How to grow your business during a tough economy, without lowering your fees

With daily media coverage of the turmoil facing most of the world’s economies, how come certain businesses, of all sizes, from all industries are flourishing?

It’s not about price

Whenever times are tough, people think harder before they make a decision.  This doesn’t mean they buy the cheapest.

The fact Apple products have repeatedly smashed their sales records, is not because they are cheap.  Apple products are almost always far more expensive than budget alternatives.  Apple have seen record growth throughout the credit crunch and recession, because they provide what their customers consider amazing value.

Google and the race to the bottom

If you think you can undercut your way to success, you are probably in for an costly disappointment.  Google has made it easy for your prospective clients or customers, to find the lowest price for almost anything, in seconds.

Only one person in your industry, profession or location can be cheapest and the price shopping, fee-sensitive people who hunt for the cheapest deal, will spend as long as needed, to get the lowest price or fee.

Another approach

An alternative approach, is to increase your value, rather than lower your fees.  If you are the only person in town, who can do something YOUR way and YOUR way has value, you can strive during a bad economy.

For example, I have a client, who has used this approach whilst working with me and he’s seeing a 45% increase in revenues this year, after enjoying  an increase of close to 200% last year.  His profits are even higher.  Another client has increased her fees several times over the past 2 years and has smashed every income and profits record, in a business, which is in a hugely competitive industry.

With 2012 just weeks away, it’s a great time to plan for the year ahead.  With every prediction suggesting that the economy is unlikely to improve significantly, if at all, I recommend you take a value-based approach.  If you wan to know exactly what to do, read this.  You can enjoy an outstanding year in 2012, so long as you do the right things, correctly!

Writer’s: Yes, plumbers DO GET Plumber’s Block!

It’s common for people to quote urban myths, as if they were facts; especially if the myth seems to make sense.

One popular myth, spread by super smart Seth Godin among other highly respected authors, seems to make it’s way into most intelligent discussions about Writer’s Block.  It goes like this:

Well, you don’t hear about plumbers getting Plumber’s Block, do you?  They just get up every day and do it!

Plumbers DO get Plumber’s Block

Thanks to a recent series of water related challenges, I’ve met with 2 plumbers in the past week.  I have always known the Plumber’s Block argument to be bogus, so I took the opportunity to ask both of them, if they ever got Plumber’s Block.  I defined Plumber’s Block as a feeling that they simply can not do a plumbing related task, because they don’t know where to start or their brain can’t focus.

Both said YES!

It seems that (at least some) plumbers do occasionally get Plumber’s Block, particularly when faced with a complex, unique plumbing challenge.  Both plumbers said they sometimes experienced what people from every profession do, when trying to solve a puzzle (including writers.)

They hit a mental block!

They explained that there are elements of their job, which they can do almost on auto-pilot, because they require zero creativity and they have repeated the exact same task thousands of times.  This is the equivalent of a writer, writing their name and address.  Writer’s don’t get Writer’s Block when it comes to auto-pilot writing, such as writing their address, just as Plumbers don’t get Plumber’s Block when doing one of their automated processes.

However, both writers and plumbers (and everyone else) occasionally hit a block when working on something unique, which requires creativity.

So, the next time you hear someone quoting the fact that plumbers don’t get Plumber’s Block, explain that everyone occasionally hits a block, when doing something unique or creative.  To suggest otherwise might make for a good sound-bite, but it’s based on bullshit.

No, you do not have to be cruel to be kind!

There’s a lot of common knowledge out there, which is stated as fact, but is incorrect.

For example, have you ever stopped to consider the actual meanings behind those often repeated old sayings?

  • You’ve got to be cruel to be kind.  No you haven’t!  It’s perfectly fine to be kind to people, without the cruelty.  You will find it works a lot better too.
  •  A man’s best friend is his dog.  Really?  Not his wife, his children, his parents or siblings… his dog.  I know a lot of men who own dogs, I know none who would choose it over their children.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too!  Every cake you have ever eaten, you bought or were given first.  You had the cake, you ate the cake, because cakes are made to be eaten.

Critical thinking

Just as people repeat these old sayings every day without giving them much thought, people often apply ideas to their business, which they have failed to give enough critical thought to.

I have lost count of the times I have heard people say; “We have always done it like this.” as a way to justify why they do, what they do.  Now, if they have always done something a certain way, because they have looked for better ways to do it, and failed, that’s fine.  But to keep on doing something ONLY because of familiarity, makes little commercial sense.

It does us all good, to regularly review the processes within our business.  In fact, it’s hard to make meaningful, ongoing progress, without constantly seeking to improve.

How optimistic should you be about your business in 2012?

How do you feel, about the future of your business?

Most business owners are pretty optimistic and will say that they are looking to 2012 with optimism.  This is great.  You can achieve a lot more with optimism, than with pessimism.  Pessimists seldom create anything.

Generally, there are 2 types of optimism:

Fact based optimism

This is where you can see the plans you have made coming into fruition.  It’s where you look at the strategies you have in place and genuinely feel confident that next year will be better than last year.  Every year, I work with people who see their businesses and their lives transformed, through doing the right things correctly.

False optimism

This is where you want things to be better next year, so you keep telling yourself that everything will be fine, but you have not improved your strategy.  The reality is that if we keep on doing what we have been doing, we will keep on getting what we have been getting.  Nothing improves, until we do.  If we want better results, we need to take better action.

In short: Look to 2012 and beyond with optimism, based on the fact that you will be doing the right things, correctly.  Things don’t just get better by themselves.

Don’t expect top end results using a butt end strategy

There are many ways to gain the attention of a prospective client or customer.  In business, it seems there are 2 ends of the scale:

The top end of the scale: Attracting attention and earning interest

This is rare and is based around doing work that matters.  It’s about standing out for all the right reasons, so people want to follow you, subscribe to your blog or newsletter or connect with you at events.  It’s about a commitment to delivering value.  It’s about applying your craft, rather than being generic.  It’s about understanding the importance of permission.

When this approach is applied correctly, the results are amazing.  In my case, they were life changing.

The butt end of the scale: Pestering people for their attention & irritating the crap out of them

This is a common approach and is based around interrupting people, without permission, to push a message at them that they never asked for.  We see it every day in our email inbox, on our voice mail and across our social networking accounts.  It’s all about pestering people.  It’s the approach that says it’s fine to piss off 999 people with unsolicited junk, if 1 person clicks through.

In summary

You can’t expect to get top end results, using a butt end strategy!

This is because the way we attract the interest of others has a massive impact, on how they feel about us.  For example, if you walk up to people in the street and poke them in the chest, you WILL get their attention – But you don’t need that kind of attention!

The big secret behind successful blogs

blogging tips, blogs, content marketing

One of the most common questions people ask me, is: “What laptop / notebook is best for blogging?”  As I get asked this so often, I decided to answer it here AND share the big secret behind this blog with you.

First things first:

  • Using Rafael Nadal’s tennis racket will not make you a Grand Slam winner.
  • Using a top of the range MacBook Pro, probably won’t improve your blogging.

That’s because those items are simply tools.  They are beautifully designed tools, but tools nonetheless.  It’s what we do with them, which counts.

I fully understand the value of using great tools.  However, when I write a blog post using my Mac, Samsung or Dell, the reader can’t tell the difference.  Similarly, if Seth Godin wrote his posts using a 5 year old Toshiba laptop, he’d still be successful.

Here’s my secret blogging sauce!

If you really want to massively increase the value of your blog, (and your business too) you need to embrace your inner freak!  THAT’S what makes the difference.

Do you talk to people or speak with people?

Here’s how to talk to a tree, in 2 simple steps:

  1. Find a tree.
  2. Talk to the tree.

Listen. Think. Respond.

When communicating with people, we need to use a very different approach.  Rather than talking to them (or at them), we need to speak with them.  This means listening, thinking and then responding.

It’s the difference between a conversation and a broadcast.

Who are you?

As far as the marketplace is concerned, who are you?

I mean, if I were to read the information about you on your website, blog and social networks, what would I know about you?  Typically, people share very little of their uniqueness and instead, use generic drivel to describe who they are and what their business is all about.  They lack the kind of narrative that inspires people, then wonder why prospective clients aren’t motivated enough to contact them!

As your prospective client, I need you to show some passion.  Some energy.  Some creativity.  I need you to tell me what sets you apart from the thousands of others in your industry.  If you can’t do that, you will really struggle to attract clients; let alone high quality clients.

Keeping it human

Take a look at the areas of your marketing, where you describe who you are and what your business does.  Remove any references to “providing client focused solutions” or “strategic implementation.”  Talk to people like humans and tell them what value YOU and YOUR business bring, in real, quantifiable terms.

You see, if you don’t give people enough information about you and your business, you will have no outsiders.  That may sound like a good thing, until you realise that you can’t have insiders, without outsiders.  These insiders are the ones you need, in order to grow your business.  (NB: I wrote all about this in detail, in this post.)

In short: The less you sound like everyone else, the easier you will find it to capture the marketplace’s attention and earn their custom.

My name is Jim Connolly and I am a freak!

It’s true: I am a freak!

Having now outed myself as a freak, I’d like to explain why you too should embrace your inner freak, if you want to achieve the potential you are capable of.

I want to begin with the man in the photo on the right.  He is an amazing artist I met this week.  His name is Ben Wilson and I have followed his work for years.  Ben makes art from the pieces of gum stuck to the street; transferring each one from an eyesore into a unique piece of art.

Ironically, I took this photo of Ben on Monday; outside The Royal Academy of Arts, London.  Of course, Ben is as much an artist as those whose work is displayed within those rather grand walls.  Indeed, his own work is regularly covered on TV and he has exhibited (inside) galleries all over the world.  What you may not know until you meet him “at work” creating, is that huge numbers of people stop and look at his art and talk to him, film him and take photos of him and his art.  That connection itself, is part of his art.  It’s beautiful.  He loves what he does and BOY does it show.

Defining freaks

Jim connolly, Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers and me in London.

I discovered Ben creating his art, as I walked from the train to meet with another amazing artist, my client, friend and inspiration, Nile Rodgers (that’s us on the right.)

What struck me, was that these 2 unconnected people are both similarly passionate about their art, because it matters so much to them.  To coin a term Nile is famous for, I believe that people who are driven to create and share in this way, are freaks.

When I say freaks, I am referring to those rare people who embrace their difference, rather than fight it and conform.  When Ben transforms gum into art, he’s not doing it for the money.  When Nile gets on stage and performs, he’s not doing it for the money either; with an estimated fortune of $40million, Nile’s doing OK, financially.  They are both doing it because it matters so much to them.  Freaks are the type of people Steve Jobs referred to as “The crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.” in Apple’s 1990’s Think Different ad campaign.

Embracing YOUR inner freak

It isn’t just painters and musicians who match this definition of freaks.  We have them in every industry and profession, delivering their unique style of; web design, school teaching, marketing, legal representation, cooking, training, team building, medical care, circus skills, consulting, etc.  In fact, you see them every time you witness a person applying their craft to work that matters.

I wrote about this in detail in the following 2 posts, which are among the most popular pieces I have ever written:

  1. What you need to know about Work That Matters.
  2. Discover the key element that’s missing from 99% of businesses!


Yes, it’s perfectly fine to get your head down and do what’s expected of you.  However, it’s far more rewarding in every way to raise your head, raise your expectations and embrace YOUR inner freak!