Latest Blog Comments

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: 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

We expect perfection in everything these days. Perfection in our schools, healthcare, government and business. And, of course, in ourselves.

If it's not perfect it's just not good enough. 

And, of course we want our marketing to be perfect, too. We want every marketing activity to work flawlessly every single time and to always attract our ideal clients. Right?

But then we try a few things and realize our marketing is far from perfect, and we feel frustrated, disappointed. In many cases we just give up. 

Where has that thinking gotten us? Not very far. In fact, the search for perfection is a hopeless waste of time, energy, and money.

I have a little saying pinned to my computer: 

"What screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be."

It may be hard to accept that your marketing will never be perfect. It can be good, it can be effective, it can produce the results you are ultimately looking for, but it will never be perfect.

Not convinced?

This is what perfect marketing would look like:

Every time you communicate to anyone about your services, that person would buy your services 100% of the time. 

I've never had that happen or seen it happen, have you? 

Yet I've heard these same things over and over for years:

• That article isn't good enough to send out yet.

• I'm not yet ready to give a presentation about my business.

• I need a lot more preparation before I give a webinar.

• I can't send out an ezine because I might not follow though. 

• I don't have an advanced degree yet, so I can't do that. 

All these pictures in your head of how it's supposed to be stops you cold.

Any questions?

Q. OK, Robert, so I get that my marketing isn't ever going to be perfect. Then what's the use? Should I settle for mediocre?

No, "settling for mediocre" is just another way of saying it has to be perfect. It isn't true. 

Q. Then what can I do? It seems hopeless.

Perfect is the enemy of progress. You simply want to do the best you can with what you have. 

Q. Well, is there a 'best' way to approach my marketing?

I actually do have what I call "The Perfect Marketing Plan!" But it might not seem perfect to you. It's simply what works, not just in marketing, but in any other thing you want to get good at.

Here are the five steps to the Perfect Marketing Plan. 

1. Get the best information you can find about marketing your professional services. Articles, books, courses, etc. 

2. Really study that material in depth. Don't settle for skimming over this information. You need to understand it deeply – the best you possibly can. 

3. Do any and all of the exercises or worksheets included with that information. Get to feel comfortable with the ideas.

4. Then take action. Not when you 'master' the material, but when you know enough to take small (imperfect) steps and give them a try in the real world. 

5. Evaluate your results and get feedback and coaching from someone who's been there before. 

This is as about "perfect" as it will ever get. This imperfect approach to learning and implementing marketing actually does work - not to get perfect marketing results - but to get some marketing results

Since I started my business in 1984 this is what I've done. I read about 300 books on business, marketing and selling. I studied the best ones in depth. I did a lot of planning, worksheets, scripting, etc. And then I got out there and tried several things until I got results. 

Some things didn't work terribly well. Some things worked brilliantly. Those I repeated and turned into step-by-step systems that I could duplicate and also teach to others.

And along the way I hired coaches, participated in programs and mastermind groups and asked for feedback and help. I still do. 

Q. Of all the things on that plan, which is the most important?

The most important is taking action.

If I were to place a bet on who would be most successful with marketing and had one person who was very knowledgeable and another who was willing to take action, I'd choose the action-oriented person every time.

Most people think the information is most important. But information without action won't get you ANY results. However, taking action will automatically expose you to information, if only in testing the various ways of doing something. 

But I recommend both. With both, you have a much better chance of success, and if you also add some level of support or coaching, your results will be even better. 

Q. So where do I start?

Follow that plan. There are lots of ways to do it. Books, courses, programs, various coaches. 

Of course, I have a bias towards my Action Plan approach. I teach this in my Marketing Action Groups. And over the years, I've seen a lot of success with this approach. 

Participants learn the principles of marketing, they do exercises and receive assignments to take specific action steps. And then they get feedback and coaching. 

It's not perfect, but it works. People become better marketers and they get more and better clients. They give up perfectionism. They get into the habit of putting marketing into action based on proven step-by-step plans. 

Q. Are there spaces open in the upcoming Marketing Action Group that starts in May? 

Yes, We are about half full. Just link here for complete details:   

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I just read that Apple's ad budget is more than a billion dollars. That's more than the economies of some small nations!

Although they spend a lot on advertising, it's never been a secret that Apple has exceptional and successful marketing. 

So what do they do that you could do as well? There are plenty of ways in which your marketing can successfully follow Apple's principles – without costing you a fortune. 

1. Simplify what you're selling

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the first thing he did was simplify the product line. Consumers were confused, so he created a product model with four quadrants:

Quadrant 1 - Consumer Desktop

Quadrant 2 - Consumer Laptop

Quadrant 3 - Business Desktop

Quadrant 4 - Business Laptop

It instantly became easier to pick which Mac was right for you. And with the new innovative designs, sales soared.

Do that in your business as well. Don't have a lot of random offerings, but services and programs clearly targeted to a certain kind of client. Make it very clear how these services are different through features, benefits and pricing. 

2. Unify your brand

What does your business stand for, that is, what is the key message you want everyone to understand?

What Apple came up with is the "Think Different" slogan on posters, ads and billboards featuring famous people, from John Lennon to Einstein. I still have a Think Different poster of Miles Davis, proudly displayed on my office wall. (Perhaps because I have more Miles Davis recordings on iTunes than any other musician!)

Your marketing message needs to permeate all your marketing communication, from the tag line at the top of your website to what you say to prospects about your business. 

A unified brand or message also acts as a "decision filter" to help you offer services and programs that fit your message. For instance, everything I do is oriented around the following message: "Get your marketing unstuck and into action." The biggest issue facing independent professionals when it comes to marketing is simply implementing, so that's what I emphasize. 

3. Be attractive and compelling

When I look at some of the marketing materials and websites of many independent professionals, "attractive and compelling" are not words I'd use. More like unattractive and boring. 

The reason I've always loved Apple's visual marketing is that it's simple, clean and elegant. Take a look at their website. It's uncluttered, full of stunning pictures of their products.

Plus, there's a LOT of text and product videos to explain in greater detail what their products are, what they do and how they can benefit your life. Don't kid yourself that prospective clients won't read text on a website; if they're qualified prospects, they'll often read a whole lot. 

How well does your website compare? These days, with the new WordPress themes and a competent (but not necessarily expensive) designer, you can build a very attractive website that quickly builds credibility and interest with your visitors.  And well-written descriptive text will draw prospects in to learn more. 

4. Be visible where your prospects are

No, you will never be as visible as Apple with TV commercials, print and web ads, they are impossible to miss. 

But you can be visible to your target market by getting out there in a number of ways. Social media is a good support to your marketing efforts, but it doesn't hold a candle to in-person networking, giving talks to professional groups, and holding teleclasses and webinars.

If you've never seen one of Steve Jobs' Macworld keynotes, they are worth searching for on YouTube. Marketers have been studying his simple but powerful presentation style for a generation. (And Tim Cook, the new Apple CEO, follows exactly the same model today.)

And of course, the ever-persistent email newsletter may be the most important of all. Delivering a useful message to the mailboxes of those who requested to be on your list has been my most powerful marketing vehicle for close to 20 years. Make sure your prospects never forget you. 

5. Believe you have value and prove it

In may ways, that's what marketing is all about. If you don't have confidence in what you're offering, do whatever it takes to develop services and programs that deserve to be noticed. 

Apple has never had a problem with that! They don't just believe they have good or even excellent products, they believe they have the best products in the world.  

And they want you to believe that too! I've seen too many independent professionals who are tepid about their marketing. They come across as hesitant and unconfident that what they're offering will really interest their prospects. 

6. Ultimately, the first sale is to YOU!

What do you need to do to make your services and programs the best they can possibly be, and then communicate that value with real confidence?

Over the years I've made over 10 significant purchases of Apple products. I don't go anywhere else, because they've always delivered for me beyond the expectations promised in their marketing. 

How will you build your business with great marketing so that ultimately your clients can't think of working with anyone but you? 

Start thinking like Apple.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. Much of this may seem very obvious to you. But before Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the current CEO in place, who should have known better, did very little of the above. Their sales were sinking and customers were losing confidence. Look at your marketing seriously and make these principles an ongoing part of your marketing.


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Fitz's wife is asking him to stop drinking and gambling. 

And Fitz replies halfheartedly, "I'll try…"

But Fitz is not your run-of-the-mill drunk gambler. He's a brilliant police psychologist from the mid '90s English drama, Cracker, starting Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter).

But as brilliant and insightful as Fitz is, he seems to have little power over his nasty, destructive habits. When asked by a colleague why he persists in his downward spiral, he answers defiantly: "I like it!!"

Yes, we do like our demons.

We like doing things that make us feel good momentarily but exact a high price in the long term.

On Sunday I was at my granddaughter's birthday party and, as usual, I chowed down on the cake and ice cream. I most definitely like it! 

But because I know the high cost of high calories we never allow cake and ice cream inside the house. Once in awhile it's a treat, but never a steady diet.

When Fitz told his wife, "I'll try," it was more in the vein of, "If I happen to feel like not boozing and gambling once in awhile I just may see if I can lay off a bit. I'll try."

Yeah, right Fitz. Now, I'm only into the second story of this wildly entertaining three-years series, but I don't hold out much hope that his trying will get him very far. 

No, trying doesn't work.

Remember Yoda's famous pronouncement to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back

"No! Try not! Do or do not, there is no try."

We all get this, kind of. But for some reason we keep on trying. 

We try to write an email newsletter, try to build our email list, try to do speaking engagements, try to do follow up, try to raise our rates. And it always ends up as a struggle that rarely produces a result.

The question I have is, despite trying not working, why do we continue to try? 

The same reason we continue to do anything that doesn't work. We believe it will work, despite the evidence.

So we must be getting something out of believing that belief. There must be a payoff or we wouldn't continue. 

The payoff for believing that trying works is simple: It's comfortable. 

Am I saying we'll lie to ourselves to stay comfortable?

Absolutely! It's much more comfortable to say we'll try than to actually commit. 

Commitment is uncomfortable. But it's the only thing that gets results. 

I've often thought Yoda should have said: 

"No! Try not! Do or do not, there is no try. Commit instead, you must!

That might have helped, because despite the fact that almost everyone has heard that quote, almost everyone still believes in trying. 

Stop trying. Commit.

Look at what you want in your life, your business and marketing and commit to it. 

Commit to doing that marketing activity and don't quit until you've figured out how to make it work.

I promise you, it will be uncomfortable. It might take a long time. You might not succeed the first several times. You might make a mess of it. 

So what? Commit anyway. The worst that can happen is you'll discover a lot of ways not to do something. But when you commit for long enough, the results will be beyond anything you can imagine. 

Cheers, Robert

P.S. You might suppose from all my movie and TV references that all my good ideas come from there. You might be right! But when you're committed, you'll take ideas from anywhere you find them.

P.P.S. Pass this on to someone who is trying. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

About twenty years ago I had just met my wife to be. 

One little hitch. I was flat broke. 

The year before I had moved my business to Silicon Valley from San Francisco and my client-attracting efforts in my new location hadn't kicked into high gear yet. 

But meeting someone you want to spend the rest of your life with tends to light a fire under you!

I knew what to do and I went into action. I launched a very simple, but focused, marketing action plan that ended up being very successful. In 26-weeks I had attracted 26 new clients. 

That was really a turning point for me. After that I continued to work hard as a marketing consultant and coach but I never had to struggle to attract new business again. 

Not much later, I created my first web site (1996) and then launched this eZine (1997). I wrote the InfoGuru marketing manual in 2000 and it was an online bestseller. 

Soon after, I started to conduct Marketing Action Groups – group teleconference programs – where I taught my key marketing principles and practices to hundreds of self-employed people. 

Many things have changed in the marketing world over the past ten years (social media, blogging, podcasts, etc).

However, the ideas in the Marketing Action Group are as relevant today as they were then. Marketing is still about creating an attention-getting marketing message, developing written marketing materials, giving presentations (live or virtual), following up and converting those who are looking for more assistance into paying clients.

It's a system and a process that you can take to the bank. It's all about good communication, passion about your work and the willingness to put yourself out there. Plus knowing how to get unstuck and into action.

The good news is that effective marketing doesn't require hype. In fact, it's all about being authentic. 

You may have been on my list many years or just a few weeks, but if you're still reading, I know you're interested in proven and effective ways to attract clients to your business.

And you're not interested in gimmicks. You want to learn the skills and practices to become a great marketer of your services.   

I've decided to resurrect the Marketing Action Groups and make my marketing knowledge and coaching available to a larger number of my subscribers. 

This group program may be for you if you are ready to get back to marketing fundamentals and start attracting more and better clients consistently. 

The next Marketing Action Group will start on Tuesday, May 3, and continue for five months (10 groups session) through Sept 20.   

In the program we will:

• Have interactive group sessions that teach the marketing approaches that work the best

• Demonstrate how to get your marketing to persuade prospects to take action

• Use proven processes, forms and systems to enable you emulate success

• Have an online feedback forum dedicated to only to those in the program

• Give you "field assignments" that will help you implement what you learn

• Provide thousands of dollars of virtual programs as a bonus

• Eliminate the fluff, and focus on marketing that really works

• Record every session so that you can listen later if you miss one

Here are the dates:

May 3 and 17 – June 7 and 21

July 12 and 26 – August 9 and 23

September 6 and 20

Please mark these dates on your calendar now.

I'll share some more information about the Marketing Action Group over the next couple weeks. The group will open for enrollments on Thursday, April 14.

Cheers, Robert

P.S. I'm still married to my wife, Saroj and she still puts up with all the hours I put into my business and marketing. Our 20th anniversary is on May 4. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I guess I'm lucky, but I haven't had writer's block for a long time. When I think of something to write, I just write it. 

But that isn't true for many of the people I work with. 

A current client, "Rhonda," is really struggling with an article right now. I'm giving her a lot of support, and she's getting there, but it's not easy. 

The biggest thing that's slowing her down is a set of fearful beliefs that keep popping up as she writes. She wrote me:

"My challenge is that I see so many options and possibilities and to put something on paper means that I am choosing one path over another - but what about this path or that? How can I let this one go if I choose that one? The feeling is fear. I'm so afraid to make the wrong choice that I get paralyzed."

As a result, she procrastinates, backing herself into a corner and making poor choices that only reinforce her fear of choosing.

"That drives my indecision and slows my progress."

Perhaps you share some of "Rhonda's" feelings. Beliefs such as, "I have to write it perfectly, nobody will read it anyway, and, I'm just not a good writer." These all contribute to massive writer's block. 

Realizing what your internal blocks are is an important step to getting your marketing unstuck. 

When you realize you get stuck mainly because of "head stuff" not an external circumstance, you can work on patiently questioning or challenging those beliefs until they don't have such a hold on you anymore.

But it's also important to develop successful writing habits that make writing a whole lot easier. Here are some I've learned over the years that have made writing easier for me and for my clients. 

1. Write something every single week for your business. The more you do anything, the easier it gets. The most obvious piece is an article for your eZine, or an article for LinkedIn or other online publication. 

2. Try to pick the same day each week to write. I've been writing this ezine for 18 years on Mondays. It's become so habitual that it's hard NOT to write it!

3. Generally best to write earlier in the day, before other projects take on their own momentum. I also rarely book client appointments on Monday so the writing doesn't get bumped. 

4. Write fast and edit slow. I'll usually do a  first draft of a 600-750 word article in about an hour. I don't stop to think, second guess, or worry if it's good enough. Then I edit it several times from top to bottom and keep fine-tuning it until it's done.

5. Know that the easiest articles are "tips articles" like this one. They all include an introduction and then several tips, steps or ideas that are useful to the reader. 

6. Wrap up with a summary or closing points and often a call-to-action. Remember, you want your articles to be useful and actionable, not just a collection of good ideas.

7. Run it past an editor. It seems that no matter how carefully I write and self-edit, she always finds something to improve, from grammar to word choice (thanks, Daphne Gray Grant).

8. Another thing to consider is to start your article with a story or a vignette of working with a client. This grabs interest faster as stories are more emotional and therefore connect with both mind and heart. And it also makes the article more memorable.

By following as many of these steps as you can, your writing will become habitual, thus easier. Don't worry about writing a masterpiece every time; you won't. First, write to contribute some solid value to your readers. Second, write for clarity. Third, write for memorability, that is, do what you can to make the article more interesting and engaging.

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

On Saturday a week ago, I noticed I was feeling uneasy about something. I wasn't sure what it was exactly, but then I turned my thoughts to some of the issues my clients were facing. 

Then it hit me: I was taking on the worries, the uncertainties, the fears my clients were experiencing. 

In Eastern teachings this is called, "the teacher taking on the karma of his students." 

In other words, I was assuming the responsibility and burden of what my clients were going though. I guess you could call that being empathetic; I was certainly feeling what they were feeling. 

And I noticed what a big drain this was on my energy and productivity. Instead of focusing on my own issues – the ones I could do something about I was focusing on what I could do nothing about. 

But I obviously believed I could do something. After all, I spend a lot of time every week coaching my clients, giving them ideas, plans and strategies to grow their businesses. I want them to succeed more than I can say. 

But ultimately their success is their business. They can take my ideas and put them into action or not. They will grow at their own rate, not at my rate. 

This insight was a wake-up call for me. I realized it would be smarter to put my focus on other things when not working with clients. After all, I have other projects and things to accomplish that only I can do. 

So I sat down and wrote a long article I had been putting off. I created a detailed action plan for the ongoing More Clients Club and signed up for an advanced marketing workshop. 

Nevertheless, this tendency to take on the struggles of others is a pattern I need to be vigilant about. 

I don't have any answers here except to be aware of the pattern and conditioning that led to it. 

Why is it that I have the need to "save" people?

What is the underlying belief holding that idea in place?

How is that tied up with my self worth?

What does this identification cost me?

Who would I be without those underlying beliefs? 

I hope you can relate to all of this!

I know that self-employed professionals are all about serving people. But how far do you take that? Do we put so much time and attention into our clients and their struggles that we fail to take care of ourselves?

Is there a way to serve clients without being so self-sacrificing? 

Can we give time to ourselves and not feel guilty about it?

Can we transition to empowering clients, rather than saving them?

Is it OK is we don't have ALL the answers and resources?

All food for thought. If you'd like to share your comments or insights, I'd love it if you would share them on the blog comments below (not by email, please).

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Last week I wrote about how many of the processes of marketing can be boring. And when you can accept the boring tasks for what they are – and just get them done – you can produce some very good results. 

However, there are certain aspects of marketing that I personally find very exciting. 

They all have to do with self-expression: Writing, speaking and talking to prospects.

These are exciting to me because they all require focus, thinking, creativity and a demand to be present, in the moment.

Every time I sit down to write my weekly article I never quite know what I'll write about. It's like jumping into a chasm. Where will I land? Will it be any good? Will it inspire my readers to take action?

How can that be boring?

But with excitement comes uncertainty, fear, dread. 

Self expression demands a certain degree of risk, a letting go, a possibility of failure. What if you write something that people ignore or ridicule? What if you bore the audience when you give a presentation? What if you sound stupid when talking to someone about your services?

Personally, I'm scared of a number of things. If an activity has the chance of hurting me physically, I avoid it completely. 

You won't see me mountain biking, parachuting or bungee jumping!

People who do those physically risky things tell of how they feel the most alive when they are on the edge, adrenaline pumping, flying down a muddy pathway on their mountain bike, dodging trees and small animals. 

But those same people might quake in their boots when they think of standing on a stage to deliver a talk to a large audience or following up with a prospect to get an appointment.  

The paradox is obvious. The most fun and exciting things that you can do in your marketing (and that will return the best long-term results) are those things you avoid like the plague. 

So let me ask you a few pithy questions:

What's the worst thing that could happen if you did more writing, speaking and talking to prospects?

If you wrote an article or blog post, is it likely someone would spread it all over social media saying how moronic it was?

If you gave a presentation would everybody stand up and boo, throwing tomatoes at you?

If you followed up with someone from a networking event, would they send out a hit man to take you out? 

Get real. None of this would ever happen. When we disasterize about things like this we are not present in the moment. We are inside our minds manufacturing pictures of failure and rejection. 

Is any of that real? 

Look, I've know a lot of people who have been seriously injured doing risky physical activities, but I have yet to see anyone in my 31+ years of business even slightly damage themselves by writing, speaking or talking to prospects.

It never happens. In fact, engaging in all of these so-called risky marketing activities usually ends up being fun, even exhilarating – not to mention effective. 

"When I followed up with participants who had attended my talks, I was afraid I'd be rejected. The opposite was the case; they were friendly and open, willing to meet and talk with me." – Ross Blake (a current client) 

Ready for excitement? Write. Speak. Interact. 

Cheers, Robert 

If you resist putting yourself out there, afraid of what might happen if you express yourself, you probably have friends who are experiencing exactly the same thing. Please pass on this article to them. They'll appreciate it. 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I just started working again with a former client who has has signed on as an Investment Director of a Private Equity Firm. He's looking for established businesses who want to grow through the acquisition of other companies. 

We figured out the best method for marketing was to approach potential clients cold via LinkedIn. Other associates in his organization have done this very successfully. 

For every client he gets, the returns can be quite substantial. 

The steps are simple: 

1. Do research on LinkedIn to find the right kind of companies who might be open to this kind of help in their business. 

2. Write a rather low-key email letter that introduces them to the concept and asks them to reply.

3. Set up meetings by phone to explain in more detail how the business works and then proceed slowly but surely. 

This is what I call a Direct Outreach Marketing Method. And because it doesn't entail direct phone calls, it's not so brutal. Nevertheless, it takes many contacts and conversations to end up with a great client. 

But a lot of people shy away from this marketing method. 

Why? Because it takes an unusual amount of persistence and determination. It's a little like fishing. You show up at the fishing hole every day, spend an hour or two, and keep coming back day after day after day until you finally land "the big one." 

And many people give up on this kind of marketing after a few weeks for several reasons: 

1. The outreach is repetitive and somewhat boring. 

2. The percentage response is not high - perhaps 10% for the initial effort.

3. It takes the right message sent to the right people. 

But when it comes down to it, most marketing methods have the same chalenges. Whether you do networking, speaking or email marketing, all these methods take time, persistence and the right messages. 

The good news is that all of these methods can work if you have a complete, end-to-end system that has been tested and proven to work — if you follow the system. 

I know, this is so damn boring! It is not exciting at all.

What we want to do it just the opposite. We want to implement some magical kind of marketing juju and get a huge number of clients knocking on our doors, ready to work with us. 

I've been in business for almost 32 years, and I've never seen it happen. 

Yes, I've seen promises, magic formulas and silver bullets. What people usually want when they respond to pitches for these magic marketing formulas is very little work for a high return. 

The hype rarely matches the reality. When it comes down to it, all of these approaches to marketing take more time than you realize, are technically complex and are quite difficult to implement. 

I help my clients in a very different way. We identify the marking methods that will work best for them, turn them into turn-key systems and then support them in implementing them — one boring step at a time. 

But when that marketing method ends up doubling or tripling someone's business in a year or two, it doesn't seem so boring after all. 

Here's what I suggest you do: 

Study some reliable hands-on methods for marketing your professional services. Turn those methods into repeatable systems and persist until you get results. You may find the More Clients Club a good place to start. 

Cheers, Robert 

Do you have some friends in business who have been trying magic formulas with little results? I invite you to turn them onto my work. It's all commonsense stuff that actually works. This past week I received a book in the mail from one of my followers, Brian Bauder. He said: "Thanks again for your work. You are like a silent partner/coach. Following you has made the difference for me."

More Blog Posts...
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.