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.
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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?
Please feel free to comment on the article here or on LinkedIn. Thanks for a great article, Kim!
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.
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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!
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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.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
What do you do after you've met a prospective client at a networking or social event? What do you do after giving a presentation to a business group and collect several cards? And what do you do if someone suggests you call an associate about your services?
Well, you follow-up, of course!
But what do you say on that follow-up call that can turn this new prospect into a new client?
Knowing what to do and what to say is one of the most important skills you can master as an Independent Professional. After all, it's not likely you'll get many prospects calling you out the blue saying they are ready to work with you today (and money is no object)!
No, you need to engage this prospect in a conversation that leads to a sale of your professional services. And this is how you do that.
First of all, the purpose of the follow-up call is not to make a sale.
The purpose of the call is to set up an appointment for a selling conversation. And if you can do that successfully, you'll dramatically increase the chances that the prospect will become a client - if you do it right!
The Follow-Up Call Process
1. When you reach the prospect, introduce yourself: "Hi Janet, this is Richard Bell, we met at the Chamber of Commerce two days ago and you had expressed some interest in increasing productivity in your organization. Is this a good time to talk for a minute?"
2. State the purpose of your call: "Janet when we talked at the chamber about productivity, you mentioned that productivity could be better in your company. Can you tell me a little more about your company and some of the issues around productivity?"
This is a non-threatening way to start a conversation. You are not pitching your services, but finding more about the prospect's situation and needs. You want to ask a few key questions to learn if this is a qualified prospect or not.
3. Here are some questions you can ask: "How long have these productivity issues been going on? What have you done to address these issues? What has worked and what hasn't worked? Do you think things are likely to change? What is the cost to you of these productivity issues?"
You want to bring out the pain your prospect is experiencing without being too heavy-handed about it. It's simply a low key conversation where you are showing real interest and concern.
4. Next ask what she would like things to be like: "If you had more productivity in your company, what would that look like? How would things be different? Tell me more about that. What would be the big payoff for increased productivity?"
The first questions were about the past and present and what is not working. The second set of questions is about the future, what they'd like things to be like. Ultimately people get interested because things are not working, but they buy the outcome or the future you can help them realize.
5. Next, give her hope that change is possible: "Janet, from everything you've told me, I think it's very realistic to increase productivity in your company. I've worked with hundreds of companies very similar to yours who were experiencing many of the same issues."
Note that you are not pitching your services. You are simply giving some hope that their situation can improve and that you have helped other in similar situations improve.
6. Then make an offer to explore further: "I'm pretty sure I could help you with your productivity issues, but I'd have to have a more in-depth meeting and find out more. What I'd like to offer you is a complimentary Productivity Strategy Session where I analyze your productivity issues and then explain the ways I might be able to help you.
Notice that this is all low-key. No pressure, so no resistance. All you want to do is talk in more depth. You might do this by phone or you might do this in person, depending on your business.
7. Finally, close for the Strategy Session: "So how does that sound to you, Janet? Could we find a time to meet in the next week or two?" And then answer any questions she might have about what you'll do in a strategy session.
What you'll do is: 1. Find out a little more about her situation, 2. discuss the goals she has for her company, 3. Learn about any challenges she may have about reaching these goals, 4. Explain how your services work if you think you can help her.
One reason you may have so much trouble with follow-up calls is that you think of them as "selling calls" where you need to convince the person to buy your services. But no selling is happening on this call. You are simply connecting and seeing if there is an issue where you might be able to help.
During this call you might use a story or two that relates to their current issues: "Well, what you're saying is not that unusual; I worked with a client recently where they had exactly the same productivity issue. The good news is that it's easier to solve than you think if you understand the motivation of your employees. Now tell me about…"
Ultimately, the purpose of this call is to set up a "Strategy Session" and you'll only do that if you are showing real interest and don't jump ahead of yourself trying to get a meeting before you've established a solid connection.
Of course, the success you experience on follow-up calls like this also depends on the situation and needs of your prospect. If they have a legitimate issue, your chances are good for setting up a Strategy Session, however if you really can't identify an issue or anything they want to change, best to end the call and move on to the next follow-up.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
One ordinary day at the beginning of August in 1984 I sat down at my desk on Linda Street in San Francisco and started my business, now Action Plan Marketing.
The very first thing I offered was a one-day workshop called "Dreams into Reality" which was all about goal setting and planning. I led it with about 8 people in my living room.
I soon came out with a time management book called "The Action Planner" that helped small business owners manage time and projects. Then I did many workshops on time management and organization.
It was at these workshops that I got my first clients. They wanted help with their small businesses; I remember I charged $75 per one-hour session.
But I soon found out that small businesses needed a lot more help than with planning and organizing. They needed marketing help more than anything else. So I started studying small business marketing, reading book after book. I think my first one was "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson.
Three hundred or so books and a few years later, I felt I had a pretty firm grasp on what worked and didn't work to market a small business!
And over many, many years I've consulted and coached mostly self-employed businesses to be better marketers. I did workshops, wrote my InfoGuru Marketing Manual, held workshops abound the country and ultimately created my online programs and teleconference programs.
This email newsletter was launched in 1997, so with about 50 articles a year, that's about 800 articles written and posted. My business is still going strong with the More Clients Club, the Marketing Action Groups and private coaching sessions.
My work has touched over 100,000 people in 30 years.
As you may know, for many years I've focused my attention on two main things: The strategies and techniques of effective marketing and methods to get past the inevitable "marketing stuckness" that most Independent Professionals experience.
Most people realize that if they only would implement a small amount of what they already know, their marketing would be much more successful. After a certain point, learning more and more techniques has diminishing returns.
However, learning how to get past avoidance, limiting beliefs and other forms of stuckness seems to have increasing benefits. The more you work with transforming your mindset, the better results you get and the more fun and fulfillment you experience.
My 30th Anniversary has re-ignited my commitment to help even more Independent Professionals bring their gifts into the world through effective marketing and breaking through their barriers.
So I'm launching a new project to that end.
It's called the "Beyond Avoidance Project" and it will include the following:
Beyond Avoidance Surveys and Research
A Beyond Avoidance Website - Up in a month or two.
A book titled “Beyond Avoidance” - writing completed by the end of August
Beyond Avoidance Videos
A Beyond Avoidance Blog and eZine
A book launch program next spring
A Marketing Action Group: Beyond Avoidance program next year
Beyond Avoidance workshops
Beyond Avoidance Coaching Sessions
I'm in the process of writing, planning and organizing all of this to get things off the ground as soon as possible. I'll keep you posted as things come together.
Meanwhile, my current Action Plan Marketing business will continue as usual.
Specials Every Thursday This Month
To celebrate my 30th Anniversary month, I'm going to offer specials every Thursday of this month, starting August 7. Watch for my emails.
Finally, I want to thank you, my subscribers, my customers and my clients for making Action Plan Marketing the incredible success it's been these past 30 years.
It's been quite a journey. I don't know if I'll have 30 more, but as long as I can write an article and help an Independent Professional take the next successful step in promoting their services, I'll be here.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
If you had only one choice to help you improve your marketing effectiveness, which one of the below two options would you choose?
1. Understanding more about marketing, about strategies and techniques I can use to get more clients.
2. Getting past my avoidance, fears and aversions to marketing. Becoming confident about marketing myself.
I sent this question to the members of my More Clients Club last week and asked them to answer on a SurveyMonkey survey.
The results? You may (or may not) be surprised.
#1 got 48% and #2 got 52%
So pretty much a statistical dead heat.
Over the past few years I've put a lot of attention on both of these domains of marketing. However, although they are almost equal in the survey, I'm still convinced that #2 is much more important these days.
Why? Because marketing strategies and techniques can be found quickly and easily almost everywhere.
Want to know how to close more sales, grow your email list, write an ezine or an article, update your website, improve your networking results?
Then just do a Google search. In a nanosecond you'll have dozens of articles on all of these topics. Or check on Amazon and you'll find several books, not just on overall marketing for your business, but books on all those specific topics.
This wasn't so true twenty or even ten years ago. But now the "cat is out of the bag" and just about any information you need to market your services is available, and a lot of it for free.
But if this is true, why doesn't everyone who isn't getting good marketing results, just spend some focused time studying all this information and putting it into action?
Well, of course, more do than ever. More and more, marketing is a do-it-yourself project. And if you need help with some of the technical aspects of marketing such as putting together a website or designing your business identity, you can usually find several very competent and affordable freelancers on elance.com.
But still, the vast majority of Independent Professionals, struggle to some degree with their marketing.
- They don't have a marketing message that's attention-getting
- They are terrible about talking about their business
- Their marketing materials are poorly done and not persuasive
- They do most marketing activities completely randomly
- They resist and avoid follow-up, not to mention selling
But why is this so? All the strategies and techniques for learning and doing the above are right at their fingertips, ready to implement whenever they want. Nothing is hidden. There are no big marketing mysteries anymore.
This is because domains #1 and #2 are completely different.
Domain #1, Strategies and Techniques are all about Information. Information is relatively simple. It works or it doesn't work.
Domain #2, Avoidance, Fears and Aversions impact domain #1 profoundly. So what is simple on paper becomes complex in real life.
Let's take an email newsletter. I've been writing one for about 17 years, so I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter.
Writing is just writing, right? You sit down and you write. And then you send your articles out to your list and post them on your blog. Nothing could be simpler. Everyone can do it!
But when I tell this to clients, very few will just say, "OK, perfect, I'll get started this week!"
No, we make it a lot more complex than that.
You see, when you write an article, it's not like writing in your journal. Other people will see your article. They'll judge your article; they'll judge you and your business.
And that's scary to a lot of people. And then all the objections, doubts and avoidance rear their ugly heads:
"I don't know what to write about."
"I need to spend a lot of time on research"
"I don't think anyone would be interested."
"It takes me forever to write an article."
"Who am I to say I'm an expert on this topic?"
"If I write then people will expect more of me."
I real don't want to intrude on people with an ezine."
But here's the real kicker. Very few people think they are avoiding writing or are resistant to writing. They think that what they're saying is perfectly reasonable.
They believe that if they just have more information about writing and what to write about, and how to write, and knowing how to write better and faster, etc. then writing will be easy and then they'll start their ezine.
And, of course, all of this is pure nonsense!
We are all scared to death of doing something wrong, being ridiculed and rejected. We avoid any chance of failure like the plague and retreat back to being comfortable and safe.
Anyone who's had a breakthrough with writing knows this. They ultimately realize that if they are going to make a difference and help people though their experience and expertise that they need to get beyond their comfort zone.
You can't have both. You can either put yourself out there and do your best, facing possible rejection, or you can sit and stew in your fears, doubts and uncertainty.
Some people finally get this. And when they do, they start utilizing all that information much more intensively. They read articles and books and learn those strategies and techniques and then they move into action, tying and testing everything until they discover what works best.
So ask yourself, are you ready to give up your excuses and get out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to explore your resistance and fears until you can transcend them? Are you committed to making a difference and swinging out there?
But you may soon realize that this isn't as easy as you think. You see, for marketing strategies and techniques, you just need information, but to get past fears resistance and avoidance, you need support.
Get a coach, join a mastermind group, brainstorm with a business colleague, attend a group program. Any and all of these will help you get past your self-imposed limitations and move you out of your comfort zone.
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Every time we avoid something, there is a cost and there is also a payoff.
Understanding your costs and payoffs for avoiding marketing activities can be the key to getting unstuck and moving forward.
First of all, let's establish that you do avoid some marketing activities. If you're not sure, let me prime the pump. Do you avoid any of these?
- Developing a powerful marketing message
- Differentiating yourself from your competitors
- Writing various marketing materials
- Updating your website and/or blog
- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan
- Avoiding networking, speaking, publishing, etc.
- Not following up with interested prospects
- Not perfecting your selling process
If you avoid any of these, there is a pretty obvious cost. The cost is not attracting more of the clients you want. You know that, everyone knows that. Then why don't you take action and start making these happen?
Well, because avoidance has a payoff as well. That is, you get something perceived as beneficial to you when you avoid doing something.
You get to stay in your comfort zone. You know, the zone where there is no risk and nothing bad can happen to you such as possible rejection and failure.
Most of us don't see this cost/payoff dynamic.
Instead, we brush off our avoidance with excuses: "I don't have time, I'll get to it later, it really doesn't matter anyway and what I have is already good enough."
If we are honest and look a little deeper, we all know that we're kidding ourselves. But when we think of doing those things we avoid, we feel an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomachs and we jump into a comfortable activity that makes us forget - browsing the web, hanging out on Facebook, eating, watching TV, to name a few.
I've worked with hundreds of clients over the years and it's never that the marketing is hard; in most cases, it's quite easy. It's that the payoff for not moving into action is stronger than the perceived payoff of acting.
So how can you work with this cost/payoff dynamic and shift from avoidance to action?
Working With the Cost
List all of the things you are avoiding and then write down the specific cost of avoiding doing that thing. Don't be general, be specific.
- Developing a powerful marketing message - That will lead to not getting attention at networking events and finding people who will be interested in my services.
- Writing various marketing materials - If I don't have good written materials such as my website, I can't educate my prospective clients about my services and they won't become paying clients.
OK, now turn these around. Look at the benefits of actually implementing the activities you are avoiding.
- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan - I'll know where I am and what I need to do to attract more clients. I'll be more effective at getting the word out.
- Implementing a speaking plan - I'll get in front of better decision makers and pre-sell them on me and my ideas which will enable me to follow up to offer my services.
Until we have real reasons for doing something and can see the real benefits, we are unlikely to take action.
Working With The Payoff
- Developing a powerful marketing message - This is scary to put myself out like this. I'd rather just stick with my label that I'm a coach instead of sounding like I'm hyping my services. I don't want people to reject me.
- Writing various marketing materials - I'm just not a good writer and it takes a lot of time to write good materials. I don't want to waste my time writing the wrong thing so, I'll just wait and play it safe.
OK, now question these excuses. "Is the payoff of avoidance really more important than the payoff of taking action? Will I really face rejection and ridicule? And so what if not everyone is interested in what I have to offer? If I put myself out there, aren't I more likely to find some people who will be interested?"
By questioning like this, you start to weaken the foundations of your payoff. You might discover that your payoff isn't giving you much value after all. The payoff arose as a way to protect you from harm, but you might start to see that the payoff is actually causing you harm.
By the way, this is much more effective if you write it down. It will have more impact, go deeper and stick for a longer time.
After you've gone through this exercise with one or more marketing activities that you avoid, take a break and let it go and put you're attention on something else.
If you still notice yourself avoiding a certain marketing activity, then do the exercise again. It's like building a new set of muscles. You don't become strong by doing just one push up!
Here are the four steps - Write them all down.
1. Look at the real cost of your avoidance
2. Look at all the benefits of taking action
3. Look at the excuses that drive your payoff
4. Now question the validity of these excuses
After doing this a few times you might notice that when you think of this marketing activity that the immediate response is no longer avoidance. You may find yourself thinking of how you could make this work and imagining all the positive things that could happen as a result of taking action.
Ultimately, when the cost of not taking action becomes stronger than the payoff of not taking action, you automatically start to move into action.
What avoidance will you work on first?
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media at the links below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
These days with all the social media sites for marketing online such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram, do you still need a website?
A website is your second most important online marketing tool. Email is still the first, but I'll get into that later.
Your website is your storefront, your home base, the repository for your blog, information about your services and a public face that can build immediate credibility.
But most websites have major problems that undermine their effectiveness. In this article I'll outline 7 key issues many Independent Professionals have with their websites and simple fixes to not only improve your site but to get better marketing results from your site every day.
1. Design and formatting that pushes readers away
These days there's a whole new wave of website designs done with WordPress. WordPress is great, and the design possibilities are huge, but I've seen so many sites that are hard to read and get into. Here are several things you should do on your site:
- Make your typeface darker. Super-light text looks cool but is hard to read. (can you easily read this?)
- Make your typeface larger. Wider screens with more space can swallow up small text. Use 14 or even 16 pt. text.
- Use larger sub-heads to break up text and put them in color to clearly indicate each section.
- Use bolding of text, usually the first sentence in *most* paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to scan your text.
- Make paragraphs one to three sentences long. Longer paragraphs are harder to read.
- Put spaces between all paragraphs and also bullet-pointed lists. When your text is crowded, it's hard to read.
- Use sufficient white space to "frame" your text so it doesn't feel constricted.
Doing all of the above will immediately make your pages more readable. Remember, if you have great content and nobody reads it, what's the point?
2. Your home page is as clear as mud
If a web visitor doesn't get past your home page, the chance they will ever return is close to zero. There are two purposes for your home page - The first is to give a crystal-clear overview of how your business helps your clients. I'll cover the second in #3.
Here are the content elements every home page should include:
- An attention-getting headline that targets your audience and states either a clear problem or solution.
- An opening paragraph that talks about who your ideal clients are and the key challenges or issues they face.
- A second paragraph that introduces you and outlines the results or solutions (not your process) you help your clients achieve.
- A third paragraph that outlines what your ideal clients need to do to succeed. This might be an approach, methodology or model that you use with your clients.
- A final paragraph that makes a specific call-to-action. And no, it's never to pick up the phone and call you!
Your home page should pass the "Mother Test." Show your home page to your mother. If she says, "Oh, I finally understand what you do," you've passed. If not, try again!
3. Your home page has no way for visitors to opt-in
Most people put up websites and hope they attract new clients. But they fail to do the most important thing you can possibly do on a website: Collect your visitor's name and email address.
Nothing is more important than this. If you have a name and an email, you can follow-up, send an eZine or link to your blog posts. You can promote products and programs. But if you don't have that name and email you can do nothing!
Email marketing is your most powerful online marketing tool, but you can't do email marketing without a list of prospective clients to send emails to!
Every day millions of people visit websites, poke around for a few minutes and then click off, never to return. Ever. This is a crime against marketing!
I won't get into the technology of this, but put an opt-in form (and/or a link to an opt-in page) on your home page for a free report or article and to join your list. Don't worry what you'll send to people on your list yet, but start capturing those names ASAP! My favorite tool for this is AWeber. Click here and get a month for free.
4. Your website is not clear about who your ideal clients are
You can't promote to everyone and anybody. You should have a clearly articulated ideal client. And one of the main purposes of your website is to clearly address their concerns and challenges. It's about them, not you!
I've been to many a website where I poked around for several minutes and learned a lot about what services the business offered, but never understood what market they served.
If you don't say who your services are for, guess what? They are not for me and I'm going elsewhere. As I mentioned above, you can talk about this on your home page, but it should also permeate your site.
For instance, I advocate creating a page about the clients you work with. Show that you understand their specific issues and challenges and assure them that you can help them.
5. Your website is very sketchy about the services you offer
I've seen this so often on websites for Independent Professionals. Under the "Services" navigation button, you see a brief list of services with one or two sentences describing each.
Look, if someone happens to be reading your services page, for a few moments you have a captive audience. Don't you think it would be a good idea to explain your services in some detail? Sure, not everyone will read it, but those who are most interested will.
On the services page explain the following:
- Who your service is for and the problems and challenges your service addresses.
- An overview of what things could be like once those problems and challenges are solved.
- A concise explanation of what your service actually consists of. It is coaching, consulting, training, a program, a combination of these, etc?
- What are all the benefits of this service? What are all the things a client will get as a result of working with you?
- What makes your service or program different from all the other similar services and programs?
- What is the structure and logistics of your service? What happens and when? What do you do and what is the client expected to do?
- A call-to-action. Offer a complimentary session to discuss your service or program with your prospective client.
What I teach my clients to do is to send prospective clients they've met other ways to their services page before they do a complimentary session with them. So even if nobody responds directly from your website, all the information is posted there for your qualified prospects to read.
5. Your "About Us" page is mind-numbingly boring
You see the most generalized fluff about people and their business on an about us page. It could be practically interchangeable with just about any other company:
"We do our level best to optimize the experience and results our clients get from working with us through in-depth engagement and optimized business processes and practices."
No, no, a thousand times no. This means nothing. Instead, tell something about yourself, how you got into this business, why you are passionate about it. Talk about your ups and downs and your discoveries and your breakthroughs.
Invite your prospective clients to join you in the exciting adventure of working with you. And for goodness sake, include a picture of you that shows your personality. People want to see who they'll be working with.
6. You don't have a blog or any interesting content
Guess what people come to a website for above anything else? They come for free stuff! And if you don't give it to them, they won't stick around for long.
Yes, I know writing is hard work. So write more often and you'll get better. I make it easy. Each week I write this email newsletter and send it out to my list, and then I also post it on my blog and announce it via social media.
Get on a regular writing schedule and stick to it. Don't try to find time, make the time. Pick a definite day of the week or the month and write your blog/ezine that day. If you don't have any excuses, ultimately it will get done.
Writing about marketing every week has been the best thing I've ever done for my business. Each week thousands of people read my ideas. And then when I promote something, I have a built-in audience who knows, likes and trusts me.
Business has never been slow since I started writing More Clients in 1997. Seventeen years and about 800 articles later and I'm still at it.
7. You try to do all of this on your own and wonder why it's hard
Get some help. Look, your website can be a substantial investment of time and energy. But once it's done, it's done. It can serve you for years to come (not that you can't update it regularly) and pay off handsomely.
Get a good designer and hire a writer or editor to help you improve your copy. Get a technical person to help optimize your site for search engines and set up your Aweber opt-in form. This stuff can take hundreds of frustrating hours or just a few hours in the hands of an expert.
If you don't know where to find these experts, try Elance.com. They have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of freelancers who can help you with design, editing and the technical aspects of your site, usually at a very reasonable cost. And each one is rated for client satisfaction.
Finally, consider getting the WebSite ToolKit. This is an in-depth tutorial on writing all the content for your site. I guide you step-by-step through every single page of your site, explaining what to include, what not to include, and how to write virtually every word on your site.
It also includes a whole lot of resources, checklists and samples of websites that you can emulate. This article is a brief sample of what's included in the ToolKit.
It will save you dozens, perhaps hundreds of hours of time. Learn more about it at this link.
I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome other comments and ideas of how to make a website even better. Please feel free to add your ideas by clicking on the Comments link, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media.
- The "Big Secret" to Marketing Success
- Attract Clients with Great Answers
- Give Yourself a "Mindset Reset"
- Pumping Marketing Iron
- Marketing Results from Website and Email
- Developing A Bias for Action
- What's Your Big Idea?
- Getting Out There
- Your Service *Is* the Marketing
- Why You're Not Successfully Self-Employed Yet
- Are You Asking the Right Questions?
- Are You Putting Your Prospects in a Box?
- The Keyword Factor for Attracting More Clients
- How to Revive a Struggling Business
- How to Explain What You Do So People Get It
- The Two Big Keys to Marketing Success
- Secrets to Promoting the Promotion
- Conversations That Lead to More Clients
- Renew Yourself with a Vacation or Retreat
- Where to Focus Your Marketing Efforts