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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

Want to make comments about this article? Just click on the link below and make your comments. http://actionplan.com/blog/543-squeeze-in

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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.   

Want to make comments about this article or share on social media? Just click on the links below.

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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.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This past week I found myself in a difficult spot. Not only did my fall last week slow things down quite a bit (what with lots of naps and TV-watching), I found myself overwhelmed by all the things I had committed to do but couldn't manage.

But along with being able to work only a few hours each day, I happened to be "blessed" with a flood of new ideas and possible projects that made me feel even more overwhelmed.

On top of that I had to get my taxes filed and catch up on emails. Yikes! What do do? 

I heard my inner voice tell me over and over again, "You need to get organized, set priorities and only do what it necessary right now." 

So I went back to my tried-and-true planing system and dug myself out. 

My system is all about lists... but what kind of lists? Let me show you. 

Aspirations, Commitments, Time and Lists

At any given time we are swimming in a world of possibilities when it comes to getting things done. There are things to get done now… things to get done later... and things to get someday. It's those someday things that can be the real problem, which I'll explain later. 

Current Priorities List

This is a list of things you need to accomplish in the next month or so. They are projects you've already committed to or have set in motion, such as putting together a webinar, changing your website home page or keeping a promise to a colleague to give them feedback on a project.

The thing about current priorities is that they need to get done relatively soon, but probably not today or even this week. But the mind has a hard time sorting things this way. It wants to do everything NOW! But putting these items and projects on a Current Priorities List, you can reassure yourself you won't forget about them. But you don't need to take action until the time is right.

Weekly List

These are items and projects that come from you Priorities List. This list is at the core of planning and organizing. Once a week you take a look at this shorter time period and ask, "What things on my Priorities List need to get done this week?" If you're leading a workshop next week, it would make sense to prepare for it this week and avoid getting behind.

The key to a successful Weekly List is not to make it too long. You're not naming small things, but important things – things that make a difference to the forward movement of your business. So you need to select a few key items (from 5 to 10) that you absolutely commit to getting done this week. 

Daily List

This list includes one or two items from your Weekly list and also a number of small things that need to get done that day such as respond to certain emails, errands etc. And of course, how much you commit to getting done that day will also depend on the number of appointments you have with clients or prospects.

I have a simple game I play every day It's called, "Get Everything Done on My Daily List." It's not always possible, but when I set that intention, I usually succeed. Remember, it's not about getting a few dozen things done but getting the most important things done. 

Project Ideas List

This new list is my secret weapon for productivity; it collects all the good ideas I come up with and then put aside for now to ripen. This is the area many of us find so challenging. 

You know the situation: You come up with a great idea and you start working on it immediately. After all, that's where the energy is, right? Well, yes, but working on this new idea completely sidelines your priorities. 

Even worse, a few days down the road you realize that this idea is not really viable or it's something better done a few months from now. So you've put in all that time, distracted yourself from your priorities, and are now behind on important projects. Result: You feel overwhelmed.

That's where the Project Ideas List comes in. Whenever a brilliant business idea (or an idea about any other area of your life) pops into your head, go to your Project Ideas List, write it down and get back to your current priorities for the day. You can review it later, think about it and let it ripen until you feel ready to put it on your Current Priorities List. 

Lists as a Filter for Ideas and Actions

One way to look at lists is as a filter for all the ideas that pop into your head. And you can use all your lists for that: 

• You recall that you promised your wife you'd pick up a roast chicken from Costco. That goes on your daily list for after work.

• You remember your taxes are coming up in a couple weeks; you write it down on your weekly list and look at the times you could spend a few hours this week. 

• And as you peruse your Project Ideas at the end of the week, you decide to upgrade a project to your Current Priorities list. 

You now have things organized for today, weekly, monthly and for the indefinite future. After a little practice, you start to relax feel less overwhelmed. After all, the only things you really need to focus on are what you've committed to doing today. And if your list is a reasonable length, there's no need panic; you can get it done.

Project Pages

This is another important page for breaking down the things on your Priority Lists. Most priorities or project consist of a series of action steps, sometimes a few sometimes many. When you're ready to get moving on that priority, pull out a Project Page and start listing all the action steps. 

There's an art itself to breaking projects into action steps, but the famous saying, "You can't eat and elephant in one bite, but you can chop in into pieces and eat it one step at a time," applies here. 

Putting It All Together 

This system for organizing all your projects and ideas is simple and powerful, but it can seem a little complex. After all, you have six lists here. How do you manage all of them?

This can be done a few ways, but this is what works for me: 

First of all, I create forms for all these lists. This can be done in Word using tables. My lists have the title and space for the date at the top. There's a narrow column on the right for numbering the items and two narrow columns at the right for dates dues and to check things off. 

Here's a generic form you can use. (just click to download)

Then I put all of these forms into a binder with a few divider tabs. 

Tab One - Current Priorities. I use a three-hole punch and put the holes on the right side of the page and place those pages on the left side of the binder. And then on the right side of the binder I put the Weekly List, with holes on the left side. 

So what you have are the Current Priorities List and the Weekly Lists facing each other. I keep the binder open on my desk at all times to easily check my priorities.

Tab Two - Project Ideas. Left hole punch on the right side of the binder. Just flip to that page when you have a new idea, and write it down. 

Tab Three - Project Plans. I'll put a few pages here with current plans that come from items on my Current Priorities. Once these projects get completed, I just file or toss the page. 

Tab Four - Copy a number of each of the forms and place them under Tab Four at the back of the binder for easy access.

That's it for the binder. The key to keeping up with all your lists it to do a short planning session at the end of each week. Look at all your lists, move items, forward them or remove them. When a page is full (with a lot of completed items) simply create a new page. And start with a new Weekly List every week. 

How About Your Daily List?

My daily list goes onto a daily page in my At-A-Glance Appointment Book. It may seem a little cumbersome, but I work mostly from my office, and work with clients by phone, email and Skype. I don't need to carry this stuff around. 

Can you do this on a mobile device or computer?

Yes you can. I've tried this more times than I can count. And although I do virtually everything on my computer, I could just never make time management and organization work for me on a computer. But it may be essential for your situation. 

One of the best systems for this is Evernote. The basic version that can handle all of this is free and is simple to use. For a few more features it's $5 per month. Simply create Notes for each of these List Pages, including unlimited Project Pages. Plus, you can import documents and attach them to that note or page, which would be very useful for projects.

And other one that my editor mentioned to me is Wunderlist that she finds even easier to use. So check out both of them! 

I hope this has been useful. OK, ready to start on the path of getting past feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do? You now have everything you need.

Cheers, Robert 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I was having a great time…

On Sunday afternoon I was playing with my granddaughter, Colette, on her bicycle in her backyard.

She was chasing me with her bike with me running backwards. 

It was a blast until I tripped and went down hard on the concrete. 

Ouch!!! My left hip, shoulder and the toes on my left foot were bruised and battered... but I survived. 

Colette (picture above) was oblivious, as I writhed in pain on the pavement. Note to self: "Stop being a stupid showoff."

After dinner, my wife and I drove the one hour trip back to our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was hurting, but I'd be OK.

Then later that evening…

I was in our guest bedroom, looking for a book and bent down to select it from the bottom shelf…

And then, zap! my back went out. An excruciating pain shot though my lower back. I could barely move. With my wife's help I rolled onto the bed, groaning in pain, and fell asleep about an hour later. 

It's Monday now and I'm still hurting, but I can get around at a slow shuffle, and am typing this at my stand-up desk. But I need to take it easy for the rest of the day. 

When things like this happen, the mind goes a little nuts, imagining pathetic scenarios of me in a wheelchair, totally dependent on my wife. Pretty maudlin. 

And then I thought: "Screw this! I have things to do, clients to serve, programs to lead, an eZine to write!"

But I am going to take it easy today. As soon as I send this out I'm back to bed for a few hours. 

Tomorrow I'll give you a final update on the Beyond Stuckness Program that starts next week on April 9. Yes, the program is a go with 21 participants, but we can take a few more: http://theunstuckprocess.com/courses.

Cheers, Robert M. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When I want to find out how to do something, I go to the Internet Oracle: Google. It helps me find most of the business answers I need, from finding how to do a specific thing with a piece of software, to looking up organizations to network with. 

But what if you need more than that?

What if you need feedback on your marketing message, ideas on how to deal with a difficult clients, or insights into how to get your clients to move into action? 

Perhaps you'd just like to brainstorm ideas on how to make your service more compelling or get feedback on a new service idea? 

This is when I tap into the Facebook Group, Wisdompreneurs. 

Wisdompreneurs is the brainchild of Paul Zelizer from Santa Fe who used to work for Wisdom 2.0 – "a global community of people dedicated to living with deeper wisdom, compassion and awareness in the digital age."

Paul was in charge of developing the online community for Wisdom 2.0 and some time later he had the idea of an online community for mostly self-employed business owners who wanted to interact with others with a similar worldview. 

And it's grown like mad, with almost 5,000 members.  

I discovered the Wisdompreneurs Facebook Group abut six months ago and have been an active participant ever since.

It's made a huge difference to me and my business. 

As an Independent Professional for more than 30 years, I face the issues of isolation and disconnection like all other self-employed people living in their own "private bubble."

These days I don't do live networking much anymore; I just haven't found the right group in the Santa Cruz area, so Wisdompreneurs helps to fill that gap. The longer you belong, the more you get to know people, and the deeper the connections grow. 

Wisdompreneurs is great because it's so active. If you post something, you can expect a response in one to ten minutes. 

The main ways I participate in Wisdompreneurs:

1. I take a look at the group every morning and see if there are any interesting conversations going on. Then I'll often comment on the ones where I feel I can provide an idea or resource.

2. If I want to run an idea by the group, get some feedback or find a resource, I start a conversation and then check in during the day to read any comments and respond to them. In fact, today while writing this article, I asked for feedback on topics for a new marketing course I'm developing. 

3. Sometimes I just bring up a random idea I've been thinking about and often get a lively discussion going. This gets me thinking and inspired with new ideas and possibilities. 

4. Wisdompreneurs also enables me to do instant market research, invite others to participate in something (I just signed up six members to be Guest Experts in the More Clients Club), find places to be interviewed for podcasts, etc. 

Wisdompreneurs, however, is not a place to directly promote your services to other group members.

Paul, in his wisdom, has banned "article spamming." That's when you join a group but all you see are pictures and links that point back to someone's website or blog articles. 

When that happens, conversation stops and a real community never develops. It's just the opposite in Wisdompreneurs.

However as an outlet to get the word out, each Wednesday Paul posts a thread where you can promote your services, insert a link to your blog etc. 

And, of course, you can connect with people in other ways such as private messages and develop connections that may turn into new business, partnering on projects, etc. 

I invite you to check out Wisdompreneurs. It might be the online community you've been looking for. And I'll see you there online! 

Go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/wisdompreneurs/

But a quick warning: Join Wisdompreneurs and you'll be exposed to more interesting and relevant business ideas than you have in months. Then you need to figure out what to do with them all!

Just click on Join Group at the top right of the page and you'll be approved in an hour or two. 

Cheers, Robert

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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