Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Seth Godin is still killing his blog, thankfully!

Last year, I wrote about how Seth Godin and I were ruining our blogs. According to the experts, we do it all wrong.

There are lots of expert guides to blogging, which suggest you need to do everything a certain way, in order for your blog to succeed. The problem with these guides is that the closer you follow them, the less visible you become. They tend to focus on the same dozen or so rules, which hundreds of thousands of other bloggers follow.

It’s hard to get noticed, when you are following a massive crowd like that.

Great news: Seth Godin is still killing his blog

I was reminded of the alternative to these ‘how to’ guides, when I read a wonderful post by Seth last week. Seth mentioned a post he saw, which listed 12 things that kill blogs – at least 7 of which should, apparently be killing his blog! If you don’t already know, Seth writes the largest single author blog on the Internet. It’s very alive!

Seth summed it up brilliantly in his post: ‘One way to work the system is to work the system. The other way is to refuse to work it.’

It’s all about choice

We can either become extremely good at following the rules and hope to out-perform the thousands of others using the same approach or we can refuse to work within those rules. It’s a matter of choice. Neither option comes with a guarantee, however, in my experience, it’s easier to stand out, by standing out.

Photo: lejoe

Live today!

As I write this, the UK is basking in wall to wall, spring sunshine. It has been like this for a week; not super hot, but warm enough to go out in a T-shirt. The trees, hedgerows and plants are all coming into leaf, there are blossoms everywhere. It looks wonderful.

business development, business model, time management

Enjoying the sun or waiting for the rain?

Some people have really enjoyed the week. They have lived in the now, each day. They have felt the sun on their faces – really experienced it.

Others have complained all week, that although the weather is unseasonably warm NOW, the forecast is for a colder weekend. These people have ignored the now, focussing instead on what may be ahead.

Although we need to plan ahead, we also need to enjoy today. Life is a journey, not a destination. Postponing our peace of mind until a week from now, every week, means we never actually get there.

Live today!

Photo: Audry

Success and decisions: The undeniable link!

I’d like to share with you, one of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me:

“If you want to make more progress in the next 7 days, than you have in the past year, start making those difficult choices that you know you need to make, but have been avoiding until now.”

We are all capable of making the easy choices, those which require just a little stretching. Because these decisions require marginal effort, they tend to lead to little, if any, meaningful progress. After all, we can’t grow without stretching.

Big decisions

The giant strides are made, when we dig down deep – when we make the decisions we have been ducking, because they are difficult. These are the BIG decisions that lead to lasting, quantum change. However, these major decisions almost always have a significant risk attached, which is why the vast majority of people avoid them. Very few things in business come with a 100% guarantee. One of the exceptions to this rule, is that we can guarantee that we will place a very low ceiling on our potential, if we avoid making difficult decisions.

When I recorded my extremely popular Motivation Master Class audio program, I interviewed a number of very elderly people, to ask them about the things in life they looked back on, with regret. I wanted to learn from their experience. It was extremely valuable. In every case, the things they regretted were the things they didn’t do. Their focus seems to have been on, ‘what if it fails?‘, so they did nothing. Then, as they looked back on their lives, they were left wondering ‘what if it had worked?’

In short: When we put off making the big decisions, we are feeding our need for short-term comfort, at the expense of our future happiness.

Your reputation, Warren Buffett and toothpaste!

In business, our reputation is priceless. That’s why we need to ensure we do everything we can to enhance it and avoid anything that might damage it.

Warren Buffett summed it up like this:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

It’s all too easy to react in the heat of the moment, to say or do something we soon regret, then end up paying a hefty price afterwards. That’s why we benefit so much from acquiring the habit of pausing, before we respond to anything that’s potentially sensitive.

Listen, think, pause then respond.

If we think before we react, we give ourselves the time to act with a calmer and usually clearer mind. It’s easier to stop yourself from saying something toxic, than it is to repair the damage afterwards. As they say, it’s easy to get the toothpaste out of the tube, but it’s a lot harder to get it back in.

Here’s a suggestion. The next time you find yourself in a situation, where you are about to immediately react to something that could be sensitive, stop! Go for a walk, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, then think about how to respond, if indeed you need to respond. It works extremely well.

Photo: Mauren Veras

Blogging: Why sharing valuable resources is so important

In the past, I have been very hesitant about using this blog to showcase great services and products. In fact, I can think of just a tiny number of posts in the last 4 years, which were dedicated to introducing you to resources that I find extremely valuable.

I realised a few weeks ago that this was the wrong approach. This post explains why and also, why I believe it’s important for bloggers to share valuable resources with their readers.

The value of sharing

A few weeks ago, I decided to put things right and be a little more proactive, when it came to sharing useful resources. So, I gave a recommendation to the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, the only marketing podcast I now subscribe to. People are still thanking me today, for sharing that podcast with them.

Then yesterday, I heard some news that reinforced why unpaid, honest recommendations like that are so important.

A Seesmic shift

Some of you who connect with me on Twitter, know I use and love the Seesmic desktop app and Seesmic phone app. I’ve been using Twitter for 5 years and the Seesmic tools are the best I have found for my needs.

Yesterday, I discovered that Seesmic’s owner Loic Le Meur, had recently announced that he needed to release over half his workforce. You can read about it here. It’s especially sad news, as Loic is a lovely guy and the products, including the seesmic ping beta that I am testing right now, are extremely good.

In all the time I have used Seesmic products, I have never blogged about them. I have never shared why you may want to consider using Seesmic, if you are tired of using slow, browser based products that look like spreadsheets, for cross posting to your social networking accounts. Today I am doing just that. The news from Seesmic, shows us that it’s all too easy for people to miss out on great resources, if those of us who use them don’t share how much we value them.

Sharing matters

I am going to continue to be a little more proactive, about sharing resources I value, which I believe you will want to know about. These will always be unpaid recommendations and only for resources I personally trust and value, which will be of interest to business owners.

If you have a blog and there are resources you value, I suggest you use your voice to share them with your reader community. If enough of us do this, we will all benefit.

UPDATE: I heard from Loic earlier and he confirmed that Seesmic will now be focusing their efforts onto Seesmic Ping; an app that allows you to schedule posts across various social networks. You can find out more here.

Images: Carlos Maya & Loic

Is this marketing error hurting your business?

The most successful small businesses have found out that there’s a decision they need to make, if they want to succeed.

The decision is about where they decide to position their business:

  • You can focus on developing a quality brand.
  • You can focus on developing a budget brand.
  • You can’t do both, without one hurting the other.

Yes, some large companies can subdivide their overall business into separate divisions, with a quality brand and a budget brand, under 2 different operating names and with 2 totally different marketing strategies (and a hefty marketing budget). Even then, many of the big guys get it very wrong!

When it comes to small business owners, we have a decision to make. We need to position ourselves, either as a quality brand or a cheap and cheerful brand. We can’t be both.

Here’s why: The market knows that great people don’t do cheap work and that cheap people don’t do great work.

In addition, by trying to serve both ends of the market you send a mixed message, which can really hurt your business, as the following example demonstrates.

How an English pub paid the price for failing to choose

Here’s an example of what can happen, if you try and attract both ends of the market.

Around 5 years ago, a friend asked me if I would speak with his sister, who owned a village pub and restaurant in Kent, England. He said she needed help and he was right. The problem she had was immediately obvious. She was trying to position the pub simultaneously as a place that sold cheap booze AND as a family venue with great food.

Here’s what happened. The cheap booze attracted people who were, by her own admission, young, loud and prone to bad language. This stopped most families from visiting the place more than once, as most people don’t want their kids around that kind of atmosphere. Equally, it wasn’t the kind of atmosphere you would choose if you wanted to go out for a nice meal either. So, a very small percentage of diners ever returned.

There wasn’t enough profit from the cheap booze crowd to sustain the business, however, because the boozers were stopping the highly profitable diners from eating there, she said she didn’t want to lose the cheap booze income, for fear of having nothing. So, she ended up wasting thousands on advertising and promotions aimed at diners and families, which did attract some people, but very few returned. After 18 months in business, she ran out of money and then she ran out of places to borrow money.

Interestingly, the pub was then bought by someone who transformed it into a very successful country restaurant, bar and seminar / meeting venue, with a reputation for great food and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. The place has a clear identity now, as a quality venue. It attracts people who are happy to pay a premium for quality. It doesn’t attract people looking for a cheap place to get drunk.

We have to choose

I wrote recently about how we need to match our fees or prices to our promises. Well, we also need to check that our business is balanced correctly, that people know who we are and where we fit into the quality / price spectrum. For example, a designer with promotions all over their website for bargain $50 logo designs, is going to have trouble convincing us they are worth paying $5,000 for their premium design service. We know they do $50 work, that they work at the bottom end of the scale - The best designers don’t do that.

Where do you pitch your prices or fees and what messages do you think that gives people? Are you trying to attract both, premium clients and budget conscious clients? If so, are you aware this usually makes you look like poor value, for the premium clients?

Marketing Tip

Take some time to review the type of client you are attracting (premium focused or budget conscious.) If you want more premium clients, but tend to attract the fee sensitive crowd, there’s ALWAYS a reason. Start by looking at your marketing messages and pay special attention to anything that suggests you serve the cheap end of the market.

Just like the pub owner I mentioned earlier, we have a decision to make, if we want to attract the best clients and the most attractive fees.

Photo: Matt Wilson

Useful marketing tip

One of the most powerful ways to develop your business, is to focus on being useful.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

  • Useful service providers retain their clients or customers for longer.
  • Useful blog posts and newsletters get read and shared the most often.
  • Useful videos attract more viewers.
  • Useful people attract more contacts and build larger, stronger commercial networks.
  • Useful websites get linked to the most.

‘Useful’ beats ‘demanding’ every time!

Typically, we see people trying to build their business by asking for help, rather than being useful. They ask us to; share their links, ‘like’ their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and recommend them to our friends, etc.

All of these things are far more likely to happen, if we are consistently useful rather than continuously demanding.

A useful tip

Take a look at any area of your marketing, which is under performing. Now, look for ways to make your marketing messages and interactions around that area, as useful and helpful to others as you can. For example, if you want a larger, more targeted following on a social network, focus on being as useful to people in your niche with your social networking as possible. Offer ideas. Suggest useful resources. Connect people. No, you’re unlikely to see thousands of people immediately flock to you, but over time you can expect to make meaningful progress.

In short: If we want to be regarded as a valuable asset for our clients and customers, we need to consistently look for opportunities to be useful to them.

Marketing Tip: Success leaves clues

One of the fastest ways to achieve a particular result, is to accurately model examples of people, who have already achieved what you want. That’s because success leaves clues.

Here’s an example of what I mean, using 2 short questions. Obviously, you can use the same process to develop any area of your business:

  1. Which service providers have you been with the longest? List 4 or 5 examples, regardless of their industry.
  2. What is it about them, which has earned them your custom for so long? Write your answers down and watch out for insights, which you can use to make your own service more sticky, so your clients stay with you for longer.

Studying success

We can waste a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel, when the answers we need are always far simpler than that. Whatever result or outcome you want for your business, someone else has already achieved it. This is another reason why we should always be on the look out for great people, who we can learn from.

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