Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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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

What every business owner needs to know about promises

Have you ever seen a business, which markets itself as being average? No, neither have I, yet that’s exactly what most businesses are.

Instead, businesses are marketed as offering great, amazing or exceptional products and services. Whilst lofty marketing promises are effective at attracting the attention and interest of your marketplace, they need to be delivered on.

Here’s why this matters

After the marketing has motivated someone to make a purchase, they are left with 3 possible outcomes.

It looks like this:

  1. They are delighted. The reality was even better than the marketing. Their expectations have been exceeded. They are impressed and the vendor now has a very happy customer. The kind of customer that tells their friends about how amazing the vendor is.
  2. They are satisfied. They got what they expected. They are neither happy nor disappointed. It’s certainly not remarkable enough to share with people.
  3. They are disappointed. They got less than they expected. The marketing was overstated. The vendor has a customer who feels like they were tricked. If they do tell their friends, it’s a negative, damaging story about the vendor.

The most successful business owners increase the value they provide, then market that value accordingly. They focus on delighting people and building a great reputation. They know that it’s pointless to attract disappointed clients and customers, with overstated marketing promises.

What can we learn from this?

By committing to match our marketing promises with services and products that delight, we become truly exceptional. We retain more clients and customers. We attract more word of mouth referrals and build a massively valuable reputation.

Yes, it takes a lot of effort and energy. It’s worth it though. In fact, it’s essential for any kind of meaningful success.

How to get people excited about your business

How enthusiastic are you about the work you are doing right now?

The reason I ask you that question, is that people notice. They notice if you’re enthusiastic about your business. Equally, they notice if you lack enthusiasm and are simply going through the motions.

Here’s why this matters to you

Enthusiasm is contagious. When someone talks to us with enthusiasm, we feed off their excitement and energy. We lean forward and pay attention. It’s a positive experience, which leaves a lasting impression on us.

The lack of enthusiasm is just as contagious. When someone talks to us about their business in the typical, predictable way, we feed off their lack of interest. We politely nod. We soon forget them and whatever they said.

We can’t expect our staff, clients, customers, contacts or the marketplace in general to be enthusiastic about our business, if we’re not.

The bottom line: If you feel enthusiastic about your business, don’t hold back. Let it shine! If you’re not enthusiastic, find out why and work on it.

How to lift your business to a whole new level

If your business has been spinning it’s wheels or it’s growth is slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

I’m going to show you how to get your business flying, based on 2 questions that every successful business needs to answer. Yes, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I want to achieve with my business?
  2. Am I willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners have no clear idea of what they want to achieve. They say things like they want a successful business or they want to be wealthy, but they never get specific. Here’s the thing: You can’t know if you are on track or not, with no clear destination.

The key, is to get specific. Describe in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

A great way to get clear on this, is to ask yourself the following question: If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down!

Avoid general terms and use specifics. Also, use numbers in your answer whenever possible.

For example, include things like:

  • How much you want your business to generate in revenue and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • How much you want to earn.
  • How much you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

Then, describe things like the type of clients or customers you want, what your typical work day would look like and where your business would be located, etc.

Build as clear a picture as possible and include everything that matters to you.

Once you have the specifics written down, it’s time to answer the next question.

Are you willing to pay the price?

The challenge with this question, is that business owners tend to give the wrong answer. We tend to say we work hard and that we work long hours.

That is not what the question asks!

The question is about our willingness to do what’s required in order to succeed. It asks us if we’re willing to leave our comfort zones… again and again. Paying the price for success means doing 100% of what’s required, not cherry-picking the things we feel comfortable with. It means committing to pay the price of success in advance, with no guarantees.

Here’s why we make the extra effort

It looks like this:

  • Success belongs to those who take time to decide exactly what they want to achieve and who then determine to pay the price for success.
  • Those with less clarity and less commitment, find themselves working hard and making too little progress.

Interestingly, although the difference in the rewards between those approaches is immeasurable, the extra effort required is relatively small.

The good news is that as you become more familiar with leaving your comfort zone, it gets easier and easier. Equally, the motivation to pay the price becomes greater, when you start to see the results and rewards coming in.

Tip: I recommend you read this — What everybody ought to know about Comfort Zones.

How to build a great business, doing things YOUR way

If you want to work with better clients and never need to compete based on fees again, here’s something to consider.

Doing things your way

The moment you stop offering a similar service to your competitors, you stop competing with them. The great news here, is that no matter what industry you are in, you can do things your way and build a highly profitable niche of your own.

Here are 4 examples, from very different industries:

  • The accountant, who set up a forum for his clients, so they can network together, help one another and buy from one another.
  • The coffee shop owner, who offers customers poetry evenings and creative writing events.
  • The dentist, who provides classes for people who have an irrational fear of dentists.
  • The gardener, who not only keeps your garden looking great, but also provides all the garden consumables you need and delivers them.

How to make it work for you

Think about your ideal client. Consider their challenges and needs. Now, think of a new service that could help them with those challenges. Alternatively, look for additional, valuable elements, which you can add to one or more of your existing services.

Tip: A great place to find ideas you can use, is to look outside your industry for inspiration. Something that’s extremely common in one industry, is often unheard of in another.

If you need a little help getting your ideas into action, I strongly suggest you read this.

How to put your ideas into action

There are 2 types of idea people:

  1. Those who have lots of ideas.
  2. Those who have lots of ideas… and do something with them.

Putting your ideas into action

The rewards in business always go to those, who do something with their ideas. Here’s how they tend to get their ideas into action:

  • Just like everyone else, they get an idea.
  • From this point on, they act very differently to the average person.
  • They write their idea down, whilst it’s still fresh in their mind.
  • They chew on it for a while.
  • Then, if it’s worth working on, they develop a simple plan to get it out of their head and into the world.
  • They take the first step on that plan. Then the next…

Failure and criticism

The key difference between those who work on their ideas and those who do not, seems to be their mindset regarding failure and criticism.

Those who act on their ideas, see failure as feedback. They are fine learning from the feedback they get from shipping their ideas. Those who act on their ideas see criticism as a natural part of achieving anything worthwhile. They regard criticism as a sign they are doing something that’s making a splash.

It’s their mindset, not the value of their ideas, which makes all the difference.

Try this

I’ve written about fear and failure a lot in the past. This particular post is one you may find useful. It shows how to turn fear into a valuable business asset.

How stories help you grow your business

I recently bought 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. I don’t like chocolate chip cookies. My family are not especially keen on them either. So, what motivated me to buy them?

People buy the story

When a child from the village school comes to my door selling cookies, it feels different than when a shop is selling them. Even if the product is the same, the story behind the cookies is what we pay for. I wanted to support the local school, so I now have 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies.

Your business has a story. The question you need to ponder, is whether your story is motivating enough. Here are some ideas and examples to help you.

Who are you selling to? The answer may surprise you!

Are you selling to yourself? That may seem like a silly question, yet it’s one of the most important questions in marketing.

Why? Because business owners tend to market their products as if they were selling to themselves — when they should be marketing to their prospective clients or customers.

Now, if you are a lawyer and your prospective clients are lawyers, that works fine. However, if you sell to people whose needs and wants are different to your own, you need to change your marketing so it’s focused on them.

For example:

  • Read the marketing of most accountants and you will find lots of statistics and graphs. This is what accountants love, but not their prospective clients. The prospective client wants to know what the accountant can do for them and their business. They want to know why they should hire this accountant and not an equally qualified competitor. They want the story behind the stats.
  • Read the marketing of most web designers and it’s filled with jargon and buzzwords. They talk about things like; HTML5, Java, CSS, standards compliance and responsive design. These are things designers love to talk about, but not their prospective clients. Their prospective clients want a professional looking site. They want a site that is an asset to their business.

Anyone using that approach is leaving money on the table. Don’t let it happen to you.

Match your message to their wants and needs

Take a look at your marketing messages, from your prospective client’s vantage point. If possible, ask a prospective client to read your marketing and tell you what it says to them. Determine if you’re marketing based on what they need to hear or on what you think is important. Also, check to see if you are using their language or yours. Sometimes we get so used to industry words, that we forget they are meaningless and confusing to everyone else.

The better you communicate how valuable your services are, the easier you will attract more, great clients or customers.

Recommended Reading: Here’s another good reason not to use buzzwords in your marketing.

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