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  • Robert, Thank you for this article! You are one of the most consistently good content writers I know and I've been receiving your newsletter for 15 ye... read more
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  • Dear Robert, what a clear and beautifull article. Thank you so much. I could feel the truth and the state it produced as I read about being in the 'si... read more
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  • Robert, no-one could ever accuse you of being a noisy marketer and I think that is one of the 'secrets' of your long-term attraction to those you serv... read more
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  • I love this post, Robert. Silence can be scary in real life, too. We don't expect silence, and usually grow comfortable with silence only when we know... read more
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  • Hi, I'm wondering how to apply this approach to career and relationship coaching of individuals. Any suggestions would be appreciated. read more
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    By Audrey Seymour

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin's biggest passion was playing chess? A chess-player for 50 years, he practiced even more as he grew older. And although his chess skills were way above average, he never truly became a chess master, comparable to the best European players.  

Anders Ericsson, the author of Peak - New Secrets from the new Science of Expertise, explains why: "He never pushed himself, never got out of his comfort zone, never put in the hours of purposeful practice it would take to improve."

I believe Ericsson's book is one of the very few that scientifically proves exactly what it takes to succeed and achieve at extraordinarily high levels. 

The truth is, very few of us are interested or motivated enough to develop our expertise and skills to those levels. 

Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, 31 or Simone Biles, 19, have put in more hours of training and practice at their young ages than most of us will put into anything in our lifetimes. 

But the most important message I took from Peak is that all of us can improve our levels of performance far beyond what we think is possible. 

The question for me, of course, is what does it take to improve our skills in the area of successfully marketing our services? 

It's certainly not a matter of our innate skills or talent. Our background and upbringing can help us to some degree, but one thing top researchers agree on is what most of us intuitively know about success: 

It takes practice. 

But what kind of practice, does it take to reach these levels of success? We can practice effectively or ineffectively. We can put a lot of time into practice or a little time. We can practice with motivation or without motivation. 

Ericsson calls the most effective practice "Purposeful Practice." He says it consists of five specific characteristics. I'll outline them below and then share my experience of how this relates to improving your marketing skills. 

1. Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals

When you want to become a better marketers of your services, are you goal-oriented or vague about your direction?

For instance, if you want to write an article for an eZine or a blog, you can't just try, you need to have a clear outcome in mind. For me; it was pretty simple; I wanted to write an eZine/blog article every Monday. And I've done that now for almost 20 years.

So if you want to become a better writer, don't just write – write with a clear aim in mind. For instance, with a this kind of clear goal I've seen clients write all the content for their website in a couple of weeks instead of the usual three or four months.

2. Purposeful practice is about taking a series of baby steps on the way to your goal

In working with thousands of people over the years, I've discovered that people are generally not very patient. 

In marketing, patience is a trait you need to develop, because skill improvement doesn't come instantly. You learn one simple thing and then another and another. Sooner or later you'll get better at something and start to see the success you've long desired. 

I remember it was much like that when I wanted to give talks and presentations to get the word out about my business. Public speaking didn't require me to learn just one skill but about a dozen. They included: 

Writing a promotional blurb for the talk; developing the talk outline; practicing the talk out loud; contacting organizations who might be interested in hosting the talk; following up to get the talk booked; delivering the talk many times until it got prospects interested in my services; collecting cards from participants at the end of the talk, offering a free marketing strategy session; following up with those who had given me cards; having a conversation with those prospects by phone; setting up appointments with them, and, ultimately, converting prospects into paying clients. Whew!

Every one of those skills took knowledge and practice to do effectively in order to achieve the goal of my presentation, which was to attract more of my ideal clients.

3. Purposeful practice is focused

The enemy of focus is randomness. You get up in the morning thinking you need to do some marketing. But is it based on a goal, a plan or even a clear direction?

When you know where you're going and what you're attempting to accomplish, you'll have many wins along the way to your goals. And with every win, your confidence increases. 

Yesterday, I looked at all the revisions I'd made over the years to my online information page about the More Clients Club. I'd rewritten that page 21 times! I was focused on making it better and better each time. In fact, I wrote it again today!

A waste of time? Hardly. Over a period of  7 1/2 years I've had a total of 4,583 people join the Club, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. That's what focus can do. 

4. Purposeful practice involves feedback

Do you love to get input and feedback from other people? I don't know about you, but I hate it. Yet it's such a powerful thing as I'll demonstrate below. 

One of my greatest strengths and also my greatest weaknesses is my sense of independence. I like to do things my way. But ultimately insisting that may way is the right way only makes me stupid. How can I know the right way to do everything? I can't. 

About 16 years ago, after writing the InfoGuru Marketing Manual, I knew I had to write an "online sales letter" to encourage people to order it online. That isn't the easiest thing to do. 

I was lucky enough to have a friend, David Garfinkel, who was an expert copywriter. He agreed to give me a hand and provided feedback, ideas, suggestions and support. Eventually, after may revisions, we got it done and put it out there. 

If I hadn't had David's feedback, I know the results wouldn't have been what they were. That online letter generated over $600,000 in sales of the manual.

5. Purposeful practice requires getting out of one's comfort zone

There's a saying, "If you want to be comfortable, don't start your own business." I started my business in 1984 and have been uncomfortable ever since!

But being uncomfortable in pressing past your limits has benefits that far outweigh the discomforts. You'll produce results at a higher level than average and be in a continual state of exploration and discovery. 

Nobody would ever call Benjamin Franklin a failure. In fact he was America's first success guru. And he was most definitely an adherent of these five purposeful practice characteristics (before scientific studies on the topic). As  Ericsson said, however, "In chess, he never really went outside of his comfort zone."

In my experience, achieving certain marketing and business goals can bring great rewards. But it's ultimately up to you to decide what's important to you, what you want to achieve and how far you want to go.

Make no mistake, though, – there are ways to achieve the things that are important to you. And purposeful practice is the royal road to getting there.  

Cheers, Robert 

P.S. By the way, this past Thursday I was talking to a friend who mentioned the book, Peak, and I had ordered it on Amazon by the time our conversation ended. His name? David Garfinkel. We continue to support each other to this day. 

337 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If you asked people their definition of marketing, many would answer with one word: NOISE!

I often react that way as well - I'm tired of the noise. 

Last year my wife and I disconnected our cable service and no longer watch TV with commercials. (We watch shows on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix).

It's quite a relief no longer being bombarded by TV commercials. Their absence tends to somewhat quieten the mind's insatiable demand for MORE. 

Of course, email is bombarding all of us every day with commercial messages. And you also get some of those emails from me. 

But there are different kinds of promotional email messages. Some are full of noise and some are full of silence

What's the difference?

"Noisy" emails are all about getting something "you can't live without." They're full of hype, manipulation and urgency. 

I assume they work to some degree, on some people, but if you're like me, they are also big turnoffs. Noisy emails don't make me feel good. So I tend to tune them out. 

"Silent" emails simply communicate about "what is." There is no hype-factor, manipulation or false urgency. 

Since I do my best to do email promotions from this place of silence, I can attest that they work very well. They speak to real needs and offer authentic solutions. They communicate clearly and honestly.

How do you write "Silent Email Promotions?" 

I don't think I've ever addressed this specifically, so I don't have a step-by-step rule book, but let me share how I approach doing promotions by email. 

1. Offer Tangible Value – First of all, do I have a program or service that's needed by Independent Professionals (my audience) which offers real, tangible value?

For me, tangible value is when my clients or students make positive changes as a result of our work that increases their ability to attract their ideal clients. 

2. Make the Foundation Solid – A solid foundation comes from actual experience and expertise, not speculative principles and practices. You need to really know your stuff and be good at it. 

When developing programs, I realize that nothing is as simple as it seems. So I pack them full of step-by-step how-tos. 

3. Be Realistic in Your Promises – Promising an "Ultimate Outcome" is important, of course, but that outcome needs to be real and reachable if the client does the necessary work.

The tendency I see a lot these days is to promise way beyond what's possible for an average client to achieve (with hardly any work required)! 

4. Make Integrity Your Guide – If all else fails, tell the truth! Explain in depth what your services entail, but don't embellish those services or give false promises. Also share the real challenges your clients will face in achieving their goals.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers make outrageous promises and then blame the client if they don't succeed. Don't do that!

5. Put Service Above All Else - Service means the action of helping or doing work for someone. Everything you do in your business - including your email promotions - should actually add value. It should inform and inspire your audience.

Don't think of your email promotions as something different than your business. They are the same as your business. You want your messages to be congruent, clear and genuinely helpful.

These "Silent Emails" tips are not a writing or style guide for creating email promotions. They go beyond that. They form the foundation for communicating from your authentic, real self. 

And what is your authentic, real self? Ultimately, it's the stillness, silence, and awareness of your essential being. When that silence is expressed in all your marketing, it connects with the silence and authenticity in others. 

If you come from that place of silence, you can't go wrong. 

Cheers, Robert 

P.S. I will be doing some promotional emails for the More Clients Club for the next few weeks with a Relaunch on Sept 7. Please stay tuned to those emails which will come on Wednesdays. 

My promise to you is that these promotions will be guided by the principles I outlined in the eZine today.   

322 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

"What do you do?" is one of the most common questions someone can ask you. 

And if you're in business for yourself, you want to say something that grabs the attention and interest of the person you are speaking to. 

Almost everyone fails at this.

It's not just the words you say. Ultimately, it's about the clarity of what business you are in. 

We think we're in the coaching business, the consulting business, the financial business, the training business.

But these are just categories of businesses. 

And talking about the category of business you're in, as I'm sure you've discovered, doesn't generate a lot of attention or interest.

We also think we're in the business of delivering professional services. We provide one-to-one coaching, offer business plans and assessments or conduct programs, classes and workshops. 

Everyone else in your business category, however, offers similar services that are delivered in very similar ways. 

We also think of ourselves as unique or special in some way. We use a particular model or methodology, a proprietary assessment, a process nobody else uses. 

More often than not, though, describing the methodologies and processes you use doesn't grab the kind of attention and interest you seek. 

All of these approaches at getting attention and interest are crucial aspects of your marketing. Certainly they help you have clarity about what you are actually offering your clients, but they all miss the most important element.

What is that element and how do you address it in your marketing?

The business you want to be in is the results and outcomes business. You need to clearly communicate the specific results you can confidently produce for your clients. 

This is the one thing that genuinely wins the attention and interest of your prospective clients. Nothing else comes close. 

Unfortunately, it's often kinda tricky to communicate this. 

I've struggled with it; my clients have struggled with it. Just about everybody struggles with it. 

Communicating the results and outcomes you produce for clients may be challenging for a few reasons: 

1. It may seem too obvious. Whatever business you're in, it seems to be an unspoken rule that you will produce results for your clients, so why even bring it up?

2. You don't realize that ordinary outcomes don't count. That's just the price of being in business. Extraordinary results are what count, what get prospects to notice you.  

3. You're afraid to make specific guarantees or promises that you'll produce certain results or outcomes. You focus on possible failure instead of possible success. 

4. You're afraid that if you make promises above the ordinary it will sound like hype and turn people off. You don't have the confidence that you can deliver these kind of outcomes.  

5. You believe that results ultimately need to be demonstrated. That is, producing actual results is the only way to communicate the fact that you can produce results. That may be the most convincing way, but it's not the only way.  

The thing is, if you don't find a way to clearly communicate that you stand for and deliver great outcomes, you'll miss one of the most powerful marketing tools in the world. 

Here's an example:

One of my clients offers a coaching program for sales managers that helps their sales people sell more. 

When he came to me he was about to relaunch his business after a period of semiretirement. He had worked with many clients in the past through in-person workshops and training. 

Now he was "going virtual" and would work with his clients via Zoom Video. 

I asked him what kind of results he had produced previously and he told me that a sales increase of 25% or more was the norm. So I asked him if he felt confident he could do that by coaching sales managers virtually.

He replied that he was very confident that he could produce the same kind of results by working with his clients for about a year.

But he was reluctant to talk about those results and really take a stand for these results. We looked at all the benefits of doing so and we came up with the following: 

"In working with your company's sales manager for about a year I will increase your sales by 25% or better."

Now, in all his conversations with company owners, that's what he talks about. Of course, he also talks about how he's able to do that, any unique approaches he uses, and so on, but he puts his outcomes first in all his marketing communication. 

And when he tells this to his prospects, they want to know more because an outcome like that is exactly what they're looking for. 

This sounds simple, and it is, but it's not necessarily easy!

Here are the basic steps you need to take to make a promise about the outcomes and results you'll produce for your clients that are beyond the ordinary. 

1. Determine what beyond-the-expected results you can consistently produce for your clients. You want to look at the average client you work with in your business. 

2. Next, ask yourself how you need to structure your services to produce that result. If it takes a year, it takes a year. If you can do it in three months, then offer a three-month program, etc. 

3. Make sure you are very solid in your methodology, processes and practices. You can't promise results if you don't have a proven pathway to get there. 

4. Make a definite promise, but don't over-promise. Then work on over-delivering on that promise – whatever it takes. 

5. Structure your promise in easy-to-understand words that your clients can easily relate to. Be ready to offer proof that you can produce these results (track record, testimonials, methodology, and so forth).

You are now in the outcomes and results business. All the work you do to get to that place will be more than worth it. 

I promise!

Cheers, Robert 

363 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A cold call is calling a stranger and trying to convince them to do business with you. 

An introductory call is calling someone you have a connection with and discovering if it's worth exploring more.

Many Independent Professionals don't think there's much difference between the two, but the difference is huge, both in what you say on the call and your mindset about the call. 

I've noticed a great many people avoid making introductory calls because they are associated with cold calls – after all, in both scenarios you pick up the phone and talk to someone.

But that's where the similarity ends.  

Just the thought of making calls triggers thoughts and feelings of rejection, making a fool of yourself and being thought of as pushy or unprofessional. 

No longer! Let me outline the differences.

1. Cold calls are made to strangers. You know absolutely nothing about them other than their name, company and phone number and/or email address.

Introductory calls are made to those you have some connection with. The connection doesn't need to be deep. It could be an associate of an associate or a member of the same business organization. Sometimes you'll make these calls to people who were directly referred to you. 

2. Cold calls are made with very little preparation. As they say, it's just "smiling and dialing."

Introductory calls take some preparation. You want to know exactly who you are calling, why you are calling, and the "ultimate outcome" you want to communicate. (An ultimate outcome is the best ultimate result you deliver to your clients.)

3. Cold calls rely on a very tightly scripted pitch. It's written out and followed to the letter. Usually it sounds canned, which is an immediate turnoff.

Introductory calls follow an outline. You have certain things you want to say, but even if you practice those things, it becomes a natural give-and-take conversation. 

4. Cold calls get a very high rejection rate. Ever hung up on a cold caller? Dozens of times? Yeah, it's a brutal process. 

Introductory calls get a very high engagement rate. You get virtually no hangups, and the conversations are never pushy or forced. People actually thank you for calling. 

5. Cold calls are all about getting the sale now. You know you have only one chance to sell that product or service, so the pressure (and obnoxious factor) goes up. 

Introductory calls are the beginning of a relationship. They are not about making the sales now, but about providing information and offering a next step. 

Obviously, cold calls are not going to work for your business, and perhaps you're starting to see that introductory calls could actually work for you. They do, and once you've developed this skill, making these calls becomes easy and, dare I say, fun!

How to make a good introductory call. 

First, locate the best people to call. This is often the hardest step. You should *always* be talking to your contacts and existing clients and asking who they know who needs your ultimate outcome. Remember, people never feel they need your "services" but the "outcomes" your services deliver.

Join professional organizations and other networking-oriented groups and get to know people. Learn how to leverage LinkedIn to get introductions.

Go to Google and enter: "how to make more networking contacts" and you'll find a whole lot of very useful articles about making these contacts.

Next, develop the outline for your calls. Below is a step-by-step guide for what to say and why it's important. 

a) Intro – State your name and your connection.

"Hi this is Fred Post, I'm a member of the XYZ association and our mutual associate Sarah Thomas suggested I give you a call. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?"

b) Talk about something you know about them.

"Sarah told me a little about you and then I checked out your website. What you do sounds very interesting. How long have you been consulting with telephone manufacturers?" 

Continue the conversation for awhile showing genuine interest. Look, people like it when you show interest in them, and this warms up the call. 

c) Get to the heart of your call

"The reason I'm calling, Paul, is that I wanted to introduce myself. My business is about helping consultants like you save about two hours a day every day. And I wanted to ask just a couple of questions and then send you some information, if it's appropriate."

Notice the three parts of this: 1. The purpose of the call, 2. Your ultimate outcome, 3. What you will do do. 

You need to take some time to carefully think this out and then practice it out loud until it just comes naturally. 

d) Ask questions to qualify the prospect 

The questions, of course, depend on your business and your offer. I prefer open-ended questions to get the person talking. So in this case I might say: "Can you tell me what you'd do if you had two extra hours every day?" 

I'm still focusing on the ultimate outcome. I'm not focusing on my service. I'm not thinking about my service. I'm only focused on them to see if they are a good potential candidate for my services. This conversation might go a few minutes where you'll learn more about their situation and goals. No pressure and no selling. 

e) Suggesting a next step

"John, it seems that saving two hours a day would really make a big difference to you. As this point this is what I usually do. I'd like to set up a complimentary Time Saver Session to explore how you could save that time everyday. And of course, I'll explain in depth exactly how my service works to accomplish that. How does that sound?"

You only want to suggest a next step if you feel they are qualified and could get real value from your services. This is all about listening, not pitching. You can tell if someone is interested or not. If they aren't, move on; If they are, suggest the next step.

If you have done a good job with the first part of the conversation and the prospect has said they have a need, they will usually respond positively.

In my blog article from July 19, I talk more about what to offer as the next step and the criteria for designing that next step for best response. I recommend reading that as well.

http://actionplan.com/blog/619-prospects-yes

f) Offer to send some information and a questionnaire.

"OK, great, let's check our calendars for a time we can meet again by phone." And then offer to send them something.

"I'm also going to send you a copy of my Article on the 7 Keys to Saving Two Hours a Day along with a questionnaire to learn more about your situation and goals. By reading the article and sending the questionnaire, we can really zero in quickly and see if I can help you or not. OK?  

This is a very important step, in my opinion. The more they know about what you do and the more you know about their situation and goals, the more likely it is that they'll become a client. 

So this is how to make introductory calls that actually end up with an appointment with a prospective client. 

Yes, every professional service and every prospect is different, but by following these general guidelines and mapping out your calls step-by-step, you'll have a lot more success and won't ever feel like you're making cold calls. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. Do you get stuck even thinking about making introductory calls? Then get my free e-book, The Unstuck Process to help you get unstuck and into action. 

327 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In the past several months I've found myself caught up in the happenings of the 2016 presidential elections.

What I've done most is read online articles about the campaign, the latest rantings of Donald Trump and the deceptions of Hillary Clinton. And everything in-between.

Often an hour or two a day. 

A few weeks ago I told myself, "Robert, this reading is yielding no positive benefits. It just riles you up and takes time away from doing other more valuable things, such as reading a good book, spending time with friends, taking walks, etc."

I do most of my reading on my iPad, so I removed all my news links to make it easier to avoid the political onslaught. 

But then I realized that the pull to immerse myself in this political sludge was more like an addiction. Even if I removed the links, it wouldn't be hard to type in Politico.com into my browser and get pulled in once again.

So I decided to look deeper. Was it politics I was addicted to or something else?

I noticed that the compulsion to know about what was going on in politics had the addictive character of "I can't get enough" and "I want more." These are essentially the same things. 

And then I asked myself. "Where else in my life do I feel I don't have enough and want more?"

That opened up the floodgates!

I wrote a full page of them and only stopped because the page was full. Here are just a few:

I don't have… enough information

enough status and approval

enough health and vitality

enough time

enough sleep

enough ideas and insights

enough entertainment

enough success

enough balance

enough skills

enough productivity

Not to mention all the stuff I obviously didn't have enough of. 

I clearly wanted MORE of all of this. The pull was irresistible and compulsive.

Wow, and I never thought of myself as the materialistic type! My philosophy and reality were colliding.

I also saw that it wasn't just me who had this addiction. Everyone else did too. And messages from the media and culture kept screaming, "Not Enough" and "Get More!"

Just browse online for a few minutes and you'll see that this is the undercurrent of most marketing messages. 

In fact, it's so common, so pervasive, so ever-present that it can be a little hard to see that this is simply not normal. In fact, it is insane. 

Do you see this in your own life, in your business, in simple, everyday things?

"Why did I just buy that piece of crap?" 

"Why do I think I'll be happier with a $50,000 car?"

"Why do I believe I need to make $100K a year to be taken seriously?"

"I don't have enough," and it's corollary, "I want more," drive just about everything in our lives. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be there anymore. I don't want this insanity. 

But, oops, isn't that just more of the same?

"I don't have enough sanity," and, "I want more sanity."

It's like being on a carousel that you can't jump off of!

No, there needs to be a completely different way to look at this. 

When I looked a little deeper beneath, "I don't have enough," and "I want more," I found the belief, "I am not enough."

If I believe I am not enough, then of course I'll also believe I don't have enough and want more. It's like an insatiable craving that can never be satisfied. 

Who would I be if I no longer had that belief? 

Well, I'd be OK, with who I am and what I have. 

I don't have to add anything to that. I don't need to be more OK. Being OK, just the way I am is enough. 

Does this mean I'd have to give up all desires, all ambition, all pursuit of success and accomplishment? 

Not at all. There are a lot of practical wants and desires that are not addictive or insatiable. 

To eat good food, to live in a comfortable home, to own a reliable car, to be with someone you love and to work with clients who pay you well are simply practical (and even healthy) things to have in modern, everyday life.

Will living in the biggest home, being with the most beautiful person, driving the most expensive car and working with the most prestigious clients make you happier? 

According to a lot of research not this topic, the answer is, "absolutely not." In fact, there is no correlation at all. Once your basic needs are met, getting more and more doesn't give you a more fulfilling life. 

Eric Hoffer said it this way, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need to make you happy.

All this exploration that started with my addiction to political happenings, ended up with a simple and irrefutable understanding:

Who I am in my essential being is enough. I don't need more to be OK, to be happier, to be fulfilled. 

I am enough. I have always been enough. I just didn't notice it.

The next time you hear your inner voice telling you that what you have isn't enough and that you want more, pause for just a second and be aware that you are enough and have enough right in this moment.  

Also notice that whatever you do today will also be enough. And every day after that. 

Cheers, Robert

399 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Pan Marketing

This is one of my favorite stories about marketing, but I don't think I've shared it with you in this space.

Several years ago I worked with a client named Carole. She and her partner, Sue, had developed a training business based on using theater and improv games to teach teamwork and communication skills in companies.

It was new stuff, very interactive and quite effective. Carole had previously been an HR director in a San Francisco corporation and many of her prospective clients were HR directors in other San Francisco companies.

We put together a complete package of marketing materials and Carole had no problem contacting these prospects and setting up meetings to tell them about her services.

She received a very warm reception and most were quite interested in what she had to offer.

A few weeks after contacting several prospects this way, Carol called me and said, "Robert, I'm getting a lot of interest from these prospects but nobody is getting back to me and giving me any work. What should I do?"

In our meeting I gave the advice that catapulted her business to success. I simply said:

"Carole, what you're offering is different and it's hard for these HR directors to communicate the value to their managers. What I'd recommend is calling all your prospects back and tell them you'd like to come in and give them a free introductory demonstration of your training."

She got on the phone immediately and started to book several intro trainings. And then the results started pouring in. Every single company where she gave an intro ultimately bought her services. And her company went on to great success.

You can do the same. You can make an offer to your prospective clients to have a taste, an experience of your services. And this is especially important if your services are unique and different.

You don't necessarily need to offer an intro training, but you do need to offer something that will move your prospects from interest in your services to a commitment to working with you. 

Sometimes it will just be a one-one-meeting with you. It might be a sample training or workshop, or it could be an interactive demonstration of how your service produces results.

But whatever the form is, you need to make an offer for this experience that is hard to refuse because it sounds so valuable.

Here are some important criteria for such an offer:

Offer must be made to the right person/company. It's a waste of time meeting with someone who cannot ultimately buy your services.

Offer must be appropriate to your prospects. This really depends on your service and your clients. What will work for one company may not work for another.

Offer must be simple and clear. Don't give in to the urge to create a 100 slide PowerPoint. You want to get a few key ideas across powerfully.

Offer must be convenient to take advantage of. It might be a meeting or presentation in your prospect's office, but probably not in a redwood grove at the top of a mountain (like where I live).

Offer must not take too much of the prospect's time. A prospect will be more likely take advantage of an offer that takes an hour or two, not day or two.

Offer must be seen as valuable in and of itself. Ultimately your offer is a form of a selling conversation, but it should strive to educate and inform in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking.

Offer must address either a pain or an aspiration. Your prospects are trying to solve a problem or reach an objective, so make sure your offer addresses those directly.

Offer must lead to more clarity. At the end of your conversation or meeting, the prospect should have a very good idea of what you can do and how you can help them.

Offer must build the confidence of your prospect. Your presentation may be unorthodox, but it shouldn't be obscure or confusing.

Offer must have a name – e.g.. "Marketing Strategy Session." Don't just say, "Let's get together and talk." No, make this something more special and tangible.

Offer must be delivered professionally. Be on time and have your materials together. But real success comes from several rehearsals. Lack of preparation is a deal killer.

Offer must persuade the prospect to take action. Ultimately, at the end of your meeting or presentation you should be clear what you want to happen next and be prepared to ask the prospect to take the next step.

Planing to roll-out your offer

When Carole presented her offer to give an intro training to her prospects, she followed all of these criteria. She went in prepared to deliver an intro that would excite and interest her audience.

Her HR prospects knew what to expect and invited several company managers to attend.

Carole tied the theatre games and improv exercises to real company issues and demonstrated the difference they could make while making learning fun.

After the intros she followed up and sent proposals, which ultimately led to her being booked by several companies.

Where do you start with this?

You need to ask what you could offer that would make a powerful impact and impression and then orient your marketing activities to setting up these meetings/intros/samples/demos.

This is often THE missing step in the marketing process.

We may connect with a number of people who could get value from our service; we provide them with information and talk to them about our services but wonder why nothing happens.

But we fail to give them an EXPERIENCE of what we do.

I've succeeded in filling my Marketing Mastery program for several years by simply offering a complimentary webinar that gives people a taste of what it would be like to be in the program. I even held a video conference session with past clients sharing the results they got.

What experience will you offer to your prospects? If you follow the above criteria, you can expect the kind of success Carole and many others have seen.

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I recently started to do something differently in my marketing. 

On holidays (such as the 4th of July) and vacations, I don't write this eZine/Blog anymore. I actually take a break and relax.

I used to think that I SHOULD write this thing every single week with no exceptions and that anything else was just weakness or poor planning. 

Well, that was just stupid. 

It's all part of a distorted belief system that tells us, "I must be productive at all times or I will fail."

We are all so hard on ourselves, but what does that get us? 

Doesn't it ultimately undermine our effectiveness and productivity? 

After all, when it comes down to it, I find work to be a fun and rewarding pursuit. Why muck it all up with arbitrary rules about how hard I should work and how much I must get done? 

Whenever I put that pressure on myself, then resistance builds as well and it becomes hard to just have fun in my work. 

This image just sprang to mind: 

What if I built a box of a certain size and shape and then told myself that I and my work had to conform to the size and shape of that box?

That box is all the rules, systems, and principles that I somehow determined would help me be successful and happy. 

"Yes, I will do my work THAT way and that will lead to control in my business and my life and be happy!"

You know, rules, systems and principles are cool when used as tools to pick up and use when they are useful and appropriate, but not so great when we become their slaves. 

What does your box look like?

Here some common boxes we build to fit our marketing inside. Which ones sound familiar to you?

I can only write if it's perfect. And I need huge blocks of time to write. And if people don't like what I write, my reputation will be ruined. 

I need to have every part of my marketing system completely planned out before I start. I need more than a good plan, I need a perfect plan. 

I need at least 5,000 likes on my Facebook business page and I need to post at least 4 valuable pieces of content each day. 

I need a few years training in speaking before I can get any talks booked. And, of course I need a book before I can get any talks - and it must be published by a major publisher. 

It never works to call someone if you don't know them. No, I have to arrange my marketing so that people call me. Anything else is unprofessional. 

All of this is obviously delusional 

We all start with imperfect knowledge, underdeveloped skills and not enough time to do it all.

When you break out of your box of "I needs", "I shoulds" and "I musts" we can simply work on what is right in front of us.

And we can do things imperfectly because that's the only way anything gets done. 

And outside of your constrictive box, you just may have some fun. Imagine that!   

What's up for me right now is to have fun in my marketing and business and let it be a natural expression of what I am inspired to do in this moment.

But I'd better not make that a rule, or before you know it I'll have a list of bogus rules on how to have fun! 

Yes, this may sound and feel a little chaotic, but at the same time I trust myself to do what works. 

Off to another project, and see you next week. 

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Here's something I frequently hear from new clients:

"Robert, I need to get my marketing on track. I want you to help me do the RIGHT things and not make any mistakes in my marketing. Can you help me do that?"

Wow. That's a loaded question!

Before I tell you what I tell them, let me give you some of the more specific questions my clients have asked me:

What is the right marketing message for me?

How do I communicate effectively about my business?

What should I include in my marketing materials?

Should my website be text- or graphics-­oriented?

Does an email newsletter work and should I do one?

When should I follow up with a prospect?

How do I sell effectively without being pushy?

How do I price my services to get the most/best clients?

Everyone wants the RIGHT answers to these questions.

But is there a right answer? I'm sure different marketing coaches would recommend different things. And some might be overzealous about their recommendations:

Coach #1 - An email newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your audience. You must have one!

Coach #2 - Are you crazy? nobody reads anymore! You need to send out videos every day!

With all these rabid voices vying for attention, what action do you end up taking? And what if you choose the wrong one and it doesn't work? Help!

This struggle about the right thing to do can end in paralysis (doing nothing), self-recrimination (I did the wrong thing) or arrogance, (I did the right thing).

What about simply making the best choice you can by using some of the approaches below:

1. Relax and get some perspective. You are not making life and death choices; you are testing things out to discover what works.

2. Do some research about various approaches. This can be very simple such as looking at several website designs. What appeals to your head and your heart?

3. Start small and get some feedback. Planning on sending a promotional email to your list? First send it to a few close associates and get their take on it.

4. Look closely at the costs and time you'd need to invest. Giving talks to your target audience costs little but is time consuming. Are you able to invest that time?

5. Look at the complexity of the project you want to undertake. Do you really want to write that book yourself or do you need some help to keep it on track?

6.What excites you and draws you in? Emulate what others are doing if it captures your attention and imagination.

7. Commit to taking action with as little attachment as possible. Every marketing action is an experiment. You'll learn something whether it succeeds or flops.

Going through this process is so much more powerful than asking an "expert" what you should do. I've discovered that when I assist my clients with making marketing choices this way, their confidence and enjoyment of marketing increases.

So, give up doing the right thing. Just discover what works for you.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. If you are looking for some hands-on help with making these marketing choices, click here.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I’ve noticed that some of my clients have great marketing energy. And others don't.

Marketing energy is displayed when you are in the flow of marketing, making plans, creating materials, getting out there and having fun connecting with others and sharing your business.

I'm working with several clients right now who are just tearing things up, coming up with great ideas, taking consistent action and envisioning exciting possibilities. 

Marketing stagnancy occurs when nothing excites you, and you hold back, can't come up with creative ideas, complain that things are difficult and feel more like hiding than getting out there.

And a few of my clients are stuck and bogged down in this way, unsure what to do next and hesitant to take bold action to make vital connections.

Why do these differences occur?

People in the first category are thinking differently than people in the second. They could both be in very similar circumstances with similar services, skills and opportunities.

But how are they thinking differently? Let's take a look:

Category One

Optimistic

Seeing opportunities

Fearless

Confident

Category Two

Pessimistic

Seeing pitfalls

Fearful

Insecure

You get the idea. But do you also realize how absolutely useless this information is? You just can't tell people in category number two to be more like people in category number one!

This principle also applies to beliefs.

People in category number one believe they can make things work.

People in category number two believe they can’t.

And that doesn't help much either, does it?

"What's so hard? Just change beliefs!" people in category one say. And people in number two reply, "If we could easily change our beliefs, don't you think we would?!"

In order for people in category two to shift, they need a different approach. This approach needs to be gentle, respectful, non-judgmental — these words apply whether you are trying to make that shift yourself or assisting someone else in making it.

What I've noticed, both for myself and from my clients, is that although we may be stuck in some kind of resistant, fearful thinking, we don't want to be there. We do want to get past it and have our creativity and resourcefulness kick in. In other words, we resist the stuckness. 

What we don't realize is that this is often a bigger problem than the negative attitude itself.

Yes, not wanting to be stuck can be more of a problem than the stuckness itself.

Why? Because we are fighting against reality.

When you're stuck, fearful, resistant and negative, that is exactly how you are in the moment, right? You are what you are. And what is, is what is.

Resisting that only makes things worse and usually more painful.

The shift can be subtle.

For example, consider the difference between saying to yourself:

"I'm stuck and nothing is working. And I hate that and want things to change."

Versus:

"I'm stuck and nothing is working. And that's the way it is right now."

The first response is pretty common. Resistance seems like the right thing to do.

The second response is counter-intuitive. But it's a lot smarter.

Because things change anyway. Downs transform into ups and ups turn into downs. There is no permanent state of unstuckness and positive, expansive energy.

These days, when I'm feeling stuck and resistant, I just stop and look. I notice my thoughts and my feelings. I don't resist the resistance.

Being aware has no resistance. It just is. And within awareness I can allow anything: moods, attitudes, fears, and stuckness.

And without struggle or effort, I notice that the stuckness simply starts to dissipate and move on. I'm left with awareness,  without resistance and with space for new possibilities.

Give this counterintuitive strategy a try. The next time you are caught up in feeling stuck, be aware and notice the stuckness is simply what is right now. No judgment, no resistance. 

And then notice if you feel more peaceful and relaxed.

And without trying to "make something happen" notice what does happen. It may surprise you.

640 views
 

By Robert MIddleton – Action Plan Marketing


In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting on Sunday, it’s hard to get back to business as usual.

This was the deadliest shooting in American history, and it's even difficult to wrap our minds around that because there have been so many mass shootings over the past few years.

I've seen a lot of responses in the media, from politicians and activists, but will their words change anything?

Some have suggested banning semi-automatic weapons. Others have countered with having a better response system for suspected terrorists, preventing Muslims from entering the country, offering better mental health screening and educating people about the LBGT community.

From what seem like commonsense ideas to off-the-wall hysteria, we really have no idea how to stop the next act of mass violence.

But we clearly don't need to ADD to the violence. 

No matter how we feel — powerless, hopeless, depressed or angry — we can spread words and acts of kindness and love, not words and acts of hate.

I wish the best to everyone, especially to all who were personally affected by this tragedy.

Cheers, Robert

If you would like to add comments about your feelings/reactions to this, please comment on the Blog. 

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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.