Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Facebook Business Pages: Why your results just nosedived

As some of you may know, the new Facebook Business Page strategy was recently leaked. It has prompted an outcry from business owners.

Here’s why

A leaked slide deck shows that organic (unpaid) posts you share via your Facebook Business Page, will reach fewer and fewer people. As Advertising Age put it:

“If they haven’t already, many marketers will soon see the organic reach of their posts on the social network drop off, and this time Facebook is acknowledging it.” [Full article]

A number of you have asked me to share my thoughts, so here they are!

As long time readers will know, I dislike Facebook’s approach to the privacy of Facebook users and the way it tends to say one thing and do the other. However, from a business perspective it has one undeniable asset. It has well over a billion users. It’s by far the biggest social network, though Facebook recently admitted that the number of daily users is dropping.

How Facebook initially lured business owners

With such a huge network, Facebook found it easy to convince business owners to get a free, Business Page. Facebook offered the opportunity for businesses and brands to connect with their marketplace and provided lots of free tools. It seemed too good to be true.

So, business owners invested heavily in promoting their Facebook Pages in their marketing. Signs sprung up everywhere, with businesses and brands asking people to “find us on Facebook”.

Encouraged by so-called Facebook experts (who have zero advance warning of Facebook policy changes), many made the mistake of using their free Facebook Page, as their primary way to connect with their community.

Facebook then made a BIG change to the rules

In autumn 2012, Facebook was discovered to be doing something that would change things completely for Business Page users:

Facebook was found “[...] quietly altering one of its key algorithms in September, so that companies with pages that have large numbers of followers can now only reach a fraction of the followers they used to with each post.” Business Insider.

Suddenly, people who were asked to “Find us on Facebook”, couldn’t see what Facebook Business Page owners were posting!

Facebook denied any wrongdoing and said the move was intended to enhance the Facebook experience. Few people, including me, believed them. However, the facts remained the same. It meant that business owners, who had already invested heavily in getting ‘fans’ to their Facebook Business Pages, now had to pay in order to reach them all.

Facebook leak: Positioning Business Pages as paid advertising

Then in December 2013, an article on Advertising Age titled: Facebook Admits Organic Reach Is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads, shows Facebook’s intentions moving forward. As well as saying that fewer and fewer people will see what you post from your Business Page, the following excerpt caught my eye:

“The three-page document also contains a section that repositions how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. [...]” Full article here.

The message here is that business owners need to stop thinking of Facebook Business Pages as a free way to connect with their marketplace. It isn’t. At best, it’s a way to connect, for free, with a decreasing fraction of the people who ‘like’ their Business Page.

Moving forward, Facebook Business Pages should be seen as a targeted form of paid advertising. In that context, it could be a useful advertising tool. However, business owners seeing it as a free marketing tool are in for a shock, as fewer and fewer people see what they post for free.

Facebook Business Pages shouldn’t be your online home

For years, I have advised people not to build their house on rented land. In other words, direct people to your blog or website. Use something YOU own as your online hub… your online home.

When you build your main community on Facebook (or any third party network), you lose control. THEY own the access you have, to YOUR community. As Facebook just demonstrated, they can and will change the rules and you get to pay the price.

My advice

My advice remains the same as it has always been:

  • Build your own home on the Internet. A place where you are in control. Where you make the rules. By far, a self-hosted blog is the best way to achieve this.
  • Build and own your community database (what Internet marketers call ‘your list’).
  • Produce either a newsletter or (as I have done) a blog that has an email subscription option. Thousands of people will read this message today, via email, because I decided to make Jim’s Marketing Blog my online hub… not Facebook.
  • Don’t be one of those business owners, who is sharing ideas, insights and observations on social networks every day, when your blog hasn’t been updated in weeks. Feed your business blog or website… not Facebook!
  • Remember that Twitter, Google+ and other social networks are not immune from the kind of stunt Facebook pulled. They are not. We don’t know what they have planned.

Consider Facebook Business Pages as a way to build a targeted, paid advertising channel. Increasingly, that’s exactly what it is becoming.

Most importantly, build your community on your own website or blog. Motivate your marketplace to subscribe to your newsletter or blog via email. This puts the development of your community (or list) and the ability to connect with them, 100% in YOUR hands.

7 Simple tips to make your marketing more powerful

Marketing tips, marketing advice

Communication is one of the most overlooked and underrated skills in business. It’s often seen as a soft skill… something that’s useful, but not essential.

I disagree.

The business owner who is unable to communicate her vision, is likely to struggle just as much as the business owner who has no vision. That’s why as business owners, we need to continuously improve our communication skills.

Some tips for better marketing communication

When seeking to share an idea, whether spoken or written, you may find the following tips useful:

  1. Research your audience.
  2. Think of the core points you want to make. List them in order.
  3. Stay on track, by following the list.
  4. Use as few words as required. Brevity is priceless. Too many words can dilute the power or impact of your message.
  5. Avoid buzz words. Use plain speaking whenever possible.
  6. Understand that volume is seldom the problem. A bad message amplified, is still a bad message!
  7. When people respond, listen, really listen, to their feedback. Look for common misunderstandings and adjust your message to avoid them recurring.

In short: When we have something worth saying, it pays to know how to say it (or write it), as effectively as possible.

What everybody ought to know about comfort zones

I’d like to share a key decision with you today, which every successful business owner needs to make.

Predicting the future of your business

If you want to know where your business will be in 12 months time, take a look at your progress over the past 12 months, then project it forward 12 months.

In other words, if you continue with the same mindset, values and strategies, you can expect more of the same.

Causality

Cause and effect assures us that if you want another year just like the last one, you should carry on with what you have been doing. By doing the same things (causes) you will get the same results (effects). However, if you want more from 2014 than you experienced in 2013, you need to make a decision.

A big decision.

You need to embrace the improvements required, to get you from where you are to where you want to be. This means accepting the need to change… to move from what is comfortable and failing you, to what is unfamiliar, but effective.

So, why bother?

  • Running a struggling business is about working hard and making do. It’s about getting by. It’s about having to compromise.
  • Running a successful business is about working hard, but enjoying all the rewards. It’s about earning much more than you need. It’s about being able to build a wall of financial security around your loved ones, which nothing can break.

It starts by understanding, that the least comfortable thing you can do for your future self, is to cling onto your comfort zone.

Get strategic.

Embrace change. (This will help.)

Seek improvement.

Work smarter.

Just don’t carry on doing the same things, expecting things to magically improve. To paraphrase Einstein, insanity is repeating the same experiment and expecting different results.

The little things that make a huge difference

In business, it’s often the little things that have the biggest impact. I was thinking about this yesterday, when a shop assistant greeted me, using my name.

Good morning Jim

As we made eye contact, she welcomed me by saying, “Good morning Jim”. I don’t use the shop that often and was impressed that she remembered me. It started a whole conversation, which would not have happened had she not used my name. The conversation had little to do with shopping but had everything to do with building a relationship with me.

  • It humanised my shopping experience. Business is always about people.
  • It provided me with something I can’t get online. (This is really important for high street retailers).
  • It opened a channel of comfortable dialogue. In other words, the shop assistant was able to learn a little about me and my needs, but in an effortless, non-pushy way.

All this started, with something as simple as remembering a customer’s name. Just 3 small words, which transformed my customer experience.

Yes, some of the things needed for business success require us to make significant changes or improvements. However, it’s the simple things, repeated frequently, that have the biggest impact.

How to get your marketing shared on social networks

The most successful marketing today, is not marketing that’s pushed at people.

The most successful marketing today, is marketing that people share with their friends.

Pestering people is cheap

The reason we receive so many spam emails and see all those unwanted sales messages on social networking sites, is that it has never been cheaper (in every sense of the word) to pester huge numbers of people. There’s no barrier to entry today. Now, if we go back just 10 or 15 years, if you wanted to get a message in front of 100,000 people, it was expensive. Today, it can be done for peanuts.

Pestering people is cheap, has little risk attached and requires little creativity. As a result, it’s everywhere – even though people are getting better and better at ignoring it.

The inspiration deficit

Where we see a shortage, is in business owners who have crafted a compelling story, which people want to share. I call this the inspiration deficit.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other platforms are PACKED FULL of hundreds of millions of people, who are looking for something interesting to share with their friends. We even have a name for people, who spend their social networking time sharing other people’s information. We call them curators.

There’s no lack of people willing and ready to share our message.

The deficit is caused by the lack of business owners, who are willing to invest the time, effort, energy and creativity to build a story about their business that’s worth sharing.

The BIG inspiration pay off

As business owners, we must learn to stop pushing an uninspiring story. No, people are not interested in yet another provider, who is just a little less expensive or who delivers just a little faster than average. Instead, we need to learn to feed the marketplace with a compelling story and allow the marketplace to spread our message for us.

Is it worth the extra effort, to create a compelling service or customer experience, which people will feel motivated to talk about? Well, think of it like this. Right now, there are hundreds of millions of people waiting for you to give them a story worth sharing.

In the worst economic climate in living memory, that’s a pretty compelling reason to invest the extra effort.

PS: Need some free help on how to create inspirational ideas, products and services? Here are dozens of free articles, just for you!

What everybody ought to know about thinking big

There’s something magical about thinking big.

It works like this:

  • By thinking big, you find yourself making bigger plans than before.
  • The magic of making bigger plans, is that they inspire you to make bigger decisions.
  • The magic of making big decisions, is that they motivate you to take action.

No one gets excited or motivated by average plans or ideas. If you’re not feeling motivated right now, it’s entirely possible your plans are not big enough, exciting enough or compelling enough for you.

PS: In this 110 minute audio program, I share lots of ideas and techniques on how to motivate yourself and how to motivate others.

Reach out, pay it forward and watch your whole world improve!

Here’s a suggestion: When you connect with people today, leave them in a better position than you found them.

The temptation is for us to treat the people we connect with (off-line or on-line), with respect, but not to invest in them. Sure, we say please and thank you, but seldom look for an opportunity to invest in them.

The thing is, a few words from you can have a genuine, positive impact on someone who needs it.

For example:

  • Your words can boost their confidence, when they were starting to doubt themselves.
  • Your words can help shift their focus from negative or neutral, to positive.
  • Your words can encourage them, when they were beginning to lose faith.
  • And your smile may be the only sunshine they see today. Many people outwardly look happy, yet inside they are hurting. Something as simple as a smile or a sincere “thank you” can make a huge difference.

So, why did I refer to all this giving as an investment?

A non typical Investment

Many businesspeople seem unable to understand that some things, are hard to measure immediately on a spreadsheet. If they can not see an obvious financial reward for doing something, they don’t do it. Investing in others fits into that category.

Business is all about people. Running a business with the kind of mindset I have just shared, improves how people feel about you. I have lost count of the times that someone I encouraged, has later been of just as much help to me… sometimes more.

You know what though? The sceptics are wrong!

Ironically, when we look back and, as Steve Jobs said, “join the dots,” we find that these hard to measure acts often end up having a direct, measurable impact on our own success. Oh, and if you want to start paying it forward immediately, why not share this message with your friends.

Marketing 101: The race to the bottom

Race to the bottom

Without knowing it, many small business owners are engaged in a dangerous race to the bottom. In today’s post, I explain what’s meant by marketing professionals when we say race to the bottom, and why it’s almost always a terrible strategy for small businesses.

The Financial Times defines the race to the bottom as:

The situation in which companies and countries try to compete with each other by cutting wages and living standards for workers, and the production of goods is moved to the place where the wages are lowest and the workers have the fewest rights.

In small business marketing, we tend to use the term to refer to making sales or winning new clients, based on being the cheapest option. This is most common among commodity businesses. The ‘winner’ of the race to the bottom is the business that’s the cheapest at that time.

Some large companies use their financial muscle to work successfully with small profit margins. They have strategies in place, as the FT quote suggests, that allows them to compete on very low prices.

However, small business owners tend to just lower their fees (or prices), as a way to make more sales or attract more clients. They then find competitors do the same (see below) and the race to the bottom (the lowest price) begins. This small business scenario, is what today’s post is all about.

What does the winner get as their prize?

They get, wait for it, the privilege of building a client list of fee sensitive people, who will leave them the moment a cheaper provider comes along. It’s a high risk, low return strategy. It requires you to constantly look for ways to lower your overhead, cut corners and speed things up. All this, in an effort to attract the least loyal profile of clients in the world… those who switch from provider to provider, looking for the lowest fees or prices.

Why is such a high risk, low return strategy so popular with small business owners?

Simple: They see it as a fast way to attract more clients or make more sales. However, a look at the medium term picture shows how this can go horribly wrong.

Here’s what I have seen small businesses do over and over again:

  • They lower their fees (or prices) by 10% and see that they get a slightly better sales conversion rate.
  • So, they lower their fees by another 10% and see it improves sales even more.
  • Some of their competitors decide to do the same. Now, the race to the bottom is on!
  • That first business now needs to lower their fees by another 10%, because their competitors are charging the same kind of fees as them. Their fees are now rock bottom or very close to rock bottom.
  • After a while, they are working with clients or making sales, with very little profit.
  • If a better funded competitor then decides to undercut them, they have to try and survive on fewer and fewer clients, who are hardly profitable.
  • Alternatively, if their overheads increase and they have to start increasing their fees, all those fee sensitive clients they raced to win, start looking for the new, cheapest provider.

In the absence of an effective marketing strategy, it’s just too easy to lower your fees in order to get some fast money into your business. If this is something you are considering, please think about the medium term and longer term consequences.

PS: Here’s the best way I know, for you to grow a great business in a competitive industry, WITHOUT EVER lowering your fees.

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