Here’s a Window of Opportunity for you and your business

I’d like to talk with you today about something important, which I haven’t covered previously. It’s about the price you pay, when you’re waiting on other people to make a decision.

All the while you’re waiting on a prospective client or customer to give you their decision, they occupy a significant chunk of your mind. Their indecision can also be a significant cause of stress, as the will-they-or-won’t-they dance is carried out in your mind.

How I solved this problem and how you can too

It’s hard to think with clarity about future plans, when the indecision of others is weighing heavily on your mind. So, it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure you protect yourself and your business. The strategy I use is based on what I call Windows of Opportunity.

Allow me to explain.

How my Windows of Opportunity work

Whenever a prospective client makes an inquiry about working with me, I open a Window of Opportunity in my diary.

It looks something like this:

  • The Window of Opportunity has a start date and an end date. The end date is based on how much time I am prepared to invest, to take them from a prospective client… to a client.
  • During their Window of Opportunity, I’m committed to providing them with everything they need in order to make the right decision for their business.
  • However, once their Window of Opportunity is closed, if they are still unable to make a decision, I invest my time and focus elsewhere.
  • I also consider their inquiry closed, meaning I no longer factor their decision into my plans moving forward. This helps me retain total clarity regarding my business. It’s hard to make future plans or determine future capacity, when you’re factoring in “potential” income from “potential” clients — many of whom are time wasters.
  • If they reply after this date asking to work with me, and I am still willing to work with them, I have a single, additional conversation with them. They could have had a perfectly good reason for delaying. In such cases I am always happy to provide an additional conversation.

If indecisive prospective clients or time-wasters are taking their toll on you and your business, consider taking control of the situation by working within your own Windows of Opportunity. This will give you the freedom to plan ahead with clarity, rather than the mind-fog that hampers so many hard working small business owners.

Not only will you enjoy clearer thinking and less stress, you will save a huge amount of time too.

The Apple gift that backfired horribly

I’ve often written about the damage that can be caused, when you push your marketing at people. No matter how great your product or service is, how great your offer is or how good your intentions are, people hate having things forced upon them.

Apple learned this recently, with a poorly judged marketing decision to help promote their new iPhones.

The gift that backfired

As part of the launch for Apple’s new iPhone’s, Apple pushed a copy of the new U2 album Songs of Innocence, into 500,000,000 iTunes accounts. Half a billion people found they had purchased the album, without their permission. Although the album was free, the fact it was forced on people resulted in a huge, negative backlash, which has lasted for a week so far.

The resulting bad publicity saw websites around the world, including The BBC, offer advice on how to remove the album from your iTunes account. Then Apple themselves were forced to respond, by providing a page on their website, see above, which showed users how to delete the album they never asked for.

This response by Apple was then reported on, prolonging the bad publicity.

The lesson?

People dislike having what YOU want, forced on them.

Even though the album was free. Even though the album is pretty good. Even though U2 have a large, international fan base and have won more Grammy Awards than any other band in music history, no one asked for the album. The album was pushed at them.

The lesson here is that when you push marketing at people, they push back. Instead, earn permission and act within the expectation of the relationship you have with your audience.

Something to remember when times are tough

professional development,

When times are tough, it’s easy to feel negative. The thing is, so long as you’re still in the game, still working hard and still working smart, your situation can improve at any moment.

Think about it:

  • You could be one idea away from a life-changing breakthrough.
  • You could be one email away from a great client inquiry.
  • You could be one phone call away from converting an inquiry into your most valuable client ever.
  • You could be one decision away from an amazing opportunity.
  • You could be one conversation away from your largest ever order.
  • You could be one message away from the biggest contract of your life.

These opportunities and many, many others can happen at any time. The world if packed with stories of people who achieved their greatest triumphs, following a period of bitter disappointment.

So, keep on keeping on. Work hard. Work smart. If you need help, get help. If you need to adjust your approach, make the improvements required… but never, ever, ever lose hope.

Stop looking for certainty. Seriously. Stop it!

One of the most valuable skills in business, is the ability to make decisions. The reason this skill is  so valuable is that it’s extremely rare.

I receive hundreds of emails every week from small business owners with problems. In most cases, the primary reason their businesses struggle is their inability to make a decision. They want certainty before they commit — this, in a world without certainty!

Here’s what the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs do:

  • They do the research.
  • They get the facts.
  • They seek expert advice, if required.
  • They make a decision.
  • They take action.

At no point do they seek out certainty. If they did, they’d never do anything!

Don’t let this guy ruin your marketing

marketing tips, marketing ideas, sales

So, who is that guy?

He or she, is the person who doesn’t ‘get’ what you’re saying. They can’t see the value. They can’t see your point. They frustrate you with questions that show zero understanding of your message.

Why that guy is different

Here’s what makes that guy different, from a prospective client or customer who needs clarification:

That guy is not in the market for whatever you are offering. Their questions come when there’s nothing wrong with the value you provide or the way you explain your value. The problem occurs because that guy is the wrong audience for what you have to say, but they haven’t figured that out.

They’re puzzled. They’re confused. And even though they will never be in the market for what you provide, they feel the need to ask you a series of confusing, frustrating, irrelevant questions.

I found that guy on a blog today

I was prompted to write this, after reading a series of comments left on a blog post. The blogger wrote a compelling, well reasoned piece on the value of building a community. The commenter totally missed the point. He asked the blogger to explain things, which were crystal clear.

The commenter was totally baffled, regardless of how hard the blogger tried to explain her point. He was a fish out of water — the wrong audience for the blogger’s message, yet he insisted on asking half a dozen frustrating, off-topic questions.

So, how can that guy ruin your marketing?

To avoid questions from that guy, there’s a temptation to dumb down your marketing, so as to address every possible misunderstanding. This fails you on 2 counts:

  1. By dumbing down your marketing in anticipation of that guy, answering every potential question in advance, you end up with vague, over-long copy. This massively reduces the power of your marketing message. Brevity sells.
  2. By dumbing down your marketing, you write for that guy and NOT your prospective clients or customers. This is the exact opposite of what marketing is about.

Whether you write the marketing content for your company, are a blogger or a newsletter provider, resist the temptation to write for that guy. Write for your target market. Always.

Clarity is the key

The most effective marketing, is marketing that inspires people to take action. It compels them to buy from you, visit you, hire you, call you or email you. This can only be achieved when you write with clarity, for your ideal profile of client or customer.

Trying to anticipate and answer every misunderstanding, in advance, which that guy comes up with, will detract from your message. It will destroy your marketing. It may also drive you a little crazy.

5 Tips to keep your business on track

Here are some quick tips, to inspire you to make better decisions.

  1. If you have an idea, don’t poll your friends. Great ideas are not anointed — they fly or die based on merit and hard work.
  2. When they told you: “Don’t work hard, work smart!”, they lied. It’s not about working smart instead of working hard. Success requires both.
  3. Steve Martin was right. The best way to get noticed, is to be so good that they can’t ignore you.
  4. Avoid offering free consultations. Firstly, they massively undervalue your work. Secondly, they attract time-wasters like light attracts moths.
  5. The money is not in the list.

I hope you found this useful.

Does email marketing work?

email work

Yes, email marketing does work… so long as you do it correctly.

Allow me to explain

Last month, my friend Irene sent an email marketing message to the community of newsletter readers, which we have nurtured for her lighting business. I’ve been helping with her marketing and was delighted, when a very impressive 18% of her readers made a purchase.

I was even happier for Irene, when within 9 days, she’d generated just over $32,000 in sales, with an average profit margin of 55%. The business is just 11 months old.

When email marketing doesn’t work

Most small business owners handle their own email marketing. They buy lists, when they should be building a community. They then send a marketing message to their list, which they write themselves. Their home made marketing message fails to inspire their readers to take action. It fails to compel their readers to make a purchase or hire them.

Of course, it fails the business owner too. An average list, coupled with DIY content, produces predictably bad results.

In a nutshell: Email marketing works, so long as you handle it correctly. If you have lots of money and even more time, you can learn how to do it yourself. If you’re not wealthy and you can’t afford to waste more time, get expert help.

How to make the right business decisions

Business development

I’d like to share some ideas with you today, about your role in your business.

You often hear small business owners talking about how many hats they wear. They’re referring to the number of different roles they play within their business. Whilst every business owner wears a number of different hats, it’s important to know the difference between what we should do and what needs an expert.

Specialist and non specialist areas of business

It’s fine for us to run the business, deal with clients and customers and control the areas of our business, where we are an expert. It’s fine for us to make the major decisions and deal with suppliers etc. However, when it comes to specialist areas of the business, we need expert help if we want to achieve the right results.

Common examples of how to lose a fortune, by wearing the wrong hat.

  • Yes, you probably could do your own accounts, but a qualified accountant will be able to lower your tax and spot problems, before they happen.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own HR, but if you end up in a dispute with an employee, you could end up losing thousands or being sued out of business.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own marketing, but you will soon reach a plateau, find it hard to grow, then hard to survive. A marketing professional will show you exactly what you need to do, to take your business to the next level and beyond.
  • Yes, you probably could design your own website, but a professional web designer will make it look polished and professional… rather than the work of a keen amateur.

It’s hard for a business owner to fail, when they work hard, doing the right things correctly, based on expert advice.

Conversely, it’s almost impossible to succeed, no matter how hard we work, no matter how passionate we are, if we’re wearing too many hats.

In short: You need to give your business the resources it needs, if you want it to succeed. To expect it to succeed on a mixture of general advice and DIY tactics, is a very costly and usually fatal mistake.

Tell me about you!

I love to receive messages or emails from readers. In fact, it’s easily the most rewarding part of writing Jim’s Marketing Blog.

Because of this, I have made it extremely easy for you to connect with me:

  • If you subscribe to Jim’s Marketing Blog via email, you can email me simply by replying to any of the updates. I read every email.
  • You are very welcome to email me direct using this link.
  • You may want to join me on Twitter.  The good folks at Twitter have given me a very special Twitter account, which allows everyone who follows me, to send me a Direct Message. So, just by following my account, you can instantly send me messages in private.
  • You can call my office on 01427 891274 or +44 1427 891274 (from outside the UK).
  • Finally, you are welcome to either friend or follow me on Facebook.

I look forward to hearing from you; whether it’s just to say “hi”, introduce yourself or share an idea. So, let’s connect!

PS: No sales pitches, please.

Why people criticise you and how to deal with it in just 3 steps

criticise me, negative, criticize me, why people

Here is a simple, powerful 3 step process, to help you totally overcome the impact or fear of negative criticism.

Broadly, all of your critics can be divided into 1 of the following 2 groups:

  1. Those who want to help you and encourage you.
  2. Those who want to hinder you and see you fail.

It’s the second type of critic, which I want to talk to you about today. It’s that type of negative criticism, which stops many of us from being willing to stand out. It stops us putting our work or art out there. It encourages us to keep our head down. To follow the crowd.

The power of a critic

If you want your business to stand out, to attract lots of word of mouth referrals, it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from influencing you.

Why?

Because just about everything you need to do in order to market your business successfully, especially online, is visible and wide open to criticism. Anything you do, which is different enough for the marketplace to value it, is also visible enough for critics to criticise it.

So, you either learn to deal with it or do what most small business owners do, and run a business in the shadows, which is not a wise marketing move!

3 Steps to deal with negative criticism

Fortunately, dealing with negative criticism is relatively easy, so long as you learn to accept it for what it is. Once you understand why criticism happens, it eliminates its negative impact and allows you to focus all your effort on putting your best work out there.

Because I publish lots of material to a large audience, I get negative criticism regularly. In fact, the better my work, the more likely it is that at least one person will criticise it or criticise me for writing it.

Here are the 3 steps I used, to totally eliminate the negative impact of criticism.

1. Consider their motivation

When someone feels the need to negatively criticise your work, they are satisfying a need they have. It’s always about them, not you or your work.

Even if someone is negatively criticising you because they hope it will help you improve, it’s to satisfy their desire to help.

So, whatever the intention, criticism is always about the critic!

Understanding this is a key part of disempowering the critic’s influence over you and how you feel. When you accept that it’s NOT about you or your work, you see criticism for what it is – a selfish act perpetrated to feed a need the critic has – positive or negative.

Of course, even if the motivation is negative, if they are an expert in the field, you can still learn from what the critic says. Scientists often negatively criticise the work of their peers, people who really know their subject. That kind of criticism may be negative, but it can bring value with it.

This brings us nicely to the second step.

2. Consider the source

Is the person who is negatively criticising you, qualified to criticise you? Most criticism is unqualified. That’s to say, the person criticising your work doesn’t know enough about the subject or what you’re trying to achieve, to offer anything other than an uninformed opinion.

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

3. Use negative criticism as weights in your mental gym

With each piece of criticism that you run through the previous 2 steps, you build your resistance to the negative impact of critics. Just as lifting weights builds your muscles, processing negative criticism builds your emotional defences. Each time you are criticised and see it for what it really is, it becomes easier. Less daunting. Less fearsome.

Pretty soon, you learn to be fascinated by criticism and what it tells you about the other person. You quickly learn that if no one is criticising you, you are either invisible, doing work that fails to stand out… or both.

Finally, don’t try and avoid negative criticism. It will rob you of your voice. No criticism means no impact!