She thanked me for the help, then said; “I wish marketing was easier, Jim.” I found that reply really interesting.
We need to be careful what we wish for
If marketing was easier, all your competitors would be marketing themselves equally well. It would be harder for you to shine, because the playing field would be level.
Instead, we have a situation where you can decide to become one of the rare small business owners, who markets their services effectively. For you, the sky’s the limit. This opportunity to out market your competitors only exists, because the majority of small businesses are very poorly marketed, by people who wish it was easier.
Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you were better. That way, you are in control.
You can chop down a 30 foot oak tree, using a hammer, however, it will take you months or maybe years.
Alternatively, you can get a professional tree feller in and they will have that tree down in a matter of hours.
Small business owners and hammers
Most small business owners work hard, putting in lots of hours, trying to chop down their commercial trees with a hammer. They make little progress and feel frustrated, because they know they work just as hard, or harder, than those achieving great success in their industry. Yet, they still insist on using that hammer. They refuse to invest in the key areas of their business, then waste years, looking for free advice on how to use their hammer more effectively.
An alternative approach
The successful minority of small business owners have a 180 degree different attitude, to all the others. Here are just a few very common differences:
They understand the difference between an investment and a cost, unlike the struggling majority. For example, many small business owners think nothing of spending a grand every year in their local coffee shop, yet refuse to invest in the books or training they need.
Einstein once said; insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. If you want better results, you need to take better actions. I call this doing the right things correctly. Either learn how to identify what you need to change or find someone who already knows, then set to work on putting it right.
Anything else is a waste of your time and less than you deserve.
The way to earn a fortune, is to earn it. That’s not a deliberate play on words, it’s a reflection of reality. Everything of value is earned, from trust and respect, to admiration and yes, money.
There’s a massive difference between building and earning. For example, you can build a Twitter account with 100,000 followers, using software, but you can’t earn a Twitter following using software.
There’s a massive difference between getting and earning. For example, you can get the attention of 100,000 people by sending them spam email, but you can’t earn their attention by spamming them.
None of the top blogs you read became successful because of some plugin they used. They earned it, over time, through consistently showing up and doing work that matters. The business leaders you admire, never achieved their success through a quick fix. They earned it over time, by consistently showing up and doing work that matters. See the link there?
Put in the hours.
Show up regularly.
Do work that matters.
Let’s look at those in a little more detail.
Put in the hours
It takes time to earn anything of value. Malcolm Gladwell’s point, about the top people in any area needing to invest 10,000 hours in their craft, is a good one. I have discussed this with everyone from Grammy award winning artists to business leaders and international sports people and found in every case, they had put at least 10,000 hours into developing their area of expertise.
Personally, I had easily invested 10,000 hours into learning my craft, by the time I started my marketing business in 1995. It wasn’t the instant success my friends suggested. I’d worked and studied for a long time to be an overnight success.
Show up regularly
If you want to remain relevant, you need to regularly offer value and (if you’re brave enough) leadership, to your marketplace. The best tool I’ve ever known for this is a blog. Blogging allows you to reach thousands of people as regularly as you want to, with your ideas and insights. Your blog content is searchable, shareable and allows you to become a regular part of a growing slice of your marketplace.
Do work that matters, rather than work that pays
I explain this in detail here, in one of the most popular pages on this site. The best kept secret in business, is that the best paid people don’t do it for the money. They do it to make a difference, and because people who make a difference are so rare, they earn a fortune. It took me a few years to truly understand this but when I did, it changed my whole life.
Ironically, it’s entirely probable that the best way to get ahead as quickly as possible is to not waste your time or money on quick fixes.
Then 2012 comes along. All of a sudden, there’s a wall of noise created by billions of online signals. We discover that the only way to make it above all that noise, so that our voice is heard and shared, is to fit out.
Some people genuinely can’t make the step from keeping their head down and fitting in, to lifting their head up and fitting out. It’s too frightening. After all:
What if people laugh at them?
What if people try and disprove them?
What if people disagree with them?
What if people choose not to follow them?
All these things will happen, plus 1 more
If you decide to rise above the noise, embrace your inner freak and be your unique, amazing self, all those thins will happen to some degree. However, 1 more thing will happen too.
If a strong competitor turned up next week, targeting your clients and prospective clients with great marketing and a compelling service, what would you do?
Raising your own bar
The honest answer for most small business owners, is that you would very quickly up your game. Faced with this significant new threat, you would look to do everything possible to retain your existing clients and also, set to work on a more effective strategy for winning new clients. The game would have changed and your instinct would be to step up to the mark and rise to the new challenge.
So, here’s another question for you: Why not raise the bar right now, rather than wait for the competition to force you into it?
In my experience, having worked with thousands of small business owners, the vast majority will wait for some kind of external event, before they raise the bar. For example, they will wait until they lose a major contract or business slows down, before doing something proactive about improving their marketing. The most successful business owners don’t need that external motivation, to continuously look for ways to improve their business. They are always looking for ways to improve.
Raising the bar: Steve Jobs style
There’s a wonderful example of how Steve Jobs caused the initial Apple iPod’s development team, to raise the bar. The story may or may not be true, but it’s said that the iPod development team presented Jobs with the first build of the new device, which they had worked on, around the clock, for months.
Jobs took one look at it and said; “It’s too big!”
The team leader said; “It’s as small as possible.”
Legend has it that Steve Jobs then dropped it into a fish tank. The design team gasped in horror.
Jobs then said to the team; “You see those bubbles coming out? That’s air. Make it smaller!”
The team responded by making another version, which was significantly smaller, even though they had originally believed the previous version was as small as possible, until Steve Jobs caused them to raise the bar on what was possible. Without the external influence of Jobs, the development team would have shipped a chunkier, less attractive iPod and the resurgence of Apple may have been very different.
Taking control of your business development
Don’t wait for external influences, before you decide to up your game and redefine what’s possible for you and your business. Take time out today to review at least one element of your business and look for an opportunity to improve it in some way. Do the same tomorrow and the day after and the day after, until it becomes a habitual element of your business.
Start doing this today, taking action to put the improvements into place, and your business will be almost unrecognisable in 12 months!
Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Linkedin are full to bursting with stressed out business owners, making unremarkable offers to uninterested people.
These business owners work hard sharing links to their special offers and webinars and wonder why they get nowhere, even though they have the whole process backwards!
Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Linkedin SHOULD be buzzing with their clients and prospective clients talking about how remarkable their business is, to an impressed audience who want to know what all the fuss is about.
Why this happens and how to fix it
In order to fix this problem, you need to understand what’s broken. What’s broken, is the assumption that people will talk about a service, which is average or similar to other services in the marketplace. Look at the providers in your industry and you will see what I mean.
You will find the vast majority of your competitors:
Offering similar services
For similar fees
To similar people
Making similar promises
and offering similar guarantees.
Now, here’s what we know about your prospective clients. They are being bombarded with unremarkable marketing about unremarkable services all day every day. It washes over them.
You know what catches their attention though? They stand up like meerkats, when something remarkable comes along. It captures their attention and inspires them to share what they have just experienced. It spreads and before you know it, people are out there, talking about how remarkable you and your service is.
Yes, it takes creativity and lots of work to develop something that’s remarkable about your business, your service and how you work. But business owners in this economy who insist on marketing unremarkable services, will find it harder and harder to earn the interest of the marketplace.
They will be forced into the race to the bottom, when they could be enjoying the journey to the top.
Predictable can be life saving: The braking system on your car is a great example. You need to know that each time you put your foot on the brake, you’re going to slow down and / or stop.
Predictable can be reassuring: It’s reassuring to know that the quality of products or services you receive from a vendor, will be predictably excellent.
Predictable can be dull: If we are in search of fresh ideas and insights, we avoid those who we can predict will have nothing original to say. We tune them out, just like those TV shows that go on for one too many seasons.
There are areas in your business, where predictability is not only important, it’s essential.
There are other areas, where predictability will weaken your position, bore your marketplace and make you less and less relevant. Typically, this is predictability caused through lack of creativity, such as when businesses offer the same predictable range of services, make the same predictable promises and use the same predictable marketing messages, as their competitors.
It pays to know when you need to be predictable and when not to. Get it wrong and there’s a hefty price to pay.