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By Robert Middleton – Action Pan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some important criteria for such an offer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planing to roll-out your offer

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

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

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

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

Where do you start with this?

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

This is often THE missing step in the marketing process.

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

I recently started to do something differently in my marketing. 

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

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

Well, that was just stupid. 

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

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

Doesn't it ultimately undermine our effectiveness and productivity? 

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

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

This image just sprang to mind: 

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

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

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

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

What does your box look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this is obviously delusional 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off to another project, and see you next week. 

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Here's something I frequently hear from new clients:

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

Wow. That's a loaded question!

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

What is the right marketing message for me?

How do I communicate effectively about my business?

What should I include in my marketing materials?

Should my website be text- or graphics-­oriented?

Does an email newsletter work and should I do one?

When should I follow up with a prospect?

How do I sell effectively without being pushy?

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

Everyone wants the RIGHT answers to these questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert

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


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Why do these differences occur?

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

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

Category One


Seeing opportunities



Category Two


Seeing pitfalls



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

This principle also applies to beliefs.

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

People in category number two believe they can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why? Because we are fighting against reality.

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

Resisting that only makes things worse and usually more painful.

The shift can be subtle.

For example, consider the difference between saying to yourself:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then notice if you feel more peaceful and relaxed.

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


By Robert MIddleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert

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


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #1 – Understand

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #2 – Relate

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #3 – Be Unique

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #4 – Testing

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #5 – Follow instructions

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #6 – Research

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

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #7 – Innovate

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #8 – Get feedback

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #9 – Show empathy

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

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

Marketing Thinking Tip #10 – Trust your intuition

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

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

How to apply these Marketing Thinking Tips to your marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert Middleton


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Market data includes evidence from such organizations as:

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

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

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

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

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

So, for the three items above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you have to prove it!

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

Cheers, Robert

P.S. This is just one of the powerful ideas we'll explore in depth and help you integrate into your marketing in the upcoming Marketing Action Group. Details here: 


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

I have a little saying pinned to my computer: 

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

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

Not convinced?

This is what perfect marketing would look like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the five steps to the Perfect Marketing Plan. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most important is taking action.

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

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

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

Q. So where do I start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

1. Simplify what you're selling

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

Quadrant 1 - Consumer Desktop

Quadrant 2 - Consumer Laptop

Quadrant 3 - Business Desktop

Quadrant 4 - Business Laptop

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

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

2. Unify your brand

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

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

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

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

3. Be attractive and compelling

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

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

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

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

4. Be visible where your prospects are

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

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

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

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

5. Believe you have value and prove it

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

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

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

6. Ultimately, the first sale is to YOU!

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

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

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

Start thinking like Apple.

Cheers, Robert

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


By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

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

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

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

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

Yes, we do like our demons.

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

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

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

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

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

No, trying doesn't work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've often thought Yoda should have said: 

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

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

Stop trying. Commit.

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Robert

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

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

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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.