By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
I remember that day in my office in Palo Alto in 2000 very well. I had just launched my e-book, The InfoGuru Marketing Manual, and orders were pouring in.
Nothing in my business was ever the same after that.
Three years earlier I had started to publish this weekly ezine, More Clients, and with a lot of hard work and some good luck I had built my e-list to about 6,000 subscribers. Those days ezines were not so common and the demand for information on marketing professional services was high.
Three years later I had a brilliant thought: "Why not write a book about marketing and offer it to those on my list? I might sell a few copies."
To develop the content I put on a small 12-week workshop on marketing, covering all the main concepts, strategies and techniques. I held it in my Palo Alto office with 8 participants.
Each week, I wrote up the material for that session. Looking back, I'm not sure if it would have gotten written if I hadn't had that weekly deadline. But 12 weeks later I had a rough draft that formed the core of the book.
Then I buckled down, added more material, expanded it to 24 chapters, added an appendix with samples, got some editing help, and a few months later had a "decent first edition."
My plan was to only make this an e-book. In fact, the book was actually published as a stand-alone website. Each page of the site was a chapter. And I also added some mp3 recordings and other bonuses, even a discussion group.
I then took what felt like hundreds of hours writing the sale letter for the manual. I got the help of a very good copywriter who happened to be a friend and who donated his time for free.
In the first week I sold maybe 20 copies.
But then something interesting happened. The very first person to order asked if he could get a hard copy. And being the obliging soul that I am, I said yes.
It was quite a feat printing out all the pages from the website, and taking them to the copy shop and getting them collated into a big binder.
When I announced that I now had hard copies available, sales exploded.
For the first few months, I assembled the binders myself and shipped them out. I remember that breakthrough day when I had dozens of binders stacked up in the office with more orders coming in every day.
Finally, I hired an assistant to do all the packaging and mailing. And then not long after that I hired a designer to format the manual in a page-layout program. She designed a cover and I published it as a spiral-bound book. We also had a pdf copy available.
I'd order 100 copies at a time from the same copy shop in Palo Alto, so I was never burdened with a lot of inventory.
Sales continued not for a few months, but for several years.
For many months, my manual sales were regularly $10K or more. But I didn't stop there. I learned the art of bundling. I would sell the manual with a set of CDs. And then I created the WebSite ToolKit and bundled it with the manual. I never stopped working on ways to package it.
My average price for the manual over several years was $59 and most of that was profit. When you publish a standard book with a publisher, you make $1 or 2 per book. So the difference is significant.
I recently learned that the average business book only sells about 5,000 copies. So that's $5,000 to $10,00 to the author. And remember, books are sold through several channels, from bookstores to Amazon.
I only had one channel - my website. And over about a 7-year period I sold about 10,000 copies and made close to $600K.
But that's not the end of the story.
In 2003, after I'd moved to Boulder Creek from Palo Alto, I started to offer group teleconference programs, The Marketing Action Groups. I offered three and six-month programs.
What got my attention is that almost everyone who signed up for a program had previously bought the InfoGuru Manual. They liked what they'd gotten and wanted more.
To this day I continue to offer these programs (now 9-months long) and fill them every time. The ezine, plus the manual has created an unstoppable momentum.
In 2009 I stopped the publication of the manual and added it as a bonus to membership in the More Clients Club. The Club, now in its sixth year, has hundreds of members and generates a substantial monthly income.
So, is there a system here you can follow to generate hundreds of thousands in sales with an e-book of your own? And will I be offering a course to teach you how to do it?
The answers are no and no.
Why? because what I offered was unique; my situation would be hard to duplicate. I don't even think I could replicate this! But I can share some ideas that will help you if you want to go the route of publishing your e-book or other program online.
1. Build your list. Make it a priority. Fine tune your website so that visitors opt-in on your home page. Do talks to build your list and get new subscribers. Write lots of articles and get them published in places that get a lot of traffic. Write a regular ezine and blog. Study the principles of content marketing.
2. Write more than an e-book or a book. Write something that is comprehensive and hands-on, something your readers can use and apply right away. Give it an interesting name. I came up with the word InfoGuru in the shower one day. It's a made-up word, but it worked because it didn't sound like anything else.
3. Take control of your website. Get a good designer, but master the process of making updates, adding pages, managing your shopping cart, etc. I still work on my website almost every day. When I want to add a promotion, I can write and format it in 90 minutes or less. You need that kind of flexibility. Or find someone who can do it for you quickly and affordably.
4. Make videos. This is not something I did and that was my biggest mistake. Videos can give prospects an experience of who you are and what you do. Videos are much more compelling than written copy. I'm now in the process of making several videos and it will be a cornerstone of my marketing moving forward.
Sure, there are a hundred more things you can do, but those are central to online marketing. Social media, affiliates, landing pages, autoresponders and a lot of other tools will accelerate your progress.
I rarely recommend books in this eZine, but there is one I highly recommend if you want to have success with online marketing. It's called "Launch" by Jeff Walker. He teaches the most successful system for online marketing I have seen. I wish he'd been around in 2000, but I've studied his work since and it's brilliant. You can get it on Amazon and it covers most of what's in his $2,000 course.
I wish you all the success in your online marketing. It can be quite an exciting ride!
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Sam Harris, author and famous atheist, has taken a firm stand against the dangers of fundamentalist religions. He asserts that they are not only delusional, but harmful to both individuals and society.
On the extremes, the hate-cult of Westboro Baptist Church and the suicide bombings by Islamist extremists come to mind. Any time people are so blinded by belief that almost any means justify the ends, trouble can't be too far behind.
But I think railing against such fundamentalism is an incredibly hard task. It's not easy to change the minds of extremists whose faith is deeply ingrained and supported by communities of like-minded individuals.
Anti Marketing Fundamentalism
I'd like to suggest that a problem closer to home might be a better place to start. The place where I put my energies is on what I call "Anti Marketing Fundamentalist Beliefs."
Independent Professionals are particularly susceptible to such beliefs. And perhaps the most harmful and soul-sucking belief that so many have succumbed to is:
"Marketing Must Be Avoided at All Costs"
This fanatical belief is worshiped far and wide by Independent Professionals and seems to have an all-consuming controlling power when it comes to marketing their professional services.
There are many spin-off beliefs to this core belief and I thought I'd outline several of them here so that you can be aware of them before they take control of your marketing and business.
Hopefully you'll recognize some of the symptoms and costs of these beliefs.
I'm Not the Marketing Type
This conviction, common amongst Independent Professionals, asserts that there actually is a "marketing type." Yet none has ever been found. Young or old people, professionals, creative people and nerds have all had success with marketing. There is no one type of person who can't learn how to market successfully. But if you believe it, your marketing is doomed.
I Don't Have the Time
Time studies have been conducted with professionals, business owners, executives and line workers. The astounding conclusion is that everyone has exactly the same amount of time given to them each day, 24 hrs. The fanatic belief in this doctrine prevents people from proactively managing projects, planning schedules and letting go of lame excuses. But notice how easily the words fall from your lips, putting you in a downward spiral of avoidance.
Marketing and Selling Are Hard
This belief is hard-wired in its adherents since grade school. Every mother and father warns their children of the evils of marketing and selling. Yet extensive field trials have proven that "marketing hardness" is a superstition. Marketing simply involves learning a series of practices and disciplines that take some time and effort to master, like everything else that's worthwhile.
Nobody Will be Interested
This article of faith is triggered when the first person you talk to about your business isn't wildly excited about your offerings. This obviously proves that nobody at any time and in any place will ever be interested. So what's the use? This delusion results in hiding, playing small and the inability to pick up telephones.
Marketing Won't Work for "My" Business
This nuanced belief stops any productive marketing activity in its tracks. After all, it's conceded that marketing might, in fact, work for others, but not for me. Those who hold onto this notion argue that their business it too unique, complex or "special" that they would never stoop to actually trying to communicate clearly about its benefits and value.
I Don't Want to Be Pushy
The true believers of this sentiment imagine themselves as paragons of virtue. They would never willingly burden others with information about their business, let alone follow-up with someone who actually showed some interest. They firmly hold onto the practice of "waiting until someone calls me," until the fateful day that they go out of business.
Good Marketers are Jerks
Marketing is seen as humiliating and degrading, practiced by jerks, hypesters and con-men. So heaven forbid that that their good name and reputation would ever be sullied by the practices of an effective marketer. Better to fumble along incompetently with marketing and be seen as a "nice person" than actually develop real marketing skills.
The bad news is that these seven doctrines of Marketing Avoidance are only scratching the surface. The number of insidious beliefs about marketing are multiplying daily.
These ones are also regarded as gospel by many Independent Professionals:
I Have to Know What to Do Before I Start
Nobody Reads Anything Anymore Anyway
Social Media is The Only Way to Go
Videos Can't Be More Than 2 Minutes Long
Nobody Opens Their Email These Days
Of course, all of these doctrines, beliefs, credos and articles of faith bow down to the god of "Avoid Marketing at All Costs, It Might Hurt You."
Action Plan Marketing is making a firm stand against these irrational fundamentalists beliefs about the supposed evils of marketing. We go the extra mile to prove that these beliefs are false and soul-destroying.
We have solid scientific evidence that marketing is good for your business, builds self-esteem, attracts your ideal clients and enhances your reputation as an Independent Professional.
The fight isn't easy, but someone's got to do it!
If you were offended with this article in any way, I want to assure you that it is your choice to continue to avoid marketing if it makes you feel good. Just don't expect any miracles.
If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog and on social media at the links below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
What do you do after you've met a prospective client at a networking or social event? What do you do after giving a presentation to a business group and collect several cards? And what do you do if someone suggests you call an associate about your services?
Well, you follow-up, of course!
But what do you say on that follow-up call that can turn this new prospect into a new client?
Knowing what to do and what to say is one of the most important skills you can master as an Independent Professional. After all, it's not likely you'll get many prospects calling you out the blue saying they are ready to work with you today (and money is no object)!
No, you need to engage this prospect in a conversation that leads to a sale of your professional services. And this is how you do that.
First of all, the purpose of the follow-up call is not to make a sale.
The purpose of the call is to set up an appointment for a selling conversation. And if you can do that successfully, you'll dramatically increase the chances that the prospect will become a client - if you do it right!
The Follow-Up Call Process
1. When you reach the prospect, introduce yourself: "Hi Janet, this is Richard Bell, we met at the Chamber of Commerce two days ago and you had expressed some interest in increasing productivity in your organization. Is this a good time to talk for a minute?"
2. State the purpose of your call: "Janet when we talked at the chamber about productivity, you mentioned that productivity could be better in your company. Can you tell me a little more about your company and some of the issues around productivity?"
This is a non-threatening way to start a conversation. You are not pitching your services, but finding more about the prospect's situation and needs. You want to ask a few key questions to learn if this is a qualified prospect or not.
3. Here are some questions you can ask: "How long have these productivity issues been going on? What have you done to address these issues? What has worked and what hasn't worked? Do you think things are likely to change? What is the cost to you of these productivity issues?"
You want to bring out the pain your prospect is experiencing without being too heavy-handed about it. It's simply a low key conversation where you are showing real interest and concern.
4. Next ask what she would like things to be like: "If you had more productivity in your company, what would that look like? How would things be different? Tell me more about that. What would be the big payoff for increased productivity?"
The first questions were about the past and present and what is not working. The second set of questions is about the future, what they'd like things to be like. Ultimately people get interested because things are not working, but they buy the outcome or the future you can help them realize.
5. Next, give her hope that change is possible: "Janet, from everything you've told me, I think it's very realistic to increase productivity in your company. I've worked with hundreds of companies very similar to yours who were experiencing many of the same issues."
Note that you are not pitching your services. You are simply giving some hope that their situation can improve and that you have helped other in similar situations improve.
6. Then make an offer to explore further: "I'm pretty sure I could help you with your productivity issues, but I'd have to have a more in-depth meeting and find out more. What I'd like to offer you is a complimentary Productivity Strategy Session where I analyze your productivity issues and then explain the ways I might be able to help you.
Notice that this is all low-key. No pressure, so no resistance. All you want to do is talk in more depth. You might do this by phone or you might do this in person, depending on your business.
7. Finally, close for the Strategy Session: "So how does that sound to you, Janet? Could we find a time to meet in the next week or two?" And then answer any questions she might have about what you'll do in a strategy session.
What you'll do is: 1. Find out a little more about her situation, 2. discuss the goals she has for her company, 3. Learn about any challenges she may have about reaching these goals, 4. Explain how your services work if you think you can help her.
One reason you may have so much trouble with follow-up calls is that you think of them as "selling calls" where you need to convince the person to buy your services. But no selling is happening on this call. You are simply connecting and seeing if there is an issue where you might be able to help.
During this call you might use a story or two that relates to their current issues: "Well, what you're saying is not that unusual; I worked with a client recently where they had exactly the same productivity issue. The good news is that it's easier to solve than you think if you understand the motivation of your employees. Now tell me about…"
Ultimately, the purpose of this call is to set up a "Strategy Session" and you'll only do that if you are showing real interest and don't jump ahead of yourself trying to get a meeting before you've established a solid connection.
Of course, the success you experience on follow-up calls like this also depends on the situation and needs of your prospect. If they have a legitimate issue, your chances are good for setting up a Strategy Session, however if you really can't identify an issue or anything they want to change, best to end the call and move on to the next follow-up.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
One ordinary day at the beginning of August in 1984 I sat down at my desk on Linda Street in San Francisco and started my business, now Action Plan Marketing.
The very first thing I offered was a one-day workshop called "Dreams into Reality" which was all about goal setting and planning. I led it with about 8 people in my living room.
I soon came out with a time management book called "The Action Planner" that helped small business owners manage time and projects. Then I did many workshops on time management and organization.
It was at these workshops that I got my first clients. They wanted help with their small businesses; I remember I charged $75 per one-hour session.
But I soon found out that small businesses needed a lot more help than with planning and organizing. They needed marketing help more than anything else. So I started studying small business marketing, reading book after book. I think my first one was "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson.
Three hundred or so books and a few years later, I felt I had a pretty firm grasp on what worked and didn't work to market a small business!
And over many, many years I've consulted and coached mostly self-employed businesses to be better marketers. I did workshops, wrote my InfoGuru Marketing Manual, held workshops abound the country and ultimately created my online programs and teleconference programs.
This email newsletter was launched in 1997, so with about 50 articles a year, that's about 800 articles written and posted. My business is still going strong with the More Clients Club, the Marketing Action Groups and private coaching sessions.
My work has touched over 100,000 people in 30 years.
As you may know, for many years I've focused my attention on two main things: The strategies and techniques of effective marketing and methods to get past the inevitable "marketing stuckness" that most Independent Professionals experience.
Most people realize that if they only would implement a small amount of what they already know, their marketing would be much more successful. After a certain point, learning more and more techniques has diminishing returns.
However, learning how to get past avoidance, limiting beliefs and other forms of stuckness seems to have increasing benefits. The more you work with transforming your mindset, the better results you get and the more fun and fulfillment you experience.
My 30th Anniversary has re-ignited my commitment to help even more Independent Professionals bring their gifts into the world through effective marketing and breaking through their barriers.
So I'm launching a new project to that end.
It's called the "Beyond Avoidance Project" and it will include the following:
Beyond Avoidance Surveys and Research
A Beyond Avoidance Website - Up in a month or two.
A book titled “Beyond Avoidance” - writing completed by the end of August
Beyond Avoidance Videos
A Beyond Avoidance Blog and eZine
A book launch program next spring
A Marketing Action Group: Beyond Avoidance program next year
Beyond Avoidance workshops
Beyond Avoidance Coaching Sessions
I'm in the process of writing, planning and organizing all of this to get things off the ground as soon as possible. I'll keep you posted as things come together.
Meanwhile, my current Action Plan Marketing business will continue as usual.
Specials Every Thursday This Month
To celebrate my 30th Anniversary month, I'm going to offer specials every Thursday of this month, starting August 7. Watch for my emails.
Finally, I want to thank you, my subscribers, my customers and my clients for making Action Plan Marketing the incredible success it's been these past 30 years.
It's been quite a journey. I don't know if I'll have 30 more, but as long as I can write an article and help an Independent Professional take the next successful step in promoting their services, I'll be here.
If you'd like to add comments to this article or share it on social media, you can do so below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
If you had only one choice to help you improve your marketing effectiveness, which one of the below two options would you choose?
1. Understanding more about marketing, about strategies and techniques I can use to get more clients.
2. Getting past my avoidance, fears and aversions to marketing. Becoming confident about marketing myself.
I sent this question to the members of my More Clients Club last week and asked them to answer on a SurveyMonkey survey.
The results? You may (or may not) be surprised.
#1 got 48% and #2 got 52%
So pretty much a statistical dead heat.
Over the past few years I've put a lot of attention on both of these domains of marketing. However, although they are almost equal in the survey, I'm still convinced that #2 is much more important these days.
Why? Because marketing strategies and techniques can be found quickly and easily almost everywhere.
Want to know how to close more sales, grow your email list, write an ezine or an article, update your website, improve your networking results?
Then just do a Google search. In a nanosecond you'll have dozens of articles on all of these topics. Or check on Amazon and you'll find several books, not just on overall marketing for your business, but books on all those specific topics.
This wasn't so true twenty or even ten years ago. But now the "cat is out of the bag" and just about any information you need to market your services is available, and a lot of it for free.
But if this is true, why doesn't everyone who isn't getting good marketing results, just spend some focused time studying all this information and putting it into action?
Well, of course, more do than ever. More and more, marketing is a do-it-yourself project. And if you need help with some of the technical aspects of marketing such as putting together a website or designing your business identity, you can usually find several very competent and affordable freelancers on elance.com.
But still, the vast majority of Independent Professionals, struggle to some degree with their marketing.
- They don't have a marketing message that's attention-getting
- They are terrible about talking about their business
- Their marketing materials are poorly done and not persuasive
- They do most marketing activities completely randomly
- They resist and avoid follow-up, not to mention selling
But why is this so? All the strategies and techniques for learning and doing the above are right at their fingertips, ready to implement whenever they want. Nothing is hidden. There are no big marketing mysteries anymore.
This is because domains #1 and #2 are completely different.
Domain #1, Strategies and Techniques are all about Information. Information is relatively simple. It works or it doesn't work.
Domain #2, Avoidance, Fears and Aversions impact domain #1 profoundly. So what is simple on paper becomes complex in real life.
Let's take an email newsletter. I've been writing one for about 17 years, so I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter.
Writing is just writing, right? You sit down and you write. And then you send your articles out to your list and post them on your blog. Nothing could be simpler. Everyone can do it!
But when I tell this to clients, very few will just say, "OK, perfect, I'll get started this week!"
No, we make it a lot more complex than that.
You see, when you write an article, it's not like writing in your journal. Other people will see your article. They'll judge your article; they'll judge you and your business.
And that's scary to a lot of people. And then all the objections, doubts and avoidance rear their ugly heads:
"I don't know what to write about."
"I need to spend a lot of time on research"
"I don't think anyone would be interested."
"It takes me forever to write an article."
"Who am I to say I'm an expert on this topic?"
"If I write then people will expect more of me."
I real don't want to intrude on people with an ezine."
But here's the real kicker. Very few people think they are avoiding writing or are resistant to writing. They think that what they're saying is perfectly reasonable.
They believe that if they just have more information about writing and what to write about, and how to write, and knowing how to write better and faster, etc. then writing will be easy and then they'll start their ezine.
And, of course, all of this is pure nonsense!
We are all scared to death of doing something wrong, being ridiculed and rejected. We avoid any chance of failure like the plague and retreat back to being comfortable and safe.
Anyone who's had a breakthrough with writing knows this. They ultimately realize that if they are going to make a difference and help people though their experience and expertise that they need to get beyond their comfort zone.
You can't have both. You can either put yourself out there and do your best, facing possible rejection, or you can sit and stew in your fears, doubts and uncertainty.
Some people finally get this. And when they do, they start utilizing all that information much more intensively. They read articles and books and learn those strategies and techniques and then they move into action, tying and testing everything until they discover what works best.
So ask yourself, are you ready to give up your excuses and get out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to explore your resistance and fears until you can transcend them? Are you committed to making a difference and swinging out there?
But you may soon realize that this isn't as easy as you think. You see, for marketing strategies and techniques, you just need information, but to get past fears resistance and avoidance, you need support.
Get a coach, join a mastermind group, brainstorm with a business colleague, attend a group program. Any and all of these will help you get past your self-imposed limitations and move you out of your comfort zone.
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Every time we avoid something, there is a cost and there is also a payoff.
Understanding your costs and payoffs for avoiding marketing activities can be the key to getting unstuck and moving forward.
First of all, let's establish that you do avoid some marketing activities. If you're not sure, let me prime the pump. Do you avoid any of these?
- Developing a powerful marketing message
- Differentiating yourself from your competitors
- Writing various marketing materials
- Updating your website and/or blog
- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan
- Avoiding networking, speaking, publishing, etc.
- Not following up with interested prospects
- Not perfecting your selling process
If you avoid any of these, there is a pretty obvious cost. The cost is not attracting more of the clients you want. You know that, everyone knows that. Then why don't you take action and start making these happen?
Well, because avoidance has a payoff as well. That is, you get something perceived as beneficial to you when you avoid doing something.
You get to stay in your comfort zone. You know, the zone where there is no risk and nothing bad can happen to you such as possible rejection and failure.
Most of us don't see this cost/payoff dynamic.
Instead, we brush off our avoidance with excuses: "I don't have time, I'll get to it later, it really doesn't matter anyway and what I have is already good enough."
If we are honest and look a little deeper, we all know that we're kidding ourselves. But when we think of doing those things we avoid, we feel an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomachs and we jump into a comfortable activity that makes us forget - browsing the web, hanging out on Facebook, eating, watching TV, to name a few.
I've worked with hundreds of clients over the years and it's never that the marketing is hard; in most cases, it's quite easy. It's that the payoff for not moving into action is stronger than the perceived payoff of acting.
So how can you work with this cost/payoff dynamic and shift from avoidance to action?
Working With the Cost
List all of the things you are avoiding and then write down the specific cost of avoiding doing that thing. Don't be general, be specific.
- Developing a powerful marketing message - That will lead to not getting attention at networking events and finding people who will be interested in my services.
- Writing various marketing materials - If I don't have good written materials such as my website, I can't educate my prospective clients about my services and they won't become paying clients.
OK, now turn these around. Look at the benefits of actually implementing the activities you are avoiding.
- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan - I'll know where I am and what I need to do to attract more clients. I'll be more effective at getting the word out.
- Implementing a speaking plan - I'll get in front of better decision makers and pre-sell them on me and my ideas which will enable me to follow up to offer my services.
Until we have real reasons for doing something and can see the real benefits, we are unlikely to take action.
Working With The Payoff
- Developing a powerful marketing message - This is scary to put myself out like this. I'd rather just stick with my label that I'm a coach instead of sounding like I'm hyping my services. I don't want people to reject me.
- Writing various marketing materials - I'm just not a good writer and it takes a lot of time to write good materials. I don't want to waste my time writing the wrong thing so, I'll just wait and play it safe.
OK, now question these excuses. "Is the payoff of avoidance really more important than the payoff of taking action? Will I really face rejection and ridicule? And so what if not everyone is interested in what I have to offer? If I put myself out there, aren't I more likely to find some people who will be interested?"
By questioning like this, you start to weaken the foundations of your payoff. You might discover that your payoff isn't giving you much value after all. The payoff arose as a way to protect you from harm, but you might start to see that the payoff is actually causing you harm.
By the way, this is much more effective if you write it down. It will have more impact, go deeper and stick for a longer time.
After you've gone through this exercise with one or more marketing activities that you avoid, take a break and let it go and put you're attention on something else.
If you still notice yourself avoiding a certain marketing activity, then do the exercise again. It's like building a new set of muscles. You don't become strong by doing just one push up!
Here are the four steps - Write them all down.
1. Look at the real cost of your avoidance
2. Look at all the benefits of taking action
3. Look at the excuses that drive your payoff
4. Now question the validity of these excuses
After doing this a few times you might notice that when you think of this marketing activity that the immediate response is no longer avoidance. You may find yourself thinking of how you could make this work and imagining all the positive things that could happen as a result of taking action.
Ultimately, when the cost of not taking action becomes stronger than the payoff of not taking action, you automatically start to move into action.
What avoidance will you work on first?
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media at the links below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
These days with all the social media sites for marketing online such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram, do you still need a website?
A website is your second most important online marketing tool. Email is still the first, but I'll get into that later.
Your website is your storefront, your home base, the repository for your blog, information about your services and a public face that can build immediate credibility.
But most websites have major problems that undermine their effectiveness. In this article I'll outline 7 key issues many Independent Professionals have with their websites and simple fixes to not only improve your site but to get better marketing results from your site every day.
1. Design and formatting that pushes readers away
These days there's a whole new wave of website designs done with WordPress. WordPress is great, and the design possibilities are huge, but I've seen so many sites that are hard to read and get into. Here are several things you should do on your site:
- Make your typeface darker. Super-light text looks cool but is hard to read. (can you easily read this?)
- Make your typeface larger. Wider screens with more space can swallow up small text. Use 14 or even 16 pt. text.
- Use larger sub-heads to break up text and put them in color to clearly indicate each section.
- Use bolding of text, usually the first sentence in *most* paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to scan your text.
- Make paragraphs one to three sentences long. Longer paragraphs are harder to read.
- Put spaces between all paragraphs and also bullet-pointed lists. When your text is crowded, it's hard to read.
- Use sufficient white space to "frame" your text so it doesn't feel constricted.
Doing all of the above will immediately make your pages more readable. Remember, if you have great content and nobody reads it, what's the point?
2. Your home page is as clear as mud
If a web visitor doesn't get past your home page, the chance they will ever return is close to zero. There are two purposes for your home page - The first is to give a crystal-clear overview of how your business helps your clients. I'll cover the second in #3.
Here are the content elements every home page should include:
- An attention-getting headline that targets your audience and states either a clear problem or solution.
- An opening paragraph that talks about who your ideal clients are and the key challenges or issues they face.
- A second paragraph that introduces you and outlines the results or solutions (not your process) you help your clients achieve.
- A third paragraph that outlines what your ideal clients need to do to succeed. This might be an approach, methodology or model that you use with your clients.
- A final paragraph that makes a specific call-to-action. And no, it's never to pick up the phone and call you!
Your home page should pass the "Mother Test." Show your home page to your mother. If she says, "Oh, I finally understand what you do," you've passed. If not, try again!
3. Your home page has no way for visitors to opt-in
Most people put up websites and hope they attract new clients. But they fail to do the most important thing you can possibly do on a website: Collect your visitor's name and email address.
Nothing is more important than this. If you have a name and an email, you can follow-up, send an eZine or link to your blog posts. You can promote products and programs. But if you don't have that name and email you can do nothing!
Email marketing is your most powerful online marketing tool, but you can't do email marketing without a list of prospective clients to send emails to!
Every day millions of people visit websites, poke around for a few minutes and then click off, never to return. Ever. This is a crime against marketing!
I won't get into the technology of this, but put an opt-in form (and/or a link to an opt-in page) on your home page for a free report or article and to join your list. Don't worry what you'll send to people on your list yet, but start capturing those names ASAP! My favorite tool for this is AWeber. Click here and get a month for free.
4. Your website is not clear about who your ideal clients are
You can't promote to everyone and anybody. You should have a clearly articulated ideal client. And one of the main purposes of your website is to clearly address their concerns and challenges. It's about them, not you!
I've been to many a website where I poked around for several minutes and learned a lot about what services the business offered, but never understood what market they served.
If you don't say who your services are for, guess what? They are not for me and I'm going elsewhere. As I mentioned above, you can talk about this on your home page, but it should also permeate your site.
For instance, I advocate creating a page about the clients you work with. Show that you understand their specific issues and challenges and assure them that you can help them.
5. Your website is very sketchy about the services you offer
I've seen this so often on websites for Independent Professionals. Under the "Services" navigation button, you see a brief list of services with one or two sentences describing each.
Look, if someone happens to be reading your services page, for a few moments you have a captive audience. Don't you think it would be a good idea to explain your services in some detail? Sure, not everyone will read it, but those who are most interested will.
On the services page explain the following:
- Who your service is for and the problems and challenges your service addresses.
- An overview of what things could be like once those problems and challenges are solved.
- A concise explanation of what your service actually consists of. It is coaching, consulting, training, a program, a combination of these, etc?
- What are all the benefits of this service? What are all the things a client will get as a result of working with you?
- What makes your service or program different from all the other similar services and programs?
- What is the structure and logistics of your service? What happens and when? What do you do and what is the client expected to do?
- A call-to-action. Offer a complimentary session to discuss your service or program with your prospective client.
What I teach my clients to do is to send prospective clients they've met other ways to their services page before they do a complimentary session with them. So even if nobody responds directly from your website, all the information is posted there for your qualified prospects to read.
5. Your "About Us" page is mind-numbingly boring
You see the most generalized fluff about people and their business on an about us page. It could be practically interchangeable with just about any other company:
"We do our level best to optimize the experience and results our clients get from working with us through in-depth engagement and optimized business processes and practices."
No, no, a thousand times no. This means nothing. Instead, tell something about yourself, how you got into this business, why you are passionate about it. Talk about your ups and downs and your discoveries and your breakthroughs.
Invite your prospective clients to join you in the exciting adventure of working with you. And for goodness sake, include a picture of you that shows your personality. People want to see who they'll be working with.
6. You don't have a blog or any interesting content
Guess what people come to a website for above anything else? They come for free stuff! And if you don't give it to them, they won't stick around for long.
Yes, I know writing is hard work. So write more often and you'll get better. I make it easy. Each week I write this email newsletter and send it out to my list, and then I also post it on my blog and announce it via social media.
Get on a regular writing schedule and stick to it. Don't try to find time, make the time. Pick a definite day of the week or the month and write your blog/ezine that day. If you don't have any excuses, ultimately it will get done.
Writing about marketing every week has been the best thing I've ever done for my business. Each week thousands of people read my ideas. And then when I promote something, I have a built-in audience who knows, likes and trusts me.
Business has never been slow since I started writing More Clients in 1997. Seventeen years and about 800 articles later and I'm still at it.
7. You try to do all of this on your own and wonder why it's hard
Get some help. Look, your website can be a substantial investment of time and energy. But once it's done, it's done. It can serve you for years to come (not that you can't update it regularly) and pay off handsomely.
Get a good designer and hire a writer or editor to help you improve your copy. Get a technical person to help optimize your site for search engines and set up your Aweber opt-in form. This stuff can take hundreds of frustrating hours or just a few hours in the hands of an expert.
If you don't know where to find these experts, try Elance.com. They have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of freelancers who can help you with design, editing and the technical aspects of your site, usually at a very reasonable cost. And each one is rated for client satisfaction.
Finally, consider getting the WebSite ToolKit. This is an in-depth tutorial on writing all the content for your site. I guide you step-by-step through every single page of your site, explaining what to include, what not to include, and how to write virtually every word on your site.
It also includes a whole lot of resources, checklists and samples of websites that you can emulate. This article is a brief sample of what's included in the ToolKit.
It will save you dozens, perhaps hundreds of hours of time. Learn more about it at this link.
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome other comments and ideas of how to make a website even better. Please feel free to add your ideas by clicking on the Comments link, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Everyone knows what marketing is about - It's about getting yourself out there with your marketing message and your story in various ways and connecting with your ideal clients until they show enough interest in your services that they ultimately buy your services.
But what does it take to be really successful at marketing your business. What is the Big Secret to marketing success?
Well, there are a lot of things that are important...
Hard work and consistency are important. So are focus, planning, knowledge, practice, discipline and getting support. Plus creativity, excellence, follow through, and the ability to bounce back from defeat and rejection.
But these are requirements for success in ANY field!
But what's the Big Secret?
The big secret is clarity about what you truly want in your life. You need to be, you must be, clear about what you want more than anything else and have a burning desire to get that, to realize your vision, purpose and goals.
What are your goals?
They should NOT be to create a great website, do speaking engagements to excited crowds, build your email list to thousands of people, or to have clients who pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Those are are stepping-stone goals. Yes, you might make plans to achieve some or all of those eventually, but they are not goals that will really motivate you or excite you throughout whole career. They are not big enough, exciting enough, important enough, emotional enough.
Your goals should be "Life Goals."
When I started my business 30 years ago, I formulated a few very important life goals (at a workshop I took) that motivated me and that keep motivating me to this day.
1. I wanted to be independent in my work. I was tired of working for someone else. I liked exercising my creativity and initiative. I wanted to play my own game.
2. I wanted to help people and make a difference. Any goal I had to just make money tended to flop. So I wanted to do work where I was emotionally invested and really liked the people I worked with.
3. I wanted to be financially independent. I didn't want to make millions, but I wanted to be very comfortable and never worry about where the money was going to come from if I wanted or needed something.
4. I wanted my personal life to be integrated with my work life. And that included being in a relationship with a wonderful person and living in a beautiful place.
5. I wanted to reach a place of equanimity and self awareness where I could experience joy in anything and everything, no matter the circumstances of my life.
When I started my business I lived in an apartment in San Francisco with a roommate, was recently divorced, had no money and knew virtually nothing about marketing.
But those five crystal-clear goals really motivated me to be successful at my marketing, my business and my life. Those are the goals that got me to write my InfoGuru Marketing Manual in a couple months, launch a weekly email newsletter that's been going for 17 years, and keep creating fun and valuable marketing programs for the past 30 years that not only helped my clients, but forced me to practice what I preached.
Heck, I even got married to a wonderful, beautiful woman and live in a redwood forest with a river in my backyard where we are always in the middle of nature and stunning beauty.
All my marketing goals were in the service of my bigger goals. They helped me be successful at my business and to achieve the lifestyle, relationship and inner peace that I wanted. It didn't happened because I was nuts about marketing. I got nuts about marketing because I saw it as the most powerful pathway to get what I wanted the most.
Not that I didn't have tough times and the setbacks and disappointments that everyone experiences. But I always had those big goals to fall back on. I never gave up because my goals were real and authentic.
So for now forget about focus, discipline, intensity, creativity and consistency. Those will come if you are clear about your bigger goals in your life and business. What do you really want your life to be about?
Imagine 10, 20 or 30 years into the future and ask what you'd like to achieve that would make your life worthwhile, challenging, exciting and joyful, while still being viable. Can you get excited about those goals? If not, re-look at your goals until you can get up every morning, excited to work towards their ongoing realization.
Maybe it's to travel the world, to have a wonderful family, to make your mark as an international expert, to discover some ways to make the world a better place, or to be a multi-millionaire philanthropist. It's up to you.
But they must be YOUR goals, that spring from you, not what anyone else told you was important. You actually do know what you want. Trust yourself.
And when you are crystal-clear on your goals, you may realize, as I did, that self employment and marketing were great vehicles to help me get there.
This could be just another article that you read, get a short flash of insight from, and move on to the next thing. Or it could be a turning point in your life.
Stop for a few minutes. Pull out a piece of paper and write down your most essential 3 to 5 goals, things you really want to have in your life more than anything else.
Then spend a LOT of time thinking about and visualizing those goals. Keep asking if they are truly important to you. Share them with important people in your life. Write about them; dream about them. This process puts your creative subconscious to work that will ultimately discover ways to achieve these goals.
There's an old saying you've probably heard: "When there is no vision, the people perish." But the opposite is also true: "When there is vision, the people flourish."
And that people is YOU!
If you have a comment about this article, post it in the Comments section below and also please share it with your friends and associates on social media with the links below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
In working with a client last week, I asked him how he answered certain marketing questions, questions someone interested in his services might ask him.
What surprised him was how bad he was at answering these questions that were so central to his business.
If you struggle with answering these questions, you are struggling with your marketing. But if you have thought through and nailed the answers to these questions, then you have a whole new level of ability to market yourself successfully and turn prospects into clients.
Good answers generate interest and keep the conversation going. Poorly thought-out questions tend to quench interest in your business.
What are the key principles in answering questions about your business?
1. Make sure your answer has value, that is, it responds to the "what's in it for me" in your prospect's mind.
2. Make it short and succinct, not long and rambling. Get to the point and make sure each answer is clear.
3. Avoid talking about your process, that is, how you do what you do, as this rarely goes anywhere.
4. Lead your conversation to finding out more about your prospect's needs and then make calls-to-action.
Let's look at some of these common questions and how to answer them in the most effective way.
Q 1. What do you do?
This is THE question, isn't it? And almost everyone answers it in a way that convey's zero value. Don't label yourself: "I'm a management consultant," and don't explain your process: "I do in-depth management audits to determine the effectiveness of leadership capacity and adaptability, through cross-departmental interaction." Yes, I've heard stuff like this!
None of that conveys any value at all. You want to answer with either a problem/challenge you address or a solution/outcome you provide.
Problem/Challenge: "I work with leaders who are not getting the results they want from their teams."
Solution/Outcome: "I work with leaders to dramatically improve the results they get from their teams."
Which is best to use, problem/challenge or solution/outcome? Well, it really depends on a lot of subtle things. The only way to know is by testing with real, live people and seeing what response you get.
Q 2. How do you do that?
This question is like a trap that almost forces you to talk process. Don't fall into that trap, because talking about process conveys almost zero value. And it's boring! It satisfies a certain curiosity your prospect may have but it doesn't really engage them in how you can help them.
Instead, reply with a story: "Well, a good example was working with a leader in a local high-tech company. His team was under-performing and he didn't know what to do. I worked with him and his team and in four months they became the highest performing team in the company."
Stories are very persuasive; they communicate a lot of value, and they're easy to understand and relate to. And stories are very memorable; they stick in the mind.
Q 3. Can you explain your process to get those results?
This is usually an idle curiosity question that will generally lead you nowhere. In an initial conversation, avoid "process speak" like the plague.
You need to explain in a way that gets back to value: "I use a number of methodologies that I've perfected over the past ten years. What I do with each client is a little different. But my approaches result in solutions that work for the client, and that's always more productivity and cohesion as a team."
So instead of going into process, you are getting back to value and affirming that you produce results. Sometimes you want to tell more than one story, but avoid talking much about the process you used to get the results.
Q 4. What makes you different than others who do this work?
This is a great question and one that stymies almost everyone. When working with clients I've rarely heard a good answer here (until we craft a good one).
Most don't have a good answer because their business is not oriented around a powerful "Big Idea" that differentiates them in any meaningful way. And no, just "quality, service and value" will not work here. They are too general.
You need a Big Idea that makes you memorable. And you can do that in several ways. Here are five:
1. A definite promise or guarantee that you make. "We have an iron-clad guarantee to measurably increase performance for each client that we work with."
2. A difference in your business model: "Everyone else in this industry uses a motivational model. We don't think that works anymore. Instead, we use a collaborative model that gets much faster results."
3. A statement of superior expertise: "We literally wrote the book on leadership and performance. Now most of our approaches are standards in the industry."
4. A statement of superior service: "We are entirely customer-centric. We customize our approach to ensure that we meet or exceed our clients' needs needs."
5. A statement of your target niche: "We work exclusively with high-tech firms. Because we really understand the leadership issues with these firms, we can get to solutions much faster."
Pick one of these and explain it with confidence every time someone asks you how you're different. And yes, you can go beyond this in some cases. Just think, are there things about your business that give your clients a real advantage if they work with you?
Q 5. Do you have a website (or more information)?
This is where your website can win or lose the sale for you. You want a quality website with lots of relevant information that communicates a real value (I.e., "What's in it for me?" content).
What I usually recommend, however, is to send them an article you've written. "I've written an article called 'The 7 Secrets to Increasing Performance as a Leader.' Can I send you a copy?" (Get that article written!)
And then get their email address and send them a pdf copy via email. But be sure to make a call-to-action: "I'd also like to find out more about your business. What's the best time to reach you?" Find a time and call them back using the article as a way to begin the conversation.
Q 6. How do you start working with clients?
When you get this question, it means the prospect is interested. So answer in a way that makes a clear call-to-action: "We start by offering a complimentary "Leadership Strategy Session" where we explore the client's issues regarding leadership and then see if we're able to help them or not. Should I send you some information about that?"
Then send the information, usually a page on your website, that describes your services and explains how a strategy session works. Then follow-up by email or phone to set up a time for the strategy session."
Master Your Marketing Conversations
Mastering marketing conversations is often the key to turning a prospect into a paying client. And marketing conversations always start with great answers to common questions.
Do you have another question you don't know how to answer? Post it in the Comments section and I'll tell you how to answer it.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Is your marketing mindset stuck?
This often happens when you've tried a number of marketing activities and gotten no results. You want to get going with your marketing, perhaps building your network or setting up your opt-in page on your website or launching a new service. But you don't know where to start.
Or things are taking too long, are are too complicated and marketing seems to lead nowhere, or worse, to rejection.
One day you realize you're doing virtually nothing to promote your business. All those dead-ends have left you frustrated, and your motivation is at a low point.
So what do you at this point?
The thing I don't recommend is to try to pump yourself up and try do more. That approach will only backfire. When things have been difficult and you're at a low point, your mind will keep telling you that it's hopeless, and your efforts will usually be counter-productive.
Instead, you need to "Reset Your Mindset."
It's been my experience that when things are difficult and you hit one brick wall after another that you mind tells you something like the following:
"This is no use, I'm not any good at this, I'll never figure this out, this is taking to long, nobody is interested anyway, everybody else is better at this than I am, and besides nobody is really interested in my services anyway, this is all a complete waste of time!"
OK, it might not be not that bad, but you know exactly what I mean, don't you? You indulge in your own version of a "pity party." You can practically hear the violins in the background.
And in that Mindset you are prone to Marketing Sabotage.
You see, when we get into a negative mindset and believe what we are telling ourselves, then everything we think and do tends to be in alignment with that mindset. To prove ourselves right we make things even worse.
Yes, I know we should have gotten over stuff like this in grade school, nevertheless this happens to intelligent, mature, successful people all the time.
Believe me, I've seen it with clients over and over again.
But if you learn to "Reset Your Mindset" you can get past all of this relatively quickly.
How? By sitting down and asking yourself a number of powerful, "get real questions." Here are a few of them that I've found very powerful:
1. Are my expectations too high?
It's almost always the case. If they weren't so high, you wouldn't get frustrated in the first place. "This should be easy, fast, simple," are made-up expectations that have zero basis in reality. The truth is, some things are hard, slow and complex. Mastering marketing doesn't happen overnight.
2. What does this negative mindset cost me?
It costs a lot doesn't it? It costs you your peace of mind, your effectiveness, your success. Really take a close look at this and notice that your high expectations, perfectionism, and other attitudes, ultimately get you nowhere.
3. What are you getting out of this mindset?
For every cost there is a payoff; that is, you are getting something you want, even thought the end result is not favorable. The most common payoffs are being right, being in control and being comfortable. All of these enable you to keep doing what you are doing without changing.
5. If you hold onto this mindset, what's the likely outcome?
Are things going to change and work out better sooner or later? Not a chance. Unless you reset your mindset, the chances are you will be stuck with it for a very long time, sometimes days, weeks or months. Marketing won't get easier, in fact it may seem a lot harder.
6. Can you be at peace and happy with this mindset?
Is there anyway you can be at peace and happy with any variation of, "I can't do this, it's hopeless?" I don't think so, do you? But it's amazing how long we hold on to a mindset, despite the misery it generates.
7. Who would you be without this mindset?
That is, if it was impossible to have this mindset, to think those negative thoughts anymore, what would be possible, what might open up for you? How would you see things differently? How would you feel and how would you act?
OK, all you need to do is answer those seven questions as honestly as possible and you'll experience a "Mindset Rest." You might notice you feel more at peace, not so frustrated and feel new possibilities open up for you.
And now it's time to take action again.
My experience with this is that when I've reset my mindset, things feel easier, I am more hopeful/excited/positive. The things I have to do still might be challenging or difficult, but my mind is clearer, not fogged up with negative thoughts, and things seem a lot easier and fun.
Give it a try!
Please feel to comment on this article below by clicking on the Comments link and also share on Social Media with the links below.
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