What You Can Learn from My Biggest Blunder

Fail to Learn podcast

They say experience is the best teacher
That’s what they teach us in school
I say experience is the teacher of fools
‘Cause a wise man will learn from another man’s errors
Then apply that to determine what he shall choose
~ Da T.R.U.T.H., Click (No Regrets)

No, my biggest mistake wasn’t trying to become a rapper, although the idea did appeal to me for a few years in high school.

It’s not often that I talk about the time when my copywriting business nearly suffocated under the weight of my own stupidity. But Matt Fox got me to open up and dive into the details on an episode of his shiny new show, the Fail to Learn podcast.

I’m not going to give away the juicy details here. If you’re interested to hear about the attitude that nearly put me in the poorhouse, the advice I didn’t listen to — even though I tell other entrepreneurs not to do this all the time — and the steps I took to make my comeback, click over to Matt’s site and listen to Freelance Copywriter Painfully Discovers What Happens When You Neglect Your Own Marketing.

There are a couple other great interviews on the site you should check out, too.

As Da T.R.U.T.H said, there’s no need to learn things the hard way, in many cases. Learn from the mistakes of others…find out what warning signs you need to watch out for and how to avoid the pitfalls that may await you.

In the interview, I also talk about

  • a book that had a big impact on me in 2015
  • why my voicemail greeting offends a LOT of people (and why I’m happy about that)
  • the importance of proactive scheduling
  • a tool most freelancers don’t use enough that could help them close a lot more of the right kinds of deals
  • my worst habits
  • …and a whole lot more.

Another cool thing about the Fail to Learn site: Matt’s giving away How A Business Fails, a very helpful PDF report that outlines the 5 stages you go through when failing and give yourself a fighting chance to thrive. This is something you’re going to want to download and perform some self-analysis.

I had a lot of fun recording this interview and I hope you have a blast listening and learning.

One more thing: A couple years ago, I had a conversation with Matt about how to communicate more persuasively. He hands out some great gems in this interview.

 

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Becoming the Most Productive YOU Ever

Productivity: Make it Happen

Contrary to the opinion of many, productivity is not a function of speed. It’s all about results.

Making 20 sales calls in an hour is working fast. But if you make a bad impression on 20 good prospects, the hour was unproductive.  (Cold calling is rarely productive, by the way. At least for most of us.)

Entrepreneurial people live in what Dan Sullivan calls the “results economy,” not the “time and effort economy. Working harder, faster, and taking fewer breaks may seem like a more productive way of living. That’s not necessarily the case. In the end, the value you produce is what matters.

All things are not equal. Knocking out 90% of the tasks on your checklist may be unproductive…if you’re doing it to avoid the handful of things that will have the biggest impact.

Now, I’ve never claimed to be the world’s leading authority on productivity. But as an obsessed freelance copywriter with 4 kids and a gorgeous wife who deserves my attention, I have to maintain a degree of focus. Not just activity, but money-in-the-bank results.

My more productive days have distinctive characteristics that my unproductive ones. When I’m “on,” here’s what’s usually happening:

  • I get into motion. Inertia kills many people and projects at the starting block. It drains our reservoirs of enthusiasm and energy. Getting going is tough! Sometimes it makes sense to make the first step ridiculously easy to take. Get the forward momentum started and accelerate from there. Don’t overthink!
    • Once momentum is working for you instead of against, you might be surprised how productive you can be. A little step forward, a mini-victory can go a long way.
    • As a writer, this is HUGE. Don’t stare at a blank page for too long. Start writing. Your thoughts will clear up before you know it. Then go back and edit.
  • I prioritize in advance. I decide what results I need to accomplish and plan activities accordingly.
  • I prepare in advance. The work starts before you start working. You wipe out a lot of dilly-dally if you come fully prepared.
  • I set deadlines. Without them, I’m practically dead in the water.
  • I use methods already proven to work instead of reinventing the wheel every time out.
  • I schedule my day, slotting my high-priority action items into times when my energy levels and focus are likely to be high – that’s usually evening for me – and my time will be uninterrupted.

The Other Part of Productivity

You have go beyond affecting your own mental and work habits. You’ve gotta produce an effect on other people.

How do you avoid doing all the right things only to fall flat when dealing with customers?

Go after the right prospects. Vegans don’t buy steaks.

Who wants what you sell? Who’s most likely to buy in the near future? Who has the ability to say “yes”? Who is already inclined to do business with you?

Strengthen the messaging. There’s a reason good copywriters and salespeople make a lot of money. Communicating persuasively multiplies productivity. I’ve seen conversion rates rise 400% and more simply by rearranging some words.

If you’re going to make sales calls or send emails, you might as well close some deals.

Use leverage. Make your intelligent efforts stretch even farther. Productivity levers include

  • authority
  • relationships with your existing customers
  • strategic alliances
  • expanding from one-to-one to one-to-many
  • repurposing existing materials.

A Word About State Management

I’ve found that I’m most productive when I’m excited about what I’m working on. Creativity emerges more effortlessly when I’m confident in my abilities and knowledge.

Negativity and disagreement put me into a funk.

You have to figure out ways to get yourself pumped up and confident that you’re going to knock it out of the ballpark.

*Update May 2017*

Here’s the recording of a livestreamed video I shot for my Facebook group. It’s about writing faster. Because… you know…I’m a writer (and there’s a good chance you are, too):

 


One last thing.

I wanted to share this cool infographic. Salesforce Canada did some research to uncover “Simple tips to Becoming the Most Productive Salesperson Ever.” One of their reps reached out to me and asked to share it.

Good stuff for you to think about.

salesperson productivity

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In Pursuit of Elephants

Focus Business Growth

“The hunter in pursuit of an elephant does not stop to throw stones at birds.” ~ Ugandan proverb

The words rocked me when I read them for the first time. The weight of that truth. The multiple layers of application, personal and professional. The visual texture of the metaphor.

It’s amazing how much wisdom can be found on boxes of tea these days…

The ideas of purpose, focus and the proper use of time become increasingly important to me. There are so many demands on my time, energy and resources, it’s critical to figure out which are elephants and which are birds.

The cool (and simultaneously challenging) thing is, by and large, it’s up to you to decide which is which.

What are YOU pursuing?

One of the major components of the business growth model Michael Zipursky shared during last week’s training was defining who your ideal clients are. (FYI, you can see the replay of the 1-hour training here.)

Again, you get to pick who they are. You also get to decide, to a degree that would astonish many people, HOW you will work with them.

I don’t necessarily mean big-money clients when I say “elephants,” although there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean whatever is meaningful to you. Here’s the catch: most of us never define what’s important to us. We kind of just drift through life. Maybe we pat ourselves on the back when we avail ourselves of opportunities as they pass. But how many of those opportunities are “birds” that happen to land in our paths?

What’s important in your life? In your business? Pursue it like a hungry cheetah chases it’s next meal. Ignore as many insignificant things as possible. They’re wasting huge chunks of your time (aka your life)!

That means you have to figure out what your purpose is and focus on it.

A Stimulating Conversation with a From-Scratch Millionaire

Quick story.

On Monday, I had the chance to sit down and chat with one of my clients. His life is one of those true rags-to-riches tales. He showed me a YouTube video of his oldest son, who has also become a millionaire, giving a presentation at a major event.

I (strategically) asked what he attributed his son’s success to. He boiled it down to 3 main factors:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Insane work ethic
  3. Fearlessness

Both my client and his son have earned millions of dollars by choosing their elephants, expending massive amounts of energy pursuing them (working smart AND hard) and ignoring the insidious feeling of fear that would tell them to chase something smaller, less dangerous and easier to catch.

Sounds like good advice.

 

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Is Your Marketing Fragile? Here’s How You Can Tell

fragile marketing

It’s possible to know everything about marketing techniques, strategies and tools and still be a marketing imbecile.

If you don’t understand what makes people tick, you don’t have much going for you. Marketing is about people, not methods. When business people miss this fact, the marketing they produce is usually pretty fragile. Always in danger of falling apart. Susceptible to defeat in the face of opposition or competition.

Fragile marketing is all around us. Here are 4 major symptoms — do your communications suffer from any of them?

1) Price-based messages are fragile
Unless you have no mailbox, TV or internet, you’ve probably seen dozens of advertisements for Black Friday “doorbuster” sales. Doorbusters take urgency to the extreme, offering uber-low prices to drive traffic to stores (or to a lesser extent, websites).

Don’t get me wrong; everyone loves a good deal. But consider the position you put yourself in when you put all your eggs in the low price basket. You have to be cheaper than Walmart. You have to compete with the preponderance of their commercials, too. Is that really the contest you want to participate in?

While this is true all year ’round, consumers (at least here in America) are practically programmed to shop at big box retailers for Black Friday and other commercialized holidays. The retailers spend millions of dollars broadcasting their bottom-basement prices to your customers. The deck is stacked against you.

Remedy
No matter what you sell, if you don’t a) offer something unique, b) make a more persuasive appeal, or c) develop a special relationship with your customers, you lose…

Discover 3 eading “Fragile Marketing: Recognize the Symptoms” on the Chicago Brander blog:

Much thanks to Dan Gershenson for letting my guest blog!

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The 7th Grade Science Lesson Business Schools Should Teach

Do you remember learning Sir Isaac Newton’s “laws of motion” in school? I wonder, were you like most of your classmates, questioning whether knowing this stuff would do you any good in the real world?

Today I want to apply Newton’s thinking to something other than physical science. You know me: I always have to look at things differently.

Newton’s 1st Law of… Business?

Newton’s first law of motion states that objects tend to remain in the state of motion that they’re in. We use the term inertia to describe this phenomenon. Moving objects want to keep moving. Stationary objects like to stay still,

You can probably already see where I’m going with this.

If you’ve ever been in business, or seriously considered launching a one, you have almost certainly experienced what I’m talking about. Getting started is hard, isn’t it?

Changing your state of motion from stationary to forward motion takes a lot of energy. Not to mention if you have to get others to move with you! No part of the process requires more hard work than the initial phases. Think of the space shuttle. It takes two rocket boosters and a fuel tank bigger than the shuttle itself just for lift off. The rockets and fuel tank are unnecessary after the astronauts are several miles from the ground. I’m only guessing here, but I imagine that 95% of the fuel burned during the entire voyage is consumed in the first few minutes. Defeating inertia is not easy.

Once you’ve got things started and moving along…Continue Reading on Fishing for Customers blog.

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Start-Up Advice

I spoke with a new internet marketing student the other day. During the conversation, I gave some advice that I think is pretty doggone profound.

Here’s what I said:

“Just take it one step at a time, and keep moving forward.”

Deep, huh?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing how difficult it can be to get a business endeavor off the ground. That grind that comes at the beginning can wear down the toughest guys and gals out there. A lot of the time it does.

Studies show that as many as 9 out of 10 of business start-ups fail within the first 5 years. Ugly odds. So I’m not saying this is easy.

What I am saying is that success doesn’t happen by accident. You have to figure out the steps it will take to get you where you want to go. That in itself can be really difficult. How do you know what needs to happen? Who should you listen to?

I won’t go into depth on that here, except to say that you should be cautious taking advice from people that are not successful themselves. That success should be in your chosen field or one where the lessons are translatable.

Next, take one step at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Put one foot ahead of the other, and get steady before you start to make your next move.

Then, keep stepping forward. Concentrate your efforts and conquer each step along your path to the promise land. One step after the other.

Sometimes you can make leaps rather than little steps. But don’t get over-anxious. Once you’re fully focused on what you’re doing, you’ll recognize your opportunities when they come.

If you follow the basic formula (determine needed steps — take one step at a time — keep moving forward) success becomes easier and more predictable.

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