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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Is this you?

You're an independent professionals with a small practice and generate from $50K to $200K in sales every year. 

If yes, should you put time and effort into social media, or is it a waste of time? Does it work and can you make it work for you? 

This analogy might help. 

Years ago I did a lot of networking and did get some clients that way, but I and my clients noticed something rather disconcerting: 

Most of the people at networking events were sellers not buyers (including us). 

Everyone wanted to talk about their business, but few were interested in hearing about other people's businesses. 

This is why a large percentage of my clients didn't enjoy networking – because it didn't get very good results. 

Fast forward fifteen or twenty years and live networking has been replaced to a large degree with online networking – more commonly called social media. 

But the situation is very similar to networking – more sellers than buyers. 

Everyone is always promoting themselves on social media, but very few are tuning-in to that promotion, let alone buying the services of those promoting. 

One of the innovations of social media are groups - primarily in Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Groups are very popular, as the members are people like you and me who are relatively easy to connect with. 

But then the group moderator fails to put controls on the group and many people start posting promotional posts with links to articles, programs and web content. This is called "content spamming."

Pretty soon, most of the posts are promotional. Everyone is selling and nobody is buying. Conversations dwindle and few people are building relationships with others in the group.

Given this situation is it even possible to attract new clients on social media? 

What's a poor independent professional to do?

Following are some of my thoughts. Even though social media is not a prime source of clients, here are a few things that have worked for me.  

1. Don't expect to post on social media and expect someone to contact you, ready to do business with you. It doesn't work like that. It takes time, often a lot of time. Like any other marketing, you want to build both visibility and value. So you need to post valuable stuff frequently. A post or two won't make an impact. A few a day can. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

2. Spend more time contributing to others than promoting on social media. Answer questions, offer resources, in some cases sending them to an article (blog post) on your site that answers their question in more depth. This way, your promotion is indirect and appreciated more. Also, point to other valuable resources, not just yours. But as I said above, don't do "article spamming" where you do nothing but post links to your own content. 

3. Consider putting more time into building an email list rather than getting followers on social media. A McKinsey report showed that email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. 

That means that for every $1 invested in email marketing, is takes $40 to get the same results with social media. That should make you think!

Almost twenty years ago I realized how important email was and put a lot of time and energy into building my email list and sending out a weekly eZine. 

I build visibility and credibility with the eZine and don't use it much to directly promote or sell my services.

But when I want to promote a program or my coaching services, I send the promotions to my list and very few people object because of the value I've provided for so long. 

Now it takes only two or three promotional emails to attract enough clients to fill my calendar with clients for six to nine months. 

4. Turn your eZine (email newsletter) into a weekly blog post and then send your social media followers to your blog. This gets me 100 or more people to view my blog each week who are not on my email list and also gets people to sign up for the eZine. 

5. Use Facebook Groups to find resources and ideas. This is how I primarily use the Wisdompreneurs group. If I'm looking for an idea, I just ask a question. This sometimes results in good exchanges and new ideas I can use. This really isn't marketing, but it sure makes a difference to me. Wisdompreneurs also has a weekly promotional thread and that's the only place you can promote there. 

6. Make requests in groups for marketing connections. For instance, you might learn that another group member recently gave a talk at a conference. Send that person a private message and see if they'll give you the contact for getting booked at that conference in the future. In Wisdompreneurs I learned that a member had been interviewed for a podcast. So I found the person who did the podcast and asked if they'd like to interview me. She did! And then I asked the group if they knew other podcasts where I could be interviewed. And I got three more interviews. These are great indirect ways of getting exposure, growing your list and attracting new clients. 

7. If you really want to leverage social media to market yourself, you need to learn more. Some of these approaches are tricky. I recommend Social Media Examiner and Content Marketing Institute. Both have exceptional, well-researched articles on social media and content marketing. 

Ultimately, I found that for my business, social media marketing was not as important as sending emails to my list and occasionally doing talks, teleclasses and webinars. Those now attract all the clients I need with a lot less work. 

Nevertheless, social media can be a useful addition to your marketing mix. But if you want to take it to the next level, like everything else, you need to study and work hard at it. 

I'd love to hear any ideas of how you've used social media to successfully attract new clients. Just post in the comments section below. 

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Janice was upfront with me when we first talked about marketing her professional services: 

"I want to market my services but I just hate hype; I don't want to seem pushy or manipulative and I definitely don't want to seem desperate when I'm marketing myself. So what can I do?"

I told her I agreed with her and that most independent professionals felt the same way. "One of the built-in misconceptions about marketing is that it is the same as hype. It's so hard to conceive marketing without hype, that those sensitive to hype feel as thought they've hit a dead end with their marketing." 

Then I gave her a short list of hype-oriented marketing activities. 

• Making exaggerated claims for our services

• Promising what can't be delivered

• Using over-the-top language

• Presenting all style with little substance

"Is that what you mean Janice?" I asked.

"Yes exactly," she responded. "That's just not me."

I continued: "The common denominator in all of these approaches is misrepresenting the value of what you are offering. And doing that, even a little bit, makes you feel yucky, right?"

"Yucky is a perfect word." she responded. "Look, I'm a professional, I can't use those hype-based approaches. So before I decide to work with you, I need to know if there's a way to market myself that doesn't feel yucky and still be effective." 

"Yes, there is a  realistic alternative," I said, "and – good news – it's really simple. Authentic marketing is about accurately representing the value you offer. 

"But that doesn't mean your marketing needs to be boring. You can't bore someone into doing business with you. 

"No, you can make your marketing interesting, valuable and beneficial without resorting to half-truths or outright lies."

And then I outlined for janice seven things she could do to market herself authentically. 

1. Educate your audience about what you offer. Don't assume they really understand what it is you do and all the value you provide. Above all else, explain how your clients value from your services. What difference does your service make?

2. Explain in detail every single important benefit you offer. Don't assume your prospects know of or understand any of these benefits. Spell them out as clearly as possible. 

3. Make sure to balance benefits with features. A feature of a service is a particular thing you do (such as offer email support), the benefit is the value a client receives from that feature (ensures that you stay on track). 

4. Tell stories about your services that illustrate specifically how clients have benefited from using them and include testimonials relating the value your clients have received. 

5. Tell your audience about yourself, your journey, your struggles and your breakthroughs. Personalizing the story behind your services builds a feeling of familiarity and trust. 

6. Be real. Actually explain any drawbacks of your services and why they are not for everyone, but for a certain kind of client. This shows that you understand your clients and their real needs. 

7. Simply tell your prospects what steps to take next. Most marketing for professional services takes several steps. Point them to more in-depth information, complimentary meetings, introductory tele-classes or webinars. 

"Now that I've explained these seven approaches to authentic marketing I hope it takes some of the pressure off. These are approaches any honest, authentic, independent professional can take without feeling yucky.

"Remember that marketing is 100% communication, so every time you need to communicate about the professional services you offer, come back to this list and make sure to include as many of these approaches as you can in your emails, phone conversations, web content, sales letters and follow-up calls." 

"And you can help me with that?" Janice asked.

"Absolutely! and you may discover that authentic marketing is both natural and easier than you thought."

Several months later Janice had completely integrated authentic marketing into her business, had attracted a number of great clients, and discovered that it's easy to connect with people when you know you have real value to offer and that any kind of hype is completely unnecessary.  

Cheers, Robert

Note: I am now accepting applications for my Marketing Coaching Program designed to teach you the authentic marketing approaches that result in attracting more of your ideal clients.

Learn more here: http://actionplan.com/mastery-sessions

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This past week I conducted a wrap-up session for the Marketing Action Group I've been conducting for five months. We did a questions and answer session where I asked the participants 20 questions about marketing and they gave the answers. We then discussed each question in some depth.

These 20 questions and answers cover the most important marketing principles for independent Professionals, so I thought I'd share them with you here.

Essentially, this outlines the process for attracting clients I've used for over 20 years for myself and my clients with great success. This is very concentrated information, so I suggest you read it a few times. 

1. What is the Purpose of marketing?

To get selling conversations. Everything you do needs to be oriented towards this goal of getting meetings with qualified prospects who are ready to explore working with you. Once you have these meetings, the selling process starts. But first, you need to understand the steps that lead to Selling Conversations.

2. What is the primary way to get Selling Conversations?

By developing and implementing various marketing strategies. Prospects will not appear out of the ether. You need to launch strategies to get in front of prospective clients, and generate enough interest that they want to know more. But how do you generate that interest?

3. What is the substance of all Marketing Strategies?

Communicating your value. Value is helping a client either solve a problem or achieve a goal. Value is expressed as specific outcomes such as "more income, productivity or success." You cannot assume prospects will understand your value so you need to clearly spell it out. All marketing strategies start with a Marketing Message. 

4. What are the three most important elements of a Marketing Message?

They are: 1. Who your ideal clients are, 2. what your clients need and 3. what results you can produce for them. This message must permeate every aspect of your marketing and your business. And you need to communicate it with impact and clarity both verbally and in writing over and over and over again! Ultimately this leads to Selling Conversations. 

5. What is the purpose of Selling Conversations?

To convert prospects into a paying clients. When you sit down with a prospective client, you need to structure that conversation so that you fully understand their situation, goals and challenges. Then you need to present a solution that will help them get exactly what they want. It's simple, but not always easy!

6. What's the difference between a Marketing Conversation and a Selling Conversation?

A Marketing conversation is an exploration where the prospect learns more about you and you learn more about them. Only when you feel there is a real need and interest in your services should you set up a selling conversation. Selling conversations are with qualified prospects who are sincerely interested in exploring working with you. 

Once you understand the purpose of Marketing, Marketing Strategies, Marketing Communication, Marketing Messages and Selling Conversations you need to work at developing your specific Marketing and Selling Strategies:

7. What is the purpose of Business Networking?

Networking is more than attending meetings with strangers exchanging cards. Networking is about building long-term business relationships with people you like and trust. These networking contacts result in referrals, resources and support as you grow your business. 

8. What is the purpose of a Website?

To engage a prospect and stimulate them to take action. Your website should answer all the questions a prospect might have about your business: What do you do? Who do you work with? How do you work? What services do you offer? Who has worked with you? Who are you? How do I reach you and start working with you? Do you have any free information for me? Writing all your website content takes time and focus

9. What is the purpose of an Email Newsletter?

To make sure you are never forgotten and stay top-of-mind. I call this keep-in-touch marketing. If a website is a car, the email newsletter (or eZine) is the gas. I use my website to gather leads. Then I use my email list to promote my services and programs. Ultimately you may discover that your most important marketing asset is your e-list. 

10. What is the purpose of doing Speaking Engagements?

To give prospects an experience of what you do – whether it's a talk or presentation, a teleconference or webinar. Nothing is more powerful than giving prospects a taste of what you know and how you can help them with their challenges. 

11. What must you do when you get a Qualified Lead?

Follow-up. This is the most avoided activity in marketing; everybody avoids it. But it's the key that connects marketing strategies and selling conversations. Those who get past their fears and resistance to follow-up will grow their businesses much faster and easier. They become fearless marketers.

12. Once you get an Appointment with a prospect, what do you do next?

Send more information and a questionnaire. You want your prospect to know more about you and you want to know more about them before a selling conversation happens. Send prospects to your website and have them read the details about your professional services. Then ask them to fill out a questionnaire that lets you know if they are the kind of person or business you can make a difference with. 

13. When do you provide a Proposal to a prospective client?

After the selling conversation is concluded. Too many independent professionals send proposals too early in the process. In fact, sometimes the selling process is skipped altogether and a proposal is requested and sent. Proposals sent too early rarely get accepted. By the way, if you are selling services to individuals, you rarely need a proposal – for larger businesses, you do. 

14. What is the biggest Challenge in marketing?

Managing your mindset. If you had no resistance, fears, doubts, avoidance, etc. marketing would be easy. After all, it's simply learning and implementing a number of processes, some fairly easy to do and some more complex. But marketing comes with the baggage of beliefs about being accepted, being rejected, being good enough, etc. You need to get over yourself to market effectively. This is the biggest challenge for most. 

15. What should you Charge for your services?

Whatever the market will bear. And it's important to notice that the majority of independent professionals undercharge for their services. They either think their clients can't afford them or that they don't see the value. This is both a communication and self-esteem issue. Know your value without a doubt and your resistance to raising your fees will evaporate. 

16. Who is Responsible for your marketing success?

You are. Not your knowledge, education, circumstances or the people you know. We all have things working for us and things working against us. But when it becomes clear that you alone are responsible, your marketing will find a way.

17. Could I hire a Marketing Person to promote me?

Yes, but how would you pay them? A good marketing/sales person has much bigger opportunities working for a larger company. So the chances are you'll find someone who is not very good. Sometimes a partnership with a strong front-end person who does the marketing and selling and the back-end person who does the client work can be a possible solution.

18. Is there anyone who I can Hire to help me?

Yes, several services can make a real difference. A website designer, a graphic designer, an editor and a marketing coach, I think are the most important. You'll use the web designer to design and update your site, a graphic designer for all other marketing materials, an editor for your written content and a coach to help you develop and implement your strategies and get unstuck. The cost of hiring these people is minuscule compared to the return.  

19. What do you need to Do Next to succeed in your marketing?

Take the next most logical action. We are always faced with a long list of opportunities and projects. The first thing to do is to take care of your existing clients and go the extra mile. The second is to develop and implement marketing strategies. To do that successfully, you must study, plan, write and implement. Marketing is so much easier if you are organized and persistent. If not, you need a coach more than ever. 

20. What will ensure my Marketing Success? 

First, understand everything on this list. All are essential and will save you time and grief. You'll do what works, avoid mistakes, increase your confidence and be more effective. To understand the ideas on this page, you'll need further study of reliable, time-tested systems and get support to keep you on track.

Right now I'm wrapping up my Marketing Mastery Program for 2016. I won't be doing a Mastery Program in 2017 but I'll be working with individual clients in my Marketing Coaching Program. This gives both me and the participants a little more flexibility and the ability to customize our work together. 

If you'd like to know more about this program, please click on the link below and then fill out the questionnaire if you'd like to talk to me about participating. 

http://actionplan.com/mastery-sessions/mastery-sessions/

Cheers, Robert

1128 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Have you ever felt you had "everything together" in your marketing, but you still weren't getting the results you wanted – meetings with qualified prospects that turned into new paying clients?

This was the case for my client, H.C.K., a brilliant Irish Leadership Consultant who lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Her issue was simple: "All this marketing stuff is just not me. I'm not the kind of person who ever asks for the business. I just show up and hopefully people learn about what I do."

You couldn't fault her for not getting out there. She was past president of Rotary International in Berlin and and had managed to secure some very lucrative contracts over the years with major European clients. Everyone loved and respected her.

But she needed a new message, website and marketing plan.

With my coaching, she completed all of these with great speed and success and discovered a hidden talent for writing compelling materials and learning the ins-and-outs of the "Middleton Style" of marketing. 

And although she was feeling more clarity and confidence in her marketing efforts, she still tended to hold back, playing "Ms. Perfect" before connecting with the prospects who could hire her. 

Last week in our Zoom Video marketing coaching session I saw a new person on the other side of the screen.

She was excited, energized and proud of her accomplishments. She had contacted a number of past clients, made appointments with a few and secured a new contract with another. 

I was wondering what had caused this sudden turnaround. 

"Robert, I've been listening to several of the Expert Interviews in the More Clients Club and came across one that spoke to me powerfully. It was Five Questions That Make All the Difference" with John Scherer."

"What this interview pointed out to me," she said, "is that I had been denying the shadow part of myself. As John said in the interview, the shadow side can be represented by someone you don't like, or even hate. He said that if you squeeze everything that's bad out of that person you're left with some qualities, skills or attributes that can be very useful to you."

"Yes," I said, "You can even learn something from people who are ultra proactive in their marketing and seem to hype everything. You can strip out the sleaziness and keep the part that is simply reaching out and communicating value. And you can stretch a little, reach out in your marketing and ask for appointments. Is that really so terrible?"  

"No it's not and that's what I'm discovering," H. replied, and continued.

"With that insight, everything changed for me. I am now fearless, confident and have finally really grasped how to dance with myself and my shadow. In fact, Ms Perfect is now working for Ms Shadow who is very clear about what needs to happen! I've had so much resistance in my head… in my stomach… fear of what people might think… how they might react… and in the end Ms Shadow said: What the heck! Just get the job done! Nobody is going to think anything!"

This description of H's transformation really doesn't do justice to what she had learned and realized. But she had discovered something I wish all my readers and clients could:

You won't have the success you truly deserve if you suppress the parts in yourself that you don't like. In fact, tapping into these parts of yourself, often judged as negative, can be the key to getting past your avoidance and fears.

H. is now well on her way to getting in front of a lot of excellent prospects and turning them into great clients. 

On Sunday night I pulled out the interview with John and read it over, wondering what exactly had ignited H's turnaround. I'd done this interview in 2009, the first year of the More Clients Club, and couldn't remember much of it. 

After reading it, I thought two things: This was probably the most powerful interview I'd ever done, and that I had to make it available to ALL by subscribers! 

You can get it at this link: http://actionplan.com/pdf/scherer-interview.pdf

Note, that the picture of Trump in the top image makes more sense in the context of the interview itself. 

And by, the way, I can't help but say that this is just one of about 60 interviews available in the More Clients Club. I invite you to join the Club for $1 for the first month and get access to everything it includes: 

http://actionplan.com/fasttrack

Cheers, Robert

622 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In the mid-eighties when I started my business, I literally had no clue about how to market my services. I had heard of a number of things I should do, but very little idea of how to actually do those things. 

"How-to" became a central word in my vocabulary. And since there was no Internet back then, I read a lot of books. By my count, about 300 of them over several years. 

I steeped myself in marketing how-tos and was insatiable about learning them. And, of course, I tried them out to the best of my ability, and before too long I was getting good results with my marketing. 

In the More Clients Club that I'm promoting this week, I keep coming back to the importance of learning the specific how-tos of marketing. 

These days, detailed, in-depth marketing how-tos are everywhere on the Internet. 

We have it a lot easier now. Or do we? 

Many how-to articles on the Internet present problems. How do you know that particular "how-to" will work for you? Is that article or blog post based on real experience or just complied information? And which how-tos should you focus on? There's so much information out there that it can be overwhelming. 

But first, what are the most important marketing how-tos for an Independent Professional – information in articles or posts that will actually lead to enrolling new clients in your business?

First, there are the foundational marketing how-tos:

- how to develop a powerful marketing message and brand

- how to talk and write about your business so that it gets attention

- how to develop a website with the right content

- how to implement marketing strategies that get response

- how to do keep-in-touch marketing to stay top-of-mind

- how to get prospects to actually respond to your marketing

- how to get appointments with qualified prospects

- how to turn meetings with prospects into new clients

These marketing how-to's are necessary now and were necessary 100 years ago (with the exception of websites). They are based on timeless marketing principles.

Next, there are the newer, Internet-based marketing how-tos:

- how to earn high rankings on Google search engine results

- how to build a large email list of prospective clients

- how to use social media to gain a loyal following

- how to use teleclasses and webinars as a promotional tool

- how to use podcasts and videos to increase your credibility

- how to use LinkedIn to find qualified prospects

- how to write persuasive emails that get response

These marketing how-tos are simply online marketing tactics. They continue to change frequently and can be hard to keep up with. 

In the materials in my More Clients Club and in my coaching with clients we get into ALL of these (on both lists) in great depth, with very specific how-to information.

But something almost nobody notices:

Almost everyone wants to know how to do the things on list #2 before the things on list #1. And, as they say, this is putting the cart before the horse.

I attribute most of my online marketing success to understanding and mastering the items on list #1. And everything on that list is about how to communicate effectively with your audience so that they will respond. 

No response = failed marketing. 

So my recommendation is, before you put a lot of work into a new webinar, podcasting technology or Google algorithm, that you make it a priority to learn how to communicate more effectively through whatever marketing medium you use. 

These simple, but powerful how-tos yield consistent results: 

- how to get interest vs. disinterest in your message

- how to focus on challenges before focusing on solutions

- how to use articles to establish immediate credibility

- how to collect dozens of business cards after you give a talk

- how to network your way to big clients

- how to get prospects to say "yes" to a meeting

- how to close big sales with a structured selling conversation

You can find answers to most of these online. And if you want to save time, the More Clients Club is a shortcut. It includes in-depth step-by-step tutorials on all of these how-tos. 

Check out the Club today and take advantage of our offer of the first month of membership for only $1. 

Cheers, Robert

749 views
 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

One early September many years ago I thought that business would start to pick up now that summer had ended.  

But it didn't. Nothing happened. 

It was then that I realized an inconvenient marketing truth:

Most new business doesn't just happen by itself, no matter the time of year. And it didn't happen because I wasn't making it happen. 

I wasn't being visible, getting the word out, promoting anything, or following up with prospective or past clients. I was just sitting there. 

No, I had fallen back on the now famous "Prayer Marketing Strategy." This strategy is quite simple: Do the very best work you can for your existing clients and then at night pray that they'll send you some good referrals.

Sounds like a fantasy, but it's actually the most common marketing strategy for Independent Professionals! 

Those who have a steady stream of new clients are doing things to regularly generate attention and interest in their services. They understand that most of their prospective clients don't wake up every day thinking about them. 

I'm often amazed at how simple some of those ways of generating attention and interest can be. 

One of my current clients, a focus group moderator, in my Marketing Mastery program, joined the program when her business had started a downward slide. 

One of the problems was that a company that had given her a lot of business in the past wasn't sending her any new business. Why? She had been removed from their vendor list when a new manager took over. 

The strategy we developed was simple. She would start actively networking with her past contacts in the company and inquire about new connections. She had coffee and lunch with a number of people, pitched the value of her services, and a few months later found herself back on the approved vendor list for focus group moderators. 

In August (yes, in the middle of summer), she got three new substantial contracts with that company. 

There are always creative ways to make new connections, have conversations, explore working together and get new business.

In a nutshell, here is a three-step process for that. 

1. Clearly identify your ideal clients - whether they be large companies or individuals. Understand their needs and how you could offer service. 

2. Get your marketing message and written materials into place (articles, website, etc.) to help you feel confident about communicating to your prospects. 

3. Come up with an outreach plan to get in front of these prospects. This could be a combination of networking, speaking, email marketing or all three. 

An effective plan will rarely be based on social media or content marketing. Those passive marketing approaches help to create your foundation, visibility and credibility but don't usually result in immediate selling conversations. 

Instead, you want proactive strategies designed to get prospects to respond and that lead to selling conversations as soon as possible with those who can use your services. 

Proactive marketing campaigns might look like these:

– Inviting everyone you know for a complimentary introductory coaching session. One of my clients went "all-in" on this and set up 120 appointments!

– Connecting with every good past client you know and asking them for referrals. A client of mine is successfully doing this with some clients he worked with 20 years ago. 

– Promoting an eight-part live program for wellness. A therapist client did this, generated a lot of positive word-of-mouth and now finds herself with a completely full practice. 

– Booking talks at industry conferences by using his existing connections. My client, a strategy consultant, generates leads from those talks that he turns into in-house presentations. And about 90% of those presentations result in $100K strategy projects.

– Giving a special offer that’s hard to turn down. Tomorrow I'm inviting everyone on my list to give the More Clients Club a test drive with a $1 membership for the first month.

Large or small, these proactive marketing approaches leverage relationships, offer substantial value and give your prospective clients reasons to work with you.  

Don't pray for referrals and don't be passive. Be proactive by inviting people to respond, participate, and take action to find how they can get even more value from you. 

And all of these work, no matter what time of year it is. 

Cheers, Robert Middleton

801 views
 

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. 

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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.   

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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 

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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. 

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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.