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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



by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

It all starts with an idea…

One day you realize you have a skill or an ideal market or a process that you could offer as a professional service and actually make some money doing so. 

You think about all the components and what you'd need to prepare to offer this service and start out on your own. 

Inside you get it; you're confident that other people will get it as well and will want to work with you. 

So you get the word out and guess what? people are not wildly enthusiastic! They are tepidly interested. People don't fall over themselves to sign-up for your services. 

That's when you get it: "This business idea of mine might not be as hot as I thought it was. This is going to take a little more time and effort than I thought it would."

And then you embark on the "Marketing Journey" 

I've been there, we've all been there. We're looking for ways to market our services so that more people get it, more people want more information, more people want to explore how our services can help them, and more people end up engaging our services and paying us.

So you try every marketing activity known to mankind and ultimately do attract some clients because of sheer persistence and belief in what you do. If you are really committed to client results, the word spreads and your business grows. 

But you still feel like something is missing

You have a business that is viable, if not wildly successful, but perhaps you've given up on dreams of great success. 

So, what is missing? You did all the right things, didn't you? You worked hard, paid your dues and made a difference for your clients. What else can you do?

What I feel is missing for most Independent Professionals is this: 

A Big Idea

A Big Idea is a "mind-capturing idea that is attractive, interesting, and compelling."

And a Big Idea is always a perfect fit for what's missing for your clients. It's an unmet need, it's a novel solution, it's a powerful guarantee or it's a unique process. 

When Joe Meisner started his outplacement firm in San Francisco in the late '80s, he didn't market himself as an outplacement consultant like everyone else. Instead, he broke the mold. 

The old model for outplacement was psychological, based on the premise that if you were fired, something must be wrong with you. 

Meisner told me, "That model doesn't work anymore. People get fired because of no fault of their own, because of a merger or acquisition or downsizing. People who lose their jobs don't need psychological help, they need marketing help to find their next job."

He called his company "Power Marketing - The Outplacement Alternative" and when he presented his more effective approach to potential clients, they loved it and hired him. 

Joe's Big Idea led to great success and financial independence. 

A Big Idea has many names in the marketing world.

Companies use the word Branding. I often talk about a Core Marketing Message, and of course, there's a tag-line and sometimes a model or methodology that sets you apart. 

But a "Big Idea" I think sums it up best. 

So how do you come up with a Big Idea? 

It starts with your prospective clients, not you or your services. The more you understand their issues, challenges and problems, the easier it is to come up with a Big Idea.

What is everyone else offering your clients? What's missing or deficient in what they offer? What is costing your clients that they aren't even aware of? What process or methodologies do they use that are ineffective and tedious?

Keep thinking in this direction, because that's where you'll always find your Big Idea. 

And get out there and talk to prospects, not to sell, but to research. Ask to interview them for a report you're doing. Find out what's frustrating them, taking too much time, or costing too much. 

Eventually you'll hit on it. You'll realize, for instance, that nobody wants management consulting, but they do want their new hires to be up and running much more quickly with more productivity and fewer mistakes. 

And you create a program that addresses that problem.

You want to offer life coaching, but you discover that people are trying to find ways to move forward with big projects they've given up on. 

And you focus your coaching on those kinds of clients. 

But if you want to see a change in your marketing results, you can't keep offering generic services that have no Big Idea behind them. 

Find that Big Idea and your marketing, business and life will change dramatically.   

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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

I've been sharing with my clients and Marketing Action Group participants recently that I'm restarting my networking activities that I all but abandoned about 20 years ago. 

I pretty much stopped networking when I moved from San Francisco to Silicon Valley in 1994. I used to do intensive networking from the time I started my business in 1984, but in Silicon Valley I focused on doing speaking engagements and then online marketing really kicked in for me in 1996.

Since, I've lived in Boulder Creek (12 years), I've become a hermit behind a keyboard with a great view out my window! 

But networking, especially for new, self-employed professionals is amazingly valuable for so many reasons. Here are some important ones. 

1. Real and Live 

It's my belief that one person you connect with through face-to-face networking is worth 10 to 50 through social media. Why? Because on social media you're a postage-stamp sized picture and some clever comments. At a networking group you're a real-live person! You can have real conversations and make real connections. 

2. Marketing Practice

Perhaps the most important element in your marketing is your marketing message and the most important marketing activity is conversations. In networking you get to practice both and get immediate feedback. Are you getting their attention and interest or are they tuning out! You can adjust your message, questions and interaction on the spot and see improvements almost immediately. 

3. Resources and Ideas

What's going on in your business community? What's new and exciting? Who is doing what and what's working? Are there people you should connect with? Perhaps they're at the event you're attending right now! I've met some really great people through networking and gotten ideas that inspired me to try new things. 

4. Socializing and Fun

This is one of the main reasons I'm getting back into networking. Look, I live in a redwood forest at the top of a small mountain. I'm isolated. The only people I see all week are my wife and store clerks! But Santa Cruz is just half an hour away. So just getting out there and talking shop with other business owners is fun in and of itself. I always come back refreshed and renewed. 

My next networking event is at the Santa Cruz Mega Mixer on Wednesday. If you're in the area, why don't you join me? 

Because of the huge number of comments that are spam, I've temorarily turned off comments.  I invite you to share this blog post on 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 free More Clients Starter Kit

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
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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