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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A few months ago my wife, Saroj, bought our granddaughter a big white ceramic piggy bank. We keep it at home, and every week when Saroj visits Collette, she brings the piggy bank and some collected change for Collette to deposit. 

Collette loves putting money into the piggy bank and she also associates it with the pleasure she gets from her grandmother visiting. 

This is a great example of cultivating the positive habit of saving early in life. 

But when Saroj tried the equivalent with me about 20 years ago, in the first year of our marriage, she faced some real resistance. She said she wanted to start moving some of our income into investments. 

I almost had a meltdown.

Why? Because I had never developed the habit of saving or investing and I felt threatened. It took some time and persuasion to get me into the investment habit. But now, 20 years later, we have a big nest egg for retirement. 

Those are two ways to develop a success habit. 

Obviously it's easier early in life. With a little support and encouragement you can learn virtually anything without a great deal of resistance. But that's too late for us, isn't it? 

It's much harder later in life to learn a new success habit. We are set in our ways, afraid of change and often don't have someone who can provide consistent support until a change is made. 

Last week, I came across a chart (below) that divides successful people from unsuccessful people. Clearly, successful people do the things the unsuccessful ones don't. So we see a chart like this and think, "Oh, I just need to follow what successful people do. How useful! I'll just stick this chart on my wall and follow what it says!"

But that's a fairy tale, isn't it? 

All those things are only symptoms of developing positive habits, usually early in life. To just start doing the things on the left side and stop doing things on the right side is virtually impossible for most of us. 

Old, unsuccessful habits are deeply ingrained. For instance, to change an unsuccessful habit to a successful one, takes at least 21 days and up to 90 days (or even more) of consistent practice. Remember when you last tried to change something that went against your old habits? Not easy, right?

Simply put, it's astoundingly difficult to change a habit. 

What I'm saying is that establishing new success habits that oppose your old, unsuccessful habits is about as likely as Donald Trump saying he's wrong about anything. 

This method of achieving success is a complete and utter waste of time, yet it's what almost everyone tries. 

We try to eat better, get more exercise and do marketing more often, but look at the results. And if we happen to change for a short period of time, we frequently revert to the old behavior in a few months. 

Is there any hope for real change?

Well, yes, but not today. I'll continue this article next week with the three most powerful and proven approaches for developing success habits. 

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Thirty one years ago this week, (August 1, 1984) I started my business in San Francisco CA. 

It's been quite a ride and sometimes I can't believe I'm still at it, as committed as ever and having a blast. 

Over the years, other than a few assistants here and there, it's been a one-man show and I proved that it's not only possible but the best kind of business and lifestyle I could imagine. 

Today I thought I'd share some advice about a few of the things I've learned along the way as an Independent Professional that's made my business more fun and more successful. 

These are in no particular order. There are no hidden meanings. 

Once you make a decision, stick to it. I learned that being indecisive really didn't make things any safer. Now when I get a good Idea, I think about it for awhile and then just go for it. 

If you happen to make a lot of money, don't buy a condo in Mexico – even if your wife thinks she can't live without it! 

Learn how to write marketing copy. It's the master skill of marketing. If you struggle with writing, you'll never reach the heights that are possible for you. 

Try lots of crazy things. I once did a thing called "Networking on the Air" where a group of people recorded introductions about their businesses and we broadcast it on a local radio station. Dumb idea but still I learned some things.

Hire a designer. If you persist in producing nondescript marketing pieces and websites you will be rewarded by very little response to your marketing.  

Make peace with the IRS. For years I paid my last year's taxes the year after. It took me a long time to catch up. If you communicate with them they're as nice as can be.

Avoid paperwork as much as possible. And to do that, create a bullet-proof filing system where you can find anything in 10 seconds (computer as well). 

Write a book. It's an amazingly powerful marketing tool. It will take a lot of time, energy and angst. Do it anyway.     

Get a cat, not a dog. They put much less demands on your time and are always there in the evenings to cuddle up with you. 

Become a jazz fan. It's so much better background music while you're working and doesn't distract you with all those inane lyrics. (Jazz playing as I write.)


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- Arthur Blythe - Down San Diego Way

Your biggest business expense should be books. Read a lot. A whole lot. When a friend recommends a book, buy it on Amazon before you hang up the phone.

Don't take yourself too seriously. No matter how brilliant you are, you're really pretty much the same as everyone else. 

Take your clients very seriously. More than anything else they want to be heard and acknowledged.

Work all night once in awhile. I wrote my first little book in one sitting overnight. That energized me for quite some time.

Find out who you are. You'll ultimately discover that you are beyond any limitations or fears that seem to run your life. 

Speak in front of groups. Speaking is the master skill of selling. If you can think on your feet, you have nothing to fear. 

Get computer savvy. I learned html from a book. It wasn't that hard. I just followed the instructions step-by-step. 

Go for the solution. Something will ultimately work to solve that intractable problem. Just don't give up looking.  

Exercise daily. This one little thing can make more difference to your health and wellbeing than anything else. 

Go for the truth. Don't assume you know until you know. The stuff we make up is an enormous mental and emotional distraction. 

Learn to get unstuck. When you're stuck you can't move one way or the other. Master getting unstuck and everything is open to you without so much struggle.

Write an eZine and blog. Content marketing is now and will continue to be the most powerful marketing approach. Actually, it always has been for Independent Professionals.  

Don't get swallowed by social media. It can consume huge amounts of time with little to show in return. 

Learn how to sell. Selling is the most misunderstood thing in business. It's mostly just listening closely and discovering your prospects' most passionate desires. 

The source of your inspiration is your clients. After every meeting with a client I come away with a handful of good ideas I can use in my business. 

If it's not fun, make it fun. Business is a game. If it's drudgery you're probably playing the wrong game. Find another one. 

Hopefully a few of these will help you a little. I hope so. Here's to the next, who knows how many, years. If I just keep following my own advice, I know I'll do fine. 

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I can't tell you how many times I've heard this comment from a client:

Client: "I'd like to set up some passive online marketing where I earned money from a product when I wasn't working. Could we do that?"

We'd all like to attract more clients primarily by "passive online marketing." That is, we'd like to have a website that brought us all the business we could handle and get the rest of our business from word-of-mouth. Ah... the good life!

After all, in "proactive marketing," you need to get yourself out there, be visible, get known, build trust and get appointments with prospects who will buy your services. 

If you had a choice, wouldn't you pick passive online marketing? I certainly would. Having your website make you money day in, day out, even while you're sleeping, is obviously what we all want.  

Well, I have news for you. 

Passive online marketing doesn't really exist. More accurately, it does exist, but it doesn't work. Putting up a website, no matter how good, how professional looking or how brilliantly written, isn't going to result in money pouring into your bank account. 

I'm not saying you can't market and sell products and services online and make good money. I've been doing this very successfully for about 18 years. 

It's called "Proactive Online Marketing"

What I'm saying is that online marketing is not passive. Successful online marketing is very proactive. It takes a lot of time, commitment and hard work. 

Anyone who is selling you the "dream of passive online marketing" is lying to you. It would be much like saying you could learn to master a musical instrument in a week or two.

No, you can't!

I know this is not good news if you hold out the hope of someday "putting your marketing on automatic" and "making money while you sleep." Sorry, it's not gonna happen! 

The good news is that if you are willing to put in the work, with time and patience you can make your proactive online marketing get substantial results for you.

Here are the 7 Essentials of Proactive Online Marketing:

1. You must have a professionally designed web site. And to do that, you need a professional. These days anyone can put together a basic website with Wordpress. But that doesn't mean it looks professional; usually it doesn't. But a good designer can use a Wordpress template and then teach you how to update it. This gives you the most flexibility at a reasonable cost. 

2. Make the primary purpose of your website (for first time visitors) to opt-in by giving you their name and email in exchange for a valuable giveaway such as an article, report or e-book. When you have their contact information you can then contact them with more information and promotional emails for products and services. Building your e-list is the most important activity if you want a successful online business. 

3. Write a really good giveaway. It's not as easy as it seems. What should it look like and what should it contain? Do this: Every time you encounter a site that asks you to opt in, then opt-in and see what they send you. Make a collection of these giveaways and notice the ones that you find the most compelling. Then emulate that kind of giveaway in both design and content. This takes work. And it's worth it. Get some design and writing help if you need it. Most do. 

4. Commit to writing a regular eZine and Blog. Share useful ideas your clients are seeking. Think of all the problems and challenges your clients have. Write about these, including real stories if possible, and lots of how-to tips, just like this article does. The readers who become clients are the ones who want help implementing those tips. So don't worry about "giving away the store." By the way, get a proofreader/editor. I started to use one when I realized I was a "typo generating machine!" 

5. Write an online sales letter for your product or service. When you do a promotion for a product or service, send your readers to your sales page. Short letters with a few bullet points don't work. You need to tell the whole story of the value of this product or service – use 2,000 words or more. A good video can work as well. 

Here's the primary content and format for such a letter (with short samples of text):

a. An attention-getting, benefit-oriented headline. This should get the attention of your ideal clients and draw them into the text. Sample: "How Leaders Like You are Increasing the Productivity and Engagement of Their Employees"

b. A one- to two-paragraph opening, clearly explaining what you're offering and for whom. Sample: "This is a 6-month program for leaders who want to upgrade their leadership skills in order increase team productivity." 

c. A section on the key issues or problems facing your prospective clients. Keep it to three paragraphs. Sample: "If you're a leader you know how challenging it can be to get your employees producing at their highest level."

d. A section on the outcomes they want instead of the issues and problems they have. Again, keep it to three paragraphs. Sample:  "When you've mastered the key leadership skills you'll be able to inspire and motivate your team to consistently perform at a higher level." 

e. An overview of the product or service you are offering that will get the prospect the outcome they want. Sample: "The Ultimate Leader Program was designed for leaders who want more from their employees (without burning out)."  

f. A section on what makes your product or service unique or different. Explain why they are special and effective. Sample: "This program stands out from other leadership programs in these three important ways:"

g. A section with several key benefits of your program in the form of two-sentence "bullet paragraphs," not short bullet points. Sample:  "• You'll take your leadership to new heights. By mastering these leadership skills, the productivity of your team or company will increase measurably."

h. A section with the structure of your product or service. This outlines the format or external details. Sample: "This program will be held as a series of six, half-day workshops."

i. A list of bonuses. By offering additional value, you increase the chances that someone will buy your product or service. Sample: "In addition to this program you'll receive these three free bonuses:" 

j. A section on whether or not this product or service is right for them. Outline all the key advantages. Sample: "This program is for you if you want to learn how to get beyond average productivity."

k. Close and call-to-action. Without a call-to-action that tells them what to do next, they will not act. Sample: "If you feel this program is right for you, simply click on the link below." 

l. Some testimonial quotes that talk about actual results they've gotten with your program. Sample: "Before this program I always seemed to be fighting my employees; now we're truly working together as a team to produce consistently great results."

By the way, you want a good subhead for each of these sections as an intro to the section.  

Writing a good sales letter is an art. Most sales letters fail to sell. To ensure that they do sell, get some help from a writer experienced with sales letters, using this outline. 

6. Do pre-promotion before you email a link to your sales letter. Instead, via email, offer a free teleclass, webinar or video that talks about the concepts and key benefits of the program. This generates initial interest without the pressure to buy. Don't sell yet! But announce the launch date in a week or two. 

7. Launch your product or service with a well-written, but fairly short email that points to your online sales letter. The sales letter then does the "heavy lifting" and persuades your prospects to take action. This works really well with a relatively inexpensive product or service. With a high-end service, instead, offer a "strategy session" where you talk to prospects about your service and explore if it's right for them. And then sign them up if they're ready. 

This is essentially the proactive online marketing plan I've used for all my online products and services for the past 18 years – for the InofGuru Marketing Manual, Marketing Action Groups, The More Clients Club and the Marketing Mastery Program. And the results have been excellent. 

This approach works, but it is definitely not passive! It takes a certain amount of time, effort, and trial and error to develop and implement all 7 steps successfully. 

Most people implement these steps randomly, incompletely or simply poorly. That won't get you the results you want in online marketing. 

Once I explain all of this to my clients, they often respond with: "Well, maybe I ought to start by getting my website up to snuff and then do some networking and speaking before I attack online marketing." 

Good idea! Build a solid foundation for your marketing first and you're much more likely to succeed with online marketing. 

Cheers, Robert M.

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By Robert Middleton  – Action Plan Marketing 

When I wrote my email newsletter last week, I gave it the headline: "What Marketing Identity is Holding You Back?" 

I thought it was one of my stronger articles, but it didn't get a good open rate - about 1,000 less than usual. 

So asked  myself: What if the problem was the subject line? And I decided it was time to refresh my skills in writing them. I did an online search to discover what makes a good subject line and what made a poor one. And I investigated how I could write better subject lines that got more opens.

I found a lot of articles through a Google search, and the best one I found was titled: "The Best 17 Email Subject lines for Increasing Open Rates" by Amanda MacArthur.

It was based on extensive research by a group of top marketing professionals from several companies. And it also included a one-hour webinar recording where the experts talked about their favorite subject lines – the ones that consistently performed the best.

In today's article, I'm going to summarize some of these approaches to subject lines. But first I'll talk about why subject lines are so important if you want to get more people to open and read the emails you send. 

Why subject lines are so important

A subject line is essentially the same as a headline used for an advertisement, an article or promotional text for a product or service. It's what gets someone to read your email.

But how important is the subject line or headline? According to Don Nicholas, the managing director of Mequoda Group, extensive testing of subject lines has proven that the subject line itself is responsible for up to 75% of the results from an email. 

Why is this? It's because if you have a poor subject line, fewer people will open and read your email, and if you have a good subject line, many more people will open and read your email. It's as simple as that. 

Also remember, subject lines are used in emails but also appear at the top of blog posts. A good subject line in a blog will get the post found more often via Google. You want to phrase your subject lines in a way that your ideal clients might search for. Of course, your subject lines will include important keywords used by your ideal clients.

By the way, nobody can tell you exactly what a good or acceptable open rate is. It depends on so many things such as the age of your list, how often you send out emails etc. Your aim is to improve the open rates you currently have, no matter what that is.  

Since email is so important in marketing today, subject lines can make the difference between success and failure in your marketing. 

What elements in a subject line result in more opens?

The answer to this goes back to the fundamentals of marketing. Ultimately people are interested in one thing over everything else: "What's in it for me?" 

To accomplish this, your subject lines should convey benefits, arouse curiosity, point to ideas that are useful, suggest solutions to problems and offer easy but powerful ways to get something done or make happen.

Out of the 17 subject line approaches outlined in the above-mentioned article, the following five were cited most often as being consistently effective.  

1. The How To Email Subject Line

This old standby is tried and true. As long as what you are writing about is of interest to those on your list, it will get a better open rate (relative to poor subject lines). Subject lines like this point to a particular strategy or approach that you've successfully used yourself or with clients. People are always looking for new ways to do something. 

– How to turn managers into leaders who transform companies

– How to help your clients get results in half the time

– How to get more of your priority projects done in less time

Remember to spare your readers the hype. Make sure you deliver on what you've promised in the body of the email or this approach can backfire. 

2. The List Email Subject Line

Use this when you have a list of things to share with your readers. People like lists because they are compact, organized and easy to absorb. We like to put things into organized systems that are easy to remember and apply, and List subject lines make that promise.  

– The 7 ways management consultants can increase their fees

– 10 proven strategies manufactures use to decrease costs

– The 3 key ideas that will make your brand more magnetic

The list approach works much the same as the how-to approach - It raises immediate curiosity and interest. You want to know what those 7, 3 or 10 tips or ideas are so you can apply them to yourself and your business. 

3. The Fascination Email Subject Line

This is when you have something that is unusual or unique you want to introduce to your readers. You see this kind of subject line on the web with those little ads at the bottom of the page: "Try this weird little tip to eliminate belly fat in a month." But you can use the fascination approach and still look yourself in the mirror in the morning!

– Discover the most effective ways to turn prospects into clients

– The leadership discovery that is transforming organizations

– How this discovery dramatically increased my client's profitability

The words "discover or discovery" are very effective at triggering curiosity. The word "secrets" however has been overused and no longer gets quite the response it used to. 

4. The Targeted Email Subject Line

This is a subject line that mentions your ideal clients. A subject line line like this effectively says to your idea clients, "This is for you." The format is often: "______" [Topic] for "______" [Target Audience]. You don't want to overdo this. For instance, If I always used the phrase "Independent Professionals" in my subject you'd probably get irritated. But if used judiciously, it's very effective. Also, notice that this kind of subject line can be included in a How To subject line and a List subject line.

– Social Media best practices for business coaches

– Blogging strategies for software companies

– Leadership essentials for the printing industry

Remember, any time you point to your ideal clients in a subject line, there's no guessing whether it's for them or not. You can also target specific issues or challenges: 

– Timesavers for really busy people.  

– Authentic marketing for people who hate to sell. 

– Low-stress communication approaches for introverted people 

5. The Reason Why Email Subject Line

In Reason Why subject lines you intrigue the reader with the promise of learning why a certain approach, technique or strategy is valid. You can often pair this with a List subject line. Use this when you want to explain something many people don't understand and need to understand. 

– 5 reasons why manipulative selling actually reduces sales

– 7 reasons why an email newsletter is a marketing necessity

– 10 reasons why most leadership training doesn't work

All of these stimulate interest and response. The issue is brought up in the email subject line and piques our curiosity. "What exactly are those reasons?" we think, and find ourselves opening the email. 

Bonus: The Urgency Email Subject line

This one is tricky. It can work really well or backfire on you. If you are always making things urgent, especially in a promotional email, it starts to ring false. But if you have a real deadline, an Urgency headline is appropriate.

– Final Notice for Article Writing Course

– The Early-Bird Fee for this program ends tomorrow

– Last Chance to get your three program bonuses

I used the first one above last week. Sent on Monday, the course started the day after, so it really was the final notice. And it did result in many people signing up at the last minute. You don't have to be over-the-top or manipulative. In fact, explaining the purpose of your urgency in a matter-of-fact style gets less resistance and more readership.  

A few things not to do in writing subject lines. 

Above all else, don't lie or exaggerate. If you have something legitimate to discuss or have a product or service that you stand behind 100%, then a subject line that stimulates curiosity and readership is a good thing. You don't need to use hype.

Don't make your subject lines boring. "You can't bore someone into doing business with you." - David Ogilvy

Write write your subject lines too quickly without taking these ideas into account. By spending just a few more minutes creating a subject line that stimulates curiosity, and addresses the self-interest of your ideal clients, you'll almost always increase your open rates. 

Don't be clever or cryptic. I've seen lot of clever or cryptic subject lines that were all about the subject line itself, not what the subject line was pointing to. Also, the words easy, fun, hot, cool, amazing, jaw-dropping, shocking etc. don't really say much and only add to the perception that your email is hype.   

Don't fail to track the results of your subject lines. Create a little chart with your subject lines and your open rates (which you can find in your email management program such as AWeber or Mail Chimp) and see if you can discover the subject line approaches that work the best. What gets measured improves.

Turn subject line writing into a project

Make it a goal to increase the effectiveness of your subject lines for email newsletters, promotional emails and blogs. You'll get more attention, spark curiosity, get more readers to absorb your content, and ultimately attract more of your ideal clients.  

Cheers, Robert M.

P.S. Using these principles, I changed the subject line of last week's article from, "What Marketing Identity is Holding You Back?" to: "How Professionals Can Get Beyond Impostor Syndrome." Tell me what you think of the difference.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

"What's holding you back from marketing your consulting services?" I asked my client. 

After a long, in-depth conversation, we discovered it. 

"I believe I'm an impostor," she told me. "I really don't think of myself as an expert, despite all my credentials and experience. And as a result, I don't want to tell anyone about my services because ultimately they'll discover I'm an impostor." 

Once we talked a little more and I'd done some digging, it became very clear that she wasn't an impostor at all. She just felt like one. 

Fluent in three languages and a leadership consultant in a major European city, her colleagues regarded her as an amazing networker who made great connections. But she kept holding herself back, waiting to "be invited" instead of putting herself out there. 

Very few of her business connections even understood what services she offered. 

In the two weeks between our marketing coaching sessions she started doing things that were completely out of character. She initiated conversations. She listened and explained what she could do for her clients. One of these conversations resulted in an invitation to lecture in another city. 

The identity of impostor, like a great weight, had lifted off her shoulders and she wasn't just feeling better about marketing herself, she was exuberant. She started to see unlimited possibilities in her business. 

I've witnessed similar situations many times when clients realize an identity they've been holding on to (often for years) is simply a fearful thought or belief with no real substance. 

My questions helped to reveal the identity as an "imaginary construct," not a provable fact. This type of identification with an identity is a little like adamantly insisting we're poor when actually, we have a million dollars in the bank. 

This is not rare, in fact almost everyone has an issue with false identities. That is, we think we are one thing when in fact we are, more often than not, exactly the opposite. 

• We think we are unattractive when we are really quite attractive.

• We think we are ignorant when we are very knowledgeable.

• We think we are poor communicators when we communicate brilliantly. 

• We think we don't have value when our clients receive tremendous value from us.

• We think we don't have time when we have huge unbooked spaces in our calendars. 

I encounter these perceptions all the time with my clients. They tell me how they feel limited, incapable, inadequate or not good enough. But I never buy it. 

When we look closely, we never find that self. We find thoughts, feelings and actions. We might find beliefs, avoidance and fears, but we never find that identity. It's just not there. 

Instead, what I find is capability, caring, passion, and intelligence. I find people who make a difference with their clients, love what they do and are committed to excellence. I rarely find impostors. 

But the attachment to a limited identity like this can be quite tenacious. And the cost of holding onto this identity is high: lack of success, playing small, avoiding putting yourself out there. 

The payoff can be even stronger than the cost. The imaginary identity is a conditioned pattern that feels safe and comfortable. An identity is much like clothing we've worn for years and years. It's faded, threadbare and unattractive, while at the same time also familiar and safe. 

I suggested to my client that believing she was an impostor had outworn its usefulness. Perhaps once it served her and kept her safe. But now it was only a liability, holding her back and keeping her from actualizing her potential. 

When she really got that, the impostor identity simply dropped away. And it its place she found her authentic identity, her natural enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference. Her smile and excitement during our second session were contagious.

What old, limited identity are you sill clutching onto for dear life? Look more closely and you may discover that it's not much more than smoke and mirrors, an illusion to keep you entrenched in your comfort zone.

Tell the truth about that identity. Bring it out into the light and you may discover that it has no substance or reality. And at the same time you may realize your true identity: ever-present awareness, always shining radiantly in the background.

Cheers, Robert M.

Have you ever found yourself thinking you were an imposter? If you'd like to share this eZine article with anyone, or make comments, just click on the links below


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Ross Blake, a client of mine in New York State, is having pretty amazing results every time he gives a talk. 

At the end, he asks the participants if they'd like a copy of his article as he holds it up. Hands shoot into the air and then he collects business cards on average, from 92% of the HR professionals in attendance. 

He leaves every event with a pocket full of cards, sends them his article and then follows up the next week to explore working with them. He's now starting to build a roster of happy clients. 

I've pointed out endless times that simply having a good article or report to give prospects is the number one way to generate leads for your business. 

Why does it work so well? 

Once you have a prospective client's attention – on your website, after a talk, or even when meeting someone in person – if they show some interest in your services, the very next thing they want is more information. 

And if you don't have that information available, you immediately handicap yourself. For instance...

– If a prospect goes to your website and you don't have an article to download, the chances are high they'll go away and never visit your website again. 

– If you don't offer an article at the end of a talk, you'll get very few cards to follow up with. 

– And if you don't have an article to offer to someone you meet in person, then you make it harder to re-connect later.

If you have an article and are using it like this, great!

But if not, let me ask, "Why you don't have one?" 

I've talked to a whole lot of people about their articles and here are some of the most common reasons I hear: 

1. I don't know what to write.

2. I'm just not a good writer.

3. If I write the wrong article then it will backfire on me.

4. I'll write it, but I have to get it perfect.

5. Nobody will read it anyway, so why bother? 

Ultimately, these reasons (and many others) are just expressions of fear. We are afraid of doing something wrong or failing at it, so we avoid it. 

And the costs of this avoidance are high. Ultimately, if you don't have an article, you'll generate fewer prospects and less new business. 

There is nothing else than can magically change that fact. 

You MUST have an article! (in my humble opinion)

So how do you get this article written? Here are a few ways to help you and to eliminate your excuses:

1. Make it a "Core Issue Article," that is, an article that gives an overview of the primary things your clients are struggling and need help with. This is quite different than a "Single Issue Article" on a narrower topic.

2. A good format for this is a "7 Mistakes Article" that shows you understand the issues your clients are experiencing and proves you can help them with those issues. Include some actual client stories or examples. 

3. Search on Google for articles like this that you can emulate. Find a few that cover similar issues as you do. Use them to inspire you to put your own spin on the issue.

4. Hire an editor. Once you have the basic idea for an article and a first rough draft, get an editor to tune it up for you. This way, you'll ensure a professional product. 

5. Take a course. If you still don't feel ready to get started, get some step-by-step instruction on writing an article. Get the information you need and support in actually getting it written. 

Starting next week I'm doing a 3-session course on how to write a Core Issue Article. It starts on July 14 - next Tuesday. So if you can't seem to get around to writing that article, this might be a good course to attend. The fee is $49. The link with details is:

Ultimately we get unstuck and into action when we realize the cost of delay is so much higher than the possibility of failure if we do take action. 

I've never met anyone who regretted getting that article written (and learning how to write other articles). I invite you to take action now to move your business and marketing forward. 

Cheers, Robert M.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

For the past 30 years I've had problems with lower back pain. I won't go into all the gory details here, but suffice to say, it's been a real distraction in my life to be in pain most of the time. 

Sitting (which I do a lot of) makes it worse. I recently got a computer stand that allows me to raise my computer and work at it standing, which definitely helps. 

And I've done every kind of modality you can imagine – various types of massage, chiropractic, somatic work, acupuncture, etc. All helped a little but not a lot. Ibuprophen has reduced the intensity, but usually not enough. 

On May 16, about six weeks ago, I tried something different. 

I sat down with my Unstuck Process to see If there was anything I was believing that was in the way of healing my back. My expectations were not high, but as the pain had increased in intensity over the past few months, I had nothing to lose. 

I won't go through all the steeps of the process (which are essentially a series of 12 questions) but when I got down to the Core Belief that was holding things in place, what I wrote down was:

"I'm helpless" 

Now, I've never thought of myself as a helpless person. But it was very clear that regarding my back, that's how I felt. And when you feel helpless, you act like a victim, you don't do much to change anything and you just hope something miraculous will happen someday. 

This simple realization that I was stuck in this limiting belief was like a wake up call. Suddenly I didn't feel helpless anymore. I felt empowered and excited. 

So I grabbed my iPad and searched on YouTube for "exercises for lower back pain." And in about a minute I found a video that showed a complete exercise routine for stretching and strengthening my back. 

To make a long story short, I've done that 15-minute exercise routine every single morning for six weeks and my pain has reduced by about 90%! Not only that, but I'm feeling stronger, more energetic and certainly not helpless anymore. 

When I'm working with clients these days, often the first thing we work on is identifying any stuckness they have about marketing and selling. And that then makes all the subsequent work I do with clients so much easier and effective. 

As you probably know, marketing tends to bring up a lot of fears and resistance. The amazing thing is that once you identify the Core Belief underneath all of that, the fears and resistance just dissolve without effort. And most often you'll feel a surge of energy and aliveness you haven't experienced in years. 

But it's also important that you take action immediately. Now that you don't feel stuck anymore, it's essential that you do some work on the thing you've been resisting. Almost always you'll experience a freedom and lightness about that area, where before you only experienced resistance. 

This is what happened to me with my helpless belief related to my back pain. And it's also worked wonders for many other areas in my life and business where I simply don't get stuck anymore. Resistance has been replaced by ease.

There are many areas of marketing you can work on, but I believe nothing is more important or more powerful than first learning how to get unstuck and past your resistance.  

If you don't yet have my book, The Unstuck Process, you can get the free ebook here: or you can just download the worksheet if you like:

Oh yeah, and if you happen to have back problems, you might want to try the exercise routine I found:

Finally, if you are a successful Independent Professional, but for whatever reason, are stuck in your marketing, I can help you get unstuck and into action and help you take your business to a whole new level of success. Details here:

Cheers, Robert M.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A couple years ago I got the "Dread Email."

It was from a past client who had done my 9-month marketing program, and he was asking for his money back. 

My stomach sank as I read his email accusing me of not delivering what I had promised in the program he'd attended about two years before. He was not succeeding and was blaming it on me. 

So I dug into my files and learned a few things.

First he had missed more sessions of the program than anyone else. He had never completed his website despite extensive coaching on it, and I also learned that he showed up sporadically for his mastermind group sessions. In other words he had done "his program" not "my program."

Since he had not lived up to his part of the bargain, I explained this to him and ultimately did not offer a refund. 

Will this ever happen to you? I hope not, but you can reduce the chances of having a dissatisfied client if you are focused on client success. 

Client success means helping your clients reach the goals they hired you to help them achieve. A big part of the responsibility lies with the coach/consultant/mentor, but it also lies with the client. When you contract to work with a client you should make clear who is responsible for doing what in the relationship. 

So below I've summarized some ideas as to what the coach/consultant/mentor can do. I've also made some suggestions for clients, too.

Here are what I see as the key responsibilities for any coach/consultant/mentor:

1. To tell the truth and be real about what I can and cannot do to help a client. Many people are tempted to exaggerate a bit, but I've ultimately found that underselling is a better approach. Clients already have high expectations and often feel that the coach/consultant/mentor will have "The Answer." Instead, I assure them that we can find the answers together and that they'll have to do a lot of work to get the success they want. 

2. To keep things in present time, not too far into the future. Some clients spend a lot of time looking to the future and imagining the results they'll get or sometimes imagining how difficult the process will be. But this can be distracting. My question is always, "What do we need to work on now to move you one step forward in your marketing?"

3. To be accessible and available. Nothing bugs a client more than not being able to reach you. This happened to me recently when a client's emails were not being accepted by my email system. I devised a work-around, but it wasn't enough and I ultimately lost the client. My goal is to respond to client emails within one to three hours. It really doesn't take a lot of time to fit this in between appointments. 

5. To provide resources and support systems. It's unusual if I don't point a client to a valuable resource in our sessions together. Sometimes it's an article or blog post (mine or someone else's), a recording or video, or an interview or other resource in the More Clients Club. My clients are looking for how-to's, strategies and systems. We can't always go into those in depth in a session, so these resources add a lot of value.  

4. To take a stand for your client's success. I often work with clients who have been struggling with their marketing for a long time without much success. They are stuck and often don't feel hopeful or optimistic, and their efforts are often sporadic. But I wouldn't have taken them on if I didn't feel they had great potential. So I do everything possible to be encouraging, celebrate small wins and tell stores of clients who went though exactly what they're going through now. 

And here is what a client can do to increase the chances of success:

1. To attend each session committed to get value. You'll do this if you've made it a high priority. If you think of the coaching or program as "just something to get through" you won't do the work required to get the results you want.  I'm still somewhat surprised when clients (and more often) group participants simply don't show up for sessions. They clearly haven't taken woody Allen's sage advice: "80% of success is just showing up." 

2. To take responsibility for taking action. After every client meeting and after every group session I lead, I assign homework. Sometimes quite a bit of homework! It's the client's job to find the time to get that homework done. I try to emphasize that the value in the program is not mostly in our sessions together, but in practicing what you learn. To grow you must face failure. 

3. To stay in touch with your coach/consultant/mentor. I typically conduct client sessions every two weeks. This gives them enough time to work on the assignment they received. But at the end of each session I ask clients to "send me an email if they have any questions." That's an important part of my service. If the same benefit is made available to you, then take advantage of it, especially if you're stuck and are not sure what to do next. 

4. To be demanding of your coach/consultant/mentor. This is not a passive process where you just listen to your coach, try to do what they say and leave it at that. No, you want to be much more proactive. If you're not getting what you need, let them know. If you want more challenge, tell them. Ultimately it's you who is responsible for your results. But you'll get a higher level of results if you really demand the support you deserve. 

5. To be complete with the process once you're done. Do this by having a closing discussion with your coach/consultant mentor. Talk about what results you've achieved and what worked and didn't work. Acknowledge them for the support they gave you. And also write them a "client impact letter" telling your coach/consultant/mentor what results you got as a consequence of working with them. This really completes things and reminds you of the value you received. 

I hope you've found these guidelines useful. If you follow them (both coach/consultant/mentor and client), you can expect to see a consistently higher level of results. 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

As I've said a zillion times, most marketing is random.

Most professionals don't have a step-by-step system for attracting clients, despite the fact that this is the only approach that works. So they just do marketing activities in a random, unplanned way. 

But an organized system can be very free-form in the way you connect with initial prospects. There are probably hundreds of ways to do this.

The name I've given my system is "Stream-of-Business Marketing."

Stream-of-business marketing relates to every connection you make every day. For example, you might meet someone at a networking event or connect with a couple sitting beside you at a restaurant. You may be having a conversation with an existing client, or get a message by email or through Facebook.

None of these connections were planned, they just happened.

The thing all of these stream-of-business connections have is that every one of them has the potential to be a new client (or a new service for an existing client). The thing is, we often don't take advantage of those connections. We might talk, exchange cards or emails, but most of us don't take the proactive steps to move things forward.

I had been working with a number clients in a group program a few years ago and kept emphasizing how we can take advantage of these stream-of-business connections if we are mindful of the situation and the opportunities.  

The first one happened when G.G. was at the doctor's office and struck up a conversation with a fellow patient in the waiting room – something she usually wouldn't have done. One thing led to another and she followed up with the patient, ultimately got a meeting and turned that meeting into a new paying client.

The other one was similar. J.K. met someone at the business center of a hotel and asked him if he was attending the same conference as my client was. The answer was yes, and the conversation continued with learning more about each other. In a few minutes my client had a business card and an appointment the following week. 

What's important to note is that both connections were tied together by affiliations. These fellow patients and conference attendees had something in common. But even more importantly, they were able to turn a random stream-of-business connection into something more because their "organized marketing system" kicked into action.

Perhaps just as important is what they didn't do. They didn't have just a "pleasant conversation" that went nowhere. When they saw an opportunity, they explored more and took action. 

A similar thing happened to me earlier this year. I had heard that someone in my network had just been interviewed for a podcast. So I listened to the podcast which I thought was very good. Then I asked myself, "Why not ask this person to interview me?" One email later and we had set up the interview. This person had known of me for years and was thrilled to do the interview. 

And almost every week when working with a client who is struggling with writing copy for a website or article, I ask, "Why don't you let me write that for you and get it done in a week instead of several weeks?" They invariably respond positively. 

The thing to understand is that these stream-of-business opportunities happen ALL the time if we are tuned into them. Instead of holding back, we can reach out and engage someone right then and there. 

Here are the steps when you make these kind of connections:

1. Strike up a conversation and spend more time listening than talking. When you find things in common, the conversation is engaging and you will build trust.

2. Ask what what the other person does for a living before they ask you what you do. Be interested, not interesting. Find out about their business. And hold yourself back from talking about your business too quickly.

3. When they ask about your business, use a good audio logo with "a hook." For instance, "I work with big companies who are missing One Big Thing that's preventing them from succeeding at an even higher level." The hook almost forces someone to ask what that one big thing is.

4. If they show some interest, continue the conversation, still avoiding talking too much about your services. If you do talk, the best thing is to tell a success story or two: "A recent client started to apply that one big thing and went from no profit to 20% profit in less than a year."

5. Now the big key: Don't just exchange cards and hope something will happen. No! Set it up so that you can follow up later. And the best way to do that is by offering an article: "I wrote an article about this called, 'The One Big Mistake Companies Make and Seven Ways They Can Correct It.' Can I send you a copy?"

6. Then follow up a few days later: "Hey, this is Robert, I sent you that article on the One Big Mistake. I wondered if there were some things in that article that you could relate to your business?" Then continue the conversation to see if this person is a qualified prospect or not. Then, finally...

7. Offer them a "Complimentary Big Thing Strategy Session" where you'll explore their current situation, their goals and vision and the challenges they are currently facing. And of course, you'll also let them know about your services that help companies with that One Big Thing.

You can turn random connections into meetings with qualified prospects by following this step-by-step strategy. To make this work, you need to be prepared with listening skills, an audio logo, an article or report, a call-to-action and a strategy session.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

When I started my business, I was deathly afraid to ask. I'd get cards from prospective clients but rarely followed up with them. Because, of course, I thought I'd be rejected. Just the thought of that made me feel terrible. I was OK talking to people and sharing about my business and giving talks, but when it came to the action step of asking for a meeting, I often either froze or bumbled my way through the ask.

This one simple (but seemingly impossible) thing held me back in my business for several years. It cost me a lot in terms of new clients as well as my feeling of self-worth. 

Why does asking seem so hard? What is it about just the thought of asking that puts people into "avoidance mode?" Since asking is such a key component of successful marketing and selling, I knew I had to solve this issue of asking-avoidance once and for all.

So I embarked on a multi-year study to discover how to ask without being afraid or anticipating getting rejected. 

I ultimately discovered a few things. There are at least three strategies that will reduce one's fear of asking. They all work. In fact, they make asking quite easy. And in combination, these strategies even work better. Follow them and you'll dramatically increase your ability to ask without fear. 

Strategy #1 - Prepare your materials and your processes

It can be very hard to ask if you're not confident about what you're offering. You need to do the work to create a decent report, some marketing materials, a presentation, or an approach for that first meeting or selling conversation. 

In other words, if you are not prepared, it's hard to ask. This is why I always put so much emphasis on first developing good marketing materials and processes before doing anything else. 

Once you've done your preparation, your confidence soars. You'll become much more excited about sharing your report, your talk and your services with someone else. 

But what do you actually say when you ask? 

Strategy #2 - Script your asks.

Often, people tell me, "I just don't know what to say when asking for something. I feel awkward and stupid so I simply avoid doing it."

What you want is to create basic "asking scripts" for certain situations. Some of the most common ones are:

Asking if you can give someone something (such as your report).

Asking if you can give a talk to an organization

Asking if you can write an article for a publication

Asking to give your report away after a talk or presentation

Asking if you can follow-up with someone for a short meeting 

Asking for a time to meet with someone for a strategy session

Asking if someone would like to work with you

Here are the basic asking scripts for all of these:

"I have a report that I think you'll find interesting. Can I send you a copy?"

"I give a talk to organizations like yours on the topic of X. Can I send you some information on that talk?"

"I write articles that I think your readership might be interested in. Can I send you a few samples of my articles?"

"I have a report that goes into more depth about what we covered today. Can you please put your hand up if you'd like a copy."

"I think talking a little more would be valuable for both of us. Can we find a time to meet by phone?"

"I'm confident I can help you with your business. Can we set up a  complimentary Strategy Session? 

"I'd love to work with you. Do you feel my program/service is right for you right now?"

No kidding – it's that simple. The first statement confidently puts forward the idea that you have something they will probably be interested in. And then the follow-up question is a simple call-to-action based on permission (Can I send you…). You can adapt any of these to your unique situation.

This kind of simple ask gets a very high response rate.

Strategy #3 - Work with your limiting, fearful beliefs

If you are still hesitating to ask – to offer the report, to follow-up for a meeting, or to close the sale – *after* you have both prepared your materials and processes and developed a simple asking script – then your inability to ask is likely based of fear. 

The fear of rejection, disapproval and being judged are triggered in many people just at the thought of asking. This fear comes from some experience in the past; it has nothing to do with the present situation. 

They are connected in your mind, but not in reality. 

Asking reminds you of some time in the past where you asked and were rejected, put down, ridiculed or shamed. You don't want that experience again, so avoidance seems like the better choice. 

I've talked about this for years, but I've learned that the most powerful way to get beyond this kind of stuckness is to identify and work with the "Core Beliefs" that keep getting triggered. 

Your core beliefs are almost always an "I am" statement or an "I am not" statement. Some of the most common ones are:

I am not good enough

I am a failure

I am unworthy

I don't make a difference

I'm not lovable/likeable

I am not important or experienced enough

I am not smart or adequate enough

Remember, these are core beliefs, not surface beliefs. Surface beliefs such as "I don't have enough time," "I'm not ready yet," "I don't want to be an interruption," or "I don't want to be pushy," are all smokescreens for the core belief.

How do you get beyond your Core Belief? 

You ask a lot of questions of yourself to undermine and counteract that belief. If you punch enough holes in the story the Core Belief is pitching to you, ultimately it will let go of you. Here are some examples:

It that really true? Can I be sure I'll be rejected?

Isn't this belief from the past once true, but irrelevant now?

What's the worst that could happen if I asked?

Is it really going to be as awful as I think it is?

Can't I survive a little disapproval if it happens?

Isn't it just as likely that they'll be interested?

Who would I be if I couldn't believe that core belief anymore?

What are some of the good things that could happen if I asked?

Clients who have done this kind of inquiry frequently discover that their fear is almost always worse than the reality. They make calls, set up appointments and ask for the sale and are often surprised, even shocked when their prospects say yes!

So, find your core belief (or two) and start asking, and see if your fear begins to diminish and your confidence and results start to soar.

Bonus – A LIttle Exercise

I was talking to my colleague Nick Pfennigwerth before I started writing this article, and he asked me if I knew about the "Coffee Challenge."

The Coffee Challenge, he told me, was a simple exercise for getting past the fear of asking. What you do is go into a coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee. When the sales clerk tells you the price, you ask if she can give you a 10% discount. 

Now, she will do it or not. But with this little insignificant ask, you confront your fear of asking and being rejected. And you also realize that the worst that can happen is she'll say "no." Could you survive that?"

I'll bet you can.

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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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.