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By Robert Middleon – Action Plan Marketing

Bobby Previte is a jazz drummer with a difference. He’s not cool and laid back, but a boundless ball of creative, brilliant energy.

Since he started his career in 1985, he’s published close to 50 albums and played on or partnered on about 100 others. I downloaded twelve(!) of them this week and am listening to one as I write this.

Bobby is a drummer, musician and composer with prodigious talent, endless imagination, fearlessness, and energy to burn. You can hear it in every single moment of his amazingly energetic and unconventional music.

Bobby made me think, “What does it take to generate this kind of creative energy? Is it something you’re just born with or can you grow and nurture it?”

A sense of his approach comes from the album notes to a soundtrack he wrote:

“So I kind of barricaded myself inside my studio at the time, working exclusively between midnight and 6 a.m. for three weeks straight. The only window opened out to an airshaft. My neighbor was a woman who, with a certain fearful respect, we called the "Voodoo Lady." From time to time she would stick her head into the shaft and at the top of her lungs let rip a bloodcurdling scream. Too bad I didn't have a sampler back then.” 

No, Bobby Previte is not what you’d called a ‘conventional’ musician. As you can see from the story above, he throws himself headlong into a project and embraces whatever shows up.

Now, you may not be a creative artist like Bobby Previte, but, as an independent professional, you are very much on your own, free to create the kind of business and lifestyle you want.

So, inspired by Bobby, here are some of my musings about creating the conditions for expanding your creative energy and multiplying your creative output.

Throw out the rulebook

Who wrote the rulebook anyway? Somebody who wanted to keep things in control. “Don’t talk to strangers. Write short copy. Avoid using slang.” Really? Instead, ask, “What will break through and get attention?” and be willing to bend a few rules to get it.

Challenge boring conventions

My favorite marketing saying is by the great adman, David Ogilvy: “You can’t bore someone into doing business with you.” And if you look and sound like everyone else, you’ll just blend into all the other boring look-alikes out there.

Seek out challenging creative partners

As independent professionals, our biggest weakness is doing everything alone. Big mistake. I recommend you find some like-minded independents who are open to masterminding, brainstorming and collaborating. Look, I don't even write this weekly article without the help of an editor. 

Try new and different things

We are creatures of habit, which is great for maintaining a daily momentum. But stagnation, boredom, and burnout are often close behind. Do something crazy this week – like listening to a Bobby Previte album! Check out “Too Close to the Pole.” It’s like a bracing plunge into turbulent Arctic waters.   

Go the whole hog

This means don’t hold back, even a little bit. You’ve come this far on a project (such as developing a new program), now pull out all the stops and go for broke. Do an all-nighter, if need be, until it’s done. Fine-tune that sucker so it shines like a diamond.  

Strike when the iron is hot

We can’t control when we feel inspired. But when something turns you on, grab that energy and run with it. If you wait for ‘the right time,’ your energy and inspiration may have dissipated. Seize the day!

Hope you caught on to my theme today. To generate creative energy you need to boldly step outside of your normal patterns of thinking, feeling, and action. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Bobby Previte’s life purpose is to inspire his listeners to do exactly that.

Cheers, Robert        

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When it comes to marketing one’s professional services, the most common emotion isn’t fear, it’s overwhelm.

My friend, Jill Konrath, has an overarching description of prospective clients these days: Everyone is “crazy busy,” she points out. And this is why it can be so hard to reach people, get meetings with them and sell our professional services.

But as independent professionals, we’re crazy busy as well. We seem to have more things to do than ever before. And when it comes to promoting our services, we get overwhelmed because of all the things we think we must do to keep up with everyone else. 

Here are just a few of the things we can do these days to market ourselves online:

Develop and maintain our websites

Keep a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

Develop a podcast

Create online videos

Write an email newsletter

Publish a blog

Post articles on LinkedIn and Medium

Hold a webinar

Advertise on Facebook

Send promotional emails

Overwhelmed yet? I’ve done a number of these things, but just reading this list practically gives me a panic attack.

We look at a list like this and inevitably think,“I’m not doing enough to market my professional services; I’m falling behind; I’m not doing enough; I’ll never catch up!”

That’s overwhelm. And then we freeze and end up not doing anything because we don’t want to waste our time doing the wrong thing.

A few tips to help you start feeling more in control:

1. There is nothing on that list above that you MUST do. Yes, marketing entails communicating to prospective clients in one way or the other, but there is no one strategy or technique that is absolutely essential.

2. You can be effective marketing your services by doing ONE thing consistently and very well. It might be an email newsletter, giving talks, or networking, but it doesn’t need to be all of those things.

3. Find the marketing activity that you enjoy the most and do that one over all the others. For me, it’s writing. It’s easy for me and doesn’t stress me out. But you need to find the thing that’s fun and easy for you.

4. Do everything you can to avoid information overload. Delete your junk emails as quickly as possible. Don’t visit Facebook 20 times a day, and check your messages less often. Focus on one project at a time with as few interruptions as possible.

5. Use online tools that get you organized and save time.One of my favorites is Evernote.com as it’s great for organizing lists, ideas, projects and people. And many of my clients swear by HighriseHQ.com to manage their contacts and follow-ups.

6. Book very specific times to do your marketing activities.For instance, I always write this eZine on Mondays and rarely miss an issue. Many of my clients make follow-up calls or send marketing emails the first thing in the morning.

7. Let whatever you do today be enough.Stop beating yourself up for not being a “super marketer.” That’s obsessive-compulsive behavior! Do whatever you can the best you can and be a little easier on yourself.

8. OK, breathe, relax.Push yourself away from your screen for a minute or two and be in the moment. Step out of overwhelm intentionally whenever you notice you’re getting sucked in. Then return to your work with more awareness and presence.

Cheers, Robert 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Do you see marketing your professional services as hard, difficult, perhaps even unpleasant?

If so, you’re not alone.

We may see marketing as hard because we worry the worst will happen:

We have a marketing message that is unclear and confusing, turning people off.

We reach out to prospects and it feels like we’re interrupting or bothering them.

We write emails or marketing materials that we believe nobody will find interesting.

We second-guess ourselves and feel that our services aren’t really valuable after all.  

With those attitudes, no wonder marketing feels hard. But there is a way to make marketing a whole lot easier.

The key is to turn a practice into a system. Instead of focusing on what might go wrong, we discover the underlying principles that make that practice work. 

For instance, we may also perceive cooking to be hard. After all, we could end up with unpalatable meals that nobody enjoys.

But if we break cooking down to its most basic elements, we come up with four simple activities that can be applied to creating any dish:

1. Selecting of ingredients

2. Preparing of ingredients

3. Mixing and heating ingredients

4. Serving the prepared dish

Yes, that sounds pretty simplistic, but that’s essentially what cooking consists of.

And there are millions of recipes and cookbooks that explain exactly how to successfully perform those four activities for any dish in the world.

Before long, with a little practice, cooking becomes fun, a real pleasure. You’re eating and sharing delicious meals.

Marketing really isn’t much different. There are also four core activities required to implement any marketing strategy.

1. Target your ideal clients. (Research who they are and where they can be found.)

2. Get the attention of your ideal clients. (Create messages that appeal to their needs and interests.)

3. Inform and educate those prospective clients who respond to #2. (Through written, audio or audiovisual media.)

4. Invite to engage in a conversation with said prospective clients. (Explore through dialog whether or not the services you offer are a right fit.)

Now all you have to do is become competent at those four steps.

With some research, study, and practice you can follow various marketing recipes that are proven to attract clients.  

And before long, marketing is easier and more successful. You’re attracting great clients consistently.

When it comes to cooking, some will learn enough to cook three square meals a day. Others will master the art and become celebrated chefs.

For most independent professionals, mastery of marketing is not required, simply competence in the basic four marketing activities.

I urge you to commit to effective marketing by learning and practicing the basics of marketing until attracting all the clients you need is no longer an issue.

If you need some assistance, I offer the three services below to assist you. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Cheers, Robert

Action Plan Marketing Services
 
The purpose of Action Plan Marketing is to help independent professionals to find their own authentic marketing voice and attract more of their ideal clients. I offer the three services below to help you realize that purpose.  
 
1. The More Clients Club – Extensive online tutorials and courses on marketing for independent professionals. The Club includes a ton of hands-on and how-to strategies to market more effectively. Includes a step-by-step marketing course, the Website Toolkit, over 60 Expert Interviews, marketing samples to emulate, my two marketing books, and a whole lot more. Access is only $29 per month. 
 
2. The Marketing Action Group – Coaching and support in getting yourself out there. This is an intensive group program with 30 participants, conducted via Zoom Video once a week. We hold your feet to the fire and give you coaching, support and resources to get you more conversations and meetings with prospective clients. The fee is $149/mo or $129/mo for Club members. 
 
3. Marketing Coaching Program – Individual coaching and consulting on every aspect of your marketing. Individual Marketing Coaching is for independent professionals who are looking for step-by step guidance in attracting more clients. We start by developing and honing your marketing message and materials and then developing the best marketing strategies to get you out there, connecting with prospects, and landing new clients. 
 
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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I’ve had a tough time over the past few months.

Last year I was diagnosed with parathyroidism. That means one of my four parathyroid glands was misbehaving and throwing off the calcium balance in my body.

And for me, that resulted in aches and pains and insomnia. So I was exhausted much of the time.

Although I tried to work to the best of my ability, it slowed me down quite a bit. The stamina I used to have was greatly diminished.

About 10 days ago I went to Tampa Florida for a little operation to have my defective parathyroid gland removed. I chose the top experts in the world at the Norman Parathyroid Center.

Now I’m feeling a lot better, getting more sleep, and in general getting my energy and stamina back. My condition is cured and the prognosis is excellent.

I was diagnosed about a year ago by my naturopath and then went to the Internet to do some research. I immediately found www.parathyroid.com - the Norman Parathyroid Center.

Their website is amazing. Essentially what it does is educate the reader about the parathyroid, what it means to have parathyroidism and what is necessary to cure it.

Because of that website, they do about 15 parathyroid operations there every single weekday. That’s 3,900 per year, more than any other place in the world.

And whether or not you’re worried about parathyroid disease, you ought to take a look. And you should ask yourself some questions about your website marketing.

1. Am I giving my web visitors enough information about my services so that they can choose to work with me just from reading my website?

2. Am I mostly educating my website visitors about the clients I work with and how I help them, or am I trying to sell them?

3. Am I explaining things in enough detail and answering questions so that people have a full understanding of what I’m about?

4. If people want to contact me, do they know what will happen next and how my process works? Will they feel comfortable contacting me?

5. Do I include a lot of useful content, such as articles, videos, testimonials that educate and help my visitors feel comfortable and confident about my professional services?

Well, I promise you that the Norman Parathyroid Center certainly does all of the above and more. I didn’t need to be sold by anyone. When I was ready, I just called them and they took care of me in a very professional and caring way.

Are you able to say your website is accomplishing that?

If not, perhaps it’s time for an upgrade.

Don’t fall for what so many say about content on a website: “Nobody will take the time to read it.” It’s just not true.

I spent hours on parathryroid.com. How much time do visitors spend on your website?

If you connect with your visitors with in-depth information that addresses their needs, you’d be amazed by how much people will read and how many more will respond.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. What will I do with this new energy and stamina? Stay tuned!

 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing 

I sent an email this past Thursday mentioning that I’m doing a co-promotion for Alan Weiss’s “Business Development Program.”

I’ll be sending you details on the program later this week, but in today’s More Clients I want to talk about one of Alan’s most important concepts as it touches on everything in your business and marketing.

That concept is VALUE. The better you understand this concept, the more successful you’ll be in your business.

When you’re communicating about your services or programs to clients they are thinking one thing: “What is the value for me? What do I get that will benefit me, make a difference, make things easier or less difficult?”

That’s where a client’s primary focus is. There may be secondary factors that enable you to deliver that value, but the interest in those things is lower than most of you realize.

Clients are not very interested in:

Your education and degrees

How many years you’ve been in business

The process you use to obtain your results

Your personal philosophy and convictions

But, as strange as it may seem, those are the things most professional service providers talk and write about! 

No wonder marketing feels like a struggle! Nobody cares and nobody is listening.

Clients want answers to these simple questions:

1. Who do you work with (that is, do you understand me and can you help me)?

2. Do you help with X issues, problems and challenges (that is have you worked successfully with others in these areas)?

3. What do I actually get if I work with you (that is, what results, outcomes and changes will I see if I work with you)?

4. Do you have proof that you can help me (that is, do you have success stories and client testimonials)?

When you talk about these things, clients will listen and respond.

Where this all starts is with LANGUAGE.

I’ve heard Alan say the following many times:

Language controls the discussion

The discussion controls the relationship and

The relationship controls the business.

Without clarity in your communication (the language of results and outcomes) the relationship goes nowhere and business doesn’t happen. 

This core idea of expressing value though language is at the heart of everything Alan teaches. But the reason Alan’s work is so powerful is that he models that language in every possible marketing and business situation you can imagine.

On Thursday, I’ll give you a short video of me interviewing Alan with a few samples. But imagine that you knew the actual words to say in the following situations:

Communicating your brand

Business networking events

Getting appointments with prospects

The selling interview

Going for the close

Writing effective proposals

Asking for referrals

Alan has his own unique approach to all of these conversations, but they all come down to infusing these conversations with value, that is, keep coming back to “What’s in it for them?”

Stay posted for my email on Thursday with the video interview of Alan.

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I clearly remember the earliest disappointment in my life.

I was about four years old and was expecting to go to a party. But then I was informed that I was not invited. And I took it very personally.

That’s all I remember, but as an adult, that same feeling of disappointment arises anytime I have an expectation dashed. When I don’t reach a goal, get what I want or am rebuffed in any way, these ancient familiar feelings pay an unwelcome return visit.

Be aware than in growing your business or in marketing your services you are literally setting yourself up for some degree of disappointment.

Not everyone will love what you have to offer and a great many will show complete indifference. And that kind of rejection, even though it’s rarely personal, can trigger feelings of disappointment, discouragement, and even despair.

The question is, how do you deal with disappointment?

I’ve experienced some disappointment in the past few weeks about not getting a couple clients I really wanted to work with. 

So I’ve been ruminating about the whole issue of disappointment and how to think about it in a way that helps me move on to the next project.

This morning I looked up some quotes about disappointment and I found them very encouraging in their perspective.

“The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.” – Conan O’Brien

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power – a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves up and start in again after a disappointment.” – Marsha Sinetar

“Disappointment is a sticky one, because no one can steal contentment, joy, gratitude, or peace – we have to give it away.” – Kristin Armstrong

“As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I've come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” – Marianne Williamson

Yes, disappointments will inevitably come, but if we are open to what is, and not let ourselves become mired in the false belief that we deserve success all the time, things will ultimately work out. The sun will rise the next day and new opportunities will reveal themselves.

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

OK, Secretary Powell, but I think there’s a little more to it than that. Here’s what I came up with: Twenty ideas I’ve found that have worked for me in my business for the past 33 years.

This advice is for any and every independent professional who wants to succeed and make a difference but is not sure they can make it happen. 


1. Set goals and get excited about them. Create a vision for your future that’s compelling enough to get you thinking about achieving your goals and living your purpose all the time.

2. Research incessantly. You may have a great goal but that doesn’t mean you know the steps to take or exactly how to achieve it. Hint: almost all the basic answers about how to achieve your goals can be found on Google or Youtube.

3. Go for a goal as if you’re playing a game to win. A game is simply when you make something more important than something else. You made it up. Now play it. With that attitude you’ll have fun growing your business.

4. Take bold, decisive action on your goals from day one. In racing, you start as fast as you can and look straight ahead. You want to create momentum right off the starting blocks. Worry about pacing yourself later.

5. Work long and hard. You cannot shuffle your way to victory. Stay up late, miss meals, work your fingers to the bone, especially in the early stages. Don’t worry about mistakes or imperfections, just get stuff done.

6. Write a lot. Plan a lot. Do a lot. When starting on a project, I often fill notebooks with ideas, write articles on the topic, discuss it with my colleagues, and make plans and models until the complete strategy comes into clear focus.

7. Avoid perfection like the plague. Write crappy first drafts, without judging yourself. Don’t think about how imperfect things are right now; understand that as you progress things will get better and better.

8. Give up complaining. Yeah, we know it’s hard, we know it takes time, we know it’s a mess right now, we know you’ll hit obstacle after obstacle. Big deal. Keep your eye on the prize.

9. Get feedback from people who are more successful than you. Not for them to validate your ideas and progress, but to kick you in the butt and press you to do it better, and take it farther than you’ve taken it before.

10. Get inspired. Going for big goals can take its toll on your mind and body. I’m inspired by reading books written by people who have traveled the path before me. A good alternative is Medium.com a site that publishes hundreds of articles that inspire and motivate.

11. Eat less, exercise more. You have to be in shape to achieve big goals. If you’re tired and stressed you won’t do your best work no matter how much you try. But be careful here – no extremes such as starving yourself and exercising like a maniac!

12. Be in or create a support/mastermind group. When you’re an independent professional, it gets lonely. When your only feedback is your own mind, you can miss a lot of important ideas and information! Find a small group of peers, meet regularly, and hash ideas out until your next step is clear.

13. Come back to basics every day: You want: A service or program that will make a profound difference to your clients. Messages and materials that communicate powerfully. Strategies to get you out there, get attention, and result in conversations. A foolproof process to close the business.

14. Think bigger. Much bigger. Double your fees and then find a way to make those services worth even more. Yes, there are limits, but believe me, you are playing far short of those limits most of the time.

15. Get out of your comfort zone. The comfort zone is your payoff for playing small. But do you really want to be comfortable and safe? Do you want your tombstone to read: “Played small. Died anyway.”

16. Love people. Love your clients, your associates, and anyone connected to your business. Get interested in them, go out of your way for them. Be like the professional who does great work for you and whose praises you sing.

17. Take the lumps with the rewards. You’re human and you’ll make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Make amends and move on. Don’t dwell on past failures or missed targets. Keep focused on the big picture – on the difference you’re making.

18. Don’t blame. Everyone runs into people who do stupid things, lie or even try to hurt you. Do your best to forgive, forget, and move on. Realize that you’ve done your share of things you’re not proud of as well.

19. Tap into your genius and magnificence. It’s already there inside you, ready and wiling to do great things. The internal self-critical voices are lying to you. The fears and self-doubts are deceiving you.

20. Celebrate your victories. And I don’t mean by partying or getting drunk! Take a moment to go deep inside yourself and feel your greatness, your power, your unlimited life force. That’s who you are, your essential self, your real self. 

Print this out and read it until it starts to permeate your mind and dissolve your resistance, doubts, and fears. When that happens, success is assured.

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In my new Marketing Action Group, I’ve been wracking my brain about how to find new and better ideas to share with the group.

Yesterday I wrote a long article for the group about How to Turn Results into Ideas, but that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to write here.

I wanted to get at the essence of what it took to generate ideas and then make those ideas real.

But just before I started to write, I got my daily Medium Digest by email.

And the first article was by Mike Sturm, one of my favorite Medium authors.

And Mike wrote the article I wanted to write!

He nailed it. I can’t do it better this week, so, I’m sending you the link to his article on Medium.

It’s thoughtful, insightful and valuable. I love it and I hope you will to.

Link here to read.

Cheers, Robert 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

We’ve all been duped about genius.

We see the genius as a brilliant intellectual who comes up with ground-breaking ideas and discoveries.

We think of Leonardo, Einstein, Goodall, Hawkins, Jobs, and Musk.

Most of us can’t imagine ourselves being in the company of such people.

While it’s true that all geniuses are smart people, but we believe that genius is innate, something they were born with.

That is absolutely false.

A genius is someone who applies their smarts to discover new things, write groundbreakings books, invent new products and produce great works of art.

Smarts and talent are totally over-rated. They lead to genius only with hard work and application.

A genius is someone who goes beyond dogma, fears, and convention to come up with a whole new way of seeing something or making something work.

Anyone with reasonable intelligence, a burning interest or passion for something, and a willingness to go beyond their comfort zone, can become a genius.

You for instance.

You are actually built for genius. You are built for greatness.

The only enemy of genius is fear.

Fear that others will disapprove of you, that you’ll be rejected, that you’ll do it wrong, that you’re not good enough, that you won’t be perfect.

Many people realize, at some point in their lives, that fear is the only real obstacle to their genius. When they break out of that self-imposed comfort zone they discover their real genius.

Are you ready to be a genius?

1. Connect with your vision of creating something truly great in your life.

2. Work relentlessly to dispel the hypnotic trance of fear that’s holding you back.

3. Have fun doing what you love to do with the commitment to fearlessly doing the very best you possibly can.

Cheers, Robert

See other quotes about genius on Brainy Quotes.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I’ll get right to the point. I’ve developed a model for direct outreach marketing that shows you how to get more conversations and meetings with prospective clients by turning cold calls into hot calls.

In marketing, there are two very important factors that get more response to your outreach: Affiliation (they know you through some connection) and Information (they are familiar with your ideas).

If you reach out to people you’re affiliated with and if you provide good information, you have a better than even chance of getting meetings and landing new clients. 

Here’s the model:

Cool, right? The vertical axis is information and the horizontal axis is affiliation.

Quadrant 1: Cold Calls. When you have weak affiliation and little information it’s hard to get anyone to pay attention to you; it’s even harder to turn them into a client. You’re a complete stranger, and there’s zero trust or warmth. This is the land of very chilly cold calls. And in my opinion, it’s a total waste of your time.

Quadrant 2: Warm Calls. Here you have some affiliation. You belong to an organization, know people from networking, or have subscribers on your e-list. These people are much easier to connect with because of that affiliation. Now you’re in the land of warm calls, and suddenly you stop getting rejected.

Quadrant 3: Intro Calls. In this place, your prospective clients have some information from you. Perhaps they visited your website and opted-in. Or they attended a talk or saw your video on YouTube. When prospects have this information it’s a lot easier to reach out and introduce yourself personally.

Quadrant 4. Hot Calls. Now you’re firing on all cylinders. This is when you’re affiliated and also provide information. Trust and liking are elevated. When you reach out, prospective clients are very open to speaking with you. Your calls are hot and meetings are easy to get.

The one thing to remember, however, that many people conveniently forget, is that you still have to reach out. You still have to ask for conversations and appointments. Learn how to do that and you’ll get more meetings that turn into more clients.

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.