The importance of taking responsibility for our mistakes

When I speak with young entrepreneurs, one of the first topics I cover is responsibility. The reason I mention it so prominently, is that the decision to accept responsibility and then back it up with action, is a prerequisite for commercial success.

take responsibility

What we learn, when things go wrong

If you want to really know a person’s attitude to responsibility, you need to see what they do when they make a costly mistake. The way they choose to deal with it will usually fall into one of two broad categories.

Here’s what we find:

  1. Some people make a mistake, take responsibility for what they did, then work to put things right. Their reputation grows as does their self-belief and confidence.
  2. Other people make a mistake, dodge responsibility, then walk away – leaving you with a problem they created. Their reputation plummets and they miss an opportunity to grow.

Paying the price

Those who avoid responsibility end up paying a hefty price. You see, it’s impossible to have that mindset and still grow in any meaningful, positive way. When they make a mistake, particularly a big mistake, they look for someone or something to blame. There’s no growth there. The growing only happens when they accept responsibility, dig deep, deal with the situation and THEN learn from it.

The legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, once said he only learned how great he truly was, when he was knocked down for the first time and decided to get back up again. The same is true of everyone. People only really know what they’re are made of, when faced with adversity. By dodging responsibility, they never develop the mental toughness to rise to the next challenge, which creates a cycle that persists until they decide to break it.

No one needs that kind of reputation!

Of course, failing to take responsibility and walking away from problems they created also seriously damages their reputation.

Social networks allow people to share experiences faster and with massively more people than ever before. Those who have that irresponsible attitude to business, soon learn that it doesn’t take long before their marketplace, co-workers and competitors find out.

People still value the same things

Whilst the technology we use in business has changed massively over the years, the nature of people has remained the same. The marketplace still places a huge value on; trust, courage, integrity, leadership and honesty. We can demonstrate all of those values, by accepting responsibility for our actions.

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we deal with them, that counts.

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

What everybody needs to know about Decision Makers

One of the keys to successful selling, is to spend as much time as possible speaking with decision makers.

decision makers

Business is all about people and it’s important to build relationships with all kinds of people, regardless of their position or influence.

What this post focuses on is specifically the relationships we build with prospective clients or customers. Why? Because in order for you to sell your products or services, you need to be speaking with people, who have the authority to make decisions. In marketing, these people are (rather unimaginatively) referred to as decision makers.

The decision maker challenge

Small business owners often find themselves in the thankless trap, of trying to sell an idea to someone who lacks the authority to make a purchasing decision. At best, a non decision maker will tell the decision maker what they can recall from your conversation; often missing key elements out. In most cases they won’t even do that.

So, given the ineffectiveness of speaking with the wrong people, why does it happen so often? Here are a couple of common reasons.

1. Shielded decision makers

That decision maker you need to speak with, is possibly of huge interest to hundreds or thousands of other people too. She is getting pestered with emails, calls and introductions from strangers every day, so needs to be shielded by her team in order to get her work done!

As I show in my audio program, you can get the attention of decision makers and motivate them to want to speak with you, but it requires the correct strategy.

2. Misleading job titles

You can waste a lot of time trying to sell to someone whose job title makes them sound like a decision maker, when they have no real authority.

There are some heads of department, who are the head in name only. There are some company directors who don’t actually direct anything of real importance. This is why you must never allow a lofty job title to fool you into assuming anything. If you are in any doubt, ask them who is responsible for (whatever) within their company.

Senior influencers

Just because someone is not a decision maker, does not mean they lack influence. Far from it in fact!

Some great people will lack the authority to sign your contract, but their judgement is valued so highly within the company that they can influence the decision maker to do it. We call these people senior influencers and they are wonderful people to do business with. I’ve met senior influencers whose judgement is respected in decisions worth millions, so we overlook them at our peril.

Sealing the deal

Ultimately, there are many interesting people to connect with at every level in business. However, in order for you to make a sale, clinch a deal or earn a new client, you need to be speaking with either a decision maker or senior influencer. Keeping that in mind from the very start of the marketing and sales process, will keep you on track and save you time and money too.

10 Quick tips to blow the lid off your potential in 2013

Here are 10 quick tips to blow the lid off your potential in 2013!10 ten

  1. Stop copying your competitors. Really. Stop it.
  2. Think big. No, bigger than that.
  3. Stop aiming for perfection. Aim for your best.
  4. Watch less TV. They call it programming for a reason.
  5. Read more books. Read books that motivate, educate or inspire you.
  6. Lead. The world already has too many followers.
  7. Learn to think more creatively. Need help? Here’s a whole website full of creative thinking ideas.
  8. Deliver on your promises. It builds trust from others and respect from within.
  9. Be selective what you focus on. As Earl Nightingale discovered: ‘We become what we think about.’
  10. Forgive. While you’re holding a grudge, they are out dancing.

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Photo: Kirsty Hall

How to avoid the feast and famine trap

After the London Olympic Games, I heard a radio interview with an elite sports coach. He said that the difference in attitude between average athletes and gold winning international athletes, was less than 10%.

In my experience, the same is true in business.

feast and famine

The most successful business owners and those business owners who struggle, both work hard. However, the most successful business owners do everything required, in order to succeed. The business owners who struggle, do everything that they feel comfortable with and leave the remaining 10%.

Feast and famine

When faced with a financial crisis, the average business owner will do 100% of what’s required in order to survive. Things quickly improve and the crisis is averted. They then start to feel more comfortable and eventually slip back into doing the 90% again. This eventually causes them to hit another financial crisis. They then enter the dreaded feast and famine cycle.

If we want to avoid the feast and famine cycle, the answer is right there in that missing 10%.

My increased commitment to you in 2013

Like most people, I’m thinking about the year ahead right now. Here are some of my thoughts for the direction of Jim’s Marketing Blog in 2013.

Before looking ahead, I’d like to share a couple of things from 2012

Earlier this year, Jim’s Marketing Blog was rated the most influential marketing blog in the UK and the second most influential business blog over all, in Eloqua’s UK Blog Tree. The blog also grew faster in 2012 than any year since 2008, in both visitor numbers and subscribers. I want to send a HUGE thank you to every reader, who has shared this blog with their friends and helped me reach more people, with free marketing ideas.

My email experiment is here to stay

I made the decision in October 2012, to add my email details to every page of the blog. I decided to test it for a month, to see how people would use it. A lot of people warned me not to do it, saying I would get flooded by spam emails. Thankfully, I can report that this never happened. Instead, it opened an intimate channel of communication with every reader, allowing them to connect with me directly. Many people have told me that they find it a lot more useful than leaving a comment on the blog.

Solutions to my huge blog comment spam challenges

Blog commenting has changed massively since 2008, with the vast majority (often 90% or more) of my comments now coming via social networks and email. People know I reply to every message I receive on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, so if they see me there, that’s where they comment. It’s faster and easier for them, than leaving their social network to login here and comment.

I wrote earlier in the year about a huge problem I have had with comment spam – automatically generated messages, sent to blogs in order to build links or attract ‘traffic’ from the victim’s blog. I was receiving over 2,000 spam comments a day. A small percentage made it past the filters, generating hundreds of fake notifications a week, telling me there was ‘a comment awaiting moderation’ on the blog. This made it hard to keep up with legitimate comments.

I thought I had found a solution, with a plugin that almost eliminated spam comments from ever reaching the blog. Sadly, the plugin also stops too many genuine comments from getting through. This has simply swapped one set of time consuming comment problems for another, as readers now email me to ask if I can find and publish their comment.

As all my readers have at least one social media account, I’m considering using social networks exclusively, for commenting next year. Dealing with comment spam has been just too time consuming and distracting. I dislike using 3rd party commenting systems, finding them often slow and unreliable when I see them on other sites.

The democratising of comments through social networks seems a logical, fair way to remove the issue and allow me more time to actually write for you. It also creates accountability, as comments can not be made anonymously.

More free tips and ideas for you in 2013

This year more than ever, has proven to me that people value the free information I provide here. I get over 100 emails every day from small business owners, many of which are telling me how the ideas I share have become an essential resource for their business.

As you can imagine, I invest a lot of my time developing the content you find here. I have written every post on this blog and shared thousands of ideas, since I started in 2008. As well as writing content for you, I also spend lots of time every day dealing with emails and messages from readers. Although the wonderful people at WebFusion sponsor my hosting, I pick up the bill for everything else. For example, I work with fewer paying clients each year in order to have enough time to offer as much free information to my readers as possible. This costs me thousands every year in lost income and I have happily covered the cost since 2008.

In 2013, I plan to spend even more of my time helping my readers with free marketing and business development advice. To do this, I need to cover the cost of more of my time. I am currently looking at either introducing more sponsor opportunities or becoming an affiliate for some of the products and services I already use and recommend to people. Currently, just one of the products I use has an affiliate program, so sponsorship looks favourite rite now.

A year of opportunity

I believe that 2013 will be a year of opportunity. As the economies of most countries continue to struggle, people will think a lot harder before hiring a service provider or buying a product. When times are great and people feel financially secure, they think less about the impact of a bad purchasing decision. Today, they think long and hard! This means the small business owners who develop their marketing most effectively, will gain a disproportionately large share of their market.

Rest assured that I will be here for you throughout 2013, to help you become one of the small businesses that thrives. Moreover, I plan to be of greater service to you in 2013 than ever before.

Discover the gold mine within your business

Part of running a successful small business, is understanding and maximising your advantages. This post is all about one major advantage you have over large companies. I’m talking about your agility.

Agility is an asset

I want to start by giving a brief example of what I mean by agility.

As a small business owner, you have the agility to get an idea in the morning and put that idea into play by end of business that day. Large companies can take weeks or months to execute a new idea. I wrote an article about this for Microsoft, which lists 3 ways you can use agile thinking to grow your business.

The perfect scenario

The reason I am sharing this with you, is that marketing is changing. It now offers great opportunities to those of you who are agile. Marketing today moves extremely fast, especially social media marketing, which is real-time. This is the perfect scenario for those small businesses, who are prepared to use their agility. You can listen to what your marketplace is saying, identify an opportunity (or gap in the market) and then execute.

Of course, in order for you to benefit from your agility advantages, you need to embrace agile thinking and then get moving. The small business owner who gets the idea and fails to execute, has no advantage over the large company, who has the idea and can’t execute.

It looks like this:

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

How to stop cash flow problems from ruining your business

Today, I have a very valuable business lesson I would like to share with you. It’s all about ensuring you get paid.

Just after I set my business up in 1995, I spoke with a business owner who had recently gone bankrupt. Steven had owned a garage, which offered a very high class service to people who owned expensive vehicles and valued excellence. I asked him what went wrong.

Here’s his story and the lesson.

Gentleman’s agreement?

Steven explained that he had been ripped off, by a much bigger company he had partnered with. They decided not to pay a very large bill they had run up and gave him almost no notice. His business couldn’t cope with the impact it made to his cash flow and within 2 months, he was broke. Apparently, he believed that they would pay him as they promised, ‘if he just did one more job’ for them.

Anyhow, the reason I am sharing this story with you, is that this likeable, hardworking man offered me some great advice, which I am going to share with you. Here’s what Steven told me:

Jim, make sure you never enter into a gentleman’s agreement, where you are the only gentleman.

Wise words, but I still had to learn the hard way!

Back when Steven gave me this advice, I was in my late 20’s and new to running a business. I thought the advice was just a clever play on words. I then discovered there was a massively valuable lesson behind those wise words. In 1998, I found myself licking my wounds after a client of mine went missing, owing me over £30,000! He’d verbally agreed to pay me, I did the work over a period of 3 months, he made a ton of money and that was the last I saw of him. Had I not been financially strong, it would have wiped my business out.

Limiting your exposure to debt

As a small business owner, you have to be extremely careful who you choose to work with. You also need some rules in place, to limit your exposure and protect your business. Some people will deliberately tell you one thing and do something else. In my experience, those people are a tiny minority. In most cases, people will intend to pay you but find they can’t, because they have become victims of someone who has not paid them.

By having some sensible rules in place regarding your payment terms and sticking to them, you may lose the occasional client, who needs greater flexibility because they have cash flow issues. However, without some kind of protection in place, you leave yourself extremely exposed.

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

9 Amazing free resources to help you grow your business and feed your mind

Right now, you have access to an Aladdin’s Cave of freely available marketing, business development and professional development tools. In today’s post, I am going to share just 9 of them with you.

Free marketing and educational resources

Here are my 9 free resources. Remember to add yours at the end:

  1. Automattic, the company behind, will give you a blog for free and host it for free, too. Many of the world’s top blogs started off on this free platform and some have stayed with the free version of the service. I started this blog off using the free version of WordPress and today, around 60,000 people get updated when I publish each new post.
  2. The people at TED have made thousands of educational and inspirational videos available to you, for free.
  3. Microsoft offer you Skype for free, so you can easily collaborate with colleagues or clients via speech or video conferencing. So long as they have downloaded Skype, you can now work with people, with no geographic limitations and it won’t cost you a penny.
  4. Twitter, Google+ and Facebook welcome you to use their services for free and Linkedin offers a useful, free version of their service too. Years ago, you paid an organisation to attend physical networking events, and lost a huge chunk of your day travelling to the events, attending the events and getting back from the events. You were lucky if 100 people attended and even luckier if you made regular, meaningful contacts. Now you can network with thousands of people anywhere in the world, for nothing more than the time you’re prepared to invest.
  5. Seth Godin digs deep to come up with something useful to say, via his daily blog posts. These are essential reading.
  6. Christopher Penn and John Wall turn up on an almost weekly basis, to share ideas and opinions on the world of marketing, in their Marketing Over Coffee podcast. I reviewed it here.
  7. You can now give your online and offline marketing photos and images more impact, with free image editing software. I use picmonkey.
  8. It has never been easier to capture ideas than it is today. If you use a smartphone, Evernote provides an extremely useful free version of their service, which allows you to collect ideas, sounds, images, webpages and more – and then work with them.
  9. If you have a website or blog, you need to measure what’s happening on the site and by far the most popular tool for this, is Google Analytics. Google Analytics lets you track everything, from how many visitors your site receives and what your most popular pages are, to what words people use when looking for you on a search engine and what type of devices they use to access your site. This free package offers far too many features to mention here and is extremely useful, especially if you do not already have any analytics software.

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

12 Ideas to help you and your business thrive in 2013

Let’s get started.

  1. Look for the opportunities, where others see problems.
  2. Back up your plans with action.
  3. Do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.
  4. Choose to respond to negativity with education, not anger.
  5. Regularly feed your mind with information that educates, motivates or inspires you.
  6. Deliver on your promises.
  7. Look for the learning in every situation.
  8. Stop following the sheep and have the courage to be yourself.
  9. Do work that matters, rather than work that pays.
  10. Start your projects with the end in mind.
  11. Know less about reality TV and more about reality.
  12. Create rather than complain.
  13. Exceed expectations.

What would you add to that list?

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

How to grow your business with clarity and confidence

I want to share a superb opportunity with you.

I need to start by saying that if you intend to just hunker down and hope business improves in 2013, then this post is not for you.

Okay, it’s just you and me now! As you genuinely want to grow a more successful business and are prepared to do something about it, I’d like to offer you a very special opportunity.

Your opportunity

  • It’s an opportunity for you to work with the best clients and the highest fees.
  • It’s an opportunity for you to get people talking about your business and generating word of mouth referrals for you.
  • It’s an opportunity for you to confidently plan ahead, knowing you are doing the right things, correctly.
  • It’s an opportunity for you to attract sales leads and inquiries, so you can focus on what you do best.
  • It’s an opportunity for you to plan ahead with total clarity about your business and it’s direction.
  • It’s an opportunity for you to start seeing the rewards your hard work deserves.

You and I working together as a team

It’s an opportunity for you and I to grow your business, working together as a team. You can find out how it works, here.

If you would like to know more, simply email me and I will happily answer any questions you have. If you would like a no obligation chat, remember to include your phone number and a suitable time to call, along with your time zone. It’s that easy.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to finally get the expert marketing help you need. With places already limited, I suggest you get in touch as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. I look forward to hearing from you.