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  • 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
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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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!

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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: http://actionplan.com/fasttrack/unstuck-virtual  

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

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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…

REASONABLE.

"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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by Robert Middleton

In Mazatlan Mexico at the Water's Edge restaurant I was served by perhaps the best waiter in the world. 

I walked and waded several times on one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere. 

I spent time just napping and listening to music with no deadlines. 

I watched the final few episodes of season 4 of Covert Affairs on my iPad. 

My wife and I concocted the roast tomato salsa we saw prepared in front of us at the Topolo restaurant.

Best. Vacation. Ever. 

And anytime I have a great vacation I think to myself: "This is so simple, really. On vacation I just take time for myself to do the things I love. How could I bring that back to my everyday life?"

There are some very wise people who don't separate their work and life. It's all fun to them. It's exciting, a challenge, relaxing and stimulating all at the same time. 

Sometimes on vacation, I'll take out my laptop or a notebook and do some "work." And my wife asks me why I need to work on my vacation. 

But I tell her, "This isn't work for me, I'm just writing down some ideas that are exciting for me, I don't feel any pressure, so the ideas are just flowing in."

So when I work in the context of my vacation, it's not work. 

What's the difference between a vacation and work? 

Perhaps it's only our thinking about it.

And it's the stress we attach to those thoughts such as "I have a deadline," and "I have to get this done for a client," and "this is very important, significant work."

And that tends to take the fun out of things.

What about taking my vacation to my work?

Look, I have everything I need: 

I have a wonderful private office just a few feet from my house, and a sound system where I can play my favorite music anytime I want. 

I live in a redwood forest and am half an hour away from the Santa Cruz beaches. 

I happen to love what I do, so it doesn't feel a lot like work, unless I let it. 

OK, so what am I going to do on this vacation?

1. Relax in ways that are really renewing. Less TV, more naps. 

2. Create fun services and programs that make a difference. 

3. Play with my clients in creative, productive, fun ways. 

4. A few more walks on the beach and finding great waiters.

I'm feeling more relaxed already!

If you have comments on this article, please share on the blog by click on the Comment below. 

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by Rich Brooks

This article was written by my friend and associate, Rich Brooks for his regular eZine. I soon as I read it, I know I wanted to share it with my More Clients subscribers. I know you'll love it as well.  

If you want to compete and succeed with social media (and marketing) you'll need to commit to goals that are within your control. Here's how.

"Daddy, I'm really competitive."

I looked over at Maya, my 11-year-old in the front car seat next to me. In my completely unbiased opinion she's beautiful, smart and talented. She's also incredibly fast and athletic...besides soccer, cross-country and snowboarding, she rides the tall unicycle (a "giraffe") in Gym Dandies, a local children's performing circus.

But competitive? I wasn't so sure. She just doesn't seem like she's the fire-in-the-belly, eye-of-the-tiger type of kid most days.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"I hate to lose."

Having consoled her after soccer losses or the rare, less-than-stellar test score, I knew this to be true.

"Well, how you feel after a win or a loss isn't the same thing as being competitive," I told her.

"What do you mean, daddy?"

OK! Teaching moment! (Try not to bore the snot out of her.)

 "Being competitive means continually working to be the best you can be at a given activity. Some people like to compete with themselves, some people like to compete with others.

"In either case, it's about practicing the skills that make you better.

"Do you think that Jamie and Olivia (not their real names) only practice when they're at foot skills, or do you think they go out into the backyard every day after school and practice their touches, kick the ball around, and practice juggling?"

"They probably practice every day," Maya admitted.

"Didn't you tell me that Olivia's juggling record is over one thousand juggles? Do you think she got that on her first day?"

She shook her head.

"Of course not, she probably practiced juggling every day, starting at just two or three touches before the ball hit the ground. But she understood that juggling would give her better control over the ball and that would in turn make her a better, more competitive player.

"Being competitive means being committed, even when no one is around to watch."

The Art of Setting Goals

Recently I was listening to a podcast where Pat Flynn was interviewing Srinivas Rao, known to many as Srini.

Srini was talking about the goals he set for his second book. He set a goal of selling one thousand copies, which seemed like a reasonable goal based on his previous book.

As it turned out, Glenn Beck stumbled upon his book, tweeted about it, and he sold a thousand copies in a day. That led to an appearance on the controversial pundit's show, and he ended up selling over ten thousand copies.

However, upon looking back on his goal setting, he found it faulty.

He couldn't really set a goal of selling one thousand copies, because unless he bought all the copies himself, he had no real control over the outcome. 

However, Srini had also set another goal: write one thousand words a day, every day.

What impact do you think that had on his writing? Do you think he improved? Found his voice? Was better able to educate, inform and inspire?

If he hadn't committed to writing one thousand words every day, do you think Glenn Beck would have found his book and been moved enough to share it with his sizable audience?

Maybe, maybe not.

There's no way to know if your commitment to getting better will have that type of payoff, but it will definitely increase your odds at success.

How can you put this to work for you?

When I talk to people about what their goals are for social media they often talk about more fans, more followers, and from the more enlightened, more leads and sales.

While you can certainly guarantee more fans or followers by buying them through a site like Fiverr, there's little to no value in these fans. And like Srini, unless you're going to buy your own products or services, you can't guarantee that you'll generate leads or sales from your social media activity.

Instead, you should set goals you can control. You can commit to write one five hundred word post each week. You can commit to posting to your Facebook page twice a day. You can commit to answering one question in your favorite LinkedIn group three times a week.

Most of us find ourselves in competitive environments in business. We're either competing for business, or search engine rankings, or attention in Facebook's newsfeed.

While you can't affect the algorithmic changes that Google or Facebook throw your way, you can work on the things you control.

To be competitive, you need set goals on the activities that you can touch, and commit to work of seeing them through. That may mean one thousand words or one thousand juggles.

What goals are you going to set for yourself in 2014?

Rich Brooks is president of flyte new media and runs The Marketing Agents Podcast http://www.themarketingagents.com/itunes. Download his free report, How to Generate More Leads at Your Website http://www.flyte.biz/specials/free-report.php and start getting more clients today!

If you have any comments on Rich's article, please reply on the Blog. 

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By Robert Middleton

Last spring I wrote this article for Rain-Today and just received notice that it was the most popular and most shared article of the year. Well, that was a nice surprise. But this article was never published in the blog, so I'd like to share it with you today in its entirety. 

The Purpose of a Website

Since I built my first website in 1996, I understood very quickly that my most important purpose for the website was to collect the names and emails from my visitors. 

It was clearly obvious that if someone visited my website and didn’t opt-in to my list, that it was unlikely they would ever visit again, let alone buy my marketing coaching services. 

In those first years I spent my time on trying to accomplish two things: getting more visitors to my site and converting more of those visitors into subscribers of my eZine. 

Ultimately it was my e-list that drove my online success. I published a weekly eZine, More Clients, and built my list from nothing to about 50,000 in 2004. And in that time I created and marketed online products, marketing manuals, teleconference programs, and workshops.

The eZine Still Rules

What has happened with online marketing and social media in the past seven or eight years has transformed everything, but in my experience, the humble eZine or email newsletter is still the most powerful marketing tool available, and growing your list is as important as it ever was. 

Amazingly, practices to effectively grow one’s e-list are very similar to what they were seventeen years ago. In this article I want to give an overview of the successful strategies to build an e-list that I, and my clients, have used over the years, and changes in online marketing that have made the process more challenging.

It’s All About the Value

When someone visits your website they want value, they want answers and they want something free. I don’t think this will ever change. 

In the first year of More Clients I had a simple opt-in form that urged people to sign up for the eZine. I used a short blurb and a graphic representing the eZine. Not very sophisticated, but it worked. 

Doubling my Opt-in Rates

Not long after that, I read somewhere that opt-ins would increase if you also offered a free report or some other kind of information along with the eZine opt-in. So I tried that and got immediate results. When I offered a report, my opt-in rate doubled overnight!

I remember how excited I was about that and explained this approach to all my clients. And they got similar results. What puzzled me was that so many people were still only offering an eZine sign-up on their site and complaining about low opt-in rates. The truth is, most businesses were offering no opt-in at all.  

Most small businesses weren’t trying new things and didn’t make growing their list a priority. 

But I kept fine-tuning the process with a tweak here and there and found ways to continually increase my opt-in rate. For a few years I was growing my list at the rate of 1,000 or more net subscribers per month. 

I discovered that the words “Free Stuff” were magic, and they almost guaranteed that web visitors would click on that link. I learned that you shouldn’t offer the free report as a bonus, but offer that as the prime giveaway with the eZine as the bonus. I found that putting a sign-up form prominently on the home page as well as on the Free Stuff page increased opt-ins even more.  

The eZine Became the Star

I know a number of people who are very good at this process. They also get a lot of opt-ins, but I think they emphasize the sizzle more than the steak. That is, once someone opts-in to their list, they bombard them frequently with email promotions, but very little valuable content. 

I decided to do the opposite. 

After all, you don’t watch TV for the commercials, do you? Can you imagine a TV channel that was all commercials? No, you want 75% - 80% content and 20% - 25% promotion. And that’s what I did. Once every week my subscribers got freshly written content on ideas on how to attract more clients. Most eZines contained a brief promotional blurb. And then a couple times a month I’d send out a stand-alone email that promoted a service, program or product.

The results exceeded my wildest expectations. 

And Then the Competition Hit!

For quite a long time – into the mid 2000’s I didn’t have a lot of competition for my niche – self employed professionals. And then almost overnight everyone was offering that service in multiple formats: Books, manuals, teleclasses and webinars were everywhere. Everyone was publishing an eZine on that topic. 

And then the competition on Google got crazy; they kept changing their algorithms. The very favorable place I’d held on Google for five or so years disappeared and I couldn’t get it back. The traffic to my website decreased and so did my eZine opt-ins.

And an unimaginable thing happened. My total number of subscribers decreased. The monthly attrition exceeded my monthly opt-ins. This was not a happy time. And almost everything I did was unsuccessful in growing my list. Over a few years it shrank to about 40,000 and then held steady. 

The Service is King  

But I discovered something else which was very encouraging. People on my list were still responding to my offers in droves. I had built such a loyal following that they were still very open to my offerings. Yes, I was losing subscribers like a boat with a leak, but I was still getting new subscribers and customers daily. 

Between 2004 and 2012 I had the best years in my business ever, offering multiple-session teleclass programs, a one-year marketing mastery program and a membership program. All succeeded, despite a shrinking opt-in rate. 

And Meanwhile I Kept Working on List Building

In the wake of the Google letdown, I tried several other approaches. I started posting my eZine on my Blog every week and at the same time built my social media followers through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I posted dozens of my articles on various sites. And I kept fine-tuning the opt-in process. 

A couple weeks ago I realized something that changed everything once again. One of the most successful giveaways on my site to encourage opt-ins had been my “Marketing Plan Workbook” with step-by-step instructions on how to build a marketing plan as an Independent Professional. 

The mistake I made is that I got tired of it. I must have given away 1000,000 or more copies of that workbook over the years. So I decided to try something else instead, a shorter report. And over the past few years I wrote several of these. But none of them got the response of the Marketing Plan Workbook. 

What I realized is that if you want a free report on just about anything, you can get it though a Google search in about a nanosecond. So why opt-in to get such a report when you can get it without an opt-in? 

What’s changed is that to get someone to opt-in you have to offer something truly unique and valuable, something nobody else is offering. 

A few weeks ago I decided to resurrect the Marketing Plan Workbook. I completely edited the content, designed it to be much more dynamic and created fill-in forms with Acrobat Plus. I also created a more attractive 3-D image of the cover and re-wrote the opt-in copy on my website. 

I launched it and crossed my fingers!

Almost immediately my opt-in rate increased. In fact, it almost tripled. I’m now on track for about 750 opt-ins per month, up from about 250. 

The Opt-In Challenge Continues

One thing I know for sure: more opt-ins are better; a bigger list is always better. And there are endless ways to increase your opt-in rate, I’m sure many of which I’ve never tried. For instance, I know several people who have used video very successfully to increase opt-ins.

But remember that a huge list doesn’t necessarily guarantee online marketing success. You must build a relationship with your subscribers, provide real value every step of the way and continue to create services and programs that they want. 

An Update on Opt-Ins

Since this article was written last spring, I've made more changes to my website and opt-in. I guess it's a curse; I have to keep changing things! As successful as the Marketing Plan Workbook was, I wanted to try other approaches. Now I'm offering a my "More Clients Starter Kit" that contians four of my best in-depth articles on marketing. Ultimately I thnk it's more valuable than the Workbook and gives those who opt-in a better idea of how to successfully market their professional services. My guess is that several months down the line I'll be trying something else. 

The Seven Practices of Opt-in Success

1. Create a unique, substantial, and valuable free offering. Make it something beyond what you’ll find with a Google search.

2. Have opt-in forms prominently displayed on both your home page and on your “Free Stuff” page.  

3. Make sure everyone who opts-in becomes a subscriber to your eZine, with ongoing valuable content.

4. Post your eZine on your blog and include an opt-in form on your blog page.

5. Announce your blog through all your social media, which will get more visitors and more opt-ins. 

6. Write articles and get them posted on other websites or article distribution sites. 

7. Keep tweaking the opt-in process unceasingly, and measuring your results until your opt-in rate increases.

If you got value from this article, please share it with those in your network. And feel free to comment on it in the link below. 

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By Robert Middleton  Action Plan Marketing

Are you still boring people with your marketing message?

One of the members of the More Clients Club just posted this on the Club Forum and I thought I'd share it because it inspired me:

"Be BOLD with your audio logo. I went to a Chamber of Commerce event this morning. 95% of the people focused on (talking about their) process. Just doing something different will make you stand out.

"Hi I'm Vicki Wilson. I teach SUPER POWERS." pause. "Because CALM is a super power. I teach stress management and relaxation. Being calm means being more focused, efficient and effective. I'm a yoga teacher. 

"Teaching group classes and traditionally - one-on-one, I specialize in working with folks with Fibromyalgia, Crohn's and other auto-immune issues where managing stress is the difference between being at home in bed with a flare up or attack versus being out living their lives.

"Mostly I'm trying to do two things - grab attention - peoples eyes glaze over if I lead with "I'm a yoga teacher." Also I want to plant a firm seed that yoga is more than/not exercise. This is all a work in progress - and since I was at a Chamber event I emphasized focus, efficient and effective - that's not my normal wording. It's all a work in progress!"

Vicki, congratulations, you're really getting it.

Remember, marketing is 100% communication. And if you communicate a process, there's no "what's in it for me?" But when you communicate in a way that people can get what's in it for them, a wonderful thing happens.

People respond, they ask for your card, they want to know more. They remember you and they are more likely to tell others. 

In the next few weeks you might be at a few Holiday particles. And some people just might ask you what you do. Don't retreat and tell them something predictable and boring. They'll just tune you out. 

Here's what do do:

1. Work on your outcome-oriented message that grabs attention or hits a nerve. Don't label yourself, declare yourself. 

2. If you get some interest, don't spend a lot of time talking about you, ask about them. Show some interest and see if there's a connection between what you offer and what they need. 

3. If they want to know more, don't go into a long, conceptual monologue about your services; tell a story instead about real clients you helped with your service. 

4. If they seem interested, offer some information, such as an article, that shares some real value about your services. And then follow-up with them, as appropriate, later on to see if you can help them. 

I've mentioned this sequence of actions so many times I've lost count, but I want you to know that it works. It creates a real connection that is memorable. After all, the alternative is to say something bland and predictable and be forgotten almost immediately. 

So congratulations, Vicki Wilson, for swinging out and being BOLD!

Have you engaged people about your business like this? Let us know what happened. Please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below: 

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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