Here’s a delightful, profitable way to do business

What daily habits do you have?

I’d like to suggest you add one more daily habit to your list. It’s easy to do, takes very little time, yet is extremely rewarding. It’s simply this:

Find something you can do each day, which will delight one of your clients or customers.

There are just 2 rules:

  1. You need to delight them, by doing something that’s not a normal part of the service they receive from you.
  2. You need to delight a different customer each day.

Going beyond what’s expected

Yes, I know you work hard to look after all your clients, all the time. That’s NOT what I am referring to here. Your clients expect that and rightly so. I’m referring to going beyond what is expected, in a small but meaningful way.

For example:

  • Send them a hand written note, to thank them for their continued custom.
  • If you have discovered a website or application, which you think they will find useful, share it with them.
  • Recommend their business to your contacts.
  • Link to them from your website.
  • Send cupcakes.
  • Offer to meet them for a quick coffee, when you’re next in their area.

You get the idea. It’s not about spending lots of time or money. It’s the thought behind what you do that counts.

Delighting a different client every day

All of your clients or customers deserve to feel special… to be delighted.

The nature of human relationships, is that we bond better with some people then others. In business we need to go beyond that. It’s about building wonderful working relationships with all our clients, not a select few who we gravitate toward.

Why bother delighting your clients?

It matters. It really matters. We each have an inbuilt need to feel recognised and appreciated. When people show us recognition and appreciation, it dramatically improves how we feel about them. Yes, in purely commercial terms, that’s a strong enough case to justify delighting our clients — clearly, the stronger your client relationships are, the better.

I believe it’s about more than that!

As business owners, we work hard and we often work long hours. So, it makes perfect sense to improve our working environment… to make business as enjoyable as possible.

A superb way to achieve this, is to combine the excellent service you provide, with an ongoing commitment to delighting your clients.

PS: I recommend you read this – How to lift your business to a whole new level.

Let your past make you better, not bitter!

What do the following have in common?

  • Parents.
  • Money.
  • Education.
  • Contacts.

They are all excuses I have seen people give recently, for failing with a business or a project. Interestingly, we find that other people with those same challenges, succeed.

An important decision

Ultimately, we are all faced with the same important decision:

Do we allow our past to make us better or make us bitter?

This is one of the biggest decisions we will ever make. It will help determine our happiness and how much of our potential we reach.

If we choose wisely, we will find ourselves looking for reasons to succeed, rather than excuses to fail. The impact this has on our results is immeasurable.

5 Ways to build a massively valuable newsletter list

Content Marketing, copywriting, coppy, writing

Here are 5 tips, to help you build a valuable newsletter readership or list. I used each of these ideas when growing my own newsletter, which had 45,000 subscribers when I published the last edition.

Newsletter Tip 1: Go easy on the pitches

Make sure it’s a newsletter and not a badly disguised advertisement. Here’s the thing: People avoid advertising. We skip the commercials on TV. We pay developers to remove the ads from the free version of their apps. We see advertisements as unwelcome interruptions.

If your newsletter reads a little too much like a sales pitch, it will be largely ignored. This leads nicely into the next point.

Newsletter Tip 2: Be useful

The more useful your newsletter is, the more your readers will value it and share it. Your ultimate goal is to build a large, targeted reader community, who become either clients, customers or advocates. None of that can be achieved with predictable, pedestrian content.

Useful content is what gives your newsletter wings. It’s what inspires people to subscribe, share and make purchasing decisions.

So, before you hit send on a newsletter, make sure it’s packed with valuable, useful information. Offer answers to your reader’s problems. Share useful tips. Point your readers to useful resources.

Newsletter Tip 3: Get the design right

Even if your content is wonderful, people won’t take it seriously if the design looks poor. The first bite is with the eye. So, pay a designer, the best you can afford, to design your newsletter template.

Always remember, whether your newsletter looks amateurish or is presented professionally, it all reflects back on you.

Newsletter Tip 4: Ask readers to share it

Even if readers think your newsletter is great, it may not occur to them to share it. By reminding them, you plant the idea of sharing the newsletter in their mind at the exact point, where they have just read it and enjoyed it. I used to have a section at the bottom of my newsletter, which said:

“If you have found this newsletter interesting, please share it with your friends”.

When I added that short message to my newsletter, the results were immediate and measurable.

Newsletter Tip 5: Help it spread

Convert people who had your newsletter forwarded to them, into subscribers. Imagine your friend had just forwarded a great newsletter to you. You’d want to get a regular copy, right? You don’t want to have to rely on your friend, remembering to forward each edition to you. So, I added the following sentence to the above message:

“If you have had this newsletter forwarded to you and would like a regular copy, click here.”

Never underestimate the power of a subtle, non-pushy reminder.

In summary

Newsletters can be an extremely valuable marketing asset. Take your newsletter seriously and invest in it accordingly. The rewards for getting it right are huge. No. Bigger than that!

PS: I strongly recommend you read this3 Tips From a World Class Newsletter.

How to beat the feast or famine cycle

marketing topics r

If your sales results are too erratic or you find yourself in that feast or famine cycle, this post is written just for you.

Most businesses offer products or services, which people are only interested in when they have a problem. If your business provides the answer to a problem, there’s a very good chance you’re using the wrong marketing approach.

I’m going to explain why and also show you how to get it right.

Knowing you before they need you

Coaches, accountants, designers, dentists, trainers, insurance professionals, lawyers, consultants, etc — are only sought after when someone has a requirement.

Here’s the thing: If they already know who you are, before they need you, you are massively more likely to earn their custom, than some provider they have never heard of.

I once heard Mercedes’ head of advertising say, that if Mercedes focused on showing people advertisements, the week before they were about to buy a new car, it wouldn’t work. So, Mercedes focus on getting their marketing messages in front of us when we’re kids. Then, when we’re 35 and are thinking of buying a luxury car, we think of Mercedes.

Whilst that approach is longer-term than most small or medium-sized businesses need to consider, the advice is sound. It’s all about the client or customer knowing who we are, before they need us.

Switch from short-term gambits to a long-term strategy

Market strategically. Make marketing an ongoing part of your business, not something you do when you lose a client or when sales are down. Remain relevant to your marketplace. Stay in their mind. Keep earning their attention, through strategic, useful, permission-based marketing.

In short: If you want great, long-term results, you need to make long-term plans.

5 Useful tips to make your next project fly!

business development, business growth,

If you’re thinking of launching a new product, service or business, here are 5 tips to help you get it right.

  1. Great ideas are not anointed. They fly or die based on merit and hard work. If you believe in what you’re doing, if the research and numbers stack up, go for it. This will help you.
  2. Pick your clients or customers deliberately. Then, focus your marketing message so that it’s 100% relevant to this group. If you don’t know who your ideal clients or customers are, you’re not ready to launch. This will help you.
  3. Don’t sell something, if people can buy it from Amazon for less.
  4. If you sell a commodity product or service, customise it. If you’re 1 of 30 accountants in your area, give people a valid reason why they should hire you, rather than an equally qualified competitor. Tell people why they should eat at your restaurant and not a similarly priced competitor’s place. This will help you.
  5. Embrace blogging or newsletters. Give the marketplace an insight into you and your business. Tell them your story. When they feel like they know you, you’re far less of a gamble to them, than hiring or buying from a stranger. I focus on blogging. Here are 25 reasons to write a business blog.

I hope you found those tips useful. More importantly, I hope you find something there, which you can put into action.

Stop working for low quality clients. Really. Stop it!

professional development,

If you are tired of working for low value clients, I have an idea I would like to share with you. It has helped me attract the best clients, avoid the worst clients and build an extremely successful business.

It can do the same for you. Allow me to explain.

A very deliberate choice

Before deciding to accept a new client, I ask myself the following question:

Is this prospective client worthy of my best work?

  • If the answer is Yes, I accept them as a client and provide them with the best work I am capable of.
  • If the answer is No, I don’t work with them.
  • If I agree to work with a client and later find they lied to me, to make me say Yes, I fire them.

Here’s the payback

As a direct result, I have never had a cash flow problem. I have never had to face a client I didn’t enjoy working with and always had the freedom to do my very best work. By being able to do my best work, my clients get great results, so my client retention is exceptionally high. Equally, my clients and former clients are a constant source of high quality referrals.

The opposite approach is to accept any client who says they want to work with you.

  • To work for clients who pay you late and ruin your cash flow.
  • To work for clients who are over demanding.
  • To work for clients who take the joy away from your work.

Every business owner, including you, makes the decision. You either decide to work with the people worthy of your best work or to compromise and work for those who are not.

Beggars can’t be choosers, Jim!

When I share this idea with business owners, the typical answer from those who will work with anyone, is that beggars can’t be choosers.

The thing is:

  • They are business owners, not beggars.
  • They are already choosing, by choosing to work for low value clients.

High value clients lead to more high value clients, as they recommend you to their friends and you become known for servicing the quality end of the market.

Low value clients lead to more low value clients, as you become pigeon-holed as servicing the cheap end of your marketplace.

In short, if your current client choices are not working for you, it’s time to try another approach.

PS: If you want me to help you get this right, read this.

Behind the scenes: The tools I use every day

professsional development, business

I often get asked about the tools I use for my daily work. The image above is pretty-much the standard set-up for me… extremely minimal, with everything I need and nothing I don’t need.

Here’s some more detail, including the hardware and software I use.

Hardware

I use MacBooks now for all my production work. I have a MacBook Pro for the office and a MacBook Air for writing on the move. For 20 years I was a Windows user, however, I switched to a Mac last summer and have never looked back. The design, usability, portability and speed of these machines makes them ideal for me.

I can get an idea out of my head, without having to wait or wrestle with the hardware / software. They boot up from cold in just 13 seconds and everything ‘just works’ without a hitch.

Interestingly, as I always bought high end Windows machines, I have saved hundreds by switching to Macs. Macs are only more expensive than PC’s, if you’re switching from low or mid-range PC’s. My last Lenovo Think Pad cost almost as much as my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air combined.

Thinking

I’m extremely visual, so I  have a notepad with me all the time and use it to capture ideas or simply doodle, whilst I am thinking.

It seems that the physical act of moving a pen or pencil on paper, aids my creativity. I keep all my old notepads and often go back to them months or years later, for inspiration or ideas. I love fountain pens and fine tip drawing pens. I use lots of different coloured ink. I also use mechanical pencils.

Software

Here’s the main software I use for work.

I use WordPress for blogging. There are other blogging platforms out there but none provide me with the flexibility or functionality I need, other than WordPress. It’s the only blogging platform I recommend.

I use Instagram, though in a slightly different way to most people. I use it for inspiration. I follow lots of designers and creators and often get inspired by seeing their imagery. You can join me on Instagram here.

I use iA Writer for most of my writing. It’s a distraction-free writing program, which presents you with a totally clear computer screen – no menu bars, just a 100% blank canvas.

I use Evernote mainly for capturing ideas from websites. It’s also useful as a cloud based way to organise notes, sounds and images.

I use Skype for client calls. I work with business owners worldwide and Skype allows me to not only speak with my clients, but share screens, video conference, share links and use a whiteboard together.

I use Microsoft Office. I have clients who hire me to write for them and they tend to use Word, so I use Word when writing for them. I also prefer Outlook to any of the Mac email apps.

I use PicMonkey for the graphics you see in my blog posts and social network posts. I use the premium version, though the free version does everything I need. I just like to pay developers, when I use their work. I wrote a short review of PicMonkey here.

That’s it.

Of course, it’s what we do with the tools we use that matters. However, we can make things a lot easier by selecting the correct tools for the job. I hope you found something there, which helps you with your work flow.

What every business owner needs to know about promises

business development, business growth,

Have you ever seen a business, which markets itself as being average? No, neither have I, yet that’s exactly what most businesses are.

Instead, businesses are marketed as offering great, amazing or exceptional products and services. Whilst lofty marketing promises are effective at attracting the attention and interest of your marketplace, they need to be delivered on.

Here’s why this matters

After the marketing has motivated someone to make a purchase, they are left with 3 possible outcomes.

It looks like this:

  1. They are delighted. The reality was even better than the marketing. Their expectations have been exceeded. They are impressed and the vendor now has a very happy customer. The kind of customer that tells their friends about how amazing the vendor is.
  2. They are satisfied. They got what they expected. They are neither happy nor disappointed. It’s certainly not remarkable enough to share with people.
  3. They are disappointed. They got less than they expected. The marketing was overstated. The vendor has a customer who feels like they were tricked. If they do tell their friends, it’s a negative, damaging story about the vendor.

The most successful business owners increase the value they provide, then market that value accordingly. They focus on delighting people and building a great reputation. They know that it’s pointless to attract disappointed clients and customers, with overstated marketing promises.

What can we learn from this?

By committing to match our marketing promises with services and products that delight, we become truly exceptional. We retain more clients and customers. We attract more word of mouth referrals and build a massively valuable reputation.

Yes, it takes a lot of effort and energy. It’s worth it though. In fact, it’s essential for any kind of meaningful success.

How to get people excited about your business

Business development

How enthusiastic are you about the work you are doing right now?

The reason I ask you that question, is that people notice. They notice if you’re enthusiastic about your business. Equally, they notice if you lack enthusiasm and are simply going through the motions.

Here’s why this matters to you

Enthusiasm is contagious. When someone talks to us with enthusiasm, we feed off their excitement and energy. We lean forward and pay attention. It’s a positive experience, which leaves a lasting impression on us.

The lack of enthusiasm is just as contagious. When someone talks to us about their business in the typical, predictable way, we feed off their lack of interest. We politely nod. We soon forget them and whatever they said.

We can’t expect our staff, clients, customers, contacts or the marketplace in general to be enthusiastic about our business, if we’re not.

The bottom line: If you feel enthusiastic about your business, don’t hold back. Let it shine! If you’re not enthusiastic, find out why and work on it.

How to lift your business to a whole new level

If your business has been spinning it’s wheels or it’s growth is slower than it should be, this post is just for you.

I’m going to show you how to get your business flying, based on 2 questions that every successful business needs to answer. Yes, I’m going to help you find your answers too!

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I want to achieve with my business?
  2. Am I willing to pay the price?

What do you want to achieve with your business?

Many small business owners have no clear idea of what they want to achieve. They say things like they want a successful business or they want to be wealthy, but they never get specific. Here’s the thing: You can’t know if you are on track or not, with no clear destination.

The key, is to get specific. Describe in detail, what you want to achieve with your business.

A great way to get clear on this, is to ask yourself the following question: If my business was perfect in every way, what would it look like?

Then, start writing your answer down!

Avoid general terms and use specifics. Also, use numbers in your answer whenever possible.

For example, include things like:

  • How much you want your business to generate in revenue and profits over the next year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • How much you want to earn.
  • How much you want your business to sell for, if your exit route is to cash in at some point.

Then, describe things like the type of clients or customers you want, what your typical work day would look like and where your business would be located, etc.

Build as clear a picture as possible and include everything that matters to you.

Once you have the specifics written down, it’s time to answer the next question.

Are you willing to pay the price?

The challenge with this question, is that business owners tend to give the wrong answer. We tend to say we work hard and that we work long hours.

That is not what the question asks!

The question is about our willingness to do what’s required in order to succeed. It asks us if we’re willing to leave our comfort zones… again and again. Paying the price for success means doing 100% of what’s required, not cherry-picking the things we feel comfortable with. It means committing to pay the price of success in advance, with no guarantees.

Here’s why we make the extra effort

It looks like this:

  • Success belongs to those who take time to decide exactly what they want to achieve and who then determine to pay the price for success.
  • Those with less clarity and less commitment, find themselves working hard and making too little progress.

Interestingly, although the difference in the rewards between those approaches is immeasurable, the extra effort required is relatively small.

The good news is that as you become more familiar with leaving your comfort zone, it gets easier and easier. Equally, the motivation to pay the price becomes greater, when you start to see the results and rewards coming in.

Tip: I recommend you read this — What everybody ought to know about Comfort Zones.