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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

One ordinary day at the beginning of August in 1984 I sat down at my desk on Linda Street in San Francisco and started my business, now Action Plan Marketing. 

The very first thing I offered was a one-day workshop called "Dreams into Reality" which was all about goal setting and planning. I led it with about 8 people in my living room. 

I soon came out with a time management book called "The Action Planner" that helped small business owners manage time and projects. Then I did many workshops on time management and organization. 

It was at these workshops that I got my first clients. They wanted help with their small businesses; I remember I charged $75 per one-hour session.  

But I soon found out that small businesses needed a lot more help than with planning and organizing. They needed marketing help more than anything else. So I started studying small business marketing, reading book after book. I think my first one was "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson. 

Three hundred or so books and a few years later, I felt I had a pretty firm grasp on what worked and didn't work to market a small business!

And over many, many years I've consulted and coached mostly self-employed businesses to be better marketers. I did workshops, wrote my InfoGuru Marketing Manual, held workshops abound the country and ultimately created my online programs and teleconference programs.

This email newsletter was launched in 1997, so with about 50 articles a year, that's about 800 articles written and posted. My business is still going strong with the More Clients Club, the Marketing Action Groups and private coaching sessions.

My work has touched over 100,000 people in 30 years.   

As you may know, for many years I've focused my attention on two main things: The strategies and techniques of effective marketing and methods to get past the inevitable "marketing stuckness" that most Independent Professionals experience. 

Most people realize that if they only would implement a small amount of what they already know, their marketing would be much more successful. After a certain point, learning more and more techniques has diminishing returns. 

However, learning how to get past avoidance, limiting beliefs and other forms of stuckness seems to have increasing benefits. The more you work with transforming your mindset, the better results you get and the more fun and fulfillment you experience. 

My 30th Anniversary has re-ignited my commitment to help even more Independent Professionals bring their gifts into the world through effective marketing and breaking through their barriers. 

So I'm launching a new project to that end. 

It's called the "Beyond Avoidance Project" and it will include the following:

Beyond Avoidance Surveys and Research

A Beyond Avoidance Website - Up in a month or two.

A book titled “Beyond Avoidance” - writing completed by the end of August

Beyond Avoidance Videos

A Beyond Avoidance Blog and eZine

A book launch program next spring

A Marketing Action Group: Beyond Avoidance program next year

Beyond Avoidance workshops

Beyond Avoidance Coaching Sessions

I'm in the process of writing, planning and organizing all of this to get things off the ground as soon as possible. I'll keep you posted as things come together. 

Meanwhile, my current Action Plan Marketing business will continue as usual. 

Specials Every Thursday This Month

To celebrate my 30th Anniversary month, I'm going to offer specials every Thursday of this month, starting August 7. Watch for my emails. 

Finally, I want to thank you, my subscribers, my customers and my clients for making Action Plan Marketing the incredible success it's been these past 30 years. 

It's been quite a journey. I don't know if I'll have 30 more, but as long as I can write an article and help an Independent Professional take the next successful step in promoting their services, I'll be here. 

If you'd like to add comments to this article or share it on social media, you can do so below.


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

If you had only one choice to help you improve your marketing effectiveness, which one of the below two options would you choose?

1. Understanding more about marketing, about strategies and techniques I can use to get more clients. 

2. Getting past my avoidance, fears and aversions to marketing. Becoming confident about marketing myself. 

I sent this question to the members of my More Clients Club last week and asked them to answer on  a SurveyMonkey survey.

The results? You may (or may not) be surprised.

#1 got 48% and #2 got 52% 

So pretty much a statistical dead heat. 

Over the past few years I've put a lot of attention on both of these domains of marketing. However, although they are almost equal in the survey, I'm still convinced that #2 is much more important these days.

Why? Because marketing strategies and techniques can be found quickly and easily almost everywhere. 

Want to know how to close more sales, grow your email list, write an ezine or an article, update your website, improve your networking results?

Then just do a Google search. In a nanosecond you'll have dozens of articles on all of these topics. Or check on Amazon and you'll find several books, not just on overall marketing for your business, but books on all those specific topics. 

This wasn't so true twenty or even ten years ago. But now the "cat is out of the bag" and just about any information you need to market your services is available, and a lot of it for free. 

But if this is true, why doesn't everyone who isn't getting good marketing results, just spend some focused time studying all this information and putting it into action? 

Well, of course, more do than ever. More and more, marketing is a do-it-yourself project. And if you need help with some of the technical aspects of marketing such as putting together a website or designing your business identity, you can usually find several very competent and affordable freelancers on

But still, the vast majority of Independent Professionals, struggle to some degree with their marketing. 

- They don't have a marketing message that's attention-getting

- They are terrible about talking about their business 

- Their marketing materials are poorly done and not persuasive

- They do most marketing activities completely randomly

- They resist and avoid follow-up, not to mention selling

But why is this so? All the strategies and techniques for learning and doing the above are right at their fingertips, ready to implement whenever they want. Nothing is hidden. There are no big marketing mysteries anymore. 

This is because domains #1 and #2 are completely different. 

Domain #1, Strategies and Techniques are all about Information. Information is relatively simple. It works or it doesn't work. 

Domain #2, Avoidance, Fears and Aversions impact domain #1 profoundly. So what is simple on paper becomes complex in real life. 

Let's take an email newsletter. I've been writing one for about 17 years, so I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter. 

Writing is just writing, right? You sit down and you write. And then you send your articles out to your list and post them on your blog. Nothing could be simpler. Everyone can do it!

But when I tell this to clients, very few will just say, "OK, perfect, I'll get started this week!"

No, we make it a lot more complex than that.

You see, when you write an article, it's not like writing in your journal. Other people will see your article. They'll judge your article; they'll judge you and your business. 

And that's scary to a lot of people. And then all the objections, doubts and avoidance rear their ugly heads:

"I don't know what to write about."

"I need to spend a lot of time on research"

"I don't think anyone would be interested."

"It takes me forever to write an article."

"Who am I to say I'm an expert on this topic?"

"If I write then people will expect more of me."

I real don't want to intrude on people with an ezine."

But here's the real kicker. Very few people think they are avoiding writing or are resistant to writing. They think that what they're saying is perfectly reasonable. 

They believe that if they just have more information about writing and what to write about, and how to write, and knowing how to write better and faster, etc. then writing will be easy and then they'll start their ezine. 

And, of course, all of this is pure nonsense!

We are all scared to death of doing something wrong, being ridiculed and rejected. We avoid any chance of failure like the plague and retreat back to being comfortable and safe. 

Anyone who's had a breakthrough with writing knows this. They ultimately realize that if they are going to make a difference and help people though their experience and expertise that they need to get beyond their comfort zone. 

You can't have both. You can either put yourself out there and do your best, facing possible rejection, or you can sit and stew in your fears, doubts and uncertainty. 

Some people finally get this. And when they do, they start utilizing all that information much more intensively. They read articles and books and learn those strategies and techniques and then they move into action, tying and testing everything until they discover what works best. 

So ask yourself, are you ready to give up your excuses and get out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to explore your resistance and fears until you can transcend them? Are you committed to making a difference and swinging out there? 

But you may soon realize that this isn't as easy as you think. You see, for marketing strategies and techniques, you just need information, but to get past fears resistance and avoidance, you need support. 

Get a coach, join a mastermind group, brainstorm with a business colleague, attend a group program. Any and all of these will help you get past your self-imposed limitations and move you out of your comfort zone. 

I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Every time we avoid something, there is a cost and there is also a payoff.

Understanding your costs and payoffs for avoiding marketing activities can be the key to getting unstuck and moving forward. 

First of all, let's establish that you do avoid some marketing activities. If you're not sure, let me prime the pump. Do you avoid any of these? 

- Developing a powerful marketing message

- Differentiating yourself from your competitors

- Writing various marketing materials

- Updating your website and/or blog

- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan

- Avoiding networking, speaking, publishing, etc.

- Not following up with interested prospects

- Not perfecting your selling process 

If you avoid any of these, there is a pretty obvious cost. The cost is not attracting more of the clients you want. You know that, everyone knows that. Then why don't you take action and start making these happen?

Well, because avoidance has a payoff as well. That is, you get something perceived as beneficial to you when you avoid doing something.

You get to stay in your comfort zone. You know, the zone where there is no risk and nothing bad can happen to you such as possible rejection and failure. 

Most of us don't see this cost/payoff dynamic. 

Instead, we brush off our avoidance with excuses: "I don't have time, I'll get to it later, it really doesn't matter anyway and what I have is already good enough." 

If we are honest and look a little deeper, we all know that we're kidding ourselves. But when we think of doing those things we avoid, we feel an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomachs and we jump into a comfortable activity that makes us forget - browsing the web, hanging out on Facebook, eating, watching TV, to name a few. 

I've worked with hundreds of clients over the years and it's never that the marketing is hard; in most cases, it's quite easy. It's that the payoff for not moving into action is stronger than the perceived payoff of acting.  

So how can you work with this cost/payoff dynamic and shift from avoidance to action? 

Working With the Cost

List all of the things you are avoiding and then write down the specific cost of avoiding doing that thing. Don't be general, be specific. 

- Developing a powerful marketing message - That will lead to not getting attention at networking events and finding people who will be interested in my services. 

- Writing various marketing materials - If I don't have good written materials such as my website, I can't educate my prospective clients about my services and they won't become paying clients. 

OK, now turn these around. Look at the benefits of actually implementing the activities you are avoiding.

- Creating a step-by-step marketing action plan - I'll know where I am and what I need to do to attract more clients. I'll be more effective at getting the word out. 

- Implementing a speaking plan - I'll get in front of better decision makers and pre-sell them on me and my ideas which will enable me to follow up to offer my services.

Until we have real reasons for doing something and can see the real benefits, we are unlikely to take action. 

Working With The Payoff 

- Developing a powerful marketing message - This is scary to put myself out like this. I'd rather just stick with my label that I'm a coach instead of sounding like I'm hyping my services. I don't want people to reject me.

- Writing various marketing materials -  I'm just not a good writer and it takes a lot of time to write good materials. I don't want to waste my time writing the wrong thing so, I'll just wait and play it safe. 

OK, now question these excuses. "Is the payoff of avoidance really more important than the payoff of taking action? Will I really face rejection and ridicule? And so what if not everyone is interested in what I have to offer? If I put myself out there, aren't I more likely to find some people who will be interested?"

By questioning like this, you start to weaken the foundations of your payoff. You might discover that your payoff isn't giving you much value after all. The payoff arose as a way to protect you from harm, but you might start to see that the payoff is actually causing you harm. 

By the way, this is much more effective if you write it down. It will have more impact, go deeper and stick for a longer time. 

After you've gone through this exercise with one or more marketing activities that you avoid, take a break and let it go and put you're attention on something else. 

If you still notice yourself avoiding a certain marketing activity, then do the exercise again. It's like building a new set of muscles. You don't become strong by doing just one push up! 

Here are the four steps - Write them all down.

1. Look at the real cost of your avoidance

2. Look at all the benefits of taking action

3. Look at the excuses that drive your payoff

4. Now question the validity of these excuses

After doing this a few times you might notice that when you think of this marketing activity that the immediate response is no longer avoidance. You may find yourself thinking of how you could make this work and imagining all the positive things that could happen as a result of taking action. 

Ultimately, when the cost of not taking action becomes stronger than the payoff of not taking action, you automatically start to move into action. 

What avoidance will you work on first?

I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome your comments and observations. Please feel free to add your ideas, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media at the links below. 

Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the More Clients Starter Kit that includes four valuable articles on specific ways to get better results with your marketing. 

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

These days with all the social media sites for marketing online such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram, do you still need a website?


A website is your second most important online marketing tool. Email is still the first, but I'll get into that later. 

Your website is your storefront, your home base, the repository for your blog, information about your services and a public face that can build immediate credibility.

But most websites have major problems that undermine their effectiveness. In this article I'll outline 7 key issues many Independent Professionals have with their websites and simple fixes to not only improve your site but to get better marketing results from your site every day. 

1. Design and formatting that pushes readers away

These days there's a whole new wave of website designs done with WordPress. WordPress is great, and the design possibilities are huge, but I've seen so many sites that are hard to read and get into. Here are several things you should do on your site: 

- Make your typeface darker. Super-light text looks cool but is hard to read. (can you easily read this?)

- Make your typeface larger. Wider screens with more space can swallow up small text. Use 14 or even 16 pt. text.

- Use larger sub-heads to break up text and put them in color to clearly indicate each section. 

- Use bolding of text, usually the first sentence in *most* paragraphs to make it easier for the reader to scan your text.

- Make paragraphs one to three sentences long. Longer paragraphs are harder to read. 

- Put spaces between all paragraphs and also bullet-pointed lists. When your text is crowded, it's hard to read.

- Use sufficient white space to "frame" your text so it doesn't feel constricted. 

Doing all of the above will immediately make your pages more readable. Remember, if you have great content and nobody reads it, what's the point?

2. Your home page is as clear as mud

If a web visitor doesn't get past your home page, the chance they will ever return is close to zero. There are two purposes for your home page - The first is to give a crystal-clear overview of how your business helps your clients. I'll cover the second in #3.

Here are the content elements every home page should include:

- An attention-getting headline that targets your audience and states either a clear problem or solution. 

- An opening paragraph that talks about who your ideal clients are and the key challenges or issues they face.

- A second paragraph that introduces you and outlines the results or solutions (not your process) you help your clients achieve. 

- A third paragraph that outlines what your ideal clients need to do to succeed. This might be an approach, methodology or model that you use with your clients. 

- A final paragraph that makes a specific call-to-action. And no, it's never to pick up the phone and call you!

Your home page should pass the "Mother Test." Show your home page to your mother. If she says, "Oh, I finally understand what you do," you've passed. If not, try again!

3. Your home page has no way for visitors to opt-in 

Most people put up websites and hope they attract new clients. But they fail to do the most important thing you can possibly do on a website: Collect your visitor's name and email address. 

Nothing is more important than this. If you have a name and an email, you can follow-up, send an eZine or link to your blog posts. You can promote products and programs. But if you don't have that name and email you can do nothing! 

Email marketing is your most powerful online marketing tool, but you can't do email marketing without a list of prospective clients to send emails to!

Every day millions of people visit websites, poke around for a few minutes and then click off, never to return. Ever. This is a crime against marketing!

I won't get into the technology of this, but put an opt-in form (and/or a link to an opt-in page) on your home page for a free report or article and to join your list. Don't worry what you'll send to people on your list yet, but start capturing those names ASAP! My favorite tool for this is AWeber. Click here and get a month for free

4. Your website is not clear about who your ideal clients are

You can't promote to everyone and anybody. You should have a clearly articulated ideal client. And one of the main purposes of your website is to clearly address their concerns and challenges. It's about them, not you! 

I've been to many a website where I poked around for several minutes and learned a lot about what services the business offered, but never understood what market they served. 

If you don't say who your services are for, guess what? They are not for me and I'm going elsewhere. As I mentioned above, you can talk about this on your home page, but it should also permeate your site.

For instance, I advocate creating a page about the clients you work with. Show that you understand their specific issues and challenges and assure them that you can help them. 

5. Your website is very sketchy about the services you offer

I've seen this so often on websites for Independent Professionals. Under the "Services" navigation button, you see a brief list of services with one or two sentences describing each. 

Look, if someone happens to be reading your services page, for a few moments you have a captive audience. Don't you think it would be a good idea to explain your services in some detail? Sure, not everyone will read it, but those who are most interested will.

On the services page explain the following:

- Who your service is for and the problems and challenges your service addresses.

- An overview of what things could be like once those problems and challenges are solved. 

- A concise explanation of what your service actually consists of. It is coaching, consulting, training, a program, a combination of these, etc?

- What are all the benefits of this service? What are all the things a client will get as a result of working with you?

- What makes your service or program different from all the other similar services and programs? 

- What is the structure and logistics of your service? What happens and when? What do you do and what is the client expected to do?

- A call-to-action. Offer a complimentary session to discuss your service or program with your prospective client. 

What I teach my clients to do is to send prospective clients they've met other ways to their services page before they do a complimentary session with them. So even if nobody responds directly from your website, all the information is posted there for your qualified prospects to read.   

5. Your "About Us" page is mind-numbingly boring

You see the most generalized fluff about people and their business on an about us page. It could be practically interchangeable with just about any other company: 

"We do our level best to optimize the experience and results our clients get from working with us through in-depth engagement and optimized business processes and practices."


No, no, a thousand times no. This means nothing. Instead, tell something about yourself, how you got into this business, why you are passionate about it. Talk about your ups and downs and your discoveries and your breakthroughs. 

Invite your prospective clients to join you in the exciting adventure of working with you. And for goodness sake, include a picture of you that shows your personality. People want to see who they'll be working with. 

6. You don't have a blog or any interesting content

Guess what people come to a website for above anything else? They come for free stuff! And if you don't give it to them, they won't stick around for long. 

Yes, I know writing is hard work. So write more often and you'll get better. I make it easy. Each week I write this email newsletter and send it out to my list, and then I also post it on my blog and announce it via social media.

Get on a regular writing schedule and stick to it. Don't try to find time, make the time. Pick a definite day of the week or the month and write your blog/ezine that day. If you don't have any excuses, ultimately it will get done. 

Writing about marketing every week has been the best thing I've ever done for my business. Each week thousands of people read my ideas. And then when I promote something, I have a built-in audience who knows, likes and trusts me. 

Business has never been slow since I started writing More Clients in 1997. Seventeen years and about 800 articles later and I'm still at it. 

7. You try to do all of this on your own and wonder why it's hard 

Get some help. Look, your website can be a substantial investment of time and energy. But once it's done, it's done. It can serve you for years to come (not that you can't update it regularly) and pay off handsomely. 

Get a good designer and hire a writer or editor to help you improve your copy. Get a technical person to help optimize your site for search engines and set up your Aweber opt-in form. This stuff can take hundreds of frustrating hours or just a few hours in the hands of an expert. 

If you don't know where to find these experts, try They have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of freelancers who can help you with design, editing and the technical aspects of your site, usually at a very reasonable cost. And each one is rated for client satisfaction.  

Finally, consider getting the WebSite ToolKit. This is an in-depth tutorial on writing all the content for your site. I guide you step-by-step through every single page of your site, explaining what to include, what not to include, and how to write virtually every word on your site.

It also includes a whole lot of resources, checklists and samples of websites that you can emulate. This article is a brief sample of what's included in the ToolKit. 

It will save you dozens, perhaps hundreds of hours of time. Learn more about it at this link

I hope you've found this article valuable. I'd welcome other comments and ideas of how to make a website even better. Please feel free to add your ideas by clicking on the Comments link, and I'd also appreciate it if you'd share this though social media. 

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

Everyone knows what marketing is about - It's about getting yourself out there with your marketing message and your story in various ways and connecting with your ideal clients until they show enough interest in your services that they ultimately buy your services. 

But what does it take to be really successful at marketing your business. What is the Big Secret to marketing success?

Well, there are a lot of things that are important...

Hard work and consistency are important. So are focus, planning, knowledge, practice, discipline and getting support. Plus creativity, excellence, follow through, and the ability to bounce back from defeat and rejection. 

But these are requirements for success in ANY field!

But what's the Big Secret? 

The big secret is clarity about what you truly want in your life. You need to be, you must be, clear about what you want more than anything else and have a burning desire to get that, to realize your vision, purpose and goals.

What are your goals?

They should NOT be to create a great website, do speaking engagements to excited crowds, build your email list to thousands of people, or to have clients who pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Those are are stepping-stone goals. Yes, you might make plans to achieve some or all of those eventually, but they are not goals that will really motivate you or excite you throughout whole career. They are not big enough, exciting enough, important enough, emotional enough. 

Your goals should be "Life Goals."

When I started my business 30 years ago, I formulated a few very important life goals (at a workshop I took) that motivated me and that keep motivating me to this day. 

1. I wanted to be independent in my work. I was tired of working for someone else. I liked exercising my creativity and initiative. I wanted to play my own game. 

2. I wanted to help people and make a difference. Any goal I had to just make money tended to flop. So I wanted to do work where I was emotionally invested and really liked the people I worked with. 

3. I wanted to be financially independent. I didn't want to make millions, but I wanted to be very comfortable and never worry about where the money was going to come from if I wanted or needed something.

4. I wanted my personal life to be integrated with my work life. And that included being in a relationship with a wonderful person and living in a beautiful place. 

5. I wanted to reach a place of equanimity and self awareness where I could experience joy in anything and everything, no matter the circumstances of my life. 

When I started my business I lived in an apartment in San Francisco with a roommate, was recently divorced, had no money and knew virtually nothing about marketing. 

But those five crystal-clear goals really motivated me to be successful at my marketing, my business and my life. Those are the goals that got me to write my InfoGuru Marketing Manual in a couple months, launch a weekly email newsletter that's been going for 17 years, and keep creating fun and valuable marketing programs for the past 30 years that not only helped my clients, but forced me to practice what I preached. 

Heck, I even got married to a wonderful, beautiful woman and live in a redwood forest with a river in my backyard where we are always in the middle of nature and stunning beauty. 

All my marketing goals were in the service of my bigger goals. They helped me be successful at my business and to achieve the lifestyle, relationship and inner peace that I wanted. It didn't happened because I was nuts about marketing. I got nuts about marketing because I saw it as the most powerful pathway to get what I wanted the most.

Not that I didn't have tough times and the setbacks and disappointments that everyone experiences. But I always had those big goals to fall back on. I never gave up because my goals were real and authentic.     

So for now forget about focus, discipline, intensity, creativity and consistency. Those will come if you are clear about your bigger goals in your life and business. What do you really want your life to be about? 

Imagine 10, 20 or 30 years into the future and ask what you'd like to achieve that would make your life worthwhile, challenging, exciting and joyful, while still being viable. Can you get excited about those goals? If not, re-look at your goals until you can get up every morning, excited to work towards their ongoing realization. 

Maybe it's to travel the world, to have a wonderful family, to make your mark as an international expert, to discover some ways to make the world a better place, or to be a multi-millionaire philanthropist. It's up to you. 

But they must be YOUR goals, that spring from you, not what anyone else told you was important. You actually do know what you want. Trust yourself. 

And when you are crystal-clear on your goals, you may realize, as I did, that self employment and marketing were great vehicles to help me get there.  

This could be just another article that you read, get a short flash of insight from, and move on to the next thing. Or it could be a turning point in your life.

Stop for a few minutes. Pull out a piece of paper and write down your most essential 3 to 5 goals, things you really want to have in your life more than anything else. 

Then spend a LOT of time thinking about and visualizing those goals. Keep asking if they are truly important to you. Share them with important people in your life. Write about them; dream about them. This process puts your creative subconscious to work that will ultimately discover ways to achieve these goals.

There's an old saying you've probably heard: "When there is no vision, the people perish." But the opposite is also true: "When there is vision, the people flourish." 

And that people is YOU! 

If you have a comment about this article, post it in the Comments section below and also please share it with your friends and associates on social media with the links 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

In working with a client last week, I asked him how he answered certain marketing questions, questions someone interested in his services might ask him. 

What surprised him was how bad he was at answering these questions that were so central to his business.

If you struggle with answering these questions, you are struggling with your marketing. But if you have thought through and nailed the answers to these questions, then you have a whole new level of ability to market yourself successfully and turn prospects into clients. 

Good answers generate interest and keep the conversation going. Poorly thought-out questions tend to quench interest in your business. 

What are the key principles in answering questions about your business?

1. Make sure your answer has value, that is, it responds to the "what's in it for me" in your prospect's mind. 

2. Make it short and succinct, not long and rambling. Get to the point and make sure each answer is clear.

3. Avoid talking about your process, that is, how you do what you do, as this rarely goes anywhere. 

4. Lead your conversation to finding out more about your prospect's needs and then make calls-to-action. 

Let's look at some of these common questions and how to answer them in the most effective way. 

Q 1. What do you do?

This is THE question, isn't it? And almost everyone answers it in a way that convey's zero value. Don't label yourself: "I'm a management consultant," and don't explain your process: "I do in-depth management audits to determine the effectiveness of leadership capacity and adaptability, through cross-departmental interaction."  Yes, I've heard stuff like this! 

None of that conveys any value at all. You want to answer with either a problem/challenge you address or a solution/outcome you provide. 

Problem/Challenge: "I work with leaders who are not getting the results they want from their teams."

Solution/Outcome: "I work with leaders to dramatically improve the results they get from their teams." 

Which is best to use, problem/challenge or solution/outcome? Well, it really depends on a lot of subtle things. The only way to know is by testing with real, live people and seeing what response you get. 

Q 2. How do you do that?

This question is like a trap that almost forces you to talk process. Don't fall into that trap, because talking about process conveys almost zero value. And it's boring! It satisfies a certain curiosity your prospect may have but it doesn't really engage them in how you can help them. 

Instead, reply with a story: "Well, a good example was working with a leader in a local high-tech company. His team was under-performing and he didn't know what to do. I worked with him and his team and in four months they became the highest performing team in the company."

Stories are very persuasive; they communicate a lot of value, and they're easy to understand and relate to. And stories are very memorable; they stick in the mind. 

Q 3. Can you explain your process to get those results?

This is usually an idle curiosity question that will generally lead you nowhere. In an initial conversation, avoid "process speak" like the plague. 

You need to explain in a way that gets back to value: "I use a number of methodologies that I've perfected over the past ten years. What I do with each client is a little different. But my approaches result in solutions that work for the client, and that's always more productivity and cohesion as a team."

So instead of going into process, you are getting back to value and affirming that you produce results. Sometimes you want to tell more than one story, but avoid talking much about the process you used to get the results. 

Q 4. What makes you different than others who do this work?

This is a great question and one that stymies almost everyone. When working with clients I've rarely heard a good answer here (until we craft a good one). 

Most don't have a good answer because their business is not oriented around a powerful "Big Idea" that differentiates them in any meaningful way. And no, just "quality, service and value" will not work here. They are too general. 

You need a Big Idea that makes you memorable. And you can do that in several ways. Here are five: 

1. A definite promise or guarantee that you make. "We have an iron-clad guarantee to measurably increase performance for each client that we work with."

2. A difference in your business model: "Everyone else in this industry uses a motivational model. We don't think that works anymore. Instead, we use a collaborative model that gets much faster results."

3. A statement of superior expertise: "We literally wrote the book on leadership and performance. Now most of our approaches are standards in the industry."

4. A statement of superior service: "We are entirely customer-centric. We customize our approach to ensure that we meet or exceed our clients' needs needs."

5. A statement of your target niche: "We work exclusively with high-tech firms. Because we really understand the leadership issues with these firms, we can get to solutions much faster."

Pick one of these and explain it with confidence every time someone asks you how you're different. And yes, you can go beyond this in some cases. Just think, are there things about your business that give your clients a real advantage if they work with you?

Q 5. Do you have a website (or more information)?

This is where your website can win or lose the sale for you. You want a quality website with lots of relevant information that communicates a real value (I.e., "What's in it for me?" content). 

What I usually recommend, however, is to send them an article you've written. "I've written an article called 'The 7 Secrets to Increasing Performance as a Leader.' Can I send you a copy?" (Get that article written!)

And then get their email address and send them a pdf copy via email. But be sure to make a call-to-action: "I'd also like to find out more about your business. What's the best time to reach you?" Find a time and call them back using the article as a way to begin the conversation. 

Q 6. How do you start working with clients?

When you get this question, it means the prospect is interested. So answer in a way that makes a clear call-to-action: "We start by offering a complimentary "Leadership Strategy Session" where we explore the client's issues regarding leadership and then see if we're able to help them or not. Should I send you some information about that?"

Then send the information, usually a page on your website, that describes your services and explains how a strategy session works. Then follow-up by email or phone to set up a time for the strategy session."

Master Your Marketing Conversations

Mastering marketing conversations is often the key to turning a prospect into a paying client. And marketing conversations always start with great answers to common questions.

Do you have another question you don't know how to answer? Post it in the Comments section and I'll tell you how to answer it.  

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Is your marketing mindset stuck? 

This often happens when you've tried a number of marketing activities and gotten no results. You want to get going with your marketing, perhaps building your network or setting up your opt-in page on your website or launching a new service. But you don't know where to start. 

Or things are taking too long, are are too complicated and marketing seems to lead nowhere, or worse, to rejection.  

One day you realize you're doing virtually nothing to promote your business. All those dead-ends have left you frustrated, and your motivation is at a low point. 

So what do you at this point?

The thing I don't recommend is to try to pump yourself up and try do more. That approach will only backfire. When things have been difficult and you're at a low point, your mind will keep telling you that it's hopeless, and your efforts will usually be counter-productive. 

Instead, you need to "Reset Your Mindset."

It's been my experience that when things are difficult and you hit one brick wall after another that you mind tells you something like the following: 

"This is no use, I'm not any good at this, I'll never figure this out, this is taking to long, nobody is interested anyway, everybody else is better at this than I am, and besides nobody is really interested in my services anyway, this is all a complete waste of time!"

OK, it might not be not that bad, but you know exactly what I mean, don't you? You indulge in your own version of a "pity party." You can practically hear the violins in the background. 

And in that Mindset you are prone to Marketing Sabotage.

You see, when we get into a negative mindset and believe what we are telling ourselves, then everything we think and do tends to be in alignment with that mindset. To prove ourselves right we make things even worse. 

Yes, I know we should have gotten over stuff like this in grade school, nevertheless this happens to intelligent, mature, successful people all the time. 

Believe me, I've seen it with clients over and over again.

But if you learn to "Reset Your Mindset" you can get past all of this relatively quickly. 

How? By sitting down and asking yourself a number of powerful, "get real questions." Here are a few of them that I've found very powerful:

1. Are my expectations too high? 

It's almost always the case. If they weren't so high, you wouldn't get frustrated in the first place. "This should be easy, fast, simple," are made-up expectations that have zero basis in reality. The truth is, some things are hard, slow and complex. Mastering marketing doesn't happen overnight. 

2. What does this negative mindset cost me?

It costs a lot doesn't it? It costs you your peace of mind, your effectiveness, your success. Really take a close look at this and notice that your high expectations, perfectionism, and other attitudes, ultimately get you nowhere.

3. What are you getting out of this mindset?

For every cost there is a payoff; that is, you are getting something you want, even thought the end result is not favorable. The most common payoffs are being right, being in control and being comfortable. All of these enable you to keep doing what you are doing without changing. 

5. If you hold onto this mindset, what's the likely outcome?

Are things going to change and work out better sooner or later? Not a chance. Unless you reset your mindset, the chances are you will be stuck with it for a very long time, sometimes days, weeks or months. Marketing won't get easier, in fact it may seem a lot harder. 

6. Can you be at peace and happy with this mindset?

Is there anyway you can be at peace and happy with any variation of, "I can't do this, it's hopeless?" I don't think so, do you? But it's amazing how long we hold on to a mindset, despite the misery it generates. 

7. Who would you be without this mindset?

That is, if it was impossible to have this mindset, to think those negative thoughts anymore, what would be possible, what might open up for you? How would you see things differently? How would you feel and how would you act?

OK, all you need to do is answer those seven questions as honestly as possible and you'll experience a "Mindset Rest." You might notice you feel more at peace, not so frustrated and feel new possibilities open up for you. 

And now it's time to take action again. 

My experience with this is that when I've reset my mindset, things feel easier, I am more hopeful/excited/positive. The things I have to do still might be challenging or difficult, but my mind is clearer, not fogged up with negative thoughts, and things seem a lot easier and fun. 

Give it a try!

Please feel to comment on this article below by clicking on the Comments link and also share on Social Media with the links 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 Marketring

I've often used the phrase, "Writing is to marketing success as pumping iron is to muscles."

Recently I joined a CrossFit gym and started pumping real iron. And as I get stronger and stronger, I see even more how accurate that analogy is. 

But to writing I'd add, "speaking about your business."

In other words, the more you communicate about your business in various ways, the stronger your marketing gets, and the more attention and interest you generate. 

Seems obvious, but how much are you working every week to strengthen your marketing muscles?  

You know you are communicating (i.e., pumping iron) when the you follow the following 5-step plan. 

1. You need to think through exactly what you are saying and what impact you intend to make. This is a little like choosing the weight to lift. If you choose weights that are a bit of a challenge, you'll gain muscle. If you choose weights that are too light, you won't get anywhere. Pick weights that are too heavy and you'll hurt yourself. 

What communication is just the right weight? Communication that is focused on learning about your prospects, more than talking about yourself. Too little weight is talking about things unrelated to their business. Too much weight is talking all about you, which just turns people off. 

2. You need to vary the ways you communicate about your business. This is like working though a wide variety of exercises. If you always do exactly the same exercises your development will be unbalanced. You'll be strong in one area, but weak in another. 

What variety of communications should you implement? You want a little of everything - Networking to meet with prospects personally, follow-up calls to explore opportunities, blogging and eZines to establish credibility, social media for developing familiarity, talks, teleclasses and webinars to give prospects a deeper experience. 

3. You need to repeat your communication. Every day I go in to work out, the "Workout of the Day" is posted on the board. it consist of four or five very different exercises, the number of repetitions of each exercises and the number of rounds of each series of exercises. After the 20- to 25-minute intense workout, you really feel you've pushed yourself. You can actually feel your strength growing.  

How much do you need to communicate? The answer I give most people is, "A lot more than you think!" Just as it takes many repetitive exercises to build muscle, it takes many repetitions of your marketing communication to get through to your target audience. It's often the fifth or tenth or even twentieth repetition that gets a prospect to respond. 

4. You need some rest between marketing activities. As with exercise, if you work out every day, you'll end up being sore and tired all the time. You need a little time for recovery, for the muscles to adjust. And when you go back to the gym two days later, you'll be ready for the next incremental level of exercise. 

How do you pace your marketing activities? You ought to do some marketing every week, just not every day or for hours at a time. Talking about your business, writing emails and sales letters, and making follow-up calls takes a certain amount of mental energy. When I write, I try to limit it to 90-minute sessions. I network a couple times a month. I want to come to my marketing freshly every time. 

5. Your marketing needs outside support. One of the wonderful things about CrossFit is the community of support. All exercise sessions are done in small classes, one hour long. Everyone is supporting everyone else do their best and are cheering you on as you make that final lift or push-up. You never feel isolated and you find yourself pushing yourself harder and doing things you once thought were impossible. 

How much support for marketing do you need? You need as much as you can get! It's isolating when you're always on your own. You spend time doing your marketing but often have no clue if you're doing the right thing or not. When you're in a mastermind group or a class or program, you're getting the support you need. It gets you thinking and keeps you motivated. If you're not getting support, marketing is going to get old fast. 

I invite you take advantage of our twice monthly Coaching calls and Marketing Forum - Free to members of the More Clients Club. For five times less than a monthly CrossFit membership, you have access to information, ideas and inspiration to keep your marketing on track. 

Check it out here:

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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

By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When someone comes upon your website, you want them to take action. And most people hope that action is a prospective client calling or emailing you, interested in the services you offer. 

And you would be wrong. 

Here's why: Unless someone is visiting your website as a result of a strong referral, they are highly unlikely to contact you on a first visit. In fact it's more likely that they will visit, poke around on your site for awhile, then go away and never come back. 

If this is what you expect, you'll be continually disappointed. Instead, you want to think of your website as a marketing system that brings in new clients through a focused campaign that does the following: 

1. Gets attention and interest and offers free information so people get an immediate sense of your value and opt-in to get more.

2. Develops a long-term relationship by offer ongoing valuable information and resources which builds trust and credibility. 

3. Offers specific services or programs to those on your list through focused campaigns that direct people to find out the details on your website. 

Here are a few things that I've discovered work really well using this approach. 

1. Create some valuable free information and invite people to opt-in on your website.

Make this the very first thing a visitor sees on your website. Don't hide it at the bottom of your home page. 

Don't ask someone to sign up for your email list. Everyone is already on too many lists. Instead, offer that valuable free report or other enticing giveaway. 

Actually create a short "sales letter" to give away your free information. Yes, explain in detail what they'll get. This screens-in ideal prospect and screens-out less than ideal ones. 

Use a good email management service like AWeber as they are professionals at managing your names, handling opt-outs and ensuring your email is not marked as spam. 

Also post other free information on your site that people don't have to opt-in for. Often that will be enough to encourage them to ultimately give you their name and email for even more info. 

2. Send email to those on your list with valuable information and articles and occasional promotions.

This has always been my email policy: If you give your subscribers, good solid information for free, when you occasionally do promotions, you have built up enough good will that they will not see these promotions as spam. 

Integrate your email newsletter with your blog. I write one article a week like this one. I post it on my blog and then I send it out via Aweber. Some people who discover my blog online will end up opting-in on my blog page. 

Don't overdo it with your promotions. And this can be tricky, after all, if we have what we think is a great program or service, we want everyone to know about it. But too many emails feels like overkill and you'll get unsubscribes in droves.

Promotions for larger, more expensive programs work better if you do a three-step process. First send email to inform people about your program and post blogs, articles, videos, etc about the program, but don't ask people to buy yet. This is called "pre-lauch marketing."

Second, promote an introductory teleclass or webinar to announce your service or program. Thirdly, launch your program and open it for enrollments or for applications. I've found this to be ver successful over the past ten years, Filling dozens of program to capacity.    

3. Write promotional material on your website for various programs and services. 

This is where good writing and design are vital. When you send someone to your website to learn about your program, (or your teleclass or webinar) you need to tell a complete story, not list a bunch of bullet points. 

Design is important. People won't read your promotional copy unless the page looks professional and the type is easy to read. All gray text in a small font with no formatting is hard to read online and people simply won't read it!

Use and easy-to-read font like Verdana, 14 pt. Make your paragraphs short - One to three sentences. Make your bullet points a complete sentence. Put spaces between all paragraphs. And bold the first sentences of most paragraphs as this makes it easy to scan the page and get the overall gist of your program in just a minute or so. 

Next, write copy that is about what your prospects will get if they sign up for your service or program. Explain what problems your service solves. Include a long list of detailed benefits. Make it clear exactly who your service is for. And only then, explain the structure of the program and how it works. Finally, invite them to take action. 

An online letter like this can take several pages. But people will read it if it's interesting to them and if you address is to their real needs. Make sure to include some short case studies or testimonials of those who have worked with you or taken this program. 

A Website That Doesn't "Just Sit There"

If you work on developing and implementing these three primary steps of online marketing, you'll start to be proactive, not passive. 

I don't care how wonderful your website looks; it's not going to get results unless you work at building a list, developing relationships and promoting what you have to offer. 

This process can work wether you offer individual services or large group programs. It even can work to promote in-house programs for larger companies.  

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A lot of things don't get done because we simply don't know how to do them. 

After all, there are a whole lot of things in marketing you may not know how to do but want to do:

   Put on a promotional webinar

   Grow your email list

   Get exposure on social media

   Get booked to speak at a conference

   Write a regular email newsletter

   Double your fees and have them accepted

   Close sales more consistently

All of these marketing activities have a certain amount of complexity and consist of a number of very specific action steps. 

You can probably see the benefits of several of these activities, and would like to implement them in your business, but something may be stopping you. 

You many be unclear about the benefits of this activities or feel it may take too much time and not work anyway. You may have some fears come up about putting yourself out there and exposing yourself to rejection. 

All of these are understandable. 

But you can overcome all of these. If you really want to do something, you know from experience that you can overcome just about any obstacle and make it happen. 

But there's one obstacle that I find very interesting. 

It's the belief that, "I can't start (whatever your marketing activity is) until I know more, a whole lot more! I'm just not ready yet!"

But six months later you're no further along. You become stuck in a cycle of never-ending procrastination and avoidance because you don't feel you know enough to start.

What if it wasn't true that you had to know more before you started? What if that was the opposite of the truth? What if you had to know less to start? 

I met someone recently who remarked, "The more initials behind someone's name, the less I trust them to actually get something done!"

It's not that education is bad, but that it often becomes a defense or protection from ever making a mistake. "If I have all this education then I'll be able to do it right and avoid failure." 

Mistakes are inevitable. You learn from trial and error. 

Look, I'm all for how-to information. But then I go into action to apply that information as quickly as possible. 

When I decided to learn how to create websites, I read a book called, "Create Your Own Web Page with HTML in a week."

I didn't know anything about programming, but I could read, and as I did I implemented what I learned one step at a time. At the end of a week I had my first website. It wasn't great, but over the years, I kept improving it. 

When I wanted to write my manual on marketing, I started with 12 marketing lessons that I had taught to a small group of Independent Professionals. It was all very rough. 

But then I put all those chapters together, added more material, and in a few months I had a pretty good book that sold thousands of copies and made me a lot of money. 

If entrepreneurs had initials behind their names, they would be: GID, MIH, DIN, GFI (Get it done, Make it happen, Do it now and Go for it!)

The key, I think, is to have a bias for action that is even stronger than your desire for information. As you go about learning how to do something, immediately apply what you learn. This builds your confidence and momentum. 

So pick your next marketing project, do some reading and research and come up with a simple action plan. Break your plan into doable steps and put them into action one step at a time. 

I know this may sound simple, and it is, but you'll see real progress this way and agonize a whole lot less with your marketing. 

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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


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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