By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
A typical interaction with one of my clients: "Robert, the foundation of my marketing is solid, I know my message, and I have a website and some written materials. Now what exactly do I do to get new clients?"
And I reply, "Well, there's the marketing side and the selling side. Before we get started on developing plans and strategies, let me give you the 30,000-foot view of the whole process from beginning to end."
And this is more or less what I tell them:
1. Develop the ideal package of services to sell
What exactly are you selling? Some people say executive coaching, management consulting or crisis therapy. But those are not "service packages" – they are labels and completely intangible.
It's hard for your prospects to buy "executive coaching," but it's easier to buy a "One year Leadership Coaching Program for Executives." See how that's so much more tangible? It's a one-year program and it's for a particular group of business people: Executive Leaders. That's interesting, that's real. And as a result your prospects want to know more.
So I want you to stop labeling yourself, and we'll start developing programs or services that have real value, that are tangible and that have clear outcomes and benefits. Then we'll focus on finding leads for that service.
2. Generate qualified leads from your marketing efforts
Once you've packaged your services, you'll want to generate leads to people who need that service or program. These leads can come from almost anywhere – from networking or public speaking, from emails to your contact list, from social media and from following up with referrals. You want to start with the most viable strategies.
Remember, though, you don't have a lead unless that person is a good potential client for your service or program and he or she either has a problem you can solve or an aspiration you can fulfill. To qualify a prospect you need (at the least), to have a short conversation by phone or an email exchange.
When you have a lead to a prospect, personal connection makes all the difference. When you get a card from networking, from a talk, or a response from your website, reach out immediately by phone or email.
Find out if this person is looking for the solution to a problem or a way to fulfill an aspiration. Ask them, "Are you interested in dramatically increasing the leadership capability in your company?" or "Are you concerned about the productivity of your workers?" If the answer is yes, you have a real, live prospect.
3. Get phone and face-to-face appointments with your prospects
In these first phone calls or email exchanges, you should explore their needs and desires in a little more depth. If they are strong candidates to work with you, you should request a more in-depth meeting: "Based on what we've discussed I think I can help you," you might say. "What I usually do is set up a Marketing Strategy Session to learn more about your business and explain how my services work. How does that sound?"
4. Ask the right questions during the sales conversation
I call these meetings "Strategy Sessions," but the name isn't important. Ultimately, they're sales conversations where you'll discover the prospect's situation, goals and challenges in-depth.
You should think of this meeting as an interview where you ask a lot of questions to get to the truth. But you also want it to feel like a relaxed conversation where you show sincere interest in this prospect and their circumstances. If you can't empathize, they won't trust you enough to work with you.
5. Present your services and solutions during that meeting
Once you've asked all your questions, it's time to explain to the prospect what you do and how your services can help them. Exactly how much you explain depends a lot on whom the prospect is – a large business or one-person entrepreneur, etc.
You want to be organized in presenting this information. First, let them know the ultimate outcome you are going for in your work together. Next, explain the many things you'll focus on to produce those results. And finally, discuss the structure of how your services or programs are delivered.
Then take questions. If you're offering services to small business owners, you often don't need a proposal. You can simply ask them how this program and approach sounds to them. If they like what you've said and can imagine succeeding with you, then talk about your fee and see if they can manage it.
6. Respond effectively to issues or objections
If you're meeting with the owner or other decision-maker of a larger business, you'll probably get tougher questions, and you need to be prepared to answer them. Poor, incomplete or vague answers will loose the sale. Great answers delivered with a lot of confidence increase the chances of a sale.
In fact, you want to welcome questions or objections. It shows your prospects are interested. They're looking for a solution – they just need to figure out if yours is the right one. Never see these questions or objections as an attack, because they're not meant that way.
7. Prepare a written proposal
A larger company will almost always want to see a written summary of your presentation, in the form of a proposal. Essentially, a proposal says, "Here is your situation and here is what you said you wanted to accomplish and here is how you'll know you've succeeded." Then you should outline exactly what you'll do for them to achieve those objectives, plus what they can expect when working with you, and how you'll deliver your services or programs.
The one thing you do not want on this proposal is the price. Why not? Because that's the very first thing prospective clients will look at before anything else. Let them know that this is, "A first draft of the proposal to see if we are both on the same page." Once they've seen the proposal, let them know that you'd like to work together to refine the proposal to make sure the program meets their needs.
When you've gone over the proposal and have come to an agreement about exactly what you'll do, then you can put a price tag on your program.
8. Get the prospect to respond to your proposal
When you don't put a price tag on the initial proposal, there's an incentive to get back to you, to finalize things and get the price quote. This changes the balance of power.
After you offer to prepare a proposal and agree that you'll meet again to get feedback and to fine-tune it, also set the time for the next post-proposal meeting. "Okay, I'll get you the proposal to you by next Tuesday. I'd like to set up the next meeting for the following Wednesday or Thursday. Can we look at our calendars?"
9. Ask the final closing question
There are actually many closes during a selling conversation. These "trial closes" help you understand if you are on the same page or not. They don't have to be manipulative or tricky. After you've asked your questions in the meeting, ask, "Have you told me everything you need so that I'm able to help you?"
After you've explained and presented your services, you can ask, "Based on everything I've explained about my program can you see working with me in this program and succeeding with it?" That's what I call the "close for commitment." If they are not sure, then that's when to ask for questions. If they have no questions, but can't quite see themselves working with you, ask, "What else would you need to know to be confident that this program is for you?"
10. Get paid what you want to be paid
If you have a prospect who says they can see working with you and that they want the results you deliver, it all comes down to price. When working with an individual, you should talk about the price last. With bigger prospects, you'll talk about the price after they're happy with the proposal.
For an individual prospect, this is my close on the price: "The fee for this program is $XXX or $XX per month. Does that work with your budget right now?" They will think and say, "yes, no," or "it depends." Then work out the details, discuss issues about payment, etc. If they really don't have the money and this is the only thing that's standing in the way, there's not much else you can do.
With bigger business prospects, you'll ask a similar question: "Can you fit this program into your budget for training (or coaching or whatever) this year?" They may say yes, but more often they'll say they need to run it past some people. That's fine, but ask them if they can give you an answer by a certain date. They may get back to you with more questions, suggest alternatives, or negotiate the price before the final approval.
It's useful to understand this big picture of the marketing and selling process.
Most Independent Professionals muddle through this process. It takes some time and work to learn how to implement each of these steps successfully. If you do, you'll attract clients faster with less struggle. But if you don't, you may be struggling for a long time to build your business.
In a few weeks, I'll be launching my New Marketing Mastery Program that takes the participants through al of these steps until they are consistently attracting more high-end clients. It starts in mid January 2016. Please look out for my next introductory video conferences about this program. The next one is on October 22. You'll get a notice.
If you'd like to see the Preview video for the New Marketing Mastery Program, just click here: http://apmaudio.com/video/Preview1.mp4
Cheers, Robert M.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Three typical scenarios taken from life:
A young man goes out to dinner with his girlfriend on his birthday. At the end she takes the bill to pay it as her gift to him. But he grabs the bill, saying, "Oh, no you don't. I'm not going to let my wonderful girlfriend pay for dinner!"
A woman stands up in a seminar to ask a question, and the seminar leader is actively engaging her. A few minutes into the interaction the woman says, "I'm sorry, I don't want to take up so much time, let me give someone else a turn."
In working with a coach, a new business owner is encouraged to reach out to her friends and do some brainstorming with them. But she isn't open to the suggestion, "Oh, I don't want bother them," she says, "I'm sure they're all too busy."
In all of these cases, people push away the opportunity to receive a contribution from someone else.
They don't want to be selfish. They don't want to take up time, accept a gift or receive valuable feedback.
But think how that would make the seminar leader, the girlfriend and the friends feel. Would they feel happy that this person deflected their contribution?
Let's look at a very different scenario.
You're with a group of your friends and one of them says, "Hey, my wife and I are going to Rome on a holiday in a couple of months and I know you've all been there. Can you give us a few tips on the best sights and restaurants?"
Would your friends regard this request as selfish and refuse to give him any ideas? Of course not; they would tell him all about their favorite places, tours, food and experiences. In fact, most would go out of their way to help him have the best holiday ever.
We've all experienced this. People want to contribute; indeed, they love to contribute. In fact, most people like to make a contribution to others more than anything else.
Most of us actually like giving a whole lot more than we like getting. It's more fulfilling, more fun, more uplifting.
So here's the $64,000 question:
If making a contribution is the thing people want to do more than anything else, what is the greatest contribution you can make to others?
No, it's not giving them something.
It's allowing others to give something to you, to make a contribution to you.
That's the virtue of enlightened selfishness.
The funny thing is that almost nobody sees this.
If the boyfriend graciously accepted his girlfriend's gift of paying the bill she would be uplifted and happy that she could make her boyfriend happy.
If the seminar participant truly let the seminar leader make the contribution he could make, he'd be fulfilled and she'd get the benefit of his contribution.
If the business owner asked her friends to brainstorm ideas with her, they'd feel valued and honored that she respected them enough to ask.
But more often than not, we're withholding the opportunity for others to contribute to us.
How does this apply to your business?
Don't you want to do everything possible to help your clients be successful? You share ideas, resources, techniques and exercises that will help them. And when you're contributing to them you're probably not even thinking about what they're paying you.
Conversely, one of the greatest things you can do for others is to ask for help. But as an independent professional you may be, well, too independent, and don't want to impose on anyone. You need to get past this.
Now I'm not talking about calling up a friend every day and asking for free advice. Anything can be taken to the extreme. But if you feel you've been going to that well too often you can reward that person in some way. And then you have a win-win, mutually-supportive business relationship.
For years I've done co-coaching with my peers. We meet by phone for an hour or two and brainstorm with each other. We give and we take. And honestly, it's the favorite thing I do in my business. I always get value from these exchanges.
On an online business forum I belong to, I do two things: I ask a lot of questions to get ideas, feedback and resources. And in turn, I answer a lot of questions and make the contribution I can.
I love doing this so much, I can spend more than an hour a day online in this way. I don't worry if any of these exchanges lead to more clients. I get so many good ideas and resources for my business that it doesn't matter.
So I invite you to not only contribute, but to ask others to contribute to you. Last week I invited all my More Clients Subscribers to join the Marketing Club Forum. Ask questions for yourself (I'll often answer them) and share your ideas and resources with others.
It really doesn't get any better than that.
If you haven't joined the forum yet, here's the link:
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Charles Kingsmill, a management consultant in England (and a past client), has a simple strategy for generating ideas, finding resources and getting new ideas for his marketing and business.
He asks a question or starts a conversation on the Marketing Club Forum. And Charles always gets some valuable responses that help him take the next step in his business with a little more confidence, knowing he's not alone and realizing that when he asks, he'll usually find what he wants.
Charles is just one of the 476 members of the Club Forum that has been, up until today, only accessible to my More Clients Club members.
But as of today, I'm inviting ALL of my More Clients subscribers to join as well and start engaging in the conversation. And remember, there is no fee for this service. Just go here:
Here's why I'm opening the Marketing Club Forum to new members
As it happens in all forums and groups, over time, participation starts to diminish. So you visit the forum and there hasn't been a post in several days. And you end up going somewhere else online to connect. But if there are more members, there are more questions, topics and participation.
With a few thousand more Marketing Club Forum members, my intention is to jump-start forum participation, and provide more support, ideas, resources and inspiration for growing your business.
Up to this point (for 17 years, actually) the interaction with my More Clients subscribers has been one way. I write, you read. But I had a powerful insight recently: That's not a community! That's just a soapbox.
So I'm inviting you to join this community and exponentially increase the value you get from your More Clients subscription.
The Possibilities for the Club Forum
• You'll get to connect with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other independent professionals just like you.
• Whenever you have a question, need a resource or just want to share insights, you'll have a safe place to do that.
• You can run marketing and business ideas past forum members and get feedback. And in many cases, I'll chime in personally with my ideas and insights that come from 30 years of working with independent professionals.
• You can explore more deeply with members, and do everything from setting up private conversations to arranging joint ventures.
• One of the best ways to use the forum is to test new marketing ideas, messages, materials and strategies by asking for reactions from fellow members.
The possibilities for connecting like-minded people in a forum like this are virtually unlimited. However there's one thing you can't do in the forum…
And when that happens, conversation stops.
However if someone posts on the forum looking for a resource or service, you are welcome to point them to information on your website if you think you can help them. Or you can PM (Private Message) them if you like.
And if you happen to love someone else's service (whether they are member or not), you are welcome to point fellow forum members to that person's website, blog article, resource, etc.
So, if you'd like to join the Marketing Club Forum, I invite you to join today.
One more thing. The Club Forum is open only to Club Members and subscribers to More Clients. In other words, if you got this email, you are welcome to join the Marketing Club Forum.
If you know someone whom you think could benefit from membership, please direct them here first: http://actionplan.com/free-stuff There they can subscribe to More Clients, get their Marketing Plan Workbook and then be eligible for Forum membership.
Once you join the Marketing Club Forum, please read the Welcome Message at the top of the page, introduce yourself, if you like, and then jump in, participating at whatever level works for you.
Cheers, Robert M.
P.S. Some people don't like Facebook and prefer to do business on LinkedIn. That's fine, but I've found that the Facebook Groups are a better overall platform for interactive discussion. If you don't plan to do anything else on Facebook, that's okay, but I promise you'll get value from being in the Club Forum
P.P.S. if you're reading this blog article and would like to join the Marketing Club Forum Forum, please subscribe to the More Clients eZine first by entering your name and email address in the form at the top left of this page. Thanks!
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
If you've been watching the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, you might be aghast, but you should be fascinated.
Trump came out swinging in his presidential announcement and then doubled down on everything he said in the first Republican debate. The next one is tomorrow (Sept 16). Tune in to CNN.
It seems, no matter what Trump does, he continues to climb in the polls. He’s the only candidate anyone is really talking about.
Ultimately I think Trump may be headed for a point of no return, but it’s also possible he could become the Republican nominee.
Whether or not you approve of his approach or his politics, you have to admit he's doing a few things right. So lets not worry for now about the things that drive you crazy and, instead, outline his 10 brilliant marketing approaches and how you might apply them to your business (minus the sleaze factor).
1. Supreme Confidence
Trump's confidence is over the top. It might be summed up as, "The rest of you are total losers, and I am your only choice, and by the way, I'm rich. Very rich. And smart too. Very smart."
Well, you can still display confidence without being an obnoxious loudmouth. But since you're not a billionaire, you need to have a confidence based on the results you've produced, the difference you've made and the skills you possess. You don't need to compare yourself to anyone else or put anyone down. But you need to give up any stories you have about being inadequate or not good enough. Trump would never do that.
2. Clear and Consistent Talking Points
When Trump speaks he sticks to the same talking points. You know, "immigrants are ra***ts and murderers, (even though Mexicans are great workers), women love me, Jeb Bush has low energy and all other politicians are stupid.”
You may not find these points particularly edifying, but at least he's consistent. And no matter what services you offer, you need to be clear and consistent as well. When someone asks you what you do, be ready to explain whom you work with, how you help them and how you're different. You can't be wishy-washy about your message or prospects will lose confidence in you. In fact, they'll ignore you. Notice that Trump is never ignored.
3. A Phrase That Pays
The motto of the Trump campaign is, "Making America Great Again." And that's not a bad key message. (The only trouble is that we still have no idea how he'll actually go about accomplishing that.)
Your "phrase that pays" needs to be as clear and beneficial. Such as, "We Get You Out of Debt and Build Your Cash Reserves." This can have a large appeal to many people. But you'd better have a workable, tested, step-by-step system that can deliver on the slogan. You just can't make it up as you go, as Trump seems to.
4. Taking on the Competition
Trump never bows to the competition or concedes a point. In fact he goes after anyone who disagrees or goes against him. He demolishes them. So far this seems to be working, so he keeps doing it. Some have learned just to get out of his way or pal up to him like the obsequious Senator Cruz.
You can take on the competition as well, but not with the viscousness of a rabid dog. No, you can clearly point out your differences, what you do better, where you specialize and excel. You can, and should, emphasize why your approach is better, faster or more effective. But you don't need to embarrass yourself when doing so. Leave Trump to that task.
5. Emphasizing your Strengths
Look, Trump does have a lot of strengths. Building a multi-billion dollar empire took hard work, lots of smarts and who knows what else. The strength he keeps coming backs to is his ability to make deals. After all, he wrote the book on it: "The Art of the Deal." However, I'm not sure he could write the book "Win-Win Negotiation."
Do you know your greatest strength? What is it you do very, very well, better than almost anyone you know? Usually it's a skill that you are so familiar with that you’ve ceased to recognize it as a skill. For instance, I discovered my greatest skill is teaching (not marketing) so I spend most of my time teaching my clients how to market effectively. What's your biggest strength?
6. Congruency of Message and Delivery
Trump is full of braggadocio and chutzpah. That's his style. It's more than confidence, it's just the way he is and all his messages reflect that way of being. Notice how many candidates say things that go over like a lead balloon? They have no congruency. But Trump can call prisoners of war "losers" and somehow get away with it. Mind-boggling, isn't it?
What is your style, and is your message congruent with that style? Don't try to come off as someone else. Instead, always be your real self. You know your convictions, and what strategies really work in your business. Well, find a way to stand for those things so that people really believe you and trust you. Another way of saying this is: Find your passion and then live it.
7. Never Apologize
Have you ever heard Trump apologize for anything? No, and you probably never will. He could say the American government is communist-based and would never retract his words. But in some ways this is an admirable trait. He's confident and confident that he's confident and, of course right, about everything.
Should you ever apologize? Well, since you're a human and not perfect, you'll make mistakes. And if they are obvious mistakes that cost something (especially to your clients) you'd better apologize, quickly. But that doesn't mean you should demean yourself like a lowly peasant: "Yes, M'Lord, I truly am the scum of the earth, it will never happen again, or I'll give you my first born child." No, you'd never say that, but sometimes it sounds like it. Man up, admit you made a mistake and move on.
8. Show That You're Wining
This is Trump's biggest hobby and prime campaign strategy. "I just want you to know I'm winning. I'm at the top of the polls, I'm ahead of all those other losers and, of course, I expect to win the presidency. What will I do when I'm president? Well, I'll get to that someday, but right now I'm winning. Praise me please."
You want to let your prospects know you're winning and successful (even if you don't feel quite as successful as you'd like to be). And you show you're winning by having a world-class website, well-written articles, glowing testimonials and specific client success stories. It's not boasting if it's true, but you don't need to make an ass of yourself as you reveal your success with class and understatement.
9. Never Be Too Specific
Trump's campaign is a mile wide and two inches deep. That is, his appeals are broad and easy-to-understand. He's the master of the sound-bite and the memorable (and sometimes shocking) phrase. But scratch any deeper and he has little to say (so far). Look, it may be too early to get into specifics. But later in the campaign he's dead if he keeps glossing everything over.
You shouldn't be too specific about everything either, at least with a first contact. Ever ask someone what they did and half an hour later they stop talking? Not because they've run out of things to say, but because they needed a bathroom break. Economy in words – on your website and in a verbal marketing – is your friend. But when people want to know more, present substance and depth or prospects will lose interest fast.
10. Multiply Word-of-Mouth
Trump is a paradox. The richest man ever to run for the presidency, he hasn't spent a dime yet on TV (or any other) advertising. By doing all of the things mentioned above he gets 10 times the press as all the other candidates combined. If he can keep up that momentum, he just may be unstoppable.
Your most powerful marketing vehicle is also word-of-mouth. It's what others say about you that packs a bigger wallop than anything you can say about yourself. But don't be passive about word-of-mouth, be proactive. That is, get out there and let people see you in action. Some ways that work include speaking in public, publishing an eZine and blog, community service and social media posts that add value. And ask your clients for testimonials. You've worked hard, so make sure you get recognized for that work.
I hope you understand that you can market much like Trump without being Trump. You can apply all the approaches he uses without being an arrogant, self-centered egomaniac. And that my friends, is a very good thing!
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Websites look very different these days from just a few years ago.
The graphics are bigger and bolder. The words are larger and they say more with fewer of them.
Websites – home pages especially – are more fun and alive.
But does this new trend in websites and home pages actually work to grow your business?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It really depends on what you want your website to accomplish.
Do you want it to result in glowing admiration (and perhaps a little envy) from your peers?
Maybe you want it to clearly convey your brand and identity.
Or perhaps you want it to get your visitors to buy from you.
Here's my take:
Website design may have changed a lot over the years.
But some things have not changed. And those are the basic marketing principles of generating attention, interest and action.
If you don't accomplish those, your website, no matter how fancy, is a dud.
What good does it do to have beautiful graphics and words on your website if they don't bring you new clients?
So how do you do that? Two things...
1. Web Graphics and Photos
The purpose of attractive graphics is to get attention. They catch the eye immediately and draw you in. And if you don't get attention, you'll never have a chance to generate interest.
Of course, those web graphics and photos must communicate something visually that represent your business.
So, before anything else, think of your website and home page as a beautiful canvas that's hard to pull your eyes away from.
You may need a designer to help you with this.
2. The Words
Well-written words are there to arouse interest. And to do that you must say something that readers can immediately relate to, something that they care about.
Here's what they care about: themselves, what's it in for them, how you can help them. Period.
You must choose your words carefully. And because attention spans are shorter these days, you need to say more with fewer words. And that can be tricky.
You may need a writer or editor to help you with this.
But let me give you a few guidelines:
Your home page needs only four short paragraphs (of about 40-50 words each). That's really all it takes to generate interest and stimulate action.
Paragraph One: Address exactly who your ideal clients are and what they want but don't have. What is missing for them?
Paragraph Two: Tell them about the outcomes they want and what things could be like when they have those outcomes (without mentioning you or your business yet).
Paragraph Three: Explain the essence of exactly what your business does to get your clients from where they are now to where they want go.
Paragraph Four: Briefly mention your services that produce those results and then offer some free but valuable information (a report, e-book, video, etc.) and invite them to learn more by opting-in.
That's really all you need.
Visitors can read a page like this in 30 seconds to a minute. They will understand your core marketing message and will know immediately what you're about and if you can help them or not.
Don't try to accomplish too much on a home page.
You don't need hype or lengthy information about your approach. You simply need to demonstrate through a few well-chosen words that you have what they want and invite them to learn more.
Since 1996 when I launched my website this is exactly what I've done. Over the years the graphics and words have improved, but the essence has always been the same.
I also realized that the big key was not just to get attention, interest and action on the website but to keep in touch with those who opted in through my weekly eZine.
And ultimately, it's been those subscribers who became the customers of my marketing products, services and programs. It's a system that's proven to work and yet is surprisingly simple.
Cheers, Robert M.
A resource for you. In a few days I'm launching my next three-session Next Level Course on: "Build a Better Website Homepage" where I'll go into these ideas in great depth. The course sessions will be on Sept 15, 22 and 29 at 10 am Pacific. So mark your calendars.
Get my free Marketing Plan Workbook if you subscribe to this weekly eZine and blog, More Clients.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
In each week's More Clients I usually write an article about some aspect of marketing for Independent Professionals. I've been doing this for over 17 years.
But today, all I've been thinking about and planning are two upcoming programs I'm doing in the fall and in the New Year. This eZine isn't so much a promotion for these programs but a brief announcement so you can plan ahead if you want to attend.
I've been putting a lot of thought into topics and formats, but the most exciting development is that I'm making the transition from teleconferences and webinars to video conferences.
These days almost everyone has a computer with a built-in video camera, and the new technology is fast and cheap and easy to use. When I do a program, I'll include a link and you'll just click on it and enter the video conference online.
And instead of a disembodied voice, you'll see me and all the other participants (like the picture above). It's really cool.
Here are those two new programs:
1. The Next Level Programs - Semester Two
In May, June and July we held three 3-session teleconference programs that really zeroed in on important marketing skills.
Program One was on Getting More Done in Less Time
Program Two was on developing a Marketing Message
Program Three was focused on Core Issue Articles
Here's the schedule and topics for the next three Next Level Programs:
Sept 15, 22, 29 - Creating a Powerful Home Page
Oct 13, 20, 27 - Setting Up your eZine Opt-In
Nov 10, 17, 24 - Writing an eZine or Blog Article
These three marketing activities are absolutely essential if you want to increase the effectiveness of your online marketing. Mastering these has enabled me to attract clients and customers from all over the world.
Enrollment in the first program will be open on Sept 3 (next Thursday) so mark your calendars. You'll get an email reminder.
Each program is $49 (for three 90-minute sessions) and free if you happen to be a member of the More Clients Club.
2. The New Marketing Mastery Program
From 2009 through 2012 I conducted an intensive one-year program designed to help participants attract high-end clients and substantially increase their incomes.
The programs were wildly successful, but also exhausting for me. So I took a break from group programs for three years and have been thinking about an up-leveled format since.
I'll be starting the New Marketing Mastery Program in January 2016. Here are some of the things we'll do:
1. Intensive one-to-one Skype coaching sessions - two per month
2. Group coaching sessions twice a month via video conference
3. Access to all More Clients Club Materials
4. Written Marketing systems, checklists, procedures and how-to's
5. A big emphasis on getting unstuck and into action
6. Access to resources for writing and design services
Designed for successful Independent Professionals who still want to take their marketing to a new level of effectiveness and success, this program includes everything I've been thinking and writing about for the past three years.
I'll be sending an announcement in two weeks for an intro Video Conference on September 24.
So please mark your calendars and watch your email for updates. Yes, during this period I'll be sending a few more emails than usual, so please check them out if you're interested and ignore them if you're not.
Cheers, Robert Middleton
If you'd like to share this eZine article with friends or associates, or make comments, just go to the links below.
By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
One success habit I've struggled with for years is getting enough sleep. I developed this bad habit in grade school! I just love staying up late and doing stuff. I read until I can barely turn the page of my book or I nod off reading Polititico news on my iPad.
But often my work suffers because of this.
Today I'm going to give you some great tips on establishing new success habits, but I know from experience that it can be a real challenge.
Mostly it's because we don't want to change, as the old habit seems much more immediately gratifying than the success habit we want to establish.
Nevertheless, here are three things that do work (most of the time). Just don't beat yourself up if you don't get immediate results.
1. Get the Support of a Group or Community
A famous yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, often said, "environment is stronger than will."
If you want to make changes and develop positive habits, a group or community can make all the difference. Trying to make changes and attain success in isolation is very difficult.
And of course, as an Independent Professional you may find yourself isolated working at being successful in your business but experiencing a lot of struggle.
Take advantage of the support of a group if you want to…
• Learn a profession (graduate school)
• Climb Mt. Everest (climbing team)
• Learn business and marketing skills (training course)
• Become a musician (a band)
• Improve your overall business success (support group)
• Generate new ideas (brainstorming group)
With group support, you're not relying solely on your own knowledge and will power. Instead you are surrounded by others who want you to win as well. Get together with people who are committed to success and making a difference, not with those who are committed to complaining.
Look to the success of Meetup.com. There are thousands of groups all over the country gathering to support each other in endless different ways.
Group support doesn't guarantees success, but it certainly makes it a lot easier and way more fun. I've always found that being in a community of support helps me up my game and play my best.
Then take this next step...
2. Get Individual Success Coaching
Coaching is now a verified, proven approach to making changes and developing new success habits. In coaching, the coach and client make a "pact for change." They determine the areas where the client wants to expand, the work required to make those changes, and the challenges they will have to get though to succeed.
Coaches understand that change is difficult. But they also know, that with knowledge and support, change is possible. Coaches are patient, persistent and creative. And they have a toolkit of methods that work to move from tiny steps to big ones until a new habit is formed.
If you belong to a group – and also take individual coaching – you can get results really quickly. In the group program you are challenged to take steps outside of your comfort zone. Then the coaching zeroes in on your specific issues and needs and provides the direction to move forward with more confidence.
If you don't have a coach, you are shortchanging yourself. The cost of a coach is offset by your increase in productivity, results and income.
The final step is to...
3. Create Rituals and Systems
Remember in college how overwhelmed you were with the amount of study it took to pass a test, let alone master the topic? At some point you either surrendered to the necessity of establishing fixed study times and habits – or you decided to wing it.
Winging it didn't work too well, did it?
Kelly St. Claire, on Wisdompreneurs, just posted about writing her blog every week: "I make it an enjoyable ritual. I prepare a special coffee and get up a bit early to have the house to myself. This is a real treat for me. So it helps me be consistent because I look forward to it."
This is very different from making empty promises, trying to "power through" something or making erratic and random attempts that never seem to stick.
To establish a ritual or system here's a simple checklist:
1. Be very clear about what you want to change or what success habit you want to establish. And start with something small.
2. Write down what it would look like once that habit was established. What would you be doing differently?
3. Imagine or visualize what it would feel like if you were doing this success habit consistently, and also visualize how it would feel to get the results that came from this habit.
4. Now design your ritual or system. For instance: I will do these exercises every morning by 8:30 a.m. I will do this and that, etc. Again, keep it simple. A few steps, not 50!
5. Tell your group and/or your coach about your new success ritual or system and welcome their input and ideas.
6. If necessary, work on exploring the limiting beliefs that might hold you back from doing this. (see The Unstuck Process)
7. Set up a reward or celebration for benchmarks on the way to establishing this habit. I.e., the first month, 6 months, 1 year.
By the way, I just reached the three-month milestone for doing my back stretching exercises that's made a huge difference to my overall well-being. I can't NOT do them anymore.
8. Don't try to tackle several new habits at once. That's a set-up for failure. Add another one when your new habit is firmly established and you can't imagine living without it.
9. Realize that the habit of establishing new success habits could be the most powerful success habit of all. So create a ritual for sitting down and following the steps above on a regular schedule.
OK, time for action! What is the first success habit you'll pick?
Cheers, Robert Middleton
P.S. Note to self: Take these steps with my bad sleeping habits.
P.P.S. I'm sure some people will send me some tips about this! Please put them on the blog, OK?
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
A few months ago my wife, Saroj, bought our granddaughter a big white ceramic piggy bank. We keep it at home, and every week when Saroj visits Collette, she brings the piggy bank and some collected change for Collette to deposit.
Collette loves putting money into the piggy bank and she also associates it with the pleasure she gets from her grandmother visiting.
This is a great example of cultivating the positive habit of saving early in life.
But when Saroj tried the equivalent with me about 20 years ago, in the first year of our marriage, she faced some real resistance. She said she wanted to start moving some of our income into investments.
I almost had a meltdown.
Why? Because I had never developed the habit of saving or investing and I felt threatened. It took some time and persuasion to get me into the investment habit. But now, 20 years later, we have a big nest egg for retirement.
Those are two ways to develop a success habit.
Obviously it's easier early in life. With a little support and encouragement you can learn virtually anything without a great deal of resistance. But that's too late for us, isn't it?
It's much harder later in life to learn a new success habit. We are set in our ways, afraid of change and often don't have someone who can provide consistent support until a change is made.
Last week, I came across a chart (below) that divides successful people from unsuccessful people. Clearly, successful people do the things the unsuccessful ones don't. So we see a chart like this and think, "Oh, I just need to follow what successful people do. How useful! I'll just stick this chart on my wall and follow what it says!"
But that's a fairy tale, isn't it?
All those things are only symptoms of developing positive habits, usually early in life. To just start doing the things on the left side and stop doing things on the right side is virtually impossible for most of us.
Old, unsuccessful habits are deeply ingrained. For instance, to change an unsuccessful habit to a successful one, takes at least 21 days and up to 90 days (or even more) of consistent practice. Remember when you last tried to change something that went against your old habits? Not easy, right?
Simply put, it's astoundingly difficult to change a habit.
What I'm saying is that establishing new success habits that oppose your old, unsuccessful habits is about as likely as Donald Trump saying he's wrong about anything.
This method of achieving success is a complete and utter waste of time, yet it's what almost everyone tries.
We try to eat better, get more exercise and do marketing more often, but look at the results. And if we happen to change for a short period of time, we frequently revert to the old behavior in a few months.
Is there any hope for real change?
Well, yes, but not today. I'll continue this article next week with the three most powerful and proven approaches for developing success habits.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
Thirty one years ago this week, (August 1, 1984) I started my business in San Francisco CA.
It's been quite a ride and sometimes I can't believe I'm still at it, as committed as ever and having a blast.
Over the years, other than a few assistants here and there, it's been a one-man show and I proved that it's not only possible but the best kind of business and lifestyle I could imagine.
Today I thought I'd share some advice about a few of the things I've learned along the way as an Independent Professional that's made my business more fun and more successful.
These are in no particular order. There are no hidden meanings.
Once you make a decision, stick to it. I learned that being indecisive really didn't make things any safer. Now when I get a good Idea, I think about it for awhile and then just go for it.
If you happen to make a lot of money, don't buy a condo in Mexico – even if your wife thinks she can't live without it!
Learn how to write marketing copy. It's the master skill of marketing. If you struggle with writing, you'll never reach the heights that are possible for you.
Try lots of crazy things. I once did a thing called "Networking on the Air" where a group of people recorded introductions about their businesses and we broadcast it on a local radio station. Dumb idea but still I learned some things.
Hire a designer. If you persist in producing nondescript marketing pieces and websites you will be rewarded by very little response to your marketing.
Make peace with the IRS. For years I paid my last year's taxes the year after. It took me a long time to catch up. If you communicate with them they're as nice as can be.
Avoid paperwork as much as possible. And to do that, create a bullet-proof filing system where you can find anything in 10 seconds (computer as well).
Write a book. It's an amazingly powerful marketing tool. It will take a lot of time, energy and angst. Do it anyway.
Get a cat, not a dog. They put much less demands on your time and are always there in the evenings to cuddle up with you.
Become a jazz fan. It's so much better background music while you're working and doesn't distract you with all those inane lyrics. (Jazz playing as I write.)
Your biggest business expense should be books. Read a lot. A whole lot. When a friend recommends a book, buy it on Amazon before you hang up the phone.
Don't take yourself too seriously. No matter how brilliant you are, you're really pretty much the same as everyone else.
Take your clients very seriously. More than anything else they want to be heard and acknowledged.
Work all night once in awhile. I wrote my first little book in one sitting overnight. That energized me for quite some time.
Find out who you are. You'll ultimately discover that you are beyond any limitations or fears that seem to run your life.
Speak in front of groups. Speaking is the master skill of selling. If you can think on your feet, you have nothing to fear.
Get computer savvy. I learned html from a book. It wasn't that hard. I just followed the instructions step-by-step.
Go for the solution. Something will ultimately work to solve that intractable problem. Just don't give up looking.
Exercise daily. This one little thing can make more difference to your health and wellbeing than anything else.
Go for the truth. Don't assume you know until you know. The stuff we make up is an enormous mental and emotional distraction.
Learn to get unstuck. When you're stuck you can't move one way or the other. Master getting unstuck and everything is open to you without so much struggle.
Write an eZine and blog. Content marketing is now and will continue to be the most powerful marketing approach. Actually, it always has been for Independent Professionals.
Don't get swallowed by social media. It can consume huge amounts of time with little to show in return.
Learn how to sell. Selling is the most misunderstood thing in business. It's mostly just listening closely and discovering your prospects' most passionate desires.
The source of your inspiration is your clients. After every meeting with a client I come away with a handful of good ideas I can use in my business.
If it's not fun, make it fun. Business is a game. If it's drudgery you're probably playing the wrong game. Find another one.
Hopefully a few of these will help you a little. I hope so. Here's to the next, who knows how many, years. If I just keep following my own advice, I know I'll do fine.
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this comment from a client:
Client: "I'd like to set up some passive online marketing where I earned money from a product when I wasn't working. Could we do that?"
We'd all like to attract more clients primarily by "passive online marketing." That is, we'd like to have a website that brought us all the business we could handle and get the rest of our business from word-of-mouth. Ah... the good life!
After all, in "proactive marketing," you need to get yourself out there, be visible, get known, build trust and get appointments with prospects who will buy your services.
If you had a choice, wouldn't you pick passive online marketing? I certainly would. Having your website make you money day in, day out, even while you're sleeping, is obviously what we all want.
Well, I have news for you.
Passive online marketing doesn't really exist. More accurately, it does exist, but it doesn't work. Putting up a website, no matter how good, how professional looking or how brilliantly written, isn't going to result in money pouring into your bank account.
I'm not saying you can't market and sell products and services online and make good money. I've been doing this very successfully for about 18 years.
It's called "Proactive Online Marketing"
What I'm saying is that online marketing is not passive. Successful online marketing is very proactive. It takes a lot of time, commitment and hard work.
Anyone who is selling you the "dream of passive online marketing" is lying to you. It would be much like saying you could learn to master a musical instrument in a week or two.
No, you can't!
I know this is not good news if you hold out the hope of someday "putting your marketing on automatic" and "making money while you sleep." Sorry, it's not gonna happen!
The good news is that if you are willing to put in the work, with time and patience you can make your proactive online marketing get substantial results for you.
Here are the 7 Essentials of Proactive Online Marketing:
1. You must have a professionally designed web site. And to do that, you need a professional. These days anyone can put together a basic website with Wordpress. But that doesn't mean it looks professional; usually it doesn't. But a good designer can use a Wordpress template and then teach you how to update it. This gives you the most flexibility at a reasonable cost.
2. Make the primary purpose of your website (for first time visitors) to opt-in by giving you their name and email in exchange for a valuable giveaway such as an article, report or e-book. When you have their contact information you can then contact them with more information and promotional emails for products and services. Building your e-list is the most important activity if you want a successful online business.
3. Write a really good giveaway. It's not as easy as it seems. What should it look like and what should it contain? Do this: Every time you encounter a site that asks you to opt in, then opt-in and see what they send you. Make a collection of these giveaways and notice the ones that you find the most compelling. Then emulate that kind of giveaway in both design and content. This takes work. And it's worth it. Get some design and writing help if you need it. Most do.
4. Commit to writing a regular eZine and Blog. Share useful ideas your clients are seeking. Think of all the problems and challenges your clients have. Write about these, including real stories if possible, and lots of how-to tips, just like this article does. The readers who become clients are the ones who want help implementing those tips. So don't worry about "giving away the store." By the way, get a proofreader/editor. I started to use one when I realized I was a "typo generating machine!"
5. Write an online sales letter for your product or service. When you do a promotion for a product or service, send your readers to your sales page. Short letters with a few bullet points don't work. You need to tell the whole story of the value of this product or service – use 2,000 words or more. A good video can work as well.
Here's the primary content and format for such a letter (with short samples of text):
a. An attention-getting, benefit-oriented headline. This should get the attention of your ideal clients and draw them into the text. Sample: "How Leaders Like You are Increasing the Productivity and Engagement of Their Employees"
b. A one- to two-paragraph opening, clearly explaining what you're offering and for whom. Sample: "This is a 6-month program for leaders who want to upgrade their leadership skills in order increase team productivity."
c. A section on the key issues or problems facing your prospective clients. Keep it to three paragraphs. Sample: "If you're a leader you know how challenging it can be to get your employees producing at their highest level."
d. A section on the outcomes they want instead of the issues and problems they have. Again, keep it to three paragraphs. Sample: "When you've mastered the key leadership skills you'll be able to inspire and motivate your team to consistently perform at a higher level."
e. An overview of the product or service you are offering that will get the prospect the outcome they want. Sample: "The Ultimate Leader Program was designed for leaders who want more from their employees (without burning out)."
f. A section on what makes your product or service unique or different. Explain why they are special and effective. Sample: "This program stands out from other leadership programs in these three important ways:"
g. A section with several key benefits of your program in the form of two-sentence "bullet paragraphs," not short bullet points. Sample: "• You'll take your leadership to new heights. By mastering these leadership skills, the productivity of your team or company will increase measurably."
h. A section with the structure of your product or service. This outlines the format or external details. Sample: "This program will be held as a series of six, half-day workshops."
i. A list of bonuses. By offering additional value, you increase the chances that someone will buy your product or service. Sample: "In addition to this program you'll receive these three free bonuses:"
j. A section on whether or not this product or service is right for them. Outline all the key advantages. Sample: "This program is for you if you want to learn how to get beyond average productivity."
k. Close and call-to-action. Without a call-to-action that tells them what to do next, they will not act. Sample: "If you feel this program is right for you, simply click on the link below."
l. Some testimonial quotes that talk about actual results they've gotten with your program. Sample: "Before this program I always seemed to be fighting my employees; now we're truly working together as a team to produce consistently great results."
By the way, you want a good subhead for each of these sections as an intro to the section.
Writing a good sales letter is an art. Most sales letters fail to sell. To ensure that they do sell, get some help from a writer experienced with sales letters, using this outline.
6. Do pre-promotion before you email a link to your sales letter. Instead, via email, offer a free teleclass, webinar or video that talks about the concepts and key benefits of the program. This generates initial interest without the pressure to buy. Don't sell yet! But announce the launch date in a week or two.
7. Launch your product or service with a well-written, but fairly short email that points to your online sales letter. The sales letter then does the "heavy lifting" and persuades your prospects to take action. This works really well with a relatively inexpensive product or service. With a high-end service, instead, offer a "strategy session" where you talk to prospects about your service and explore if it's right for them. And then sign them up if they're ready.
This is essentially the proactive online marketing plan I've used for all my online products and services for the past 18 years – for the InofGuru Marketing Manual, Marketing Action Groups, The More Clients Club and the Marketing Mastery Program. And the results have been excellent.
This approach works, but it is definitely not passive! It takes a certain amount of time, effort, and trial and error to develop and implement all 7 steps successfully.
Most people implement these steps randomly, incompletely or simply poorly. That won't get you the results you want in online marketing.
Once I explain all of this to my clients, they often respond with: "Well, maybe I ought to start by getting my website up to snuff and then do some networking and speaking before I attack online marketing."
Good idea! Build a solid foundation for your marketing first and you're much more likely to succeed with online marketing.
Cheers, Robert M.
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