Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

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Why your marketing messages must be backed up with action


Society places huge value in people, who deliver the goods. It’s easy to see why, when you consider that we have all been let down at some point by people, products or services.

Keeping a promise

In their eagerness to craft a massively powerful marketing message, some brands seem to forget that their marketing message is a promise. A promise that sets an expectation – an expectation that must be met or exceeded.

The thing is:

  • Telling prospective customers that you will provide them with exceptional customer service is easy, which is why almost every provider says it.
  • Delivering exceptional customer service is harder, which is why so few providers manage it.

Getting the balance right

Either make smaller promises that you know you can deliver or make bold promises, which you will find a way to deliver. The smartest small business owners focus on the latter. It’s what sets them apart and makes them so valuable.

Does your work carry your signature?

If you know the work of any famous painter, it’s relatively easy to identify their art.


Great artists stand out, because their style is almost like a signature. It’s something unique to them. They may use the same type of paint, brushes and canvas as thousands of others, but what they do with those materials is uniquely ‘them’.

Interestingly, we find when studying the work of any successful business person, that his or her work is just as individual as a famous painter. They may use the same business tools as thousands of others, but what they do with those tools is uniquely ‘them’. It’s their signature.

What are you focusing on, the tools or what you do with them?

That’s an important question. For example, lots of business owners use email marketing, yet their message is predictable and lacks their unique signature. Millions of business owners use social networks, mostly in a very predictable way, with no unique signature.

Success comes from stepping away from the masses and doing things your way. For example.

  • If you want more followers, do something worth following. Don’t copy what everyone else is saying.
  • If you want more word of mouth referrals, do something worth talking about. Don’t copy what everyone else is doing.
  • If you want to attract higher fees, do something worth paying more for. Don’t copy what everyone else is offering.

In my experience, Dr. Seuss was right when he said, Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Your uniqueness is your greatest asset.

The Art of Work

Johan Hansson

There are artists in every line of business, usually doing a wonderful job and loving it. I was thinking about this earlier today, when I witnessed something that was quite remarkable.

An enlightening experience

A rear light bulb in my wife’s car had blown, so I went to a local car parts shop to get a replacement. I looked on the shelves and there was a dizzying array of choices, rows and rows of bulbs which were slightly different from each other.

The shop manager, seeing I was clearly puzzled with so many choices, asked if he could help. He was standing about 20 feet away. He looked at the bulb in my hand and immediately walked straight to a shelf, picked up a bulb and handed it to me.

‘You need this’, he said.

‘Thanks’, I replied.

Then it struck me…

It was only as I was paying for the bulb, that I realised what had just happened. He’d spotted and correctly identified the bulb I needed, from a massive array of alternatives, from around 20 feet away, with no help from me whatsoever. He checked the package on closer inspection of the bulb I brought in, and confirmed he’d given me the right replacement.

‘How did you do that?’, I asked.

He replied, ‘I have been handling car parts for 25 years. I know all their subtle differences from pretty-much any angle. Even with such a small light bulb and from a bit of a distance, I knew exactly what you were looking for. It takes years of practice.”

I think it’s wrong to assume that there is no art or craft, in what most people consider to be non artistic jobs. There is. No, not everyone in every profession performs like an artist. We all meet people who are clearly in the wrong job. We all encounter people who look bored with their work.

However, there are some quite amazing people out there, in every profession, who make a craft of what they do. We just need to be open-minded enough, to see them.

Is your business making a difference?

If you want to say goodbye to fee sensitive clients or cost conscious customers, this post is just for you!

The Apple Mac difference

During the worst economy in decades, Apple Inc. managed to achieve record breaking profits, whilst others in the same industry selling lower priced alternatives, really struggled.

Apple MacBook Pro

So, why is that?

In my experience, the difference is not about the speed, design, build quality or the operating system on a Mac. It isn’t about being part of the Apple tribe or making a fashion statement either.

The difference is the combination of all those things and more, to create something that will be extremely attractive to a certain type of consumer – someone who values that difference enough to pay a premium for it. It’s a great demonstration of the value of creating a product, which is useful and demonstrably different from alternatives.

Insiders and outsiders

With every successful product or service, there are insiders and outsiders. Apple has focused hard on being directly relevant to their insiders and thus are pretty-much irrelevant to everyone else (their outsiders). Those who believe Macs are overpriced, can’t understand why others ‘waste their money’ on them. They quote the specifications of their PC’s to Mac users and the price they paid, to demonstrate what a terrible choice Macs are. Mac users then seem amazed that the PC users ‘don’t get it’ when it comes to the Mac difference.

Had Apple tried to create computers that appealed to everyone, from the budget conscious to those looking for expensive, high specification computers, they would be directly competing against great companies like; Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba, Asus and others. Instead, they have created a segment of the computing marketplace, which they own 100%. If you want a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air an iMac, a Mac Pro or a Mac Mini – Apple get the sale.

Making it work for you and your business

When it comes to most small businesses, the products or services they provide (or something pretty similar), can be purchased from someone else. They find themselves competing in a crowded marketplace, which THEY decided to join, by failing to differentiate themselves.

However, some very smart and extremely profitable small business owners, have stepped away from the masses and focused on delivering something that is uniquely valuable. These include:

  • Designers, who have allowed themselves to develop a unique style, which you can only get from them.
  • Coffee shop owners, who have created an enjoyable, very special atmosphere, which appeals directly to a certain type of customer.
  • Accountants, who are not offering the same, dull list of services as all their competitors.
  • Trainers, who have developed a uniquely effective training style, which sees them in very high demand.
  • Photographers, who know that they create art with every photo they take and who are irresistible to those who appreciate their art.

Yes, it takes creativity and courage to develop your own niche or segment of the marketplace. No, it isn’t easy, either. That’s why so few small business owners attempt it. However, it can be a hugely effective way to grow an extremely successful, profitable business.

Steve Jobs and the power of focus

Steve jobs, focus, ideas

How many new projects are you working on right now?

I ask you this, because one of the fastest ways to massively improve your effectiveness, is to give your full focus to as few projects as possible.


When you are a small business owner or consultant, you have a limited number of resources. By spreading yourself too thinly, across too many ideas or opportunities, you dilute how effective you can be at any one of those projects.

By deliberately choosing to focus on one good business idea at a time, and saying ‘no’ to the hundreds of other ideas demanding your attention, you get to give your full mental resources to the development of that idea. You also eliminate Mind Fog – that fuzzy thinking, which can come from focusing on too many things at one time.

Steve Jobs on focus

Steve Jobs shared his thoughts on the power of focus, at the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference in 1997:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
- Steve Jobs

In short: Go for clarity of focus. Don’t spread your resources too thinly.

A few words of encouragement

encourage people

From time to time, we all need a few words of encouragement.

The thing is, people in need of encouragement do not always tell us. On the outside, they may seem fine. Confident and courageous even. However, on the inside, they may really need to hear our words of encouragement. They could be at a crossroads, about to quit, looking for external confirmation that they can turn things around.

Become a catalyst of encouragement

We often underestimate how important our words are, to others. Think about it, even a smile from a stranger can lift our spirits, let alone some words of encouragement from someone we know. I believe we all have the ability to leave the people around us in a better position, than before we spoke to them.


  • If you have faith in a person’s ability, tell them.
  • If you value their input, tell them.
  • If you think they look great, tell them.
  • If they have impressed or inspired you lately, tell them.

Sometimes, just a few words of encouragement can make a world of difference, to someone who needs to hear them. Why not make them your words?

How to Bake Marketing into your business

marketing baked in

The most successful businesses bake marketing into their services.

If you have not heard the term before, baking marketing into a service (or product) means creating something, which is of so much value and interest, that people want to buy it and also tell their friends about it.

Most small business owners do the opposite

Look around you at your competitors and you will see that with few exceptions, they all seem remarkably similar. So, they try and undercut one another on prices or fees, out network one another or outspend one another on marketing. They are focusing their time and money in completely the wrong direction. They are trying to get people interested in something, which isn’t interesting. This is a costly, avoidable mistake.

That’s why I want something far better for you and your business!

Bake marketing into what you do

Today, I am going to ask you to consider doing something bold. I’m asking you to consider not changing your marketing, but changing what you market – your core services.

Why? Because you can waste years of your time trying to sell a service, which is simply not interesting enough to the marketplace. Great marketing is no substitute for an uninspiring service (or product).

Conversely, a service that is of exceptional value will often sell itself, as people are so impressed with it that they spread the word. I regularly speak with business owners who don’t need to spend a penny on advertising, because their customers and their marketplace are always recommending them.

Most small business owners use the opposite approach. Instead of inspiring people with the story behind their business, they try to motivate uninspired people to talk about them.

  • Some pay people to talk about them or offer commissions.
  • Others try to pester people into recommending them.
  • Many join networking clubs, hoping that social pressure, reciprocity or rules of membership, will get people to talk about them.
  • Some spam us with unsolicited emails – I get around 50 of those a day, from people pushing dull, uninspiring services at me.

All of those work to a degree, but you can do massively better, by shifting your focus 180 degrees!

Here’s what we know: People do not need to be pestered or pressured into recommending a GREAT service. They automatically spread the word when they encounter something exceptional. However, we must first give people something worth talking about – a story worth sharing. When we do, they can’t help themselves. They shout from the rooftops.

An alternative approach

The alternative is to bake marketing into what you do. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Observe your marketplace and develop a product or service, which is based on what they want, rather than ‘just’ offering your version of what your competitors already provide.
  • Give people a story about you or your business, which is worth sharing. This means having the courage to be different. Easier said than done, but essential if you want to attract the interest of your marketplace.
  • Deliver a customer experience, which stands out for all the right reasons. Pull out all the stops. Leave your clients and prospective clients feeling moved and roused by the experience of working with you, visiting you or connecting with you.
  • Demonstrate your passion for what you do and your desire to help others. Passion stands out. Passion is infectious.
  • Have outsiders. You can’t have insiders, without outsiders. Insiders are the people who buy from you. Insiders are the people your services are aimed at. Don’t try and be all things to all people. If you do, your story will be vague and cease to motivate people.
  • Learn from the products and services, which you recommend. What lessons can be adapted to help you deliver something remarkable?
  • Strive to become remarkable. It’s the only way to compel people to remark (or talk) about your service to their friends and contacts.

Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to get people inspired about an uninspiring service or product. It’s expensive, low leverage, frustrating and the least rewarding way to develop your business.

Do the research. Make the decision. Take action!

Ogilvy on judgement

Here’s a very quick tip, to help you turn your feedback or research, into results.

I want to start by asking you a question: What role does research play in your business? I find that many small business owners will make big decisions, without doing any form of structured research. Others will do enormous amounts of research, yet fail to interpret the data and then act on it.

Making a judgement call

In my experience, a balance between those two approaches needs to be struck if you want to make profitable decisions. Do the research and study the data, then decide what plan of action to take and take it. This means making a judgement call.

This is something, which advertising legend, David Ogilvy, correctly identified as being rare:

I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.
~ David Ogilvy

Why is using one’s judgement so rare?

Because the person with the courage to make a judgement call, risks calling it wrong. This stops a lot of people. After all, if they fail to make a decision, they can’t call it wrong. Of course, it also means they can’t call it right.

Here’s the message behind this post. I want to share with you, the pattern I see time and again, with the most successful decision makers.

It looks like this:

  • They do the research.
  • Collect the data.
  • Interpret it.
  • Make the decision.
  • Back it up with action.
  • Then measure the feedback from their actions and learn from it.

No, this is not as easy as it sounds. This is why those who do it, set themselves apart from those who refuse to leave their comfort zones. It is, however, extremely effective.

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