Latest Blog Comments
  • Hi Robert, I’m in the same place as Wendi – after being super busy, am now trying to get the word out. Your email caught my eye this morning and I kne... read more
    By Cathy Fee

  • I know this feeling so well, and it is not a friend. So it is great to "let it go" and start looking at the what is moments. In light of the great wha... read more
    By Ladey Adey

  • Really enjoyed reading this Robert. I've recently been repeating a daily affirmation to try to rid myself of a negative belief and today, in particula... read more
    By Kev

  • I think this is also true for how we deal with "news" - why stay glued to the TV or any news source if what we get is so upsetting that we have a hard... read more
    By Annette

  • Timely (this topic always is for somebody) and well stated; thanks Robert. Good stuff... read more
    By Larry Mandelberg

  • Robert, Just had a freak out moment this morning and then read this! Thank you so much for reminding me of everything I already know. I own my own bus... read more
    By Wendi Conrad

  • Thank you, Robert! This is so great a reminder that "disaster" isn't always what it seems at first and we can come back around to a better, more produ... read more
    By Georgia Adamson

  • Great article Robert. One thing that I have always banged on about is getting unstuck and into action, it's one of my catch-cry's. I know personally t... read more
    By Jo Bell

  • Thanks, Jim. Yes, in many ways I'm tired of the nuts and bolts of marketing. My marketing message these days is "Getting Your Marketing Unstuck and In... read more
    By Robert Middleton

  • Robert, you are becoming more and more "coachey" in your writing and your work as you age. Fabulous! Thanks for a great reminder that all the drama is... read more
    By Jim Smith, PCC

By Robert Middleton - Action Plan Marketing

Studs Terkel was the "Great American Interviewer." 

He wrote dozens of books about the American experience, such as Hard Times an Oral History of the Great Depression, and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.

These weren't his ruminations and opinions about people. They were all one-to-one conversations. 

In Working, he interviews 128 people, from farmers and policemen, to actors and secretaries. And all are very forthcoming, sharing what they do and how they feel about it. 

I wondred how he did it. In an interview of Terkel, I found the answer:

"They’ve got to believe you’re interested," he said. "If it’s a writer of a book, you’ve got to have read his book thoroughly. Or a person who is just an anonymous person—say for one of my books, say this guy is a carpenter—I’ll ask him about his life and as he’s talking I’m listening. I don’t have written questions. It’s a conversation, not an interview. “And then what did you do?” No! “Just tell me about…"—and you start, sort of like you’re having a cup of coffee or a drink, so it’s informal and very easy. Out of that things are revealed." 

Perhaps what Terkel did't know (but I wouldn't put it past him), is that this is exactly how you talk to prospective clients. This is how you sell. 

Sure you have some questions prepared before meeting with a prospective client to explore working with him or her. Preparation is important. You want to give some thought to what you'll talk about.

But you don't ask your questions by rote. You talk to your prospect as Studs Terkel would have. You get interested. And I don't mean faking interest. I mean genuine interest.

I want to know about a prospective client's business, but I also want to know how they got into business (people love to tell their stories), what they're passionate about, what they struggle with and where they want to go.

Ultimately I want to be inspired by them, moved by them, intrigued by them. I want to get to know who they are, what drives them and what stops them.

At a certain point in a "selling interview" I get a very strong feeling that I want to work with this person. I want to help them and show them what's possible in their business and what they could achieve.

This is a turning point. I never feel a need to convince them or persuade them. They get that I'm sincere, interested and passionate about working with them.

I don't even tell them much about my services or how I work — they've already received detailed information about my services before we talk — I simply ask if they have any questions.

I answer all their questions in as much detail as possible. I respect them and use this time to explain anything that's unclear or confusing about how we'll work together.

When we're done, I ask them if they think my service or program is something they feel they could succeed with.

They usually say yes. Not because I use any brilliant selling or closing techniques, but because I've talked to them like Suds Terkel would have, person-to-person.

And the exciting thing is, this is just the first conversation. Over the next few months, we'll have lots of in-depth conversations where they discover whole new worlds about their marketing and the amazing places it can take them. 

If Studs Terkel interviewed me, he'd be very clear that I love my job!

Cheers, Robert

Do you know someone who struggles with their selling? This is such a big issue for so many people. They try to do it "right" and "perfect" as if that were possible. No, just get really interested in your prospective clients and let the questions flow naturally. Please feel free to forward this or share it with someone you know who's ready for selling to be easy and fun.

Listen to a Studs Terkel Interview here

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

At the end of 2012, I freaked out for about a day.

I had set something in motion that could have dire financial consequences in my business and life.

I had decided to stop holding my Marketing Mastery Groups for a time. I’d put so much hard work into these groups for four years and was feeling a little burnt out.

Instead, I decided to work only with individual clients for a couple years (it ended up being three), which meant my income would decrease substantially.

When I realized what I had done, I freaked out a bit. For me, freaking out looks like obsessive worrying, feeling desperate, and blaming myself for doing the wrong thing.

You know, you've been there.

But it was more like a short bout of the flu. After a day it was gone as I'd returned to my imperturbable center, the place that, no matter the circumstances, is always calm.

Ultimately I knew, without doubt, that I'd be OK.

But how do you find that place in tough times when your cash flow is a mess, you can't attract clients and you feel as though you've run out of options?

I think the first thing to realize is that circumstances have no power to upset us, freak us out or get us off track.

It's only the thinking about the circumstances that sets us off. Think of it this way: If some undersirable event takes place we are not upset if we don't know about it. Once we know about it, we get upset. So it is never the event that is inherently upsetting. It's our thinking about the event. 

For instance, we're feeling happy and contented, and then we realize our bank account is almost empty and the rent is due in a week, with no prospects in sight. Those are the facts.

But the facts, in and of themselves, are not upsetting. No, it's our thinking about the facts that upsets us.  

And in my case, decreasing my income by six figures in the coming year wasn't upsetting either. It was what it was.

Our minds, however think and feel quite differently about these kind of situations. Our minds go into reaction or panic mode, desperately trying to find a way to change the situation and survive.

For less dire problems, we ultimately find a solution pretty quickly, but when the problem is serious, apparently insolvable, one or two things happen.

We start to generate a whole list of unworkable solutions. "I know, I'll sell cookies on the street!" (Ultimately these kinds of solutions go nowhere.)

Or we go into breakdown mode.

Breakdown mode is completely giving up. We go a little crazy and all the solutions the mind was generating just shut down. Some people call this "surrendering to the situation." 

What happens after the breakdown and surrender, is a new kind of clarity, not more thinking and solutions. This happens outside your mind and outside of time.

You may suddenly realize you're completely OK, that whether you survive or not is no longer the issue. You don’t see the situation as a problem anymore. The situation is no more significant than any common occurrence, from the music playing on the stereo to the play of light on your desk.

Your situation just is. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is what happened to me after freaking out about my cash flow situation. I just let it happen. Until my mind stopped.

Then, I enjoyed a feeling of freedom and release. "I'm going to be OK. In fact, I've always been OK." My worrisome situation and frantic thoughts dropped into the background. And that which never changes stepped into the foreground.

And in that space, the clarity of what to do wasn't any more difficult or challenging than any routine task I had faced thousands of times in my life.

Ultimately we did just fine for three years with much less income and I put my focus on other things that were more important to me.

Look, I'm big on strategies and action plans, as you know. But sometimes that just isn't enough.

Instead, you have to welcome the breakdown, the utter despair of things not working in order to have the breakthrough that reveals who you really are. 

Cheers, Robert

Do you know someone who's in dire straits? This article might help. In any case, it might be a reminder that our conditioned, reactive minds are not always the solution to our problems. When we have the good luck to step outside of our reasoning minds, there just might be something much more powerful in the background, ready to step forward.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Quick, what's the best marketing thing to do right now?

No idea right?

Well, today I'm going to share a simple "recipe plan" to help you know what marketing to work on each week.

But first, a little bit about my culinary habits...

For quite some time, my wife and I have had erratic dinner habits.

Often when I emerged from my home office at about 6 pm, I discovered my wife had already eaten. Because we hadn't agreed on dinner, we mostly ended up on our own.

So I'd go to the fridge, grab a hunk of chicken and heat it up and eat it. Vegetables, salad?! I didn't worry about that stuff. No big deal, right?

Yes, until is was. A couple weeks ago I told my wife that I was sick of our eating habits and that I had an idea for change. I'd just found a pretty cool looking cookbook online with simple, healthy, dinner recipes for two.

She was up for it and we embarked on a new way of eating. We planned ahead and bought the ingredients we needed. And every evening we cooked one of those meals.

And boy, we've had some great meals. Tasty, not too filling. Just right. And now we're both eating together every evening and feeling both virtuous and healthier.

That cookbook was a simple and powerful solution we could implement almost immediately with tangible benefits.  

I thought, "Why not share some effective marketing recipes people could do just as easily and quickly?" Well, here they are:

Marketing Recipe Book for Stuck Marketers

First of all, I'm going to assume you have your basic marketing stuff together. You have a website, social media accounts and perhaps an email list, plus a marketing message that gets attention when you use it.

The problem is, you're not getting out there. You're sitting at your desk, meeting most clients virtually and when you have a break, you're doing social media like playing a video game.

Kind of addictive, but it goes nowhere.

So I'm putting you on a special marketing diet that consists of one marketing recipe a day — five different ones each week.

Monday: Call a past client or associate and set up a time to talk. You can talk in person or via phone, Skype, etc. When you get on the call (it might be that week or sometime later) talk about what you're up to now, and ask them what they are up to.

Just talking, brainstorming, and connecting like this limbers up your imagination and you'll come up with some ideas you can use.

Tuesday: Call up a current or past client and set up a time to talk (other than your paid time with that client). When you meet you're going to talk about referrals. You'll say, something like: "John, I know you've been happy in our work together. Who do you know, someone like you, who should know about the work I'm doing? And can you connect me with them?"

You won't bat 1,000 with this, but sooner or later you'll make a base hit or a run.

Wednesday: Connect with someone on social media who you've had some exchanges with but don't really know. Let this person know you'd like to chat with them briefly. Find a time to talk, and in this talk, just take a few minutes to find out more about what they do and tell them what you do.

And then, after you chat, see if you can give this person an idea, resource or something else of value after you talk. That's it.

Thursday: Reach out to your network and ask for something. You could do this with a limited email blast, or a post on Facebook or Linked In. What this does is open you to being contributed to. Since people love to contribute, you'd be surprised at the response.

What you ask for should be something more than what you could easily find on Google. You have a whole week to think something up, and I expect you'll find it pretty easy. 

Friday: Sit down and write something about your business. I don't care if it's a couple of paragraphs or a whole article. Make it sincere and as interesting as you can make it, perhaps the kind of ideas you share with your clients. Then post it on your blog.

Look, this is how blogs start. You don't need a huge plan. Just write something and get it posted. Don't have a blog page yet? Well, if you have a Wordpress site, a blog can be added simply, quickly and affordably by any web tech (see Thursday).

Variations on these recipes: Mix them up in any order you like. Once in awhile, skip one — but make it a different one each week.

What will happen: These are all recipes for getting out there. The first three result in conversations. And I've discovered that conversations lead you to places, often unexpected places. The only way you'll know is by reaching out and having them.

The last two are about asking for a contribution and making a contribution. These are powerful exercises that flex your marketing muscles and build your marketing strength.

Don't do any of these marketing recipes to get a specific result. Just be open to what happens.

As the telephone company used to say: Reach out and touch someone!

Cheers, Robert 

Do you have a friend who's on a lousy marketing diet? Could they use a few recipes to get them back on track? then please share this bog with them and invite them to join the More Clients eZine (and get the cool free Marketing Plan Workbook as a bonus!)  See the upper left corner of this page.

And while you're here, you might be interested in my Complete Marketing Cookbook, the More Clients Club, with dozens of in-depth marketing recipes. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Imagine this common scenario:

You are scrambling around like a mad fiend, completing that blog post, fine-tuning your website, returning a call from a potential client and sending out an email blast to your subscribers.

All at the same time. 

It may feel like there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of things to do in your marketing. It can be hard to keep them all balanced and in action. And you're starting to feel overwhelmed and worried that nothing is working. 

OK, slow down for a moment. Breathe. 

You can gain some sense of control with your marketing if you realize that there are two kinds of marketing: Proactive and Passive. 

Proactive marketing is about actively promoting your business and services. Passive marketing is about building and maintaining an informational and social foundation for your marketing. 

When you understand which is which, it's much easier to balance these two different kind of marketing activities. And it also results in more effective marketing overall. 

Let's start with Proactive Marketing

Proactive marketing is about doing a specific promotion for a program or service. 

Proactive Marketing consists of three well-defined steps: 

1. Sending marketing communications that appeal to what your prospective clients are looking for. This message may be verbal, by email, or through a talk or other medium. 

So you'd better be absolutely clear about whether or not your communication will appeal to your audience and generate enough attention and interest to get positive responses. 

2. You next need to have an audience to convey your message to. It might be readers of your blog, people on your email list or a group of people attending a talk sponsored by a group or association. The people are out there, you just need to find them. 

This one is a little tricker than the first one, but with some research and trial and error you can find your audience.

If you do #1 and #2 well you will get some response from qualified prospects who want to know more, and are willing to explore possibly working with you. The next step is:

3. Engage your prospects in conversations to discover if you have what they want and then find a way to work together that is mutually beneficial. This is generally called selling, (but that's a nasty word we'd rather avoid).  

This is, by far, the easiest part of the whole process. You meet, talk and explore until you come up with a way to work together that makes sense and looks fun and profitable.

OK, that's three steps. Is it that simple? 

Well sure, there's a lot of thinking, planning and action that go into those three steps, but yes, it's pretty simple. I'll talk about it a little more below. 

You can think of proactive marketing as doing a focused campaign or promotion for a particular program or service. I do proactive marketing for both small and big programs.

Now let's look at Passive Marketing

Blogging, ezines, web content and social media are Passive Marketing. Passive marketing puts your name and message out there but it's not direct promotion that requires a response.

Passive marketing doesn't need to be as urgent and as focused as proactive marketing. It just kinds sits there! You post a blog, improve your website, send out a regular eZine, or respond to someone on LinkedIn.

Don't try to do Proactive marketing with Passive marketing tools. 

I see a lot of people doing this. They send email after email, post on their blog three times a day, and are constantly posting articles, links and resources on Facebook or LinkedIn and every other social media platform in existence. 

But they are frustrated because they aren't getting the results they hoped for. That's because Passive marketing isn't designed for response but to provide information, and build familiarity and trust. 

So, relax and have fun with passive marketing. Sure, make your website better, write some great articles, and build your list by giving a report away on your website. Chat with your contacts on social media. Fit it in when you can. But don't obsess about it.

And yes, once in awhile people will contact you as a result of your Passive marketing. Consider that a bonus.    

Balance your Proactive and Passive Marketing

Things don't feel so urgent and crazy when you put passive marketing and proactive marketing in their right places.

My passive marketing consists of writing this ezine/blog once a week. I do it each Monday and it takes a few hours. Then when I can fit it in I post on social media, update my website, etc. 

My proactive marketing is planned well ahead of time. I write emails and sales letters and schedule talks and/or webinars. I put everything on a timeline and execute with precision. 

But I only do proactive marketing occasionally these days. For the Mastery Program it will be annually, for smaller programs I may do it a little more frequently, although I'm cutting back on those. 

And, with this approach, it lets me put my time where it's most important: Working with my clients.  

Balance your Passive and Proactive marketing and you'll have a winning combination and less stress.

Cheers, Robert,

By the way, if you happen to know someone who is struggling to differentiate proactive and passive marketing, please forward this. I'm sure they'll appreciate it. Social media links below. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Is marketing inherently stressful? 

Given all the comments I've heard from clients over the years, you would think it was. 

I regularly hear comments like:

Marketing is overwhelming 

It takes too much time 

It doesn't work, I'll just be rejected 

I can't fit it into my schedule

Asking for referrals is like begging 

At a certain point the stress becomes too much and the solution seems obvious: Stop any marketing activity immediately, in fact, stop even thinking about marketing!

That works for about five minutes until you realize again that if you aren't marketing, you won't have any new clients.

This is the "marketing vicious circle" where you feel stressed about marketing no matter what you're doing (or not doing).

Then how do you handle marketing stress? Is there a way you can reduce stress, actually do some effective marketing and make some progress?

Of course it's possible… 

It's possible, but it does take some thinking. The question to ask is: "Am I ready to replace much of my stress by doing some thinking right now?"

Of course, you are, so let's get started!

How would you be if you weren't experiencing stress? 

Wouldn't you be resourceful? Resourcefulness is always there. It's part of your natural state of being. It includes being creative, intelligent, inventive and enterprising.

Notice that children are amazingly resourceful. It's not something they learned; it came with the package called "human being."

Stress is simply the reaction you have to thoughts that tell you that whatever is happening is wrong or insufficient. 

It's often expressed as, "I should be able to do this," and, "If I'm not able to do this it's not OK, I'm not good enough."

But why should you be able to do something you've had very little experience doing? 

Think about that for a minute. You're stressed out about doing something (marketing activities) that you know very little about and in which you've had virtually no training or experience. 

The only problem is that you think it should be easy, that since you're successful in other areas, you should be immediately successful with marketing.

Look, marketing is complex. It can be challenging. It takes time. That's just the way it is. 

Just get that you're currently lousy at marketing. And that's OK. Everyone is lousy at just about everything until they get a certain amount of education and experience. 

Feeling a little less stressed yet?  

Back to young kids. They are lousy at everything they first try, but they're full of resourcefulness, creativity and inventiveness. This is why they learn at an astonishing rate. 

But as kids get older and turn into adults, we judge every action we take. We become cautious, fearful and wary of being judged for not doing things well. And that's stressful.  

This is what stress-free marketing looks like: Doing a lousy job at marketing and being 100% OK with that. And then tapping into your natural resourcefulness and just taking the next step.  

Here's what people do when they tap into their resourcefulness (instead of identifying with their stress):

They do a lot of research to learn what works and what doesn't. (Wish I'd had Google when I started my business!)

They mastermind with others to explore various marketing approaches, strategies and tactics, learning from the experience of others. 

They seek out authors, coaches, consultants, workshops and videos that teach hands-on practices that work.

As they explore and test certain ideas, they discover principles and systems that do work, and then make them best practices.

To sum it all up:

You get stressed about not being good at marketing your business. 

You realize it's your thoughts of not being good enough that trigger the stress. 

When you understand that it's OK to be lousy at something, you can relax and just start to learn. 

The more you realize that you are OK just the way you are, your resourcefulness kicks in and learning accelerates. 

Actions taken without self-judgment and fear produce results at a more consistent and higher level than when stressed. 

Get it? 

OK, then get on with it!

Cheers, Robert

Do you know anyone who gets stressed out by marketing? If you do, will you please forward this blog article to them via the social media links at the bottom. 

And if you're ready to give up stress and do something resourceful to get your marketing unstuck and into action, here's a super affordable and comprehensive resource that thousands of self-employed professionals have used to help them take the next step. Just click here:

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Every year at the end of the year, the same thing always happens….

I don't schedule any client meetings, I check my email a few times and then I start to become overwhelmed about everything I have to do beginning in January.

Today my wife taped this quote onto my computer:

What

screws

us up the most 

in life

is the picture

in our head

of how it's

supposed

to be.

 

Ain't that the truth!

How it's "supposed to be" at the end of the year is that I will relax without a worry, listen to a lot of music, go to a few movies, eat out, and become refreshed and ready to hit the New Year hard because I am relaxed, rested and ready to go.

Well, I did do a lot of that stuff, but I kept churning over and over what I needed to get done as soon as the holidays were over. The more I relaxed, the more the pressure built.

When I hit the, "I think I'm going a little nuts," breaking point, I snuck into my office and wrote down my main plans and projects that I wanted to work on for the first month of the year, the main tasks I wanted to accomplish the first week of the year and then wrote down the few things I planned to do on Monday.

What seemed like 50 things was only about half a dozen.

And the whirling in my head stopped.

Then on Sunday night when I went to bed, a new marketing idea flowed easily and slowly into my brain. Because everything else was taken care of, I had room for this new idea.

And, in fact, as soon as I stepped into my office on Monday morning (about a six-foot commute from the kitchen), I jumped onto my computer and spent several hours putting this new idea into action.

It was a new plan for the More Clients Club for 2016. But I'll tell you about that another day.

Once a very wise person told me this:

"The dullest pencil has a better memory than the sharpest mind."

In other words, get it out of your head and down on paper.

But whenever I forget that, I immediately become overwhelmed trying to keep all those ideas, projects and possibilities rattling around my cramped cranium.

And it's amazing how much relief I feel when those ideas get written on lists that I can access in a moment.

As the week and each day proceed, I no longer have a million things to think about, but just one: the project, the letter, the email I'm working on right NOW.

In this light, “overwhelm” becomes an illusion. Lots of things to do don't cause overwhelm. But they do trigger the thoughts that lead to feeling overwhelmed. Clean up and organize those things and overwhelm evaporates like fog in the morning.

My advice for you in the coming year:

Write down you ideas and plans. Create a monthly list, a weekly list and a daily list and you will accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Without overwhelm.

Now I just need to remember this when the holidays roll around next year.

Cheers, Robert Middleton

If you have some ideas about how you get more done without overwhelm, please share them below in the comments section.

Do you have a friend who gets overwhelmed by too much to do? Then please pass this along with the social media links below.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

About 15 years ago I decided to write a book. 

What I wanted was a comprehensive manual for marketing professional services. 

I got the book started by holding a 12-session series of small workshops in my office in Palo Alto. Before each session I wrote up a detailed step-by-step worksheet and used that as my session guide.

Once the workshop was completed, I added more materials to the worksheets and ended up with a 24-chapter, 288-page book that I called the InfoGuru Marketing Manual. 

And then I promoted it to my online subscribers and ultimately sold thousands of copies. I discovered that a book can be the most powerful marketing tool in the world. My business has never been the same since.

I'm sure you've thought of writing a book. But are you making it happen or are you just thinking about it?

But what do you need to do to make your book successful, one that can get you visibility, credibility and a lot of new clients?

Last week, I interviewed one of my past clients, Jami Bernard, who is a book writing and book promotion coach. I asked her two simple questions:

1. If someone has a good idea for a book to help them promote their business, but they don't know where to start in writing it, what do they need to do to write a really good book?

and...

1. It's one thing to have a book. It's quite another thing to market it successfully and use it to attract more clients. How do you help your clients do that?

And I recorded the interview which you can watch and listen to below.

To learn more about Jami Bernard, go to this link and she'll give you a copy of her report:

"Getting Published: How to Choose the Right Path for You." It's available via simple opt-in at the top of her home page.

Cheers, Robert Middleton

P.S. If you know someone who is thinking of writing a book, and would appreciate this information, please pass it on via the social media links below. I'm sure they'll find it valuable.

And of course, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

You know what it's like when you're trying your best to put your marketing into action.

You're calling to book speaking engagements, networking at your local Chamber of Commerce and putting together a webinar with help from a few JV partners. 

But haven't you found, that despite your best efforts to work on these marketing activities, that your results are coming up short?

People simply aren't responding in the numbers you'd hoped for and you're not turning as many prospects into paying clients as you'd like.

What's missing? Is it your message, your website, the promotion itself or perhaps the wrong offer?

It's the Glue

When I talk to new clients, I discover, even though they've  invested so much in their marketing, one thing seems to be missing…

It's Effective Follow Up. And follow-up is the glue that keeps your marketing moving forward. For independent professionals, it's often the one ingredient that makes the difference between marketing success or failure. 

Let's look at a few common marketing scenarios.

Speaking: You give a talk at a conference and communicate valuable ideas that stimulate your audience. You collect a number of cards at the end from a few people who you think would be ideal clients. But nothing happens. 

Networking: You meet someone at that same conference and get a sense that you could help them. You exchange business cards and ask them to take a look at your website and some articles with your core ideas. You never hear back. 

Webinar or Teleclass: You manage to get 30 or 40 people to a teleclass promoting your new program. You prepare for hours and do the best presentation. You invite them to sign-up within a day to get your pre-program discount price. Two people sign up. 

What is missing here? You seem to be doing all the right things, but oh, yeah, what about the follow-up? Maybe you'll get to that later. But first you want to get another talk booked.

Why follow-Up is like marketing glue

In all of those scenarios, follow-up via email and phone could have glued those connections into conversations. But nothing stuck, because you didn't apply the glue. Perhaps you were waiting for the prospect to contact you. But it rarely happens. But why?

Why you don't follow up

Perhaps you're a little shy, afraid of how your prospect might react. They may not be interested after all. And you wouldn't want to be an interruption or have them think you're pushy. 

Or you don't have a system for follow-up. You only have a handful of cards. You don't know what to say, the best time to call or whether you should leave an email or a voice message. 

So you put down your follow-up glue gun and promise yourself that you'll give it a shot later that week. But you never seem to get around to it. 

Connections + Follow-Up = Conversations 

The first thing to understand is that all you want to accomplish with follow-up is to have another conversation with your connection. And it's the simple act of following up that glues these two things together. 

One conversation leads to the next conversation and then to a deeper conversation. The next conversation may be a selling conversation, and the last one a confirmation conversation. And before long you're working with a new client. 

But not without the glue of follow-up. 

My 7-Step Follow-up System

This is what I tell my clients to do. It works.

1. After you’ve had an initial connection with someone who may be a prospect and deserves follow-up in any number of the scenarios mentioned above, create an intention to follow-up. Don't hope it will happen, but set very focused goals to make it happen. 

2. Ask yourself exactly what you want to get from the follow-up: Is it an introduction? A short meeting by phone? A longer strategy session? Or something else? Whatever it is, it should be the next natural step in connecting with that person. Be clear, even visualize yourself following up successfully. 

3. Now script out what you will say on that follow-up call and what you will say in your follow-up email. Just make it conversational, simple and short. Practice it out loud until it feels natural and easy. By the way, I’ll often leave a message first and then follow that up with an email. Short, sweet, simple.

4. Make sure your message includes your Ultimate Outcome. That's what gets attention. It answers the "What's in it for me?" question. “I’d like to talk about your needs” won't be perceived as very valuable. But, “We help our clients be more effective in these five essential areas," is more likely to get a response. 

5. Then screw up your courage and reach out. If they don’t get back to you, what does it mean? It usually means they are crazy busy, so don’t take it personally if they don’t get back to you right away. And try at least three times before moving on. 

6. And what’s the worst that can happen? They may not be interested in your Ultimate Outcome or it might not be a good time to talk now, or several other legitimate reasons. So don’t sweat it. Move on – there will be other opportunities. 

7. Make follow-up a habit. It’s one of the most important and effective marketing habits you can ever develop. And if you follow this plan, it really won’t be nearly as hard as you think it will be. In fact, believe it or not, it can be fun, especially when your conversations turn into new clients. 

Start adding the follow-up glue to your marketing and you can expect your results to increase dramatically. I've seen it happen with my clients over and over again. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. If you liked this article, just want to be nice or have nothing else productive to do, please share your comments below or, event better, share this article on Social Media. This will also give you some much-needed practice at follow-up!

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Wouldn't you love to know the perfect marketing approach for your business, you know, the one that brought in droves of clients with ease?

Well, of course, there isn't ONE. 

Then how about the most effective approach to marketing, one that at least gave consistent results? 

The thing is that there are a LOT of effective marketing approaches, dozens at least, perhaps hundreds.

Then, where should you start with your marketing? After all, you want an approach that will give you a chance to attract more of your ideal clients, right?

The first thing to understand is that your marketing approach needs to be customized to you. You should implement marketing activities that are appropriate for where your business is right now.

And you also need to understand that an approach to marketing is never just "one thing." 

For instance, if you focus your business on "webinars" or your "selling process" or your "website" you don't have a complete approach to marketing. 

I've found that the best approaches to marketing include many steps implemented in an effective sequence. You start with a simple sequence and then build the effectiveness of that sequence over time. 

Here's an example of a complete marketing sequence:

1. Develop a marketing message or brand. Then communicate it verbally and through marketing materials such as a website, articles, emails, presentations. 

My current message strategy is to put the emphasis on your "Ultimate Outcome," that is, the biggest result your clients get when they work with you. This kind of message is focused on your client, not on you. And it needs to be a result or benefit that is highly desired by your prospective clients such as:

"We help you double the effectiveness of your top leadership teams." Of course, then it's your job to prove that you can, in fact, accomplish this. 

2. Develop a program or service that can deliver on this promise. If money was not an issue, what program would you design and deliver that consistently produced the results you promised?

We rarely think this way and instead develop programs and services that we think our clients can afford. What does that lead to? Compromise and settling with OK results, not breakthroughs. 

I'm aiming for breakthrough results such as the ones my Marketing Mastery participant, Sal Sylvester achieved:

"Robert's program fundamentally changed my business. Before my work with Robert, I ran mostly short-term workshops – one or two-day sessions. Sometimes a series of workshops. My average deal size was probably $2,500 - $5,000. Today, my average deal size ranges from $25k to $100k.

"One year after the course was complete, my revenues went from about $170k per year to $260k. Then to $300k. They then doubled to $600k. And this year to over $900k. The foundation for all of this growth is the hard work that went into Robert's program. He not only taught me sound marketing and sales principles, but helped me change my mindset on what was possible."

You won't see those kind of results from half-hearted, low-cost programs that promise little and delver less. 

3. Develop and Implement a marketing strategy that gets your program or service in front of the right prospects. Again, there isn't a perfect strategy, but there are many very good ones. 

My two favorite strategies are:

1. Giving live talks in front of groups of qualified prospects.

2. Promoting my services and programs to those on my e-list.

Many other strategies can work as well. More often than not it will take a few different ones to effectively communicate your message to enough of the right people. 

4. Learn the practices and skills of effective person-to-person selling. Selling is one of those terrible words that has so much negative baggage. But good selling is not about hype or manipulation – it's more of a focused conversation to discover if what you offer can solve any of your prospect's challenges.

Selling includes many elements:

• Following up after someone has responded to your marketing, 

• Setting up appointments for selling conversations,

• Designing those conversations so that a high percentage of prospects choose to work with you. 

The good news:

The four basic marketing steps are really all you need to get the attention and interest of your ideal clients and convert them into good clients who pay you well. The system for developing them and getting success with them is tested and proven.  

The bad news:

Learning and ultimately mastering these four steps takes study, practice, and hard work. All of them include concepts that are counter-intuitive and that most people implement ineffectively, if not avoid completely.    

For instance, most business owners have a "Me-Centered" marketing message as it can be hard to wrap your mind around a "Client-Centered" message. 

In developing high-end programs, we tend to think they won't sell and therefore we don't even attempt to develop them. 

With marketing strategies, the most common thing is to emphasize the processes we deliver instead of the results our clients get. 

And with selling, we often think of it as a contest where we are trying to "win" business from an opponent who doesn't want to work with us, instead of as the beginning of a profitable partnership. 

The next step:

Please take the ideas in this article to heart. They include the core ideas that have helped both me and my clients experience great successes. 

And please consider this: 

The Marketing Mastery Program starting in mid January 2016 focuses primarily on mastering those four key marketing steps. If you are up to attracting more high-end clients for years to come, it might be for you:

http://actionplan.com/nmm2016

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing


The back veiw of Phil's Fish Market

Remember the movie, City Slickers? While Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are riding along the trail, Palance asks Crystal, "Do you know what the secret of life is?" And then he answers by holding up one finger and saying, "One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don't mean sh…!" 

And Crystal answers, "That's great, but what's the one thing?" Palance answers: "That's what you've got to figure out."

And it's an important question for us in our businesses. What is that One Thing? 

If you get it and you live by it, that One Thing leads to mastery. 

We spend a whole lot of time and energy on everything that isn't the One Thing. Sure, there are a lot of things you'll end up doing in your business and marketing but if they're not in the service of that One Thing you'll get off track. 

On Sunday I went out to dinner with my wife in Moss Landing, just south of Carmel, CA. The restaurant, Phil's Fish Market, was a cavernous place with seating inside and out, undistinguished decor and plastic fold-up tables.

The line to order at the counter was 20-people deep and the place was humming. I asked the couple in front of me what was good on the menu. The man then delivered the most enthusiastic testimonial I've ever heard. "The food is fantastic, the best anywhere. You've got to try the Clam Chowder and the fish tacos are to die for!" The couple behind me nodded in agreement. 

Everyone was smiling ear-to-ear. 

We did order the clam chowder and fish tacos and they were indeed spectacular. 

On the menu I learned that Phil had started the Fish Market in 1982 as a small fresh fish stand and began selling buckets of fresh cioppino. Recipe here: http://www.philsfishmarket.com/recipes/cioppino.html

It's still the most popular item on the menu and as we ate we saw many huge bowls piled high on the way to the tables around us.

Phil's One Thing? The best fresh cioppino anywhere. And everything else built from that – superior fresh seafood at a reasonable price for everyday people. 

It definitely works. Hundreds of people visit every day.

So, what is your One Thing?

By the way, it's not your marketing message (although your message should reflect that One Thing), it's not your process, your website, or even your services. 

Your One Thing goes beyond all that. It's what makes you memorable. It's what you love most about your business. It's why you started your business. And it's something nobody else can quite duplicate. 

Just down the road from Phil's is another restaurant called the Haute Enchalada. It's housed in a multi-colored Victorian-style home and the interior is intimate and wonderfully decorated. The food is gourmet and the service is impeccable. You might say it's just the opposite of Phil's, but it also has that One Thing that makes it immensely attractive. 

There's no one formula for the One Thing but it's always special, magnetic. It's a calling, a commitment, a passion that's immensely attractive. 

What is the One Thing for your business? 

It's already there. You don't need to invent it. But you are so close to it you may not notice it. 

Get some feedback from clients and others who have an experience of your business. And then ask them what they think your One Thing is. Keep brainstorming until it emerges. The words might not be perfect but ultimately you'll come up with the One Thing that makes your business special.

What's your version of Phil's amazing cioppino? 

Now the challenge is to embody that One Thing in everything you do in your business and in your marketing, your message, your website and your services. 

The One Thing is who you are. Embrace it and be that.  

Cheers, Robert

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