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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

My wife is in the process of starting a small catering business, so, of course, I'm her on-call marking consultant (at very low rates).

Last week, I created her business card and designed a one-page overview of her business. "Cumin - Exotic Himalayan Cuisine"

Sounds delicious, right? 

She just joined BNI (Business Networking International) and in her second meeting got a request to cater a Hallowe'en party. 

On Sunday, we sat down to talk about how to present and price her services in a way that was simple and that conveyed value. She is a great cook but not so savvy about business and marketing – yet. 

One thing I recommended was that she use Google to ask any questions she may have about the business side of catering. Questions like: "How do I price my services? How do I present myself professionally? How do I prepare a proposal for a catering job?"

She remarked that it's hard to know what to ask when you don't even know what's important. 

You know what you know, right? And there are some things that you know you don't know (and need to know).

But those two are only a small fraction of what can be known. The rest is what we don't know that we don't know.

We don't even know what's important to know and what's not important to know. What's useful and what's useless?

These days, hundreds of thousands of independent professionals start out on their own as subject matter experts or process experts and often assume that's all they need to know. 

A year or two into business, and they start to realize that, relatively speaking, they know nothing! They realize they need to know more and more and more, to be competitive, to be profitable and to avoid expensive mistakes. 

If you've been there (and who hasn't?), I recommend a very powerful but inexpensive immersion program in expanding what you know.

It's simple. Read several business or marketing articles each day on just one topic you don't know a lot about. 

You need to read these article closely, looking to see if there's valuable knowledge you can absorb and apply in your business. 

And, of course, you'll find all of these articles on the "Internet Oracle" – Google. 

Search for how-to articles – "How to attract more clients through speaking." With that simple search on Google I found 18 articles (one of them mine) and two YouTube videos on the first search page. Not bad.

Now, don't just read one or two of those articles. Read at least half a dozen. It doesn't take a long time to determine which articles are based on solid experience (as opposed to generalized information). 

Search for "7 ways articles." I don't know why, but 7 is a magic number. "7 ways to improve your SEO" (search engine optimization). That little search netted me 20 different articles – I kid you not. You might also try the number 10. That search got me another 20 articles! 

There are no topics you must search for, but once you get in the swing of things, you'll start to find all kinds of information in the category of "I didn't know that I didn't know that."

Here's an example. If you take a look at all those "7 Ways SEO" articles you'll see a word repeated many times: "keywords." Perhaps you don't know what a keyword is and why it's so important. It's something you didn't know you didn't know. 

So then you do a Google search about keywords. "7 tips to find the best keywords for your website."

And what did I find? Yeah, you guessed it - 20 more articles!

A few of those articles will be so-so, some will be quite good, and several will be incredibly useful and insightful – with ideas you can apply to your business right away. 

All you need is a little curiosity. Ask Google a question, any question. And the answers you get will lead to more questions and more answers. 

To get myself up to speed with marketing I read about 300 books on marketing and business over several years. I don't believe you need to do that anymore. Good, solid information, and ways to apply it in your business, are freely available in massive quantities online. 

I think the keys to success are to make this a regular habit, to go deep to learn those all-important how-to secrets and to simply follow your interest and passion to grow and succeed. 

This pursuit of knowledge is certainly more fun and enlivening than following the horror show of the 2016 election!

And now, instead of being glued to her iPad Scrabble game, my wife might spend more time reading business and marketing articles. 

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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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.