Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Just get rid of the crappy stuff!

I wrote yesterday about how to run a very successful business, working just 20 hours a week. I emphasised the importance of cherry-picking your clients, so you only work with the right kind of people for the right kind of fees.

Today, I want to share why it’s also very important for you to be extremely selective, regarding the products or services you offer.

Just get rid of the crappy stuff — Steve Jobs

One of the cornerstones of Apple’s success, is their decision to focus on a small number of products, which they excel at. They pour all their considerable expertise into creating market-leading products, which hundreds of millions of people buy and love.

Here’s a wonderful example of what I mean. Nike CEO, Mark Parker, talked to Steve Jobs on the phone, shortly after becoming Nike’s CEO:

“Do you have any advice?” Parker asked Jobs. “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle. But Jobs didn’t laugh. He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker.”

Source: Forbes.

The lesson?

Steve Jobs’ advice to just get rid of the crappy stuff, was maybe a little harsh, however, it raises some powerful questions:

  • Is it possible that by focusing on just a small number of core services (or products), you could be directly relevant to high quality clients, rather than seen as a generalist?
  • If so, how would that change the value you provide and thus the fees or prices you could achieve?
  • Would it be easier for potential clients to get a handle on exactly what you do?
  • Would it be easier for you to grow your business, with the increased focus that comes from specialising in a smaller number of areas?

Take a moment to ponder those questions. It could lead to a decision, which improves your business beyond recognition.

Tip: Here’s some great advice from Steve Jobs, on The Power of Focus.

How to run a successful business working just 20 hours a week!

I work fewer than 20 hours a week, yet earn a very good income. Here’s how I do it and how you can do it too.

I was prompted to write this, after receiving an email from a reader. She is a marketing consultant, who established her business 6 years ago. She’s working long hours for a relatively small income and wanted to know what she was doing wrong.

Not all clients are the same

I asked the consultant about her typical clients and she said they were; “pretty average”. I then asked her about the kind of work she was doing and the fees she charged. It was easy to see why she was working so hard, for so little reward. She was working for the wrong type of clients, doing the wrong kind of work, for the wrong fees.

Allow me to explain.

There are 2 types of client

A tiny fraction of clients are high value clients. The remaining (99% or more) are the more typical, lower value clients.

The most successful service providers focus exclusively on working with high value clients. No late payers. No over demanding or rude clients. No clients who make us miserable. No clients who penny pinch. We work only with great people, who allow us to do amazing work for them. I’ve been operating this model since the 1990′s and seldom work more than 20 hours a week, often fewer than 10 hours a week.

The average service provider works with average clients, on average projects, for average fees. They don’t have the freedom to do their best work, because they charge too little for their time, which means they have to turn work around quickly. So, they work on lots of low value projects, never producing what they are really capable of. This leads to stress, because they need to work way too many hours. It also leads to financial insecurity, as working too many hours for low fees isn’t sustainable — something has to give!

Getting stuck in a damaging cycle

We choose, either deliberately or otherwise, who we work with and what we charge. It seems most service providers start off working for “whoever will pay them” and never quite break free from the cycle this creates.

It looks like this:

  • Money is tight, so I need to accept whatever work I can get.
  • Because I accept whatever work I can get, money is always tight.

Staying in that cycle is the riskiest thing a service provider can do. Ironically, it feels safer than risking a change of direction. That’s why so many stressed, over worked service providers carry on earning peanuts, when they could be earning a fortune.

Switching to a better cycle

If you want to enjoy a great family life, working fewer hours yet earning far, far more, make the decision to change direction. Be selective. Choose your clients and projects wisely. Charge what you know you are worth, so you have the time and freedom to do great work.

Interestingly, this approach also creates a cycle:

  • You are working on great projects for clients who value you, so your clients become a source of valuable referrals.
  • Because your clients are a source of valuable referrals, you’re always working on rewarding projects for great clients who value you.

In short: If we are not seeing the results we want, we need to make better decisions regarding who we work with and what we charge.

Tip: I strongly recommend you read this – How to build a successful business.

Everything your business does, is marketing!

Its all marketing

Everything your business does, is marketing. It gives people an experience, an insight into what you and your business stand for. It creates your story… either a story your clients believe is worth sharing or a predictable story, which they soon forget.

Some business owners get it all wrong

They think that they can offer an average service, to average clients for average prices and use marketing to make average sound amazing. The challenge with that approach, is that it has never been harder to hide bad or average work.

A quick search on Google, Tripadvisor, Linkedin and Facebook, etc., allows your prospective clients to build a pretty good picture of your business and what your business stands for. For example, claiming to offer a professional service, yet operating behind a cheap website, littered with bad grammar, is a huge warning sign to prospective clients.

With the majority of people now checking service providers out online, before contacting them, this is a very big deal.

What’s your story?

Look at your business from the ground up. What story are you crafting for your marketplace, based on:

If you believe there’s room for improvement in your business, rewrite your story. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do it with slick marketing. You can’t!

In short: Marketing is everything you do. The whole picture.

Trust me. This is the truth!

Think hard before doing business with people, who make a habit of telling you that you can trust them.

It’s like a new acquaintance telling you that they won’t steal your stuff, when they visit your home.

Why it pays you to invest in others

Business is all about people. As a result, it makes perfect sense to invest in others.

For example:

  • Help people to develop or grow.
  • Connect people, who can assist one another.
  • Inspire people.
  • Give people recognition.
  • Delight people.
  • Share resources with people.
  • Encourage people.

Investing in the success of others is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding things you can do.

And if that isn’t enough, a hefty subset of those you invest in, will be motivated to invest in you.

Marketing 101: How to get your timing right

One of the most common mistakes small business owners make, is that they try to force things to happen too soon.

The challenge with wanting things to happen too soon, is that too soon is… too soon!

Even if you are in a hurry, launching your product or project when it is still full of bugs and broken, is a bad idea. It results in you putting substandard work in front of your marketplace. It creates a terrible first impression. It will stop the initial, eager members of your marketplace from returning.

The thing about timing

Regardless of how soon we want to launch something, if it isn’t good enough for our marketplace, it will flop. After all, there’s zero demand for half-assed products.

Here’s the thing: If the farmer harvests her apples too soon, because she’s over enthusiastic, they will still be way too small and taste sour. No one will buy them. Of course, if she waits too long, those apples will turn to slush.

In a nutshell: Too soon is too soon… however, once it’s good enough to ship, ship it!

7 Ways to improve your sales results, right now

improve sales, sales results, make more sales

Here are 7 marketing tips and ideas, to help you make more sales. I have also included a number of related links, which point to more information.

1. Don’t close sales – Open relationships instead

For years, sales trainers used to tell people about the art of closing a sale. Today, we understand that business is all about people and that if we want to earn a client and encourage their ongoing patronage, we need to treat them like humans. This means building great, professional relationships with them.

For example: If you believe that you offer a great service, you have a professional obligation to tell prospective clients, so they don’t make a mistake and hire the wrong provider. You know that you will look after them, but you can’t be sure another provider will. Show them that you’re committed to helping them. Focus on them and their needs.

Operating from this mindset is a great deal more effective, than ‘closing people out’ and seeing them as an opponent you need to beat.

2. Look for the gold in your inbox

Find the last 10 emails you opened, which came from people or businesses that you didn’t know. Look for what it was that caused you to open them. Then think of ways to incorporate the lesson into your own email marketing.

3. Develop more word of mouth referrals

Think of the people and businesses that you recommend to friends. In each case, you will find that they have earned your trust and that the service they provide is remarkable in some way. We talk or remark, on things that are remark(able). If you want to attract word of mouth referrals, you need to offer a service that inspires or motivates people to talk about it.

A great place to look for inspiration, is to identify what it is that motivates YOU to recommend vendors to your friends. What can you learn from them, which you can build into your own service?

4. Be extremely easy to contact

If you want to attract more sales inquiries from your website, make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to contact you. Link to your contact page from all your most visited pages. If you use a contact form, only ask for the details you MUST have. Every additional field you add to a contact form loses you a percentage of inquiries.

Also, offer people a landline phone number to call you on. A static number makes your business look more permanent than operating behind a mobile number. This is especially important if you operate in an area of business, where there are lots of low-value providers.

5. Get noticed by the right people

Many small business owners are uncomfortable at the prospect of standing out. The challenge with that mindset, is that you can’t be outstanding without standing out. That’s not just a play on words, it’s a cornerstone of successful marketing.

Your prospective clients or customers can’t see you if you’re hidden in the background. Most small business owners look and sound almost identical, when you read their marketing or follow them on a social network. By copying what you see others doing, rather than being yourself, you become camouflaged.

Step out from the masses and tell your marketplace who you are and why they should listen to you. There are some ideas here on standing out.

6. Match your marketing to your marketplace

Some of the most popular marketing sites are operated by people, who make THEIR money selling low price affiliate marketing products or software. If you try and apply the same ‘killer’ techniques they use, when marketing your service based business, you will find it far less effective.

I spoke recently with an accountant whose blog wasn’t generating any leads whatsoever. Her problem was that her site looked and sounded just like an affiliate marketing site. We changed it so that it reflected the service she provided and the inquiries immediately started to flow. I have seen that same issue hurt many, many service providers.

If you want to massively improve your marketing results, match your marketing to your marketplace.

7. Put your marketing ideas into action more often

Those great ideas you have for developing a new product or service can’t help you, if you don’t use them. There are few things in business more frustrating than seeing someone successfully put an idea into action, which you had years ago but didn’t run with. Similarly, many business owners wait until January to make important changes to their marketing, when it should be acted on as soon as possible.

Start off by actioning just one of your marketing ideas and see what happens. Test the idea. Measure the feedback. Learn from it and move forward. When you take this progressive, pro active approach, you will be amazed how much more effective your marketing becomes.

I hope you found these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope there’s something here, which you can put into action.

How to get things done, earn more AND enjoy the process

time management, productivity, marketing

How much do you value your time and how much do you charge for it?

I mention this, because although we claim to place huge value on our time, many people act in a way that suggests the opposite. The thing is, it’s impossible to build a successful business unless you use your time wisely and charge for your time accordingly!

How to lose time and waste your money

The lawyer who wastes 2 hours trying to repair his IT problem, doesn’t understand the value of his time. He can hire an IT professional for a third less than his hourly fee and get the job done correctly, in half the time.

Instead of using those 2 hours to delight his clients, he’s losing both time and money doing the job himself.

Of course, managing your time is more than just delegating tasks wisely. It’s also about protecting yourself from interruptions, which steal your time and divert your attention.

Losing time and surrendering attention

The business owner who allows themselves to be distracted all day with social network updates and emails, is handing their time (and attention) over to whoever demands it. However, by checking for email or updates at designated times, which suit their work flow, they can get far more done and save a massive amount of time.

How I gain an hour, for pennies!

When I put fuel in my car, I pay a little more for it than I need to. Why? Because the place opposite that charges less for fuel, always has an enormous queue. I can save myself 15 or 20 minutes every week, by going to the slightly more expensive place.

Here’s the thing: The hour or so a month this saves me, costs me pennies (literally). It’s great value, yet the majority of people can’t see it. Instead, they choose to trade their time, the most valuable asset any of us has, for pennies.

Can you spot the mistake here?

Pick any 2 lawyers, designers, dentists, accountants, etc, in your town and their fees will usually be within 10-20% of each other.

Whilst these people claim their time is of huge value, they sell it for average fees. They then end up working too many hours for average clients. That’s the OPPOSITE of how to grow a successful business.

How the most successful service providers do it

The most successful service providers work fewer hours, yet they earn far more than the average service provider.

Why?

Because they choose to offer an exceptional service, doing amazing work for high value clients. These high value clients pay them accordingly. So, they don’t need to work crazy hours, the way ‘average’ service providers do. These service providers place value their time in the truest sense, which means they use their time to do the best work possible – not average work, for average clients and average fees.

In short: It’s not enough for us to say we value our time. We need to demonstrate the value of our time in the decisions we make.

Tip: This will help. How to get more done in less time and improve your thinking.

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