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    By Robert Middleton

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Whenever I see good marketing, it's not what's clever or novel that attracts my attention, it's the good, clear communication about the product's or service's value. 

Think of the iPhone. Everyone not only wants one, they want the latest one! Some people buy a new one every year. My 2-year old granddaughter is playing games on it!

The iPhone is so cool and slick and amazing to use, you just want it as soon as you see it. No words are necessary. The value is visceral. 

But is that true of your service or program?

Probably not, because your services are intangible. There's nothing to see or touch. Someone has to experience your service or program to see the value. 

Or do they?

The whole purpose of marketing is to powerfully communicate the value of your service or program. And if your business is to survive, let alone grow, it's absolutely necessary that you learn how to do this. 

Where do you start?

You start with the service itself. You literally invent your service and develop all the components. You do that by sitting down and answering these 10 questions:

1. Name of the Service

A good name is essential. It needs to be benefit and results-oriented. "Management Consulting Services" is too generic. I have no idea what I'll get. "Business Turnaround Services" is more like it as the value is right in the name. 

2. Who are the Clients for your service?

Not everybody, that's for sure. You want to zero in as specifically as possible: "Leaders and managers in high-tech startups in Silicon Valley."

3. Problem or challenge this service addresses

The only reason anyone buys anything is because something is missing. They buy a service to get what they don't have. They don't have enough profits or effective marketing, or a productive workplace. You really need to understand the pain your clients are experiencing. 

4. Expected outcomes delivered by your service

OK, you've defined the problem. But can you solve it? What exactly can your clients expect to get if they buy your services? What will improve, expand, or work better for your clients than it does now? And can it be done easier, faster, and with better quality than what they're now using?

5. What is unique about this service?

Perhaps your service, at its essence, is similar to many other professional services. So what makes yours stand out? What extra value do you add? What do you provide that everyone else tends to miss? Find it and explain it. 

6. What does the client actually get?

That is, what are all the components of this service? Don't assume your clients understand how your service works. Spell it out and make it clear, simple and easy. 

7. What are all the benefits of this service?

Now pull out all the stops. Think of every single benefit and advantage your service offers. Again, don't assume your clients know; tell them in some depth.

8. What's the proof of the value of your services?

Who else has used your service successfully? What results did they get? Can you write a case study? Can you get a testimonial?    

9. What is the structure of your service?

That is, when do you meet, what happens in a meeting, what happens between meetings, what do you expect them to do and what exactly will you do? Make it 100% clear. 

10. What do you charge for this service?

Often you won't publish this information, but you'd better be crystal clear about your pricing strategy. How much time does it take to deliver your service? Is it profitable for you while sill being a great deal for the client?

If you haven't yet answered all of these questions, you can't effectively communicate the value of your services. Look, not everyone is interested in all of these, but everyone is interested in some of them. 

In developing your service, especially an intangible (and often expensive) service, you have to tell more, explain more and prove more. A four-word tag line won't do it. 

Once you have the answers to all of these, then write what I call a "Service or Program Sales Letter" that includes all of these 10 elements. Put it on your website under "Services." If you have more than one service, write a sales letter for all of them. 

Your letter should be from five to seven pages long. Write it like you are talking to someone sitting across from you who is asking the above questions. Then explain everything in clear and benefit-oriented language.

Before you meet with a prospect to talk about your services, make sure they read this sales page first. I promise it will shorten the whole sales cycle and make people feel more comfortable and confident about working with you.  

Do you have any comments on this article? I invite you to comment and also share it on social media. Just click on the Comments link below. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients. He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Group, 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 your free copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Listening to "Super Soul Sunday" with Oprah, she was interviewing Tracy McMillan who wrote an article for the Huffington Post, and then a book entitled, "Why You're Not Married Yet" which is a no-nonsense, perhaps confrontational article, addressed to woman who are blaming not being married on everything but themselves. The interview was enlightening. 

I turned to my wife and said, "I need to write an article similar to that for my More Clients Subscribers, but on the topic of why self-employed people are not successful yet." I hope you enjoy it and thanks to Tracy McMillan and Oprah for the inspiration (and even the format of the article). 

You want to be successfully self-employed. You might be reluctant to admit it, but you want to work with great clients who pay you well and appreciate your services; you want to make a six-figure plus income, live in a nice home, pay off your mortgage early, go on great vacations, have a good nest egg, and never worry about where the money is going to come from when you have an emergency. 

Perhaps you started as a self-employed professional recently or a few years ago. 

But that success you longed for sure seems to be taking a long time arriving. You're working longer hours than you ever did in a job, but the clients are hardly pouring in like you expected; in fact they sometimes slow to a trickle. And those high-paying clients, where are they? You see some of your colleagues making it as self-employed professionals, so you wonder what you're doing wrong. Are you going after the wrong target market or has the need for your services dried up? And you wonder if you'll ever be truly successfully self-employed. 

Well, I have some answers for you. 

Hard to believe, but I've been self-employed for almost 30 years; I started my business in August of 1984. But the first twelve years of my business were hardly successful. In fact, for many years I barely got by. Not only that, I lost my credit for seven years and had to live entirely on my week-by-week cash flow. 

Why was I so unsuccessful? It wasn't because I didn't work hard, but because I made a lot of big mistakes both external and internal. Luckily I had persistence and never wanted to work for a boss again, so I kept at it until I learned exactly what I need to do to succeed. This is why I've been so effective at helping my clients; I've experienced everything that they have.

So here's the truth: It's not business or marketing that are inherently hard, it's that you're likely making many of the same mistakes that I did. If what you are doing in your business right now was going to make you successful, you'd already have that six-figure income by now. So, without any more preamble, lets look at the top six reasons you are not successfully self-employed.  

1. You're Scared to Death

Yes, you are afraid. And being afraid is a big mistake that holds you back. You may not realize you're afraid. You're smart and creative and hard working and worthy of praise and admiration. (If only someone would discover you.) But the thing is, you're scared to death of really putting yourself and your business out there. You're afraid of being rejected by prospective clients, you're afraid of what people may think of you and you're afraid of making a mistake or looking bad. You're also afraid of being intrusive or having people think that marketing your business makes you look desperate. Insert your particular fear here: _______________  

Here's the deal: Your prospective clients want to work with people who are confident and able to just be themselves. They want to work with self-employed professionals who are smart but not perfect, people with whom they can have honest, heart-to-heart conversations and get to the real issues, followed by real solutions.

It's rare that prospective clients will judge you and reject you if you don't have the perfect marketing message or follow-up with them. They'll reject you simply because they don't need what you're offering or understand what you're offering. Get real; not everyone needs your services. But if you learn how to clearly explain to potential clients how you can help them and share some of your client success stories, they'll want to know more. 

You spend so much time and effort worrying about making contact with people who might reject you that you hardly spend any time actually making those contacts and discovering that many will be interested. Get over yourself! Every business is a people business and sooner or later you'll discover that there are some great people who need your help and are more than willing to pay you good money for that help. 

Don't give into all those fears; they're mostly imaginary anyway. 

2. You're Unrealistic

Admit it, you want to be successful as fast as possible. But that misguided desire has you chasing in all the wrong directions. You follow the latest trends and hot schemes that are guaranteed to make a killing. You take courses promising to make you rich with some kind of complex, over-hyped marketing activity that is never as simple as it seems. You work on presenting yourself more dynamically or "spiritually in touch," but you feel like a fake playing a part. 

You forget that the most important thing in business is helping clients solve real problems, the ones that are keeping them up at night. You may not understand that most clients come to self-employed professionals because of relationships. That is, their existing clients and connections are so happy with the value received that their  name, web address or LinkedIn profile gets passed along. People seek their assistance because their services are touted as valuable. Plus, they're authentic and helpful; they listen and they care.

Above all else, be real and get extremely good at what you do. 

3. You're Not Passionate Enough

We often forget why we got into our business in the first place. It's probably because we love our particular field of work. I think about my dentist and veterinarian whose businesses are side-by-side on the main street of Boulder Creek. My dentist is a whiz about the technical side of dentistry, besides being a genuine people person. My veterinarian cares more about my cat, Bindu, than I do! So I sometimes pay more for her healthcare than I do on mine! I know she's in good hands.

Do you read books and subscribe to periodicals and eZines about your profession? Do you belong to your professional association and attend conferences? Have you written a book or are planning to start one? Does your website include useful articles  and videos that highlight your insights and innovative methods? 

If you're not doing these kinds of things, your passion is deeply hidden. Perhaps you forgot why you got into business in the first place or you got hooked by the first issues outlined in this article. Look, clients want to work with someone who is passionate about their profession. They want someone who thinks, eats, and dreams about how they can help their clients.

Rediscover the passion for your profession or find another profession.   

4. You're a Lousy Communicator

You may think that communicating about your business and the value you bring is incredibly difficult. I can't tell you how many clients have told me that it was next to impossible to explain to other people exactly what it was they did. I've seen websites that were impenetrable as to what the business was actually about. 

Communicating about your business is difficult because you're communicating about exactly the wrong thing. That is, you're mostly telling about what you do, that is, the process that you engage in with your clients. And you don't realize that almost nobody gives a damn about that stuff. 

What they care about is what you can do for them. They care about the solutions and outcomes you deliver, not so much how you deliver them. This one simple misunderstanding makes you a lousy communicator. Sure, you try hard, but you don't get very far or generate much attention or interest because you don't get across in simple language what's in it for them. Forget about yourself for awhile and do some serious thinking about their problems and challenges and how you can make things better. 

Above all, talk about what your clients get when they work with you.  

5. You're Disorganized

Being in business for yourself is a lot of work. There are endless things to do and the hours can be long. But your business need not be an endless struggle. I define struggle as, "Doing something over and over and never getting better results." This happens if you don't put in enough time to observe what's not working and then develop repeatable systems that do work, especially when it comes to growing your business. 

If you want a business with less struggle and more results, you should have systems for the following business activities: 

• How you manage your time and your projects 

• Step-by-step best practices for working with clients

• Systems for managing email, paperwork, billing and invoicing

• Simple and fast ways to update your website, write blogs and send eZines

• Tested action plans for networking, speaking, teleclasses and webinars

• Finding the highest yield social media activities that don't waste time

• A system for following up with prospective clients and leads from referrals

• A complete non-manipulative selling process that has a high close rate

If you don't have these kind of systems set up, your business is running in fire-fighting mode most of the time. People often ask me how I get so much done, especially on my marketing, such as my eZine, programs and teleclasses. Well, it's really not hard; I have very clearly laid-out systems for everything and follow them like a recipe. I also have a long list of projects, a weekly list of things to accomplish and a daily list of only the most important action items. And I don't procrastinate.

Analyze what's not working and then create systems that work. You'll save huge amounts of time in the long run. 

6. You're Not Good Enough

The truth is, you are great, you are magnificent and your potential is unlimited, but that's not what you think of yourself. You want to be perfect and you aren't yet. As if perfection was ever possible. Striving for perfection is the dumbest thing anybody can do because it sets you up over and over again for failure. And the more you think you've failed, the worse you feel about yourself. 

How about going for your best, or even excellence, instead? Those are things you can accomplish each and every day. I've worked with so many clients with their businesses and marketing in disarray, not because they didn't have the education, ability or intelligence, but because they were afraid of making a fool of themselves (See #1 above). Relax; in the long run, we're all fools! 

The thought, "I'm not good enough," is a false belief, based on comparing yourself to others whom you think are better than you. This is "the killer belief" responsible for more failures and unrealized potential than any other. It stops people cold from risking new things, launching projects, writing books, putting themselves out there, being creative and yes, possibly failing one in awhile (from which you always learn). 

Who would you be and how would you act if you knew you were whole and complete just as you are? Wouldn't you work with more passion, have more fun, take more risks, care more about helping others and be excited every time you connected with a potential client you could contribute to?

Realize you are good enough right now. And then act. 

Will You Heed This Advice?

When it comes down to it, as a self-employed professional, you have a unique opportunity that only a small percentage of American workers get. You get to be independent, creative, work with interesting clients, and make a lasting impact with thousands of people. What's not to like? 

So what if the work is hard? So what if you face rejection? So what if you don't make as much money as you want instantly? So what if marketing is a challenge? So what if there are a million details to manage? That's what it means to be self-employed. But when you step up to the plate and decide to play with all the energy, enthusiasm and passion you can muster, the rewards that ultimately will come make it all more than worth it. 

Do you have any comments on this article? Please feel free to post them by clicking on the Comments link below. Also, please share this on social media. I'm sure you know a few friends who are also struggling to be successfully self-employed. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In the 8th chapter Anthony Robbins' book, "Awaken The Giant Within" the topic is "Questions are the Answer."

I read this several years ago, and this one chapter had a great impact on me. The gist of it is, "The quality of your life depends on the questions you ask yourself."

If you ask, "Why is marketing so hard?" or "Why aren't I a good writer, speaker or salesperson?" you won't get very good answers. You mind will search for answers, even if they aren't the right ones. In fact, they'll often be invalidating:

"You're not a good marketer because you're just not the marketing type, you're not suited to this, so don't even try."

Well, that's really empowering isn't it! 

Understanding this, we might graduate to better questions, such as, "What do I need to do? How do I learn how to do it? Who can help me with this? What are the possibilities? How can I be a great marketer of my services?"

These questions will be answered as well, but in a more empowering way. You'll start looking for what you need to do and how to do it, and how to get help and how to succeed with whatever you're doing.

Now, I've been using questions like this for years, and yes, they really lead in the direction of knowledge, expertise, and success. And that's great. 

"How can I market this service? How do I make it work? What will help me succeed? How can I be even more efficient and effective with my marketing?"

But there are limitations with these questions as well. Have you ever thought where these questions were coming from? 

Who is asking those questions? Who wants to succeed?

It's the ego isn't it? That is, my personal sense of who I am. I want to succeed, to get better, to get more, to survive, to maintain the image of myself as someone who is successful. 

I'm not saying this is wrong in any way, but I am saying that it's extremely limited. Our mind, our thinking, our beliefs, and our points of view filter our experiences. 

So when we ask questions about how we can succeed at something, the answers are all filtered through this limited, conditioned, constricted mind.

It's something like this: 

A successful man sees another man panhandling on the street with a sign that said, "Please help me, I'm hard on my luck." He comes up to him and says, "You know, you look like a smart person, I'll bet you could do a lot better for yourself if you started thinking bigger." 

The next day he passes the same panhandler, but with a different sign. It said the same as before: "Please help me, I'm down on my luck," except it was six times bigger and in bold magic marker!

"Thanks," the panhandler said, "I'm getting lots more money with this new, bigger sign!"

So even if we ask better questions, they are still constrained by our past experiences, expectations, situation, and beliefs. 

So what's the next level of questions?

There's a whole other category of questions that you may never have thought about before. And the answers to these questions are even more powerful.  

Wouldn't they have to be questions beyond the small, limited, conditioned and constrictive ego who only wants things for him or herself? 

The bigger questions are about what Life wants, what the Real Self wants, what Inspiration wants, what your Magnificence wants, what Wholeness wants. 

And all of those have nothing to do with your limited ego. 

These things are beyond mind, beyond category, beyond wanting more, or proving something, or being better or successful. 

Now, of course, the mind will jump in and try to figure out what I mean by all of this. But that won't get you far. It's like explaining how to throw a baseball or craft a marketing message. Explanations only go so far. 

You've got to jump in and try it. 

So my suggestion is, the next time you don't know what to do or how to do it, and perhaps you're struggling or overwhelmed, ask one or more of the questions below and see what answers arise. But you really need to liste

What does LIFE want here?

What would I do if I was INSPIRED?

What is POSSIBLE if I had no limits?

What would I do if I knew I COULDN'T FAIL?

What is my BODY telling me to do?

What is my HEART revealing that I should do?

Add your own question here. 

I predict that you will discover answers that bypass the mind and the limited ego and that give you clear direction to do the things that will lead to some magnificent and inspired creations. 

Give it a try and let me know what happens. 

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments link below. Also, please do not post spam on the blog. All comments are moderated and your comment will not be posted if it's spam. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

On Sunday, when driving home from dinner and a movie with my wife, we took a detour home and she remarked that she'd like to go hiking in the area. I could certainly appreciate that as it was beautiful, forested, rolling countryside. 

And then she said, "I'd like to go hiking here and I'd like you to come with me but you don't like hiking any more." 

Well, that irritated me a bit.

I replied to her, "Sweetie, you just put me in a box right then as someone who doesn't like to hike. Is that really true?"

"Well, every time I've asked you to come hiking with me recently, you haven't wanted to come."

"Yes," I said, "But as you know I've had a lot of pain in my hip recently, so at the time I didn't want to go. But does that mean I don't like hiking anymore?"

"Well, I guess not, but you haven't gone for a long time." 

"That's true, but if you put me in a box like that, you may stop asking me, even when my hip is better, and you may start thinking of me as someone who doesn't like to hike. And that's just not true."

Do you put your prospects into boxes?

During the rest of the ride home I thought about how we all tend to put people into boxes: "This person is this way and that person is that way." We don't see the person anymore, but identify them with some way of being or behaving that is very limiting... and often completely incorrect.

I see this happen all the time with Independent Professionals who are trying to attract new clients. I may suggest they explore speaking to a certain person or check out a certain group to speak to. And often the response I get is, "Oh, they wouldn't be interested" or "I don't think my talk is right for that group."

Now they've put these prospects into a box and have defined how they believe these prospects will react before they've had any contact with that prospect. They prejudge and therefore avoid taking action. 

Sadly, we usually think we're doing the right thing. 

In many cases, I've urged a client to pursue a certain connection and gotten a skeptical reaction. But they gave it a try to humor me. And more often than not, the connection was a valuable one that led in the right direction. 

When we put potential prospects, situations and experiences into a box, we cut ourselves off from new opportunities. Which of the following judgements do you make about prospects?

They are not the right clients for me

They wouldn't be interested in what I offer

They don't have enough money for my services

They wouldn't have the time for this

Now look, in some cases you may be 100% right. But in so many cases, you're manufacturing these limitations though your own boxed-in thinking.

Are these boxes real?

We meet people, but we really don't know what's going on beneath the surface. We don't know their situation, their needs and desires. We don't know their issues and challenges. 

And then, because we tend to put people into a box about ten seconds after meeting them, we completely close off the possibility of finding out who they really are and whether or not we can help them.  

How about stopping mind reading and do a reality check. How can you really know the possibilities until you've stopped judging and made an authentic connection with someone?  

You can't!

The next time you meet someone in the course of your life and work, whether at a grocery store or a networking event, stop for a moment and realize: "I really know absolutely nothing about this person. They are a mystery to me. They are like a completely unknown country that I haven't yet explored."

You might notice that your judgments subside as you find yourself in the presence of an incredible being with unlimited potential and possibility. Isn't that someone you'd want to to get to know a little bit better?

When you release people from the boxes you've created for them, virtually anything is possible!

Who knows, they might become a client or lead you to a client. 

By the way, next week my wife and I are going to Sedona and will be hiking every day. So much for that box!

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Coments link below. Also, please don't spam this blog as all comments are moderated and spam will never be posted. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

by  Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If you want to get more attention for your business, start paying attention to Keywords.

Everyone knows what Google does; it looks up the information you want to know in response to the keywords you enter into the Google search engine. 

Well, you can use the same keyword principles Google uses to find your ideal clients, and no technology is required! 

The best way to explain this is to give you a simple example. 

I meet someone in a bar and asks what he does.

He says, "I have a business buying and selling cars."

OK, that give me a general idea, but then he follows up with more details:

"I specialized in selling used Mercedes, renovating them until they are in mint condition and selling them mostly to car collectors." 

Now let's compare that to a Google Search. But in this case, Google is my brain. After all, to a great extent, our brains are highly complex databases, just like Google. 

When you put very general keywords into Google for "buying and selling cars" you'll find some articles about buying and selling cars and some places to buy used cars. 

But if I put in the words used "Mercedes, renovate, and mint condition," a long list of used Mercedes in mint condition for sale come up in Google. (try it!)

The principle is simple: The better the keywords in the search, the better the search results. 

So how does this work in marketing and in the brain of my prospective clients? Let's play a similar scenario. 

I'm at a networking event and someone asks me what I do. 

And I say, "I help small businesses with their marketing."

The keywords are "small business and marketing." 

The person who hears this message does a global brain search and comes up with some generalized pictures of small business and marketing. It's not very attention-getting or interesting. 

He's unlikely to come up with the names of some people who own small businesses and need marketing help. It's just too general. He creates his own picture that fits that description to some degree.

But let's say I use very different words. 

"I work with self-employed professionals such as coaches and consultants who are struggling with their marketing."

Now I'm being a lot more specific as there are more concise keywords: "self-employed professionals, coaches, consultants, struggling, and marketing." 

Now the brain has to search a little harder to sort all those out. It's less likely they will come up with a general picture; the picture will be more specific and focused. 

In other words, they will actually understand you!

I worked with a client recently on this concept. I told her that she must be more specific about the issues and problems her clients were experiencing in order for those in her network to refer people to her. 

Her initial marketing message was, "I work with people who have issues in leadership that are holding them back."

OK, that's a good opening message. Then I suggested she create a one-pager to give even more details of those specific leadership issues her ideal clients were experiencing. For instance:

The kind of leadership issues my clients experience are:

1. Failure to give feedback to employees which results in performance that never improves.

2. Failure to make time for their team which results in team members being directionless.

3. Failure to be more hands-on which results in performance errors that are costly and result in re-dos and angry clients.

4. Failure to delegate which results in overwork on the part of the leader, and team members with little responsibility. 

Now, if she communicates that list to people in her network, their brains will do database searches on all of those keywords and are very likely to find some matches. 

"Oh, I have someone who works in my department who really has problems both with giving feedback and delegating."

Now you're communicating specifically, not generally. 

Plus, your marketing is moving from being conceptual to being experience-based. All of those words that describe her clients who have those leadership issues match the actual experience of those who could refer her to these kinds of clients. 

So when you are developing your marketing messages, and written materials, use the keywords in your communication that will point to actual experiences your listeners have had. 

This can take a lot of mystery out of marketing. Instead of...

"We optimize your revenue position to minimize your tax exposure." 

You say…

"We help you reduce the amount of taxes you pay."

The first one is completely conceptual and confusing, while the second one is clear as those keywords connect to an experience everyone understands. 

When you think of creating your marketing messages, think of those two simple concepts:

1. Keywords that will make the right connections in the prospects brain. 

2. Keywords that relate to actual experiences.   

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If your business is struggling, it's time to revive it.  

What's are the most important things in your life?

Well, other than your family and close friends, I think your business should rate very high. 

After all, you conceived of it, gave birth to it, nurtured it and maintained it. And now (hopefully) it provides a living for you and a means of creative expression and making a difference in the world. 

What could be more important than that?

If you see your business this way, you'll continue to treat it well, respect it, educate it, celebrate it, invest in it and love it. 

And if you do that, like your family, it will thrive and bring you rewards beyond what you could imagine. 

But as you know, it's not all roses, roses. With roses come thorns. 

There are hard times when things are not working the way you want; there are often long hours and hard and complex work. In fact, your business can be downright frustrating, even infuriating at times. You will have breakdowns, not always followed by breakthroughs. 

And when this happens, we often forget the value of our business and the fact that we are ultimately responsible for its well-being. And then we may begin to neglect our business. We feel angry at it and don't give it the love and attention it deserves. 

And how does that work out? Not so well, right?

First we might let our businesses get disorganized and sloppy. We get behind on our planning and book work. Perhaps we don't implement the tools and systems to keep it on track and we get behind on our business technology.

And when this happens we soon discover that our business is not giving back to us as much as we used to get. We're not getting as much satisfaction or fulfillment. We're not getting as much joy as we used to from serving our clients. 

Even worse, we forget to feed our business. 

We cut back on our marketing efforts and get sloppy about follow-up and selling. When we don't perform these activities well, our business starts to loose weight (shedding customers) and gets slow and lethargic. 

After a few years our business may be shadow of its former self. We spend very little time nurturing it and it becomes a burden, something we'd rather not think about much. 

Now it's most typical that this neglect of a business will happen after being in business for several years. But it's not uncommon for it to happen in just a year or two. Growing and succeeding in your business became harder than you had bargained for, so you just stopped making the effort. 

You really have three choices at this point. 

Either you keep going the way you've been going and hope things will change. But I promise you, they won't. Change depends on you, not on external conditions. 

The other option is to simply end your business and move on to something else that is more appropriate for you in your life right now. Often it's hard to admit you've come to that place. 

And the other choice is to renew your business. 

Business renewal is like taking a starving and neglected child, nursing it back to health, giving it the best food and care and giving more time and attention to it, with plans and strategies for the way you organize and market your business. 

I'm guessing most reading this would opt for choice #3.

Whether your business is just slipping a bit or is free-falling into disaster, you've got to take some decisive action. The problem is that you have developed many bad business habits and to change habits is a very challenging thing. It's easy to fall back into these old habits, despite your desire to change. 

So what can you do?

The only thing you can do that will work is to get help. There is really no other alternative. You need to get help, support, encouragement, systems, and reinforcement until you can stand on your own again and take care of your business.

If you don't, the chances of failure are close to 100%.

So what help can you get? The first thing I always recommend is coaching of some kind or other. It's important that you find someone who understands the nurturing and feeding of a business and who can give you the guidance, support and accountability to turn things around.

The cost of a coach is minuscule compared to the cost of letting your business atrophy or fail completely. 

When I started my business I didn't have the money to hire a coach, but I had the energy, creativity and drive to learn on my own, attend seminars and workshops and get things moving without much hands-on help. 

But in later years, when things became more complex and I was feeling overwhelmed by everything I had to do, I hired a coach with whom I brainstormed and came up with ideas, solutions and strategies for marketing that took me outside my comfort zone. 

And I produced results at a whole new level. 

Not only did I dramatically increase my income, I started having much more fun in my business. I went from working with clients individually to working with them in group programs. 

And I'm absolutely certain that none of that would have happened without a coach who kept challenging me, and having me continually look at my business in new ways. 

There's a saying, "Not everyone needs a coach, only those who want to be champions."  

Now, ask yourself seriously if you are ready for a coach.

Are you ready to admit to being weak in some areas of your business as well as admitting that you've developed some bad habits (such as avoidance) that are holding your business back? 

Are you ready to get past all of that and start creating something for your future that you can be proud and excited about? Are you ready to work harder than you've worked for in a long time and really go for it instead of making half-hearted efforts?

Are you ready to discover the greatness inside of you who is no longer interested in settling for mediocrity and just getting by?

If so, you may be ready for a coach. 

So start looking around for one. Believe, me there's a lot of them out there who are amazing. And many of them are very affordable.

Right now my coaching availability is very limited. Because of my group programs and the More Clients Club, I can take on only 10 clients at a time. Right now I have two spaces open. 

If you'd like to talk, first visit the page below and fill out the form at the bottom. But please, only people who are really serious about taking their business to a whole new place.

If you have any comments about this article, please share on the blog by clicking on the Comments on the link below. Please do not post spam comments, they will not be posted or seen by anyone!

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually do this right now. I'll wait. 

What do you notice first? 

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

What do you notice next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And resuls aren't about what you do either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Ready? Here they are: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ask yourself…

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

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

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

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

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

It also included stories and in-depth examples:

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

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

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

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

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

How can you incorporate Promoting the Promotion in your marketing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit

by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

And that's "Marketing Conversations."

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

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

Here are my foolproof guidelines on having successful marketing conversations. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, a group marketing coaching program called the Marketing Action Groups, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit
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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