How To Start & Grow Your Business

Founder of More Clients, Ian Brodie, shares his story

Asher Fergusson
Apr 8th, 2016
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  • Biography

    Straight talking marketing advice for consultants & coaches at IanBrodie.com. Blogger, author of Email Persuasion and ever-hopeful Newcastle United fan. Marketing Strategist for Consultants and Coaches.

  • #1 Tip for Startups

    The absolute most important thing is to find the right product or service for the right market. I mean a product that your potential customers and clients really, really want and need and they know they want to need it. If you got that, you can have pretty crappy marketing.

Ian’s background and how he began

To be honest, my online business almost started by accident. There were a couple of things that led to it. I set up a business about eight years ago. I used to work for a couple of big global consulting firms. Eventually just got tired of the travel and also wanted to do my own thing. I had a feeling that I could be doing things slightly different.

One of the things I wanted to do more was online marketing and I got into it through a friend of mine who is a professional magician in London. In early 2000, he called me and said, “Ian, go to Google and type in magician.” And so I went to Google and typed in magician and there he was, number one in the world for the search phrase “magician” out of the whole world. He is a good magician, but I don’t think he’s the best in the world.

He then went on to tell me that he got about 80% of his bookings through the web from Google. Now, that’s a huge if you know the world of magic. Close-up professional magic performing at parties and stuff, you’ll know that it’s almost always a word of mouth business. People don’t hire magicians unless they’ve seen them perform or a friend saw them perform, et cetera.

But, he was getting 80% of his business through the web. So I thought, “You know what? If it works for a business like that, it might work for consultants.” So one of the things I wanted to do when I set up my own business was to try and use the web. I had a few things that I felt I wanted to share with the world, so my ideas about marketing and about sales, particularly for my audience, is people like consultants and coaches. People like me who are natural salespeople, but who kind of need to sell and market their services.

I blogged and I felt drawn to it. I felt as if I had something I wanted to share and some experience I wanted to share. What I found, after a couple of months, was that I was getting far more traffic to my blog than I was to my official website. A few months after that and the pattern continued. More and more people came to my blog and more and more people were commenting, sharing and interested in what I was writing. Still, the official website hadn’t taken off and they were two separate sites.

Ian Brodie's House

Ian’s house

So eventually, I just thought, “Well, you know what? Why don’t I just forget about the official website and why don’t I just stick to a blog and use that as my main vehicle for engaging with people and building a relationship with them?” So that’s how I kind of got started in blogging.

But email marketing did not happen for me until about two years later. I kind of avoided it. Honestly, I had fallen for the email marketing is old hat. Everybody uses social media these days. Everybody is on blogs. Nobody really wants to get more emails in their inbox. And I kind of listened to that.

Until eventually, a friend of mine just said, “Look, stop being stupid. Just try it out and see what happens.” So I put up an email opt-in form and then eventually I wrote a kind of free report that people got and a steady drip of subscribers arrived. I found when I started emailing people, they started responding way better than people ever responded when they were coming to the blog. I got personal emails back. People writing me, “That has been so helpful. Thank you very much.”

People eventually started emailing me and said, “Hey, do you take on coaching clients? Do you work with people one-to-one?” and I thought, “Well, I suppose I could. Absolutely, I can do coaching as well.” I was really late to the game, I guess, but it changed things for me. People just really started responding and it worked for me.

Favorite Tools of the Trade

I don’t think there’s one best email marketing platform that works for everyone and to some degree, I think the actual platform is secondary to your strategy and how we use it.

I personally use a tool called ActiveCampaign, which I guess I would call it kind of mid-range system. So there are the standard entry level things, like AWeber and MailChimp, everyone has heard of. They got great – some people click with AWeber. Some people click with MailChimp. Some people click with GetResponse. It depends what your personal preference is, but they allow you to send emails, manage your list, put people into simple autoresponders.

One step up from that are tools like ActiveCampaign, Drip, ConvertKit, and those are tools that allow you a bit more sophistication in terms of your automations. So you can be a bit clever in terms of when people signed up, you send a map, but maybe you wait a couple of days to see if they download it. And if they haven’t, you send them a reminder. Then if they do download it, then you start emailing them this kind of sequence and if they click that link, you mark them as being interested in this and then later on you send them that.

Illus/email marketing/tablet with email marketing

Photo Credit: leszekglasner Depositphoto.com

You can kind of weave some more interesting paths. In particular, what you’re doing there is you are getting yourself out of the problem of averages. One of the biggest problems any marketer has, and particularly email marketers have, is having to deal with an average. What I mean by that is anyone who – unless you’re in a very, very small market with a very, very incredibly tight niche – has a variety of people with a variety of interests on your email list or coming to your blog or whatever.

I do marketing stuff for consultants, coaches, and trainers. Now, some people on my list are really interested in online marketing. Some people are especially interested in email. Others are interested in LinkedIn. Others are interested in face-to-face marketing, etc. So not everything I send everyone will be interesting to all of them.

How to Stand Out on the Internet

I try and do multiple things. So firstly, I try and have a point of view in a kind of voice that is unique to me. So I kind of tell my truth as it were. Possibly because I’m from the Northeast of England originally, I am fairly straightforward.

I just find it very difficult to be fluffy. I try to keep things practical and straightforward and let’s just get this stuff done. Let’s cut out all the fancy stuff and the pretense that changing this one slight thing on your website and you’ll be a millionaire overnight. Yeah, maybe that happened for one person, but it’s not going to happen for most people. Let’s just focus on what’s real. So that kind of straightforward practical voice is part of the differentiation that let’s me stand out to some degree.

Ian Brodie Banner

Ian Brodie’s house and “Guard Duck”

The fact that I focused on a niche of consultants, coaches, and trainers lets me stand out to another degree. There’s a great affinity I have with those folks, because that’s who I am. That’s what I’ve done most of my adult life. So I speak the same language as them. I have the same experience as them, the same frustrations as them and I think they pick it up. People understand I am one of them and I have the same background and I kind of understand what they’re going through. Maybe in terms of online marketing, I’m a step or two further down the journey.

I do remember when I was initially starting out and some of challenges I had and I try and use few different medium as well. So I use email a lot more than many people do. I use video so I do a quick 5-minute marketing tip video every week. So I’ve got this variety of media going on. I’ve got the email on a regular basis. I’ve got the kind of personality bit which helps – it comes across a bit through the videos as well.

I tell stories a lot, I’m very honest. So one of the things people often email me back about is they say, “You’re the only kind of marketing person who I get emails from who talks a lot about their failures, things they’ve done that have gone wrong.” I find that’s a rich scene, because, in my life, I’m getting old a bit. I’m nearly 50 now, I’ve done a lot of things that have gone wrong and I’m old enough that I am quite prepared to admit them that when I first started out marketing and selling, I was absolutely hopeless. I made some tremendous mistakes and I think people feel an affinity for that.

Eventually, you can only go so far by everything you write being about the wonderful brilliant successes you have every day. At some point, people stop believing you, you just don’t come across as real. So I think that works for me as well.

The Cloud

My favorite cloud service, sometimes I don’t even know whether these things are in the cloud these days. Of course, like everyone, I use Dropbox quite extensively. I use Wistia for video as well as YouTube. I use ActiveCampaign for email marketing. I use Contactually, a little CRM system.

So email marketing is great for reaching the masses and most email marketing systems say they also have CRM features, but they don’t really. I like Contactually for CRM because of the way Contactually works. It integrates with your normal email system, like Gmail or Outlook, and what it does, it’s really focused on follow-up. It’s a very simple CRM system. It doesn’t attempt to overdo things.

There’s a tool called Grapevine6. Basically, you glue it into your LinkedIn account and it looks at the social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, to see what content they’d be interested in and it then suggests it to you on an individual basis. It kind of says, “Stewart would be interested in this article on customer service. John would be interested in this article about manufacturing.” Why don’t you send it to them? It gives you little templates for doing that. So again, it just makes it easy for you to keep in touch with people and keep building relationships with them, which is the name of the game in a professional service type business.

Recommended Reading

Email Persuasion Book

For entrepreneurs, the ones that are top on my mind right now, one is Choose Yourself by James Altucher. For those of you know it or those of you who don’t know it, it is about the fact that the world is changing and we’re no longer in a world where if you want to do some things, someone has to pick you to do it. Someone has to choose you.

It used to be, if you wanted to be an author then a publishing company had to say, “Yes, you come and write for us.” If you wanted to be a rock star, an A&R guy had to say, “Yes, I like your music, et cetera.” If you wanted to be a marketing expert, you had to grow up in a marketing agency and all that kind of stuff or be a professor to business school or whatever. Nowadays, you can choose yourself, as James says, and decide that you are going to do something and there are lots of ways that you can stand out on your own. So really, that book is all about the philosophy of choosing yourself and some tools and some techniques and some ways you can do it.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

The second book, it’s really an old one, it’s The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. That’s of course the principle that a big challenge that a lot of people have is as they’re trying to grow their business and get better results, they try to do more with more. If they want to grow the sales by 20%, they have to work 20% harder. Eventually, that can’t – that’s not sustainable.

The 80/20 Principle is about finding the critical few things that deliver 80% of the results and then do more of those. So if you do more – if you cut out the 80% – if you keep to the 20% that delivers 80%. That means you’re only getting 80% of your results, but if you then double those 20 and you do 40, you get a 160% of the results by removing the other stuff that wasn’t really delivering you anything. So, lots of good stuff in The 80/20 Principle that helps you to focus and really get results.

The 80 20 Principle

Ninja v. Zombie

One ninja and a pack of zombies? Mutually assured destruction, I suspect. They would all be in trouble in the end. It could be the zombies. It depends on whether they’re the modern super-fast zombies, out of like 28 Days Later, or whether they really slow zombies, out of the old zombie films. If they were fast zombies, I think they would win. If they were slow zombies, I would probably give it to the ninja. On balance, it would be probably they both end up killing each other.

His #1 Tip for Entrepreneurs

The absolute most important thing is to find the right product or service for the right market. I mean a product that your potential customers and clients really, really want and need and they know they want to need it. If you got that, you can have pretty crappy marketing.

I give advice to people on marketing and I’m going to spend ages telling them how to improve their marketing, et cetera, but I’ve seen some products with pretty mediocre marketing succeed brilliantly, because they were a great match and it was something their market really wanted.

On the other hand, I’ve seen products with brilliant marketing fail miserably because at the end of the day, people just didn’t want or need what it was they had to offer.

So that would be the first thing, absolutely make sure, and validate, people really want and need what it is you have to offer. And then as you grow, bootstrap and grow and keep things simple.

About the Author

Asher Fergusson

Asher has a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) degree and was the CEO of his own startup Internet marketing business for 6 years before selling it in 2014. He specializes in fields such as Search Engine Optimization and Facebook Advertising where he's helped countless small businesses successfully compete with large corporations. He is now the full-time CMO at bizHUMM sharing all his knowledge of how to start and grow small businesses in the most powerful and cost effective ways.