Jim's Marketing Blog

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

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How stories help you grow your business

I recently bought 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. I don’t like chocolate chip cookies. My family are not especially keen on them either. So, what motivated me to buy them?

People buy the story

When a child from the village school comes to my door selling cookies, it feels different than when a shop is selling them. Even if the product is the same, the story behind the cookies is what we pay for. I wanted to support the local school, so I now have 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies.

Your business has a story. The question you need to ponder, is whether your story is motivating enough. Here are some ideas and examples to help you.

Who are you selling to? The answer may surprise you!

Are you selling to yourself? That may seem like a silly question, yet it’s one of the most important questions in marketing.

Why? Because business owners tend to market their products as if they were selling to themselves — when they should be marketing to their prospective clients or customers.

Now, if you are a lawyer and your prospective clients are lawyers, that works fine. However, if you sell to people whose needs and wants are different to your own, you need to change your marketing so it’s focused on them.

For example:

  • Read the marketing of most accountants and you will find lots of statistics and graphs. This is what accountants love, but not their prospective clients. The prospective client wants to know what the accountant can do for them and their business. They want to know why they should hire this accountant and not an equally qualified competitor. They want the story behind the stats.
  • Read the marketing of most web designers and it’s filled with jargon and buzzwords. They talk about things like; HTML5, Java, CSS, standards compliance and responsive design. These are things designers love to talk about, but not their prospective clients. Their prospective clients want a professional looking site. They want a site that is an asset to their business.

Anyone using that approach is leaving money on the table. Don’t let it happen to you.

Match your message to their wants and needs

Take a look at your marketing messages, from your prospective client’s vantage point. If possible, ask a prospective client to read your marketing and tell you what it says to them. Determine if you’re marketing based on what they need to hear or on what you think is important. Also, check to see if you are using their language or yours. Sometimes we get so used to industry words, that we forget they are meaningless and confusing to everyone else.

The better you communicate how valuable your services are, the easier you will attract more, great clients or customers.

Recommended Reading: Here’s another good reason not to use buzzwords in your marketing.

How to get all the help you and your business need

I’d like to share an idea with you today. It’s about how to get all the help you and your business will ever need.

Of course, we see people doing it wrong every day. Strangers, asking us to do things for them.

  • They ask us to connect with them on Linkedin.
  • They ask us to tell our friends about their business.
  • They ask us to retweet their Twitter messages.
  • They ask us, via a spam email, to subscribe to the newsletter they just sent us.

The list goes on and on… strangers making selfish demands.

Selfish demands don’t work

Selfish demands succeed only in irritating people. I receive around a dozen emails a day, from total strangers who expect me to write blog posts about their product or service. I refuse. Always. Like most people, I don’t respond positively to selfish demands from strangers.

So, why is it that some people have no problem getting all the help they need?

Why we eagerly helped Jenny and felt great about it

When a friend of mine launched her new business, she was inundated with people who wanted to help. If you knew Jenny, you’d know why. She’s one of the most helpful people I have ever met.

The launch of her business was an opportunity for me and many others, to repay her kindness and support.

The power of reciprocity

This need to return someone’s kindness is sometimes referred to as reciprocity. And it’s extremely powerful. It’s why the process of giving and receiving, starts with the giving part. It’s why we earn the money… then get paid.

Selfish demands fail because they attempt to do the opposite. When the guy emails me and asks me to post his infographic on my blog, it’s 100% about him.

  • He gets exposure to my amazing readers.
  • He gets a valuable link, from my blog to his site.
  • He gets his company name in front of thousands of people.
  • All I get is the penalty of linking my blog and reputation to a stranger — A stranger I know nothing about, other than he’s the kind of asshole, who spams people with selfish demands.

Those who demand strangers to do things for them, face a lot of  disappointment. Not only do they fail to get what they demand, they get something they didn’t ask for — a toxic reputation.

A better mindset for business owners

The smartest people are always building relationships with others. They keenly look for ways to contribute. They do this, without knowing (or caring) if they will need that person’s help in the future. That’s the mindset, my friend Jenny has.

In short: Before you expect people to be motivated to help you or your business, make sure you’ve invested in them, first. Remember, give and take starts with the giving part.

PS: If you found today’s post interesting, I recommend you read this: 3 Mistakes that make you look bad and damage your business.

Are you using the right kind of marketing?

Marketing, internet marketing

Many small business owners make the mistake of using the wrong type of marketing for their business.

For example, did you know there is a huge difference between Internet marketing sites and marketing sites? Well, there is. If you’re using ideas from the wrong type of site, you’re wasting your time and your money. As you will see from an example I am about to share, it can damage your reputation too.

First, here’s what you need to know about these VERY different types of marketing site.

Internet marketing sites

Internet marketing sites focus on how to make money online. They mainly sell (and show you how to sell), affiliate marketing products, software, online courses, ebooks, premium forums, etc.

They usually market their products to you… and show you how to make money, doing what they do. That’s why there are so many of these sites out there. They are intended for people who want to sell low priced, Internet only products or services.

Marketing sites

Marketing sites, including Jim’s Marketing Blog, are a lot less common. They focus on ideas to help you increase sales and grow a successful business. Most, like my own, don’t cover affiliate marketing or “make money online” products or services at all.

The wrong type of marketing for an accountant

I was prompted to write about this, after being emailed by a new reader. She’s an accountant, who started her business just over a year ago. She contacted me after a marketing consultant identified why her marketing wasn’t working. She wanted me to share her experience with you, to stop others from making the same mistake.

Here’s an excerpt from her email, published with her permission:

“I read a ton of big name internet marketing blogs and did what they said; at least the things that seemed to make sense to me. Anyhow I invested over $2000 on a bunch of marketing software, on-line courses and forum memberships. None worked for me. Finally I instructed a local marketing guy to get expert help. He took a look at my website and emails and said “woah!!”

[...] He explained that I had been marketing my service like some nasty $50 affiliate product!!”

She ended up with a site that’s hurting her business and damaging her professional reputation. I took a look at her site and here’s what I saw:

  • Pop-up boxes.
  • Blog comments from affiliate marketers, using SEO loaded keywords instead of their names.
  • Nasty looking ads for 2 affiliate products.
  • Sensationalist blog post headlines, designed to attract drive-by readers.
  • Pinch pages, to sell her services.
  • An automated Twitter account, which she told me is part of a Twitter resharing network.
  • References to joining her list instead of becoming part of her community.

All in all, she had wasted thousands and done nothing more than make her site look cheap. She’s now in the process of unpicking a year’s worth of damage to her reputation and her business.

Use the right type of marketing for your business

The type of marketing used to sell cheap software or affiliate products, is totally different from the kind of marketing required to sell high fee, specialist, one-to-one services. The level of trust required to hire a coach, accountant, lawyer, therapist or consultant is huge.

When a service provider wants to attract new, high quality clients, the make money online approach to marketing is not only ineffective, it’s toxic.

In short: Match the marketing you use, to the type of business you want. Unless you sell Internet marketing products or affiliate products, think twice before using ideas from Internet marketing sites.

How to attract customers… from your competitors!

So, you’d like more customers or clients. The question is, why should they switch to you, rather than carry on with their current provider?

Why leave their comfort zone?

It takes effort for people to switch from one provider to another. The motivation to switch to you needs to be compelling. It needs to inspire them to leave their comfort zone — to dump their familiar, safe, current provider and risk the unknown.

We know that being a little less expensive, a little faster or a little better isn’t enough. Why? Because marginal differences have very little pull. People need to see an obvious, clear, meaningful reason to switch providers.

This will help you get it right

Take a look at your business from the mindset of a prospective client or customer. Look at the reasons you provide, to motivate them to leave their comfort zone and switch to you.

Considering the perceived risk involved with them switching providers, are the reasons you give truly compelling enough? If not, what meaningful, measurable benefit could you add, which would make switching to you feel:

  • Less risky.
  • Less hassle.
  • More beneficial to them than staying with their current provider.

TIP – Every provider claims to offer great customer service and to go the extra mile for their clients. Focus on developing a meaningful, measurable and motivating difference. Get this right and it can be a game-changer for your business. Yes, it’s that important.

PS: Here’s how to stop your competitors taking clients from YOUR business: How to use the lock-in effect to retain your clients.

The best way to spread the word about your business

How do you get people to spread the word about your business?

I’m going to answer this question for you in today’s post. It’s based on a chat I had with an accountant yesterday.

The usual kind of thing

So, a local accountant wanted to know what was the best way to spread the word about his business. I asked him, what kind of accountancy services he provided. He replied with: “You know… the usual kind of thing, Jim.”

Here’s the key part of my reply.

  • If you want the story of a predictable business to reach 100 people, you need to tell 100 people. This is because dull stories don’t spread. You have to push them. You go to networking events, constantly advertise or pester people with emails, etc. The story itself doesn’t spread, because predictable stories don’t have legs.
  • If you want a great story, about a business doing meaningful work, to reach 100 people, you tell 1 person… and it spreads. That person tells several more. They do the same. This is because great stories have legs. You nudge them with effective marketing and watch what happens. It’s beautiful. And extremely successful.

Just a little better, faster or cheaper

No one feels compelled to tell their friends about an accountant, (coach, designer, trainer, marketing consultant or whatever), who is just a little better, faster or cheaper than the rest.

If you want the word to spread about your business, improve the story. Make it worth sharing. Be meaningfully different from your competitors.

Then, put your story into the marketplace and watch it travel from person to person. This generates word of mouth referrals, endless sales leads… and frees you up to focus on making your business even more remarkable.

Recommended reading: Is the dream behind your business inspiring enough?

Marketing Foundations: 3 Tips to massively increase your sales

marketing foundations, marketing tips

Did you know there’s a common marketing mistake, which loses small businesses a fortune? Well, there is and it could be hurting your business… without you even knowing it!

Here it is, along with the solution.

Marketing Foundations

It’s all about getting your marketing foundations in place. The problems happen, when you ask a prospective client or customer to make a purchasing decision too soon… before you have the foundations in place. That’s because these foundations are essential to successful marketing.

In brief, there are 3 things you need to do, before you are in a position to make high volume sales or attract great, new clients:

  1. Demonstrate your professionalism.
  2. Clearly explain your proposition, (what your product or service is and what the benefits are).
  3. Earn their trust.

Let me expand on these 3 points for you, with some ideas on what you need to do, to massively improve your sales results.

Here they are — 3 tips to help you increase your sales. Massively.

Marketing Foundation tip 1: Demonstrate your professionalism

I see this mistake, every hour of every day. This, by itself, can destroy a business. If you’re skim reading this post, read the following paragraph!

You can’t expect people to buy from you or hire you, until they have checked your credentials and are satisfied you are a professional. However, that’s exactly what small business owners, coaches and consultants do all the time. They contact potential clients with links to their cheap looking websites. They use homemade logos and DIY business cards. They use freebie, Gmail / Yahoo email instead of branded email addresses, etc.

People are extremely visual. We think in pictures. It’s impossible to look professional, when you operate behind amateur looking marketing. We can’t expect people to believe we are professional, when it seems we can’t afford the peanuts required to get a professionally designed logo and website.

Similarly, we give an equally bad impression if prospective clients think that looking professional, isn’t important to us. That details are not important. That we’re fine about being associated with cheap looking work.

So, before you even think about marketing your products or service, make sure the impression you create is professional.

Marketing Foundation tip 2: Clearly explain your proposition

One of the oldest and most valuable sayings in professional marketing is this:

“A confused mind always says NO.”

By default, if someone asks us to make a decision, especially one involving money, before we have all the information we need, we say NO. We either say no to whatever they ask or we say no to making the decision itself. This makes perfect sense. We’ve been told since childhood to look before we leap.

Very, very few people will take a leap into the unknown and buy from you or hire you, when they are still unclear about what exactly your proposition is. So, before you ask a prospective client or customer to make a decision, make sure you have given them the information they need. This marketing foundation is built by ensuring you have clearly explained your proposition and asked for questions, to get and give, total clarity.

Marketing Foundation tip 3: Earn their trust

People will not buy from us, hire us or recommend us, unless they trust us. In fact, trust is perhaps the most important element of our marketing foundations.

There are a couple of important things regarding trust, which we all need to be mindful of:

  1. Trust needs to be earned.
  2. Trust takes time to earn.

We live in a time where we can send a marketing email to 10000 people with a button press and have them arrive minutes later. We can send people a link to a special offer via a social network, which is almost instantly in front of our contacts. (Unless you use Facebook.) We can write a blog post, press the publish button and have it available to the world, immediately.

However, we can’t click a button and earn people’s trust. Here’s the thing: Unless we have already earned the trust of the people who receive those messages, they are extremely ineffective.

Earning trust takes time. We need to build it. Asking someone to hire us or buy from us, before we’ve earned their trust, simply doesn’t work. This is especially the case for those who sell services or higher priced products.

So, take every opportunity to earn the trust of your marketplace. There are many ways to do this. For instance, I work hard to earn the trust of my marketplace, by showing up regularly with useful blog posts. Anyone can check me out, simply by clicking the link on the sidebar of Jim’s Marketing Blog, where I link to every post I have written since 2008. This body of work shows I can be relied upon to turn up. It shows my ability to stick with a project. It also demonstrates my expertise. All of these help me to earn your trust… over time.

You can do the same with a simple (free) WordPress blog, newsletter, podcast, public speaking… whichever suits you best. Here are some other ideas for earning trust.

Build your marketing on solid foundations

In a nutshell, great marketing, which sells and gets noticed is built on solid Marketing Foundations. Asking for the sale or trying to encourage a prospective client to hire you, without these marketing foundations in place, will dramatically lower your conversion rates. If you think you’re saving money or time by ignoring them, you are making a potentially fatal marketing mistake.

How to create attractive, memorable marketing

When you market your business just like your competitors, you fade into the background. You lack impact. You become predictable and easy to forget.

For example:

  • Over the years, I must have had thousands of pushy strangers hand me their business card. How many of them can I remember? None of them.
  • Every day I receive impersonal marketing emails from people. How many can I remember? None of them.

That’s because superficial interactions wash over us. They leave no lasting imprint.

The human touch

What we do remember, are the people who sincerely reach out to us with something meaningful to share. We remember the people who recommend us to their contacts and friends. We remember the handwritten notes. We remember the people who respond, when we need feedback or support.

Business is all about people. If you want people to remember you, do something useful and memorable. Something that touches them. Something that requires thoughtfulness.

Hint: You can’t do this with copycat marketing or by automating your business relationships.

Recommended reading – How to make your business more human and far more successful too.

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