How NOT to write the perfect blog post!

blogging, content marketing, blog tips, marketing

The Internet is packed with inaccurate, generic advice on how to write the perfect blog post.

Here are a few common examples you may already know:

  • Your blog posts should be a certain length.
  • So should your blog titles.
  • You should use adjectives in your blog titles.
  • You should write clickbait titles, like: “21 Ways to excite your readers — number 6 made me scream!”
  • You should publish your posts at a magical ‘peak time’, on certain days of the week.

There are dozens more of these predictable rules, churned out by content marketing experts. So, if you adopt this generic approach to blogging, will it help you build a large, valuable readership?

Err… no. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

How to be ignored

Following the same blogging format as everyone else is not only ineffective, it’s the perfect recipe for how to be ignored.

Think about it: You simply camouflage your blog posts, when you write them based on the same, predictable format as everyone else.

Oh, and if you publish your posts at that peak time they tell you to, consider this: There is no such thing as a optimum publishing time.

It varies from industry to industry and country to country.

For example:

  • If your target market are people who run hospitality businesses, bars, hotels, etc., they work late and start later than most businesses. If your target market are graphic designers or web developers, they also tend to work very late and start later too.
  • Different cultures have different working hours. I work with companies all around the world. My American clients are generally in their office earlier than my European clients. My European clients tend to work later.
  • Middle Eastern business owners often have a working week, which runs from Sunday to Thursday.
  • And… if you do publish your posts at the so-called peak time recommended by all the content marketing gurus — think about it: Your posts will be fighting for attention, along with every other blog post, published by people who fell for the same toxic advice!

In short: One size does not fit all. If you’re following generic blogging advice and your blog isn’t growing the way you want it to, it’s time for a more sensible approach.

How to make it work

The key is to put your time, energy and creativity into doing things YOUR WAY. Be useful. Provide value. Show us what you know. Turn up regularly. Lead, rather than follow.

That’s what attracts people’s attention. It’s also what inspires them to read your work, share your work, hire you and buy from you. I used this approach and built one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. I have also never needed to speak at blogging conferences in order to make a living or write guest blog posts, in order to reach more people.

PS: Here’s some advice on building a great readership.

How stories help you to make more sales

marketing tips, marketing advice, advise,

Last week, I bought 3 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. The thing is, I really don’t like chocolate chip cookies. My wife and son are not fond of them either.

So, what was it that motivated me to buy them? And… what can you learn from this, to improve the effectiveness of all your marketing?

People buy the story

When a kid from our village school comes to my door selling cookies, it feels different than when a shop is selling them. Even if the product is the same, the story behind the product is what we pay for. In this case, I wanted to support the school, so I am now the proud owner of 3 boxes of chocolate chip cookies.

My friend Karl recently spent $4,000 on an Apple Mac Pro for his office. Sure, it’s a nice looking computer. However, he could have got an equally powerful computer for around $1000 less. So, why did this savvy business owner spend all that extra money?

Apple’s story about design and innovation resonates with people like Karl. They enjoy the way they feel about owning Apple products — and the way they feel being seen using Apple products. They would rather pay more for an Apple product, than pay less for a brand whose story means nothing to them.

Your story

Your business already has a story. The story is being told right now, through; your marketing, your prices, your promises and guarantees, your website, your social networking updates, your decision to use professional photos and images [or not], etc.

In order to work, your story needs to resonate powerfully with the world view of the clients or customers you want to attract. This is exactly what happened with the cookie seller and why I now have 3 boxes of cookies.

It’s also how Apple inspired Karl to pay $4000 for a computer. On a larger scale, it’s why Apple were able to achieve record breaking profits, selling high priced goods, throughout the last recession.

If you want to know more about how a story can transform your marketing results, here are some ideas and examples to help you.

5 Extremely powerful questions to help your business thrive!

business development, biz dev, marketing

Today, I have 5 questions to help you and your business thrive. Each question comes with a suggestion, to point you in the right direction.

1. Are you earning trust by setting self imposed deadlines?

A great way to build trust is to deliver on a promise.

Think about it: Telling a client that their project will be ready “by the end of the week” is way less powerful, than telling her it will be ready “by 9am Thursday”.

Set deadlines and then deliver. When a client trusts you to deliver on your promises, they are extremely unlikely to seek out another provider. They are also massively more likely to recommend you to their friends. I wrote about this here.

2. Are you running your business?

If not, your business is running you. Unless you are working to a plan, you are simply reacting to whatever circumstances arise.

Tip: Never take business planning advice from someone, who has not achieved what you want to achieve. For example, be extremely cautious of marketing consultants who have to attend networking groups, because their own marketing doesn’t generate enough leads. There’s a powerful signal there.

3. Are you attracting daily sales or client enquiries from your website?

If not, you’re needlessly missing out on a wonderful opportunity. My blog generates over 100 emails a day — often twice that. Your site can be a sales generating machine too. However, it needs to be optimized correctly and you need to have the right strategy behind it. Invest in getting this right or you’re leaving money on the table every day.

Tip: Don’t copy what you see other sites doing. Almost every small and medium sized business blog or website I see, is poorly optimized.

4. Are you associating with the right people?

We tend to grow in the same direction as those we associate with. Mix with the wrong people and one day, everything they have will be yours. Think about that for a moment.

5. Are you learning from past business mistakes or repeating them?

If you are facing the same old frustrations, it’s because you’re repeating the same old errors. For better results, you need a better strategy. Old ways won’t open new doors.

I hope you find these ideas useful. More importantly, I hope something here inspires you to take positive action.

Don’t let this decision destroy your business

Professional development, business, improvement, marketing tips

In many cases, business owners are missing out on massively better results because of an avoidable, sometimes fatal, yet tiny error.

How small? Just 5%!

Here’s what you need to know, including how to stop this error from crushing your business.

The marketing power of 5%

If you give a project 5% less than it needs, the cost to you is way more than 5%.

That’s because 5% less than good enough will achieve almost nothing. If it’s not good enough, even by 1%, you lose. It’s not good enough. That’s it.

If your marketing falls 5% short of what it needs to be, your sales or client acquisition numbers will be poor. You’ll be relying on repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

The challenge here, as you may already know, is that word of mouth referrals come when they come. In other words, they tend not to come when you need them, instead arriving when you’re too busy. This is such a common problem that it has its own name: the famine and feast cycle. This leads to cash flow problems, which cause more small businesses to go broke than any other factor!

Most small business owners are more than 5% away from what’s needed for their marketing to work. These hard working business owners wonder why their results are so erratic and why their lower quality [but better marketed] competitors are thriving.

It’s a decision — It’s always a decision

The decision to work hard, work long hours and make too little progress is exactly that. A decision. A deliberate decision, to be precise.

Why is it a deliberate decision?

Because you will never meet a small business owner, who doesn’t know when their marketing is under performing. They know better than anyone. They are totally aware that their efforts are not being rewarded. They are fully aware that their business isn’t developing the way they want it to.

Knowing this, they still decide to repeat the same errors.

Until one day, something changes

Sometimes it’s driven by the realization that things don’t just magically get better. Other times it’s a wake-up call, as they see that a landmark birthday [one with a zero at the end] is approaching. Occasionally the naked truth smashes them in the face — that they deserve more. So they make the decision to start growing their business correctly.

Some make the decision in time. Many will wait until it’s too late. These are the “let’s wait until next year” crowd. They become a casualty of their casual approach to business.

I have no idea where your business is right now. If your business is thriving, kudos to you.

If you want more from your business, the best time to do something about it was years ago. The second best time to do something about it… is today.

Are you commanding attention or demanding attention?

marketing tips, visibility, attraction

There’s a big difference between commanding people’s attention and demanding people’s attention.

Allow me to explain.

Demanding attention

Most small business marketing is based on demanding attention. Think about it:

  • They send us emails we never asked for.
  • They pester us on social networking sites.
  • They call us in the office when we are busy. They call us at home when we are relaxing with our family and friends.
  • They interrupt our TV and radio shows with their sales messages.
  • They pester us at business events.
  • In short, they do everything possible to demand that we listen to what they have to say.

Demanding attention is all about interrupting people, by pushing messages at them. The problem with that approach is that our natural reaction is to push back. Just because they demand our attention does not mean we are going to be receptive to them.

For example, if a marketer walks up to you in the street and pokes you in the chest, he will get your attention, but it’s not the kind of attention he wants!

Commanding attention

A smarter approach is to command our attention. This is all about earning attention. People command our attention when they do something that attracts us and then either informs or entertains us; sometimes both. Sure, commanding people’s attention takes more creativity than demanding it, but the upside is huge.

That’s because we treat information that has commanded our attention very differently, from information that is trying to demand our attention.

Think of 2 things you will read today. For example, a spam email and this blog post.

  • The spam email is something you will delete the second it arrives. That spam message may be in front of you, but there’s no desire on your part to engage with the content.
  • However, you are already over 300 words into reading this blog post. There’s clearly a lot more engagement and trust here.

As a business owner you have the option to either demand attention or command it. You can either pester or attract. Interrupt or engage.

Yes, there’s a place for advertising and with very few exceptions, ads are forms of demanding attention. However, it pays to command attention, to attract the interest of your marketplace, whenever possible. And it’s almost always possible.

Here’s some useful, free advice to help you develop marketing that works for your business.

Use what you have, to get what you want

Business development, marketing tips, biz dev

Think about it:

  • You can wait for the economy to improve. Or you can adapt to the opportunities available today.
  • You can wait for inspiration to appear. Or you can command it to appear. [Here’s what Steve Jobs and Picasso said about inspiration.]
  • You can wait for your competitors to raise the customer service bar. Or you can lead the way on service excellence.
  • You can wait for permission. Or you can take the initiative.

Focus on what you can control

It’s useful to remind yourself that your actions are what will determine your results. You only become a victim of poor commercial circumstances, if you passively allow those circumstances to control the direction of your business.

So, stay agile. Focus on what you can control. Set your own sail. Work with the things you can influence.

Do all you can with all you have… until you achieve the results that your agile thinking and hard work deserves.

How to make your content marketing more compelling

content marketing, blogging, newsletters, articles

Which of these approaches do you find the most compelling?

  1. I wrote this blog post, now I need you to read it.
  2. There’s an idea I believe you will benefit from, so I wrote about it.

And which of these 2 do you prefer?

  1. I made this audio program, and now I need you to buy it.
  2. Small business owners needed help with this challenge, so I made an audio program about it.

Most people are far more attracted to the second approach in those examples. Despite this, almost every marketing message I see from small and medium-sized businesses, is based on the first approach. They come from a self-focused mindset, rather than being focused on the needs [or wants] of the other person.

Smarter marketing

Your marketing needs to be smarter than that if you want people to embrace your message and hire you or buy from you.

Telling someone that you know there are competing products, but they should buy yours, because you made it, won’t work. The prospective client or customer doesn’t care what you want. They care about answers to their problems. They care about their wants.

When you create your marketing based on what the other person wants, what’s important to them… it immediately improves how your marketing is received. It also improves how the prospect feels about you. This is the cornerstone of all effective marketing.

What next?

I recommend you spend some time reviewing your marketing. Shift the emphasis of any self-focused copy, from what you want to what they want.

The worst that can happen is that your marketing will be focused on the wants and needs of your marketplace. Get it right and it’s also likely to significantly improve your client acquisition / sales numbers.

If only they knew how amazing your business is

marketing tips, arketing ideas, marketing advice

Small business owners lose out on sales or new clients all the time, because of a common and costly marketing mistake. In today’s post, I want to show you how to stop this error from hurting your business.

A common and costly problem

Think about it:

  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would have more great clients.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would be able to charge what you are worth.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you would escape the feast and famine cycle.
  • If only they knew how amazing your business is, you could look to the future with confidence.

The challenge here is that in the vast majority of cases, small business owners are lousy at getting that message across. You need to avoid making the same mistake.

Here’s a great place to start.

It’s time to get specific

Explain what makes your business stand out. Highlight the benefits of working with you, rather than an ‘average quality’ alternative provider. Showcase your unique strengths.

General marketing claims like, “we try harder”, “we go the extra mile” and “our service is second to none”, don’t work. Everyone makes those generic promises. By repeating similar claims, your message gets lost in an ocean of predictable marketing.

If you want your marketplace to know how truly superb your business is, you need to transition from generic — to specific. A powerful way to do this is to provide supporting information for your claims. Show them, specifically, what makes your business a better proposition for them.

For example, almost every business claims to offer great customer service. You can rise above the noise and get noticed, by showing prospective clients how you invest in customer service training. You can show them the additional opening hours you provide. If you have customer service awards, showcase them in your marketing.

When people finally see just how amazing your business is, you will find you attract the best clients, the best fees and the most rewarding projects.

The best kept secret

You don’t want to be the best kept secret in your industry. It’s frustrating to know you are better than other providers, who are more commercially successful then you. This is why you need your marketplace to know who you are AND that hiring you or buying from you makes perfect sense.

This is a function of marketing… effective marketing, to be exact. It’s about knowing who your ideal client or customer is and then crafting a powerful message, which you motivate them to read or listen to.

If you make that message [or story] remarkable enough, they will tell their friends about you too.

Tip: You may find this useful: Be the first. Be the best. Be remarkable.

Here’s why your business needs a great support network

Professional development, business, improvement, marketing tips

To build a successful business, you need a great team of people around you. I’ve personally seen why this is so important over the past 72 hours… [more on that in a moment!]

Think about it:

  • You need to know what to do when faced with a challenge that’s outside your skill set.
  • You need to have someone to call, when only an expert will do.
  • You need people, who you can trust to help you when you need it most.

Here’s my first hand example of how a couple of potentially damaging issues were solved, thanks to having the right team around me.

There’s a very valuable lesson here for you and your business. Allow me to explain.

My blog vanished

On Sunday, the new-look Jim’s Marketing Blog went live. You can see how the new site looks, here. Everything went great, until I decided to make a few tweaks. Suddenly, my blog vanished!

So, it was 5pm Sunday. That’s absolutely not the best time to need expert help. Usually, that would have been a stressful situation. However, I knew everything would soon be fine. I emailed my developer, Gregor from Mass Media Design, and in no time the blog was back.

My server was attacked

Then, just before 11pm Tuesday night, my web server came under a heavy attack. Jim’s Marketing Blog had slowed down to a crawl. I called tech support at my hosts, WebFusion, and they took control. The problem was soon eradicated. I was able to go to sleep happy, knowing Rob and his colleagues were awake and making sure my server was fine.

Disclaimer: WebFusion sponsor my blog, however, I was a very happy customer of theirs for years before they sponsored me. It’s easy to see why I recommend them.

Without those key partners in place?

Had it not been for the team around my business, the past few days would have been extremely stressful. Without a great web developer, my blog would have been offline until at least 9am on Monday morning.

If I’d chosen cheap hosting, I could have been waiting 24 hours for a support ticket to be acted on. Then there’s no saying how long it would have taken them to resolve the problem. I’ve known sites on cheap hosting to be offline for 3 or 4 days.

The team behind your business

Here’s an important question to ask yourself about your business. When you need expert advice regarding; law, tax, technology, marketing, accounts, etc., who’s on your team?

The service providers you rely on for your business will have a huge impact on what you achieve. Get the best you can afford. Put them in place as soon as you can. This frees you up to focus on what you’re best at.

It also lets you plan ahead with confidence, knowing you have the key areas of your business covered and that you’re doing the right things, correctly.

Here’s a super fast way to boost your profits

marketing tips, arketing ideas, marketing advice

If you want to generate high quality sales extremely quickly, I have a powerful, proven idea for you. It’s based on a strategy I use with my clients, which has produced amazing results.

It can work for you too. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s based on 3 Facts… and a question

I want you to think about the following 3 facts, regarding your clients or customers:

  1. These good people trust you.
  2. They also have an existing trading relationship with you. In other words, they are used to working with you, receiving invoices from you and paying you. They also know you provide them with an excellent service.
  3. Because of those previous 2 points, making additional purchases from you is seen as low risk or no risk.

Now answer this question:

What additional, useful product or service could you offer to your existing clients or customers?

Here’s why this strategy works so well

Selling to your existing clients has 2 massive advantages over selling to strangers:

  1. The process is very quick, because of the 3 facts I just mentioned. This makes it perfect, if you want or need to increase your revenues and profits quickly.
  2. By offering more high value services to your clients, you become more valued as a provider. This makes them less likely to switch to an alternative provider. So, as well as making your clients more profitable, you also increase your chances of retaining their custom.

The bottom line here is this: If you’re looking for the fastest and least expensive way to generate far higher revenues and profits, this could be it. If not, it’s pretty darn close.

Oh, and if you want some help developing a new, attractive product or service, here are some ideas to help you.