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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Here's a scenario I imagined today...

It's twenty years from now, and I'm in my mid 80's. My granddaughter, Colette, now 24, is considering starting her own consulting practice. 

That might be rather young to become an independent professional, you'd think, but she's brilliant, a quick learner and bilingual. She graduated from university with honors and excelled in the field of cross cultural communication. 

Before she goes on to graduate school, she wants to spend some time in the real world, working with companies to test her thesis on "Cross Cultural Communication in a Growingly Diverse Workforce."

She takes me out to lunch on my 85th birthday and asks me the following question: "I know what I want to offer to companies, but I need to know more how to market to these companies. Since you're one of the world experts on this topic I thought you'd have some good advice. Can you help me?" 

I smiled broadly, wondering how I can condense the most important learnings about marketing I've absorbed over the past fifty years.

This is what I tell her: 

1. It's a lot easier, more effective and fun if you practice marketing your services as if you're playing a game.

A game is where you make one thing more important than any other thing and put your focus solely on that. The game is to simply discover how to get that one thing (new clients) with the least amount of time and effort. 

You don't think of getting what you want as a problem, a dire predicament or tiresome slog. You think of it as a challenging exploration. You try things, test things, add things and subtract things until you find strategies and tactics that work consistently. 

By the way, you don't have to invent everything you do to reach your goal. It isn't cheating to research, learn from others and get feedback. In fact, if you don't do these things, you severely limit yourself. One of my first questions in the game is, "Who else has done this successfully?"

2. Playing a game successfully takes careful study, planning, practice and execution. 

I've given clients, in similar situations, very detailed information for implementing a marketing strategy. Some succeed wildly; others barely got started. What do the successful ones do?

Those who succeed study the strategy closely and often examine additional information. Then they spend some time planning exactly how and when they will do it. They practice the strategy (a marketing message, phone call or presentation) until they feel comfortable with it. Finally, they roll it out and fine tune the strategy until it gets consistent results. 

Sound complicated? Well, it can be a fair amount of work, but this is what all successful professionals do. They don't wing it. They work at getting very good at it.

3. The essence of the marketing game is to build trust with prospective clients until they feel comfortable working with you. 

What few people realize is that, in many cases, trust can be established almost immediately. You can achieve this with: An authentic connection, relevant information, a good testimonial, or a sample of what you can do.

When trust is established, your goal is to increase trust by asking a prospective client to take the next step towards working with you. You might ask for a conversation, to attend a presentation (talk, webinar, etc), or a watch a video. But you must ask without manipulation or coercion. 

Ultimately, trust is built when you show sincere interest in someone. If you don't care about people and just want to sell them your services, they will meet your efforts with indifference or resistance.

4. Qualities such as perseverance, patience, listening, empathy and acceptance dramatically increase your chance of succeeding at the game. 

When I'm speaking to a prospective client, I'm not worried if they don't understand principles one through three yet; those can all be learned. But without these key qualities, people will find it very hard to become proficient at marketing.  

Those who don't persevere, give up too easily. Those who are impatient get frustrated, even angry. Those who don't listen will not learn what needs to be learned. Those who have little empathy will find it hard to build trust. And those who find it hard to accept things as they are will become complainers and victims.

Building these qualities takes the maturity that experience brings. Of course, few people are masters of these qualities. But they must be committed to practicing them. If they don't, success at marketing is going to be extraordinarily difficult.

I go through these points slowly and carefully with Colette as she listens with rapt attention, taking notes.

When I'm done, she says, "Well, Umja," (her pet name for me) that is a lot to learn and absorb. I hope I can remember it all."

I reply: "Not a problem, sweet one. Since you told me you wanted to talk to me about this over lunch, I went back to an article I wrote 20 years ago and printed it out for you."

I reach into my bag and handed this article to her. And I also give her a copy of my book, Marketing Ball, that I had published almost 30 years ago. 

"What's in this book is as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Read it carefully and follow what it says, and I have no doubt you'll attract as many clients as you want."

Cheers, Robert

Here's a quick graphic of today's ezine/blog from Paula Hansen of Chart Magic. Check out her website and services

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Many years ago I remember applying to the Art Academy in San Francisco. I wanted to take some classes and improve my design skills. 

I was already designing business identities, brochures and fliers. I thought I was pretty good at it. My clients even paid me well. 

But the Art Academy rejected my application. It made me furious and resentful; every time I thought of the incident I fumed. 

Many things that seem like small things are actually big things. And one of those small/big things is…

Disapproval. 

Look, I admit it. I wanted approval. I wanted to belong, be admired, be noticed and accepted.

And I didn't just want it, I wanted it more than anything else. Disapproval meant I had been cast out, shunned, ridiculed and shamed. 

When the Art Academy rejected me, I felt awful. 

It hurt. It stung. 

And so whenever I faced the possibility of disapproval, or any kind of rejection, I tended to shy away. "Better to not get what I want than to get rejected and hurt," I thought.

There's nothing wrong with wanting something. It's the very first impulse in life, in fact – to want milk, to satisfy hunger. 

And wants expand from there. We want more things, we want to play, do exciting things and spend time with certain people. 

We most certainly didn't want the word, 'no.' We wanted an endless stream of 'yeses' to meet our every desire. And when we didn't get a yes, we threw a snit fit. 

But sometimes those snit fits backfired and we were punished. Our parents and teachers told us how to behave and how not to be selfish. Always wanting things, asking for things, was educated out of us.

But if we pressed our case, we sometimes got our way or always got our way. Perhaps we turned into an egotistical, narcissist bully. We all know what that looks like. 

But most of us learned how not to rock the boat and ask for too much. 

We learned how to play it safe and get what we wanted on the sly. We learned how to be creative and independent – to get some of the things we wanted without having a snit fit. 

So we started our own business and became excited that we could do what we wanted and exercise our independence. 

And then we discovered something unsettling. 

We learned that it was uncomfortable to ask for what we wanted from others. Very uncomfortable. 

It seemed difficult, sometimes impossible, to ask for meetings, for money, for commitment. And to follow up and ask a client to work with us? Forget about it. 

We wanted acceptance and approval. 

We experienced fear instead. Fear of making a mistake, of doing it wrong, of not being perfect and making a fool of ourselves. We didn't want rejection or disapproval; we wanted success.

But fear kept coming up, over and over and over. 

People don't fail because of the economy or a bad business plan or poor marketing skills. We can adapt to challenges, bounce back and improve our skills. 

No, most people fail because of fear. 

There are endless things we could have done. We could have asked, risked, said powerful things and taken bold action. But we didn't do them. Instead, our minds conjured imaginary consequences that were bigger than the possible rewards. 

What is the worst that could happen if you were rejected?

What is the worst that could happen if your article or presentation or website wasn't perfect?

What is the worst that could happen it you asked for an appointment?

What is the worst that could happen if you told a prospective client you wanted to work with them?

The most likely worst scenario for all these is that nothing would happen. 

That's about the worst. I promise you that nobody would send a hit man to take you out!

When the Art Academy rejected me, I went on to do other things. A few years later I was designing web sites. 

When prospective clients didn't work with me, I found other ways to attract clients. 

When someone couldn't afford to pay me, I found clients who could afford my services. 

And what enabled me to do all those things, despite the rejection?

It wasn't just one thing. It was a few things. 

I didn't have an alternative. I had to be successful in my own business or I'd have to work for someone else. That was not an option for me. 

I loved what I did, working with my clients and making a difference. I loved being independent and creative. 

I spent a lot of time studying how to get past rejection, how not to take it personally, how to let go and move on. I learned to live from reality, not from a negative fantasy.

It actually took me quite a while to get past the fear of rejection and disapproval. I struggled with it a lot.

But ultimately I became failure-proof. I now see every so-called failure as just another learning experience. 

And I believe this is something anyone can do if they want to succeed in their business and marketing.

It's something YOU can do. 

Cheers, Robert

I work with independent professionals to find their own authentic marketing voice and to attract more clients. Find out more here.

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I've been working with my client, Sarah Taylor, for a few months on her marketing. I don't usually mention the names of my clients, but I am today because I'll be pointing you to her website. 

Sarah works with companies to help them accommodate employees who are on the autism spectrum. 

Companies that hire people with autism are required to step up and provide assistance because autism is legally considered a disability. Common issues are behavior and communication styles that can make work very challenging. 

Sarah has worked very hard to set up her business, develop a marketing message, a web site and a marketing plan. She's smart, talented, and has worked in the field of autism for more than 20 years. 

But then she started hitting brick wall after brick wall. 

The first client she booked, cancelled the contract a few weeks before it was to start. A company that was having major communication issues with an autistic employee was not willing to do anything (except get very upset at him), yet failed to hire Sarah.

You might say that Sarah was having "success challenges" and in our meetings she was feeling very discouraged. After all, she had done all the right things, but people were not responding and the future of her business started to look bleak. 

In our meeting a couple weeks ago we had a different kind of conversation. 

I told her that doing more of what she was doing would not get her where she wanted to go. I explained that she needed to "shift success paradigms."  

The old success paradigm of working hard, being professional, and persisting until you see success can be useful.

But it's also terribly flawed. 

In the early days of my business, when I knew virtually nothing about business and marketing, I absorbed a lot of "success teachings" such as Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Brian Tracey and Anthony Robbins. I read lots of books and listened to tapes. 

The problem with this whole approach is that it's very mechanistic. If you do ABC actions, the approach says, you'll get XYZ results. But can often feel like an uphill push. 

And every time you don't get a client or fail to make enough money, you simply feel like crap and any self-worth you had goes right down the drain. 

What good is a success philosophy that always make you feel like you're failing? It's no wonder that the great majority of self-employed people give up before seeing any substantial success. 

So I told Sarah that she needed to shift her success paradigm from solely: "Work hard – Win/Lose" to, "Work – Serve/Contribute."

This is a much saner model of success. Your self-worth is not so tightly tied to personally winning or losing, but instead is based on making a difference to others. It is "other focused" instead of "self focused."

But does this really work? It seems that in all those success books many miss a very important element: Service.

In the famous book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill (published in 1937 and still in print), the word service is used 150 times, almost as many as success at 161. And the word plan trumps them both with 240 mentions. 

You might sum up this success paradigm as:

"Plan for success by serving others."

That's what Hill talks about throughout his book, but I had missed that essential message years ago. It took me many more years to understand and apply it with great results.

In our meeting two weeks after this conversation, Sarah's whole attitude and demeanor has shifted dramatically. The reminder that embracing the paradigm of service had her look at her business in a completely new way. 

She started to see that she could offer service through every conversation, every idea she shared and everything she wrote. And she was getting out there and feeling excited about her business again. 

I told her she could also use the same paradigm when approaching new prospective clients. It didn't have to be about winning or losing them, but a matter of discovering ways she could serve them.

Look at your current paradigm of marketing and doing business. Could it use an upgrade?

Please check out Sarah's website here: http://www.nextlevelasdconsult.com

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

This Saturday I called my youngest sister to wish her happy birthday. 

We spent some time catching up before the conversation drifted to the topic of her art business and how she felt bad that she procrastinated a lot, didn't have goals and overall wasn't a success. 

So, of course, being a coach, I started asking her questions.

"Is it really true you're not a success?" I asked her. "Yes, you don't make as much money as you'd like, but does that mean you're not a success?"

"Well, it feels like I'm not," she replied.

"Ok, well there are a lot of areas in your life; there's your relationship, health, friends, lifestyle, finances, a lot of things that make up your life, right?

"Yes, but…"

"Well, let's look at some of those things in your life." I continued. "You don't make a lot of money, perhaps, but your husband makes a good income and you were able to pay off your mortgage early. You pretty much have no debt. I wish I could say that! We have a second mortgage that won't be paid off for seven years.

"How about health?" I went on. "You hike, you ride your bike. You stay fit and you eat well. Sounds like you're pretty successful in that area of your life. I hardly exercise at all, in case you were wondering. 

"And how about your friends and social life? You know so many people and are well liked and highly regarded in the art community. Me? I'm more of a loner and have only a couple friends who live far away with whom I keep in touch with every month or so."

After talking about a few areas of her life that were measurably and inarguably more successful than those areas of my life, I asked her, "What's wrong with this picture?"

"From any objective measure, it seems like you're a whole lot more successful than I am!"

"Well, it still doesn't feel like it," she replied. "I'm such a perfectionist and if there's something in my life that doesn't meet my standards, I'm not happy."

"Exactly," I replied. "So it isn't what's actually happening that's the problem. It's how you're judging yourself about certain areas of your life, right?"

"I guess so."

"Essentially, you're saying to yourself, "Things should be different. I should be different. I should make more money."

"Well, yes, that's true, I should make more money!"

"But is that really true? That you should make more money? And is it true that if you make the money you're making now you're not successful?

"Do you see that these two things are not related? Things are exactly the way they are, right? Isn't everything in your life exactly the way it is?

"So what does what you say to yourself have anything to do with it?

"Let's look at this through an absurd example. You have five fingers on each hand, right? And what if you believed you should have six fingers on each hand? Every time you looked at your hand, you'd be upset that you didn't have six fingers.

"That's really no different than making $XXX per year and thinking you should be making $XXXX per year. 

She replied in an exasperated tone, "Well, then you're saying I should be complacent and not want anything more in my life. I shouldn't want more money, or other things in my life."

"Not really," I replied. "I'm just pointing out that when you impose the tyranny of shoulds on anything you currently have in your life, you suffer.

"What if it was impossible to think that you should have anything right in this moment other that what you have now?"

"Well, I guess I wouldn't be so stressed about it."

"Yes, and imagine if all the shoulds in your life simply disappeared? What would that be like?"

"Hmm," she replied, thoughtfully. "Well I guess I could just go for doing certain things I'm holding myself back from doing because I'm worried I won't succeed. But I also procrastinate all the time."

"You shouldn't procrastinate? Look, everyone procrastinates. The only problem is that you think you shouldn't procrastinate. Doesn't that just make you procrastinate more?"

"Yeah, the tyranny of shoulds. I'm starting to get it!"

"Yes, shoulds are tyrannical." I concluded. "They prevent you from just being who you are in the moment, enjoying the successes you do have. They stop your creativity and resourcefulness. And they can keep you feeling miserable and unsuccessful.

"When you clearly see how those shoulds dominate your life and only cost you grief, they won't hold on so tight anymore."

"So what should I do next?" she replied.

And then we just burst into laughter.

Cheers, Robert

Thanks for reading this blog post. Please feel to comment below. 

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I don't know about you, but since the results of the election I'm completely burned out with reading anything to do with politics. 

Like many others, the election has been my obsession for the past 18 months and I don't think the next 18 months are going to get any better. 

So instead of being buried in Huffington Post and Politico, I'm reading articles on Medium instead – and loving it. 

What kind of articles? Well, on just about anything. This includes social change, self-improvement, food, exercise, strategy development, communication techniques, marketing online and everything in-between. And yes, even politics. 

The great thing about most Medium articles is that they're personal, immediate, based on real-life experience and deeply-felt convictions and insights about life and work.

You could think of Medium as "Google for articles." It's also like a massive collection of quality blog posts in one central online community. 

And Medium can help you with your marketing as well.

On Medium, look up marketing in general or any specific marketing topic and you'll find a ton of interesting articles with useful ideas. 

And unlike searching for good articles on Google, which lead to someone's personal blog in various formats, the articles on Medium are all formatted in a reader-friendly style. 

And, of course, at the bottom of each article are suggestions and links to similar articles. 

You can tag articles to read later and follow those who write the articles you enjoy the most. 

Relaxing on the sofa, listening to jazz in the background and reading Medium articles on my iPad has been a wonderful way to spend my free time in the evening. 

Medium articles inform, inspire, excite and lead to new insights. 

But that's not all. 

It seems that in virtually every session I have with my clients these days, I'm talking about Medium and showing how it can work for them. 

I explain how they can use Medium as a simple online promotional too. It's as easy as writing a blog post – well, actually easier – because the formatting tools ensure that your article will look great. Just add a picture or graphic at the top and you're all set.

As of this week, my weekly articles will come to you via this eZine, will be posted on my blog and also posted on Medium. 

Why? Well, Medium gets a million visitors a day who are looking for articles on every conceivable subject – including articles about your field of expertise. 

This can bring you new readers that you can then point back to your website to learn more, opt-in to your report and email newsletter and then read other blog posts and content on your site.

Yes, it helps if you already have a decent website with good messaging and content, including a form to opt-in.  

It's easy and free to get started

On Sunday, I took a few hours to set up my Medium account, learn all the ins-and outs of how to post articles and even set up my own publication – "Attract More Clients" where I'll be posting my Medium articles. This is sort of like a private blog inside Medium. 

I also posted my first article: "Attracting High-End Clients" Check it out and see how good it looks (not to mention the great ideas it includes)!

And if you're moved to do so, please follow me and "heart" my article. 

If you're already writing articles, Medium is a no-brainer. If you're not writing articles, isn't it about time you started? 

For me, writing articles has been the key to my business success for almost 20 years. And now, with Medium I can even get more exposure for my business with virtually no extra effort. 

In any case, if you get the sense that I'm excited about Medium, I am! 

This article doesn't give you much how-to information, so I thought I'd include a few articles that you'll find very useful (some are on Medium). 

Marketing on Medium: How Does it Stack Up?

The Complete Guide to Medium for Marketers

Why Every Blog Post should be crossposted to LinkedIn and Medium

A Style Guide for Writing on Medium

How to write Medium Stories people will actually read

This will be enough to get you started. As you go, you'll find details and how-to tutorials in Medium to get you on track. 

See you on Medium!

Cheers, Robert

Please comment on this article on Medium.

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by Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I'm disgusted with this election aren't you?

Since this is arriving on election day, I felt I had to make some kind of comment. 

Over the past year and a half (it feels like a decade) I've been somewhat addicted to following the election. And in preparing to write this ezine I found I was talking out loud to myself about what I'd write and how I'd say it. 

I guess I'm going a little batty. Can anyone relate? 

As I walked into my office this morning, I opened my email and noticed Alan Weiss's Monday Morning Memo in my in box and wondered if he'd said anything about the election.

After reading it, I quickly concluded that what he said was better than anything I could write, so I'm including it below in full. Thanks Alan for your calm and sane perspective. 

"We’ll be in Kyoto for the election, I’m happy to report. Odd fact: Much of the Republican leadership doesn’t support their candidate; there are charges of harassment against him; he hasn’t released his tax returns; he keeps shooting himself in the foot every time he speaks; he did not debate well; the media, in any election, lean heavily democratic in their coverage; the sitting President carried about 90% of the African-American vote and he’s actively campaigning; the Democrats have raised far more money. Yet, the polls show the election to be very close.

"What does that tell you?

"For those in the U.S. reading this who will be voting tomorrow, I want to support you in your efforts to do what you feel is proper and right. I want to emphasize that people who don't agree with you are neither stupid nor enemies, and that what we truly need are tolerance and collaboration.

"And I want to assure you that the principles of this great nation are so strong that we will carry on and prosper. In fact, this election will show us that the system is far greater than any one person."

© Alan Weiss, 2016 - Monday Morning Memo

Nicely said, Alan. So get out there and vote your conscience, and we can finally get on with our lives (like marketing your business, right?).

There was one video on the election that is really fun and shares similar sentiments. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Cheers, Robert

 

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I hear the words, "You Be the Monster!" – in a tone of high-pitched glee from my 4 year old granddaughter, Colette, as I come through the door of her home. 

She's referring to her favorite game. She's the princess who hides in her castle (yes, an actual, big plastic castle that sits in the corner of her living room), while I play the monster who's chasing after her. 

With menacing growling sounds I reach into the castle window (never the door) while she cowers just out of my reach, screaming and giggling.  

This immense capacity for imaginative play seems to be inborn; when her little girlfriend came over for a party a couple weeks ago, she joined in the game with just as much glee. 

Where did our imaginations go?

Sooner or later, our imaginations are simply conditioned out of us. It's not that our creative ability has died. Instead, it's become submerged beneath our need to look good, do the right thing, be careful and not make mistakes. 

We often think that success and creative fun don't mix. 

Doing well at school, on the job, and as a business owner is a serious thing, right? That's what everyone told us, but it sure didn't work out for me. In the early years, growing my business was a real slog. 

Many years ago I re-conceived marketing as a game.

And I was determined to making winning that game (attracting lots of great clients) as fun as possible. 

When I gave talks about marketing, I acted a bit like a raving maniac. I made sure my audience laughed a lot and saw that marketing could be fun as well as effective.

When I got into online marketing I thought of my computer as my money-making slot machine. Instead of having the right pictures come up in a row, the game was to find the words that would trigger the best response. 

It was always both fun and challenging to design my web pages, emails, presentations and sales letters, and then see the new orders come pouring in. 

These days the most fun I have is working with my individual clients.

I think I have a pretty deep insight into what works and what doesn't, but I always try to communicate those insights in a lighthearted and sometimes absurdist way. 

When a client tells me they are afraid to reach out to a prospect, I ask them, "What is the worst that could happen? Will they send a hit man to take you out?" Never happened.

Why not just make that outreach a fun game? And when my clients do it that way, more often than not they're surprised at the warm reception they get.

Think your marketing needs to be perfect? When you get there, do you expect the skies to open, with a ray of heavenly light shining down upon you declaring, "Behold here is the One who can do no wrong."

Sure, it happened to Donald Trump, but don't hold your breath.

In my experience, you really can't get big marketing wins by grim determination. You're better off being a little outrageous, adopting a more playful and mischievous mindset.

I always know I'm on the right track when we spend considerable time laughing during our sessions. If we don't take ourselves so dreadfully seriously, we can co-create imaginative and effective marketing strategies. 

This saying by marketing genius, David Ogilvy, hits the nail on the head: "You can't bore people into doing business with you."

Any time Colette wants me to be her monster, I'll gladly oblige. But I won't be a perfect, paint-by-numbers monster. I will be a silly, slobbering one. Her wild and crazy giggles are worth it. 

When you can discover that crazy monster inside yourself, your clients will want to play with you as well. 

Want to laugh your way to more clients?

I've started with six new clients in the past few weeks, but still have a couple more spaces open. If you'd like to explore working with me, learn more here:

http://actionplan.com/mastery-sessions

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

A client of mine faced a conundrum after getting what should have been good news from a client of hers.

Her client had found their work together very valuable and had suggested that she do some further sessions with his leadership team.  

But as soon as he made this suggestion all my client could think about were reasons she couldn't do it, how they wouldn't accept her and how it couldn't work. 

It was pretty funny as this was exactly the kind of result we had been working towards – more clients who loved her work. 

"Do you see that you retreated to your doubtful and fearful comfort zone?" I asked.

"Yes," she agreed. 

"And do you see that you closed off all possibilities?"

"Quite right," she replied. 

Then I asked a question that stumped her:

"If you weren't stuck in that comfort zone, what possibilities might open up for you?"

"Uh, well I might talk to him..."

"And?"

"Let's see, have a meeting?"

"Anything else. Those are not much in the realm of possibilities!"

"Hmm, I just don't know."

"Isn't the possibility outside your comfort zone a whole lot more great business projects that you'd love to do?"

"Well, yes," she finally said, smiling. "Of course that's what I want." 

We went on to explore how her identification with the comfort zone made it virtually impossible to see possibilities that were being handed to her on a silver platter.

Most people think that if presented with an opportunity, we would jump at it.

But it's not the case. Because, from inside the comfort zone, we can't even see new possibilities. In fact, an opportunity might instead seem like a burden, something difficult, scary or even impossible. 

To live a life of possibility seems like a simple thing. 

But it's not. 

So how do we get past our comfort zone?

If we don't have someone point it out to us, it can be extremely hard, as hard as it is for a fish to notice that they live in water. 

Let's say you're a single guy with an old sofa. The sofa is dirty, ratty and smelly.

But it's comfortable. You're used to it. It gets the job done. 

Inside that "sofa comfort zone" you can't imagine buying a new sofa. When you see advertising about sofas you don't even notice it. When you walk by sofa stores you never look in the window. 

The possibility of a new sofa is exactly zero.

And then you meet someone you'd like to invite out. And you imagine bringing her to your apartment and making a home-cooked meal for her. 

And then suddenly you remember your old sofa.

You wake up from your comfort zone, and now the possibility of a brand new sofa is real and alive inside you. 

You start to notice the sofa ads and the displays in stores, and before you know it you have a brand new sofa that won't embarrass you. 

Now transpose this to your business and marketing. 

The old sofa is your current marketing. It just sits there not doing much, and that feels comfortable. 

Then one day, like my client, the opportunity to work with a big client presents itself and you notice you fall back into your comfort zone and can't see any way you can take advantage of it. 

What you need is a wake up call. And this article is that call. 

There are opportunities and possibilities everywhere around you every single day. New ideas, connections, clients are there for the taking if only you would wake up from your comfort zone. 

Here's a pretty cool article I read this past week that speaks to this. It's called:

50 Ways to Open Your World to New Possibilities

What are you waiting for? Click now before you're lulled back into your comfort zone. 

Cheers, Robert

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

My wife is in the process of starting a small catering business, so, of course, I'm her on-call marking consultant (at very low rates).

Last week, I created her business card and designed a one-page overview of her business. "Cumin - Exotic Himalayan Cuisine"

Sounds delicious, right? 

She just joined BNI (Business Networking International) and in her second meeting got a request to cater a Hallowe'en party. 

On Sunday, we sat down to talk about how to present and price her services in a way that was simple and that conveyed value. She is a great cook but not so savvy about business and marketing – yet. 

One thing I recommended was that she use Google to ask any questions she may have about the business side of catering. Questions like: "How do I price my services? How do I present myself professionally? How do I prepare a proposal for a catering job?"

She remarked that it's hard to know what to ask when you don't even know what's important. 

You know what you know, right? And there are some things that you know you don't know (and need to know).

But those two are only a small fraction of what can be known. The rest is what we don't know that we don't know.

We don't even know what's important to know and what's not important to know. What's useful and what's useless?

These days, hundreds of thousands of independent professionals start out on their own as subject matter experts or process experts and often assume that's all they need to know. 

A year or two into business, and they start to realize that, relatively speaking, they know nothing! They realize they need to know more and more and more, to be competitive, to be profitable and to avoid expensive mistakes. 

If you've been there (and who hasn't?), I recommend a very powerful but inexpensive immersion program in expanding what you know.

It's simple. Read several business or marketing articles each day on just one topic you don't know a lot about. 

You need to read these article closely, looking to see if there's valuable knowledge you can absorb and apply in your business. 

And, of course, you'll find all of these articles on the "Internet Oracle" – Google. 

Search for how-to articles – "How to attract more clients through speaking." With that simple search on Google I found 18 articles (one of them mine) and two YouTube videos on the first search page. Not bad.

Now, don't just read one or two of those articles. Read at least half a dozen. It doesn't take a long time to determine which articles are based on solid experience (as opposed to generalized information). 

Search for "7 ways articles." I don't know why, but 7 is a magic number. "7 ways to improve your SEO" (search engine optimization). That little search netted me 20 different articles – I kid you not. You might also try the number 10. That search got me another 20 articles! 

There are no topics you must search for, but once you get in the swing of things, you'll start to find all kinds of information in the category of "I didn't know that I didn't know that."

Here's an example. If you take a look at all those "7 Ways SEO" articles you'll see a word repeated many times: "keywords." Perhaps you don't know what a keyword is and why it's so important. It's something you didn't know you didn't know. 

So then you do a Google search about keywords. "7 tips to find the best keywords for your website."

And what did I find? Yeah, you guessed it - 20 more articles!

A few of those articles will be so-so, some will be quite good, and several will be incredibly useful and insightful – with ideas you can apply to your business right away. 

All you need is a little curiosity. Ask Google a question, any question. And the answers you get will lead to more questions and more answers. 

To get myself up to speed with marketing I read about 300 books on marketing and business over several years. I don't believe you need to do that anymore. Good, solid information, and ways to apply it in your business, are freely available in massive quantities online. 

I think the keys to success are to make this a regular habit, to go deep to learn those all-important how-to secrets and to simply follow your interest and passion to grow and succeed. 

This pursuit of knowledge is certainly more fun and enlivening than following the horror show of the 2016 election!

And now, instead of being glued to her iPad Scrabble game, my wife might spend more time reading business and marketing articles. 

Cheers, Robert Middleton

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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Is this you?

You're an independent professionals with a small practice and generate from $50K to $200K in sales every year. 

If yes, should you put time and effort into social media, or is it a waste of time? Does it work and can you make it work for you? 

This analogy might help. 

Years ago I did a lot of networking and did get some clients that way, but I and my clients noticed something rather disconcerting: 

Most of the people at networking events were sellers not buyers (including us). 

Everyone wanted to talk about their business, but few were interested in hearing about other people's businesses. 

This is why a large percentage of my clients didn't enjoy networking – because it didn't get very good results. 

Fast forward fifteen or twenty years and live networking has been replaced to a large degree with online networking – more commonly called social media. 

But the situation is very similar to networking – more sellers than buyers. 

Everyone is always promoting themselves on social media, but very few are tuning-in to that promotion, let alone buying the services of those promoting. 

One of the innovations of social media are groups - primarily in Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Groups are very popular, as the members are people like you and me who are relatively easy to connect with. 

But then the group moderator fails to put controls on the group and many people start posting promotional posts with links to articles, programs and web content. This is called "content spamming."

Pretty soon, most of the posts are promotional. Everyone is selling and nobody is buying. Conversations dwindle and few people are building relationships with others in the group.

Given this situation is it even possible to attract new clients on social media? 

What's a poor independent professional to do?

Following are some of my thoughts. Even though social media is not a prime source of clients, here are a few things that have worked for me.  

1. Don't expect to post on social media and expect someone to contact you, ready to do business with you. It doesn't work like that. It takes time, often a lot of time. Like any other marketing, you want to build both visibility and value. So you need to post valuable stuff frequently. A post or two won't make an impact. A few a day can. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

2. Spend more time contributing to others than promoting on social media. Answer questions, offer resources, in some cases sending them to an article (blog post) on your site that answers their question in more depth. This way, your promotion is indirect and appreciated more. Also, point to other valuable resources, not just yours. But as I said above, don't do "article spamming" where you do nothing but post links to your own content. 

3. Consider putting more time into building an email list rather than getting followers on social media. A McKinsey report showed that email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined. 

That means that for every $1 invested in email marketing, is takes $40 to get the same results with social media. That should make you think!

Almost twenty years ago I realized how important email was and put a lot of time and energy into building my email list and sending out a weekly eZine. 

I build visibility and credibility with the eZine and don't use it much to directly promote or sell my services.

But when I want to promote a program or my coaching services, I send the promotions to my list and very few people object because of the value I've provided for so long. 

Now it takes only two or three promotional emails to attract enough clients to fill my calendar with clients for six to nine months. 

4. Turn your eZine (email newsletter) into a weekly blog post and then send your social media followers to your blog. This gets me 100 or more people to view my blog each week who are not on my email list and also gets people to sign up for the eZine. 

5. Use Facebook Groups to find resources and ideas. This is how I primarily use the Wisdompreneurs group. If I'm looking for an idea, I just ask a question. This sometimes results in good exchanges and new ideas I can use. This really isn't marketing, but it sure makes a difference to me. Wisdompreneurs also has a weekly promotional thread and that's the only place you can promote there. 

6. Make requests in groups for marketing connections. For instance, you might learn that another group member recently gave a talk at a conference. Send that person a private message and see if they'll give you the contact for getting booked at that conference in the future. In Wisdompreneurs I learned that a member had been interviewed for a podcast. So I found the person who did the podcast and asked if they'd like to interview me. She did! And then I asked the group if they knew other podcasts where I could be interviewed. And I got three more interviews. These are great indirect ways of getting exposure, growing your list and attracting new clients. 

7. If you really want to leverage social media to market yourself, you need to learn more. Some of these approaches are tricky. I recommend Social Media Examiner and Content Marketing Institute. Both have exceptional, well-researched articles on social media and content marketing. 

Ultimately, I found that for my business, social media marketing was not as important as sending emails to my list and occasionally doing talks, teleclasses and webinars. Those now attract all the clients I need with a lot less work. 

Nevertheless, social media can be a useful addition to your marketing mix. But if you want to take it to the next level, like everything else, you need to study and work hard at it. 

I'd love to hear any ideas of how you've used social media to successfully attract new clients. Just post in the comments section below. 

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.