Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Marketing Tip: Success leaves clues

One of the fastest ways to achieve a particular result, is to accurately model examples of people, who have already achieved what you want. That’s because success leaves clues.

Here’s an example of what I mean, using 2 short questions. Obviously, you can use the same process to develop any area of your business:

  1. Which service providers have you been with the longest? List 4 or 5 examples, regardless of their industry.
  2. What is it about them, which has earned them your custom for so long? Write your answers down and watch out for insights, which you can use to make your own service more sticky, so your clients stay with you for longer.

Studying success

We can waste a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel, when the answers we need are always far simpler than that. Whatever result or outcome you want for your business, someone else has already achieved it. This is another reason why we should always be on the look out for great people, who we can learn from.

The 2 limitations that shape what’s possible for you and your business

The development of your business and its overall commercial success will be greatly influenced, by what you believe is possible for you.  This means it’s important to check that you have a clear handle on what you truly can and can not do.

There are 2 types of limitation, which determine what we believe to be possible:

  1. Real world limitations.
  2. Self imposed limitations.

If you are 80 years old, you’re not going to win the Olympic 100 meters final.  This is a real world limitation.

However, if you find yourself saying you will never make a million or never become a best-selling author, this is a self-imposed limitation. Countless people have gone from being penniless to wealthy.  Harry Potter author JK Rowling, went from nowhere to a string of international best selling books AND went from living on social security, to a personal fortune in the hundreds of millions.

From hard to impossible

There’s a huge difference between something that’s hard to do and something that’s impossible.  The challenge here, is that if we erroneously believe something to be impossible for us, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We either don’t get started or we start off, believing we can’t do it – both of which lead to the prophecy becoming real.

Many things that are hard or difficult, are mistakenly filed in our minds as impossible.  Each time we do this, we place a false limitation on that area and set a very low ceiling on our potential there too.  This is why we need to ensure that we are clear, regarding those things we believe to be impossible and those which are challenging, but achievable.  Otherwise, we risk doing work that pays, rather than work that matters, because it’s less challenging.

Reality check

It’s wise to take a look at the limitations we have placed on our business and determine how many of them are real world limitations and how many are self imposed limitations.

The biggest stumbling block to our success is usually the person staring at us in the mirror!

Let’s get started!

Very few people are willing to start something new. Sure, they will join a new social network or buy a new brand of notebook, but they won’t actually start something new.

Your opportunity

This means there’s real opportunity out there, for those of us who are prepared to create.

Thankfully, the amount of courage and creativity required to start something, isn’t that much. It’s just a little more than the average person is willing to use.

You and me? We need to be willing to stretch ourselves and (here’s the tricky bit) we need to be OK about getting it wrong. Most people just won’t do that, however, when you start something, they will happily follow you.

What are you going to start?

Time to do it wrong?

Can you imagine someone telling you that they have enough time to drive their car, but that it keeps breaking down because they don’t have enough time to put fuel into it?

It sounds like an odd thing for an intelligent adult to say, doesn’t it? After all, fuelling a car is essential, if we want the car to work. So, we do it. We know that without that fuel, the car is going nowhere.

If you just found that example weird, you’d probably find what I am about to share with you, even weirder. You see this one is for real!

I don’t have the time to develop my business

One of the main excuses small business owners give, for failing to market their business, is that they just don’t have enough time. They seem to have enough time to work hard for a fraction of their worth. They just don’t have the time to identify and remedy the problem.

Wouldn’t you love to see the diary of someone like that – someone who has the time to do it wrong, but not to do it right?

Wouldn’t you be curious to see what they do have time for, which is more important to their business, than its very existence?

Don’t be a dummy

The word dummy gets used a lot in marketing.

When some marketers explain what their product does or how it works, they will often call it their dummies guide, after the popular range of for dummies books.

Dummies? Really?

It’s important to ensure our marketing messages are clear, but I’m not certain that thinking of our clients or prospective clients as dummies, is particularly helpful. After all, there’s a difference between writing a message with clarity, and writing it for an idiot.

Unless you truly believe your clients and prospective clients are idiots (they are not, by the way), aim for clarity. People respond better to a clear, well written message, than one that’s condescending.

Why you should avoid hard work!

Business owners tend to divide the work required to grow their business, into one of the following two groups:

  • Hard work
  • Easy work

I’m not so sure that labelling some activities as hard work, really helps us. I believe a more useful way to think of the work we do, is simply to decide if the activity is required or not. If it’s required and we are serious about succeeding, then it needs to be done, even if it’s hard work.

Required work

If there’s something we know we need to do, because it’s a required component for our business to succeed, it’s tough to justify not doing it. The reality is that some essential business activities are easy and others are challenging, but they are all required if we want to succeed.

Labelling certain activities as hard, doesn’t help us get it done. It simply makes it easier for us to justify our inertia in that area.

Photo: Enokson

What Steve Jobs and Henry Ford can teach us about opportunities

Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were known for many things. One of which, was their ability to deliver what the marketplace wanted, without waiting to be asked. This post looks at what we can learn from them.

It starts with an understanding, that there’s a direct link between the success of your business, and your willingness to understand and serve, the needs of your marketplace.

Listen and observe

Even though we have social media accounts, which give us the ability to listen like never before, many small business owners choose to use these tools almost exclusively, to market and network, rather than listen and observe. As a result, many find they are offering something, which there is little demand for.

Listen to your marketplace and look for opportunities. It’s unlikely that people will be literally asking for a new type of service, but that’s NOT what you are looking for. You’re looking for a need, which you can profitably service, through rendering exceptional value.

Steve Jobs and Henry Ford

  • Steve Jobs didn’t wait until the marketplace started asking for tablet computers, when he reinvented the tablet industry. He knew that people had always liked the idea of tablet devices, but that the old technology wasn’t able to deliver a great experience. He made a judgement call and invested in the development of the first iPad and it was a massive success, which led to a global change in technology.
  • Henry Ford did a lot of research, on the affordability and likely interest in his initial Ford motor cars, before building them. He famously said; ‘If I had simply asked people what they wanted, they would have asked me for faster horses!

We can feel passionately about the value of bolognese flavoured cheesecake, but if there’s no market interest in that product, we’re wasting our time.

Do the research. Grow bigger ears. Listen and learn. Then, focus on developing something, which people need and do it as well as you possibly can.

Photo: Victoriapeckham

Twitter buys Posterous!

Hot on the news that Posterous has been acquired by Twitter, I have a question for you:

If you were renting a house from someone, would you pay to have a luxury swimming pool built?

The obvious answer is NO. It would be crazy. You’d be paying tens of thousands for something, which you may only get a few months use of. The home owner could kick you out right after the pool has been built and paid for. You’d also be paying to increase the value of the home owners property, not your own.

There’s nothing for you, in a deal like that.

Posterous acquired by Twitter

It was announced today that Posterous has been bought by Twitter, in what analysts see as a talent grab. In other words, the Posterous team are joining the Twitter team, in order to work on Twitter’s development. Twitter is interested in the people, not the Posterous product.

Twitter, Posterous and that swimming pool

Many people, including a lot of small business owners, decided to use Posterous as their blogging platform.

  • They invested time creating content on their Posterous blog.
  • They added the Posterous address to their marketing literature.
  • They encouraged people, including prospective clients, to connect with them on Posterous.
  • They spent money on premium Posterous products.

They will wake up today, to learn that they are likely to need to move to a new platform soon. They now have valid concerns that Posterous may be either canned, or as happened when Facebook bought Friendfeed, left to fade away as the team focus on their new project.

Posterous Users are rightly concerned

This comment from the Posterous post, which announced Twitter’s acquisition is in line with many similar comments and observations:

Your FAQ is littered with “We’ll give you ample notice before any changes or disruptions to the service and we’ll provide specific instructions for exporting your content” But you don’t provide any clear dialogue on the future of the service. Your FAQ makes it sound like you are shutting things down, but very indirectly. Can we get a more clear answer?

The person leaving that comment clearly has concerns that all the value he has created there will be lost. He knows it’s now out of his hands. He wants answers. Maybe he needs answers. However, he built his swimming pool in a house he was renting and as a result, he has no control other than to export his data today and do what I believe EVERY small business owner should do: Build a blog on PROPERTY YOU OWN.

Twitter’s acquisition of Posterous: The lesson?

The lesson here, is that for a commercial blog, you need to have control. Every free platform comes with a cost, an enormous cost for small business owners. The cost of a free blog is lack of control. For example, WordPress.com have suspended and in many cases erased business blogs, which they believed violated their terms of use.

If you are serious about developing a successful, sustainable business blog, which YOU are in control of, you need to pay for a professional solution. I use a self-hosted WordPress blog and I am glad I own it. It generates a 6 figure income for me every year and I’d be very concerned, if I awoke today and found its future in doubt, because of some merger or acquisition.

The cost of owning your own blog is low enough for any small business to cover. You can get yourself a URL (web address) for peanuts, a copy of WordPress for free and some inexpensive hosting for as low as $6 a month. This puts you in control of what could be your most valuable marketing asset. I

It will also ensure you never find yourself in the position of that guy I quoted earlier, and many others, who will wake up this morning wondering what’s going on and expecting the worst.

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