Latest Blog Comments
  • It might be a version of the Audio Logo, But what is written often doesn't quite work verbally and visa versa. With a little tinkering and testing, yo... read more
    By Robert Middleton

  • Hi Valerie, the only way you will discover the best message for you is to try it many, many, many times. You can't figure it out in your head. 20, 30,... read more
    By Robert Middleton

  • Robert, If your audio logo is succinct enough, would you use it on your business card as a tagline? read more
    By JoanneMcHugh

  • Robert, This article has come at a great time for me. One question I've heard a few times is "what would make someone want to pay for that?" Or "why w... read more
    By Valerie

  • This was helpful. Could you write more about how to build a network. Using the questions you end with. Could this be a coaching call topic you coach p... read more
    By Nancy Francisco

  • Robert, great article. I do steps 1-3, but not step 4 which probably explains why sometimes I was unsuccessful in winning the business. If they do not... read more
    By Morton

  • Great article Kim! And thanks for posting it Robert. I've had the honor of meeting Kim in person. She's as wise in person as she is as a Linked In pub... read more
    By Paul Zelizer

  • Robert, Well this 'Avoidance thing' has been big in my life! Just finished listening to ' Beyond Avoidance', and feel liberated from my own head. Righ... read more
    By Pam Benham

  • I bought the InfoGuru Marketing Manual in 2003, when my company was an organization of one (me!) and was only 3 years old. Today, my organization has ... read more
    By Charles Dominick

  • Robert – Huge congratulations on your 30th anniversary! I'm grateful that you were inspired to begin Action Plan Marketing back in 1984. It has given ... read more
    By Rhonda S. Musak

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Wouldn't it be great if people really got what you did in your business? Well, maybe not…

"If I could only explain what I do, I know people would be interested."

This is what we tell ourselves, and in our heart of hearts, we believe it. We know that if people could only understand what our business was all about, then clients would come flying through the door. 

But my experience is quite different. In fact, I've observed just the opposite. Even when people know exactly what you do in excruciating detail, it makes little difference to them and they are no more likely to do business with you.

It can actually turn people off if you talk about what you do. 

"How can this be?" you exclaim, as you put more and more work into explaining how your services work. You see, this is a very hard habit to break. 

Why? Because our attention is focused in the wrong direction. Our marketing is all about us. Sure, you've head this before, but I want to make it even more crystal clear. 

To do this we need to do a simple "marketing experiment."

I want to imaging that you have switched places with your prospects and clients. You have become them. You no longer see through your eyes, but their eyes.

And imagine you (they) are looking for business coaching services on the Internet. You put in the keywords: Business Coaching Boston (or you city name) and you generate a list of businesses. Take a look at a few of them. 

Actually do this right now. I'll wait. 

What do you notice first? 

Did you notice the design, look and feel of the site? The site's attractiveness occurs to you on a scale of "ugly to beautiful." Just notice that the more attractive it seems, the more you are compelled to look further. This all happened in a second or two. 

What do you notice next?

You start by reading the text on the page. You might read a headline, the navigation or some of the text. What attracts your eye the most and gets you more into the site?

There are a lot of options here. Do you notice you are more attracted to read information about the kind of clients they work with and the results they've produced for their clients or are you attracted to read information all about them and who they are and what they do?

I'll bet it's the first two. But don't take my word for it. Take a look at several web pages and just see where your attention is naturally taken. 

Do you want to know more or is your interest not stimulated enough to want to know more? 

Are you more interested in Testimonials and Case Studies or the information on the "About Us" Page? Just notice where you automatically go on the site and when you feel like leaving. 

I'm betting that you'll come to some of the same conclusions I've come to. 

1. A web page that is attractive, well-designed, well-written and easy to read will pull you in and get you to stick around longer. 

Note that this has nothing to do with what you do!

2. You are attracted to information that "meets you where you are" that is, it's clear who the coach is speaking to and seems to understand who you are and your challenges. 

Again, this really isn't about what you do. 

3. You are attracted to results, testimonials and case studies, but only when they are credible and not "over-the-top" and talk about results you can really relate to. 

And resuls aren't about what you do either.

4. Only last, will you want to find out how the coach works, how his or her services are structured and how you can contact them. 

And if this is mostly true for you, what conclusions might you arrive at? You might start to see that "what you do and how you work" is not nearly as important as you thought. 

You might be shocked to notice how much appearance and design have to do with a positive impression, before you know anything else about the business. 

And you also might find yourself somewhat frustrated that the majority of websites don't communicate very authentically about how they help their clients. It's often over-the-top generalities: "You'll see amazing increases in productivity."

Now ask yourself, "Given these observations and insights, is my marketing attention in the right place?" Don't you need to focus on so many things other than explaining what you do? 

Isn't it more important to create an inviting environment and talk to your prospective clients about results in a way that is both believable and compelling?

Now, all of this is also true if you meet someone face-to-face.

The same dynamic is going on. People make a snap judgment of you in a second or two, before they even hear your message. 

How you're dressed, eye contact, your smile and handshake all communicate subtly but powerfully. And then, when you open your mouth, are you saying something that's interesting and thought-provoking that's related to results, or are you talking all about yourself?

The more you can observe what attracts you, what draws you in, the easier it will be to develop a marketing approach that, above everything else, speaks directly to the needs of your clients. 

I'd like to get your feedback on this article. What were your actual observations? What would you change in your marketing based on what you learned?

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, 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 More Clients Starter Kit

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If You're Struggling with Marketing, There Are Two Big Keys That You May be Missing. 

I've heard some version of the following so many times I can't remember:

"Marketing is such a struggle for me. It's no fun, takes too much time and doesn't get very good results. What do I have to do to make marketing work for me?"

If you were sitting down at a table with me and asked this question, I'd first focus on two Big Keys to marketing success. 

And these keys would not be what you'd expect. In fact very few people really think about these two things, but they are undoubtedly the most important and determine your experience of and success at marketing. 

Ready? Here they are: 

1. First you want to figure out what you are good at and what you love to do. When I started my business in 1984 I was clear of only one thing: I was good at teaching and coaching people. If I understood something, I was great at helping others understand it as well. That's it. 

So I started by helping people set goals and get organized. And a few years later, I started helping small business owners with their marketing. I've been at it now for 30 years. And I still love teaching and coaching. 

Whether you just started your business or have been at it for several years, do you really love what you do? Are you immersed in it? Do you read about it, talk about it, write about it and share about it to anyone who will listen?

If so, great! If not, marketing is going to be harder for you. It's the passion, the commitment, the determination to do your work well and make a difference that will give you the energy to keep at it when things get hard (and there are always hard times). 

2. Find an audience or a group of people who need what you have to offer. When I started my business I did a lot of networking and met a lot of people. After some time I discovered that my ideal clients were much like me - self-employed professionals. I could relate to them and liked them and they also needed my help. 

So it was easy to communicate with them. I understood their problems and struggles because I'd gone through them as well. I knew how to help them because everything they wanted to know I had already done successfully

I see a lot of people trying to go after clients who they don't understand. For instance, they have never worked in a corporation and try to sell their services to corporations. Perhaps they were corporate types before they went out on their own and are trying to market products or services to small business people who they just can't relate to.  

It's not that you can't learn about your ideal clients if you are not very familiar with them. But it will take longer and it might never feel comfortable. I once worked with a woman who focused on working with real estate agents and joined a real estate agent networking group. A year later she woke up and realized: "I don't even like these people, why am I trying to do business with them!"

If you can first nail down these two things, marketing is going to be a whole lot easier for you. You'll be passionate about what you do and communicate to people who understand you and need you. 

Sure, there are a lot of marketing principles and strategies that will help you become a better marketer of your services, but it won't come so hard if you're in the right business and working with the people you can help the most. 

So ask yourself…

"Am I really in the right business, doing what I'm good at and love?" And if not, what can you do to make some changes (which might take some time) to focus more on what will really make you happy in your business?

And, "Are the people and businesses I'm going after as new clients, the kind of people I can not only help, but like?" If not, where can you look to find those kind of clients who will appreciate you and get the most value from your services?

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below.

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, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, 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 More Clients Starter Kit

Why Promoting Your Promotion is More Important (and Effective) Than Directly Promoting Your Professional Services

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Many years ago, when I was reading a lot of marketing books, I learned about the power of promoting the promotion.  

The one that sticks in my mind the most was the advertisement by Sherwin Cody first published in 1918 with the famous headline: "Do You Make These Mistakes in English?"

That ad, written by Max Sackheim, offered a course in common English usage which covered the topics of Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar.

The headline was attention-getting by pointing to the copy with the words, "These Mistakes." You had to read the ad to find out what these mistakes were. And the body copy, a few hundred words long, consisted mostly of interesting facts such as:

"For instance, statistics show that a list of sixty nine words (with their repetitions) make up for than half our speech and letter writing. Obviously if one could learn to spell, use and pronounce these words correctly, one would go far toward eliminating incorrect spelling and pronunciation."

It also included stories and in-depth examples:

"Some years ago Mr. Cody was invited by the author of the famous Gary System of Education to teach English to all upper-grade pupils in Gary, Indiana. By means of unique practice exercises, Mr Cody secured more improvement in these pupils in five weeks than had previously been obtained by similar pupils in two years under old methods."

But one of the best parts of the ad is the call-to-action…

"Those who are interested (in Mr. Cody's new method) can find a detailed description in a fascinating little book called "How You Can Master Good English in 15 Minutes a Day." It can be had by anyone, free upon request. There is no obligation involved in writing for it. The book is more than a prospectus. Unquestionably, it tells one of the most interesting stories about education in English ever written."

Then the ad points to a small coupon to be filled in and mailed. The ad does not try to attempt to sell the course. It leaves the heavy lifting of selling to the free book (and no doubt sales letter)that the prospect received in the mail. 

For most small businesses, the art of promoting the promotion as demonstrated in this ad is a lost art. By the way, this ad was extraordinarily successful, running for over 40 years, generating millions of dollars in sales of his course. 

How can you incorporate Promoting the Promotion in your marketing?

The principle is simple and can be used in many ways. 

In Networking: Talk to people about success stories and give interesting explanations about why your work produces results. Don't talk about the step-by-step process of what you do. People will want to know more. Offer to send them an article explaining your "Six Ways to Increase Employee Buy-In." And then, of course, follow up to learn more about their needs. 

On Your Website: Don't just ask people to sign-up for your free email newsletter (ezine). That's not enough. Where's the benefit? Instead, have a page dedicated to telling about the powerful results you've produced with your clients and then offer that free article on "Six Ways to Increase Employee Buy-In."  The monthly ezine subscription comes as a free bonus. Do this and see your subscription rates soar. 

Via Email: Don't send a long email saying how great your services are, asking them to sign up. Instead, offer them a complimentary "Strategy Session and Assessment on Employee Buy-In." No charge if you request one in the next week. And then, before you meet, send them more information on your services so they understand how you can help them. 

The essential principle is simple: Don't promote your service, promote the promotion. Promote that free article or report or teleclass or webinar or Strategy Session. Get your prospects interested and then give them something valuable that will make them want even more. 

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below.

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, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, 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 More Clients Starter Kit

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

There are so many parts to marketing as an Independent Professional that it can be hard to know where to focus your efforts and build your skills. 

I talked about this two weeks ago, but I'd like to focus a little more on one area that comes into every aspect of marketing. 

And that's "Marketing Conversations."

You could define a marketing conversation as any interaction you have with a prospective client where you talk about your business and the prospect's business. 

The purpose of any marketing conversation is to make a connection where ultimately the prospect becomes interested in doing business with you. 

Here are my foolproof guidelines on having successful marketing conversations. 

1. Anyone could be a prospect. When someone asks you what you do, they might be a good potential client. So you want to answer in a way that engages and interests them. Don't just say, "I'm a management consultant" and hope they jump up and down with excitement!

2. Instead, when you answer, use a problem-oriented or solution-oriented "Audio Logo" that includes 2 elements: Who you work with and how you help them. 

Problem-oriented: "I work with leaders in high-tech firms who don't have the level of productivity they know is possible." 

Solution-oriented: "I work with leaders in high-tech firms who are looking for higher productivity from their employees."

You have to test audio logos to see what works best. Ultimately settle on the message that gets the best response. 

3. Pause and wait for a response. The biggest mistake you can make here is to talk too much. Don't do that. Take the attention off yourself and listen to what the prospect says. 

If they say something like "Oh, how do you do that?" or "What approaches do you take to get those results?" then you have an opening to say more. 

4. But you don't want to respond the way most people respond. Most say something like, "Well, we do various workshops and programs and also do some coaching." This kind of response (which, by the way is the most common), is all about your process and all about you. Sure it's what you do, but it doesn't answer the hidden question: "What's in it for me?"

You also position yourself as a commodity when you answer with your process. You sound like every management consultant in the world. Not good for your marketing or memorability!

5. Answer with a story, instead: "Well, perhaps the best way to explain what I do is to give you an example of a client I worked with recently. I worked with a team in a company that was very dysfunctional and productivity was way down. I did some work with them, improved communication and reduced conflict and now they are regarded as the one of the most effective teams in the company." 

So you need to pick out a few good stories, often called Cinderella Stories: "This is how bad it was. Then we came in and provided the help they needed. And now things are great." 

But these need to be real stories representing real clients that you produced real results for. Someone just told me such a story recently, and although I wasn't a potential client for him, I completely got how powerful and valuable his services were. I actually got excited because of the way he told his story. 

If you can't get this across, why do you think they'd be interested in anything else?

6. Continue with the conversation, mostly putting your attention on the prospect and asking about their situation, their goals and challenges. Don't jump in with how great your services are and how they'd be a perfect client for you. 

There are so many possibilities in a marketing conversation when it gets to this point, that it's impossible to give step-by-step instructions, but if you focus more on listening than talking, you'll always do better. If they want to know more, tell more, but avoid going on and on about everything you do. 

7. As a marketing conversation winds up, there are multiple possibilities. One, you don't see a possible connection with this prospect, for whatever reason, and you don't follow up. Two, you see some possibility but you're not sure, and Three, you see a real possibility to work with this person. 

For possibilities Two and Three, let them know you have an article you think they'd be interested in and ask if you can send it. You might also ask if you can add them to your e-list. For possibility number Three, you should also say you'd like to talk with them more and will get back to them. 

8. Then the final step is to follow up with number Three prospects. Call them, email them, persist until you reach them. And in this call, let them know you think you might be able to help them in some way or the other, but that you'd have to speak in more depth. That, in turn, can lead to a selling conversation or what I often call a "Strategy Session." 

The purpose of marketing is to get Strategy Sessions. that's where marketing ends and selling begins. And it almost always takes some kind of marketing conversation before you get to a selling conversation, even if someone called you from a strong referral. Don't just jump into a Strategy Session until you know that this prospect is well-qualified.

If you follow this approach to connecting with prospects through marketing conversations, I promise you'll get more Strategy Sessions and convert more of them into good, paying clients. 

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, 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 More Clients Starter Kit

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Once I heard a very interesting quote:

"The more vacations you take, the more money you make."

Now, I know some would question whether this was cause or effect - perhaps because if you make more money you can go on more vacations, but I think it's true. 

But perhaps, more important, just getting away from your business for a week or two gives you valuable perspective and reminds you that what you wanted to get from your business in the first place was more time and freedom for yourself. 

But then you became so caught up by the momentum of your business that you can't seem to catch a moment for yourself. 

Before I got married in 1995, I took no vacations. Just going somewhere by myself didn't excite me. But when I got married, my wife let me know in no uncertain terms that we were going to take vacations!

So we did. We've been to Europe a few times, to Hawaii a few times and several places in the US and Canada. Our favorite vacation spot is in Sedona AZ and also Mazatlan Mexico. 

One of the best things I like about vacations is getting everything caught up before I go. All my client and business projects, all my emails, bills and paperwork are completely caught up before I step out the door. 

That doesn't mean I never bring my work with me. 

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to plan and write and dream about what I'l do next in my business. And with all that free time and no client meetings or classes I become more creative. 

I've thought up some of my best business ideas on vacation. And two years ago I went to Mexico for several weeks and wrote a book while I was there. 

Now, in addition to vacations, both my wife and I attend spiritual retreats a couple times a year. She attends hers and I attend mine, which works out great because we can focus on the retreat and not worry about how each other is doing. 

A spiritual retreat can be almost anything that brings you back to yourself and the quiet place inside. It could be a few days alone, mediating and writing. It might be intensive sessions with a spiritual teacher. Whatever works for you. 

I'm headed out for a retreat right after writing this ezine. And I'm excited, not just because of the value I'll get from the retreat, but the opportunity to "unplug" from my day-to-day business life. 

I always come back renewed and ready to jump back into my business and ordinary life. 

But getting away doesn't come by accident. You need to intend it, plan it, organize it and budget it. So many people say they'd like to take more vacations or a retreat, but justify some reason why they can't:

"I'm just too busy right now, I really can't afford it, I don't like sightseeing or lying on a beach."

Well, why not design a getaway that would work for you instead? What's something you really enjoy that you could incorporate into your vacation? I know someone who went to France and spent a week at a cooking school!

My sister, Wendy, is a real vacation expert. She's gone on vacations all over the world. My sister Maria goes on three-month vacations to Mexico every year and gets away from the cold Canadian winters. She often rents out her home, short-term, and it's actually cheaper to live in Mexico!

I just want to challenge you to commit to a vacation or retreat this year (perhaps even both). And if taking vacations are still a bit of a stretch, do a short-term "staycation" where you stay home for four or fives days without working. Eat out and go to movies and visit the local museum or other special place. 

But don't work your tail off for the next twenty years, hoping to retire in some tropical paradise someday. It will probably never happen. Start your vacation plan today! 

Oh, by the way, I make a whole lot more money since I started taking vacations!

For those of you who do take vacations, please inspire us and share where and how you take vacations or retreats to renew yourself. Share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Over the years I've had conversations with people who needed help with their marketing. Perhaps they were referred or responded to my marketing promotions. 

Here's a conversation with a "composite person" (I'll call him Ronnie), who wanted to know how he could get better marketing results and where he should start.   

Ronnie launched his coaching business about three years ago. He has enough clients to get by, but could handle many more clients. 

Most of his clients come from word-of-mouth, but he does a little networking and spends a lot of time on social media to build his visibility. But his marketing doesn't have a lot of traction. 

Ronnie asked me where he should put his marketing efforts, and this is the answer I gave him: 

"If I was in your position, I'd go to as many networking events I could find. Several a week. And I'd also work on getting speaking gigs. I'd speak anywhere that had Independent Professionals in attendance. And then I'd build my e-list from these two groups."  

"But right now, you get most of your clients online, don't you? Why wouldn't you start with more online marketing since you know it so well?"

"Knowing how to do online marketing is only part of the equation. The other part is having a list large enough to get results. You need a few thousand to get a decent response. And that takes time. If I was starting out, I'd work on building my list, but wouldn't depend on online marketing to fill my practice yet. 

"This is why I'd make it a priority to meet a lot of people in my target market and build the know-like-trust factor. That's what you've failed to do. Not enough people know who you are and how you can help them."

"Well, this is why I'm building my social media connections. I have a few thousand on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and I post there often. So instead of live networking, I'm working at gaining visibility online."

"Well, that sounds good on paper," I said, "but social media connections are a far cry from real relationships. I'd trade one good live connection for 100 social media connections. Those are real relationships with people you've interacted with in person. 

"Tell me, Ronnie, how many of those social media connections would know you if you called them to have a discussion? Would they even remember who you were and what you did?"

"I get your point," said Ronnie, "I guess not. So tell me again, where you would focus?"

"I'll tell you how I did it in my business. I started with a lot of networking, I joined several groups and even started a group. I met a whole lot of people face-to-face, and that enabled me to refine my message and get better at talking about how I helped my clients. That was essential. 

"Then I started giving talks. And I found this to be even more effective. Networking had given me a foundation to build on and speaking gave me a whole lot of visibility and credibility."

"But you started before there was an Internet," remarked Ronnie, "Since that's now a reality, how would you integrate that?"

"Good question. I'd get the best website I could afford and load it with lots of great content, start a blog and optimize my site so that lots of visitors opted-in to get my reports and join my ezine list. And I'd also start building my list through networking and speaking. 

"But I wouldn't sit around for hours on social media, sending out posts and waiting for people to call me. Instead, I'd be proactive and get out there and connect with real-live people." 

"OK, I'm starting to get the picture. You'd have a good website and you'd network and speak to groups. And then would you expect people call you to work with you?"

"Unfortunately, that's one of the biggest myths of marketing: "Build it and they will come." Boy, how I wish that were true. That can definitely happened once you have a lot of visibility and credibility and have built a solid e-list that you stay in touch with."

"So what do you do if you don't wait?"

"When I realized people weren't going to call me, I called them. I'd collect cards at a networking meeting or after a speaking engagement and follow-up with them. I'd have short conversations and explore whether or not there was enough of a connection to take the conversation further."

"I can see doing everything else you talked about, but I'm not so sure about follow-up. Isn't that pushy?"

"Tell me this, didn't you ever meet someone whose services interested you and you gave them your business card and they never followed up?"

"All the time."

"And isn't that a bit frustrating?"

"I guess so. I see what you're saying. If someone shows interest, it only makes sense to follow-up. That doesn't mean I have to be pushy and try to oversell myself, right?"

"Exactly. So the thing to remember about marketing your business is that it's about building relationships, not making impressions. It's about getting to know people and following-up. It's not about posting something with a clever quote."

"So what place does social media have in my business?"

"Think of it as keep-in-touch marketing. Your social media contacts should be people you know, not a lot of strangers who want to friend you. So posting things once in awhile certainly doesn't hurt, and sending out an ezine to your list is even better, because more of them will actually read it."

"This is starting to make more sense!"

"I'm glad. So what are you going to start to do?"

"Just what you said. More networking for sure, and I'll start looking at speaking engagements as well. But I'm not sure where to start with that. Is that something you can help me with?"

"Give me your card and I'll give you a call tomorrow."

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comemnts link below. 


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In playing the game of marketing, it's very much like dating. Let's look at the parallels: 

The Connection

In dating, first you meet someone. You start a conversation, and perhaps there's a mutual attraction. If there's some interest, one of you suggests getting together again. You exchange contact information (usually on a cell phone) and you agree to be in touch. 

In marketing, first you meet someone. You start a conversation and perhaps there's a mutual connection. Perhaps one of you can help the other in some way. If there's some interest, the one who can help the other asks to send some information and follow-up. You exchange information. 

The Follow-up

In dating, after the first meeting, one of you screws up the courage to call and has a further conversation. If the rapport and interest are there, someone suggests a date and the other accepts. 

In marketing, after the first meeting, the one providing the service screws up the courage to call and has a further conversation. If the rapport and interest are there, this person suggests a more in-depth conversation. 

The Date

In dating, you go out on your "first official date" and get to know each other better. You explore your mutual interests and become more comfortable with each other. If it goes well, you agree on a second date and perhaps, if the relationship grows, it might ultimately lead to a proposal of marriage. 

In marketing, you meet for a "complimentary session" and get to know each other better. You explore your mutual interests and become more comfortable with each other. If it goes well, you agree on the next meeting and if the relationship grows, it might ultimately lead to a proposal to work together.

Now sometimes the process goes quite quickly with both dating and marketing. And sometimes it takes a longer time. In both cases you are feeling each other out, telling stories, revealing what you can offer and building trust. Ultimately the connection goes somewhere or it doesn't. And you move on.  

The thing that we often miss in both scenarios is that the relationship only moves forward if someone asks for something. It rarely just happens by itself. No asking, no future or no sale. 

It seems simple enough:

Connect - meet - explore - ask 

But wait a minute. It might seem simple as a process, but it's far from simple in real life, because asking isn't just asking. It's more about being accepted, being liked, being valued. 

So if you don't ask, you can't get rejected. 

One of my Club Members just posted this on the Club Forum:

"I often do a great job of engaging a prospect and getting them to third base and don't ask for the sale. I've been working on this issue for the past year to figure out what's stopping me from asking. I know a lot is because I don't like hearing "No" when I do ask, but it goes a lot deeper. I realized I'm a positive person by nature and like to see the glass half full. I realized marketing and sales is completely opposite of my personality. I love hearing "Yes" and marketing and sales results in a lot more "Noes" than "Yeses"."

Exactly! And if you avoid asking, not only are you not alone in this, you are in the majority. Everyone avoids asking because they don't like to hear NO! It's not fun, it's painful. 

So here are some things you can do: 

1. Determine ahead of time when you'll need to ask in a conversation with a prospect. Realize that at the beginning the asks are relatively easy: "I have an article I think you'll like, can I send you a copy?"

Then there's the follow-up ask, and the request for an appointment ask, and the proposal ask and ultimately the final close ask. 

2. Now actually script out these asks. Write then down and then practice them out loud until they feel easy and comfortable. Ask yourself if someone asked you in this way if you'd feel comfortable. Just keep practicing until you get over the uncomfortable hump and realize you will not die when you ask!

3. Ask yourself what's the worst possible thing that could happen if you asked in these various situations. Realistically, the worst thing that could happen is you'd be turned down. You'd get a no. That's about it. 

Now is that such a big deal? Could you survive that? Could you get up the next morning and go to work? Of course, you could. Nobody ever died of asking!

4. Find safe places to ask. Go to a networking event. Talk to a lot of people. If you get even a hint that someone might get value from your service, ask if they'd like your article. This is a pretty safe one, because people love to get free stuff. You almost always yet yeses. 

5. Next get some practice in making follow-up calls. Only call the people who showed the most interest. Remember, you are not asking for the sale, not even for a meeting yet, just a conversation to discover if there are mutual interests. 

Before long, you'll get more comfortable with asking. And you just continue in that vein. Become committed to being a "master of asking." Make it your hobby. Read about it in books on selling, get together with associates and practice your asking. 

This is how I developed my asking skills. And it's what I've taught my clients over the years. Just take it step-by-step and you'll find it easy, something you do naturally, without any pressure or manipulation. Not only that, you'll expect more yeses than noes and you'll get them!

By the way, if this helps with you dating, that's a bonus!

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Just Friggin' Go for It!

Isn't this what you want to tell some people who just can't seem to decide on a course of action and jump in and get it done? 

They think about what to do endlessly. They do research, talk to friends, write down ideas and plans. But then they never pull the trigger. 

Last week, I got a call from such a person. Let's call him Anthony. 

Anthony told me that he had spent thousands of dollars studying the work of marketing guru, Jay Abraham. (By the way, Jay is one of the very few people who really deserve that title.) 

He had immersed himself in Jay's work, read his books, listened to his tapes and amassed quite a substantial body of knowledge about some of the most powerful marketing ideas ever put together in the history of marketing (no kidding).

And then… he did nothing with it. Nothing. 

To me, this is a little bit like going to medical school and never taking the final step of becoming a doctor. What a colossal waste of time and money. 

Since I had some time on my hands when Anthony called, I spent a little time talking with him. Here are a few of the things I told him: 

"OK, Anthony, you have all this knowledge. You've been dreaming of putting it to use as a marketing consultant for several years. Let me ask you a question. Are you going to do it?" 

Long pause.

"Anthony, that wasn't a rhetorical question. Are you going to do it or not?"

"Uh," Anthony replied, "Nobody has really been that direct with me before."

"Well, I don't want to waste a lot of your time. Are you going to take all that knowledge and do something with it or are you going to be stuck in "wanting" for several more years, or perhaps forever?"

"Uh, I'm not sure."

"Look Anthony, perhaps you can't make a decision right this moment. I know it would be a big change. You'd have to take a risk and you might fail. But think of those hundreds of hours you've put into studying. If you don't take action, all that time will have been completely wasted.

"It would have been better for you to get into a hobby instead. I happen to collect jazz CDs. I have a few thousand. And I listen to them all the time. All you have is a lot of manuals and tapes on your shelf collecting dust!"

Ultimately I told Anthony that if he wanted help starting his marketing consulting business I'd be happy to help him, but it wouldn't be about collecting more and more information, but about jumping into action. 

Scary, uncertain, heart-pumping action! 

Look, I also studied Jay Abraham in the mid 90's. I took a four-weekend workshop with him over a 9 month period. It was very powerful and I'm still working on some of those mind-bending ideas. I also implemented a lot of what I learned and it helped me earn more income than I ever thought possible. 

The difference between Anthony and me is that I went into action immediately. I started a mastermind group with some of the participants and we stayed together for a year or more. We all worked to implement these ideas to attract more clients.

Now, here's the question for you.

Imagine it's 20 or 30 years from now, at the end of your career, and you think back at what you've accomplished or didn't accomplish. Would you feel you did your very best to make a difference, to excel at something challenging, and ultimately make the world a better place?

I'm not sure how Anthony will answer, but I promise you that if he woke up this morning with the commitment to "just frigin' do it" he might discover a rich and rewarding life beyond what he ever imagined while studying Jay's materials.  

Go for it, Anthony!

On the blog, share your story about how you got past your avoidance and just went for it. You may just inspire someone!


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This past Saturday I was leading my Virtual Workshop on getting Unstuck, and I said something very controversial. 

I said that this work on getting unstuck was 10 times more important than everything else I teach in marketing. 

Was that just hype? Or did I really mean it? And what exactly did I mean? In this article I'll build on the ideas from last week. 

In the workshop I made a distinction between "Logistical Stuckness" and "Thinking-Feeling Stuckness."

Logistical Stuckness is when you have something you want to do, but you're not able to do it yet because you don't know how, don't have the time or haven't found someone to help you do it. 

Logistical stuckness is real, but it's surmountable.  

You can research for what you need, ultimately find the time and get some advice, consulting or coaching to help you get it done. 

Someone would probably experience Logistical Stuckness if they decided to climb Mt. Everest. It would be challenging. There's a lot of stuff to prepare and it happens to be very dangerous. I know someone who died on the ascent of Mt. Everest. 

But there's another kind of stuckness that might arise as soon as you make the goal to climb Everest. You might be afraid, worried, and reluctant to move ahead. This would be "Thinking-Feeling Stuckness."

The big problem is, we don't distinguish these. 

We think that climbing Mt.Everest is inherently fearful. That is, the mountain itself is causing the fear. Well, it's not. 

Some people (experienced mountain climbers) see Mt. Everest as mainly a logistical challenge. I don't mean they never experience fear, it's just that they know that the mountain and their fear are two very different things. They also see it as a challenge to overcome their fears. 

It's exactly the same with marketing. 

Learning and implementing marketing are logistical challenges. There are things to learn and practices and skills you must master, and it takes a certain amount of time and effort.

But nothing in marketing is inherently problematic. It's not scary to market yourself. Unless you make it so. 

Even when someone has a complete, step-by-step action plan to implement a marketing activity, they can freeze up and not move forward an inch.  

They might think such thoughts as: 

"If I launch my website, people will think I'm an idiot." 

"If I send out an eZine nobody will be interested in it."

"If I make follow-up calls, no one will hire me anyway."

"If I speak in public, they'll discover that I'm an impostor."

None of these are made up but were clearly stated by some of the participants of the workshop on Saturday. 

They all finally realized that the logistics of marketing were not an issue; that wasn't what stopped them. It was their limiting or constrictive, fearful beliefs that stopped them.

When these beliefs were exposed as lies that wreaked havoc on their lives, their business and marketing, the addictive pull of those beliefs started to weaken. 

If you won't visit a friend's home because you think his pet pink elephant will trample you, you probably won't visit. When you finally come to your senses and realize there is no pink elephant, then visiting your friend is no big deal. 

Silly example? Yes, but so are all those other beliefs! They are all based on something painful or unpleasant that happened in the past and are pulled into the future though repetition and association. 

These fears and aversion to marketing arise automatically, triggered by random associations with past, unpleasant events that happened years and years ago. 

Perhaps you wrote a report in the 2nd grade and your sister called you an idiot. You felt humiliated and angry. And now you find yourself avoiding any written project, including your website.

Interestingly, most of these fears are associated with a failure to communicate effectively. 

After all, marketing is 100% communication, so if you are stuck in marketing, it's a stuckness about communication. You put yourself out there and were rejected; you tried to explain and you were misunderstood; you put your best foot forward and you were embarrassed. 

This is why marketing seems to carry such a strong negative charge for most people. We have all failed several times at communication. And so we view marketing as "difficult," "confusing," or even "impossible."

Those views prevent us from experiencing those bad feelings again. We avoid, procrastinate and make excuses. 

That's the bad news. 

The good news is that if we increase our awareness of our thoughts and feelings about marketing, we can ultimately free ourselves from fear and avoidance.

If you avoid really looking at those thoughts and feelings, it only makes things worse. The path is through those experiences. On the other side is a sense of freedom and lightness. 

Learning how to do this should be one of your highest priorities if you ever want to have a breakthrough in marketing yourself, attracting more great clients, and making more money than you ever thought possible. 

I'll be returning to this theme often this year with specific ideas about how you can free yourself from thinking-feeling stuckness.

Also, the virtual workshop on Getting Unstuck might be a good place to start:  

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Confusion. Frustration. Disappointment. 

All of these are experiences of…

Every successful person in the world.

No kidding. 

Not always, of course, but definitely sometimes. 

And unsuccessful people experience exactly the same confusion, frustration and boredom. 

We often look at successful people as "those who had it easy" or "it just came to them naturally"  (like our juggler above).

So since it was so easy for them and so hard for you, what's the use? 

Why work so hard, spend time marketing yourself, writing all those articles, getting out and giving talks, putting on teleclasses and webinars and improving that damn website of yours?

Then to make it worse, there's all these business and marketing gurus telling you what to do and telling you it's so easy if you just take one action step at a time. 

How annoying!

You want it now. You want results today, not tomorrow. You want big breakthroughs overnight. And if you don't immediately get what you so obviously deserve, you get…


"I just couldn't find the time."

"This might work for others, but not for me."

"I'm just not the marketing and sales type."

"Nobody's interested in what I'm offering anyway."

"Marketing just leads to rejection."

Successful people don't have all those thoughts and feelings, do they? 

Well, as I said, yes, they certainly do. How many thousands of times do you think our juggler dropped those balls before he mastered juggling? 

How are successful people different?

In my experience of working with clients on their marketing for almost 30 years, those who are successful at promoting their services have some or all of the following traits: 

1. They have a vision.

That is, they are passionate and purposeful about their business. It's not just a job to them but a calling. They know what they do makes a difference. And that carries them through the tough times. 

2. They are determined.

They have a good sense of what it takes to produce results and they chunk things down to actions they can actually do that month, that week, that day. They love checking off accomplishments. 

3. They are life-long learners.

They don't expect they should know everything, in fact, they realize they know virtually nothing. So learning new ideas, approaches and strategies is fun to them. They read, watch videos and attend classes. 

4. They don't always believe their thoughts.

They can separate their intention to make something happen from all the thoughts that tell them they can't. So they don't get so sucked into those feelings of confusion, frustration and disappointment.

5. They don't take themselves so seriously.

Their egos are less dominant than their being, so they're less defensive, better listeners and collaborators. They simply have more fun and ultimately realize they're making it all up anyway, so why not play full out?

People with these characteristics simply get stuck less often. They don't define themselves by their thoughts, feelings and results. And paradoxically, they succeed more often because of this. 

They see marketing their business as a game that they can play with passion and, win or lose that day, they know that "who they are" is not their business or marketing. They know that who they are is vastly bigger and more magnificent than that. 

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments below. 

Virtual Workshop on Getting Unstuck

As I talk about in the article above, we all get stuck. That's not a problem. We all hit walls, procrastinate and get caught up in limiting beliefs and avoidance behavior. 

I certainly do!

So the question is not how to stop getting stuck. The question is how to get unstuck as quickly as possible. 

I know people who have been stuck in various areas of their marketing (such as not completing a website or avoiding follow-up activities) for years and years! No kidding. 

Imagine all the energy, angst and frustration that's tied up in being stuck. It's certainly more expensive and time-consuming than taking a few hours to learn how to get unstuck!

I invite you to learn more about this Virtual Workshop and if you realize what being stuck is costing you, please join us on Saturday, January 18 from 9 am to 1 pm Pacific.  

Click here for complete details: 

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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, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, 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 More Clients Starter Kit