Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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I have to share this with you

I received a message from an accountant today, via the contact form on the Marketing Mentor page of the blog. I have to share it with you, because it makes a very powerful point in just a small number of words. Here’s the key section from the email:

I spend every working day telling people about the value of expert help, then I put my own business at risk through my amateur marketing efforts.

decision nothing

The non decision

The decision to starve your business of the expert help it needs is an interesting one. It’s interesting, because it’s often seen as a non decision. In other words, a business owner doesn’t deliberately make the decision to waste their life running an under performing business. However, the decision to run a business during the worst global economy in memory, without the expert help you need, is exactly that: A decision.

Complain, blame… and stay the same

It’s March 2013 and there will be business owners reading this, who are making the same rookie errors that they made in March 2012. They will blame the economy or their luck or their competitors for their lack of success, even though others are thriving under the same conditions. So, they complain, they blame and they stay the same. They are the exact opposites of the business owners who actively seek out answers from professionals.

I get emails daily from business owners who have the courage and motivation to ask me for expert help. These remarkable people have figured out something, which their fearful, demotivated counterparts haven’t.

It’s simply this: The decision to do nothing when faced with a problem, is a far bigger decision, than the decision to do something about it.

How to make better business decisions

Today’s post is all about how to make better business decisions, by filtering the advice and information you receive.

Photo: Jim Connolly

Bad advice with good intentions

There seems to be no shortage of people, eager to give their unrequested advice to business owners. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. A local business has recently changed ownership. The new owner told me that he’s being bombarded with well intentioned, yet bad business advice. He explained that those offering the advice, have told him they’ve never run a business and have no expertise in his field of business.

Yes, they are trying to help. Yes, they are sincere, as they tell him what to do and what to avoid. However, good intentions and sincerity do not transform bad advice into good advice.

Bad advice with powerful communication

The Internet is packed with voices, offering us the keys to business success. Some of these voices sound convincing. They come from people who are gifted communicators or powerful writers. The challenge, is that bad information that’s well communicated, is still bad information. Just as the intentions behind advice do not change the facts, neither does the way those facts are delivered. Toxic information, well communicated, will still damage us.

The lesson?

Before you act on business advice, detach the message from the intent and the delivery. When looked at in the cold light of day without all the hoopla, what seemed like a great idea often evaporates.


I heard a business owner earlier, saying his customers were too stupid to understand how great his offers are.

He was wrong

stupid customers

Here’s the thing: When a prospective customer does not understand a marketing message, the focus should be on building a better message. Writing people off as stupid is where the real stupidity comes in. It also shifts the focus away from the business owner (who can fix the issue) to the prospective customer (who can’t).

A more useful alternative

  • Try being clearer. Cut the fluff from your message. Get to the point. Embrace brevity.
  • Try testing a new message on a selection of prospective customers, before you go live with it. Get feedback on what they believe you are trying to say. If they get it, others are more likely too also.
  • Try explaining things using more forms of media. For example, if it was originally a written message, add video, images, graphs or audio.

Giving up and accusing people of being stupid, when it’s a message we created that’s causing the problem, fails the customer and fails us.

How to get more Word Of Mouth publicity

Here’s a quick way to attract more word-of-mouth publicity for your business.

word of mouth

Learning what works

You are a business owner, a client and a customer. This gives you a superb opportunity to see what works, learn from it and apply it into your own business.

Here’s what I mean:

  • You are a client: As a client, what level of service impresses you so much that you want to tell people about it?
  • You are a customer: As a customer, what products or buying experiences impress you so much that you want to tell people about it?
  • You are a business owner: As a business owner, what can you learn from the above examples that you can adapt and use, which will impress people so much that they have to tell everyone about you?

How to make this work for your business

Think of the last time you found yourself raving to your friends about an amazing product or service. Then, answer these 2 questions:

  1. What was it, specifically, which impressed you so much?
  2. How can you incorporate that ‘wow factor’ into your products or services?

Note: Don’t worry that the examples you have found are from outside your industry. The most successful word of mouth strategies I have developed for my clients were all imported and adapted – this is part of the reason they stand out so powerfully and work so well.

Spend some time on this. Get it right and your business can attract that same, amazingly valuable word-of-mouth publicity. Need help? I’m here.

Quick Marketing Tip: Stop trying to appeal to everyone

One of the golden rules of successful marketing, is to identify exactly who your customer or client is, then focus exclusively on them. This is the opposite of what we see most small business owners doing. They try and be a little relevant to everyone and succeed in being directly relevant to no one.

Don’t do that. Really. Stop it. It’s hurting your marketing and hurting your business.

Here’s a smarter alternative…

specific marketing

Who’s in?

In order for your marketing to work, you need to determine exactly who you want to provide products or services to. These people are your insiders.They are the ones you need to focus all your time and effort on. They are the people you need to have in mind, whenever you make a marketing decision.

Of course, you can’t have insiders without outsiders. Every successful business has outsiders. If you are Apple Inc., your outsiders are people who want cheap technology. If you are MacDonalds, your outsiders are people who hate fast food.

Stop trying to appeal to everyone

Decide what your ideal customer profile is, then:

  • Write with them in mind.
  • Use their language.
  • Study what matters to them.
  • Be where they are.
  • Uncover the problems facing their industry or industries.
  • Offer answers.
  • Become a useful resource.

It’s a massively more effective way to grow your business than the vague alternative.

Decision Making: You can’t procrastinate your way to success

Here’s a great tip, to help you manage your time better and make more progress with your business than ever before.


Decision time

Delaying decisions is a key source of lost time, lost opportunities and increased stress. It’s hard to get things done, when it takes you weeks or months to make a decision, which could and should have been made in a day or so. These delays also place you at a huge commercial disadvantage, compared to your more agile competitors.

It’s important at this point to dismiss the fallacy that we must dither for weeks before making important business decisions. I have worked with and studied countless successful business owners over the years and all of them were great at making good decisions, in reasonable time. The key phrase there is ‘reasonable time’. No one  would suggest making decisions before you have access to the information you need or before you have had the expert advice you need.

The decision making process I see time and again in the most successful business owners, looks something like this:

  1. They get the information they need.
  2. If required, they then speak to someone who has the expert knowledge they need.
  3. Next, they evaluate their options.
  4. Finally, they make their decision and back it up with action.

The challenge usually kicks in at point number 3

Poor decision makers stall when they reach that third point. They evaluate their options for so long, that they waste days, weeks and sometimes years worth of progress. Their fear of making a bad decision stops them making any decision. They become victims of paralysis by analysis. They end up with lots of unfinished projects, missed opportunities and wasted potential.

This creates another problem. It’s something I call mind fog – an inability to think clearly because there are so many unfinished decisions fogging up your mind. I help people gain clarity every day and assure you, when you remove the fog, everything improves.

As business owners, it’s impossible to make much progress if we allow our momentum to stall, at the exact point where we need to make a decision. Look at the decisions you are currently stalling on and ask yourself why. If you need more information, get the information and then make a decision. If you are stalling through fear of getting it wrong, consider the overall cost of stalling for another day, week or year.

It’s no coincidence that every successful business owner is also a good decision maker. After all, we can not procrastinate our way to the top.

5 steps to increase the success of all your written marketing

Today’s post will show you a way to massively improve the effectiveness of any important content you write. It will also show you how to avoid one of the most common and damaging copy writing errors.

Stop limiting your options

5 steps

Most people will write their initial piece of content, call it their draft copy, then tweak it until it’s as good as they think they can make it.

The challenge with that approach is that you are working from the mindset that the initial draft is the best foundation for the content. This is almost never the case. You need to write from the best foundation possible, not simply the first draft you write down.

The most effective content comes from experimenting with ideas and one of the best ways to get new ideas, is to refuse to restrict yourself to working from one perspective. In other words, instead of writing an initial draft and then building on it, you commit to writing your message in 5 or more different ways. In my experience, by writing the content in a number of different ways you open up new possibilities, which often lead to breakthrough ideas that make your content massively more compelling.

Yes, it takes longer than writing from one perspective and hoping it will work, but the goal of your content writing is not to write as fast as you can – it’s to write the most commercially valuable content you can.

It works like this

  1. Write down exactly what you want to achieve from your content, so you know what your outcome is.
  2. Next, write down what kind of action you want the reader of your content to take. For example; email you, call you, visit your premises, fill in your survey, etc.
  3. Then, write 5 pieces of content, which address the previous 2 points as clearly as you can.
  4. Remember, you are not looking for 4 revisions of your initial piece of content, but 5 fresh perspectives to help you achieve the outcomes you listed in points 1 and 2.
  5. Finally, look for the most compelling of your 5 pieces of content, then build upon it.

If you do that, you give yourself a greater chance of writing your content from your best foundation – not just the one you thought of first.

Yes, sometimes that initial version will be the best, but every time it isn’t, you will have improved the quality and effectiveness of your writing.

Would you like to talk to me and Pick My Brain for answers or ideas? Well now you can.

How to use The Lock In Effect

There are 2 ways to retain your clients or customers, using something called The Lock In Effect.

What is The Lock In Effect?

lock in effect

The Lock In Effect is a term, which is typically used to explain a practice, where a company makes it extremely hard for their customers to leave them – even if the customer wants to.

For example:

  • UK banks are notorious for making it far more difficult to move to another bank, than it needs to be. Bill payments are often missed and a process that should take minutes electronically, can drag on for weeks or more. You feel locked in, because the pain and frustration of moving banks is so high.
  • If your company is set up to use a certain software package, which all your employees have mastered, it makes it a lot harder to drop that software, when a new alternative appears. The cost of buying the new software, the time and cost required to retrain everyone and the potential for lost data, makes the customer feel locked in.

An alternative Lock In Effect

Yes, there will always be business owners, who happily offer a very average service and try and lock their customers in. However, they don’t read this blog.

For people like you and I, there is a far better way to use The Lock In Effect.

We can create so much value through our products and services, that our clients or customers lock themselves in. This approach to business has been used by companies like Apple and Zappos – where we see their customers not only going back to them again and again, but also telling everyone about them. That’s why the best Apple salespeople, are Apple’s own customers.

Never miss an opportunity to find ways to increase the value of your products and services. Always look for ways to create a compelling customer experience. Never forget that your customers have the freedom to work with or buy from, whoever they choose. Make it your ongoing challenge, to inspire them to keep choosing you.

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