Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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A heartbreaking email that every small business owner should read

I want to share something important with you today. It’s a heartbreaking email I received last year, from a reader.

He was a small business owner, who had to cease trading after 5 years in business, because of 2 critical errors he had made. As well as showing you the errors, I’m going to show you how to make sure this never happens to you.

The following excerpts are quoted, with the author’s consent, though they have asked me not to use their name. Here’s a section of the email, quoted unedited:

“Me and my wife quit our regular jobs in 2007 to start a business. We were excited and worked like crazy to make it a success. By mid 2011 we knew we were in trouble as our life savings were almost gone and the business was still making too little money to cover our overheads. We’d been dipping into our savings from the get go to make up the short fall from the business. By February this year we knew we had to quit the business and get jobs. Last week the business was closed for the last time”

He went on…

“Looking back I see we made two major errors that I’d like to share with your readers to stop them doing the same. First up, I was trying so hard to keep our costs down that I didn’t invest in the help we needed. I wanted our savings to last as long as they could so we hardly spent anything and ended up starving the business of the professional help that would have saved us. Second up, we were waiting for some big sudden sign to show we were screwing up but it didn’t happen like that at all. We didn’t go broke over night. It was a slow process which looking back had been happening for years. That’s what stopped us taking urgent action years ago.”

Failure doesn’t happen overnight

One of the reasons so many intelligent, hard working business owners fail, is that failure doesn’t happen overnight. It’s extremely subtle. It creeps up on you. It’s seldom the result of one cataclysmic decision, but usually the result of small errors, repeated often.

Here are just a few examples:

  • When you push your marketing at people, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you think you’re saving money by doing it yourself, rather than hiring an accountant, a marketing professional, a web designer etc, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you copy the social networking approach of your peers, making yourself almost invisible, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you can name the judges on the top reality TV shows, but you don’t know who the key people in your marketplace are, it hurts your business a little.
  • When you allow an amateur looking website / blog to make you look bad, it hurts your business a little.

Success doesn’t happen overnight

Like failure, success doesn’t happen overnight either. People want overnight success, which is why there are so many bullshit books, webinars and seminars that promise it. In reality, we know that business success takes time. It’s subtle. It’s seldom the result of one smart decision, but usually lots of smart decisions repeated often, over time.

Here are just a few examples:

  • When you learn how to attract the attention of your marketplace, so you never have to push your marketing at people, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you decide to get the expert help you need, rather than try and succeed in the worst economy in living memory without it, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you stop using social networking sites like a sheep and start building a highly visible presence, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you take time to learn about the people who make up your marketplace, so you can help them overcome problems and embrace opportunities, your business gets a little stronger.
  • When you invest in a professional looking website or blog, which reinforces the promises you make in your marketing, your business gets a little stronger.

The link between failure and short term thinking

If you want a business to succeed in the medium and long term, you need to avoid making decisions based on the short term.

Short term thinking means you see money going out of the business as a bad thing, so you avoid it. People thinking short term are fearful of making an investment, even an essential investment as mentioned in the email earlier, because they see little difference between a business cost and a business investment. In reality, the 2 couldn’t be more different.

Keeping costs down is a great idea, but starving a business of essential investment, is like starving a plant of sunshine!

Short term thinking also leads us to look for short term answers. That’s why every scammy, bullshit filled webinar, ebook, software product and seminar – promises fast results or secret formulas to get rich quick. We have to be smarter than that.

In short: Business success requires a long term perspective. If you are not seeing the results you need, now is the time to take action.

Stop surviving and start thriving

The weather and the economy have a few things in common:

  • People blame both of them for ruining things.
  • They are beyond our direct control.
  • We can adapt in order to either lessen their impact or, if we are willing to apply some creative thought, we can benefit from them.

Agile or static?

The agile business owner sees the rain and decides she is going to sell umbrellas. The static business owner looks on and complains when people are not buying his sun cream!

The economy is what it is. Even the experts can’t agree on when things will improve in any meaningful way. Those hunkering down and hoping everything will go back to pre 2007 conditions could be in for a long and expensive wait.

Thriving in 2014 is a choice… YOUR choice

I’m about to start a marketing session with one of my clients, who has seen her turnover increase by 240% this year, with an even greater increase in her profits. Others in her industry are struggling and going broke, because they are not adapting correctly to the market. They are lowering their fees in a race to the bottom, whilst she has increased her fees. They are working hard trying to survive, whilst my client thrives because she is doing the right things, correctly.

You can’t improve the economy… but thankfully, you don’t need to.


Because just like the client I’m about to work with, you can improve your strategy!

It’s hard to fly without wings

Yes, you can do experiments in your mind. You can guess what the possible outcomes of an idea might be.

However… the only way to really know if an idea will fly, is to try it. To put your idea into play.

Taking action is what gives your idea wings. It’s hard to fly, without wings.

Need a little help? Try this!

Newsletters: A more human approach

In 2011, I shared an idea with my readers, to help them massively improve the success of their newsletters. In the years that have passed, a number of courageous readers have adopted this approach, with great success. Today, I want to share this valuable idea with you.

When is a newsletter not a newsletter?

When you share your news with your friends via an email, your email looks like a regular email. It contains no glossy images, no “buy now” offers. It’s just an email, from you, to them.

When businesses decide to offer newsletters, they tend to do the opposite. There’s usually little if any actual NEWS and the whole thing looks and reads like a poorly disguised advertisement.

So, this got me thinking:

  • What if you treated the people who read your current newsletter, as if they were already friends?
  • What if you sent them actual news and asked how they are?
  • What if you sent it, not on some lame automated schedule, but only when you had something of value or interest to share?
  • What if some of them contained no special offers or sales pitches?
  • What if some were just offering to help?

Business is all about people

Is it possible that this approach would help you develop a deeper, richer relationship with your readers?

Is it probable that it would sound more honest and trustworthy than the usual; “we call it a newsletter but there’s no actual news, I just want to sell you stuff,” approach?

Because if it is, it could massively improve how they felt about you and your business.

Why does this matter?

It matters because business is all about people. People do business with people they like. People recommend people they like.

There’s real potential here, for those with the courage to make their newsletters more human.

This threat to your business is also your biggest opportunity!


All accountants are not the same… but to look at their marketing, you’d think they were. The same is true of trainers, lawyers, designers, coaches… every service provider you can think of.

So, a prospective client looking for a new service provider finds an ocean of lookalike businesses. Until, that is, a new provider turns up, who understands how to differentiate themselves in a valuable, meaningful way.

Here’s what happens

  • Quickly, this new provider starts attracting the attention of the marketplace.
  • People start talking about them and the word of mouth spreads, whilst no one talks about their lookalike competitors.
  • With so many people saying good things about this new provider, they soon build a great reputation.
  • They become the default choice, for clients who want more than a cookie-cutter service provider.
  • They soon own the most profitable end of the marketplace.

There are two things to consider about this scenario:

  1. Are you just going to wait until a competitor like that turns up and targets your clients and prospective clients?
  2. Or are you going to become that provider yourself and grow an outstanding business, working with the most valuable clients?

Business success comes from combining good decision making with hard work.

You already work hard. But have you decided to market your business, so that you stand out from your competitors? If not… why not?

Stop using buzzwords in your marketing. Seriously. Stop it.

There is no shortage of buzzwords or people who feel the need to use them.




… these buzzwords and many others, are used by people in an effort to appear informed or relevant. Interestingly, buzzwords do neither of these. In fact, they have the exact opposite effect when people read them or hear them.

For example:

  • They make informed people cringe. Not a great idea, if you want your peers to take you seriously.
  • They confuse the uninformed. A bad choice, if you want people to understand your message.

In either case, buzzwords work against you. When it comes to marketing, write your copy in a way that your ideal client will find easy to understand.

Always aim for clarity.


Because clarity sells!

PS: Here’s how to develop effective, clear, compelling marketing.

Here’s a simple way to achieve amazing results

Have you noticed how resourceful you become, when faced with a crisis?

In times of struggle, you focus your attention on the challenge. You do what’s required… even if it takes you outside your comfort zone. You meet the challenge head-on and learn that you are capable of incredible things.

Here’s something for you to ponder

You have that same amazing ability all the time. Not just in a crisis. It’s within you right now. You simply need to summon it. To command it to appear.

In short: Don’t wait for a disaster to strike before you tap into your full potential. Go and do something amazing today!

PS: Here are a few more things about you.

Something I’d like to share with you

I’ve never shared this with you before, so I hope you find it interesting.

When I started Jim’s Marketing Blog, my goal was to help a million small business owners. After I achieved a million unique visitors, I needed a new goal. I decided to help as many small business owners as I could.

The challenge with that goal, is that it was too ambiguous. You can’t measure how close you are to a number that doesn’t exist.

So, last month I decided to set another numeric goal. An inspiring goal. A motivating goal.

The 25 million

I decided that I want to help 25 million small business owners and freelancers. I want to provide them with free marketing and business development ideas and advice.

I especially want to provide free help to those who are unable to afford the expert marketing assistance they need.

25 million is a big number. It’s an exciting number too. It’s also a number I will need a little help with.

As I don’t bother much with SEO (it bores me and I refuse to write like a robot), I have always relied on readers who find my work useful, sharing it with their friends. You have been massively more effective than any search engine, at helping me to help more people.

I just wanted to give you the inside story on what inspires me… as I figure out how on earth I’m going to help 25 millions small business owners,

If you want to help, carry on sharing anything you find interesting here.

I’d also like to thank you if you’re already linking to the blog or sharing it with your friends. Between us, I believe 25 million is absolutely achievable.

So, now you know why I write an ad free blog, with no affiliate links, which costs me thousands each month to produce.

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