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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

For the past 30 years I've had problems with lower back pain. I won't go into all the gory details here, but suffice to say, it's been a real distraction in my life to be in pain most of the time. 

Sitting (which I do a lot of) makes it worse. I recently got a computer stand that allows me to raise my computer and work at it standing, which definitely helps. 

And I've done every kind of modality you can imagine – various types of massage, chiropractic, somatic work, acupuncture, etc. All helped a little but not a lot. Ibuprophen has reduced the intensity, but usually not enough. 

On May 16, about six weeks ago, I tried something different. 

I sat down with my Unstuck Process to see If there was anything I was believing that was in the way of healing my back. My expectations were not high, but as the pain had increased in intensity over the past few months, I had nothing to lose. 

I won't go through all the steeps of the process (which are essentially a series of 12 questions) but when I got down to the Core Belief that was holding things in place, what I wrote down was:

"I'm helpless" 

Now, I've never thought of myself as a helpless person. But it was very clear that regarding my back, that's how I felt. And when you feel helpless, you act like a victim, you don't do much to change anything and you just hope something miraculous will happen someday. 

This simple realization that I was stuck in this limiting belief was like a wake up call. Suddenly I didn't feel helpless anymore. I felt empowered and excited. 

So I grabbed my iPad and searched on YouTube for "exercises for lower back pain." And in about a minute I found a video that showed a complete exercise routine for stretching and strengthening my back. 

To make a long story short, I've done that 15-minute exercise routine every single morning for six weeks and my pain has reduced by about 90%! Not only that, but I'm feeling stronger, more energetic and certainly not helpless anymore. 

When I'm working with clients these days, often the first thing we work on is identifying any stuckness they have about marketing and selling. And that then makes all the subsequent work I do with clients so much easier and effective. 

As you probably know, marketing tends to bring up a lot of fears and resistance. The amazing thing is that once you identify the Core Belief underneath all of that, the fears and resistance just dissolve without effort. And most often you'll feel a surge of energy and aliveness you haven't experienced in years. 

But it's also important that you take action immediately. Now that you don't feel stuck anymore, it's essential that you do some work on the thing you've been resisting. Almost always you'll experience a freedom and lightness about that area, where before you only experienced resistance. 

This is what happened to me with my helpless belief related to my back pain. And it's also worked wonders for many other areas in my life and business where I simply don't get stuck anymore. Resistance has been replaced by ease.

There are many areas of marketing you can work on, but I believe nothing is more important or more powerful than first learning how to get unstuck and past your resistance.  

If you don't yet have my book, The Unstuck Process, you can get the free ebook here: http://theunstuckprocess.com or you can just download the worksheet if you like: http://actionplan.com/up/Unstuck_Process.doc

Oh yeah, and if you happen to have back problems, you might want to try the exercise routine I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6CMso14NWk

Finally, if you are a successful Independent Professional, but for whatever reason, are stuck in your marketing, I can help you get unstuck and into action and help you take your business to a whole new level of success. Details here: http://actionplan.com/services

Cheers, Robert M.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A couple years ago I got the "Dread Email."

It was from a past client who had done my 9-month marketing program, and he was asking for his money back. 

My stomach sank as I read his email accusing me of not delivering what I had promised in the program he'd attended about two years before. He was not succeeding and was blaming it on me. 

So I dug into my files and learned a few things.

First he had missed more sessions of the program than anyone else. He had never completed his website despite extensive coaching on it, and I also learned that he showed up sporadically for his mastermind group sessions. In other words he had done "his program" not "my program."

Since he had not lived up to his part of the bargain, I explained this to him and ultimately did not offer a refund. 

Will this ever happen to you? I hope not, but you can reduce the chances of having a dissatisfied client if you are focused on client success. 

Client success means helping your clients reach the goals they hired you to help them achieve. A big part of the responsibility lies with the coach/consultant/mentor, but it also lies with the client. When you contract to work with a client you should make clear who is responsible for doing what in the relationship. 

So below I've summarized some ideas as to what the coach/consultant/mentor can do. I've also made some suggestions for clients, too.

Here are what I see as the key responsibilities for any coach/consultant/mentor:

1. To tell the truth and be real about what I can and cannot do to help a client. Many people are tempted to exaggerate a bit, but I've ultimately found that underselling is a better approach. Clients already have high expectations and often feel that the coach/consultant/mentor will have "The Answer." Instead, I assure them that we can find the answers together and that they'll have to do a lot of work to get the success they want. 

2. To keep things in present time, not too far into the future. Some clients spend a lot of time looking to the future and imagining the results they'll get or sometimes imagining how difficult the process will be. But this can be distracting. My question is always, "What do we need to work on now to move you one step forward in your marketing?"

3. To be accessible and available. Nothing bugs a client more than not being able to reach you. This happened to me recently when a client's emails were not being accepted by my email system. I devised a work-around, but it wasn't enough and I ultimately lost the client. My goal is to respond to client emails within one to three hours. It really doesn't take a lot of time to fit this in between appointments. 

5. To provide resources and support systems. It's unusual if I don't point a client to a valuable resource in our sessions together. Sometimes it's an article or blog post (mine or someone else's), a recording or video, or an interview or other resource in the More Clients Club. My clients are looking for how-to's, strategies and systems. We can't always go into those in depth in a session, so these resources add a lot of value.  

4. To take a stand for your client's success. I often work with clients who have been struggling with their marketing for a long time without much success. They are stuck and often don't feel hopeful or optimistic, and their efforts are often sporadic. But I wouldn't have taken them on if I didn't feel they had great potential. So I do everything possible to be encouraging, celebrate small wins and tell stores of clients who went though exactly what they're going through now. 

And here is what a client can do to increase the chances of success:

1. To attend each session committed to get value. You'll do this if you've made it a high priority. If you think of the coaching or program as "just something to get through" you won't do the work required to get the results you want.  I'm still somewhat surprised when clients (and more often) group participants simply don't show up for sessions. They clearly haven't taken woody Allen's sage advice: "80% of success is just showing up." 

2. To take responsibility for taking action. After every client meeting and after every group session I lead, I assign homework. Sometimes quite a bit of homework! It's the client's job to find the time to get that homework done. I try to emphasize that the value in the program is not mostly in our sessions together, but in practicing what you learn. To grow you must face failure. 

3. To stay in touch with your coach/consultant/mentor. I typically conduct client sessions every two weeks. This gives them enough time to work on the assignment they received. But at the end of each session I ask clients to "send me an email if they have any questions." That's an important part of my service. If the same benefit is made available to you, then take advantage of it, especially if you're stuck and are not sure what to do next. 

4. To be demanding of your coach/consultant/mentor. This is not a passive process where you just listen to your coach, try to do what they say and leave it at that. No, you want to be much more proactive. If you're not getting what you need, let them know. If you want more challenge, tell them. Ultimately it's you who is responsible for your results. But you'll get a higher level of results if you really demand the support you deserve. 

5. To be complete with the process once you're done. Do this by having a closing discussion with your coach/consultant mentor. Talk about what results you've achieved and what worked and didn't work. Acknowledge them for the support they gave you. And also write them a "client impact letter" telling your coach/consultant/mentor what results you got as a consequence of working with them. This really completes things and reminds you of the value you received. 

I hope you've found these guidelines useful. If you follow them (both coach/consultant/mentor and client), you can expect to see a consistently higher level of results. 

Would you like to share your perspective on this topic? If so, just click on the link below to make a comment.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

As I've said a zillion times, most marketing is random.

Most professionals don't have a step-by-step system for attracting clients, despite the fact that this is the only approach that works. So they just do marketing activities in a random, unplanned way. 

But an organized system can be very free-form in the way you connect with initial prospects. There are probably hundreds of ways to do this.

The name I've given my system is "Stream-of-Business Marketing."

Stream-of-business marketing relates to every connection you make every day. For example, you might meet someone at a networking event or connect with a couple sitting beside you at a restaurant. You may be having a conversation with an existing client, or get a message by email or through Facebook.

None of these connections were planned, they just happened.

The thing all of these stream-of-business connections have is that every one of them has the potential to be a new client (or a new service for an existing client). The thing is, we often don't take advantage of those connections. We might talk, exchange cards or emails, but most of us don't take the proactive steps to move things forward.

I had been working with a number clients in a group program a few years ago and kept emphasizing how we can take advantage of these stream-of-business connections if we are mindful of the situation and the opportunities.  

The first one happened when G.G. was at the doctor's office and struck up a conversation with a fellow patient in the waiting room – something she usually wouldn't have done. One thing led to another and she followed up with the patient, ultimately got a meeting and turned that meeting into a new paying client.

The other one was similar. J.K. met someone at the business center of a hotel and asked him if he was attending the same conference as my client was. The answer was yes, and the conversation continued with learning more about each other. In a few minutes my client had a business card and an appointment the following week. 

What's important to note is that both connections were tied together by affiliations. These fellow patients and conference attendees had something in common. But even more importantly, they were able to turn a random stream-of-business connection into something more because their "organized marketing system" kicked into action.

Perhaps just as important is what they didn't do. They didn't have just a "pleasant conversation" that went nowhere. When they saw an opportunity, they explored more and took action. 

A similar thing happened to me earlier this year. I had heard that someone in my network had just been interviewed for a podcast. So I listened to the podcast which I thought was very good. Then I asked myself, "Why not ask this person to interview me?" One email later and we had set up the interview. This person had known of me for years and was thrilled to do the interview. 

And almost every week when working with a client who is struggling with writing copy for a website or article, I ask, "Why don't you let me write that for you and get it done in a week instead of several weeks?" They invariably respond positively. 

The thing to understand is that these stream-of-business opportunities happen ALL the time if we are tuned into them. Instead of holding back, we can reach out and engage someone right then and there. 

Here are the steps when you make these kind of connections:

1. Strike up a conversation and spend more time listening than talking. When you find things in common, the conversation is engaging and you will build trust.

2. Ask what what the other person does for a living before they ask you what you do. Be interested, not interesting. Find out about their business. And hold yourself back from talking about your business too quickly.

3. When they ask about your business, use a good audio logo with "a hook." For instance, "I work with big companies who are missing One Big Thing that's preventing them from succeeding at an even higher level." The hook almost forces someone to ask what that one big thing is.

4. If they show some interest, continue the conversation, still avoiding talking too much about your services. If you do talk, the best thing is to tell a success story or two: "A recent client started to apply that one big thing and went from no profit to 20% profit in less than a year."

5. Now the big key: Don't just exchange cards and hope something will happen. No! Set it up so that you can follow up later. And the best way to do that is by offering an article: "I wrote an article about this called, 'The One Big Mistake Companies Make and Seven Ways They Can Correct It.' Can I send you a copy?"

6. Then follow up a few days later: "Hey, this is Robert, I sent you that article on the One Big Mistake. I wondered if there were some things in that article that you could relate to your business?" Then continue the conversation to see if this person is a qualified prospect or not. Then, finally...

7. Offer them a "Complimentary Big Thing Strategy Session" where you'll explore their current situation, their goals and vision and the challenges they are currently facing. And of course, you'll also let them know about your services that help companies with that One Big Thing.

You can turn random connections into meetings with qualified prospects by following this step-by-step strategy. To make this work, you need to be prepared with listening skills, an audio logo, an article or report, a call-to-action and a strategy session.

If you'd like to comment on this article or share it on Social Media, just click on the links below. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When I started my business, I was deathly afraid to ask. I'd get cards from prospective clients but rarely followed up with them. Because, of course, I thought I'd be rejected. Just the thought of that made me feel terrible. I was OK talking to people and sharing about my business and giving talks, but when it came to the action step of asking for a meeting, I often either froze or bumbled my way through the ask.

This one simple (but seemingly impossible) thing held me back in my business for several years. It cost me a lot in terms of new clients as well as my feeling of self-worth. 

Why does asking seem so hard? What is it about just the thought of asking that puts people into "avoidance mode?" Since asking is such a key component of successful marketing and selling, I knew I had to solve this issue of asking-avoidance once and for all.

So I embarked on a multi-year study to discover how to ask without being afraid or anticipating getting rejected. 

I ultimately discovered a few things. There are at least three strategies that will reduce one's fear of asking. They all work. In fact, they make asking quite easy. And in combination, these strategies even work better. Follow them and you'll dramatically increase your ability to ask without fear. 

Strategy #1 - Prepare your materials and your processes

It can be very hard to ask if you're not confident about what you're offering. You need to do the work to create a decent report, some marketing materials, a presentation, or an approach for that first meeting or selling conversation. 

In other words, if you are not prepared, it's hard to ask. This is why I always put so much emphasis on first developing good marketing materials and processes before doing anything else. 

Once you've done your preparation, your confidence soars. You'll become much more excited about sharing your report, your talk and your services with someone else. 

But what do you actually say when you ask? 

Strategy #2 - Script your asks.

Often, people tell me, "I just don't know what to say when asking for something. I feel awkward and stupid so I simply avoid doing it."

What you want is to create basic "asking scripts" for certain situations. Some of the most common ones are:

Asking if you can give someone something (such as your report).

Asking if you can give a talk to an organization

Asking if you can write an article for a publication

Asking to give your report away after a talk or presentation

Asking if you can follow-up with someone for a short meeting 

Asking for a time to meet with someone for a strategy session

Asking if someone would like to work with you

Here are the basic asking scripts for all of these:

"I have a report that I think you'll find interesting. Can I send you a copy?"

"I give a talk to organizations like yours on the topic of X. Can I send you some information on that talk?"

"I write articles that I think your readership might be interested in. Can I send you a few samples of my articles?"

"I have a report that goes into more depth about what we covered today. Can you please put your hand up if you'd like a copy."

"I think talking a little more would be valuable for both of us. Can we find a time to meet by phone?"

"I'm confident I can help you with your business. Can we set up a  complimentary Strategy Session? 

"I'd love to work with you. Do you feel my program/service is right for you right now?"

No kidding – it's that simple. The first statement confidently puts forward the idea that you have something they will probably be interested in. And then the follow-up question is a simple call-to-action based on permission (Can I send you…). You can adapt any of these to your unique situation.

This kind of simple ask gets a very high response rate.

Strategy #3 - Work with your limiting, fearful beliefs

If you are still hesitating to ask – to offer the report, to follow-up for a meeting, or to close the sale – *after* you have both prepared your materials and processes and developed a simple asking script – then your inability to ask is likely based of fear. 

The fear of rejection, disapproval and being judged are triggered in many people just at the thought of asking. This fear comes from some experience in the past; it has nothing to do with the present situation. 

They are connected in your mind, but not in reality. 

Asking reminds you of some time in the past where you asked and were rejected, put down, ridiculed or shamed. You don't want that experience again, so avoidance seems like the better choice. 

I've talked about this for years, but I've learned that the most powerful way to get beyond this kind of stuckness is to identify and work with the "Core Beliefs" that keep getting triggered. 

Your core beliefs are almost always an "I am" statement or an "I am not" statement. Some of the most common ones are:

I am not good enough

I am a failure

I am unworthy

I don't make a difference

I'm not lovable/likeable

I am not important or experienced enough

I am not smart or adequate enough

Remember, these are core beliefs, not surface beliefs. Surface beliefs such as "I don't have enough time," "I'm not ready yet," "I don't want to be an interruption," or "I don't want to be pushy," are all smokescreens for the core belief.

How do you get beyond your Core Belief? 

You ask a lot of questions of yourself to undermine and counteract that belief. If you punch enough holes in the story the Core Belief is pitching to you, ultimately it will let go of you. Here are some examples:

It that really true? Can I be sure I'll be rejected?

Isn't this belief from the past once true, but irrelevant now?

What's the worst that could happen if I asked?

Is it really going to be as awful as I think it is?

Can't I survive a little disapproval if it happens?

Isn't it just as likely that they'll be interested?

Who would I be if I couldn't believe that core belief anymore?

What are some of the good things that could happen if I asked?

Clients who have done this kind of inquiry frequently discover that their fear is almost always worse than the reality. They make calls, set up appointments and ask for the sale and are often surprised, even shocked when their prospects say yes!

So, find your core belief (or two) and start asking, and see if your fear begins to diminish and your confidence and results start to soar.

Bonus – A LIttle Exercise

I was talking to my colleague Nick Pfennigwerth before I started writing this article, and he asked me if I knew about the "Coffee Challenge."

The Coffee Challenge, he told me, was a simple exercise for getting past the fear of asking. What you do is go into a coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee. When the sales clerk tells you the price, you ask if she can give you a 10% discount. 

Now, she will do it or not. But with this little insignificant ask, you confront your fear of asking and being rejected. And you also realize that the worst that can happen is she'll say "no." Could you survive that?"

I'll bet you can.

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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If you need to get past your marketing stuckness and move into action with more confidence, I recommend you learn about the More Clients Club.

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By Robert MIddleton – Action Plan Marketing

On a short vacation to Lake Tahoe last week, the weather wasn't ideal with both snow and rain, but on our last day, Saturday, we made a quick stop at Truckee and brightened our holiday measurably.  

Truckee was founded in 1844 and it still has the appearance of the Old West, but it's been upgraded and gentrified for modern times. The main street is made up art galleries, restaurants and an equal mix of stores, both quaint and posh. 

The gem of main street is the "Squeeze In Restaurant" (pictured above) With a menu featuring about ten different four-egg omelets. On the menu it says, "Best Omelets on the Planet" and "Outrageous Guarantee: You'll love our food or it's FREE." See for yourself here: Squeeze In Menu

Sounds like hype, right? But as they say, it's not boasting if it's true. I asked for a soft omelette with ham, mushrooms and onion. And it was actually soft, unlike most omelets at most restaurants, (even if you ask).  

From a marketing perspective they did everything right. In fact you could use the Squeeze In as not only the model for a great restaurant but the model for any business. 

Here's what makes them so special. 

The "Look" of the Squeeze In

Every wall in the place was covered with a wide variety of framed photos and paintings, mostly from customers. And around and behind all these pictures were comments and signatures of Squeeze In patrons.

This said to me, "This place is yours, you are part of our family, you are welcome here, we appreciate you enough that we want you to be an integral part of the restaurant."

If that's not a powerful marketing message, I don't know what is. 

The Waitresses and Waiters

They were the friendliest, most welcoming, and engaging restaurant staff I've ever experienced. It felt like I was an important visitor to their home. When we came in, there were no seats yet available, so the waitress who greeted us said, "Would you like a drink before we seat you?" Sure! And about a minute later my wife had a cup of coffee and I had a glass of orange juice. 

Did I mention enthusiasm? Yes, but not a fake put-on kind of enthusiasm. They had bright eyes and friendly smiles.  

The Food

The food was amazing. I've mentioned the omelets, but the home-fried potatoes were just as good. Brown, tender, tasty and abundant; each bite conveyed the message, "We love cooking and you'll love eating what we cook."

There were so many potatoes that we couldn't finish them, so we brought some home and ate them the next day with eggs. Yum!

A Model for All Restaurants

Every culinary school in the world should study the Squeeze In and learn what a great restaurant is all about. 

Every restaurant is graded by the quality of the atmosphere, food and service. The Squeeze In earned an A+ in all categories. 

What does this mean to you?

You probably don't own a restaurant, but whatever business you own, these three success components should be what you pay attention to most the time. 

Is the look and feel of your business or website welcoming, friendly and comfortable?

Is your service personal, responsive, and easy to interact with, making your customers and clients feel welcome?

Are your products and programs the very best available, and do they deliver what was promised and give results beyond what was expected? 

This takes a fair amount of thought, dedication and hard work to deliver these three components. Is it worth it? Well, the Squeeze In was packed with happy customers. We also noted that the three other restaurants on the street had only three or four customers. 

A business like this has more customers or clients, makes more money and has a better time running the business and serving customers. 

Isn't it time to get on the Squeeze In train? 

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When I got up yesterday morning and looked at my email, I realized I'd made a marketing mistake. 

The night before I'd cued up my email to promote my new Next Level Marketing Courses when I looked at my email, there were very few signups. 

"What happened?" I wondered.

And the answer came pretty quickly: "I overwhelmed my readers (that's you, by the way) with much too much information in the sales letter about the Next Level Courses and not enough about the actual course coming up next week." 

So I immediately went into "Action Mode" and created a new web page just for the course descriptions and sent out a follow-up email a couple of hours later pointing to that page. 

What would you have done? 

I don't know if this is an issue for you or not, but many Independent Professionals are caught in the following beliefs:

• Every promotion I do has to be perfect

• I can't make a mistake; it will look unprofessional

• I'll never admit I made a mistake 

• People will never trust me again

Well, let me take a minute and refute all of those beliefs.

You can't be perfect. Perfection doesn't exist, never has and never will. You'll make mistakes. Live with it. I told someone the other day that "I failed my way to success." After all, we only learn from our mistakes, so don't worry about making a lot of them.

You can and will make mistakes. And most people are more forgiving than you think. I get emails all the time about little mistakes I've made in this eZine/blog. Readers get to contribute, I get useful feedback; we all win. Ultimately I hired a proofer and editor for my articles and make fewer mistakes.

Hiding your mistakes only makes it worse. Inside you feel ashamed that you screwed up and that admitting it would only make things worse. I've found the opposite to be true. People appreciate honesty and vulnerability and self-deprecating humor. It makes you look human (which you are, by the way).

Mistakes don't lead to mistrust. If you make a few mistakes in your marketing here and there, people will forgive you. They won't forgive lies or other forms of deception, however. Pay more attention to integrity and the value you give to your clients than your occasional mistakes. 

It's Their Problem

And in the few cases where someone tries to bust your chops because you made a mistake? Well, that's their problem, not yours. They are caught up in their own set of beliefs thinking you should always live up to their standards of perfection. 

Why should that upset you? Get over yourself and get into action with that important project that has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of your clients – not to mention your bank balance.

Oh, and by the way, do check out that program on "Getting More Done in Less Time." It will be awesome! http://actionplan.com/nml-courses

Cheers, Robert Middleton

Want to make comments about this article? Just click on the link below and make your comments. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When I started my business many years ago, I soon realized I needed to market my services. 

So I started to read books on small business marketing. And I read a LOT of them – perhaps 300 or more over several years. 

Yes, I gained a number of useful ideas, but the problem with many of those books is that they consisted mostly of tips, not systems or strategies. I learned what to do, but not enough on how to do it. 

My question to you is, are you mostly absorbing marketing tips here and there through articles and social media, or are you focusing on developing proven strategies designed to convert prospects into paying clients? 

There's a world of difference between tips and strategies. Here are a few of them: 

A tip gives you a better or more skillful way to do something. 
A strategy is a complete process for getting something done. 

A tip might be a random idea that you may implement some day.
A strategy is a plan with a clear objective and timeline. 

A tip tends to be incomplete or only a partial solution. 
A strategy tends to be a complete step-by-step process.

Tips can trigger information overload by giving you too many ideas. 
Strategies can build long-term skills and confidence.

Everyone is Looking for Instant Ideas

Admit it, wouldn't you prefer to learn a cool tip that persuaded more people to opt-in on your website, a simple tip for the perfect words to say to get a prospect to buy your services, or an easy, fast tip to write a sales letter that generated a ton of response?

Of course you would, but for the most part these simple tips and easy, fast solutions rarely fulfill their promises.  

Focus on Strategies Instead of Tips

Marketing is a game (or discipline) that consists of a wide variety of proven strategies that work to attract clients. The thing is, they take some time to learn, implement and master.

But with practice, they do get easier. For instance, my client, Ross Blake, is now mastering the strategy of speaking and is getting more talks, more people giving him cards, more requests for strategy sessions and more clients.

He discovered that speaking alone did not get him clients. A great speech may inform and inspire, but it's not enough. However, a detailed speaking strategy, executed consistently, gets results almost every time. 

When my clients work to learn and implement step-by-step strategies, they are often surprised at the consistent results they get. And the payoff can be huge. 

But what does it take to implement a marketing strategy? 

First, it takes a number of steps carried out in a certain order. For example, let me outline all the steps in Blake's speaking strategy: 

1. Determine the talk you're going to deliver. The title is all-important as it largely determines who will attend. 

2. Write a "speaker's page" on your website about the talks you give. What points will you address? What are all the benefits?

3. Research and compile a list of organizations that are potential hosts for your talk, such as various professional groups. 

4. Contact the program directors of these organizations by phone and/or email. 

5. When you reach them, see if they are interested in your topic. If they are, send information by email and point them to your talk write-up online. 

6. Follow up in a week or so and see if they are interested. If they are, book the talk. 

7. Prepare handouts and/or slides for your talk. 

8. Practice your talk out loud a few times until it's as good as you can make it. 

9. Give the talk and do the best job you possibly can. 

10. At the end of the talk, offer to give the audience copies of a report you've written in exchange for their business cards.

11. Add the names to your e-list and also follow up with those you think have the the most potential. 

12. Try to get a short phone conversation to see if they are interested in your professional services. 

13. If they are interested, set up a selling conversation or "Strategy Session" to explore working together. 

Each one of those steps takes a certain amount of knowledge and practice before you are comfortable doing it. 

You may be thinking, "That's too much work!"

Well, not if it gains you a handful of new clients every time you give a talk or implement another marketing strategy. And certainly not if you master this strategy and do it repeatedly and successfully for years to come.  

If you're serious about growing your business, you need to go beyond tips and learn, practice and implement strategies. If you do this, I promise you'll grow your business faster than you ever thought possible.   

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In 2000 I self-published a book that earned me $600,000  in direct sales over about five years and then went on to generate millions more in sales of courses, programs, online products and consultations.

Could you do this as well? Keep reading. 

I haven't met too many clients who haven't wanted to write a book for their business at some point. 

Most people seem to intuitively feel that writing a book would be good for their business, give them more visibility and credibly and garner a certain amount of fame in their particular niche. 

And they are right on all accounts. 

But very few Independent Professionals think much beyond that. That is, they don't get around to developing a real plan to publish a book that will grow their businesses and increase their incomes. 

They focus on getting the book itself written (which is quite an undertaking in and of itself) but don't spend a lot of time creating a bigger plan – of which the book is only one part. 

In the past 15 years I've written three self-published books. 

Let me share with you how I went about making plans for these books and how I turned them into major growth engines in my business.

The InfoGuru Marketing Manual 

The first book was the InfoGuru Marketing Manual which I published on my website and used only my website and email list to promote it.

Actually, when I wrote it, I didn't even see it as a book but as an online guide to marketing. It wasn't even a PDF, let alone a hard copy book. It was a number of chapters, each with a different page on my website. 

But that didn't last very long. I soon got requests for a hard-copy version and I hired a designer to lay it out as both a hard copy book and PDF e-book. 

When I published it in 2000, there wasn't much information out there on marketing for self-employed professionals, and when I announced it to those on my email list, the response was immediate and bigger than I had imagined. 

I sold about 9,000 copies and made about $600,000 in sales of this book, but that wasn't the ultimate result. What occurred after the book was much bigger and more significant for my business. 

I soon realized that the manual created a demand for more. 

I started to offer "Marketing Action Groups" – live group teleclass programs – that taught the same principles in the manual. It turns out that people didn't just want the information, they wanted instruction and guidance.

The courses and programs I led over the following years (in which I essentially expanded on the content of the manual) have since resulted in several millions in revenue. 

That manual has been the foundation of my business for the past 15 years. It's the source material for all my other programs. I now offer it free to the members of my More Clients Club as a bonus. 

A Book as a Bonus

My second book, Marketing Ball, didn't come as easily. I thought about it for about 5 years (no kidding) and then finally got around to writing it on a three-week Christmas vacation in Mexico in 2011.

I used this book as a free bonus for people who signed up for the Club and effectively built the Club membership. I put no effort into selling the book itself, but it was very profitable for me. 

A bigger plan

For my third book, The Unstuck Process, I had a bigger plan. I'd used this process with my clients for 12 years with great results, so I finally decided I wanted to get it out there to as many people as possible. I gave it away to more than 3,000 as an e-book in exchange for their email addresses.

But what did I get out of that? Well, I have sold many copies of both the hard copy book and the Kindle book and gotten many good reviews.

But the bigger plan enabled me to promote my Beyond Stuckness Courses to those who had read the e-book. And these courses have now become an important part of my business, and generate regular revenue. 

A book gives you leverage

Before you write a book, start to think of the bigger plans for the book; don't just plan on selling it. It's hard to make a living just selling books (I was lucky with my manual). Use it as a marketing tool to leverage other programs and services you offer.

You'll find a book can open many doors for you. Here are a few of those ways: 

1. Send your book to potential clients. It's like a business card they won't throw away. 

2. Use it to help you get speaking engagements, as authors always have the advantage when organizations select speakers. 

3. Feature it on your website for credibility and then sell it on your site or send visitors to Amazon to buy it. 

4. Send it to online publishers requesting that they publish your articles. It will prove you are a credible writer.

There are many more, but you really need to see your book as a powerful tool to grow your business. 

But first you have to write that book!

Many people want to write a book, but they usually have several concerns that tend to stop them:

What's the best way to write and organize my book's content?

 How can I find the time to get the book written?

 What processes or systems should I use to produce a quality book?

 How can I be sure it will pay off for me? 

 How do I leverage my book with other services and programs?

Attend a complimentary teleseminar on book publishing

I've asked my friend and writing and publishing expert, John Eggen, to join me for an interview on this topic. The title is: 

"How to write and publish a transformational book that attracts new clients and generates multiple streams of income – in as few as 90 days."

In it, we'll cover in-depth some of the things I touched on in this article. I've been able to accomplish what I did with my books with John's wisdom and guidance. And there's no reason why you can't as well. 

Attend this teleseminar if you are truly serious about writing a book and are ready to start it soon. Writing and publishing a book and then using it to effectively market your services could be one of the best and most profitable things you do this year.

The teleseminar will be held at 4:00 pm Pacific on Wednesday, May 6.  

Here's the link to make a reservation in the teleseminar:  

http://mypublishingopportunity.com/actionplan6

Want to add your ideas to the discussion? Just click on the link below and make your comments. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In a recent post on Wisdompreneurs I outlined my basic system for growing your business faster. Here it is:

1. Work on developing a really good marketing message that embodies how you help your clients. Make it clear and easy to understand and that makes them ask, "Tell me more about that." Some people struggle with this for years. Make it a priority to nail it down as soon as possible and use it as a theme that permeates your marketing.

2. Put together a very good, well-written and professional-looking website. It may be one of the biggest investments in your business, but it will pay off many times over. It's the doorway to your business.

3. Work on building your e-list. One way is to offer a valuable free report on the homepage of your website. It's harder to grow your list than it used to be, but if you make it a top priority it will pay off. 

4. Do some kind of systematic keep-in-touch marketing such as a regular email newsletter and blog. And strive to make yours the very best in your industry. The better it is, the more your list will grow due to referrals.

5. Meet as many people as you possibly can, especially in the early years of your business, through networking and speaking. This is also a good way to build your list. Collect a lot of cards, offer your report and ask if you can add them to your e-list.

6. Use appropriate, no-hype email promotions to send to people from your e-list to your website for your offerings. I've promoted my coaching services, marketing tutorials, group programs and other classes this way with great success.

7. Master the selling process. Selling is not about manipulation, but about sharing value, learning what someone needs and getting agreement. There is an art to selling but it's something you can learn

8. Make your inner work as important as the outer work of building your business. For me it's been about transforming my relationship to my fearful, limiting thoughts and beliefs. 

If you work at mastering all of these, you will build your business faster, often much faster. And yes, it takes a lot of work to learn to do all of these things, but it's the very best use of your time.

A few other people added to this post and I'll list some of their comments here:

Michael Stratford: http://www.michaelstratford.com/

I want to mention a few 'intangibles' and then a couple tangibles I've found useful, not mandatory, but useful

First, I'd like to reference a mentor....Thomas Leonard – who said to me and others "If you want to grow your business grow yourself"

That's a big one...doing the inner landscape work that cleans up any leftover garbage, and toxic waste spills goes a long way toward making better decisions and taking smarter actions so that you don't have to use up time recovering from missteps...you can proceed easier without having constant spill cleanups.

Second is seemingly contradictory...I've often said to clients "Slower + smoother = faster"...taking the time to put things in place so you can run well, run long and run easily at the beginning allows you to pick up the pace fairly quickly. 

Third is simplicity. The simpler things are, the easier things flow, because there are fewer things to "go wrong" with them and if something does, it's easier to adjust.

Fourth is systems...the more stuff you don't have to put your attention on the more personal R.A.M. you have to put on the places where ONLY you are required.. this means tech, support, whatever you might deem a system that operates fairly automatically without much attention...even having a boilerplate proposal works, and autoresponders are a tech example, an accountant is a personal example

Fifth, Outsourcing when possible, and Crowdsourcing when needed. Giving jobs away and getting others involved, builds your team. More is almost always accomplished quicker with team than without. 

While taking the time to get clarity from others about what they want and are willing to buy is really helpful and saves a lot of recalibration time...it's easy to test stuff, it's more costly to make a huge launch, then find out you have no market for it and then have to completely re-tool.

Sixth, play… lightness is a big factor in acceleration, it's just flat-out more attractive...after all, who wants to be working with someone who is so serious you want to have a drink after the session?

Seventh and last for me is trust yourself and your instincts...you may have an intuition that doesn't necessarily make logical sense but feels right...often that's your inner GPS telling you to take a detour that's of great benefit.

Kathy Mallary - http://www.spiritspring.com/

I would add "Do not expect your new biz to pay your salary." A start-up does not typically make money – let alone a profit – overnight. Make sure you have some means of paying your personal bills SEPARATE from your business for at least the first 1-2 years, so that any money generated by your business can be invested right back into the business. Having unrealistic expectations about this can really mess with your mindset and derail your growth.

When you depend on your new biz to pay your bills too soon, it actually slows you down. It's not the right mindset; you end up saying yes to things you shouldn't and no to things you really should say yes to.

For instance, I often hear new biz owners say they can't afford to spend $10-20/mo for AWeber or MailChimp, although it's probably less than what they're spending at Starbucks in one WEEK. So they skimp along with the free email package for as long as possible, trying to build a mailing list while at the same time in the back of their mind, saying "I can't afford to have too many subscribers..." 

If your focus is on "how am I going to pay the rent" instead of "how can I serve" – your attention is not in the right place, and you're probably not making the best decisions.

Want to add your ideas to the discussion? Just click on the link below and make your comments. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Tom was frozen in his marketing. 

After he'd left the corporate world about three years ago and started his own consulting practice, he found it very difficult to attract enough clients. "It's not that I haven't been doing marketing activities," he told me. "It's just that they're not getting results. And I'm wondering if I'm doing the right things."

I went on to explain to Tom that there were two main areas of marketing and that he needed to understand the difference and find a balance between the two. 

These two marketing areas are long and short-term marketing. Each of these areas consist of several different activities. The long-term activities set you up for visibility and credibility and short-term activities will get you appointments with qualified prospects. 

Long-Term Marketing Activities

I explained to Tom that there were five long-term marketing activities that were especially important for Independent Professionals and that these long-term activities would build a solid marketing foundation and then maintain the structure of that foundation. Here they are:

Create a Great Marketing Message

Essentially, you need a powerful message that hits a nerve when someone asks you what you do. Say who you work with and the key issues and challenges you address – "I work with emerging leaders who are frustrated that they aren't progressing fast enough."

But make sure your message stays relevant. My marketing messaged transitioned from "I'm a small business consultant," (in 1984) to "I help Independent Professionals get their marketing unstuck and into action." (2015)

Develop a Great Website

Your website needs to be more than "good." It should be great. It needs exceptional design, messages that talk about the issues and challenges you help your clients with, in-depth descriptions of your services and case studies of your most successful clients.

And remember that your home page has only two purposes: To introduce you and your business with impact and to exchange a free report for the names and email addresses of your web visitors.

Focus on Building a List

When I put up my first website in 1997 and started studying the web experts, I learned that giving something away on my site in exchange for names and emails was the key. And things haven't changed in 18 years. Building your e-list in the long-term gives enables you to promote your services directly to that list This is one of the short-term activities I'll talk about below. 

Do Keep-in-Touch Marketing

Once you have a list (I started with 50), start sending valuable information on your area of expertise. Make a list of 12 of the most common challenges your clients face and start with articles on how to resolve those challenges. 

And then also place those articles from your email newsletter on your blog. At minimum, write an article every month, more often if you can manage it. I do mine weekly. 

Engage in Social Media

Social media keeps your name out there. But too many people rely on social media for short-term marketing. In my experience, it doesn't work too well for that. Social media is far more useful as a place for bouncing ideas around and for sharing and learning about resources. The Wisdompreneurs Facebook group I mentioned a few weeks ago is great for this. Check it out here.

I pointed out to Tom that putting these long-term marketing activities into place would take time and effort, but without this foundation his marketing would not have the solidity he wanted. 

"OK," said Tom. "But once this marketing foundation is in place, what else do I need to do? And how exactly are long and short-term marketing different?"

"What makes them different, I said, "is that long term marketing  is more passive, while short-term marketing is very proactive. 

"I sometimes think of long-term marketing as the great shows that are aired by public broadcasting. Short-term marketing is like the pledge breaks where they ask for your money!

"So now, let's look at those short-term marketing activities." 

Short-Term Marketing Activities

You can engage in the following activities as soon as possible, even while you're building your long-term foundation, but the more solid your foundation, the better results you'll see. 

Do In-Person Networking

Meeting someone in-person has a hundred times the impact of a social media connection. Find organizations that contain potential clients or that can connect you with potential clients. Attend events regularly, get involved, practice your message, offer your report and get them on your list.

It's not unusual that you'll meet with someone at a meeting, follow up and have a selling conversation within a week or two. It's happened to me many times. And, of course, the more you get to know people, the better results you'll get.  

Do Speaking, Webinars or TeleClasses

If you don't have much of a list to start, you won't get much traction with webinars and teleclasses, however there are more opportunities than ever for live speaking. Professional groups, business associations, chambers of commerce, even Meet-Up groups can be great places to position yourself as the expert. 

Right now one of my clients has been very successful in setting up talks for local SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) chapters. He collects cards from those who attend and follows up with them. He's never had more qualified leads. 

Generate Referrals

Most people pray for referrals. That doesn't work. Instead, Ask for referrals and educate your clients on how to make connections for you. Say something like: "If you happen to have a conversation with someone who is having the same challenges you were having before you worked with me, can you give me a call and let me know? Then you can tell me more about them and share the best way to reach out to them." 

This certainly works better than, "If you know anyone who can use my services, tell them to call me."

Promote to Your E-List

If you've been on my list for any time, you know I promote various programs to those on my list. I do my best not to overdo it by sending no more than one promotional email a week. I usually do less. 

But direct email promotion really gets results. With just three or four emails, over two or three weeks, I fill most of the programs I promote. But, of course, to do that you need to have a list of 1,000 or more. My e-list promotions have generated millions in sales of programs and coaching over years. Make list-building a big priority if you want similar results. 

Balancing Long and Short-Term Marketing

Tom had another question about balancing long and short-term marketing activities: "Do I need to get all the long-term pieces into place before I start my short-term marketing activities?"

"Not at all," I answered. "Once you nail down your marketing message, get out there and start networking immediately. As you get responses, you'll be able to fine-tune your message on the spot. The best marketing training you can get is face-to-face interactions with prospective clients."

I also pointed out to him that he may want to get his website up soon, so he could point people to it, but that he didn't have to have every single piece completed before he launched it. 

I also reminded him that I was getting a lot of speaking engagements years before I even had a website. 

"It sounds like a lot of work," said Tom. "How do you manage it all?"

"It's not so hard if you have a good organizational system. You may have a list of a dozen things to learn about and put into action, but you can only do so much in one day or a week. I break things down into long and short-term lists. Before long, everything gets done without too much struggle."

Then I pointed him to an article I'd written recently on how to manage a lot of things without getting overwhelmed. You can read it here: Lists That Will Help You Manage Overwhelm

Cheers, Robert M.

If you have comments on this article, or would like to share it on social media, please click on the links below. 

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Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit