Latest Blog Comments
  • This was helpful. Could you write more about how to build a network. Using the questions you end with. Could this be a coaching call topic you coach p... read more
    By Nancy Francisco

  • Robert, great article. I do steps 1-3, but not step 4 which probably explains why sometimes I was unsuccessful in winning the business. If they do not... read more
    By Morton

  • Great article Kim! And thanks for posting it Robert. I've had the honor of meeting Kim in person. She's as wise in person as she is as a Linked In pub... read more
    By Paul Zelizer

  • Robert, Well this 'Avoidance thing' has been big in my life! Just finished listening to ' Beyond Avoidance', and feel liberated from my own head. Righ... read more
    By Pam Benham

  • I bought the InfoGuru Marketing Manual in 2003, when my company was an organization of one (me!) and was only 3 years old. Today, my organization has ... read more
    By Charles Dominick

  • Robert – Huge congratulations on your 30th anniversary! I'm grateful that you were inspired to begin Action Plan Marketing back in 1984. It has given ... read more
    By Rhonda S. Musak

  • Robert, what a wonderful read about your 30 year business journey! I've appreciated the authenticity and integrity of your marketing and who you are a... read more
    By Patrick Dominguez

  • Robert - Congratulations on 30 great, productive and impactful years! Keep up the great work that has helped so many directly and many others indirect... read more
    By Larry Gassin

  • Robert, Congrats on 30 years of adapting and growing, your material is always awesome and straight to the point. I also celebrated (?) 30 years in my ... read more
    By david snitzer

  • Happy Birthday to your biz! I got to marketing in a different way than you. I co-owned an Apple computer dealership in the 80s where my partner took c... read more
    By Trudy Van Buskirk

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Sometime soon after launching my website in 1996 I learned about the concept of giving away "free stuff" to people who visited my website.

I launched my More Clients eZine in 1997 and gave away my "Marketing Plan Workbook" and grew my eZine list to 50,000+ people in about 5 years. 

Those people who requested my free stuff then bought my InfoGuru Marketing Manual. And the people who bought the manual signed up for my Marketing Action Groups and many other programs over the following years.

That free stuff has generated millions of dollars in sales and a self-sustaining business that makes a difference to thousands of people.  

But giving away Free Stuff was the start of it all. 

Over the years I've learned a lot of things about providing this free stuff and I'd like to share some of them with you. 

1. Give Away Real Value

You've got to go beyond old formulas and how-to's. People are looking for more. They are looking for transformation, real change, things that will help them take the next leap. 

Paul Zelizer, founder of Wisdompreneurs, mentioned this in a post today: When asked about effective marketing in today's economy, Dustin Stout said: "Stop being amazing and start being useful."

You don't need to make outrageous promises; you just need to deliver the goods. When someone reads your report or watches your video, they should say to themselves, "Wow, this is really useful. This is something I should be implementing in my business (or life). I want more of this stuff!"

And the better you know who your clients are and what they are struggling with, the better value you can offer. 

2. Be a Real Person

When you offer your articles, reports, videos, etc., connect as a real, authentic person, someone others can easily relate to. 

Mark Silver, of Heart of Business, emphasizes connecting to people more deeply. He recommends: Empathy - so people feel seen and witnessed,which is the first step in healing. 2. Education, so people can understand and learn from what we are describing/explaining. 3. Entertainment - often humor - so people can feel a lightness of heart. 4. Inspiration - so people can feel hope. 

And being vulnerable and imperfect works better than showing how great you are! I often talk about how much I struggled in starting my business and how many mistakes I made. This actually encourages people, as it demonstrates that nobody starts out successfully, that it always takes hard work and that it's OK to make mistakes. 

3. Give People a Real Taste

I recently posted a blog that gave an exercise as the end to apply the lessons I outlined. I just got an email from a reader about how much she appreciated this.

She said: "Loved the LITTLE exercise… that is helping me make BIG changes at this end. More simple “little” exercises like that at the end of your posts, please. Sooooo helpful and utterly do-able! I feel very encouraged."

When you get feedback like that, you know you're connecting and making a difference. When you suggest simple action steps or exercises, some people will actually do them. And these are the people who will become your fans and ultimately end up working with you some time in the future. 

Don't be stingy about what you give away. If your free stuff doesn't have much value, your prospective clients will tune out and are unlikely to ever buy something from you. 

4. Move the Free Line

This is something I learned from Eban Pagan, a very smart and successful online marketer. He makes the point that everyone is giving away free articles and reports. So, even if your material is good, it's hard to get the attention you want as it may look like everyone else's. 

I decided to use his approach when developing my Unstuck Process. I didn't just write another report, I wrote an e-book. I had a cover professionally designed. I hired an editor to make it better. I recorded the complete process as an audio book as well, plus added many other bonuses. And then I designed a completely new website to feature this ebook. 

This is the kind of thing that gets attention and has others share it with their friends and associates. Within five days of the launch, about 2,500 people had downloaded the e-book. And thank-you emails keep pouring in. Yes, you can still get your copy if you haven't yet: http://theunstuckprocess.com

Now, what good does this do for me? Well, it's exciting to share this valuable information that could be life-changing for many. That gets me up in the morning! And later on, I'll be offering some in-depth courses on the Unstuck Process that will help even more people. Ultimately new students and clients will come from this as well without the need for a hard-sell. 

5. Don't Be Too Self-Serving

I notice something early on in my business: Anytime I tried to do something with the prime agenda of making money, it failed. Yes, it's perfectly fine to make money, even a lot of money, but if making a difference and a contribution isn't the foundation of your business, things will likely backfire. 

One way of knowing if your heart is in the right place is by asking the question: "Would I want to do this anyway, even if I didn't get paid?" If you're excited about your work, find it endlessly interesting and feel fulfilled by helping other people, you have a solid foundation to build upon. 

If you are creating material, no matter how seemingly valuable, for primarily egoistic ends, sooner or later things are going to crash and burn. Promoting your ego is not sustainable. 

6. Get your Free Stuff Channels Set Up

The first free stuff channel is always an opt-in on your website. When people opt-in to get your materials, they'll also get on your ezine list (which they can opt-out of at any time).

Then give more great free stuff through your articles, videos etc. on a regular basis. But don't overdo it! It's not unusual that I download something valuable and then get bombarded by a new email every single day, sometimes more than once a day, for months on end. If you do that, people will tune out quickly. 

I recommend sending something anywhere from weekly (as I do) to monthly. Then, when you do the occasional promotion, launching a program or service, people will be more willing to check out what you have to offer. 

Then also post your information on your blog, write guest posts for other blogs or for Pulse section of LinkedIn. Get interviewed for podcasts, give teleclasses and webinars. Share your free stuff on social media. Get know for what you know and the difference you make. 

Take Action: Start by writing the titles for several articles or reports that you feel would be valuable to your clients. Then do a Google search for similar articles. What can you say that gives a new and valuable spin on this information? Then write an article on that and get it out there. And never stop!

If you have questions or comments about how to give away free stuff successfully, please respond on Comments below:

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by Robert Middleton

Making your marketing flow is something most Independent Professionals would welcome. We’d all like our marketing to result in a flow of new clients. But exactly what would that marketing flow look like?

You’d have no resistance to marketing, no fears, no avoidance, no stuckness. You’d come up with creative ideas and plans and you’d find ways to implement them without a lot of struggle or effort.

You wouldn’t be discouraged by things that didn’t work that well, because that would be all part of the flow. You’d go back to the drawing board, analyze, study, and try something else. You’d persist and have fun and experience joy at the same time. And ultimately you’d get great results from your marketing, attract your ideal clients and make good money.

Is there a secret to finding flow in your marketing?

 Yes, but it’s not what you think it is. There is nothing you have to do to achieve flow. Things are already flowing. You are the flow itself.

When we think of flow, we think of a river. A river just flows without effort, steadily, continuously, elegantly – you know, like Ol’ Man River.

Can anything impede the flow of a river? Yes, a dam or obstruction can impede the flow. If a river is blocked, it will back up, it will slow down, and the water in the river will stagnate.

Now, it’s just the same in your marketing. The flow is already there. You can’t add to the flow; it already flows perfectly. But you can certainly dam the flow, block the flow, obstruct the flow and resist the flow.

And this is exactly what we do. We don’t let our marketing flow because we dam it and block it, not in reality, but though our limiting, constrictive beliefs.

Here are 5 beliefs that block the flow of marketing:

1. You believe it has to be done right or perfectly or according to a “correct formula.” You have to know exactly what to do before you get started. This removes all creativity, spontaneity, and flow from your marketing.

2. You believe that marketing leads to rejection and humiliation. Yes, just letting your marketing flow seems dangerous and risky. So you become very careful, very held back, very cautious. And the flow stops.  

3. You believe that you don’t have anything of real value to offer your clients. So you never really put it out there. Instead, you hold back and avoid sharing your value and the difference you can make. You put a cork in the flow.

4. You believe you don’t have the time to engage in marketing. So you make excuses, and engage in delay tactics and avoidance behaviors. You fail to see that flow doesn’t take any time; your schedule naturally fills with productive activities when the belief in time scarcity drops.  

5. You believe that marketing is an interruption, that it annoys and pressures people. So you hold back, act timidly and unconfident, not ruffling any feathers. When you’re in the flow of marketing, you become naturally attractive, compelling, and magnetic.

These five beliefs (and many more like them) are all impeding the natural flow of your marketing. Fears, doubts, uncertainly, worry, scarcity, small thinking and stress all act as dams or blocks to the flow of marketing.

You don’t have to add to the flow, pump yourself up for more flow, repeat flow-based affirmations, focus intently on the flow, or think positive flow-thoughts. Flow (also know as life) doesn’t need any of that.

It flows just fine by itself. Always has, always will.

But how do you remove the blocks from the flow?

The main thing you do is explore them; notice what they are doing, ask what the cost and payoff of holding onto them is, and realize that they are largely imaginary.

I've found that the best way is to ask some "pithy and powerful questions." 

1. What am I believing that is impeding the flow?

2. Is that belief true and is it working for me?

3. What’s it costing me to hold onto that belief? (Lack of results, avoidance, self-esteem, etc.) 

4. What’s the payoff of identifying with that belief? (Staying comfortable and avoiding any discomfort.)

5. What possibilities (flow) might open up for me if I could no longer hold onto that belief?

What we imagine might happen if we opened to the flow of marketing, in my experience, is much, much worse than anything that ever actually happens. In fact, it’s usually the exact opposite. When we are open to flow, our marketing works out just fine. And you may realize…

1. You can never do anything perfectly. But you can do the best you can with what you’ve got.

2. Rejection is rarely personal – people may just not be interested right now, which makes space for other people.

3. You are inherently valuable. That’s what people are attracted to, not some inauthentic façade.

4. When you notice all the time you spend wasting time, you’ll start to find all the time you need.

5. Marketing isn’t an interruption; it’s an opportunity to connect authentically. That’s exactly what people want.

Keep questioning these limiting beliefs that are stopping your marketing flow and they’ll start to drop away. You’ll start to experience that the natural flow of marketing will take you on a wonderful and exciting journey.

What happens when your marketing flows is that your clients get YOU. What a gift!

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by Robert Middleton

In my recent Marketing Mastery Conference I had one of my former students, Sharon Rich, give a presentation about networking. 

And I think I got more from that one session that anything else in the conference. I'd like to share two big takeaways.  

First, she divided us into 4 groups. Then each group got separate instructions for how to interact as if we were at a networking event, meeting and connecting with each other. 

Each group took on a particular mindset. They were:

1. Trying to get referrals and business from everyone.

2. Trying to give referrals and business to everyone. 

3. Just enjoying yourself and having fun. 

4. Trying to find ways to create collaborations. 

I was in group 2 and I had great fun. I just listened to everyone closely and thought of ways I could provide them with referrals and valuable connections. 

Group #1 tended to alienate everyone with their incessant request for referrals and connections.

Group #3 had fun but really didn't make any valuable connections one way or the other. 

Group #4 made some headway, but they were always trying to set up meetings, perhaps before they really knew much about the person they were talking to. 

My personal insight is that in networking I drift towards #1 and worry if the people I'm talking to are potential clients or not. So I do a lot of prejudging and don't talk to a lot of people. 

I'm a little rusty with in-person networking. 

I realized the most powerful place to be was #2 where I can just get to know the person I'm talking to and see if I can provide ideas, connections, resources etc. But that doesn't mean I can't also send them an article and get them on my list or even follow-up if there's a potential connection. 

The Purpose of Networking

To end the session, Sharon challenged us with the question, "What is the purpose of networking?"

Most people shared some good things such as making valuable connections, developing relationships, being a resource, increasing visibility and credibility, etc. But Sharon had something else in mind. 

Then pow, it hit me. I got it.

The purpose of networking is to grow your network! 

And within that purpose you can do all of those other things. But now you are looking beyond your one-to-one connections. You are looking at creating, building and nurturing a network for the long term, a network that can help sustain your business. 

As Independent Professionals, we tend to be isolated. We are on our own, doing almost everything by ourselves. If we want real success, we need a network we can rely on for support, connections, referrals, ideas and resources. 

And to grow your network you need to do more than attend networking meetings. You can do so much more. 

Everyone is at the center of their own network, even if you belong to various networking groups. Build that network. Introduce people in your network to others. Support your network, nurture it. Reward it. Have fun with it. 

Now think about what you'd do differently if you really got that the purpose of networking is to build your network? I'll bet it's bigger and more exciting than how you usually think of networking!

When I started my business in San Francisco, I went to a lot of networking events with organizations like the SF Chamber of Commerce, professional associations, etc.  

But I also built my own network. I held networking lunches at my office, held twice-a-month business brainstorming meetings, put on large networking events with partners, etc. As a result I got a lot of word-of-mouth business because I was visible and making a contribution.

Later, when my business moved mostly online, I built a big e-mailing list and continued to stay in front of people with my weekly eZine. And then with the More Clients Club, we have a very active online forum where people connect, ask questions and share resources. 

The possibilities for growing your network are everywhere. 

Now I'm interested in building a stronger in-person network here in the Santa Cruz area. Nothing really substitutes for meeting with people face-to-face (as I was reminded at the Conference).

The question for you is, what can you do to build your network? And think long term more than short term. Who do you want to get to know? Who should know about what you're doing? What can you do to get people together and connecting? 

I encourage you to share your ideas on the blog by entering your comments. Also, please share this far and wide to your network via social media!

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By Robert Middleton

This week I'm going to share an article by my colleague, Tad Hargrave. Tad is one of the most perceptive, tuned in marketers out there. And this article, which I read for the first time last week, kind of blew my mind!

I'm going to be sharing more articles by other people on More Clients going forward as there are so many other powerful voices out there who I think you'll really appreciate. In those cases, I'll post just the first part of the article in the eZine and blog with a link back to the original article. 

Polarize by Tad Hargrave

I want to share something that might forever change the way you relate to marketing.

There are only three types of potential clients you will ever experience: responsive, neutral and unresponsive.

• Responsive people will come across your work and light up. They’ll get excited and want to sign up and hire you after learning a little bit about you. They’ll be curious, want to know more and ask you a lot of questions. These people are a ‘yes’ to what you’re up to in your business.

• Neutral people will listen to what you have to say but they won’t react much. They’ll sit there in your workshop politely and take it in. But they won’t sign up for much. They may be cordial and listen respectfully but they for sure won’t seem ‘into it’ like the responsive people do. These people are a ‘maybe’ to what you’re up to in your business.

• Unresponsive people will actively pull away, show disinterest, might even be rude. These people are a ‘no’ to what you’re up to in your business.

And how you deal with each of these three people is different.

The article continues here: Polarize by Tad Hargrave

If you like this article, want to post it on social media or make comments about it, just click on the links below. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

 

In Rolf Dobelli's amazing book, "The Art of Thinking Clearly" he enumerates 99 thinking mistakes we all make and how they affect our lives. 

But it wasn't until the Epilog that I grasped an idea that could change your marketing forever. Dobelli states: 

"We cannot say what brings us success; we can only pin down what blocks or obliterates success. Eliminate the downside, the thinking errors, and the upside will take care of itself. This is all we need to know."

So, in marketing, what are the prime thinking errors? I can find two major ones that greatly impact marketing effectiveness. 

1. We believe our thoughts that tell us that marketing is hard or unpleasant and will lead to rejection. 

2. We do not prepare our opening and closings to marketing communications, and since we are unclear what to say, we avoid saying anything. 

The first one I've been addressing for years: Confront and inquire into those limiting, fearful beliefs and you'll ultimately find there is nothing really there. Nothing is stopping you except your thoughts, and what your thoughts are telling you are not real about 98% of the time. 

The second is just as profound. All marketing is communication. But why do we have such a problem with communicating about our services when everyday communication is easy for most of us?

It's because we're afraid we'll say or write the wrong thing. The error we make is not paying attention to the openings and closing of marketing communication. If we get those right, the rest of the communication is relatively easy. 

We can stop worrying about getting it ALL right. We never will get it perfect, but we can still get our marketing to work if we concentrate on those openings and closings. 

Let's look at these in various areas of marketing

In-person marketing conversations

All you need to do is to say something interesting enough to get a response. You don't need to say everything about your business when someone asks you what you do. I've shared this formula many times:

"I work with these kind of people/companies who have this issue or want this result."

Take some time to develop that simple message and make sure you are grounded in it, that every word means something. Then when they respond, you can explain in more depth. Don't worry about explaining everything perfectly, just don't blow your opening line!

And if the other person is showing some interest, learn how to close the conversation by asking if you can give them something:

"I've written an article on this topic. Can I send you a copy?" 

Almost everyone will say yes and you've set up the conversation to lead to a follow-up call. 

Can you learn and master these openings and closings? Of course you can. And if you do, the rest of the conversation will flow more easily than you think.   

Making Follow-up calls

OK, now that you've met someone (either through this in-person meeting), or after a talk or a referral from a client, etc., it's your job to follow up. Everyone resists this. Why? Because they don't know what to say to open the conversation. Try this:

"Hi, this is James Hudson, we talked a couple days ago at the Chamber of Commerce meeting and I sent you an article. I wanted to find out more about your business. Is this a good time to talk?"

The rest is relatively easy: Ask them some questions about their business or their situation. Get a sense of whether they have a need and an interest in your professional services. If no, thank them and move on. If yes, suggest a next meeting:

"From everything we've talked about, it sounds like I could help you get better results with X. I'd like to talk with you in more depth. Can I suggest a more in-depth strategy session to learn more about your situation, goals and challenges? How does that sound to you?"

Writing marketing materials and articles

When faced with a blank screen, it can be hard to know where to start. Always start with your target market and an issue they are familiar with. This gets immediate attention and interest.

"If you manage a team, you know the challenges of pointing everyone in the right direction and getting things done. But what do you do when one or more team members are not cooperating?"

By setting up a scenario like this that is familiar to them, your readers will be instantly drawn in. Then write more about the challenges before you outline your tactics to getting their teams aligned. 

To close the article, summarize the key points and invite the reader to find out more and get your report on your website.   

Giving a talk, teleclass or webinar

You can open a talk, class or webinar in much the same way. Open with an issue that is troubling your audience. Build immediate rapport by talking about their situation and challenges and then make the bulk of your presentation about what they can do to overcome those challenges. 

In your closing, ask for the participants' cards and follow up with more information after the talk. 

Interacting on Social media

If you join a group on social media such as Facebook or linked in, don't start posting a lot of information and directing people to your website. This just feels like spam. Instead, jump into discussions and offer your perspective and resources. Start threads that will get conversations going. 

Ultimately this can lead to valuable connections that can actually go somewhere, because you've built a favorable impression and a degree of trust. 

Create, deliver and fine-tune your openings and closings

Again, where I see Independent Professionals making the most mistakes is with their openings and closings. They are unclear about what to say and are worried about being judged or rejected. 

Think about how you'd like to be approached. Wouldn't you want direct and simple communication that had no hidden agendas? 

The first step is to sit down and actually script out these openings. Practice them out loud until they come naturally and easily. Get some feedback from a friend or associate. Don't worry about being perfect!

Before long, you'll start seeing marketing as an opportunity to make connections that turn into real opportunities for new business.

If you'd like to comment on this article or share it on social media, just click here for the More Clients Blog: http://actionplan.com/490-opening-closing

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By Robert Middleton - Action Plan Marketing

It can be a lot of work to get the attention and interest of a prospective client. It takes time and effort to put out the word about your services, to say nothing of getting a qualified lead.

The purpose of all your networking, speaking, social media and content marketing is to generate qualified leads, people who may pay us for our professional services. 

The truth is, when many Independent Professionals get a lead through all their marketing labors they don't know what to do with that lead. If you are successful at consistently converting leads into paying clients, you are in the minority. 

First of all, why is this? and second, what do you need to do to more consistently convert leads into paying clients?  

The first reason we don't convert more leads into paying clients is because we are taken over by irrational fears that something bad will happen to us if we stoop so low as to convince or persuade someone to do something! We might be rejected or say the wrong thing and make a fool of ourselves.

We don't want to be seen as pushy or manipulative. So instead, we go into "passive mode" where we expect the lead to contact us, ready and willing to pay us their hard-earned money without any effort on our part. 

This isn't speculation, but comes from observation of hundreds of clients I've worked with over the years. They are so petrified of asking for a prospect to do something, that they wait for the prospect to ask them!

So, relax, it's not all that bad. In fact, it's pretty easy if you know what to do and follow a process. This helps reduce those fears and builds confidence. 

In a nutshell here are the things you want to do when you get a lead. The lead can come from almost anywhere, from a contact at a networking event, from a speaking engagement, from someone responding to your website or social media, or from a referral.

This is what I've been coaching my clients to do for years and it works very well. 

1. Contact the person as quickly as possible. That day or the next day, if you can. Obviously not a problem if they contact you, but often you're the one with the card, the name and the email. 

This is not a sales call. You are following up to see if the lead is real and qualified. I'll often call, and then if these person is not in, I'll leave both a voicemail message and an email message to cover all the bases. 

Suggest a few times you could talk. Make it easy for them to say yes to one of those times instead of them having to get back to you with times. And keep trying until you ultimately get a response.

When do you give up? Well after trying 5 or 6 times and they don't get back to you, you should get the hint they aren't interested. But definitely try a few times. Everyone is busy, and fitting in a conversation with you may not be their highest priority that day. Don't take it personally!

2. When you get the person on the phone let them know why you are calling. 

"Hi Jonathan, we connected at the ABC Business Conference last week and you showed some interest in my services. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?" 

"The thing we talked about was the issue of giving feedback to employees and how doing it more effectively can lead to great gains in productivity. How much are bad feedback practices an issue in your company?"

Mostly, you want to ask questions and avoid pitching your services. After all, you don't know exactly how you can help them yet. But if the conversation goes well, and they are showing interest and have a need, you want to suggest another meeting. 

3. What I usually recommend is making a suggestion like the following: 

"Jonathan, from what you've told me, the issues around employee feedback could really be hurting your productivity. What I'd suggest at this point would be a more in-depth conversation that I call a 'Productivity Strategy Session.'

"In this session I'd like to find out more about your situation, your goals and your challenges and then if I think I can help you, I'll let you know more about how my services work. How does that sound?"

If the initial conversation has gone well, there's a very good chance they'll set up a strategy session. A strategy session is also called a selling conversation. 

4. Next, you want to give the prospect some information and something to do before your meeting. 

I suggest that you send some materials about your services, either in the form of a pdf or a page on your website. The point is that you want them to know something about you and how you work and help your clients before that meeting. This tends to make the meeting shorter and speeds up the sales cycle. 

Ask them to read this material before you meet and also ask them to fill out a short questionnaire. The material about you educates them about you, the questionnaire educates you about them. 

On the questionnaire (which can be online, or sent as an attachment or in the body of the email), ask the questions that would help you know if this was an ideal client or not. Don't make it too long or complex or they won't fill it out. But try to get some ideas about the challenges they are facing in the areas you help your clients with. 

5. Finally, send a reminder email a day or two before the meeting and remind them to both read the material you sent and to send back the questionnaire. If they fail to do both, consider pushing the appointment day forward. Some people will set up a meeting out of politeness, not from interest. If that happens, you probably rushed the first appointment and didn't connect as well as you could have. 

That's it! The next part is the strategy session itself. I've covered that before in this space and will no doubt cover it again in the future.  

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 Kim Nicol

This guest article by Kim Nicol was originally posted on LinkedIn. I asked her permission to post it. Kim is a meditation teacher in Silicon Valley and you can find her website here

As an introvert, the idea of networking is about as appealing as getting a root canal. In fact, a root canal would be better because I wouldn't have to talk to anyone. Superficial chit-chat, the sense of being sized up and evaluated, and the weird transactional feeling that I've experienced at networking events is unpalatable to me. It's no surprise I struggled with networking for years.

And then things changed. It happened while reading The Education of Millionaires, by Michael Ellsberg. He's a wonderful story teller, and in the course of reading his book it became clear that he was also masterful at building relationships with remarkable people. At some point as I was reading his book, a tiny light switch flipped in my mind:

Oh, so instead of networking, I can just build relationships with people?

The article continues on LinkedIn here

Please feel free to comment on the article here or on LinkedIn. Thanks for a great article, Kim!

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best, it is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us nothing we do will ever be good enough." – Julia Cameron

That about sums up what I want to talk about today in More Clients, but let me take a few more words to make a solid argument for what Julia has so eloquently stated.  

I've noticed in my clients (and myself) that we tend to strive for perfectionism. You may as well. Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

You're working on developing a marketing message and it never seems quite right. You study the information on how to develop a message and you write it out. But you're not sure if it hits the right note to get you the attention you want. No matter what you try, it misses the mark. Three months (or six months or a year) later you still don't have your message. 

You're working on developing your website. You have a pretty good outline and you've found a designer to work with, but the process is agonizing. None of your pages seem to look as good or convey your ideas as well as your competitors. You keep working on it for months but are never entirely satisfied. 

You've developed a marketing strategy to speak at professional organizations. But before you contact anyone, you work on your "speaker's kit," the email letter you'll send out, and the script you'll use when you get someone on the phone. And it all looks pretty good, except… you never get around to making those calls because something's "not quite right yet."  

So much delay and avoidance is based on perfectionism.

Here's exactly how perfectionism works:

Perfectionism was born inside you when you kept getting messages from parents, teachers and peers that what you were doing was never quite good enough. Maybe you got it from a biography of a famous person who persevered through tremendous difficulty. 

In any case, you decided somewhere along the way that striving to be perfect in everything you did (or at least in some things) was a pretty good idea. The belief was formed unconsciously: "I need to be perfect. I must be perfect."

And when you did a really good job at something or you got better grades, you got approval and love. Working at being perfect was really working well for you! And later in life it helped you get a better job and make more money and experience more success. 

What's not to like about perfectionism?

Well, nothing really, except that it turned you into a royal pain in the ass. The more you strived to be perfect at everything, it became obvious that it exacted a huge cost. It took a ridiculous amount of time and effort. Is was stressful and overwhelming. And there was never any end in sight. 

Not being satisfied in making yourself perfect, you expanded the game: Your work had to be perfect, your children had to be perfect, your husband or wife had to be perfect and your house had to be a perfect.  

And whenever something was not perfect? Well, you were not a happy camper, not one little bit. You got upset, you got impatient and angry. But it was never your fault. It was everyone else who didn't have the same standards of perfection. 

And, of course, if you couldn't make something perfect, you just abandoned it. 

This is what I often see in my clients. They had a more controlled life when they worked for a company. They knew what was expected. Then when they become self-employed they had to shoulder 100% of the burden. Perfection became logistically impossible. So better to give up than do something imperfectly. 

It can be a pretty hard fall from thinking you control everything to feeling out-of-control. 

So, you ask, what's the solution to this?

Good question. The first is to really understand that nothing can ever be perfect. Nothing. Never. Ever. Even if you think it's perfect, someone else will find fault sooner or later. It's a game you are destined to loose. 

You need to change the game from striving for perfection to striving for excellence.

Perfectionism: Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. 

Excellence: The quality of being outstanding or extremely good. 

Now there's definitely some overlap here. A perfectionist is often outstanding or extremely good. But someone who goes for excellence knows perfection is impossible so they go for doing the best they possibly can.

This subtle difference makes ALL the difference.

When you go for excellence, your motivation is very different. Just doing the best you can is a reward in itself. You are more likely to put in the time and effort to do it well because you love doing it. You're not seeking love or approval from outside yourself.  

And you're not judging others and demanding that they strive for what you strive for. You understand that someone else might have a different focus and interest. But if someone works for you, you find that interest and encourage them to develop it as fully as possible. 

"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business." – Michael J. Fox

OK, back to all those marketing activities you abandoned because you couldn't find a perfect way to do them. Just do the best you can and move on. There's nothing saying you can't fine-tune and improve things over time. 

Instead of getting my marketing message perfect on paper, I went out and practiced it at networking events. When I got a good response, I knew I was on the right track. 

Instead of designing a perfect website the first time, I did the best I could and kept improving it. Seventeen years later I'm still tweaking it. It will never be perfect. But it still works. 

Every time I create a marketing plan, I think of it as an experiment. My situation is dynamically different than everyone else. So I learn what I can and try my best. Some of my plans have produced incredible results, but none have been perfect. 

Are you willing to let go of perfection? 

Look, it's really not getting you to where you want to go. It's only making you feel overwhelmed and stressed. You can still apply your talents and abilities to every marketing activity; you can work at making things better over time. 

But when you go for excellence, you can be satisfied and fulfilled every day instead of someday.  

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit that includes four valuable articles on specific ways to get better results with your marketing. 

 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I remember that day in my office in Palo Alto in 2000 very well. I had just launched my e-book, The InfoGuru Marketing Manual, and orders were pouring in. 

Nothing in my business was ever the same after that.

Three years earlier I had started to publish this weekly ezine, More Clients, and with a lot of hard work and some good luck I had built my e-list to about 6,000 subscribers. Those days ezines were not so common and the demand for information on marketing professional services was high. 

Three years later I had a brilliant thought: "Why not write a book about marketing and offer it to those on my list? I might sell a few copies."

To develop the content I put on a small 12-week workshop on marketing, covering all the main concepts, strategies and techniques. I held it in my Palo Alto office with 8 participants. 

Each week, I wrote up the material for that session. Looking back, I'm not sure if it would have gotten written if I hadn't had that weekly deadline. But 12 weeks later I had a rough draft that formed the core of the book. 

Then I buckled down, added more material, expanded it to 24 chapters, added an appendix with samples, got some editing help, and a few months later had a "decent first edition."

My plan was to only make this an e-book. In fact, the book was actually published as a stand-alone website. Each page of the site was a chapter. And I also added some mp3 recordings and other bonuses, even a discussion group. 

I then took what felt like hundreds of hours writing the sale letter for the manual. I got the help of a very good copywriter who happened to be a friend and who donated his time for free. 

In the first week I sold maybe 20 copies. 

But then something interesting happened. The very first person to order asked if he could get a hard copy. And being the obliging soul that I am, I said yes. 

It was quite a feat printing out all the pages from the website, and taking them to the copy shop and getting them collated into a big binder. 

When I announced that I now had hard copies available, sales exploded. 

For the first few months, I assembled the binders myself and shipped them out. I remember that breakthrough day when I had dozens of binders stacked up in the office with more orders coming in every day. 

Finally, I hired an assistant to do all the packaging and mailing. And then not long after that I hired a designer to format the manual in a page-layout program. She designed a cover and I published it as a spiral-bound book. We also had a pdf copy available.

I'd order 100 copies at a time from the same copy shop in Palo Alto, so I was never burdened with a lot of inventory. 

Sales continued not for a few months, but for several years. 

For many months, my manual sales were regularly $10K or more. But I didn't stop there. I learned the art of bundling. I would sell the manual with a set of CDs. And then I created the WebSite ToolKit and bundled it with the manual. I never stopped working on ways to package it.  

My average price for the manual over several years was $59 and most of that was profit. When you publish a standard book with a publisher, you make $1 or 2 per book. So the difference is significant.

I recently learned that the average business book only sells about 5,000 copies. So that's $5,000 to $10,00 to the author. And remember, books are sold through several channels, from bookstores to Amazon. 

I only had one channel - my website. And over about a 7-year period I sold about 10,000 copies and made close to $600K.

But that's not the end of the story.

In 2003, after I'd moved to Boulder Creek from Palo Alto, I started to offer group teleconference programs, The Marketing Action Groups. I offered three and six-month programs. 

What got my attention is that almost everyone who signed up for a program had previously bought the InfoGuru Manual. They liked what they'd gotten and wanted more. 

To this day I continue to offer these programs (now 9-months long) and fill them every time. The ezine, plus the manual has created an unstoppable momentum. 

In 2009 I stopped the publication of the manual and added it as a bonus to membership in the More Clients Club. The Club, now in its sixth year, has hundreds of members and generates a substantial monthly income. 

So, is there a system here you can follow to generate hundreds of thousands in sales with an e-book of your own? And will I be offering a course to teach you how to do it?

The answers are no and no.

Why? because what I offered was unique; my situation would be hard to duplicate. I don't even think I could replicate this! But I can share some ideas that will help you if you want to go the route of publishing your e-book or other program online. 

1. Build your list. Make it a priority. Fine tune your website so that visitors opt-in on your home page. Do talks to build your list and get new subscribers. Write lots of articles and get them published in places that get a lot of traffic. Write a regular ezine and blog. Study the principles of content marketing. 

2. Write more than an e-book or a book. Write something that is comprehensive and hands-on, something your readers can use and apply right away. Give it an interesting name. I came up with the word InfoGuru in the shower one day. It's a made-up word, but it worked because it didn't sound like anything else. 

3. Take control of your website. Get a good designer, but master the process of making updates, adding pages, managing your shopping cart, etc. I still work on my website almost every day. When I want to add a promotion, I can write and format it in 90 minutes or less. You need that kind of flexibility. Or find someone who can do it for you quickly and affordably. 

4. Make videos. This is not something I did and that was my biggest mistake. Videos can give prospects an experience of who you are and what you do. Videos are much more compelling than written copy. I'm now in the process of making several videos and it will be a cornerstone of my marketing moving forward. 

Sure, there are a hundred more things you can do, but those are central to online marketing. Social media, affiliates, landing pages, autoresponders and a lot of other tools will accelerate your progress. 

I rarely recommend books in this eZine, but there is one I highly recommend if you want to have success with online marketing. It's called "Launch" by Jeff Walker. He teaches the most successful system for online marketing I have seen. I wish he'd been around in 2000, but I've studied his work since and it's brilliant. You can get it on Amazon and it covers most of what's in his $2,000 course. 

I wish you all the success in your online marketing. It can be quite an exciting ride!

If you'd like to comment on this article or share it on social media, just click below.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Sam Harris, author and famous atheist, has taken a firm stand against the dangers of fundamentalist religions. He asserts that they are not only delusional, but harmful to both individuals and society. 

On the extremes, the hate-cult of Westboro Baptist Church and the suicide bombings by Islamist extremists come to mind. Any time people are so blinded by belief that almost any means justify the ends, trouble can't be too far behind. 

But I think railing against such fundamentalism is an incredibly hard task. It's not easy to change the minds of extremists whose faith is deeply ingrained and supported by communities of like-minded individuals.

Anti Marketing Fundamentalism

I'd like to suggest that a problem closer to home might be a better place to start. The place where I put my energies is on what I call "Anti Marketing Fundamentalist Beliefs."

Independent Professionals are particularly susceptible to such beliefs. And perhaps the most harmful and soul-sucking belief that so many have succumbed to is: 

"Marketing Must Be Avoided at All Costs"

This fanatical belief is worshiped far and wide by Independent Professionals and seems to have an all-consuming controlling power when it comes to marketing their professional services. 

There are many spin-off beliefs to this core belief and I thought I'd outline several of them here so that you can be aware of them before they take control of your marketing and business. 

Hopefully you'll recognize some of the symptoms and costs of these beliefs.  

I'm Not the Marketing Type

This conviction, common amongst Independent Professionals, asserts that there actually is a "marketing type." Yet none has ever been found. Young or old people, professionals, creative people and nerds have all had success with marketing. There is no one type of person who can't learn how to market successfully. But if you believe it, your marketing is doomed. 

I Don't Have the Time

Time studies have been conducted with professionals, business owners, executives and line workers. The astounding conclusion is that everyone has exactly the same amount of time given to them each day, 24 hrs. The fanatic belief in this doctrine prevents people from proactively managing projects, planning schedules and letting go of lame excuses. But notice how easily the words fall from your lips, putting you in a downward spiral of avoidance. 

Marketing and Selling Are Hard

This belief is hard-wired in its adherents since grade school. Every mother and father warns their children of the evils of marketing and selling. Yet extensive field trials have proven that "marketing hardness" is a superstition. Marketing simply involves learning a series of practices and disciplines that take some time and effort to master, like everything else that's worthwhile. 

Nobody Will be Interested

This article of faith is triggered when the first person you talk to about your business isn't wildly excited about your offerings. This obviously proves that nobody at any time and in any place will ever be interested. So what's the use? This delusion results in hiding, playing small and the inability to pick up telephones. 

Marketing Won't Work for "My" Business

This nuanced belief stops any productive marketing activity in its tracks. After all, it's conceded that marketing might, in fact, work for others, but not for me. Those who hold onto this notion argue that their business it too unique, complex or "special" that they would never stoop to actually trying to communicate clearly about its benefits and value. 

I Don't Want to Be Pushy

The true believers of this sentiment imagine themselves as paragons of virtue. They would never willingly burden others with information about their business, let alone follow-up with someone who actually showed some interest. They firmly hold onto the practice of "waiting until someone calls me," until the fateful day that they go out of business.   

Good Marketers are Jerks

Marketing is seen as humiliating and degrading, practiced by jerks, hypesters and con-men. So heaven forbid that that their good name and reputation would ever be sullied by the practices of an effective marketer. Better to fumble along incompetently with marketing and be seen as a "nice person" than actually develop real marketing skills. 

The bad news is that these seven doctrines of Marketing Avoidance are only scratching the surface. The number of insidious beliefs about marketing are multiplying daily. 

These ones are also regarded as gospel by many Independent Professionals: 

I Have to Know What to Do Before I Start

Nobody Reads Anything Anymore Anyway

Social Media is The Only Way to Go

Videos Can't Be More Than 2 Minutes Long

Nobody Opens Their Email These Days

Of course, all of these doctrines, beliefs, credos and articles of faith bow down to the god of "Avoid Marketing at All Costs, It Might Hurt You."

Action Plan Marketing is making a firm stand against these irrational fundamentalists beliefs about the supposed evils of marketing. We go the extra mile to prove that these beliefs are false and soul-destroying. 

We have solid scientific evidence that marketing is good for your business, builds self-esteem, attracts your ideal clients and enhances your reputation as an Independent Professional. 

The fight isn't easy, but someone's got to do it!

If you were offended with this article in any way, I want to assure you that it is your choice to continue to avoid marketing if it makes you feel good. Just don't expect any miracles. 

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog and on social media at the links below. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit that includes four valuable articles on specific ways to get better results with your marketing. 

 

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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