Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Is this common mistake crushing your business?

Are you missing out on one of the most valuable assets your business has?

As a small business owner, you already know that huge companies and corporations have many advantages over you. What you may not be as aware of, is the wonderful advantage you have over them. I’m talking about agility.

Agility, speedboats and cruise-liners

It has often been said that national and multinational companies move like a cruise-liner, whilst small agile businesses move like a speedboat. A small business owner can have an idea for a new service this morning, get working on it this afternoon and put the idea to work in weeks. Conversely, it usually takes months and months, for a large corporation to go from an initial idea to seeing it implemented. These huge companies have many moving parts and decisions are preceded by meetings and reports and focus groups etc.

One of the cornerstones of business success, is to make the very best of what you have. Your agility, the ability to think and act when the moment is right, is a powerful asset and yet many small business owners lack the confidence to use it. In many cases they will wait for someone else to put an idea into play before they do it themselves, in an effort to lower the risk of getting it wrong. The challenge with that approach, is that it places you in a position where you not only have fewer resources than the big players – you are also playing catch-up. That’s a damaging and unnecessary disadvantage for you and your business.

The agile business mindset

When I think of the businesspeople I know, who embrace their agility, here’s what I see: They get an idea, which they then discuss with people they know and trust. Then, they do the research and make sure the numbers add up. Next, they do the testing. Finally, if it looks right, they put it into play.

Here’s why:

  • If the idea works, they get the benefit of the rewards.
  • If the idea flops, they get the benefit of the lesson, which they invest in the next idea. This helps them constantly improve.

In either case, you are better off by using your agility, than sitting on your hands and missing out on one of the biggest assets your business has. Don’t wait for someone else to use your ideas, before you believe in them. Your ideas deserve better than that.

Photo: Ross Elliott

Social media marketing and real world results

This post is about how social media marketing can help your business generate targeted, high quality leads.

Here’s what we know about the more traditional approach to lead generation:

  • Somewhere close to you this morning, a group of small business owners will be attending an early morning networking breakfast, each hoping that someone gives them a lead.
  • At another location, a small business owner is wondering what will happen, when her radio commercial is played today.
  • Another business owner, will be standing by the phone, waiting for the response to his latest mail shot.
  • Then there will be the business owner, waiting to see what happens when the magazine she advertised in gets published today.
  • Finally, one business owner will be summoning up the courage to start making cold calls.

Those are some common ways for small business owners to try and get business leads.

Another approach – Social media marketing

Social media marketing allows us to network on a local, national or global scale. It allows us to build targeted networks of great contacts, based on our specific area of commercial interest. The cost is extremely low and there’s no cost barrier to building as big and successful a network as you can. For those of us who add blogging to our social media marketing mix, we can also showcase our expertise and knowledge to these amazing people, so they can get a real handle on who we are and the value we bring.

This blog and my other social media marketing accounts, generate sales and business leads for my business all day, every day. This means I have the freedom to run a successful small business, whilst living in a beautiful, rural location, with clients and customers worldwide, and never need to attend networking events, pay for advertisements or pay for any other type of marketing.

Online and offline – It’s all about people

If you’re thinking that social media marketing only works for businesses that are mainly based online, consider this. I was prompted to write this post after receiving 2 messages on the same day, from 2 totally unconnected people. They give a perfect example of the way online and offline have fused together.

  • Irene Koehler wanted to know if my ears were burning, because at a meeting in California, Kelly Kim, the co-founder of Twylah, mentioned me to her. These professionals had never met before and I had nothing to do with their meeting, yet they both knew me because of my social media marketing. A great example of online merging with offline.
  • Later that day, Shona Easton asked me if my ears were burning, because she was talking about me to a guy at an exhibition in London. Shona knew me initially via social media, but her conversation with that person at the exhibition, took my reach offline.

In short: Before you tell yourself, ‘I’m too busy to find out how to correctly use social media marketing’, it’s important you know the possible upside, when you discover how to do the right things, correctly.

Photo: George Johnson

Blogging and Punch Bag Heroes

From as early as I can remember, I have boxed. It was a popular sport in the rough area of London where I grew up and a way for poor kids to channel their energy into something better than crime and drugs. Today, I’m a 46 year old successful business owner and I still get the gloves on a couple of times a week.

Punch bags don’t hit back

One of my trainers had a fantastic phrase he used occasionally in the gym. He used it to describe people who loved to grunt and scowl as they worked on a punch bag, but who wouldn’t get in the ring and fight. He used to call them punch bag heroes. As he said, anyone can look tough hitting a punch bag, because the bag just soaks up the punches and doesn’t throw concussive punches back at you.

Blogging and punch bag heroes

When I started blogging, I quickly figured out there were lots of blogging equivalents of punch bag heroes. I found bloggers who would refuse to give their readers the power to question them, by deleting comments that disagreed with them.

A few weeks ago, I had a big problem with spam comments to this blog. I was getting around 2,500 a day. One of the options open to me was to turn comments off. It would have saved me time and completely eliminated the problem. The reason I decided to do whatever was required, in order to leave comments enabled, was that I figured out it was a cowardly option.

Here’s why:

  • Turning comments off would have refused you the right to have your say.
  • It would have stopped you being able to publicly question what you read here, where the rest of the blog’s community can see it.
  • It would have made me a blogging equivalent of a punch bag hero.

So, the comments are staying on here for as long as this blog exists!

Blogging or broadcasting?

It’s easy to publish anything, when you know your words will never be challenged within your own tribe, because you delete comments that disagree with you or because you refuse your readers the right to question you in public, by turning comments off. However, it takes courage to open yourself up to critics and allow people the freedom to question what you say, where you know it will be seen by your readers.

What do you think?

I believe a conversation based, accountable approach to blogging helps a person improve the quality of their work and the value of their blog.

Photo: Crustina

3 Lessons from the past week

I was reminded of 3 lessons this week, which I’d like to share with you.

  1. Never take good health for granted.
  2. Never think you know someone, just because you read their work.
  3. The Internet truly is making the world smaller.

The week started well. A long running throat problem I have been struggling with, has finally started to mend. It seems that the mixture of being surrounded by farmland and our area being hit by some very weird weather, resulted in me suffering from an allergy, which made my throat dry and inflamed. Just 1 day after taking hay fever tablets, the problem was recovering and has now almost fully recovered.

The middle part of the week started disappointing. The great author Ray Bradbury passed away. On the day of Mr Bradbury’s death, Seth Godin published a tribute, but inserted a sales message into it. It’s here.

There was a small uproar, quelled by a quick, successful damage limitation post, apologising. Sleazy, Seth.

The week ended on a real high! On Friday, I was contacted by a childhood friend. The last time we met, we were just 13 years old. He was the kid next door, but his family moved from London, back to Jamaica. He found me via this blog and saw my photo – leading him to ask where my hair was! ;)  Anyhow, we spoke on the phone for over an hour and I freely admit, I welled up with tears, when his daughter and son spoke to me. They are the age now, that their father and I were when we last met. It was a truly wonderful experience.

So, I started my day today, grateful for good health, laughter and good friends.

What are you grateful for right now?

Photo: Leigh Sexton-Clarke

This is so wonderful that I had to tell you!

Are you looking for a massively better way to attract high quality business leads? If you just answered yes AND you love the idea of never having to ‘push’ your services on anyone, this post is just for you.

Best in town? Aim higher!

If your business sells muffins, it’s no longer good enough to make the best muffins in town. People don’t spend their entire lives in town, they go to other towns, cities and countries. They are comparing your muffins with their overall muffin experience. You need to aim higher than ‘the best in town’. Yes, your muffins need to be wonderful. They need to taste and look wonderful. The experience of buying muffins from your store needs to be wonderful.

When people buy muffins like that from a store like that, it leaves them wanting to share the news. This is where the magic is.

Why good isn’t good enough

Most accountants, web designers, training providers and coaches, etc, provide services which sound, look and feel incredibly similar. They are good, very good, just like many of their competitors. That’s the challenge!

Most small business owners do not leave people feeling compelled to tell their friends and business contacts, how wonderful they are. So, they end up having to push an average message themselves, because the marketplace isn’t inspired enough to do it for them.

Instead of making their service wonderful, they go to networking events or join networking groups – to push an average message along with other group members, who have the exact same problem.

That’s a time consuming, expensive, unpredictable and extremely low leverage way to get the leads your business needs.

From good to wonderful

If you want your marketplace to talk enthusiastically about you, you need to go from ‘very good’ to wonderful. If you’d like some ideas on how to make that transition, think about what others have done, which got YOU talking about them for all the right reasons.

Here are a few places to look for inspiration:

  • Who was the last person you spoke with, who left such a great impression on you that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last customer service experience you received, which was so amazing that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last service you used, which was so exceptional that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last product you bought, where the value was so immense that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last act of kindness, which touched you so much that you HAD to tell people?
  • What was the last business or brand, who exceeded your expectations so much that you HAD to tell people?

Write your answers down and look for the things, which made you feel compelled to talk about them. You’re not looking for cut and paste answers here, but inspiration to do something wonderful yourself, based on what already works.

Photo: Carlos Maya

What everybody ought to know about words

Words are wonderful, however, our progress is defined by what we do, rather than what we say.

This is why it’s so important for us to check how we are doing:

  • On the promises we have made.
  • On the plans we have discussed.
  • On the decisions we have shared.
  • On the quality we have guaranteed.

Wise words, acted on in a timely manner. There is real value in those 8 words – so long as we work with them!

Hurry up – And wait!

I saw 2 people arguing earlier, about which was the faster browser, between Chrome and Firefox. It seems they couldn’t agree, but both insisted that one was a split second faster at delivering a page, than the other.

Hurry up and wait!

It’s a good idea to look for ways to manage your productivity more effectively. But if we spend major time on minor things, the day will always run away from us. We end up a contestant in the ‘hurry up and wait’ game.

Here’s what I mean:

If the guys in that browser argument were to save half a second per page view using the faster browser and they viewed 400 pages a day, it would save them just over 3 minutes a day. When it comes to saving time, there are bigger fish to fry than this.

Plus it’s going to take them almost a full working month, just to regain the hour they lost, arguing about browser speed – sharing benchmarks, statistics and graphs, over a total of 48 heated blog comments!

I see it like this:

  • If Bob has the fastest computer, uses the fastest browser and has the fastest broadband connection, yet he uses them ineffectively, he’s going to see little real benefit.
  • If Barbara has a 2 year old computer, uses the slowest browser and has a slow broadband connection, yet uses them effectively, she will fly!

Before working on the tools, we should make sure the person using them is managing their time effectively. Otherwise they gain time where it doesn’t matter, then lose time where it does.

Photo: Veggie Frog

How NOT to learn from the best

Do you copy what you see the top people doing, hoping to use it as a short-cut to success?

I received an email today from someone who started blogging a few months ago. He said that he had copied what Seth Godin was doing on his blog, by disabling comments and using a very basic looking blog design. It wasn’t working. He wanted to know why, as it was working fine for Seth.

One size doesn’t fit all!

His problem is common and highlights a potential pitfall, when you copy a strategy or tactic that works for someone in a very different situation to your own, with different goals.

Seth Godin says he needed to remove the comments section from his blog, in order for him to have the freedom to write things his way. With hundreds of comments coming in, it was just too time consuming and frustrating for him to respond to so many people, over so many different posts, every day. However,  disabling comments is not necessary for 99.9% of bloggers.

The problem of copying the top .1%

This got me thinking. I chatted with Robert Scoble last week, about his issue with poor noise control on Google+. Robert currently has 1.7 MILLION circling (following) him on G+. I myself have just 13,000 people circling me and it can be a little hard to deal with at times. With 1,700,000 following you it must be mayhem. However, Google+ noise control works well for 99.9% of G+ users.

In short: It’s extremely useful to learn from the triumphs and lessons of others. However, before copying what you see the top .1% of people doing, ensure you know how and why they are doing it.

Photo: Carbon NYC

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