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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Last week, I talked about how to make selling easier by using a script or an outline. This gives you a "track to run on" and ensures that you cover the essential areas of the selling conversation. 

Today, I want to talk about a number of selling mistakes commonly made by Independent Professionals or anyone involved in the selling process. 

Some of these may be familiar, some may be ones you're trying to correct, and some you don't even see as mistakes. But making any of them can dramatically decrease your sales effectiveness. Correcting them can lead to more sales success. 

1. Not opening the selling conversation with the purpose of the conversation. You need to make it very clear what your purpose and expectations of this conversation are. If you don’t, you fail to set the tone and direction of the meeting. 

"David, the purpose of this meeting is to learn more about your situation, your goals and your challenges in your business (or other area of your life). At the end of this conversation, if I think I can help you, I'll explain how I help my clients produce results in this area. Are we on the same page?"

2. Salesperson’s disease – talking too much. Selling is about 3/4 listening and 1/4 talking, perhaps 2/3 and 1/3, at most. Don’t fall in love with the sound of your voice. Know what you’re going to say and say it! No hype, exaggeration, etc. needed.

This is greatly helped if you have a script or outline. Three quarters of the script is questions and getting the prospect to talk. But some are so afflicted with this disease that it's hard to see that they are talking so much. You might want to record a selling conversation (with the prospect's permission) to see how much you talk and how much you listen.  

3. Not telling any stories – You don’t want everything you talk about to be conceptual. Tell stories about clients you’ve worked with who have experienced similar issues as your prospect.

Stories are effective because they are emotional. Facts carry little emotion. So weave the facts into your stories: "I had a client you couldn't break the $50,000 income barrier. She worked long hours and tried so much, but nothing worked. But when she learned how to raise her prices and increase her selling ratio, her income went up to $150,000 in less than a year." 

4. Going into "salesperson mode." This is beyond talking too much, it's resorting to hyperbole, exaggeration and even confrontation. Listening has stopped and the pressure is amped up to uncomfortable levels. 

Unfortunately this is the behavior of the stereotypical salesperson that some think is necessary to make sales. The truth is that this behavior is a turn-off and will halt any word-of-mouth business. Tone it down and listen more.  

5. Going into passive mode. This is the opposite of the above and just as ineffective. In order to show that you're not a hard pressure sales person you avoid any enthusiasm, and when you present your services you come off as flat and boring.

You may think, "I don't want this prospect to think I'm conning them, after all, I'm a professional!" We need to find the middle way, where we talk about our services with natural enthusiasm, ask insightful questions and see if we can really help this prospect with our professional services. 

6. Failing to bring up objections. Standard sales training teaches us how to handle objections. But advanced sales training shows how to bring up any possible objections before they become issues (often unspoken ones) that sink the sale. 

For instance, if your coaching services require a lot of work on the part of the client, don't hide that. It will only come up as an objection later on. Instead, confront it directly: "If you work with me, it means you'll be doing most of the implementation, and that means a lot of work. Are you up to that?" 

7. Turning closing into a confrontation. Closing simply means asking a question about what the prospect wants. So you might ask, "Can you see yourself succeeding with your teams by using my TeamExcel approach?" This lets you know if they are interested on not. 

This is different than asking, "OK, would you like to move ahead with my TeamExcel approach?" See the difference? The first one is checking on agreement and leaves space for more conversation, whereas the second one is more like an ultimatum, which can be awkward.

What mistakes have you made in the selling conversation? Please share your experience by clicking on the Comments link below. 

Complimentary TeleClass

Please attend my TeleClass: "Secrets to Closing the Big Sale." Thursday, September 26 at 12 noon. This TeleClass is an introduction to my Virtual Workshop of the same name, starting on Wednesday, October 16. If you are not getting the results you want from your selling, attend this teleclass where we'll cover the following:

- Why we need to plan selling as much as we plan marketing

- The 5 Selling Skills that we must have (but don't even know about)

- Why the process of selling is more important than "salesmanship"

- The 5 mistakes in the selling process and why we make all of them

- The key essentials of making bigger sales

Make your reservation at this link 


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

What is selling? Well it's a lot of things, but my basic definition of selling is: 

"Converting a qualified prospect into a paying client."

That's easy to understand. But what selling actually is, is a more complex question. Thousands of books have been written about this. Today, hundreds or perhaps thousands of sales workshops and seminars are being conducted around the country. 

And what is taught in these books and workshops? Here are just a few of the most popular topics:

    - How to build rapport and trust

    - How to ask questions and listen

    - How to understand the buyer's motivations

    - How to qualify a prospective buyer

    - How to find the prospect's pain

    - How to build interest and desire

    - How to present benefits and features

    - How to close the sale

    - How to respond to objections

    - How to get the first payment

I'm sure you could think of a dozen more. The truth is, there are a lot of principles of successful selling, and one should endeavor to learn these skills to sell more successfully. 

Selling is Like Acting

Selling is a lot like the profession of acting. An actor's job is to sell the audience on the reality of the scene he or she is playing. Even though you know a play or movie is "make believe," a good actor helps you suspend disbelief and feel that what is up on the stage or screen is true-to-life.

Now imagine that we have a very good actor. This is someone with years of experience, great reviews and who is a great audience draw. 

He auditions for Shakespeare's Hamlet and gets the part. But for some reason, his skill and ability has gone to his head. He decides that, because he is such a great actor, he will simply improvise his part in Hamlet. He's excited about the possibilities. 

In the first rehearsal, the female lead delivers a line from Hamlet and he responds with his own improvisation. It's good, mind you. He uses the right language, tone, emotion and accent. You believe him completely. It seems to be working. 

And then the director chimes in. "What the #%!* was that!!?? That's not Hamlet. Those are not your lines. Where's your script?" 

The actor is promptly put in his place and realizes that if he wants to improvise Shakespeare, he'd better find an "improv company" instead of a "legitimate theater company." So much for his noble and inspired experiment.

Selling is Not Improvisation 

Now here's the funny thing. Every day, in thousands of selling interviews around the world, almost all sales people are behaving just like this actor. They are well versed in all the sales skills, but they are mostly improvising.

They have either forgotten or never knew one of the most important facts about selling: 

Selling is a step-by-step process and requires a script. 

If you don't like the word, script, then we can use the world "outline." The thing to understand is that selling cannot be a random collection of sales skills improvised on the spot.  

Here's what I've discovered about selling: If you teach someone all the selling skills, no matter how well they are learned, but don't use a script, you tend to have inferior selling results. 

If you teach someone the selling process through a step-by-step script or outline, you'll have better selling results. I've seen people with mediocre sales skills still get results this way. 

And if you teach someone the process first and then help the salesperson develop the more refined selling skills to conduct this process, you will have superior selling results. 

But you should always start with the process. 

So what does this look like?

You start with a script or an outline of the selling process. For Independent Professionals, I have a detailed 11-step process. At each step you either ask a specific question or say a specific thing. You don't miss any of these steps. Each one has a purpose and accomplishes certain things. 

It's a bit like learning a play in high school drama class. You start with the script and memorize it. Then, as you deliver that script, you start to develop your acting skills. But even if one's acting skills are not highly developed yet, you still accomplish the basic purpose of the play. And with time and work, those skills will improve and so will the play. 

Steps in the Selling Process

What are the all the steps in the selling process? Well, I'm going to reduce it to fewer steps for this article, as the whole process is more than we can encompass here. There are also pre-selling steps, but for our example, we'll start with a face-to-face meeting. 

1. State the purpose of the meeting and get agreement on that purpose. 

2. Start asking questions about the prospect's situation. What's working and what's not working? 

3. Ask questions about the prospect's goals and desired future. 

4. Ask questions about the prospect's challenges. Why are they where they are now instead of where they want to go?

5. Present your solution, methodology or approach to helping your clients achieve their stated goals. 

6. Close by asking if they think they could reach their objectives by using your approach and solution. 

7. Close on price and make arrangements to move forward. 

Yes, I know this sounds too simple! But remember, it's just a bare outline. A real selling script is several pages long and takes into account every contingency, and every question a prospect may have. 

The amazing this is, if you started to use only this bare outline today for your next selling conversation, you are likely to get much better results than what you're getting right now.

Simply put: Selling based on a script or outline makes selling much easier and much more effective.

Invite to Intro TeleClass 

Starting on October 16, I'm conducting a 5-session Virtual Workshop on the complete selling process called: "Secrets to Closing the Big Sale" that is appropriate for virtually any Independent Professional. 

Next week, on September 26, I'm conducting an Introductory TeleClass on the topic and will give you a taste of some of the most important ideas from this Virtual Workshop. If you would like to attend, just go to this link and make your reservation. 

Do you use a script or outline in your selling process? How does it work for you? Please share your thoughts by clicking on the Comments link below. 


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If you've ever found yourself roaming a cavernous Costco warehouse to pick up your 12-pack Britta filers, cheap jeans or giant-sized frozen strawberries, you've also noticed something else. 

You've noticed that at the end of most of the 2-story food aisles are men and women wearing white smocks and hairnets giving out tasty food samples to the throngs of members. 

If you missed breakfast that day you can get a sample of juice, a section of organic banana, a waffle, and a piece of tasty sausage. I've got to admit that I've gone back for some of these free goodies several times, hoping I won't be noticed. 

So why does Costco do this?

Because samples sell. In fact, sampling is one of the most powerful marketing strategies of all time. Food and personal care companies have been doing it for decades. 

The famous copywriter, Claude Hopkins re-invented sampling in the 1920's by placing advertisements in newspapers for Pepsodent toothpaste, with a coupon at the bottom offering a free 10-day supply of Pepsodent. This catapulted Pepsodent to the #1 toothpaste in America for 30 Years. (Why they lost that position is a whole other story!) 

If you look around you, sampling is more common than you might think. The whole purpose of sampling is to give consumers a taste or experience of what you're offering. 

Car dealerships give test drives every day of the week, which often lead to sales. After all, how can looking at a car and reading about a car ever compare to actually driving a car? 

Apple Stores display the complete line of their computers on easy-to-reach tables for consumers to not only look at but to use. Every computer is always on and ready to play with.  

Byron Katie, the famous self-help guru, provides videos on her site of her "doing the work" with people. You get a sense of exactly what the work is in a way that the printed word doesn't.

Carl Contino, my wunderkind website developer, got my business by developing the first draft of my website on spec. I didn't have to pay anything unless I wanted to move ahead.

The question is, what samples are you offering to your prospects? 

These days, so many Independent Professionals are online where they have a great opportunity to offer samples, yet the majority still don't. 

Let's go back to marketing 101 for a minute. In marketing, your first job is to get the attention of your prospects with your message about the value that you offer. 

But that doesn't get people to buy; it just gets them interested. They want more. They want information and they want a connection or a relationship so that they feel they can trust you before they buy.  

First, you provide information on your website through content such as: explaining who you work with, how you work, the services you offer, case studies, your biography, etc. 

And you can develop a relationship through keep-in-touch marketing, usually an eZine (email newsletter) with relevant and educational topics on your area of expertise.

The truth is, most people don't do a very good job in the information department, and even fewer do anything to keep in touch. These are both things you must work on if you are to go anywhere with your business. 

But the third step is beyond information and relationship.

It's giving your prospects an experience of your work. Yes, Independent Professionals can give samples just like any other business. And if you really get this and work on making it happen, it can take your business to a level that was previously impossible. 

The art of giving experiences, for Independent professionals, is to offer experiential samples that take you little or no time. You see, if you give samples of your consulting or coaching, that can be very time consuming. 

This can certainly be done when you're going after a high-end client. In those cases, giving an introductory workshop or other kind of presentation that is NOT a sales pitch but a bona fide sample of your actual work, is very effective. 

But for all of us who work with small businesses and individual clients, this is not so practical. But there are several ways to give samples that take some up-front work and then can be delivered online or through groups and take relatively little time to offer.  

Articles and Reports

The tricky thing about written samples is that often they only convey more information. And that's not enough. An article or report that is nothing but a collection of concepts doesn't have high impact. Instead, write articles and reports based on case studies of actual client successes. 

Discuss your key ideas, but always tie them to results you actually produced. And go into enough detail that your readers get an experience of how you work. And while you're at it, why not include an audio or even video version of this article or report, as listening to someone is more experiential that reading. 

TeleClasses and Webinars

I've been doing these for close to 15 years. Because they work. If someone is looking at working with me or joining one of my programs, they want to get a sense of who I am and how I work, beyond everything they've read.

In late 2008 I launched my new Marketing Mastery Program with two simple teleclasses. The first one covered the basics of marketing and selling high-end programs and the second included a number of clients I'd worked with to share their experience of working with me and the results they'd gotten. 

I didn't do any selling on these teleclasses. I simply educated the participants and gave them an experience of me - "what you hear is what you get." In January 2009 I opened the program to enrollments, and in 6 weeks I had filled the program to capacity. I used this exact process four years in a row (and then took a well-deserved break)!

Now there are a lot of ways to offer teleclasses and webinars. There is no "one perfect system" - although some people would like to convince you that there is. The key comes back to the central idea of this article: Give them a real experience of what it would be like to work with you. 

Samples of Information Products

This simple, but powerful strategy has been used since the early 1900's. If you have a book, offer a free chapter. If you have a course, offer a free section of that course. If you have an online program, give away part of that program at no cost. 

These days it's getting harder and harder to sell information products - especially if they're about marketing for small businesses! 

When I launched the InfoGuru Marketing Manual in 2000, there was virtually no competition in this space. Now there are hundreds of competitors, all chasing the same customers and clients. And many of them first read my InfoGuru Manual!

But even if the competition is stiff, the answer is still the same - give them a sample of what you are selling. Many people will check you out because it carries no risk to them. And a certain percentage will like the sample so much, that they'll buy your info product or service without resistance.

In my experience, the way we promoted a few years ago won't work the same way today. I discovered that fewer people were willing to try out the More Clients Club free for two weeks if they needed a credit card to get in. "After all, what if I don't like it and I'm automatically charged in two weeks?" It can be a hassle to ask for a refund, so fewer and fewer people wanted to go that route. 

My solution was simple: Give prospective members of the More Clients Club a sample of the Club for free with no strings attached.

This is exactly what I did, and now a stream, instead of a dribble of people, are checking out the Club. No hype-filled persuasion required. Now people can check it out without any pressure. If what they get for free whets their appetite for more, they can join. If not, well, they got some useful ideas anyway.

So, I invite you to get access to my More Clients Marketing Sampler for two reasons: One is to get free access to some of the best material from the Club - marketing tutorials, programs, expert interviews, coaching calls and resources. The other is just to see how I've put this all together. You may be inspired to use my approach in your business as well! 

Here's the link to gain access to the Sampler: or join by filling out the form below. 

Please let me know how you are using the "Costco Factor" by offering samples and giving experiences in your business. Just click on the Comments link below.

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Yesterday, on Labor Day, I was kicking back, reading, listening to music and browsing the web. I wasn't sure if I'd write an eZine or not for today, after all, it was Labor Day! And then...

I came across a story online about this amazing 16 year old, Jack Andraka, who devised a revolutionary medical test for detecting the almost always fatal disease, pancreatic cancer. 

The idea came to him in biology class while listening to a lecture on atnibodies and reading an article on "carbon nonotubes" at the same time. It was one of those "Eureka!" moments.

What inspired me was that because he didn't know it couldn't be done he found a way to do it anyway. I've talked a lot about "friendly persistence." Well, as you'll learn in his talk, Jack should be the poster body for that powerful trait. His discovery may lead to some of the biggest breakthroughs in medical diagnosis for not only pancreatic cancer but many other diseases as well. This is not just another smart kid!

When you think about how frustrating marketing your services may be, how can those challenges even hold a candle to what this young man figured out? It may inspire you to watch this video once in awhile and jump in there with both feet and figure out how to make things work (with the help of Google, and Wikipedia, of course) in just about any area of your life.

Here's the video of his TED presentation. Be prepared to be amazed. 

You can learn more about Jack on the TED website here: Jack Andraka

Feel free to comment how this talk can inspire you in your life and your business. Just click on the Comments link below.

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services.  


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By Rober Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I'm working with a great client right now, Elmar K. He's a German, living in Denmark, who does one-on-one personal growth work called "Focusing."

We're working on developing new materials for his website and I'm guiding him through the process. His website is going to be in both German and English. Elmar's challenge is that although he speaks very good English, some of his writing comes across somewhat awkwardly. 

So I suggested that it would be a good idea to find an editor that could take his German-style English text and transform it into more accessible English. 

I told him I'd find him and editor and so I put out this announcement on Facebook:

"I need an editor. I have a German client who speaks English well, but his written materials in English come across somewhat awkwardly. I need an editor who can go over his materials and tune them up."

In about a day I got eight responses (boy if, you want to find something, anything, Facebook is incredible), and they all responded to me by email. 

As a marketer, I'm always interested in how people respond.

A couple answered saying they could do it, but said very little else except their hourly rate. A mother recommended her daughter but her website didn't look like she did this kind of work. Another gave a long list of all the services she offered, plus pricing for 17 different writing assignments, but left out editing! And her website was very impersonal and corporate looking.  

Two gave me very good responses, talking a little more about how they worked how they charged etc and their websites were very good. They were in strong contention until I got an email with this message from Maggie Dennison:

"Thank you for publishing this opportunity.

 "I can help your client. I lived in Germany for 18 years and speak fluent German: that means I can recognize what someone is trying to say simply by looking at their sentence structures and the types of mistakes they are making.

 "Often it's because they're using German structures (that I'm familiar with) that don't translate directly into English - and so the meaning gets lost or it sounds awkward.

 "My fees for editing are on a hourly basis and vary depending on how deep the edit needs to be. As a starting point, before I see the material, I'll guess $XX an hour."

To tell you the truth, how could I pick anyone else? She had absolutely nailed the issue we were dealing with and responded to that so specifically that my confidence was high that she could do the job. Not only that, her website was very personal and informative. 

I'm sure a couple of the other editors would have done a great job, but it was impossible to ignore Maggie because of her skills in this particular area.

Now I doubt that Maggie gets a lot of assignments like this, but I'm guessing that when she responds to the needs of a prospect, she customizes her response based on their specific needs and her relevant experience. 

Do you do the same?

Look, just saying you do can do something and listing your rates isn't enough. You need to make that personal connection. 

I remember years ago putting out a call for a business coach. I got a lot of responses but only one really responded specifically to my needs and showed that he was sincerely interested in and excited about working with me. I hired him for a year of coaching and he helped take my business to a whole new level. 

What matters in your messages?

Above all else, a personal message that speaks specifically to my needs and proves that they "get me." Maggie really nailed it this time and won my business just through an email. 

What are you doing to make sure your messages, emails, website, articles, etc. really connect with your prospects and get them to respond, excited to do business with you?

Please feel free to comment on the More Clients Blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Yesterday, in communicating with one client, I was explaining the results another client had just produced. And as I did, I had an ah-ah about the approach we'd used. 

This approach is really the ONLY foolproof marketing strategy. It's the only thing that has ever worked, the only thing that will continue to work and it's the only thing that works right now. And I mean for you!

So you'd think it would be very popular. 

No, quite the contrary, it is not popular at all. Now I know that's insane, but it's the truth. Successful marketers use this approach day-in and day-out, and because of it they keep getting continually better marketing results. 

But not the average Independent Professional, because they simply don't know about it or don't use it. 

Let me tell you about my client who is applying this strategy to the Nth degree. His name is Rajesh Nagjee and he lives in Dubai. He recently created a new high-end program with my help called the "CEO's Business Growth Program."

It's a one-year in-depth training, coaching and masterminding program for medium sized business in Dubai, as well as in Lagos Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. The fee is $20,000 U.S. per company owner per year. 

We've been working intensively on his sales conversion process.

Rajesh sets up one-day introductory workshops with the help of his business associates in each area. In the past he led the workshop and then set up "group strategy sessions" with those who were interested in the full program. The thing is, his conversion rate was low - 10% or fewer of the attendees signed up for the full program. 

So we went to work to turn that around. I suggested he set up individual strategy sessions, immediately after the intro program, and then give these prospects more written information about the program to study before the strategy session. And we made a few more adjustments and tweaks as we went. 

In a couple weeks he had turned around the results to a 25% conversion rate. That's a 250% improvement!

Quick quiz: What was the strategy he used?

No it wasn't changing from group strategy sessions to individual strategy sessions. That was just one technique amongst many. No this strategy is one you can use with any technique, in any situation, marketing and selling any service or product. 

Perhaps the best name for this strategy is:

"Iterative Optimization"

As I said, it's the only thing that really works, but almost nobody does it. Another more common name for this is, "Continuous Improvement of a Process."  

Let's look at those fancy words:

Iterative means the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration," and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration. 

Optimization: make the best or most effective use of (a situation, opportunity, or resource).

All this takes are some basic observation and measurement skills and some foundational marketing knowledge. 

And the strategy is actually pretty simple. 

1. Record your current processes that impact performance. That is, note the exact processes you are using now (i.e intro workshops and group sessions) and how well they are doing. 

2. Change one step or tactic in the process that has the potential to get a better result than the previous step.

3. If that new steps works, find another step in the process and work to optimize it.  

4. Continue to refine the process until you have maximized the results as far as possible. 

OK, but how is this any different from trial-and-error and fine tuning something? Well, it's quite different. 

First it's not random, but organized; it's based on actual measurement, and the changes made are based on sound marketing and sales principles.

If you don't put all of these into play, it's complete guess-work. 

Let me give you more details of how this actually worked for Rajesh. 

Rajesh told me that the group strategy sessions weren't working because people didn't show up or they didn't enroll. I told him that selling is a very personal interaction and that even though meeting individually was more time-consuming, that time would be justified if the closing rate increased. So we switched to individual strategy sessions and put them right on his calendar immediately after the introductory workshop. 

He did a few individual sessions and said they were working better but that the people were not as prepared as they should have been. So I reminded him that when people are interested in something they always want more information. So Rajesh put together a detailed overview of the full program. 

Then he told me that this worked great for the people who had read it, but some hadn't and were still not prepared. So we created a one-page checklist to give to participants to tell them exactly what to read and what to do before the strategy session. And we had them sign it and confirm verbally that they understood what to do. 

As a result, everyone who set up a strategy session showed up prepared and informed about the full program. And Rajesh's closing rate went up dramatically. For the next intro workshop, 28 attended, 14 signed up for a strategy session, and 7 enrolled in the full program. 

Now with even a little more "iterative optimization," I think he can improve these results even more.  

Why you don't do this in your marketing and why you must.

You don't do this because it seems easier to try things randomly, without a plan. It's not really easier. And it can be a lot more frustrating in the long run. But it does take some dedication and commitment (like anything else worthwhile).

But if you are serious about growing your business, this is the one strategy you must understand and work to implement consistently. If you do, the rewards can be enormous. 

This is why I've had success in helping clients increase their incomes from 50% to 300%. There was no magic in it, unless you think the words "iterative optimization" are magic. 

Perhaps they are!

What are you doing it optimize your marketing? Please feel free to comment on the More Clients Blog at the link below:

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

There you are at your desk trying to figure out what work you should do on your marketing this week. You make a list:

1. Call back a few recent prospects

2. Work on a new version of my free article

3. Check out a new networking group

4. Follow-up on that lead to give a talk

5. Make reservations for a business conference in the fall

All of these things floating around in your head are now on paper and will probably get done. You feel you are making some progress on your marketing and you feel better about yourself. 

Well, making a list and checking them off as you do them is great, but it has very little to do with making progress with your marketing. Sorry, but your marketing is probably mostly reactive and random. 

That is, you're not working from an action plan with definite objectives, benchmarks and step-by-step actions. 

Please don't be defensive! I'm just pointing out that getting a lot of stuff done is not the same as making steady progress in the implementation of a real action plan. After all, you can stay busy going in circles but you don't get very far! 

What do I mean by a marketing action plan? Here are a few simple examples. The possibilities are endless.  

1. Developing your website so that prospective clients can better understand what your business stands for and presents the services you offer. 

2. Putting a keep-in-touch marketing plan in place (such as a twice monthly eZine) where you work at building your e-list and sending information to prospects on a regular basis.

3. Creating a speaking plan whereby you get yourself in front of your ideal prospects at professional organizations or conferences to talk about your area of expertise and generate leads. 

All marketing action plans should be about generating qualified leads who could be ideal clients for you. But the thing to get is that if you put together a real plan, your odds of success climb dramatically compared to random marketing activities.

A good action plan will trump inspiration any day of the week.

As I've said many times, an action plan is like a recipe. You select a number of ingredients, mix them in a certain order and then cook at a certain temperature for a certain length of time. 

And like recipes, marketing action plans are not hard to find. They are all over the place online (just search Google), or in books or courses. Some are better than others, but most will outline the steps you need to take to produce a result.

So why do so few people follow action plans vs. defaulting to "reactive, random marketing mode?" 

Well, everyone has their own unique excuse; what's yours?

- I just can't find time to work on my plan

- I'm just not sure it will work for me

- It will take me too long to produce results

- I need to find the best strategy but don't know what it is

- I'd do an eZine but I don't know what to write about

- There are no places to speak in my area

- I have great ideas but I'm not good at follow-through

- My intuition tells me that this isn't a good idea

I promise you, I've heard them all.  

So there's really only one solution to making real progress in your marketing:

Pick an action plan, any action plan that seems like the next logical step in your marketing, and start working on it step-by-step. And if you notice excuses and limiting beliefs tripping you up, get some support. In other words, find a way to make it happen, despite the challenges. 

Look, it's OK, that you get stuck, that's what human beings do. It's easy to get stuck, and it happens to all of us all the time. But the thing that separates those who move forward with their plans and those who don't is that when they get stuck they reach out and get some kind of support. 

Talk to a friend, get a coach, read a how-to book or join the More Clients Club. Any or all of these can work. But stop complaining about how hard marketing is! That won't get you anywhere.  

What do you do to keep your plans in action and get unstuck? Please feel free to comment on the More Clients Blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Over the next three weeks I'll be co-promoting my friend Vrinda Normand's program on online marketing, "Online Sales Secrets," and I recommend you watch her video on the topic at this link:

Then why is my topic this week about "Getting off the Internet"? Well, it's a long story, but let me make it as concise as possible.

My Online Marketing Journey

I started my business in 1984 and created my first website in 1996 and this eZine (now also blog) in 1987. I put a huge amount of time and effort into building my web presence. But I got exactly zero clients from the web in the first year and perhaps one or two in the second year. 

But as my list of subscribers grew and my website improved with my second, third and fourth version, I started to get clients. In fact, by 2,000 I was getting almost all my clients as a result of Internet Marketing.

Those were exciting days. My list was growing exponentially. I the wrote and launched my InfoGuru Marketing Manual and was selling them at the clip of $10,000 a month. All my marketing work had finally paid off. 

In 2002 I bought a house and moved to the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains and decided to change my mode of working with individual clients. I started online group programs: my 3-month "Marketing Action Groups" and ultimately my one-year "Marketing Mastery Program." All were very successful and generated more income monthly than I ever believed possible. 

Now just about every Independent Professional I've spoken to would love to have a one-person business as successful as this. Well, it's certainly possible. 

But I left out an important part of the story. 

In the first years of my business, before the web, I had to learn, practice, struggle with and ultimately master the whole process of marketing. Ultimately, I got pretty good at attracting new clients through networking, and especially through speaking. 

And the thing that made me successful online is that I had a solid marketing foundation. I knew how to talk about and write about my services, products and programs. I knew how to put together the steps of a campaign and I knew how to convert prospects into buyers.

The Internet isn't magic, it's just a powerful medium. But if you don't understand the basics of marketing, your efforts at Internet Marketing are going to flop spectacularly. 

So what should you do?

I'm not telling you to abandon the Internet as a marketing platform, I'm telling you to also learn and hone your marketing skills at the same time. And the place to do that is not through blogging, social media, and sending emails to your list. Yes, they have their place, but they're not great at building your marketing skills.

It's getting out there and talking to prospects, through both networking and speaking. The power of this is that you get immediate feedback. When you use your marketing message, you'll instantly know if people get it or not. When giving a speech, you'll know if you're on track or not by the number of cards you collect afterwards. These kind of activities build your "marketing muscles."

And you can bring back those offline marketing skills into your online marketing efforts. This is exactly what I did, and over the past few years I've generated millions of dollars from online products and programs. 

If you think you do have that foundation, however, I would encourage you to explore successful methods to sell your services, products and programs online. 

Don't go casting around aimlessly, learn from a real professional like Vrinda. Her clarity, step-by-step approach and inspiring way of teaching just might be for you. And it doesn't cost anything to watch her first video entitled, "What to Sell Online."

What's your experience of marketing offline vs. marketing online?   Please feel free to comment on the More Clients Blog at the link below:

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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I was on an online forum yesterday where someone posted this: How to be Happy:

As they say, "If I didn't laugh, I'd cry."

This was a pretty accurate picture of me when I started my business. I needed to succeed in my business because I wasn't employable. I wanted to do things my way, but I really didn't know how to do anything. I'd sit in my home office and creatively avoid doing all the things I knew I needed to do. I'd watch TV, sleep and eat. Didn't have the sense that this person had to just go outside! 

I was a master of making longs lists and writing down goals and never achieving them - never getting close to achieving them, because I was either too lazy or stupid or unconscious to take the first step. I had figured it all out in my head, but reality was a different matter. 

I wish I could share the "breakthrough formula" that made this all change for me, but change came slowly. I was in desperate financial straits for several years. So even though I didn't know what to do or how to do it, I kept reading books, did networking, got a Mac Plus (in 1986) and started to write a newsletter and figured out how to give talks. 

When clients come to me today, struggling to get their business off the ground, learning how to market and attract clients, I'm actually impressed how far beyond me they are than I was when I started. Heck, I wouldn't take on somebody like me as a client now. It would be too much work!

The good news is, if you don't give up, there's a good chance you'll learn what you need to do and ultimately you'll actually do it. And yeah, lists are a good thing. But make them smaller and break them down into bite sized pieces. My to-do lists these days are just two or three items. And I actually get them done - most of the time. 


by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Everybody talks about authentic marketing, but what is it really? Is it just another buzzword to convince people that you and your services are a good choice?

I also see a lot of terms these days like "spiritual marketing," "soul-based marketing" and "conscious marketing." 

The trouble with words like these is that they sound nice, but what do they really mean? Is this something you should use in your marketing or is it best to stay away from these terms?

Some people, you'll notice, have purposefully built these concepts into their brand. Things like "Marketing and Soul,"  "Conscious Business Coaching," or "Authentic Leadership."

Well, ultimately you have to use some set of words to communicate a sense of what you're about, but if those words can be changed on a dime only for the purpose of convincing people to work with you, there isn't much substance or authenticity, is there? 

Defining your Terms

If you find a company using these kind of terms that can have a host of definitions for different people, look on their website for how they define these terms. If they never do, well, they really don't mean anything!

On my website in the write-up about my Marketing Club, I recently added a section about "Authentic Marketing." I say the following:

"Marketing, to be truly effective, needs to be authentic. That is, it needs to be based on who you are without any pretension. It's not about pretending to be someone else, adopting outworn marketing and selling stereotypes or, on the other hand, be something you avoid and retreat from. Ultimately it's about building real relationships with real people.

"So it's not just what you communicate or how you communicate, but where that communication comes from. You want to be naturally genuine, sincere and enthusiastic about what you're offering and the possibility to make a difference for your clients. This isn't something you have to add to your personality. It's already there.

"What many people discover when they learn this approach to marketing is that it feels very comfortable, very natural and unforced. And this is often the opposite of what they think they need to be like to market themselves. So it's a great relief to just communicate authentically about your business."

So that's what I personally mean by Authentic Marketing. I define it so that people actually know what I'm talking about.

The same goes for any term that you use prominently in your business. The trouble with many words is that people will define them in several ways, often ways that are the opposite of what you intend. The result is misunderstanding and confusion. 

So if you call yourself the "Soul-Based Veterinarian," some people might assume that it has something to do with animals having souls. Others may think that you're a very caring veterinarian, and others might be turned off (or turned on) because they think you're an Evangelical Christian.

Your business cards, brochures, website, etc. should express very clearly what you mean. Then this brand or identity can be very effective at communicating the essence of what you're about, and attract the right kind of clients to you. And that is, by my definition, authentic marketing. 

We need to remember that words are very powerful. One word can contain a world of meaning. So make sure that the meaning is clear or you'll run into marketing problems, and perhaps even get negative reactions and bad word-of-mouth.

And, by the way, this goes for a host of other business buzz words that are just as pervasive, such as leadership, teamwork, and collaboration. Again, what you mean may not be what your prospective clients understand you to mean.  

How do you clearly communicate what your business is about, especially when you're using these loaded words?  Please feel free to comment on the More Clients Blog by clicking on the Comments link below:

Free: More Clients Marketing Sampler for Independent Professionals. Get this free sampler of marketing tutorials, recordings, resources and exercises, designed to help you be a better marketer of your professional services. 


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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