Seven ways to improve your marketing message and stand out from your rivals

by Francis Newman.

Whether it’s a video, website or brochure, you’ll want to get your knowledge and skills across in a way that sounds credible and convincing.

People won’t listen if they’ve heard it before. So be new and tap into your own experience. It’s where your true USP (unique selling proposition) lies.

Discovering your hidden gems and expressing them in a convincing and credible way is the key to successful messaging.

Here are 7 tips to help you:

Discovering and explaining your hidden gems

1.  Avoid using generic descriptions and jargon used by other people in your area. You want to stand out – not blend in. Some technical terms are unavoidable, so be sure to explain them. Don’t assume people will know.

2.  Your experience is unique to you and your team. The best way to be original is to tap into your hard-earned knowledge. Start keeping a record of your achievements and what you learned on each project. You’ll be amazed at what you know – and previously overlooked.

3.  Be original and avoid quoting experts and their opinions. You’re promoting your business and not someone else’s. Use your own experience and demonstrate your ideas using practical examples.

4.  When you put together your capability document based on your own experience, you won’t be recycling industry information and relying on clichés and jargon.

Building confidence and trust

5.  Be clear about your promises. Don’t exaggerate benefits and always deliver more than you promised. Keep doing this and you’ll be remembered for integrity.

6.  Be the voice of a friend. Offer advice and help whenever you can. FAQ pages (frequently asked questions) work best in the first person, especially with a photo of the manager.

7.  Be straight and sincere about handing complaints. Polite and helpful instructions can often turnaround departing customers. Be clear about your policy on delays, refunds and returns. Always give a name and use 0800 or 0845 numbers.

So, in summary, getting your sales message right is a combination of reflection, clarity and integrity. It’s all too easy to use ‘me too’ language. You are different, so sell that difference.

Until next time

Francis Newman


To learn more about Francis Newman’s work, visit Message Matters

© Copyright Francis Newman 2012. All rights reserved.

Expand your ideas the easy way

by Mark Forster.

A very powerful way of developing ideas is by continuous revision. You can start with a single vague sentence and then by a process of revising it over and over again develop it until it is a fully fledged concept.

What I am going to do now is to give you an example of how a simple thought can be expanded over a period of days. I’ll show where I get to each day, but of course when doing it for real you don’t need to keep a record of each day. I’m showing the days separately only in order to illustrate how the process works.

So all I need is an idea to develop. Hmmmm … . what would be a good one?  Ummm….. er….. um…..

Day One

I can’t think of any ideas!

Day Two

I can’t think of any ideas, but there are many ways in which one can get ideas flowing, such as using a Wish List, random words, thinking about completely unrelated situations, continuous revision, sitting down with a pad of paper for an hour (or whatever). I forgot about sentence completion. The thing is there are lots of these methods around. I could research them on the internet.

Day Three

When I get stuck for ideas there are many ways in which I can get ideas flowing. I could use a wish list, random words, thinking about completely unrelated situations and then forcing connections, continuous revision, sitting down with a pad of paper for a specified period of time, and sentence completion.

A good way of keeping track of an idea is to schedule it as a task in Outlook, and use the text box as the place for continuous revision. I can also use the text box as a place to store any relevant links to documents, e-mails, web pages, etc. With Outlook I can then schedule the idea to be placed on my task list daily or whatever other interval I prefer. Other programs provide similar facilities.

Day Four

When I get stuck for ideas there are many ways in which I can get ideas flowing. These include:

a wish list
Writing down as many wishes as possible about an issue is a good way to expand my thinking, e.g. “I wish I had thousands of ideas”, “I wish I was more original”, “I wish I could keep the ideas I have”, “I wish I had a genie who would make my every wish come true”, etc. etc.

random words
De Bono recommends taking a random word out of a dictionary and then forcing connections with the problem or issue.

thinking about completely unrelated situations and then forcing connections
for instance I could imagine a story, write down some keywords about it, and then force connections with my issue

continuous revision
This is an example!

sitting down with a pad of paper for a specified period of time
One of my favourite methods. Sit quietly and write down any ideas that come without trying to force them. Earl Nightingale used to recommend doing this for an hour a day. I’m not sure I can afford the time to do that. But perhaps the truth is that I can’t afford not to find the time.

sentence completion
Nathaniel Branden uses this a lot. Start with a sentence stem, e.g. “If I take full responsibility for my choices and actions …”, then fill in as many endings to the sentence as I can.

A good way of keeping track of ideas is to schedule them as a task in Outlook. Each task has a text box which can be used as the place for continuous revision. The text box can also store relevant links to documents, e-mails, web pages, etc. Outlook also gives the facility to schedule the idea to be brought forward daily or at whatever other interval I prefer. Other programs provide similar facilities.

And so on …

As I revise the idea daily, so the concept becomes clearer in my mind and more practical and detailed.

Ok, I’ll admit I cheated with the above example. I didn’t write it over a period of four days. All I did was copy and paste each “day” as I finished it and immediately revised and expanded it. However this was much easier than trying to write the idea out in full from beginning to end. And I really didn’t have any ideas when I started!

It doesn’t matter what the interval is between revisions. The method will work with any interval (or none) as long as the revisions are regular enough to keep your mind engaged on the subject.


Mark Forster

Mark Forster is the author of three books about time management and personal organisation. The most recent, Do It Tomorrow, was published by Hodder in 2006.

© Copyright Mark Forster 2012. All rights reserved.

Wholehearted living

by Mark Forster.

I can’t remember who it was — but a year or two ago someone wrote on one of the email lists to which I belong that she had learned never to say “yes” unless she could say it wholeheartedly. Whoever it was, I owe her a debt of thanks because it is one of the best lessons that I have ever learned.

The context was how easy it is for our lives to fill up with responsibilities that we have taken on more or less reluctantly. When someone asks us to do something, it is often difficult to say “no.” So we end up saying “yes” against our better judgement. And one of the reasons why it is so easy to say “yes” against our better judgement is because we often don’t have a clear and easy way to tell what our better judgement is. The other person will often come up with highly persuasive reasons which make us feel that we will be uncaring or ungrateful or illogical or mean or reckless or whatever if we don’t agree with them. And since we don’t want to feel any of these things we say “yes” reluctantly — and regret it later!

By having a clear rule that we only say “yes” when we can say it wholeheartedly we can cut through all the guilt and manipulation and find the only thing that really matters — our own knowledge of what is right for us.

I have used this method a lot over the last year and more, and found it invaluable. So for instance the other day someone rang me up and asked me if I wanted to join a local group that met every month. I really didn’t want to but had the feeling that I ought to do it and that I’d be letting the other person down if I didn’t. As I wavered on the brink of accepting (and regretting it) I suddenly found myself saying “I have a rule that I never commit myself to anything unless I can commit myself wholeheartedly, and I don’t feel I can do so with this.” To my surprise the other person, though obviously disappointed, accepted my reason like a lamb!

I have also learned to extend the principle further than the original context. Now when faced with any decision, I always ask myself “Could I do this wholeheartedly?” And if the answer is “no”, I don’t do it. Faced with a decision between two or more alternatives I ask myself “Which of these could I do wholeheartedly?” and if the answer is “neither”, I then ask myself “OK then, what could I do wholeheartedly?” and start looking for further alternatives.

Another very valuable use that I’ve found for the principle is to use it to evaluate my daily actions. So I ask myself “What could I do wholeheartedly right now?” This is very effective because I’ve discovered that it is very difficult to do anything wholeheartedly when I know I should be doing something else. So the question acts as a very good way of filtering out busy work, displacement activities and general wheel-spinning. And it greatly increases the commitment that I bring to my real work actions and the enjoyment that I get from my leisure and personal activities.


Mark Forster

Mark Forster is the author of three books about time management and personal organisation. The most recent, Do It Tomorrow, was published by Hodder in 2006.

© Copyright Mark Forster 2012. All rights reserved.

Dealing with projects that don’t have a deadline

by Mark Forster.

If we look at projects from the point of view of deadlines, we can identify three types:

1.Projects that have deadlines. These are the normal projects that we deal with day-by-day. We need to get them finished by a certain time, either because we have been given a deadline, or because the task needs to be completed to fit into a wider picture, or because there are certain expectations associated with the task, e.g. people expect us to reply to emails within 24-hours or so.

2. Projects that go on for ever. These projects don’t need deadlines because we intend to continue carrying them out for a long period of time. I am thinking here of things like learning a language, learning a musical instrument, getting fit. Of course there may be intermediate exams at certain points but basically the effort is continuous.

3. Projects that don’t have any deadline. These are the projects about which we say things like: “I really must get the outside wall repainted sometime” or “I’ve been meaning to update the fire regulations but I haven’t had the time” or “I really need to run a publicity campaign, but I just haven’t been able to get round to it.” They are necessary, indeed possibly crucial, but because they don’t have a definite date by which they have to be done they tend to get pushed aside by more urgent things.

Most people have a problem with dealing with Type 3 Projects – the ones that don’t have a deadline. Sometimes they try to get them done by pretending that they are Type 1 Projects, in other words by giving them an artificial deadline. This can work – but often, because the mind knows that the deadline isn’t a “real” deadline, it gets ignored in favour of the projects which really do have to be done by a certain date.

Most of us have got a huge number of things which we want or need to get around to “sometime.” How can we deal with them?

Here’s my four stage process for getting these projects done:

Stage One: Draw Up a List

The first thing to do is to make a list of all the projects you ought to do, should do, would like to do, have been meaning to do or haven’t been able to get round to doing. Don’t hold back when you make this list. Don’t worry if some of the items are contradictory, or you’re not sure about them. Include everything. If you’ve done the exercise properly, the list should be quite an impressive size.

Stage Two: Edit the List

Ok, you’re really going to get these projects done now. So first you need to edit the list to make sure that you really do want to do them. Remove the ones you’re not sure about (you can always put them back later), the ones that would get in the way of other ones, and the ones which it’s not feasible to do now.

Stage Three: Order the List

Now take the items on the list and decide what order you are going to do them in. No, you’re not going to attempt to do them all at once. You’re going to do them one at a time (see below). So what order should you do them in? This is for you to decide, and there may be all sorts of things which you need to take into account. One important consideration is that projects which would make the other projects easier to complete should be done early on (for example sorting out your office procedures might make it quicker and easier to expand your customer base). Don’t get too hung-up on getting exactly the right order – you’re going to do the lot anyway!

Stage Four: Action the Items One by One

This is the secret to getting this type of project done – do them one at a time. This is far the quickest way of doing them, not just because it’s easier to focus on one at a time but for mathematical reasons as well.

To illustrate this, imagine that we have three projects to complete each of which will take a week and we have three weeks to complete them in. All other things being equal, is it quicker to do them all together, or to do them one at a time?

The answer is that it is quicker to do them one at a time. Why?

If you do them all at the same time, all three projects will be completed at the end of the third week.

If you do them one at a time, the first project will be completed at the end of the first week, the second at the end of the second week, and the third at the end of the third week. You will have gained two weeks on the first project, one week on the second project and the third project will finish at the same time as before. If these projects earn money as soon as they come on-line, you will have gained three project/weeks income by doing them one at a time.

If you want to refine this further, there are another two things you can do with the list before you start actioning it:

Stage 3B. Estimate how long each project will take

It’s a good idea to estimate in working days how long each item on your list will take. Don’t just leave it at that though – when you complete an item, write down how long it actually did take and compare it with your estimate. That way you will continue to get better at estimating – a very useful skill.

Stage 3C. Put an estimated completion date for each project

Since you’ve already worked out an estimate for how long each project will take, it’s easy to put a completion date for each item on the list. If you do that, you will arrive at a completion date for the whole list. That’s right – instead of having loads of projects hanging around with no idea how you are going to fit them in, you now have a date on which you expect to have them all done. That in itself will give you a real psychological lift. Try it


Mark Forster

Mark Forster is the author of three books about time management and personal organisation. The most recent, Do It Tomorrow, was published by Hodder in 2006.

© Copyright Mark Forster 2012. All rights reserved.