Build a mountain of value

Jane the interior designer has just started out, she’s talented and creative and personable and will make any new clients very happy.

But Jane only has a Facebook page. Even though she posts to it a few times a week, she finds it very hard to get enquiries. The phone simply doesn’t ring, and if things don’t change soon Jane will have to look for other work.

Tanya the building designer has also started recently and already has a number of happy clients. She has helped each one design an environmentally sound extension for their family home. Tanya is on Facebook too, and also has a website, a blog, and a short video series she produced that shows some of the simple ways homeowners can reduce their power usage.

Jane is struggling, while Tanya always seems to have the next couple of projects lined up in advance.

Why is there such a difference when they are both new, in the same neighbourhood, with a similar client base, and both talented at what they do?

The difference is clear when you look at the client journey.

How do clients see and experience each of these professionals?

A potential client might start with a referral from a friend, or by seeing some posts on Facebook. There is no substantial difference between both business owners when we look at the initial reach of their marketing.

But what happens next?

For Tanya’s clients, they can visit her website, read her blog, sign up and watch a useful video series. They’ll see Tanya’s face, hear her voice, follow her lead and experience some results.

This builds a high level of trust in Tanya as a person.

And people buy from people they like and trust.

Contrast this to Jane. A potential client here will see a Facebook post and might be interested. But making a phone call to enquire is too much commitment this early on, there’s so much about Jane that they don’t know. And they have nowhere to go next to experience who she is.

Instead, they scroll past and move onto the next thing without a second thought.

So when you create a blog post, or a video, or an ebook, or any other piece of important content – every time – you are increasing the value a potential client can experience from you before they take the next step and engage you.

The more content you provide, the better it is. It’s like building a mountain of value, and you’re standing on the top.

The higher you build your mountain of value, the more you’ll stand out.


What I Learnt from Bear Grylls About Business

I watched two episodes of Bear Grylls’ latest show yesterday.

Bear Grylls is the adventurer who takes celebrities into the wilderness: surviving, camping overnight, and crossing dangerous terrain in order to get to an extraction point before the end of the show.

Each episode is a story of fear and personal endurance as the guests are challenged physically and emotionally. And they invariably end up eating some weird animal or insect as well, to add entertainment value.

But more fascinating are the moments of fear. In every single episode I watched, the celebrities face crazy, scary challenges as they climb down cliff faces or slide over waterfalls. And they often get really, truly scared.

As viewers we learn about people in these moments. When challenges come, we see how they react. Do they run away? Do they freeze on the spot? Do they joke and laugh it off?

It surprises me how many different reactions there are. Despite the fact that every single person overcomes the challenges along the way, they have wildly different emotions and responses on the journey.

I believe that how we respond to challenges in our own lives is an indicator of our internal state and shows how much success we will achieve.

And something else I noticed – the celebrities always pay respect to Grylls. They mention again and again that the reason they got through is because they relied on him, followed in his footsteps, used his instructions to reach their goals.

In business, many of us take our clients on a journey. We move them from where they are to where they want to get to.

Who relies on you? Do you take your clients on a journey? How can you make it more exciting? How can you show people the challenge they have in front of them? And then walk with them through it?


Do You Suffer From Marketing Overwhelm?

I bet I can guess one of the top reasons why you’re not doing the marketing you know you should be: you simply feel overwhelmed.

How do I know?

It’s a common theme when I am speaking with small business owners who are building their businesses online.

When they learn about websites, blogging, lead magnets, email funnels, Google, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook ads, etc etc… they know the power of all of these to attract their ideal clients and build their business.

But adding each of these activities to a todo list doesn’t make them happen. In fact, the opposite is often true: when the todo list becomes too long it causes them to feel overwhelmed and in the end nothing gets done.

These people look at the list of options and know they can’t do everything – and in fact the truth is that they don’t have to.

Yes there are a lot of great options, and most of them would work if you put the effort into building them. But you don’t need to

It’s like filling your petrol tank for a journey. To get from here to there you only need a certain amount of fuel. Putting more marketing activities in your tank and attracting more clients than you need doesn’t have any advantage if your destination is only an hour’s drive away.

The value is in knowing which marketing activities will get you to your goal most efficiently, so that you are spending less time and energy getting there.

So what will be the most beneficial for you?

The secret is to follow your clients.

Look at where they are, and what they are responding to. Jump in and look around, engage with people and see what replies you get.

It will take experimentation but the more you try, the more easily you can find the straightest path.

Then all you need to do is take small steps, one after the other, and you’ll arrive at your destination. It doesn’t matter what road you take (or what other roads exist that others are taking) if you reach your goals in the end.


When bad search results happen to good people

Most people who have a website expect that they will appear in Google if someone is searching for them.

And most do appear, if the person searching uses their business name.

But what if the searcher doesn’t know your name and instead searches for the service you do? For example they search for “podiatrist in South Melbourne” rather than “Best Foot Forward podiatrist”.

Appearing in Google for more generic searches for your services is gold because it means you are appearing in front of people right at the time they are looking for what you do.


But not easy.

And sometimes, despite your best efforts at creating content, adding value to your visitors, and generally doing the right thing – sometimes, you still don’t appear well.

Why does this happen?

Firstly, we know that Google looks at more than just your content when it decides where to rank your site in its results.

It also looks at your domain authority. This is Google’s rating it gives every website and every page with its own measure of “importance”. The higher your domain authority score, the more important Google thinks you are, and the higher you appear in search results.

Domain authority has many factors and Google doesn’t tell us what they all are, but it’s clear that backlinks are among the most important. A backlink is where another site on the internet has a link on it that leads to your site. Every one of these backlinks is seen by Google’s algorithm as a vote for your authority, especially if they are from other high-authority sites.

So build more backlinks!

But also, take a step back and a look deep down inside yourself.

Marketing is not an end in itself but is about the results that it gets. If appearing naturally in search results is becoming a difficult path, maybe it is time to consider something else that could be more straightforward.

If you’d like to chat to see what options might suit you best, contact me.

Google is great. And there is gold elsewhere too.


Entrepreneur, redefined

In the late 1980s, when I was young and at school, I remember being asked in class what we wanted to be when we grew up.

Among the architects, tradies, scientists and veterinarians, one of my friends said something most surprising: “entrepreneur”.

At the time I was barely aware of what this word meant. It brought to mind figures like Christopher Skase who owned television stations, seemed incredibly wealthy and dodged court by fleeing the country.

It wasn’t until I was fresh out of uni that I began working with a small high-tech business made up of people who worked hard, had fun, created really cool stuff and called themselves “entrepreneurs”.

This redefinition was a revelation to me.

Now, we are in the middle of the entrepreneur revolution. More small businesses are started every year as people move from regular employment at large corporations to more personal lifestyle choices.

The newest generation entering the workforce is also the most entrepreneurial. In a survey by Bentley University, 67% of Gen Ys entering the workforce said they would like to start their own businesses, and in general they expect a much more nimble and changing career.

Today’s entrepreneurs are savvy, connected and independent. Brought up on social media, technology and instant gratification, they use the tools available to run their businesses more effectively than has ever been possible before.

So what makes an entrepreneur as opposed to a small business owner?

I see it mainly as an identification with a set of principles. An entrepreneur  actively wants to grow their business and spends time and energy figuring out how. They are willing to try, and fail, and get up and try again. They show grit, take risks and push through the hard times.

You are familiar with some of the international poster-children of entrepreneurship: Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey.

But local entrepreneurs might be artists, consultants, crafters, techies, tradespeople or professional service providers, but no matter what they do they chase excellence and enjoy the ride.

What is your experience? Do you identify yourself as an entrepreneur?


Should I put pricing on my website?

“Should I put my prices on my website?” is one of the more practical questions I am asked when speaking with small business owners.

My answer really depends on who it is I’m speaking with.

1. Definitive “yes”

If you sell a product that people can buy online – whether that is a physical product through an ecommerce store or a standard consultation service that can be booked online – then you must show your prices. Obvious.

This includes businesses like: ecommerce stores, retail, furniture, and allied health.

Also, if you sell a commodity product and you are cheaper than elsewhere, or if you use lower prices as part of your competitive advantage, then it is a “yes” for you too. (Although the “race to the bottom” is often a poor strategy.)

2. Definitive “no”

If you sell a high value product that isn’t easily comparable to other services, you should absolutely not have your pricing on your site.

This often includes professional services like: accounting, IT, consulting, building, law.

Often consulting or service fees are quoted individually for each client anyway, with makes it impossible to have true pricing published beforehand.

For these businesses, the website is not a place to sell but a place to build trust and lead people to get in touch further as the next step.

One caveat to this is if you get too many tyre-kicking enquiries you may choose to put a minimum engagement fee, or an “investment starts at” price.

So now you know the rules…

Knowing the rule for the type of business you run is a great way to make this decision, but ultimately it is about the outcomes you want and what will help achieve them the most.

You know your clients, you know your business. You know what helps them to connect and what the buying journey looks like for them as they move toward engaging your services.

So, will you put prices on your website?

Who is the hero in your story?

When you tell the story of your brand you are showing people what you care about, who you work with, and the problems that you solve.

Who is the hero of this story?

It would be easy to think that the hero is you, the solver of problems, the rescuer.

But for your audience, the story is not about you. They are each living their own story with themselves at the centre. To them, you are simply an extra on stage, or at most a short sub-plot.

Picture Sophie, a small business owner running a busy bakery. She achieves a lot in her day, between getting the kids to school, ordering stock, running the staff roster and dealing with late suppliers.

Your service solves a problem for Sophie, which she’s thankful for, and willing to pay for. But once that solution is in place her mind will continue with everything else she’s got to do for the day.

Recognising your true place in Sophie’s story enables you to play that part with distinction.

The hero of your brand story is your client.

(Image Source: erix!)


Marketing first

I only took one unit of marketing at formal university; it was an elective I chose back when I did my journalism degree.

But that one unit taught me what I still think is one of the most important lessons for any of us in business: marketing comes first.

Or at least, it should.

True marketing starts with knowing your ideal clients. With research, with listening to their stories, with seeing deeply into who they are.

Understanding your clients provides the direction of how and where to grow. The stories you hear reveal the opportunities to serve.

This stands in contrast to the person who creates a new product or has a fabulous idea for an app, then builds it, then wants to create an amazingly special marketing campaigns that will sell it. They need eye candy, want attention, and often find themselves pushing uphill. The cart is before the horse: using your marketing agency as the last step in the chain makes it difficult to get anywhere.

So, keep marketing first.

Hear a client’s story. Then create the solutions to their questions.


The 3-step content strategy that will transform your effectiveness online

You probably know that one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience online is through producing powerful, relevant content.

But do you know how you can strategically use your content to have maximum impact possible for your business marketing?

There are three vital steps.

1. Decide your content pillars

If you talk about too many different topics it is hard to grow a reputation in the mind of your audience. Rather, you should choose one to four related topics and always write about these same things.

I call these your “Content Pillars” because they become the foundation your reputation is built on.

You can write from different perspectives but each time someone reads your name on a byline or sees you speaking, your basic message should be consistent with everything else they’ve ever seen of yours. In this way every touch point you have with them builds on every previous one, and you make a more and more memorable impression each time.

2. Produce flagship content

You may have many small interactions with some people, through anything from advertising to conversations. But these small touches are hard to direct and control, and often they don’t give you enough time or space to show your true value or separate you from the crowd.

This is where “flagship” content is powerful.

Flagship pieces of content stand out from the rest as being better in some way. Maybe they are more detailed, more specific, more practical, beautiful or longer. Each piece needs to connect in a way that solves a problem so that your readers know they want it.

These flagship pieces of content become the items you can share amongst your regular, lower-level content. If your readers want to move closer to you and learn more, the flagship content lets them do that.

Strategically, most flagship content is only accessible if a reader enters their email address and opts in for further communication, so this a vital step in moving people through your funnel and opening regular communication.

3. Use Social reach

Social media, email and other regular communication is at the broad end of the funnel. Strategically, we put this at the end because the content here is built around your content pillars and flagship content pieces. But social media also has a strategy of its own.

Gathering a community of followers and being able to engage, inform and entertain them is powerful strategy – if you can pull it off. But in today’s crowded social marketplace it’s not easy, and be mindful that the ultimate goal of any online community building is, in the end, still to lead people through to the next step.

Leverage your social media influence by sticking to your content pillar topics and leading people through to the next step by inviting them to access your flagship pieces. Post regularly, but don’t openly promote your services in more than about 5% of posts so that you can strike a good balance between being helpful and making an offer.

Then test and measure your results, experimenting as you go so that you can constantly improve.Remember, with all these rules of thumb – they are a starting point from which you can build a customised approach that will bring you the greatest success.


Notes on Poverty

It’s interesting, poverty.

And I can say that because my past experience of poverty has largely been limited to seeing it on television commercials and the occasional documentary.

But this week I’m in rural Indonesia, visiting projects run by the child sponsorship organisation Compassion.

Here, poverty is more than just a theoretical problem to be solved.

Here, poverty is the daily reality for many people.

I sponsor a child here and have volunteered for Compassion in Australia for around 18 months, so this trip is an opportunity for me to visit my own sponsor child and observe how the projects run first-hand.

The experience is certainly everything I have prepared myself for: challenging, exciting, adventurous, heart-wrenching and beautiful — all at once.

But there is one emotion I wasn’t expecting, that my preparation didn’t cover.

The overwhelming feeling of hope.

At the project I visited yesterday, the leaders smile, the kids smile, the singers smile, the cooks smile. Everyone I spoke to appears full of joy and shows heartfelt gratitude for what they have. Almost all of them also has a story of hardship, yet the hardship hasn’t got them down.

So how can they live in such poverty and yet appear to experience such joy?

Even asking the question itself makes me aware of my own Western cultural lens. I can only observe this place as a visitor here for a short time, and I can’t know what it is truly like to live this life.

Yet there is still this: that what I observe is hope. Recurring and resolute.

Not “hope” in the wispy-washy sense we use when we say we “hope” it doesn’t rain today, or we “hope” Geelong wins the footy on the weekend.

The hope I see here in Indonesia is a wild, raging, powerful hope, more akin to trust or faith. It’s born in this place where every day is uncertain and yet life continues to find a way forward.

Is this something we can learn from? These people don’t have many possessions but are rich in emotional assets like family, friends, love.

It’s a challenge, and an opportunity. I will continue to give money and advocate for these people, to meet their physical needs. And I’m going to bring home with me some of what they offer: the hope, the love, the joy.

The opportunity to be part of the change is real. And everyone becomes richer.


Air work and ground work

The aeroplane is cruising at 22,000 feet and I’m in the window seat. Far below, I can see towns and roads, and a group of trees. I can make out the highways and rivers crisscrossing the brown land, joining the dots of the cities and bordered on one side by the coast and an endless expanse of sparkling ocean.

I’m too high to make out individual cars, although I can see where they would be going. We’re way higher even than the clouds scattered in tissuey billows.

Up here, I can see a different picture. I can see it all at once, expansive and inspiring as the detail is deleted and the map is clear. It’s so easy to see the start and the end, the connectedness, the big picture.

But I also know exactly what is going on at ground level because I’ve been there: I’ve driven those roads, visited the houses, climbed the trees.

The big picture is vitally important to set direction and know the complete story – and the coalface experience is just as important in order to relate to people and their needs.

It’s the same in business: we need to spend time flying at 22000 feet: setting goals and envisioning our direction for the future. Then we also need to work on the ground, getting our hands dirty, talking to our clients and making things work.

Do the air work and the ground work.


The star of your story

Some brands focus very much on products. Think of Dyson or John Deere.

Other brands are built around a person. Picture Jamie Oliver.

The same is true in small business, although you might not see it so explicitly. The coffee in your local cafe is great. Or is it the high-energy conversation of Noel the barista that brings you back?

Now this time, picture Jenny, a health consultant and nutritionist.

Jenny is a service professional, and basically Jenny and her skills are her entire business. When Jenny’s clients book in, it’s her they will see.

So why do Jenny and so many service professionals like her try to hide their personality? They use the “royal we” on their website and social material, the main photos are from stock, and service descriptions are generic. If Jenny does have a photo of herself on her site, it’s hidden in the “about” page and it’s small and blurry.

I believe Jenny does this to try to appear more professional … but instead, she appears more “product” than “person”.

Now picture your business for a second, and how it is presented to a potential client who is seeing it for the first time. Can they see who you are? Can they picture you personally, get to know you, begin to trust you?

Your personality and human-ness are an advantage, especially if you are the key figure within your business.

You are the star of your story, so tell it that way with confidence.


Long sales cycle, high-value clients: why it’s more important than ever for professionals to be smart with their marketing

Professional service firms are unique in their marketing efforts because of the way their clients behave.

This is not a quick decision, and once made it is most often a long-term relationship. A business owner isn’t likely to change accountants at the drop of a hat.

So what does this mean for how these firms market themselves?

Direct response marketing is huge online, with the idea that you can run an advert to exactly the right audience with an offer they will take up immediately. This allows immediate tracking and a simple way to measure the financial return on each campaign.

But this doesn’t work for most professionals who attract clients through a longer sales process with deeper consideration into the purchase decision.

So how do you effectively attract high-value clients?

Build a content ecosystem

Create regular, consistent content to engage your audience across different channels. This means that wherever they see you, they are absorbing the same message over a long period of time.

This content doesn’t need to be difficult, and you don’t need to be everywhere. It’s simply about exposing what you do in a way that shows your audience your value to them, and consistency is more important than perfection.

When the need for your service is next triggered for them, they have you in their mind as an expert in the field and know how to contact you.

Have a gateway product

A great way of building a group of potential clients is to attract them using what I call a “gateway product”. This is a simple product that is easy and attractive to buyers, one that gives them a valuable outcome but is low cost and an easy decision for them to accept.

An example of a simple one-off service would be a finance review or a 1-hour initial consultation.

Once your new client has experienced you through this simple service, it is far easier to approach them to take the next steps into your core services.

Measure indirect metrics

Understanding your critical business indicators is like learning to fly an aircraft using only the instrument panel. It’s a more accurate way of knowing where you are and where you’re going, but it takes training and experience to interpret what the instruments say.

What are the critical indicators in your sales process? Are they number of enquiries, downloads of key content, or maybe new client meetings each month?

If you can understand and improve your performance using critical indicators, your business will take off like a jet.

Originally published here.


The New Rules of Social Media for Professional Service Firms

You may be thinking to yourself: wait, new rules? I haven’t got the hang of the old rules yet!

If this is you, you’re not alone. The world of social media moves fast; the technology changes quickly and trends live and die daily.

So how do you keep up with what’s going on?

1. Communicate

The truth is that most of your audience won’t expect your practice to be beyond the cutting edge of tech trends, but they will want to communicate with you in a way that they find easy and useful. Effective two-way communication with your audience is vital for marketing and customer service.

So, investigate. Which social media channels are your target audience using, and what are they talking about? Be part of the conversations your audience is already having and you will gain their trust and respect.

2. Don’t be boring

As a professional, it’s very easy to talk publically using language and topics you personally are interested in. While this is great when you are speaking with peers or special interest groups, you must remember that in most cases your audience has a much lower level of knowledge in your area. That’s why they need you!

Using highly technical or detail-driven content can appear boring to your audience. Instead, try to show the benefits or outcomes of what you do, and talk about how people will feel once your work with them is complete.

3. Forget “building community”

Social media marketing used to be all about building a community of followers, people who would gather around you and be attracted to your content. This method of marketing is difficult for professional service firms unless you have a unique and impressive position. Possible, but difficult.

Instead, focus on existing communities and groups. Find people that are already talking together and join in, giving value wherever you can. This builds your reputation in an existing group, around your area of expertise, and leads to referrals for your services.

Another very predictable way to use social media to gain clients is to utilise paid advertising. Facebook and LinkedIn both offer incredibly powerful targeting that can place your ad in front of a specific audience based on demographics or behaviours. While this costs money out of pocket, the time it saves and the return it can give mean it is worth experimenting with.

4. Engage

Basically, this fourth rule sums up the other three and forms a blanket rule for handling future changes.

You don’t need to know everything about every platform, but you do need to seek out where people are and what they are doing, and engage with them. Then let yourself be found in return.

Yes, communication technology changes. But if you have consistent, valuable interactions with your audience it doesn’t matter where they happen. And that is where the biggest opportunities can be found.

Originally published in LinkedIn


How to nurture a reputation that attracts new clients online

I see it all the time: when I ask a principal at a professional service firm what marketing they are currently doing, they explain that they rely on referrals and word of mouth to attract new clients.

Are you in this position? As an established firm you are right to be proud of your reputation – this is a valuable asset that ensures the public knows who you are and the quality to expect if they come to you.

However, it is a mistake to think that a good reputation always follows good work.

I’m sure you have seen examples of businesses that do a great job for happy clients, but no-one else seems to have ever heard of them. They seem to operate in secret.

At the other end of the spectrum are the firms that lead the field, that everyone knows, and that attract all the best opportunities. Yet often when you look behind the scenes they may be only as good as every other provider. Their reputation seems unnaturally good.

So how do you create a great reputation?

There is no denying that being good at what you do is a prerequisite. The best strategy in the world won’t hide serious inadequacies.

But once your service is competent or better you can encourage your reputation to grow and flourish.

A key step is to understand how referrals work in today’s world. If one of your clients tells their colleague about you, the first thing that person will do is Google your name to learn more.

What they see in Google decides whether they take the next step.

Of course, any negative press or reviews will reduce the likelihood of them going any further.

Happily, there are ways you can influence your reputation online.

Affirm the referral

The first is by strategically using the assets you have complete control over to affirm the messages your referrers give.

What do you see as your core strengths? What do your clients say about you when they are giving a referral?

Whatever those core messages are, make sure they are reflected in your online presence. Consistency of your brand message makes it easier for your clients to refer others to you, and also makes the referral process itself more effective as new clients continually see the same core messages.

Show your professionalism

Whoever refers others to you is doing you a great service, so do your best to make them look good in return.

The best way to do this is by exceeding the expectation that has been set.

If the searcher sees that you have a professional website, with good photos and clear information on your services, this is a subconscious tick. Social proof like good reviews and comments from other happy clients is another tick. Professional design and branding. Tick.

Right now the searcher is comfortable that the referral they have been given is legitimate and your professionalism is apparent. If they move forward and contact you, then your service provision also needs to back up your brand promise, so that their experience of you is complete.

Search and respond

Unfortunately, not everything people find about you on the internet will be under your direct control. Review websites and apps are common, and encourage reviewing professional service providers (and every other type of business).

Chances are, some of these websites will mention your business by name, and will be found by searchers.

Responding to reviews is like any other PR exercise: you need to remain professional, courteous and compassionate. If the reviews are negative, don’t enter into long arguments; instead, apologise lightly and offer to follow up by phone if appropriate.

When you find good reviews, thank the reviewer and give any additional insights you may have. In this way you are showing your brand and building your reputation in the marketplace even in arenas you don’t control.

You are who Google says you are

In today’s world, searching the internet using Google is the main way people will learn about who you are and what you do.

Make sure what they see is good.


How to double your client base without selling

Many professional service providers I know have a love/hate relationship with sales. It’s something we know is needed to grow our business, but the process of actually pitching our work and quoting a price for it can feel uncomfortable.

I often hear comments from business owners saying “I hate doing sales” or “I don’t want to come across like a salesman.” Sales can be seen as something slightly sleazy, bringing to mind images of high-energy men in power ties reeling prospects in and then high-fiving each other every time another one is hooked.

Truly authentic sales is nothing like this.

The way I think of it is this: if you’re an expert in your field, other people or businesses need the skills that you have. These skills will solve a problem for them or improve their lives in some way, and this has value to them.

They will happily pay for your services if you’re charging anything up to that perceived value – it is an easy, comfortable and logical decision for them to do so.

So “sales” becomes simply connecting those people who have needs with someone who can solve their problems – you.

And in fact, if these people know that they need you before they get in touch, you don’t have to “do sales” at all. They come to you understanding clearly who you are, what you do and who you do it for, and requesting that you help them. They have chosen you before you even meet.

So how can you attract these perfect enquiries?

The answer is in how those potential clients have found you, learnt about you, and experienced what you do, before they make the decision to get in touch.

You must have three things in place in order to have a smooth pathway for your ideal clients to get in touch.

1. Position

Your “position” is a term we use to mean the essence of who you present yourself as.

A crystal clear position means you know and can articulate who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. It encompasses your visual branding and your products, and also shows your audience how you are different from your competitors.

Knowing your position is the foundation of a communication strategy as it guides the messages, voice, visual design and every other aspect of your marketing, in order to be consistent and make an effective impact on your audience.

2. Presence

Once you are set with your position, you need ways to be able to show that information to your audience. This is your “presence”, where people see you online and can discover what you do and how to connect.

Online, your largest asset is going to be your website, the “mothership” that gathers and coordinates your online activity. Your website is the ultimate presence where you can use many types of media and communication strategies to get your message across.

Social media pages, landing pages and other places your audience will find you online also make up your presence, so ensure that your persona and message is consistent across all of them.

Your presence is also where you have your all-important calls to action: for example, to call for an appointment or fill in a form for more information.

3. Promotion

Having a fabulous website still doesn’t mean anyone will see it, and that’s where this step comes in.

“Promotion” covers all the activity that we do to get out in front of the ideal audience: social media, advertising, being found in Google search, even email. These strategies get you and your message out regularly and encourage people who are interested to click through to see more: that’s when they visit your presence and continue the journey.

Note that even though your promotional activity is much more regular and changeable, it needs to maintain the same position across the board. By being consistent all your marketing pulls in the same direction and allows you to make a deeper impression in your audience’s minds.

The digital impact strategy

All three pillars together form a strategic pathway that your broader audience follows to become clients. Using the strategy above you will have assets in each of the three pillars, and this makes the pathway for a potential client clear.

By the time they come to you, a typical client will have seen an ad, clicked through to your website, experienced your content and understood your position.

If they are the right fit, they get in touch knowing that they want to work with you. The sales conversation at that point is easy.

Rookie Success

As she was telling me about her new business, her eyes lit up. She had seen an early success gaining a large client and it had propelled her forward with enthusiasm, proving to her that the business world was exciting and success possible.

But as she’s built up her experience, knowledge, and skills it seems that business itself is getting harder.

It’s like, the more she knows about marketing and sales, the more difficult it becomes.

And she has not had another client like that first one in the 18 months since.

Can you relate? I certainly can. Sometimes it seems like our experience and increasing competence can actually hold us back.

So what is this about?

I attribute the “Rookie Effect” to the way we learn and act.

Once we have gained experience in any one direction, it becomes easier to do things that way again and again. In this way our minds learn to think of that as being the most valuable path. Even if it’s not. Even if there are others we haven’t even tried.

Before we have experience, when we are still rookies, all the options seem possible. We decide on the way forward using the data available to us and what seems most appealing. With a healthy helping of “gut instinct” thrown in.

As a rookie, we know that we don’t know. We are actively seeking, looking and learning.

Innovation requires that we regularly re-evaluate the best options, to make sure they still are the best. Put yourself in a rookie’s shoes again.

The evils of no-reply email

Imagine you’re in a department store. As you walk down the shoe aisle looking for the brown suedes you saw in the catalogue, a staff member catches your eye and speaks to you.

“Apologies, the catalogue shoe range is not in this area.”

Useful information, but not enough. So you say, “Thanks. Where can I find them?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t answer questions. I’m just here to tell you this one piece of information. You’ll need to go to the reception desk at the other end of the store to ask that.”


This is intuitively wrong. If a person gives you important news you expect to be able to ask them for clarification. Or ask them for details in related fields.

Providing critical info for your audience in one place but telling them they must get more details in a separate place at a different time, is awkward and unintuitive.

So why do some of our largest service providers do it?

I had a notice of works from my ISP recently – from a “No Reply” email address. I want to know more details so I can understand the impact of their changes. But I can’t just hit “reply” to ask them. Why not? They just told me about this by email. It doesn’t make sense.

You can imagine the conversation that happened internally:

“This is big. When we tell our customers, we’ll get a bunch of questions.”

“Well, we have basically two options: we could prepare support to answer their questions. Or we could make it harder to ask us those questions in the first place.”

[Sideways glances.]

Using a no-reply email address is like using your voice to talk to someone but closing your own ears – and accepting their response only in semaphore.

Instead, make it as easy as possible for your clients to get into conversations with you and your team. Effective communication goes both ways.

How many perfect niches do you need?

There are 6 billion people in the world. Each one of us is unique, with our own experiences, friends, families, lives, struggles, desires.

Our own desires.

Each of us wants something, making each of us a unique niche, the most micro of niches possible.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, the difficulty is that each of us is also capable of creating a service that would satisfy at least one of our fellow humans.

Finding your niche in business is one of the most important and difficult tasks on the entrepreneur’s journey.

So how do you decide what niche to focus on?

The perfect niche is a combination of several things.

  1. Small enough for you to gain a reputation
  2. Large enough to provide you an income
  3. Consistent enough to target precisely
  4. Unique enough that they’re not already being served
  5. In need enough that you can solve a valuable problem for them

Think of your niche not just in demographic terms, but focus instead on their need being the common factor.

What group of people do you serve? How can you describe that group as tightly as possible?

Trusting Pareto

We hear it all the time: less is more.

Lighter interfaces have been made sexy by Apple. People who think about only one task at a time get more done. Eating less is healthier for our bodies. We even hear “less is more” being used to excuse wearing ever-smaller bathers at the beach.

Pareto was considering a similar wisdom when we spoke about what we now call the Pareto Principle: that 80% of our outcomes are due to 20% of our activity.

If only we knew which 20% of our activity was going to produce the most outcomes, all of us would be on board with Pareto. The problem is that’s not always obvious.

Which is one reason why, when it comes to marketing, I find many people still create a list for themselves that includes every activity they have ever heard that might be beneficial.

We all know that we should be doing less, and putting our energy into what is going to be most valuable. Yet it’s hard to cut out activity that you know might produce some results.

It’s difficult to have faith in Pareto.

Luckily, practicality is on our side when it comes to digital marketing. We can test our campaigns easily and quickly. Advertisements, for example, can give us valid feedback after only a few days, and show us whether they will work or not. Whether they are part of the 20% or the 80%.

So it’s not just about trust. Prove to yourself what will work and what will not.

And then do more of the less that produces the more.