Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Here is some specialist advice for you

The marketplace will pay a premium for specialists.  A specialist lawyer, who is an expert in medical negligence, may be the wrong person to deal with the sale of your home, but she’s exactly who you need, to get that medical negligence issue successfully resolved.

The value of specialists

Successful business owners and consultants in every niche, have figured out that if they become specialist in a key area, they can work with great clients and earn attractive fees.  Specialists have this additional value, because unlike generalists in their niche, they focus on being truly outstanding in one or two areas.  So, if we need expert help with a specific issue, we hire a specialist rather than a generalist.

Struggling business owners and consultants also know it’s important to specialise.  However, they get it all wrong.  Rather than focus on the areas where they have expert knowledge, they claim to be specialists in everything (see photo.)  In an effort to appeal to everyone, they use a message that fails to be directly relevant to anyone.  This is a big mistake.

I took the photo for today’s post on a visit to my local town.  The sign belongs to a small, generalist law firm.  However, their sign claims that they are specialists.  Not only that, they claim to specialise in everything!  This is, of course, factually incorrect.  Law is a massive, complex subject with specialisations within specialisations within specialisations.  To claim that they are specialists in all areas of law is ridiculous.  It also hurts their marketing.

Specialist marketing

From a marketing perspective, signs like that are pointless.  They make it impossible for people to know what the law firm really is good at.  If they listed their two or three main areas of expertise, anyone seeing that sign, with that problem, would stop and take note.  By listing nothing and claiming everything, they are invisible.

Claiming to specialise in everything, simply tells people you specialise in nothing.

Claiming to specialise in one (or a few) complimentary areas, is vastly more effective.

What everyone needs to know about their clients!

You can tell a massive amount about a business by looking at it’s client list.

  • When I look at successful small businesses, I find they are very selective regarding who they choose as clients.
  • When I look at the typical small business, I find their clients choose them!

The difference?

When you are selective regarding who you accept as a client, you get to work with people who value you and what you do.  You get to work on projects, which truly inspire you.  You tend to do your best work under these conditions, resulting in happier clients and more referrals.  Moreover, because birds of a feather flock together, the referrals from these high value clients are likely to be high value too.  Win-win.

When you are less selective, you often end up working with unrewarding people, on bland projects.  This is a frustrating scenario that does not inspire people to produce their best work.  Lose-lose.

Whilst it may be tempting to work with anyone who can pay your invoice, it’s not where the longevity is.  You can’t apply your craft under those conditions and if you did, they probably wouldn’t notice.

The answer?  Target your marketing messages, so they are 100% focused on the needs of your ideal profile of client.  Then, get that message in front of the right people at the correct time.

That’s easier said than done, Jim!

Yes, of course it is, because we are now looking at professional marketing and not the typical small business, hit-and-miss approach.  This requires a strategy designed around your unique situation; your unique resources, your industry, your ideal client profile, your targets, etc, etc.  You won’t find this in a book, webinar or blog post.

However, I hope I have helped explain the value of using a more focused approach to client development.

Thousands of followers or engulfed in a massive flock?

If you have lots of followers on social networks and wonder why you get too few high quality business leads from them, this post is just for you!

When I was a child, I was constantly getting in trouble in class for staring out of the window and daydreaming.  Then, 10 years after leaving school, I discovered that most of Einstein’s breakthroughs came the same way; staring out of the window and daydreaming.

A habit the school worked hard to break, was in fact, an asset to me.  It’s how I stitch my thoughts together in order to create ideas.

You and your magic

We know that people think, create and work in different ways.  This uniqueness is something we need to embrace, if we want to achieve more of our potential.  You see, if we get 10 great people and hand them a manual on how to use social media, for example, and they all use it the same way, we end up with 10 clones.  We end up with 10 people doing it by the book.  The very uniqueness that would have allowed them to shine, would have been extinguished.

Yes, learn the basics, but then, go and make some magic happen.  Your magic.

Engulfed within a massive flock

Look around and you will see groups of business owners online, following the same approach as each other.  You can often tell in advance whose posts they will share, who they will name-check and which people they will recommend you follow.  Without knowing it, in an effort to build a bigger following, they simply end up part of a growing flock, doing the same predictable things as one another.

Paradoxically, as their follower numbers and site traffic increases from fellow members of the flock, their individual visibility decreases in direct proportion.  They become less and less relevant, as more people join their flock.  It’s hard to stand out and attract your prospective clients attention, when camouflaged like that.

You can’t influence or lead anyone, without a voice of your own and the courage to share what YOU think.

I get emails regularly, from people with social networks in the thousands and tens of thousands, who get very few business leads.  They see their follower numbers growing and assume they must be influencing people.  They have not yet learned that there is a chasm, between attracting social media followers and building a targeted audience for your unique message.  Anyone with the right software can get 100,000 social media followers.  It takes work that matters, to build a valuable, targeted community around you and your ideas.

Look out of your windows

An alternative approach to being in the middle of a flock, is to look out of the window a lot more and have the confidence to express yourself.

  • Tell us what you think.
  • Show us what you genuinely feel inspired by.
  • Let us know the people who truly inspire you.
  • Be yourself and give us the opportunity to get to know you.

Don’t ruin your chances of connecting with great people and future clients, by hiding the beautiful uniqueness, which makes you, you.

Photo: soham_pablo

Let’s do it!

I have a message of hope for you today!

This message is for those of you who are sick of watching good people losing their businesses, because of the way they reacted to the global economic crisis.  It’s a message for those of you who are worried about your own business and how things will turn out for you and your families.

Yes, we live in extremely uncertain economic times right now.  Forecasts change almost daily regarding how many years it will take, before things improve in a meaningful way.  Many economists say we are already close to what will be regarded as normal in years to come.

Every day, I hear small business owners talking about hunkering down until it all blows over.  This is probably the single worst thing you can do right now.  It takes control of your future away from you.

There is a better way.  A much better way!

Let’s do it!

You can’t change the economy, but you can decide how you navigate your business right now.  You can benefit from the fact that most of your competitors are acting like a rabbit, caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.  You can work to a strategy for business development, which will allow you to not only survive, but thrive.

I spoke with three clients yesterday, who are in fee-sensitive industries and enjoying their best ever year in business.  They have adjusted the set of their sail, so that their businesses are primed for growth.  They are fighting back.  They are doing the right things correctly.  They are enjoying the rewards.

My message to you today is that there is hope, however, you need to get serious.  The choice is yours and whilst you can’t turn your business around in an instant, you CAN change the set of your sail today.

I’m here to help all of you, whether you want me to show you exactly what to do in person or you simply want general help via the blog.

Regardless, you are NOT in this alone.

Let’s do it!

Photo: Fidelio

What Yoda, cigarettes and milk can teach you about business and life

There are 2 products, which tell us a great deal about the way people think.  I’m referring to low tar cigarettes and milk that’s had most of the fat skimmed off it.

These are enormously successful products within their markets, because they are so easy to sell.  They speak to people, with a message they want to hear:

  • Smokers who want to feel like they are doing something positive, without the commitment to quit.
  • Milk drinkers who want to lower their fat intake, but lack the commitment to go fat free.

People who market those products have it easy.  They know that the masses tend to avoid making solid commitments, if there is an easier alternative.  I call this Low Tar Thinking.

The value of commitment

The opposite of Low Tar Thinking is commitment.  Commitment is beautiful.  It turns dreams into reality.  It makes things happen.  It builds relationships, feeds the poor and makes us happier, healthier and wealthier.  However, most people not only fail to embrace commitment, they actively seek to avoid it.

The best advice on commitment I know, is simply this:  If you believe you need to do something, make the commitment and do it.

As Yoda famously said; “Do or do not…there is no try!”

Photo: snigl3t

Facebook: Changing for the better?

jim connolly facebook

What do you think about the recent changes at Facebook?

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has made some significant changes.  These range from the hook-up with Skype, to the addition of a subscribe feature, allowing you to “follow” people in a similar way to Twitter or Google Plus.  Today, Facebook has changed the way the news feed looks and works, to include both top news as well as the most recent items.

Many people have questioned whether these sudden changes have been made to improve the user experience, or as a reaction to Google+ and the attention it has gained recently.

The challenge with change

In my experience, people generally embrace progress but they dislike change.  They love to see things improve but they value the comfort of familiarity.  So, if a change is made to a product or service, it needs to offer a significant improvement to reward the discomfort of the change.

  • If Facebook has changed significantly with no real benefit, let alone a drop in user experience, it will lose market share.  As we saw with MySpace, no one is too big to fail if they get it wrong.  Additionally, Google Plus now offers an interesting alternative for disgruntled Facebook users.  Interestingly, Google+ today became open to all, with no invite required.
  • If Facebook has changed and improved significantly, it will retain most of it’s current users and attract new users too.  It will also increase user engagement; essential for their monetization model.

Personally, I have found Facebook’s changes to be useful.  Very useful.  Although I am an avid user of Google+ (since day 3 of it’s beta testing), I am connecting and sharing more on Facebook right now, than ever before.  You are very welcome to connect with me on my Facebook Page.

What can we learn from this?

All innovation should be driven by a desire to improve the customer experience or product.  When the marketplace believes that your intention is to make their experience better, they are massively more likely to be receptive.

However, if they think you are in a feature war, where the changes being made are driven by the need to be newsworthy, rather than the desire to improve, they may feel very different.

What leaves your kitchen?

One of the characteristics of the very best Permission Marketing, is that the message is so valuable to you that you would miss it, if it stopped.

I encountered a superb example of this yesterday, when I noticed myself checking a couple of my favourite a number of times, to see if a new post had been published yet.  For the 3rd day running there were no updates and that mattered to me.  I missed it.  My day was less, because their contribution was missing. 

THAT is the way you want people to feel about your blog posts, newsletters and social media updates.  Not as an intrusion, but as a welcomed experience.  BTW: It was an RSS issue and I grabbed all the missing posts, later.

What leaves your kitchen is what matters

A great chef knows that nothing should leave their kitchen, unless it is worthy of them.  In marketing, we need to apply a similar screening process before we press the send or publish button.  We need to think if what we are about to share is likely to add value to those who receive it or not.

If we get that balance right, when we offer our audience a business proposition, they will listen.  We will have earned their valuable attention.

This contribution focused approach is a world away from pestering people with sales pitches.  It’s all about engaging with your marketplace by being seen as a source of value.  Pestering people with sales messages, on the other hand, simply trains them to ignore you!

Photo: geishaboy500

The secret to unlocking your amazing creativity

Would you like to become a creative thinking powerhouse?  If you would, then today’s post may be just what you need!

I used to work with a guy who had a thinking cap.  He said that when he needed to be creative, if he wore his thinking cap, it would help him generate the ideas he needed.

Did it work?  Yes.  Absolutely… for him!

But here’s the thing: If you wore his thinking cap, you may not find it so effective.  Unless you believed all the things he did about that old cap, you’d quickly figure out that it is, in fact, just a normal cap and that he generated all those ideas himself.

Similarly, if you used the same tools as me for generating ideas (coffee, lots of green tea, audio recorders, paper, ink pens and music), you’d be unlikely to get the same creative flow that I get from them.

It’s not platitudes: You truly are unique

You think like no one else who has ever existed.  Your unique mind and all those experiences you have lived through, have created an astonishing, uniquely creativity machine.  If you want to tap into that creativity, do what feels most natural to you.  It may involve a thinking cap.  It may involve using an ink pen and some paper.  However, it’s just as likely to involve meditating or using a mind map or taking a long walk or listening to classical music or getting on an exercise bike or dancing to James Brown!

Sadly, many people wrongly believe that they are not creative, because they followed a creativity strategy from a book or a course, which didn’t work for them.  Ironically, the very fact that generic “how to get creative” bullshit doesn’t work for you, only confirms how original your own mind truly is!

Here’s a suggestion:  Be yourself.  Trust your ability to think creatively.  Then, try 1 new way to inspire your creativity each day.  Rule nothing in or out (and that includes having fun!)  Then, put the ideas that worked together, to build YOUR very own creative toolbox.

Photo: sebilden

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