Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Don’t fit IN! Fit OUT and become the leader you were born to be

We grow up, learning that it’s best to fit in.

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.

You will have become a leader!

What Steve Jobs can teach you about improving your business

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!

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Are you making this common mistake with your marketing?

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.

Remarkable

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.

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Predictable?

How predictable are you?

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, predict, prediction, creativity

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.

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Blogging Tip: Making time for a commercially successful blog

This post has some valuable information, for those of you either starting a commercial blog or thinking of taking their existing blog more seriously. It’s about understanding the time investment required, if you want to build a commercially successful blog.

marketing blogsBlogging time

A common misconception regarding blogging, is that the time investment required to build a successful blog, is primarily the time it takes to write posts. Whilst at the very beginning, the time it takes to write your posts accounts for a big chunk of your blogging time, once your blog gets established, the time you spend writing the posts becomes a smaller and smaller percentage. Currently, just 20% of my blogging time is spent writing posts. The majority of my time is spent looking after the elements that come into play, when thousands of people read your content every day and your work becomes highly visible.

That’s what I want to share with you in this post.

A wonderful challenge

It’s a wonderful challenge to have, but one that is seldom discussed. The thing is, if you are thinking of either starting your own commercial blog or you are about to start taking your existing blog seriously, you need to know the kind of time commitment required once your blog takes off.  In the case of this blog, it’s a few hours a day now.

When I started Jim’s Marketing Blog, almost 4 years ago, I would invest around 30 minutes writing a post and then an hour a day marketing that post and the blog itself. I would get to know the people who commented here, connecting with them on Twitter and (back then) Friendfeed. It was fun, enjoyable work, but there was a time investment required, which I knew I needed to make if I wanted the blog to progress.

Fast forward 4 years and I still do all of that, though I now use Google+ (a LOT), Twitter and Facebook. However, today I ALSO invest around 2 hours on other blog related activities.

Blog related activities?

As your readership builds and your blog ranks well for lots of popular search terms, you will attract lots more attention. This includes:

  • Sales pitches: Anyone Googling the words ‘marketing blogs’ will find my blog on page 1, so, when they want someone to pitch a marketing related product to, they always find me.
  • Guest bloggers: I also get emails daily from people asking if I will let them ‘guest blog’ here. Because none of them do any research, they are unaware it’s a self-authored blog, so email me anyway.
  • Reader questions: I get lots of emails every day from readers, with often extremely complex marketing related problems. Whilst I am unable to offer them individual support, I do reply to every reader email.
  • Advertiser emails: Because of the blog’s position on Google, I get emails all the time from people who want to advertise here.
  • PR spam: PR firms insist on adding me to their lists, without consent, when sending out their client’s press releases, even though I have never published a press release here. PR spam is easily the biggest source of unwanted email I encounter, with 30/40 emails a day.

N.B: Yes, I know it would be a lot easier for me to just hit delete on every email or have filters set up to try and catch the pitches, PR spam and link requests, but it would mean many genuine, reader emails being lost and I am not prepared to do that.

All in all, I would say that actually writing blog posts is now less than 20% of the time I currently invest in this blog and activities directly related to it.

And in return?

The rewards are many and huge!

If you have the time or can make the time, to handle the feedback created by a successful blog, the pay-off is amazing. Make no mistake, starting this blog was easily the most valuable business decision I ever made and has repaid me many, many times over for what I have invested into it. The benefits of blogging can be stunning, if you manage to develop a large, targeted reader community:

  • Most important for me is the opportunity to connect with, work with and meet amazing people. The readers of this blog are my biggest commercial asset. I feel like I know many of those who comment here and must have spoken to a couple of hundred of you so far. It’s a true reader community and invaluable to me.
  • You can contribute to others, in a way that helps hundreds of thousands of other people every year. It’s impossible to overstate the value of this, for those of us who are committed to serving others.
  • You can build a very enjoyable, 6 figure business from it, as I did here. If affiliate products or software sales are your thing, look at what Brian Clark did with copyblogger, launching several, million dollar businesses off his blog. It just requires skill, time and a LOT of work!
  • You will attract countless opportunities for you and your business, as your reach and influence increases.
  • You will also get a massive amount of enjoyment from it.

In short: If you are serious about developing your blog into a massively valuable asset, make sure that you have processes in place, for what happens as your blog takes off.

What everybody ought to know about words

Words have an amazing influence on us and the people around us. The right words can open doors for us. The wrong words can see those same doors slammed in our face. Some words make us feel inspired and energized, others make us want to give up and sulk in a corner.

Some years ago, I told a friend that I was nervous about a job interview I had lined up for that afternoon. He offered me some advice. He said rather than say I was nervous about it, I should tell myself I was excited about it. I asked what difference it would make. He then told me to try it. I immediately discovered that changing just one word, transformed me from feeling apprehensive about the interview, to looking forward to it.

How careful are you, regarding the words you use?

  • In your marketing: Do you offer ‘strategic implementation’ or ‘help people blow the lid of their potential and achieve breakthrough results’?
  • In your conversations with prospective clients: Do you speak in a monotone voice, which suggests you have not slept well, or do you use your voice as an instrument, to engage the other person and share how passionate you are about helping them?
  • In your conversations with yourself: Do you use words that empower you and cause you to move forward (excited), or words that work against you (nervous)?

Most small business owners inject little, if any, passion or energy into their written or spoken words. They phone it in. They talk about ‘strategic implementation’ and ‘client focused solutions, as if they were reading from some lame 1990’s glossy brochure. Their story is dull.

In short: Take some time to review the words you use and the way you use them. Look for opportunities to replace negative words, with positive words. Inject passion and energy into your conversations, when appropriate. The results can be amazing!

How to become a creative thinker!

This post is all about creative thinking and why you should proactively develop your creative thinking skills, if you want your business to thrive!

Creative thinking: You do it all the time

Every time you see a traffic jam ahead, then figure out an alternative route, you are employing creative thinking. Every time you go into the kitchen hungry, then put a meal together using the odds and ends you find, you are employing creative thinking.

Whether you know it or not, you already think creatively all the time.

Creative thinking in your business

It’s often said that business is all about problem solving and I agree. Business is an ongoing series of challenges and opportunities, which require creative answers.

For example:

  • Creative marketing: You need to find creative ways to attract the attention of your prospective clients. This has never been more important than today, because your prospective client’s have never had to cope with so much information. There’s a lot of noise out there and your message needs to cut through it.
  • Creative copywriting: If you want the people who read your marketing messages, blog posts, social media updates or newsletter, to contact you or share your work with their friends, your content needs to be compelling. This calls for creative copywriting.
  • Creative vision: If you want to spot the opportunities, which other people miss, you need to be able to see what they can’t see. You need creative vision. Most people miss genuine opportunities, because opportunities usually come disguised as hard work or they come wrapped within a problem. Creative vision allows you to see the diamond, when it’s still in the rough.

Creative thinking in an ideal world

I’ve often spoken to business owners about developing their creative skills, who said that in order to create, they needed everything to be ‘just right.’ They need the phones not to ring, they must have had a great night’s sleep the night before, they mustn’t be worried about anything and they need to feel great. Otherwise, they just can’t get creative.

At that point, I share these 2 ideas with them.

1. Creative thinking and comfort is not always a good match

A common factor behind 99% of successful musicians, is that they start off unknown, broke or both. It’s from that position of discomfort, that they create the work that gets them famous.  Then once fame comes and they have used up all their material from when they were struggling, they often disappear. Very, very few chart acts achieve smash hits for more than a handful of years. Some are one hit wonders.

The mansions, luxury cars and huge bank balances seem to have no positive impact on their creativity. Often, quite the opposite!

2. Things are seldom perfect

By deciding you can only think creatively, when circumstances are perfect, you’re not going to create very often. This is why it’s really important to give yourself permission to create, even when you may not have had a great night’s sleep and especially when you have a worry on your mind. In fact, the best time to employ creative thinking, is when you need a creative answer.

Permission to create

Whatever reasons you have given yourself in the past, not to create, I suggest you kick them into touch. You are a creative person. You have answers within you right now, to your most pressing challenges. You have ideas within you right now, which could lead to the creation of life changing opportunities.  Give yourself permission to create and learn to trust your answers.

NOTE: If you want to know how to become a confident, creative thinker, I recommend you subscribe to my NEW site, Creative Thinking Hub. It’s packed with ideas designed to help you develop your creativity and improve your problem solving skills.

The secret to achieving your goals

goals, goal setting

Goal setting is easy. This is why so many people set goals.

Goal attainment is tricky. This is why so few people achieve them.

Goals: The difference between goal setting & goal attainment

  • Goal setting is fun, liberating and can be completed in an hour.
  • Goal attainment is fun, but requires ongoing commitment and a lot of work, often over a period of many years.

The initial set of goals, which took me from poverty to financial security for life, took me around 45 minutes to commit to paper. The work required to make them real, took me years.

Goal attainment caused me to stretch more than anything in my life. It required me to leave my comfort zones and stop blaming my past, for my future. It was the hardest, most fulfilling work I have ever done and I continue to set new goals all the time.

Set your goals, then do the work. That’s the secret to goal attainment.

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