Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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How to beat the feast or famine trap

If your sales results are too erratic or you find yourself in that feast-or-famine trap, this post is written just for you.

Most businesses offer products or services, which people are only interested in when they have a problem. If your business provides the answer to a problem, there’s a very good chance you’re using the wrong marketing approach.

I’m going to explain why and also show you how to get it right.

Knowing you before they need you

Coaches, accountants, designers, dentists, trainers, insurance professionals, lawyers, consultants, etc — are only sought after when someone has a requirement.

Here’s the thing: If they already know who you are, before they need you, you are massively more likely to earn their custom, than some provider they have never heard of.

I once heard Mercedes’ head of advertising say, that if Mercedes focused on showing people advertisements, the week before they were about to buy a new car, it wouldn’t work. So, Mercedes focus on getting their marketing messages in front of us when we’re kids. Then, when we’re 35 and are thinking of buying a luxury car, we think of Mercedes.

Whilst that approach is longer-term than most small or medium-sized businesses need to consider, the advice is sound. It’s all about the client or customer knowing who we are, before they need us.

Switch from short-term gambits to a long-term strategy

Market strategically. Make marketing an ongoing part of your business, not something you do when you lose a client or when sales are down. Remain relevant to your marketplace. Stay in their mind. Keep earning their attention, through strategic, useful, permission-based marketing.

In short: If you want great, long-term results, you need to make long-term plans.

21 Powerful habits behind highly successful business owners

Over the years I have worked with thousands of business owners. Many of these were successful, some were hugely successful.

Acquiring the habits for success

I noticed that the most successful business owners shared certain habits. They did things, which the average business owner didn’t do. I decided to learn from them… to acquire their habits, to see if it would help me.

It did. It really did. In big, meaningful, measurable ways.

So, in brief, here’s what I learned from them:

  1. They are driven by a passion to do something big. Something that motivates them AND those around them.
  2. They personalise their business, so it’s uniquely theirs. One of a kind. Rare and valuable.
  3. They know success is about more than money… that if you’re rich and unhappy, you’re still broke.
  4. They show people, rather than tell people. Anyone can claim anything, so they walk the walk.
  5. They out-care their competition. It shines through everything they do.
  6. They out-smart their competitors too.
  7. They set standards, extremely high, self-imposed standards… and they achieve them.
  8. They ignore the manual and write their own rules.
  9. They focus on what they want, not what they fear.
  10. They are excellent decision makers. They get the information required, study it, request advice if needed, then decide.
  11. They avoid those costly detours, which come disguised as shortcuts to success.
  12. They work hard. You can’t sleepwalk your way to the top… or even the middle.
  13. They also relax. If you work smart during work time, you can relax when it’s family and friends time.
  14. They seldom watch TV. None (zero) of the most successful people I know, bother with TV.
  15. They are extremely selective who they associate with and who they recommend.
  16. They lead. The world already has enough followers and the followers need leaders.
  17. They manage their time extremely well.
  18. They deliberately build a valuable network of people — before they need them.
  19. They are willing to stand out. They know it’s the only way to be outstanding.
  20. They summon the courage to do what’s required, rather than what feels comfortable.
  21. They make promises… then keep them.

Those are just some of the habits I have discovered and road tested, which improved my business and life beyond recognition.

I hope you find them useful, but more importantly, I hope you decide to try and make at least one of them a habit.

This is a marketing message. Seriously. It is!

Marketing tips, content marketing

Photo: Alice Lim

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make your marketing so attractive, that people would miss it if it wasn’t there.

Think about it: Most of the marketing messages we receive are unwelcome. At best, they are seen as the price we pay, so we can watch that YouTube clip we want to see. At worst, marketing messages are an unwanted, unsolicited intrusion.

How some people get it right

Some of the marketing we receive is welcomed. When Evernote send me their newsletter, I read it. It’s packed with tips on how to get the most value from the Evernote app, so users can organise their ideas and improve their work flow.

Yes, I have made additional purchases because of the Evernote newsletter, but they have never sold me anything. Think about that for a moment.

Leigh prompted me to write today’s post

Around 20 minutes ago, I received a message from a reader. Leigh said that she reads my blog via email. She was concerned, because she hadn’t had an email from me for 5 days. Apparently, it turned out to be a problem with her new email provider.

Leigh went on to say:

[...] “One good thing to come from the frustration of changing email providers, is that it made me realize how much your emails help me with my business.”

That may not seem a particularly powerful statement, but it is. I’ll explain why in a moment.

The best marketing brings independent value

Just like the Evernote newsletter I mentioned a moment ago, the best marketing messages are packed with value. When people connect with effective marketing, they feel like they have gained something — something more than a sales pitch.

A great way for us to get this right, is to ask ourselves the following question: If I stopped my; marketing campaign, blog posts, email marketing, newsletters or social networking updates, etc, would people miss them?

If people wouldn’t miss our marketing, they are probably not paying much attention to us. It’s entirely likely our marketing is being seen as an intrusion, rather than a source of value.

This is a marketing message… seriously!

If you think this blog post isn’t a marketing message, just because I’m not pitching you anything, consider this:

  • Hundreds of people email me every week, because of something they read on my blog or in the email version of the blog.
  • A subset of them will become clients or customers.
  • Others become advocates and recommend my services to their friends.
  • Some share my blog posts, helping me reach more people.

None of these busy people would bother, if my posts were a series of sales pitches.

In short: Provide your marketplace with useful information, not sales pitches. Make your marketing communications about the reader, not about you. Help them solve their challenges with your expertise, so they know where to come when they need expert help they can trust.

5 Useful tips to make your next project fly!

If you’re thinking of launching a new product, service or business, here are 5 tips to help you get it right.

  1. Great ideas are not anointed. They fly or die based on merit and hard work. If you believe in what you’re doing, if the research and numbers stack up, go for it. This will help you.
  2. Pick your clients or customers deliberately. Then, focus your marketing message so that it’s 100% relevant to this group. If you don’t know who your ideal clients or customers are, you’re not ready to launch. This will help you.
  3. Don’t sell something, if people can buy it from Amazon for less.
  4. If you sell a commodity product or service, customise it. If you’re 1 of 30 accountants in your area, give people a valid reason why they should hire you, rather than an equally qualified competitor. Tell people why they should eat at your restaurant and not a similarly priced competitor’s place. This will help you.
  5. Embrace blogging or newsletters. Give the marketplace an insight into you and your business. Tell them your story. When they feel like they know you, you’re far less of a gamble to them, than hiring or buying from a stranger. I focus on blogging. Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

I hope you found those tips useful. More importantly, I hope you find something there, which you can put into action.

Stop working for low quality clients. Seriously. Stop it!

If you are tired of working for low value clients, I have an idea I would like to share with you. It has helped me attract the best clients, avoid the worst clients and build an extremely successful business. It can do the same for you.

A very deliberate choice

Before deciding to accept a new client, I ask myself the following question:

Is this prospective client worthy of my best work?

  • If the answer is Yes, I accept them as a client and provide them with the best work I am capable of.
  • If the answer is No, I don’t work with them.
  • If I agree to work with a client and later find they lied to me, to make me say Yes, I fire them.

Here’s the payback

As a direct result, I have never had a cash flow problem. I have never had to face a client I didn’t enjoy working with and always had the freedom to do my very best work. By being able to do my best work, my clients get great results, so my client retention is exceptionally high. Equally, my clients and former clients are a constant source of high quality referrals.

The opposite approach is to accept any client who says they want to work with you.

  • To work for clients who pay you late and ruin your cash flow.
  • To work for clients who are over demanding.
  • To work for clients who take the joy away from your work.

Every business owner, including you, makes the decision. You either decide to work with the people worthy of your best work or to compromise and work for those who are not.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Jim!

When I share this idea with business owners, the typical answer from those who will work with anyone, is that beggars can’t be choosers.

The thing is:

  • They are business owners, not beggars.
  • They are already choosing, by choosing to work for low value clients.

High value clients lead to more high value clients, as they recommend you to their friends and you become known for servicing the quality end of the market.

Low value clients lead to more low value clients, as you become pigeon-holed as servicing the cheap end of your marketplace.

In short, if your current client choices are not working for you, it’s time to try another approach.

PS: If you want me to help you get this right, read this.

10 Powerful ways to get people talking about your business

Here are 10 motivators, which inspire people to spread the word about you. See which ones you can adapt and apply into your business.

  1. People will share your message, if it makes them look clever. This is why social networks are packed with Einstein quotes.
  2. People will share your message, if it makes them appear generous to their friends or community.
  3. People will share your message, if they think it will make them look informed, ahead of the curve or cutting-edge.
  4. People will share your message, if it’s remarkable. Extremely satisfied customers tell their friends when they receive an amazing service.
  5. People will share your message, if they are paid to. Such as bloggers who write sponsored posts, affiliate marketers and advertising providers.
  6. People will share your message, if they are part of your community and want others to join in.
  7. People will share your message, if they believe it will help you and they care about you.
  8. People will share your message, if it’s baked into your product or service. When you see someone using an Apple MacBook in public, there’s an illuminated apple on the rear of their screen.
  9. People will share your message, if it says something they aren’t brave enough to say for themselves.
  10. People will share your message, if they believe it’s of great value and that their friends need to know.

You should be able to find at least a few ideas there, to help you motivate people to share your message.

4 Inspiring reasons to write regularly

There are many compelling, commercial reasons to write regularly. For example, blogging and newsletter writing can be hugely valuable.

Here are 4 less obvious benefits to writing regularly, which seldom get mentioned. In many ways, these are just as valuable.

  1. Writing makes you a better observer. As a result, you notice more of the world around you. You experience more from life.
  2. Writing helps you think with greater clarity. The process of getting ideas out of your head and onto the page, is a wonderful antidote for foggy thinking.
  3. Writing is a powerful development tool. To write effectively on any subject, you need to know about that subject. Even better, to write about a subject regularly, you need to constantly learn more.
  4. Writing is an act of contribution. When you share your ideas or stories with others, you invest in them.

PS: Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

Behind the scenes: The tools I use every day

I often get asked about the tools I use for my daily work. The image above is pretty-much the standard set-up for me… extremely minimal, with everything I need and nothing I don’t need.

Here’s some more detail, including the hardware and software I use.

Hardware

I use MacBooks now for all my production work. I have a MacBook Pro for the office and a MacBook Air for writing on the move. For 20 years I was a Windows user, however, I switched to a Mac last summer and have never looked back. The design, usability, portability and speed of these machines makes them ideal for me.

I can get an idea out of my head, without having to wait or wrestle with the hardware / software. They boot up from cold in just 13 seconds and everything ‘just works’ without a hitch.

Interestingly, as I always bought high end Windows machines, I have saved hundreds by switching to Macs. Macs are only more expensive than PC’s, if you’re switching from low or mid-range PC’s. My last Lenovo Think Pad cost almost as much as my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air combined.

Thinking

I’m extremely visual, so I  have a notepad with me all the time and use it to capture ideas or simply doodle, whilst I am thinking.

It seems that the physical act of moving a pen or pencil on paper, aids my creativity. I keep all my old notepads and often go back to them months or years later, for inspiration or ideas. I love fountain pens and fine tip drawing pens. I use lots of different coloured ink. I also use mechanical pencils.

Software

Here’s the main software I use for work.

I use WordPress for blogging. There are other blogging platforms out there but none provide me with the flexibility or functionality I need, other than WordPress. It’s the only blogging platform I recommend.

I use Instagram, though in a slightly different way to most people. I use it for inspiration. I follow lots of designers and creators and often get inspired by seeing their imagery. You can join me on Instagram here.

I use iA Writer for most of my writing. It’s a distraction-free writing program, which presents you with a totally clear computer screen – no menu bars, just a 100% blank canvas.

I use Evernote mainly for capturing ideas from websites. It’s also useful as a cloud based way to organise notes, sounds and images.

I use Skype for client calls. I work with business owners worldwide and Skype allows me to not only speak with my clients, but share screens, video conference, share links and use a whiteboard together.

I use Microsoft Office. I have clients who hire me to write for them and they tend to use Word, so I use Word when writing for them. I also prefer Outlook to any of the Mac email apps.

I use PicMonkey for the graphics you see in my blog posts and social network posts. I use the premium version, though the free version does everything I need. I just like to pay developers, when I use their work. I wrote a short review of PicMonkey here.

That’s it.

Of course, it’s what we do with the tools we use that matters. However, we can make things a lot easier by selecting the correct tools for the job. I hope you found something there, which helps you with your work flow.

Main photo: Alejandro Escamilla

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