Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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What Steve Jobs and Henry Ford can teach us about opportunities

Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were known for many things. One of which, was their ability to deliver what the marketplace wanted, without waiting to be asked. This post looks at what we can learn from them.

It starts with an understanding, that there’s a direct link between the success of your business, and your willingness to understand and serve, the needs of your marketplace.

Listen and observe

Even though we have social media accounts, which give us the ability to listen like never before, many small business owners choose to use these tools almost exclusively, to market and network, rather than listen and observe. As a result, many find they are offering something, which there is little demand for.

Listen to your marketplace and look for opportunities. It’s unlikely that people will be literally asking for a new type of service, but that’s NOT what you are looking for. You’re looking for a need, which you can profitably service, through rendering exceptional value.

Steve Jobs and Henry Ford

  • Steve Jobs didn’t wait until the marketplace started asking for tablet computers, when he reinvented the tablet industry. He knew that people had always liked the idea of tablet devices, but that the old technology wasn’t able to deliver a great experience. He made a judgement call and invested in the development of the first iPad and it was a massive success, which led to a global change in technology.
  • Henry Ford did a lot of research, on the affordability and likely interest in his initial Ford motor cars, before building them. He famously said; ‘If I had simply asked people what they wanted, they would have asked me for faster horses!

We can feel passionately about the value of bolognese flavoured cheesecake, but if there’s no market interest in that product, we’re wasting our time.

Do the research. Grow bigger ears. Listen and learn. Then, focus on developing something, which people need and do it as well as you possibly can.

Photo: Victoriapeckham

Twitter buys Posterous!

Hot on the news that Posterous has been acquired by Twitter, I have a question for you:

If you were renting a house from someone, would you pay to have a luxury swimming pool built?

The obvious answer is NO. It would be crazy. You’d be paying tens of thousands for something, which you may only get a few months use of. The home owner could kick you out right after the pool has been built and paid for. You’d also be paying to increase the value of the home owners property, not your own.

There’s nothing for you, in a deal like that.

Posterous acquired by Twitter

It was announced today that Posterous has been bought by Twitter, in what analysts see as a talent grab. In other words, the Posterous team are joining the Twitter team, in order to work on Twitter’s development. Twitter is interested in the people, not the Posterous product.

Twitter, Posterous and that swimming pool

Many people, including a lot of small business owners, decided to use Posterous as their blogging platform.

  • They invested time creating content on their Posterous blog.
  • They added the Posterous address to their marketing literature.
  • They encouraged people, including prospective clients, to connect with them on Posterous.
  • They spent money on premium Posterous products.

They will wake up today, to learn that they are likely to need to move to a new platform soon. They now have valid concerns that Posterous may be either canned, or as happened when Facebook bought Friendfeed, left to fade away as the team focus on their new project.

Posterous Users are rightly concerned

This comment from the Posterous post, which announced Twitter’s acquisition is in line with many similar comments and observations:

Your FAQ is littered with “We’ll give you ample notice before any changes or disruptions to the service and we’ll provide specific instructions for exporting your content” But you don’t provide any clear dialogue on the future of the service. Your FAQ makes it sound like you are shutting things down, but very indirectly. Can we get a more clear answer?

The person leaving that comment clearly has concerns that all the value he has created there will be lost. He knows it’s now out of his hands. He wants answers. Maybe he needs answers. However, he built his swimming pool in a house he was renting and as a result, he has no control other than to export his data today and do what I believe EVERY small business owner should do: Build a blog on PROPERTY YOU OWN.

Twitter’s acquisition of Posterous: The lesson?

The lesson here, is that for a commercial blog, you need to have control. Every free platform comes with a cost, an enormous cost for small business owners. The cost of a free blog is lack of control. For example, WordPress.com have suspended and in many cases erased business blogs, which they believed violated their terms of use.

If you are serious about developing a successful, sustainable business blog, which YOU are in control of, you need to pay for a professional solution. I use a self-hosted WordPress blog and I am glad I own it. It generates a 6 figure income for me every year and I’d be very concerned, if I awoke today and found its future in doubt, because of some merger or acquisition.

The cost of owning your own blog is low enough for any small business to cover. You can get yourself a URL (web address) for peanuts, a copy of WordPress for free and some inexpensive hosting for as low as $6 a month. This puts you in control of what could be your most valuable marketing asset. I

It will also ensure you never find yourself in the position of that guy I quoted earlier, and many others, who will wake up this morning wondering what’s going on and expecting the worst.

What every business owner needs to know about cakes!

Developing a successful business is a relatively simple process, based on doing the right things correctly. In fact, with the right strategy, it’s quicker to build a successful business, than it is for a business owner with no strategy, to go broke.

It’s a little like baking a cake

If someone gave you a great recipe for a cake and you followed it closely, you would end up with a delicious cake. If you followed that same great recipe many times, you would be able to bake that delicious cake without the recipe, and get it right every time. No one would claim you were lucky to have baked the cake so well. It would be the natural end result, for someone who has studied the recipe and repeated the correct process successfully, many times.

Some useful questions to ask yourself:

  • What recipe am I using, to ensure I’m doing the right things, correctly?
  • What experienced, highly credible source gave me the recipe for business success, which I’m currently risking my future on?
  • Was my recipe developed for me and my unique needs, experience, resources and goals – or just general / generic info I grabbed from webinars, blogs or books?
  • If things are not working out, how long am I willing to wait before I get the help I need?

The bottom line: Get the recipe for business success, which YOU and YOUR business needs, based on your unique situation, and then follow it. Don’t waste another year guessing, dabbling, hoping or worrying.

Photo.

Social Media: Are you spreading yourself too thinly?

People often ask me, why I am only active on 2 social networks – Google+ and Twitter.

The answer is that with only so much time available every day to connect with people on social networking sites, I had a decision to make. I could either have 2 highly valuable social networking assets or join another 6 or 8 and have a diluted presence.

I think of it like this:

  • If you have just enough coffee to make 2 really good cups, then spread it out across 10 cups, you end up with 10 bad tasting, weak cups of coffee.
  • If you have enough time to be relevant on 2 social networks, yet you spread that time over 10 different social networks, you end up with 10, weaker, social networking profiles. You end up automating. You end up cross posting the same stuff everywhere. You end up vaguely relevant on 10 networks, rather than directly relevant on 1 or 2 networks.

For example, I currently have almost 12,000 people connected with me on Google+, which puts me in the top 1% of users, based on my number of contacts (circles). It’s a network, where I have developed some high quality connections with lots of great people and learned a lot too. Now, if I was also having to spread my time across Facebook, Linkedin, StumbleUpon, Digg, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and Mixx etc, I would have a series of diluted presences. I’d be weak in many areas, rather than relevant in 1 or 2.

Getting the most from your Social Networking time

Yes, if you have a lot of spare time each day, you can be relevant on more networks than me. However, if you run a successful, growing business and time is in short supply, as it is for most people reading this, I believe you will get a far better return from focusing on relevance rather than volume.

Look: Another misleading blog post title!

It just happened to me again! You know, where you see an interesting headline or blog post title, click the link, then find you have been fooled? You reach the post, only to find that it’s clearly not what the title promised.

blogging, copywriting, content marketingThat trick is used a lot, because it delivers short term results. However, there’s limited longevity in fooling people into clicking links. people are not stupid and the next time they see a headline from that blogger, they are far less likely to trust the link.

Headlines are promises

The headline of a blog post makes a promise. If the headline says “5 Powerful Time Management Tips”, we are expecting 5 great time management tips. If the content of that post then fails to deliver on that promise, we learn not to trust the next headline we see from them. They train us to ignore them.

I have regularly heard Internet marketing experts slam people like Seth Godin and Robert Scoble (and me) for writing post titles, which are not sensational every time. They suggest that we would get more traffic, if we made inflated promises with our post titles, rather than focus on titles that are compelling, yet make it easy for the reader to know exactly what the post is about. For me, and I am sure for Seth and Robert too, the trust of our readers is paramount.

Building trust

I reach thousands of people every day, using titles that people trust. That’s because people return to this blog, knowing that the content of my posts will deliver on the promise made in the title. If I over sold or made false claims in the titles, I would possibly attract more new readers, but they would only visit here one time. People really don’t appreciate being tricked.

We should write the best posts we can. We should write interesting, engaging titles too. It doesn’t matter which comes first. However, we must be aware that if the title is inaccurate, we will train people not to trust us. We have to deliver, if we want to earn the ongoing attention of our readers.

Photo: Maria Reyes-McDavis

How to turn your knowledge into power

You have hundreds, maybe thousands of followers and friends on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

You read just about every marketing and business development blog, worth reading.

You subscribe to some great newsletters and podcasts too.

You have a lifetime of experiences and lessons behind you.

The question is: Are you using these assets in order to create something uniquely valuable, or just consuming?

Passive consumers

The Internet is filled with passive consumers. These are the millions of people, who lap up the information, join the social networks and use the latest tools, but do nothing of any real value with it all.

We have to be smarter than that

An alternative approach to passive consumerism? Grab a pen and a pad and write down the 10 most valuable things you’ve learned from all that consumption. Then, go through the list and, one by one, do something proactive with each thing you have learned.

In an instant, that passive consumption is transformed into valuable research. The difference between the two is massive.

Photo: Orphan Jones

Is your marketing message too good to be true?

too good to be true

Here’s a quick marketing tip, for anyone setting their fees or prices at the low end of the spectrum.

It’s all about making offers, which sound too good to be true.

Too good to be true

There’s an old saying that assures us, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. As a result, when your prospective clients see an offer, which looks too good to be true, they are immediately on guard. They know that a great service at too low a price just doesn’t stack up. Great people don’t do cheap work – Cheap people don’t do great work.

So, the prospective client is left wondering what’s wrong with this picture.

  • Maybe the service is just poor quality and they are lying to me with their marketing?
  • Perhaps there are tons of hidden costs?

Whichever it is, when confronted with something that seems too good to be true, your prospective clients get super suspicious. Just like you and I do. This is why marketing at the low end of the fee scale, needs to focus more than ever on reassurance.

Open and honest pricing

A sure sign of amateur marketing, is when we see a small business owner offering something amazing, for what seems to be peanuts. Professionally marketed businesses at the low end of the fee scale, emphasis the value and lay it out in detail, so the prospective client gets to see exactly what is on offer for the money. Their fee structure or pricing is open and honest. They make great use of promises and guarantees, which reverse the risk attached to hiring a ‘bargain’ provider.

Don’t assume that marketing at the lower end of the fee scale is any easier than the high end. Be very aware that when people see a low fee, they become immediately suspicious.

What next?

Read this FREE, 3 part series on how to attract the best clients & the highest fees.

Photo: Cdsessum

Don’t let the critics stop you from standing out

I was 29 years old, when I finally figured out that you can’t keep all the critics happy, no matter what you do. This realisation, gave me the freedom to live and work, without fear. I was never the same again.

Critics

Some critics mean us well and genuinely give us their opinion, in an effort to help. Other critics, especially online, will simply want to attack us in order to satisfy a need they have, which they can’t fulfil in their offline world.

In either case, we can’t do anything of value or substance and keep them all happy.

Nor should we try to keep the critics happy!

Life is too precious for us to waste it, being less than we can be, just so we can be invisible to critics.

Yes, we need to listen to feedback. It may well offer us a valuable lesson. However, there’s a world of difference between monitoring feedback when we are taking action, and allowing fear of criticism to stop us from even getting started.

Photo: Banalities

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