Jim's Marketing Blog

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

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PicMonkey: Highly recommended

Today, I want to recommend a wonderful, free resource to you. I’m talking about (drum roll please) the PicMonkey app!

picmonkey review, picmonkey image

PicMonkey and me

In short, PicMonkey is a web based app you can use for free, to edit photos and create designs. However, that brief description does not do the app justice. Not even close.

PicMonkey has become an invaluable resource for my blogs and websites. Just to qualify that, since last winter, almost all the graphics you see on this blog were either created or edited using PicMonkey.

From Photoshop to PicMonkey

Previously, I used Adobe Photoshop to compress images, resize images, fix images and place text on images. Photoshop is one of the best pieces of software out there and has an almost endless number of great, professional features. However, for someone like me, who just needed to quickly make images for blog posts, using Photoshop was like using a Formula 1 car to go to the shops.

Picmonkey image

With PicMonkey, I can do everything I need in a fraction of the time. Also, because it’s web based, there’s no need to install (or buy) software for all my devices. I just visit the site and am working in seconds. This also means that it works fine on Windows, Mac and Linux.

How free is PicMonkey?

Some products offer a free version, which is either time-limited or so scaled down as to be of little real value. With PicMonkey, the majority of the features are available free of charge.

In many cases, people will upgrade, not because they need the premium features, but because they want to show their support for what is a superb service. I use it daily and have not found anything I have needed to do, which required a premium account.

picmonkey image

I can not recommend this amazing app highly enough. It’s fast, easy to use and a superb productivity tool. Give PicMonkey a try.

If you are a blogger, or want to make images for Facebook, Google+ etc, it could be just what you’re looking for.

If you want lots more tips and ideas like this, click here and get future posts delivered to your inbox!

The truth about Steve Jobs, research and planning

Steve Jobs was a remarkable person. Like many, I have studied his career for years and been amazed at what he achieved, in such a very short time.

Steve Jobs, Apple, researchOne of the things that happens whenever someone has a massive impact in any area of life, is that their ideas get misquoted or distorted.

Today’s post looks at one element of Steve Jobs’ work, which is often quoted by small business owners, yet has no foundation in fact. I think you may find it surprising too!

It’s not Steve Jobs’ fault

I was prompted to write this after receiving an email from a reader, who decided to do zero research before starting a new business. She failed to gain a single customer. Here’s an excerpt from what she said, used with her permission, anonymously.

She said:

‘It seemed like a good idea at the time, so I launched it without any planning or research. Steve Jobs never did any research. I thought if it worked for Steve it would work for me. It didn’t!’

Have you spotted the often quoted, incorrect assumption from that quote? It’s that totally incorrect faux-fact that Steve Jobs never did any research. This is absolutely incorrect.

Allow me to explain.

Going with your passion

It makes perfect sense to go with your passion in business. If you get an idea for a product or service and you think it stands a good chance of succeeding, do it! My own business was started that way and I know the same is true for many of the business owners reading this.

Steve Jobs was exceptionally passionate about his work and it shone through everything he did. In fact, people who worked with him often refer to his ability to create a reality distortion field, where he was able to convince them of almost anything he believed in.

Passion is essential. However, to ‘just do it’ as Nike say, and start a business or launch a new product without any planning or research, is extremely short-sighted. This is why someone as intelligent as Steve Jobs would never do that.

That’s right, Steve Jobs knew the value of research and planning. He didn’t become super successful by accident.

Steve Jobs, research and planning

Steve Jobs was the most interesting, fascinating and least understood businessperson I have ever studied. I firmly believe he was a genius and I don’t mean a genius in the, ‘everyone’s a genius’ kind of way. Jobs was truly exceptional.

Now, his approach to business was indeed pragmatic, however, he did indeed invest in research. No, not as heavily as some of his competitors, but in his last year at Apple, Apple invested almost $2Billion in research and development.

I bet that’s the first time you heard of the billions Apple Inc. invested annually, in R and D?

Why? Because it gets in the way of a better (fake) story… the idea that a company can become the most valuable in the world, on the hunches of one man. Steve Jobs knew his own (brilliant) mind and was an exceptionally good decision maker — one of the best if not the best. However, to suggest, as many do, that he did no research and just launched into projects blind, is incorrect. Even a genius appreciates the value of planning, research and development.

If you have an idea for a product or service, go for it. As Steve Job’s said, ‘real artists ship’! Just make sure to do the research and planning, first.

Talk is cheap

Does your business have a slogan associated with it?

If it does, I have a question for you: How closely does that slogan reflect the reality of your business?

Words are easy

For example, the businesses in every niche claim to offer outstanding customer service, yet this is factually incorrect. If they really DID offer outstanding customer service, the fact they ALL offered it, means it would not stand out. It would be, by default, average. To be outstanding, they would need to crank it up a level (or more) higher than their competitors.

talk is cheap

Other business owners have slogans saying they; try harder, go the extra mile and care more – usually without even knowing how hard their competitors work, how dedicated their competitors are or how much their competitors care.

Making claims about how great we are is easy. It’s simple. It’s just words. It’s also largely ineffective because so many people are doing it. What’s needed is a different approach.

Action takes courage and effort

The smartest small business owners have already figured it out. They know that success comes from being so good, that their clients are the ones making the claims and doing all the talking. They build a business worth talking about, with a story worth sharing.

  • Average business owners try to get more word of mouth referrals, for an average service, which their clients are not telling people about.
  • The most successful business owners focus on being remarkable, so their clients remark (talk) about them.

It requires courage, creativity and effort to deliver an experience, which is so good that people want to talk about it. However, the rewards are huge.

What everybody needs to know about Value and Trust

If you want to make more sales or attract more high quality clients, you need to understand the following marketing fact:

If a prospective client sees enough value in your service and they trust you to deliver it, they will buy from you!

Value or trust: Which is letting you down?

trust, value, promises, testimonials

If people are not buying whatever you have to offer, one of those two are letting you down. People either don’t see enough value or they see the value, but don’t trust you to deliver it.

So, lets take a look at the most common mistakes small business owners make, when it comes to value and trust.

Do they see enough value?

Small business owners usually struggle when it comes to value. They offer a service that looks too similar to their competitors and there is very little value, in being just another me too, provider. Not only do they make their business invisible, by camouflaging it among all the other me too providers, they attract fee sensitive clients too. When one service looks much like another, prospective clients use fee (or price) as a way to determine value.

It’s hard to sell anything, when it’s barely visible. Whatever service you provide, stop copying your competitors. Do it your way. Make yourself visible. Pump as much value into what you offer as you possibly can.

Do they feel enough trust?

Even if a prospective client sees value in what we offer, they need to trust that we will deliver on what we promised. At some point, we have all been let down by a product or service, which failed to do what we expected. This makes us sceptical about the promises and claims we see. As a result, your prospective clients and customers need reassuring. They want to see testimonials. They want to check you out on Google and find positive feedback about you. You need to proactively build trust all the time.

Here is the most common, trust-destroying mistake I see small business owners making: They claim they will offer an outstanding service, yet they charge a bargain basement fee. Many would massively increase the number of sales they make, if they would only increase their fees or prices. People are immediately suspicious, when they see our prices don’t match our lofty promises. It seems too good to be true. They sense something doesn’t quite stack up. You’ve lost them.

What every business owner needs to know about fear

overcome fear, remove fears

Fear is a major stumbling block for many business owners. It causes them to make decisions, which seriously sabotage their chances of success.

The business implications of fear

Here are just some of the ways that fear changes the decisions and actions of small business owners:

  • It causes them to do what’s safe, rather than do what’s right.
  • It causes them to stay predictable, rather than express their unique worth.
  • It causes them to join a group, rather than lead a group.
  • It causes them to watch, rather than ‘do’.
  • It causes them to look for excuses, rather than look for answers.
  • It causes them to set puny goals, rather than goals that inspire them.
  • It causes them to wonder ‘what if it fails?’, rather than ‘what if it works?
  • It causes them to blame others, rather than accept responsibility.
  • It causes them to prepare for failure, rather than plan for success.

Overcoming fear

Thankfully, the fears that stand between where we are and what we want to achieve, can be overcome. Once our fears are acknowledged, we can find and apply strategies to remove them.

NOTE: I give some tips and suggestions, in this article on overcoming fear, which I wrote on another site a few days ago.

How to build a better business with small daily decisions

Today’s post is all about how small, daily improvements can help you build an outstanding business.

If you found toast dull and uninspiring, you wouldn’t have it for breakfast every day. You’d try something new. You’d mix things up a bit. The thing is, it’s easy to change what you have for breakfast. It’s just a small decision.

decision makers

The value of small, daily decisions

Where people struggle is with the bigger decisions, like changing your business from one that’s under performing, to a business that excites and rewards you. However, achieving that goal doesn’t come from making one big decision – it’s the end result of lots of small, daily decisions.

The most successful business owners already know this, which is why they never feel overwhelmed.

Here’s where the connection with breakfast comes in: You see, just as you choose what type of breakfast to have every day, you choose what type of business you have every day, by the daily decisions you make. Progress comes from these small daily steps. Whilst there’s room for making huge decisions, it’s what we do on a daily basis, which directs the course of our business.

Daily decisions that shape your business

  • The people you decide to have as clients or customers, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The business ethics you adhere to, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The business advice you choose to take or ignore, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The fees or prices you charge, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The level of customer service you offer, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The way you handle late paying clients or customers, will shape how rewarding your business is.
  • The value you place on your own time, will shape how rewarding your business is.

Daily decisions

When we take a step back and look at our business with perspective, what we are looking at is the result of the daily decisions we make. If you are happy with what you see and the direction the business is heading in, then carry on as you are.

However, if you are not happy with the current state of your business or the direction it’s heading in, then start making small changes today. Little, daily changes to your decision making is all it takes to create an outstanding business.

Never fit your lifestyle around the restrictions of an under performing business – always increase the performance of your business, so it powers the lifestyle you want for your family and yourself. That’s what you deserve. Don’t settle for less.

Stop waiting for guarantees

If you have an idea you’ve been thinking about putting into action, I’d like you to consider the following.

take action, get moving

  • What if your idea became a huge success?
  • What if it were to be the start of a pivotal moment in your life?
  • What if it were to be all this, yet you failed to put the idea into play?

Negative influences

The world is full of people, telling us what we can’t do. They are often sincere and mean well, but we need to be smart enough not to confuse sincerity with accuracy. It’s possible to be sincerely wrong! So, it’s down to us to learn how to choose which voices we listen to and how to process the information we are given.

I was prompted to write this for you today, after being reminded of the following, wonderful quote:

“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” ~ James Baldwin.

No guarantee of success

Anything we achieve in life of significant value, comes with no guarantee of success. Think about it for a moment: Asking someone to marry you, starting a family, starting a business – none of these come with a guarantee and they are all of great importance.

Ironically, one of the few things in life we can guarantee, is that we will get nowhere if we insist on waiting for guarantees.

So, what are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for permission. Pick yourself. Take control. Accept responsibility. Do the research. Plan the work. Work the plan.

Let Leonardo da Vinci inspire your creativity

On the anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, I am reminded of something da Vinci said, which had a huge impact on me.

Leonardo Da Vinci, creative thinking

Today seems an appropriate time to share it with you.

“Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci,  Notebook I

Creativity, ideas and answers

As small business owners, we are regularly presented with challenges and opportunities, which require our creativity. In many cases, we come up short because our creative muscles let us down. The thing is, whilst we are all born creative, as we grow up we seem to use our creativity less. Then, when we are faced with a situation that demands creativity, we’re less prepared than we could be.

As children, we gave our creativity a thorough workout every day. We painted, wrote stories, built with blocks, played with action figures, drew, acted in school productions, danced and played with musical instruments.

Then, we grow up

We become young adults and consider all that childhood stuff, childish. So, we become sensible. We acquire responsibilities and act responsibly. The challenge is, as Leonardo da Vinci said, inaction of the mind seems to drain it of its vigour and vitality. As a result, these super creative children grow up and become adults, who decide they’re not creative – simply because it’s been so long since they embraced their creativity!

Reconnect with your creativity, starting now

The great news is that you were born creative and your creativity is there, right now, for you to reignite and grow. What’s more, I can help you and it won’t cost you a penny!

As long time readers will know, I am passionate about helping people reconnect with their creativity and become as creative as they possibly can. Because of this, I built a free creative thinking website (not a blog), which is packed with creative thinking ideas, videos, articles and tips for you to use: You can visit it here. I hope you find it useful.

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