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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

"What do you do?" is one of the most common questions someone can ask you. 

And if you're in business for yourself, you want to say something that grabs the attention and interest of the person you are speaking to. 

Almost everyone fails at this.

It's not just the words you say. Ultimately, it's about the clarity of what business you are in. 

We think we're in the coaching business, the consulting business, the financial business, the training business.

But these are just categories of businesses. 

And talking about the category of business you're in, as I'm sure you've discovered, doesn't generate a lot of attention or interest.

We also think we're in the business of delivering professional services. We provide one-to-one coaching, offer business plans and assessments or conduct programs, classes and workshops. 

Everyone else in your business category, however, offers similar services that are delivered in very similar ways. 

We also think of ourselves as unique or special in some way. We use a particular model or methodology, a proprietary assessment, a process nobody else uses. 

More often than not, though, describing the methodologies and processes you use doesn't grab the kind of attention and interest you seek. 

All of these approaches at getting attention and interest are crucial aspects of your marketing. Certainly they help you have clarity about what you are actually offering your clients, but they all miss the most important element.

What is that element and how do you address it in your marketing?

The business you want to be in is the results and outcomes business. You need to clearly communicate the specific results you can confidently produce for your clients. 

This is the one thing that genuinely wins the attention and interest of your prospective clients. Nothing else comes close. 

Unfortunately, it's often kinda tricky to communicate this. 

I've struggled with it; my clients have struggled with it. Just about everybody struggles with it. 

Communicating the results and outcomes you produce for clients may be challenging for a few reasons: 

1. It may seem too obvious. Whatever business you're in, it seems to be an unspoken rule that you will produce results for your clients, so why even bring it up?

2. You don't realize that ordinary outcomes don't count. That's just the price of being in business. Extraordinary results are what count, what get prospects to notice you.  

3. You're afraid to make specific guarantees or promises that you'll produce certain results or outcomes. You focus on possible failure instead of possible success. 

4. You're afraid that if you make promises above the ordinary it will sound like hype and turn people off. You don't have the confidence that you can deliver these kind of outcomes.  

5. You believe that results ultimately need to be demonstrated. That is, producing actual results is the only way to communicate the fact that you can produce results. That may be the most convincing way, but it's not the only way.  

The thing is, if you don't find a way to clearly communicate that you stand for and deliver great outcomes, you'll miss one of the most powerful marketing tools in the world. 

Here's an example:

One of my clients offers a coaching program for sales managers that helps their sales people sell more. 

When he came to me he was about to relaunch his business after a period of semiretirement. He had worked with many clients in the past through in-person workshops and training. 

Now he was "going virtual" and would work with his clients via Zoom Video. 

I asked him what kind of results he had produced previously and he told me that a sales increase of 25% or more was the norm. So I asked him if he felt confident he could do that by coaching sales managers virtually.

He replied that he was very confident that he could produce the same kind of results by working with his clients for about a year.

But he was reluctant to talk about those results and really take a stand for these results. We looked at all the benefits of doing so and we came up with the following: 

"In working with your company's sales manager for about a year I will increase your sales by 25% or better."

Now, in all his conversations with company owners, that's what he talks about. Of course, he also talks about how he's able to do that, any unique approaches he uses, and so on, but he puts his outcomes first in all his marketing communication. 

And when he tells this to his prospects, they want to know more because an outcome like that is exactly what they're looking for. 

This sounds simple, and it is, but it's not necessarily easy!

Here are the basic steps you need to take to make a promise about the outcomes and results you'll produce for your clients that are beyond the ordinary. 

1. Determine what beyond-the-expected results you can consistently produce for your clients. You want to look at the average client you work with in your business. 

2. Next, ask yourself how you need to structure your services to produce that result. If it takes a year, it takes a year. If you can do it in three months, then offer a three-month program, etc. 

3. Make sure you are very solid in your methodology, processes and practices. You can't promise results if you don't have a proven pathway to get there. 

4. Make a definite promise, but don't over-promise. Then work on over-delivering on that promise – whatever it takes. 

5. Structure your promise in easy-to-understand words that your clients can easily relate to. Be ready to offer proof that you can produce these results (track record, testimonials, methodology, and so forth).

You are now in the outcomes and results business. All the work you do to get to that place will be more than worth it. 

I promise!

Cheers, Robert 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A cold call is calling a stranger and trying to convince them to do business with you. 

An introductory call is calling someone you have a connection with and discovering if it's worth exploring more.

Many Independent Professionals don't think there's much difference between the two, but the difference is huge, both in what you say on the call and your mindset about the call. 

I've noticed a great many people avoid making introductory calls because they are associated with cold calls – after all, in both scenarios you pick up the phone and talk to someone.

But that's where the similarity ends.  

Just the thought of making calls triggers thoughts and feelings of rejection, making a fool of yourself and being thought of as pushy or unprofessional. 

No longer! Let me outline the differences.

1. Cold calls are made to strangers. You know absolutely nothing about them other than their name, company and phone number and/or email address.

Introductory calls are made to those you have some connection with. The connection doesn't need to be deep. It could be an associate of an associate or a member of the same business organization. Sometimes you'll make these calls to people who were directly referred to you. 

2. Cold calls are made with very little preparation. As they say, it's just "smiling and dialing."

Introductory calls take some preparation. You want to know exactly who you are calling, why you are calling, and the "ultimate outcome" you want to communicate. (An ultimate outcome is the best ultimate result you deliver to your clients.)

3. Cold calls rely on a very tightly scripted pitch. It's written out and followed to the letter. Usually it sounds canned, which is an immediate turnoff.

Introductory calls follow an outline. You have certain things you want to say, but even if you practice those things, it becomes a natural give-and-take conversation. 

4. Cold calls get a very high rejection rate. Ever hung up on a cold caller? Dozens of times? Yeah, it's a brutal process. 

Introductory calls get a very high engagement rate. You get virtually no hangups, and the conversations are never pushy or forced. People actually thank you for calling. 

5. Cold calls are all about getting the sale now. You know you have only one chance to sell that product or service, so the pressure (and obnoxious factor) goes up. 

Introductory calls are the beginning of a relationship. They are not about making the sales now, but about providing information and offering a next step. 

Obviously, cold calls are not going to work for your business, and perhaps you're starting to see that introductory calls could actually work for you. They do, and once you've developed this skill, making these calls becomes easy and, dare I say, fun!

How to make a good introductory call. 

First, locate the best people to call. This is often the hardest step. You should *always* be talking to your contacts and existing clients and asking who they know who needs your ultimate outcome. Remember, people never feel they need your "services" but the "outcomes" your services deliver.

Join professional organizations and other networking-oriented groups and get to know people. Learn how to leverage LinkedIn to get introductions.

Go to Google and enter: "how to make more networking contacts" and you'll find a whole lot of very useful articles about making these contacts.

Next, develop the outline for your calls. Below is a step-by-step guide for what to say and why it's important. 

a) Intro – State your name and your connection.

"Hi this is Fred Post, I'm a member of the XYZ association and our mutual associate Sarah Thomas suggested I give you a call. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?"

b) Talk about something you know about them.

"Sarah told me a little about you and then I checked out your website. What you do sounds very interesting. How long have you been consulting with telephone manufacturers?" 

Continue the conversation for awhile showing genuine interest. Look, people like it when you show interest in them, and this warms up the call. 

c) Get to the heart of your call

"The reason I'm calling, Paul, is that I wanted to introduce myself. My business is about helping consultants like you save about two hours a day every day. And I wanted to ask just a couple of questions and then send you some information, if it's appropriate."

Notice the three parts of this: 1. The purpose of the call, 2. Your ultimate outcome, 3. What you will do do. 

You need to take some time to carefully think this out and then practice it out loud until it just comes naturally. 

d) Ask questions to qualify the prospect 

The questions, of course, depend on your business and your offer. I prefer open-ended questions to get the person talking. So in this case I might say: "Can you tell me what you'd do if you had two extra hours every day?" 

I'm still focusing on the ultimate outcome. I'm not focusing on my service. I'm not thinking about my service. I'm only focused on them to see if they are a good potential candidate for my services. This conversation might go a few minutes where you'll learn more about their situation and goals. No pressure and no selling. 

e) Suggesting a next step

"John, it seems that saving two hours a day would really make a big difference to you. As this point this is what I usually do. I'd like to set up a complimentary Time Saver Session to explore how you could save that time everyday. And of course, I'll explain in depth exactly how my service works to accomplish that. How does that sound?"

You only want to suggest a next step if you feel they are qualified and could get real value from your services. This is all about listening, not pitching. You can tell if someone is interested or not. If they aren't, move on; If they are, suggest the next step.

If you have done a good job with the first part of the conversation and the prospect has said they have a need, they will usually respond positively.

In my blog article from July 19, I talk more about what to offer as the next step and the criteria for designing that next step for best response. I recommend reading that as well.

f) Offer to send some information and a questionnaire.

"OK, great, let's check our calendars for a time we can meet again by phone." And then offer to send them something.

"I'm also going to send you a copy of my Article on the 7 Keys to Saving Two Hours a Day along with a questionnaire to learn more about your situation and goals. By reading the article and sending the questionnaire, we can really zero in quickly and see if I can help you or not. OK?  

This is a very important step, in my opinion. The more they know about what you do and the more you know about their situation and goals, the more likely it is that they'll become a client. 

So this is how to make introductory calls that actually end up with an appointment with a prospective client. 

Yes, every professional service and every prospect is different, but by following these general guidelines and mapping out your calls step-by-step, you'll have a lot more success and won't ever feel like you're making cold calls. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. Do you get stuck even thinking about making introductory calls? Then get my free e-book, The Unstuck Process to help you get unstuck and into action. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In the past several months I've found myself caught up in the happenings of the 2016 presidential elections.

What I've done most is read online articles about the campaign, the latest rantings of Donald Trump and the deceptions of Hillary Clinton. And everything in-between.

Often an hour or two a day. 

A few weeks ago I told myself, "Robert, this reading is yielding no positive benefits. It just riles you up and takes time away from doing other more valuable things, such as reading a good book, spending time with friends, taking walks, etc."

I do most of my reading on my iPad, so I removed all my news links to make it easier to avoid the political onslaught. 

But then I realized that the pull to immerse myself in this political sludge was more like an addiction. Even if I removed the links, it wouldn't be hard to type in into my browser and get pulled in once again.

So I decided to look deeper. Was it politics I was addicted to or something else?

I noticed that the compulsion to know about what was going on in politics had the addictive character of "I can't get enough" and "I want more." These are essentially the same things. 

And then I asked myself. "Where else in my life do I feel I don't have enough and want more?"

That opened up the floodgates!

I wrote a full page of them and only stopped because the page was full. Here are just a few:

I don't have… enough information

enough status and approval

enough health and vitality

enough time

enough sleep

enough ideas and insights

enough entertainment

enough success

enough balance

enough skills

enough productivity

Not to mention all the stuff I obviously didn't have enough of. 

I clearly wanted MORE of all of this. The pull was irresistible and compulsive.

Wow, and I never thought of myself as the materialistic type! My philosophy and reality were colliding.

I also saw that it wasn't just me who had this addiction. Everyone else did too. And messages from the media and culture kept screaming, "Not Enough" and "Get More!"

Just browse online for a few minutes and you'll see that this is the undercurrent of most marketing messages. 

In fact, it's so common, so pervasive, so ever-present that it can be a little hard to see that this is simply not normal. In fact, it is insane. 

Do you see this in your own life, in your business, in simple, everyday things?

"Why did I just buy that piece of crap?" 

"Why do I think I'll be happier with a $50,000 car?"

"Why do I believe I need to make $100K a year to be taken seriously?"

"I don't have enough," and it's corollary, "I want more," drive just about everything in our lives. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be there anymore. I don't want this insanity. 

But, oops, isn't that just more of the same?

"I don't have enough sanity," and, "I want more sanity."

It's like being on a carousel that you can't jump off of!

No, there needs to be a completely different way to look at this. 

When I looked a little deeper beneath, "I don't have enough," and "I want more," I found the belief, "I am not enough."

If I believe I am not enough, then of course I'll also believe I don't have enough and want more. It's like an insatiable craving that can never be satisfied. 

Who would I be if I no longer had that belief? 

Well, I'd be OK, with who I am and what I have. 

I don't have to add anything to that. I don't need to be more OK. Being OK, just the way I am is enough. 

Does this mean I'd have to give up all desires, all ambition, all pursuit of success and accomplishment? 

Not at all. There are a lot of practical wants and desires that are not addictive or insatiable. 

To eat good food, to live in a comfortable home, to own a reliable car, to be with someone you love and to work with clients who pay you well are simply practical (and even healthy) things to have in modern, everyday life.

Will living in the biggest home, being with the most beautiful person, driving the most expensive car and working with the most prestigious clients make you happier? 

According to a lot of research not this topic, the answer is, "absolutely not." In fact, there is no correlation at all. Once your basic needs are met, getting more and more doesn't give you a more fulfilling life. 

Eric Hoffer said it this way, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need to make you happy.

All this exploration that started with my addiction to political happenings, ended up with a simple and irrefutable understanding:

Who I am in my essential being is enough. I don't need more to be OK, to be happier, to be fulfilled. 

I am enough. I have always been enough. I just didn't notice it.

The next time you hear your inner voice telling you that what you have isn't enough and that you want more, pause for just a second and be aware that you are enough and have enough right in this moment.  

Also notice that whatever you do today will also be enough. And every day after that. 

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Pan Marketing

This is one of my favorite stories about marketing, but I don't think I've shared it with you in this space.

Several years ago I worked with a client named Carole. She and her partner, Sue, had developed a training business based on using theater and improv games to teach teamwork and communication skills in companies.

It was new stuff, very interactive and quite effective. Carole had previously been an HR director in a San Francisco corporation and many of her prospective clients were HR directors in other San Francisco companies.

We put together a complete package of marketing materials and Carole had no problem contacting these prospects and setting up meetings to tell them about her services.

She received a very warm reception and most were quite interested in what she had to offer.

A few weeks after contacting several prospects this way, Carol called me and said, "Robert, I'm getting a lot of interest from these prospects but nobody is getting back to me and giving me any work. What should I do?"

In our meeting I gave the advice that catapulted her business to success. I simply said:

"Carole, what you're offering is different and it's hard for these HR directors to communicate the value to their managers. What I'd recommend is calling all your prospects back and tell them you'd like to come in and give them a free introductory demonstration of your training."

She got on the phone immediately and started to book several intro trainings. And then the results started pouring in. Every single company where she gave an intro ultimately bought her services. And her company went on to great success.

You can do the same. You can make an offer to your prospective clients to have a taste, an experience of your services. And this is especially important if your services are unique and different.

You don't necessarily need to offer an intro training, but you do need to offer something that will move your prospects from interest in your services to a commitment to working with you. 

Sometimes it will just be a one-one-meeting with you. It might be a sample training or workshop, or it could be an interactive demonstration of how your service produces results.

But whatever the form is, you need to make an offer for this experience that is hard to refuse because it sounds so valuable.

Here are some important criteria for such an offer:

Offer must be made to the right person/company. It's a waste of time meeting with someone who cannot ultimately buy your services.

Offer must be appropriate to your prospects. This really depends on your service and your clients. What will work for one company may not work for another.

Offer must be simple and clear. Don't give in to the urge to create a 100 slide PowerPoint. You want to get a few key ideas across powerfully.

Offer must be convenient to take advantage of. It might be a meeting or presentation in your prospect's office, but probably not in a redwood grove at the top of a mountain (like where I live).

Offer must not take too much of the prospect's time. A prospect will be more likely take advantage of an offer that takes an hour or two, not day or two.

Offer must be seen as valuable in and of itself. Ultimately your offer is a form of a selling conversation, but it should strive to educate and inform in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking.

Offer must address either a pain or an aspiration. Your prospects are trying to solve a problem or reach an objective, so make sure your offer addresses those directly.

Offer must lead to more clarity. At the end of your conversation or meeting, the prospect should have a very good idea of what you can do and how you can help them.

Offer must build the confidence of your prospect. Your presentation may be unorthodox, but it shouldn't be obscure or confusing.

Offer must have a name – e.g.. "Marketing Strategy Session." Don't just say, "Let's get together and talk." No, make this something more special and tangible.

Offer must be delivered professionally. Be on time and have your materials together. But real success comes from several rehearsals. Lack of preparation is a deal killer.

Offer must persuade the prospect to take action. Ultimately, at the end of your meeting or presentation you should be clear what you want to happen next and be prepared to ask the prospect to take the next step.

Planing to roll-out your offer

When Carole presented her offer to give an intro training to her prospects, she followed all of these criteria. She went in prepared to deliver an intro that would excite and interest her audience.

Her HR prospects knew what to expect and invited several company managers to attend.

Carole tied the theatre games and improv exercises to real company issues and demonstrated the difference they could make while making learning fun.

After the intros she followed up and sent proposals, which ultimately led to her being booked by several companies.

Where do you start with this?

You need to ask what you could offer that would make a powerful impact and impression and then orient your marketing activities to setting up these meetings/intros/samples/demos.

This is often THE missing step in the marketing process.

We may connect with a number of people who could get value from our service; we provide them with information and talk to them about our services but wonder why nothing happens.

But we fail to give them an EXPERIENCE of what we do.

I've succeeded in filling my Marketing Mastery program for several years by simply offering a complimentary webinar that gives people a taste of what it would be like to be in the program. I even held a video conference session with past clients sharing the results they got.

What experience will you offer to your prospects? If you follow the above criteria, you can expect the kind of success Carole and many others have seen.

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I recently started to do something differently in my marketing. 

On holidays (such as the 4th of July) and vacations, I don't write this eZine/Blog anymore. I actually take a break and relax.

I used to think that I SHOULD write this thing every single week with no exceptions and that anything else was just weakness or poor planning. 

Well, that was just stupid. 

It's all part of a distorted belief system that tells us, "I must be productive at all times or I will fail."

We are all so hard on ourselves, but what does that get us? 

Doesn't it ultimately undermine our effectiveness and productivity? 

After all, when it comes down to it, I find work to be a fun and rewarding pursuit. Why muck it all up with arbitrary rules about how hard I should work and how much I must get done? 

Whenever I put that pressure on myself, then resistance builds as well and it becomes hard to just have fun in my work. 

This image just sprang to mind: 

What if I built a box of a certain size and shape and then told myself that I and my work had to conform to the size and shape of that box?

That box is all the rules, systems, and principles that I somehow determined would help me be successful and happy. 

"Yes, I will do my work THAT way and that will lead to control in my business and my life and be happy!"

You know, rules, systems and principles are cool when used as tools to pick up and use when they are useful and appropriate, but not so great when we become their slaves. 

What does your box look like?

Here some common boxes we build to fit our marketing inside. Which ones sound familiar to you?

I can only write if it's perfect. And I need huge blocks of time to write. And if people don't like what I write, my reputation will be ruined. 

I need to have every part of my marketing system completely planned out before I start. I need more than a good plan, I need a perfect plan. 

I need at least 5,000 likes on my Facebook business page and I need to post at least 4 valuable pieces of content each day. 

I need a few years training in speaking before I can get any talks booked. And, of course I need a book before I can get any talks - and it must be published by a major publisher. 

It never works to call someone if you don't know them. No, I have to arrange my marketing so that people call me. Anything else is unprofessional. 

All of this is obviously delusional 

We all start with imperfect knowledge, underdeveloped skills and not enough time to do it all.

When you break out of your box of "I needs", "I shoulds" and "I musts" we can simply work on what is right in front of us.

And we can do things imperfectly because that's the only way anything gets done. 

And outside of your constrictive box, you just may have some fun. Imagine that!   

What's up for me right now is to have fun in my marketing and business and let it be a natural expression of what I am inspired to do in this moment.

But I'd better not make that a rule, or before you know it I'll have a list of bogus rules on how to have fun! 

Yes, this may sound and feel a little chaotic, but at the same time I trust myself to do what works. 

Off to another project, and see you next week. 

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Here's something I frequently hear from new clients:

"Robert, I need to get my marketing on track. I want you to help me do the RIGHT things and not make any mistakes in my marketing. Can you help me do that?"

Wow. That's a loaded question!

Before I tell you what I tell them, let me give you some of the more specific questions my clients have asked me:

What is the right marketing message for me?

How do I communicate effectively about my business?

What should I include in my marketing materials?

Should my website be text- or graphics-­oriented?

Does an email newsletter work and should I do one?

When should I follow up with a prospect?

How do I sell effectively without being pushy?

How do I price my services to get the most/best clients?

Everyone wants the RIGHT answers to these questions.

But is there a right answer? I'm sure different marketing coaches would recommend different things. And some might be overzealous about their recommendations:

Coach #1 - An email newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your audience. You must have one!

Coach #2 - Are you crazy? nobody reads anymore! You need to send out videos every day!

With all these rabid voices vying for attention, what action do you end up taking? And what if you choose the wrong one and it doesn't work? Help!

This struggle about the right thing to do can end in paralysis (doing nothing), self-recrimination (I did the wrong thing) or arrogance, (I did the right thing).

What about simply making the best choice you can by using some of the approaches below:

1. Relax and get some perspective. You are not making life and death choices; you are testing things out to discover what works.

2. Do some research about various approaches. This can be very simple such as looking at several website designs. What appeals to your head and your heart?

3. Start small and get some feedback. Planning on sending a promotional email to your list? First send it to a few close associates and get their take on it.

4. Look closely at the costs and time you'd need to invest. Giving talks to your target audience costs little but is time consuming. Are you able to invest that time?

5. Look at the complexity of the project you want to undertake. Do you really want to write that book yourself or do you need some help to keep it on track?

6.What excites you and draws you in? Emulate what others are doing if it captures your attention and imagination.

7. Commit to taking action with as little attachment as possible. Every marketing action is an experiment. You'll learn something whether it succeeds or flops.

Going through this process is so much more powerful than asking an "expert" what you should do. I've discovered that when I assist my clients with making marketing choices this way, their confidence and enjoyment of marketing increases.

So, give up doing the right thing. Just discover what works for you.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. If you are looking for some hands-on help with making these marketing choices, click here.


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I’ve noticed that some of my clients have great marketing energy. And others don't.

Marketing energy is displayed when you are in the flow of marketing, making plans, creating materials, getting out there and having fun connecting with others and sharing your business.

I'm working with several clients right now who are just tearing things up, coming up with great ideas, taking consistent action and envisioning exciting possibilities. 

Marketing stagnancy occurs when nothing excites you, and you hold back, can't come up with creative ideas, complain that things are difficult and feel more like hiding than getting out there.

And a few of my clients are stuck and bogged down in this way, unsure what to do next and hesitant to take bold action to make vital connections.

Why do these differences occur?

People in the first category are thinking differently than people in the second. They could both be in very similar circumstances with similar services, skills and opportunities.

But how are they thinking differently? Let's take a look:

Category One


Seeing opportunities



Category Two


Seeing pitfalls



You get the idea. But do you also realize how absolutely useless this information is? You just can't tell people in category number two to be more like people in category number one!

This principle also applies to beliefs.

People in category number one believe they can make things work.

People in category number two believe they can’t.

And that doesn't help much either, does it?

"What's so hard? Just change beliefs!" people in category one say. And people in number two reply, "If we could easily change our beliefs, don't you think we would?!"

In order for people in category two to shift, they need a different approach. This approach needs to be gentle, respectful, non-judgmental — these words apply whether you are trying to make that shift yourself or assisting someone else in making it.

What I've noticed, both for myself and from my clients, is that although we may be stuck in some kind of resistant, fearful thinking, we don't want to be there. We do want to get past it and have our creativity and resourcefulness kick in. In other words, we resist the stuckness. 

What we don't realize is that this is often a bigger problem than the negative attitude itself.

Yes, not wanting to be stuck can be more of a problem than the stuckness itself.

Why? Because we are fighting against reality.

When you're stuck, fearful, resistant and negative, that is exactly how you are in the moment, right? You are what you are. And what is, is what is.

Resisting that only makes things worse and usually more painful.

The shift can be subtle.

For example, consider the difference between saying to yourself:

"I'm stuck and nothing is working. And I hate that and want things to change."


"I'm stuck and nothing is working. And that's the way it is right now."

The first response is pretty common. Resistance seems like the right thing to do.

The second response is counter-intuitive. But it's a lot smarter.

Because things change anyway. Downs transform into ups and ups turn into downs. There is no permanent state of unstuckness and positive, expansive energy.

These days, when I'm feeling stuck and resistant, I just stop and look. I notice my thoughts and my feelings. I don't resist the resistance.

Being aware has no resistance. It just is. And within awareness I can allow anything: moods, attitudes, fears, and stuckness.

And without struggle or effort, I notice that the stuckness simply starts to dissipate and move on. I'm left with awareness,  without resistance and with space for new possibilities.

Give this counterintuitive strategy a try. The next time you are caught up in feeling stuck, be aware and notice the stuckness is simply what is right now. No judgment, no resistance. 

And then notice if you feel more peaceful and relaxed.

And without trying to "make something happen" notice what does happen. It may surprise you.


By Robert MIddleton – Action Plan Marketing

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting on Sunday, it’s hard to get back to business as usual.

This was the deadliest shooting in American history, and it's even difficult to wrap our minds around that because there have been so many mass shootings over the past few years.

I've seen a lot of responses in the media, from politicians and activists, but will their words change anything?

Some have suggested banning semi-automatic weapons. Others have countered with having a better response system for suspected terrorists, preventing Muslims from entering the country, offering better mental health screening and educating people about the LBGT community.

From what seem like commonsense ideas to off-the-wall hysteria, we really have no idea how to stop the next act of mass violence.

But we clearly don't need to ADD to the violence. 

No matter how we feel — powerless, hopeless, depressed or angry — we can spread words and acts of kindness and love, not words and acts of hate.

I wish the best to everyone, especially to all who were personally affected by this tragedy.

Cheers, Robert

If you would like to add comments about your feelings/reactions to this, please comment on the Blog. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

In May I took one-month vacation from writing More Clients. It was a useful break and helped me get clearer about what I want to write about in the following months (Years? Decades?)

My insight was this: I’m kind of tired of how-to tips articles. I’ve written hundreds of them. Instead, I’m going to try to write more about marketing thinking. After all, action always starts with thinking. 

And how we think about marketing is key to the results we get from our marketing. 

So I’ll first share my thinking process and you can decide what actions to take based on your own thinking. Hopefully this will make you a smarter marketer who doesn’t just follow someone else’s step-by-step formula. 

This article outlines “Marketing Ten Thinking Tips” centered around the heart of marketing: Communication. I believe these tips can make your marketing better. Decide for yourself!

Marketing Thinking Tip #1 – Understand

Try to understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish with each marketing communication. An email will not get you a sale. But it can get your foot in the door, can start a conversation, begin a relationship.

If you expect that people will jump up and down with excitement when you send an email, (or an article or anything else) you are deluded. But you are just as deluded if you say nothing will work. Search for successes and emulate them. I prefer to try to make a persuasive case with simple, conversational language, minus the hype. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #2 – Relate

Do your best to get inside the heads of your prospective clients. Who are they? What is their business? What concerns and worries them? What have they done that hasn’t worked? What solutions are they looking for? What keeps them up at night? If you fail to address these issues in your marketing communication, it won't connect.

But if you talk about these issues in the same way your prospects would talk about them, you will connect. Your marketing communication will make sense and they’ll resonate with what you said.  

Marketing Thinking Tip #3 – Be Unique

What do you have that is unique, special and noteworthy? It’s much harder to get attention with mundane ideas. That just bores people and you can’t bore people into doing business with you! (David Ogilvy).

What results have you produced that are stellar? What have people said about your work (collect testimonials)? What gets people excited when you talk about it? Keep digging and testing messages until they start to click with your prospective clients. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #4 – Testing

Keep making attempts to get something to work. Some aspects of marketing can be very complex, technical and time-consuming. But things such as creating messages, articles, and email are relatively simple. So you want to work on these things before you try more complex marketing communications.

Take time to learn how do do these things and test them until they work for you, that is, until people respond positively (in some way or the other) to your marketing communication.  That kind of testing can lead to powerful insights and changes in how you communicate. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #5 – Follow instructions

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients where I gave very specific, exact instructions for doing something. And then the client went and did the absolute opposite and complained about the results! 

If you learn what you think might be a good solution, be sure to follow the instructions or guidelines. Think of it as a recipe. If it says to add a cup of flour, don’t add a cup of sugar! Later on you can tweak the recipe.

Marketing Thinking Tip #6 – Research

Spend the time required to do research. To understand the simple basics of almost anything, we need to do some research. We do not have to become experts, but we do need to become competent. So you may have to read not one or two articles about how to write the perfect email that will get response, but 25 or 50.

In my research about how to use emails to cold prospects, I happened to find this article below by Jeff Molander, which is brilliant and better than anything I could write about the topic.

Make Google your best friend. You may not believe it, but there’s a wealth of information out there like this that is practical, that comes from experience and that you can use. And most of it’s free. Hone your research skills and find it! 

Marketing Thinking Tip #7 – Innovate

Every situation and communication is distinctly different. An email to the owner of a small company is different than an email to the CEO of a corporation. This is why templates are problematic, unless they are for identical situations.

Look at every aspect of your communication and ask what you can do to get attention and interest. Perhaps the situation calls for some humor, a challenging assertion or an unusual story. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #8 – Get feedback

Once you’ve done your research, developed a plan and put together a script, email etc., run it past someone who knows what they’re doing and ask for their reactions and feedback. Often we have great ideas but we’re not sure and are hesitant to take action. 

Once I helped a woman who wouldn’t network and refused to make direct calls, get all the business she could handle by doing mailings with pictures of her Siberian Husky, Mutombo. She came up with the idea; I helped her implement it successfully. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #9 – Show empathy

Market unto others as you would have them market unto you. When you’re putting together a script, a promotion or an email, ask yourself: If I received this promotion, how would I likely respond? Would it interest and intrigue me or would it offend and annoy me? 

I’ve seen some of the dumbest, most poorly conceived ideas, with poor writing and atrocious design that flopped spectacularly. It’s not a mystery why! Develop marketing communications that you’d like to receive yourself. Take note of marketing communications that work and emulate them. 

Marketing Thinking Tip #10 – Trust your intuition

You get a flash of an idea for connecting with someone. You get excited about trying it out. And then you talk yourself out of it. This is what I did when I was trying to produce my second book. And it took five long years to get around to finally writing it. 

Are your intuition and hunches right? Not necessarily, but they might be pointing you in the right direction. You don’t need to act impulsively; harness those ideas with the other ideas in this article and move into action. 

How to apply these Marketing Thinking Tips to your marketing

Now that you’ve read the article once, go back over the article and read it again, except more slowly. Really take these ideas in and ask yourself how many you are following. The Answer may be very few. But these are things you must do if you are ever to be effective and confident with your marketing communications. 

Next, create a project for some kind of marketing communication. It might be a message or a script. It might be an article or a message to connect via email. Work on the communication itself and then go back and answer these ten questions:

1. Are you absolutely clear about what you are trying to accomplish with this communication? What result do you want?

2. Have you gotten inside your prospect’s heads in this communication and does it speak to their issues and concerns?

3. Are you saying something unique, interesting and attention-getting, something that hits a nerve? Or is it boring?

4. Have you really fine-tuned your communication, and is it saying exactly what you want it to say?

5. Are you following the basic instructions for creating this marketing communication, and following the guidelines you’ve learned?

6. Have you spent enough time researching about this marketing communication and learning the latest techniques?

7. Are you taking into account that this communication is unique and targeted to a specific person or group of people?

8. Have you received feedback about your marketing communication from someone who is knowledgeable?

9. Is your marketing communication something that you’d welcome receiving? Is it relevant and interesting?

10. Have you trusted your intuition in developing this marketing communication and are you ready to put it out there?

If you follow these tips you will develop much more effective marketing communications that will cut through the clutter and get the attention of your intended audience.

Take this seriously. Really study and apply this to any marketing communication you develop. There are no “Silver Bullets” in marketing, but there are skills, such as these Thinking Tips. Commit to mastering them if you are going to take your business to a whole new level. 

Cheers, Robert Middleton


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

One of my current clients shared a very powerful new marketing idea with me and then I passed it on to some of my clients.

It's too good NOT to share it with you! 

As I said in my email yesterday, marketing is 100% communication. And what you're communicating about is the value of your services.

There are many ways to do this – You can discuss client outcomes, describe benefits, share advantages, offer testimonials, tell stories and make both logical and emotional arguments.

But this new marketing idea gives even more proof that your services are valuable. If you use an outside source to demonstrate the value, you gain more credibility and stature in the minds of your prospective clients. 

The concept is really simple: Use "Marketing Data" to prove that your service is needed and valuable.

Market data is information that comes out of research that is readily available to everyone:

Market data includes evidence from such organizations as:

IBSWorld reports that there are 46,000 business coaching and training companies in the US with over 11 billion in revenue.

According to Zane Benefits, the cost of replacing someone in a highly-educated executive position paying $100K is as high as$213K.

An article in Harvard Business Review reports that about a quarter of the executives in acquired top management teams leave within the first year, a departure rate about three times higher than in comparable companies that haven’t been acquired.

I found all of this market data on Google in just a few minutes.

How do you use such data? You use it to make a stronger case for your services. Use it to show your clients that they may have a bigger problem than they realized. 

So, for the three items above:

1. Use this data for clients who don't think coaching is a well-established or valid business service. You now have proof this isn't the case. 

2. Use this data to demonstrate the high cost of attrition of top executives and how your retention services are a fraction of the cost of preventing just one executive from leaving. 

3. When working with a company in the midst of a merger, use this data to discuss the approaching danger of their top executives leaving.

You can find valuable market data on just about any kind of business that can help you build a stronger case for your services. And the answers are as close as a Google search. 

Without this data, you often won't make a strong enough case that will convince your prospective clients to work with you. 

In sharing these ideas in my Marketing Mastery Program, Sara Jane Radin, an Executive Leadership Coach who works with abrasive leaders, added this paragraph to the home page of her website:

The costs associated with Abrasive Leaders are staggering. The Workplace Bullying Institute had estimated that between turnover and lost productivity an Abrasive Leader could cost a Fortune 500 company an astounding $24,000,000; add another $1.4 Million for litigation and settlement costs.  While all of the exact costs are not easy to calculate, it is clear that the costs are huge and, therefore, do indeed negatively affect the bottom line.

If that doesn't get her prospective clients' attention, I don't know what will!

Remember, people don't work with you because you're brilliant and have excellent services. They hire you because you can make things better for them. 

But you have to prove it!

By the way, when you're reading online content this week, notice the content that incorporate market data. Notice how much persuasive this is and how much you trust this content as opposed to content that doesn't contain it. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. This is just one of the powerful ideas we'll explore in depth and help you integrate into your marketing in the upcoming Marketing Action Group. Details 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, 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 Marketing Plan Workbook and join the Marketing Club Forum for free.