Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Doing fine or doing remarkable?

If my local Costa Coffee shop closed, it wouldn’t really matter to me. For those of you who don’t already know, they are a national coffee shop chain in the UK, similar to Starbucks.

My local Costa Coffee is typical of what I call a fine business.

  • The service is fine, but not exceptional.
  • The coffee is fine, but similar to other coffee served locally.
  • The atmosphere is fine, but unremarkable.
  • They offer a fine experience, worth what they charge for it.

Going beyond fine

Then there is a small, independent coffee shop that I use, when they have a table available. If they closed or moved out of the area I’d really miss them. I’d miss them, because they go beyond fine.

They focus on being remarkable.

  • The service is excellent.
  • The coffee is the best I have ever had and they sell a great range of premium quality teas.
  • The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming.

A remarkable experience

I happily pay more for my coffee in the independent coffee shop. These guys have a fraction of the resources available to Costa Coffee, but they use everything they have to create an experience that is remarkable.

I would have certainly used Costa Coffee regularly, (they are absolutely fine after all), had the remarkable coffee shop not been here. And that’s my point!

The smallest of businesses can thrive in today’s economy. So long as you are prepared to be remarkable, you can win a highly profitable share of the market, even against large, competent rivals.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Ever thought about firing 75% of your clients?

What would happen if you fired your worst clients and invested all that extra time, delivering excellence to your most valuable clients?

I was thinking about this after recalling a chat I had, with the owner of an extremely successful accountancy business. We were both guests on a local BBC radio show and after the show, we went for a coffee. I asked her to tell me about her business and she told me about a key decision she made.

This decision was the starting point, which transformed her business from one that competed based on fees, to being ‘the’ premium provider in her area.

Firing 75% of her clients was the start of something big

She explained how after competing for a new client and losing out because of a difference of just £50, she told herself that enough was enough. She no longer wanted to serve the fee-sensitive end of the marketplace – they were the most demanding and paid the least. So, she decided to fire the 75% of her clients, who were generating just 25% of her fees. This gave her the time to deliver service excellence to the highly profitable 25%. That exceptional level of service got people talking. It saw her attract more word of mouth referrals from other highly profitable clients.

She never needed to compete for clients based on fees again.

Making the switch

Firing 75% of your clients probably isn’t the answer for you. It may be that you have just one or two clients, who undervalue your time and make you unhappy. What I can tell you for certain, as someone who works on this all the time with small business owners who are tired of being undervalued – is that you will always know which clients to fire.

I’ve seen what it does to small business owners, when they set their fees so low that they have to work too many hours, to reach their income requirement. I have also seen the stress caused, when business owners find themselves with a client base that undervalues them. No one deserves that.

  • Increase your market value by offering excellence: Not great customer service. Excellence.
  • Deliver excellence to your remaining clients and you will become remarkable.
  • Remark-able = worthy of remarking = word of mouth.

It takes courage and the right strategy, to go from competing for business based on fees, to selling a premium service to people who truly value your time. That’s why so few business owners do it. They have not yet figured out that the riskiest thing they can do as we go into 2013, is to follow the flock.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

How to get the wrong kind of attention!

I watched recently, as someone on Twitter asked his followers if they would recommend a blog for him to read. He specifically asked people not to send him a link to their own blog.

I asked him afterwards what feedback he received. He said all, except one person, tweeted a link to their own site.

There were 2 things there, which were of interest to me:

  1. I found it interesting that he would need to ask people not to self-promote.
  2. I also found it interesting that these people were prepared to make themselves look so desperate and needy.

What drives business owners to do that?

So, why does this happen? In my experience, business owners pester you when their marketing isn’t compelling enough to attract your attention. In other words, instead of fixing their marketing so that it’s attractive, they push broken marketing at you.

You see it all the time:

  • When no one is subscribing to their newsletter, they subscribe you to it without your consent, then spam you.
  • When no one is visiting their website or blog, they bombard you on social networks with links to themselves.
  • When no one is calling them, they interrupt you with unwanted cold calls.

Commanding attention works better than demanding it

A more effective approach, is to command attention rather than try and demand attention by being a pest. This means developing marketing, which people will embrace and share. It means having the courage to stand out.

Of course, this requires a change in strategy and tactics, but the upside is huge.

You command attention.

You attract interest.

You capture people’s imagination and gain word of mouth referrals.

You generate opportunities.

Most importantly of all, it works.

Keeping you in the picture

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a slight change in the format of last weeks posts. They didn’t contain any images.

For years, I have invested a great deal of time trying to find interesting images for blog posts. I was of the opinion that posts needed images, yet as I discovered last week, that’s not always the case.

Images suck up lots of my blogging time

In recent months I have become increasingly aware of how long it takes me to find the right image, edit it so that it’s the correct size, then compress the image so it loads quickly, then position it so that it’s in the ideal spot within the post and then get the correct attribution, so you know who actually owns the image.

I found that I’ve been spending hours of my time on images every week, when I could be using that time to share useful ideas with you.

So, I decided to see what would happen if I posted for a week, image free.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Either no one noticed or no one was bothered, as not a single person mentioned the lack of images.
  • I have been able to add a new dynamic to the blog, by getting ideas to you a lot faster than before. Last weeks posts were all written on the day they were published. Previously, posts were written well in advance, then edited (including image work) the day before they were published. It feels a lot more natural to share ideas with you, whilst they are still fresh in my mind.
  • I’ve had more time available for blogging, allowing me to share more ideas with you than I would have been able to.
  • Posts load faster now because they use a fraction of the data they did before. This is especially useful for those of you with slow, mobile connections.

Social shares

I was expecting to see far fewer people share my posts on social networks. This didn’t happen.

It’s a fact: The image pulled from blog posts into services like Facebook or Google+, is a big factor in people seeing and resharing them. Previously, I tested this and saw a direct drop in shares when posts were on Facebook with no image associated to them. People are visual, after all.

I was able to overcome that problem by using a great little WordPress plugin, which grabs my avatar image and inserts it into my posts, when you share them on social networks. This approach has worked fine for me so far. It’s also used by brands like The Wall Street Journal and by some fellow bloggers, including Seth Godin.

The idea of going a whole week image free was to measure the impact over a full, working week. I am still going to use images in posts, but not in every post – just when one is needed.

Don’t try this at home

[quote]Blogging without images isn’t a good idea for most people reading this and I am not suggesting you try it.[/quote] I believe that a great image does add something to a blog post. This is especially the case if you need to show products regularly in your posts or if you need to show images that are linked to the visual nature of your services. Also, if you only blog once or twice a week the time saved will be minimal – across my 4 sites I sometimes publish as many as 40 posts in a month.

Images are also useful if you are big on SEO and want to optimise all your posts using image alt tags.

As I never optimise images for SEO and I don’t offer a particularly visual service, these reasons are less compelling for me. They could be a lot more relevant to you and your blog though, so please don’t copy this approach unless it’s in line with what you want to achieve.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

It’s about time

When it comes to sales or marketing, timing matters.

Timing and value

During this summer’s Olympics, a local supermarket was selling the official Olympic mascots for £10 each. A week after the games finished, they had a member of staff giving the mascots away for free, as you left the store.

The product didn’t change. The timing changed.

If we want to get the best return from our marketing activities, we need to make sure that our timing is as good as possible.

For example:

  • The time to ask someone to visit your website or ‘like’ you on Facebook, is not via a Direct Message on Twitter the moment they follow you.
  • The time to start planning your marketing for 2013, is not January 2013. It’s now.
  • The time to massively improve your customer service, is not after clients start to complain or after a new competitor shows up.

The typical small business owner focuses on marketing, when something goes wrong or in reaction to a competitor. You have to be wiser than that, if you want 2013 to be a NEW year and not simply another chance to relive the same old year, over again (and again).

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

So, what’s the big idea?

When we start a new business, it’s a time of real excitement. We are gifted with boundless energy, as we take our dream of a great business and lifestyle, then set to work on making them real.

Then something happens

After a year or two, it’s common for business owners to find themselves in a rut. It may be a good rut. It may be a bad rut – but it’s a rut. The rut is born from a period where things start to settle down and become more familiar. There’s no longer anything new or big happening, which truly invigorates them and causes them to stretch and grow.

Whenever I speak with a business owner, who tells me they feel a little flat or demotivated about their business, I ask them a few questions. The questions change depending on their situation, but are based around the following examples:

  • What’s the big idea, which is exciting you so much right now, that you’re finding it hard to sleep?
  • What’s the exhilarating new product or service you’re developing?
  • What’s the compelling story about your business, which is currently inspiring the marketplace to take notice of you, for all the right reasons?

Usually, I find that the reason they lack motivation (or inspiration) is that they are coasting. What used to be new, is now old. What used to cause them to stretch, is now comfortably within their abilities. They have become comfortable.

Comfort is great when we go to sleep at night, but we need to stretch and break out of our comfort zones, if we want a business that grows exponentially and continues to motivate and inspire us.


Reconnect with the motivation and energy you had when you started your business. Take it to a higher level. Stretch. Step out of your comfort zones. Demand the best from yourself.

Then, watch that rut disappear – as you and your business begin to grow again.

A little appreciation goes a long way

Remember how you felt, that day someone called you or wrote to you, totally out of the blue – just to say, thank you?

Here’s a suggestion: Take 5 minutes out of your day and be THAT PERSON, to someone else.

You may find this useful

Rather than tell someone that you appreciate what they did, tell them that you appreciate them. This small change in language massively increases the value of your message. It directs your gratitude to the person and not just their deed.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

How to quickly increase sales and build stronger relationships

If you have a little spare time in your working week and would like to massively improve your commercial relationships and increase sales, you will find today’s post really useful.

Human focused business development

Here’s what I’m suggesting: Contact your clients. Tell them that you know how hard the economy is right now and ask if you can pitch in and help them.

That’s it.

Your clients need you today, like never before. By giving them a call, note or email, offering to help, you give yourself the opportunity to make a real difference, to people who have put their faith in you. That’s who our clients are – people who trust us to come through for them, when they need us.

Why bother?

Some of the people you contact, will say they are doing fine and thank you for offering to help. These people will remember your eagerness to help, for longer than you can imagine.

Some of the people you contact, will say that times are tough and welcome any help you can provide. A subset of this group will reciprocate by paying you. Another subset will reciprocate by offering to do something for you. Finally, a smaller subset will welcome your help, but will not reciprocate directly. However, in every instance you will have had the privilege of helping your clients or customers.

No, you don’t need to contact every client you have. There will be some you are already in regular contact with and some who you would not want to work with again. However, the vast majority of clients and inactive clients (I don’t like the term ‘former clients’) will be worthy of your time. Make this work scalable by spreading these messages out and offering to help, when you have, or can make, the time required. Don’t contact everyone at once.

What will happen?

Everyone will see a slightly different result. Here’s what we know for sure: You will end up doing work that matters.

The time you invest in this will be filled by helping some great people – the people whose faith in you and whose investment in you is why you have a business today. It makes sense on every level to take time to invest in them!

You will deepen your relationships with every client you contact. Whether they are active or inactive clients they will never feel quite the same way about you, after you grasp the initiative to pitch in and help, when they need you the most.

Business is all about people. It serves our clients and ourselves, to deepen our relationships and invest in them.

Let’s work together and grow your business. To find out more click here!

Photo: Teen Photographer

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