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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Robert Middleton

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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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This article is by my client, Stan Mann. Stan helps financial advisors grow their practices. I liked it so much I asked him If I could run it as a guest article in my eZine and blog. Visit his website at: http://www.solutions4advisors.com/

I was up in the attic yesterday and I ran across one of my favorite old toys. It brought back memories of how I got that toy, the obstacles I overcame and the lessons I learned from the experience.

I know sometimes your financial planning practice (or Independent Professional business) presents you with obstacles that make your eyes cross. You’re aching to achieve your dream of an ideal financial advisory practice, yet sometimes you find your motivation flagging. You feel frustrated, discouraged and sometimes just want to plain quit. 

You wonder how you’re going to overcome all these challenges. If you want to know how to overcome any obstacle, here’s a story with a powerful lesson. It’s from an unlikely source—a little kid. Read what you can learn about succeeding in business from a little boy (me) who had an almost impossible dream. It goes like this…

I remember when I was just a kid during the Great Depression. I knew how to have fun with empty boxes, using a stick for a sword and my finger for a gun. But there was one toy I really wanted—a new Buck Rogers rocketship.

Dad was out of work. Mom took in washing when she could find somebody who could pay her. There was just enough money for food, hardly any for clothes. Anything else, like toys, was out of the question.

Still, I yearned for it. I saw it in the local hardware store. I watched with fascination as the salesman showed how it worked.

It was really neat. Wind it up and sparks shot out of its tail. A Buck Rogers intergalactic rocketship with sparks shooting out of its tail!! I had to have it. How could I get money to buy it?

We had an apple tree in the backyard. It was fall and the apples were ripe. I would sell apples to raise the money I needed. I quickly picked the reddest ones and polished them to a bright shine.

I took my treasures out in the street and found grown men on the street corners selling apples too. These were hard times. “Beat it kid,” a man told me. Discouraged I started walking home. I kept thinking about that Buck Rogers intergalactic rocketship with sparks shooting out of its tail!!

On my way I passed some business places. I looked into a barbershop and saw some men waiting. I was scared, but I thought about that Buck Rogers intergalactic rocketship with sparks shooting out of its tail!!

I went in and was able to sell two apples before the owner gently ushered me out.

“This will work,” I thought.

I went to the next store and just got in before the owner chased me out. I was discouraged and scared, but I thought of the two apples I did sell and that Buck Rogers intergalactic rocketship with sparks shooting out of its tail!! That renewed my courage. I did not understand it then, but that Buck Rogers rocketship had become a trigger. Every time I thought about it, it triggered me into action.

I kept on going, store after store. Some owners were nice and let me come in and sell my apples, others ushered me out. Not all of them were kind. Every time I got discouraged I thought of my successes and of that Buck Rogers intergalactic rocketship with sparks shooting out of its tail!! 

I had two triggers now, the memory of my getting money for my apples and the thought of that Buck Rogers rocketship. I kept on going until I sold enough apples.

I ran to the store and bought my toy—A Buck Rogers intergalactic rocket ship with sparks shooting out of its tail!!. At last it was mine. I was thrilled.

That simple story is an example of the power of visioning. This is the same principle that works on any enterprise, from selling apples to landing a rocketship on the moon.

You can even systematically create conditioned reflexes to program your mind to give you unstoppable motivation whenever you need it. Details to do this are in my book, Triggers: A New Approach to Self Motivation, published by Prentice Hall. Another excellent book is, Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins.

Take these lessons from my little kid and you, too, can have your very own thriving financial advisor practice with sparks shooting out of its tail!!

thaks for this great story, Stan!

Do you have a story you’d like to share about how you were highly motivated and achieved your big goal? Please feel free to share you ideas on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Do you sometimes read a web page or other marketing materials and feel that it's mostly hype? 

Hype is defined as "extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion." 

If you're a professional you don't want to use hype in marketing as it ultimately turns people off more than it attracts people to your services. Hype also tends to attract the wrong kind of clients, often those with unrealistic expectations.

On the other hand, some professionals are so hype-adverse that they avoid marketing of any kind. To them marketing equals hype; there is no difference in their minds. 

They think, "If I'm marketing, people are going to think I'm exaggerating, perhaps even lying."  So marketing activities are either avoided or scaled down so much that it has little impact and doesn't effectively communicate your value.

Below are a number of things to do and things to avoid if your marketing is to be both attention-getting and hype-free. I know this can be a tricky tightrope to traverse, but read closely to notice the difference between the two.  

Get Attention By Doing These...

1. Having marketing messages that are interesting, relevant to your clients and outcome-based. People are mostly interested in what's in it for them. Don't talk about your process, focus on actual results, with stories to back them up. No exaggeration required. 

2. Communicating facts and backing-up with proof. Be precise in your language when talking about what you've done and can do. You want to sound "quietly confident" not "loudly boastful." Sure those people get a lot of attention, but not a lot of trust. 

3. Finding new ways to package old ideas. One of my clients helps workplaces be more productive and better places to work. The term he uses is "Drama-Free Workplaces" which is essentially the same thing, but more interesting and attention-getting. 

4. When networking, be interested, not interesting. The biggest mistake we make in networking is talking too much. Someone shows some interest and off we go. Instead, show more interest in those you meet; learn all about them. You'll better determine if they are prospects or not. 

5. When following-up, don't sell. We dread follow-up so much because we feel we have to convince someone to do something. We don't. We just want to talk and see if there's a connection between a prospect's issues and goals are our ability to solve problems and produce results. 

6. Understand that selling is mostly about listening. Even if you are invited to sit down and explain your services, avoid the temptation to do so. Most of the selling conversation should be about sincerely listening and learning of your prospect's current situation, goals and challenges. Only then should you talk about what you can do for a prospect. 

Avoid Hype By Not Doing These...

1. Using over-the top marketing messages. "We triple our clients incomes in three months," sure sounds compelling, but can you really do it? Probably not, or only rarely. And if you can, you'd better have lots of proof!

2. Always communicating in superlatives. Whether you communicate verbally, or in writing, don't promise more than you can deliver. If everything is the best, the greatest, amazing, stunning, jaw-dropping or shocking, my hype detector is going to go off and block out further communication. 

3. Packaging ideas like a carnival barker. Sure, you want your ideas to be interesting and compelling. But you don't want them to insult the intelligence of your prospects. "Our Super Breakthrough Make-a-Million Online Sales System" strains credibility or only appeals to naive people. 

4. Talk when you network and don't stop. Being the center of attention seems like a good thing, but it can backfire on you. Those who are real prospects will be skeptical and those who are interested are often the least qualified. 

5. Always be selling when you follow-up. You see your job as always convincing, persuading, manipulating. You may actually get buy-in from sheer force of persuasion, but then the prospects you sold on doing a strategy session with you won't show up and won't return calls later. 

6. See selling as a performance. You have memorized every word, timed every slide, made your case rock-solid. But you haven't tuned into to the actual needs of your prospects. And although they may be impressed, they won't feel you really care about them and their needs. And they'll tune you out. 

Attention Vs. Hype

Do you see the big difference between these two? Getting attention works best if you are really concerned about helping your prospects. You listen, show you care and communicate clearly in value-based language. 

Hype is quite different. Who you care most about is yourself, making a positive impression, wowing people, and being the smartest person in the room with all the answers. Hype is all about ego, not about making a difference. 

The thing is the differences can sometimes be subtle. It's very easy to cross over from getting attention into delivering hype. You need to notice where your attention is - on your prospects or on yourself. 

How do you avoid hype in your business but still get the attention that gets buy-in from prospects? Please feel free to share your ideas on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I'm in my 30th year of business as a self-employed professional. It's been a very rewarding and fun career, and what still amazes me is that I'm still excited with helping Independent Professionals be better marketers and attract more of their ideal clients. 

This year was a big transition for me. After leading group programs for about 10 years, I felt I needed a break from the intensity of working with 15 to 20 clients at the same time.

So I went back to working with clients individually and it's been very rewarding and fun. I've discovered I can help client progress even faster, and with all my online tutorials I can "outsource the training to myself" and focus on coaching them in moving forward step-by-step (and at a lower cost).

Of course, the More Clients Club is still going strong with around 700 members right now. The Coaching Calls became more focused this year and the Club Forum is ridiculously active with great questions, resources and participation. 

However, I've been thinking a lot this year about what other programs I could offer that gave great value and didn't burn me out. And I want to share with you what I've come up with. 

What I'll also be offering this year is the "Virtual Marketing Workshop Series." 

This won't duplicate material in the More Clients Club but will simply give both Club members and eZine subscribers the chance to do more focused, intensive programs that are also very affordable. 

The first in the series was the Virtual Workshop on: "The Secrets to Closing the Big Sale." We've done three sessions, have one more next week and the final one in early December. 110 people signed up for this program. 

Here's the plan. I'll be doing the Virtual Workshops live by teleconference or webinar every two or three months and then will offer them online right after the last live session. So on December 5th, this complete program will be available online. 

Our next Virtual Workshop (The Ultimate Course on Getting Unstuck) will be on Saturday, January 18th, with an additional evening session on Thursday the 23rd. I spent 6 hours today creating material for this program. I'm very excited about it.

These days what I'm seeing are a lot of huge, complex, six-month or more very expensive marketing programs starting at about $1,000. I decided not to go that route and also not to use affiliates to promote my programs. 

What I want to offer are very intensive, how-to-and hands-on programs that focus on very specific marketing areas. They are designed to give you the ideas, information and inspiration to help you move forward. 

All of these programs will cost only $79 (whether live or online). And no long-term commitment is required.

Many want the ongoing support and the huge amount of how-to material in the More Clients Club, but I realize that's not for everyone. But at $29 per month, people are getting a huge amount of value.  

What I wanted to announce today is the Re-Launch of the WebSite ToolKit. When I started the More Clients Club about 5 years ago I took it off the market and included it with the Club membership. 

Perhaps that was a mistake! I keep getting requests for it and not everyone wants to join the Club to get access to it.

The WebSite ToolKit will help you develop all the content for your website and give you a step-by-step action plan for getting it done. We've had thousands of people use the ToolKit since 2000 and they've created some great, client-attracting websites as a result.

You can learn about the WebSite ToolKit and order it at this link:

http://actionplan.com/fasttrack/webtk

And the price of the ToolKit, with permanent access, is only $79, the same price as all the other Virtual Workshops.  

We continue to keep the links in the ToolKit up-to-date, including the 60 or more links to sample websites. 

So, that's what I'm up to this year. I'm really excited about these Virtual Workshops. I expect that a thousand or more people will take advantage of them in the coming year. 

I also invite you to join the Marketing Club if you want a lot of hands-on support each and every month. I actually answer the majority of questions on the Club Forum and often will give feedback on marketing materials as well. For $29 per month, you'll more than get your money's worth. 

Details here: http://actionplan.com/fasttrack

Please feel free to share your feedback or ideas on the Blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Last week I discussed creating a marketing action plan for the end of the year to give you momentum going into the New Year. 

And I promised that today I'd share a plan with you to grow and use your e-list (email list), which ultimately can be the most important thing you do in your marketing. 

Simply put, an e-list lets you do marketing that would be impossible without it. I should know. Since 1997, my e-list has enabled me to successfully market my services and programs online generating several millions of dollars in income. 

It's also enabled me to be a successful Independent Professional who works from his home in the country, needing to do little networking or other promotional activity. 

When I want to promote a product or program, I simply send out a few emails and get immediate results. 

And even if you don't want to sell information products or group programs, your e-list can still be your most valuable marketing asset for attracting new clients. 

So first let me tout the many benefits of a good e-list.

- Establishes you immediately as an expert in your field

- Builds long-term relationships and trust with prospects

- Enables you to market your services from anywhere

- Warms up your prospects to make selling much easier

- Gives you a vehicle to get the fastest marketing results

Here are 7 proven ways to attract business with your e-lsit

1. Offer an article or report on your website that comes with a subscription to your eZine (email newsletter). Have a prominent link or two on your home page that leads to a "Free Stuff Page" that contains detailed information on your article or report. (see mine here)

2. Write your eZine at least once a month; twice a month is even better, and weekly is good for some. The key is to be regular with your broadcasts; send them out like clockwork. Always provide valuable how-to information geared to your target audience. About 750 words works for most. 

3. Use a reliable service like Aweber to send out your eZine. It's pretty cheap and very easy to use. You just create a list and then in the online interface you copy the text you've written. You can use a plain text format or stylized email. Give Aweber a free month try: http://aweber.com

4. After you broadcast your eZine, post the same content on your blog. These days, with WordPress websites it's easy to integrate a blog. Best if your blog is at least weekly, even if it's a short article, especially if you send out your eZine only monthly. It increases the rank of your page on Google and also generates more subscribers to your e-list

5. Do some promotion in every issue of your eZine. Even if it's a just a paragraph or two above or below your main article, let people know what services you are offering now. Provide a link to your website and a "sales letter" that outlines your services in great detail. 

6. Do stand-alone promotions with your e-list. Look, the truth is that some people will unsubscribe pretty quickly if you do these kind of promotions. Don't worry, these people would never buy your services anyway. But keep your promotions focused and hype-free and try to send no more than one a week. 

7. Your promotions will work a lot better if your emails have a link to a "sales letter" on your website. And you want to write long copy for this letter. Don't make it wordy; make sure it tells the complete story with "reason why" copy and lots of clear benefits. I've written sales letter that have generated a million in sales. And none of them were short!  (See my services letter here.)

And how about ways to grow your list? I'll make these briefer: 

1. The more you send out your eZine, the more subscribers you'll get. People will pass it along. 

2. Always emphasize the report over the eZine on your site. The report is the main giveaway, the eZine is the bonus.  

3. Have a sign-up box to your report and eZine on your blog page. Some new visitors to your blog will opt-in. 

4. Have a pop-up subscription box on your home page. I used to hate these, but then they gave me more than 1/3 of my new subscribers. Easy to create in AWeber. 

5. Publish your articles on the web (http://ezinearticles.com). Add a "resource box" at the bottom that offers your free report.

6. Co-promote reports and articles with others. They send their subscribers to opt-in for your report and visa versa. 

7. Write a more in-depth report or ebook and announce it with a press release (http://businesswire.com) and a link that sends them to your opt-in page. 

How are you growing your e-list and using it to grow your business? Please feel free to share on the Blog by clicking on the Comments link below. 

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

It's almost November and the end of the year is looming.

What is your plan for marketing yourself for the rest of the year?

In today's More Clients I want to talk about developing a marketing action plan that will guide your actions for the rest of the year and create a solid foundation for moving into next year. 

Many people feel that the end of year is the worst time to do marketing. In my experience that is not true. In fact I've found it to be a very good time to market. 

At the end of 2008 I developed my new Marketing Mastery Program and did a couple telesclasses at the end of the year to launch it. It wasn't a big, fancy launch, but it was very effective. 

At the beginning of 2009 I sent out an announcement that the program was now open to enrollments and got dozens of applicants. By early March it was completely full. But it wouldn't have been had I not started the plan in November. 

When I talk about "marketing plans" people have different ideas about what that means exactly. 

The majority of people think of a marketing plan as a laundry list of all the marketing activities they will do during a certain period:

- Go to networking events

- Write an email newsletter

- Improve my website

- Publish some articles

- Do a Webinar   

Sorry, that's not a plan. It's just a random collection of activities. Where is it leading? What is your "marketing intention," that is, what specific results do you want to get from doing all of those activities? 

For most, the answer is "more clients."

Well, that kind of plan isn't going to get you there! 

You don't start a plan with activities, you start with very specific outcomes in mind. For my Marketing Mastery Program, I had developed a comprehensive one-year program for Independent Professionals and wanted from 15 to 20 participants. 

Then I organized my activities to achieve that end. These activities included:

- Developed a web page outlining the Mastery Program

- Created two 90-minute teleclasses to introduce it

- Sent email announcements and reminders for teleclasses

- Held the teleclasses without a high-pressure pitch

- Opened the Mastery Program for applications in mid January

- Called applicants for program and met with applicants by phone

- Filled the program with 17 participants in 6 weeks

And this wasn't a one-shot wonder! I did used the exact same plan four years in a row and filled each program to capacity.

Your aspirations may not be to fill a group program, but to simply get a few high-end clients. Your marketing action plan may be simpler, but it still needs to be intentional and step-by-step. 

And you may also want to engage in more than one marketing activity. If that's the case, you need a separate marketing action plan for each activity. 

Let's say you plan to do both a networking plan and a speaking plan. Here are the basic action steps for both:

Networking

- Check out and join two or three professional organizations

- Participate actively by attending all meetings

- Prepare Audio Logo and Marketing Conversations

- Write an article or report to give to prospects

- Do phone follow-up with those who are interested

- Set up "Strategy Sessions" for qualified prospects

- Conduct Strategy Sessions and close 50% or more

Speaking

- Do research on places to give talks

- Prepare speaker's kit and post information on website

- Contact program organizers by phone and email

- Speak to organizers about your talk - link to info.

- Follow-up and get some talks booked

- Provide talk write-up + bio for organization

- Prepare your talk and Power Point presentation

- Give talks and offer your free report at the end

- Contact participants and invite to Strategy Session

- Set up and conduct Strategy Sessions and close 50% or more

These plans are virtually identical to ones I've used in the past with great success. Once I got consistent success with speaking I slowed down my networking. After my successes with speaking I grew my e-list and started to do mostly online marketing. 

Remember, both networking and speaking are good list-building activities that will enable you to do more online marketing in the future. 

You may ask, "But how do I know which marketing plan is best for me?" 

In my experience, the ones that are the best make the deepest connections with your prospects. This is why networking and speaking are still powerful marketing methods. 

What about social media, web optimization, blogging, teleclasses and webinars? These are great if you have a good-sized email list. But if you only have one or two thousand names (or less), you simply don't have enough to get good results. 

I'm going to cover strategies for list-building next week, but in the meantime, work on your marketing action plan for networking or speaking. 

Which marketing action plan has worked best for you? Please feel free to share it on the Blog by clicking on the link below.

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Yesterday I was writing a long article entitled: "7 Big Lies About Marketing." I'll have it available to all More Clients subscribers in a week or so. It really addresses the issue of why so many people are resistant to and avoid marketing activities. 

Well, it took me most of the day to write it, so I didn't have much time to write the eZine. So, instead, I'm including an excerpt from the article on the selling process. 

Marketing Lie #5 - Selling is Nothing But Manipulation

If marketing is difficult for some people, selling is even harder. In the same way that marketing is seen as dishonest, selling is seen as manipulative. However, if we look closely, we’ll see that selling is most effective when it’s not manipulative. 

The dictionary defines manipulation as: “Control or influence over a person – cleverly, unfairly or unscrupulously.”

Do some people use manipulation in selling? No question about it. But do you have to? No you don’t. And in my experience, a non-manipulative approach to selling is much more powerful and effective than manipulation can ever be. 

Let’s define selling: “Give or hand over something in exchange for money.” So when you sell your services, your prospects get your professional services and you get paid for that. Nothing inherently manipulative in that, is there?

I recently asked one of my clients who is a sales management consultant what he thought the biggest mistake people made in the selling process. He said, “Spending too much time trying to convince people.”

He hit the nail on the head. If all your attention is primarily focused on convincing people that your services are great and that they should buy them, you are bound to cross the line into manipulation.

But isn’t that exactly what selling is – convincing people to buy from you? Well, no it is not. Not even close.

The purpose of selling is to discover if there is a legitimate match between your clients' needs and wants and your ability to meet those needs and wants by providing your professional services. And you don’t get to that match by trying to convince someone of anything! 

How you get to an agreement to work together is by first discovering, in great depth, exactly what those needs and wants are. A selling conversation that works is where you ask questions and listen about 3/4 to 2/3 of the time and talk about 1/4 to 1/3 of the time.

And you’re not asking questions and listening so that you can say the right words to manipulate your prospect into buying!

You are asking questions and listening to determine if there’s a real fit.

You want to know about three key areas: The prospects situation – what’s working and what’s not working; the prospect’s goals – where they want to go; and the prospect’s challenges – what is holding them back from achieve their goals.

Yes, you must be prepared; yes, you must ask the right questions and really listen; yes you must know what to say and how to say what’s necessary to match their needs to your solution. But no manipulation, i.e., coercion, on your part is required.

After you’ve learned all of this from a prospect, you should know very clearly whether or not your services will fit their needs. And that’s when you explain in a very straightforward way exactly how you can help them. And ultimately, if you are on track, your prospect will agree that your solution is a good choice. 

If it's not you should let them know. After all, there's nothing worse than signing up a client where you don't feel confident that your services will serve that client. Things will just backfire on you. I've seen it happen many times.   

When Independent Professionals start to think of selling this way, all the effort and struggle drops away. Since you’re not trying to convince someone to do anything they don’t want to do, what’s left is real interest, openness, and a focus on making a difference. 

What people discover when they approach selling this way is that they get little resistance from the prospect. It’s a cooperative exploration of possibilities, not a confrontation.  

How do you approach selling non-manipulatively? Please feel free to share it on the Blog by clicking on the Comemnts 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