Articles & GID TV Episodes

Falling down Alice’s rabbit hole

It’s been a while since I wrote my first book.

It was always my intention to write books. After all, how could I possibly continue to introduce myself as “Speaker, Author and Marketing Expert” if I wasn’t authoring? How long could I continue to ride the wave of the one book I had written?

Plus, isn’t that what every other successful entrepreneur did?

The big guns and gurus all had more than one book published … didn’t they?

Or that’s the story I had been telling myself over the past couple of years. As this story got told again and again in my head, it became more and more real. More and more true.

And this is exactly the topic I want to explore in this book; the stories, thoughts and expectations we bring along on our journeys to becoming “successful”. We all have them and they affect the experiences we have and, ultimately, the results we get from our marketing.

We need to be marketing our businesses; without marketing, you reduce your opportunities of clients finding you. Without clients there’s no income. And with no income … well, there’s no business. So to find out how to market your business, it makes sense to start with information out there already. Instead of sitting at your desk, twiddling your thumbs whilst asking the Universe for clients to ring you on your phone, you do what most people do – you look to experts.

Why invent the wheel when we can get information about the best, latest, cheapest, quickest ways of winning new business from other people who have done that (and got the T-Shirt).

Alice in wonderlandAnd where do most of you start? Well, yes … the internet.

The internet is a blessing and a devil. It gives us the opportunity to create a global business from our kitchen tables and spare bedrooms. But it also gives us the opportunity to fall into Alice’s rabbit hole when seeking for ways to get new clients.

Just hang out on Facebook for 10 minutes and your newsfeed fills with ads offering live training events to learn this and free checklists to learn that.

Google “how to get clients” and you get 730,000,000 results with pages and pages full of listings offering “33 ways to get more clients”, “21 ways to bring in the business” and “the quickest and easiest way to get booked solid”.

There so much free stuff out there, you sign up for this, that and the other and before you know it … BAM you now believe you simply HAVE to be creating an online business, BAM you NEED a way of bringing in passive income because there’s no way you’d be able to work with enough clients to have the income you need to live the promised beach life and, to be any way successful, BAM you’ve GOT TO start running webinars, group mentoring programmes and sell places for a VIP retreat weekend.

The next 12 months has you continually spinning further and further down the rabbit hole until you wake up one day and ask yourself, “What business am I trying to build here? I hate what I am doing. I’m exhausted at trying to get these marketing strategies to work. Why am I not bringing in enough clients? Why am I not more successful?”

If this has happened to you, you are not alone.

Most of us who have started up a business have experienced this at some time and at some level or other. It doesn’t matter how successful you perceive yourself to be (or how unsuccessful for that matter), everyone I know has fallen into Alice’s rabbit hole at some point. Everyone I know has sought information, advice or consultative help on how to get better results from their marketing from outside sources; from other experts who done that (and got that T-Shirt).

It’s what I do, after all. I have spent the past 10 years teaching and sharing marketing strategies and tactics. And I have also spent a fair amount of my own money learning the best, latest, cheapest, quickest ways of winning new business so that I can apply to my own business, as well as then adapt and share with my own clients.

For the most part, these outside sources are credible. What they teach works for them and for some of their clients.

And yes, I know there are plenty of charlatans out there and some who may even have a good heart but just don’t have the ability to deliver or meet their clients’ expectations. This book is not about starting a slanging match or starting a witch hunt! But, on the whole, when you go out and seek information and advice on how to get new, different or better clients, you will get tried and tested strategies and tactics.

So if most of the information and advice out there is sound, why don’t most of these strategies and tactics work for you?

Why is that the information and advice you sometimes (and perhaps almost always) get from these outside influences NOT get you the results that you after?

These are the questions I want to answer in this book.

Over the past couple of years, I have begun to understand why learning more can actually mean you end up knowing less; why the “7 Steps to Success Programme” you invested in doesn’t work for you the way that it worked for the expert who claims it does.

There’s still very much a place for “how-to” learning in my opinion. After all, you wouldn’t want to have heart surgery from someone who is simply trusting their instinct and confident about their own abilities to “give it a go”. But it’s time for me to start sharing my path of understanding with you on how to reverse the outside-in process so that your marketing can become inside-out. I want to share how your marketing can feel more authentic, more you … without the need for following a 7 Step Success Formula.

Your marketing strategies and tactics can be somethings that you love to do. You know what you could be doing to grow your business and find new clients right now; it’s just that you can’t access this information because you are too busy pulling your hair out trying to implement stuff that you feel you “should-be” doing.

So stop feeling guilty that you haven’t posted for the past seven days in your 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Stop beating yourself up because you still haven’t got a decent lead magnet on your website. And stop getting frustrated because you haven’t run that webinar you promised to do because the technology is scaring the pants off you.

It’s time to throw everything you think you want to know about out of the window and start working on your marketing from the inside-out.


The above is an excerpt from the introduction of my new, upcoming book “Inside-Out Marketing: How to put a stop to your “should-be” marketing and  attract client with simplicity, grace and ease.” (or the alternative title “Sod the 7 Step Success Formula – let me do what I bloody well want to do to market my own business!”)

If you are interested in getting sent further excerpts of this book and perhaps even be involved in it’s creation, then click here to add your name and email address to the notification list.

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In the meanwhile, leave a comment below and tell me what you think of what you read so far. Do you want to read more? Are you experiencing Alice’s rabbit hole? Or do you love working on your marketing strategy? Tell me your ideas and views below.

 

Cancel your advertising and throw away your leaflets

Cancel ButtonWhen people consider whether to give up on their business and go back to corporate life it’s not because they prefer PAYE world. It’s usually because they have just run out money.  They aren’t able to make enough income to cover their day-to-day costs, let along make a profit.

But these businesses don’t go out of business because of bad service or poor quality products.  These businesses are usually run by people who are passionate about what they do and genuinely care about their clients.

Let me give you an example.

Jane is an ex-accountant who got fed up with the commute in to work every day and because of her passion for colours and interiors, she decided to re-train and start up an interiors business.  She now offers a range of services from one-off consultations and personal home styling to project managing big decorating jobs.

Jane is based in a fairly affluent area.  The current housing market has meant that more people are extending and modifying their property to get more space rather than move.  There is a potential market place for Jane’s service, especially when Jane has worked out that she only needs to be working with a maximum of 8 clients at any given time.

She has sensibly got a 6 month financial buffer, but four months in and Jane is finding it difficult attracting enough clients to her business.  She rarely has more than the odd appointment in her diary each week and she’s starting to feel desperate (which is not a good look for anyone!).

She advertises once a month in her local newspaper because someone once told her she ought to have a presence and get her name out there.  And she has also just signed up for one year advertising in her parish magazine as well with a local online business directory.  She has even gone round and put a leaflet in almost every door in her local neighbourhood explaining the list of services that she offers … but not one person has called her.

Selling her business is becoming hard work.  It is demoralising and the passion is starting to dwindle.  If it carries on like this, Jane will be forced to give up on her dreams and return to her accountancy career to pay the bills.

It’s not fair is it? Jane is offering a quality and professional service which is backed up by study and training, there appears to be a local market for what she offers and she knows that her knowledge can help increase the value of people’s homes and save them endless of hours of research. So why is not working for her?

What she doesn’t know is how to get the right message in front of the right people.  All her money is going in to advertising that obviously is not working for her and on leaflets that are obviously aren’t compelling enough to make people call.

The big mistake Jane has made is that she hasn’t taken the time to really get to know her target customers. Targeting the right customers with the right messages is really the secret to great marketing.  The better you know the people you want to attract, the more likely it is that you will know where to find them, how to communicate with them and how to make yourself attractive enough for these people to call you.

Jane needs to stop her advertising and go back to basics.

Who are her target customers?  What are their worries and concerns?  When it comes to home decorating and creating more space, what are their real problems and challenges?  (And these will be different from what Jane thinks they are!) How much are they willing to spend for to solved these problems?

By focusing on some simple questions such as these, Jane’s answers will help her work out what her special uniqueness could be to make her marketing activities and offers compelling and attractive. She needs to really spell out how an investment in her services can give specific benefits. Pictures of lovely cushions and stylish lamps are just not going to cut it!

So, for those of you out there who feeling like Jane, take a long hard look at the messages you are trying to get out there.  If your advertising isn’t working, cancel it.  If those leaflets cluttering up your office aren’t working, get rid of them.

Cleanse your business of stuff that you are doing because you think it is the right thing to do.  And stop second guessing by starting with your clients you want to be talking to.

The more you learn, the less you know

photodune-6436188-knowledge-xsAs you dive in to the foray of the marketing world and stumble upon product after programme after 7 Step Success Formula, it soon becomes apparent that the more you learn, the less you seem to know.

I’ve been around this marketing world for just over 10 years now. Starting up before WordPress, before Facebook and before 4G connectivity and having the world in your pocket. It’s been an exciting and wondrous journey at times. But at others, even I have felt like Alice falling in to the rabbit hole; spinning faster and faster, wondering when I was ever going to hit the ground.

There’s always the next new thing. Just when you think you’ve cracked Facebook, they go and change their algorithm or terms of business. Just when you got the hang of writing your blog every week, all you read and hear is that you should be podcasting. Or video blogging. Or running live hangouts.

The more you learn. the less you begin to realise you know.

The more you try and follow the 7 Step Success Formulas, the more you forget to listen to your gut and your inner wisdom.

Yesterday I was speaking to a client. It was our first call together and she wanted to crack her niche once and for all.

She was a spiritual coach but also came from a corporate career and it was these two components – her logical business mind and her innate spirituality – that were seemingly clashing.

She had read almost everything there was to know about niching and the importance of targeting her marketing. But after 7 years, she still was not clear on who is was she wanted to attract.

But here’s the thing … she was attracting.

OK, maybe not as many clients as she wanted to which is why she came to me and wanted help with her marketing strategy. But it was clear to me that she was attracting.

It appeared to me that she has got so caught up with the process of finding her niche, that she had lost the confidence to listen to what she knew already.

And I see this a lot; both in myself (yup … I am human just like you LOL) and in my clients.

Our mind is fuelled with thoughts each and every second of each and every day. Some days, our thoughts are helpful, brave, full of creativity and limitless. On other days, our thoughts are restricting, cowardly, fearful and at times mean and down-right nasty.

We could go all-NLPy and try to fix our “bad” thoughts. But it’s simply not possible.

We have no control over what thoughts come our way. We can only observe and decide which ones to take action on and which ones to let go.

When we don’t realise this (or simply forget this because when you have a crap day, it’s easy to let the crap take over), it’s real easy for the “bad” thoughts to seem real. And this is when we stop listening to what we know.

We go after more stuff to learn. We feel there’s got to be a better way so we decide we need to seek the better process.

There is a simpler way: stop and listen.

Turn off your emails. Get off Facebook. Take yourself off away from your business and let the sands settle.

As you physically move yourself away from the problem, it becomes easier for the “good” thoughts to come through. When the sands settle in your mind, the flow of thoughts quieten and you remember that your inner wisdom had an answer all the time. It may not be THE answer .. but there will be an answer.

And most importantly it will be yours.

So is learning is good for the mind, body and soul? Absolutely.

Are there marketing strategies and systems that you can be taught? Sure.

But when your learning becomes frenzied to the point that you find yourself screaming, “If only someone could show me where to look?” … take a breath.

You have the answer if you can take time to allow your mind sand to settle.


 

What do you think about this thought? Do you find that the more you chase knowledge from the outside, the less you lose connection with your own inside knowledge? 

Leave a thought, comment or observation below. I would love to hear from you.

The art of the follow up: How to stop losing business that’s right there under your nose

Following up and keeping in touch are easily forgotten.

Call me concept. Isolated on white.Day to day you are busy responding to emails, client projects, telephone calls and whatever else demands your attention. Days can merge into weeks; weeks into months. And before you know it, that potential client you spoke to about starting a new project has been lost in the ether of time.

Now I know you want to become a magnet to your clients. Chase them too hard and it’s easy to feel worried that you may come across as being desperate for the business. And, after all, isn’t it better to have them chase you?

But when you are now left wondering how long you should go before following up with their initial enquiry, that’s where holes start appearing in your business.

Whatever your reasons are for “forgetting” to follow up and keep in touch with people who have shown an interest in what you do, not doing anything about it is crazy. Especially when you spend most of your marketing time trying to find new contacts and leads to speak to!

If you are forgetting the ones that you’ve already found, you are leaving a stack load of money on the table. You need to plug up those holes!

But what to do about it?

  1. What follow up did you agree? The most common mistake made is not agreeing on a time, day or action for following up. Never leave a conversation without agreeing the next time of the next call or meeting or what is supposed to happen next. If the next step is to make contact again is not imminent, then at the very least decide on a time scale; whether that’s 6 weeks or 6 months.
  2. How you think about the follow up is the way it’s going to go. If you feel that following up with someone is salesy, that’s exactly how it will come across. If you feel slightly desperate about winning the business, that’s exactly how it will come across.Remember your potential clients are human beings too. The reason they haven’t got back to you may actually have nothing to do with the fact they don’t want to work with you. A member of their team has just resigned and it’s gone manic at work. Their child is off school sick and they are very concerned about the doctor’s report. They have got sick themselves and staying in bed until their temperature has gone down.

    If you keep in mind that it’s not all about you and that your potential client may actually have more pressing issues to deal with than the discussions you having with them, they may welcome the reminder and glad of the opportunity not to miss out on the offer you’ve got for them.

  3. Following up doesn’t always have to be about the sale. Sending a simple Thank You on a back of postcard or emailing a link to a relevant article you’ve just seen can be the perfect excuse for staying in touch. If you make it all about the sale all of the time, your desperation may come across and shoo the client away.
  4. Have an email marketing system set up. Whether you send out a fortnightly email newsletter or have a specific autoresponder sequence set up, add your potential client to that list so they can get the value of your expertise. Again, if all your follow ups are about making the sale, it may get very irritating for them.
  5. Don’t wait for Christmas to send them cards. Once a year, our postal service gets inundated with seasonal greetings. And so do your clients. Why spend money on cards and postage, only to get lost in the dozens of other follow ups from your competitors. There are plenty of other occasions throughout the year that are worth celebrating; Valentine’s Day, Easter, New Year and probably plenty of unusual National Days that could merit a card that says “Hi … remember me?”
  6. Set up a system. Whether it’s a basic excel spreadsheet or adding dates to your calendar or even subscribing to a specific CRM tool such as Capsule or Salesforce, you absolutely need to have a system set up so you don’t rely on memory. When you start up in business, it can feel easy to keep track of a few calls here and there. But when your follow ups span across the year and some clients may take months and months to buy from you, you mustn’t rely on scraps of paper and notebooks.
  7. Know that a “NO” now can often the start of a beautiful partnership. It can take a long time for someone to know, like and trust you enough to buy your services. They may say being saying no to you right now, but over time that can change to a yes. So be careful not to throw a sulk and take the rejection personally as a “NO” may actually mean “NO, Not right now … but keep in touch and we may re-consider.

Remember, persistence is everything. Never be worried about being desperate if you can genuinely help your clients. If you know you are a good fit for each other and that they have expressed an interest in what you can do for them, be strategic in your follow up process and you will reap your rewards.

Time to hear from you. How do you manage your follow up calls? Or do you dare to admit that follow ups rarely happen?

Leave a comment below as I love to read your thoughts and ideas, too.

Spray and pray marketing: the problems and the solutions

spray and pray marketingWhen a few of your long term clients – you know the ones; the ones you bank on being there for the next few months – begin to “evaluate” their current contracts, it is easy to feel a sense of anxiety.

Perhaps your motivation and confidence starts to wobble as one after another potential lead says “Thanks, but no.” Your diary starts to look a little empty and you begin to wonder when exactly you are going to make your next sale.

When business is good, you are king of the hill.  But when business gets tough, it is easy to start feeling a tad nervous. And when these nerves turn to panic, it can really start to filter in to your marketing; which makes the lack of business leads only get worse.

Why?  Because the 2 biggest mistakes you can make when business gets tough is to reduce your prices and to widen your market.

I’ll come back to reducing prices at another time, but let’s deal with the widening of your market first.  I suppose it kinda makes sense to feel you must widen your market if your business leads are drying up.  After all, you want more clients.

But never get confused with wanting new clients with wanting to have any-new-client-who-will-have-you.

When you start to widen your market, it is easy to lose your focus, your speciality and your ability to compete with other businesses.

The more focused you are in who you want to attract and the more targeted your marketing is, the more successful you will be in winning more clients and customers.  And if there is one thing that you are more likely to win over other cheaper competitors is by being a specialist.

When you try to win any-new-client-who-will-have-you, your marketing starts to become spray and pray.  The more letters, emails, calls and Facebook posts you can get out, the more chance you feel someone will come back to you.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Here are the 3 core problems caused by spray and pray marketing; and the solution to each one.

Sending everyone to the same website

Problem – the attention span of your average website visitor is less than a couple of seconds.  People are not as patient online and scan web pages, rather than read them. And social media has only made our attention span online get worse and worse.

If they can’t see the right information for them, they hit the back button.  And if you are sending everyone, online and offline, to the same home page, are you giving that potential new client the right information to make a decision on whether to buy from you?

How do you know if you have this problem? – check your web stats and look at your bounce rate.  This will show you how many people click away from your site after viewing only one page.  An average bounce rate is 50% so if you are way up in the 70 or 80 percentile, there’s possible a problem. Even if your website is your blog, if most people are coming on over to read just one article and then leave, then you’ve potentially got some work to do to encourage interested people to stick around and act on what you’ve got to offer.

If you sell products and services online, you will also keep track of your conversion rates.  How many visitors do you need to attract to your website to make one sale? And yes, it can be quite a depressing figure when you realise that it may take 10,000 visitors for 1 person to buy your £97 online course … gulp!

Solution – Having a separate website for each of your target clients is ideal, but not always practical.

Start off by having separate pages relevant for different clients and give out a dedicated web address to the right clients. For example a training business could have www.yourwebsite.com/retail if they have decided to target this sector.  When a potential retail client clicks through to this page, they can read about the problems retail businesses have, what specific solutions are on offer to them and what targeted results can be achieved.  There is a greater chance that this training company is going to be perceived to be a specialist in the retail sector, thus improve their chances of winning business.

The option you have is to make use of one of the large number of squeeze page products out there (LeadPages is my current favourite, must-have web tool). This makes it very easy (for a non-techy who does not understand HTML coding) to set up and create specific pages for your targeted marketing campaigns.

For example, if you are running a campaign to promote a free event such as a webinar, you don’t want people to have to be stumbling around your website and getting lost in the navigation. Or, even worse, bouncing off your home page because they can’t see your event (remember the split second it takes for someone to scan a page … they will no patient to look carefully for your beautifully designed “click here” graphic.)

Send people direct to a specific landing page (and yes, you can use a standalone page from your LeadPages account to do this) and not only will you get better conversion, you will have accurate stats to work out how well that page is converting.

Sending everyone the same letter & brochure

Problem – 1,000 letters and brochures are sent out to a mailing list which results in not one enquiry.  Expensive!

How do you know you’ve got this problem? – When the invoices for the printing and postage start hurting your bottom line.

So few small business owners even consider using direct mail any more because the fear of wasting their time and money. And yet, direct mail is still one of the communications channels that work … social media and email may be cheaper but they will never replace the effectiveness of a well written letter, leaflet or postcard. If none of your competitors are doing, then you’ve got a unbelievable competitive advantage is you decide to embrace snail mail.

Solution – Break down your database in to smaller lists, for example by industry sector, location or common problem.  Spend time modifying your letter so it is written specifically to that person.  The aim is to have each person read that letter feeling that it is written personally for them.  It focuses exactly on a problem they may have and gives them a clear call to action that is desirable enough for them to act on.

Save your printing costs and do away with a fancy smancy brochure, unless of course you sell a high-end product or service and your target client would expect something glossy.  And keep the mailing small enough so that you (or someone in your team) can follow up each and every letter by phone.

Follow up is key to direct mail success and it will help you identify what’s working … and what’s not!

Sending everyone the same email

Problem – Emails are being ignored and possibly even reported as spam. Open rates have been slowly decreasing over the past 5 years. Email is by no means dead (as some social media gurus like to claim LOL) but you have to work bloody hard to grab reader’s attention in their inboxes; especially when you consider how small a screen most people read their emails on now.

How do you know you’ve got this problem? – If you are using a subscription based email service, check your open rates.  It may be easier to send every email to the whole of your database, but if it is resulting in your subscribers ignoring you, you are in danger of damaging your brand.  Remember, useful emails to some may be spam to others.

Again, break down your database in to smaller lists.  Can you define people by the products they have bought?  Or where they have subscribed from?  Is there an opportunity to make a special offer to just those who signed up for a free report you offered last year?

This is where I spend most of my time personalising and splitting down my communications. It pays to be sending some emails to just 100 people and other emails (sometimes making exactly the same offer but presented in a different way) to 1,000.

If you want a lesson on targeted emails, just buy something from Amazon or Tesco :)

So no more spray and pray OK?!

Spray and pray marketing may feel like the right thing to do when you desperate to find more clients.  But don’t!  Take the time to focus on your target clients; focus on their common problems and focus on providing a solution that is right for them.

Targeting to specific clients is the key to successful small business marketing.

What do you do about targeting your marketing? Perhaps you’ve always sprayed and prayed. I would love to know your thoughts and comments. And also your questions about this too.

So please leave a comment below.