Are your competitors controlling your potential?

professional development,

Most small business owners compare their business, to their competitor’s businesses. This is why the fees, promises and range of services offered by competing businesses in any industry, are strikingly similar.

Here’s the challenge with that approach: It places a very low ceiling on your potential.

Allow me to explain

By competing against the standards of your competitors, you set your bar extremely low.

The vast majority of small businesses in any sector are uninspiring, to say the least. Statistically we know that most are struggling, with many going under every day. Very, very few are doing anything exceptional.

It clearly makes little sense to allow your competitors to regulate your potential.

So, compare yourself to the best instead

One of the finest ways to build a successful business, is to learn from the best.

  • Compare your customer service to Disney.
  • Compare your design quality to Apple.
  • Compare your distribution to Amazon.
  • Compare your build quality to Rolex.

Choose who / what you compare your business to, based on the quality of what they do and it’s effectiveness. Set your bar higher than your competitors. Demand the best. Be remarkable.

A powerful business lesson… from Google!

business development, business growth,

How often do you review, refine and improve your products or services?

Many small business owners get comfortable with what they offer. It feels familiar to them. Their clients or customers seldom complain. So, understandably, they keep things as they are.

Here’s the thing: In doing so, those business owners are missing out on a huge opportunity. They are also putting the future of their business at risk.

Why? Because the marketplace is always changing. It’s in a constant state of flux. The providers who fail to embrace the changing landscape, tend to have their lunch eaten by their more agile competitors. As competitors develop products and services that offer increasing value, the business owners who stand still, find they lose clients and fail to attract as many new clients.

Google and Perpetual Beta

One of the keys to Google’s success was their commitment to constant improvement. They embraced a concept known as Perpetual Beta. The term Perpetual Beta, refers to software or systems that are in a development stage for an indefinite or extended period of time. Google create a product and then constantly look for ways to make it better. Gmail, for instance, was a beta product for over 5 years and is still regularly updated.

What this means to you

The best businesses adopt a similar approach to Google. They are consistently looking for ways to improve what they do.

I suggest you do the same and review your current products or services. Look for ways to increase their value to your clients and prospective clients.

If you look hard enough, you will find something to improve. How can I be so sure? Simple. There’s no such thing as the perfect business, which means you will always be able to enhance, improve and advance.

Tip: Read this – How to build a successful business.

Do you make these 7 mistakes with your blog?

blogging, blog tips, content marketing

If you want better results from your blog, this post is just for you.

I was prompted to write this, after receiving an email over the weekend, from a reader with a question. Here’s what he wanted to know:

“I started blogging 2 years ago, but have very few readers. I think my blog is as good as many in my industry, but I only get around 25 readers a day. Why isn’t anyone reading my blog, Jim?”

Because the mistakes he’s making are common to lots of blogs, I thought I’d answer his question here, via 7 blogging tips. In no particular order, here are 7 key areas to focus on, if you want to build a great blog with a hugely valuable readership.

Blog Tip 1: Have something to say, which is worth reading

People have never been busier than they are today. Equally, there has never been so much choice regarding what they can read. For a blog to attract readers and then retain those readers, it needs to offer something, which is meaningfully different. The majority of blogs don’t do this. They are predictable. They have no distinct voice. They offer no motivation to read them.

The key is to tell us what you think. Give us your opinion… not an echo of what everyone else is saying. Allow your personality to shine through your words. Only by embracing your unique perspective can you hope to stand out, grab people’s attention and then inspire them to keep coming back.

Blog Tip 2: Turn up regularly

The guy who emailed me hadn’t published a new blog post for over 4 weeks. Here’s the thing: We can’t expect people to return to a blog, even a well-written blog, if there’s seldom any new content for them to read.

If you want people to visit your blog regularly, publish new content regularly. Keep your blog fresh. The more often you publish useful content, the faster your readership will grow.

Blog Tip 3: Create the right impression

The guy who emailed me was using a very tired looking, poorly designed blog theme. It created a terrible initial impression, which told me lots about his attitude to his blog.

It has never been easier or less expensive to have a professional looking blog. Despite this, many small business owners use ugly, dated blog themes and as a result, look amateurish. People tend not to treat information on amateur looking blogs very seriously. We expect professionals to look professional.

Think about it, there are only 2 reasons why a business would operate behind an amateur looking blog:

  1. They think it’s OK to allow poor quality work (design) to represent them and their values.
  2. They can’t afford a professional looking blog.

Neither of those options reflect well on the blog owner!

If your blog looks dated, invest in a new, professional blog theme. This allows you to create a great first impression and sets a professional tone for what your visitors are about to read.

This leads on nicely to the next point.

Blog Tip 4: Be visible on mobile devices

An increasing number of people view the Internet using their phones or tablets. If a site is hard to read on their mobile device, they leave. Despite this, an alarming number of blogs are not mobile ready. In other words, they are hard to read or navigate when using a mobile device.

Would you like to see what your blog (or website) looks like on various mobile devices? Then use this free app – Screenfly by Quicktools. It’s extremely easy. Just enter the address of your site and then click the various options in the menu bar, to see what your site looks like on different, popular phones and tablets.

If your blog doesn’t perform well on mobile devices, you will lose visitors before they even start reading what you have to say. Depending on your industry, you could be offering a bad user experience to 50% or more (and growing), of your readers!

Blog Tip 5: Stop selling

Most small business bloggers turn almost every post into a sales pitch. Instead of being interesting and offering useful information, these posts read like a series of thinly-disguised advertisements. The challenge with that approach is that people are not interested in reading ads, linking to ads or sharing your ads with their friends.

Focus instead on using your posts to position you as an expert in your field. Provide valuable information, which people will want to read, link to and share.

This is the exact approach I use with Jim’s Marketing Blog. I share my ideas and expertise, for free, with the intention of being as valuable to my readers as possible. Then, when they decide they need expert marketing help, a hefty subset email me or give me a call. Readers also share my posts and link to them, allowing me to reach new readers every day.

Blog Tip 6: Make blogging a high priority business activity

A successful blog can be an exceptionally valuable asset for you and your business. So, give it the investment it needs.

For instance, my blog has provided me with opportunities I could never have imagined, prior to blogging. It has allowed me to attract the interest, and custom, of some of the world’s biggest brands. It has also allowed me to build a fantastic network among my readers, eliminating the need for me to have a Linkedin account or do any form of networking.

Give your blog the time, effort and money it needs and you can build an asset, which grows in value every day.

Blog Tip 7: Play the long game

Even if you are doing everything correctly, it takes time for you to attract (and keep re-earning), the attention of a sizeable readership.

Once a reader has found your blog, the key to motivating them to hire you, buy from you or recommend your work with their valued contacts, is for you to demonstrate your reliability… over time. This is how you go from being yet another blogger, to a professional who they feel they can trust.

In closing

Those are just some of the main areas to focus on, if you want to get the best results from your blog. I hope you find them useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with them.

What every business owner needs to know about Visibility!

get noticed, stand out, attraction

I would like to talk with you today, about the visibility of your business.

I was prompted by an email I received this morning, from one of my long time readers. With his permission, I’d like to share a little of what he told me:

“Back in March, I closed my business and took a job working for a former competitor of mine. […] As I’d long suspected their service is inferior to what I was offering, but they market it way better than I did. They are making a ton of money and I couldn’t even make a living.”

How visible are you?

Sadly, an average service that’s well marketed will always generate massively more money, than a great service, which too few people know about. Think about it: People can’t hire you, if they don’t know you exist — regardless of how amazing you are.

Just consider those painters, composers and writers, whose genius was only appreciated after their death. They produced classics, yet lack of visibility stopped them receiving the recognition they deserved, during their lifetime.

A great example is Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick. Melville was unable to make a living as a writer, so he worked at various jobs, including working on the New York docks. It was decades after his death that a revival of his work took place and the world became aware of Herman Melville’s huge talent. The talent was always there. The books were always there. His work simply lacked the visibility it needed.

Take your marketing seriously

You do amazing work. You care passionately about your clients or customers. You work hard.

Don’t allow ineffective marketing to rob you of the success you deserve.

This will help: Here are my top marketing tips, together in one place!

When opportunity knocks, be prepared. UNLIKE these 2 examples!

professional development,

If opportunity came knocking at your door today, how prepared would your business be?

I spoke with a business owner recently, whose website was featured on a very popular podcast. Within seconds of her website being mentioned, it crashed under all that traffic.

She explained:

[…] “I spent years trying to get my website noticed. Then, when it finally happened and thousands of people were heading to my site, my $10 a month cheapo hosting couldn’t cope. So, I missed the opportunity to get my site and services in front of thousands of highly-targeted people. It’s made me sick to my stomach.”

That’s just one example of missing an amazing opportunity, by failing to plan for success. There are many, many others.

Sounds terrible

Another common example are those business owners we hear on the radio, who are offering their expert opinion on a news story. They often sound terrible and are never invited back, because they failed to invest in media coaching or presentation training. So, instead of sounding authoritative and informed, they sound flustered and unsure. Instead of boosting their reputation with thousands of prospective clients, they miss out. All because they were unprepared when opportunity came knocking.

In short: Whatever opportunities you are hoping to benefit from with your business, make sure you are prepared in advance. Invest in what you need. Don’t allow poor planning to rob you of an amazing opportunity.

Tip – Here’s some advice to help you invest correctly, so you’re prepared for success!

Here’s a proven way to get people talking about your business

word of mouth, viral, spread word

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of attracting referrals, rather than pestering people for referrals. You can read that post here. Today, I’d like to share a proven way to get people talking about your business for all the right reasons.

Let’s look at enthusiasm

When we speak and act with enthusiasm, it spreads like a virus. It changes the way people think and feel about us.

Here are just a few examples:

  • It captures people’s interest.
  • It motivates people to want to know more.
  • It inspires people to talk about us.
  • It creates confidence, which makes people feel comfortable recommending us (and buying from us).

Of course, the opposite is also true.

Let’s look at pessimism

When we speak with pessimism, it spreads like a virus to everyone around us. Pessimism also changes the way people think and feel about us, this time in a totally negative way.

For example:

  • It causes people to feel pessimistic about us.
  • It destroys confidence in our business.
  • It repels motivated, inspirational people.
  • It attracts others, who are similarly pessimistic.

Most small business owners sit somewhere between enthusiastic and pessimistic. They neither inspire people or drive them away. This neutral position is hurting their business and it’s 100% unnecessary.

Fire up your enthusiasm

If your business isn’t attracting the word of mouth referrals you need, try cranking up your enthusiasm.

Remember: No one is going to feel enthusiastic about our business, until we transfer our enthusiasm to them.

How to work a room at a networking event

professional development,

Someone just asked me for tips on how to work a room at a networking event.

Not the advice he expected

I explained that I wouldn’t spend too much time learning how to get the most from networking events.

No.

I’d focus on why I needed to go to networking events. I’d figure out, very quickly, why my clients, website, newsletter, customers and contacts weren’t providing me with the referrals and leads I need.

Create a story worth sharing, by providing a remarkable service. Then, the word will spread. People will talk about you, because that’s what we do when we encounter something that is remarkable.

Attracting word of mouth referrals is vastly more effective, than offering an average service and having to pester people for leads at networking groups.

Tip: Here’s how to make your business remarkable, so people spread the word!

Just get rid of the crappy stuff!

Business development

I wrote yesterday about how to run a very successful business, working just 20 hours a week. I emphasised the importance of cherry-picking your clients, so you only work with the right kind of people for the right kind of fees.

Today, I want to share why it’s also very important for you to be extremely selective, regarding the products or services you offer.

Just get rid of the crappy stuff — Steve Jobs

One of the cornerstones of Apple’s success, is their decision to focus on a small number of products, which they excel at. They pour all their considerable expertise into creating market-leading products, which hundreds of millions of people buy and love.

Here’s a wonderful example of what I mean. Nike CEO, Mark Parker, talked to Steve Jobs on the phone, shortly after becoming Nike’s CEO:

“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs. “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle. But Jobs didn’t laugh. He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker.”

Source: Forbes.

The lesson?

Steve Jobs’ advice to just get rid of the crappy stuff, was maybe a little harsh, however, it raises some powerful questions:

  • Is it possible that by focusing on just a small number of core services (or products), you could be directly relevant to high quality clients, rather than seen as a generalist?
  • If so, how would that change the value you provide and thus the fees or prices you could achieve?
  • Would it be easier for potential clients to get a handle on exactly what you do?
  • Would it be easier for you to grow your business, with the increased focus that comes from specialising in a smaller number of areas?

Take a moment to ponder those questions. It could lead to a decision, which improves your business beyond recognition.

Tip: Here’s some great advice from Steve Jobs, on The Power of Focus.

How to run a successful business working just 20 hours a week!

I work fewer than 20 hours a week, yet earn a very good income. Here’s how I do it and how you can do it too.

I was prompted to write this, after receiving an email from a reader. She is a marketing consultant, who established her business 6 years ago. She’s working long hours for a relatively small income and wanted to know what she was doing wrong.

Not all clients are the same

I asked the consultant about her typical clients and she said they were; “pretty average”. I then asked her about the kind of work she was doing and the fees she charged. It was easy to see why she was working so hard, for so little reward. She was working for the wrong type of clients, doing the wrong kind of work, for the wrong fees.

Allow me to explain.

There are 2 types of client

A tiny fraction of clients are high value clients. The remaining (99% or more) are the more typical, lower value clients.

The most successful service providers focus exclusively on working with high value clients. No late payers. No over demanding or rude clients. No clients who make us miserable. No clients who penny pinch. We work only with great people, who allow us to do amazing work for them. I’ve been operating this model since the 1990’s and seldom work more than 20 hours a week, often fewer than 10 hours a week.

The average service provider works with average clients, on average projects, for average fees. They don’t have the freedom to do their best work, because they charge too little for their time, which means they have to turn work around quickly. So, they work on lots of low value projects, never producing what they are really capable of. This leads to stress, because they need to work way too many hours. It also leads to financial insecurity, as working too many hours for low fees isn’t sustainable — something has to give!

Getting stuck in a damaging cycle

We choose, either deliberately or otherwise, who we work with and what we charge. It seems most service providers start off working for “whoever will pay them” and never quite break free from the cycle this creates.

It looks like this:

  • Money is tight, so I need to accept whatever work I can get.
  • Because I accept whatever work I can get, money is always tight.

Staying in that cycle is the riskiest thing a service provider can do. Ironically, it feels safer than risking a change of direction. That’s why so many stressed, over worked service providers carry on earning peanuts, when they could be earning a fortune.

Switching to a better cycle

If you want to enjoy a great family life, working fewer hours yet earning far, far more, make the decision to change direction. Be selective. Choose your clients and projects wisely. Charge what you know you are worth, so you have the time and freedom to do great work.

Interestingly, this approach also creates a cycle:

  • You are working on great projects for clients who value you, so your clients become a source of valuable referrals.
  • Because your clients are a source of valuable referrals, you’re always working on rewarding projects for great clients who value you.

In short: If we are not seeing the results we want, we need to make better decisions regarding who we work with and what we charge.

Tip: I strongly recommend you read this – How to build a successful business.