for?

That might seem like an odd question, yet since starting my business in the mid 1990′s, I have seen countless small business owners create nervousness within their marketplace, by the often illogical things they do, when times get tough.  They see sales drop or lose a big customer and BOOM – their thinking goes into scramble mode and they put panic measures into place.  These measures often serve to give the impression that the business in question is acting out of desperation.

Here’s why this is a problem: People do not spend money with, or recommend, businesses that they think are likely to go broke!

Now let’s compare that approach, to what we see when a business is inspiring confidence within the marketplace rather than creating nervousness and doubt.

Marketing with confidence

Ask anyone who has been in business for a while and they will confirm that it’s far easier to attract great new clients or generate more sales, when times are good.  One of the reasons for this is that when times are good, we feel confident and that feeling of confidence comes across, not only in our decision making but in our conversations and everything we do.

I was speaking with the owner of a web design business recently, who told me that he had just landed a massive new contract.  He believes that the primary reason he won that contract, was that he was able to quote for it from a position of strength.  He explained that because business was good, he conducted the meeting with this new client feeling confident and relaxed.  Then, he quoted a fee for the project that truly reflected the high quality of his services – Rather than a bargain basement fee, which he had been doing last year as he scrambled for new business unsuccessfully.

Now, I’m not saying that when times are hard, we should just smile and quote higher fees – Far from it!  What I am saying, is that we can either inspire confidence in our business, which will help our situation – Or we can generate doubt and make people feel nervous about our commercial future, which will only make things worse.

We can focus on answers or we can focus on problems.

We can focus on what we want or we can focus on what we fear.

If you control your focus, seek advice from people who have the answers you need and work REALLY hard, there are very, very few business challenges that you can’t kick the crap out of!

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

Dealing with critics!

How well do you handle criticism?

If you use blogging, newsletters and/or social media sites as a way to market your services, you will receive varying levels of criticism.  Paradoxically, the more successful you become, the more criticism you will receive, because your work will reach more people.

I wrote a post in January, about the criticism bloggers receive, which readers never get to see – emails etc.  Today’s post covers other forms of criticism, and offers some ideas on why it happens and how to deal with it effectively.

I would also like to encourage YOU to add your tips at the end of the post!

Genuine, informed criticism

This is when someone, who knows the subject in question, believes they have found something in what you are doing or saying, which is incorrect.  Their motives are well intentioned and their feedback is often of great value, even though many people greet it with hostility or sarcasm.  In my experience, genuine, informed critics almost always tell you their opinion via email, the phone or face-to-face – Rather than via a social network or blog comment etc.  That’s because their intention is to help and nothing else.

Genuine, yet ill-informed criticism

Some people are going to tell you that you are doing something wrong or that you “don’t get it” and their intentions are good; yet their feedback is from an ill-informed perspective.  Like the people in the above example, these guys mean well, but unlike that example, their help is more likely to hinder you than it is to help you.

If we act on criticism that is factually wrong, we make bad decisions.  This is why it’s really important to check the source of the feedback we receive, before we decide to take action.  If someone with no expertise or experience in something is criticising you in that area, get some more feedback from an informed source.

Non-criticism, criticism

Just because someone disagrees with our point of view, does not mean they are being critical of us.  It’s easy to regard those who see things differently, as being negatively critical, when they are simply offering a different perspective.  This is especially the case with blog comments, where readers will often take a counter-point from the blogger or a fellow commenter.  The whole point of asking for comments and feedback, is to get different opinions and ideas.

Finally, consider the motivation behind negative criticism

People do what they do for a reason.  If we take a moment to consider why someone might make a critical comment about us or our work, it’s easy to see the point they are making in the correct context.

Some do it to attract “traffic”.  For example, the best-known bloggers often find less established bloggers writing extremely critical posts about them, in the hope that the popular blogger mentions them and in so doing, delivers a ton of traffic to the critic’s blog.  Some do it to get noticed.  Others do it because they just LOVE to look for the negative (I get lots of these, whenever I make a spelling error.)  Some do it just to have a little fun, at our expense.

The bottom line: There many reasons that people feel compelled to negatively criticise and many different types of criticism.  If you use (or plan to use) blogging, social networking sites and newsletters etc, as part of your marketing mix, negative criticism is all part of the feedback you will receive, as your audience grows.

Your tips on dealing with negative criticism

If you have any ideas, tips or experience of dealing with negative criticism (especially online), please share them with your fellow readers and myself, by leaving a comment below.

Photo: Johnny Jet

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

How balanced is your marketing?

With most things in life, there’s a balance we need to adhere to if we want to get a desired result.  Marketing is no exception!

I was speaking with a motor mechanic yesterday, who explained to me the importance of balance in high performance cars.  He said that many people will add a faster, more powerful engine to a car, but fail to upgrade the breaks and steering for all that additional speed and power.  The end result is often a serious crash.

Business owners and entrepreneurs also need to be aware of the importance of balance, when it comes to their marketing.  Otherwise, they too can see their efforts crash!

Marketing balance

For example, many people invest in great SEO and generate lots of targeted visitors to their website, but when these new people arrive, they are greeted with home-grown, pedestrian copy writing.  In other words, all that SEO money is wasted because the messages that greet these new readers are not powerful enough to get them to take action.  Equally, many well written commercial websites have very poor SEO and get very little traffic, so their message is seen by too few people to generate the volume of enquiries and sales they need.  It’s all about balance.

Another common marketing imbalance, is the way people allocate their time.  It’s not uncommon for some people to spend more time adding content to sites like Facebook and Linkedin etc, than they do developing THEIR OWN site or blog!  I wrote last year about a guy who I saw adding content to Twitter every day, yet his blog had not been updated in 3 months.

Here’s a suggestion: Take a moment to review where you currently invest your marketing time and money and see if you can spot something, which is setting your results off balance.  Here’s a very popular selection of marketing ideas, which you should take a look at, if you want a more balanced approach to your marketing.

Over to you!

What examples do you have of getting the balance right (or wrong) and what lessons you learned.  Please share your experiences, with a comment.
Photo: Ky Olsen

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

Twitter can be amazing: Check this out!

I just fell back in love with Twitter!

As some of you might remember, I was once one of the world’s top 40 most followed people on Twitter.  Then, in January 2009, after being swamped daily with hundreds of DM’s and junk emails via Twitter, I left.  I later rejoined after totally wiping my account; zero following and zero followers.  Over the past year I have built a small Twitter network, which as you are about to see, is massively more valuable!

Here’s what happened and why I fell back in love with Twitter yesterday…

Twitter contacts

I was in a small village pub last night, when David Spinks from Scribnia.com contacted me via Twitter.  David and I have never met in person, though we have spoken on the phone a few times.  Anyhow, David wanted to know if I could help him, to help a Twitter contact of ours, who is having some real challenges right now.  By the way, you will be hearing all about this very shortly.

I called David and within an hour, I had spoken with a number of my Twitter friends, to see about getting our mutual friend the help he needs.  Everyone I spoke with was eager to get involved.  Each of these relationships were initially formed, via contact made on Twitter and I’ve never met any of these people in person.

Twitter at its best

In my experience, Twitter is at it’s best (from an interpersonal point of view) as a way of connecting with people; rather than as a way of building relationships.  Once a connection is made, it’s super-easy to take that connection away from Twitter, so you can get to know the person better; either face-to-face, via the phone or email etc. 

For example, each of the people I called after speaking with David Spinks, were people I met initially via Twitter, but had built a relationship with away from Twitter; including Scott Gould from Like Minds and The CEO of Headway Themes, Grant Griffiths.

The community of people I know via Twitter, are of massive value to me and last night, the way many of them wanted to get involved and help a guy they have never met, was breathtaking.  REAL people, who right now are about to make a REAL difference to the life of a fellow Twitter community member.  I have never been more impressed with the value of Twitter or more delighted that I rejoined it.

I’m no social media guru, but surely “people” are what it’s all about?

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

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