Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.

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3 unexpected rules for choosing your marketing

Posted on 9th October 2022.

There are, of course, plenty of different ways of marketing your business (despite certain “experts” telling you theirs is the only way).

The good news is that you can choose which to use.

The bad news is that choosing isn't easy.

But over the years (and a lot of missteps) I've found three simple and somewhat counterintuitive rules that can help you pick the best methods for you.

Rule #1 – do marketing you enjoy (or at least don't hate).

Marketing only works if you do it, and do it consistently.

If you hate making cold calls, making videos or doing presentations then no matter how effective those methods may be, you won't do them consistently enough to get results.

Rule #2 – do marketing that's quick and easy (for you)

This goes against the whole hustle-culture idea that you have to work 18-hour days and devote your life to your business to get meaningful results. I've not found that to be true.

And in particular, the reality is that most of us don't do marketing full-time. So the marketing we do has to be simple and intuitive.

I've found this with software for example. If I'm a regular user it can be pretty complicated but I'll learn the shortcuts and the best ways to use it.

But if I only use it once a week it has to be simple and intuitive, otherwise I'll just get stuck and give up.

It's the same with marketing. I used to use Google Ads and then Facebook Ads a lot. I don't now. So when I log in it's just a confusing mess for me. There's no way I can figure out how to do anything meaningful in the limited time I have available.

On the other hand, posting on Linkedin or writing an email is pretty quick and easy. I can do it without having to re-learn it each time. So I can focus my limited time on the message and the marketing, not on the mechanics of doing it.

Rule #3 – do marketing that whispers rather than shouts

We all know the reality that the vast majority of our customers aren't ready to buy when we first start interacting with them.

Marketing that shouts – aggressive, pushy tactics like cold calls or cold emails or ads and social posts that are straight pitches – may get you a small number of buyers. But it pushes away the much larger number of potential customers who are your long-term future.

And frankly, shouty marketing isn't something that most of us enjoy doing or find easy (see rules 1 & 2).

Marketing that whispers is marketing that adds value, is interesting, and has a gentle sales message.

It's marketing your potential customers will keep paying attention to. It's marketing that will build credibility and trust over time. It's marketing that will be there when they're ready to buy.

A podcast or youtube show does this. Email marketing does this the best.

The marketing you select using these 3 rules probably isn't going to be the latest silver bullet. Or anything cool. But it will work – for you. And that's the important part.


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Self-sustaining growth

Posted on 25th September 2022.

I've been reading Rob Fitzpatrick's “Write Useful Books” while on hols. 

Yeah, I know, super boring. But there are some very obvious applications beyond books for our marketing, our courses and services.

Fitzpatrick has authored two hugely successful books that – very unusually – have grown their sales over time rather than peaking at launch. “Write Useful Books” is about how to do that with your books but the principles apply much more widely.

The “secret” is to get your current readers to regularly recommend the book to others. Obvious really – but there are a few keys to it.

The first key, not surprisingly, is to pack your book with value per page. You need to wow your readers if you want them to recommend your book.

But how many books have you read that are really just a decent article stretched out so that the author could say they'd written a book?

Far too many.

That doesn't serve your audience and it won't get your book recommended.

And the same goes for online courses, or even our live work. Clients are buying the results they get from you and the faster that happens the better. More hours is bad not good.

The next key is to make sure your book (or service or course or lead magnet) provides a clear solution to a problem lots of people ask about.

When do people recommend things? When someone asks for recommendations. Or says they've got a problem.

That means your thing must be ultra-specific. But just being specific isn't enough. 

It needs to answer a question that many people often ask or a problem many of them have and tell people about

It can't be a solution to a problem your clients don't know they have. Or that they won't admit to in public. Or that only a few of them have,

So it takes work.

It takes actually talking to potential clients.

Which is where the third key comes in – I'll talk about that soon.


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Never again

Posted on 11th September 2022.

We're on holiday this week – on a big old ship headed towards Oslo :)

I must admit I had a little too much to drink last night (Kathy would say a lot too much) and I found myself thinking “never again” this morning.

Of course, time passes. Memory fades. And we do it again.

Luckily having a bit of a sore head the next day isn't too big a deal. But the same trick often happens with our marketing.

We get so busy with client work that we just don't do enough to line up our next clients.

Then when our projects end we swing from feast to famine and we have to desperately scrabble around trying to find the next one. Often we end up working on stuff that's maybe not the best use of our skills or the best paid.

And we say to ourselves “never again – next time I'm going to keep marketing even when I'm busy”.

But time passes. Memory fades. And we do it again.

With feast or famine cycles, the impact is much more serious than a sore head.  So it really is worth doing something about.

And it doesn't have to be much.

If you only need a handful of clients each year, a couple of emails and phone calls every week to keep in touch will help.

If you create courses or get clients online, a short article on Linkedin or an email or a bit of “keep in touch” with potential partners who could help promote you will help.

Just a little bit each week will keep things ticking over so you won't find yourself thinking “never again” when you're short of clients.

And if you're in that situation right now where you haven't done any marketing for a while – don't put it off.

Don't nod as you read this email and think “I'll get right on to that…tomorrow”. Do it now.

Send a couple of emails. Get a “crappy first draft” done of that article you've been meaning to write. Jot down a list of 3 people to call tomorrow morning along with what you can talk to them about (that isn't a sales pitch).

As my kids would say “do it…do it…do it”.

It's simple stuff but it makes a big difference.

If only it were so easy when it comes to over-indulging on holiday :)


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Another chance

Posted on 28th August 2022.

We've been at a wedding this weekend. One of those one-in-a-million British weddings where it's actually sunny :)

The groom was my friend David (of whose stag night I wrote about a few weeks ago). And I can't think of anyone more deserving of another chance at happiness.

It's tempting to think that at a certain point your future is set in stone. But that's just not true. It can be really hard, but anything can be changed.

I gave Twitter a second chance recently. I'd grown very tired of the amount of anger and nonsense on it. But by essentially starting from scratch I've been able to get a feed full of interesting, useful and positive messages.

But more importantly, you can get another chance.

At what?


Just because you always used to work with a particular type of client doesn't mean you always have to.

Just because you always used to offer a particular service doesn't mean you always have to.

Just because you always used to use a certain type of marketing doesn't mean you always have to.

You get my drift, I'm sure.

Of course, it's easier to harness skills and contacts and resources you already have. So you might not want to change everything.

But if you change nothing, you're going to get the same results you've always got. And there's a good chance you're going to get bored doing so.

Might a different type of client value your services more? Do you have other skills you've developed you might be able to build a business around (that's how I got into my current business).

One of the reasons new startups often leave established businesses standing is that despite the established business spotting an opportunity, it just feels too different and too risky for them to take.

I see the same thing again and again with individual consultants and coaches who struggle with their marketing.

Instead of rethinking who they're offering their services to, what they're offering and how they market themselves, they look for a silver bullet which will let them plough on down the same furrow but somehow with better success.

It rarely works like that.

Sometimes you find a magic method that lets you do the same things, just more successfully. But not often.

More usually you have to take a chance and do something significantly different. Focus on different clients, different services, different marketing.

A challenge, for sure. But it's how you get another chance at success.


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John Stuart Mill’s advice…and my night last night

Posted on 22nd July 2022.

Last night I was out on that very British of institutions – the stag night. (hence the late post today, ahem).

One thing that always strikes me at events like these is just how much talent, intelligence and capability there is in “normal people”. And how it comes in all shapes and sizes and from all backgrounds.

It's easy to surround yourself with people like you. People with similar educations, similar professions, similar points of view.

It's comfortable. But it's a surefire way to kill off new ideas.

John Stuart Mill said “It's hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress.”

He was spot on, in my experience. You learn more from people who are different to you than people who are the same. So it's worthwhile making sure you have that variety in your life.

It could be you get it from a mastermind group you're in. Or a course you take with a lot of diversity in members. Or you might seek out people who are different with interesting ideas and interview them for your podcast.

Whatever method you use, you'll find it's well worth it.


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Being brilliant at marketing is overrated

Posted on 17th July 2022.

When I first started in business it seemed like about 90% of all the advice I got said “you've got to get good at marketing – it's the number one skill”.

Become a brilliant copywriter. Master SEO and content marketing. Excel at conversions. 

I lapped it up.

Perhaps I should have noticed that the people giving the advice all sold marketing training :)

But it seemed to make sense. When you start a business your biggest challenge is getting customers. So surely marketing is the big thing you need to get good at? 

Not necessarily. At least not in my experience.

You reed great results from your marketing. But you don't need to be all that great at marketing to get great results.

If you've got a great product or service and you don’t play in a super-competitive market then frankly, half-decent marketing is all you need.

You don't need the higher-level skills that could squeeze an extra percentage point of conversion from an already hyper-optimised landing page. You just need the basics that your competitors probably haven't got.

Improving from 90% to 95% is really hard and needs world-class skills. It's worth it for a business doing millions in a competitive market.

Improving from 20% (where most small businesses are likely to be if they're lucky) to 60% is way easier. But relatively speaking it has a much bigger impact on your business.

And often you can do it based on simple principles and using templates and examples that have worked time and time again.

Templates and examples alone will never get you to 95%. But they'll get you to 60% or 70% which is all you need.

People trying to sell you marketing training are biased – and usually they can't see it.  They live in the ultra-competitive world of marketing services so they tend to assume that all markets need the same level of sophistication and skill.

They don't.

Whenever you're looking to get better results from your marketing, sanity check the advice you're getting. Does it apply to your particular market? Or is it calling for you to reach a level of mastery that just isn't needed (and would take far too long anyway)


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The Greeks knew this truth about persuasion

Posted on 3rd July 2022.

These days our idea of persuasion is to ramp up scarcity, throw in a deadline and a bunch of testimonialy social proof.

But the ancient Greeks had very different ideas.

In Aristotle's Rhetoric, he identified the three cornerstones of persuasion: logos, pathos and ethos.

Logos is persuasion through rational argument. In our case that primarily means demonstrating the benefits our potential clients will get if they buy our products or services. But it can also be the “logical” answer to objections they might have or other reasons why this makes sense for them.

Pathos is persuasion through the emotions of the hearer. For example, tying the benefits they'll get to a deep seated desire or inciting pride in the improvements they'll see. Or perhaps anger that they're not getting what they deserve, or envy that others are.

Ethos is persuasion through the character of the speaker. In our world it's about whether they trust you to deliver for them and whether they have confidence in your capabilities.

I'm going to suggest that the Greeks were on to something.

Psychological nudges can get people off the fence. They can even drive the whole decision for low-cost products where the stakes aren't all that high.

But for something big and important it's different.

Unless someone sees the benefit they'll get from your product, really feels what a difference it will make to them, and trusts you to deliver: all the deadlines, scarcity and social proof in the world aren't going to get them to stump up a small fortune to buy.

Psychological nudges are great and can make a real difference. But get your logos, ethos and pathos right first.


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Ditch the tricks…do this instead

Posted on 26th June 2022.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what makes for successful email marketing over the long term.

Not the “hustle a bunch of sales from new subscribers” type of success that a lot of experts and courses seem to focus on. But instead, how do you build the long-term trust and credibility needed for someone to be ready to buy something big and important.

And it’s struck me just how much advice in marketing these days is based on “tricks”. Psychological techniques borrowed from Cialdini, Kahneman, Sherman, Ariely and others.

There’s no doubt that reciprocity, scarcity, urgency, social proof and all those other persuasion techniques do work. But they tend to amplify motivations, not generate them out of thin air.

If someone is seriously considering buying your product then a little deadline can push them over the edge.

But if they think your product is worthless, no amount of social proof, scarcity or urgency is going to get them to buy. In fact, it’s more likely to annoy them and push them further away from you.

So when it comes to writing interesting and engaging emails, for example, the answer isn’t to start with a boring topic and sprinkle on clever writing techniques.

It’s to start with a topic your audience is actually interested in.

Tricks and techniques can help amplify that and make it even more interesting. But the key is to start by understanding what your audience actually cares about and to write about that.

Similarly, the key to persuasion is to start by understanding what your audience actually wants and to show them how your offer gives it to them.

Start with the fundamentals, then add on the cleverness (if it’s needed at all).

But tricks and techniques with no substance behind them just don’t last.


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The “build up play” you need to win clients

Posted on 12th June 2022.

Apologies to those of you who aren't football (soccer) fans, but I'm going to overuse an analogy that's been front of mind for me all week.

When most people talk about marketing, they tend to focus on the very last step.

The sexy bits. The sales page that gets people to buy. The email they click on to go to the checkout. The social media post that leads to a sale.

But I think that focus is a bit misplaced.

In football we're (usually) a bit more sophisticated. We know the objective at any point in time is to score a goal. And we know we can only score if we take a shot.

But that doesn't mean we should shoot every time we get the ball. Far from it.

Instead, we know we have to get the ball up the pitch and into a danger zone where a shot is much more likely to result in a goal. And that's where coaches put most of their attention.

Get the ball into a dangerous position in the opponents' penalty area often enough and you will score. Even if you don't have the greatest strikers in the world. 

I believe the same thing applies in marketing. In other words, rather than focusing only on the final step that leads to a sale, we should focus primarily on the steps beforehand that get your clients ready to buy.

Nurture your relationships so that clients understand their problems and impact. Show you understand them and have a unique solution that will work for them. Give them confidence they will succeed with you.

Do that often enough and you will win clients, even if you're not the greatest marketer in the world or your sales pages and emails are a bit basic.

Winning clients is 80% about the build-up play.


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3 things I (re-)learned this week

Posted on 5th June 2022.

I've started my Maven Course Accelerator program this week alongside a bunch of talented and very interesting people. From startup founders to singing coaches.

3 things I learned (or in some cases, I'd forgotten and re-learned) you might find useful:

  • Having an external drumbeat to push you to make progress is really helpful – always more so than you realise

    Of course, I know this to be true from experience and from running my own programs. But yet again I was surprised by it :)

    There were steps I took this week to progress my cohort course, exercises I did and things I thought about that I could easily have done myself weeks ago – but didn't.

    The drumbeat of a program with a fixed schedule where we're expected to complete tasks on time made it happen.
  • No matter how different people seem on a course there's always a lot to learn from them

    I had a brilliant idea in one of the working sessions that only I could possibly have thought of. 3 other people had the same idea :)

    More importantly, I got 2 other good ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself just by listening and paying attention to what others were doing.
  • Restrictions set you free

    I'm the kind of person who takes pride in having the absolute best version of everything: landing pages, email formats, the right font size for readability, everything…

    As a result, I'll spend way too much time researching and tweaking things that make very little difference in the grand scheme of things.

    Maven is very templated. You just don't get those options. In this early beta version you can't even change the font.

    And while in some ways that drives me crazy, it also saves me a ton of time. Time I can focus on more important things that have a bigger impact.

Trying something new and pushing yourself a little bit (in my case with the pace of doing this while I have so much other stuff on) always results in learning.

I don't do it often enough, but just reflecting on that learning every week helps to consolidate it and make sure you take action on it.

What have you learned this week?