This amazing opportunity is staring you in the face!

You have a great opportunity in front of you, right now.  It’s your chance to overcome a major small business challenge and reap the rewards.

  • Here’s the challenge – Google makes it possible for your prospective clients to find someone offering a similar service as you, for 10% less.
  • Here’s the opportunity – If you offer genuinely unique value then you set the fee, not your cheaper competitors.

We each have a choice.  We can focus on attracting fee sensitive clients and struggle to be paid what we are worth – OR – We can rise above the competition and build unique value.

Thankfully, the choice is yours.  This post will help get you started!

This mindset can ruin your business, but only if you let it!

Some business owners seek progress, others seek comfort.  This leads to 2 very different outcomes:

  • The smart business owner seeks progress. They seek the answers they need, from trusted, informed sources and then take the action required.  They do the right things, correctly.  They grow each year, enjoying measurable progress.
  • The struggling business owner seeks comfort.  They seek answers to the wrong questions, usually on the cheap, often from people who are ill-informed.  They then work hard doing the wrong things and relive the same frustrations, over and over again.

Not me, Jim!

The irony?  In my experience, almost everyone who is in that second group refuses to accept it.  They will read that description and see it fit people they know, but not themselves.  They fail to look at their business objectively and blame outside factors for their results.

They blame the economy for their lack of success, even though others in their industry are booming right now.  They blame fee-sensitive prospective clients, without realising THEIR marketing is what attracted them.  They blame the tactics of their competitors.  They blame cheap imports.  In fact, they will blame anything and everything, rather than accept that the success or failure of their business is in their own hands.

In short: Given that we reap what we sow, if we want a better crop we need to sow better seeds.  Blaming others puts you into a failure loop and is unlikely to make you any healthier, happier or wealthier.

How to build a great business and live a great life!

Remember when you started your business?

I’m guessing you were excited; exchanging the so-called security of being an employee, for the freedom and rewards of being your own boss.  It was the start of something new and inspiring for you.

As you read this now, I hope you are enjoying those rewards.  I hope you are in a position, where you have the quality of life you wanted or are making meaningful, measurable progress.

How a great business can improve your quality of life

When I transitioned myself from an employee, to the owner of a successful business, my whole quality of life improved.  It has allowed me to enjoy life more, work with great people and never have to worry about money.  I work fewer hours than anyone I know, which means that since my son was born, I have enjoyed the freedom of being able to spend time with him every morning, every afternoon and every weekend.  I also get to live where I want to live, which for the past decade has been a beautiful, little village in the South Yorkshire countryside.  What’s great is that I get to work with people like you and show you how it’s done.

Doing the right things, correctly

Some people reading this are still working hard and making little progress.  In my experience, if you’re not seeing the progress you would like, it isn’t because you’re not working enough hours or working hard enough.  It’s because you are applying a general approach to building your business, the kind of thing you pick up from books, seminars, blogs and the like.

What you need is specific, expert advice, based on your unique; goals, resources, experience, personality, industry, location, expertise, and marketplace etc, etc.  The sooner you get those answers and start doing the right things correctly, the sooner you start seeing the results.

Otherwise, it’s like rowing your boat with all your strength in the wrong direction.  The harder you try, the further away you end up.

What everybody ought to know about free offers

Do you offer people free gifts as incentives to try your work for free or buy more from you etc?  If you do, I have a question for you:

How free are your free gifts?

Some businesses are great when it comes to gifts

It’s over 4 years since the area where I lived suffered serious flooding.  Some of my friends were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses for almost a year, while flood damage was repaired.  Even though 4 years has passed, I still clearly recall receiving a letter from Staples, with a free coupon, worth £10.  They said they wanted to help businesses in the area following the floods and this was a gesture, at a point where many small businesses were struggling.  The coupon came with no strings attached; no minimum order – You could just walk into Staples, get £10 worth of supplies, hand them the coupon and leave.

The value of a genuinely free gift

That gesture from Staples changed how I thought about them and how I felt about them.  I started seeing them as being part of the local business community, rather than just another multinational brand.  Even though I am pretty sure the gift was given, with Staples very aware it was going to create a lot of goodwill toward them, it was offered with no strings and no requests on their part.  Just; here, please accept this.  It’s a great example of genuine giving.

Many businesses get it wrong

We saw some huge companies, including Microsoft, offering to donate to the Japan tsunami / nuclear disaster relief fund, but only by “gifting” $1 for each person who retweeted a Microsoft message.  These gifts with strings attached, can be counter-productive and leave a bad smell behind them.

My phone provider, o2, offer me gifts every month; all of which require me spending even more money with them or spending money with their business partners.

Authors send me their books for free too; even though none of them have been offered freely.  The note below is a great example.  It came with a book I was sent recently:

Jim, I love your work and wanted to give you a free copy of my latest book.  It’s just a gift from me to you, by way of thanks for all the great work you do for small business owners.

As your readers are small business owners and (name of book) is written with them in mind, it would be great if you would write a review.  Please include this link (which was it’s page on Amazon) in your review and email me when it’s live. 

A gift is given from a mindset of contribution.  A business incentive is a genuine, ethical commercial tactic.

  • A gift says; take this, it’s yours.
  • An incentive offer says; take this, then do something for me (like the book review request or the upsell from my phone provider.).

If it’s a free gift, with no strings attached, call it a gift.

If it’s an incentive, call it; an offer, an opportunity, a great deal, a recommendation, a chance to get 25% off their next purchase.

The bottom line: It’s more than semantics.  When you figure out that a free offer isn’t free, it changes how you feel about the person or company, who told you it was.

Are you training people to ignore you?

Do you want your marketing to get noticed?  If you just answered yes, this quick tip may help you.

Did you know that if you send too many marketing messages to your prospective clients, you actually become LESS visible to them?  Being too noisy with your marketing, simply trains people to ignore you.  They switch off.

How to be ignored

Some common ways to train people to ignore you, include:

  • Emailing people with your special offers, too often.
  • Pestering people on Facebook with invites, etc.
  • Sending too many self promoting tweets out on Twitter.
  • Hassling people at networking events.

Just as you ignore pushy people like that, so do your prospective clients.  They learn to filter it out.  In short, the moment your marketing is seen as an intrusion, you’ve lost them!

The same is true if you send messages less frequently, but with repetitive content.  People switch off.  If they think they can guess the content of your message, they have no need to click on, read or open it.  Through kindness, they may still follow you on a social network or stay subscribed to your list, but they’re not listening any more.

A balanced approach

The balance is to send valuable information, with appropriate regularity, to people who want to receive it.

Tip: A great guide to follow if you want to gain or retain the attention of your marketplace, is to only send messages that are of such value, that people would miss them if you stopped.

Doing work that matters

Pro development topics r

Last week, I wrote one of the most popular posts ever on this blog.  It was about the difference between doing normal work, and doing work that matters I recommend you read it, before continuing with this post.

One of the many emails I received following that post, was from Giles Payne in Canada.  Giles asks an excellent question, which echoed what the majority of you asked me.  Here’s the question along with my answer:

I know it’s impossible to tell each reader what we, individually, should do in order to switch to the work that matters model, but can you help us with some ideas on where to start, Jim?

Your craft

The best general advice I can give, regarding where you should start, is with your craft.

  • Your craft is the element of your work, which is uniquely you.
  • Your craft is the creativity you inject into what you do.
  • Your craft is about creating something fresh, which then touches the lives of other people.

If you give 100 people a pencil and paper and ask them to draw a bridge, you will get 100 unique drawings.  Each of these drawings shows how that person sees and depicts a bridge.  No one is right.  No one is wrong.  Everyone is unique.

In business, those who successfully apply their craft, accept the fact that they are unique and allow their uniqueness to touch everything they do.  Commercially, the magic begins when your craft produces something, which others see unique value in.  Doing work that matters is what I call the development and delivery of your craft.

The majority of business owners struggle, because they focus on being like their competitors, but just a little, cheaper, faster or better.  By being too similar to their competitors, they render themselves almost invisible.  They get into the numbers game.  They find themselves selling on price, not value.

How doing work that matters can be a game changer

Imagine you are looking to buy a tablet device today.  For most people, they are faced with the following question: Do I buy an iPad or one of the other devices?  In reality, that is not the correct question.  There are dozens of choices and some are very good indeed.  The thing is, Steve Jobs’ approach to doing work that matters, means Apple produced a game-changing device that has so far, eclipsed everything else.

It’s worth remembering that Apple were not first to market with a tablet by a LONG way!  Toshiba and others were producing tablet devices many years before Apple; yet they failed to produce anything that excited the marketplace.  They simply produced what were essentially laptops, with a touch screen.  They failed to use their craft to develop something fresh and compelling.

Sharing your craft

It takes courage to share your craft with the marketplace, rather than do work that’s expected.  That’s because the more unique you are, the more visible you become.  If there are 10,000 people standing in a stadium, wearing white shirts, and you are standing in the middle, wearing a red shirt, you will draw more attention than any of them.  That’s because people’s attention is drawn to that, which is different.

Here on this blog, I share my craft with you very publicly.  I try to write useful material for you, based on my unique experience and my particular approach to marketing and business development.  Everything I do here is visible.  Every idea I share is open to debate.  However, as a direct result of sharing my craft, every day a subset of my readers contact me, to see how I can help them develop their business.

Whilst I’m sharing my craft here, there are marketing providers all over the world, attending networking groups, pestering people for business leads.  Many of those marketing providers are talented.  However, they need to ask people for referrals, because they focus on doing what’s expected, rather than applying their craft to doing work that matters.  I have helped dozens of fellow marketing professionals to overcome this challenge and the first step always, is to focus on your craft.  That is my suggestion to you too, regardless of your industry or profession.

That’s a pretty long answer to that initial question, but the subject is way too important to dismiss with anything less.

I hope you found this post useful!

Attract the attention and respect of your marketplace, with this 1 simple idea!

Every time you follow the flock, you become a little more invisible.  Now, if you are trying to avoid being noticed, that’s a very useful tactic.  However, if you are a business owner seeking to attract the attention of your marketplace, it’s not such a wise move.

Fear as your compass

The more of your original self, which you incorporate into your marketing, the more visible you become.  The challenge here, is that it takes a lot of courage to be yourself and express your own opinions.  It’s far easier to do what the sheep do, by saying nothing original and adopting the beliefs and opinions of the rest of the flock.

In my experience, those who express themselves honestly and those who are too fearful to express what they believe, both use fear as their compass.  Where the difference comes, is in the way they navigate with that compass.

  • Those who feel the need to; join the tribes, use the buzz words, offer “me too” opinions, follow the gurus and express only what they believe will not be challenged, use the fear as a control to stop them expressing their unique opinions.
  • Those who lead the tribes, are copied and respected by the gurus and who express our true opinions, use the fear as confirmation to proceed and do work that matters.

In every case, my greatest victories came when I felt the fear and did it anyway:

  • Setting up my business.
  • Resetting my Twitter account to zero in February 2009, when I was one of the top 50 most followed people in the world on Twitter.
  • Deciding to leave London and move to a beautiful village in the countryside, leaving a great, 6 figure marketing business behind me.
  • … You get the picture.

Your compass.  Your choice

If you believe something you want to do or say is right, yet you are worried that people may disagree with you or question you, you have 2 options.  You can either pull back and get in line with the sheep or you can use that fear as a compass, to guide you into your own unique position in the marketplace.

If you lack visibility right now, I strongly suggest you consider the second of those options.  It might just be that turning point you have been searching for!

What everybody ought to know about making decisions

If you want to succeed in business, you need to learn how to make decisions, correctly.

Successful business owners are typically very good when it comes to making decisions.  They know that indecision costs them opportunities.  They get the facts they need, think about the proposition, often discuss it with others to get some feedback, then they decide.  They do this, in reasonable time.

Other business owners are poor at making key decisions.  The fear of making a bad decision sees them over analyze, until the opportunity has passed.  As a result, they place a very low ceiling on their potential; as progress comes from identifying and acting on opportunities.  These people are often waiting for certainties, unaware that the only certain thing in business, is that almost nothing is certain!

They then work hard all their lives, wondering why they never made it.

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes.  What matters most is getting off the fence.  You cannot make progress without making decisions. ~
Jim Rohn

Your decisions.  Your progress

I was prompted to write this, after having lunch with a friend recently.

He explained that he had considered hiring a marketing professional, who had been highly recommended to him.  After meeting with her, he took 14 days to decide to offer her the position.  By then, she had already been employed by one of his competitors.  In the past 12 months, she has generated a fortune in business for them, attracted the second largest account in their marketplace and significantly increased and improved their profile.  He indecision has really cost him.

The price of indecision

You can’t make meaningful progress, until you acquire the courage of your convictions and the guts to back up your beliefs.  Whether it be yes or no, you need to decide within reasonable time or be willing to pay the price of indecision.  Reasonable time means not too soon, yet soon enough for you to be able to benefit from the decision.

Steve Jobs, Seth Godin and The Secret Of Their Success!

(Update: I have written a follow-up to this post here)

Does the world really need another service provider, who is just a little less expensive, just a little faster or who offers just a little better customer service?

No: The marketplace is not excited or motivated by yet another pretty average provider.

What causes people to stand in line waiting to become your client or to tell the world how awesome you are, is when they encounter a business or person, doing something that is clearly, extra special.

This is what I call doing work that matters.

Work that matters

So, what am I referring to when I say work that matters?

I first picked up on the term, in an interview I heard a couple of years ago.  Seth Godin was being interviewed by Israel V, who asked him what his secret to success was.  Seth answered:

For 5 years, I was one payment away from bankruptcy.  I then decided to stop doing work that paid and focus on doing work that mattered.  I fired our biggest client, who was responsible for more than half our revenue!  They were making us unhappy and were changing who we were and how we did business.

It was a real watershed for me; having the guts to do that.  I told my team that this might be the end for us, but I think it is the right thing to do.  We stopped working on projects, which could make us money in a week and focused all our attention on doing work that mattered, things we would have worked on for free, if we could have afforded to. 

That shift meant a lot!

Work that pays

Almost every business focuses on working in a predictable way.  They stick within the confines of what their competitors do, because they believe that there is almost a guarantee that if they do, they will at least get a slice of the pie, even if it’s a small slice.  This is why so many businesses offer such a similar range of services to their competitors and end up attracting average clients, who pay them average fees.

Steve Jobs and work that matters

Only a tiny minority of people do work that matters.  They look at what the marketplace needs and they decide to provide it based on their unique approach.  Steve Jobs is a famous example of doing work that matters.  At a time when computer makers were constantly asking themselves, “how can we make this cheaper?” Jobs was asking “how can we make this so awesome that people will go crazy with excitement when they see it?”  The rest is history.

Here’s the challenge with ripping up the predictable model of a business in your industry, to focus exclusively on doing work that matters to you.

You won’t find the model for you and your business in any book!

There’s no for dummies guide.  There’s no turnkey solution.  There’s no manual either!  That’s because it has to be work that matters to YOU and your prospective clients.

It’s based around the way YOU see things:

  • Your values
  • Your beliefs
  • Your insights
  • Your experiences
  • Your passion
  • Your resources
  • Your imagination
  • Your goals
  • Your personality
  • Your dreams
  • Your faith
  • Your end game

Clearly, this approach is not for everyone.  But for those who can see the potential and who have the vision and the courage to make it work, the rewards are life changing.

It’s why I enjoy coaching people how to do work that matters, based on their uniqueness, more than any other work I do.  For my clients and myself, THIS is work that matters!

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up post, which takes this subject further and answers a key question, on how to start this process in your business!

Photo credit: Seth Godin

How to build a valuable client list and a more profitable business

The way to build a great client list, is to feed your business with high quality leads, from your ideal profile of client.

It’s actually pretty simple to see how targeted your marketing has been up until now.  You just need to take a look at the quality and volume of the leads or inquiries your marketing generates.  If you tend to attract:

  • Leads from people who are fee sensitive
  • Leads from people, who you know will be a nightmare to work with
  • Too few leads

…then your marketing is clearly not effectively targeting the right people with the correct message.  You need to fix that quickly!

The quality of your client base will have a direct impact on the quality of your business and also your quality of life.  Because my marketing is targeted, I already know you are a small business owner and that you often work long hours too.  Working long hours on projects for low quality clients is stressful, unrewarding and frustrating.  You deserve better than that!

So, get specific

One of the first things I do when I start working with a new client, is to determine what their ideal client looks like.  From that point onward, everything we do is designed to attract these high quality, prospective clients.  By using marketing, which I design to be directly relevant to these extremely valuable people, my clients are able to redesign their client list and their business.  This has a positive impact on every element of their business and their quality of life.  It’s rewarding, fun and very profitable for them.

I suggest you do the same.  Get specific.  Understand that for your marketing to work, it needs to be directly relevant ONLY to your ideal profile of client. This is what makes it powerful enough to inspire people to take action and contact you. Your marketing can only be that compelling, when you speak directly to the right people, with the correct message.

If you would like me to help you, let me know.